All posts by Dahlia Adler

Venturess Author Betsy Cornwell Talks Polyamory and Inspiration

In honor of her new release, Venturess, the sequel to Mechanica, Betsy Cornwell is on the blog today to talk about what inspired its polyamory!

My new book, Venturess, is about three friends who are in love with each other, whose love makes them a family. It was important to me not to define that love in an explicitly romantic or sexual way, because those particular elements aren’t part of every intense, loving relationship, or of every family unit.

Someone asked me in a recent interview if I based any of my characters on people from my life, and I said no – the people I know definitely inform my characters, but I don’t tend to base them on one single source.

But there was a time when I fell in love with three people at once . . .

I spent the summer I turned seventeen living with a host family in the south of France.

Life was good.

I mean, life in Royan was good, with the language immersion and the food and the sunflower fields and a cooking class taught by an actual giant-mustachioed French chef and . . . OK, yes, all of that was really great. But it’s not what makes that summer stand out with so much warmth and affection in my memory.

During orientation, I met three other students named Olivia, Sasha, and Hannah, and we were best friends by the end of the day. It was probably the closest thing to love at first sight that I’ve ever felt – maybe love at first conversation?

We were all very different people. Olivia was fiery and sarcastic, lived in Manhattan when she wasn’t at boarding school, and wanted to be a filmmaker. Sasha, the only boy, was obsessed with economics and lived in Hong Kong, where he attended a glamorous-sounding international school. Hannah was from Texas and had spent probably the most time travelling of any of us, and she was a devout Christian who loved to read. I loved books too, I’d been  Christian most of my life but was recently and bitterly disillusioned, and I’d lived what suddenly seemed like a very sheltered and boring existence in rural New England.

I don’t really remember what we talked about that first day, only that it made us all laugh so much our sides hurt. We quickly absconded to a nearby cafe to continue reveling in our enjoyment of each other. Every moment that we weren’t in class or with our host families, we spent together. We went to French movies that we struggled to understand and American ones with subtitles. We ordered ice cream dishes with liqueur toppings that made us feel madly rebellious (maybe we were all a little sheltered). We wandered the Royan boardwalk and sat on the beach late into the night, talking about anything and everything.

I loved these people. I adored them.

By the end of the program we had a collective nickname: KOSH, for each of our initials. (I hated being called Betsy when I was younger, and I’d rebranded myself as Kat for the summer because I thought it would make me cooler. Shockingly, I was still the same person – although through O,S, and H’s eyes, I started to like myself a little more.)

When the summer ended, we left France and went back to our respective corners of the world.

I didn’t see them again for ten years.

In 2015, we decided to reunite in New York City on 4th of July weekend. I was teaching writing at a summer camp in Pennsylvania that year, and I remember feeling slightly terrified as I took the train up to Penn Station. We’d been some kind of soul mates when we were teenagers, but would we be able to connect again now?

I didn’t need to worry. Whatever magic was there before lit right up again when one of us asked if anyone still spoke French – and everyone burst out laughing. We roamed around the city all weekend finding bookstores and French food and semi-affordable Broadway tickets, and once more talking later into the night than was really wise, especially since we were now grown-ups with jobs and things to get back to.

Olivia works for a production company in L.A. Sasha is an economist in Ontario.  Hannah is a teacher and librarian in Texas. I live in Ireland and write books. Three of us are married (not to each other).

Maybe it’s a cop-out to claim this intense friendship as inspiration for the intentionally queer family dynamics in Venturess. I’m a bisexual cis woman married to a cis man, and I don’t consider myself polyamorous. I don’t want to lay claim to something that isn’t mine – and yet that’s a kind of self-shaming that I’ve often felt as a bisexual person, worrying that I’m “not queer enough” for the community. I write a lot about liminality, partly because so much of the love that I’ve experienced falls into those funny in-between places that are not easy to describe.

Still, the relationships in Venturess felt very close to home, close to my heart, as I wrote them. When Nick begins sleeping in the same bed with her friends Fin and Caro, and wakes up feeling more at home than she ever has before, I know that feeling. The four of us slept together (in the same-bed sense) in France. We all carried with us the acute loneliness that I think only teenagers feel, and in our love for each other we were able to alleviate it, for a little while. We were each other’s family that summer, and our love will always be part of who I am.

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Buy Venturess: Amazon * B&N * Books-a-Million * Hudson * IndieBound * Powell’s * Target

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Betsy Cornwell is the New York Times best-selling author of Tides,
Mechanica, and Venturess. She graduated from Smith College and was a columnist and editor at Teen Ink before receiving an MFA in creative writing from Notre Dame, where she also taught fiction. After grad school, she ran away to Ireland to live with the fairies, and she now resides in a small cottage on the west coast with her horse-trainer spouse. To learn more, visit her at www.betsycornwell.com, on Twitter at @Betsy_Cornwell, and on Instagram at @BetsyCornwell.

New Releases in Manga Featuring Queer Women: an Ongoing Yuri Series by Jaylee James

It’s no secret to anyone who reads this site that while I aim to have recommendations for all readers of LGBTQIAP+ lit, I, like I’d venture to guess all readers, only a few areas I’d consider to be my expertise. Thankfully, every now and again, someone steps up to fill in the gaps and share their knowledge on an area that’s essentially a black hole for me, and today I’m grateful to have Jaylee James doing just that on Yuri! (And yes, as the title indicates, this will not be er only post on the subject!) 

*****

Yuri is anime, manga, and other Japanese media involving a romantic or sexual relationship between two women. It’s the female version of yaoi, which depicts relationships between men.

In the past year, there has been an influx of yuri manga being translated into English. Whereas before, yuri recommendation lists included basically the same four series, or stretched the idea of yuri to include series like Lucky Star and K-On that focus on the relationships between female friends, or was included in the list because of heavy subtext but no actual canonical romantic relationship between the characters (such as Madoka).

But recently, there is a much wider variety of stories to choose from, and the series are ongoing, with books coming out every couple of months. We’re currently being spoiled with yuri manga, and it’s amazing.

Here are five ongoing manga series that center the experiences of queer women (and one bonus standalone)!

Bloom Into You by Nakatani Nio

First two volumes available in English from Seven Seas, with volume three coming out September 2017.

Yuu is a first-year student who is roped into volunteering for the student council. While there, she meets Nanami, an older student who possesses a lot of traits Yuu admires, especially the ability to turn down potential suitors with ease. She tells Yuu that “no one’s love confession has ever made her heart-pound.” Yuu sees a kindred spirit in Nanami, since Yuu has never experienced romantic feelings for someone, and is worried she never will, though she desperately wants to.

However, as soon as Yuu confesses this, Nanami shares her own confession – Yuu is the only person she’s ever met who does give her romantic feelings.

The two work to navigate their friendship and Nanami’s one-sided romantic feelings. The story is told with beautiful art, in an almost cinematic style. The mood of the story is slow, languid, and gives you a chance to feel deeply what the characters are going through amid lovely, detailed background settings.

Content warning: A character “steal kisses” against the others’ wishes, and later apologizes and they talk about it. Yuu’s feelings about her lack of romantic feelings tend to dip negatively, with insecurity, worry, and a desire to change, though the tone of the story was not (to me, an alloromantic person) forcing a judgment call on her.

Note: Since this is manga, identity labels are never used (and it’s important to remember not all cultures share Western identity labels) but a number of things Yuu says in the series sound very similar to feelings expressed by my aromantic friends, and aro-spec readers might relate to this story.

Kiss and White Lily for my Dearest Girl by Canno

First two volumes available in English from Yen Press, with volume three coming out August 2017.

This series is about a group of classmates at an all-girl’s school who all have feelings for each other. There are many different pairings with a wide variety of dynamics, and no one questions it. (This series reminds me of Strawberry Panic, in that way – a sort of utopia where all the girls are into other girls.)

Because of the number of characters and couples, it reads more like a series of interconnected short stories. Each couple has their own relationship troubles and dynamic. There’s a pair of rivals who develop romantic feelings for each other, a track star and the girl she works hard for, and an older student about to graduate high school and the two younger students who love her. There are single-page one shots between the chapters focusing on background characters and their own attractions and relationships.

The scope of this series means there will be something for everyone, though it can be difficult to tell the characters apart or remember them all, since they all wear the same uniform, have similar faces, and only their hair distinguishes the characters from one another.

Content warning: The first volume depicts a “stolen kiss” without the other girl’s consent, and many of the relationships have elements of manipulation or emotionally dependent dynamics.

Citrus by Saburouta

Five volumes available in English from Seven Seas, with the next one available August 2017.

Citrus is the story of two girls whose parents just married each other, and they are suddenly stepsisters. The bulk of this series is tropey porn, putting the girls into situations that strain the reader’s ability to suspend belief (Mom asking two teenage girls who met last week to share a bath because they’re “sisters” now, for instance).

But amidst the fanservice and overdone sexual scenes is a story about Mei, a closed-off girl in a lot of pain, and her new step-sister Yuzu, the only person who has made an effort to understand her. This series is nonstop drama, tropes, stereotypes, and steamy scenes.

Content warning: Constant consent issues, with Mei pushing Yuzu’s boundaries and taking out her painful feelings on Yuzu by forcing sexual situations on her – kissing, groping, and removing clothing.

After Hours by Yuhta Nishio

First volume available from Viz Media. Since the second volume was just released in Japan July 2017, details about when it will be released in English are still to come.

Unlike the rest of the manga on this list, After Hours is not about high school students. It’s such a refreshing change to read yuri about adult women (in this case, one is in her twenties, the other her thirties). A lot of common manga tropes are left out of this story – shame about sex, excessive bashfulness, internalized homophobia (“but we’re both girls!!”). There’s not even any fan service, and the kissing is vocally consented to.

While the two characters have a sexual relationship, the story focuses on everything else going on in their lives. Emi just got out of college but has no idea what she’s doing in life or what she wants. Kei is finding a way to pursue her passions as hard as she can, and inviting Emi to join in.

The art is cinematic and the story is well-done, with funny moments and characters you can get behind. This is a unique addition to the current yuri offerings in English, and it deserves a lot more attention than I’ve seen it given.

Content warning: Depictions of alcohol and drunkenness in club scenes, as well as a friendship that could be read as emotionally abusive.

Kase-San Series by Hiromi Takashima

First two volumes available in English from Seven Seas, beginning with “Kase-San and Morning Glories,” with volume three coming out September 2017.

In one word, the Kase-San series is adorable. It follows the relationship between Yamada, a sweet, clumsy girl in the gardening club, and Kase, a popular track star who Yamada describes repeatedly as “much cooler than any boy.” They meet when Yamada catches Kase watering the flowers she’s planted, and from then on, Yamada is head-over-heels for the sports star.

The tagline for the second volume is “We’re girlfriends… now what?” and it’s the perfect descriptor for the series, as the two work out the details of how they fit together when they’re such different people. Riddled with lighthearted humor, honest feelings, and sweet moments between the girls, the series is nonstop fluff. Takashima allows her characters to be shy and innocent in their affections while also acknowledging they’re sexually attracted to each other.

Overall, Kase-San is tooth-rotting fluff that will have you full of warm fuzzies, giggling the whole way through the series.

Content warning: None 😊

BONUS: My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Kabi Nagata

A short standalone volume available in English from Seven Seas, released June 2017.

While not strictly yuri, My Lesbian Experience is a graphic memoir about the author’s mental health struggles and recovery, her discovery and acceptance that she was a lesbian, and her experience hiring a female escort for her first sexual experience.

This is a raw, honest look at the author’s personal life. Nagata is open about her binge eating, wanting to die, and being so depressed she couldn’t leave her bed. It’s also a great portrayal of recovery – finding the few things in life you enjoy and letting them save you from drowning. For the author, those things were manga… and seeing a female sex worker.

My Lesbian Experience is very real, and also really funny. The author lets us laugh with her at how awkward she was, how frustrated life made her, and eventually, how healthy and stable she got to be.

Content warning: eating disorders, trichotillomania, self-harm, suicidal ideation, depression, and possibly also dissociation and emotional abuse by parents. Also touches on outdated psychological theories about the causes of homosexuality.

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Jaylee James is a demi-bisexual, bigender writer and editor from Kansas City with purple hair. Er main projects are Spectrum Lit, which publishes LGBTQ+ flash fiction, and Polycule, a true story blog about er polyamorous dating adventures. When not writing, e spends far too much time on twitter (@thewritingj), cuddling er dogs, and dating the entire metro area. More of er work can be found at JayleeJames.com.

 

Backlist Book of the Month: First Impressions by Christopher Koehler

Something you may have picked up about me is that I’m super intrigued by retellings, so I talk about them a lot. This book was actually the very first queer one I ever read, and one of my first m/m books ever, too! It’s a super fun, modern Pride and Prejudice, so if gaying up Jane Austen is your jam, make sure you check this one out!

13554984The first time Henry Hughes and Cameron Jameson meet, it’s an unmitigated disaster. Cameron reminds Henry of all he left behind when he stopped making adult films, and he cruelly rejects Cameron. When Cameron discovers Henry’s porno-thespian past, he assumes he’s dodged a bullet.

But circumstances continue to throw the two together. Though the physical attraction between them grows, they cling to first impressions, even as a slow dance reveals just how good they could be.

Henry finally realizes how wrong he was, but Cameron can’t cope with “sleeping with the enemy.” It will take a confrontation for Cameron to realize just how wrong he’s been, but unfortunately, he may have lost his chance.

Buy it: Dreampinner * Amazon * B&N * iBooks

New Releases: August 2017

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert (8th)

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When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn’t sure if she’ll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.

But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new…the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel’s disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself–or worse.

Buy it: Amazon B&N IndieBound

Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell (15th)

34346381New York Barons tight end Gavin Brawley is suspended from the team and on house arrest after a video of him brawling goes viral. Gavin already has a reputation as a jerk with a temper on and off the field—which doesn’t help him once he finds himself on the wrong side of the law. And while he’s been successful professionally, he’s never been lucky when it comes to love.

Noah Monroe is a recent college grad looking for a job—any job—to pay off his mounting student debt. Working as Gavin’s personal assistant/babysitter seems like easy money. But Noah isn’t prepared for the electrifying tension between him and the football player. He’s not sure if he’d rather argue with Gavin or tackle him to the floor. But both men know the score, and neither is sure what will happen once Gavin’s timeout is over…

Buy it:  Penguin | Amazon | BNkobo | iBooks | Goodreads | Google Play

Team Phison by Chace Verity (15th)

For 55-year-old Phil Hutton, finding a new boyfriend is tough, especially since he’s still hurting from his ex leaving him for a younger man. Online dating has been a soul-crushing experience for the restaurant owner. Too many meat-haters interested in microbreweries or something called geocaching. His matches in the multiplayer for his favorite video game have been equally sucky too.

One night, he encounters a newbie who is so helpless, Phil can’t help showing him the ropes. It doesn’t take long for Phil to become interested in his enthusiastic teammate. 28-year-old Tyson Falls from Georgia loves working as a server in a rinky pizza joint and sees the best in everything. As Phil’s online dating matches get worse and his in-game matches with Tyson get better, he finds himself wanting to pursue the easygoing chatterbox with a thick, sexy drawl.

But Phil can’t get past the fear that Tyson couldn’t possibly want a fossil like him. If his brain doesn’t stop being so damn insecure, it might be game over for his heart.

Buy it: Amazon | Smashwords | Kobo | Nook

The Tiger’s Watch by Julia Ember (22nd)

Tashi is a spy and killer—an elite warrior known as an inhabitor—taught from a young age to use their bond with the tiger Katala. When an enemy force captures the city, Tashi has no option but to escape. Their safety doesn’t last long, however. Soon the conquering army arrives at the secluded monastery where Tashi is hiding, needing a place to treat their wounded. It’s not long before their leader, Xian, takes an interest in Tashi.

Xian is cold, ambitious, and even cruel—at least at first glance. But Tashi is skilled at watching and reading people, and they find a softer side to the young commander—one that intrigues them.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Stevens (29th)

As the tomboy daughter of the town’s preacher, Billie McCaffrey has always struggled with fitting the mold of what everyone says she should be. She’d rather wear sweats, build furniture, and get into trouble with her solid group of friends: Woods, Mash, Davey, Fifty, and Janie Lee.

But when Janie Lee confesses to Billie that she’s in love with Woods, Billie’s filled with a nagging sadness as she realizes that she is also in love with Woods…and maybe with Janie Lee, too.

Always considered “one of the guys,” Billie doesn’t want anyone slapping a label on her sexuality before she can understand it herself. So she keeps her conflicting feelings to herself, for fear of ruining the group dynamic. Except it’s not just about keeping the peace, it’s about understanding love on her terms—this thing that has always been defined as a boy and a girl falling in love and living happily ever after. For Billie—a box-defying dynamo—it’s not that simple.

Buy it : Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

Fave Five: Queer Boarding School YAs

 Without Annette by Jane B. Mason

Openly Straight and Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsburg

The Scholars and Sorcery series by Eleanor Beresford

As I Descended by Robin Talley

Girlhood by Cat Clarke

Bonus: Complementary and Acute by Ella Lyons is another one, separated out simply because it’s a novella under 50 pages

Double bonus: Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert isn’t set at boarding school, but does flash back to the bisexual MC’s relationship with her roommate there

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Better Know an Author: Robin Stevenson

Today on the site I’m psyched to have the incredibly prolific and wonderful Robin Stevenson! As it happens, I wasn’t the only one with the idea to shine a light on her this time of year; right after I asked Robin if I could interview her for August, a great interview with her went up on Gay YA, so make sure you check that out too! 

You’re such an impressively prolific author, with over 20 books to your name now. How long have you been writing, and can you give us a little rundown on your books with LGBTQ narrators?

I started writing on maternity leave, soon after my son was born— which was thirteen years ago. My first book came out a couple of years later, in 2007. It began as a short story that grew and grew, and ended up as a YA novel called Out of Order. The main character, Sophie, is a sixteen year old girl who dealing with a history of being bullied, struggling with an undiagnosed eating disorder, and caught up in the orbit of a charismatic but troubled new friend. She is bisexual but not yet using this word… she is just beginning to realize she is attracted to girls.

26586455My novel Big Guy came out the next year, and also has a queer narrator—-this time a teenage boy who is in an online relationship with another guy. It was my first hi-lo novel in the Orca Soundings series. (My most recent book in the series came out in 2016, and also has a queer narrator: It’s called Under Threat, and deals with anti-abortion violence. I wanted to write an unambiguously pro-choice novel that shows the cost of anti-abortion fanaticism. The main character, Franny, has a girlfriend called Leah and they are together throughout the novel—the book was an ALA Rainbow list selection.)

In 2009, my YA novel Inferno came out— this one was also an ALA Rainbow list selection, which I was delighted about. The narrator is a queer teenage girl who has recently broken up with a girl with whom she was in a very closeted relationship. When the book begins, she has just cut off all her hair and changed her name from Emily to Dante, and she is about to meet a new group of friends who are going to complicate her life in interesting and challenging ways. Dante seemed to provoke strong reactions; readers either adored her and really related to her, or disliked her intensely! Personally, I adore her.

My newest book also has a queer narrator: It is a mystery/thriller called Blood on the Beach. I co-wrote it with Sarah N. Harvey, who is a senior editor at Orca, and was in fact my editor for a number of my novels and my non-fiction book Pride. Blood on the Beach is told in the alternating voices of two first person narrators: Sarah wrote from Caleb’s point of view, and I wrote from the point of view of Alice, who is bisexual.

Your most recent book, Pride, has received all sorts of award nominations, including a 2017 Stonewall Honor. What was the research experience for that book like?

26586443Pride was my first non-fiction book, and the research and writing process was entirely new to me—so different from fiction. I read a lot, and watched documentaries, and sifted through archival photographs, but I also spoke with so many people about their experiences of Pride. And from activists in Russia and Uganda to 12 year old kids here on the west coast, everyone was so helpful and interested and enthusiastic. People shared their opinions and stories and personal photographs, and read drafts, and gave feedback. It felt like a very collaborative process and one that strengthened my own sense of connection to the LGBTQ community.

Do you have your own personal favorite Pride memory?

I’ve been going to Pride for 30 years so I have accumulated a lot of really great memories; I can’t pick just one! Here are a few that stand out: Going to my first-ever Dyke March with friends in Toronto, back in 1991. Seeing my parents walking in the Pride Parade with PFLAG a few years later. Taking my son to his first Pride when he was only a month old. Speaking about the history of Pride to teens at youth-organized events. Reading at Pride in the Word, which is my favorite literary Pride event ever. And this year, taking my spaniel puppy to Pride Victoria’s Big Gay Dog Walk!

You do the very cool work of writing Hi-Lo books for Orca, which, for those unfamiliar, are “high interest, low reading level” books. How did you specifically get into Hi-Lo, and how does the writing process differ for you from your other books?

2697919I got into it entirely by accident. I’d written a short story for adults, which got way too long—novella length, really, around 15,000 words. It was about a gay teenager who lied his way into a job working as a caregiver in a residence for adults with disabilities, and I had no idea what to do with it. I’d just published by first YA novel with Orca, and I knew they had this series called Soundings that were about that length…and so I thought I’d tweak it a bit and try submitting it for that series. That story became my first hi-lo novel, Big Guy. I have written five books in that series now—they are fun to write, and they are a great writing exercise for me: because the word count is so tight, they force me to consider every word to make sure it is absolutely necessary and to work hard to make each scene serve multiple purposes (eg. developing character, building tension, furthering the plot). My writing process is a bit different for hi-lo…I’m not usually much of an outliner, but– with the exception of that first accidental hi-lo novel, of course– I outline all my hi-lo novels in a fair bit of detail before I begin.

I think hi-lo books reach a lot of kids, for a lot of reasons, and some of my favorite reader emails have come from kids who have read these books. They meet a real need, helping kids to gain confidence and to see themselves as readers—plus they are just fun, quick reads. I also edited hi-lo books for Orca for three years: the Limelights series, which are books about teens in the performing arts. It was very enjoyable work and I learned about everything from stand-up comedy to aerial silks!

I saw on Twitter you’re working on a book now about reproductive justice. Is that your next publication, and what can you tell us about that?

Yes! I am so excited about this. It’s scheduled to be published in spring 2019, in Canada and the US, and it’s aimed at older kids and teens. To be honest, after Pride came out, I wasn’t planning to write another non-fiction book—but the ongoing attack on abortion rights and access in the US is so disturbing, and the current threats to reproductive choice under the current administration are so serious, and there is so much propaganda and misinformation being taught to young people about abortion. And even in Canada, where the landscape with respect to abortion looks quite different than in the US, most kids have no idea of the long battle that was fought to legalize abortion and make it accessible. It seemed like such an important topic for kids to be aware of, and yet there aren’t a lot of kids’ books on the subject. So I proposed this book idea to Orca, and—being awesome—they agreed!

You’re a Canadian author, and I think we in the U.S. often miss a lot of the great titles that come out of Canada, the UK, and Australia that aren’t published here. What are some titles that haven’t crossed the border that you think should be getting way more attention on this side?

One Canadian book that I recently read and was very impressed by was a debut novel by a young author, Arushi Raina. It is called When Morning Comes and it is published by Tradewind Books. The story is set in South Africa and follows the lives of four young people during the student uprisings of 1976; it is well-researched, beautifully written, and very powerful. It was published in Canada in 2016 and has just been published in the US this year—I highly recommend it.

In terms of LGBTQ books more specifically, some Canadian authors whose books I love include Carrie Mac, Ivan Coyote, Tom Ryan, Mariko Tamaki, and M.E. Girard. And author Heather Smith has a new YA novel coming out this spring which includes queer characters… I just read an ARC and absolutely fell in love with it. It is called The Agony of Bun O’Keefe, and I’m very much hoping it will get all the attention it deserves on both sides of the border.

In your interview with Gay YA, you talked about writing the complexities of queer theory to a younger (Middle Grade) audience, and reminding yourself “this isn’t a university text.” What are your favorite texts on it for older audiences, and could you ever see yourself writing one that is a university text?

I love reading about queer history, and have devoured just about everything that’s crossed my path. When it comes to writing, though, my first love is fiction—and I am really looking forward to getting back to working on my middle grade novel, to a YA novel I am co-writing with a friend, and possibly also working on some short fiction for grown-up readers. No university texts in my plans!

According to your bio, you are quite well-traveled! Does that play into any of your books now, and will we see it playing into any in the future?

My partner Cheryl and I have been together 20 years, and we’ve travelled a lot together. One of the most amazing trips we have taken was the year that we spent living aboard a small sailboat and travelling from Lake Ontario, through the barge canals to New York, then down the waterways and offshore to Florida and the Bahamas. Ten years after our journey, I read over all our logbooks and used my memories of the winter we spent sailing in the Bahamas as the basis for my YA novel, A Thousand Shades of Blue. The characters and their story (and all the angst) is fictional, but the route they travel and all of the places they stay are entirely real—as is much of the scene where their boat runs aground on the rocks near Joe Sound on Long Island. It’s probably my favorite of my YA novels because it is so closely connected to so many wonderful memories for me and Cheryl.

I am working on a teen novel now that is mostly set in Australia, a country where I lived for a year as a teen and another year as a young adult– I actually came out as queer while I was living in Australia, aged 21. But most of my novels are set in BC, as this is the place I know and love best.

Please drop your thanks to Robin for dropping by, and make sure you check out
her books!

SushiRiceStudios-1socialmedia-300x300Robin Stevenson is the author of twenty books for kids and teens. Her novels include The World Without Us and The Summer We Saved the Bees, as well as the Silver Birch Award-winner Record Breaker, and the Governor General’s Award finalist, A Thousand Shades of Blue. She lives in Victoria, British Columbia. For more information, visit http://www.robinstevenson.com.

New Release Spotlight: Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

It’s been three years since Brandy Colbert debuted with Pointe, one of my favorite YAs in existence, and it’s so exciting to see that her follow-up, about Black, bisexual, Jewish girl who returns home from boarding school and hits a tough spot when she tries to settle back into her family, including her stepbrother, who’s struggling with the reality of his mental illness. If you’ve been searching for more intersectional YA, on-the-page bisexuality, and/or representation of Jewish people of color, make sure this August 8th release is at the top of your shopping list!

25062038When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn’t sure if she’ll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.

But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new…the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel’s disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself–or worse.

Buy It: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

Fave Five: LGBTQ Road Trip YAs

Kiss the Morning Star by Elissa Janine Hoole

Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity by Kristin Elizabeth Clark

Looking For Group by Rory Harrison

How to Repair a Mechanical Heart by JC Lillis

A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner

Bonus: The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour, which features a non-narrating major bisexual character, and the upcoming (2018) And She Was by Jessica Verdi, which features a non-narrating major transgender character (though her POV is present via e-mail throughout)

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Excerpt Reveal: Say Yes by JR Gray

Today on the site we have a sexy teaser from JR Gray’s newest m/m BDSM release, Say Yes, which just released on July 24th! Check it out:

James failed.
He tried to be what they wanted.
He tried to deny it.
He tried to be a good Catholic boy…but it’s become too much.
He craves pain, submission.
He’s denied himself far too long, and it’s eating him alive.

Charles thrives off the exchange of power. He knows the world revolves around control. It’s given and taken like currency, in business and in pleasure. He won’t get attached, though, or so he tells himself, until James turns his world upside down. He’s defiant and snarky, but Charles can taste the submission on him.

Charles holds the key to his salvation but James has to Say Yes.

Buy it: Publisher | Amazon

“It’s my job to get you out of your suit, not for you to get me out of mine.” His dark green eyes shone in the low light behind rectangular glasses. He had such a thing for glasses. Charles knew he was being toyed with. It was an unusual sensation for him as he usually did the toying.

“It’s not going to be any work at all for you to get me out of my suit. I think yours will be the challenge.” He undid his belt, and James’ eyes went to his groin. He’d known James was into men. He had a sense for these things.

“You’re not going to get me out of mine.” So cocky. It would be fun to break him of it.

“We seem to be at an impasse.” Charles pulled his belt from his loops and halved it in his hand. He could already see the marks on James’ pale skin.

“It appears so.” He surprised Charles and took the belt from his hands as he stepped past. “This belt looks so worn. Let me find you a stiffer model.” James flashed another smile, showing large canines and a mouth full of gleaming white teeth before he exited the room.

Charles gripped himself. There was only one thing he loved more than submission: having to work for it.

***

Scarlett rolled her eyes. “What has you so tense?”

If he didn’t get out of his funk he was going to have to call a professional. “You don’t want to know.”

She raised one of her dark brows into a perfect arch. “A female has you this way?”

“No.” He didn’t elaborate.

“Mister Walton, you have a Mister Bennet here to see you. He doesn’t have an appointment, but he says he has a tie for you?”

Charles groaned. “Everything with her is a question,” he said to Scarlett before he remembered what she’d been calling about. He perched forward to press the intercom. “Send him in.” He looked at Scarlett again. “Out.”

She pulled back, giving him a look. “Interesting.” She looked James over as she slipped past him to leave the office.

James was in light gray slacks. He strolled into the office like he owned the place. Another thing only wealth could instill. Breeding. He was comfortable here, not at all intimidated. He was an enigma.

“Your tie, as promised, Sir.” James laid a box on his desk with a knowing smirk.

Charles shifted in his seat, suddenly wishing he wasn’t so disheveled from his lunch break. “I was starting to wonder.” He didn’t move to take the box. “What do I owe you?”

James shook his head. “I wouldn’t hear of it.” He turned to go.

“Leaving so soon?”

“I have to get back to the lower west side. I have a class.” He wore a wolfish grin.

So cocky for someone so young. He was dressed subtly today, slacks and a button down but no tie. It was a shame.

“Class?” Charles leaned back and crossed an ankle over his knee.

“At NYU.”

“You’re a professor?” He knew they didn’t get paid much, but still to sell suits on the side? It didn’t make much sense. Another layer he needed to pull back to figure him out.

“Nope, I’m a student there.”

Charles looked at him again. Was he really that young? “You can’t be.”

“Do I not look smart enough?” James looked out his window. The office was the penthouse with quite a view of the park and city.

“You don’t look young enough.”

“I’m nineteen.”

Charles kept himself still with some effort. “I would have guessed twenty-seven at the youngest. Tell me what a college student at NYU is doing selling suits.”

“You don’t think my job is good enough?” “I never said that.”

“Maybe I’m a design student there.” Charles laughed. “I don’t think so.”

He shrugged, and Charles knew getting anything out of this one was going to be difficult.

“But you don’t know, do you?” James turned abruptly and headed for the door. “Have a good afternoon, Mr. Walton.”

He got to his feet. “I didn’t properly thank you for the tie.”

James looked over his shoulder, letting his gaze drift down Charles’ form. “I think you will. I’m just not going to make it easy for you.”

In the span of minutes, James had seemed to do what no one else ever could to Charles: figured him out.

*****

When not staying up all night writing, J.R. Gray can be found at the gym where it’s half assumed he is a permanent resident to fulfill his self-inflicted masochism. A dominant and a pilot, Gray finds it hard to be in the passenger seat of any car. He frequently interrupts real life, including normal sleep patterns and conversations, to jot down notes or plot bunnies. Commas are the bane of his existence even though it’s been fully acknowledged they are necessary, they continue to baffle and bewilder. If Gray wasn’t writing…well, that’s not possible. The buildup of untold stories would haunt Gray into an early grave, insanity or both. The idea of haunting has always appealed to him. J.R. Gray is genderqueer and prefers he/him pronouns.

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