Tag Archives: L.C. Rosen

New Releases: October 2018

The Spy with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke (2nd)

33359802In a nuclear arms race, you’d use anything for an edge. Even magic.

Ilse and Wolf Klein bear many secrets. Genius Ilse is unsure if her parents will ever accept her love of physics. Her brother Wolf strives for a quiet life, though he worries that there’s no place in the world for people like him. But their deepest secret lies within their blood: with it, they can work magic.

Blackmailed into service during World War II, Ilse lends her magic to America’s newest weapon, the atom bomb, while Wolf goes behind enemy lines to sabotage Germany’s nuclear program. It’s a dangerous mission, but if Hitler were to create the bomb first, the results would be catastrophic.

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

Loyalties and identities will be tested in this sweeping fantasy and a fast-paced thriller that bravely explores the tensions at the dawn of the nuclear age.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee (2nd)

35430702Felicity Montague is through with pretending she prefers society parties to books about bone setting—or that she’s not smarter than most people she knows, or that she cares about anything more than her dream of becoming a doctor.

A year after an accidentally whirlwind tour of Europe, which she spent evading highwaymen and pirates with her brother Monty, Felicity has returned to England with two goals in mind—avoid the marriage proposal of Callum Doyle, a lovestruck suitor from Edinburgh; and enroll in medical school. However, her intellect and passion will never be enough in the eyes of the administrators, who see men as the sole guardians of science.

But then a small window of hope opens. Doctor Alexander Platt, an eccentric physician that Felicity idolizes, is looking for research assistants, and Felicity is sure that someone as forward thinking as her hero would be willing to take her on. However, Platt is in Germany, preparing to wed Felicity’s estranged childhood friend Johanna. Not only is Felicity reluctant to opening old wounds, she also has no money to make the trip.

Luckily, a mysterious young woman is willing to pay Felicity’s way, so long as she’s allowed to travel with Felicity disguised as her maid. In spite of her suspicions, Felicity agrees, but once the girl’s true motives are revealed, Felicity becomes part of a perilous quest that will lead her from the German countryside to the promenades of Zurich to secrets lurking beneath the Atlantic.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

The Rising Gold by Ava Jae (2nd)

30965937A new world ruler is crowned. 

Plunged into a crumbling world of foreign politics that is desperate for a leader, Eros chooses a loyal prince to help him navigate the hostile sands of Safara. But not everyone is happy to see a half-blood become the most powerful person on the planet.
A queen must restore her nation.
In power once more, Kora faces new challenges and a difficult decision that puts someone close to her in mortal danger. The wrong choice could destroy her relationships, her right to rule, and her life.

A rebellion is brewing.

With their world collapsing around them, new threats spreading across the globe, and their loved ones at risk, the people of Safara―Sepharon and human alike―depend on Eros and Kora to fix their bleeding world. But with generations of hate stacked against them, the two young monarchs may be doomed to fail.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden (2nd)

9781250178138_p0_v2_s550x406An epic graphic novel about a girl who travels to the ends of the universe to find a long lost love, from acclaimed author Tillie Walden.

Throughout the deepest reaches of space, a crew rebuilds beautiful and broken-down structures, painstakingly putting the past together. As Mia, the newest member, gets to know her team, the story flashes back to her pivotal year in boarding school, where she fell in love with a mysterious new student. When Mia grows close to her new friends, she reveals her true purpose for joining their ship—to track down her long-lost love.

An inventive world, a breathtaking love story, and stunning art come together in this new work by award-winning artist Tillie Walden.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill by Lee Wind (2nd)

Inspired by real historical evidence that Abraham Lincoln was in love—romantic love—with another man, this debut YA novel was too controversial for traditional publishing. Crowdfunded in six days with a successful Kickstarter campaign that ultimately 182 backers supported, QUEER AS A FIVE-DOLLAR BILL asks LGBTQ teens (and everyone else), What if you knew a secret from history that could change the world?

Wyatt is 15, and nobody in his homophobic small town of Lincolnville, Oregon, knows that he’s Gay. Not even his best friend (and accidental girlfriend) Mackenzie. Then he discovers a secret from actual history: Abraham Lincoln was in love with another guy! Since everyone loves Lincoln, Wyatt’s sure that if the world knew about it, they would treat Gay people differently and it would solve everything about his life. So Wyatt outs Lincoln online, triggering a media firestorm that threatens to destroy everything he cares about—and he has to pretend more than ever that he’s straight. . . . Only then he meets Martin, who is openly Gay and who just might be the guy Wyatt’s been hoping to find.

Buy it: I’m Here. I’m Queer. What the Hell Do I Read?

Jack (Not Jackie) by Erica Silverman, illustrated by Holly Hatam (9th)

36248274In this heartwarming picture book, a big sister realizes that her little sister, Jackie, doesn’t like dresses or fairies-she likes ties and bugs! Will she be able to accept that Jackie identifies more as “Jack”?

Susan thinks her little sister Jackie has the best giggle! She can’t wait for Jackie to get older so they can do all sorts of things like play forest fairies and be explorers together. But as Jackie grows, she doesn’t want to play those games. She wants to play with mud and be a super bug! Jackie also doesn’t like dresses or her long hair, and she would rather be called Jack.

Readers will love this sweet story about change and acceptance.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Alan Cole Doesn’t Dance by Eric Bell (9th)

Sequel to Alan Cole is Not a Coward

Alan Cole is not a coward. Not since he stood up to his brother. Not since he let his friends Zack and Madison into his world. And definitely not since he came out at his school.

But Alan’s got a new host of problems to face. His biggest one: Ron McCaughlin. Ever since Alan revealed he’s gay, Ron has been bullying Alan with relentless fury. Yet Alan can’t tell his parents why he’s really coming home with bruises — because they still don’t know the truth. And now Alan’s father wants him to take June Harrison to the upcoming Winter Dance. Never mind that he has two left feet, does not like girls, and might be developing feelings for a new boy at school.

Between trying to understand the complex art of text flirting, learning how to subdue his bullies, and finding his identity beyond the labels people put on him, Alan has a lot to sort through — and lay out — on the dance floor.

In this follow-up novel to Alan Cole Is Not A Coward, Eric Bell returns to the Unstable Table with Alan and his friends as they tackle middle school in another poignant and laugh-out-loud tale about friendship, family, and the many meanings of bravery.

Buy it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Chapters | Book Depository | IndieBound

The Phoenix Empress by K. Arsenault Rivera (9th)

Book 2 in Their Bright Ascendancy series 

36216359

Since she was a child, the divine empress O Shizuka has believed she was an untouchable god. When her uncle, ruler of the Hokkaran Empire, sends her on a suicide mission as a leader of the Imperial Army, the horrors of war cause her to question everything she knows.

Thousands of miles away, the exiled and cursed warrior Barsalyya Shefali undergoes trials the most superstitious would not believe in order to return to Hokkaran court and claim her rightful place next to O Shizuka.

As the distance between disgraced empress and blighted warrior narrows, a familiar demonic force grows closer to the heart of the empire. Will the two fallen warriors be able to protect their home?

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore (9th)

36952596The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know.

The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan.

But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

What if It’s Us by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli (9th)

36260157Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?

Buy it: B&N Amazon

Odd One Out by Nic Stone (9th)

39848512Courtney “Coop” Cooper
Dumped. Again. And normally I wouldn’t mind. But right now, my best friend and source of solace, Jupiter Sanchez, is ignoring me to text some girl.

Rae Evelyn Chin
I assumed “new girl” would be synonymous with “pariah,” but Jupiter and Courtney make me feel like I’m right where I belong. I also want to kiss him. And her. Which is . . . perplexing.

Jupiter Charity-Sanchez
The only thing worse than losing the girl you love to a boy is losing her to your boy. That means losing him, too. I have to make a move. . . .

One story.
Three sides.
No easy answers

Buy It: B&N * Amazon * IndieBound * Google Play * Kobo 

Law of Inertia by S. Gonzales (9th)

9781944995874_p0_v1_s600x595When James’s boyfriend killed himself, no one questioned what happened. A foster kid with a checkered past and a history of suicide attempts, Ash was just another number in a system that failed him. But to James, Ash was never just a number, and the facts around his death no longer stack up so neatly.

Now James has plenty of questions, and the one person who might have held the answers—Ash’s older brother, Elliot—has left town. And if anyone knows where he is, they aren’t talking. As James searches for Elliot and uncovers the tangle of lies and false alibis he left in his wake, he grows suspicious of what really happened on Ash’s last day.

After all, innocent people don’t run

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

From the Same Star by Nicole Field (9th)

In  the aftermath of her mother’s death, Angela struggles to recover and re-enter the world. When she meets Steve, who works in the café across the street, she feels able to take a step out of her grief-filled home. With Steve, she hopes to do D/s as a way to take a break from the pain consuming her, but discovers that in doing kink, you bring all of who you are with you, including grief.

Then Steve’s best friend is in a tragic car accident, and winds up in a coma, and Angela longs to offer support to Steve, as well as receive it. 

Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria (9th)

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

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

Zenith Dream by F.T. Lukens (11th)

This is the 3rd book in the Broken Moon series

When Ren wakes from his life-threatening injury on the Star Stream, he learns that Asher has left with the Phoenix Corps and that the Corps believes Ren to be dead. Despite the opportunity to disappear, Ren is determined to fix his mistakes. He convinces the crew to join him for one last mission—find Asher, free Liam, and escape from the Corps’ reach. But a war is brewing between two formidable armies, and, despite his wish to flee, Ren is drawn into the conflict. With his friends by his side, Ren must make a choice, and it will affect the future of his found family and the cluster forever.

Buy it: Amazon

Life Within Parole: Volume 2 by RoAnna Sylver (11th)

Parole is full of danger—and secrets.

The deepest of them make up intricately interconnected stories. Damaged survivors finding each other, stitching their lives together in the harshest of places, forging precious bonds amidst the flames. Gradually growing trust, love, and understanding between found families. But there’s no escaping this place, its deadly realities, or its predators. A brutal capture. A hellish withdrawal and fragile recovery. A harrowing escape. A breakneck sprint across a haunted, poisoned wasteland.

Life and death, trust and betrayal, choking smoke and breaths of fresh air—all of these are just part of life within Parole.

Buy it: Amazon * Gumroad * Books2Read

Mother India by Tova Reich (15th)

Literary, lyrical, and cuttingly satiric, Mother India is a brilliantly original novel about Jews who go to India to find transformation and eternal release from the sufferings of life. Narrated in luminous prose by Meena, a Jewish American lesbian who has claimed India as her home, the novel is vividly populated by the darkly comic universe of three generations of women along with other family members, as well as by the Indians whose world they seek to penetrate. There is Meena’s religiously observant mother, Ma, whose desire to remove herself from the wheel of life plays out in a Faulknerian funeral procession and cremation on the banks of the holy river Ganges; Meena’s daughter, Maya, a misunderstood child coming of age in an emotionally treacherous household; her ex-wife, Geeta, a privileged and hedonistic Indian woman who enters their world with devastating consequences; Meena’s twin brother, Shmelke, a charismatic rabbi turned guru and international fugitive; and the Indian servant, Manika, whose loyalty to the family both sustains and shackles them.

ldentifying with the humanity of its characters, the reader is drawn into a vast, tragicomic, and fascinating epic, Homeric in scope, drama, discovery, and surprise. Universal yet intimate, brutal yet tender, satiric yet sympathetic, Mother India evokes reactions–intellectual, emotional, visceral–that are complex, even contradictory, containing the might and bite that our current cultural hubris and self-involvement deserve. In Mother India, Reich offers us her most poignant and astonishing novel to date.

Buy it: Amazon

The Girl on the Stove by M. Wiklund (16th)

Princess Galina’s father has set her a difficult task: persuade a peasant named Elena to reveal the secrets behind her magical powers. Difficult, and maybe impossible, given that Elena is stubborn to a fault and has no respect for authority—especially the kind that wears a crown. And the more time passes, the less Galina cares about doing her duty and more about simply Elena herself.

Buy it: Less Than Three Press

Birthing Orion by Dax Murray (18th)

The relationship between two goddesses, one the embodiment of a galactic creation and the other of cosmic destruction, is tempestuous at best. They create and they destroy and then they do it all over again. Seya and Mia use their divine magic to make pulsars and nebula, to set planets spinning around stars and bind a galaxy together with a central black hole.

But when one of Seya’s favorite stars goes missing, she blames Mia. What was once a symbiotic cycle of life and death becomes a game of broken hearts and promises betrayed. These tensions and insecurities are explored in sonnets and villanelles; the arc of their love tracked in meter and verse. These poems touch on queer love, betrayal, trust, acceptance, and forgiveness cast against a backdrop of stardust and celestial detritus.

Buy it: Amazon

The Craft of Love by EE Ottoman (19th)

Benjamin Lewis has created a life for himself as one of the most respected silversmiths and engravers in New York City. For Benjamin, his work is his passion and he has never sought out companionship beyond the close ties of family. Stumbling across dresses sew by his late mother, however, reawakens painful memories from his past. Now he is determined to forge something beautiful from the remains of the life and identity he left behind. In the process, he discovers stunning and fiercely intelligent Miss Quincy who might just have the power to tempt him out of his quiet isolation.

Remembrance Quincy’s talent is as undeniable as her needlework is exquisite. She has made a name for herself crafting quilts and embroidery pieces for all the wealthiest ladies in the city. When soft-spoken, yet charming, Mr. Lewis comes to her with a particular project in mind she is intrigued both by his artistic design and by the man himself. He treats her like an equal, values her work and makes her smile, but Remembrance already gave her heart away once, now can she risk doing it again?

Buy it: Amazon

The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta (30th)

34198648For Teodora DiSangro, a mafia don’s daughter, family is fate.

All her life, Teodora has hidden the fact that she secretly turns her family’s enemies into music boxes, mirrors, and other decorative objects. After all, everyone in Vinalia knows that stregas—wielders of magic—are figures out of fairytales. Nobody believes they’re real.

Then the Capo, the land’s new ruler, sends poisoned letters to the heads of the Five Families that have long controlled Vinalia. Four lie dead and Teo’s beloved father is gravely ill. To save him, Teo must travel to the capital as a DiSangro son—not merely disguised as a boy, but transformed into one.

Enter Cielo, a strega who can switch back and forth between male and female as effortlessly as turning a page in a book. Teo and Cielo journey together to the capital, and Teo struggles to master her powers and to keep her growing feelings for Cielo locked in her heart. As she falls in love with witty, irascible Cielo, Teo realizes how much of life she’s missed by hiding her true nature. But she can’t forget her mission, and the closer they get to the palace, the more sinister secrets they uncover about what’s really going on in their beloved country—and the more determined Teo becomes to save her family at any cost.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

This is Kind of an Epic Love Story by Kheryn Callender (30th)

36203673A fresh, charming rom-com perfect for fans of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and Boy Meets Boy about Nathan Bird, who has sworn off happy endings but is sorely tested when his former best friend, Ollie, moves back to town.

Nathan Bird doesn’t believe in happy endings.

Although he’s the ultimate film buff and an aspiring screenwriter, Nate’s seen the demise of too many relationships to believe that happy endings exist in real life.

Playing it safe to avoid a broken heart has been his MO ever since his father died and left his mom to unravel—but this strategy is not without fault. His best-friend-turned-girlfriend-turned-best-friend-again, Florence, is set on making sure Nate finds someone else. And in a twist that is rom-com-worthy, someone does come along: Oliver James Hernández, his childhood best friend.

After a painful mix-up when they were little, Nate finally has the chance to tell Ollie the truth about his feelings. But can Nate find the courage to pursue his own happily ever after?

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts) by L.C. Rosen (30th)

35442720Pretty Little Liars meets Dan Savage in this modern, fresh, YA debut about an unapologetically queer teen working to uncover a blackmailer threatening him back into the closet.

Jack has a lot of sex–and he’s not ashamed of it. While he’s sometimes ostracized, and gossip constantly rages about his sex life, Jack always believes that “it could be worse.”
But then, the worse unexpectedly strikes: When Jack starts writing a teen sex advice column for an online site, he begins to receive creepy and threatening love letters that attempt to force Jack to curb his sexuality and personality. Now it’s up to Jack and his best friends to uncover the stalker–before their love becomes dangerous.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

 

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Fave Five: M/M YA with Sex on the Page

History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

Release by Patrick Ness

White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig

Jack of Hearts (and other parts) by L.C. Rosen

It’s Kind of an Epic Love Story by Kheryn Callender

 

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>

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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

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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.