Tag Archives: YA

Inside an Anthology: His Hideous Heart ed. by Dahlia Adler

Well, this is a pretty exciting post for me, considering I’m the editor of this particular anthology! Getting to see different takes on Poe was fun in itself, but getting to see half the collection come back with queer protagonists? Now, that was utterly delightful. I asked the authors of those stories to share a little bit about them, so come check it out!

Edgar Allan Poe may be a hundred and fifty years beyond this world, but the themes of his beloved works have much in common with modern young adult fiction. Whether the stories are familiar to readers or discovered for the first time, readers will revel in Edgar Allan Poe’s classic tales, and how they’ve been brought to life in 13 unique and unforgettable ways.

Contributors include Dahlia Adler (reimagining “Ligeia”), Kendare Blake ( “Metzengerstein”), Rin Chupeco (“The Murders in the Rue Morge”), Lamar Giles (“The Oval Portrait”), Tessa Gratton (“Annabel Lee”), Tiffany D. Jackson (“The Cask of Amontillado”), Stephanie Kuehn (“The Tell-Tale Heart”), Emily Lloyd-Jones (“The Purloined Letter”), Hillary Monahan (“The Masque of the Red Death”), Marieke Nijkamp (“Hop-Frog”), Caleb Roehrig (“The Pit and the Pendulum”), and Fran Wilde (“The Fall of the House of Usher”).

Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | Apple Books | Book Depository

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Tessa Gratton, “Night-Tide”, a retelling of “Annabel Lee”

“Annabel Lee” is one of the poems that used to get stuck in my head when I was a kid. Something about the rhythm, the longing, and the weird imagery—not to mention morbid aesthetic—spoke to thirteen year old Tessa. I used to recite it to myself in a sing-song way, letting the imagery wash over me. When I set out to write a short story inspired by it, I knew I needed a story with a refrain, and that it needed to be filled with longing and angst, and the anger I felt as a kid when adults pretended they knew better than me what I was feeling. It wasn’t until I was a few pages into writing that it occurred to me I never actively decided to make “Night-Tide” about girls in love with each other—because, to me, the poem always had been about emo teenaged lesbians. 

“Annabel-Lee” is so unapologetically passionate, and as a poem it’s unashamed of its melodramatic nature. When I was a teen I was passionate and melodramatic, but I knew shame, because the world had already taught me what I was and was not allowed to love and desire. That makes me angry, and as an adult I see more shades of anger in “Annabel-Lee” than I noticed as a teen. It’s all woven into my story “Night-Tide,” which I hope inspires passion and drama and, yes, anger, in readers. Because love is so messy, and queer people deserve the space to embrace melodrama, anger, and to confront shame. We deserve the chance to take risks as we discover and decide who we are and want to be. 

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Caleb Roehrig, “The Glittering Death,” a retelling of “The Pit and the Pendulum”

With a cast of one, “The Pit and the Pendulum” is one of Poe’s simplest narratives: an anonymous man, alone in a dungeon, tries to evade a series of inventive death traps set by the Spanish Inquisition. The sexuality of the prisoner is irrelevant to the story—and, in my opinion, that was the perfect reason to queer the character in my adaptation of it. Laura Bonelli, the central figure of “The Glittering Death,” is questioning. (Possibly bi, though she’s not sure yet.) This fact has nothing to do with how she ends up in the clutches of a villain who calls himself the Judge; it has nothing to do with the dangers she faces, or how the story eventually concludes; but it has something to do with who she is. It’s her identity, and would still be if the story was about a driving lesson, a graduation party, or a first kiss.

I balk at saying a protagonist “just happens to be queer,” because nothing about identity can be reduced to pure happenstance; but there’s power in bringing casual visibility to identity—especially when the character in question is the one to whom it matters most.

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Rin Chupeco, “The Murders at the Rue Apartelle, Boracay,” a retelling of “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”

“The Murders at the Rue Apartelle, Boracay” is the story of Ogie Dupin, a Filipino-French amateur detective investigating a strange murder set in a supernatural island getaway. In keeping with the original Poe story, it’s told by an unnamed narrator, this time a young trans girl. “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” is not an easy story to retell – I had to write a locked room mystery believable enough for Ogie’s deductions to make sense, and yet complex enough to keep people guessing at the solution till the end. But more than that, I also wanted to write my trans narrator in a way that would give her just as much agency as Ogie, in stark contrast to how these detective stories are often written. It’s difficult to find the right balance, showing off her own intelligence without taking away from Ogie’s skills and the murder mystery, but I think I was able to pull it off!

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Marieke Nijkamp, “Changeling,” a retelling of “Hop-Frog”

“Hop-Frog” is, in its essence, a story about monsters. About who gets to be human and who is considered a monstrosity. About how we can be monstrous in our humanity–or our inhumanity. It’s a story about disability, too. Historically those two–disability and monster narratives–intersect quite often. (After all, every changeling story is a disability story at heart.) So when I brainstormed reimagining Hop-Frog I knew I wanted to include both those elements. I wanted to center it on disabled characters, my two queer, broken girls who are both looking for revenge—or perhaps belonging. I wanted to throw in an element of historicity (which Poe alludes but never quite commits to). And I wanted to play with monsters. I’ll just leave it up to you to decide who the monsters are: the fae, the unseelie folk, or the humans?

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Emily Lloyd-Jones, “A Drop of Stolen Ink,” a retelling of “The Purloined Letter”

“A Drop of Stolen Ink” came about the way so many of my stories do: with a weird sequence of events. I was at work, thinking about Poe because the always-lovely Dahlia had mentioned how awesome it would be to rewrite those tales for a modern audience. (I believe I responded with, “OH PLEASE PLEASE LET ME DO THE PURLOINED LETTER.”) I’ve always adored mysteries – and Poe created the detective archetype with his character of C. Auguste Dupin.

And then I reached beneath a cash register scanner. Which would have been fine and normal – up until the scanner beeped and brought up a number on the computer. I made a joke about someone equipping my arm with a barcode and then my brain immediately jumped on the possibilities.

I adored working on this short story because it’s about how much of ourselves we share with the world. There are some characters’ names who are never revealed and others who put all of themselves out there. It’s about identities, both stolen and reclaimed. And I also just wanted to write an adorable budding f/f romance set in a cyberpunk near-future world, I’ll admit it. I’m really excited to share this story with both new and old readers of Poe.

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Dahlia Adler, “Lygia,” a retelling of “Ligeia”

People ask me how I chose to retell “Ligeia” in particular, and the truth is that it basically chose me. I don’t share the horror/thriller strengths of my co-authors here, and I knew that whatever I did was going to have a sort of romantic contemporary sensibility, just a lot more Gothic and tragic than my usual.

“Ligeia” is a story about a man who loses his first wife to illness and remarries, but never quite finds that same love for his second wife before losing her to illness as well. The second wife, however, is the one who returns from the dead…but she returns as his first wife, Ligeia.

Knowing I didn’t want to go paranormal, I knew this was going to be a story about turning a new girlfriend into an old one, trying to revive something that couldn’t be revived and going to mad, toxic lengths to do it. It’s a story that requires praying on insecurities in a way teenage girls have truly mastered, a story I knew would thrive on a specifically female main character. Add that to the perennial queer problem of never quite being sure when your next possibility can or will come along in an area where so few people are out, making the narrator’s loss all the more dramatic and her new venture feel all the more necessary, and you have so many of the components that created “Lygia.”

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How “In the Way of All Flesh” Got Gay: Death, Desire and Self Discovery

Please welcome Caitlin Alise Donovan to the site today to talk about In the Way of All Flesh, a paranormal f/f YA releasing on September 1, and how a book that didn’t begin queer sure ended up that way! First up, here’s a little more on the book:

donovanbookGloomy teenager Manee Srikwan wears long sleeves and keeps her hands to herself for a good reason–whenever she touches a person for the first time, she sees a vision of how they will die. Manee’s weird powers cause those around her nothing but misery and she’s long resigned herself to a life of loneliness. But her vivacious classmate, Stephanie Pierce, changes all that. She smashes through every wall Manee puts up and overturns every expectation. Much to Manee’s shock, Stephanie believes her about her powers. What’s more, she insists they can stop the deaths Manee sees from happening. When the two of them are together, it feels like they can do anything.

As the girls grow closer, Manee’s feelings for Stephanie blossom into love. She yearns to be more intimate but is anxious about breaking her all-important “hands-off ” rule. When she finally gives in to temptation, she sees a terrifying future where Stephanie is murdered—and Manee is her killer! Now Manee has a choice to make—will she fight this fate or let it rule her?

Buy It: RegalCrest

And here’s the post by author Caitlin Alise Donovan!

When talking about my book, In the Way of All Flesh, it often gives me a start to recall this was not originally a love story. Queer desire is the beating heart of the narrative and I can’t imagine the book without it, yet that story does exist. Its unfinished and clumsily scribbled in a beat-up journal, but it’s out there somewhere. A part of me longs to lay eyes on this strange, hollow shell of a story, but it’s unlikely I ever will. I wrote that draft when I was in high school, more than a decade ago. That scrappy little journal is lost to the ages.

When I look at things I wrote when I was younger, it jumps out to me that I always told queer stories. My stories were always centered on relationships between women and the token boyfriend for the protagonist was perfunctory at best. So when I got the idea “what if someone could see people’s future deaths and saw they would kill someone they loved?” I just automatically defaulted to the main character being a girl and her loved one being her female “best friend”. I would never for a second have thought to make her loved one a guy.

It never occurred to me to examine why I was so interested in writing intense relationships between women. It never occurred to me to make these characters anything but “best friends”. I was very removed from my own queerness and queerness in general in high school. If you had asked me about “gay subtext” in my stories back then, I would have goggled at you in confusion.

I revisited the idea for In the Way of All Flesh in college years later. By then, I had started to question my orientation and gotten more involved with the queer community. Now I looked at this story of a girl and her best friend and saw something I hadn’t before.

The relationship between the two girls, now called Stephanie and Manee, is intense and fraught. The main conflict of the story is that Manee can’t touch her friend for fear of seeing a gruesome vision of her death. And looking at this, I realized: Stephanie and Manee are obviously in love, aren’t they?

It blew my mind how much this simple idea improved the story; how much everything make sense now. I mean, doesn’t being in love make not being able to touch Stephanie way harder for Manee? Isn’t that more of a conflict, doesn’t her yearning make more sense that way? It was a very “duh” moment, this obviously always needed to be an element in a story, it was the story. You don’t really agonize over not being to touch a “friend”! But I didn’t see this at all when I was fourteen. That’s what heteronormativity will do to you. I’m glad I grew out of it.

Beta readers pointed out to me that there’s also a lot of queer subtext in the fantastical premise. Manee’s issues with physicality and her terror at the thought of touching the girl she loves parallel a young queer woman’s struggle with her sexuality. And even though I didn’t do it consciously, there’s lots of queer anxiety wrapped into the dramatic hook of the story.  After all, isn’t the idea that entering a queer relationship is a death sentence (or at the very least a ticket to unhappiness) deeply ingrained in our media and culture? There’s entire lists dedicated to keeping track of all the gratuitous lesbian deaths in media. And Manee finds out a nebulous fate has decreed she’ll literally deliver death to the girl she loves if she crosses that line into a physical relationship. Can she fight that? That’s the question that drives the whole narrative.

It’s wild how this was clearly a queer story from the very beginning, but it took years for that to emerge. And once it did, so many things about the story made sense, retroactively.

But, hey, I guess you could say the same thing about the story’s author.

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Caitlin Alise Donovan is a writer, teacher, blogger, poet and, above all, a huge geek for fiction (especially fantasy). Her dream of being an author began in the third grade when she started scribbling down stories about twin detectives and murderous ghosts in stray notebooks. Her passion only grew with age. Now she has a MFA in writing from Queens University in Charlotte and she has been published in several literary journals, including The Great Smokies Review. She has written professionally about fantasy, sci-fi and pop culture for several online companies, such as Epicstream. 

When not creating novels, Caitlin works as an online ESL teacher and does freelance writing through her Patreon. She currently resides in North Carolina with her trouble-making cat.

Website: caitlinalisedonovan.com E-mail: caitlinalisedonovan@gmail.com

 

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Ghosting You by Alexander C. Eberhart

Today on the site we’re welcoming back Alexander C. Eberhart, this time to reveal the cover for Ghosting You, his contemporary gay YA releasing from 7 Sisters Publishing on November 5, 2019! Check it out:

Tommy hears dead people. Okay, one dead person. His best friend, Chase. Since his death, Tommy can’t stop hearing his voice. They talk every day and Tommy even sends him texts, but it always ends the same. Message failed to send. Until one day, a stranger texts back.

Getting stuck in nowhere Georgia was not on Nick’s summer agenda, but a horoscope, a chance encounter, and a cute boy has things looking up. There’s just one problem, the boy hates him. When a broken phone leaves him with a new number, Nick is ready to write off the entire summer as a loss. But then he receives a strange text.

When Tommy and Nick’s worlds collide, the attraction is instant, but Tommy just can’t let Chase go. Can Nick use his status as Tommy’s anonymous stranger to break down his defenses or is Nick destined to live in a love triangle with a ghost?

And here’s the fabulous cover, designed by Molly Phipps!

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Pre-order: Amazon

unnamedAlexander C. Eberhart grew up in the Metro Atlanta Area his entire life, moving from suburb to suburb, just on the outskirts of the city. He’s always had a passion for writing, even from a young age. He still lives on the cusp of Atlanta, inching his way ever closer to finally becoming the City Dweller he’s always wanted to be.

In the meantime, he spends his days writing stories with queer characters and drinking an unfathomable amount of coffee. When he isn’t crafting quality queer fiction, you can find Alexander most likely curled up alongside his boyfriend, watching a movie or another equally lazy task.

Fave Five: YA with Queer College Student MCs

Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin

Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson

Love and Other Carnivorous Plants by Florence Gonsalves

By Any Means Necessary by Candice Montgomery

Bonus: In Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater, the LI is in college and chapters of the book are set there.

New Release Spotlight: Let’s Call it a Doomsday by Katie Henry

Picking a spotlight book every month, when so much greatness keeps coming out, is a challenge, but every now and again I stumble upon a book I hadn’t even known was queer and am so completely walloped by it that I need to spread the gospel ASAP. There’s no pun intended, as this is in fact another one of YA’s rare “reliqueer” titles, i.e. books that explore the intersection of queerness and religion. In this case, Mormon Ellis is questioning whether she’s bisexual, and the way religion, questioning, sexuality, love, and mental health all come together in this sophomore novel, Let’s Call it a Doomsday by Katie Henry, just knocked me off my feet. If you’ve been seeking such a thing, I hope it does the same for you!

Let’s Call It A Doomsday by Katie Henry

There are many ways the world could end. A fire. A catastrophic flood. A super eruption that spews lakes of lava. Ellis Kimball has made note of all possible scenarios, and she is prepared for each one.

What she doesn’t expect is meeting Hannah Marks in her therapist’s waiting room. Hannah calls their meeting fate. After all, Ellis is scared about the end of the world; Hannah knows when it’s going to happen.

Despite Ellis’s anxiety—about what others think of her, about what she’s doing wrong, about the safety of her loved ones—the two girls become friends. But time is ticking down, and as Ellis tries to help Hannah decipher the details of her doomsday premonition, their search for answers only raises more questions.

When does it happen? Who will believe them? And how do you prepare for the end of the world when it feels like your life is just getting started?

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

Why Oscar Wilde, or: How Oscar Returned To My Life and Helped Me Write My First YA Novel, a Guest Post by R. Zimora Linmark

It’s tough to be a fan of queer lit or queer anything, really, and not admire the late, great Oscar Wilde. Today on the site I’m excited to introduce YA debut R. Zamora Linmark, who wrote an entire book based in that admiration, which releases today! Check out how Oscar Wilde influenced not just the main character of this novel, but the author himself, right after you check out The Importance of Being Wilde at Heart!

hi-res The Importance of Being Wilde at HeartWords have always been more than enough for Ken Z, but when he meets Ran at the mall food court, everything changes. Beautiful, mysterious Ran opens the door to a number of firsts for Ken: first kiss, first love. But as quickly as he enters Ken’s life, Ran disappears, and Ken Z is left wondering: Why love at all, if this is where it leads?

Letting it end there would be tragic. So, with the help of his best friends, the comfort of his haikus and lists, and even strange, surreal appearances by his hero, Oscar Wilde, Ken will find that love is worth more than the price of heartbreak.

Buy it:  Amazon | B&N| Indiebound

And here’s the guest post! (tw: suicide, bullying, abuse)

After reading The Picture of Dorian Gray in Mrs. Pang’s British Literature class, my admiration for the inimitable Oscar was cemented, earning him (and Dorian Gray) a in my growing altar of heroes, alongside The Smiths, David Bowie, Judy Blume, Donna Summer, and Holden Caulfield. I remember going to school, toting Oscar’s scandalous novel as if it were a sacred text. Dorian Gray was my new god dressed in a bowler’s hat and tweed suits. He was hip, devilish—a hedonist who made the seven deadly sins sexy. He flirted with danger, was a disciple of both male and female beauty, and sought pleasures to its murderous ends. I was a high school senior in Hawaii at the time. The year was 1986. My two friends and I sported punk/New Wave haircuts. We were a trio of anarchists-in-progress, “non-conformists”, as one of our teachers dubbed us because we spoke our minds and dared to be ourselves. One friend wore safety pins for earrings. Another had an Annabella-Lwin Bow-Wow-Wow-inspired mohawk, while I had bangs long enough to shield me from the hostile eyes of the world. We went to school dressed up like mods from 1950s or psychedelic hippies from the 60s, our wardrobe courtesy of Mother Rice, Goodwill, and Salvation Army thrift stores. We put on clothes that, to borrow Oscar Wilde’s term, were tailored for “bunburyists”—adventurous rebels who dressed up with impeccable style as themselves – or their alter egos. We listened to The Cure, Sex Pistols, The Cramps, Violent Femmes, The Smiths, Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil, and Dead Can Dance, punk and New Wave bands who sang of doom and anarchy, love and disaster, death and loneliness. This was the decade when everyone either identified as “bi” or was soon-to-be, for it was the safest and closest to coming out. A guy could make out with as many guys as he wanted to, so long as he was open to the possibility of one day making out with the opposite sex.

Across the Boulevard of Rebel Hearts were morality-driven censors and conservatives like Mrs. Pang, who had purposefully left out Oscar’s magnetic and, at times, scandalous personality that made him larger than Art. Thank god I had friends and club-dancing partners like Shirley who worked as a bookseller at Jelly’s Comics & Records—the hippest and coolest store in Hawaii. She was the one who filled me in on the intrigue-ridden life of the dandy playwright known for his witty sayings as much as for his comedies; quoting him became a trend among the artsy-fartsy wannabe’s, like wearing trench coat in a ninety-degree weather. From Shirley, I also learned that Oscar was married with two sons. That he had carried on a volatile relationship with a younger man, the handsome Lord Alfred Douglas, a.k.a. “Bosie.” That he was persecuted and imprisoned for engaging in sexual acts with other men. His personal history was enough to pique my curiosity, for prior to Oscar, I didn’t know any writers who were gay, famous or not. It was very comforting, mind-blowing, that there existed a writer who was highly visible and very vocal about his love for the same sex. I wasn’t so alone anymore. I had someone to read—a role model to look up to, if not emulate. It gave me a feeling of security and self-affirmation akin to a few years later, when I first got my hands on Dangerous Music, a collection of prose and poetry by Jessica Hagedorn who, like myself, was from the Philippines and migrated to the United States in her teens. It was very empowering and inspiring: to know that there were writers from my immediate community who were only a library or a bookstore away. Reading them was like reuniting with long-lost friends, comrades, extended family members.

After The Picture of Dorian Gray, I read Oscar’s masterpiece “The Importance of Being Earnest.” Then his fairy tales. Then The Wit and Wisdom of Oscar Wilde. As a graduation gift, Shirley gave me an Oscar Wilde journal with a cover of Oscar wearing his trademark accessory: a green carnation in his buttonhole coat; below his headshot was one of his gazillion immortal quotes: “I have nothing to declare except my genius.” I even wore an Oscar T-shirt, a gift from a friend who’d purchased it during a family vacation to Chicago. I wore that shirt as if I was wearing a work of Art. I wore it until Oscar’s face faded and the collar, stretched. It was my sartorial way of coming out.

In 1988, when I was a junior at the University of Hawaii, majoring in Lit and Creative Writing, Richard Ellman’s much-awaited biography of Oscar was published. I lugged that doorstopper around campus as if I had all the time in the world to read a 700-page book, in addition to Milton’s Paradise Lost and James Joyce’s Ulysses. I never got a chance to read it in its entirety; I think I went as far as the first hundred pages because I was too busy preparing an itinerary for my next uncertain life.

Fast Forward to 2010.

I picked up Ellman’s biography again. This time, I was determined to read it from cover to cover. I placed myself under self-imposed house arrest. Reading it renewed my relationship with Oscar, and revived heartbreaking memories of my teenage years.

From Ellman’s extensively-researched biography, I uncovered more surprises about my Renaissance man and early literary hero. Oscar was not only a poet, playwright, and an essayist, but was also a leading member of an aesthetic movement that espoused an artificial, yet beautiful lifestyle. To Oscar and his cohort of elegantly-dressed dandies, life was already shallow and meaningless, so might as well be stylish and beautiful. A man of flamboyant taste in fashion, Oscar wore what he preached: “Be a work of art, or wear a work of art.” He was both. He was also a speed-reader who spewed wit at a lightning speed, wrote fairy tales, was chief editor of a women’s magazine, fought for prison reform, and traveled around the United States, delivering lectures, including to coal miners in Colorado where he gave a discourse on Italian Renaissance sculptor Cellini.

During his infamous trials, his wife and children fled the country to avoid public shaming and, shortly after Oscar’s conviction, had changed their name to “Holland.” Oscar was not afraid to defend himself and others who shared his love that “dared not speak its name.” And for this, he was vilified, ostracized, and persecuted by the very same people who lined up to see his plays and celebrated his brilliance. In the end, he was sentenced to prison to two years with hard labor, then, upon release, left for Paris where homosexuality was more tolerated. What I didn’t know until then was that Oscar was also a victim of bullying and multiple forms of abuse—from a classmate in Oxford, to Bosie’s father, to Bosie himself. Bosie’s father was so incensed by Oscar’s and Bosie’s relationship that he threatened to disown his son and publicly humiliated Oscar by calling him a “sodomite.” Oscar, at the insistence of Bosie, struck back, with a libel suit that quickly backfired. Forced to dismiss his suit, Oscar now had to defend himself not only from Bosie’s father but from a bloodthirsty public who wanted him convicted for “gross indecency.” Bosie, who had a temper as explosive as his father, abused Oscar. He constantly picked fights with Oscar, taunting him, tormenting him, when he was not spending Oscar’s money from royalties from his plays. I found it odd, however, that Oscar didn’t fight back, or ended the volatile relationship. He tried but he was too forgiving. Why? Why did a genius like Oscar who had everything—fame, fortune, a supportive family—allow someone to control, manipulate, and take him away from what he loved the most—his two sons and his writing? And even after he was released from prison, why did he, now an outcast in Paris, take Bosie back, as if two years in prison weren’t hell enough? Was it madness? Obsession? Despair? Questions like these gnawed at me. It forced me to re-evaluate my relationship with my role model. It made me rethink of my definition of a hero. Did it now mean separating the genius from the deeply-flawed man who tormented himself over love?

Around the same time that I was engrossed with Oscar’s larger-than-Art life, teens across America were committing suicides. Four of them took place in September, just days apart from each other. Racially different, these teens had one commonality: they were victims of bullying because they were gay, openly or closeted. Damn if you do, damn if you don’t. Two had hung themselves, one on the rafters of the family barn, the other from a tree branch. The third shot himself in the head, while the fourth jumped to his death off the George Washington Bridge. Of the four, three died instantly, but one hung on for ten days, on life support. Their ages ranged from thirteen to Freshmen in college. Unable to keep fighting, these lone warriors decided to end a struggle that once held meaning. Their tragic deaths made headline news, went viral on the Internet, played in a loop on CNN, grazed the cover of People magazine. CBS produced a special segment on bullying-related deaths; they were among the main features, which included an eleven-year-old who killed himself because he was bullied for being short. I was enraged, yet in awe of their guts. My heart broke. I felt hopeless, was helpless. I wanted to punch the world in the face. It brought me back to that time in the 80s when the AIDS virus was killing thousands of people, and boys my age who knew they were gay were so terrified to come out, to love ourselves and others, because of the stigma it bore, and the fear and anxiety that we were next in the toe tag line.

A year later—more teen suicides. One of them was Jamey Rodemeyer who, on September 18, 2011, had hung himself. An openly gay activist who fought homophobia via YouTube videos he helped thousands who, like him, were victims of bullying. He was a fan of Lady Gaga who paid tribute to him at her concerts. She called him her “little monster.” In his videos, he reassured his viewers that things would get better, so hang on—advice that he believed in and lived by, until the bullying got too unbearable. He was fourteen
years old. So what happens when you, as a role model for others, feel defeated? Where and who do you go to refuel and help you extend your faith in, and love for, yourself and others? What happens when love and hope are overpowered by hatred and cruelty?

Reading about a literary genius who was persecuted over a century ago, and the suicides of American kids simultaneously was no accident. It was a loud blast call to action. I had no choice but to let rage fuel the words. I knew right there and then that the only way to deal with the violence and hatred and unbearable sadness that were metastasizing across the country like stage-4 cancer was to write about it. A book for young adults. It would be my way of remembering and honoring them for their courage to look hatred in the eye because they dared to be themselves. It would also be my small offering of hope that, though the book might not save lives, it could, perhaps, delay the tragedy, lessen the pain. I had never written a book for young adults, or with a targeted audience in mind, for that matter. It was new, terrifying, even constricting (or what I thought of then as constricting). It would be like writing my very first book. And to an extent, it was. Like my first novel Rolling The R’s, it was an invitation to create and dare myself. And to double the dare: I chose a subject matter that courted clichés the most. It would be
about love. Love of sorts. Love between two boys. Love among outcasts who, tired of being alone and picked on, create their own trio-of-a-community where they do not need the approval of the majority because, in their small world, belonging is not defined by numbers but by that shared space where they can thrive as individuals, voice their differences while continuing to encourage and strengthen each other. To them, this is how empowerment begins. And in this small community of three outcasts, Oscar, their literary hero, would play a role in shaping their minds, dropping in on them as he used to drop into mine. What better hero, flaws and all, than this larger-than-Art figure to guide seventeen-year-olds through the rocky pathways of this difficult world? A man of endless wit who never stopped preaching about love, despite the hatred and cruelty of many who had wished him misfortune? A fantabulous individual who, tragic as the last chapter of his life was, believed until the very end that “The world had shut its gates, but the door of Love remains open”? Who else but the indomitable Oscar Wilde?

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R Zamora Linmark (Credit Desiree Solomon)R. Zamora Linmark is the author of The Importance of Being Wilde at Heart, his first novel for young adults from Delacorte/Random House. He has also published two novels, Rolling the R’s which he’d adapted for the stage, and Leche, as well as four poetry collections, most recently, Pop Vérité, all from Hanging Loose Press. He lives in Honolulu, Hawaii, and Baguio, Philippines.

Fave Five: M/M Romance Retellings

First Impressions by Christopher Koehler (Contemporary Pride and Prejudice)

The Secrets of Eden by Brandon Goode (Fantasy Cinderella)

The Uncrossing by Melissa Eastlake (Fantasy Rapunzel)

Peter Darling by Austin Chant (Fantasy Peter Pan)

Rabi and Matthew by L.A. Witt (Contemporary Romeo & Juliet)

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Better Know an Author: Julian Winters

I’m so thrilled to have Julian Winters back on the site today, this time as the guest of honor! You almost definitely already know him, given he’s become quite the darling of YA even before debuting with Running With Lions last year, thanks to his boundless enthusiasm for books and support for their authors, but now you can get to know him even better as we await the release of his sophomore novel on September 10, 2019, from Interlude Press! Come say hey to Julian Winters!

Congrats on the upcoming release of How to Be Remy Cameron! Please tell readers a little about it?

Thank you! How to Be Remy Cameron is coming of age story about an out-and-proud seventeen year-old-boy named Remy Cameron who’s always been comfortable with who he is. He’s president of his high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, has a very supportive family, and a diverse group of friends. When he’s assigned an essay in AP Literature about “Who Are You?” that will decide whether he makes it into his dream college, Remy’s forced to examine the labels associated with him and whether he truly knows who he is.

If you were sticking three post-it notes onto the cover to share your experience of writing it or your feelings on having it out in the world, what would they say?

“Be Yourself.” “Queer AF.” “Overjoyed.”

You, of course, debuted with Running With Lions, which is such a delightful mix of sports, romance, bi rep, and friendship, but is also pretty rare in being a male-authored queer YA rom-com. What was your path to publication like, and what’s response to the book been like? And, maybe more importantly, what’s your favorite soccer team?

My path to publication didn’t follow the traditional route. At the time I was writing Running With Lions, there weren’t many queer male authors being published in YA. I had one goal for Lions: to reach at least five queer teens who needed to know that they could be anything in life. But I didn’t see that kind of story being pushed in the major publishing houses—so I researched independent publishers and found Interlude Press. Independent presses provide the leverage needed to tell the story of your heart with all the support found in major publishing houses.

The responses to Lions have been overwhelming. From the bisexual teens who needed to see themselves on page more to the queer Muslim community who needed a character like Emir, it’s been incredible. It’s also been amazing to have so many athletes who didn’t have a queer YA sports book get so excited for this book. To know I’ve been able to give so many people a reason to smile, cry, or know they can accomplish things has blown me away.

As far as favorite soccer team, I’m a hardcore UCLA fan.

You’re also something of a pioneer in being a queer Black male author in YA, which we’ve discussed on the site before is one of the least heard voices in the category. In the time following this post, of course, there’s certainly been an increase (two of the contributors to this discussion have since landed book deals, as has Jay Coles, and I hope/imagine there are more I’m missing), but clearly there’s still a long way to go. Why do you think it’s still such rare representation, and what are some stories you’d still really like to see?

Oh, I remember reading that article and feeling so inspired! For once, I didn’t feel alone. It meant the world to me.

I’ve always wonder why there aren’t more queer Black male voices in publishing. Part of it is our intersectionality. We’re just beginning to get more Black voices in general out there. We’re still fighting to get more queer voices telling our stories out there. It’s almost an either/or situation where the intersectionality is erased in favor of one or the other. But there are so many talented queer Black male voices that need to be heard. We have so many stories to tell. I’m excited for Ryan Douglass and Kosoko Jackson to debut. I’m ready for more Jay Coles. I want us to have fantasy novels starring queer people of color. We need mysteries, horror, queer Black boys in space, romcoms. I’m ready for more Black male voices, period.

Speaking of stories! You’re a contributor to All Out Now, the upcoming all-queer YA anthology edited by Saundra Mitchell. What can you share about your contribution?

I’m so excited to be apart of All Out Now! My short story is one I rarely see but needed—a positive father/son coming out moment. It’s very special to me because it’s a Black father/son moment, which we rarely see because of the stigma within the Black community surrounding queerness. I won’t spoil everything but it’s a little bit romcom and a lot of heart.

What’s the first LGBTQIAP+ representation you remember seeing in media, for better or for worse

The character Hollywood in Mannequin. It’s kind of funny but also sad that I share this with Shaun David Hutchinson, who wrote about Hollywood in his YA memoir, Brave Face. In the ’80s, queer characters were painted two ways: either as a joke or as a tragic character. We weren’t taken seriously, we didn’t get happy endings, we fell in love with the wrong people, we died. I didn’t recognize that growing up because I was surrounded by a community that didn’t welcome LGBTQIA+ people. I was embarrassed by Hollywood, especially as a Black male terrified to come out. But he’s one of the reasons I write the stories I do. Because we deserve better.

You’re really getting into publishing as queer YA is wildly on the rise. What have been some recent favorites for you, and what are you so excited for coming up?

I have so many favorites, so this list isn’t complete but: Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan, Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram, The Disasters by M.K. England, Death Prefers Blondes by Caleb Roehrig, Brave Face by Shaun David Hutchinson, How (Not) to Ask a Boy to Prom by S.J. Goslee, The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan, I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver, Keep This To Yourself by Tom Ryan, Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian. And so many more!

I’m super excited for Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett, By Any Means Necessary by Candice Amanda, Surrender Your Sons by Adam Sass, Reverie by Ryan La Sala, Monster of the Week by F.T. Lukens, Ruinsong by Julia Ember, Red Skies Falling by Alex London, The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper, Infinity Son by Adam Silvera, The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar, Until You Come Back by Jay Coles, Yesterday Is History by Kosoko Jackson, Crier’s War by Nina Varela, Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas, We Are Totally Normal by Rahul Kanakia, Jake In a Box by Ryan Douglass… should I keep going?

It’s hard to miss, if you know any queer YA authors and go to their events, that you’ve certainly become a favorite human among them. What do you think makes for a great queer YA author community member/literary citizen?

Listen, be supportive, be kind, and hold the door open once you get in. I cannot stress the last one enough. As a queer author, our numbers are limited. It’s even smaller for queer POC. We must get past this mindset of only holding the door open for our inner circle/friends. This world is not built on the voices of select people. The publishing industry is not an Olive Garden on Mother’s Day. There are plenty of tables and seats for everyone! We can’t think that if we let someone else in, our spot will be taken from us. We can’t reserve seats for our friends. Every reader needs a book they can pick up and feel valid, understood, loved. They can’t find it in only one group of authors’ books. They need a variety. We must be willing to help each other so we can help them.

After Remy Cameron and All Out Now, what’s up next for you?

A nap! I have a short story in the Up All Night anthology, edited by Laura Silverman. There’s an unannounced project coming from Interlude Press. I just finished something that I’m really excited about but, of course, I can’t talk about it. I will say this: comic geeks, gamers, Pride, convention shenanigans, and Queer AF!

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Julian Winters is the best-selling author of contemporary young adult fiction. His debut, Running With Lions (Duet, 2018), won accolades for its positive depictions of diverse, relatable characters. A former management trainer, Julian currently lives outside of Atlanta where he can be found reading, being a self-proclaimed comic book geek, or watching the only two sports he can follow—volleyball and soccer. How to Be Remy Cameron is his second novel.

Fave Five: M/F YA with Bi Guy LIs

(These are books with allocishet female MCs and on-page bi male LIs)

Home and Away by Candice Montgomery (Contemporary)

This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura (Contemporary)

The Art of French Kissing by Brianna Shrum (Contemporary)

We Regret to Inform You by Ariel Kaplan (Contemporary)

The Art of Wishing by Lindsay Ribar (Paranormal)

Bonus: The Last Summer of the Garrett Girls by Jessica Spotswood (Contemporary) has four POVs, so it’s actually m/f with a bi guy LI and f/f.

Double Bonus: Technically, You Started It by Lana Wood Johnson (Contemporary) has a questioning demisexual MC and a bi guy LI

 

Fave Five: Books with Biromantic Asexual MCs

Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann (m/f YA Romance)

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan Maguire (Crossover Fantasy)

Belle Revolte by Linsey Miller (YA Fantasy)

Thaw by Elyse Springer (f/f Romance)

Beyond the Black Door by A.M. Strickland (YA Fantasy)

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