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Exclusive Cover Reveal: Forward March by Skye Quinlan

Today on the site, I’m thrilled to be revealing the cover of Skye Quinlan’s debut, Forward March, which releases from Page Street on February 1, 2022 and promises to the band geek ace YA of all of our dreams! Take a look:

All Harper McKinley wants is for her dad’s presidential campaign to not interfere with her senior marching band season.

But Harper’s world gets upended when the drumline’s punk-rock section leader, Margot Blanchard, tries to reject her one day after practice. Someone pretending to be Harper on Tinder catfished Margot for a month and now she’s determined to get to know the real Harper.

But the real Harper has a homophobic mother who’s the dean and a father who is running for president on the Republican ticket. With the election at stake, neither of them are happy about Harper’s new friendship with out-and-proud Margot.

As the election draws closer, Harper is forced to figure out if she even likes girls, if she might be asexual, and if it’s worth coming out at all.

And now feast your eyes on the festive cover, designed by Laura Benton and illustrated by Alex Cabal!

Preorder: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Can’t wait until February? Good news! We’ve got an excerpt right here, so check it out!

Unless you want your instrumental section to shun you for the entire season, you never start a story with, “This one time at band camp.” It’s an official rule of marching band, one that’s been carved into the missing door of the tuba locker, somewhere between “tie your shoes” and “keep your eyes on the field commander.”

But the door isn’t actually missing from the locker. Mrs. Devereaux ripped it from the hinges after Natalie Portman—no, not that Natalie Portman—had been caught having sex with her boyfriend inside. I still don’t know how they’d fit, even after Nadia and I squeeze inside to test our latest theory.

“Obviously, they took out the tubas.” Nadia’s great at stating the obvious. It’s one of the things I love most about her. What I don’t love is her elbow currently wedged between my ribs. She’s standing on top of a muddy tuba case, her forehead against my temple to avoid hitting the shelf above our heads, the bottom of which is covered in wads of old, still-tacky bubblegum. “But Matt is tall, and Natalie has a bad knee. Maybe they did it on the floor?”

“I don’t know.” I shove my hands against Nadia’s boney shoulders, her bronze skin slick with a sheen of sweat from rehearsal.

“But I’m pretty sure there’s gum in my hair, and I think I smell mold in here.” I tilt my head forward, and my hair snags on some- thing that feels gross and sticky and that I might have to cut out of my curls later. With my back pressed into the far corner of the locker, Nadia pushes against my front, her knee digging painfully into my hip. “No one’s cleaned this locker out for months,” I say glumly. My hair snags again, and I groan; this is why gum is illegal in the band room. “Not since Natalie tainted it. Let me out before I die of something worse than suffocation.”

Nadia snorts and sprays my cheek with spit. Her dark eyes gleam a golden brown like the polished brass of her trumpet, except maybe with a touch more deviance. She’s kissed a few boys in here, too, but she swears that the mechanics are different. I’ve never cared enough to ask how, and I still don’t know why Nadia brought me in here. Bellamy or Evelyn would’ve done this with far more enthusiasm. “Natalie wasn’t the first to get laid in here, you know.”

“No,” I say dryly, wiping off my cheek. “But she’s pregnant and people think it’s cursed.”
“It’s not cursed, Harper, for God’s sake. Natalie poked a hole in the condom.”
Tomayto, tomahto, who cares? I don’t want to be in this locker.

I twist my hips and force Nadia off the tuba case. She slides down with a grumble of protest, then stands in the doorway and narrows her eyes, pondering a new theory. “Let me out, Nadia. It’s hot, you’re sweaty, and I feel gross. I want to take a shower while there’s still hot water in the bathroom, preferably before the color guard takes it over. The mystery of the sex-locker can wait.”

Nadia hops out of the locker and stumbles over a flip-folder with sheet music from next week’s halftime show. She kicks it aside, knowing I’ll slip on the folder’s plastic pages and break my neck if she leaves it there. “Shower after dinner,” Nadia says. As soon as I’m free from the locker, she loops her arm through my elbow. “You promised to help me clean the dorm, and I won’t let you weasel your way out of it again.”

Our dorm is on the south side of campus, tucked behind the empty field where the band practices every afternoon. It isn’t messy, per se; Nadia’s half of our shared bedroom is spotless, not a book out of place or even a shoe left out on the floor. She likes it that way, the sparkling cleanliness that makes my skin crawl. I thrive in the organized chaos that’s my half, my clothes and books and a pencil or three scattered across the stained beige carpet. Everything I have has a place, on the floor, beneath my bed, or on the rotting window- sill, but at least I know where everything is. As organized as Nadia might be, she can never find anything she’s looking for.
And if there’s a week-old slice of pizza that’s still sitting out on my desk, well . . . it’s entirely Nadia’s fault. She shouldn’t have Door-Dashed pizza last weekend.

“The room is starting to smell, and I don’t know how you can even tolerate it with your asthma. Honestly, Harp, you have no self-preservation. If not for me, you’d be—”
Dead. I don’t need the reminder.

If not for Nadia Juliette, I would have died last spring when our boarding school’s cafeteria served seafood for the first time. On top of forgetting both my allergy to fish and my EpiPen, I’d for- gotten to make sure that a piece of shrimp hadn’t swum onto my plate by accident. Nadia had stabbed me in the leg with one of the extra pens she keeps stashed in her backpack for emergencies, hard enough to leave a bruise that lasted for weeks. She never lets me forget it, though it’s usually more of a reminder for me to take care of myself than it is for her to boast about having saved me. It depends on her mood that day.

She has one of my emergency inhalers, too, stuffed into the spe- cial “Harper Bag” she’d made for her backpack after I’d collapsed during band camp sophomore year.
I wouldn’t say I’m forgetful, but Nadia begs to differ. Things just slip my mind.

“Can we not talk about how much I suck at being a human?” I ask, shoving open the back doors of the band room.

A warm blast of stifling, end-of-summer air heats my sun-burnt skin. I breathe in deep and can smell the rain on the wind, can feel the sticky mugginess that plays hell with my lungs and makes my shirt cling to all the wrong parts of me. “Is it supposed to storm tonight?”
The clouds above are an ominous gray and rumble low in answer. Nadia’s smile is sympathetic. “We can blast Demi Lovato if you want?”

“I knew there was a reason we still live together.”

Nadia and I have been rooming together since we were seven, when my mom became the dean of Golden Oaks Academy and Nadia’s father uprooted their family from Indonesia for better job opportunities. We transferred late in the semester, and since there hadn’t been anywhere else to put us, they shoved us both into the smallest room in the dormitories. It was either that or a broom closet. We’ve come a long way since then—now we have the second smallest room on campus. Mom keeps offering to place us in one of the empty suites in the faculty building, but I don’t want any special treatment. Being her daughter already makes me the school pariah. Besides, no one wants to live with their teachers, and Nadia and I have a good system: I keep my chaos contained to my side of the room, and Nadia won’t smother me in my sleep. It works best with a limited amount of space for me to dirty up.

Beyond the faculty parking lot that stretches like an inky sea of black, blistering pavement, our sprawling green practice field is a flurry of stick-spinning motion. The drumline always stays late after rehearsal to practice their crappy cadences. They draw in crowds from all over campus, mostly upperclassmen who clap and cheer and stomp their feet in sync with the snares and bass drums. They’ll beat on their drums for hours, crashing their cymbals until my skull is splitting and I hide beneath a pillow to escape it.

Drums are my absolute least favorite instrument. They’re loud, and our drumline sucks.

Nadia and I trudge through the muddy grass, the blades tram- pled flat from the day’s long hours of high-stepping. The yard lines, painted fresh every morning, are nearly gone from the abuse of slides and crab-walks. They’ll disappear entirely if it rains tonight. But the lines that mark out the end zones are still clear, and the drumline has gathered in the nearest one in a circle. Stick a penta- gram in the middle and they’re a cult.

“Drummers,” Nadia scoffs, the word like acid on her tongue. She tugs on my arm and we give them a wide berth on our way back to the dorm. Zander Bryant purposely beats his mallet through the warped head of his bass drum and cackles. “I can’t believe I dated one freshman year. It’s like all they care about are sticks and mallets and banging on a drum until it breaks.”

I stifle a snort behind my fingers. She says it loud enough that they probably hear her. “That’s not nice, Nadia. That’s like saying that all trumpets are obnoxious and only care about blasting their horns in people’s ears.”

“We are obnoxious, and it’s not my fault that trumpets are naturally loud.”

She’s not even the slightest bit wrong; I’ve never met a trumpeter who wasn’t full of themselves. “Truer words have never been spoken.” Nadia bumps my shoulder and grins at me, her lip gloss from this morning still shining. Or maybe she put more on. She keeps a mirror in her trumpet case. “What do you think they say about people who play the saxophone?” she asks.

My freckled shoulders are the color of a lobster left in the sun for too long, properly baked and overdone. Shrugging them at Nadia makes me wish she had some aloe in the drawstring bag she carries around with her everywhere. “We’re wise.”

Nadia’s hoot of laughter cleaves through the field, and I pretend not to notice the heads that swivel in our direction. “Have you met Michael Briggs? That is absolutely not true.”

“Hey, McKinley! Wait up!”

I whirl around on my heels, a quick “to the rear,” like the call of my name is a command given by Mrs. Devereaux. My shoes twist into the mud with a gross squelching sound, and Nadia squeals as I wrench her around with me. “Christ, Harper, a little warning would be nice!”

A snare drum and harness thud into the grass from inside the drumline’s circle, splattering mud on a set of sparkling blue tenors. A pair of multicolored sticks clack against the snare’s silver rim, and discontent ripples through the drumline in the form of cursing and groans.

Margot Blanchard squeezes between two bass drums, phone in hand as she jogs toward Nadia and me. I don’t have the slight- est idea why Margot would ever want to talk to me, though the drumline doesn’t need her, not with ten other drummers still harnessing their snares. But as their fiery section leader, she’s the only one among them who can keep a steady beat while screaming at the football team on game nights.

I’ve never spoken to her before. Margot transferred here from Canada in the eighth grade because her dad is the ambassador for the Canadian embassy in D.C. I’ve seen them together at fund- raisers, but in the great wide world of politics, my dad doesn’t like Margot’s dad because, apparently, he’s “too damn liberal.”
Nadia raises an eyebrow and nudges me with her elbow. “How do you know Margot?”

“I don’t.” I smile nervously and raise my hand in greeting. “Hi, Margot.”

“Hey.” Margot stops in front of me. She rolls her shoulders and stretches her arms until her spine cracks like a glow stick. Snares are heavy and even though they’re padded, their harnesses look uncomfortable. As little as she is, I don’t know how Margot even carries one. “Look,” she begins, panting to catch her breath. Mar- got has a slight French accent, a pretty lilt I could listen to for days if she were anyone else. “I know that we, uh, don’t really know each other, but . . . do you think we could talk? Just for a minute. It’s important. If you’re busy, I won’t keep you, but we really need to talk.”
I tilt my head and take this opportunity to stare at her. Margot will have to take it out once classes start, but she’s biting on the back of the silver stud pierced through her thin bottom lip. “Talk about what?”

Margot glances at Nadia and shifts her feet in the mud. “Do you mind if we talk alone?”

Nadia bristles, crossing her arms and puffing out her chest like a bird whose feathers have been ruffled. “Anything you want to tell Harper, you can tell me, too. We live together, and I’ll find out anyway.”
“She’s right,” I warn, not unkindly. There’s nothing I keep from Nadia. “What’s up?”

Her sigh is more annoyed than resigned, as if we’ve given her the runaround. Margot drums her fingers against the back of her phone, and I notice her nails are painted black. “Look,” she says again. She turns to face me and ignores Nadia entirely. “I really appreciate that you think my hair is cool and that I rock some lesbian aesthetic, or whatever, but we are never going to work. I’m sorry.”
It’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard because it’s something I would never say, especially to Margot Blanchard.

My eyes instinctually dart to the top of her head.
Margot’s curly black hair is shaved on the sides and longer on top than in the back. It compliments her golden-brown skin, the smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose, and the beauty mark that’s just above her lip. But the longer I look at Margot, the more I realize she’s a walking dress-code violation. Her tattered black shorts are nowhere near the required length of just above the knee. She’s wearing a loose-fitting tank top with some weird indie band logo across the front, one that’s dingy and sweaty and shows off the straps of her bra, and an old red flannel is tied around her waist by the sleeves.

I guess she is some kind of punkish, lesbian stereotype; every- one knows that Margot likes girls. We’ve all seen her kiss plenty at football games. But I’ve never spoken to her before now, and I’ve definitely never told her that I like her hair or her aesthetic. I do kind of like her combat boots, though. They’re cute.

“What on earth are you talking about?”

Margot has the nerve to look guilty, her mouth pinching at the corners. “You’re funny, Harper, and I like talking to you about books. But I think it’s best for both of us if we stop this whole thing right now. I’m moving back to Canada once we graduate, you know? I don’t want to be tied down.”

Nadia’s suspicion is palpable, as if she truly believes I’ve lied to her about knowing Margot. I can feel the heat of my best friend’s glare burning its way through my temple. “Stop what now?” I ask, absently picking at my fingernails. I tear at a cuticle until it bleeds, a nervous tick that I’ve been trying to break for years. “We’ve never even talked before today.”

Margot frowns and glances sidelong at Nadia. “We’ve talked every day for a month, Harper. Since the end of band camp. See, this is why I said we should talk alone, in case you were keeping this a secret. I’m not judging you; I know your dad’s a Republican or whatever, but—”

“Keeping what a secret?” My heart is beating in the back of my throat. I can hear my pulse roaring in my ears as if my head has been shoved underwater, Margot calling out to me from just above the surface with some outlandish accusation. It feels as if I’m being outed to Nadia when there’s nothing to actually “out” me for. I don’t know what Margot is talking about. “I don’t know who you think you’ve been talking to, Margot, but it’s not me. I didn’t even know you knew my name.”

Margot’s frown only deepens. It carves out the dimples in her cheeks. “You really have no idea what I’m talking about, do you?”
“Not a freakin’ clue.”

Margot unlocks her phone. She taps and scrolls with her thumb. “I’m on Tinder,” she says. I don’t point out the irony that she’s just told me she doesn’t want to be tied down. She turns her phone around to show me and Nadia the screen. It’s cracked. “And apparently it’s news to you, but you’re on Tinder, too.”

Preorder: Bookshop | Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Skye Quinlan is a debut author. She lives in the Midwest with her girlfriend and two dogs.

 

Exclusive Cover Reveal: The Lost Girls by Sonia Hartl

Vampires are definitely back in YA, though the rep has certainly changed up since the Bella and Edward days! Case in point: The Lost Girls by Sonia Hartl, coming September 14th from Page Street! You can read more about the book and author in this conversation, but first, you must check out this blurb and cover…

Getting over Your Vampire Ex is as Easy as Killing Him and Stealing His Girlfriend

Holly Liddell has been stuck with crimped hair since 1987 when she agreed to let her boyfriend, Elton, turn her into a vampire. But when he ditches her at a gas station a few decades into their eternity together, she realizes that being young forever actually means working graveyard shifts at Taco Bell, sleeping in seedy motels, and being supernaturally compelled to follow your ex from town to town—at least until Holly meets Elton’s other exes.

It seems that Holly isn’t the only girl Elton seduced into this wretched existence. He turned Ida in 1921, then Rose in 1954, and he abandoned them both before Holly was even born. Now Rose and Ida want to kill him before he can trick another girl into eternal adolescence, and they’ll need Holly’s help to do it. And once Holly starts falling for Elton’s vulnerable new conquest, Parker, she’ll do anything to save her.

To kill Elton for good, Holly and her friends will have to dig up their pasts, rob a bank, and reconcile with the people they’ve hurt in their search for eternal love. And to win the girl, Holly will have to convince Parker that she’s more than just Elton’s crazy ex—even though she is trying to kill him.

“A fast-paced and empowering thrill ride guaranteed to get your blood pumping.” — Caleb Roehrig, author of The Fell of Dark (speaking of queer vampire YA…)

And here’s the retro-Gothic cover, illustrated by Mercedes deBellard and designed by Kylie Alexander for Page Street Publishing!

Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Sonia Hartl is the author of Not Your #Lovestory and Have a Little Faith in Me (Page Street), which received a starred review in BookPage and earned nominations for the Georgia Peach Book Award, YALSA’s Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers, and ALA’s Rise: A Feminist Book Project List. She’s a member of SCBWI and the Managing Director for Pitch Wars 2020. When she’s not writing or reading, she’s enjoying pub trivia, marathoning Disney movies, or taking walks outside in the fall. She lives in Grand Rapids, MI, with her husband and two daughters. Follow her on Twitter @SoniaHartl1.

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Tonight We Rule the World by Zack Smedley

As a huge fan of Zack Smedley’s debut, Deposing Nathan, I’m thrilled to be revealing the cover of his sophomore novel, Tonight We Rule the World, which releases from Page Street on October 5th, 2021! Here’s the story:

Owen Turner is a boy of too many words. For years, they all stayed inside his head and he barely spoke—until he met Lily. Lily, the girl who gave him his voice, helped him come out as bi, and settle into his ASD diagnosis. But everything unravels when someone reports Owen’s biggest secret to the school: that he was sexually assaulted at a class event.

As officials begin interviewing students to get to the bottom of things, rumors about an assault flood the school hallways. No one knows it happened to Owen, and he’s afraid of what will happen if his name gets out. He’s afraid that his classmates will call him a word he can’t stand—“victim.” He’s afraid his father, a tough-as-nails military vet, will resort to extreme methods to hunt down the name of who did it. And he’s afraid that when Lily finds out, she’ll take their relationship to a dark, dangerous place to keep Owen quiet. Then, one day, Owen’s fears all come true. And it will take everything he’s got to escape the explosion intact.

Heartbreaking and hopeful, Tonight We Rule the World is an accessible coming-of-age story that examines identity, voice, and the indelible ways our stories are rewritten by others.

And here’s the haunting, evocative cover, designed by Julia Tyler for Page Street Publishing!

Preorder: Bookshop | Amazon | IndieBound

Zack Smedley was born in 1995, in an endearing Southern Maryland county almost no one has heard of. His critically acclaimed debut novel, Deposing Nathan, was a Kirkus Best Books of 2019 selection, an ALA Rainbow List selection, a Lambda Literary Award finalist, and winner of the 2019 YA Bi Book Award. Alongside writing, he has a degree in Chemical Engineering from UMBC and currently works within the field. He spends his free time building furniture, baking, programming, screenwriting, and tinkering with electronic systems.

Authors in Conversation: Auriane Desombre and Sonia Hartl

I’m tickled to have two utterly delightful authors on the site today: Auriane Desombre, author of debut contemporary f/f YA romance I Think I Love You (which just released yesterday with Underlined!) and Sonia Hartl, whose f/f YA vampire romance The Lost Girls releases September 14th from Page Street! They’re here together today to chat about their books, other faves, and more! Take it away, Auriane and Sonia!

SONIA: Hello! I’m Sonia Hartl, author of the upcoming f/f paranormal romance The Lost Girls (think John Tucker Must Die, with vampires, but make it gay). It will be out on September 14th with Page Street. I’m thrilled to be in conversation with one of my best friends, Auriane Desombre, whose f/f romcom I Think I Love You will be out on March 2nd with Underlined! It’s a hilarious and heart warming queer take on both Emma and Much Ado, and I love it with my whole heart. I’ve read this book a few times now and I’m so excited for the rest of the world to experience the joy of falling into an Auriane story.

(Buy I Think I Love You from the LGBTQReads Bookshop)

Auriane, I love so many scenes in I Think I Love You, what was the first one that felt fully formed in your mind before you wrote it?

AURIANE: A lot of the banter felt fully formed going into the first draft! The witty back-and-forths in Much Ado About Nothing have always been my favorite parts of the play, so I was definitely most excited about incorporating that element into my modern take. There’s also a scene between Emma and Sophia at the first film competition screening, where they let themselves get more vulnerable with each other for the first time. That scene has changed a lot since the first draft (as you know, the film competition didn’t even exist until you told me I had to add a plot during the Pitch Wars mentorship!), but the vulnerable moments in that scene have been in my head since the beginning.

John Tucker Must Die, with vampires, but make it gay” will never not be my favorite pitch for a book. I can’t wait for this one! What was your favorite part of turning that incredible premise into a first draft?

SONIA: I think my favorite part was building that bond between the girls who had all given up their mortality for this guy. Friendship is such a complex and satisfying relationship to write, especially with these girls who should’ve been enemies (according to societal expectations anyway), and I think allowing these characters to find the humanity in each other as they learn how to forgive themselves is where the heart of The Lost Girls beats strongest.

(Preorder The Lost Girls from the LGBTQReads Bookshop!)

And speaking of girls who are/should be enemies, I love how well you balanced Emma’s optimism and Sophia’s pessimism in  I Think I Love You. Which girl do you relate to more? Or does that change depending on the day?

AURIANE: I definitely relate to both of them! As a rom com writer, I obviously see myself in Emma’s love of all things romance, and I’m always rooting for a happily ever after. That said, I agree with Sophia’s view that friendships are just as important as romantic love. I’m also more of a Sophia when it comes to grand gestures and rom com finales—Emma might live for a grand gesture, but I always love the quieter, more matter-of-fact declarations the best.

The friendships in The Lost Girls are some of my favorite parts of the book, and the relationships in the main friend group are to die for (Get it? A vampire joke!). I’m also fully obsessed with the world your characters live in. What was the most challenging part of creating your own twist on vampire folklore?

SONIA: I think the most challenging part was creating something new, while also being cognizant that vampires are beloved and also come with certain expectations. I enjoyed playing with known tropes, but I took a few risks too that I wasn’t always sure would resonate with readers. Ultimately, I’m very proud of the story I told, but there were times when I wasn’t sure if what I saw in my head was translating on paper.

In I Think I Love You, you have such an incredible secondary cast! What is your favorite part about writing friend groups?

AURIANE: Yay for big friend groups! I loved fleshing out all of the characters and making sure they each had an arc of their own. Since the friend group in I Think I Love You is so big (and so messy, always in each others’ business), I had a lot of fun thinking through the different relationships the individual characters have with each other within the group, and how that affects the dynamic as a whole. This friend group in particular made that process extra fun because of all the scheming and matchmaking they get up to!

The Lost Girls has such a rich cast too, and I fell deep in love with the vampire girl squad. Which character was your favorite to write? Which do you relate to the most?

SONIA: My favorite character to write was Ida, because she’s such a grumpy cynic, but also has an incredibly soft center, and I loved peeling back her layers. As for who I relate to the most, my main character Holly and her love interest Parker are the two characters who have the most pieces of me in them. There are some things I’ll only ever be able to say through characters I create, and Holly and Parker both allowed me to drain some of the poison from old wounds.

You do enemies to lovers so well (and the grumpy/sunshine dynamic is perfection), what are your favorite romance tropes? Which one haven’t you written yet that you’d like to try?

AURIANE: Enemies-to-lovers is by far my favorite! I love the banter that fits into the beginning of the trope, and all the little moments that crack a rivalry and turn it into romance are so delicious. Aside from that, I’m always a sucker for some fake dating (which is one of the many reasons I’m obsessed with your debut, Have a Little Faith in Me!). Gooiest of brownie points to any book that combines the two!

In terms of tropes I’d like to try, the greatest tragedy of my writer life is that I have yet to work in a “there’s only one bed” scenario into any of my projects! That’s definitely a situation I’d love to play with at some point in a future manuscript.

I am obsessed with every single bit of the world in your book and your take on vampires. What is your favorite worldbuilding detail?

SONIA: I think my favorite worldbuilding detail started when I was doing some research on object memory, and how holding objects allows people to recall things in more vivid detail than sight, sound, or smell. I can’t really explain it without getting into what heirlooms are and their significance in The Lost Girls, so I’ll just say that I really enjoyed playing with the psychology behind object memory.

I love how funny and warm your book is, and the way it makes me smile every time I read it! What are some of your favorite queer romcoms?

AURIANE: I have so many! Some recent favorites include She Drives Me Crazy by Kelly Quindlen, You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson, The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar, and The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth.

Speaking of favorite f/f books, The Lost Girls is so important in so many ways. What are you hoping readers will get out of this fabulous book?

SONIA: What I hope readers will get out of this book most is that regret is too heavy a burden to carry, and it’s okay to share it with other people and let it go. It’s okay to walk away from people who hurt you. It’s never too late to forgive yourself for mistakes. And you deserve to love and be loved, always, freely, and without demand.

AURIANE: That’s such a wonderful message! This book has my whole heart, and I can’t wait for it to capture readers’ hearts too. I’m counting down the days until I can hold my copy!

***

Auriane is a middle school teacher and freelance editor. She holds an MA in English Literature and an MFA in Creative Writing for Children & Young Adults. She lives in Los Angeles with her dog, Sammy, who is a certified bad boy. I Think I Love You is her debut novel.

Sonia Hartl is the author of The Lost Girls, Not Your #Lovestory, and Have a Little Faith in Me (Page Street), which received a starred review in BookPage and earned nominations for the Georgia Peach Book Award, YALSA’s Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers, Bank Street College of Education’s Best Children’s Books of the Year, and ALA’s Rise: A Feminist Book Project List. She’s also the author of an adult romcom, Heartbreak for Hire (Gallery). When she’s not writing or reading, she enjoys playing board games with her family, attempting to keep her garden alive, or looking up craft projects she’ll never get around to completing on Pinterest. She’s a member of SCBWI and was the Managing Director for Pitch Wars 2020. She lives in Grand Rapids with her husband and two daughters.

November 2020 Book Deal Announcements

Adult Fiction

Kobby Ben Ben’s NO ONE DIES YET, set in Accra in 2019, the “Year of Return” that memorialized the many who died during the slave trade in Ghana, following three African American friends as they join in the festivities to explore Ghana’s colonial past as Black diasporas around the world make a pilgrimage to West Africa and its underground queer scene; soon, these friends are thrust into the hands of two guides who they have no choice but to trust and what unfolds is an unsettling tale of murder in a country whose dead slaves are shackled with stories that must be heard, to Christopher Potter at Europa Editions, with Eva Ferri editing, in a nice deal, for publication in spring/summer 2022, by Aida Lilly at kt literary (world English).

2020 Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellow R.B. Lemberg‘s THE UNBALANCING, set in the same Birdverse universe as the author’s FOUR PROFOUND WEAVES, in which a group of queer and nonbinary magic keepers across an archipelago must come together to save their islands from an environmental catastrophe, to Jacob Weisman at Tachyon Publications, with Jaymee Goh editing, for publication in winter 2022, by Mary C. Moore at Kimberley Cameron & Associates (world English).

Author of WHEN HARRY MET HARRY Sydney Smyth‘s BRIDESMATES, an LGBTQ romance about a brokenhearted man who reluctantly agrees to be a male bridesmaid (a “bridesmate”) in his BFF’s wedding and finds romance along the way, to Rose Hilliard at Audible Originals, in an exclusive submission, for publication in spring 2021, by Emily Sylvan Kim at Prospect Agency, on behalf of et al Creative (world).

Syrian Canadian author, public speaker, and LGBTQ refugee activist Danny Ramadan‘s THE FOGHORN ECHOES, an #OwnVoices novel that begins in war-torn Syria, where a forbidden romance between two boys culminates in a traumatic incident, the echoes of which reverberate through their adult lives in Vancouver and Damascus, to David Ross at Penguin Canada, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, by Rachel Letofsky at CookeMcDermid.

Autistic debut author Sunyi Dean‘s THE BOOK EATERS, in which a lesbian Book Eater, forced into arranged marriages, gives birth to a Mind Eater and loves her son so fiercely she becomes a monster herself to save him from her family’s violent ways, to Lindsey Hall at Tor, in a significant deal, in a pre-empt, in a three-book deal, for publication in winter 2022, by Naomi Davis at BookEnds (NA).

Author of LAKEWOOD Megan Giddings‘s THE WOMEN COULD FLY, pitched as reminiscent of Kelly Link and Ottessa Moshfegh, about a Black bisexual woman on a journey to come to terms with the loss of her mother, who disappeared mysteriously when she was a teenager; set in a world where witches are real, to Rakesh Satyal at Amistad, in a pre-empt, by Dan Conaway at Writers House (NA).

Children’s Fiction

Author-artist Wallace West‘s debut MIGHTY RED RIDING HOOD: A FAIRLY QUEER TALE, the first in a series of reimagined folktales from a queer perspective, starring a sassy boy in a frilly red riding hood who confronts a bullying wolf espousing gender norms, to Andrea Spooner at Little, Brown Children’s, in a two-book deal, for publication in summer 2022, by Marietta Zacker at Gallt and Zacker Literary Agency (world).

Jyoti Rajan Gopal‘s DESERT QUEEN, a biography-in-verse which follows the life of beloved Rajasthani drag performer Queen Harish, known as the Whirling Desert Queen of Rajasthan, who, lit by an inner fire and propelled by a family tragedy, defied the gender conventions of middle class Indian life, battled discrimination and intimidation, and eventually grew up to dance with Bollywood movie stars and on stages across the world, illustrated by Svabhu Kohli, to Arthur Levine at Levine Querido, in an exclusive submission, for publication in spring 2023, by Wendi Gu at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates (world).

Young Adult Fiction

Amanda Woody‘s debut THEY HATE EACH OTHER, told in dual POVs, a queer enemies-to-lovers romance that follows 17-year-olds who turn to fake dating after a homecoming disaster; their ploy begins to fail spectacularly, though, when unexpected chemistry and past scars interfere, weaving a profound connection between the two, to Dana Leydig at Viking Children’s, in a two-book deal, for publication in 2023, by Suzie Townsend at New Leaf Literary & Media (world English).

Author of HOW WE FALL Kate Brauning‘s THE BALLAD OF DINAH CALDWELL, a futuristic Ozarks thriller pitched as inspired by True Grit, in which a queer teenage girl sees her mother and brother murdered by a local kingpin and vows revenge and revolution no matter the cost, to Ashley Hearn at Page Street, with Tamara Grasty editing, in a nice deal, for publication in October 2021, by Bridget Smith at JABberwocky Literary Agency (world English).

Remi England‘s THE ONE TRUE ME AND YOU, a queer romance in which a beloved fanfic author and beauty pageant contestant find love, and learn what it means to be—and stand up for—yourself, to Alexandra Sehulster at Wednesday Books, for publication in winter 2022, by Eric Smith at P.S. Literary Agency (world English).

NYT-bestselling author of CEMETERY BOYS Aiden Thomas‘s untitled fantasy duology, pitched as Aztec Percy Jackson meets the Hunger Games; and another untitled book, pitched as gay Titanic in space, to Holly West at Feiwel and Friends, in a significant deal, in an exclusive submission, in a three-book deal, for publication in fall 2022, fall 2023, and fall 2024, by Jennifer March Soloway at Andrea Brown Literary Agency (world).

Non-Fiction

Editor-at-large for LinkedIn and former staff writer for Wired and Fortune Jessi Hempel’s THE FAMILY OUTING, pitched as FUN HOME meets Modern Family, about her family’s transformation from the portrait of traditional charm to a new incarnation, with almost all of them embracing their queer identities, an expansion of her viral Time magazine cover story and a new definition of what it means to live in our changing world, to Rakesh Satyal in his first acquisition at Harper One, in a major deal, at auction, by Suzanne Gluck at William Morris Endeavor (NA).

Reality TV star of the Bravo series Shahs of Sunset Reza Farahan’s MEMOIRS OF A GAY SHAH, a humorous and at times heartbreaking story about being gay, Muslim, Jewish, and Persian in America, to Kate Roddy at Sourcebooks, by Steve Troha and Katherine Odom-Tomchin at Folio Literary Management.

Professor of English literature at DePaul University Francesca Royster‘s FIERCE LOVE: A MEMOIR OF BLACK QUEER MOTHERHOOD, examining the conception of what family means, the complexity of queer parenthood, and the influence of race on everyday acts of parenting in a biracial household, to Chelsea Cutchens at Abrams Press, for publication in fall 2022, by Claire Anderson-Wheeler at Regal Hoffmann & Associates (world).

Recipient of an inaugural David Prize philanthropic grant Edafe Okporo‘s ASYLUM, a blend of memoir and manifesto by a young, gay, Nigerian refugee who sought asylum in America after fleeing his home in the wake of violent hate crimes, examining the American asylum process, the modern refugee’s experience—especially the unique challenges facing LBGTQ+ refugees—and his path toward becoming the executive director of the RDJ Refugee Center in Harlem, to Zachary Knoll at Simon & Schuster, by Daniel Lazar at Writers House (NA).

Creator of #TheKentTest and culture critic Clarkisha Kent‘s FAT OFF, FAT ON, a humorous memoir about a fat Black woman, telling the story of how a fat body isn’t a cosmic punishment and is one you can grow into, how sometimes family doesn’t always mean home, and sharing ill-fated love affairs of the bisexual kind, to Lauren Hook at Feminist Press, for publication in fall 2022, by Claire Draper at The Bent Agency (world English).

July 2020 Book Deal Announcements

Adult

Ashley Herring Blake‘s DELILAH GREEN DOESN’T CARE, an #ownvoices queer romantic comedy, about a woman who begrudgingly returns to her hometown for her estranged stepsister’s wedding; when she crosses paths with a former mean girl from her childhood, old wounds and old feelings reignite, to Angela Kim at Berkley, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, for publication in spring 2022, by Rebecca Podos at Rees Literary Agency (world).

Brooklyn College MFA and NYU Law School graduate Jane Pek‘s THE VERIFIERS, which examines how today’s technology shapes our choices, introducing an overly imaginative reader of mystery novels who lands her dream job at an “online-dating detective agency,” then finds herself solving a real-life murder with sinister societal implications, while keeping the fact that she dates girls from her matchmaking mother, to Anna Kaufman at Vintage, in an exclusive submission, for publication in 2022, by Julie Barer at The Book Group (NA).

Jen Hinst-White‘s JOBS FOR GIRLS WITH ARTISTIC FLAIR, a LGBTQ coming-of-age story pitched as THE CACTUS meets PIZZA GIRL, about a young woman in 1980s Long Island who chases her dream of becoming a tattooist despite her social anxiety, an unreliable family, and an industry hostile to women artists, to Jeramie Orton at Pamela Dorman Books, in a pre-empt, for publication in summer 2022, by Chad Luibl at Janklow & Nesbit (world).

C.L. Clark‘s THE UNBROKEN, a North Africa-inspired queer epic fantasy following a soldier accused of murder who is saved from execution when a dethroned princess decides to take her on as a spy, while grappling with a crumbling empire and their unexpected bond, to Brit Hvide at Orbit, in an exclusive submission, in a three-book deal, by Mary C. Moore at Kimberley Cameron & Associates (world).

Oregon Literary Arts Fellow and Mills MFA graduate Emme Lund‘s THE BOY WITH A BIRD IN HIS CHEST, pitched as the desperate longing of THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER meets queer coming-of-age about the secrets we carry, the ways we try to stay safe, and growing up having to hide what makes you lovable to the world and to yourself, to Melanie Iglesias Perez at Atria, at auction, for publication in spring 2022, by Cassie Mannes Murray at Howland Literary (world).

Actor Paul Mendez‘s RAINBOW MILK, a coming-of-age story that follows a nineteen-year-old Jamaican-British man, who goes from isolated fast food server in the Black Country to sex worker and burgeoning artist in London as he grapples with his racial and sexual identities against the backdrop of his Jehovah’s Witness upbringing and the legacy of the Windrush generation, to Margo Shickmanter at Doubleday, for publication in summer 2021, by Helena Doree at Little Brown UK (NA).

Author of LOVE ON THE HUDSON KD Fisher’s THE SECRET INGREDIENT, in which two very different female chefs in small-town Maine find a way into each other’s hearts and families, to Kerri Buckley at Carina Press Adores, for publication in November 2020, by Claire Draper at The Bent Agency (world).

Children’s/YA

Author of ONLY MOSTLY DEVASTATED Sophie Gonzales and author of THE LOVE INTEREST Cale Dietrich‘s OFF THE RECORD, following two boys in America’s biggest boy band who fall for each other while on their first sold-out European tour, and are forced to keep their relationship a secret by their record label, but slowly realize those in charge have no intention of letting them announce their relationship to the world—ever, to Sylvan Creekmore at Wednesday Books, in an exclusive submission, for publication in fall 2021, by Moe Ferrara at BookEnds (world).

Author of DEPOSING NATHAN Zack Smedley‘s TONIGHT WE RULE THE WORLD, a coming-of-age novel about a boy whose senior year is upended when school officials learn he was sexually assaulted by another student; exploring identity, sexuality, and self-worth and following the implosion among the boy’s school, peers, parents, and girlfriend, to Lauren Knowles at Page Street, in a nice deal, for publication in fall 2021, by Allison Remcheck at Stimola Literary Studio (world).

Gabe Cole Novoa’s THE WICKED BARGAIN, the #OwnVoices YA fantasy follows a trans masculine Latinx teen pirate hiding magical abilities who, after a deal with the devil comes to a violent end, is rescued by the Caribbean’s sole remaining pirate crew, but with the Spanish armada hunting the last of the pirates down, the magic they’ve been keeping secret may be their only redemption—or it could mean certain death, to Jenna Lettice at Random House Children’s, for publication in fall 2022, by Louise Fury at The Bent Agency (world).

Mariama Lockington’s FOREVER IS NOW, a novel-in-verse about an agoraphobic teenager who must find a way to boldly step outside herself for the sake of her relationships and community, to Joy Peskin at Farrar, Straus Children’s, in a two-book deal, by Jane Dystel at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret (world).

Author of WHITE ROSE Kip Wilson’s THE MOST DAZZLING GIRL IN BERLIN, a historical novel-in-verse about an orphan who finds family, love, and her voice in a queer nightclub during the last days of the Weimar Republic in Berlin, 1932, to Margaret Raymo at Versify, for publication in spring 2022, by Roseanne Wells at Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency (NA).

Illustrators of the forthcoming WEIRDO Jessica Wibowo and Jacinta Wibowo‘s LUNAR BOY, in which a boy from the moon deals with culture shock, familial struggles, and first crushes when his mother suddenly marries and moves them to Earth, to Carolina Ortiz at Harper Alley, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, for publication in 2023, by Britt Siess at Martin Literary Management (world English).

Betsy Cornwell‘s READER, I MURDERED HIM, a tale of female agency, queer romance, and revenge in which a girl becomes a teenage vigilante who roams Victorian England using her privilege and power to protect other young women from abusive Gothic heroes, to Lynne Polvino at Clarion, in an exclusive submission, for publication in fall 2021, by Sara Crowe at Pippin Properties (NA).

Non-Fiction

Winner of two gold medals and the World Cup Briana Scurry and Wayne Coffey, with a foreword by Robin Roberts‘s MY GREATEST SAVE, a memoir of Scurry’s role as the fierce goalkeeper for the 1999ers, the legendary U.S. Women’s national team, where she broke barriers as the first Black female player, the first to come out openly as gay, and one of the first to advocate for equal pay, until a career-ending concussion sent her into years of despair and she had to make the greatest save of all, to Jamison Stoltz at Abrams Press, by Susan Canavan at Waxman Literary Agency (world).

Lambda Literary nonfiction fellow Nikkya Hargrove‘s MAMA: A BLACK, QUEER WOMAN’S JOURNEY TO MOTHERHOOD, describing how growing up visiting her mother in prison affected her own choices in life and how, when her mother died of heart disease at the age of 42 after a lifelong battle with crack cocaine, she adopted her baby brother, determined to create the kind of family she never had; about motherhood and identity, as told by a Black gay woman married to a Sri Lankan American woman parenting twin girls and raising their adopted son together, to Amy Gash at Algonquin, at auction, for publication in fall 2022, by Stacey Glick at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret (world).

Authors of THE GAY AGENDA and owners of the Ash + Chess stationery store Ashley Molesso and Chessie Needham’s THE QUEER TAROT and THE GAY AGENDA AGENDA, an illustrated guidebook and deck that seeks to serve as an outlet for members of the LGBTQ+ community who want to connect with the tarot in a more personalized way, celebrating their identities, including non-binary, trans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, and more, with all races and cultures, abilities, and body types represented and celebrated; also, an agenda highlighting the most important historical moments, figures, and places in the gay community, to Shannon Connors Fabricant at Running Press, at auction, in a two-book deal, by Meg Thompson at Thompson Literary Agency (world).

Contributor to Ploughshares, The Rumpus, and Longreads Edgar Gomez’s HIGH-RISK HOMOSEXUAL, a debut memoir about coming-of-age in a culture that values machismo, following the author from his uncle’s cockfighting ring in Nicaragua to the queer spaces where he discovered the joy of being gay and Latino, including Pulse nightclub in Orlando, a drag queen convention in Los Angeles, and the doctor’s office where he was diagnosed a “high-risk homosexual,” to Sarah Lyn Rogers at Soft Skull, for publication in fall 2021, by Danielle Bukowski at Sterling Lord Literistic (world).

January Book Deal Announcements

Children’s/YA

Miriam Newman at Candlewick has bought THE HEARTBREAK BAKERY, a new YA novel by Amy Rose Capetta in an exclusive submission, in which agender teen baker Syd deals with first heartbreak by whipping up brownies—which break up everyone who eats them, including the owners of LGBTQIAP+ institution The Proud Muffin. With the help of magical baking and a cute transmasc bike messenger, Syd must save relationships and defend the bakery from disappearing in a fast-changing Austin, Texas. Publication is set for fall 2021; Sara Crowe at Pippin Properties did the deal for North American rights.

Ashley Hearn at Page Street has bought world English rights to author Alison Ames’s debut, THE HAUNTING OF MOON BASIN, a queer YA horror with shades of SAWKILL GIRLS. After a mining explosion coated Moon Basin in ash, residents moved just outside the uninhabitable zone and set up a new settlement in the mine’s shadow. Years later, the people of the New Basin begin experiencing strange phenomena—sleepwalking, night terrors, voices only they can hear—prompting four teen girls to investigate. Publication is slated for spring 2021; Rena Rossner at the Deborah Harris Agency brokered the deal.

Jason June‘s JAY’S GAY AGENDA, which follows a teen boy after he moves to Seattle from his rural high school, introducing him to other queer teens for the very first time, and allowing him to finally cross items off his gay romance to-do list, to Megan Ilnitzki at Harper Teen, at auction, in a two-book deal, for publication in summer 2021, by Brent Taylor at TriadaUS Literary Agency (world English).

ONE MAN GUY and HOLD MY HAND author Michael Barakiva‘s THESE PRECIOUS STONES, pitched as SAILOR MOON meets SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA, about an eclectic group of queer and international teens who learn that they must bear the magical gems that will save the universe from an ancient galactic threat, to Trisha de Guzman at Farrar, Straus Children’s, for publication in fall 2021, by Josh Adams at Adams Literary (world English).

Mabel Hsu at HarperCollins/Tegen has bought, at auction, in a two-book deal, THE (UN)POPULAR VOTE by debut author Jasper Sanchez. Pitched as RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE meets The West Wing, this YA contemporary novel follows a transmasculine teenager who defies his congressman father and runs in a three-way brawl for class president. Publication is planned for summer 2021; Claire Friedman at InkWell Management brokered the deal for world English rights.

Adult Fiction

Alexis Hall‘s THE BEST OF ME, a transgender Regency romance about a woman who is reunited with her childhood best friend, the Duke of Gracewood, who believes she died in the Battle of Waterloo, at auction, in a two-book deal; and WINNER BAKES ALL, a romantic comedy set against the backdrop of a British baking reality show, in an exclusive submission, in a three-book deal, to Amy Pierpont at Forever, by Courtney Miller-Callihan at Handspun Literary (world).

P. J. Vernon’s BATH HAUS, pitched as GONE GIRL with gays and Grindr, about a young gay man whose life spirals out of control after an indiscretion, to Robert Bloom at Doubleday, by Chris Bucci at CookeMcDermid (world).

Courtney Maguire’s INNOCENCE LOST, book one of the Youkai Bloodlines series, set in feudal-era Japan, in which a servant is different—not really a man, not quite a woman; in the wake of their failure to protect a boy they saw as a son from their abusive master, they are sold into the house of a young nobleman, who is the opposite of everything they have ever known—gentle, kind, and generous; their friendship blooms into a profound love, but the nobleman harbors a dark secret: he is a youkai, a blood demon, to Heather McCorkle at City Owl Press, in a nice deal, for publication in September 2020 (US).

RITA Award-winning author Elia Winters‘s HAIRPIN CURVES, a f/f frenemies-to-lovers romance in which two former friends embark on an epic road trip that promises to change their lives forever, to Kerri Buckley at Carina Press Adores, for publication in August 2020, by Saritza Hernandez at Corvisiero Literary Agency (world).

OLYMPIA KNIFE and SWEET author Alysia Constantine‘s LUCKMONKEY, about a punk band whose members are anti-capitalist agitators who break into homes and businesses, each time stealing one possession and leaving something different in its place; but when one of them steals a wind-up monkey, things deteriorate into squabbles and bad decisions, forcing them to weigh the work of political resistance against their individual needs for stability and safety, to Annie Harper at Interlude Press, in a nice deal, for publication in January 2021.

Author of EMPIRE OF SAND and REALM OF ASH Tasha Suri‘s THE JASMINE THRONE, beginning a new trilogy set in a world inspired by the history and epics of India, in which a captive princess and a maidservant in possession of forbidden magic become unlikely allies on a dark journey to save their empire from the princess’s traitor brother, to Priyanka Krishnan at Orbit, in a three-book deal, for publication in spring of 2021, by Laura Crockett at TriadaUS Literary Agency (world).

Non-Fiction

Celebrity fashion stylist Andrew Gelwicks‘s THE QUEER ADVANTAGE: CONVERSATIONS WITH LGBTQ+ LEADERS ON THE POWER OF IDENTITY, collecting personal interviews with LGBTQ+ luminaries from the worlds of business, Hollywood, tech, sports, and politics on how they leveraged their unique challenges to supercharge their careers, to David Lamb at Hachette Go, with Mollie Weisenfeld editing, for publication in fall 2020, by Ian Bonaparte at Janklow & Nesbit (world).

Lambda Literary Award-winning author Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore‘s BETWEEN CERTAIN DEATH AND A POSSIBLE FUTURE, an anthology of essays by queer writers coming of age in the midst of the AIDS epidemic, exploring how the specter of death suffuses desire for an entire generation that internalized trauma as part of becoming queer, to Brian Lam at Arsenal Pulp Press, for publication in fall 2021, by Amanda Annis at Trident Media Group (world).