Standing Under the Mistletoe with Interlude Press: Day 3
A kiss can lead to so many unexpected things…especially one that takes place under the mistletoe. Join authors Killian B. Brewer, Pene Henson, Erin Finnegan, Lilah Suzanne, and Lynn Charles as they explore the most tantalizing literary kisses and their lasting impact in books in this new series, Standing Under the Mistletoe with Interlude Press. Every day from December 4th to December 8th, HEA USA Today, The Book Smugglers, LGBTQ Reads, All About Romance, and The Mary Sue will feature a new article from each author of the LGBTQ+ holiday themed collection, If the Fates Allow (out now from Interlude Press).
In real life, give me friends with kindness and humor. But in between the pages, I want flawed characters, protagonists who are forced into a revelatory moment. And to make my reading complete, please make them tormented, and just a bit obtuse when it comes to love.
There’s one thing that can set the wheels in motion. You know it; I know it. It’s a kiss, or the promise of one, or even the moment that demands one but it somehow slips away, sending my beloved, brooding grump on a path of romantic self-discovery.
But until that moment, and sometimes after it, please, let them be grumptastic.
You can find them brooding on any bookshelf, from literary classics to science fiction (Han Solo? Space Grump.) to contemporary YA.
One of my favorite books is Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient. The consuming affair that unravels lives and may change the course of war isn’t every reader’s cup of tea, but this poetic and tragic story of the affair between cartographer and a woman married to a member of his expedition team in pre-World War II Egypt is filled with delicious angst.
Almásy is your classic distant, brooding character in the pre-war passages of the book. But his post-war recollections of the relationship are transcendent; the moment that he and Katharine end their brief affair would seem to demand a kiss, but it’s absence serves as a painful accent point to the moment.
Now there is no kiss. Just one embrace. He untugs himself from her and walks away, then turns. She is still there. He comes back within a few yards of her, one finger raised to make a point.
“I just want you to know. I don’t miss you yet.”
His face awful to her, trying to smile. Her head sweeps away from him and hits the side of the gatepost. He sees it hurt her, notices the wince. But they have separated already into themselves now, the walls up at her insistence. Her jerk, her pain, is accidental, is intentional. Her hand is near her temple.
“You will,” she says.
I try to treat my books with respect—no cracked spines, thankyouverymuch—but I may have thrown my copy of The English Patient against the nearest wall when I first read that scene…in a good way. Those two prescient words serve in lieu of a kiss that is desperately left wanting.
Frustrating? Yes, intentionally so. A kiss-that-isn’t and leaves you wanting more.
The classics are filled with angsty, romantic protagonists: Darcy, Gatsby, and of course Heathcliff, among the royalty of romantic literary grumps.
Let’s be clear, Heathcliff is no gem. He’s brutal, emotionally abusive. He’s also tortured, haunted, and, it would seem against his wishes, deeply in love with Catherine Earnshaw. Their love story isn’t resolved in a kiss—it happens on her deathbed, after all—but it is cemented by it. Heathcliff is haunted by Catherine’s death—emotionally and eventually, literally.
These characters are often male, but I would like to see more women in the literary grump club. It plays counter to romantic stereotypes and opens the character up for some wonderful tics and traits.
In my 2016 novel Luchador, Lola—a champion boxer-turned-luchadora in love with a ambitious burlesque dancer—served this role. I loved turning the tables on this trope. Lola was tough and threatening, but in the presence of Bonnie “Fanny Vice” McCreary, those rough edges smooth. Love heals, folks.
Which is the point of my Grump 2.0, Jack Volarde in Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar & Grille, a short story in the Interlude Press holiday anthology, If the Fates Allow.
Jack, a political consultant, isn’t so much grumpy as he is driven. It’s not ambition that fuels that drive, but a sense of loss that has numbed his senses—until a bartender forces his hand. Jack has no interest in finding someone new, but he soon finds himself into a slow dance in the shadows of Christmas lights.
Javi paused and angled his face to Jack’s. The kiss was brief, comforting, and gentle. Jack hesitated, but didn’t pull away.
“Mistletoe,” Javi said, smiling. “I had to.”
He laced a hand through Jack’s hair, and kissed him again. It was more determined, more certain—a cool, electric rush that started at Jack’s lips and rushed to his fingers and toes. It felt like life itself.
A kiss can represent so many things: a beginning, an end, a revelation, or a moment of healing.
And there are other kisses, the ones that bring both resolution and the promise of something new. Think of first kisses, of those eye-opening moments of “Oh.”
Think, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.
A kiss, and kissing in general, is a bit of a theme in Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s beloved coming of age story. Ari and Dante talk about kissing quite a lot: what they expect from it, whether they should try it themselves, the differences between kissing girls and kissing boys.
But this book keeps (spoiler alert) the kiss that matters to the very final sentences of the book. The thing you know must happen, the game-changer, that 358-page build to a simple moment between friends who are clearly destined to be so much more, plays out in a simple, straightforward moment as Ari, reluctant in love and sometimes grumpy in friendship, accepts that he is in love with his best friend.
“Try it again,” I said. “Kiss me.”
“No,” he said.
“No.” And then he smiled. “You kiss me.”
I placed my hand on the back of his neck. I pulled him toward me. And kissed him. I kissed him. And I kissed him. And I kissed him. And I kissed him. And he kept kissing me back.
Could the discovery of the joy of love play out more simply, or more believably, than a kid thinking in wonder, “I kissed him”?
And in that transcendent moment of revelation, love proves itself the cure for the common grump.
About If Fates Allow, out now from Interlude Press: During the holidays, anything is possible—a second chance, a promised future, an unexpected romance, a rekindled love, or a healed heart. Authors Killian B. Brewer, Pene Henson, Erin Finnegan, Lilah Suzanne, and Lynn Charles share their stories about the magic of the season.
About Erin Finnegan’s story, Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar & Grille
As the one-year anniversary of his lover’s death rolls around on Christmas, Jack Volarde finds himself at their old haunt—a bar called the Casa Blanca, where a new bartender helps him open up about loss, and see brightness in a future that had grown dim.
Erin Finnegan is a former journalist and a winemaker who lives in the foothills outside Los Angeles. Her novel Luchador was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2016, and along with her 2014 debut novel, Sotto Voce, received both a Foreword Reviews INDIES Book of the Year award and a PW starred review.
Born into a family of flying trapeze artists, Olympia Knife has one small problem: When her emotions rise, she becomes invisible. Everyone in the traveling circus has learned to live with this quirk; they banded together to raise Olympia in a loving environment when her parents vanished midair during their act, never to return. But the same fate befalls Arnold, the world’s shortest man, followed by one act after another, until the show is a crumbling mess of tattered tents and terrified troupers. Into this chaos walks Diamond the Danger Eater. Olympia and Diamond forge a friendship, then fall in love, and, together, resolve to stand the test of time, even as the world around them falls apart.
This is a novella collection in the Five Boroughs series
In Rerouted, Chris Mendez is trying to live a drama-free life. That doesn’t include another threesome with Jace and Aiden Fairbairn. But then a citywide blackout leaves them trapped together, and Chris is forced to re-examine everything he thought he knew about relationships and his own heart.
In Gridlocked, former Marine Tonya Maldonado is keeping real estate heiress Meredith Stone on permanent ignore. Mere isn’t Tonya’s type. Not even close. Who cares if she kisses like a dream and has the filthiest mouth this side of the East River? But then a security detail at a summer party ends with her saving Mere’s life and discovering they have more chemistry than she’d ever imagined.
In Derailed, Stephanie Quinones escapes the heat and her complicated love life by going on a company retreat. Trouble is, it’s a couples’ retreat, and she lied about having a boyfriend. Unfortunately, the only person willing to play pretend is her on-again/off-again fling, Angel León. They’re currently “off again,” but after a week in the woods, Stephanie realizes she wouldn’t mind them being permanently on.
When a cloud falls to earth, Calla sets out to find what lies beyond the sky. Father says there’s nothing, but Calla knows better. Something killed that cloud; someone brought it down.
Raised on legends of fabled skymen, Calla never expected them to be real, much less save one from drowning—and lose her heart to him. Who are the men who walk on water? And how can such strange creatures be so beautiful?
Infatuated and intrigued, Calla rises out of her world in pursuit of a skyman who doesn’t even speak her language. Above the waves lies more than princes and politics. Above the sky awaits the discovery of who Calla was always meant to be. But what if it also means never going home again?
When magic returned to the world, it could have saved humanity, but greed and thirst for power caused mankind’s downfall instead. Now once-human monsters called Howls prowl abandoned streets, their hunger guided by corrupt necromancers and the all-powerful Kin. Only Hunters have the power to fight back in the unending war, using the same magic that ended civilization in the first place.
But they are losing.
Tenn is a Hunter, resigned to fight even though hope is nearly lost. When he is singled out by a seductive Kin named Tomás and the enigmatic Hunter Jarrett, Tenn realizes he’s become a pawn in a bigger game. One that could turn the tides of war. But if his mutinous magic and wayward heart get in the way, his power might not be used in favor of mankind.
If Tenn fails to play his part, it could cost him his friends, his life…and the entire world.
Born in the backseat of a moving car, Carmel Fishkill was unceremoniously pushed into a world that refuses to offer her security, stability, love. At age thirteen, she begins to fight back. Carmel Fishkill becomes Fishkill Carmel, who deflects her tormenters with a strong left hook and conceals her secrets from teachers and social workers. But Fishkill’s fierce defenses falter when she meets eccentric optimist Duck-Duck Farina, and soon they, along with Duck-Duck’s mother, Molly, form a tentative family, even as Fishkill struggles to understand her place in it.
This fragile new beginning is threatened by the reappearance of Fishkill’s unstable mother — and by unfathomable tragedy. Poet Ruth Lehrer’s young adult debut is a stunning, revelatory look at what defines and sustains “family.” And, just as it does for Fishkill, meeting Duck-Duck Farina and her mother will leave readers forever changed.
Seventeen-year-old Vi Sinclair’s roots run deep in the Missouri Ozarks, where, in some areas, it can still be plenty dangerous to be a girl who likes girls. Her greatest wish is to become a veterinarian like her boss, Claire Campbell. Fitting in at school wouldn’t be so bad, either. Only one obstacle stands in the way: She may not live long enough to see her wishes fulfilled.
With help from her only friend, Junior, Vi unravels a mystery that puts her in conflict with a vicious tormentor, a dog fight syndicate, and her own mother. Vi’s experience galvanizes her strength and veracity as she overcomes the paradox of mountain life, in which, even today, customs and mores seem timeless, and where a person can wake up dead simply because of being who she is.
Luke can uncross almost any curse—they unravel themselves for him like no one else. So working for the Kovrovs, one of the families controlling all the magic in New York, is exciting and dangerous, especially when he encounters the first curse he can’t break. And it involves Jeremy, the beloved, sheltered prince of the Kovrov family—the one boy he absolutely shouldn’t be falling for.
Jeremy’s been in love with cocky, talented Luke since they were kids. But from their first kiss, something’s missing. Jeremy’s family keeps generations of deadly secrets, forcing him to choose between love and loyalty. As Luke fights to break the curse, a magical, citywide war starts crackling, and it’s tied to Jeremy.
This might be the one curse Luke can’t uncross. If true love’s kiss fails, what’s left for him and Jeremy?
Victoria-Margaret is the crown princess of the empire, a direct descendent of Victoria I, the queen who changed the course of history two centuries earlier. The imperial practice of genetically arranged matchmaking will soon guide Margaret into a politically advantageous marriage like her mother before her, but before she does her duty, she’ll have one summer incognito in a far corner of empire. In Toronto, she meets Helena Marcus, daughter of one of the empire’s greatest placement geneticists, and August Callaghan, the heir apparent to a powerful shipping firm currently besieged by American pirates. In a summer of high-society debutante balls, politically charged tea parties, and romantic country dances, Margaret, Helena, and August discover they share an unusual bond and maybe a one in a million chance to have what they want and to change the world in the process —just like the first Queen Victoria.
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.
Ryan McCullough and Gabby Hart are the unlikeliest of friends. Introverted, anxious Gabby would rather do literally anything than go to a party. Ryan is a star hockey player who can get any girl he wants—and does, frequently. But against all odds, they became not only friends, but each other’s favorite person. Now, as they face high school graduation, they can’t help but take a moment to reminisce and, in their signature tradition, make a top ten list—counting down the top ten moments of their friendship:
10. Where to begin? Maybe the night we met.
9. Then there was our awkward phase.
8. When you were in love with me but never told me…
7. Those five months we stopped talking were the hardest of my life.
6. Through terrible fights…
5. And emotional makeups.
4. You were there for me when I got my heart broken.
3. …but at times, you were also the one breaking it.
2. Above all, you helped me make sense of the world.
1. Now, as we head off to college—how am I possibly going to live without you?
Rumor Mora fears two things: hellhounds too strong for him to kill, and failure. Jude Welton has two dreams: for humans to stop killing monsters, and for his strange abilities to vanish.
But in no reality should a boy raised to love monsters fall for a boy raised to kill them.
Nyx Llorca keeps two secrets: the moon speaks to her, and she’s in love with Dahlia, her best friend. Braeden Tennant wants two things: to get out from his mother’s shadow, and to unlearn Epsilon’s darkest secret.
They’ll both have to commit treason to find the truth.
During one twenty-seven-hour night, if they can’t stop the war between the colonies and the monsters from becoming a war of extinction, the things they wish for will never come true, and the things they fear will be all that’s left.
The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach―but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests.
Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons.
This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.
But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including—
Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can’t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs.
And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him.
Bells Broussard thought he had it made when his superpowers manifested early. Being a shapeshifter is awesome. He can change his hair whenever he wants, and if putting on a binder for the day is too much, he’s got it covered. But that was before he became the country’s most-wanted villain.
After discovering a massive cover-up by the Heroes’ League of Heroes, Bells and his friends Jess, Emma, and Abby set off on a secret mission to find the Resistance. Meanwhile, power-hungry former hero Captain Orion is on the loose with a dangerous serum that renders meta-humans powerless, and a new militarized robotic threat emerges. Everyone is in danger. Between college applications and crushing on his best friend, will Bells have time to take down a corrupt government?
Sometimes, to do a hero’s job, you need to be a villain.
Chase Payne is a walking contradiction. He’s the most powerful psychic in the Community, but the least respected. He’s the son of the Community’s founder, but with his tattoo sleeves and abrasive attitude, he’s nothing like his charismatic family. No one knows what to make of him, which is how he wound up locked in a cell on the Farm yet again. But this time, the only man he’s ever loved is there too.
Elijah Estrella was used to being the sassy sidekick who fooled around with Chase for fun. But that was before he realized the Community wasn’t the haven he’d believed in and Chase was the only person who’d ever truly tried to protect him. Now they’re surrounded by people who want to turn them against their friends, and the only way out is to pretend the brainwashing works.
With Chase playing the role of a tyrant’s second-in-command, and Elijah acting like Chase’s mindless sex toy, they risk everything by plotting a daring escape. In the end, it’s only their psychic abilities, fueled by their growing love for each other, that will allow them to take the Community down once and for all.
NFL football player Isaiah Blackwell lost his husband three years ago and is raising their teen son alone. He lives his life as quietly as his job allows, playing ball to support his family but trying not to draw unwanted attention. His quiet life is shaken up when a mutual friend introduces him to Victor, a visiting principal ballet dancer who is everything Isaiah is not.
Brash and loud Victor Aleksandrov has applied for political asylum to avoid returning to Russia, where gay men are targeted and persecuted. He’s been outspoken about gay rights in his home country, and if he doesn’t get asylum, going back to Russia is a death sentence.
Their one-night stand turns into a tentative friendship, a relationship they both agree is temporary… until Victor’s denied asylum. Isaiah can’t offer Victor a happily ever after, but he can propose something that’ll keep Victor in the US and safe… marriage He just doesn’t expect his new husband to dance away with his heart.
Debuting 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.
THE RULES ARE SIMPLE: You must be gifted. You must be younger than twenty-five. You must be willing to accept the dangers that you will face if you win.
Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Gupta’s entire life has been leading up to this—the opportunity to travel to space. But to secure a spot on this classified mission, she must first compete against the best and brightest people on the planet. People who are as determined as she to win a place on a journey to the farthest reaches of the universe.
Cassie is ready for the toll that the competition will take; the rigorous mental and physical tests designed to push her to the brink of her endurance. But nothing could have prepared her for the bonds she would form with the very people she hopes to beat. Or that with each passing day it would be more and more difficult to ignore the feeling that the true objective of the mission is being kept from her.
As the days until the launch tick down and the stakes rise higher than ever before, only one thing is clear to Cassie: she’ll never back down . . . even if it costs her everything.
Jess Wong is Angie Redmond’s best friend. And that’s the most important thing, even if Angie can’t see how Jess truly feels. Being the girl no one quite notices is OK with Jess anyway. While nobody notices her, she’s free to watch everyone else. But when Angie begins to fall for Margot Adams, a girl from the nearby boarding school, Jess can see it coming a mile away. Suddenly her powers of observation are more curse than gift.
As Angie drags Jess further into Margot’s circle, Jess discovers more than her friend’s growing crush. Secrets and cruelty lie just beneath the carefree surface of this world of wealth and privilege, and when they come out, Jess knows Angie won’t be able to handle the consequences.
When the inevitable darkness finally descends, Angie will need her best friend.
In Savannah Espinoza’s small New Mexico hometown, kids either flee after graduation or they’re trapped there forever. Vanni never planned to get stuck—but that was before her father was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, leaving her and her mother to care for him. Now, she doesn’t have much of a plan at all: living at home, working as a performing mermaid at a second-rate water park, distracting herself with one boy after another.
That changes the day she meets Leigh. Disillusioned with small-town life and looking for something greater, Leigh is not a “nice girl.” She is unlike anyone Vanni has met, and a friend when Vanni desperately needs one. Soon enough, Leigh is much more than a friend. But caring about another person stirs up the moat Vanni has carefully constructed around herself, and threatens to bring to the surface the questions she’s held under for so long.
Ryan, Harley and Miles are very different people–the swimmer, the rebel and the nerd. All they’ve ever had in common is Isaac, their shared best friend.
When Isaac dies unexpectedly, the three boys must come to terms with their grief and the impact Isaac had on each of their lives. In his absence, Ryan, Harley and Miles discover things about one another they never saw before, and realize there may be more tying them together than just Isaac.
An intricately woven story told in three parts, award-winning Australian author Will Kostakis makes his American debut with this heartwarming, masterfully written novel about grief, self-discovery and the connections that tie us all together.
The whole city is searching for Hasryan—some for revenge and justice, others to save their friends. Yet no one knows where to find him except Lord Arathiel Brasten, who vanished 130 years ago only to magically return.
Lord Diel Dathirii’s struggle to free his city from the neighbouring imperialistic enclave is far from over. Enemies gather around him, and without allies in Isandor’s upper spheres, he must place his fate in Lower City residents. Little does he know, the city he’s trying to save might well save him in return.
Tony Quinn has a knack for figuring people out. He likes labels, likes to be able to put everyone and everything in tidy boxes. As a theater director, it allows him to run a production without too much drama. But when he meets Gentry—“call me Gee”—in a bar one night, he discovers that some people aren’t so easily defined.
Gee Parnell is unlike anyone Tony has ever met before. He refuses to conform—to Tony’s expectations, or to society’s gender roles. He’s sexy and flirtatious, unapologetic and unashamed. And Tony isn’t sure he’s okay with that. So he breaks things off and escapes back into his well-ordered life.
But then an attack leaves Gee bloody and bruised, and Tony realizes that he isn’t ready to lose him. Not only is the passion between them off the charts, but Gee shows him a different way of understanding people. However, an exciting new job opportunity means that Tony has to decide between hiding his sexuality and his relationship with Gee, and his newfound appreciation for the color and beauty Gee brings to his life.
Adda and Iridian are newly-minted engineers, but in a solar system wracked by economic collapse after an interplanetary war, an engineering degree isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Desperate for gainful employment, they hijack a colony ship, planning to join a pirate crew at Barbary Station, an abandoned shipbreaking station in deep space.
But when they arrive at Barbary Station, nothing is as they expected. The pirates aren’t living in luxury — they’re hiding in a makeshift base welded onto the station’s exterior hull. The artificial intelligence controlling the station’s security system has gone mad, trying to kill all station residents. And it shoots down any ship that tries to leave, so there’s no way out.
Adda and Iridian have one chance to earn a place on the pirate crew: destroy the artificial intelligence. The last engineer who went up against the security system suffered explosive decapitation, and the pirates are taking bets on how the newcomers will die. But Adda and Iridian plan to beat the odds.
There’s a glorious future in piracy…if they can survive long enough.
I am beyond psyched to have this month’s featured author on the site, because ICYMI, I am a pretty tremendous fangirl of Not Your Sidekick, and in case you’re not familiar with C.B. Lee, she’s a seriously kickass human. Not Your Sidekick actually first crossed my radar at the Romantic Times conference in 2016, where every Interlude Press author was also handing out swag for this title; it was clear she was an author they wanted to support! So of course, I had to check it out, and if you haven’t yet read it, please put this series on your to-read list: it’s so much fun, the romance is adorable, the characters and their friendship is great, and the representation is diverse and amazing.
But enough of listening to me babble; please welcome C.B. Lee!
It’s been so much fun seeing how much love and attention Not Your Sidekick has gotten! (See: Gay YA Book Club, WoC in Romance book club, Bisexual Book Awards, Lambda Awards…) What was the coolest part of your publication experience and what was your biggest surprise?
I was so overwhelmed to the response to the book being announced! It was kind of incredible how the original cover reveal with the summary really took off—over the first weekend on Tumblr it hit over 5000+ notes and I was just like whoa! I’d looked through the tags and it was really such a response: people were excited Jess was Asian American, people were excited that the romance was between two girls, and I was just stunned and just so happy and grateful.
Publishing Not Your Sidekick has been an amazing journey. I think the readers are the best part of the experience, from meeting readers at book festivals and conventions to readers reaching out to me personally to talk about how much the story resonated with them, whether it was Jess feeling like not quite one or the other in terms of being Chinese-Vietnamese American, to her being the middle child and being overshadowed by her siblings, to being bisexual, and the story in general.
The biggest surprise was just seeing people respond to the novel! I had no idea it would become a thing, and I’m so happy people are enjoying it. I was really honored to be nominated for the Lambda Literary Awards and the Bisexual Book Awards, too!
I am so excited that the gang will be returning for a sequel called Not Your Villain. What can you tell us about it?
It’s been so much fun to write in Bells’ perspective! Not Your Villain actually starts off a little before the timeline when you meet Jess in the first novel. I’m really excited to finally share what was going on during Not Your Sidekickwhen Bells kept disappearing on Jess and Emma. We’ll learn all about his superhero origins and more about the inner workings of the Heroes’ League of Heroes, and then we move forward with Bells and his friends as they start off on a mission to find the Resistance and deal with things that they think the adults aren’t prioritizing.
You keep some great writing tips on your site. What’s been the best source of craft education for you, and what’s some of your favorite advice?
I think there’s something to learn from everyone, and the Internet is such a great resource. As far as research goes in facts and worldbuilding, it makes it easy to search for anything and learn all about it, from how popular a word was in a historical era and to seasons in countries and anything and everything in between.
As far as craft, I think writing is different for everyone, so writing tips will vary. What will work for some people won’t work for other people, and it’s easy to get disheartened if you see a piece of writing advice, especially if it’s not your style and doesn’t work for you and to see other people swear by it. But as far as any advice goes, I would say to read broadly because there are so many resources, and just pick and choose what works for you. I’ve reblogged and organized a number of different writing posts on my Tumblr, and have also written a few ideas as well, but I don’t think there’s an end-all-be-all of writing advice in terms of craft.
I do have a favorite piece of advice from Erin Bow:
“No writing is wasted. Did you know that sourdough from San Francisco is leavened partly by a bacteria called lactobacillus sanfrancisensis? It is native to the soil there, and does not do well elsewhere. But any kitchen can become an ecosystem. If you bake a lot, your kitchen will become a happy home to wild yeasts, and all your bread will taste better. Even a failed loaf is not wasted. Likewise, cheese makers wash the dairy floor with whey. Tomato gardeners compost with rotten tomatoes. No writing is wasted: the words you can’t put in your book can wash the floor, live in the soil, lurk around in the air. They will make the next words better.”
This is really reassuring to me, about how your efforts efforts are not wasted. In writing a lot of work goes unseen: first drafts with huge chunks thrown out, paragraphs deleted, characters rebuilt from the ground up. Everything you do, whether it’s writing character bios or imagining them in alternate universes, or writing almost entire drafts one way and having to do it another way, it’s part of the learning process and just adds to your overall skill and ability as a writer.
What’s something you’ve seen in LGBTQIAP+ lit that’s really stuck with you, for better or for worse?
I think the message of hope is a persistent one I’ve seen across genres, and I think that’s so important. The fact that these novels exist and readers can identify with the characters and say I’m here, I’m seen and just have all kinds of stories is so powerful. And I love that I’m starting to see more and more people who want stories with happy endings, stories that are fluffy and cute, stories where the main conflict has nothing to do with their identity.
What are your favorite LGBTQIAP+ reads, and which ones are you most looking forward to?
I have so many favorites! Malinda Lo and Benjamin Alire Saenz are two authors whose works I love, and as far as recent favorites, I really adored FT Luken’s The Rules and Regulations of Mediating Myths and Magic. It’s a hilarious read and has a wonderful bisexual coming-out story as well as wonderfully complex and dynamic friendships and family relationships. (There’s also werewolves and Bigfoot and the end of the world, but it’s wonderful.
What do you wear, listen to, read, and/or watch when you need to feel a little more like a superhero?
I love movie soundtracks—Pacific Rim has to be my all time favorite, I always feel ready to take on aliens and get in a giant robot when I listen to it, although it’s usually my writing action soundtrack. Other soundtracks that make me feel like a hero: Wonder Woman, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones.
I also really love my leather lace-up boots. I would definitely go hero-ing in them.
The next part of the adventure will be told from Emma’s perspective in Not Your Backup! I can’t say much other than the stakes will be raised! I’m also planning two short novellas within the universe, so look out for those!
Thank you so much for having me on the blog! You can find me at the following:
C.B. Lee is a bisexual Chinese-Vietnamese American writer who also works in outdoor education in Los Angeles for low-income youth.
NOT YOUR SIDEKICK was a 2017 Lambda Literary Awards Finalist for Best In YA/Children’s Fiction and a 2017 Bisexual Book Awards Finalist in Speculative Fiction. SEVEN TEARS AT HIGH TIDE is the recipient of a Rainbow Award for Best Bisexual Fantasy Romance and also was a finalist for the 2016 Bisexual Book Awards in the YA and Sci-Fi/ Speculative Fiction categories.
CB has been featured at literary events such as the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Lambda Litfest’s Celebrating the Asian American LGBTQ+ Experience at the Chinese American Museum, YALLWEST and Pasadena Litfest as well as a guest at popular panels and discussions such as DragonCon’s “LGBTQIA in YA” , “BiScifi: Queer Heroes in Science Fiction and More”, “The Craft of Dystopia”, “Magic and Worldbuilding,”, WonderCon’s “Sisterhood of the Self-Sufficient,” Emerald City Comic Con’s “Diversity in Publishing,” and San Diego Comic Con’s “Super Asian America” and “Into the Fanzone!”