Happy new year! We’re thrilled to be kicking off 2020 with none other than Tara Sim, author of the Timekeeper series and the brand-new series opener Scavenge the Stars, which releases on January 7! Clearly, she’s someone fans of queer fantasy have got to know, so please give her a warm welcome to LGBTQReads!
Congrats on the new release! Scavenge the Stars is built around the ultimate revenge fantasy, which is just so much fun. What was your favorite part of it to right, and what was way harder than people would imagine?
Thank you! I think my favorite part to write was any situation in which Cayo was utterly useless. There’s a chapter toward the end of the book where he does something kinda stupid (I won’t spoil it, of course) and that was honestly my favorite chapter to write out of the whole book.
The thing that was hardest to write was anything involving money laundering. I know how a character should stab another in ten different fatal ways, but that was the thing that tripped me up most.
Queerness is part of Scavenge the Stars for both main characters in very different ways. Could you share a little about both Amaya and Cayo’s identities and writing them in the context of your world?
Writing queerness in fantasy books is always a little difficult when it comes to terminology, because you don’t want to throw the reader out of the setting. That being said, I wanted a world where homophobia just never came up/wasn’t an issue, so there are nonbinary and trans folks who can present however they want to without fear.
I wrote Amaya as demisexual, partly because it reflected my desire to see more demi main characters and partly because it just felt right for her. She doesn’t feel attraction for people right away; she needs time to break down her barriers and to work toward trusting the person first. On the flipside, Cayo is bisexual and not discreet about it at all. I wanted to write a character who knew how to flirt and be charming without playing into harmful bisexual tropes.
Of course, you have an entire queer fantasy series already under your belt. For those who might just be getting to know you through your new book, can you fill people in on the world of Timekeeper?
Timekeeper is my debut trilogy about an alternate Victorian world where clock towers literally control time. If a tower breaks or runs faulty, time does too. Enter Danny, my grumpy Ravenclaw gay clock mechanic, who gets assigned to an out-of-the-way clock tower only to discover a cheerful sunshine boy who has an even more curious connection to time than he does. Shenanigans and explosions ensue.
Even people who are well aware of your novels might not be aware that you have another queer story out this year, which is pretty badass! What inspired your story in Color Outside the Lines and how did you find writing short fiction compared to full-length novels?
Just another step in taking over the world, obviously.
My story in Color Outside the Lines is an f/f retelling of Hades and Persephone, which is a story I’ve wanted to tell for a long time, so I’m not entirely sure where the initial inspiration came from. Loving Greek myth, I suppose. Writing short fiction, to me, is much harder than writing long form! I tend to ramble and have chatty characters, so confining myself to just 7,000 words was a challenge.
Writing Desi identity has been a part of all your work to this point, though it takes different forms. Could you share a little about that and how your background bleeds into your work?
I’m half Indian but white passing, which has led to a lot of complicated thoughts and feelings about my identity over the years. For the longest time I was afraid to write desi characters or anything with the aesthetic because I worried people would think I had no business doing so, or that my own experience within my culture wasn’t enough.
Writing Chainbreaker, the second book in my Timekeeper trilogy, was the first time I wrote Indian characters–and wrote about India itself, for that matter. One of the main characters, Daphne, is half Indian and white passing like myself, and I poured a lot of my own turmoil into her arc.That was a doorway opening for me, making me braver in exploring my identity and how I could portray it in different ways on the page.
In Scavenge the Stars, it’s a secondary world, but Amaya’s father comes from a country I modeled after India, and most of her knowledge of that country comes from her father’s stories. In my short story in Color Outside the Lines, Persephone is called Parvani, and she comes from an India-esque kingdom suffering under a harsh ruler. I really enjoy exploring different ways for characters to interact with their identities, whether it’s diaspora or national pride.
What’s the first LGBTQIAP+ representation you recall coming across in media, for better or for worse?
You know, I think it might have been fanfiction. But in terms of mainstream media, I can’t fully recall my first instance–my memory is awful–but I do remember being impacted by Brokeback Mountain when the movie came out. I saw it in theaters and it felt like a sucker punch. Looking at the movie now just makes me sigh, but back then it meant a lot, even if I didn’t completely understand why.
As queer fantasy seems to be on the rise, what are some titles you’ve loved and some you’re especially looking forward to?
Some queer SFF I’ve loved recently are Gideon the Ninth, Wilder Girls, Crier’s War, The Never Tilting World, and Reverie. Some upcoming titles I’m excited for are Bonds of Brass (already read it but it’s great), Infinity Son, Burn Our Bodies Down, and The Unspoken Name (again, already read it but it’s great!).
What’s up next for you?
Something really cool that I can’t talk about yet (gah), as well as working on Scavenge’s sequel. Also, keep an eye out for more short stories from me in the upcoming anthologies Out Now: Queer We Go Again and WNDB’s Fantastic Worlds.
Tara Sim is the author of SCAVENGE THE STARS (Disney-Hyperion, 2020) and the Timekeeper trilogy who can typically be found wandering the wilds of the Bay Area, California. When she’s not chasing cats or lurking in bookstores, she writes books about magic, murder, and explosions. Follow her on Twitter at @EachStarAWorld, and check out her website for fun extras at tarasim.com.