Category Archives: Better Know an Author

Better Know an Author: Anna-Marie McLemore

Today on the site we have one of my favorite YA authors, and I know I’m not alone in that regard. Anna-Marie McLemore is a highly decorated author of magical realism, and if you haven’t yet read her stuff, I am so sorry that you have shortchanged yourself on knowing all the lyrical beauty she has to offer. Go fix that immediately! And if you need a little convincing, well, time to get to better know Anna-Marie McLemore.

Let’s jump right out of the gate with your new release, Wild Beauty. Why is this book so special to you, and does it have anything to do with a certain fabulous secondary character?

33158561Wild Beauty is my bi Latina girls and murderous, enchanted gardens book. It’s the story in which I gave myself permission to go all in with the feel and setting of a fairy tale, but with the focus on the kind of girls we often see left out of fairy tales.

But I know what you really what to know, and yes, Dalia does happen to be one of my favorite characters I’ve ever written. 😉 She’s caring but can be brutally honest. She’s giving but also goes after what she wants. And she has secrets she’s keeping even from main character Estrella, the cousin who’s like a sister to her. All the Nomeolvides girls are queer, but Dalia is probably the most fearless in her bi identity.

I don’t think I’ve ever been as floored by a fairly new author’s resume as I was when I was refreshing myself on your accomplishments for a blog post earlier this year. How do you celebrate calls like “You’re on the National Book Award longlist!” and “You got a Stonewall Honor!”? 

So, hypothetically how much would you judge me if I tell you there’s been at least one instance of donning a frilly dress and singing a rousing chorus of “I feel pretty, oh so pretty, I feel pretty, and witty, and GAYYYY!!!” (Blogger’s Note: I would obviously only judge this extremely favorably.)

You have such stunning covers. What part have you played in their process, and is there one that’s especially close to your heart?

I take no credit for the beautiful covers I’ve been lucky to have on my books. My eternal gratitude goes to the designers and art directors who create these incredible works of art, and to my editor, who often has an initial vision for what direction to go in. I’ve adored all my covers, but Wild Beauty does have a special place in my heart because it’s honestly the kind of fairy-tale cover I didn’t think queer Latina girl stories got.

Kinda hard to miss that you are the anthology author to get; in 2018 alone, you have stories in The Radical Element, All Out, and Toil & Trouble. What can you share with us about each of them? 

I’m so excited to be writing for Saundra, Jessica, and Tess! I’ll give you a quick preview of each story:

“Glamour,” forthcoming in The Radical Element: A Latina girl tries to make it as an actress in Golden Age Hollywood, until a family spell throws her together with the scene painter she’s been avoiding since her first picture.

“Roja,” forthcoming in All Out: A retelling of Little Red Riding Hood in which Red is legendary outlaw La Carambada, the Wolf is a transgender French soldier, and the woods are the hills of central Mexico in the 1870s.

“Love Spell,” forthcoming in Toil & Trouble: A love witch falls for a deeply religious young man who has a few magical secrets of his own.

If you were creating an anthology, what would the theme be, and who would you have to have on board? 

I would love to edit an anthology of inclusive queer fairy tales that take on not only LGBTQIAP+ identity but also intersectional identity—queer characters of color, queer characters of different faiths, queer characters with disabilities, and more. There are so many brilliant writers I’d love to have on board, but even thinking about asking them to be in my hypothetical anthology makes me nervous. So let’s start here: Would you be in, Dahl? (Blogger’s Note: Hell yes.)

You also have a new book coming out in 2018, called Blanca & Roja, which is sort of a mashup of Snow White, Rose Red and Swan Lake. First of all, that sounds amazing. Second of all, what about these stories in particular called to you to reimagine, and are there others we might see influencing you down the line?

Snow-White & Rose-Red was one of my favorite fairy tales growing up—the two very different sisters, the bear-prince, the frightening magic of the woods near their house. But if I was gonna retell Snow-White & Rose-Red, I knew I wanted to make it Latinx and queer. Sisters Blanca and Roja represent the false duality Latina women so often get cast in. Roja feels backed into being a girl who’s all venom and teeth, and Blanca, as the good girl, is supposed to fall in love with a particular boy. But the boy she actually falls for is nothing like she imagined—he’s genderqueer, he’s proud of his family’s oddness, and he’s as well acquainted with the woods’ frightening magic as she is. I can’t share why without telling spoilers, but I think this boy was the spark who first brought elements of Swan Lake into this book.

All of your books are Magical Realism, which is something that’s specifically found its roots in Latinx oppression. How do you find it serves exploring gender identity and sexual orientation in your work as well?

Magical realism provides a space where gender identity and sexual orientation can be explored in a uniquely Latinx setting, amid the expectations of family, community, and society. It also provides contrasts that are otherworldly but feel very real—a family where love has a terrifying legacy, but where a generation of girls understand each other’s bisexuality; a town that has long-held lore about its swans but doesn’t know quite what to do with a queer girl.

One theme that’s really strong in your work is strong secondary casts of female family. What about that speaks to you and does it have reflection in your own life?

I love exploring the communities that women make—how they lead and follow, how they push against each other, how they speak a common language, a shorthand, but how they also stay distinctly themselves. I grew up around more men than women, and I love them deeply, but so many of my close friends come from households run by women. So does my husband; he’s a trans guy who grew up in a family of mostly women.

What’s something that’s really stuck with you in LGBTQIAP+ lit, for better or for worse?

For a while there, I swear every time there was a queer couple in a series, one or both of them got killed off by book three, and that was the case whether the books were YA or adult. We are fortunately seeing less of that trope. There also wasn’t nearly as much intersectional LGBTQIAP+ lit, and while we still have a long way to go, that is, thankfully, changing.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that your post for Gay YA (now YA Pride) on having sex on the page in When the Moon Was Ours is one of my favorite blog posts of all time (and not just because of the shoutout to me). What else have you found are really important values to you in representation?

28220826Letting queer characters and characters of color have space in their own stories, especially when those characters are being written by authors from our own communities. Characters with marginalized identities need space to grow and evolve in their own stories, they need room for realistic portrayals of the obstacles they face, and they need chances at happy endings.

Is there anything coming up for you that we haven’t covered yet? 

I’m so excited to be hitting the road with the Fierce Reads tour this October during Wild Beauty’s release. I’m also thrilled to get to be at some festivals and conferences this fall; my upcoming schedule just went up on my website (http://author.annamariemclemore.com/p/news-events.html). Very soon I’ll be sharing details about a December event with Lily Anderson in Davis, California, and later this fall I’ll have a little about where I’ll be in 2018.

Thank you so much for having me!

*****

6434877Anna-Marie McLemore (she/her) was born in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and taught by her family to hear la llorona in the Santa Ana winds. She is the author of THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS, a finalist for the 2016 William C. Morris Debut Award, and 2017 Stonewall Honor Book WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS, which was longlisted for the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature. Her latest is WILD BEAUTY, and BLANCA & ROJA is forthcoming in fall of 2018.

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Better Know an Author: C.B. Lee

I am beyond psyched to have this month’s featured author on the site, because ICYMI, I am a pretty tremendous fangirl of Not Your Sidekick, and in case you’re not familiar with C.B. Lee, she’s a seriously kickass human. Not Your Sidekick actually first crossed my radar at the Romantic Times conference in 2016, where every Interlude Press author was also handing out swag for this title; it was clear she was an author they wanted to support! So of course, I had to check it out, and if you haven’t yet read it, please put this series on your to-read list: it’s so much fun, the romance is adorable, the characters and their friendship is great, and the representation is diverse and amazing.

But enough of listening to me babble; please welcome C.B. Lee!

It’s been so much fun seeing how much love and attention Not Your Sidekick has gotten! (See: Gay YA Book Club, WoC in Romance book club, Bisexual Book Awards, Lambda Awards…) What was the coolest part of your publication experience and what was your biggest surprise?

I was so overwhelmed to the response to the book being announced! It was kind of incredible how the original cover reveal with the summary really took offover the first weekend on Tumblr it hit over 5000+ notes and I was just like whoa! I’d looked through the tags and it was really such a response: people were excited Jess was Asian American, people were excited that the romance was between two girls, and I was just stunned and just so happy and grateful.

Publishing Not Your Sidekick has been an amazing journey. I think the readers are the best part of the experience, from meeting readers at book festivals and conventions to readers reaching out to me personally to talk about how much the story resonated with them, whether it was Jess feeling like not quite one or the other in terms of being Chinese-Vietnamese American, to her being the middle child and being overshadowed by her siblings, to being bisexual, and the story in general.

The biggest surprise was just seeing people respond to the novel! I had no idea it would become a thing, and I’m so happy people are enjoying it. I was really honored to be nominated for the Lambda Literary Awards and the Bisexual Book Awards, too!

I am so excited that the gang will be returning for a sequel called Not Your Villain. What can you tell us about it?

 It’s been so much fun to write in Bells’ perspective! Not Your Villain actually starts off a little before the timeline when you meet Jess in the first novel. I’m really excited to finally share what was going on during Not Your Sidekick when Bells kept disappearing on Jess and Emma. We’ll learn all about his superhero origins and more about the inner workings of the Heroes’ League of Heroes, and then we move forward with Bells and his friends as they start off on a mission to find the Resistance and deal with things that they think the adults aren’t prioritizing.

More info on Not Your Villain at my website!

For those who are just finding you now via Not Your Sidekick, can you describe your previous novel, Seven Tears at High Tide, in five words?

Selkies, magic, bisexuals, first love!

You keep some great writing tips on your site. What’s been the best source of craft education for you, and what’s some of your favorite advice?

I think there’s something to learn from everyone, and the Internet is such a great resource. As far as research goes in facts and worldbuilding, it makes it easy to search for anything and learn all about it, from how popular a word was in a historical era and to seasons in countries and anything and everything in between.

As far as craft, I think writing is different for everyone, so writing tips will vary. What will work for some people won’t work for other people, and it’s easy to get disheartened if you see a piece of writing advice, especially if it’s not your style and doesn’t work for you and to see other people swear by it. But as far as any advice goes, I would say to read broadly because there are so many resources, and just pick and choose what works for you. I’ve reblogged and organized a number of different writing posts on my Tumblr, and have also written a few ideas as well, but I don’t think there’s an end-all-be-all of writing advice in terms of craft.

I do have a favorite piece of advice from Erin Bow:

“No writing is wasted. Did you know that sourdough from San Francisco is leavened partly by a bacteria called lactobacillus sanfrancisensis? It is native to the soil there, and does not do well elsewhere. But any kitchen can become an ecosystem. If you bake a lot, your kitchen will become a happy home to wild yeasts, and all your bread will taste better. Even a failed loaf is not wasted. Likewise, cheese makers wash the dairy floor with whey. Tomato gardeners compost with rotten tomatoes. No writing is wasted: the words you can’t put in your book can wash the floor, live in the soil, lurk around in the air. They will make the next words better.”

This is really reassuring to me, about how your efforts efforts are not wasted. In writing a lot of work goes unseen: first drafts with huge chunks thrown out, paragraphs deleted, characters rebuilt from the ground up. Everything you do, whether it’s writing character bios or imagining them in alternate universes, or writing almost entire drafts one way and having to do it another way,  it’s part of the learning process and just adds to your overall skill and ability as a writer.

What’s something you’ve seen in LGBTQIAP+ lit that’s really stuck with you, for better or for worse?

I think the message of hope is a persistent one I’ve seen across genres, and I think that’s so important. The fact that these novels exist and readers can identify with the characters and say I’m here, I’m seen and just have all kinds of stories is so powerful. And I love that I’m starting to see more and more people who want stories with happy endings, stories that are fluffy and cute, stories where the main conflict has nothing to do with their identity.

What are your favorite LGBTQIAP+ reads, and which ones are you most looking forward to?

I have so many favorites! Malinda Lo and Benjamin Alire Saenz are two authors whose works I love, and as far as recent favorites, I really adored FT Luken’s The Rules and Regulations of Mediating Myths and Magic. It’s a hilarious read and has a wonderful bisexual coming-out story as well as wonderfully complex and dynamic friendships and family relationships. (There’s also werewolves and Bigfoot and the end of the world, but it’s wonderful.

A few novels I’m looking forward to this fall include It’s Not Like It’s A Secret by Misa Sugiura, They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera, That Inevitable Victorian Thing by EK Johnston, Fortitude Smashed by Taylor Brooke, and A Line in The Dark by Malinda Lo!

What do you wear, listen to, read, and/or watch when you need to feel a little more like a superhero?

I love movie soundtracksPacific Rim has to be my all time favorite, I always feel ready to take on aliens and get in a giant robot when I listen to it, although it’s usually my writing action soundtrack. Other soundtracks that make me feel like a hero: Wonder Woman, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones.

I also really love my leather lace-up boots. I would definitely go hero-ing in them.

You’ve got a lot of really beautiful representation in Not Your Sidekick, and I’m sure in Seven Tears at High Tide as well. What’s something it’s really important to you to show in your books?

It’s really important to me to show characters from different marginalized communities have adventures and fall in love and just do all the things straight white characters do.

Is your full name a total secret, or will we someday know the meaning behind “CB”? 

Carrie Beatrice!

Any idea what’s up next after Not Your Villain?

The next part of the adventure will be told from Emma’s perspective in Not Your Backup! I can’t say much other than the stakes will be raised! I’m also planning two short novellas within the universe, so look out for those!

Thank you so much for having me on the blog! You can find me at the following:

*****

Preorder Not Your Villain

Interlude PressAmazonBarnes & NobleMysterious GalaxyTarget

C.B. Lee is a bisexual Chinese-Vietnamese American writer who also works in outdoor education in Los Angeles for low-income youth.

NOT YOUR SIDEKICK was a 2017 Lambda Literary Awards Finalist for Best In YA/Children’s Fiction and a 2017 Bisexual Book Awards Finalist in Speculative Fiction. SEVEN TEARS AT HIGH TIDE is the recipient of a Rainbow Award for Best Bisexual Fantasy Romance and also was a finalist for the 2016 Bisexual Book Awards in the YA and Sci-Fi/ Speculative Fiction categories.

CB has been featured at literary events such as the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Lambda Litfest’s Celebrating the Asian American LGBTQ+ Experience at the Chinese American Museum, YALLWEST and Pasadena Litfest as well as a guest at  popular panels and discussions such as DragonCon’s “LGBTQIA in YA” , “BiScifi: Queer Heroes in Science Fiction and More”, “The Craft of Dystopia”,  “Magic and Worldbuilding,”, WonderCon’s “Sisterhood of the Self-Sufficient,” Emerald City Comic Con’s “Diversity in Publishing,” and San Diego Comic Con’s “Super Asian America” and “Into the Fanzone!”

 

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.

Better Know an Author: Laura Lam

This month’s featured author is the lovely Laura Lam, the brilliant mind behind several SFF series with queer main characters, spanning both YA and Adult categories. If you haven’t already read her work, now’s the time to learn more about it and pick it up!

It’s been quite the busy year for you! Multiple releases, loads of events across Europe… If you stand back for a second and take a breath to think about it, what’s been your favorite bookish moment of the year so far?

It has been an uncommonly busy year! I’ll never have this many releases in so short a space of time, I don’t think, as a few were due to delays as a result of changing publishers. I think my favourite bookish moment was going to Dutch Comic Con in Utrecht, the Netherlands. It was my first convention as an invited guest, and I also got to meet Gates McFadden (Doctor Beverly Crusher from Star Trek TNG). I gave her a copy of False Hearts and she ended up reading it, liking it, and now she follows me on Twitter. Win! It was also just a nice, friendly con and me, Zen Cho, and Vic James were all really well treated by The American Book Center, who helped organize our events.

You got your start with your Micah Grey trilogy, which was pretty unlike anything publishing had seen at the time, and also had a bit of a bumpy publication process. For those who don’t know about the process of getting all three books into the world, can you share that experience? And what was the reception to the series like from readers?

Micah Grey stars an intersex, bisexual, genderfluid lead. Back in 2012, there was fewer books that investigated the gender binary—in just a few years we now have so much more, and that’s brilliant! Most of them are still in contemporary YA, whereas the Micah Grey books are gaslight fantasy in a secondary world. I wrote it, not really thinking about how it might be hard to get published. I was very lucky in that it sold to the first and only publisher who saw it—Angry Robot Books, who were just about to start Strange Chemistry, the YA imprint. Pantomime came out a year later in 2013, and it had really nice reviews and a decent amount of buzz. I wrote the second book, Shadowplay, which came out in 2014, but a few weeks after it was released, my trilogy was cancelled and I was pretty devastated.

I’d always thought that the hardest part of writing was finishing the book, then getting a book out there. But actually, staying published and being able to have regular releases is a much greater challenge. I’d wondered if that was it. If I’d wasted my shot. I kept getting lovely messages from readers, many of whom were queer and/or investigating their own gender identity, and each one made me burst into tears as I was so sad because I didn’t know if the series would be finished. I kept trying to write it, but I was still heartbroken. I figured at some point I’d self-publish.

So I wrote something else—False Hearts. And I threw everything I had into it. It’s more violent so I channelled that frustration. It sold, and then my agent was like “well before you self-publish, let’s see if Tor UK want your trilogy too.” Turns out they did. I cried so, so many tears when I found out. It’d been like I’d been holding my breath for almost two years at that point. Now all three books are out and I’m just very grateful. I had to fight for it, but it was worth fighting for.

You’ve since jumped from YA to Adult, and fantasy to sci-fi, with your Pacifica series, beginning with False Hearts. Do you find your heart is in any one category and/or genre, or do you see yourself continuing to jump around, and why?

False Hearts was freeing because it was so very different to what I’d written before. I used to think I’d be rubbish at writing science fiction and thought my heart would always be with fantasy, but it turns out I was wrong and I love both equally. They each have different rewards and challenges. I don’t think I’ll ever write the same genre forever. I have ideas for more science fiction, a science fantasy duology, a time travel historical fantasy, and a book that’s not science fiction or fantasy at all. I like to keep trying new things.

Bisexual representation is something I think we can all agree is lacking in genre fiction, but definitely not in your books! Can you share a little bit about your bisexual characters, and how their sexuality fits into their worlds?

Pretty much all of my protagonists are bi. Micah Grey is bi, and so is his love interest, Drystan. Taema and Tila from False Hearts are bi. Carina’s love interest in Shattered Minds is a trans man, and though I don’t state her sexuality outright, I don’t think she’s straight. I am not sure if I know how to write a 100% straight protagonist. *shrug*

In Micah Grey, the world is very repressed and Victorian-inspired, so there is more hesitation and secrecy around sexuality there. In Pacifica, the world of False Hearts and Shattered Minds, it’s about 100 years in the future, and I made the deliberate choice to have all forms of sexuality and gender identity be no big deal whatsoever. There’s still some bigoted people, sure, but they’re fairly few and far between. It was nice write that. While there’s many things about that world I wouldn’t want to actually come true, I do hope that does.

You publish in both the US and UK, which means different pub dates, different covers…it almost looks like two totally different experiences. How do you balance doing promo and having publishers on both sides of the pond?

Only False Hearts and Shattered Minds have two different publishers. Micah Grey at the moment, only has a UK publisher but they distribute copies to the US, hence the slight delayed release of them (so there was time to ship). Balancing the promotion is definitely hard. Usually I end up doing two blog tours. I’m not able to get out to the states very often, though I’m going out this August and will be doing at least one event at Borderlands. I’m glad I have a presence on both sides of the pond, both where I grew up and where I live now.

In addition to your full-length novels, you’ve also published short fiction. What can you share about it?

I wrote the Vestigial Tales, which are prequel short stories and novellas in the same world, to teach myself how to self-publish back when I thought that was the way it was going to go. Writing them also helped me keep the love for that series alive as I recovered and wasn’t sure what the heck was going on with my career. They’re all prequels set in the same world. “The Snake Charm” is about one of the secondary characters, Drystan, in the Circus of Magic before Micah joins. “The Fisherman’s Net” is a short fable about a mermaid and the dangers of greed. “The Tarot Reader” is another character, Cyan’s, story in the circus she worked in before she’s introduced in Shadowplay, book two. “The Card Sharp” is another story about Drystan, about him being a Lerium drug addict and card sharp before joining the Circus of Magic. “The Mechanical Minotaur” I released this year, and it’s sort of like a non-racist Indian in the Cupboard meets Boy Cinderella, and doesn’t really feature any characters from the main series (but is still best read after Masquerade as a cap to the series).

Friends helped me edit, another friend made the covers (Dianna Walla, who was my childhood pen pal!), and I formatted them myself. The first Vestigial Tale is permanently free if anyone wants to check it out and it can be read before Pantomime.

On your blog, you share monthly posts about what books you’ve just read. What have your favorites been so far this year, and what are you really looking forward to for the remainder of 2017?

I try to read about 100 books a year, though I don’t always make it. I feel like reading a lot is a valuable part of market research. Plus it’s just really good for my soul.

Some of my favourites this year:

  • Duke of Shadows – Meredith Duran
  • Ghost Talkers – Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Tiny Pretty Things – Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra
  • The Seafarer’s Kiss – Julia Ember
  • Nasty Women – edited by 404 ink (disclaimer: I do have a story in this)
  • The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
  • A Lady’s Lesson in Scandal – Meredith Duran
  • Parable of the Talents & Parable of the Sower – Octavia Butler
  • The Space Between the Stars – Anne Corlett
  • Assassin’s Fate – Robin Hobb
  • The Radium Girls – Kate Moore

I’m very bad at planning what I’m going to read over the rest of the year. I know I really want to read Want by Cindy Pon! I’m also searching for a first person past tense book with an unreliable narrator to use for my First Person Module I teach at Napier, so next I’m reading His Bloody Murder by Graeme Macrae Burnet and The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp.

What’s something you’ve seen in LGBTQIAP+ media that’s really stuck with you, for better or for worse?

I internalised a lot of the biphobic things I saw in media. I thought I couldn’t be bi because I’ve only dated my boyfriend/now husband. The number one thing that annoys me is when they dance around saying bisexual. Certain people don’t want to put labels, and that’s fine, but every time I see a character who is clearly by say “oh I don’t like labels,” I do grind my teeth a little. I put “I’m bi” in False Hearts and have had almost 20 people email me thanking me for putting those two letters of B and I in a book, so I don’t think I’m the only one who feels the frustration. I want to see bi characters who are just as awesome and interesting as any other character.

What’s up next for you?

Who knows? That sounds flippant, but I’m in that awkward in between stage where I’ve finished my current contract but can’t quite pitch for more just yet as they’re waiting for False Hearts paperbacks sales (so buying a copy would be loooovely if the premise interests you!). I’m editing two books and hoping I can sell them in autumn.

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Photo credit: Elizabeth May

Originally from sunny California, Laura Lam now lives in cloudy Scotland. Lam is the author of BBC Radio 2 Book Club section False Hearts, the companion novel Shattered Minds, as well as the award-winning Micah Grey series PantomimeShadowplay, and Masquerade. Her short fiction and essays have also appeared in anthologies such as Nasty WomenSolaris Rising 3, Cranky Ladies of History, and more.  She lectures part-time at Napier University in Edinburgh on the Creative Writing MA.

Better Know an Author: Chelsea M. Cameron

Today’s sunny addition to the site is none other than the lovely Chelsea M. Cameron, New York Times and USA Today bestselling Romance author and general f/f enthusiast. Chelsea’s got a lot of different projects going on these days, some a far cry from the cishet allo Romances she broke into the industry with, and she’s letting me pick her brain about all of it, so please welcome her to the site!

You initially made your name with an allo cishet Romance called My Favorite Mistake, which was actually one of my very first NA. Now that you’ve added f/f Romance to your repertoire, beginning with Style, what kinds of differences do you notice in the publishing experience?

30332310Oh, wow, the publishing landscape is SO different now. MFM came out in late 2012, during the “gold rush” of contemporary new adult. I honestly had no idea what I was doing back then. It was SO different. Timing and luck played a lot into the success of that book. I also feel as if there were certain bloggers who, if they promoted a book, that was almost a guarantee of success. It’s not so much like that anymore. Everything is different and I honestly feel like I’m learning every day. Promotion is not what it used to be. Basically I’m saying that I have no idea what I’m doing. The one thing that is great about writing f/f is that the people who read it are SO enthusiastic. I get more messages and emails and so forth on my f/f books. And I feel like they mean more. I know they mean a lot to me when I write them.

The Violet Hill series of novellas is your newest f/f endeavor. What can you tell us about it and how the individual stories link up? Any word on when we can expect the third installment?

33383955That was something I sort of decided to do on a whim, which is usually how most of my favorite projects start. I’d written a series of m/f novellas and really liked the format and the way you can tell a complete story in about 20-25,000 words. The first book, Second Kiss, features two former best friends who crash back into each other and sparks fly. The main way the books are connected is that they’re all centered around the Violet Hill Café, which is a queer-run and owned café in a fictional town in Maine. I wanted to write a series that focused on a place where queer people could feel safe and loved. The second book features one of the waitresses at the café and a traveling photographer. The third book, Second Chance, will feature the cousin of the waitress in the second book who seeks refuge with her for the summer and runs into an ex. I’m hoping to release it in June or July.

I know you’ve got a seriously ambitious to-write list. What are your dream projects?

Right now I’m working very hard on my queer, modern Jane Austen story about Mary Bennet and Georgiana Darcy getting together. I’m LOVING it. My ultimate dream is to write the f/f fantasy that’s been burning a hole in my brain for over a year. I’m sort of stuck in the world-building stage right now. It’s so hard! I’ve been writing contemporary for too long, haha. But I’m going to make it happen because these characters will NOT leave me alone. I just want to write a massive amount of queer books so I have a recommendation for everyone. I joke about wanting to be the Nora Roberts of f/f, but it’s totally what I’m going for.

I love how many authors are embracing Patreon these days, giving readers ways to get more snippets of work while we wait. What kinds of stuff do fans get from yours?

I do a little bit of everything, I think. I post first chapters of my new work, original short stories, writing advice, random awful writing I find that I did in college, essays on queerness, and all kinds of things. I also have a tier that includes a motivational email a month, and one that includes an ebook per month. All kinds of fun stuff!

If I recall correctly, you share my intrigue with anthologies. If you were putting one together, what would the theme be and why? What kind of story would you love to write?

Haha, yes, I am obsessed with them and I want to be in one SO BAD. It’s like not being invited to sit at the cool kids table. I’m also always coming up for ideas for them, but I don’t the organizational skills to actually put one together. I would LOVE to have one with all stories about queer women, by queer women. I’d also love to do one with essays from people who came out later in life (20 or older). I never really thought I could do short stories, but now that I’m doing them on my Patreon, I find that I really like them! I just wanna write a massive amount of queer love stories, basically.

As someone who was relatively late to coming out, what kind of role would you say LGBTQIAP+ books played in figuring out your sexuality, and what would you recommend to someone who’s questioning, especially in their 20s?

That was literally the impetus for me figuring things out. I was reading these books in preparation to write a f/f book (that I didn’t end up writing, actually) and I was COMPLETELY OBESSED with them. As in, I wasn’t eating or sleeping, I was just reading Siera Maley and you, and Kristen Zimmer and I couldn’t figure it out. Fortunately, I was in therapy at the time, and my therapist helped me figure it out. I would highly recommend those authors (you included) as well as Of Fire and Stars, everything by Malinda Lo, The Abyss Surrounds Us, and, if it’s not to gauche to mention my own books, uh, mine. There’s a lot of YA/NA f/f out there and I think those stories focus a lot on coming out and figuring yourself out. I really want to write/read more stories about older queers, and also people who have been out for a while. Basically, I want to write/read as many varied experiences as I can.

What’s something you’ve seen in LGBTQIAP+ media that’s really stuck with you, for better or for worse?

Something that I have a hard time with is how vagina-centric a lot of f/f media is. As someone questioning their gender (still working on that one, but I think demigirl is working for now), and someone who loves a trans person, I don’t feel included in a lot of it. The first time I was like IT’S ME! IT’S ME! was when I read 27 Hours by Tristina Wright. I cried a lot while reading that book for the first time. It was just so wonderful to see so many queer people in one book. That’s another thing that bugs me about media. Is that there is one “token” queer person and if there’s another queer person, they’re most-likely dating. As if we have so few options, we have to date/marry the closest queer in proximity to us. So annoying.

What are you still dying to see in LGBTQIAP+ lit?

EVERYTHING. I want so many options that I have a rec for every situation. I know things have gotten a LOT better in recent years, and for that I am so grateful. I want rep where everyone can point to it and say YES, THAT’S ME! I want all readers to get that moment. Especially readers who are queer and also marginalized in other ways. I want an ace, biracial, trans teen to be able to pick up a book and see themselves portrayed in a way that isn’t harmful. I want them to have MULTIPLE books to choose from on the bookstore shelves. I would also love to see more f/f where one or both of the women is trans. That’s something very close to my heart and that I want to promote. My biggest dream is for a lush fantasy world with multiple POVs where literally everyone is queer. Like, a trilogy or even more. I’m hoping to write my own, but I want MORE. Always more.

Thanks for stopping by, Chelsea! You can learn more about the author and buy her books at chelseamcameron.com, and/or follow her on Twitter at @chel_c_cam.

Better Know an Author: Amy Jo Cousins

Psyched to have Romance author Amy Jo Cousins on the blog today, who’s not only one of the most prolific, supportive, and delightful people in all the land, but also wrote my #1 recommendation for “I need something short and absurdly hot.” (I’ll give you a minute to buy “Callie, Unwrapped.” You’re welcome in advance.) She’s got a brand-new m/m Romance out called HeartShip (more on that below), and a whole lot of wisdom and recommendations to share, so please welcome Amy Jo!

You’ve pulled off something incredibly rare in having a New Adult series (Bend or Break) with m/m, m/f, and f/f titles. What responses to that have you seen among your readership?
 

The response has been terrific, mixed with a dollop of “Ugh, what?” But that’s okay! New things always get a bit of a side-eye, right? And when the series first came out, very few people were mixing it up with different pairings in their series. It was a philosophical decision for me, though, to include all kinds of relationships in my series under one pen name. I wanted my writing to reflect my life and my community, and in my world, friendships and relationships and social circles are complicated and expansive and full of beautiful and every-changing variety. So yes, I occasionally get protest emails from readers who don’t like that I have a m/f or f/f books included with m/m stories, but this is more than just my writing. It’s my life. So there’s always going to be the full rainbow! The vast majority of readers I speak to are 100% supportive, especially my fans who are gay men. They read it all and love Cash and Steph as much as they love Tom and Reese or Vinnie and Bryan, which just makes me happy beyond all words.

Excitingly, you also just got the rights back to that series, and rereleased it with some beautiful new covers. What’s that process been like?
 
Well, the process of arguing with my publisher was rather exhilarating. We’re all normally so polite and professional that I got a bit of a charge out of going to the mat for myself and my intellectual property rights, not to mention those of my peers who were in the same situation. Not gonna lie. It was exciting. But also supremely frustrating, because of the thirteen months of waiting that passed since the original closing announcement. I have more stories to tell in this series, but everything was on hold! Now I’m back in business and so very excited about everything. Getting the whole series rerelease has been a joy, and I’m so in love with the updated covers Lexi at Romance by the Cover made for me! They’re sharp. 🙂 And getting The Belle vs the BDOC to match the series visually now too was a pure delight. I just started working on a story about a secondary character from Nothing Like Paris for an upcoming anthology, and I’m pretty much always thinking about what comes next for Tom and Reese, because those guys would make awesome foster dads, and I can’t wait to see that…
 
If I recall correctly, you’ve got a gay baseball romance coming up! (And I realllly hope I’m recalling correctly, because that sounds amazing!) Please share absolutely everything about that, sparing zero detail.
 
Ha! I do indeed. All of my Samhain chaos put my writing on hold, as I’ve worked to republish those books and release a bunch of self-pub books I’ve had mostly completed for a while, in order to fill in the gap, earnings-wise. But I should be wrapping up the first book of the series in short order, and I’m in love with this whole team.

I’m writing my idea of a fantastic baseball organization, which is of course heavily influenced by the kindness and sense of play driving Joe Madden and my beloved Cubs, with the added influence of my imaginary team having the owner’s lesbian daughter in a power position in operations. She’s all about acquiring hot talent that other teams have passed up, especially if it’s because the player is queer. So we’ve got two gay rookies in book one coming up from the minors who’ve been best friends and rivals since they were kids, the rebellious rock star pitcher and the not-quite-good-enough for the majors utility player who’s brought up with the rock star to keep him in line. Of course, they start crossing all of their personal friendship boundaries immediately, both publicly and privately and the pressure creates all kinds of chaos for them.

Then I’ve got a center fielder who’s got issues with the journalist breaking stories about the various players’ private lives, the rising star sports agent who can’t stop arguing with the team owner’s daughter even while she’s flirting with her, the near-retirement catcher and the young guy eager to replace him, and a first baseman who’s a total player on the social scene who gets in over his head with a movie star and his brilliant wife. Sooooo, yeah. 🙂 I’ve got some awesomeness coming!

I love how prolific you are, not just with full-length novels, but novellas and short stories, too. How do you decide on the right length for a story, and what are some of your favorite of your contributions to anthologies?

Deciding on the right length for a story is mostly a function of the plot, and also the constraints of whatever I’ve agreed to do. Which has occasionally meant that a story I planned on writing for an anthology doesn’t work out, because it’s just too much story for a short form. Or the short story I write has a very HFN ending, as opposed to a HEA, which is fine, of course! HFNs, especially for stories about younger characters, are frequently what I write. But then I’m always tempted to revisit them down the line and give them a more solid HEA.

When I write about people in their early twenties, I almost always feel as if, when the story ends, I’m giving them the happiest ending I can and hoping they make it in the long run. Because it’s not a given that a relationship that starts at that age lasts forever. I mean, it’s not a given for relationships at any age, right? But especially when people are still exploring themselves, their lives, and their worlds. So I really do enjoy revisiting characters like Tom and Reese, who had 100k+ words in Off Campus to get their relationship settled! But they were still finishing up school, and hadn’t met any challenges of the “real world” yet, so adding a 45k novella to their story (in Real World) and getting them settled for good with a solid HEA was important to me.

I just released a book called HeartShip too, which started as an 18k word short story called “The Christmas Ship” in the Wish Come True charity anthology. That story covered forty-eight hours, and was sweet and lovely, but it was just the jumping off point for those two after their long internet friendship! So turning that beginning into a longer novella that gives them a more solid relationship in HeartShip was fun. Mostly I think I don’t like letting go of my characters. LOL. So I’m always thinking about what’s happening to them now and when readers nudge me to write more, I’m terrible at resisting the temptation.

If you were helming a new anthology or series right now, what would the theme be and who would you love to bring on board as contributors?

As it turns out, I am working on a new story for an anthology that just came together a few days ago via the magic of Twitter. A bunch of us who are pretty passionately into politics started joking around about rogue park rangers/White House tweeters, and who you might confess your love to/bang athletically if you seriously thought the world might be ending soon, and all the romance that could happen in The Resistance. Now we’ve got a cover and a tentative production schedule, so you should keep your eyes peeled this summer! We’re having the most fun.

You’re an avid supporter of LGBTQ Romance, which is so wonderful. What are some authors and titles that are always on your rec lists?

Oh, so many! I’ve been rec’ing Kris Ripper nonstop lately, because I love how ze writes these big, beautiful queer communities with the same mashup of relationships and friendships that I enjoy writing in my own. Zir Queers of La Vista and Scientific Method series are my favorites. KJ Charles is always on my rec list for gorgeous m/m historical and paranormal. EE Ottoman’s steampunk Mechanical Universe series is lovely, as is Alexis Hall’s Prosperity series. Both involved amazing worldbuilding and deeply realized characters. I’m also constantly rec’ing Santino Hassell and Annabeth Albert’s contemporaries, Solace Ames’ kink, Josh Lanyon’s mysteries, Keira Andrews’ Amish series, JA Rock’s everything, and Lyn Gala’s SFR. In 2017, two of the best books I’ve read, Peter Darling by Austin Chant and A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson, are also topping my rec list.

As I may have mentioned a thousand times, I’m a huge fan of Callie, Unwrapped, and I’m delighted to see there’s more coming with those characters! Can you give us some idea of what’s to come in the Play it Again series?

I am finishing up final edits/proofreading on book two as we speak! Or, you know, type. Email. LOL. Callie focuses on some serious kink exploration to avoid feeling how instantly reactivated her attachment to Gabe was by the night she spent with him and Kate. But despite her intentions, Gabe ends up…shall we say…intimately involved in those explorations. And this is going to bring up a lot of conflicting emotions for Callie, who is trying to reconnect with her sexuality and her sense of adventure, not turn around and immediately fall for the guy she couldn’t find a happy ending with all those years ago. And then I meant to wrap up Callie #3, which pulls everything together, but it turns out that I’ve got a Kate story almost complete instead. Because Kate walked away from that night with Gabe and Callie with a serious crush on Callie that made Kate think, for the first time, that maybe she’s more into women, romantically, than she thought. So she takes a Gabe-break and tries to figure that out. My current working title for that ms., with massive subtlety, is: Kate Likes Girls.

What’s something you’ve seen in LGBTQIAP+ lit that’s really stuck with you, for better or for worse?

Just the amazingly wide range of stories we have to celebrate these days. I started reading LGBTQIAP+ stories in SFF and mystery, then literary fiction, back in the ’80s and ’90s. Now I also read them in romance and YA, of course. For so many years–for most of my life–almost everything I read that featured queer characters was tragic. Beautiful books, but so unbearably sad, almost always. I remember reading Rita Mae Brown’s Venus Envy in college in 1993 and just being so damn happy that the lesbian lived! And had a new girlfriend, and her family (almost all of them, at least) loved her! That was great. But still, most of my non-romance LGBTQIAP+ reading still featured a lot of unhappy endings. So when I finally found queer romance novels, I was beyond thrilled. Happy endings galore! Thank. God. Because I needed those HEAs, man. Like water, or air, I needed them. Now it gives me constant joy to see the genre expand its boundaries so all kinds of readers can find themselves in stories. We’ve still got plenty of work to do, but I love that we’re seeing a lot more trans and ace/aro and demi and bi characters. Yay for all the stories to come!

What can we hope to see down the line from you that I haven’t covered yet?

I just started reading this fun interactive fiction (The Eagle’s Heir) from Choice of Games after a reader recommended it to me on FB. Then I ran into a lovely representative from CoG at the NECRWA conference and learned a lot about their company (which prioritizes LGBTQ and nonbinary diversity, yay!) and the whole interactive fiction market. So now I’m getting all sorts of ideas about some fun story ideas that might work for that kind of narrative that allows so much reader participation. It’s fascinating! Who knows what could happen…

*****

Amy Jo Cousins writes contemporary romance and erotica about smart people finding their own best kind of smexy. She lives in Chicago with her son, where she tweets too much, sometimes runs really far, and waits for the Cubs to win the World Series again.

Better Know an Author: Riley Redgate

I am so excited to have Riley Redgate on the blog this month. If you’re not already familiar with her excellent YAs, rectify that immediately by reading Seven Ways We Lie as you wait for Noteworthy to release on May 2nd! Not only are her books and brain super fun and unique, but she’s got some skills when it comes to getting underrepresented POVs on the page, which is something I think we can alllll appreciate around here. But I’ll let her tell you more about that!

Congrats on the upcoming release of Noteworthy! One of my favorite things in the book is that not only is Jordan figuring out her own sexuality, but she’s also critically examining her actions as they pertain to gender identity. Was that always a planned part of Jordan’s journey, or did that come about as it was unfolding?

Thank you! Yes, I always wanted to address gender identity in Noteworthy. We’ve reached a point where not addressing gender identity in these sorts of narratives feels disingenuous to me (especially in a liberal environment like an arts school). That said, it was critically important to me that I steer clear of using the trans community as a foil or mirror for Jordan (who’s cis), in a way that felt diminishing of the importance of trans kids’ lives, identities, and struggles. I actually did have a draft that omitted examinations of gender for fear of that feeling of exploitation, but it felt off, tonally, so out the door it went. I don’t know. Striking that balance—maintaining a feeling of awareness, but not using the community as, basically, an object for sort of voyeuristic consumption by a cis narrator—was one of the toughest lines to walk in the manuscript.

I also really love that Jordan’s narrative is that of a child of immigrants, which is a glaringly important one in the current political climate, and especially welcome in LGBTQ lit. For those who haven’t gotten to read Noteworthy yet, what would you say about how her background informs her choices and identity?

Jordan’s narrative in many ways is about belonging. There’s no foregrounded struggle where she’s asked to take ownership of her identity as a Chinese girl, but I think the alienation of being a child of immigrants peeks out several times. She acutely feels the distance between her American identity and her parents’ upbringing abroad, but there’s also the usual sense of not being American enough (e.g., to land roles written for white Americans). Those smaller tensions can be unavoidable in the day-to-day.

Your books strongly acknowledge queerness without ever really being “about” it, or about coming out, but as far as I know, you’re the first author to put a pansexual main character on the page in mainstream YA, with your debut, Seven Ways We Lie. Was that a challenge along the way? And what kind of response have you received to that from readers?

The response from the YA community, and more privately from readers, has been wonderful. Writing a pan character in a book with seven perspectives was an interesting experience; I get a lot of “I wish [X character] had their own book,” and the pansexual narrator is at the top of this list. This makes sense to me. Because there’s such a dearth of narratives with pan characters at their centers, I understand why his perspective being limited to 1/7 of the narrative would feel frustrating. That said, I really hoped for him to be a lovable character to readers, because when there’s very little representation of a certain identity, all new representations tend to feel definitive in a way that is sort of overwhelming. Actually, though, the biggest concern for me was that people would take away only the fact that his character is associated with the deadly sin of Greed — the goal was to deconstruct the common tendency to think that pan & bi people are ‘greedy’ and ‘need to choose.’

Seven Ways We Lie also has a narrator working through the process of figuring out he’s aromantic asexual, though he hasn’t quite found those words yet. Or, at least, that’s how I read him. Do you find readers tend to read and respond to him that same way? (I definitely had someone tweet at me that he was the closest she’d ever seen to herself in a book!) Is that an identity you might explore more in future books?

I get a lot of messages about this narrator from people who see themselves in him: asexual readers, aromantic readers, and autistic readers. I think his realization that he’s aromantic asexual is textually explicit enough that acearo readers will recognize that arc, and I’ve seen that response. Still, in retrospect I wish it were on the page, as well as his identity as an autistic boy. I do plan to keep writing characters of all sexualities; I would be very surprised if I didn’t write another acearo character.

You’re not only an author, you’re also a musician. How do you find those two passions intersect, and where can your readers also find your music?

This is true! I do the musics! Folks can find my singer/songwriter stuff at my Bandcamp, and for giggles, here’s me singing with my college a cappella group, the Owl Creeks. I’m also writing a soundtrack for Noteworthy!

I did music long before writing. I’m a classically trained pianist of 19 years (whose training is quickly atrophying now that I don’t have a piano where I live, alas). I’ve also sung in musical theater, choir, & a cappella since high school. Music certainly informs my sense of rhythm when it comes to writing, and…well, honestly, writing prose makes songwriting feel simple and relaxing, because songwriting doesn’t quite have to make sense. My favorite songs don’t quite cohere, lyrically; they make these intricate soundscapes where the tone and style of the music define how you feel upon listening rather than the words. Bon Iver is really good at this in particular, but I’m also thinking about pop music, which I think – when the formula’s executed to perfection – is unparalleled for conveying the emotion of yearning, whether or not the lyrics are, uh, questionable. This is why I will defend to the death the Chainsmokers’ seminal work, “Closer.”

Obviously you’re not new to the world of a capella, either. What are your favorite covers, and what are you still dying to see done?

Oh Lord how do I pick. Okay. My all-time favorite covers are “We Found Love” by Voices in Your Head at UChicago, “Honeymoon Avenue” and “What Now” by the Nor’Easters, and “Move” by the Sons of Pitches. Runner-ups are “Domino” by the Duke’s Men, “Tightrope” by the SoCal VoCals, and—I don’t care if they’re mainstream, lmao, they’re incredible—Pentatonix’s “Dog Days Are Over.”

I’m still waiting for that perfect arrangement of Taylor Swift’s “Style.” And will someone please do a mashup of CeeLo Green’s “F*ck You” and Meghan Trainor’s “Lips Are Movin'” already? Like, good Lord, I’ll do it myself if this doesn’t happen soon. Yes that is a threat.

What’s something you’ve seen in LGBTQIAP+ lit that’s really stuck with you, for better or for worse?

In high school, I read Will Grayson, Will Grayson. What stuck with me is Tiny Cooper’s embodiment of archetypically gay characteristics in a way that’s uniquely his own. I feel as if there’s a tendency to write, specifically, gay male characters as cleaving away from typically feminine characteristics, ostensibly to steer clear of stereotyping. But this ends up excluding gay men who are more feminine. Tiny was notable to me in that he reminded me that queer people present themselves the way they do for all sorts of reasons, all equally interesting to examine.

My current favorite authorly pastime is mentally creating anthologies, since YA seems to be springing up with great ones everywhere. If you were helming one, what would you love the subject to be, and who would be among your dream contributors?

SCIENCE FANTASY ANTHOLOGY PLEASE. Oh my God. My favorite genre. Just anything science fantasy. Dream contributors would include: Emily Skrutskie, because we’ve talked about this before; Heidi Heilig, because her brain is beautiful; Leigh Bardugo, because I’m a massive Bardugo fangirl please keep this a closely guarded secret; and Zadie Smith, because look, I know she’s not a YA writer, but I think if she wrote a science fantasy story I would just read it and then drop dead on the spot.

Any chance you can share about what you’re working on now?

Yep! Currently working on my 2018 release. It’s about a girl named Laila who’s a creative writer. (Real stretch there.) Near the end of high school, Laila’s kind, supportive creative writing teacher is replaced with a viciously critical, perpetually unimpressed Pulitzer Prize winner who believes one must suffer to make great art. Laila becomes obsessed with gaining this woman’s approval, and begins walking that ever-fascinating line between sanity and the pursuit of perfection.

I’m also working on this massive four-book epic fantasy project, which I occasionally weep about on Twitter, mostly accompanied with prophecies of my own impending stress-related death. Cheers!

*****

Riley Redgate graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in Economics. Her seven-deadly-sins-themed first novel, Seven Ways We Lie, was released last year. Her next, Noteworthy, will be released May 2nd. She currently lives in Brooklyn and wears a lot of gray, and drafts theories on why these two things so often coincide, statistically.

Riley’s Books for Purchase

Better Know an Author: Austin Chant

I am so excited today to welcome to the site Austin Chant, whose books probably get the biggest rec workout in the entirety of the LGBTQReads Tumblr. (That’s what happens when I get asked for trans m/m every day!) His newest release, Peter Darling, is all of two weeks old, and he’s here to share about it, tell us what comes next, and discuss trans lit rep in general!

We have to start with Peter Darling, and as much as I hate asking authors about their inspiration, I have to have to know how the idea of a trans Peter Pan assigned Wendy Darling at birth came to you, and what the process of writing that story was like. (And do you have any plans to retell any other works in the future?)

33358438I wanted to write enemies-to-lovers, and I was really intrigued by the idea of an antagonistic-but-loving relationship between Hook and a grown-up Pan—but obviously at least one of them had to be trans, because that’s how I roll.

So I settled on trans Pan, and I wanted him to have come from a real place rather than being a mythical creature; I’m most interested in trans characters who feel like they live in the same world I do. I’ve always really liked Wendy Darling: the storyteller, the one who longs for family and responsibility but also falls in love with adventure and danger. Traditionally, Wendy balances Pan in an interesting but deeply gender-essentialist way. Having Peter be an amalgamation of them both, rather than having Wendy be Pan’s external conscience and foil, gave Peter a lot to wrestle with and intrigued me more than writing them as separate people.

Since Wendy is a storyteller, it made sense to me for Pan to be a character who Peter invented, who allowed him to take on a different name and identity. Pan is Peter’s fantasy self—a free, badass, cocky little bastard who only has happy thoughts. What made Peter interesting to me was the tension between his two worlds: the violent, toxic catharsis of Neverland versus the extreme repression of living as someone perceived as a woman and as a trans person in the early 1900s. His real personality is somewhere in between, but it’s complicated by the baggage from both sides.

At the time I started writing, I was frustrated with what I saw as a lack of empathy for trans folks newly coming into their identities, especially those who were struggling and not expressing themselves perfectly. I wanted to write a trans character who was in an incredibly difficult stage of coming out—letting go of abusive relationships—and was, as a result, kind of a human disaster. A big part of grounding his pain was making him someone who valued his family as much as the character of Wendy Darling traditionally does, but who was torn between that and his loyalty to himself. I wanted him to lash out and fuck up as Pan would, rather than being a martyr. We all deserve happy endings, and we ought to be allowed to struggle and make mistakes, especially when we’re dealing with intense pain and distress. Ultimately, it was really, really fun (and sometimes exhausting) to write a trans character with that much complexity and rage.

Someday I’m going to figure out a way to write a retelling of The Picture of Dorian Gray. There’s a lot of opportunity for queer rage there, too.

I am a totally-not-secret Coffee Boy fangirl, and like other readers, I definitely wanted more! What made you stop it at novella length, and is there any chance we’ll be seeing an extended version and/or more of the characters?

32146161Well, the original version was published in an anthology and had a word count limit (which I still totally went over, oops). I probably won’t expand what’s published now, but I do have tentative plans for a sequel. It would be set significantly after Coffee Boy and be plottier, with more political drama, and look at Kieran and Seth’s relationship after they’ve been together a few years. I like the idea of them growing into a deadly, snarky power couple and fueling each other’s ambitions, and I think it would be fun to see especially Kieran come into his own.

Both Coffee Boy and Peter Darling are m/m Romances with trans main characters, which is probably the #1 thing I get asked to recommend on Tumblr. Do you have any particular favorites to recommend? And is there an aspect to your writing of adding to canon that which we barely see on shelves, or is that just a nice bonus?

My personal favorites are The Burnt Toast B&B by Heidi Belleau and Rachel Haimowitz and A Matter of Disagreement by E.E. Ottoman. There really aren’t a lot! As a trans guy who’s primarily attracted to men, I don’t usually see myself, so writing trans m/m is definitely a selfish thing. 😛 But I also want both cis and trans readers to see queer trans folks in loving relationships. Too often I feel there’s a preference for trans characters who are straight and gender-conforming and those characters just don’t reflect my experiences or the full glorious spectrum of my community. Also, trans guys can be queer as hell and it doesn’t undermine who we are. I don’t think that’s acknowledged often enough.

If I recall correctly, you said something about writing trans f/f…? Aaaand I see it there on your #authorlifemonth To Write list, so don’t even think of hiding it! What can you share about what you’re working on?

Hmm, I don’t want to share too much yet (because I’m still working on it!) but the tentative working title is In Starlight. It’s about Hazel, a young trans woman musician who gets tossed into the spotlight very suddenly and winds up meeting her childhood idol, a retired champion figure skater named Miranda, under not-so-ideal circumstances. It’s coming out from Riptide Publishing as part of an F/F series with some really awesome contributors, and I’m super excited to be a part of it.

What’s something you’ve seen in LGBTQIAP+ lit that’s really stuck with you, for better or for worse?

The consensus seems to be that us queers are kind of magical and I’m on board with that. I try to live my life as if that’s true.

What’s the first trans rep you ever recall encountering in media? What about the first good trans rep, since I suspect they were not one and the same?

The thing about being a trans man is that when I was growing up, almost all the (very toxic) mainstream representation of trans folks was of trans women, and I a) didn’t realize it related to me and b) didn’t necessarily recognize it as trans because mainstream media didn’t acknowledge that trans folks were a community with a shared identity. My perspective was definitely a privilege in that it kept me from internalizing a lot of the terrible messages that were being broadcast about trans women, though it also left me without any models for who I was. I think the first time I became truly aware of trans people was in fandom, not in mainstream media. The first genuinely good representation I encountered was in queer romance when I started reading EE Ottoman’s work.

While #ownvoices trans lit is growing, it still spent years being dominated by cis authors. What are some clues you’ve seen that the authors writing have not lived the trans experience?

A lot of times it’s the conflicts and the joys. Authors who are imagining what it’s like to be trans tend not to have a great sense of the more nuanced and subtle ways that trans folks experience the world, and when they write transphobia, it generally takes the form of big, explosive incidents—assault, blackmail, etc. Those things do happen in real life, but there are also a million other ways that trans folks encounter a world that isn’t built for us. Gender essentialism is everywhere, and much of it isn’t obvious until you’re trying to navigate society as a trans person.

Trans characters written by cis authors can also fall into the trap of having few defining traits outside of being trans; their central character conflict is that they are trans and the world sucks. That doesn’t make for interesting character growth, and it results in some incredibly repetitive stories. The trans folks I know in real life are a hugely varied group of people who experience transness (and transphobia) in a variety of ways because they move in different circles, have different dreams and ambitions, and have other intersecting identities. A trans farmer is going to have a different set of obstacles and triumphs than a trans marine biologist or a trans schoolteacher, but all that gets flattened when you view transness as a singular experience that creates the same internal and external conflicts every time.

Finally, I’m not sure I’ve ever read a cis-authored description of gender dysphoria (or gender euphoria) that rang quite true. That’s one of the big reasons I’m a proponent of leaving “trans revelation” stories to trans authors; knowing your gender as a trans person is a heavily personal and individual thing, and it’s virtually impossible to write well with only a surface-level understanding of that experience.

I don’t mean to rag on cis authors, though. I fully believe that cis authors are capable of writing wonderful trans characters… so long as they’re capable of writing us like people. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen, that’s not always the case.

Going back to #authorlifemonth for a sec, I see you have a dream of opening a Queer Romance bookstore. A) Hell Yes, and B) What books would you say would be absolute musts for your shelves?

I’m going to let out my fanboy self here and say that my #1 necessity is KJ Charles‘s entire backlist. But honestly, I’d want to get my hands on almost anything in print. I love ebooks, but there’s still something really special about print books, and it makes me sad that more LGBT fiction doesn’t get produced that way. I like a book I can hug and/or throw. I can’t think of anything lovelier than being surrounded by bookshelves full of queer romance.

What do you wish you got asked more often, and what’s the answer?

Oh, gosh. Who’s the best Captain Hook? The only acceptable answer is Jason Isaacs.

*****

sfqb1xvoAustin Chant is a bitter millennial and decent chef who grew up along the Puget Sound, ensuring that cold, rainy beaches will forever be part of his #aesthetic. Nowadays, he goes to college in Seattle and lives a double life as a game designer and a queer, trans romance novelist. Austin co-hosts The Hopeless Romantic, a podcast dedicated to LGBTQIA+ love stories and the art of writing romance. He aspires to fill his books with trans characters who get all the love they deserve. His works include Peter Darling, Coffee Boy, and Caroline’s Heart (in the Magic & Mayhem anthology).

Read & Buy Links:

Peter Darling: Amazon | Publisher

Coffee Boy: Amazon | Publisher

Better Know an Author: Robin Talley

Welcome to Better Know an Author, a feature title I stole from Colbert Report because I miss it so, which will introduce you to a fabulous author of LGBTQIAP+ books every month! This month, the spotlight is on Robin Talley, who just released her newest book, Our Own Private Universe! Robin is an extremely prolific author of LGBTQ YA, as well as a huge reader and supporter of it, and I’m thrilled to have her here!

So, new book! I know with Our Own Private Universe, you were aiming for something like a queer-girl version of Judy Blume’s Forever, and you know I think you succeeded there! What was particularly important to you to include in the book, and why?

22082082Thank you! With Our Own Private Universe, I set out to write the book I wished I’d had when I was a teenager and was first starting to figure out I was queer (which took me quite a while). What I wanted then, but wouldn’t have even known to look for, was a story that validated happy endings for queer girls. I wanted someone to tell me that however I wound up identifying, my life would go on, and it would be fun and interesting and with the usual ups and downs, just like it was for my straight friends. At that time, I was also desperate for representations of what it was like to be a girl in a relationship with another girl, complete with flirting and fighting and sex and everything in between. So I set out to cover all that in OOPU.

You’ve had some damn cool experiences in the publishing world, including hitting the NYT bestseller list and getting shortlisted for the Carnegie. What’s been the absolute coolest thing, and how do you usually celebrate?

I was pretty excited about the Carnegie situation. I got to go to London for that, which was awesome. Plus my UK publisher sent me a bottle of fancy champagne as a congratulations gift, which was lovely of them. My wife and I are not very good at finishing bottles of champagne by ourselves so we had some friends over and we made tacos and drank champagne. That might have been my favorite writerly celebration. 🙂

It will probably not shock you to learn that I’m a major fangirl of As I Descended. Have you considered queering up any other retellings, and if so, which ones? And whether or not you’re looking to write more, what kinds would you like to read?

28218948Thank you again! And I might have a queer contemp retelling of Taming of the Shrew coming up, actually. Stay tuned for more on that! There are a bunch of other classic stories I’ve tried to tackle but haven’t been able to make work. Doesn’t someone have an f/f Pride & Prejudice in the works right now? That would probably be my #1 request.

What’s something you’ve seen in LGBTQIAP+ lit that’s really stuck with you, for better or for worse?

Right now what I’m most excited about are stories that focus on straight-up friendships between queer characters, like You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan. Those friendships can wind up being much more significant and lasting much longer than romantic relationships do, especially in the teen years. I’m glad we’re seeing that represented more in YA.

What are your favorite LGBTQIAP+ reads, and which ones are you most looking forward to?

My all-time favorite has long been The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth. Other faves include When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore, Ask the Passengers by AS King, The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson, Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan, Far From You by Tess Sharpe, Ash by Malinda Lo, and The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson. And coming up I’m really, really, really excited for Ramona Blue by the amazing Julie Murphy.

I’m excited that we’re anthology buddies in All Out, the historical all-LGBTQ antho coming out in 2018. What setting did you pick for your story, and why?

I am SO EXCITED for All Out. I can’t believe I got to be in an anthology with all of these amazing authors!! My story is set in 1726 in Kensington Palace in London, and it focuses on a romance between two servant girls. I chose the Georgian period after finding lots of fascinating tidbits about this era in my research. Now I want to know what the setting of yours is, Dahlia!

(Blogger’s note: I was slightly less ambitious about the “historical” aspect…like, 1994 Seattle less ambitious!)

Speaking of anthologies, you gave us an f/f story in The Tyranny of Petticoats; any chance you’ll be doing the same in Feral Youth?

My character in Feral Youth is definitely a girl who likes girls. And without giving too much away, readers interested in queer characters will find a LOT to like in this book.

And finally, what can you share with us about the awesome-sounding Pulp?

Pulp is my current work-in-progress, slated for 2018. It’s about lesbian pulp fiction, which were these incredible books were published in the 1950s and 1960s and sold very cheaply (think 25 cents) in drugstores and bus stations. They were intended for a male audience and often had lurid covers featuring scantily clad women, but a lot of the books were actually written by lesbians, and the best ones wound up being these really frank portrayals of lesbian life at a time when there were NO mainstream media images of queer people at all. So for a lot of readers, these books, with their lurid covers and all, were an essential lifeline—the only indication they had that there existed a community of other people like them. My own book, Pulp, has two different stories taking place in two timelines. One focuses on an 18-year-old girl in 1955 who’s just realizing she’s a lesbian and is writing a lesbian pulp romance, and the other follows a modern 17-year-old out-and-proud queer girl who comes across the other character’s book in the present day and tries to uncover the author, who wrote under a pseudonym and mysteriously disappeared from the public scene as soon as the book was published.

*****

robin-talley-high-resRobin Talley is the New York Times-bestselling author of four novels for teen readers: Our Own Private Universe, As I Descended, What We Left Behind, and Lies We Tell Ourselves. Her first book, Lies We Tell Ourselves, was the winner of the inaugural Amnesty CILIP Honour. Her work has been short-listed for the CILIP Carnegie Medal, the Lambda Literary Award, and the Concorde Book Award, and has been included on the American Library Association Rainbow List, the Amelia Bloomer Project List, and the Capitol Choices List. It has been nominated for the Kirkus Prize, the Young Adult Library Services Association Teens’ Top Ten, and the Goodreads Choice Awards, and has been selected for the Junior Library Guild. Robin was a Lambda Literary Foundation fellow, and has contributed short stories to the young adult anthologies A Tyranny of Petticoats: 15 Stories of Belles, Bank Robbers and Other Badass Girls, All Out, and Feral Youth.

Robin lives in Washington, D.C., with her wife, their daughter, and an antisocial cat. She enjoys reading about queer characters, analyzing Disney movies, and chocolate. You can find her at www.robintalley.com.

Better Know an Author: Shaun David Hutchinson

I’m thrilled to jump into the new year with an author who’s one of today’s most prolific authors of gay YA, in addition to being the mastermind of some killer collaborative projects. His We Are the Ants was a hugely lauded 2016 release, and now he’s back with another speculative fiction title in the upcoming At the Edge of the Universe. But don’t worry, he’s got a full dance card for 2018 too. Please welcome Shaun David Hutchinson to LGBTQReads to tell us all about it!

Let’s jump right into the new release: At the Edge of the Universe, which releases February 7. Something about that book feels so…cathartic. What was the experience of writing it like?

28763240Writing At the Edge of the Universe was actually kind of a struggle.  I had no idea what my follow up to We Are the Ants was going to be, so I just started writing the things that popped into my head (which is how it usually goes). I went through three or four drafts trying to figure out what this book was about, sort of throwing every weird idea I had into it to see what worked and then peeling them back. For me, the “big ideas” are never really what books are about. They’re always about the emotions, and that was what I struggled with most to understand. What was the emotional core of this book? What was it really about?

It wasn’t until earlier this year when my partner and I split up that I realized I’d been subconsciously writing about relationships in various stages of ending. Ozzie’s parents are divorcing, he and all of his friends are graduating high school and moving to the next phases of their lives, his brother is joining the army, his boyfriend, Tommy, has disappeared. And on top of that, the universe is shrinking, forcing Ozzie to figure out how to move on from all of that. Where does he fit in?  Where does his life go from here?  How does he make it through life without all of the people he’s counted on for support?  It’s funny that you mentioned catharsis, because coming to the realization concerning the true emotional center of this book was cathartic for me as well. 2016 has been a great year for me professionally, but a pretty crappy one for me personally, and finishing Ozzie’s story helped me move on from those bad things in a positive way.

I’ve come to think of your books as sharing the theme of “the light at the very end of the loooong, spiky tunnel,” which feels particularly relevant at present. What feeds that theme for you, and what kinds of things work as your “light” at the end of a long writing day of tough stuff?

It’s funny.  I never really thought of myself as an optimist. I’m not really a glass-is-half-full kind of guy.  Or a glass-is-half-empty one.  I’m more “OMG! The glass is full of acid!” I don’t know if it’s a side-effect of my struggles with depression or with the way I deal with it, but for me personally, life feels like 90% struggling through the mud to reach the 10% of stuff that’s awesome. And holding on for that 10% is what keeps me going.  It’s what helps me get through the day. I like the “it gets better” sentiment, but the truth is that sometimes it gets better, and sometimes it gets worse. Sometimes it gets better and then it gets worse before it gets better again. I’m not sure there’s actually a light at the end of the tunnel, but I do believe that life is one long tunnel and there are definitely lights along the way, and we have to take the time to breathe and appreciate them when we find them. For me, those lights can be something big like going to visit my brother and his husband in Seattle or something small like slipping into a great book.  It’s less about what that light is than about recognizing it’s a light and allowing myself to enjoy it. Though, I did buy one of those virtual reality headsets recently, and OMG is it fun.

Similarly, the universe and its potential growth or end are obviously recurring elements for you as well. Is this a lifelong love of science bleeding into your books, or a recent fascination? If the latter, can you pin where it came from?

I can trace my love of science fiction all the way back to my father, who got me into Star Wars and Star Trek and all things sci-fi. I’m not sure if my love of science is an outgrowth of that or just the way my brain is wired. On one hand, I’ve got all the hallmarks of an artistic person, while on the other I’m obsessed with logic and how things work. I love with science and math that you can take all of this data and calculate it and come up with the same answer every time. There’s something soothing about that. It’s like, there’s so much about the universe we don’t know, there are some many bits unexplained and unexplored, but the things we do know, we know with a frightening certainty.

When we predict wrongly the way the universe works, it’s not because we did the math wrong, it’s simple because we lacked some key piece of knowledge necessary for the equation.  For characters like Drew, Henry, and Ozzie (and probably for me as well), the solidity that science and logic offer are a necessary counterbalance to the emotional turmoil they experience. Depression doesn’t play by any rules. Neither does life. Depression hits when you least expect it. People die or drift away. Friendships and relationships end unexpectedly. The day-to-day of life can be frustratingly random in a way science isn’t.  The sun will rise tomorrow. And the day after. You can do the math and determine exactly when then sun is going to rise from any position on the planet to a frighteningly accurate degree because of science and math. It’s comforting to know that.

You’re kind of the king of anthologies right now, with Violent Ends behind you and Feral Youth coming up in 2018. What’s the process of putting together a lineup for those like, and how on earth did you get the idea for a modern Canterbury Tales antho??

Well thank you!  It’s not something I thought I’d wind up doing, but I really love everything about it. Gathering the right authors is a really methodical process.  It’s not just about liking someone’s body of work, they have to be a fit for the tone of the anthology. I had a couple of people question including Beth Revis, who was known for writing science fiction, in Violent Ends, but I knew Beth would be a perfect fit because while her Across the Universe series was indeed sci-fi, her characters and their relationships were always the core of those books.  So every author I work with is one whose works I’m very familiar with.  Once I have a list, it’s all about begging them to be a part of what I hope to do. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have assembled two stellar groups of talented writers so far. They’ve been enthusiastic and supportive and have been immensely wonderful to work with. And even though I thought I knew what to expect from each of them, they all managed to surprise me in the very best ways.

As for Canterbury Tales…I’ve actually been a fan since college. I took a medieval literature class with a professor who inspired in me a lifelong love and study of medieval and renaissance literature. The following semester she taught a course devoted exclusively to Chaucer, and it was the best class I ever took. Since then I’ve been looking for a way to bring my own spin to it, and after my experience with Violent Ends, I thought another atypical anthology was the perfect fit. The thing that’s so brilliant about Canterbury Tales is that it’s not about the tales themselves, but rather what those stories reveal about the storytellers. If you want to really know and understand a person and how they view the world, listen to the stories they tell you.

One of the really fun things about watching your career is seeing how you’ve really grown in audience, especially as your books have gotten gayer. What are the best/most memorable things you’ve heard in response to your more recent work?

20500616Ha!  I’d actually given up when I decided to move forward with The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley. Before that, I was terrified of how a gay character whose sexuality didn’t have a narrative purpose would be received. Queer characters in movie, books, and television always seem to have to justify their existence. They’re either there to provide an after-school-special lesson or to die so that the real main character can experience some type of emotional moment. But Drew was just gay. None of his many problems revolved around his sexuality. And I wasn’t exactly sure how readers would respond. I was happily surprised by the reactions. Since then, there’s been a wonderful explosion of queerness in YA lit. We’re definitely still lagging behind in many areas, and I’d like to see us moving away from the queer experience as seen through the eyes of gay cisgender white boys, but we’re pushing forward. I’m a glass-is-full-of-acid guy, remember? So the things that stand out to me are always the “this would have been better without the gays” reviews. But, honestly, I’ve gotten so many emails from young people who read Five Stages or We Are the Ants and wanted to share their own stories and how Henry helped them cope. To me, that’s everything. That something I wrote helped a kid in a way I wish a book had been able to help me as a teen is the very best part of all of this.

What’s something you’ve seen in LGBTQIAP+ lit that’s really stuck with you, for better or for worse?

I wouldn’t call it LGBTQIAP+ lit, but Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey was the first time I saw a queer character in a book that I can remember.  It was such a lightbulb moment for me seeing someone who sort of represented me in a genre work by a prominent author.  I wasn’t particularly keen on all the aspects of those books (especially the idea of sex with sentient horses), but even all the way back in the late 90s when I read it, I remember it giving me hope that I could write stories filled with characters who represented me and the people I knew.

What are your favorite LGBTQIAP+ reads, and which ones are you most looking forward to?

My favorites tend to fluctuate. I’m always a fan of everything Hannah Moskowitz writes. Her book Not Otherwise Specified is criminally underrated.  I’m loving everything by Tim Floreen (his most recent is Tattoo Atlas, and it’s SO GOOD), and Simon Curtis’s Boy Robot is the gay sci-fi of my dreams. Delilah Dawson’s (writing as Lila Bowen) series The Shadow, which starts with the book A Wake of Vultures, is a definite standout for me. Robin Talley’s books continue to amaze me. And, of course, I love everything Patrick Ness writes (including his BBC show Class).

I’m really looking forward to both of Adam Silvera’s new books, as well as Becky Albertalli’s latest. I don’t know what they’ve got coming out next, but I’m also eagerly awaiting Alex Gino’s followup to George. And I can’t wait for Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give. But mostly I’m looking forward to where  LGBTQIAP+ books go next as we move beyond the typical queer narratives into the wider world of storytelling.  I can’t wait for that gritty sci-fi space pirate series that features a transgender character or the epic fantasy with an asexual character. I can’t wait to see books that feature intersectionality in a non-issue-book way. I can’t wait for the readers who fell in love with George or More Happy Than Not to start writing and publishing their own books. LGBTQIAP+ has such a bright future, and I’m beyond excited to see everything that’s coming.

In addition to Feral Youth, you’ve also got The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza coming up in 2018. What can you share about it with us?

I’m ending the world. Again! So I had this idea about a character who was born of a virgin and starts the apocalypse. And then I had no idea where to go from there.  Luckily, Elena started speaking to me (as most characters do) and I discovered this really flawed and strong and fragile character with a story to tell about struggling to control the world around her. The premise is that Elena Mendoza is the first child to be scientifically proven as born of a virgin. Which, obviously, pisses people off. When she’s sixteen, she begins hearing voices and learns she has the ability to heal people when her mother is shot in the parking lot of a Target. A side-effect of her ability is that it causes holes to open in the sky and lights to “rapture” people, taking them to somewhere unknown, and it kickstarts the end of the world. And though the world actually does end this time (I promise!), the story is really about how Elena navigates a world she wants to control when everything seems so out of control. Her ex-boyfriend is a jerk who keeps trying to prove he’s a “good guy;” she and her best friend, Winifred, are taking their first steps into a romantic relationship; Elena’s mother is battling mental illness; and the voices, which speak to her through stuffed animals and Lego figures, keep trying to force Elena to walk a path she isn’t sure she wants to go down. And all of this is happening while the world tears itself apart, and Elena might be the only person who can save it.

I would say that this book is really a tribute to my mother. She’s disabled and has been since I was very young, but she’s the strongest person in my life.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized how badly she’d struggled raising me and my brothers. Knowing that only reinforced my belief in her strength.  She kept on when most people would have given up. Even when everything else was falling apart around her, she kept going and did what needed to be done. And I wanted to bring that to Elena’s story.  If there’s any book I want to make my mother proud, it’s this one.

Got questions or comments for Shaun? Leave them below or check out his website at ShaunDavidHutchinson.com!