Tag Archives: bisexuality

Authors in Conversation: Linsey Miller and E. Latimer

2020 is the year for Sapphic YA fantasy, and I’m thrilled to have on the site two of its authors with new releases that are not to be missed! Linsey Miller’s first book after the Mask of Shadows duology is Belle Révolte, a French-inspired dual-POV about two girls who switch places so each can get her desired education, and it just released on February 4! E. Latimer’s first YA is Witches of Ash and Ruin, about a recently outed bisexual Irish witch named Dayna whose beloved coven is facing down a potential serial killer, and it comes out on March 3rd! But they can both describe their books way better than I can, so let’s let them get to it!

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E: I’m so excited I get to do this interview with you! I absolutely loved Mask of Shadows and Ruin of Stars (is it okay if I think Sal is dreamy and have designated them one of my top fictional crushes? That’s normal, right?)

(Linsey: Sal would be thrilled to be considered dashing and dreamy after Rath laughing endlessly about their inability to rob Elise.)

E: For the past few months I feel like I’ve been seeing the gorgeous cover for Belle Révolte EVERYWHERE, and I was so excited to see Witches of Ash and Ruin on some of the same “anticipated” LGBTQ lists, so cool!

Belle Révolte came out February 4th. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Linsey: Sure! Belle Révolte is the story of two girls—Emilie des Marais and Annette Boucher—who are both unhappy in their lives. Because of the strict social hierarchies, neither of them is able to achieve their dreams. Noble girls are not allowed to study the magic required to by physicians because of the damaging effects it has on the boy, and Annette cannot afford to attend university to pursue the only magical career path available to her: life as a hack. Hacks are people able to use magic but not wealthy or noble enough to pursue higher education. They work as assistants to the rich so that they are worn down by the powerful magic they use in place of their employers.

So Emilie and Annette swap places. Annette takes Emilie’s place at finishing school to study magic and get an education, and Emilie attends university to become a physician’s hack and prove her worth. While at their respective schools, they both decide that the state of their nation is unsustainable and join a brewing rebellion.

But when their nation instigates a frivolous war, the girls must work together and decide what they’re willing to sacrifice in order to stop the fighting and save their nation.

I’m excited we both have a book coming out in the same year, and 2020 seems like an amazing year for YA fantasy. Your previous book, The Strange And Deadly Portraits Of Bryony Gray, was so atmospheric and fun! (It’s fine if I think of spooky books as fun, right? There’s something exciting about having to glance over your shoulder when reading.) I know Witches of Ash and Ruin is a completely different sort of book, but I can’t wait to see how the world comes alive in it.

Do you want to talk a bit about the world of Witches of Ash and Ruin and how you navigated creating a fantasy story within the real world?

E: I’ve always been very drawn to witchy women, both real and imaginary, so when the tag line of “rival covens have to come together to defeat a serial killer” popped into my head, I knew this was the perfect story for me, and that I had to write it.

The story is set in Ireland, because that’s the mythology I really wanted to delve into, but I actually think of the witches’ kitchen as the “heart” of the world, if that makes sense. It’s where they learn their craft, where they meet the other coven, and where they solve a lot of the mysteries in order to hunt down a killer.

Just like the rest of the story, the witch’s kitchen is a strange mash-up of fictional and real. I grew up homeschooling, which meant that I associated with a strange, eclectic bunch of people (other homeschoolers). One of the families I spent loads of time with was a lovely, chaotic family with nine children and a massive, disorderly kitchen where everything was hand built, knitted, patched, baked, sewn. It was all so rough-spun and homemade, and it was done with the utmost love. I don’t think I truly realized how special that place was until much later. In fact, I now realize it was a lot like the Weasleys’ kitchen in Harry Potter.

The farmhouse in Witches of Ash and Ruin is basically that house. The table the witches sit around was one I sat around every Tuesday.

Linsey: I love the idea of that kitchen. There are so many memories I have in my grandmother’s kitchen that I find fueling my writing too. Witches of Ash and Ruin also features a serial killer, which feels terrifying but also separate from those real-world inspirations. Did you base that off of anything in history, and what draws you to this marriage of our world and fantasy?

E: I’ve always had a fascination with serial killers, but the motivation was always something that bothered me. I love magical answers to mundane questions. So the question might be, “What kind of person kills multiple people, and why?” And the answer might just be, “Because he’s evil” or if you want to get more technical, something about the right combination of nature, nurture and a potential head injury.

But that’s kind of depressing. Not only that, it’s boring. I want to put a twist on it, and I want a reason that blows your mind, and makes you realize there’s more out there than you ever dreamed.

Ever since I was a child, I wanted there to be magic. I still do. If there isn’t any magic in the real world, I’ll slip it into the cracks. I’ll make it fit, so that people can uncover it and think, even for the most fleeting moment, This might be real. That’s the magic of blending reality with fantasy, it unlocks something in you as a reader and lets you glimpse the possibility of a bigger world.

Linsey: That’s really interesting. There are so many personal things, not all of them as tender as a warm kitchen or happy memories, we can associate with ourselves that putting them into books can be hard sometimes. Apart from the lighter dark topic of serial killers, how do you navigate the harder to discuss challenges and triumphs your characters face? Mental health in fantasy works can be difficult to explore sometimes because of the nature of the worlds. Do you take any steps to ensure you give it and your characters enough space on the page, and do you find writing about such personal experiences affects you?

E: It’s such a tricky thing to balance mental health depictions and a fantasy plotline, which is why I feel we don’t see much of it. You want to write that big magical battle where the characters are throwing spells back and forth, but you know if she has anxiety she’s probably going to be freaking out. But if you have her just sort of collapse in the middle of things, it’s all going to be over pretty quick.

Also, you can’t just have all the chapters dealing with the mental illness when you’ve got a serial killer to track down. I found it particularly tricky finding the balance for Dayna. With OCD, a completely accurate depiction would just be pages and pages of obsessions, just endless internal dialogue with her obsessing and checking and obsessing and checking, but honestly who wants to read that?

I had to try to pepper the obsession through here and there, and not have it completely take over the narration. It’s considerably pulled back from what it was to begin with. As for questions of how writing this affects me, the answer is “profoundly.” I’d write a scene with her OCD and then I’d have to step back for a bit and concentrate on a different part, and for some reason editing it was just as hard. It really did feel cathartic in the end though. I couldn’t even get through John Green’s Turtles all the Way Down, so to be able to step back and go, “I did it!” at the end of Witches of Ash and Ruin, well, it felt good.

And it meant writing Witches of Ash and Ruin was a deeply personal experience, and many of the character’s struggles and challenges surrounding her bisexuality, and with her mental illness (OCD) are directly inspired by reality. Do you take inspiration from your life, and if so, how does that effect the process of writing for you?

Linsey: I do. It can honestly make it really hard and challenging to put out there. Annette, especially, was hard for me to write at times because her inner narration is tinged with grief and her asexuality. I knew I wanted to create a world where Annette’s asexuality would make her feel like she’s giving into the power structures around her—women are traditionally calm, collected, and sometimes cold in the world of Belle Révolte—and so she questions if she’s actually asexual or just as she is supposed to be and missing something. It’s hard to get at the heart of that but also important.

It took me ages to figure out how Annette would verbalize her aceness, and that’s because I never really knew how to verbalize. So in a way, she is expressing my experiences for me. I hope it’s made me a better writer, but it has certainly made me a better me. It also feels less threatened to be able to do it in a dark fantasy world because the rules are different. Annette can go after her villains with abandon, which isn’t something we get to do too often in the real world. I think it’s why I’m drawn to dark fantasy. It’s cathartic in a way.

Even though the words tend to leave us once they’re off the page and writing them can be emotionally freeing, getting them there can still be very affecting. Do you have any advice for writers who may want to write about something personal but aren’t quite sure how to start?

E: Writing is a great way to work through things you’re dealing with or have dealt with in the past, but if you’re just starting out be sure to “check in” with yourself. Assess how you’re feeling, how it’s effecting your state of mind and mental health.

Keep in mind also, you may deal with different subjects in different ways. I have to go slow and take breaks if I’m writing about a trigger (OCD) but if I’m working through stuff I’ve been repressing, that’s making me angry, it kind of all comes out. Like rage-induced writing, it’s incredibly therapeutic. Better on the page than in your head.

I know that both Witches of Ash and Ruin and the Mask of Shadows duology explore themes of mental illness: OCD and PTSD. For me, writing about mental illness can be both challenging and rewarding, but I have to be careful with myself, and pay attention to how I’m feeling before I dive into writing a scene with (for example) a full-blown panic attack.

In Belle Révolte are there similar themes of mental illness? If so, what motivates you to explore this, and what is your experience with writing about it?

Linsey: There actually aren’t. For Sal, I found writing their experiences with PTSD and grief extremely challenging and upsetting even thought I was glad I did it in the end. Grief, neglect, and war come up in fantasy a lot, and when I was writing Sal’s story, that was something I didn’t want to shy away from. I wanted to make sure that Sal was on the road toward developing healthy habits by the end of the series and wasn’t made to feel lesser for their PTSD. Reading about trauma can be traumatic, so I wanted to make sure readers had a chance to recover with Sal on the page instead of having to assume it after the epilogue. But it was hard to write. In Belle Révolte, I didn’t feel like I would have the proper space to write it, and I sort of needed to give my mind a break.

It became more important for me to give other aspects of the book that page space, too.

E: In your Mask of Shadows duology you play with stepping outside of and challenging gender norms and expectations society has. Are there similar themes in Belle Révolte surrounding Emilie and her desire to be a physician? Can you tell us a little bit about why this is a recurring theme in your books, and what you’d like your readers to take away from this?

Linsey: There are some tangential themes. I have some pretty complicated feelings about gender, and on top of that, a lot of the books available to me as a child had female characters who could only be female in specific ways. Additionally, almost every world had a similar gender binary to ours and identical ways to present gender.

In Belle Révolte, I wanted to explore that in a way I was familiar with while also dissecting some of the inspirations of my past. Magic, like traits, clothing, and careers, is socially gendered, and Emilie has only ever pushed back against that aspect of her life. She doesn’t feel like she fits into the way her world tells her to be female, and so she does that thing that I think is relatable to some of us where she utterly rejects everything she is told she should be. I’ve always felt a bit odd in my own skin, and I wanted to write about a character navigating that same uncomfortableness without throwing other people under the bus.

Or carriage, I guess.

Annette likes things that are traditionally feminine in the world of Belle Révolte, as do many of the people Emilie meets, and it was important to me that Emilie personally hate those things for herself without projecting that hate to those things and the people who liked them.

Ultimately, I hope readers can take away that there’s no wrong way to be their gender. Women who love traditionally feminine things aren’t giving into the system, men who love those things aren’t less masculine, and non-binary folks shouldn’t have to present in some androgynous middle ground for their identity to be believed. We should all be able to live as we are, but I think we also have a responsibility to let others live as they are without considering their truth to be less.

Also—and this is something I always hope to live up to—that cis readers take away a willingness to protect the truths and lives of others since we have more social power. When we have power and say we want to help, we have to follow through.

At the same time, I like seeing happy endings in fantasy. We don’t get them in real life, sometimes, and reading about them can feel like hope. Writing about Annette’s experiences were hard but worth it.

I know that part of Dayna’s story is that she is outed as bisexual in her small, conservative town. Even though that’s something that a lot of people may experience, it’s not something we see often in YA fantasy. Were you writing to fill a void, and do you find that contemporary fantasy allows you to do things other genres may not in regards to writing to fill that void?

E: This is actually a great question. I find it really interesting that I’ve had a few people protest that Dayna is outed in the book, because I feel like this happens. All. The. Time. And not necessarily all at once, the way it happens to Dayna. It’s sort of like coming out by choice, and then having to come out and again and again and again. Being outed can happen that way too. I still remember a friend outing me. It was so casual, that’s what got me. She told a boyfriend, who I had just met. It was so off-hand, the way she said it, but it felt shocking to me, because that was something I’d just started sharing with my close friends. No one else knew.

It happened again later. Both times from a supposed friend who didn’t seem to think it was a big deal, both time I dealt with unpleasant reactions from others.

It was something I was angry about for a long time, and I tend to process a lot of my emotions by writing about them. I also think there’s a lack of books dealing with this that aren’t contemporary, which can leave genre readers sort of adrift.

I know that I never had queer YA growing up, both because my family is extremely religious and it wouldn’t have been allowed in the house, and because I didn’t really know such a thing existed. Years later, I’ve read almost everything I could get my hands on, but up until recently I didn’t seem to be able to find a lot of traditionally published books about bisexual girls, and even less about F/F relationships. I think we’re always on a quest to see ourselves in our fiction, and for me, not finding my reflection was discouraging. I know filling that void has been a big influence on the books I write.

What about you? What draws you to queer fiction and motivates you to write the identities you write about?

Linsey: Like you said, there’s a void. My favorite characters growing up, the ones I related to the most, were the ones I could believe were ace even if I didn’t have the words for it then. Their romances were almost devoid of lust or non-existent. I didn’t even think I would ever be in a romantic relationship as a child, so I clung to characters who felt the same as me. Tris from the Circle of Magic who pushed everyone away so that she wouldn’t be disappointed and Mel from Crown Duel felt closer to me than anyone else, and I want to do that for someone out there so that they feel less alone, except now I want to hopefully give them some words that feel like home. Found families and finding people who love you are very important to me in fiction, and I love reading and writing about characters finding a place where they are comfortable and respected, even if the characters don’t think they deserve that. Emilie is arrogant and a bit oblivious, and I wanted her to find her footing and grow without losing her ambition. Annette is kind but she can be shrewd. Belle Révolte has a bunch of angry people in it all coming together as a happy, angry family, and their anger isn’t dismissed.

Do you have any similar feelings about your characters, anger, and “unlikeable” female characters? Your characters have been described as “achingly real.” What do you think makes them real?

Likewise, relationships—platonic, familial, and romantic—seem to feature heavily in Witches of Ash and Ruin. Can you talk a bit about how you developed those and what sort of relationships readers will be able to enjoy?

E: There are actually a lot of angry characters in Witches of Ash and Ruin as well! Dayna is more on the chill side, but Meiner and Cora work through a lot of anger in the story. They don’t do anything that a male character would be labeled “unlikeable” for, but I’m almost sure one or both of them will get stamped with that. Honestly, male characters could probably run around punching babies, and as long as they’re halfway attractive, it’s fine. Female characters are unlikeable the moment they show a little anger, or do something slightly uncharitable. I think as readers we need to step back and take a good hard look at why that is, and what it is society has implanted in us that makes us think that way.

I think what makes the characters real in Witches, is that they are angry. And jealous, and competitive, and impulsive. Every last character is deeply flawed in some way, and all of them are morally grey at best. I think people are like that. They’re not black and white or good or evil, they’re just people.

I also love exploring relationships in fiction, all types. I think that’s what makes things so interesting. I want to see tension in families, chosen families who are tighter knit than “blood,” betrayals you never saw coming, and the type of friend who’s only question upon learning you’ve accidentally murdered someone is, “Want me to bring a shovel?”

I love genre fiction, but my favorite kind is filled with compelling relationships, both the good and the bad. And of course, I’m a terrible sucker for, “I hate you, but I also kind of want to lick your face,” type meet cutes. I mean, come on, who doesn’t love a good enemies-to-lovers trope?

Ahem, speaking of lovers, Mask of Shadows will forever hold the record for one of my all-time favorite romances. Sal and Elise are precious cinnamon buns who must be protected at all costs. Their chemistry is so great, and I was literally giggling out loud as they flirted with one another. They’re just the right amount of sweet and mischievous, and Sal has that edge of “dangerousness” that makes you fan yourself just a bit, if you know what I mean.

Can you tell us a little bit about the romance/relationship in Belle Révolte and give us a hint about what we have to look forward to?

Linsey: Oh, my precious assassin. I am so glad.

The romance in Belle Révolte is a bit toned down. It’s not as steamy, I guess. Emilie and Annette both have romantic arcs, but they’re similar in that their romantic inclinations are very quiet. Romance sneaks up on them after they become comfortable with a person and learn to trust them.  Their romances are built on respect and trust, even if Emilie’s relationship with their future partner is a bit prickly at the start.

Their romances stem from friendships, and platonic love is something I deeply appreciate. Emilie, who doesn’t really know how to express love because no one’s expressed it to her in a way she recognizes, realizes she loves her friends slowly, and then that she romantically loves one of them. Annette, who’s been burned because of her aceness is a bit too hesitant to admit she’s romantically attracted to someone until after it’s brought up a few times by friends.

Whereas Sal and Elise met and sort of mutually went, “Hellooooooooo,” I wanted the Emilie and Annette to have quieter romances bolstered by their friendships and bonds.

E: Okay last question. You have to pick from Sal, Elise, Annette and Emilie in each of the four scenarios:

  • You’re stranded on a desert island and you need to survive for two weeks before help arrives.
  • You get drafted into the Hunger Games.
  • You have to go to an extremely fancy royal dinner party with strict dining rules, and negotiate for peace in your country. It’s imperative you don’t offend anyone, lest you lose your heads at the end of the night.
  • You’re on a strict deadline to write an entire novel and you have to co-write with someone.

Linsey:

  • My ever-helpful medical nerd Emilie.
  • Sal, though I feel like they would not need me at all and Snow should be very
  • Elise (but also maybe Annette, who I feel would get along very well and probably have more fun than me at a dinner party).
  • She is an excellent diviner, so hopefully she can just divine the future novel and dictate it to me.

And you’re not getting away without doing this as well. Who would be your savior in these scenarios: Dayna, Meiner, Cora or Reagan?

E:

  • I think Cora would probably eat me for sustenance, so I’m going to say Reagan. She knows the most spells and would probably be able to keep us alive.
  • It was between Cora and Meiner, but I suspect Cora might backstab me once everyone else was dead. Meiner would actually attempt to keep me alive, I think.
  • Dayna is literally the only one in the entire cast of characters who wouldn’t get our heads chopped off.
  • Reagan or Dayna. Probably Reagan, because I feel Dayna and I would be too neurotic together and wouldn’t get much writing done.

E: This was awesome, I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun in an interview. I am seriously SO pumped for Belle Révolte to come out, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it! Thanks Linsey!

Linsey: !!! Thank you AND thank you for chatting with me. I am so glad Witches of Ash and Ruin will be out in the world this year, and I can’t wait to read it.

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Linsey Miller grew up in Arkansas and has previously worked as a crime lab intern, neuroscience (undergrad) lab assistant, and pharmacy technician. She is represented by Rachel Brooks of Bookends Literary and has an MFA in Creative Writing. Her debut duology, containing Mask of Shadows and Ruin of Stars, was about a genderfluid thief out for revenge who fought their way through auditions to be the next royal assassin. Linsey can currently be found writing about science and magic anywhere there is coffee.

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E. Latimer is a fantasy writer from Victoria, BC. Her middle grade novel, The Strange and Deadly Portraits of Bryony Gray was published by Tundra Books, and was nominated for the 2019 Red Maple Fiction Award.

In her spare time, she writes books, makes silly vlogs with the Word Nerds about writing, and reads excessively. You can find her on her website http://www.elatimer.com/ or over on twitter as @ELatimerWrites.

Writing Bisexual Characters—By Accident: a Guest Post by Author Nem Rowan

Today we’re welcoming to the site author Nem Rowan, author of Witcheskin and Rough Sleepers, genre mashups of horror, urban fantasy, and romance with trans and queer representation set in the UK that make for perfect reads for this time of year! The books are being rereleased following the closing of Less Than Three Press, so the author is here to give them a boost and talk about how bisexuality unexpectedly found its way into his stories!

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My two books, Witcheskin and Rough Sleepers, recently received a re-release through JMS Books after the closing down of Less Than Three Press, and both have transgender representation in them. What I didn’t plan for when I wrote these books was the representation of bisexuality! Rough Sleepers was one of the finalists in the Bi Writers Association’s 2018 Annual Book Awards for the Romance genre, and this made me consider how and why I seem to write in bisexual characters, sometimes without even meaning to.

I am a transgender man, and this makes a large impact on the kind of characters I write and the way I write about them. Being trans means I sometimes approach certain fictional situations in a different way to how a cis-gendered writer might, taking into consideration the character’s self-esteem, physical presentation and anatomy. When you write trans characters as a trans author, a little part of yourself always makes it into the story, whether it’s in something the character says or does—such as coping strategies for living in a world that can be quite hostile at times—to the reasons for the clothes they wear. But, whether a writer is trans or not, a part of yourself is always there in the writing, and I suppose I didn’t consider that my sexuality would have such a far-reaching, yet subtle, influence on what I wrote as well.

Just a little warning that there are spoilers ahead for those who haven’t read my books!

In Witcheskin, the character Wenda and her husband Evan were in a poly relationship with the main villain of the story, Geraint. At the time of writing, I never considered that this would actually mean—as they were in an equal triad—that both Evan and Geraint were bisexual. It’s never explicitly written in the book, but I had always considered Maredudd, the love interest and secondary main character, to be bisexual, in that his character is heavily inspired by water, and the fluidity of water. It was not a far stretch for me to imagine Maredudd dating a man, a woman, or anyone really, and perhaps that is why he is so ready and willing to accept Owen. Maredudd has no boundaries and lives a free, sometimes wandering, life. Why wouldn’t his sexuality be like that too?

Moving on to Rough Sleepers, the categorisation of the main character’s sexuality became complicated when it came to defining its place in publishing. Leon is bigender, and (s)he switches between male and female frequently throughout the book. Leon’s sexuality is hard for him/her to define, and even harder for me to define, even though it’s clear that Leon is chronically attracted to masculinity. Ceri, on the other hand, had his sexuality pre-planned for me, since he appears as Geraint in the first book, and after dating Wenda for a time, then goes on to be in a relationship with Leon. Even Mecky, one of the other main characters, leans heavily into bisexuality, as she is attracted to both masculinity and femininity, and seems to take particular interest in gender transformation. I never planned any of these things when I wrote the book; I just wrote it.

My third, currently unreleased, novel The Things We Hide At Home, which hopefully will be getting the release it deserves through JMS Books, is the first book I’ve ever written with a strictly gay male/male romance, and I’m not entirely sure why it ended up that way. The main character, Tenny, is a trans male who is also gay, and is quite different to Owen in how he navigates the world. Perhaps when I wrote this novel, I was going through a particularly gay phase myself. Bisexuality, at least for me and the bisexual people I know, seems to fluctuate in waves, and is never a static block of 50% masculine, 50% feminine.

I think when authors allow their characters to evolve completely organically, by simply guiding them along the vague path chosen by the plot line, they sometimes end up choosing their own sexualities. When I create characters, their sexuality is the last thing I think about. At times, their default sexuality just happens to be bisexual, even if I don’t realise it, and it opens them up to choosing their loves in sometimes totally unexpected ways. Only later, when they have established a solid personality and romance do I then decide what to do about their sexuality, and even then it may just be a small note jotted on a pad somewhere.

Likewise, I’m not saying it’s wrong to pre-plan your character’s sexuality. That’s an impossible thing to refrain from if the story is deeply entwined with that aspect of the character, for example, in a coming out story, or a book based on someone’s life experiences. But, that’s just not my writing style! I think it’s wonderful that writers will actively choose to make their characters LGBTQ+ because it’s important to get that work out there, to the people whose lives we are representing, to the people who need it the most. It could be that my books, and other authors’ books, are found by accident while searching, by someone who needed to see themselves in a main character, being brave and finding their place in the world, because that makes all the difference when you feel isolated and alone.

I feel that bisexuality is sometimes under-represented, and I’d love to see it written about more and more in the LGBTQ+ fiction world. It doesn’t necessarily mean having a gay couple at the forefront—it could have a male and a female in what appears to be a heterosexual relationship, but if one or both of them is bisexual, it’s still queer. We can’t, as a community, do bisexual people a disservice by dictating who they fall in love with, whether it’s gay or straight or anything else, because then we risk becoming the oppressors we’ve fought against all these years.

Bisexuality isn’t greed or indecision; it’s just another sexuality colour in the rainbow.

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Nem Rowan lives in Sweden with his wife and their girlfriend. He loves reading non-fiction and is fascinated by True Crime and unsolved mysteries, especially missing persons cases and serial killers. Nem is also well-read in mythology and folk tales, particularly British and European folklore. He is a huge fan of Horror movies and Retrowave music.

Nem started writing when he was 11 years old and since then, he’s never looked back. Romance has always been his favourite genre after inheriting a box of Mills & Boon novels from his grandma, but being a Horror fan, there is always some way for him to work in a bit of that to make sure things don’t get too mushy.

https://nemrowan.com
https://instagram.com/nemrowan
https://twitter.com/MrNemRowan

Writing My Way Out of the Closet: A Guest Post by These Witches Don’t Burn Author Isabel Sterling

I have so much love for These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling, a debut contemporary f/f YA fantasy out today, and while you can find some of that love expressed on the back cover in blurb form, I’m extra excited to help celebrate its entrance into the world by hosting this guest post! But first, here’s some more info on the book:

36484081Hannah’s a witch, but not the kind you’re thinking of. She’s the real deal, an Elemental with the power to control fire, earth, water, and air. But even though she lives in Salem, Massachusetts, her magic is a secret she has to keep to herself. If she’s ever caught using it in front of a Reg (read: non-witch), she could lose it. For good. So, Hannah spends most of her time avoiding her ex-girlfriend (and fellow Elemental Witch) Veronica, hanging out with her best friend, and working at the Fly by Night Cauldron selling candles and crystals to tourists, goths, and local Wiccans.

But dealing with her ex is the least of Hannah’s concerns when a terrifying blood ritual interrupts the end-of-school-year bonfire. Evidence of dark magic begins to appear all over Salem, and Hannah’s sure it’s the work of a deadly Blood Witch. The issue is, her coven is less than convinced, forcing Hannah to team up with the last person she wants to see: Veronica.

While the pair attempt to smoke out the Blood Witch at a house party, Hannah meets Morgan, a cute new ballerina in town. But trying to date amid a supernatural crisis is easier said than done, and Hannah will have to test the limits of her power if she’s going to save her coven and get the girl, especially when the attacks on Salem’s witches become deadlier by the day.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

And here’s the post by author Isabel Sterling!

It’s 2015.

I’ve been writing for three years with three completed novels under my belt. The first was a fantasy novel about a girl with two dads and a bisexual best friend. The second was about a closeted lesbian princess. The most recent story followed a young man who was desperately in love with an accused witch, a girl his sister was also falling for.

Close friends, many queer themselves, asked me with knowing expressions, “What’s your deal?”

“I’m very straight,” I’d say, emphasis included. “I’m just a really strong ally for the LGBTQ community.”

They’d shake their heads and ask if I was sure. I insisted there was no hidden reason for my choice of protagonists, but their question planted a seed of doubt in my mind, so small it was almost impossible to see. I convinced myself I couldn’t possibly be queer. I was in my mid-20s. I should know by now, right?

And then in the early part of 2015, the character of Hannah Walsh walked into my life loud, proud, and unabashedly queer. She was already out and in the midst of a painful breakup when she marched into my head, but as I set out to write, I questioned whether I was the right person to tell her story.

Starting in 2014, with the launch of We Need Diverse Books, conversations about diversity in KidLit were becoming more widely discussed in the online book community, spearheaded by writers of color (for whom this was not a new conversation). Reading those discussions forced me to examine why I was writing this particular story and what it meant for me to write a queer point of view character as a straight ally.

I considered reimaging Hannah and making her straight. I was no stranger to rewriting books–it’s a common part of my process, even now–but something in me rebelled against the idea. The prospect of making Hannah straight, of stripping away her queerness, was painful in a way that was terrifying to look at too closely.

Near the midpoint of drafting that novel, I had my first crush on another woman.

It was an intense and sudden crush, but one that I still tried to explain away. These feelings didn’t mean anything, I reasoned, because I liked men. And though I understood the concept of bisexuality, I didn’t feel like it could apply to me. Without realizing it, I had internalized so many biphobic stereotypes that I couldn’t see myself in that identity. I was too boring. Too plain. I didn’t grow up having crushes on my female friends, and I certainly wasn’t the kind of “cool” I associated with the queer women I’d met in college.

And even if I did–maybe, possibly, probably–have a crush on a woman, it was too late. I’d invested too many years proclaiming loudly that I was straight. It seemed impossible to be anything else.

As my first draft of Hannah’s story neared its end, still in the throes of that first crush and in complete denial, I made Hannah fall in love with a boy.

The choice didn’t make sense for her character, but I couldn’t write the ending any other way. Without realizing just how autobiographical the words would become, I poured every bit of the confusion and embarrassment that was swirling inside of me into Hannah. She had been so vocal about being a lesbian, how could anyone possibly understand that something had changed? She was afraid of having her queerness erased. She was afraid of people claiming her relationship with her ex-girlfriend had been a phase.

She was afraid, because I was afraid.

The characters around Hannah reminded her that being bi didn’t mean you liked different genders equally, that it was perfectly valid to like girls way more often than she liked boys. As I wrote, a tiny voice inside whispered that maybe the reverse was true, too. That maybe it’d be okay if I mostly liked guys and only sometimes liked girls. But my fear was louder than that voice, and I pushed it down where I couldn’t hear it anymore. That truth was for other people. Advice I might give to one of my students. It didn’t belong to me.

I finished the draft. I went on with my life. I started reading essays written by bisexual women about their experiences. Until finally, finally, something clicked. Suddenly, I could see all the ways I had written Hannah’s experience as a fun house mirror of my own. I recognized her loud proclamations of her identity. Her reluctance to let that go in the face of attraction to a gender she claimed to have no interest in. The embarrassment I felt so keenly that it physically hurt to realize I had been so wrong for so many years.

When I finally came out to myself, when I finally admitted that I was bisexual and said the words out loud, my entire world shifted. When I stopped fighting the attraction, I was shocked to find how intense those feelings were. Over time, I realized I actually gravitate toward women more than any other gender.

The Hannah you’ll meet in These Witches Don’t Burn is not bisexual (though her love interest is). That particular character arc was more personal confession than anything else, and Hannah remained the out and proud lesbian who first walked into my head in 2015.

Hannah’s identity may have stayed the same, but writing her story changed everything for me.

Isabel Sterling was born and raised in Central NY, surrounded by cornfields. When she wasn’t mixing potions in her backyard, she was lost in a book. Isabel lives with her wife and their furry children, still searching for magic around every corner. These Witches Don’t Burn is her debut novel.

 

Happy (Upcoming) Bi Visibility Day!

Happy Bi Visibility Day! Of course, the best part of this day is that you don’t really need to choose a single book to read; you can think all of them are damn fine! (I’m sorry, I cannot let a single BVD go without making a horrible joke. Anyway, here are some great bi things.)

Books to Read Now

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

31351689“I need Owen to explain this. Because yes, I do know that Owen would never do that, but I also know Hannah would never lie about something like that.”

Mara and Owen are about as close as twins can get. So when Mara’s friend Hannah accuses Owen of rape, Mara doesn’t know what to think. Can the brother she loves really be guilty of such a violent crime? Torn between the family she loves and her own sense of right and wrong, Mara is feeling lost, and it doesn’t help that things have been strained with her ex-girlfriend, Charlie.

As Mara, Hannah, and Charlie navigate this new terrain, Mara must face a trauma from her own past and decide where Charlie fits in her future. With sensitivity and openness, this timely novel confronts the difficult questions surrounding consent, victim blaming, and sexual assault.

Buy it: B&N* Amazon

Running With Lions by Julian Winters

Seventeen-year-old Sebastian Hughes should be excited about his senior year. He’s the Lions’ star goalie, his best friends are amazing, and he’s got a coach who doesn’t ask any team members to hide their sexuality. But when his estranged childhood best friend Emir Shah ends up on the team, Sebastian realizes his future is in the hands of the one guy who hates him. He’s determined to reconnect with Emir for the sake of the team. Sweaty days on the pitch, wandering the town’s streets, and bonding on the weekends sparks more than friendship between them. How can Sebastian convince Emir he can trust him again without wrecking the team’s future?

Buy it: Amazon * Interlude

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: they’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news is: there’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—an unforgettable day that will change both their lives forever.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

False Hearts by Laura Lam

Orphan Black meets Inception: Two formerly conjoined sisters are ensnared in a murderous plot involving psychoactive drugs, shared dreaming, organized crime, and a sinister cult.

Raised in the closed cult of Mana’s Hearth and denied access to modern technology, conjoined sisters Taema and Tila dream of a life beyond the walls of the compound. When the heart they share begins to fail, the twins escape to San Francisco, where they are surgically separated and given new artificial hearts. From then on they pursue lives beyond anything they could have previously imagined.

Ten years later, Tila returns one night to the twins’ home in the city, terrified and covered in blood, just before the police arrive and arrest her for murder—the first homicide by a civilian in decades. Tila is suspected of involvement with the Ratel, a powerful crime syndicate that deals in the flow of Zeal, a drug that allows violent minds to enact their darkest desires in a terrifying dreamscape. Taema is given a proposition: go undercover as her sister and perhaps save her twin’s life. But during her investigation Taema discovers disturbing links between the twins’ past and their present. Once unable to keep anything from each other, the sisters now discover the true cost of secrets.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Inkmistress by Audrey Coulthurst

Inkmistress_JKT_des2_CC15.inddAsra is a demigod with a dangerous gift: the ability to dictate the future by writing with her blood. To keep her power secret, she leads a quiet life as a healer on a remote mountain, content to help the people in her care and spend time with Ina, the mortal girl she loves.

But Asra’s peaceful life is upended when bandits threaten Ina’s village and the king does nothing to help. Desperate to protect her people, Ina begs Asra for assistance in finding her manifest—the animal she’ll be able to change into as her rite of passage to adulthood. Asra uses her blood magic to help Ina, but her spell goes horribly wrong and the bandits destroy the village, killing Ina’s family.

Unaware that Asra is at fault, Ina swears revenge on the king and takes a savage dragon as her manifest. To stop her, Asra must embark on a journey across the kingdom, becoming a player in lethal games of power among assassins, gods, and even the king himself.

Most frightening of all, she discovers the dark secrets of her own mysterious history—and the terrible, powerful legacy she carries in her blood.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Failure to Communicate by Kaia Sonderby

Failure to Communicate (Xandri Corelel #1)As one of the only remaining autistics in the universe, Xandri Corelel has faced a lot of hardship, and she’s earned her place as the head of Xeno-Liaisons aboard the first contact ship Carpathia. But her skill at negotiating with alien species is about to be put to the ultimate test.

The Anmerilli, a notoriously reticent and xenophobic people, have invented a powerful weapon that will irrevocably change the face of space combat. Now the Starsystems Alliance has called in Xandri and the crew of the Carpathia to mediate. The Alliance won’t risk the weapon falling into enemy hands, and if Xandri can’t bring the Anmerilli into the fold, the consequences will be dire.

Amidst sabotage, assassination attempts, and rampant cronyism, Xandri struggles to convince the doubtful and ornery Anmerilli. Worse, she’s beginning to suspect that not everyone on her side is really working to make the alliance a success. As tensions rise and tempers threaten to boil over, Xandri must focus all her energy into understanding the one species that has always been beyond her: her own.

Buy it: Amazon

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.

But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.

It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

The King of Bourbon Street by Thea de Salle

The King of Bourbon Street (NOLA Nights, #1)Hotel chain mogul Sol DuMont is about to learn that some of life’s biggest surprises come in deceptively small packages—namely a petite heiress named Rain who’s hell-bent on upsetting her family’s expectations—in this first book in the all new series by Thea de Salle, set against the sultry backdrop of New Orleans.

Thirty-seven-year-old Sol DuMont is a divorcee and the owner of a mid-sized hotel chain in New Orleans. Since Hurricane Katrina, his father’s death, and the decision that he and his ex-wife Maddy are far better off friends than lovers, he’s lost interest in almost everything he held dear—parties, people, and pushing limits.

All his limits.

Then Arianna Barrington checks into his hotel.

Twenty-four-year-old Arianna “Rain” Barrington could have been society’s sweetheart. Her family is moneyed, connected press darlings, and make sweeping headlines from coast to coast for reasons both good and bad. But when her mother shoves her at Charles Harwood—the obnoxious, entitled heir of Harwood Corp—to cement a billion-dollar business merger, Rain does the only thing she can think of to escape: she creates a scandal so big Harwood doesn’t want her anymore before fleeing to New Orleans for much-needed rest and relaxation.

All she wants is jazz piano, beignets, and to sail the Mississippi. What she gets is Sol DuMont, a whirlwind affair, and a hands-on education in sex, power play, and pushing limits.

All her limits

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Small Change by Roan Parrish

Small Change by [Parrish, Roan]Ginger Holtzman has fought for everything she’s ever had—the success of her tattoo shop, respect in the industry, her upcoming art show. Tough and independent, she has taking-no-crap down to an art form. Good thing too, since keeping her shop afloat, taking care of her friends, and scrambling to finish her paintings doesn’t leave time for anything else. Which … is for the best, because then she doesn’t notice how lonely she is. She’ll get through it all on her own, just like she always does.

Christopher Lucen opened a coffee and sandwich joint in South Philly because he wanted to be part of a community after years of running from place to place, searching for something he could never quite name. Now, he relishes the familiarity of knowing what his customers want, and giving it to them. But what he really wants now is love.

When they meet, Christopher is smitten, but Ginger … isn’t quite so sure. Christopher’s gorgeous, and kind, and their opposites-attract chemistry is off the charts. But hot sex is one thing—truly falling for someone? Terrifying. When her world starts to crumble around her, Ginger has to face the fact that this fight can only be won by being vulnerable—this fight, she can’t win on her own.

Buy it: B&NAmazon

So Sweet by Rebekah Weatherspoon

So Sweet (Sugar Baby, #1)Desperate times call for desperate measures…

And desperate is the only way to describe Kayla Davis’s current situation. Out of work and almost out of money to cover her bills, Kayla finally caves to her roommate’s nagging and follows her to Arrangements, an online dating site that matches pretty young women with older men of a certain tax bracket.

Convinced this “make-rent-quick” scheme will surely fail – or saddle her with an 80 year old boyfriend – Kayla is shocked when Michael Bradbury, Internet billionaire and stone-cold salt and pepper fox, offers her a solution to all her financial troubles. It’s hard enough for Kayla to accept his generosity, but what’s a girl to do when the wealthiest man she’s ever met is a dream in and outside of the bedroom?

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

The Brightsiders by Jen Wilde

A teen rockstar has to navigate family, love, coming out, and life in the spotlight after being labeled the latest celebrity trainwreck in Jen Wilde’s quirky and utterly relatable novel.

As a rock star drummer in the hit band The Brightsiders, Emmy King’s life should be
perfect. But there’s nothing the paparazzi love more than watching a celebrity crash and burn. When a night of partying lands Emmy in hospital and her girlfriend in jail, she’s branded the latest tabloid train wreck.

Luckily, Emmy has her friends and bandmates, including the super-swoonworthy Alfie, to help her pick up the pieces of her life. She knows hooking up with a band member is exactly the kind of trouble she should be avoiding, and yet Emmy and Alfie Just. Keep. Kissing.

Will the inevitable fallout turn her into a clickbait scandal (again)? Or will she find the strength to stand on her own?

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta

9780763691646Debuting on the New York stage, Zara is unprepared—for Eli, the girl who makes the world glow; for Leopold, the director who wants perfection; and for death in the theater.

Zara Evans has come to the Aurelia Theater, home to the visionary director Leopold Henneman, to play her dream role in Echo and Ariston, the Greek tragedy that taught her everything she knows about love. When the director asks Zara to promise that she will have no outside commitments, no distractions, it’s easy to say yes. But it’s hard not to be distracted when there’s a death at the theater—and then another—especially when Zara doesn’t know if they’re accidents, or murder, or a curse that always comes in threes. It’s hard not to be distracted when assistant lighting director Eli Vasquez, a girl made of tattoos and abrupt laughs and every form of light, looks at Zara. It’s hard not to fall in love. In heart-achingly beautiful prose, Amy Rose Capetta has spun a mystery and a love story into an impossible, inevitable whole—and cast lantern light on two girls, finding each other on a stage set for tragedy.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.

The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Books to Preorder

The Spy With the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke (Oct. 2, 2018)

The Spy with the Red BalloonSiblings Ilse and Wolf hide a deep secret in their blood: with it, they can work magic. And the government just found out.Blackmailed into service during World War II, Ilse lends her magic to America’s newest weapon, the atom bomb, while Wolf goes behind enemy lines to sabotage Germany’s nuclear program. It’s a dangerous mission, but if Hitler were to create the bomb first, the results would be catastrophic.

When Wolf’s plane is shot down, his entire mission is thrown into jeopardy. Wolf needs Ilse’s help to develop the magic that will keep him alive, but with a spy afoot in Ilse’s laboratory, the letters she sends to Wolf begin to look treasonous. Can Ilse prove her loyalty—and find a way to help her brother—before their time runs out?

Preorder: B&N * Amazon

Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria (Oct. 9, 2018)

Beneath the CitadelIn the city of Eldra, people are ruled by ancient prophecies. For centuries, the high council has stayed in power by virtue of the prophecies of the elder seers. After the last infallible prophecy came to pass, growing unrest led to murders and an eventual rebellion that raged for more than a decade.

In the present day, Cassa, the orphaned daughter of rebels, is determined to fight back against the high council, which governs Eldra from behind the walls of the citadel. Her only allies are no-nonsense Alys, easygoing Evander, and perpetually underestimated Newt, and Cassa struggles to come to terms with the legacy of rebellion her dead parents have left her — and the fear that she may be inadequate to shoulder the burden. But by the time Cassa and her friends uncover the mystery of the final infallible prophecy, it may be too late to save the city — or themselves.

Preorder: B&N * Amazon

Home and Away by Candice Montgomery (October 16, 2018)

Note: Bi character in this book is the love interest, not the narrator

37941689Tasia Quirk is young, Black, and fabulous. She’s a senior, she’s got great friends, and a supportive and wealthy family. She even plays football as the only girl on her private high school’s team.

But when she catches her mamma trying to stuff a mysterious box in the closet, her identity is suddenly called into question. Now Tasia’s determined to unravel the lies that have overtaken her life. Along the way, she discovers what family and forgiveness really mean, and that her answers don’t come without a fee. An artsy bisexual boy from the Valley could help her find them—but only if she stops fighting who she is, beyond the color of her skin.

Preorder: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound

The Resolutions by Mia Garcia (Nov. 13, 2018)

The ResolutionsNew Years are for fresh starts, but Jess just wants everything to go back to the way it was.

From hiking trips, to four-person birthday parties, to never-ending group texts, Jess, Lee, Ryan, and Nora have always been inseparable—and unstoppable. But now, with senior year on the horizon, they’ve been splintering off and growing apart. And so, as always, Jess makes a plan.

Reinstating their usual tradition of making resolutions together on New Year’s Eve, Jess adds a new twist: instead of making their own resolutions, the four friends assign them for each other—dares like kiss someone you know is wrong for you, show your paintings, learn Spanish, say yes to everything.

But not even the best laid plans can take into account the uncertainties of life. As the year unfolds, Jess, Ryan, Nora, and Lee each test the bonds that hold them together. And amid first loves, heart breaks, and life-changing decisions, beginning again is never as simple as it seems.

Preorder: B&N * Amazon

Our Year of Maybe by Rachel Lynn Solomon (January 15, 2019)

30340865Aspiring choreographer Sophie Orenstein would do anything for Peter Rosenthal-Porter, who’s been on the kidney transplant list as long as she’s known him. Peter, a gifted pianist, is everything to Sophie: best friend, musical collaborator, secret crush. When she learns she’s a match, donating a kidney is an easy, obvious choice. She can’t help wondering if after the transplant, he’ll love her back the way she’s always wanted.

But Peter’s life post-transplant isn’t what either of them expected. Though he once had feelings for Sophie too, he’s now drawn to Chase, the guitarist in a band that happens to be looking for a keyboardist. And while neglected parts of Sophie’s world are calling to her—dance opportunities, new friends, a sister and niece she barely knows—she longs for a now-distant Peter more than ever, growing increasingly bitter he doesn’t seem to feel the same connection.

Peter fears he’ll forever be indebted to her. Sophie isn’t sure who she is without him. Then one blurry, heartbreaking night twists their relationship into something neither of them recognizes, leading them to question their past, their future, and whether their friendship is even worth fighting for.

Preorder: Amazon Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indigo | IndieBound Goodreads

Small Town Hearts by Lillie Vale (March 19, 2019)

Fresh out of high school, Babe Vogel should be thrilled to have the whole summer at her fingertips. She loves living in her lighthouse home in the sleepy Maine beach town of Oar’s Rest and being a barista at the Busy Bean, but she’s totally freaking out about how her life will change when her two best friends go to college in the fall. And when a reckless kiss causes all three of them to break up, she may lose them a lot sooner. On top of that, her ex-girlfriend is back in town, bringing with her a slew of memories, both good and bad.

And then there’s Levi Keller, the cute artist who’s spending all his free time at the coffee shop where she works. Levi’s from out of town, and even though Babe knows better than to fall for a tourist who will leave when summer ends, she can’t stop herself from wanting to know him. Can Babe keep her distance, or will she break the one rule she’s always had – to never fall for a summer boy?

Preorder: Amazon * B&N

Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins (May 7, 2019)

Millie Quint is devastated when she discovers that her sort-of-best friend/sort-of-girlfriend has been kissing someone else. Heartbroken and ready for a change of pace, Millie decides to apply for scholarships to boarding schools . . . the farther from Houston the better.

Soon, Millie is accepted into one of the world’s most exclusive schools, located in the rolling highlands of Scotland. Here, the country is dreamy and green; the school is covered in ivy, and the students think her American-ness is adorable.

The only problem: Millie’s roommate Flora is a total princess.

She’s also an actual princess. Of Scotland.

At first, the girls can’t stand each other, but before Millie knows it, she has another sort-of-best-friend/sort-of-girlfriend. Princess Flora could be a new chapter in her love life, but Millie knows the chances of happily-ever-afters are slim . . . after all, real life isn’t a fairy tale . . . or is it?

Preorder: Amazon * B&N

I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver (May 28, 2019)

When Ben DeBacker tries to come out to their parents as non-binary, their life comes to a screeching halt as they’re thrown out of their home. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they find a new home with their estranged sister Hannah, and a new school.

But attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic fellow student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, feelings begin to change, and what starts as a disaster looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life, and find first love.

Out Summer 2019 from Scholastic!

Preorder: Amazon * IndieBound

Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (June 4, 2019)

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides―namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

Preorder: Amazon

Posts on Bisexuality

Features on Bi Books

Features with Bi Authors

Better Know an Author: Anna-Marie McLemore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you so much for having me!

*****

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