Tag Archives: QPoC

New Releases: August 2017

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert (8th)

25062038

When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn’t sure if she’ll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.

But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new…the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel’s disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself–or worse.

Buy it: Amazon B&N IndieBound

Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell (15th)

34346381New York Barons tight end Gavin Brawley is suspended from the team and on house arrest after a video of him brawling goes viral. Gavin already has a reputation as a jerk with a temper on and off the field—which doesn’t help him once he finds himself on the wrong side of the law. And while he’s been successful professionally, he’s never been lucky when it comes to love.

Noah Monroe is a recent college grad looking for a job—any job—to pay off his mounting student debt. Working as Gavin’s personal assistant/babysitter seems like easy money. But Noah isn’t prepared for the electrifying tension between him and the football player. He’s not sure if he’d rather argue with Gavin or tackle him to the floor. But both men know the score, and neither is sure what will happen once Gavin’s timeout is over…

Buy it:  Penguin | Amazon | BNkobo | iBooks | Goodreads | Google Play

Team Phison by Chace Verity (15th)

For 55-year-old Phil Hutton, finding a new boyfriend is tough, especially since he’s still hurting from his ex leaving him for a younger man. Online dating has been a soul-crushing experience for the restaurant owner. Too many meat-haters interested in microbreweries or something called geocaching. His matches in the multiplayer for his favorite video game have been equally sucky too.

One night, he encounters a newbie who is so helpless, Phil can’t help showing him the ropes. It doesn’t take long for Phil to become interested in his enthusiastic teammate. 28-year-old Tyson Falls from Georgia loves working as a server in a rinky pizza joint and sees the best in everything. As Phil’s online dating matches get worse and his in-game matches with Tyson get better, he finds himself wanting to pursue the easygoing chatterbox with a thick, sexy drawl.

But Phil can’t get past the fear that Tyson couldn’t possibly want a fossil like him. If his brain doesn’t stop being so damn insecure, it might be game over for his heart.

Buy it: Amazon | Smashwords | Kobo | Nook

The Tiger’s Watch by Julia Ember (22nd)

Tashi is a spy and killer—an elite warrior known as an inhabitor—taught from a young age to use their bond with the tiger Katala. When an enemy force captures the city, Tashi has no option but to escape. Their safety doesn’t last long, however. Soon the conquering army arrives at the secluded monastery where Tashi is hiding, needing a place to treat their wounded. It’s not long before their leader, Xian, takes an interest in Tashi.

Xian is cold, ambitious, and even cruel—at least at first glance. But Tashi is skilled at watching and reading people, and they find a softer side to the young commander—one that intrigues them.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Stevens (29th)

As the tomboy daughter of the town’s preacher, Billie McCaffrey has always struggled with fitting the mold of what everyone says she should be. She’d rather wear sweats, build furniture, and get into trouble with her solid group of friends: Woods, Mash, Davey, Fifty, and Janie Lee.

But when Janie Lee confesses to Billie that she’s in love with Woods, Billie’s filled with a nagging sadness as she realizes that she is also in love with Woods…and maybe with Janie Lee, too.

Always considered “one of the guys,” Billie doesn’t want anyone slapping a label on her sexuality before she can understand it herself. So she keeps her conflicting feelings to herself, for fear of ruining the group dynamic. Except it’s not just about keeping the peace, it’s about understanding love on her terms—this thing that has always been defined as a boy and a girl falling in love and living happily ever after. For Billie—a box-defying dynamo—it’s not that simple.

Buy it : Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

New Release Spotlight: Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

It’s been three years since Brandy Colbert debuted with Pointe, one of my favorite YAs in existence, and it’s so exciting to see that her follow-up, about Black, bisexual, Jewish girl who returns home from boarding school and hits a tough spot when she tries to settle back into her family, including her stepbrother, who’s struggling with the reality of his mental illness. If you’ve been searching for more intersectional YA, on-the-page bisexuality, and/or representation of Jewish people of color, make sure this August 8th release is at the top of your shopping list!

25062038When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn’t sure if she’ll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.

But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new…the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel’s disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself–or worse.

Buy It: Amazon * B&N * IndieBound

Exclusive Excerpt: When We Speak of Nothing by Olumide Popoola

Today on the site we have an exclusive excerpt from When We Speak of Nothing, a newly released novel by Nigerian German author Olumide Popoola about being Black, male, and queer in London that commemorates 50 years since the partial decriminalization of homosexuality in the UK: 

Best mates Karl and Abu are both 17 and live near Kings Cross. Its 2011 and racial tensions are set to explode across London. Abu is infatuated with gorgeous classmate Nalini but dares not speak to her. Meanwhile, Karl is the target of the local “wannabe” thugs just for being different.

When Karl finds out his father lives in Nigeria, he decides that Port Harcourt is the best place to escape the sound and fury of London, and connect with a Dad he’s never known. Rejected on arrival, Karl befriends Nakale, an activist who wants to expose the ecocide in the Niger Delta to the world, and falls headlong for his feisty cousin Janoma. Meanwhile, the murder of Mark Duggan triggers a full-scale riot in London. Abu finds himself in its midst, leading to a near-tragedy that forces Karl to race back home.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * Book Depository 

Excerpt:

It was hard enough to stay level with this much newness. The sounds, the smells, the colourful outfits interspersed with sports and business wear. He felt lost. And scared. How to fit in here? How to even try?

But this part, immigration, produced even more dizziness. This was only sweat. Nothing else. No question mark, no slow trying to catch your feet. Just bare panic. He closed his eyes for a second. Breathe man, just breathe. He could hear Abu. The visa was approved, the Port Harcourt address verified. All he needed was for it to go quick. No overzealous immigration officer, aka gender police in the making.

Karl took out the mobile again.

heat man!!! no rain in site. @ passport control. Im here. Cant believ it. All gud so far. wish me luck

An officer in a beige uniform walked along the queue that was forming. What his role was supposed to be was a bit difficult to see. The foreigners from the plane were lining up with Karl. It was easy to spot the lot of them, either white or light-skinned, like Karl, almost as if they were carrying signs: really not from here. They were all older than Karl, mostly male, travelling by themselves with little luggage. Their faces were getting sweaty, like Karl’s, but theirs were changing to much deeper red tones. There was a general wiping going on, a couple of chequered handkerchiefs, back of the hand wipe – that sort of thing.

Uncle T had disappeared to the other end of the small hall.

Karl’s eyes followed the officer who stood next to a burly bloke with one large bag hanging over his shoulder. They were shaking hands and a few notes were slipped from one palm to the other. The officer caught Karl staring and Karl focused on his trainers instead. The burly man proceeded to the raised immigration booth and exchanged a few words with the officer behind the glass before leaving the queue and the airport altogether.

‘You have something for me?’ The man in beige appeared next to Karl.

Karl shook his head. ‘Sorry?’

The line was moving faster than he had thought. A lot of the white men in the queue had someone waiting for them, someone in uniform who would fast track them down the line, past the raised booth and out.

The officer looked at Karl. ‘What did you bring for me?’ ‘I’m sorry.’ Karl swivelled around. Where was Uncle T when you needed him?

‘Anything.’

‘I’m sorry? I don’t understand. It’s my first time. My uncle …’

The officer didn’t hide his pity and waved him forward. He had arrived at the raised booth and the man took his passport from his shaking hand and gave it to the man inside the booth. Another officer. He took the passport, looked at the picture, looked at Karl. Karl made himself scarce, pulled himself away from his skin, disappearing inside his bloodstream so that nothing on the outside could touch him. But the guy was still looking. Staring. No bloody subtleness at all, just full-on fixation. Curious and shit but unmoved, no smile, no softening, no invitation to exchange a few pleasantries. Nothing. Then waved to the supervisor behind him, who disengaged from the guy he was chatting with, in slow motion. Before he could make it to them, officer number three arrived, a guy who had been inside the building, further down, closer to the exit. Number three placed his folded arms on the rim of the small cubicle. He was about to tell officers number one and two, the one walking Karl over and the one in the box, something funny. You could see that because he was already smiling about it, like he knew this was a real good one. When he opened his mouth officer two shoved the passport in his face.

‘Ah ah, they no know how to dress demselves. Dis one, no be woman …’

Officer number three, unimpressed, still smiling, licked his lips. Looked at the picture, but didn’t really. Didn’t care one single bit.

‘My friend, leave am now. No be our problem.’

Karl smiled. That shy, I’m so damn unaware of my charm but I’m throwing everything your way smile. Because right now I need it to work, I need that charm to charm you out of asking me too many questions, out of extending this, making it obvious for everyone around. Embarrassing me. Hurting me. Making this unbearable.

And dangerous.

That’s it. Someone had sense, he would be moving on in no time, just like most of the white dudes who had been in the queue before him. All he had to do was get some damn oxygen into his body so he wouldn’t collapse right here. Before he had officially made it to Nigeria. Breathing in, breathing out, one two, one two. Focus on pairs instead of the throng of officials shuffling around the little cubicle. Officer number two was flipping through the passport pages, thumb cinema-like. Officer one was casually looking at it and then at Karl again. Only Spain, otherwise no other country had ever seen this gathering of well-stitched pages.

The supervisor arrived.

Four of them now; officer number three still shrugging his shoulders, ready to move on, finally drop that story. Who cared about whatever it was; it was a long time until they were off; why make life harder by winding yourself up like that? And right at the start of their shift?

‘Wetin worry you? Leave am now. De family will tell am.’

Karl looked at Uncle T, who had walked through the Nigerian citizens’ line and was now far ahead. A questioning look. Karl quickly shaking his head, vigorously. Number four, the supervisor, followed his glance.

‘Your father?’

‘Uncle.’

The officer looked back and forth between them.

‘But my father is waiting for me,’ Karl added, the word unfamiliar, almost sideways in his mouth. The puddle of sweat on his lower back was descending, trickling between his cheeks into his underwear. Father. Even more foreign than his first experience of the country. ‘He is outside.’

Number four’s face stopped doing what it was doing midway, the expression frozen. And like his face, time was now freezing over, sucking out all movement until everything became unreal, dangerously flat, a wall that would collapse and bury you in its debris.

Number three was looking around, trying to find someone else to chat with because this was defo no chatting whatsoever. Not what he had in mind when he had come over. Number two was still staring at Karl. At the long T-shirt that was hanging over his jeans. The trainers that were holding the jeans up, as it seemed. Number one? Had nowhere else to be, nothing else to do.

It was a bit much. The attention. The waiting. The not saying much. A whole group of people, yet again focus on Karl.

‘Your father is outside?’

Number four seemed to have recovered. Karl nodded, eyes sending nothing cute and charming any more just good old please. Pleading. But number four was already reaching inside the booth. Fumbled around. Then a quick stamp. Officer two shook his head. Supervisor handed the passport to Karl, ‘Welcome to Nigeria’, ignored everyone else and walked off.

Officer two annoyed. Disapproving. ‘Na crazy, dis one.’

But there was nothing else to be done. The group dispersed.

Karl was through and out the other side.

*****

London-based Nigerian-German Olumide Popoola is a writer, speaker and performer. Her publications include essays, poetry, the novella This is not about Sadness (Unrast, 2010), the play Also by Mail (edition assemblage, 2013), the short collection Breach, which she co-authored with Annie Holmes (Peirene Press, 2016), as well as recordings in collaboration with musicians. In 2004 she won the May Ayim Award in the category Poetry, the first Black German Literary Award. Olumide has a PhD in Creative Writing and has lectured in creative writing at various universities. She is available for live studio interview.

New Releases: July 2017

When We Speak of Nothing by Olumide Popoola (3rd)

Best mates Karl and Abu are both 17 and live near Kings Cross. Its 2011 and racial tensions are set to explode across London. Abu is infatuated with gorgeous classmate Nalini but dares not speak to her. Meanwhile, Karl is the target of the local “wannabe” thugs just for being different.

When Karl finds out his father lives in Nigeria, he decides that Port Harcourt is the best place to escape the sound and fury of London, and connect with a Dad he’s never known. Rejected on arrival, Karl befriends Nakale, an activist who wants to expose the ecocide in the Niger Delta to the world, and falls headlong for his feisty cousin Janoma. Meanwhile, the murder of Mark Duggan triggers a full-scale riot in London. Abu finds himself in its midst, leading to a near-tragedy that forces Karl to race back home.

Buy it: Amazon * B&N * Book Depository

The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller (11th)

theartofstarvingMatt hasn’t eaten in days.

His stomach stabs and twists inside, pleading for a meal. But Matt won’t give in. The hunger clears his mind, keeps him sharp—and he needs to be as sharp as possible if he’s going to find out just how Tariq and his band of high school bullies drove his sister, Maya, away.

Matt’s hardworking mom keeps the kitchen crammed with food, but Matt can resist the siren call of casseroles and cookies because he has discovered something: the less he eats the more he seems to have . . . powers. The ability to see things he shouldn’t be able to see. The knack of tuning in to thoughts right out of people’s heads. Maybe even the authority to bend time and space.

So what is lunch, really, compared to the secrets of the universe?

Matt decides to infiltrate Tariq’s life, then use his powers to uncover what happened to Maya. All he needs to do is keep the hunger and longing at bay. No problem. But Matt doesn’t realize there are many kinds of hunger… and he isn’t in control of all of them.

Buy it: Amazon B&N IndieBound

The Gallery of Unfinished Girls, by Lauren Karcz (25th)

thegalleryofunfinishedgirlsMercedes Moreno is an artist. At least, she thinks she could be, even though she hasn’t been able to paint anything worthwhile since her award-winning piece Food Poisoning #1 last year.

Her lack of inspiration might be because her abuela is lying comatose in faraway Puerto Rico after suffering a stroke. Or the fact that Mercedes is in love with her best friend, Victoria, but is too afraid to admit her true feelings.

Despite Mercedes’s creative block, art starts to show up in unexpected ways. A piano appears on her front lawn one morning, and a mysterious new neighbor invites Mercedes to paint with her at the Red Mangrove Estate.

At the Estate, Mercedes can create in ways she never has before. She can share her deepest secrets and feel safe. But Mercedes can’t take anything out of the Estate, including her new-found clarity. As her life continues to crumble around her, the Estate offers more solace than she could hope for. But Mercedes can’t live both lives forever, and ultimately she must choose between this perfect world of art and truth and a much messier reality.

Buy it: Amazon B&N

Bearly a Lady by Cassandra Khaw (18th)

Zelda McCartney (almost) has it all: a badass superhero name, an awesome vampire roommate, and her dream job at a glossy fashion magazine (plus the clothes to prove it). The only issue in Zelda’s almost-perfect life? The uncontrollable need to transform into a werebear once a month. Just when Zelda thinks things are finally turning around and she lands a hot date with Jake, her high school crush and alpha werewolf of Kensington, life gets complicated. Zelda receives an unusual work assignment from her fashionable boss: play bodyguard for devilishly charming fae nobleman Benedict (incidentally, her boss’s nephew) for two weeks. Will Zelda be able to resist his charms long enough to get together with Jake? And will she want to? Because true love might have been waiting around the corner the whole time in the form of Janine, Zelda’s long-time crush and colleague. What’s a werebear to do?

Buy it: Amazon * B&N 

Walking on Knives by Maya Chhabra (26th)

30077662The little mermaid has no idea that as she makes her way on land, she’s being watched over by the sister of the very witch with whom she made her bargain. She has no idea that the witch’s sister is falling in love with her.

When the prince decides to marry another woman, the little mermaid’s secret helper offers her a chance to live. But the price may be too high…

Add to Goodreads

Heat Wave by Elyse Springer (31st)

32673616Sara Walker’s life is going nowhere fast: she has a job she enjoys but doesn’t love, friends who are too busy to hang out with her, and no boyfriend in sight. Then a phone call on a lonely Friday night changes everything, and suddenly she’s spending her weekends with Laura. Newly single and openly bisexual, Laura makes Sara think decidedly not-straight thoughts.

Laura Murphy, with her red hair, freckles, and killer curves, is any guy’s wet dream. But Laura’s done with guys for now, and it’s Sara who can’t stop dreaming about her. When Sara finally gives in to the curiosity, Laura blows her mind and pushes her further than she’s ever gone before.

But Laura makes it very clear that this is only a rebound fling, and she’s still planning to move to California. She’s more than happy to tie Sara up, but she’s not ready to be tied down. If Sara wants to keep her, she’s going to have to work hard to convince Laura that New York is worth staying for . . . and so is she.

Buy it: Riptide

 

New Release Spotlight: Bearly a Lady by Cassandra Khaw

Okay, is this not basically the greatest thing you’ve ever seen? Bearly a Lady is about a freaking bisexual werebear named Zelda who’s trying to advance in the magazine industry, date her high school crush, and handle a monster crush (see what I did there?) on her coworker. (She’s got a vampire roommate, too!) If you’ve been dying for some queer paranormal fluffy fun, this novella is a must have for the month!

Zelda McCartney (almost) has it all: a badass superhero name, an awesome vampire roommate, and her dream job at a glossy fashion magazine (plus the clothes to prove it). The only issue in Zelda’s almost-perfect life? The uncontrollable need to transform into a werebear once a month. Just when Zelda thinks things are finally turning around and she lands a hot date with Jake, her high school crush and alpha werewolf of Kensington, life gets complicated. Zelda receives an unusual work assignment from her fashionable boss: play bodyguard for devilishly charming fae nobleman Benedict (incidentally, her boss’s nephew) for two weeks. Will Zelda be able to resist his charms long enough to get together with Jake? And will she want to? Because true love might have been waiting around the corner the whole time in the form of Janine, Zelda’s long-time crush and colleague. What’s a werebear to do?

Buy it: Amazon * B&N

Judith Utz Interviews Liz Jacobs on Her Debut, Abroad, Being an Immigrant Teen, and More

Today on LGBTQReads we’ve got a first for the site: a guest interview! Judith Utz, owner and curator of Binge on Books and Open Ink Press, chats with debut author Liz Jacobs about her upcoming New Adult romance duology, beginning with Abroad; her personal experiences as a queer immigrant teen; and what makes this debut so genuine and hard hitting.

First, check out Abroad!

Nick Melnikov doesn’t know where he belongs. He was just a kid when his Russian-Jewish family immigrated to Michigan. Now he’s in London for university, overwhelmed by unexpected memories. Socially anxious, intensely private, and closeted, Nick doesn’t expect to fall in so quickly with a tight-knit group of students from his college, and it’s both exhilarating and scary. Hanging out with them is a roller coaster of serious awkward and incredible longing, especially when the most intimidating of the group, Dex, looks his way.

Dex Cartwell knows exactly who he is: a black queer guy who doesn’t give a toss what anybody thinks of him. He is absolutely, one-hundred-percent, totally in control of his life. Apart, maybe, from the stress of his family’s abrupt move to an affluent, largely white town. And worrying about his younger brother feeling increasingly isolated as a result. And the persistent broken heart he’s been nursing for a while . . .

When Nick and Dex meet, both find themselves intrigued. Countless late-night conversations only sharpen their attraction. But the last thing Nick wants is to face his deepest secret, and the last thing Dex needs is another heartache. Dex has had to fight too hard for his right to be where he is. Nick isn’t even sure where he’s from. So how can either of them tell where this is going?

 Be sure to check out Abroad on Brain Mill Press’s website

Here’s a little more info on the book from Judith:

College might seem like the perfect opportunity to let loose and party, to revel in the chance at being alone, adult-free for the very first time in your life. And even though that’s definitely one aspect of the college experience, there are so many more that define it. Growing up, discovering parts of yourself you never knew existed, and ultimately coming of age is the crux of the new adult experience. With a sharp wit and unflinching portrayal of the ups and downs of college life, Liz Jacobs will blast onto the New Adult scene on June 27th with her stellar debut, Abroad. Russian-born, Jewish, and questioning his sexuality, Nick is an American who decides to uproot his life in the States to spend one year of college abroad in the UK. That too-brief-span of time serves to define and change who he will become.

Struggling to understand himself, his identity, and his constantly shifting feelings about his past, Nick discovers that home and identity are not limited to family or even a homeland. He also learns to trust himself and his own needs, and begins finding friendships in the most unlikely of places. Interwoven into this is a fragile love story that may or may not withstand the year. Liz Jacobs’ debut is a sophisticated and refreshing take on the New Adult novel and she caught up with me recently to talk more about this book and what it means to her.

Judith for LGBTQ Reads: Welcome to LGBTQ Reads! Please tell us all about your debut, Abroad.

Liz Jacobs: Abroad is, to me, a romance, and it’s also a story of coming into your own. It’s about identity and how we hide from ourselves and from others. A lot of it is about one’s cultural identity and what happens when “outsider” identities intersect and how. For instance, Nick has always been an outsider in some sense–in Russia, he was a Jew. In America, he’s Russian. And that’s just for starters. For Dex (Nick’s love interest), it’s being black, it’s being queer, it’s being brilliant and having to carve out space for himself because nobody else will do it for him. For his best friend Izzy, it’s a whole journey of self-discovery she doesn’t realize will happen. It’s also very much about that liminal space at the end of college when you know you’re leaving security behind. It’s also about made families, queer spaces, and people uplifting one another.

Judith: So when did you first have the idea to write this story? How many iterations has it been through?

Liz: I always knew I wanted to write something like this story, because immigrating remains one of the most defining moments of my life. I remember being in sixth grade, speaking zero English, and thinking, “how would I write about this?” I think partly because the experience was so viscerally difficult, it felt like I had to get it out or it would rot inside me. But I didn’t know how to tell it, I didn’t know the angle to take, what to do with it, until I realized that I could write a romance. Then, it coalesced super easily. But it was years of trying different approaches in my mind before this came into being. Then I sat down, wrote the first scene, and it just kept going. In terms of iterations, I’d say it’s one and a half, because the story was always this, but in speaking to someone about it, we realized that it was too much story to be contained in one volume. Also, Izzy’s character was elbowing for her own space, so once she got a POV, it really clicked fully.

Judith: Nick’s experience as a queer, Jewish Russian immigrant mirrors your own experience. Would you say that makes this story autobiographical?

Liz Jacobs: Let’s say, it’s “heavily inspired by” my life, though it is definitely its own story, with its own trajectory and conclusions. But I would be lying if I said that Nick’s character and experiences wasn’t based on my own. I wrote him through that lens, and it was important for me because for years, I kept a lot of this stuff inside, either through fear or the conviction that nobody would want to listen, and it has felt really wonderful, actually, to let this story out. So, not fully autobiographical, not entirely fictional.

Judith: Since it is so heavily inspired, did any of your own experiences infuse Nick’s story?

Liz Jacobs: Yes. Actually, the opening scene is lifted directly from my own life, pretty much verbatim. It has stayed with me for over a decade. It’s one of those “I think about this way more than I really should” moments. It was such a strange moment of cognitive dissonance, realizing that the person sitting next to me who presented very much as maternal and nurturing was holding some exceptionally xenophobic and harmful views with no idea that she was hurting me. The rest, I think, are just little touches, and largely fictional.

Judith: Have you always been a writer? What’s the first thing you wrote?

Liz Jacobs: I have been. I honestly can’t remember what the first thing I wrote was, and I have a feeling it’s through a sense of self-preservation (I was thirteen or thereabouts). Actually, I just remembered that I wrote a LOT of self-insert Mary Sue fic on a message board at 14-15. Really, I just haven’t stopped writing. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write. It’s always been my constant, I can’t stop myself. Except for when I’m under deadline, and then my brain blocks it for me.

Judith: What’s a question you hope readers ask you about Abroad?

Liz Jacobs: I’m literally scratching my head right now, because I don’t know! I think I’d be excited to get any questions, to be honest, because it means that I’ve engaged the reader, made them think, touched them in some way. Maybe, “hey, did you have any visual inspirations for the characters?” in which case, I will be, like, “heck yeah, I did. Wanna see?”

Judith: Name your top writing influences (authors, books, tv, music, what have you!)

Liz Jacobs: The first name that comes to mind is, honestly, Anne Frank. She was the first person who made me think I, too, could be a writer. She was also a scared Jewish girl whose inner world was so much bigger than the outside world allowed for. Her words made an indelible impact on my life. I’d say another big influence is Jamie O’Neill, author of At Swim, Two Boys. This book blew me away when I read it at 20, and it continues to blow me away now, every time I pick it up for a reread. The way he brings the reader into each scene, how every character has their own voice, the sheer impact of his work–it’s almost magic to me, except better, because it all sprang from his mind. It took him a decade to write this book, and when you’re reading it, you can see why. That level of dedication, to me, is incredible. There’s another writer who few people outside Russia know about (and, actually, not so many in Russia, either) named Frida Vigdorova. Her writing had such a heart, such an intimacy to it, it made me yearn to write as well as she did. I’m still yearning for it.

Music wise, I’d say Tom Waits, being the giant weirdo that he is! Honestly, I feel like if Tom Waits can make a career out of being a (incredibly talented) whackadoo, why can’t I try?

Other than that, it’s hard to say, because I often feel like I’m an inspiration sponge–I just soak everything up and then stuff comes out without me realizing.

Judith: Speaking of writing influences, of all the authors out there, who would you most want to write a book with and why?

Liz Jacobs: The first person who came to mind was Roan Parrish, because I adore her writing and think she’s amazing. Where We Left Off is one of my favorite books of the last, like, several years. (Hi, Roan!) I also have a friend I’ve written with in the past (let’s call her B) and would love to write something new with her. (Hey, B) I love co-writing, and it also scares the bejeezus out of me, because it brings out the biggest control freak AND self-critic in me, but it can so gratifying and so much fun. You never know!

Judith: And lastly, what else have you written? What’s up next?

Liz Jacobs: Abroad: Book Two, of course! The story is very much not done at the end of Book One, and I’m writing Book Two right now and having a lot of fun with it (when I’m not having angst). I’ve got a whole bunch of things on the back burner that may never see the light of day, but I’m having quite a bit of fun with them, too. I’m writing a queer historical romance that is my happy escape place at the moment about the son of an Earl and a gardener. There’s gardening shed naughtiness. I have another project I’m hoping to develop, but I’m actually a bit superstitious, so I don’t want to say anything about it yet. But it’s YA. Intrigued yet?

***

Debut author Liz Jacobs came over with her family from Russia at the age of 11, as a Jewish refugee.  All in all, her life has gotten steadily better since that moment. They settled in an ultra-liberal haven in the middle of New York State, which sort of helped her with the whole “grappling with her sexuality” business.

She has spent a lot of her time flitting from passion project to passion project, but writing remains her constant. She has flown planes, drawn, made jewelry, had an improbable internet encounter before it was cool, and successfully wooed the love of her life in a military-style campaign. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize for her essay on her family’s experience with immigration.

She currently lives with her wife in Massachusetts, splitting her time between her day job, writing, and watching a veritable boatload of British murder mysteries.

Backlist Book of the Month: Treasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon

It’s been exactly a year since romance rock star Rebekah Weatherspoon has appeared on the site in this awesome interview, and that’s about as long as I can take not devoting a feature to one of her books. Treasure is thus far my personal fave, a rare lesbian NA Romance set in college with Black female leads, some beyond adorable flirting, and major sex (and sex work) positivity. It’s a fairly short read, but definitely a recommended one! (And if you read cishet allo Romance too, check out her seriously lauded newest release, Haven!)

Her sister’s bachelorette party is the highlight of a miserable year for Alexis Chambers, but once her bridesmaid’s dress is packed away, she’s back to coping with her life as a once popular athlete and violinist turned loner and the focus of her parents’ disappointment. She isn’t expecting much from her freshman year of college until she finds herself sharing a class with Treasure, the gorgeous stripper from her sister’s party.

Trisha Hamilton has finally gotten the credits and the money together to transfer to a four-year university. Between classes, studying, and her job as a stripper, she has little time for a social life, until she runs into the adorably shy baby butch from the club. Trisha can’t seem to hide her feelings for Alexis, even when Trisha discovers what she has been through, but will Alexis have the strength to be just as fearless about their new love?

Buy it: Bold Strokes * iBooks * Kobo * B&N * Amazon

Backlist Book of the Month: The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

LESBIAN PIRATES AND SEA MONSTERS. That’s pretty much all anyone really needs to know about this book, other than that it is really damn good, especially if you’re a fan of slow-burn romance and/or an animal lover. I am not at all a sci-fi person, and this was definitely one of my 2016 faves. And the best part? The sequel comes out this month! So get to know Cas and the rest of the badass pirate gang, and make sure you snag The Edge of the Abyss when it releases on April 18!

24790901For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water.

There’s no time to mourn. Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup, make sure he imprints on her ship, and, when the time comes, teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.

But Cas has fought pirates her entire life. And she’s not about to stop.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | BAM | Book Depository

Better Know an Author: Riley Redgate

I am so excited to have Riley Redgate on the blog this month. If you’re not already familiar with her excellent YAs, rectify that immediately by reading Seven Ways We Lie as you wait for Noteworthy to release on May 2nd! Not only are her books and brain super fun and unique, but she’s got some skills when it comes to getting underrepresented POVs on the page, which is something I think we can alllll appreciate around here. But I’ll let her tell you more about that!

Congrats on the upcoming release of Noteworthy! One of my favorite things in the book is that not only is Jordan figuring out her own sexuality, but she’s also critically examining her actions as they pertain to gender identity. Was that always a planned part of Jordan’s journey, or did that come about as it was unfolding?

Thank you! Yes, I always wanted to address gender identity in Noteworthy. We’ve reached a point where not addressing gender identity in these sorts of narratives feels disingenuous to me (especially in a liberal environment like an arts school). That said, it was critically important to me that I steer clear of using the trans community as a foil or mirror for Jordan (who’s cis), in a way that felt diminishing of the importance of trans kids’ lives, identities, and struggles. I actually did have a draft that omitted examinations of gender for fear of that feeling of exploitation, but it felt off, tonally, so out the door it went. I don’t know. Striking that balance—maintaining a feeling of awareness, but not using the community as, basically, an object for sort of voyeuristic consumption by a cis narrator—was one of the toughest lines to walk in the manuscript.

I also really love that Jordan’s narrative is that of a child of immigrants, which is a glaringly important one in the current political climate, and especially welcome in LGBTQ lit. For those who haven’t gotten to read Noteworthy yet, what would you say about how her background informs her choices and identity?

Jordan’s narrative in many ways is about belonging. There’s no foregrounded struggle where she’s asked to take ownership of her identity as a Chinese girl, but I think the alienation of being a child of immigrants peeks out several times. She acutely feels the distance between her American identity and her parents’ upbringing abroad, but there’s also the usual sense of not being American enough (e.g., to land roles written for white Americans). Those smaller tensions can be unavoidable in the day-to-day.

Your books strongly acknowledge queerness without ever really being “about” it, or about coming out, but as far as I know, you’re the first author to put a pansexual main character on the page in mainstream YA, with your debut, Seven Ways We Lie. Was that a challenge along the way? And what kind of response have you received to that from readers?

The response from the YA community, and more privately from readers, has been wonderful. Writing a pan character in a book with seven perspectives was an interesting experience; I get a lot of “I wish [X character] had their own book,” and the pansexual narrator is at the top of this list. This makes sense to me. Because there’s such a dearth of narratives with pan characters at their centers, I understand why his perspective being limited to 1/7 of the narrative would feel frustrating. That said, I really hoped for him to be a lovable character to readers, because when there’s very little representation of a certain identity, all new representations tend to feel definitive in a way that is sort of overwhelming. Actually, though, the biggest concern for me was that people would take away only the fact that his character is associated with the deadly sin of Greed — the goal was to deconstruct the common tendency to think that pan & bi people are ‘greedy’ and ‘need to choose.’

Seven Ways We Lie also has a narrator working through the process of figuring out he’s aromantic asexual, though he hasn’t quite found those words yet. Or, at least, that’s how I read him. Do you find readers tend to read and respond to him that same way? (I definitely had someone tweet at me that he was the closest she’d ever seen to herself in a book!) Is that an identity you might explore more in future books?

I get a lot of messages about this narrator from people who see themselves in him: asexual readers, aromantic readers, and autistic readers. I think his realization that he’s aromantic asexual is textually explicit enough that acearo readers will recognize that arc, and I’ve seen that response. Still, in retrospect I wish it were on the page, as well as his identity as an autistic boy. I do plan to keep writing characters of all sexualities; I would be very surprised if I didn’t write another acearo character.

You’re not only an author, you’re also a musician. How do you find those two passions intersect, and where can your readers also find your music?

This is true! I do the musics! Folks can find my singer/songwriter stuff at my Bandcamp, and for giggles, here’s me singing with my college a cappella group, the Owl Creeks. I’m also writing a soundtrack for Noteworthy!

I did music long before writing. I’m a classically trained pianist of 19 years (whose training is quickly atrophying now that I don’t have a piano where I live, alas). I’ve also sung in musical theater, choir, & a cappella since high school. Music certainly informs my sense of rhythm when it comes to writing, and…well, honestly, writing prose makes songwriting feel simple and relaxing, because songwriting doesn’t quite have to make sense. My favorite songs don’t quite cohere, lyrically; they make these intricate soundscapes where the tone and style of the music define how you feel upon listening rather than the words. Bon Iver is really good at this in particular, but I’m also thinking about pop music, which I think – when the formula’s executed to perfection – is unparalleled for conveying the emotion of yearning, whether or not the lyrics are, uh, questionable. This is why I will defend to the death the Chainsmokers’ seminal work, “Closer.”

Obviously you’re not new to the world of a capella, either. What are your favorite covers, and what are you still dying to see done?

Oh Lord how do I pick. Okay. My all-time favorite covers are “We Found Love” by Voices in Your Head at UChicago, “Honeymoon Avenue” and “What Now” by the Nor’Easters, and “Move” by the Sons of Pitches. Runner-ups are “Domino” by the Duke’s Men, “Tightrope” by the SoCal VoCals, and—I don’t care if they’re mainstream, lmao, they’re incredible—Pentatonix’s “Dog Days Are Over.”

I’m still waiting for that perfect arrangement of Taylor Swift’s “Style.” And will someone please do a mashup of CeeLo Green’s “F*ck You” and Meghan Trainor’s “Lips Are Movin'” already? Like, good Lord, I’ll do it myself if this doesn’t happen soon. Yes that is a threat.

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

In high school, I read Will Grayson, Will Grayson. What stuck with me is Tiny Cooper’s embodiment of archetypically gay characteristics in a way that’s uniquely his own. I feel as if there’s a tendency to write, specifically, gay male characters as cleaving away from typically feminine characteristics, ostensibly to steer clear of stereotyping. But this ends up excluding gay men who are more feminine. Tiny was notable to me in that he reminded me that queer people present themselves the way they do for all sorts of reasons, all equally interesting to examine.

My current favorite authorly pastime is mentally creating anthologies, since YA seems to be springing up with great ones everywhere. If you were helming one, what would you love the subject to be, and who would be among your dream contributors?

SCIENCE FANTASY ANTHOLOGY PLEASE. Oh my God. My favorite genre. Just anything science fantasy. Dream contributors would include: Emily Skrutskie, because we’ve talked about this before; Heidi Heilig, because her brain is beautiful; Leigh Bardugo, because I’m a massive Bardugo fangirl please keep this a closely guarded secret; and Zadie Smith, because look, I know she’s not a YA writer, but I think if she wrote a science fantasy story I would just read it and then drop dead on the spot.

Any chance you can share about what you’re working on now?

Yep! Currently working on my 2018 release. It’s about a girl named Laila who’s a creative writer. (Real stretch there.) Near the end of high school, Laila’s kind, supportive creative writing teacher is replaced with a viciously critical, perpetually unimpressed Pulitzer Prize winner who believes one must suffer to make great art. Laila becomes obsessed with gaining this woman’s approval, and begins walking that ever-fascinating line between sanity and the pursuit of perfection.

I’m also working on this massive four-book epic fantasy project, which I occasionally weep about on Twitter, mostly accompanied with prophecies of my own impending stress-related death. Cheers!

*****

Riley Redgate graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in Economics. Her seven-deadly-sins-themed first novel, Seven Ways We Lie, was released last year. Her next, Noteworthy, will be released May 2nd. She currently lives in Brooklyn and wears a lot of gray, and drafts theories on why these two things so often coincide, statistically.

Riley’s Books for Purchase