With her third book on the horizon (Going Off Script releases May 22nd!), Jen Wilde has quickly become one of my favorite YA authors to read and recommend. She’s always a reliable summer read with heaping doses of warmth and queerness, and this year is no exception! She’s here to share a little more about her upcoming book, publishing f/f, and the golden age of television. Please welcome Jen Wilde!
First things first, let’s talk about your newest book! Going Off Script is your freaking adorable and super-current upcoming release about a lesbian named Bex who’s still kind of in her coming out process as she joins a writer’s room and has her work not just stolen by straightwashed. This feels like a book that had some strong inspiration; can you talk a little about that?
It definitely had some strong inspiration. I tend to channel a lot of my anger into my writing, and at the time I was working on Going Off Script, I was pissed about how many queer characters were being killed off on popular television shows. Spoiler warning for anyone who hasn’t seen Supernatural, but Charlie’s death is what really set this story into motion for me. And of course, the #BuryYourGays movement inspired much of this book. I wanted to write a character who launches her own version of the movement from inside the industry.
While it’s only a quick mention in the book, there’s the suggestion that Bex will somewhere along the line progress into questioning her gender identity as well, and I loved the way that was done; it felt true to me that figuring out who we are, especially in adolescence, is a multi-phase process. Who is Bex to you, and who do you think she’d be in a sequel set a few years down the line?
Bex is still learning about herself and who she is. She’s figuring out that certain clothes make her feel more herself, more comfortable in her own skin, but right now that’s as far as she’s thought about it. Exploring your gender identity really is a journey, and at the moment she’s still in the early stages of it. It feels true to me, as someone who’s own gender identity exploration began with clothes and how I expressed myself through fashion. I see a future for Bex where she’s identifying as a non-binary femme, and THRIVING. I picture her at red carpet events rocking floral suits and looking badass!
Pop culture obviously plays a huge role in your work, from social media to music to television. What are your favorites in the arenas you explore in your work?
We are in the Golden Age of Television right now, and I am loving it! My list of favorite shows is constantly being updated almost as fast as streaming services add new content. Right now I’m loving Special, Dead to Me, Brooklyn 99, The Bold Type, and Big Little Lies. But I’m also a huge fan of reality TV, especially Bravo shows like Real Housewives. Oh, and Game of Thrones, of course!
You’ve very quickly become one of the most prolific authors of feel-good queer YA, which is no small feat, especially since when Queens of Geek released in early 2017, there wasn’t nearly as much lighter f/f fare as there is now just a couple of years later. What’s the experience been like for you as one of the first authors to break out in this specific way?
Wow, thank you so much for saying that! What a huge compliment. Personally, I’m just so damn excited to see more f/f books coming out – not only as a writer but as a reader! While there’s still a ways to go, it gives me hope to think about how far we’ve come in just a few years. But it’s important to acknowledge the writers who inspired and paved the way for all of us. Authors like Nancy Garden, Nina LaCour (Everything Leads To You has a special place in my heart and is one of the reasons I started focusing primarily on writing f/f), Jacqueline Woodson, Malinda Lo and of course, YOU, Dahlia! (Blogger’s Note: *blush*)
Oooh, good question! Fellow author Mike Jung described my work as a “pop culture funhouse” and I love it, so I would definitely pitch Queens of Geek as that. As for The Brightsiders, I’d pitch it as an epic rockstar romance filled with paparazzi scandals and the best group of friends anyone could ask for.
You’ve shared quite the personal queer journey online in these past few years. As someone who also uses the internet very centrally in her books, what do you see as the role of social media in queer life and in queer art?
I’m pretty open about my life online (maybe too open? *shrug*). But I believe there is strength in being vulnerable. It’s the fastest way to realise that you’re not alone, that there are others going through similar challenges, and maybe together you can make it through. I think social media has been both a sanctuary and a hellhole for queer life and art. On the upside, it has allowed people to find a sense of community, friends and even family – the kind they might never have found in the real world. On the downside, hate and bigotry have also found a home online, and sometimes it feels like it can drown out all the good. But I try to focus on the upside – or at least use the hate as fuel to keep fighting and writing my anger into my work.
What’s the first memory of LGBTQIAP+ representation in media you recall experiencing, for better or for worse?
The first memory that comes to mind was when Ellen came out as gay on her sitcom. I was young so I don’t remember much, but what stayed with me was the initial excitement and conversation in the media leading up to that monumental episode. I remember the magazine covers, the interview with Oprah, the huge build up…and then it getting cancelled shortly after it aired. The message that sent to me as a kid was coming out = rejection. I’m sure there’s a whole generation of queer folx who can relate to that!
Any recent or upcoming queer books you’d like to recommend, or that you’re particularly excited about?
Oh god, there are so many amazing queer books blessing us this year. I’m so freaking excited! A few on my radar are If It Makes You Happy, by Claire Kann, These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling, and Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston.
What’s up next for you?
I’m currently working on ideas for my fourth (!!!) book, and I can’t wait to share it with everyone once it’s ready!
Jen Wilde is the YA author of QUEENS OF GEEK, THE BRIGHTSIDERS and GOING OFF SCRIPT. She writes unapologetically queer stories about geeks, rockstars, and fangirls who smash the patriarchy in their own unique ways. Her books have been praised in Teen Vogue, Buzzfeed, Autostraddle, Vulture and Bustle. Originally from Australia, Jen now lives in NYC where she spends her time writing, drinking too much coffee and binging reality TV. Follow her online @jenmariewilde.