Tag Archives: Interview

Better Know an Author: Shaun David Hutchinson

I’m thrilled to jump into the new year with an author who’s one of today’s most prolific authors of gay YA, in addition to being the mastermind of some killer collaborative projects. His We Are the Ants was a hugely lauded 2016 release, and now he’s back with another speculative fiction title in the upcoming At the Edge of the Universe. But don’t worry, he’s got a full dance card for 2018 too. Please welcome Shaun David Hutchinson to LGBTQReads to tell us all about it!

Let’s jump right into the new release: At the Edge of the Universe, which releases February 7. Something about that book feels so…cathartic. What was the experience of writing it like?

28763240Writing At the Edge of the Universe was actually kind of a struggle.  I had no idea what my follow up to We Are the Ants was going to be, so I just started writing the things that popped into my head (which is how it usually goes). I went through three or four drafts trying to figure out what this book was about, sort of throwing every weird idea I had into it to see what worked and then peeling them back. For me, the “big ideas” are never really what books are about. They’re always about the emotions, and that was what I struggled with most to understand. What was the emotional core of this book? What was it really about?

It wasn’t until earlier this year when my partner and I split up that I realized I’d been subconsciously writing about relationships in various stages of ending. Ozzie’s parents are divorcing, he and all of his friends are graduating high school and moving to the next phases of their lives, his brother is joining the army, his boyfriend, Tommy, has disappeared. And on top of that, the universe is shrinking, forcing Ozzie to figure out how to move on from all of that. Where does he fit in?  Where does his life go from here?  How does he make it through life without all of the people he’s counted on for support?  It’s funny that you mentioned catharsis, because coming to the realization concerning the true emotional center of this book was cathartic for me as well. 2016 has been a great year for me professionally, but a pretty crappy one for me personally, and finishing Ozzie’s story helped me move on from those bad things in a positive way.

I’ve come to think of your books as sharing the theme of “the light at the very end of the loooong, spiky tunnel,” which feels particularly relevant at present. What feeds that theme for you, and what kinds of things work as your “light” at the end of a long writing day of tough stuff?

It’s funny.  I never really thought of myself as an optimist. I’m not really a glass-is-half-full kind of guy.  Or a glass-is-half-empty one.  I’m more “OMG! The glass is full of acid!” I don’t know if it’s a side-effect of my struggles with depression or with the way I deal with it, but for me personally, life feels like 90% struggling through the mud to reach the 10% of stuff that’s awesome. And holding on for that 10% is what keeps me going.  It’s what helps me get through the day. I like the “it gets better” sentiment, but the truth is that sometimes it gets better, and sometimes it gets worse. Sometimes it gets better and then it gets worse before it gets better again. I’m not sure there’s actually a light at the end of the tunnel, but I do believe that life is one long tunnel and there are definitely lights along the way, and we have to take the time to breathe and appreciate them when we find them. For me, those lights can be something big like going to visit my brother and his husband in Seattle or something small like slipping into a great book.  It’s less about what that light is than about recognizing it’s a light and allowing myself to enjoy it. Though, I did buy one of those virtual reality headsets recently, and OMG is it fun.

Similarly, the universe and its potential growth or end are obviously recurring elements for you as well. Is this a lifelong love of science bleeding into your books, or a recent fascination? If the latter, can you pin where it came from?

I can trace my love of science fiction all the way back to my father, who got me into Star Wars and Star Trek and all things sci-fi. I’m not sure if my love of science is an outgrowth of that or just the way my brain is wired. On one hand, I’ve got all the hallmarks of an artistic person, while on the other I’m obsessed with logic and how things work. I love with science and math that you can take all of this data and calculate it and come up with the same answer every time. There’s something soothing about that. It’s like, there’s so much about the universe we don’t know, there are some many bits unexplained and unexplored, but the things we do know, we know with a frightening certainty.

When we predict wrongly the way the universe works, it’s not because we did the math wrong, it’s simple because we lacked some key piece of knowledge necessary for the equation.  For characters like Drew, Henry, and Ozzie (and probably for me as well), the solidity that science and logic offer are a necessary counterbalance to the emotional turmoil they experience. Depression doesn’t play by any rules. Neither does life. Depression hits when you least expect it. People die or drift away. Friendships and relationships end unexpectedly. The day-to-day of life can be frustratingly random in a way science isn’t.  The sun will rise tomorrow. And the day after. You can do the math and determine exactly when then sun is going to rise from any position on the planet to a frighteningly accurate degree because of science and math. It’s comforting to know that.

You’re kind of the king of anthologies right now, with Violent Ends behind you and Feral Youth coming up in 2018. What’s the process of putting together a lineup for those like, and how on earth did you get the idea for a modern Canterbury Tales antho??

Well thank you!  It’s not something I thought I’d wind up doing, but I really love everything about it. Gathering the right authors is a really methodical process.  It’s not just about liking someone’s body of work, they have to be a fit for the tone of the anthology. I had a couple of people question including Beth Revis, who was known for writing science fiction, in Violent Ends, but I knew Beth would be a perfect fit because while her Across the Universe series was indeed sci-fi, her characters and their relationships were always the core of those books.  So every author I work with is one whose works I’m very familiar with.  Once I have a list, it’s all about begging them to be a part of what I hope to do. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have assembled two stellar groups of talented writers so far. They’ve been enthusiastic and supportive and have been immensely wonderful to work with. And even though I thought I knew what to expect from each of them, they all managed to surprise me in the very best ways.

As for Canterbury Tales…I’ve actually been a fan since college. I took a medieval literature class with a professor who inspired in me a lifelong love and study of medieval and renaissance literature. The following semester she taught a course devoted exclusively to Chaucer, and it was the best class I ever took. Since then I’ve been looking for a way to bring my own spin to it, and after my experience with Violent Ends, I thought another atypical anthology was the perfect fit. The thing that’s so brilliant about Canterbury Tales is that it’s not about the tales themselves, but rather what those stories reveal about the storytellers. If you want to really know and understand a person and how they view the world, listen to the stories they tell you.

One of the really fun things about watching your career is seeing how you’ve really grown in audience, especially as your books have gotten gayer. What are the best/most memorable things you’ve heard in response to your more recent work?

20500616Ha!  I’d actually given up when I decided to move forward with The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley. Before that, I was terrified of how a gay character whose sexuality didn’t have a narrative purpose would be received. Queer characters in movie, books, and television always seem to have to justify their existence. They’re either there to provide an after-school-special lesson or to die so that the real main character can experience some type of emotional moment. But Drew was just gay. None of his many problems revolved around his sexuality. And I wasn’t exactly sure how readers would respond. I was happily surprised by the reactions. Since then, there’s been a wonderful explosion of queerness in YA lit. We’re definitely still lagging behind in many areas, and I’d like to see us moving away from the queer experience as seen through the eyes of gay cisgender white boys, but we’re pushing forward. I’m a glass-is-full-of-acid guy, remember? So the things that stand out to me are always the “this would have been better without the gays” reviews. But, honestly, I’ve gotten so many emails from young people who read Five Stages or We Are the Ants and wanted to share their own stories and how Henry helped them cope. To me, that’s everything. That something I wrote helped a kid in a way I wish a book had been able to help me as a teen is the very best part of all of this.

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

I wouldn’t call it LGBTQIAP+ lit, but Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey was the first time I saw a queer character in a book that I can remember.  It was such a lightbulb moment for me seeing someone who sort of represented me in a genre work by a prominent author.  I wasn’t particularly keen on all the aspects of those books (especially the idea of sex with sentient horses), but even all the way back in the late 90s when I read it, I remember it giving me hope that I could write stories filled with characters who represented me and the people I knew.

What are your favorite LGBTQIAP+ reads, and which ones are you most looking forward to?

My favorites tend to fluctuate. I’m always a fan of everything Hannah Moskowitz writes. Her book Not Otherwise Specified is criminally underrated.  I’m loving everything by Tim Floreen (his most recent is Tattoo Atlas, and it’s SO GOOD), and Simon Curtis’s Boy Robot is the gay sci-fi of my dreams. Delilah Dawson’s (writing as Lila Bowen) series The Shadow, which starts with the book A Wake of Vultures, is a definite standout for me. Robin Talley’s books continue to amaze me. And, of course, I love everything Patrick Ness writes (including his BBC show Class).

I’m really looking forward to both of Adam Silvera’s new books, as well as Becky Albertalli’s latest. I don’t know what they’ve got coming out next, but I’m also eagerly awaiting Alex Gino’s followup to George. And I can’t wait for Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give. But mostly I’m looking forward to where  LGBTQIAP+ books go next as we move beyond the typical queer narratives into the wider world of storytelling.  I can’t wait for that gritty sci-fi space pirate series that features a transgender character or the epic fantasy with an asexual character. I can’t wait to see books that feature intersectionality in a non-issue-book way. I can’t wait for the readers who fell in love with George or More Happy Than Not to start writing and publishing their own books. LGBTQIAP+ has such a bright future, and I’m beyond excited to see everything that’s coming.

In addition to Feral Youth, you’ve also got The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza coming up in 2018. What can you share about it with us?

I’m ending the world. Again! So I had this idea about a character who was born of a virgin and starts the apocalypse. And then I had no idea where to go from there.  Luckily, Elena started speaking to me (as most characters do) and I discovered this really flawed and strong and fragile character with a story to tell about struggling to control the world around her. The premise is that Elena Mendoza is the first child to be scientifically proven as born of a virgin. Which, obviously, pisses people off. When she’s sixteen, she begins hearing voices and learns she has the ability to heal people when her mother is shot in the parking lot of a Target. A side-effect of her ability is that it causes holes to open in the sky and lights to “rapture” people, taking them to somewhere unknown, and it kickstarts the end of the world. And though the world actually does end this time (I promise!), the story is really about how Elena navigates a world she wants to control when everything seems so out of control. Her ex-boyfriend is a jerk who keeps trying to prove he’s a “good guy;” she and her best friend, Winifred, are taking their first steps into a romantic relationship; Elena’s mother is battling mental illness; and the voices, which speak to her through stuffed animals and Lego figures, keep trying to force Elena to walk a path she isn’t sure she wants to go down. And all of this is happening while the world tears itself apart, and Elena might be the only person who can save it.

I would say that this book is really a tribute to my mother. She’s disabled and has been since I was very young, but she’s the strongest person in my life.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized how badly she’d struggled raising me and my brothers. Knowing that only reinforced my belief in her strength.  She kept on when most people would have given up. Even when everything else was falling apart around her, she kept going and did what needed to be done. And I wanted to bring that to Elena’s story.  If there’s any book I want to make my mother proud, it’s this one.

Got questions or comments for Shaun? Leave them below or check out his website at ShaunDavidHutchinson.com!

Better Know an Author: Alex London

Welcome to Better Know an Author, a feature title I stole from Colbert Report because I miss it so, which will introduce you to a fabulous author of LGBTQIAP+ books every month! This month, the spotlight is on Alex London, aka C. Alexander London, author of YA sci-fi duology Proxy and Guardian, and lots of other books besides! Come say hi!

alex-london-author-photo_photo-credit-sonya-sones

You write adult nonfic, YA fic, and, primarily, books for younger readers. Do any of those categories feel the most like You, or does writing as widely as you do really feel like the best expression of you as an author?

I’ve never been all that into labels, limits, or categories when it comes to story-telling (or to people!), so it never occurred to me not to write across age ranges and genres. I write to the story I want to tell that needs me to tell it. Sometimes that leads to a silly talking animal story for kids or a gritty cyberpunk for teens or a bit of reportage about armed conflict. Each book is a prism, taking some of who I am and refracting it. I guess added up, all the different books would give a person a pretty strong sense of me, but it’s by no means complete. I couldn’t say I know solar thermodynamics just because I’ve felt the sun on my neck, and I couldn’t say I know an author just because I’ve read their books.

Got any tips for other authors who might struggle with jumping genres (or categories)?

Write the most honest story you can, whether it’s humorous or grim, realistic or fantasticalif it fills you with wonder and need and you tell it with clarity and honesty, you’ll find the voice for it and it’ll find the readers who need it. Don’t let the market dictate the stories you tell. I say this, even as it probably drives my publishers crazy that there is no clear “brand” that I adhere to. I’m sure I’d be more successful, commercially, if I was better at staying in one lane, but I’d probably get bored. I guess, in terms of switches genres or age categories, there are no real rules but what works. To quote the great sage of Bravo, just “make it work.”

What was it like publishing Proxy when LGBT YA Sci-Fi was basically nonexistent? (Not that it’s particularly booming now, but.) What’s been your favorite kind of feedback to it?

16101023It’s been quite wild these last few years. When I first turned in Proxy, there were conversations within the publisher (blessedly, all affirmative) about whether they could publish a mainstream sci-fi thriller with a gay lead. It just wasn’t done. And they certainly didn’t advertise that the main character was gay. They didn’t want it to be pigeonholed as a “gay book.”

And shortly after it came out…no one read it. It was, sad to say, a flop. Hollywood decidedly did not come knocking, as, at the time, there was no appetite for queer characters in “genre” stories (that is changing…) and the sales numbers on the book were pitiful.

And then, word started to spread, one reader a time. The publisher repackaged the book, doubled down on it. It found champions in the YA community and then librarians embraced it, putting it on state reading lists, thrusting it into the hands of Hunger Games and Divergent fans, whether they were straight or gay. And all of sudden, nearly two years after it was first published, it found an audience. It does not have millions of readers (yet!), but every week, more eager story-seekers find their way to it, and I’m just beyond thrilled that it keeps going after a rather inauspicious start.

I’m moved when I hear from queer readers, especially queer readers of color, who thought they’d never get to see someone like themselves represented in this kind of story, but I’m just as moved when I hear from straight white readers that they’d never rooted for a gay hero before, let alone a gay PoC, never been waiting with bated breath for him to (spoiler alert) kiss another guy. The diversity of my readership has really been the most inspiring thing for me, from football players in Texas, to juvenile detention centers in Alaska, to Connecticut boarding schools. I love seeing how a book can still be the story we all gather around the campfire to hear, and we all see it from whatever different angle we’re sitting through the blazing embers of our experience. That sounds a bit grandiose. What I mean is, I love how much smarter my readers are than I am, and how much more they bring to the book than I or my publisher could have predicted or hoped.

You’ve got a lot of travel under your belt. What’s a city or country you dream of setting a book in someday, and why?

Right now, I’m working on a new YA fantasy trilogy, and I’m loving inventing cities and countries, so the idea of limiting myself to a real place isn’t all that appealing. That said, I hope to set a book in the neighborhood I just moved to in Philadelphia. It’s a magical little place filled with all kinds of quirks. I don’t know it well yet, but I’m sure there’s a darkness hidden beneath its idyl that is just waiting to be mined for narrative!

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

I’m troubled by the dominance of white cis gay boys in YA, while at the same time, as one myself who was starved for representation until adulthood, I love reading all of them. But I think I can like something while recognizing its cultural dominance is a problem. I’m doing what I can to champion LGBTQ stories that aren’t all the white gay boy story, even while devouring those same stories. There is enough room in our reading culture for a wide range, and the growth of one type of story shouldn’t imperil another…if we don’t let it. Another thing I’ve been thinking about within the gay boy stories is the devaluing of more “femme” boys, especially in genre, and what that says about who gets to be a hero. I’m very interested in Le Guin’s “carrier bag theory of fiction” and want to read more and write more within fantasy and sci-fi that relies less on the “way of the sword” so to speak. I want to see how queer heroes can queer heroism itself.

What are your favorite LGBTQIAP+ reads, and which ones are you most looking forward to?

Right now there are just so many (and I am woefully behind in my  TBR pile), but some recent faves include (for grown-ups) What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell and Christadora by Tim Murphy. In YA, I’m eager to dive in to Adam Silvera’s History is All You Left Me, and I can’t wait for Katherine Locke’s The Girl with the Red Balloon.

I recently devoured On The Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis (there are queer characters and themes in it). Also recently loved John Corey Whaley’s Highly Illogical Behavior. There are so many good books with LGBTQIAP+ characters and perspectives that it’s hard to choose. I’m reading a grown-up fantasy novel right nowPatrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Windand I’m loving it except I find myself wondering: where are all the queer characters?! A gay male couple showed up eventually in the background of a scene and were perfectly fine, but it is a reminder that queer people, though we are everywhere in the world, are still often erased or sidelined in fantasy worlds, even really good fantasy worlds (and I’d say Rothfuss’s is really really good so far…I’m still reading). While not every story in the world is about LGBTQ people or should be, we need to keep speaking up and writing our stories and sharing each other’s until a world without us feels incomplete to any reader, not just the queer readers.

Your next book up is a YA Fantasy called Other Bloods. What can you share about it?

Yes, and I’m super excited to be returning to YA at last! Other Bloods is set in a land of high stakes falconry, where all eyes turn to the sky, even as intrigue and danger pull them to the ground. It’s the story of a brother and sister on a reluctant quest to capture the legendary eagle that they believe killed their father, although of course, there is more afoot than they know. There’s love and longing, mystery and danger, and a matriarchal owl cult that I’m ridiculously giddy about writing. I think Proxy fans will be delighted, and I hope fantasy readers will too. And fans of LGBTQIAP+ lit. And, really all readers…I mean, who doesn’t want a book that can be described as The Scorpio Races meets Lord of the Ringswith falcons (which is how my agent put it…I might have yelped/peed a little with that description)? It won’t be out until 2018, I think, but I’ll certainly be sharing more details as the date approaches.

Better Know an Author: Erica Cameron

Welcome to Better Know an Author, a feature title I stole from Colbert Report because I miss it so, which will introduce you to a fabulous author of LGBTQIAP+ books every month! This month, the spotlight is on Erica Cameron, who’s got a whole lot of books on the shelf and in the pipeline, adding some much-needed rainbow representation to the YA canon. Come say hi!

ECameron-CreditLaniWoodland-201506-79

Which of your books have LGBTQIAP+ representation, and can you tell us a little about them?

All four of my series have at least some representation. Laguna includes the least, and my upcoming fantasy might arguably include the most—based both on the world and the individual characters.

In Laguna Tides, Kody, one of the secondary characters in the first two books, is demisexual. His orientation is hinted at in the first two books and will be confirmed in book three. He’ll also get his own story told in book four.

In Dream War Saga, though there isn’t any rep in Sing Sweet Nightingale (the one thing I now regret about that book is how straight and white it is, no matter how true that demographic is to the setting), I introduce a lot of queer characters in the second book, Deadly Sweet Lies. Julian and Nadette—my two narrators—are asexual and lesbian respectively, and both of those are confirmed on page. There are other queer spectrum characters in the book, but only Nadette’s love interest has their orientation confirmed.

For the Assassins books, rep is all over the board and—over the course of both books—not confined to orientation. Asexual, bisexual, gay, panromantic demisexual, gender fluid, and intersex. Most of this is confirmed with labels on the page, but some is implied when we’re talking about the minor characters.

In the fantasy series coming in February, The Ryogan Chronicles, the story starts on the island of Shiara and focuses on a culture with a bisexual-as-normal outlook on orientations. I do also have asexual rep in the book as well as an established third gender. Also, as a point of interest, there isn’t a single white character in this series. At all.

Your next book is the first in a series all about assassins—what kind of hands-on research does that entail?

Far less than I wanted to! I did get the chance to go to the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC, and that was a lot of fun. It’s unfortunately one of the few museums in DC that isn’t free because it’s privately run, but it has some great interactive features. Like a vent you can actually crawl through! I had hoped to be able to take lessons at a gun range with various weapons (I’d probably be very bad at it, but I still wanted to have the experience), but time and money got in my way. Aside from that, though, a ton of research went into this book, none of it concentrated on any one thing. Hacking, security systems, weapons, spy technology, homemade bombs, the reality behind truth serum—basically, if there is such a thing as a government watch list based on search history alone, I’m on it because of this book.

What’s a particularly conscious choice you’ve made in your representation?

Well, more of it, definitely. I come from a place of privilege, and even though I’ve grown up in an area that forced me to be aware of that privilege in certain ways, I was still ignorant of many aspects of that same privilege when I wrote Sing Sweet Nightingale. Yes, the book is set in a very small town in northern New York that is based loosely on the town my father grew up in, and yes, that town is still to this day predominately white and straight and incredibly insulated from the reality of the world, but I didn’t have to recreate it so exactly. I could have made it a more realistic—more representative—version of the same place. With each book since then, as I learn more and more about respectful inclusion, the representation in the stories expands. Hopefully it will continue to do so.

That being said, incidental diversity is very different from a story about some aspect of the diverse experience. I will do my best to include as many non-white, non-straight, non-cisgender characters as possible—with a somewhat selfish focus on making sure every one of my series includes an asexual-spectrum character—but I will likely never ever tell a story about what it is like to be non-white, non-straight, or non-cisgender. Even if I were to attempt writing a book about what it’s like to be a white, cisgender female, heteromantic asexual, I’d still be nervous. And that’s writing exactly from my experience. I don’t have the gall to try telling someone else’s story. Not in that way.

You’re an ardent advocate for asexual representation in media, and a frequent user of the #DontErasetheAces hashtag. What are some things allosexual people, especially authors, can keep in mind in order not to contribute to ace erasure?

That, just like in the bisexual community, erasure happens. All of the time. The recent uproar over American Apparel’s pride month tote bag is just the most recent example, but it’s a perfect one. And it’s ridiculous that even a full year after GLAAD publicly stated that A is for Asexual, Agender, & Aromantic, we’re still having the same argument.

Erasure is also one of the reasons I prefer MOGAI—marginalized orientations, gender alignments, and intersex—instead of LGBTQIAP+. First, it’s easier to say, but more importantly, it never changes. Letters, and therefore people, don’t get dropped. With an acronym as long as LGBTQIAP+, the end almost always disappears. A lot of people who aren’t deeply involved in the community have a hard time remembering any of the letters past Q, and have an even harder time remembering what those extra letters stand for. The belief that A is for ally is still pretty pervasive. It’s also one of the few letters that stands in for multiple sections of the community—asexual, aromantic, and agender—so even when the A is included in LGBTQIAP+, people don’t always agree on who is being represented.

What can authors do? Incorporate characters who fall on the asexual spectrum, even if they’re secondary characters. Give them full lives and interests outside of sexual relationships and give us the word in black and white. Make readers go look it up if they don’t know what it is, but don’t give them any wiggle room on interpretation. Don’t leave it implied. Find a way to work the word into the text, whether it’s demisexual, graysexual, asexual, or any other orientation under the ace umbrella. The solidity of that kind of representation is so important right now. Awareness is key to changing the way asexuality is viewed by the world.

What’s something you still dream of contributing to YA lit? (Can be as general or as specific as you like!)

At least one book that lives a lot longer than I do. It’s literally impossible for me to know if this will happen, but I sincerely hope that it does.

What’s the first ace representation you saw in any medium that really stuck with you, for better or for worse?

I wish I could remember the name of the book…so I could warn people away from it. Unfortunately, since I returned it right away, and I didn’t write the title down anywhere, I don’t have it. This story, while otherwise interesting, had a main character (we’ll call him Bill) who told the second (let’s call him Ted) that he was asexual. It was the first time I remembered ever seen a character say that in a book, and definitely the first time since I had discovered the orientation for myself. The noise I made upon seeing that in print was basically inhuman. But then the story continued. It was clear very quickly that Bill was not asexual. Bill was afraid of intimacy for various (very real) reasons, a virgin, and mistrustful of Ted. Due to all of those factors, Bill basically lied to Ted about being asexual. He used it as a stalling technique to give himself time to think.

It was the first representation of my orientation I saw, and it was used as a trick to keep someone else at bay. It was a lie. Bill was “fixed” with sex. It was awful.

It also strengthened my resolve to include as many different aces as I could in my own books.

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

The way the community rallies. Whether it’s to promote a new story that is exceptional or to protect an author being harassed or to call out discrimination or awful representation when it’s presented as “good enough,” this community—especially in YA—is a beast. In the best way. It’s the dragon in a fantasy story that will curl up with the human who raised it and smilingly burn a would-be assailant to a stick of over-charred meat. I love the support I’ve seen and that I’ve gotten from this community, and I’m so happy to continue contributing to it.

What are your favorite LGBTQIAP+ reads, and which ones are you most looking forward to?

The first I ever remember reading was in Tamora Pierce’s Circle of Magic series. I was thrilled because Daja—who already reminded me of my best friend at the time—became even more of an accurate representation for my friend after she started crushing on girls. Sadly, it took a long time after that before I found any sort of representation that wasn’t a snarky, fashion-conscious Gay Best Friend character.

Recent years have made me so happy. I fell in love with books like Martyr by Alex Kahler (which is being relaunched in brilliant new form soon!) and None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio. I get to be champions of books like 27 Hours by Tristina Wright and bounce in anticipation of books like Timekeeper by Tara Sim, Marion by Ella Lyons, and Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst. This is a very exciting time to be part of the YA community and I can’t wait to see what the next few years will look like!

Where can people find more of your work on asexuality?

The first time I really wrote in detail about my asexuality was on DiversifYA in a great interview I did after meeting Marieke Nijkamp at RT 2015, but the piece I am pointing everyone to right now is the essay I recently wrote. Don’t Erase the Aces is a very personal story about my late discovery of asexuality and what not having access to that label meant in my life. On my site there is also an Asexuality Awareness page with useful links to both things I have written and outside sites with valid and valuable information. I am hoping to do a lot more in the future (I’ve applied for a TED Talk, so here’s hoping that happens). Honestly, I will likely spend the rest of my life talking about this, and I’m very okay with that.

Erica’s next book, Assassins: Discord, releases on September 5!
Buy it from: Riptide/Triton | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book DepositoryBooks-A-Million | IndieBound |

Better Know an Author: Rebekah Weatherspoon

A002_C005_0514C7.0001771FIf you read f/f NA/Romance, it’s pretty impossible not to know Rebekah Weatherspoon, but how well do you really know Rebekah Weatherspoon? (Also, not to brag, but I just got to see her on several panels at RT and she was freaking fantastic; if you ever get the opportunity to hear her panel somewhere, DO IT.) How could I not beg to pick the brain behind not only a seriously epic collection of diverse romance, but the entire #WoCInRomance site? (PS she also had a new release just this past weekend: check out So Right, the sequel to So Sweet, which share a bi heroine in an m/f relationship!)

I usually avoid asking authors about their inspiration because I know it gets asked to death, but you have a paranormal lesbian sorority series, and I’m sorry but I must know where the idea for that came from. Must. 

Ha! I don’t know where the idea came from, I remember exactly where I was when the idea came to me. I was driving down Wilshire Blvd and I hit the intersection at New Hampshire Ave (I’m from New Hampshire, you see). The idea popped into my head and I remember thinking this is so ridiculous and over the top I’ll be kicking myself if I don’t run with it. So I did.

You’re one of very few writers of f/f NA, and bless you for it. What have been the biggest challenges and awesome moments of publishing it?

Honestly, I don’t see any challenges. I think a lot of my work is outside of the mainstream. I write a lot of women of color and being a woman of color I face the same challenges walking down the street or going to the bank. It’s just another day.

What’s a particularly conscious choice you’ve made in your representation?

I’ve made the choice to write women of color, particularly young black women. I feel like young women of color (tween-25) almost NEVER seen themselves on screen or in literature. And if they are screen they are sometimes played by an adult. I love Arden Cho something fierce, but she was like 28 when she started playing a 17-year-old on Teen Wolf. I know that sort of thing messes with the teen mind. In writing NA, I wanted to give younger women a most realistic portrayal of themselves. Even if there are vampires involved.

What’s the first queer representation you saw in any medium that really stuck with you, for better or for worse?

Oh man, I really have to think. When I was growing up none of the LGBTQ terms were in my vocabulary. My parents just had friends that were married to other women, but they didn’t tell me they were lesbians so I didn’t have the words for it. BUT I think Ricky on My So-Called Life stuck with me. Ricky was gay and out and Latino and living in a mostly white town, but he was also so cool. I remember really wishing that Ricky could find his own happiness outside of Angela and her family. I’m sure he’d have it by now.

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

Uh, there’s a lot of racism. That kinda sucks. Also a lot of different flavors of misogyny and transmisogny and transphobia that sneak in. When I came out I remember being really excited and then extra bummed that a lot of what I was seeing in the straight/cis community was presenting in every aspect of the LGBTQIAP+  community as well including our literature.

Which of your books has queer representation?

Main characters? So Sweet, So Right, The Fling, Treasure, SATED, At Her Feet, Better Off Red, Blacker Than Blue, and Soul to Keep

What’s your favorite of your covers, and why?

You can’t make me choose. I won’t choose. (Blogger’s note: This is legit; her covers are fanfreakingtastic. You can scroll through them all here.)

What are some of your favorite queer-centric things on the Internet?

Tumblr. Aint nothing queerer than my tumblr feed.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

Watching TV. I’m super boring, but I’m also kind of obsessed with consuming media. To be a writer or to work in entertainment you have to know what’s going on. I watch a ton of TV and a lot of movies.

What are your favorite LGBTQIAP+ reads?

What would you still love to see in LGBTQIAP+ lit?

A lot less of the crud I mentioned before with the bigotry, etc. and I NEED more queer New Adult reads, and I would sell my grandma for more erotic queer lit of every kind. Queer erotic fairy tales, queer erotic sports romances, queer erotic romantic comedies. Make ’em queer, and sweet, and extra porny.

What’s up next for you?

Self-pub wise, after I wrap up the Sugar Baby series in the fall I’ll be working on some space lesbian erotic romance. There’s not enough erotic romance in space, featuring lesbians.

Ain’t that the truth. You can buy any and all (preferably all) of Rebekah’s books here! (If you’re a Kindle person like I am, I’ll make that even easier here.)

New Release Spotlight (+Interview!): If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

This month’s new release spotlight is one of my absolute favorite reads of the year, and if you haven’t already heard me gush to death about it, well, here I am doing it again! 

Russo’s debut centers around Amanda, whose new life at her new school sees her finding cool friends and a great boyfriend, none of whom know her secret: that she used to be Andrew. One of my favorite things about the book is the way flashbacks are integrated, taking the reader back through the milestones of Amanda’s emotional and transitional journey, but the present day is excellent too. Rather than me babbling on and on about it, though, I’ve asked Meredith Russo to answer some interview questions, so, here she is to do just that!

23947922If I Was Your Girl is your debut novel; what have been the coolest and most surprising parts of your debut experience so far?

The coolest thing by far has been the people I get to talk to. I’ve become friends with one of my idols because of this book, for one, and I’ve met loads of other amazing people I never would have met without the book. I think the most surprising thing is that a lot of my job right now isn’t writing fiction! I’m always thinking about promotion, I just finished recording some things for the audiobook, I’m making travel plans for conferences, and, well, doing interviews.

What’s the first queer representation you saw in any medium that really stuck with you, for better or for worse?

Lieutenant Einhorn in Ace Ventura, Pet Detective. In case you haven’t seen it (don’t see it), Einhorn, the villain, is a trans woman who used to be a pro football player and had a nervous breakdown after losing the Super Bowl, after which she transitioned and went stealth. She kills someone because they discover her “secret” (watching it now I guarantee it was probably self defense because a guy freaked out or whatever) and then when Ace reveals she’s the killer at the end of the movie he tears her clothes off, exposes her genitals in front of all her employees (while the song from The Crying Game plays and the men she slept with puke), and beats her senseless. Needless to say that movie screwed me up as a kid.

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

A huge number of trans books I’ve read aren’t really about the trans character but, rather, about a cis narrator’s feelings about the trans character’s transition or existence, and I hate it. Maybe it’s because I’m trans, but I care way more about how the trans character feels than any cis characters.

You’ve got a gorgeous cover, the first I know of in YA to feature a transgender model. What was the process of creating that cover like?

I wasn’t super involved, but when I met with Flatiron they actually asked for my advice on ways to make the book as positive as possible, which blew my mind, so I suggested we keep trans people as involved as possible at every step and they actually listened, which is how we got Kira Conley for the cover and Samia Mounts for the audiobook!

What are your favorite writing snacks?

I’m a total pickle lesbian (well, bi, but whatever). Look it up, it’s a Thing.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

Parenting, of course, but I also play a lot of video games, board games, and D&D, as well as consuming way too much anime when I should be, you know, reading like a real grown-up.

What are your favorite LGBTQIAP+ reads?

Two of my favorite books of all time are Nevada by Imogen Binnie and A Safe Girl to Love by Casey Plett. They’re both adult fiction, so maybe not appropriate for my audience, but if you want to know what it’s like to be trans in your twenties these are the books you read.

What would you still love to see in LGBTQIAP+ lit?

I want to see queer trans people. I feel like we’re still in a place where people are only ready to grapple with the idea of trans girls who like boys and trans boys who like girls but, I mean, trans people self-identify as bi much, much more than cis people do, and that’s way underrepresented.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on two new books! They’re both about trans girls; one is a YA romance, while the other is a darker, more adult examination of what it means to be bitter, lonely, and burned out as a trans woman in her early twenties.

If I Was Your Girl releases May 3rd! Buy it:

Amazon * B&N * Indiebound * The Book Depository

Better Know an Author: Marieke Nijkamp

Welcome to Better Know an Author, a feature title I stole from Colbert Report because I miss it so, which will introduce you to a fabulous author of LGBTQIAP+ books every month! To kick it off, I am so delighted to present my beloved critique partner, Marieke Nijkamp, whose debut, This is Where it Ends, is a freaking New York Times bestseller for five weeks running!

mnijkamp-landscape

How badass is hitting the New York Times bestseller list? Spare no details.

Well you got my super ineloquent texts, so I can hardly pretend I was calm and collected. Truth is, after I got the phone call, I sat on the couch and watched my Twitter explode and my hands were shaking so hard I could barely lift a drink—or respond to the social media outburst. It took me three days just to get caught up on the tweets and the emails. It was, and is, the most surreal and the most wonderful experience and I’m deeply grateful to my publisher and to my fantastic readers for getting the book there. It’s extremely badass, and I love that it means the book will reach even more readers. 

What music do you write to, if any?

It depends! For TIWIE, I had a fairly specific (and super sad) playlist, with a lot of poppy songs. With my current WIP, my playlist is far more classical and instrumental, with an additional and rather eclectic collection of Dutch songs. I’m not entirely sure how that happened either. 

Beyond that, I recently discovered the magic of Noisli. I love writing to the sound of rain and wind and thunder. (I need something vaguely winter-y to get me through these summer months. Ew.) 

What’s your ideal way to spend fifty-four minutes?

Doing something that involves stories. So writing, ideally, but also reading. Or traveling/adventuring. J

What’s a particularly conscious choice you made in your representation in This is Where it Ends?

Gah. There was one very conscious choice I made very, very early on, but sharing it is such a spoiler. That thing that happened. Or didn’t happen, depending on your point of view. That was a very conscious choice. 

Vague answer is vague.

tiwieWhat’s something about one of your leading characters in This is Where it Ends that didn’t make it on to the page?

Most everything I wanted to have on the page is there, but because the time frame is so limited, I had to make choices when it came to showing backstory. Which means there were always more scenes I was aware of or that I wanted to explore. One of those things is how and when Autumn fell in love with Sylv. Slower, more gradual, than the other way around. While Sylv fell for Autumn’s glow and her passion, Autumn fell for Sylv because Sylv steadies her world and makes her feel safe, when she needs it most. (Even if that terrifies Autumn.)

What’s the first queer representation you saw in any medium that really stuck with you, for better or for worse?

Hm, I think the first rep that really stuck with me was seeing Willow and Tara in Buffy. I think it might have been the first time I saw queer characters in any medium, period. And there was so much about it that was incredibly empowering. Badass queer witches? Yes, please. Characters I could identify with? Wow.  

Unfortunately it was also my first introduction to Dead Lesbian Syndrome. Or as TV Tropes so classily calls it, Bury Your Gays. I loved the positive aspects of Willow and Tara’s relationship, but I didn’t realize until much later how pervasive it was to see that “model” relationship come to a bad ending. To see so many queer couples not get their happily ever after (or even a happy for now). It took me a long time to realize queer relationships should not be hidden and deserve a happy ending as much as anyone else.

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

The first time I saw queer characters in a story that wasn’t just about being queer was such an eye opener to me. I think that was Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner series (gay thieves for the win) and I loved that eureka moment of “we can have adventures too!”

What are your favorite LGBTQIAP+ reads?

I keep finding more and more favorites! So obviously, Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner series is still high up there. All of her books, really. I also still love Annie on My Mind for being my first f/f YA. But in terms of recent books, I loved Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not and when Audrey Coulthurst’s Of Fire and Stars comes along, it’ll blow you mind. I would recommend Alex Gino’s George to everyone and Malinda Lo’s Huntress is so gorgeous. Oh, and Robin Talley’s As I Descended is going to terrify you. I’m so excited for Fox Benwell’s Kaleidoscope Song to hit shelves because it’ll tear your heart out beautifully. And of course, I’m happy to declare my love for Otherbound and Under the Lights and Far From You everywhere ❤

What would you still love to see in LGBTQIAP+ lit?

More great ace rep. More characters exploring their gender identity. More queer casts (because we really do flock together). And more intersectionality in terms of race, disability, but also culture and religion. I think we have some fantastic lit out there already, and I’m so excited to see it continue to grow and expand. But there is such a vast spectrum of LGBTQIAP+ experiences, and I’d love to see more, more, more of it.

What advice do you have for teens who come to you for advice on how to come out?

I usually tell them two things. One, be proud of who you are, regardless of what the world tells you. And two, safety first. It’s unfortunately still the case for all of us queer folk that being out can be dangerous, whether it’s because of family, work, or living in a bigoted environment. So while I understand the need to be out – I wouldn’t want anyone to feel like they can’t be who they are and I will support anyone who wants to take that leap – it’s so, so important to start with people you know you can trust and to consider safety nets, support systems, and your own well-being. Because you matter so much.

What are some of your favorite queer-centric things on the Internet?

TWITTER. Okay, but it actually is at that. I practically grew up on the internet. As a baby queer, I found a lot of information and a good part of my community online, through forums, writing groups, and fanfic. But never before to the extent and scope of (my corner of) the queer community of Twitter. These days, I find myself going more private again too, but knowing it’s out there and we’re not alone is invaluable. 

Macarons or stroopwaffels?

…stroopwafel-flavored macarons. 

😀

What’s up next for you?

A story with an ace main character. And I’m *so* excited about it.

CANNOT WAIT. Marieke’s book, This is Where it Ends, is on sale now, and here’s where you can buy it!

Sourcebooks Amazon US The Book Depository
IndieBound Amazon UK iTunes
Books of Wonder Barnes & Noble Target