Tag Archives: Contemporary

New Release Spotlight: Drum Roll, Please by Lisa Jenn Bigelow

You may recall Lisa Jenn Bigelow from one of the first traditionally published f/f YAs, Starting From Here, which released in 2012. Well now she’s back with a queer-girl MG novel and damn if it doesn’t look afreakingdorable. I’m so, so thrilled at the queer MG boom this year has seen, and as this is the final one being released this year, please give it lots of love and ensure there’s lots more to come!

36301050Melly only joined the school band because her best friend, Olivia, begged her to. But to her surprise, quiet Melly loves playing the drums. It’s the only time she doesn’t feel like a mouse. Now she and Olivia are about to spend the next two weeks at Camp Rockaway, jamming under the stars in the Michigan woods.

But this summer brings a lot of big changes for Melly: her parents split up, her best friend ditches her, and Melly finds herself unexpectedly falling for another girl at camp. To top it all off, Melly’s not sure she has what it takes to be a real rock n’ roll drummer. Will she be able to make music from all the noise in her heart?

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * Indie-Bound * Powell’s * Google Play

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Fave Five: Sapphic Plus-Size Protagonists

Shhhh it’s really six. Tell no one.

The Summer of Jordi Perez by Amy Spalding

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

Bearly a Lady by Cassandra Khaw

The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember

Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman

Final Draft by Riley Redgate

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Exclusive Cover Reveal: The Meaning of Birds by Jaye Robin Brown!

Please excuse me while I go full fangirl, but if you’ve spent any time asking for recs on the LGBTQReads Tumblr, you know that Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit falls out of my mouth about twelve times a day. So how psyched am I to be revealing the cover of Jaye Robin Brown‘s next f/f YA, The Meaning of Birds, which releases on April 16, 2019?? (Very. Is that not obvious? I’m sorry, I thought it was obvious.) Here’s the story behind the story:

Before:
Ever since her father’s death, Jessica has struggled with the anger building inside her. And being one of the only out teens in school hadn’t helped matters. But come sophomore year, all that changes when effervescent Vivi crashes into her life. As their relationship blossoms, Vivi not only helps Jess deal with her pain, she also encourages her to embrace her talent as an artist. Suddenly the future is a blank canvas, filled with possibilities.

After:
In the midst of senior year, Jess’s perfect world is erased in an instant when Vivi suddenly passes away. Reeling from another devastating loss, Jess falls back into her old ways. She gets into fights. She pushes away her family and friends. And she trashes her plans for art school. Because art is Vivi and Vivi is gone forever.
 
Desperate to escape her grief, Jess finds solace in her gritty work-study program, letting her dreams die. Until she makes an unexpected friend who shows her a new way to channel her anger, passion, and creativity. Jess may never draw again, but if she can find room in her heart to heal, she just might be able to forge a new path for herself.

And here’s the most excellent cover, designed by Jessie Gang with illustrations by Elliana Esquivel!

The Meaning of Birds releases from Harper on April 16, 2019!

Jaye Robin Brownor JRo to her friends, has been many things in her life–jeweler, mediator, high school art teacher–but is now living the full-time writer life. She currently lives in New England but is taking her partner, dog, and horses back south to a house in the woods where she hopes to live happily ever after. She is the author of NO PLACE TO FALL, GEORGIA PEACHES AND OTHER FORBIDDEN FRUIT, and the forthcoming, THE MEANING OF BIRDS which releases 4/16/19.

Exclusive Excerpt Reveal: Running With Lions by Julian Winters

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Bloomington High School Lions’ star goalie, Sebastian Hughes, should be excited about his senior year: His teammates are amazing and he’s got a coach who doesn’t ask anyone to hide their sexuality. But when his estranged childhood best friend Emir Shah shows up to summer training camp, Sebastian realizes the team’s success may end up in the hands of the one guy who hates him. Determined to reconnect with Emir for the sake of the Lions, he sets out to regain Emir’s trust. But to Sebastian’s surprise, sweaty days on the pitch, wandering the town’s streets, and bonding on the weekends sparks more than just friendship between them. 

Buy it: B&N * Amazon* Kobo

 

And now, the excerpt! 

Sebastian is almost ninety-eight percent certain that teenagers should be banned from making decisions during the summer, especially teens bored out of their skulls at night, like him. Summer should be a thought-free zone. No school. No extra brain usage. He should be on house arrest, not climbing through Emir’s window on a Wednesday night.

Of course, most of this is Willie’s fault. They were in their cabin, marathoning Stranger Things on Netflix. Free-for-all pizza was for dinner, so Willie conked out after the second episode. The guy can put away some Hawaiian pizza.

Sebastian can also blame some of his bad decision-making on the fact that summer is ticking down. Camp is almost over; less than two weeks are left.

The vault inside is almost perfect, but Sebastian smacks his shoulder on the floor. It doesn’t hurt, but it’s embarrassing. “So, so,” he stutters. Blood rushes to his head. His view of Emir perched on his bed is upside-down. He rolls over, laughing. “You weren’t sleeping, right?”

The lamp is still on. An open book sits in Emir’s lap. Ink- dark hair falls around his temples instead of standing in its usual sleep-mussed disaster.

“Nope. Just finished my Isha’a.”

Sebastian stands. He dusts off his ripped jeans, fixes his checkered flannel shirt. “Ish- what, now?”

“Isha’a,” Emir repeats. “It’s the last of the salats, daily prayers we do as Muslims.”

These reminders about Emir’s religion and his life at home light memories that flicker through Sebastian’s brain like tiny paper lanterns in the wind. He remembers the adults in Emir’s family fasting during Ramadan and a small backyard gathering to celebrate a feast day Sebastian can’t remember the name of, but he recalls the beautiful clothing, the music, and Emir’s parents passing out gifts to the children. And he remembers the giant, toothy smile Emir wore while pressed to Sebastian’s side on a sticky June evening.

“Is this a bad time? Should I go?”

“No.” Emir closes the book, carefully placing it on the desk by his bed. “It’s okay.”

“Okay.”

Sebastian’s snuck in here every evening lately. After dinner, he crawls in to find a space left for him on Emir’s bed. Sebastian talks nonstop with his head on Emir’s chest. His fingers trace the shape of Emir’s mouth. Sometimes, Emir talks, shedding his shyness. Eventually boring conversations turn into making out.

“Hey!” Tonight Sebastian came with a plan. He tosses Mason’s keys in the air, then catches them. He didn’t steal them; Mason always hands them over during the week so he doesn’t lose them. Being the token “good guy” has its advantages. “You wanna get out of here?”

“Are we allowed to leave?” Emir asks. “Didn’t bother checking the rule book.”

Emir runs a hand through his hair; his fingers catch on the tangles. He says, “You wrote the rule book.”

It’s not an attack on Sebastian, but he still flips Emir off. He blames his lack of a solid comeback on the way the bridge of Emir’s nose crinkles when he snorts.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Sebastian says. His mind has been drifting lately, more than usual, wondering what this thing with Emir is or isn’t. “I dunno, I just want to get out of here. Just me and you.”

“Okay.”

“You’re sure?” Sebastian squeaks in an unnaturally high voice.

Emir shrugs and stands. “Yes, Bastian,” he says. He grabs his beanie, pulls on a pair of slightly wrinkled black skinnies, grips a hoodie—

The sight of Sebastian’s last name in blocky gold letters across Emir’s back is mesmerizing.

JulianWinters

Julian Winters is a former management trainer who lives in the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia and has been crafting fiction since he was a child, creating communities around his hand-drawn “paper people.” He began writing LGBTQ character-driven stories as a teen and developed a devoted fan fiction following. When he isn’t writing or using his sense of humor to entertain his young nephews, Julian enjoys reading, experimental cooking in the kitchen, and watching the only sports he can keep up with: volleyball and soccer. Running with Lions is his first novel.

Authors in Conversation: Greg Howard and Lev “L.C.” Rosen

This year adds some particularly wonderful and nuanced books to gay YA, and I’m so excited to have authors of two of them on the site today! When Greg Howard, author of Social Intercourse (which releases today!), contacted me about writing something for the site about sex in gay YA and the disparities and perceptions related to it, I immediately thought of Lev “L.C.” Rosen, whose Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) releases in October and deals with those things a lot. So I asked them to read each other’s books and discuss for the benefit of all of us, and here they are!

36373456Lev: Hi Greg! I’ve been avoiding you on social media because I knew we’d end up talking about one another’s books, and I was trying to save that for this, so now we can let loose. Your book, Social Intercourse, opens with out-and-proud Beck trying to lose his virginity on what is essentially grindr. I loved that opening, and I was totally revving up for a queer American Pie style book (or, something like Not Another Gay Movie), but then you actually went in this sweeter direction—much more John Hughes. And I kept thinking about how Hughes’ films were fairly explicit for the time, while also being really sweet and romantic, and how you captured that spirit. So I guess my first question is—were you inspired by Hughes at all?  Do you think that writing queer YA is sometimes about trying to capture those experiences that prior straight generations had, in terms of the stories they told?  Hughes was, on some level, revolutionary in how explicit he was, but all his stories were straight. We never got to see ourselves in stories like those—are you trying to fix that?

Greg: Hey, Lev! I’ve been so excited to talk to you. Those are some interesting observations. When I first starting writing Social Intercourse, I did think the story was going to go in a different direction as you describe. But you know how it goes when characters take control of the story. The have a mind of their own! While Beck is out and proud and completely confident with who he is, there’s a vulnerability there that’s undeniable and sweet. And now that you mention it, (and I swear I didn’t realize this before), but I can see the John Hughes-esque similarities, but in a queer way. I grew up watching those movies—The Breakfast ClubPretty In PinkSome Kind of Wonderful, et al, and yes, I always wished there was a LGBTQ equivalent. Even though I didn’t set out to accomplish that, I hope I did in some way. LGBTQ kids today need to see themselves represented in books and in movies. All of them, not just one type of queer kid.

What I love about my Beck and your Jack is that they are bold characterizations of gay boys that we don’t see very often taking center stage in YA lit and movies. They don’t blend in. They’re not straight-acting  and they’re not afraid of exploring their sexuality. I swear I laughed so many times reading your book, Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts), thinking “OMG! Beck and Jack are like twins separated at birth, one sent to live in New York and the other sent to live in South Carolina!” Jack is such a great character, and I love how sex positive he is. But I’ve learned with SI that there’s a bit of a double standard when it comes to het YA and LGBTQ YA as far as how far you can go. Did you get any push-back from your editor or agent to tone it down, or to pull back on some of Jack’s narrative about his sex life? And did you set out to show a queer boy who embraces his feminine side and so confident in his sexuality? Any similarities between Jack and your teenage self?

Lev: So many questions!

35442720It’s funny, though I get what you’re saying about Beck and Jack—they’re both out and don’t mind wearing makeup—to me Beck is such a romantic, and Jack definitely isn’t.  Beck might be trying to lose his virginity to some dude on grindr, but he says he wishes he could lose it to a real boyfriend who he has feelings for.  Jack is way past the losing his virginity stage and didn’t lose it to a boyfriend—didn’t want to. He’s had plenty of sex, but just one boyfriend, and isn’t in any rush to repeat that.  His best friend, Ben, on the other hand, is a total romantic, like Beck.  I think Beck and Ben are more the twins.  But they’re still really different, too.  And that’s important.  It’s so important for teens to see a variety of queer men in the world—there’s no wrong way to be gay.  That’s why I put in so many queer characters.  To show that everyone has their own way of being queer.

As for my editor, I was shocked, but no, she never asked me to pull it back.  There’s one sex advice column towards the end that gets into some kinky stuff, and I put that in basically assuming she would be like “nope, too far”—I even had a backup column ready!  But she had no problem with it.  It was amazing.  The whole thing has been kind of amazing.  I wrote 99 pages of this in a strange furor, because I really wanted to explore the idea of “the good gay”—the way liberal straight society says they’re okay with queer people, but really they just mean queer people who behave to certain standards.  In teens, that usually means sweet, romantic hand holding and a little making out—cute, essentially. Cute couples for straight society to go “awww” over and feel good about because it makes them feel accepting. But put an unapologetically slutty teenage gay boy in front of them, and suddenly it’s like “are you sure you’re making the right decisions?” or “maybe if you weren’t so in-your-face about it.”  Queerness is acceptable to cisheteropatriarchal society within a set of limits – but go outside those limits and you become a “bad gay”—somehow who is broken, or self-hating, or just bad, and frowned upon.  That’s what I really wanted to talk about.

So I write these 99 pages, in like a week or two, but I have this rule: once I pass the 99 page mark, I have to finish the book.  Luckily, I’m friends with Alvina Ling, who edited one of my previous books, and I asked her if she would read these 99 pages and tell me if I should just stop, because it would never get published. I literally said “I think it might be a terrible idea.”  So, she read them, and when she finished she said “have your agent send these pages to me officially.” So I didn’t have any pushback, ever. Alvina may have though, because I think that the conversation about sex and YA and queer sex and YA is one that’s happening a lot in the editor/gatekeeper/reader.

There have been more and more YA books with gay sex.  Look at Release, by Patrick Ness. That has quite the gay sex scene in it, but, and this is the interesting thing: you don’t hear about it that much. And that’s the thing editors are looking out for. There’s a double-standard about sex and queer sex in YA, but it’s not coming from writers. It’s coming from what books people are talking about. And part of that might be gatekeepers—gay books of any kind (with sex or not) are challenged and banned FAR more often than straight books with sex. And when that happens, publishers see it and go “oh, gay sex doesn’t sell” and then even if they love some queer sex-heavy YA, getting it through acquisitions becomes much more difficult.  Queer books have to make up for that banning and pushback by gathering fans elsewhere, which isn’t easy.

I feel like the good fight is happening with editors and publicists, and all we can do is give them the weapons to fight with.  Readers need to flock behind books with gay sex to get more of them, need to shout about them from the rooftops and tell everyone they know… but readers, even queer ones, are often nervous about saying “I loved this book with teens having gay sex!” Which I get, adults talking about teens having sex is weird.  But with abstinence only education on the rise again, maybe it’s time we start talking more about sex, gay sex, and teenagers having safe, consensual sex.  Otherwise, kids won’t be hearing about sex from anywhere except from porn sites.

Personally, I’d love to hear about how it’s going for our editors and publicists, though, the ones who have to push for the books even when these things are harder to talk about. (Perhaps a good followup Dahlia?) (Blogger’s Note: EXTREMELY HERE FOR IT.)

As for me in high school, no, I was not much like Jack.  My high school was like Jack’s though: a private school in Manhattan with an emphasis on ethics.  It was only like five years ago I was there, of course, but there weren’t as many of us out students (my old teachers who still work there tell me that now over 20% of the student body identifies as some kind of queer). So I don’t know who I’d be were I a student there today, but then, I was way more like Jeremy, Jack’s ex, and president of the GSA. I was GSA co-head, and like Jeremy, I was concerned that anything other queer men did would reflect on me, and so I wanted them all to behave in a way that would make sure people took us (me) seriously.

That was always my big issue—if you acted “too gay,” then I felt like no one took anything you said seriously.  I also always felt like people were trying to make me act more “gay,” too—even other queer people—and I don’t respond well to being told what to do (what teenager does?), so I tried to avoid that.  I remember there was an article in Vogue or something when I was in high school about how every girl needed a gay BFF, and it talked about us like we were purses, like we were actual accessories for straight women.  And after that article came out, girls I hadn’t been friendly at all with suddenly were talking to me and trying to be my friend.  That made me so angry.  I’m still fucking angry.  Anger wrote this book.

How about you?  Any pushback from your editor on the sexier stuff in the book?  I was most surprised by the masturbation scene.  We don’t see a lot of that—much less asshole fingering—in YA, and it was definitely the most graphic moment in your book.  Is that because it was the one scene they let you keep?  Was there any pushback on it?

And was either Beck or Jax based on your own teenager-hood?  You’re from the south, I know, but did you go to a lot of Drag Queen Beauty Parlors as a kid?  Did you have a drag name?

Greg: I guess you’re right about Beck having some Ben in him too. (I was crushing on Ben, big time.) In my book, Beck wants to be get his slutty phase out of the way so he can be ready for Mr. Right down the road. And Jax, the closeted bi-sexual football star obviously complicates matters for him. Beck is terribly attracted to Jax but really doesn’t want to be, so he fights it.

And I think that’s so interesting that you identified more as the Jeremy in your book when you were in high school. I like to say, Beck is the kid I wish I had been in high school. I graduated a few years (*ahem*) before you, and honestly I didn’t know of one out gay person in my high public school of 1500 students. I knew of some that were in the closet like me, but I was also busy trying to “pray the gay away.” I came from a very religious home and one of those small Southern towns with a church on every street corner. That’s why religion plays such a prominent role in Social Intercourse. Even so, I had a great high school experience, and was popular—but only because I hid who I really was. I dated girls and fooled around with other closeted guys on the side, and then felt guilty and prayed to God for forgiveness. It was an icky and unhealthy cycle. And newsflash: “Praying the gay away” doesn’t work!

I was unagented when I wrote Social Intercourse, so during the querying process, I received several requests for additional pages and the full manuscript, but I also got several “this is too much for YA” kind of responses, which I found perplexing. I didn’t think my book was very racy at all. Not compared to some cishetero YA romances. Luckily I found the perfect agent who “got it” right away and helped me polish it—but not tone it down. I told her I didn’t want to water it down and she was okay with that. When she started submitting the manuscript to editors, we got a similar response. “Hilarious, love the writing, love the voice, but might be too much for us to publish.” Again—me—perplexed. Other than the one gay masturbation scene and the one het oral sex scene, there’s no sex on the page! Sure there’s a lot for frank discussion about sex, and that anal masturbation scene is kind of graphic, but come on—that’s it!

Fortunately David Gale at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers also “got it” right away and made a pre-empt offer pretty quickly. So props to our publishers Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers and Little, Brown! And no—David never asked me to tone down the racy bits. I don’t know if he received any pushback internally. If he did, he never told me about it. But we had the discussion and he agreed that yes—there is a double standard when it comes to LGBTQ YA and cishetero YA.

I also learned about yet another double standard. A straight female writer can go “a lot farther” with gay stories in regards to sex than an Own Voices author. Somehow it’s deemed “safer” when a straight woman writes it, and when it comes from a gay male writer, it’s perceived as more “subversive”.  I had several professionals and established authors in the publishing industry confirm that to me also. Nobody was saying it was right…just that yes—it’s a thing. But I feel that it’s as much as reader issue as a “gatekeeper” one. Some non-queer readers want safe, sweet, romanticized representations of queer kids like you said. Gay men tend to write more from their own experiences which is a little too raw, real, and authentic for some readers.

I have a very liberal straight female friend who loved Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda and was trying to convince her very conservative friend who was leery of the gay content, to let her teen daughter read it—who was dying to. And it was only when my liberal friend told her conservative friend that the book was written by a straight woman, that she let her daughter read it. Ugh! But at least that kid got to read the book. But you’re right, I think it is slowly getting better from the publishing end of things and hopefully readers will love and support characters like Jack and Beck, just as much as they love Becky Albertalli’s Simon if they give them a chance. And I do think writers like Becky Albertalli are opening mainstream doors for us Own Voices writers, which I know is important to Becky, so I say thank you and more power to her and those like her.

And I will be honest, when I was in high school, I didn’t even know what a drag queen was, much less have a drag name! I only “came out to myself” after college when I moved to Nashville and a drag show was my first gay bar experience (at 23 y/o). I remember thinking what the hell is this?! But I felt right at home in that bar, with those other LGBTQ people…something I’d never felt before and that was powerful.

And speaking of feeling right at home, I love that both Beck and Jax have supportive parents in Social Intercourse. That was pure fantasy for me when writing the book. I wish I would have had a relationship with my dad like Beck has with his. And I loved the relationship between Jack and his mom in your book. So real. So easy. So loving. Also, Beck and Jack both have some great, supportive close friends. Beck’s best friend Shelby is amalgamation of my three best friends now. Were Jack’s close relationships inspired by yours with your parent(s) and friends when you were a teen?

Lev: I’m so sorry you had to go through all that. I’m lucky in that I skipped over most of the shame/fear parts of coming out and went right to the angry. I was in a liberal environment, my parents and friends were generally great about it, it was the folks who didn’t really know me—the ones who watched me and assumed things about me – that I had the biggest issue with.  I did go to an orthodox temple, where the rabbi told me homosexuality was immature and something people needed to get over (not knowing I was gay), but I was able to give up on going there after my bar-mitzvah. It did fuck up my relationship with Judaism for a while, but I don’t know how that could have been avoided.

When I moved to Ohio for college, that’s when I experienced more of the fear of being openly queer in the world.  It’s not like New York is a bubble—I still get people shouting “faggot” on the street at me—but I never feel like I’m entering enemy territory here.  Maybe because I grew up here. But Ohio, and other rural places I’ve visited—that’s where I get that fear feeling. I change the way I walk, lower my voice. If it feels like a place that would be unfriendly to Jews, I change my name to Lee, too. Growing up with that must have been really terrible. Especially if you thought prayer was going to help. Being gay is a gift.

But, getting less somber—that story about your friend’s friend only giving her daughter Simon when she found out it was written by a woman is FASCINATING.  I just did an interview with i-D about m/m ownvoices in YA and why they’re important. What I said was that when straight people write queer characters, they do so seeing queer people through a “straight gaze”—and they’re pretty much writing them for other straight people. They’re telling our stories for themselves, and we become these adorable little puppets they can project things onto—lust, pity, whatever. It’s objectifying. And then those are the stories that are out there—the ones little queers see, the ones straight people see and use to form their opinions about queer people. We become objects and then no one has a chance to see our humanity. And maybe that humanity, as you say, is too real, too raw, and that’s what straight folks are afraid of. That they’ll see what this world really is like for us, instead of for these symbols of us. Seeing someone else’s humanity when you’re part of a society that crushes that humanity can be a terrible thing.

I don’t mind straight people writing queer characters—that’s diversity, and it can be good when done with love and sensitivity readers. But when they take on specifically queer stories, before any of us have a chance to tell those stories from our POV? It’s cutting in line.  It’s usurping our stories for their puppet shows. And it ain’t cool. I hope you can smuggle a copy of your book to that girl who was so eager to read Simon.

I loved how you distinguished between the types of Christianitys (Christianities?)—how there were loving Christians who had no problem with queer folks, but there were also the ones with the signs and the angry faces (we had those in Ohio) who protested a dance. You didn’t just say “Christians are bad”—you said “these Christians are bad.” I feel like that’s a nuance we don’t often see when we talk about religion and queerness. If it’s not too personal, have you found a sort of Christianity that works for you? That doesn’t ask you to pray anything away?  Or do you think that upbringing really screwed up your relationship with religion?  Do you think there is a way to be happy, Christian and queer?

I’m glad you brought up the parents in your book, though, because Jax’s mom?  I was SO angry at her. Beck’s dad was great, and JoJo was amazing, but Jax’s mom was outing her son all over the place! I kept yelling at her “you’re queer! You should know this isn’t cool!” What made you want to write that kind of a character—one who’s perhaps so supportive they end up being harmful?  Because I found her fascinating, even as I felt she needed a scolding.  You know any moms like that?  It’s so interesting, as we get more supportive parents, I’m curious about where the line is between supportive—and too supportive. Where do you think it is?

Jack’s mom in Jack of Hearts isn’t at all inspired by my parents. My parents are supportive (fun fact: they’ve read the book), but I don’t think either of them ever partied at Studio 54.  Jack’s mom really came from a desire for a cool mom, who wouldn’t mind her son writing a sex advice column, but not so cool that she’d brush off him hiding a stalker from her.  Someone Jack felt a need to protect, on some level.  All of Jack’s friends have parts of people I know, but I didn’t consciously think “I shall base this person on that one” or anything.  Jeremy was kind of me, like I said, but so is Ben, and so is Jenna… everyone is me.  I write from a place of pure narcissism. But I think we all do, to some degree.

Greg: Wow. Sounds like you had your own interesting journey with religion and being gay as well. I did finally reconcile my faith with my sexuality and what a burden lifted that was. If you believe in God talking to you, it was kind of like hearing them say “Well, duh. Of course there’s nothing wrong with you. I made you perfectly.” But alas, the older I get, the more agnostic I become. But I absolutely believe there is a place in the Christian church for LGBTQ people. And I knows lots of happy queer Christians. We have several Christian churches here in Nashville that are open, welcoming, and affirming to the LGBTQ community. And I’m SO glad you didn’t think the message in my book was that all Christians are bad or that Christianity, in general, was bad. That was not my intent at all. But I guess is was important for me to show the “good” Christians, who are truly about love and compassion and core principles of the teachings of Christ. So many queer people were hurt by the church and the “bad” Christians get all the press, so that’s all some queer people see of the church—the hate.

But, getting less religiousy—just like there are all types of queer teens, there are all kinds of parents of queer teens. And like you said, as we get more supportive parents out there, it’s breaking new ground and some are figuring it out as they go. They just know they love and support their kids. So with Beck’s mom and dad, and with Jax’s moms, I wanted to show supportive parents, but different types of support! Beck’s dad, Roger and Jax’s mom, JoJo get it right most all the time, Beck’s mom, Lana is supportive, but she doesn’t always get it right. Poor Tracee, Jax’s other mom, tries a little too hard, but she means well. And she has quite the story arc herself. I get why you had such a strong negative reaction to her and so does Beck in the story.

Okay now, I HAVE to ask you about those letters and columns! WOW. Bravo to you for going balls to the walls on those. (no pun intended). I believe I read in the acknowledgments that you had a little input or got some ideas from friends, right?  Did like your friends ask you some questions then you formulated the emails to Jack and his responses? Any first hand experiences sprinkled in those letters or columns? (Okay—that’s probably too personal). But tell me EVERYTHING about that part of the process of writing this book.

Oh—and by the way—that fourteen-year-old girl who wanted to read Simon so badly, my friend talked her mom into bringing her to my launch party for Social Intercourse!

Lev: Okay, that’s an amazing happy ending for the Story of the Girl Who Wanted to Read Simon.  I am thrilled, please send me photos of you giving her a copy of the book and her subsequent review.

As for the letters and columns, many I came up with on my own, but I did also crowdsource actual questions.  Usually, they were short, and I made them into big longer questions.  So, the one from the guy who wants to sleep around but keeps developing crushes on his one night stands? That was just someone asking “how can I not fall in love with every guy I fuck?” I switched the sexes around, because I wanted to play with some toxic masculinity tropes, and made it into a longer letter, but the inspiration came from a friend.

Some of my friends’ teen kids asked questions, too.  I got the asexuality one from one of them.  I didn’t get to every question people asked (some I didn’t think Jack would have the answer to, especially if they were more vaginally focused), but I definitely wanted to reach out and get questions from teens or people who had been teens because I think even as adults these days we have a lot of questions.

One of the things they say in the book is there’s no talk of queer sex in sex-ed classes, and with kids coming out earlier and earlier, that’s an issue.  They can figure out the basic premise of giving a blowjob, but if they want to try anal sex?  That’s more complicated, and if they’re only getting sex-ed from porn, it is not going to go how they think it will.

Did you see the article in the Times magazine a while back about teens learning so much sex stuff from porn?  It’s fascinating and kind of terrifying, too.  And that’s for straight porn, which admittedly has different issues, but I think about gay teens going “okay, sex for us MUST be anal, and spit will be a fine lubricant.”  So I definitely wanted to cover some of the basics, too, to counteract that idea of easy porn sex.  And I brought in a sex-educator to help me make sure nothing Jack said was actively harmful.  I didn’t want him to give perfect advice, but I wanted to make sure it was still solid, working advice.  But writing the questions was fun.  Writing Jack answering the questions was fun, too, because he’s finding his voice there, and he’s really in control of his own narrative for once, instead of being the subject of gossip about how slutty he is.

I really wanted Jack to control the stories of his own sex life, so I fade to black for most sex scenes, but then tell his stories through the column. I wanted to show him really controlling his own sexual narrative.  And I’m going to control my own sexual narrative by saying I won’t be talking about my sex life, but I’m sure people will assume Jack’s experiences are based on mine.  Which is hilarious, since so much of the book is about not assuming things about peoples sex lives. I did have a bunk-bed, though.

So, I think we should wrap this up before people get bored, But thank you for having us and let us ramble, Dahlia!  And as my final question, I know I’m just starting to get ready for Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) coming out at the end of October, and I have some other projects I can’t talk about, but you’re about to launch! You have a launch party you said, anything else coming up?  I think I read you sold a middle-grade book, too?

Greg: That is all so fascinating to me. You did a superb job on the both the letters to Jack and his columns. It really was a breath of fresh (and as you said, much needed) air for queer YA.

Well – I call foul on this “some other projects I can’t talk about” business. But I get it, and I look forward to when you can share more. I am SO excited for Jack, Ben, and Jenna to get out into the world and I will be cheering you on every step of the way.

As for me, yes, my launch party for Social Intercourse is fast approaching and I have a few other upcoming events related to that release. And you alluded to my debut middle grade book coming up. It’s called The Whispers and will be published by Putnam/Penguin some time in the Spring of 2019. (Available for pre-order now!) It’s completely different from Social Intercourse, focusing on a queer eleven-year-old boy who’s mother goes missing and he seeks out mythical wood creatures called the Whispers, who he believes can help him find her. It has hints of magical realism and fantasy while also being firmly rooted in the reality of the deep South. It’s the most personal story I’ve ever written, and even so, I can’t wait to share it with the world. Because, yes, Virginia, there ARE queer eleven-year-olds!

Thanks, Lev. It’s been a real pleasure speaking with you. Good luck!  And thanks Dahlia for letting us ramble!

Lev: Yes, thanks so much Dahlia!  And thank you, Greg! It was a lot of fun!</p>

***

15640212Greg Howard grew up near the coast of South Carolina, or as he fondly refers to it, “the armpit of the American South.” By the time he could afford professional therapy and medication, the damage had already been done. His hometown of Georgetown, South Carolina is known as the “Ghost Capital of the South,” (seriously…there’s a sign), and was always a great source of material for his overactive imagination.

Raised in a staunchly religious home, Greg escaped into the arts: singing, playing piano, acting, writing songs, and making up stories. After running away to the bright lights and big city of Nashville, Tennessee with stars in his eyes and dreams of being the Dianne Warren of Music City, he took a job peddling CDs and has been a cog in the music business machine ever since.

Now an adult with a brain, Greg finds the South Carolina coast to be a perfectly magical place where he vacations yearly and dreams of the day when he can return to write full time in the most tastefully decorated beach house on Pawleys Island.

Greg’s debut adult paranormal novel, BLOOD DIVINE, was released by Wilde City Press in September 2016. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers acquired Greg’s debut young adult novel, SOCIAL INTERCOURSE, which will be released in Spring 2018

***

4731557LEV AC ROSEN is the author of books for all ages. Two for adults: All Men of Genius (Amazon Best of the Month, Audie Award Finalist) and Depth (Amazon Best of the Year, Shamus Award Finalist, Kirkus Best Science Fiction for April). Two middle-grade books: Woundabout (illustrated by his brother, Ellis Rosen), and The Memory Wall. His first Young Adult Novel, Jack of Hearts (and other parts) is forthcoming in 2018. His books have been sold around the world and translated into different languages as well as being featured on many best of the year lists, and nominated for awards. 

Lev attended Oberlin College, where he majored in creative writing, and then Sarah Lawrence College, where he received his MFA in fiction. Just after graduating from Oberlin, his short story Painting was the inaugural piece for the ‘New Voices’ section of the renowned Esopus magazine. He has written articles for numerous blogs, including booklifenow and tor.com, and been interviewed by several magazines and blogs including Clarkesworld and USA Today.

Lev is originally from lower Manhattan and now lives in even lower Manhattan, right at the edge, with his husband and very small cat.

New Releases: June 2018

Book of Hats by Dov Zeller (1st)

Hats and fashion. Ida Velikowsky’s family has been in the business since biblical times—for so long, they’ve created their own holy book. Centuries of lore carried from continent to continent. An ancient home and a springboard for new beginnings. When Ida studies the book with her father, its magic draws all her worries away. But being a transmasculine kid in a small town in the 1930s puts pressure on Ida, a crushing weight, and she feels responsible as her parents withdraw into themselves and into a room so dark and mysterious, it’s a distant galaxy, a void.

When home life becomes unbearable, Ida escapes to New York where she finds a community of people who accept her as she is. And yet, she often feels a stranger to herself. Her struggles with intimacy will not vanish no matter who she meets or where she travels.

Things take a turn for the surreal after the phone rings late one night in the middle of a dream of hats. Ida dissolves at the sound of her long-lost brother’s voice and emerges wondering if she should agree to take part in a dubious reunion.

Buy it: Amazon

A Light Amongst Shadows by Kelley York and Rowan Altwood (1st)

James Spencer is hardly the typical troubled youth who ends up at Whisperwood School for Boys. Instead of hating the strict schedules and tight oversight by staff, James blossoms, quickly making friends, indulging in his love of writing, and contemplating the merits of sneaking love poems to the elusive and aloof William Esher.

The rumours about William’s sexuality and opium reliance are prime gossip material amongst the third years…rumours that only further pique James’ curiosity to uncover what William is really like beneath all that emotional armor. And, when the normally collected William stumbles in one night, shaken and ranting of ghosts, James is the only one who believes him.

James himself has heard the nails dragging down his bedroom door and the sobs echoing in the halls at night. He knows others have, too, even if no one will admit it. The staff refuses to entertain such ridiculous tales, and punishment awaits anyone who brings it up.

Their fervent denial and the disappearance of students only furthers James’ determination to find out what secrets Whisperwood is hiding…especially if it prevents William and himself from becoming the next victims.

Buy it: Amazon

Social Intercourse by Greg Howard (5th)

Beck:
The Golden Girl-loving, out-and-proud choir nerd growing up in the “ass-crack of the Bible belt.”

Jax:
The Golden Boy, star quarterback with a slick veneer facing uncomfortable truths about himself and his past.

When Beck’s emotionally fragile dad starts dating the recently single (and supposedly lesbian) mom of former bully, Jaxon Parker, Beck is not having it. Jax isn’t happy about the situation either, holding out hope that his moms will reunite and restore the only stable home he’s ever known. Putting aside past differences, the boys plot to derail the budding romance between their parents at their conservative hometown’s first-ever Rainbow Prom. Hearts will be broken, new romance will bloom, but nothing will go down the way Beck and Jax have planned.

In his hilarious and provocative debut, Greg Howard examines the challenges of growing up different in a small southern town through the lens of colorful and unforgettable characters who stay with you long after the last drop of sweet tea.

Buy it: Amazon * Barnes & Noble * IndieBound * BAM 

Dear Rachel Maddow by Adrienne Kisner (5th)

Sixteen-year-old Brynn Harper’s life has one steadying force—Rachel Maddow. She watches her daily, and after writing to Rachel for a school project—and actually getting a response—Brynn starts drafting emails to Rachel but never sending them. It’s an outlet; Brynn tells Rachel about breaking up with Sarah, her first serious girlfriend, about her beloved brother Nick’s death, her passive mother and even worse stepfather, about how she’s stuck in remedial courses at school and is considering dropping out.

But then Brynn is confronted with a moral dilemma. She learns that one student representative will be allowed to have a voice among teachers and administrators in the selection of a new school superintendent. Sarah, along with Brynn’s arch-nemesis John, believe only honors students worthy of the selection committee seat. Brynn knows they are more interested in power and perks. Brynn feels all students deserve a voice. When she runs for the position the knives are out and her brother’s memory and her new crush Michaela are shamed. Brynn asks herself: What would Rachel Maddow do?

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * Indiebound

Your Heart Will Grow by Chace Verity (5th)

YHWG_coverKelpana was never supposed to love humans this much.

As a mermaid tasked with keeping peace between land and sea, her job is to be fair. Neutral. Diplomatic. Political. But her carefree spirit is bewitched by the carousing, free-swinging ways of the landfolk…yet one night of careless fun becomes a death sentence when she spurns a bratty prince. Now she’s facing life in prison—but that life won’t be long without the ocean waters that keep her alive.

Yet if Kelpana dreams of better things than this new, grim existence—so, too, does the young man set to guard her in her cell. Morgan Sunilian wants to be more than anyone ever believed he could be. He wants to be an Absolute, decked in gold armor and fighting alongside the kingdom’s most elite guardians. Morgan will do anything to prove he’s strong enough to be more than a prison guard.

To prove he can be an Absolute.

Yet as each day watching over Kelpana passes with him falling under the sweet spell of her soft voice and quiet stories, he realizes the truth of who he wants to be more than even an Absolute.

He wants to be a man of honor. A man of kindness. A man of fairness.

And a man with the strength to defy his orders, risk his life, and save the woman he’s come to love.

Buy it: Amazon

Running With Lions by Julian Winters (7th)

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

Noah Could Never by Simon James Green (7th)

This is the sequel to Noah Can’t Even

Noah and Harry are now officially boyfriends, but is Noah ready to go all the way? It’s no help that a group of cosmopolitan French exchange students have descended on Little Fobbing – including sexy Pierre Victoire, who seems to have his eye on Harry! Meanwhile, Noah’s paired up with a girl … who, most outrageously, is not even French. But that’s not all: the police are monitoring Noah, and he can’t tell if it’s because his dad and secret half-brother, Eric, have made off with his gran’s fake diamonds; because his PE teacher is receiving mysterious cash infusions from Russia; or because drag queen Bambi Sugapops is hiding out at Noah’s house in the midst of a knock-down, bare-knuckled drag feud. Will Noah ever catch a break?

Buy it: Amazon

Final Draft by Riley Redgate (12th)

The only sort of risk 18-year-old Laila Piedra enjoys is the peril she writes for the characters in her stories: epic sci-fi worlds full of quests, forbidden love, and robots. Her creative writing teacher has always told her she has a special talent. But three months before her graduation, he’s suddenly replaced—by Nadiya Nazarenko, a Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist who is sadistically critical and perpetually unimpressed.

At first, Nazarenko’s eccentric assignments seem absurd. But before long, Laila grows obsessed with gaining the woman’s approval. Soon Laila is pushing herself far from her comfort zone, discovering the psychedelic highs and perilous lows of nightlife, temporary flings, and instability. Dr. Nazarenko has led Laila to believe that she must choose between perfection and sanity—but rejecting her all-powerful mentor may be the only way for Laila to thrive.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon 

Sometime After Midnight by L. Philips (12th)

#AlexFromTarget meets queer Prince Charming in this glittering romcom following a teen music prodigy and the handsome socialite who unwittingly turns him into an internet sensation.

In a dingy Los Angeles club late one night, Cameron and Nate meet and find they have much more in common than their love of an obscure indie band. But when Nate learns that Cameron is the heir to a record label, the very one that destroyed his father’s life, he runs away as fast as he can. The only evidence of their brief but intense connection is a blurry photo Cameron snaps of Nate’s Sharpie-decorated Chuck Taylors as he flees.

Considering that Cameron is a real life Prince Charming–he’s handsome, famous, and rich–it’s only fitting that he sets out to find the owner of the Sharpied shoes. Cameron’s twin sister, a model and socialite, posts the picture of Nate’s shoes on Instagram to her legions of fans with the caption, “Anyone know the gorgeous owner of these shoes? My hottie brother is looking for him.” The internet just about breaks with the news of a modern fairy tale and the two become entwined in each other’s lives in this sparkling story about the power of music, the demons that haunt us, and the flutterings of first real love.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Found in Night by Ben Alderson (12th)

This is the sequel to Cloaked in Shadow

Life has not been the same since the attack on the ship. Affected by the Druid’s power, something dark lurks within Hadrian Vulmar, threatening the existence of those around him.

Following a lead, Zacriah and Nyah head into the forest on an expedition to cure him. When they are ambushed by the living dead—bodies controlled by shadow—covered in the Druid marks, they know the Druid did not perish in the sea as they first thought. The Druid is back, and with his return comes the threat of attack.

The three known Dragori are sent on a dangerous quest to stop this dark magick before Hadrian gives into his new power, and the shadowbeings end more innocent lives.

Buy it: Amazon

The Unbinding of Mary Reade by Miriam McNamara (19th)

32295460A swashbuckling, smart novel based on the true story of a girl who disguised herself as a boy in order to sail with the infamous pirates Anne Bonny and Calico Jack.

There’s no place for a girl in Mary’s world. Not in the home of her mother, desperately drunk and poor. Not in the household of her wealthy granny, where a girl could never be named an heir. And certainly not in the arms of Nat, her childhood love who never knew her for who she was. As a hired sailor aboard a Caribbean merchant ship, Mary’s profession—and her safety—depend on her ability to disguise the fact that she’s a girl.

Leastways, that’s what she thinks is true. But then pirates attack the ship, and right in the middle of the swashbuckling crowd of bloodthirsty pirates, Mary spots something she never could have imagined: a girl pirate. The sight of a girl standing unafraid upon the deck, gun and sword in hand, changes everything. In a split-second decision, Mary turns her gun on her own captain and earns herself a spot among the pirates’ crew.

For the first time, Mary has a shot at freedom. But imagining living life as her true self is easier, it seems, than actually doing it. And when Mary finds herself falling for the captain’s mistress, she risks everything—her childhood love, her place among the crew, and even her life.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri (19th)

When it comes to Cassidy, Katie can’t think straight.

Katie Daniels, a twenty-eight-year-old Kentucky transplant with a strong set of traditional values, has just been dumped by her fiancé when she finds herself seated across a negotiating table from native New Yorker Cassidy Price, a sexy, self-assured woman wearing a man’s suit. At first neither of them knows what to make of the other, but soon their undeniable connection will bring into question everything each of them thought they knew about sex and love.

When Katie Met Cassidy is a romantic comedy about gender and sexuality, and the importance of figuring out who we are in order to go after what we truly want. It’s also a portrait of a high-drama subculture where barrooms may as well be bedrooms, and loyal friends fill in the spaces absent families leave behind. Katie’s glimpse into this wild yet fiercely tightknit community begins to alter not only how she sees the larger world, but also where exactly she fits in.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Baker Thief by Claudie Arseneault (26th)

Adèle has only one goal: catch the purple-haired thief who broke into her home and stole her exocore, thus proving herself to her new police team. Little does she know, her thief is also the local baker.

Claire owns the Croissant-toi, but while her days are filled with pastries and customers, her nights are dedicated to stealing exocores. These new red gems are heralded as the energy of the future, but she knows the truth: they are made of witches’ souls.

When her twin—a powerful witch and prime exocore material—disappears, Claire redoubles in her efforts to investigate. She keeps running into Adèle, however, and whether or not she can save her sister might depend on their conflicted, unstable, but deepening relationship.

Buy it:  Amazon

Drum Roll, Please by Lisa Jenn Bigelow (26th)

36301050Find the confidence to rock out to your own beat.

Melly only joined the school band because her best friend, Olivia, begged her to. But to her surprise, quiet Melly loves playing the drums. It’s the only time she doesn’t feel like a mouse.

Now, she and Olivia are about to spend the next two weeks at Camp Rockaway, jamming under the stars in the Michigan woods.

But this summer brings big changes for Melly: her parents split up, her best friend ditches her, and Melly finds herself falling for a girl at camp named Adeline. To top it off, Melly’s not sure she has what it takes to be a real rock ‘n’ roll drummer. Will she be able to make music from all the noise in her heart?

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Fave Five: YAs with F/NB Pairings

The Brightsiders by Jen Wilde (Contemporary Romance, GQ LI)

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake (Contemporary, GQ LI)

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin (Contemporary, GF MC)

Like Water by Rebecca Podos (Contemporary, GQ LI)

Mask of Shadows and Ruin of Stars by Linsey Miller (Fantasy, GF MC)

Bonus: Much less central but still worth a mention: The Pros of Cons by Lindsay Ribar, Alison Cherry, and Michelle Schusterman (Contemporary, Genderless LI)

Guest Post: Author Joanne Rocklin on Love, Penelope

There are only a few exceptions to the rule that all books covered on the site have to have main characters who ID under the LGBTQIAP+ umbrella, and one of them is Mother’s Day, when queer parents—even of allocishet characters—get to take center stage.

Today, in honor of Mother’s Day, Joanne Rocklin is here to discuss her new MG, Love, Penelope, in which the main character has two moms. It’s set in 2015, against the backdrop of the marriage equality Supreme Court ruling, and it released on March 20 of this year, so you can already grab a copy via B&N, Amazon, IndieBound, or Book Depository!

Take it away, Joanne!

My middle grade novel, Love, Penelope is a story told in letters to an unborn sibling, by an eleven year old Oakland girl with two mamas. “How did you come up with that idea?” I’m asked, more often than you want to know.
So I often say that the idea began with two huge, wondrous, peaceful, joyous celebrations, days apart.

The first was on June 19, 2015, a parade for the Golden State Warriors who had just won the National Basketball Association championship for the first time in over half a century. Oakland exploded with joy and pride for “their” team.

The second celebration was on June 26, 2015, when the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal throughout the land, and the happiness was palpable throughout the world.

And so, along comes Penelope to tell us her story. Penelope, a fervent Warriors fan. Penelope, who loves her city and hates the fact that San Francisco, not Oakland, is called THE CITY (as in, “I went to The City on Saturday.”)  Penelope, who wants her parents to marry because her family is just as good as anyone else’s, so why not?

But often, very often, (again, more often than you want to know) I get this response from my questioner: “Well, how nice, Joanne. How really, really nice that you decided to write a story helpful to kids in that situation!”

Uh, no. That’s not what I decided to do.

First of all, it is not an author’s aim to be “helpful”. In another life, long, long ago, I was a clinical psychologist, but if I wrote a novel as a clinical psychologist it would be a didactic, boring piece of poop.

Second of all, Penelope’s voice simply swept me away, and that’s why I wrote it. She is curious, she is often humorously wrong, but mostly right, about things she observes. She is bursting with mixed-up feelings, true to her age. She tells a lie about her heritage, and is riddled with guilt. But mostly, she is joyful. She, too, is “born” into this complicated world as she figures things out in letters to the baby. It was just absolutely pure FUN for me to write her story.

But most of all, “kids in that situation” don’t need my help. Kids in that situation are doing fine, in my estimation.

Better than fine, actually.

What is “that situation”, exactly?

Here is Penny’s situation, as Penny explains to someone who says her family is “not right”. On the first Monday of every month, the family tries a new flavor of ice cream. Sundae Mondays! Her parents have some nifty, fun ideas, but when they mess up, they listen and learn and grow with their daughter, and apologize. Holidays and sports teams are celebrated noisily with family and friends, and birthdays observed with reverence. There are homemade greeting cards for every occasion and sing-a-longs, and warm stews and cups of tea offered to anyone who needs them. There is lots and lots of giving- including forgiveness.

But mostly there is a piercing awareness on everyone’s part, every second they are together, that they are lucky to have one another. An awareness that love, not DNA, makes a family, and how very, very much Penny and the baby are wanted. I have known and interviewed scores of families like Penny’s. They may not have observed Sundae Mondays, but love is always a common denominator.

So perhaps the book is helpful for anyone wanting a definition of a happy family and good parenting; a description of a family that is “just right.” Penny and her parents already know what that is. All I did was tell their story.

Happy Parents Day!

***

Joanne RocklinJoanne Rocklin is the author of many books for children, including The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook, which won the Golden Kite Award and was named to Florida’s Sunshine State Young Readers Award master list.

 

New Release Spotlight: Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro

It’s such a great feeling when you read a wonderful debut and know it’s just the beginning for a fabulous new voice, especially in queer lit. YA has seen some incredible social justice books in the last couple of years, and I’m so excited that this excellent queer one is in the mix, especially since it’s Under the Gaydar and also has a really phenomenal and superqueer secondary cast as well. Do yourself and YA lit in general a favor and grab this one as soon as it releases on May 22, or better yet, use those links at the bottom and preorder it now!

36142487

A story of resilience and loss, love and family, Mark Oshiro’s Anger is a Gift testifies to the vulnerability and strength of a community living within a system of oppression.

Six years ago, Moss Jefferies’ father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Along with losing a parent, the media’s vilification of his father and lack of accountability has left Moss with near crippling panic attacks.

Now, in his sophomore year of high school, Moss and his fellow classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals their own school. New rules. Random locker searches. Constant intimidation and Oakland Police Department stationed in their halls. Despite their youth, the students decide to organize and push back against the administration.

When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon * Indie-BoundBooks-A-MillionPowell’s* iBooks *Google Play

Amy Spalding Interviews Britta Lundin about Ship It!

We’re back today with the second part of the conversation between Amy Spalding (author of The Summer of Jordi Perez) and Britta Lundin, whose Ship It just released yesterday! Here’s the scoop on Ship It and where you can buy it:

Ship It by Britta Lundin (1st)

Claire is a sixteen-year-old fangirl obsessed with the show Demon Heart. Forest is an actor on Demon Heart who dreams of bigger roles. When the two meet at a local Comic-Con panel, it’s a dream come true for Claire. Until the Q&A, that is, when Forest laughs off Claire’s assertion that his character is gay. Claire is devastated. After all, every last word of her super-popular fanfic revolves around the romance between Forest’s character and his male frenemy. She can’t believe her hero turned out to be a closed-minded jerk. Forest is mostly confused that anyone would think his character is gay. Because he’s not. Definitely not.

Unfortunately for Demon Heart, when the video of the disastrous Q&A goes viral, the producers have a PR nightmare on their hands. In order to help bolster their image within the LGBTQ+ community-as well as with their fans-they hire Claire to join the cast for the rest of their publicity tour. What ensues is a series of colourful Comic-Con clashes between the fans and the show that lead Forest to question his assumptions about sexuality and help Claire come out of her shell. But how far will Claire go to make her ship canon? To what lengths will Forest go to stop her and protect his career? And will Claire ever get the guts to make a move on Tess, the very cute, extremely cool fanartist she keeps running into?

Buy it: Amazon  //  Barnes and Noble  //  IndieBound

And now, let’s get to the interview!

Ship It is your first YA novel – how exciting!! I know that the story was originally a screenplay. How did the journey take it to book form, and what was that whole process like for you?

Yeah! I’m a screenwriter and TV writer (I write on the show Riverdale), so I originally imagined Ship It as a movie, but when the cool people at Freeform Books read the screenplay, they thought it would make a great YA novel. I’ve literally been reading young adult books since, well, BEFORE I was a young adult, so I was stoked for the chance to write a book, even though I had literally never written prose fiction before (aside from fanfic, lol). It’s been scary at times, and other times it’s been, well, really scary. But mostly it’s been a fun, rewarding way to write.

I love that the book is told in two points-of-view. It really gives this great 360 approach to the idea of fandom and what actually goes into a TV show. But what was it like juggling these two POVs, particularly —something that’s always intimidated me —writing from a guy’s perspective??

Ahhh the great unknown: men. Haha, no, I kid. I actually think women can be good at writing men because we’ve been trained from a young age to think about them and consider their feelings, and consume their narratives. So that didn’t intimidate me too much. I come from fandom, and I currently work as a TV writer, so I felt like I was sort of uniquely positioned to write this book with two perspectives, Claire, who operates from inside fandom and Forest, who lives inside the Hollywood machine. I wouldn’t trust that many people to tackle this topic unless they’ve really experienced both sides of the fandom divide.

What are some of your favorite classic ships, and what’s your favorite current ship?

My first ship was Mulder/Scully on THE X-FILES. I discovered the show in 7th grade and loved them hard and quickly. And I remember specifically the day, after reading a hundred Mulder/Scully fics, I stumbled across a Mulder/Krycek fic (Krycek, if you’re not familiar with the show, is another male character) and it was the first time I had read someone writing fic that was a) gay and b) certainly never going to be canon. It was A Moment for young Britta. Since then I’ve had a million favorite ships, but my current one is probably Kat/Adena on The Bold Type. (Bonus: it’s canon!)

I know that when you sold your book that you were just about to begin work writing on the first season of Riverdale, which was your first TV writing gig. Did anything end up changing about Ship It based on actually being in a writers room on an everyday basis?

The broad strokes remained the same, but there are certainly some details that were adjusted based on seeing how the sausage gets made from the inside. I’ve also discussed celebrity, PR, marketing, and TV production with literally dozens of friends in the entertainment industry and a lot of the stories they told me went right in the book. So I’m not saying that Ship It is exactly 100% accurate (there’s still some details that had to be fudged to make the timeline work) but there are a lot of real world details in the book that I hope will be fun for readers to learn about.

One thing I really loved about Ship It is that it does a great job of walking someone inexperienced with fandom, fanfic, convention life, etc., through everything and letting them gain a quick understanding, but it also definitely tackles issues, such as queerbaiting, that are perhaps bigger discussions within fandom right now. How did you juggle keeping the book accessible but making sure hardcore fandom people felt heard and represented as well? (MAGIC??)

Oh, thank you! This was one of my biggest concerns when I started writing. I wanted the book to feel authentic to the fan experience, and so as part of that, Claire uses a lot of slang and inside jokes and jargon that fandom folks will know, but outsiders might not. So I try to balance it out with explanations where possible so that someone who’s coming to the book from outside the fan community will find it approachable. In the first 20 pages, there’s a scene where Claire is explaining what shipping is to her mom. The entire purpose of that scene is to bring people who don’t know anything about fandom up to speed so they can follow the book. It’s helped by the fact that Forest (one of the POV characters, who is an actor being shipped in a gay ship), is also totally new to fandom, so he asks a lot of Fandom 101 questions that the reader may also be asking. The biggest compliment is when friends of mine read it and say, “I didn’t know anything about fandom before I started, and now I feel like I not only understand it, but I respect where they’re coming from.” That’s my goal!

There’s an incredibly sweet queer romance at the heart of this story. What was your favorite part about writing this arc, and how did you make sure it got its attention via only one of the two POVs and with so many other plot points at play? (AGAIN, WAS IT MAGIC?)

Amy, thank you! That was incredibly important to me in writing this book. It’s funny, because there’s also some sexy scenes in the book (nothing too terribly graphic, and most of it is fade-to-black, but it’s hard to write about fanfic and not at least allude to some sexy stuff). I frequently write in public at coffeeshops, and writing the sexy scenes was a very humdrum thing, but writing the first kiss scene had me like, blushing and pulling my hood over my eyes and trying not to let anyone see my screen, haha. I hope that people feel that way reading the scene! The romance isn’t the main plot of the book, it’s more of a subplot, so it doesn’t come up too often in Forest’s POV scenes, but it does get mentioned, and I hope it feels earned when it happens.

What’s next for you? Any spoilers you can reveal?

Riverdale just got picked up for a season three! And that’s super exciting that these stories we’re working on get to continue. On the book side, I never thought I would ever be a YA author, but now that I’ve done it, I kind of rather like it, so maybe you’ll see more from me down the line…

Amy Spalding grew up in St. Louis, but now lives in the better weather of Los Angeles. She has a B.A. in Advertising & Marketing Communications from Webster University, and an M.A. in Media Studies from The New School. Amy studied longform improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.
By day, she manages the digital media team for an indie film advertising agency. By later day and night, Amy writes, performs, and pets as many cats as she can. She is the author of five young adult novels, including her latest, The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles).