Category Archives: Better Know an Author

Better Know an Author: Katherine Locke

I am so thrilled to have Katherine Locke on the site today, not only as one of my best friends and not only as one of my favorite authors, but as one of the editors of It’s a Whole Spiel, an anthology in which I happen to be a contributor and which releases on the 17th from Knopf! Here’s where I’ll mention that you can see us both at Books of Wonder in NYC on September 17th and Children’s Book World in Haverford on September 19th! And now, on to get to better know Katherine Locke! (Which, by the way, you can also do as a Patron at the $10+ level, as they’ve also done an interview there!)

Happy It’s a Whole Spiel month!

Thank you!! I’m so excited it’s finally here 😀

Of course, I have a little more insight into this one than usual being that I’m a contributor to this all-#ownvoices Jewish anthology you coedited with Laura Silverman, but for those a little less in the know, can you share a little bit about the process of editing it, and about the queer stories in it?

36511766._sy475_Yes! Spiel is Laura Silverman’s brain child. She called me in February 2017 and wanted me to co-edit this anthology with her. I was fresh off finishing my story for Unbroken (edited by Marieke Nijkamp) which had been a tough story for me to write (personally, but also from a craft perspective, I hadn’t written short stories since college and hadn’t read much either, to be honest.) But I said yes right away. We worked really collaboratively on putting together the author list, the proposal, and then the editing of the anthology.

It’s been a really interesting experience. There are four explicitly queer stories in it, all by out queer authors–Alex London wrote about a gay boy at summer camp who falls in love with a fellow camp counselor, while also trying to make sense of a crisis aboard the space station, one of his favorite nerdy topics. David Levithan wrote a really moving story about a Jewish boy’s coming of age, falling in love, and how that weaves through being Jewish too. It has lines that brought tears to my eyes and lines that made me sigh. It’s lovely. Hannah Moskowitz’s short story is about a Jewish girl who is dating a more observant Jewish girl, and grappling with her eating disorder on Yom Kippur. Hannah writes with this beautiful sparse language that really guts you, and this story really showcases that. I love that it’s the story of two girls dating and religious observance all tangled up together (with a good serving of self-acceptance and taking the first steps toward recovery mindset as well.) And my story is also queer!

Your own story has some A+ queer content, including a non-binary sibling who undergoes a religious coming-of-age ceremony. It’s a great example of how queerness and religion intersect, and I’d love for you to talk a little about that!

Yes! Davey, the younger sibling to my narrator Gabe, is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns. I used B’nai Mitzvah for the name of their coming of age ceremony (for non-Jewish readers, Bar and Bat Mitzvah are gendered (as is Hebrew) after consulting with a rabbi and parents of nonbinary kids. I really loved writing Davey and writing Gabe’s interactions with Davey. Gabe’s fiercely protective of his sibling (a theme that comes up a LOT in my work). Gabe identifies as cishet, but there’s another character, Yael, who is the moderator of the fandom website Gabe haunts, who is also nonbinary and uses they/them but online only. That’s all I can say without spoilers!

Of course, this isn’t your first queer work (or even your first Jewish queer work); your most recently published novel, The Spy With the Red Balloon, is a dual-POV set during WWII and told from the perspectives of two Jewish siblings, one of whom is a bi girl and one of whom is a demi boy in a relationship with another boy. How do you go about writing historical with identities that didn’t have the terminology we have now, and in what ways does their queerness impact the story you’ve told?

38650956I struggle a lot with terminology in historical fiction. A lot of it, including phrases which marginalized people used to self-identify, would be considered slurs and harmful now. And sometimes, people just didn’t have the language we have now. I try to describe how they feel instead, being as precise as possible. I was more vague with Wolf (my demisexual MC in Spy) at first and my editor asked me to be MORE explicit. I balked at first, mostly because I think it’s hard to describe demisexuality on the page (I am demisexual and I wrote Wolf’s ID largely from my experience). But I’m glad I did because that’s been something readers really connected with. But Wolf uses the word ‘queer’ because that’s the word that came up frequently in my research that I could be comfortable with, versus other words I wasn’t comfortable putting on the page. Ilse doesn’t have the word “bisexual” but says she likes some girls the way she likes some boys.

Spy was the first time I’d written queer main characters. I really loved writing those queer relationships that felt bold and brave and hopeful in that book because a lot of that book is grim and dark. When I think about the book, I think about those quiet, gentle moments between those characters–Ilse and Polly’s first kiss, Wolf asking Max if he volunteered to be a pilot because Wolf was on the mission, Ilse teasing Wolf and Max, the last scene that I can’t talk about because spoilers. Those relationships got me through the dark parts of writing the book. And they were often the first scenes to come to me. Writing SPY was a really hard process and I wrote it in a pretty chaotic fashion. But Ilse and Polly’s first kiss has been there from the first draft, written exactly as it is now. Those are the lights in the dark. (Tl;dr: writing the queer relationships in SPY gave me the same joy writing fanfic does.)

Like our most recently featured author, you’ve got a short story in the upcoming Out Now, edited by Saundra Mitchell. What can you tell us about it?

Ahhh! I can tell you…that technically it lives in the same universe as my short story in It’s A Whole Spiel! There’s an overlapping coffee shop, because queer coffee shop AUs are the best? The Out Now story is called ‘Seditious Teapots’ because the main character, Rory, collects teapots. They don’t drink tea. They just like teapots. (Their mom does not get it.)

I’m not sure everyone realizes this, but back when YA Pride had a book club, you were its spectacular moderator! Any advice for someone seeking to do a queer book club, and any recommendations that sparked particularly interesting conversation?

Yes! I did that for many years, actually. I would use this lovely website, LGBTQReads as a great resource, if I was running a book club now. And I would talk and communicate with the group members! Some people really don’t want to read any stories in which queer characters come up against tragedy or hate, and that’s totally fair! Some people aren’t into coming out stories. That’s also okay. It’s good to know what your group’s hard limits are. Book recommendations: all of Ashley Herring Blake‘s books sparked great conversation, as did A Line In The Dark by Malinda Lo. I think that one makes a particularly good book club book because it gets that true crime x lgbtqreads crossover. Plus that cover literally sends shivers down my spine.

Your books require a lot of research, and your writing schedule requires a lot of discipline. What are your favorite resources for looking up historical details, and your favorite resources and tricks for staying on track?

I wish I had all the discipline my writing schedule requires! I do a lot of reading for my books. I think the book I’m researching now is going to end up being about 22 books in total. And then there’s the movies, tv shows, articles online, and interviews. I borrow books from the library when I think I can read it, get the general gist and won’t need to touch it again. I buy them when I think I’ll need to reference them again and again. I have a pretty good memory so for the most part, I highlight and bookmark. I only write down the timeline of the events because I do not have the brain for dates/years/times/etc (a problem for my previous two YA novels which were time travel books…)

I have a rule that I read 3 sources before I begin, and the rest I read as I go along. Otherwise, I’ll drown in the research and never surface to write the book. So I usually try to read an overview of the time or event, a personal memoir or biography, and then something broader about that time period in the world OR the time period right before the time period I’m writing about (history builds on what came before it. You can’t write historical fiction and only read about that ONE time period.)

I flag things in manuscripts as I first-draft so that I don’t slow myself down. Part of my problem is my brain gets distracted very easily (ADHD, and also, our brains are being rewired by our technology to have shortened attention spans). So if I open up a tab to look up a street name, I’ll end up with ten tabs open, buying a rug, researching swimsuits, and in a twitter argument. It’s best if I just put [STREET NAME] in my document, and fill it in later in revisions. Everything can be fixed in revisions. EVERYTHING.

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

I think Jack? From Will & Grace. I can’t think of one earlier. I certainly didn’t read one in books until college, I think. Or one that I recognized. I suppose in retrospect there’s a lot of queer coding that I did not catch.

Naturally, you’re one of my favorite people to talk upcoming books with, so I have to ask: what are you really excited about this fall and in 2020?

OKAY. I’m excited for everyone to read The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern (which has a gay protagonist!) because it is simply stupendous. I’m also excited to read Gideon The Ninth which I’ve heard great things about. I have not read, but am absolutely dying to read, King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender. Kace is one of my favorite kidlit writers (they also have an adult novel called Queen of the Conquered coming out this fall I think that I want to dive into!) and King looks lush and magical and heartfelt. I am also DYING-ACTUALLY DYING to get my hands on Julian Winters’ next book How To Be Remy Cameron! I loved his debut, Running With Lions, so much and I just want to shove his books into everyone’s hands. And I’m excited to read By Any Means Necessary because bees! (BEES!) Also: Crier’s War. That’s on my list. (I’m just scrolling through pre-orders right now.) Jackpot by Nic Stone because the voice in Dear Martin blew me away and I just want to get sucked in like that again. OH and The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd Jones because I try to read one creepy book each year even though I don’t do creepy well, and this is my pick this year. But I’m in it to win it because I’ve been promised an undead goat. [Blogger’s Note for readers: Those last three are not queer books, AFAIK, though both authors do have other queer work! I forgot to specify the queer part in my question.]

Also I hear there’s a really amazing Edgar Allen Poe anthology that’s coming out? His Hideous Heart! That’s the one. So I guess I’m going to get creeped out TWICE this fall. *shivers* *buys more blankets and hot chocolate to make up for it*

What’s up next for you?

*nervous laugh* UHHHHH. It’s A Whole Spiel is out on September 17th, and Out Now is out in May 2020. I am breaking out in my picture book debut in spring 2021 (!!!). And right now, I’m hard at work on another novel! It’s adult, historical fantasy (similar vein as the Balloonmakers books but with a weirder magic system), and I love it very, very much. It’s so weird. It’s so historical. That’s my favorite.

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Katie Locke April 2016-21Katherine Locke lives and writes in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with their feline overlords and their addiction to chai lattes. They are the author of The Girl with the Red Balloon, a 2018 Sydney Taylor Honor Book and 2018 Carolyn W. Field Honor Book, as well as The Spy with the Red Balloon. They are the co-editor and contributor to It’s A Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes and Other Jewish Stories, and a contributor to Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens. They not-so-secretly believe most stories are fairytales in disguise. They can be found online at KatherineLockeBooks.com and @bibliogato on Twitter and Instagram.

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Better Know an Author: Julian Winters

I’m so thrilled to have Julian Winters back on the site today, this time as the guest of honor! You almost definitely already know him, given he’s become quite the darling of YA even before debuting with Running With Lions last year, thanks to his boundless enthusiasm for books and support for their authors, but now you can get to know him even better as we await the release of his sophomore novel on September 10, 2019, from Interlude Press! Come say hey to Julian Winters!

Congrats on the upcoming release of How to Be Remy Cameron! Please tell readers a little about it?

Thank you! How to Be Remy Cameron is coming of age story about an out-and-proud seventeen year-old-boy named Remy Cameron who’s always been comfortable with who he is. He’s president of his high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, has a very supportive family, and a diverse group of friends. When he’s assigned an essay in AP Literature about “Who Are You?” that will decide whether he makes it into his dream college, Remy’s forced to examine the labels associated with him and whether he truly knows who he is.

If you were sticking three post-it notes onto the cover to share your experience of writing it or your feelings on having it out in the world, what would they say?

“Be Yourself.” “Queer AF.” “Overjoyed.”

You, of course, debuted with Running With Lions, which is such a delightful mix of sports, romance, bi rep, and friendship, but is also pretty rare in being a male-authored queer YA rom-com. What was your path to publication like, and what’s response to the book been like? And, maybe more importantly, what’s your favorite soccer team?

My path to publication didn’t follow the traditional route. At the time I was writing Running With Lions, there weren’t many queer male authors being published in YA. I had one goal for Lions: to reach at least five queer teens who needed to know that they could be anything in life. But I didn’t see that kind of story being pushed in the major publishing houses—so I researched independent publishers and found Interlude Press. Independent presses provide the leverage needed to tell the story of your heart with all the support found in major publishing houses.

The responses to Lions have been overwhelming. From the bisexual teens who needed to see themselves on page more to the queer Muslim community who needed a character like Emir, it’s been incredible. It’s also been amazing to have so many athletes who didn’t have a queer YA sports book get so excited for this book. To know I’ve been able to give so many people a reason to smile, cry, or know they can accomplish things has blown me away.

As far as favorite soccer team, I’m a hardcore UCLA fan.

You’re also something of a pioneer in being a queer Black male author in YA, which we’ve discussed on the site before is one of the least heard voices in the category. In the time following this post, of course, there’s certainly been an increase (two of the contributors to this discussion have since landed book deals, as has Jay Coles, and I hope/imagine there are more I’m missing), but clearly there’s still a long way to go. Why do you think it’s still such rare representation, and what are some stories you’d still really like to see?

Oh, I remember reading that article and feeling so inspired! For once, I didn’t feel alone. It meant the world to me.

I’ve always wonder why there aren’t more queer Black male voices in publishing. Part of it is our intersectionality. We’re just beginning to get more Black voices in general out there. We’re still fighting to get more queer voices telling our stories out there. It’s almost an either/or situation where the intersectionality is erased in favor of one or the other. But there are so many talented queer Black male voices that need to be heard. We have so many stories to tell. I’m excited for Ryan Douglass and Kosoko Jackson to debut. I’m ready for more Jay Coles. I want us to have fantasy novels starring queer people of color. We need mysteries, horror, queer Black boys in space, romcoms. I’m ready for more Black male voices, period.

Speaking of stories! You’re a contributor to All Out Now, the upcoming all-queer YA anthology edited by Saundra Mitchell. What can you share about your contribution?

I’m so excited to be apart of All Out Now! My short story is one I rarely see but needed—a positive father/son coming out moment. It’s very special to me because it’s a Black father/son moment, which we rarely see because of the stigma within the Black community surrounding queerness. I won’t spoil everything but it’s a little bit romcom and a lot of heart.

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

The character Hollywood in Mannequin. It’s kind of funny but also sad that I share this with Shaun David Hutchinson, who wrote about Hollywood in his YA memoir, Brave Face. In the ’80s, queer characters were painted two ways: either as a joke or as a tragic character. We weren’t taken seriously, we didn’t get happy endings, we fell in love with the wrong people, we died. I didn’t recognize that growing up because I was surrounded by a community that didn’t welcome LGBTQIA+ people. I was embarrassed by Hollywood, especially as a Black male terrified to come out. But he’s one of the reasons I write the stories I do. Because we deserve better.

You’re really getting into publishing as queer YA is wildly on the rise. What have been some recent favorites for you, and what are you so excited for coming up?

I have so many favorites, so this list isn’t complete but: Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan, Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram, The Disasters by M.K. England, Death Prefers Blondes by Caleb Roehrig, Brave Face by Shaun David Hutchinson, How (Not) to Ask a Boy to Prom by S.J. Goslee, The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan, I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver, Keep This To Yourself by Tom Ryan, Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian. And so many more!

I’m super excited for Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett, By Any Means Necessary by Candice Amanda, Surrender Your Sons by Adam Sass, Reverie by Ryan La Sala, Monster of the Week by F.T. Lukens, Ruinsong by Julia Ember, Red Skies Falling by Alex London, The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper, Infinity Son by Adam Silvera, The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar, Until You Come Back by Jay Coles, Yesterday Is History by Kosoko Jackson, Crier’s War by Nina Varela, Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas, We Are Totally Normal by Rahul Kanakia, Jake In a Box by Ryan Douglass… should I keep going?

It’s hard to miss, if you know any queer YA authors and go to their events, that you’ve certainly become a favorite human among them. What do you think makes for a great queer YA author community member/literary citizen?

Listen, be supportive, be kind, and hold the door open once you get in. I cannot stress the last one enough. As a queer author, our numbers are limited. It’s even smaller for queer POC. We must get past this mindset of only holding the door open for our inner circle/friends. This world is not built on the voices of select people. The publishing industry is not an Olive Garden on Mother’s Day. There are plenty of tables and seats for everyone! We can’t think that if we let someone else in, our spot will be taken from us. We can’t reserve seats for our friends. Every reader needs a book they can pick up and feel valid, understood, loved. They can’t find it in only one group of authors’ books. They need a variety. We must be willing to help each other so we can help them.

After Remy Cameron and All Out Now, what’s up next for you?

A nap! I have a short story in the Up All Night anthology, edited by Laura Silverman. There’s an unannounced project coming from Interlude Press. I just finished something that I’m really excited about but, of course, I can’t talk about it. I will say this: comic geeks, gamers, Pride, convention shenanigans, and Queer AF!

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Julian Winters is the best-selling author of contemporary young adult fiction. His debut, Running With Lions (Duet, 2018), won accolades for its positive depictions of diverse, relatable characters. A former management trainer, Julian currently lives outside of Atlanta where he can be found reading, being a self-proclaimed comic book geek, or watching the only two sports he can follow—volleyball and soccer. How to Be Remy Cameron is his second novel.

Better Know an Author: Sam J. Miller

Sci-fi fans undoubtedly need no introduction, but I’m gonna go ahead with one anyway and welcome Sam J. Miller, YA and Adult author, to the site! It’s been quite a past couple of years of awards and category-jumping, and I’m thrilled to have landed him the month of the release of his sophomore YA, Destroy All Monsters. Come get to know Sam J. Miller!

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Congrats on the new release! Please tell us a little bit about Destroy All Monsters, and especially about Solomon!

Destroy All Monsters is the story of Ash, a regular teenager in the real world, who is trying to save her best friend Solomon from a mental health crisis. But it’s also the story of Solomon, a gay teenage photographer who lives in a city full of monsters and magic, who is trying to save his best friend Ash – the Refugee Princess – from a conspiracy trying to destroy all magic. As their quests progress, these two worlds begin to collide. There’s some of me in all my characters, but Solomon definitely has a big piece of my heart – a gay Jewish boy trying to make art and make sense of the world around him while struggling with mental illness.

I’m selfishly so happy to have you back in YA; I was afraid we might’ve lost you back to adult SFF for good with Blackfish City, but you manage to juggle both so well! In sci-fi, a genre that always seems to be a bit more nebulous than others when it comes to what age means, how do you decide what’s a YA story and what’s an adult story?

Well thank you for that, but YA will never lose meas a reader and as a writer I spend a lot of time here! In a lot of ways, I don’t really see a difference. It’s not about “mature content”I feel like my YA has more sex than my non-YA! And it’s not just about the age of the protagonist, although that’s a big factor. I guess if the story can be told exclusively through the eyes of young people, it’s probably YA. But if I need to get into the heads of lots of people to tell it, and venture into the lives and concerns of folks who are older, it might not be. But who knows! I’m still figuring out the rules of genre, and marketing categories. I wrote a story I thought was science fiction, and they gave me a horror award for it, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Speaking of Blackfish City, it’s been so thrilling watching it sweep up so many accolades! For those who aren’t familiar, can you give us a quick sum-up of the story, and then tell us what it was like to get nominated for eleventy different awards for it??

In a post-climate-change future, where rising sea levels and wars for resources have transformed the globe, floating cities are constructed in the Arctic, where polar melt has opened up the interior for resource exploitation. Qaanaaq is one of those cities, essentially a giant oil rig where a million people live, and one day a woman arrives in town with a polar bear and an orca, on a mission… maybe of bloody revenge. And wackiness ensues! As for the award nominations, that was pretty surprising to me, because – like a lot of artists from marginalized communities – I spent a long time being told that my stories were not universal stories, that they would only resonate within my own community, and if I wanted to get a broad audience I’d need to step outside the ghetto of “gay stuff.” My work has always been extremely queer, and so no matter how many accolades it gets, I never ceased to be shocked that folks respond positively to stories about oversexed irresponsible gay boys, lesbian grandmas, gender nonbinary folks, and so on.

Of course, you came onto my radar with your YA debut, The Art of Starving, which is so marvelous and powerful, I knew immediately you were an author to watch. What made you decide to dip into YA at that point and with that story, and what has reaction to it been like?

I’ve always adored YA, going back to getting totally messed up by The Chocolate War when I was twelve. Just like Disney movies, I never understood why they have this reputation for being juvenile or saccharinelike Disney movies, they’ve always been dark and terrifying and sad. And while I’d written a YA novel already at that point, it was pretty closeted (and not so great)I thought I’d never be able to publish the dark queer edgy sexy stories I wanted to tell. Luckily I studied under Holly Black and Cassandra Clare at the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Workshop, and they convinced me that folks were really pushing the envelope for queer rep in YA, and that I should do what I want, tell the stories I needed to tell. And I did! And people were into it! And I’m still kinda shocked.

Queer Adult SFF is a spot of ignorance for me, so whenever I have an expert here, I must ask for recs. What are some of your major faves, and who are some authors to watch, in your opinion?

OMG SO MUCH GREAT STUFF!! JY Yang, Carmen Maria Machado, Lara Elena Donnelly, Annalee Newitz, Charlie Jane Anders, Ruthanna Emrys, Ellen Klages, Indra Das, Richard Bowes, Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, Kai Ashante Wilson… I know I’m leaving out tons of folks and IT IS KILLING ME. We really are living in a beautiful moment where tons of queer SF/F/H is being writtenand published!by tons of incredible diverse writers.

Shifting away from your written work for a minute, you’re one of my favorite people to follow on social media because I feel like I just never know where you’re gonna suddenly pop up with some gorgeous photograph, especially throughout New York. What’s your favorite travel spot and why?

Awwww, thank you! I love to travel, and have lots of favoritesThailand, India, Iceland, the Dominican Republic. But even here in NYCa friend of mine told me that I photograph my home city like I’m a visitor here, and I kinda love thatwherever you go, even your own back yard, there’s tons of weird wild shit to capture if you just try to look for it.

Please explain “He got married in a guerrilla wedding in the shadow of a tyrannosaurus skeleton” from your longform bio on your website. Immediately. 

Well, gay marriage became legal in New York State in 2011, and my husband and I had been together for almost ten years at that point. We decided to get married, but we wanted to honor our rebel queer heritage with a guerrilla wedding, without permission, that incorporated elements of direct action. I’m a community organizer, after allorganizing protests is what I do. And we both love dinosaursA LOT. So on our tenth anniversary, we decided to go to the Natural History Museum here in NYC and get married under the tyrannosaurus rex. I told my mom, wear comfortable shoes, we might need to run from the cops. I also trained one of my friends in how to be a police negotiator in case security rolled up on us, so he could buy us some time to get through the ceremony. Security did roll up, but they thought it was awesome.

What’s your first memory of LGBTQIAP+ rep in media, for better or for worse?

It was definitely for WORSE, even though it’s a musical I adore: A CHORUS LINE, which we saw on Broadway at some point in the 1980s. There’s a gay character in it, and his father kicks him out of the house. I was young, under 10, and it had literally never occurred to me that something could make my father love me less. I remember it made me super sick to my stomach. As it happened, I didn’t need to worrymy father responded with nothing but love and support when I came out to himbut the shame and suffering I’d seen gay characters suffer in A CHORUS LINE and other media did make my coming out so, so much more difficult. Which is why I’m so committed to providing positive representation and emotional validation in my own work, and supporting it in the work of others.

What’s up next for you?

My fourth novel will come out in 2020it’s called The Blade Between, and it’s not YAit’s a supernatural thriller, sorta like a House of Cards as told by Stephen King, about folks fighting gentrification in a small town while being manipulated by people they don’t know are ghosts… of whales. Still editing it, and it’s super exciting. So, that, and SHORT STORIES! I love them, and I miss them. Noveling takes up a lot of time.

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Sam J. Miller is the Nebula-Award-winning author of The Art of Starving (an NPR best of the year) and Blackfish City (a best book of the year for Vulture, The Washington Post, Barnes & Noble, and more – and a “Must Read” in Entertainment Weekly and O: The Oprah Winfrey Magazine). A recipient of the Shirley Jackson Award and a graduate of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, Sam’s work has been nominated for the World Fantasy, Theodore Sturgeon, John W. Campbell and Locus Awards, and reprinted in dozens of anthologies. A community organizer by day, he lives in New York City.</p>

Better Know an Author: Kristen Arnett

Today on the site I’m so excited to have Kristen Arnett, author of the flamingo-covered book everyone is talking about. (And if you think you haven’t heard about it, consider whether you’ve seen the words “lesbian taxidermy” cross your timeline at some point.) Believe the hype, because Arnett is a master of nailing that rare combination of brutal but funny, open and honest but dry and self-protective. It’s one of the most memorable books I’ve read in a long time, with an opening that knocked me flat on my ass. If you don’t believe me, you can go ahead and check out The New York Times or Autostraddle or any of Kristen’s brilliant essays, but you can also just go ahead and check out this interview, as long as you’re here!

First, though, let’s check out this debut novel, Mostly Dead Things, releasing tomorrow, June 4, by Tin House Books!

One morning, Jessa-Lynn Morton walks into the family taxidermy shop to find that her father has committed suicide, right there on one of the metal tables. Shocked and grieving, Jessa steps up to manage the failing business, while the rest of the Morton family crumbles. Her mother starts sneaking into the shop to make aggressively lewd art with the taxidermied animals. Her brother Milo withdraws, struggling to function. And Brynn, Milo’s wife—and the only person Jessa’s ever been in love with—walks out without a word. As Jessa seeks out less-than-legal ways of generating income, her mother’s art escalates—picture a figure of her dead husband and a stuffed buffalo in an uncomfortably sexual pose—and the Mortons reach a tipping point. For the first time, Jessa has no choice but to learn who these people truly are, and ultimately how she fits alongside them.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | Books & Books

And now, come meet the author, Kristen Arnett!

Let’s begin with the stuffed elephant in the room – your first novel! Mostly Dead Things has one of the most viscerally memorable openings I’ve read in a long time. How did this story of a lesbian taxidermist taking over the family business following her father’s suicide become The One after all your years in essays and short fiction? And please God can you share a little about your taxidermy research?

I was busy working on a short story about a brother and sister who attempt, and fail, to properly taxidermy one of their neighbors goats. At the time, I was doing a lot of weird internet deep dives into fucked up terrible taxidermy. It was funny to me, and I also loved the idea of writing about two siblings fighting over something as bizarre as a dead goat, so I sat inside that story for a while. When I was done, I realized I wanted to keep thinking about them: the characters, the setting, their relationship dynamics, all of it. So I decided to toss out that story and see what I could do with these characters in a broader sense. And that eventually became the novel!

With regard to taxidermy, I am a librarian, so research is a natural path my brain loves to take. When it came to looking up taxidermy, I spent a ton of time online: videos, chat rooms, web forums, etc. I also bought a lot of old school taxidermy manuals and read through them constantly. I wanted all the work I was having the characters do on any animal to not only feel authentic, but to seem hyper realistic. I wanted to make absolutely sure everything felt just right!

Speaking of short fiction, your fiction came a couple of years ago with felt in the jaw. For those who’ll be discovering you through Mostly Dead Things, what are some themes you see rising up in both works? Is there a particular story in that collection that’s closest to your heart, and if so, is it the same one you felt closest to when it first released?

I definitely want to write about the queer lives of women. By that I mean I am interested in something that I’ve called “the lesbian domestic.” I wanna see the day-to-day interactions of queer women in households. I know that theme filters into all of my work because it is something I also want to see as a reader. I am also deeply interested in bodies – tactile sensations, physical forms. That crops up over and over again in my work. Also Florida! I’d say all of these themes coalesce in much of my writing, but particularly in the title story from that first collection. I felt it exemplified all of the things I was trying so desperately to write about when it comes to queerness in a household: relationships between queer women, household dynamics and their breakdown, and the actual landscape of a Florida backyard.

Of course, you’re also well-known for your personal essays; I don’t think anyone could make the Olive Garden and 7-11 sound quite as poignant as you do. What’ve been your favorite and most unexpected reactions to your non-fiction work?

I would say the thing that has been the most surprising and what I have absolutely enjoyed the most in hearing from readers is that they have identified with Florida in my work. Specifically, I have loved hearing that from other Floridians. It is always so dicey, trying to write lovingly (or maybe not-so lovingly, maybe writing something in a raw, painful way) about home and the places where we live and live in us. So whenever I am putting my version of Florida out there, I always get that little worry that people won’t understand it, or maybe it won’t sit right with them like how I envisioned it in my own head. I have been so lucky in that, because the people who have read my work for place have all been so thoroughly encouraging about it. Not only that, but they share with me their own stories of Florida and home. That is very precious to me, so special. I feel like it’s just an even bigger kind of community, but through writing, and it makes me feel so glad.

Fellowships! Residencies! I’ve always wondered what it’s like to truly surround yourself with an environment dedicated to honing your craft and to experts in it. Do you have a favorite experience or anything that’s particularly notably emerged from those times? 

I’ve been truly lucky to have experienced several residencies over the course of my writing career. I would say one that really stuck with me as a place that allowed me to get a tremendous amount of work done was my residency at the Millay Colony. It’s located in upstate New York and is pretty secluded. I decided to drive myself up there all the way from Florida, stopping midway in Virginia. I had never driven alone that far by myself before and took it as an opportunity to sit with myself and really try and think about things – my writing, my work, my relationships to those things. And when I got there I was able to still spend so much time in solitude. It truly gave me the time I needed to kind of fix my mind in the new directions I was trying to take it. I got so much from that residency. I know that I am lucky that I was able to do it – not everyone can afford to take time off from work like that, so I especially tried to appreciate every single moment of it.

What’s the first queer rep you saw that really resonated with you? Is there anything you’d still really like to see?

My first experience in queer reading was sitting down with Dorothy Allison’s Bastard out of Carolina. It was the first book I’d ever read where I just sat and thought, “wow, here I am – I see myself in here.” The writing was so raw and bare. It was a revelation for me. It’s the book I read that made me know I wanted to be a writer. I love all of Dorothy’s work for sure, but I can think about that book any time and still have that feeling in my chest, that huge heart glow that made me feel just a tiny bit less alone.

I would say I am always reading looking for other queer writing that makes me feel like I am experiencing the day-to-day dynamics of queer relationships. I am much less interested in reading coming out stories and would just love to see more narratives that focus on how dynamics sit between queer people in a family, in a household, in a region, in a place. Those little moments of time, smaller pockets. I am forever searching for that as a reader. Also I would love to see more queer horror narratives!

There’s a lot of talk about how adult fiction, particularly literary fiction, is harder to find online, and as a blogger for a site that tries to cover it all, I certainly can’t argue with that. How do you stay on top of queer lit coming out, and is there any you’d particularly like to recommend, or are especially excited to read?

I would say that I try and search for it, for sure, but there are places I definitely go to hear about new queer lit. One of those places is Lambda Literary. I also have a large community of queer writers who I trust and value their opinions, so I am forever picking everyone’s brains when it comes to new work. There is also a ton of queer poetry out there now that I am obsessed with and I don’t think gets talked about as much as it should. Tommy Pico’s entire body of work is a revelation. I wish everyone could read every single book of his! I love T Kira Madden’s memoir that dropped in March, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls. Also Nicole Dennis-Benn’s Patsy that drops very soon! Jaquira Diaz has an essay collection dropping as well called Ordinary Girls. That’s very queer and also VERY Florida.

And finally, perhaps most important question: what is, technically, the best ravioli?

Human beings are the finest raviolis on the planet.

***

Kristen Arnett is a queer fiction and essay writer. She was awarded Ninth Letter‘s 2015 Literary Award in Fiction, was runner-up for the 2016 Robert Watson Literary Prize at The Greensboro Review, and was a finalist for Indiana Review’s 2016 Fiction Prize. She’s a columnist for Literary Hub and her work has appeared or is upcoming at North American Review, The Normal School, Gulf Coast, TriQuarterly, Guernica, Electric Literature, McSweeneys, PBS Newshour, Literary Hub, Volume 1 Brooklyn, OSU’s The Journal, Catapult, Bennington Review, Portland Review, Tin House Flash Fridays/The Guardian, Salon, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. Her debut story collection, Felt in the Jaw, was published by Split Lip Press and was awarded the 2017 Coil Book Award. Her novel, Mostly Dead Things, will be published by Tin House Books in June 2019.

Better Know an Author: Jen Wilde

With her third book on the horizon (Going Off Script releases May 22nd!), Jen Wilde has quickly become one of my favorite YA authors to read and recommend. She’s always a reliable summer read with heaping doses of warmth and queerness, and this year is no exception! She’s here to share a little more about her upcoming book, publishing f/f, and the golden age of television. Please welcome Jen Wilde!

First things first, let’s talk about your newest book! Going Off Script is your freaking adorable and super-current upcoming release about a lesbian named Bex who’s still kind of in her coming out process as she joins a writer’s room and has her work not just stolen by straightwashed. This feels like a book that had some strong inspiration; can you talk a little about that?

wildeoffscriptIt definitely had some strong inspiration. I tend to channel a lot of my anger into my writing, and at the time I was working on Going Off Script, I was pissed about how many queer characters were being killed off on popular television shows. Spoiler warning for anyone who hasn’t seen Supernatural, but Charlie’s death is what really set this story into motion for me. And of course, the #BuryYourGays movement inspired much of this book. I wanted to write a character who launches her own version of the movement from inside the industry.

While it’s only a quick mention in the book, there’s the suggestion that Bex will somewhere along the line progress into questioning her gender identity as well, and I loved the way that was done; it felt true to me that figuring out who we are, especially in adolescence, is a multi-phase process. Who is Bex to you, and who do you think she’d be in a sequel set a few years down the line?

Bex is still learning about herself and who she is. She’s figuring out that certain clothes make her feel more herself, more comfortable in her own skin, but right now that’s as far as she’s thought about it. Exploring your gender identity really is a journey, and at the moment she’s still in the early stages of it. It feels true to me, as someone who’s own gender identity exploration began with clothes and how I expressed myself through fashion. I see a future for Bex where she’s identifying as a non-binary femme, and THRIVING. I picture her at red carpet events rocking floral suits and looking badass!

Pop culture obviously plays a huge role in your work, from social media to music to television. What are your favorites in the arenas you explore in your work?

We are in the Golden Age of Television right now, and I am loving it! My list of favorite shows is constantly being updated almost as fast as streaming services add new content. Right now I’m loving Special, Dead to Me, Brooklyn 99, The Bold Type, and Big Little Lies. But I’m also a huge fan of reality TV, especially Bravo shows like Real Housewives. Oh, and Game of Thrones, of course!

You’ve very quickly become one of the most prolific authors of feel-good queer YA, which is no small feat, especially since when Queens of Geek released in early 2017, there wasn’t nearly as much lighter f/f fare as there is now just a couple of years later. What’s the experience been like for you as one of the first authors to break out in this specific way?

wildeqogWow, thank you so much for saying that! What a huge compliment. Personally, I’m just so damn excited to see more f/f books coming out – not only as a writer but as a reader! While there’s still a ways to go, it gives me hope to think about how far we’ve come in just a few years. But it’s important to acknowledge the writers who inspired and paved the way for all of us. Authors like Nancy Garden, Nina LaCour (Everything Leads To You has a special place in my heart and is one of the reasons I started focusing primarily on writing f/f), Jacqueline Woodson, Malinda Lo and of course, YOU, Dahlia! (Blogger’s Note: *blush*)

I do also want to visit that aforementioned earlier work. For those who are just getting to “meet” you now, how would you pitch Queens of Geek and The Brightsiders?

Oooh, good question! Fellow author Mike Jung described my work as a “pop culture funhouse” and I love it, so I would definitely pitch Queens of Geek as that. As for The Brightsiders, I’d pitch it as an epic rockstar romance filled with paparazzi scandals and the best group of friends anyone could ask for.

You’ve shared quite the personal queer journey online in these past few years. As someone who also uses the internet very centrally in her books, what do you see as the role of social media in queer life and in queer art?

wildebrightsidersI’m pretty open about my life online (maybe too open? *shrug*). But I believe there is strength in being vulnerable. It’s the fastest way to realise that you’re not alone, that there are others going through similar challenges, and maybe together you can make it through. I think social media has been both a sanctuary and a hellhole for queer life and art. On the upside, it has allowed people to find a sense of community, friends and even family – the kind they might never have found in the real world. On the downside, hate and bigotry have also found a home online, and sometimes it feels like it can drown out all the good. But I try to focus on the upside – or at least use the hate as fuel to keep fighting and writing my anger into my work.

What’s the first memory of LGBTQIAP+ representation in media you recall experiencing, for better or for worse?

The first memory that comes to mind was when Ellen came out as gay on her sitcom. I was young so I don’t remember much, but what stayed with me was the initial excitement and conversation in the media leading up to that monumental episode. I remember the magazine covers, the interview with Oprah, the huge build up…and then it getting cancelled shortly after it aired. The message that sent to me as a kid was coming out = rejection. I’m sure there’s a whole generation of queer folx who can relate to that!

Any recent or upcoming queer books you’d like to recommend, or that you’re particularly excited about?

Oh god, there are so many amazing queer books blessing us this year. I’m so freaking excited! A few on my radar are If It Makes You Happy, by Claire Kann, These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling, and Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston.

What’s up next for you?

I’m currently working on ideas for my fourth (!!!) book, and I can’t wait to share it with everyone once it’s ready!

JenBioPicJen Wilde is the YA author of QUEENS OF GEEK, THE BRIGHTSIDERS and GOING OFF SCRIPT. She writes unapologetically queer stories about geeks, rockstars, and fangirls who smash the patriarchy in their own unique ways. Her books have been praised in Teen Vogue, Buzzfeed, Autostraddle, Vulture and Bustle. Originally from Australia, Jen now lives in NYC where she spends her time writing, drinking too much coffee and binging reality TV. Follow her online @jenmariewilde.

Better Know an Author: K. Ancrum

It’s a new month, and that means hanging out with a new author, in this case the positively brilliant K. Ancrum, whom you might know from her incredibly intense and beautiful debut, The Wicker King, or from her tender and alternately heartbreaking and heartwarming sophomore, The Weight of the Stars, which releases on March 19! Whether you’re already a fan or you’re about to become one who just doesn’t know it yet, come along and meet her!

First of all, congrats on the upcoming release! For those who haven’t been lucky enough to read The Weight of the Stars ahead of time, what would you like them to know about it?

Its a tender love story about two girls standing in the wreckage of their parent’s circumstances who find a way to learn how to face the same circumstances “harder better faster stronger”.  If you’ve seen the movie Interstellar, its like… if the movie was about Murph growing up, but from the perspective of another girl who thought she was super hot. I wrote this book because I wanted to make a soft and precious love story for the huge HUGE turn out that the WLW community had for The Wicker King. I really hope I did them justice with this one.

Of course, The Weight of the Stars isn’t your first queer YA, as you debuted with your fabulous and wildly intense and thoughtful The Wicker King, which is so much about co-dependency and mental health at its heart. What drove writing that book for you, and who do you really hope finds it?

Like many authors who write about difficult contemporary circumstances, I wrote The Wicker King from a lot of personal experience. I really wanted to explore the nuance between Jack’s colorful display of physical illness and the dramatic and incredibly realistic portrayal of August’s descent into mental illness. That sliver of a line between August’s experience with Jack and how readers processed August as a child who desperately needed help and whether or not they would recognize that he did was very personal to me. That aside though, I really hope that it finds teenagers who have noticed a friend struggling, adults who are in positions of power who need that extra push to intervene when something doesn’t seem quite right with the teens in their lives and, and I haven’t mentioned this at all before but: I also hope that older MLM find the book because a significant amount of my older MLM readers have said that August’s struggle with his orientation really resonated with them in a specific and very gentle way. And I think that’s very precious ,so I hope more older MLM find The Wicker King.

One thing that’s great about your website is that you’re really into sharing information on your publishing journey with your readers, which I love. What do you think are the most important bits from yours for other aspiring authors to know? And what’s been your favorite moment of the journey so far?

There are still posts there from when I almost gave up writing The Wicker King, or was struggling with whether I wanted the book to be explicitly Bi because I was afraid it wouldn’t sell. Mostly because I wound up pushing through both of those insecurities to find myself where I am now. But looking back: reading the plaintive cries of a younger me, the soft worries and requests for help, is such an encouraging thing. It really makes me want to pull myself up and march towards an uncertain future.

I think my favorite moment of the process is reading all of my edits. I have had the incredible luck to have had two a hilarious and great agents and 3 hilarious and great editors. I love flipping through the pages of my book and seeing comments like “Oh my god”  at the chaotic things my characters are doing. There is this one scene in particular in The Weight of the Stars, where the MC spontaneously realizes that she’s had a crush on her love interest the whole time and she has a full on hysteria fit about being really gay for her in a car, and one of my editors wrote that she screeched through reading the scene and I remember reading that comment and laughing so hard.

I really really love the team that helped me build both The Weight of the Stars and The Wicker King and hope I can continue working with them as long as possible.

In The Weight of the Stars, we get some really wonderful aspects of queer representation that aren’t often found in YA. What felt really important to you to have in this story, and why?

I ride or die for found families. Found families are such a huge part of western queer culture and modern western queer history that its an honor to continue the tradition of their representation. Mostly-LGBTQ friend groups providing familial love and support, shoulders to cry on, homes to crash in, food to eat and physical affection is so pure, so precious and so important.

I also feel like there is a yawning chasm of butch characters in F/F. The Weight of the Stars gives you Soft Butch with Alexandria and Butch with Ryann, for people who are familiar with those terms and with those identities. F/F is already rare and tends to sell less than M/M (for a multitude of reasons), so this isn’t meant to be divisive. But a majority of F/F is not about butch girls and I wanted to build this love story between two butch girls that is ten times softer and more gentle than anyone would imagine a story about butch love could be. I wanted tenderness that prickles tears at the corner of your eyes and soft yearning that you’d usually associate with Virginia Woolf, but I wanted it for a giant muscle girl.

Your books feel so…rare, I guess is the word? There’s something about the way you write that’s so special and so different but still feels like part of the same unusual universe. What’s a K. Ancrum book to you? What do you think will always show up in your work in some way?

This is such a cool question! First, I think my format is probably a huge part of that. I’m “known” for telling instead of showing, largely because I have something else big to show instead (example: August telling the reader that he’s well, while he shows the reader that he is Not, Ryann telling the readers she has no family, and then showing the readers that she has a close family made of friends. ). I also kind of format my books more like movies, they’re intended to be read straight through and the pacing  and format reflects that. There is also an immediacy in the way I write romance. I write like the words “I love you” are pushing at the inside of the teeth of my characters, and I think that really resonates with a decent amount of readers (thank goodness haha).

I think the thing that will always show up in my work is tenderness in the relationships between my characters and physical affection. I like my characters to show care through touch, even if its hard for them to use their words to express it. Teenagers have a very particular and rare relationship with touch, especially because they are in that transitional stage where familial touch and platonic touch start moving to make room for sexual touch. And they often explore the boundaries of that in a way that adults and children do not (example: when I was in HS, I had a friend who would often do the hair of the other girls and it was a very familial touch moment that I can never imagine her repeating as an adult) There is a tenderness to that that I think makes my books feel kind of quaint and strangely realistic in ways that a lot of people are unable to put their finger on.

Important question as relevant to The Weight of the Stars: What’s your very favorite space-related fact? 

I am OBSESSED with The Golden Record. Just…. we really did that! We really made a record of all of humanity’s Greats and sent it out to space to be found by anyone or anything to try and make them love us! Make them want to understand us! Make them listen to our music and hear the sounds of our woods, our fields, our seas! and then we gave them a map so they can find us, and by god isn’t that the pinnacle of humanity? The desperate craving to be loved? The desperate curiosity towards the beyond? The desperate humbleness of our offering, but given with earnestness nonetheless?  That hopeless sort of Human Hope we fling in every direction, reckless and violent to the end? Our endless chasm of “Maybe… Please?” and “Look at us!” and “Look for us!”

We sent it in the 1970s it still flies, endless in the black. As singular and lonely as we are.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aR6oV8kJKf4

What other queer YA are you reading lately that you’ve loved? Anything you’re especially looking forward to?

This is a nightmare answer but I’m currently just reading tons and tons of fan fiction. I’m learning a lot about portraying the intricacies of desire in a thousand delicate ways, and learning how people tend to view courtship when they’re at their most self-indulgent, most secret, most private. Fan fiction is written in the dead of night in the dark for your friends or because your heart says that you Must. I want to access that flavor for my work, from a learning perspective.

As for books I’m looking forward to: I’m so freakin’ hype about Wilder Girls and The Last 8. I’m also super pumped for His Hideous Heart, the anthology you have coming out. I love EAP and the prickly way he writes and I’m excited to see what you all made of him. (Blogger’s Note: Thank you!)

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

This is going to sound really crazy, but when I was 8, I read a romance novel that included an intersex major character. I remember reading descriptions of her and her body like I was looking into the face of god. I had literally never heard of anything that was so perfect and so beautiful. I don’t remember what the book was called or anything about it, but I remember her lover saying something to her about how “she was made up of many pieces of many pretty things” and melting. Just, filled to the brim with a hunger for that sort of acceptance and for being cherished exactly as I was (which was a bi child).

I’m working on a cool novel about a train heist and another novel about possession!

***

K. Ancrum grew up in Chicago Illinois. She attended Dominican University to study Fashion Merchandizing, but was lured into getting an English degree after spending too many nights experimenting with hard literary criticism and hanging out with unsavory types, like poetry students. Currently, she lives in Andersonville and writes books at work when no one is looking.

Better Know an Author: Tehlor Kay Mejia

Aaaaah! I’m so excited to have Tehlor Kay Mejia on the site today to discuss her upcoming debut, We Set the Dark on Fire, as well as her short stories, her upcoming work, and her general takeover of the publishing world. (Plus some really, really great books she loves.)

You are so wildly busy these days, I don’t even know where to begin, except that I obviously do: please tell readers all about your upcoming fantasy out this month, We Set the Dark on Fire!

Yes! We Set the Dark on Fire is a feminist, dystopian YA fantasy set in a Latin-American inspired country called Medio where upper class men are assigned two wives when they come of age. The book’s main character, Dani Vargas, is assigned to a very high profile political family along with a second wife – her longtime school rival Carmen Santos.

The government itself is very patriarchal and restrictive for women, and their husband is a nightmare, and on top of that Dani is hiding a major secret about her citizenship status in Medio – namely that it’s all a lie, and one that comes with deadly consequences if she’s found out. She’s approached early in the book to spy for a rebel organization fighting to bring equality to the two warring sides of the country, and it begins a book-long internal struggle for her about who she is and what her place is in this world.

Also there’s some f/f enemies-to-lovers going on and hopefully enough kissing to balance out some of the darker political vibes!

Before your first novel even released, you were already getting tapped for anthology work. Can you share a little bit about your stories in All Out and Toil & Trouble, and what it was like getting published in short-form first?

I had actually only ever written one short story when I was approached to do All Out, so I was really nervous. But Saundra Mitchell is an amazing editor, and even though the path to my story “Healing Rosa” wasn’t exactly straightforward I always felt really supported and free to explore what I needed to there. It was a really great experience for my first time ever being published, and I’m still really proud of the story (a queer historical tale of a teen curandera healing the girl she loves) and grateful to everyone who’s enjoyed it.

In Toil & Trouble I wanted to do something really contemporary and modern, the anthology is about witchcraft, and for most people that seems like a fantasy or paranormal theme. For me though, magic is culturally sort of ordinary in this beautiful way, and I wanted to take the opportunity to remind people that while “witches” are a very fantastical pop culture thing, witchcraft and a lot of the things we associate with it are actually daily occurrences in a lot of cultures.

Getting published in short form first was interesting, mostly because the themes both called for stories that are very different from We Set the Dark on Fire’s style, so I’ll be interested to see how people who loved those stories will respond to the novel.

In addition to your fantasy series, you’ve also got a (non-queer, I assume?) Middle Grade series coming up with Rick Riordan presents, but you’ve also got a co-authored novel coming up with LGBTQReads Fave Anna-Marie McLemore. What can you share about Meteor, and does it fall under the rainbow along with both of your other YA work?

There will definitely be queer characters in my Middle Grade, but no, not the main characters this time. And yes, we’ve been a little tight-lipped about Meteor so far! That will change as the release date gets closer, I promise.

For now I can say it’s a small-town book that really explores what it’s like being different when you’re under that kind of social and cultural microscope. The thing I love most about the book is that while there are two very swoony love interests, it’s primarily a story about how strong female friendship is, and how much it can overcome even when the friendship itself is complicated. Also yes, it’s very queer!

What was the experience of co-authoring like, and what kind of writers and friends would you recommend it for?

From my perspective I can say that it’s sort of unnerving at first to work with one of your heroes! I was such a fan of Anna-Marie’s work long before we were ever friends, let alone considering working together, so there was some definite anxiety when we actually got down to the process of getting words on the page.

Luckily for me, Anna-Marie isn’t only absurdly talented, but also one of the most gracious, kind people I know, so once we got into our groove the writing process was actually wonderful. We both have very distinctive styles, but I think we’re inspired by so many of the same feelings and experiences that it really grew from a place that felt organic. I believe to this day that there was something alchemical or magical happening during the process of our first draft, and we’re both really proud of the book and so excited to share it with the world next year.

As far as cowriting in general and who should do it, the only thing I’ll say is that communication is so important. It’s intense to allow someone into your creative space, not to mention the business aspect of things. I think you have to be willing to be so honest about what you each expect and/or want out of the experience at every stage. And that’s just the beginning, really. But if you feel like you can expect that from each other, it can really be beautiful.

You’re very heavily and wonderfully into promoting your Latinx author sibs, so here’s another shot to do that: any queer Latinx lit you’d like to give a shout?

Yes! Thank you! My favorite question! I’m so deeply grateful for Zoraida Cordova’s Labyrinth Lost for depicting a bi Latina in a fantasy setting. It was the first time I’d ever seen that identity intersection on the page, and it’s so, so well done. Then Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera, who is such a powerhouse, is a book I will never stop screaming about. It’s so unapologetically queer and such a handbook for finding your way to self-love as you embrace your identity and find your community.

In terms of upcoming books, I’m literally losing my cool over Adam Silvera writing a fantasy – Infinity Son is out in January, though I’m really gonna try to snag a copy before then let’s be real. And last but for sure not least is All of Us With Wings by Michelle Ruíz Keil, which might actually be my favorite book, ever. Post-punk San Francisco, a healthy dose of magical realism, a rockstar family, and a bi Mexican-American character that is the closest I’ve come to seeing my own experience reflected in a book. It’s out in June and you don’t want to miss it, trust me.

And speaking of recommendations, queer fantasy has been majorly on the rise, which is just delightful. Once readers have read and loved We Set the Dark on Fire, where do you recommend they go next?

Okay, right? There’s still so far to go in terms of reflecting more intersections but I’m so here for how much queer fantasy is happening right now. Of course, Audrey Coulthurst’s Of Fire and Stars (how excited are we all for a sequel this year?) Basically anything and everything by Malinda Lo, who is one of my forever heroes. I just finished Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan which was breathtaking. Current read is Black Wings Beating by Alex London, which I’m loving so far. And then Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon is out the same day as my book and I think I might actually be more excited for her book than my own, so there’s a start!

What’s your first recollection of LGBTQAP rep in media, for better or for worse? How about queer Latinx rep in particular?

Ricky Vasquez from My So-Called Life was probably the first ever in both categories, and he will always have a very special place in my heart, even though he didn’t have much to do with my own personal queer awakening. Probably the first time I saw something I related to was in Empress of the World by Sara Ryan which I read in its entirety in a library chair my freshman year of high school just freaking out. It’s so heartening how much more queer content is out there in the media right now though, I really hope that makes it easier for teens today than it was for us growing up – although I’m sure this age of hyper-visibility has its own unique struggles, too.

It seems a little silly to ask what’s up next for you when we can see your dance card is full up until 2021 or so, so I’ll ask this instead: what writing opportunity would you still squeeze into your hectic schedule if it arose?

My answer to this has been the same since before she won the National Book Award, but I would absolutely lose my cool to collaborate with Elizabeth Acevedo in any way shape or form. I’m also very casually between-deadlines working on my very first adult project, which may never see the light of day, but is really exciting in a this-is-the-book-I-pretentiously-yearned-to-write-in-high-school kind of way. Lastly I’d really love to do more anthologies! Especially culturally inspired ones, but also just anything with an odd or super-specific theme.

We Set the Dark on Fire releases on February 26th. Preorder it now!

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Tehlor Kay Mejia is an author of Young Adult and Middle Grade fantasy at home in the wild woods and alpine meadows of Southern Oregon. When she’s not writing, you can find her plucking at her guitar, stealing rosemary sprigs from overgrown gardens, or trying to make the perfect vegan tamale. She is active in the Latinx lit community, and passionate about representation for marginalized teens in media. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @tehlorkay.

Better Know an Author: Hillary Monahan aka Eva Darrows aka Thea de Salle

Well, I think it’s clear from the headline that we’re ending the year with an author who wears a whole lot of hats, and I’m very grateful at how many of them are queer ones! You may know Hillary/Eva/Thea from YA (including her New York Times-bestselling Mary), or from fantasy, or from her brand-new Western, or contemporary romance…or you might not, in which case, settle in and better know an author who’s really three!

First things first, I think we’ve gotta break down those pen names. Could you tell us what, for you, defines Hillary Monahan vs. Eva Darrows vs. Thea De Salle, and give us a little intro into the queer books written by each one?

It’s confusing and somewhat irritating, I know, so I’m really grateful to my audience for name hopping with me. I PROMISE THERE’S A METHOD TO MY MADNESS, THOUGH.  Hillary Monahan is my horror slanted and/or adult stuff. My YA horrors have been fairly straight to this point because, frankly, horror is violent and I’ve seen enough violence aimed at queer folk I was wary of contributing to that paradigm. There’s a careful balance to be struck, I think, particularly where the trope says sassy gay friends almost always get murdered.  You’ll see more queer YA horror coming from me (look to my Havisham retelling with PRH next year) but I’ve been cautious. I think I have a better grasp on what to do and what not to do now, but it’s taken a bit to get here.

On the adult side, Snake Eyes is an adult, horror slanted urban fantasy about Tanis, a half lamia, who is involved in a turf war with the Gorgons down in the Everglades. Tanis is queer and expecting a child with her girlfriend, Naree. Their relationship is the heart and soul and spine of the book, and I’ve called it my queerest book yet. It’s got an all female cast who live and love and bleed together, and it has a soft spot in my stable. My new Western fantasy is called Gunsmoke & Glamour and I have described it as Sherlock and Watson in the old west, running from murderous witches, only Sherlock is a sarcastic half fairy marshal named Clayton, and Watson is a trans lady doctor named Irene.

Eva Darrows is my snarky, feminist stuff, more apt to slant on the humor side. Dead Little Mean Girl had lesbian moms, and is a story about a fat, nerdy girl named Emma who didn’t look past the veneer of her dead step sister to see why, maybe, Quinn had some toxic personality quirks.  Belly Up is finished and due out in spring 2019, about a questioning teen, Serendipity, who gets pregnant after a one night stand. Her best friend is a gray ace girl named Devi, and two of her other friends at school are Morgan, a trans girl, and her girlfriend Erin.

Thea de Salle is my romance pen name. Two of those books featured queer characters in Sol, in book one (The King of Bourbon Street), who’s blatantly bisexual and paired up with a fat heiress named Arianna. I felt like bisexual males were the unicorns of romance.  Book two is about Maddy, who identifies as pansexual, pairing up with a big ginger Texan named Darren, both of them navigating PTSD and anxiety together.

You are a serious genre maven, too! Contemporary Romance, Urban Fantasy, Horror…what genre feels closest to your heart, and what haven’t you hit that you still really want to?

I’d probably say horror. I’m a gloom cookie. Always have been, always will be. What my pattern seems to be is “write a dark book, write something else to recover from it.”  But the constant is the scary stuff.  I grew up with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark pretty much sewn to my palm, and that forayed well into Christopher Pike before Stephen King.

As for what I want to do, fantasy. Period. I have two rattling around in my bean right now that I hope to get onto the page sooner rather than later, one centering Arthurian legend and a very queer Morgan le Fey, one with a patriarchy versus a matriarchy divided country with pansexual sex priestesses at the center.

Gunsmoke & Glamour is your newest release, out just a couple of weeks ago with Fireside Fiction. Can we please discuss that cover??

YES. YES, WE CAN.  As a fat author, I have struggled—oh, have I struggled—to see myself and people like me properly represented on my covers.  I’ve either had my characters fattish but not too fat or completely thin washed.  I mentioned this to the publisher at Fireside, and, at the same time, I fretted about Irene (being a trans woman) getting her labels erased.  Pablo’s answer was brilliant; he hired a trans artist of color who understood the representation struggle, who looked at the material and produced something really special.  I’m in love with it and hope other publishers take note.

I was lucky enough to get an early read of Belly Up, which releases April 30, 2019, and the way you have Serendipity kind of questioning her bisexuality in the background is really interesting. Was that a ground-up decision about her character, or something that came out about her as you were writing?

I wasn’t super specific by design. Our teen years are often (not always, but often) exploratory years, and I don’t just mean sexually.  When I was coming around to my labels, I fumbled my way through the discovery process.  It’s like trying on jeans—when you get the wrong fit, you’re uncomfortable all day, but find the perfect pair?  Wow, awesome.  That said, the thing that landed me solidly in keeping with her “questioning, probably bisexual, but not sure yet” ID was the relationship with Devi.  I love that pairing, a lot, and I realized halfway through that if Leaf hadn’t happened, Sara would have been more than content just being with Devi for the foreseeable.  In fact, I think if Devi hadn’t been straight, they could have been a thing.  Alas, Devi isn’t into girls, and Sara knew that and respected that.  Accepting that sometimes your crush just isn’t into you doesn’t have to be traumatizing.

In addition to writing bi and pan main characters, you also have queer parents in your most recent Eva Darrows YA novel, Dead Little Mean GirlAs a queer adult, what’s it like writing queer adults into your teen fiction?

On top of my girlfriend’s teenaged son living with me and requiring frequent step-momming, I’m the child of a queer adult, so basically, I apply my own experiences to the parents in my books. My father is a queer man who married his husband back when Vermont was the only state legally recognizing same sex pairings. I grew up within the culture, know firsthand that love is the primary marker of success in being a family. It’s cathartic, honestly, to be able to “show” that on the page when there are so many detractors out there who try to imply otherwise.

Following you on Twitter is always an adventure, as you’re definitely one of the more outspoken authors on my timeline. What are topics that really suck you in, and what do you wish we discussed more?

This is the nicest way of saying I tweet too much ever. But you’re absolutely right. I’ve grown up in a family that put a lot of stock in not tolerating bullshit. Of course that’s a sliding scale for everyone depending on politics and experiences, but my brand is to go hard about fatness, queerness, mental illness, Romani rights, and the rights of sex assault victims. There are other subjects that can get me going, but those are my lane and I’ll defend others sharing my labels because not everyone has a platform—or the spoons–to take on this stuff. They’re hard subjects. It comes down to a baseline philosophy that it’s not actually hard to be decent, but people can’t be decent if they don’t know how they’re being indecent in the first place. If me telling someone that gypsy is a racial slur prevents them from saying the word in the future, I’ll take the lumps that go with being outspoken.

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

For better: that I think we’re seeing more of the umbrella represented than ever before. It’s slow, but the progress is there. Queer people of color, bisexual people, trans people, ace and aro people, intersex people are getting more attention in trad pub than I’ve seen before. That leads into a bit of the for worse, though, which is this high is coming because diversity is “trendy” right now. I hate that notion, by the way—the world is diverse so the art should be, too—but I feel like there’s a push because of marketing buzz not because pushing marginalized people is the right thing to do because they have valuable contributions to media.

Ultimately, I’ll take it, whatever the reasoning, because it topples the princes of queer YA thing, wherein all queer folk should be happy to be represented by handsome white allocis queer boys. Their stories are important, too, but not at the expense of everyone else. And there’s a lot of everyone else.

YA I know, but adult fantasy is a bit of weak spot for me, so I’m always psyched for recs by people who really know it. What are your favorite queer fantasy recs beyond YA? (Of course, I’m curious about your YA faves too!)

I’m a huge fan of Elizabeth Bear’s Karen Memory and I’m absolutely dying to get into the novella sequel, Stone Mad. Bear writes queerness without making it angsty, in a fantasy setting, and I appreciate that. Sometimes, matter of fact queerness is a huge breath of fresh air; I know every one of my decisions isn’t informed by my sexuality. Some, definitely, but not all, and I think Bear navigates those waters really well.

Frankly this is a totally appropriate place to put a plug in for the Tor.com column by Liz Bourke Sleeps With Monsters. Liz is a queer woman who spends a lot of her time reccing and reviewing LGBTQIA+ fantasy fiction, so if you need a good, solid voice to check out, for vetted and intelligent suggestions, you can’t beat her in a lot of ways.

As an author who seems to push boundaries a little more with each book, what’s something you still feel like you’d still have to work up to, although it’s definitely on your “to do someday” list?

Poly and/or open relationships is on my to-do list. I know a lot of people who are quietly or not-so-quietly poly and/or in open relationships, who don’t get to see themselves in fiction beyond work that presents those lifestyles as toxic dramafests or as some deviant, sexually charged thing. That’s not the reality for many people, and I’d like to shine a spotlight there, to challenge a society that pushes monogamy as “the only acceptable way.”

I am just gonna leave this blanket open for you: Queer fat rep. Thoughts, recs, loves, hates, etc. GO.

Two people queer folk should be following on Twitter for queer fic recs on the adult side are definitely @bogiperson, who tirelessly advocates for the umbrella, and @TGStoneButch who not only gives fantastic queer recs, but also advocates for trans, fat, and disability rights.  I put Bogi and Corey’s picks high on  my reading rec lists for reasons. They are A+ humans with fantastic insight.

What’s next for you?

Edits and contract books, mostly. This fall saw Gunsmoke & Glamour out through Fireside Fiction and my debut duology, MARY, rereleased through Disney Hyperion. Eva Darrows has BELLY UP out in spring 2019, and my next PRH book, a YA horror about Miss Havisham, is out in spring of 2020.  Once I get all of that stuff cleaned up? I’m hoping to knock out one of the aforementioned fantasy novels (co-written with my bestie Lauren Roy) and work on a Thea De Salle title.  Busy, busy, busy.

Better Know an Author: Rebecca Barrow

New month, new author to fall for! If you’re not already familiar with Rebecca Barrow, please allow me to help you fix your life. She’s a contemporary YA author whose sophomore novel, This is What it Feels Like, releases on November 6, and if you’re a fan of authors like Emery Lord, Nina LaCour, and Katie Cotugno, I guarantee you wanna check her books out!

Let’s jump right in to your new release, which you already know I’m obsessed with. What’s This is What it Feels Like all about, and can you particularly tell us about Jules and her romance?

So This is What it Feels Like is about three former friends-and-bandmates who get back together to try to win fifteen grand and have to work through the past that tore them apart in order to succeed. Jules’ story is really about what happens when she meets a sweet, fun new girl and has to deal with the relationship Expectations vs Reality thing she has going on. She’s a super romantic and her last (first) relationship didn’t really work out well. And a big part of her character is this quiet fear she has that she won’t ever get to be in a happy, ideal relationship with another girl. I originally wrote her getting back with the ex and dealing with all the drama of their relationship again, but there came a point when I thought—why am I giving her this unhappiness? Why can’t she meet someone who gets her and write her getting to explore happiness and her shifting perception of that notion? So, I did.

We see a lot of the “gay best friend” in YA, but I think Rose in You Don’t Know Me But I Know You might’ve been the first bi best friend I’ve seen in YA, though it’s definitely been a growing trend since. She’s such a great character, too; what about her really spoke to you?

First of all, thank you because I know some people really don’t like her but I love her, mess and all! I didn’t set out to write The Bi Best Friend; when I first started writing Rose, the book was dual POV and she had her own thing going on. So really she got shifted into that role as I found the heart of the story and stripped back to just Audrey’s POV. But writing Rose was one of those moments that I know plenty of authors have had, where you write a queer character because you’re just SUCH a good ally! and then you stop and realise that ohhhh wait no okay it’s all clear now. So I guess what spoke to me about her was…myself?! I wrote her bisexuality not realising that it was also my bisexuality. And she’s similar to Jules in that she’s very certain of her sexuality and also very afraid that any relationship she gets into is going to go terribly. I guess..am I just writing my own fears again?! Possibly! It was definitely enjoyable to write a girl who’s so sharp and spiky but not a stereotype.

You’re a very interesting case of being a British author who publishes in the US, despite there being a reasonably thriving UK YA scene, and sort of a queer UK YA subscene. How did you come to the choice to publish this way, and what differences do you notice in the different publishing communities?

I didn’t intentionally set out to publish in the US; it was just a kind of unfolding of events that now I think works in my favour. I do write books set in the US, because I was raised on US media and I loved USYA and it was just what I started out writing. Then as I became more knowledgeable about publishing, and as the push for increased diversity has happened—well, as much as the US still has far to go, the UK has even farther. Specifically for the books I write, with black and sometimes queer girls whose stories don’t revolve around black pain and who are somewhat outside the stereotypical/publishing-approved narrative, it can be hard to find a place for them, especially in the UK. So while in the beginning it wasn’t a move I made specifically because of what I write, it is now something I definitely think is in my best interests and that I wouldn’t take back.

The UK scene is complex because while there are marginalised authors putting out great UKYA books and a very enthusiastic community of people supporting them, it also feelsto me, at leastoverall still quite stuck in the past. So a lot of the books that are really successful here have that old school children’s lit feel of magic and mysteries, and younger protagonists, and some of the older and more diverse books don’t reach the heights they really should. Then there’s another odd thing in that in the UK, in the past, we didn’t have YA as suchit was more of a children’s/teenage divide. So if you were to pick up a book in the teenage section, it could be something dark and gritty with an 18yo MC, or it could just as easily be a fun adventure story with a 13yo MC. And as YA has exploded, what’s really happened is that successful USYA is being brought over here and kind of flooding the space. In terms of diverse fiction, then, what often happens is people will point to the success of a USYA title in the UK, but not really register that we’re still not supporting diverse UK talent enough. Which kind of comes back to the question of why I publish in the US—it’s all a bit of a self-perpetuating cycle: USYA gets brought over, UKYA isn’t bought, UK authors seek to publish in the US, their US-published books get brought over, support still isn’t there…and rinse and repeat. It’s very complicated and as far as I can see, the answer really is for UK publishing to step up and buy/nurture/support works by marginalised UK authors. Until that happens, this cycle will continue.

But I do want to shout out a few people doing great work—Stripes puts out great diverse books and brings in unknown talents to write in their anthologies, several of whom now have solo deals. Knights Of is a new publisher focused on diverse lit—they just put out Jason Reynolds’ For Every One. And there are so many individuals working hard—we just really need the machine of publishing and a lot of the book-buying public to step up, too.

In the future I would love love LOVE to be published in the UK as well as the US, and hopefully find a space for my books.

Black girls barely get their due in YA as a whole, let alone in queer YA, but you’ve now had two beautiful books—one queer, one not—with Black leads and gorgeous covers that feature them. What has that experience been like, and do you have any tips for authors who’d like to follow in your lead but feel shut out by the publishing industry?

I can honestly say that I’d never considered my own identity so much as I did once I got my deal. It felt like all of a sudden it MEANT so much more and there were so many questions to answer and things people wanted justified and realising how much my identity was truly going to play into this career I was just starting out on…it was overwhelming. What’s kind of funny and kind of embarrassing is that in the beginning of my writing journey, I didn’t think too much about writing black characters. Like many POC authors I defaulted to writing white characters, and then by the time I wrote what became my debut and wrote my first black lead, it wasn’t a calculated move on my part—I hadn’t had some awakening and realised what I wanted to write. I just thought—hey, what if this girl was black? And it was only once I had sold that I really began to understand how lucky I was to have sold a black girl book and what I was up against. Now I write my black girls—more often than not queer, now, too—as a kind of defiance, and honestly, I’d encourage anyone wanting to take a similar path as me to do the same. Writing marginalised characters means dealing with aggressions both micro and macro from people across the industry, and facing an even steeper climb to success. In hindsight, I’m glad I wasn’t fully aware of how hard it would be because maybe I wouldn’t have gotten this far—but I want anyone reading who dreams of selling characters with black, queer leads to know it is possible and it feels amazing and my rage only serves to fuel my writing nowadays. So let your anger fuel you, too.

And since you mentioned my gorgeous covers (the first by Sarah Creech and and the second by Michelle Taormina) which are such a positive in the whole experience, I should say something else positive too—because it’s not all terrible, of course not. There is no better feeling than someone saying “that girl looks like me”, someone reading and saying “this character is black the same way I am”, knowing that at least one person out there is going to see themselves in your words. And selfishly, for myself—these are the books I wish I had read as a teenager: complex black girls, queer girls, living their lives.

You might have the most similar taste in contemporary YA to me of anyone else in bookworld, so of course, I have to mine your brain for some recs here. What are your favorite queer books (YA or not) that you’d love to see find more readers?

I absolutely love The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz, perfect for anyone struggling with love of creating and love of someone close to you. I know she’s not exactly underrated but it’s my opinion that Nina LaCour is not nearly as widely read as she should be so Everything Leads to You and We Are Okay for sure. How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake spoke to me so much, Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta is the queer theatre mystery of my dreams, Like Water by Rebecca Podos is so magical. And to round it out, a book I read on your rec!  A Good Idea by Cristina Moracho. (Blogger’s Note: I love every single one of these books, to the shock of no one.)

What’s the first LGBTQIAP+ experience you saw onscreen or in a book that really resonated with you?

You know, I’ve only really started to find queer media I connect to in the last couple of years, even though I’ve seen a decent amount over the years (I mean hello I’ve been watching Grey’s Anatomy for the past century). So really the first was Emi in Everything Leads to You, as a queer, artistic, mixed race black girl.

I know you’re a tattoo person, which is something I always find immensely fascinating. Have you gotten tattoos for your books, and if not, what would you get if you did?

Right now I have one book tattoo, for You Don’t Know Me But I Know You. It’s not really specific to the book but one of my favourite artists does these heart-and-hairgrip tattoos and I thought it would be a perfect representation of Audrey and Rose. I’m still thinking about what to get for This is What it Feels Like…I feel music-based is a touch too on the nose, so maybe something baked goods-themed? I’m open to suggestions!

What’s up next for you?

Nothing official yet but I hope to be bringing you more queer girls of colour soon, perhaps dusted with a little more darkness this time.

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Rebecca Barrow writes stories about girls and all the wonders they can be. A lipstick obsessive with the ability to quote the entirety of Mean Girls, she lives in England, where it rains a considerable amount more than in the fictional worlds of her characters. She collects tattoos, cats, and more books than she could ever possibly read.

Better Know an Author: Sara Farizan

I am such a fangirl of Sara Farizan as both an author and a human that it delights me to bring her to LGBTQReads and pick her brain about her awesome work, queer media, and, most importantly, basketball. Please welcome her to the site!

You’ve been up to so much this year, I don’t even know where to begin. Clearly you’re a go-to get for anthologies, as you’ve got stories in three this year. Can you tell us a little bit about your contributions to The Radical Element, All Out, and, most recently, Fresh Ink

Being invited to be a part of those anthologies was a blessing and I’m so grateful to have been asked. They really helped me out of a slump when I felt like I couldn’t write anything or I was too bogged down with my novel. All of the editors, Jessica Spotswood, Saundra Mitchell, and Lamar Giles were all incredibly helpful and I was very happy that they thought of me.

My story in All Out (“It’s The End of the World As We Know It”) is set on New Year’s Eve of 1999 and two estranged best friends spend New Year’s Eve together and are anxious about the Y2K bug that was though to wreak havoc at that time. My story for The Radical Element (“Take Me With U”) was set in 1984 and is about a young girl from Tehran who is staying with her uncle’s family in Boston. She bears a striking resemblance to Apollonia from Purple Rain and joins an all-girl band called the Ovarian Cysters. My story in Fresh Ink (“Why I Learned to Cook”) is about a young girl named Yasi who has a close relationship with her grandmother and wants to introduce her to her girlfriend over a meal she has learned to cook from her grandmother.

Last month saw the release of your first novel since Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel. Can you tell us a little bit about it, and how it feels to be writing from such a different POV from your other work?

I’ve written about a great kid named Bijan who has had a pretty low-key profile at his prep school. He suddenly finds himself in the spotlight as a basketball star and there are some people who are not happy with all of his newfound stardom so he becomes the target of prejudice. I had a tough go with this book because I knew there would be an audience however large or small whereas my other two books were written in graduate school and may have never seen the light of day. Readers will be able to tell whether Bijan reads as authentic. I think initially I was trying to make him perfect when I had to remind myself that he’s a teenager and should make mistakes.

You broke into YA with books about queer girls at a time when we were seeing so, so little. What was it like publishing it then, and what are your thoughts on it and how the landscape has changed?

I didn’t really have any idea what I was getting into and I still have a lot to learn. I think I was naïve, but that was sometimes a good thing because I just wrote what was in my heart. I am hopeful and encouraged by all the new books and voices we are seeing, especially from own voices authors who can speak to queer experiences. Could there be room for more? Absolutely. I think we’ve seen LGBTQA books get more support, but that doesn’t mean okay well that’s enough. You’ve had your moment.

Another obviously notable aspect of your work is that you write some of the very few queer girls in YA who have culturally intersectional identities. What has the response to your girls been like, particularly from your represented readers?

What has been a wonderful thing in meeting readers of my work is that they are all so different from each other. There have been readers of different ages, gender identities, races and that’s been very gratifying.

There was one time where a reader met me at a conference and she said she had given my book to her friend who was of an Eastern background and struggling with coming out to her family. I asked how old her friend was and she said she was in her forties and still grappling with her sexuality. I started crying.

On the flip side, with cultural context being such an inextricable component of your work, especially in your debut, how have you found connecting with readers who might not grasp all of its implications? I feel like writing “ownvoices realistic fiction” before that phrase was really a thing is perhaps a uniquely difficult thing that doesn’t get enough airtime.

I constantly worry that people may think the one perspective I have in my work is the only perspective because they may not have read other narratives about the characters I write about. I also worry that the characters I do write about who represent real people don’t feel that I am doing it the right way. There is a lot of pressure to represent an under represented group well and to make sure you are doing things perfectly when there is no way to be perfect. My hope is that more own voices books make their way into the world so that people are not always given three dimensional depictions can have some depth, as well as having different perspectives from characters of similar background.

You’re such a strong proponent of supporting films of queer work in addition to the written word. What are some of your favorites and most anticipated, and what’s your dream casting for your own novels/stories?

I loved Miseducation of Cameron Post and feel it should have as much Oscar buzz as Call Me By Your Name. The book is one of my favorite books of all time and I enjoyed the adaptation very much. I’ve been a huge fan of the director Desiree Akhavan since her film Appropriate Behavior and am excited for her show The Bisexual. I’m also a fan of films by Angela Robinson like D.E.B.S. and Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. Pariah by Dee Rees was a revelation. I was so happy when Moonlight won best picture at the Oscars.

I wouldn’t mind seeing a film or TV version of Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel.  I think it’d be fun. I’ve never let myself think about it for too long but if it were to happen I’d want there to be Persian actors playing Persian parts.

What’s your earliest memory of queer representation in media, for better or for worse?

I think seeing Pedro in the Real World on MTV comes to mind. I remember liking him so much but I had to sneak in episodes at my grandma’s place because my house didn’t have cable. This isn’t the earliest memory, but one storyline/scene that was very emotion for me was Evan Rachel Wood having a secret girlfriend on Once and Again. It had a huge impact on me seeing her character Jessie grapple with her feelings. It was so well acted and I never really tuned into that show until that episode where Jessie kisses Katie was banned in a few states.

Very important, for my own personal curiosity: fave NBA player of all time and why? 

Pick one? That’s tough. Reggie Miller appears in my new book as a commentator in the main character’s head, but I know how you feel about Reggie Miller as a Knicks fan. (Blogger’s Note: She does know. It is not positively. *hisses*) I think the best Celtic of all time is Bill Russell but obviously I wasn’t around when he was winning all those championships. When I was a kid I was obsessed with Shaq and Penny Hardaway even though they played for the Magic.

I will highlight one player I liked so much when he was on the Celtics and that’s Brandon Bass. He was not an all-star, but when he played on the Celtics he came to work and he was consistent. He plays in China now, but I wish him all the best.

What can you share about whatever you’re working on now? And do we have any chance at getting a queer-girl basketball player someday? Asking for a friend. Of yours. Who is me 😉

Winky face! I have a story coming out in the anthology Hungry Hearts which is coming out summer of 2019 from Simon Pulse. I think fans of Tell Me Again will like that one as it’s very Sapphic and sweet. I am not sure what’s next after that, but I hope people still want to read my stuff. I’m very grateful to everyone who has read my books and stories. It means a lot.

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Sara Farizan, the daughter of Iranian immigrants, was born in Massachusetts. She is an MFA graduate of Lesley University and holds a BA in film and media studies from American University. Sara grew up feeling different in her private high school, not only because of her ethnicity, but also because of her liking girls romantically, her lack of excitement in science and math, and her love of writing plays and short stories. So she came out of the closet in college, realized math and science weren’t so bad (but were not for her), and decided she wanted to be a writer. Sara has been a Hollywood intern, a waitress, a comic book/record store employee, an art magazine blogger, a marketing temp, and an after-school teacher, but above all else she has always been a writer. Sara lives near Boston, loves Kurosawa films, eighties R&B, and graphic novels, and thinks all kids are awesome. She is the acclaimed author of If You Could Be Mine, Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel, and Here to Stay.