So excited to have our very first cover reveal on LGBTQ Reads! Cinnamon and Cigarettes is Samantha Kate’s first novel, and it releases June 1st from Torquere Press. Here’s the story:
Sara Clarke, recent college grad, is sweet, demure, and cautious in all things, but especially romance—until she meets Moira Estrada, a bold amateur pilot and patron at the library where Sara works. Their intimacy blooms rapidly as they share everything from a sudden medical emergency to Christmas with the Estrada family. With her dashing new girlfriend by her side, Sara learns to overcome some of her greatest fears, whether they be acknowledging her own bisexuality, flying across the sky in a Cessna, or falling in love for the first time.
But Sara’s fear of confrontation is harder to conquer. When asked about her relationship, she finds herself lying to her family, pretending to date a man so she can avoid conflict with her straight-laced and image-conscious parents. But her attempts to please everyone cannot last forever and could result in far worse than her parents’ disapproval: she might lose the respect of her new friends at the library, or become estranged from her sister—or, worst of all, Sara might lose the only person she’s ever truly loved.
Samantha Kate works as a paralibrarian (that’s library support staff) for her day job. In her free time, she tries to pursue more creative projects than is humanly possible. Her short story “Bottom of the River” was published in Torquere’s Twisted Fables anthology in February 2016. Cinnamon and Cigarettes is her first novel.
Welcome to Better Know an Author, a feature title I stole from Colbert Report because I miss it so, which will introduce you to a fabulous author of LGBTQIAP+ books every month! To kick it off, I am so delighted to present my beloved critique partner, Marieke Nijkamp, whose debut, This is Where it Ends, is a freaking New York Times bestseller for five weeks running!
How badass is hitting the New York Times bestseller list? Spare no details.
Well you got my super ineloquent texts, so I can hardly pretend I was calm and collected. Truth is, after I got the phone call, I sat on the couch and watched my Twitter explode and my hands were shaking so hard I could barely lift a drink—or respond to the social media outburst. It took me three days just to get caught up on the tweets and the emails. It was, and is, the most surreal and the most wonderful experience and I’m deeply grateful to my publisher and to my fantastic readers for getting the book there. It’s extremely badass, and I love that it means the book will reach even more readers.
What music do you write to, if any?
It depends! For TIWIE, I had a fairly specific (and super sad) playlist, with a lot of poppy songs. With my current WIP, my playlist is far more classical and instrumental, with an additional and rather eclectic collection of Dutch songs. I’m not entirely sure how that happened either.
Beyond that, I recently discovered the magic of Noisli. I love writing to the sound of rain and wind and thunder. (I need something vaguely winter-y to get me through these summer months. Ew.)
What’s your ideal way to spend fifty-four minutes?
Doing something that involves stories. So writing, ideally, but also reading. Or traveling/adventuring. J
What’s a particularly conscious choice you made in your representation in This is Where it Ends?
Gah. There was one very conscious choice I made very, very early on, but sharing it is such a spoiler. That thing that happened. Or didn’t happen, depending on your point of view. That was a very conscious choice.
Vague answer is vague.
What’s something about one of your leading characters in This is Where it Ends that didn’t make it on to the page?
Most everything I wanted to have on the page is there, but because the time frame is so limited, I had to make choices when it came to showing backstory. Which means there were always more scenes I was aware of or that I wanted to explore. One of those things is how and when Autumn fell in love with Sylv. Slower, more gradual, than the other way around. While Sylv fell for Autumn’s glow and her passion, Autumn fell for Sylv because Sylv steadies her world and makes her feel safe, when she needs it most. (Even if that terrifies Autumn.)
What’s the first queer representation you saw in any medium that really stuck with you, for better or for worse?
Hm, I think the first rep that really stuck with me was seeing Willow and Tara in Buffy. I think it might have been the first time I saw queer characters in any medium, period. And there was so much about it that was incredibly empowering. Badass queer witches? Yes, please. Characters I could identify with? Wow.
Unfortunately it was also my first introduction to Dead Lesbian Syndrome. Or as TV Tropes so classily calls it, Bury Your Gays. I loved the positive aspects of Willow and Tara’s relationship, but I didn’t realize until much later how pervasive it was to see that “model” relationship come to a bad ending. To see so many queer couples not get their happily ever after (or even a happy for now). It took me a long time to realize queer relationships should not be hidden and deserve a happy ending as much as anyone else.
What’s something you’ve seen in LGBTQIAP+ lit that’s really stuck with you, for better or for worse?
The first time I saw queer characters in a story that wasn’t just about being queer was such an eye opener to me. I think that was Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner series (gay thieves for the win) and I loved that eureka moment of “we can have adventures too!”
What are your favorite LGBTQIAP+ reads?
I keep finding more and more favorites! So obviously, Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner series is still high up there. All of her books, really. I also still love Annie on My Mind for being my first f/f YA. But in terms of recent books, I loved Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not and when Audrey Coulthurst’s Of Fire and Stars comes along, it’ll blow you mind. I would recommend Alex Gino’s George to everyone and Malinda Lo’s Huntress is so gorgeous. Oh, and Robin Talley’s As I Descended is going to terrify you. I’m so excited for Fox Benwell’s Kaleidoscope Song to hit shelves because it’ll tear your heart out beautifully. And of course, I’m happy to declare my love for Otherbound and Under the Lights and Far From You everywhere <3
What would you still love to see in LGBTQIAP+ lit?
More great ace rep. More characters exploring their gender identity. More queer casts (because we really do flock together). And more intersectionality in terms of race, disability, but also culture and religion. I think we have some fantastic lit out there already, and I’m so excited to see it continue to grow and expand. But there is such a vast spectrum of LGBTQIAP+ experiences, and I’d love to see more, more, more of it.
What advice do you have for teens who come to you for advice on how to come out?
I usually tell them two things. One, be proud of who you are, regardless of what the world tells you. And two, safety first. It’s unfortunately still the case for all of us queer folk that being out can be dangerous, whether it’s because of family, work, or living in a bigoted environment. So while I understand the need to be out – I wouldn’t want anyone to feel like they can’t be who they are and I will support anyone who wants to take that leap – it’s so, so important to start with people you know you can trust and to consider safety nets, support systems, and your own well-being. Because you matter so much.
What are some of your favorite queer-centric things on the Internet?
TWITTER. Okay, but it actually is at that. I practically grew up on the internet. As a baby queer, I found a lot of information and a good part of my community online, through forums, writing groups, and fanfic. But never before to the extent and scope of (my corner of) the queer community of Twitter. These days, I find myself going more private again too, but knowing it’s out there and we’re not alone is invaluable.
Macarons or stroopwaffels?
What’s up next for you?
A story with an ace main character. And I’m *so* excited about it.
CANNOT WAIT. Marieke’s book, This is Where it Ends, is on sale now, and here’s where you can buy it!
“Under the Gaydar” features books you might not realize have queer content but should definitely have on your radar. This edition is all about some great “bad girls” in YA who, in addition to loving lying, petty crime, bullying, and more, also quite love the ladies. (Or at least one lady!)
Winning by Lara Zeises Deloza – Mean Girls meets Election, with multiple POVs, including Sam, best friend to the Regina George-esque lead, who’s easily manipulated into helping her BFF get on top… or is she? (my convoluted little review here)
Trust Me, I’m Trouble by Mary Elizabeth Summer – The second in a series about a teen girl con artist sees her going from a male love interest in book 1 to a female love interest in book 2, and it does so with zero sexuality angst while also not ignoring that sexual angst about your first time having feelings for someone of another gender can be a Thing. This series is so voice-y and fabulous and these girls are hands-down one of my favorite YA pairings ever. I ship it so hard, and so will you.
Underneath Everything by Marcy Beller Paul – Uggghhhh homoerotic toxic friendship novels are my crack, and Mattie and Jolene in this one are basically, like, “Match, meet gasoline. I think you guys are gonna hit it off super well.” Don’t go in thinking this is a Romance – it isn’t – but when I say “Homoerotic toxic friendship novel” I mean every single one of those words to the max.
Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten – My thoughts on this one are similar to Underneath Everything, but whereas UE is sort of dreamily lyrical and introspective, SNFBG is rife with plot twistiness, and I still think about that ending and wish I were in a book club just so I could discuss it with other people.
Vanished by E.E. Cooper – Kalah isn’t really a bad girl, per se, but she’s gone ahead and fallen for one, who also happens to be one of her best friends…who also happens to be missing. There’s a whole web of lies and twists, and all that’s cool, but the best part of this book is Kalah herself, how she comes into her own sexuality, and finally seeing some intersectional diversity in “cool girl” YA.
Fave Five will generally be a little less…well, general, but since this is the first edition of it for the site, I’m gonna use it to quickly catch up on what are in my opinion the most noteworthy LGBTQIAP+ YA titles of the year so far!
Every month, the site will feature an LGTBQIAP+ read that’s over a year old, as part of a “Backlist Book of the Month” feature. I’m excited to kick it off with one of my personal favorites, Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz (Simon Pulse). Three reasons I love this book:
Intersectionality FTW: Etta is a Black, bisexual ballerina in recovery for an eating disorder
So much bi pride. So much. If you’re sick and tired of seeing bi erasure in lit, this book will make you do a serious fist pump of pride. (And yes, it’s nominated for a Bisexual Book Award.)
The voice. Etta’s voice is killer. If you wanna see just how much that can matter for a book, this is definitely one to pick up.
Etta is tired of dealing with all of the labels and categories that seem so important to everyone else in her small Nebraska hometown.
Everywhere she turns, someone feels she’s too fringe for the fringe. Not gay enough for the Dykes, her ex-clique, thanks to a recent relationship with a boy; not tiny and white enough for ballet, her first passion; and not sick enough to look anorexic (partially thanks to recovery). Etta doesn’t fit anywhere— until she meets Bianca, the straight, white, Christian, and seriously sick girl in Etta’s therapy group. Both girls are auditioning for Brentwood, a prestigious New York theater academy that is so not Nebraska. Bianca seems like Etta’s salvation, but how can Etta be saved by a girl who needs saving herself?
This is a site dedicated to LGBTQ Lit including Picture Books, Middle Grade, Young Adult, New Adult, and Romance. Whether you’re looking for your personal next read or the best way to support your library, or anything in between, I’m here to help you find it!
If you’re familiar with my personal blog, you may recall that I have a QUILTBAG Compendium, and yes, that will still be updated and operational in its current functions. However, it was getting a bit unwieldy with all I wanted to feature, and there was so much I wanted to do with it for which there was no space, so, ta da! Yes, there is some overlap in content (although it’s organized quite differently here) and they will be similarly curated, but that’s where the similarities end.
The categories you see up top will be monthly features, so each month you’ll meet a new author and get recs for both an older title and a new release, often with some input from those authors as well. Besides that, you can see other themes of recurring posts in the sidebar on the left, and there’ll be guest posts from people involved in LGBTQIAP+ publishing in various ways, information on various queerly bookish things around the internet, and whatever else people throw my way. For more info, check out the FAQ!
Of course, no launch is complete without giveaways, so make sure you’re following LGBTQ Reads on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr, because that’s where I’ll be giving away some seriously awesome reads!
There’ll also be an event I’m really psyched for during pride month to raise money for some places near and dear to my rainbow heart. If you’d like to donate an item, please use this form. If you want more information first, just get in touch!
Welcome to LGBTQ Reads – can’t wait to queer up your bookshelves, one rec at a time!