Category Archives: Better Know an Author

Better Know an Author: Ashley Herring Blake

If you’re not already familiar with the work of Ashley Herring Blake, it’s time to get on board, because she’s become a serious force in both queer YA and MG, with one of each out this very season. I snagged her right in between her two 2018 releases (both phenomenal) to ask her about them, her bookselling days and recs, and what’s coming up!

Congrats on your newest release, Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World! The world of queer Middle Grade is so small; what was it like getting into it? And what’s your favorite thing about Ivy herself?

Thank you so much! I’m excited to have the book out in the world. Deciding to write a queer middle grade novel was an easy one for me—there are just too few out there and I really wanted to write a book that could be really meaningful for kids at this age. My second YA, How to Make a Wish, was very much the book I needed as a teenager, but Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World is the book I needed at a tween and I just knew I needed to write it. Once it sold though, that was a little scarier, thinking about its reception. Sure, its 2018, but the world is still very much a scary place for queer people and I live in the south. I’ve seen the wrinkled noses and heard the snarky comments first hand. But, really, I think that only proves that we need more queer middle grade books out there. Because if I’m nervous, I know queer kids dealing with identity and questions are terrified. I think my favorite thing about Ivy is drive to explore her feelings. She keeps them a secret from the people in her life, but she lets them all out on paper, and that’s something I never had the courage to do. As a tween, I squashed down any feelings I felt rise up for other girls. In fact, I doubt I even realized I was doing it. It was an unacceptable course for my life, as I saw then, so I didn’t even let it bloom into my heart too much. But Ivy, she lets it in, even if it’s just with herself, and I think that, too, takes a kind of bravery.

You also have an incredible YA coming out on May 15, Girl Made of Stars. You know I’m already obsessed, especially with the fact that it’s really a book that has no easy choices or paths, but it’s also releasing at what feels like a really auspicious time. Can you tell us about the book, and what it feels like to have it published now in particular?

Thanks, I’m excited about Girl Made of Stars too. It was definitely the most emotionally difficult book I’ve ever written. I get this question a lot—about how it’s the perfect time for the book to come out, how timely it is, that it’s a book for the #MeToo movement, and I don’t disagree. But when I wrote it, these conversations and revelations hadn’t exploded quite yet. There was no #MeToo movement. But there were angry, hurt, ignored, strong, brave, scared women and victims dealing with the repercussions of abuse and assault. And you know, it felt just as timely then as it does now. Unfortunately, I don’t think there has ever been a time when a book like this wasn’t timely. When I talk about it, I want to make sure readers get that—yes, we’re talking about this issue a lot right now and hopefully, that will lead to some real self-reflection, policy changes, consequences, healing, and safety for victims. But these stories have always been. These women, these victims have always been trying to tell their truth and heal and feel safe. Girl Made of Stars, I hope, simply adds to an already rich body of YA literature out there that lifts up and reveals these stories.

I of course have to give a shout to your last YA, How to Make a Wish, which, like Girl Made of Stars, features an out-and-proud bi protag and a beautiful queer romance. As you continue to embody “Write the books you want to see on shelves” and maybe even “Write the books you needed as a kid,” what stands out to you as really important to have in both your romances and your representation?

I think the most important thing to me is to just write a damn good character. I love flawed, messy, real characters and, as I do desire to add to the wonderfully growing list of books featuring bisexual protagonists, one of my biggest goals is simply portray that character as a real person. When writing a marginalized character, there’s a pressure to get it perfect, which isn’t fair at all. I know others, particularly women of color writing women of color, experience this pressure on a much larger scale than I do, which is even less fair. Every bad choice my character makes, every errant thought, every mean thing they think or say, I have to second guess it. Because there’s a feeling that my bi character must represent all bi people and if they come across as a certain way, I’m damning everyone. I think this pressure comes from a good place—the desire to do no harm with our characters, which I fully endorse. People are messy, though. So while I am careful that my bi characters do no harm in terms of bi-erasure or bi-phobia or bi-shame, it’s important to me to write characters who make out with people for the wrong reasons and hurt people they love because they’re scared. I want to read about a character I can relate to and that’s the kind I want to write and no one is squeaky clean or perfect, marginalized characters included. I love creating that room, that space, for my girls to eff up and grow.

My feeling about your books is that they really fill in gaps in this really quiet and wonderful way. What are some of the best things you’ve heard from readers about your work?

Some of my favorite emails from readers have come in the short time since Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World has released. I’ve had readers tell me they read it and then came out to their family. I’ve had readers echo my own feelings—that they wish they had this book as a tween and can’t wait to get it into young readers’ hands. Each email reminds me why I do what I do, even when it’s hard. I’ve had a number of readers really connect with Grace’s relationship with her mom in How to Make a Wish, telling me it reflected their own relationship in a way that helped them process it. Those are really special messages as well, as I didn’t have a mom like Grace’s and I’m so honored to those who entrusted their story to me that helped me craft Grace’s fraught relationship with her mom. I’m starting to get some messages about Girl Made of Stars and those are probably the most difficult to read, but also the most important and moving. In short, I’m honored and humbled to get to do what I do.

In addition to being on the author side of a while now, you’ve also spend some time on the other side of the bookstore counter. What did you learn as a bookseller that authors and/or readers might not know about the business?

I loved my time as a bookseller and so wish I could do it again! I just loved being around all the books, you know? I’m not sure if I have any real insider info to pass along, but I will say that it was truly amazing to be able to put the right book into the right person’s hands. Authors, I’m telling you, hug your local bookseller and/or librarian. (I mean, ask first, but if they say yes, give them a squeeze.) Because the work tirelessly, particularly those who work predominantly with kid and teen books, to get you work to the reader who really needs it. In this business, it’s so easy to feel lost among the top-sellers, but being a bookseller really revealed to me that there is place for every book, bestsellers and mid-list alike.

As someone with professional recommendation experience, what are your favorite queer titles to shove in the arms of everyone you know? What upcoming queer titles are you excited about?

Oh, I do love this question. *cracks knuckles* So, my absolutely favorite queer book of the past year was Nina LaCour’s We Are Okay. Many of you have probably read it—and it won the Printz—but it is this quiet, perfect, devastating, lovely book that everyone should read and reread. I also must put an adult queer book that just RUINED me a few months ago, and that’s Taylor Jenkins Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. I’m serious, I was just useless for days, crying in my classroom, could’t stop thinking about it. It’s that good. The books I regularly push into people’s arms are Far From You by Tess Sharpe, Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler (ahem), Like Water by Rebecca Podos, literally any book by Anna-Marie McLemore, Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann, If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo, Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta, any book by Caleb Roehrig, and any book by Sara Farizan. There are two books come out soon (or may be out by the time this posts) that I’ve read and am wild about. Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert just might be the most perfect book I’ve ever read. I’m not even kissing. And Kheryn Callender’s Hurricane Child is a queer middle grade that is simply gorgeous and is a must-read. As far as upcoming release, I’m beyond excited for Kheryn Callender’s This is Kind of an Epic Love Story, Jen Wilde’s The Brightsiders, Candice Montgomery’s Home and Away, Anna-Marie McLemore’s Blanca & Roja, Tehlor Kay Mejia’s We Set the Dark on Fire, and Claire Legrand’s Sawkill Girls.

You have another Middle Grade novel coming in 2019, The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James. What can you tell us about it?

Yes! I’m so excited about this book. Sunny actually might be my favorite character I’ve ever written and I can’t wait for you to meet her. So, this book is about Sunny St. James and it opens when she’s about to go into surgery to have a heart transplant. In recovery, her estranged mother shows up, which throws her New Life plan all out of whack. But Sunny is nothing if not determined, so she forges ahead, meeting a new girl named Quinn and the two embark on a Kissing Quest, in which they try and find a boy with whom to share a first kiss. But, in quintessential Ashley fashion, Sunny starts to realize it might not be boys she wants to kiss. All the while, there’s the long-lost mother, a Former Best Friend who is the worst betrayer to ever betray, and free verse poetry. I love it and I hope you do too.

With both queer MG and queer YA under your belt, what are the most notable differences to you in both writing it and publishing it?

You know, every book is different, even if you always stay without the same marketing category and age range, but I will say that it took me a while to find my middle grade voice with Ivy. I wrote the whole book in first person, but couldn’t get away from a YA sound, it was so ingrained, so I changed it to third, which I ended up loving for Ivy. Sunny, however, needed a first person, but by then, I had my feet wet and I was able to create an authentic, unique MG voice for her. Of course, I can’t drop eff bombs in middle grade and I’ve found a tenderness to middle grade, even when the characters are dealing with pretty heavy stuff, that I have just fallen in love with. Publishing wise, it’s interesting, because I’ve definitely found it harder to use my normal social media platforms for middle grade. Of course, there are fewer middle grade aged readers on social media (as it should—I’m not letting my own kids touch it until they’re 30), so I’ve had to let go of a lot of my own promo a bit. I’ve done things, but I’ve definitely found less response (granted, maybe that’s because the book and not the market, ha), but it’s been a bit more challenging to navigate. That being said, I’ve interacted with more librarians and teachers with middle grade, which has just been lovely. I’m hoping to find more places online where I can connect with those who get these books into MG readers’ hands.

Your Middle Grade editor is none other than the unstoppable Kheryn Callender, who also has two books coming out this year, one MG and one YA. What’s it like working with another author on your books?

Ha, yes, I’ve already lauded their two books this year, one I’ve read and one I’m drooling over, so you could definitely say I’m a fan. Honestly, it’s been a dream working with Kheryn. They’re insightful, supportive, wise. They are everything I want in an editor. My agent is also an author, so working with Kheryn in that capacity wasn’t very different. Also, we keep those two things pretty separate. With my reader hat on, Kheryn is an amazing, kickass author and in my author hat, Kheryn is an amazing, kickass editor. I’m honored to work with them.

You have truly been blessed by the cover gods. Who’s behind those gorgeous designs, and how much say did you have in them?

I have been so blessed and have loved each one of my covers. Ivy and Girl Made of Stars have an particularly special place in my heart. Funny, boyhood these book covered were actually designed by the same company, Good Wives & Warriors. My two separate publishers both hired this company totally on their own. They compliment each other pretty well, I think. 🙂

If you can share, what are you working on now?

Ha, good question. I’m finishing up edits on Sunny and ruminating on my next projects. I think I’m just about ready to start drafting my next YA, but that’s really all I can say about it right now. It’s in that fragile “is this the book or isn’t it?” phase. Thanks so much for having me!

***

Preorder Girl Made of Stars at Parnassus Books, B&N, or Amazon!

Ashley Herring Blake is a reader, writer, and mom to two boisterous boys. She holds a Master’s degree in teaching and loves coffee, arranging her books by color, and cold weather. She is the author of the young adult novels Suffer Love, How to Make a Wish, and Girl Made of Stars (HMH), as well as the middle grade novel Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World (Little, Brown). You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @ashleyhblake and on the web at www.ashleyherringblake.com.

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Better Know an Author: Anna Zabo

Today on the site I’m psyched to be talking to Anna Zabo, brilliant author of m/m romance, who’s recently added Polyam to their repertoire. Please welcome them to talk about their newest release, their infamous Takeover series, and what comes next!

Let’s jump right into your newest release! Polyam romances are one of the most common rec requests on the LGBTQReads Tumblr. What can readers expect from Outside the Lines? And might they see more polyam romance from you in the future?

35528567Outside the Lines is a polyam romance between a married couple, Lydia and Simon, and a gay man, Ian. It’s a polyam V relationship rather than a triad—at least sexually. Ian comes to love Lydia, but he’s not sexually attracted to her. But they all develop bonds with each other and become a family.

I would like to write more polyam romances! I love exploring relationships and families that aren’t seen as often in romance. I probably will eventually write a triad romance, and I would love to write a sprawling queer polyam saga along the lines of Kris Ripper’s Scientific Methods books (meaning with the same found family feel!) but I need to find the right characters and plot for that.

You also sold two new books this year, to Carina, about a queer rock band! What can you share with us about Syncopation?

37648566Oh, I loved writing Syncopation! I’ve wanted to write rock stars for a while and loved the idea of the struggle of an up-and-coming band getting jerked around by their manager and label. I also wanted the book not to be about a band-member coming out to the public. So members of Twisted Wishes, the band in the book, are openly queer.

The main focus of the books is between Ray, the lead singer and composer/song writer, and their new drummer Zavier. Zav also happens to be the guy Ray had a complete crush on in high school and invited to join his band all those years ago. Zavier was bound for Julliard, and said no. But he’s recently quit his job as a timpanist, and he’s come to admire Ray and Twisted wishes, so he auditions for the band.

Ray finds Zavier insufferably sexy and is furious that he’s exactly the drummer the group needs. Zavier admires Ray and the band and seeks out a friendship that eventually turns to something more in unexpected ways for both of them. Ray’s gay. Zavier is pansexual and aromantic, and also kinky. (Zav remains aromantic, despite getting his HEA in his own way on his terms. That was important to me.)

In the interest of making sure everyone’s in the know about your superhot m/m office romances, the Takeover series, can you give us a little background on the universe? Is there a story, setting, or character who’s particularly close to your heart?

The background to Takeover—working in high tech, Michael’s job at a routing company, and that company being bought be another—all came about as a way to give a company like the one I invested eleven years of my life (and that was ultimately bought and closed) the ending I would have liked. Then it grew into something else—a story of Pittsburgh and co-workers and queer people living around one another and supporting each other.

23213982I have a soft spot for all the characters in the Takeover Series, but the character who far and away steals my heart each time is Eli Ovadia, one of the main characters from Just Business. There’s so many layers to him. He’s so shaped by his past, but also fights hard to make sure it doesn’t define him completely. He’s strong, yet surprisingly vulnerable, and he knows this. He’s a Dom and a sadist who absolutely will cry and cuddle with his cat when he’s feeling down. He loves and protects his friends, sometimes at the expense of himself. He has a lot of hope to give, but often keeps none for himself. I could write about Eli for ages.

You rereleased your Paranormal Romance Close Quarter this past August following the closure of Loose Id. How was taking the book on your own? Is there anything you can share about the upcoming sequel?

35534292It was good experience to re-read and edit Close Quarter. The writing held up pretty well, all things considered, and I still love the world-building. Going through the process of working with a cover designer and learning KDP and CreateSpace was eye-opening. I learned that I can do this myself, but I also learned I don’t necessarily want to for every book. There are time benefits to working with publishers.

But I will be putting out the sequel this year. No Quarter Given will focus on just how Silas and Rhys upset the balance of power in the fae community in New York City when they return together. It’ll also be quite a bit about all those things Rhys had been avoiding, including a past lover and the press. As well as the things he’s searching for—who he really is.

One of my favorite things you did this past year was run #RRWTalk, a Twitter chat for writers of queer romance specifically. Why do you think it’s important to discuss queer romance separately, and did anything from those chats particularly stick out to you?

One of the things that stuck out was that there is a section of folks for whom LGBT = m/m and there’s also a section of folks for whom it does NOT. And that there are vibrant important queer stories that need and should be read and written that aren’t m/m. Happy Ever Afters are for everyone under the rainbow.

While we’re on the topic of queer romance, who are your go-to authors within? What books would you love to give a shout, especially if you feel like they’re criminally underread?

I’ve been talking about this series a lot lately, but Kris Ripper’s Scientific Methods series. It’s a kinky, poly sprawling found family series that includes all kinds of queer people. Multi-racial. Different genders, including genderqueer and trans characters. The first book is Catalyst, but I warn you, it’s one that hooks you in and suddenly, it’s a week later and you’ve read all…I think there’s 13 books now… and you look around and you wonder what happened.

Another thing I’ve seen you discuss that I really admire is how your writing helped you realize you’re non-binary. It’s sort of one of my greatest interests, for personal reasons and otherwise, how writing LGBTQA lit can really help people work through both gender and sexuality, and I think we see it a lot more with authors who are AFAB. Any thoughts you’re comfortable discussing?

Huh. This is a hard one for me because I’m not sure I have fully formed thoughts about it. Some are too deeply emotional to put into words. What writing did for me was give me a safe place to peel back my psyche, pluck some aspects out, plunk them in other people, and see what happened. I could explore bits of me in bodies that weren’t the one I was born with, and that was so liberating.

I’m not wholly any one of my characters, but there are aspects of me in all of them.

And by exploring me in others and seeing them live authentically, even if it was in fiction, I learned a lot about me in me, and could start taking steps to live my own life more authentically.

I know this isn’t related to books or whatever, but something I see non-binary people struggling with often is finding great clothing, and you dress dapper as hell. Got any great clothing tips? What’s your favorite thing in your closet?

I think the main thing is to find clothes your comfortable in! I love button-downs and bow-ties. But I know that’s not everyone’s thing.

If you’re just starting to build a wardrobe or are aching to dress in clothes that don’t conform to the gender other people think you are, a good place to start shopping is thrift stores. My first suit came from a thrift store and I bought it in October, because no one looks at you strangely when you buy gender non-conforming clothes near Halloween.

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

Sometimes people want the perfect representation of an identity. Like the perfect trans character or the perfect bisexual or the perfect representation of asexuality. And…people aren’t perfect. There’s no perfect rep. What works for someone as the model trans experience might be nothing like another trans person’s experience. People are messy. Rep is going to be messy too. Sometimes queer people hurt other queer people over rep. I really hope we can allow ourselves to be messy.

Since you’re kicking off the new year for us: what are you really excited about in queer lit coming up in 2018? And where do you hope this year takes you?

One of the books I’m most excited about is Cat Sebastian’s Unmasked by the Marquess. It looks like a regency m/f romance, but it is SO so so sooooo queer. SO queer. As Cat puts it:

“It’s the story of a servant who dresses as a man to impersonate her employer, realizes she doesn’t identify as a woman anymore, and accidentally falls in love with a prickly bisexual aristocrat. Featuring: spectacles, lemon drops, and a kitten.”

I beta read an early draft and I loved it. I cannot wait for it to be unleashed unto the world. My only regret is that I know m/m-only readers will skip this one because one LI isn’t a man and they will miss out on a story that rivals the best m/m I have ever read.

As for where 2018 takes me? Well, I’ll be writing my first non-binary character this year. We’ll see how well I do!

***

headshots-anna-zabo-1Anna Zabo writes contemporary and paranormal romance for all colors of the rainbow and lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which isn’t nearly as boring as most people think.

Anna has an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, where they fell in with a roving band of romance writers and never looked back. They also have a BA in Creative Writing from Carnegie Mellon University.

Website * Goodreads * Twitter * Facebook * Facebook Reader Group

Better Know an Author: M. Hollis

I am super excited to welcome M. Hollis to the site this month, because not only is she an author of some of the cutest f/f Romance out there, but she’s also a huge f/f advocate and blogger and someone you must know if you don’t already!

You have a new novelette out! For those who are new to your work, can you give us a brief summary of A Night at the Mall and what you love about it?

A Night at the Mall is a story about two girls who get stuck in a mall store after it closes. I just love being able to write chick-lit with two girls because this is such a rare thing to find! Writing something that is just pure comedy with an overly excited protagonist that tends to romanticize everything was also a fun change. The prompt I came up with for this story was: What would happen if Elle Woods and Becky Bloom ever met? And then I created my own story from that.

This past September, you released Ripped Pages, an f/f retelling of Rapunzel. What inspired that choice of source material and what retellings (if any) can we expect from you in the future?

I wanted to publish an f/f retelling this year and then I did some research on what retellings were being released lately before I chose Rapunzel. With all these remakes of the classic Disney movies being made, I always end up leaving the movie theaters with this sense of something is missing. And then I watched a live musical of Beauty and the Beast and all I could think about it was how much I wanted a version where Beast is a girl.

The lack of pure romance movies with f/f rep is one of the things that most upsets me these days. I stopped going to the movie theaters and I’m always disappointed when these movies are all indie and I can’t watch it on a big screen. The fact that I may never get to watch a fairytale on a big screen about two women falling in love is just underwhelming.

So all of this inspired me to just write the retelling the way I wanted them to be. The kind of story young people don’t see or read while they are growing up because everything needs to be heteronormative otherwise it’s considered inappropriate.

I’d love to write a part 2 for Ripped Pages about Aurélia, Agnes’ little sister. I have an outline of a Sleeping Beauty retelling for her set 6 years after the first novelette that plays more with magic and the dreaming world. I may write this someday.

Your characters are basically the freaking cutest ever. Which one are you most attached to and why?

I really do feel attached to all the characters I create to the point that I always want to write spin-offs for all of them. Mostly, because they have so much of me and of the people in my life. But if I had to choose I’d say Lily from The Paths We Choose and Val from Ripped Pages are the ones that I feel more attached to right now. Lily because we are extremely similar in personality and in how we deal with our sexuality. And Val because I love her journey of figuring out her sexuality through books and I feel that so many of us can relate to that.

In addition to being an author, you’re also an f/f blogger with Bibliosapphic. What are your favorite books to push over there?

All of them! Because every F/F I read feels like an underrated book no matter what. Every time someone asks me for recommendations I end up sending a long list because they don’t know even half of them.

Some of my favorite books that I rarely see anyone reading or talking about are When Women Were Warriors by Catherine M. Wilson, Dating Sarah Cooper by Siera Maley, Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee, Treasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon, and Complementary and Acute by Ella Lyons.

What are you still dying to see in f/f lit?

Romcoms. I love romcoms so much and I want to see more of the most cliché love stories ever. Bodyguard falls for the princess, childhood best friends, actress and common girl who need to date in secret, and online dating. But the kind of books you can imagine being turned into movies people watch after a bad day. Stories that don’t overuse the queer pain or miscommunication for 100 pages.

Being based in Brazil, access is obviously a little different than in the US. What’s it like to obtain queer ARCs and books there, as both a reviewer and a reader?

I didn’t know I could get ARCs until last year so this is all very new to me. I remember friends mentioning NetGalley and thinking this was only for US people. So I’d say NetGalley was one of my saviors when it comes to finding ARCs to read. But unfortunately, I only get accepted to read books by small presses. It’s frustrating because I see everyone else reading and mentioning all these awesome new trad books and I know I won’t get to read them for a long time because they are usually too expensive even in ebook format in my currency.

Buying actual queer books in Brazil is one of the hardest things ever. F/F is not being translated here and so far, we mostly have short stories published in Portuguese. I think I can count on my fingers the number of F/F books that got translated in the last years, to be honest. The only books I have in paperback are English books I found randomly in bookstores after doing a lot of research. It’s sad because this lack of access to LGBT+ books is exactly why it took me so long to figure out my sexuality when I was a teenager, and yet, years later the change is still happening so slow. I read incredible F/F books in English and I’m happy I can read them but then I remember that someone out there needs them in Portuguese and they won’t be able to read these books.

I collect my readings pretty much using NetGalley, following authors I love who are always promoting these books and looking at the free section of Amazon and Smashwords to fill my Kindle until the next time I can buy more ebooks.

As a major advocate of f/f, what would you like to see more of in terms of support?

This is going to sound so silly but I wish people actually cared. It’s easy to say F/F is treated badly by readers but then turn around and never read or promote these books. That’s what happens most of the time. People say there are no books out there but they never even Google or look for the people who are working on this kind of literature.

I want to see people making fanart, fanfic, metas, and discussion about these characters. It’s so rare to see this. So many authors who I talk to believe no one would ever buy their books if they wrote stories about women. At the same time that I try my best to encourage them, sometimes I’m also discouraged myself. Because I know how hard it is to make people care or to try to think about why they don’t care. I’m not a person who cares a lot if my books never get into mainstream, but I know for many authors these things matter. They want to be NYT bestsellers or to have their books turned into movies. Why should they not deserve this too? And it can only happen if readers and publishers rally behind them. People need to show that there is an audience willing to pay for these stories.

One of the arguments I see going around all the time is that female characters never have stories written as well as male characters. It gets on my nerves every time. I’m not going to say this doesn’t happen. It does. But usually when they are being written by cis men. I wish people would be more self-aware on what they think it’s acceptable for characters of certain genders to do or not. When it comes to female characters if you make them unlikeable people hate them, if you make them too perfect, they are a Mary Sue. And yet, so many male characters I know fall into these spectrums and they have huge fandoms making loud noise about how amazing they are. Women can’t cry, can’t punch, can’t make mistakes without people judging them as characters.

What I want is to see readers actually buying F/F books, reviewing them on Goodreads and retail websites, making noise about these characters like they do for everyone else. And to stop saying these books don’t exist if they didn’t make a proper research. We are here trying our best to help people find these books and I hope they start paying attention and giving attention to these stories when we talk about them.

What’s the first LGBTQIAP+ representation you remember in media, for better or for worse?

The very first time I saw two girls kissing in media was in All The Things She Said by t.A.T.u, which was definitely not the best and I mostly just remember feeling scared my mom would think I enjoyed watching that.

A lot of the LGBTQIAP+ rep I watched growing up made me feel like this. Uncomfortable and like I was doing something I shouldn’t be doing. No one ever told me this was wrong, but I was aware it wasn’t considered normal.

It took me until I read Ask the Passengers by A.S. King and Far From You by Tess Sharpe around three years ago that I started to feel better about it. I’ll never forget how validating it was to read about two girls having sex in Far From You. It was life-changing to know people could even write this in books. After that, I started researching for any kind of F/F media I could find and couldn’t stop anymore.

What’s next for you?

I’m in two anthologies that are coming out in the first months of 2018. In Queerly Loving Vol. 2 by Queer Pack, you can find my epic fantasy short story The Warrior and the Dragon. It’s about a warrior who seeks justice for her father’s death and ends up finding an unexpected ally. And in Into the Mystic, Vol. 3 by NineStar Press I’m going to publish my first vampire/human short story! I’m very excited about both of these.

I also have a fake dating novella that I’m still looking for a place to publish with. So fingers crossed for that!

M. Hollis could never decide what to do with her life. From the time she was a child, she has changed her ideas for a career hundreds of times. After writing in hidden notebooks during classes and daydreaming during every spare moment of her day, she decided to fully dedicate herself to her stories. When she isn’t scrolling around her social media accounts or reading lots of femslash fanfiction, you’ll find her crying about female characters and baking cookies.

Website: https://mariahollis.wordpress.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6302358.M_Hollis

Twitter: https://twitter.com/_mhollis

Patreon: patreon.com/mhollis

Tumblr: mholliswrites.tumblr.com

Better Know an Author: Malinda Lo

Pretty sure this month’s author needs no introduction to anyone who’s been reading queer lit in the past decade! I’m delighted to welcome Malinda Lo to the site as this month’s featured author, and to discuss her work past and present! Of course, she’s also familiar to many as one of YA’s biggest diversity advocates, and just published a new installment in her famous examination of LGBTQ publishing statistics (looking at 2015-16) that I encourage you to view if you haven’t yet. Now, let’s get to the books! 

Let’s jump right to your new book, A Line in the Dark, which I think has probably pleasantly stunned a whole lot of your fans who might’ve thought they knew what to expect from a Malinda Lo book and now realize they have no clue. What about that story still really felt like You even though it’s outside of SFF?

Maybe the lesbians? 🙂 For me, crime fiction is my first love. I started devouring Nancy Drews when I was six years old and I’ve never looked back. This sounds evil, but murder mysteries are my go-to escape and relaxation reads. So even though I hadn’t written a mystery before A Line in the Dark, I knew how it was supposed to go from everything I’ve read over the years.

You’re definitely one of YA’s most prolific genre jumpers, debuting in fantasy and then moving on to sci-fi, then to a psychological thriller, and next up with historical! What genre(s) do you most see yourself continuing to write in, and why?

Lesbians. Is that a genre? Because I want to see queer women in every single genre there is.

It’s been a few years since your last YA novel, but some YA fans might not realize you’ve also been writing for Tremontaine. For those who aren’t familiar with the serial, what can you share about it and your role in it?

I actually only wrote for Season 1 of Tremontaine. It’s the prequel to Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint novels, which are set in a very bisexual place that feels Dangerous Liaisons meets The Three Musketeers. I was a staff writer, working with a bunch of other wonderful writers, and we plotted out the whole season together and then wrote our episodes (we called them episodes but they’re basically novelettes) individually.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that you’re basically the godmother of queer YA SFF, which I imagine is wild considering you debuted less than a decade ago. What was it like to be The Only One for the stretch that you were? What did you recommend to readers who asked, “I read and loved all your books; now what?” 

Wow, yes that is wild. I did not enjoy being the only one! I kept (and still keep) a list of books I’ve read and loved that are about queer women, and that list includes plenty of stuff beyond SFF or YA. In fact, you can see it here: https://www.malindalo.com/recommended-reads/

What would you recommend for your fans now that there are some more options out there?

Audrey Coulthurst’s Of Fire and Stars! I’m biased, but she was in my Lambda Emerging Writers Workshop in 2013 and that’s the book we workshopped. I love it and can’t wait for the follow-up, Inkmistress. Also, C. B. Lee’s Not Your Sidekick and its follow-up, Not Your Villain, which I haven’t read yet but have heard such great things about. C. B. Lee was in my 2017 Lambda workshop and I know she’s a kickass writer so I have no doubt her books also kick ass.

In addition to your novels and the serial, you’ve also got contributions coming up in a bunch of anthologies. What can you share about your stories in All Out and Lift Off?

The short story in All Out was actually the basis for the novel I’m currently writing, which is a historical novel set in San Francisco’s Chinatown in the 1950s. The story is about the moment a girl sees a queer woman and recognizes her as queer — and begins to recognize her own queerness, too. The story for Lift Off is titled “Meet Cute” (and has no relation to the anthology of the same name) and is a light romance about two girls who meet at a comic con.

Of all the work you’ve had in other venues and volumes, what’s your favorite that you wish reached more of your fans?

Oh, good question! I have a very soft spot for my story “The Twelfth Girl,” which is a retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” in the anthology Grim (Harlequin Teen). I got an email from a reader recently who read it completely unsuspecting that the story was queer, and she was so excited to discover that I’ve written more things. So I think people are reading it, but maybe not my typical audience. I want my typical readers to know I wrote them another queer fairy tale. And it’s urban fantasy!

In additional to writing, you’ve also been a faculty member at the Lambda Literary Foundation. What’s the experience of working there like, and what should anyone aspiring to be a student there know about it?

It’s a really intense week because you’re spending it living in a dorm with dozens of queer writers. For many writers it might be the first time they’ve been in this kind of environment, so it can be overwhelming, but also very supportive. It’s so rewarding for me to give back to the queer community, and I love to work with queer writers. If you’re a queer writing thinking of applying, I suggest you polish up your best piece of writing and go for it. Don’t self-reject!

Your next book, Last Night at the Telegraph Club, is historical YA set in 1950s San Francisco, and releases in 2019. Anything you can tease us with about it until then? 

Everybody can get a sneak peek at it when All Out is published in 2018!

With all the accomplishments you have under your belt, what at this moment is your proudest? 

Surviving! So many writers from my debut year aren’t publishing anymore. This is a difficult industry, and I’m proud of myself for still being here and still writing. I hope people will enjoy my psychological thriller, and will stick around for all the genres I intend to write in.

***

Malinda Lo is the author of several young adult novels, including A Line in the Dark. Her novel Ash, a lesbian retelling of Cinderella, was a finalist for the William C. Morris YA Debut Award, the Andre Norton Award for YA Science Fiction and Fantasy, the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, and was a Kirkus Best Book for Children and Teens. She has been a three-time finalist for the Lambda Literary Award.
Malinda’s nonfiction has been published by The New York Times Book Review, NPR, The Huffington Post, The Toast, The Horn Book, and AfterEllen. She lives in Massachusetts with her partner and their dog. Her website is http://www.malindalo.com.
Twitter: @malindalo
Facebook: facebook.com/malindalo
Tumblr: malindalo.tumblr.com
Instagram: @malindalo

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.

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.

*****

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…

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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.