Category Archives: Better Know an Author

Better Know an Author: Tara Sim

Happy new year! We’re thrilled to be kicking off 2020 with none other than Tara Sim, author of the Timekeeper series and the brand-new series opener Scavenge the Stars, which releases on January 7! Clearly, she’s someone fans of queer fantasy have got to know, so please give her a warm welcome to LGBTQReads!

Congrats on the new release! Scavenge the Stars is built around the ultimate revenge fantasy, which is just so much fun. What was your favorite part of it to right, and what was way harder than people would imagine?

42248816Thank you! I think my favorite part to write was any situation in which Cayo was utterly useless. There’s a chapter toward the end of the book where he does something kinda stupid (I won’t spoil it, of course) and that was honestly my favorite chapter to write out of the whole book.

The thing that was hardest to write was anything involving money laundering. I know how a character should stab another in ten different fatal ways, but that was the thing that tripped me up most.

Queerness is part of Scavenge the Stars for both main characters in very different ways. Could you share a little about both Amaya and Cayo’s identities and writing them in the context of your world?

Writing queerness in fantasy books is always a little difficult when it comes to terminology, because you don’t want to throw the reader out of the setting. That being said, I wanted a world where homophobia just never came up/wasn’t an issue, so there are nonbinary and trans folks who can present however they want to without fear.

I wrote Amaya as demisexual, partly because it reflected my desire to see more demi main characters and partly because it just felt right for her. She doesn’t feel attraction for people right away; she needs time to break down her barriers and to work toward trusting the person first. On the flipside, Cayo is bisexual and not discreet about it at all. I wanted to write a character who knew how to flirt and be charming without playing into harmful bisexual tropes.

Of course, you have an entire queer fantasy series already under your belt. For those who might just be getting to know you through your new book, can you fill people in on the world of Timekeeper?

34138465._sy475_Timekeeper is my debut trilogy about an alternate Victorian world where clock towers literally control time. If a tower breaks or runs faulty, time does too. Enter Danny, my grumpy Ravenclaw gay clock mechanic, who gets assigned to an out-of-the-way clock tower only to discover a cheerful sunshine boy who has an even more curious connection to time than he does. Shenanigans and explosions ensue.

Even people who are well aware of your novels might not be aware that you have another queer story out this year, which is pretty badass! What inspired your story in Color Outside the Lines and how did you find writing short fiction compared to full-length novels?

Just another step in taking over the world, obviously.

My story in Color Outside the Lines is an f/f retelling of Hades and Persephone, which is a story I’ve wanted to tell for a long time, so I’m not entirely sure where the initial inspiration came from. Loving Greek myth, I suppose. Writing short fiction, to me, is much harder than writing long form! I tend to ramble and have chatty characters, so confining myself to just 7,000 words was a challenge.

Writing Desi identity has been a part of all your work to this point, though it takes different forms. Could you share a little about that and how your background bleeds into your work?

40960763I’m half Indian but white passing, which has led to a lot of complicated thoughts and feelings about my identity over the years. For the longest time I was afraid to write desi characters or anything with the aesthetic because I worried people would think I had no business doing so, or that my own experience within my culture wasn’t enough.

Writing Chainbreaker, the second book in my Timekeeper trilogy, was the first time I wrote Indian characters–and wrote about India itself, for that matter. One of the main characters, Daphne, is half Indian and white passing like myself, and I poured a lot of my own turmoil into her arc.That was a doorway opening for me, making me braver in exploring my identity and how I could portray it in different ways on the page.

In Scavenge the Stars, it’s a secondary world, but Amaya’s father comes from a country I modeled after India, and most of her knowledge of that country comes from her father’s stories. In my short story in Color Outside the Lines, Persephone is called Parvani, and she comes from an India-esque kingdom suffering under a harsh ruler. I really enjoy exploring different ways for characters to interact with their identities, whether it’s diaspora or national pride.

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

You know, I think it might have been fanfiction. But in terms of mainstream media, I can’t fully recall my first instance–my memory is awful–but I do remember being impacted by Brokeback Mountain when the movie came out. I saw it in theaters and it felt like a sucker punch. Looking at the movie now just makes me sigh, but back then it meant a lot, even if I didn’t completely understand why.

As queer fantasy seems to be on the rise, what are some titles you’ve loved and some you’re especially looking forward to?

Some queer SFF I’ve loved recently are Gideon the Ninth, Wilder Girls, Crier’s War, The Never Tilting World, and Reverie. Some upcoming titles I’m excited for are Bonds of Brass (already read it but it’s great), Infinity Son, Burn Our Bodies Down, and The Unspoken Name (again, already read it but it’s great!).

What’s up next for you?

Something really cool that I can’t talk about yet (gah), as well as working on Scavenge’s sequel. Also, keep an eye out for more short stories from me in the upcoming anthologies Out Now: Queer We Go Again and WNDB’s Fantastic Worlds.

***

Author Photo_Tara SimTara Sim is the author of SCAVENGE THE STARS (Disney-Hyperion, 2020) and the Timekeeper trilogy who can typically be found wandering the wilds of the Bay Area, California. When she’s not chasing cats or lurking in bookstores, she writes books about magic, murder, and explosions. Follow her on Twitter at @EachStarAWorld, and check out her website for fun extras at tarasim.com.

Better Know an Author: K.A. Doore

I’m so excited to have K.A. Doore on the site as this month’s featured author, because frankly, a lot of the books that make it onto this site are thanks to her working to increase visibility for them, making her one of my favorite authors to follow on Twitter. But in addition to being an A+ advocate for queer books and for queer adult SFF in particular, she is also, of course, an author, who happens to have just released the second book of the Chronicles of Ghadid series. She’s joining us to talk about the books, SFF, discoverability, and more, so take a seat and get to know K.A. Doore!

Congrats on the release of The Impossible Contract! As we all know, the second book, especially of a series, can be a complete nightmare, so what was the process of writing it like and what was the absolute best moment?

43263188Thank you!!

I have to admit I kind of cheated on my second book, in that The Impossible Contract was actually the book I wrote first. It was supposed to be a standalone, but when I was presented with the opportunity to write more in that universe, I jumped on it. I just, maybe, jumped a little backwards.

The Perfect Assassin turned out to be my second book, as well as the first in the series, which was its own specific kind of nightmare. I had to figure out how to write a book that felt like it had always come first, that was in some ways quieter, that laid the foundation of the worldbuilding done in the now second book without overshadowing it, that had its own stakes and characters and all tied up neatly enough to work on its own and also lead into the next book.

Hard, yes? And then do that all in nine months with a newborn.

That was the most difficult part, but that was also the best part. Having the chance to explore the world in greater detail, to dig into the myths and lore I hadn’t had the space to in the now second book, to share the roots of the family and the traditions of their world – I can’t imagine writing the series any differently now.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Chronicles of Ghadid series, how are the books, which have different main protagonists, connected? And can you tell us a little about both Amastan and Thana?

39863314They’re thematically connected, each building upon the others’ answers – and questions – about what it means to be a family, what it means to take a life, and what it means to do the right thing, even when it’s the hardest thing in the world to do. They’re also, ultimately, a story about a city and its people and its history, and how each generation tells its own story about that history, deriving a separate but still valid identity from it.

I’m a historian at heart – if not quite on paper (does a Classics degree count?) – so exploring the ways the history of a people changes and shifts over time and is used for various purposes became the main thread of the story, and why ultimately this series is about the city of Ghadid more than it is about any individual person.

But it is still about Amastan and Thana and their fellow cousins. Those two are opposites in a lot of ways. Amastan is meticulous and highly risk-averse, preferring a quiet afternoon with tea and scrolls to any excitement. Whereas Thana wants to make a name for herself, she wants to stand out from her cousins and become a legend. I love them both and I loved exploring their stories and the way they feed off of each other – mostly for good, occasionally for bad.

The final book in the trilogy, The Unconquered City, releases from Tor on June 16th. What familiar things can established fans expect to see, and what can you say about it that should make clear to readers it’s time to get in on the ground floor?

47902772._sy475_Many familiar faces return in the third book and the story of a city and it’s magic that I’ve been not so subtly hinting at all along comes to a (hopefully) satisfying conclusion. A lot of questions raised about the nature of spirits and what happens to them, as well as what, exactly, it means to be a healer and how that talent developed in a far-flung city like Ghadid are answered as well.

While The Perfect Assassin and The Impossible Contract both work well as standalones, The Unconquered City draws heavily on themes, events, and characters from both. I did have one beta reader go in cold and they still enjoyed the story, but I wouldn’t advise it. TUC is a story about overcoming trauma and resilience and rediscovering hope, a story I needed during a particularly hard time in my own life. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever written.

But it’s also full of fights and magic and conflagrations and angry arguments in jail cells. In a way, it’s more of the same, if under a different light. But it’s also an ending to a trilogy that has been bittersweet and hopeful throughout, and it stays true to both.

It’s no secret I’m not a huge adult SFF reader, so I am undyingly grateful to you for your incredible enthusiasm for queer adult SFF and your championing it all over the place. Where do you find about new queer SFF, and how do you recommend readers stay on top of new books?

My secret is that I’m friends/acquaintances with a lot of awesome queer authors who know other awesome queer authors and are good about tipping me off to forthcoming books. Beyond that, I keep an eye out and read reviews (Tor.com is very good about explicitly saying when a book is queer, thank goodness) and then use lists other people have put together to try and fill in the gaps. Even with all that, I still miss some. I’m only one person and I’m only human, so it’s inevitable.

I would advise readers follow blogs and accounts that are dedicated to spreading the word about queer books – like LGBTQ Reads :), but also Reads Rainbow. A little bit more time intensive, but I’d also advise checking out publisher’s catalogues and reading the advance reviews on those books, since oftentimes reviewers will mention the representation they saw. You will start to notice those reviewers who are very good about spotting queer books in advance, as well as talking about the queer books they’ve noticed. Follow them.

Speaking of incredible enthusiasm for queer adult SFF…what are some of your all-time and recent favorites, and what are you most looking forward to in upcoming titles?

The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett comes out March 3, 2020 and is basically lesbian Anastasia on ice. It’s fun and smart and thoughtful and deliciously queernorm and it tackles such lofty topics of power, corruption, dictatorships vs republics, and fetishizing the other in a way that never feels like browbeating. Plus, it’s Bartlett, so you’ve got that exquisite, vivid writing as well and the softest f/f relationship ever.

I also really loved The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht and Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh, two novellas put out by Tor.com this summer, each delicious and well-written, each queer af. The former is gory and sharp, dark as all get out and just as sumptuous, while the latter is… not exactly a happy ending, but a lot softer, a gentle hug of a book with a fierceness at its heart.

In addition to your novels, you also write short fiction, which is wonderfully available on your website with Ao3 tags and all. What is it about short fiction and long-form novels that each speak to you, and what fandom is it that brought you to Ao3?

I have to first admit that I was only ever briefly on Ao3 – I cut my fandom teeth on fanfic.net way back in the day. Sailor Moon was initially what brought me in and taught me the ropes of writing a story that was season-length, aka novel-length, if by ropes you mean writing and rewriting and rewriting the same story but never actually finishing it. While I haven’t written fic for a long time now, I still love that particular art form (and yes, it is an art form) and if I ever have time again, look forward to swimming through comfort-fic.

But novels are where I started and novels are where I stayed. I’ve always naturally gravitated toward longer form, since it gives me more room to layer worldbuilding and play with characters. The pay-off of a particular moment that has been subtly – or not so subtly – foreshadowed for most of a book is one of my favorite things about writing, along with the way characters continue to surprise you, two things I find are much more difficult to do satisfactorily in short form.

Short form is also, in my opinion, a whole lot harder to write than novels. Which is probably why it took me so long to even dip my toe into that particular pool. In fact, I thought I was incapable of writing them up until this year, when I needed to work on something in between edits on The Unconquered City. I wasn’t ready to leave Ghadid, and I didn’t have the brain power to begin building a new and separate world, so I played with shorts. They helped me tie up loose ends and begin to move on from a story and world I’d been immersed in for the better part of five years, as well as realize that maybe, maybe, I could learn to do this short story thing after all.

People often think of SFF as an “escape from reality,” but in truth, it can be some of the best ground for exploring topics such as identity and bigotry (including the internalized kind), as you well know. What do you think it is about working outside the bounds of “reality” that makes such a great setting for discussing some of the hardest parts of our reality, especially in the current political climate?

It’s the ability to imagine a different reality, and in so doing come to realize it can be our reality. I write queernorm worlds – that is, worlds where homophobia isn’t a thing – because being able to imagine a place and time where we don’t have to worry about our identities, where it simply isn’t an issue and society works with us can help us believe that such a reality, or a form of that reality, is obtainable here. And that first step – believing it’s even possible – is how we obtain it.

It’s also, generally, easier for fantasy to take on such large ideas and truths because the reader is having a fun time and often doesn’t realize that their worldview is shifting along the way. A fantasy adventure makes it easier to internalize truths like treat others well, corporations are inherently selfish, and maybe people are just… people. Of course, the flip side of this is that fantasy can propagate harmful stereotypes and ideas just as easily.

If anything, while writing fantasy I’ve realized I have to be a lot more conscious of the ideas and truths floating just beneath the surface of my world and story, of what I’m saying if I make the antagonist a queer woman or the oppressive power structure a matriarchy. If I do make the antagonist a queer woman, then I’d better make sure there are other queer women in the story doing positive things. If I do make the oppressive power structure a matriarchy, then I’d better make it damn clear the oppression is because of humans being humans, not because of their gender.

Fantasy is the most powerful tool we have to imagine a better future, and thereby a better now.

Your kickstarter for the anthology Silk & Steel is seriously killing it! What was the process of putting that together like, and how can people help it come to fruition?

That is all Macey and Django’s doing! They are the architects behind the scenes, setting up the Kickstarter and organizing a literal cat-bag of writers. I just volunteered my services and yelling and the amazing writing community has boosted it from there.

As with all things queer and fiction-related, the best thing any single reader or excited patron can do is yell about it. Share it with your friends. Your coworkers. Your enemies. Being loud and obnoxious about the things you love is in, dontcha know.

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

Does Xena count? Xena should absolutely count, although I don’t think I quite connected the dots until later. But her relationships were all pretty queer and even baby!Kai could read between those lines.

Once the series is over, what’s up next for you?

I have a few things in the works, and they’re all pretty queer, but nothing yet set in stone. I’ve got some potentially big life changes coming up, so no guarantee there will be anything soon, but whatever comes next will continue to be queernorm fantasy. 🙂

***

K.A. Doore grew up in Florida, but has since lived in lush Washington, arid Arizona, and cherry-infused Michigan. While recovering from climate whiplash, she’s raised chickens, learned entirely too much about property assessment, photographed cacti, and now develops online trainings while writing fantasy and wrangling a small child, none of which has anything to do with – or perhaps has everything to do with – her BA in Classics.

The Chronicles of Ghadid is her trilogy debut, beginning with The Perfect Assassin from Tor Books.

Better Know an Author: Rin Chupeco

You’ve been seriously busy these past couple of years! But let’s focus on your newest release first: the fabulous The Never Tilting World, your YA fantasy that released on October 15 and has been billed as Frozen meets Mad Max: Fury Road. What drew you to this story, and were either of those movies in fact inspirations?

I love the aesthetics involved in Mad Max: Fury Road, and wanted to construct a world where those aesthetics would feel right at home. There’s a lot of sparseness to Fury Road that I wanted to emulate, and what strikes me is that the lack of any specific settings never detracted once from the story. In fact, the absence of any concrete locations is what helps propel the story – all Furiosa knows is that she must make it to the mythical Green Place, and is disheartened to find that it’s long gone. For the same reason, both Odessa and Haidee are trying to get to the Great Abyss, the center of Aeon where the worst of the destruction had happened, because they believe there’s something there that will help them figure out how to heal the world. Their hope is what pushes the story forward, too.

TNTW is a little different from Frozen in that, while it’s a story about two sisters, both Haidee and Odessa haven’t even met each other yet. Both begins their travels with an idealized idea of what their sister must have been like, what kind of a family they could have been, and it’s their motivation to try and make the world a better place, because its destruction is what tore them apart in the first place. And it’s a great way to highlight their similarities and their differences with each other before they even meet, so readers get an idea of what kind of relationship they could have as they barrel toward the story’s climax!

There are four characters who really take center stage in The Never Tilting World, including an f/f couple. What one character in the group would you trust to take you to the end of the world, and why?

Right off the bat, it’s not going to be Arjun. We are too similar in personality, which is why I know I can’t trust him for crap. His only advantage is that he’s got a better sense of direction than I do, but we are going to drive each other wild snarking on each other and ignoring all the warning signs and wind up getting eaten by a monster goldfish or something.

Odessa’s a bit too sheltered to understand how the world works at the book’s beginning, and Haidee will be too distracted by the possible automata she could be building en route, and also she will be absent-minded enough to bring helpful inventions to aid on the trip, but not enough food and water. So it’s definitely Lan I’m going to trust, because she’s a responsible leader who is also an excellent healer, scout, fighter, and tracker…. as long as we’re not making the journey on a ship.

You had another work out just before autumn hit, which happened to be in His Hideous Heart, an anthology I know a little bit about. “The Murders in the Rue Apartelle, Boracay” is such a cool and different take on one of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous stories, and one you completely made your own, including setting it in the Philippines. Can you share some details about it that are especially meaningful to you?

Boracay was where I, four months pregnant with my first kid, was when Typhoon Haiyan hit. It was one of the first places in the Philippines where it made landfall, and considering that it was a super-typhoon – well, you can only imagine the destruction we saw, and the destruction we barely managed to avoid. Boracay had always been my safe place, in a way – it’s a gorgeous beach, I know how to avoid all the noisy party areas and where to go so it feels like you’ve got the whole place to yourself. That’s where my mind goes when I feel stressed and want to recharge. But that changed a lot after the typhoon, and I started to look at it as a place where bad things could and do happen, even though it’s still one of my most favorite places in the world. Edgar Allan Poe is a huge inspiration to me, and I thought it would be great then to marry a tribute to him with the one place that I know best. Most of the locations in the story are actual places in Boracay, down to the drinking challenges at the bars and the cafe where you can get calamansi cupcakes (although of course, I wish there were eldritches and fairy beer there, too!) One of the murders in my story though, was based on an actual murder of a trans girl by a US marine that made national news (and I can’t really say much else beyond this, because spoilers!).

But wait, there’s more! In just a few months, you have another queer YA fantasy coming, this one with a gay male MC. What can you tell us about Wicked as You Wish?

WICKED AS YOU WISH was seven years in the making, and it’s about a Filipina teen descended from the Filipino mythical heroine Maria Makiling, who winds up helping a young Avalon prince defend his kingdom against the Snow Queen. It’s my “what if fairy tales were real historical events” storyline that I’m really proud of.

My deuteragonist is Alexei Tsarevich, a prince with a HUGE chip on his shoulder, mostly because he’d witnessed his parents’ murder, had to flee his own kingdom when he was five years old, had to watch his kingdom freeze for twelve years, making it inaccessible to all and worrying about any survivors still inside, and had been bouncing from one hiding place to the next, because many governments are searching for him and the powerful spelltech patents his family own. (because yay, capitalism.) To make things worse, he also has a curse where everyone he kisses turns into a frog – excepting Tala, and he cries when he realizes there’s at least one person in the world he couldn’t hurt. He’s kind and loyal and supportive, but he also harbors a lot of survivor’s guilt, and also guilt for many other things he’d had to do to survive. He’d always believed his family’s most powerful weapon, the firebird, had been destroyed decades ago – so when it comes for him on his eighteenth birthday, he now has to deal with suddenly being given the power to change his destiny for the first time in twelve years. Sometimes he does that poorly, and often a little too aggressively to make up for the feelings of vulnerability that had been a constant to him over the years, but I think this is also why I like him very much. Like Lan and also like me, he deals very poorly with trauma, and I wanted to emphasize the different ways people process that, because those ways have happened to me.

One of the most interesting things about watching your career is seeing you thrive thousands of miles away from the so-called center of YA publishing. What’s it like building a career in American publishing from Southeast Asia, and what’s the bookish scene like in the Philippines?

The writing community in the Philippines is a lot similar to the one in the US, I think, albeit in a smaller scale. A big difference though, is that many writers prefer local publishing, which I find personally disheartening. There’s a lot of good stories here waiting for an international audience, but I also think colonial mentality plays a big part in the reluctance. We’re used to looking at the US as something infinitely grander, so we tend to think the works that we do pale in comparison to the works abroad, and that’s not the case at all. This was the mindset I had to unlearn because it’s very prevalent here, but that might also be because I had big dreams and wanted to write for a living, which would not have been possible with the local publishing industry. As odd as it sounds, my name is probably recognizable in the US pub field, but not in my own country. So many people have assumed I’m American simply because I published abroad, and most local panels I’ve done always inevitably wind up with people coming up to me and going “wait what, you’re Filipino?! You’re not visiting from the US, you actually live here?!” There’s a lot of other factors, too (my books are too expensive for many, I don’t look like a typical Filipino and my last name is more of a Chinese-Filipino hybrid, looking down on children / teen books – yes, this isn’t just an American thing – or looking down at books written in English and not in Tagalog) but what IS heartening is the number of writers here who do know me and started querying agents because they saw it was possible. That’s what I want to encourage more of!

What other books do you recommend for queer Southeast Asian rep? What would you still really love to see?

I can’t answer this question without talking about Gail Villanueva and My Fate According to the Butterfly, because I think it gives the best perspective on Filipino culture and issues, primarily the drug war here, and there are some relationships between Sab and important people in her life, including gay supporting characters, that breathe life into her work. America is Not the Heart by Elaine Castillo is about trying to define your own Filipino-American identity along with also being queer. For other Southeast Asian but not queer-centered, there’s also Hanna Alkaf and her gorgeous poem of a book, The Weight of Our Sky, and I can’t help but tear up just thinking about this. But speaking specifically for Philippine gay rep though – as I mentioned before, that’s the most frustrating part. There’s so many LGBTQ+ books here in the Philippines, many of which try to navigate being gay while at the same time still being Catholic – and often in humorous tones, because Filipinos find a lot of solace in humor – but they’re virtually unavailable to most people outside of the country. There’s Tagalog books written to make people laugh, like Happy Na, Gay Pa (“Not just Happy, But Also Gay”) by Danton Remoto, or something that explores the issue more seriously, like Don’t Tell My Mother by Brigitte Bautista, but as a whole it’s not something people outside of the Philippines can very easily find.

What’s your first recollection of LGBTQIAP+ representation in the media, for better or for worse?

I don’t think there’s been any one specific recollection that I remember, because I grew up with LGBTQ+ prevalent enough in local media. While that sounds like a good thing, considering that the Philippines is a very highly conservative country that doesn’t even have divorce laws yet, much less abortion rights or marriage rights for same-sex couples, it’s also very problematic. You’ll see a lot of gay celebrities and gay representation in TV series, but the mindset seems to be treating them for their entertainment value, not for them as people. You’ll also see problematic depictions of them (the one I remember most clearly as a kid was this movie called Barbie: Maid in the Philippines, which is a pun. A straight cis man pretends to be a female maid because he’s on the run, and gets into hijinxes. It’s like a weird combination of Some Like It Hot and Mrs. Doubtfire. They shot this movie across from my house, and I actually have old pics of toddler me being held by some of the actors, so I remember it well.) So it’s “you can give them rights in movies and other media, but you can’t make that official in law”, which has always been the strangest thing to me. I’ve seen some LGBTQ+ people enforce this opinion even, like “I shouldn’t be given rights because it’s against the Bible and so it can’t be officially legal – but as long as no one’s stopping me personally to be the way I am, it’s fine”. There’s a lot of Catholic guilt to unpack.

I know fandom and gaming are big parts of your life. What in particular are your great loves?

I feel like I’ve been in every major 90s and early 2000s fandom that’s ever been made, from Buffy to Harry Potter to Deadwood to even the really niche ones like Kindred the Embrace or Harvey Birdman. Star Trek is my first and biggest love, but I think the one with the really biggest impact to my life is probably anime, simply because so many people here were into it. Almost everyone in the Philippines with a working TV know what anime is, and we love it. (There was this popular variety program / gag show that has one frequent skit that satirizes televangelist Bible readings, and they used the Voltes V theme song as their ‘religious’ song to open, and it’s hilarious how so many people here can sing it from memory. Heck, we celebrate a Naruto Day.)

Anime was really the gateway drug that opened me up to gender fluidity. Ranma 1/2 in particular was very eye opening, but not necessarily the way I wanted it to be. This is about a martial artist who falls into a cursed spring, and now he turns into a girl when he gets hit with cold water, but turns back into a boy with hot water. The whole plot is about him trying to find a way to undo the curse, and I always wind up mentally screaming at him. Like – “You can TURN into a man or a woman! That’s a BLESSING! Why are you trying to get rid of this blessing?! I would kill for this power!” And that opened doors into understanding deeper definitions of fluidity beyond just the binary, for me. Anime really made me understand the gay parts of me I didn’t realize I had. I was defined by series like Gravitation (which was really gay boy porn for girls and it’s so embarrassing to remember how teen me was so hot for the main character, who was also an angsty brooding traumatized bisexual AUTHOR) and Revolutionary Girl Utena (lesbian swordfighting! personally, I believe Utena walked so that Gideon the Ninth could run). Video games really emphasized that too, particularly with my favorite category, mmorpgs / multiplayer rpg – I could subsume myself into the personality of a male berserker instead of being limited to say, a female healer. I was always the main (male) tank / defense for group runs with friends, for example, and that grew to be my trademark class.

As we stare into the abyss of 2020, what upcoming queer titles are you most excited for?

Is it too early to be super-excited for Harrow the Ninth??? Also, Reverie, The Gravity of Us, and Belle Revolte! I’m still only just starting on amazing 2019 titles as it is, including Crier’s War and Her Royal Highness, just because I’ve been so busy!

author

 

Rin Chupeco wrote obscure manuals for complicated computer programs, talked people out of their money at event shows, and did many other terrible things. She now writes about ghosts and fairy tales but is still sometimes mistaken for a revenant. She was born and raised in the Philippines and, or so the legend goes, still haunts that place to this very day. Find her at rinchupeco.com.

Better Know an Author: Candice Montgomery

You may have already heard me hype Candice Montgomery a million times, but honestly, it’ll never be enough. Their voice in YA is like nothing else out there, and if you haven’t yet read their work, I hope this’ll convince you to dive in! (If not, just read the acknowledgements of By Any Means Necessary, which just released on October 8 and is basically a master class in voice all on its own.) Especially if you’ve been looking for more queer and/or nonbinary Black voices and/or Muslim voices, have I got some wonderful news for you. So please welcome the utterly fabulous Candice Montgomery!
New book! New book! It’s well documented that I’m obsessed with Torrey and By Any Means Necessary, but could you please share a little about your sophomore novel and how it came to be for those who didn’t get an early read?
HAAA! It is absolutely well documented that you run my literary (and personal) life better than I do.
So, By Any Means Necessary is a story about a newly minted college freshman. He’s hyped and ready to take on his new town up in San Francisco, and nervousness—though present!—takes a backseat. That is, until he gets news that the apiary he owns back home, by way of his late uncle, is being seized.
So he’s torn between taking on this new thing that’s only about Torrey himself (and also maybe a little about a certain dancer boy named Gabriel) and going home to a place that’s chewed him up raw, all to save his uncle’s legacy.
The idea for BAMN came to me when a friend and I were on the phone talking about gentrification and how it was affecting us directly, as individuals. And then, common to our conversational flow, we segued into talking about weird hobbies for main characters. She talked about her characters operating a vineyard and I suddenly had the idea for a character to run a bee farm where his struggle (getting stung constantly) and his desire to be free (flying away from the hive he knows) would mirror his hobby. In Torrey’s case, his passion.
Queerness (and specifically queer characters of color) also feature in your debut Home and Away, which has a kickass female football-playing protag and a wonderful male love interest who happens to be bi. What would you say draws Tasia and Kai together, and in your mind, where are they now?
I think Taze and Kai are opposite sides of the same very big coin. And that’s what works for them. Kai brings out Tasia’s looser side and she not only lets Kai just be who he is, but she actively enjoys it. It’s basically just two teens who don’t feel they fit in finding out that they actually DO. With each other.
In my mind, Taze and Kai are still very much together but also attending separate colleges about an hour from one another. Taze is playing ball for Cal and studying Pan African Studies and Kai is over at the San Francisco Art Institute taking the art world by storm. And making Taze laugh while he does it.
For readers looking for even more of your published work, you’ve got a fabulous story in Habibi, the all-Muslim anthology edited by Hadeel Al-Massari and Nyala Ali, starring a Muslim girl who’s managing both depression and her feelings for her best friend, a trans guy named Aaron. What made this the story you wanted to tell in this collection in particular?
Oof! Thank you! I love that story and that anthology so much. Don’t forget about that one by the way. It’s got big plans for the future.
But my story in Habibi is called “Love God Herself.” And it’s a story I wanted to tell because a muslimah (now) friend of mine tweeted on a trending about wanting to see hijabis who are questioning their faith, who are bucking back against traditional Islamic partnerships, who are depressed and not instantly healed, all—MASHALLAH!!!
I reached out to her. Asked her if she’d write it. And then she turned around and asked ME if I would.
And speaking of anthologies, we’ll get even more Cam goodness in 2020 when you feature in the upcoming all-queer anthology Out Now: Queer We Go Again!, the contemporary followup to All Out, once again edited by Saundra Mitchell. What can you tell us about your story for that collection?
My story for Out Now was honestly one of the most difficult things I’ve ever written. I’m so in love with it. I struggled for months with it and then one night it all just poured out of me, start to finish. I didn’t even read it through before I sent it off to Saundra; I was already so past deadline. Twice. And from there, I didn’t get asked to make any structural changes to the story, either. Just a few grammatical things. It’s a raw story and probably the best thing I’ll ever write. It’s about a skateboarding enby who has a crush on a girl whom they think will NEVER notice them. Maybe she will, maybe she won’t. But the main character will take you all the way through it.
Cam Anthology Goodness of 2020 Part II has you breaking into MG in Once Upon an Eid! What was it like to write for a younger audience, and is it something you could see yourself doing in longer form?
First—CAM ANTHOLOGY GOODNESS OF 2020! YESSSS. ONCE has been such a fun process. It was just happy-making anytime I worked on it. This was my first time writing ANYTHING MG. And immediately after my story was submitted, I started drafting an MG novel of my own. It’s on hold for a moment, but I’m 12K words deep and still sooo excited about it.
You’re such a great advocate for more midlist authors and especially for other queer/trans Black authors, and QTAoC in general. What books and authors would you love to see get more attention, and what queer books have meant a lot to you as a both an author and a reader?
Oooh! I love this question. There are a few key QTAoC that I’d undoubtedly return to religiously, one of whom being Rivers Solomon (they), author of An Unkindness of Ghosts. It is the queer Afro-futurist fic of my marshmallow heart. And I wish I’d written it myself. Also entirely jealous of this human’s 12-ton talent: Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (they). I should say that these are some pretty heavy novels, though. But I think anybody who reads them will be made better for them. My heart needed ’em.
And if we’re talking books that formed me as both an author and a reader—it’s not fiction, it’s a memoir. But my favorite book in the world, the reason I was able to tell my family I’m queer, the path through which I found my label as a Pansexual person—it’s Paul Monette’s Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir. Yes, it’s a memoir. Yes, it’s horrifically heartbreaking. Yes, it ends in a way that will ruin your entire week (lololo). But also… it’s romantic in ways I’ve never seen expressed on the page before.
What’s your first memory of LGBTQIAP+ representation in the media, for better or for worse?
Glee. It was, unfortunately, when Glee introduced Kurt and… the kid with the chin and the hair? Blaine? My mom and my little sister and I would watch it together every week and I remember sitting in strained, awkward silence with them, while such an explicit and open GAY display moved across the television. We never talked about it. I just wanted it to be over, not for my discomfort, but for theirs. My mom and sister’s. I wanted to tone down my relationship to queerness in order to make others more comfortable.
And as far as I knew, out of the 3 of us, I was the only one who connected to it. (spoiler: my little sister is out and openly panromantic polyamorous).
As someone contributing to a couple of great collections next year, what would be a dream project for you specifically to helm? 
I absolutely have an answer to this… but that’s all I can say for now. Stay tuned! 😉
What can you share about what you’re working on right now?
Right now, I’m pulling my own teeth out trying to draft a new YA romance about two Black teens who explore their ancestry through Hoodoo and Voodoo. It’s difficult. And it’s unlike anything I’ve written before.
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Candice “Cam” Montgomery is an LA transplant now living in the woods of Seattle, where they write Young Adult novels. Their debut novel, featured on the 2018 Kirkus Best list, HOME AND AWAY can be found online and in stores now, and their sophomore novel, BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY was released earlier this October. By day, Cam writes about Black teens across all their intersections. By night, they bartend at a tiny place nestled inside one of Washington’s greenest trees. They’re an avid Studio Ghibli fan and will make you watch at least one episode of Sailor Moon and listen to one Beyoncé record before they’ll call you “friend.”

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.

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.

***

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.