I am so excited to be revealing this utterly delightful cover for this utterly delightful book! The One True Me and You by Remi K. England (who you might also know as M.K. England, author of The Disasters and Spellhacker) is a contemporary YA Romance releasing from Wednesday Books on March 1, 2022! Here’s the story:
One small fandom convention. One teen beauty pageant. One meet cute waiting to happen.
Up and coming fanfic author Kaylee Beaumont is internally screaming at the chance to finally meet her fandom friends in real life and spend a weekend at GreatCon. She also has a side quest for the weekend:
Try out they/them pronouns to see how it feels
Wear more masculine-presenting cosplay
Kiss a girl for the first time
It’s… a lot, and Kay mostly wants to lie face down on the hotel floor. Especially when her hometown bully, Miss North Carolina, shows up in the very same hotel. But there’s this con-sponsored publishing contest, and the chance to meet her fandom idols… and then, there’s Teagan.
Pageant queen Teagan Miller (Miss Virginia) has her eye on the much-needed prize: the $25,000 scholarship awarded to the winner of the Miss Cosmic Teen USA pageant. She also has secrets:
She loves the dresses but hates the tiaras
She’s a giant nerd for everything GreatCon
She’s gay af
If Teagan can just keep herself wrapped up tight for one more weekend, she can claim the scholarship and go off to college out and proud. If she’s caught, she could lose everything she’s worked for. If her rival, Miss North Carolina, has anything to do with it, that’s exactly how it’ll go down.
When Teagan and Kay bump into one another the first night, sparks fly. Their connection is intense—as is their shared enemy. If they’re spotted, the safe space of the con will be shattered, and all their secrets will follow them home. The risks are great… but could the reward of embracing their true selves be worth it?
And here’s the absolutely adorable cover, designed by Olga Grlic and illustrated by Katie Smith!
Remi K. England grew up on the Space Coast of Florida watching shuttle launches from the backyard. These days, they call rural Virginia home, where there are many more cows but a tragic lack of rockets. In between marathon writing sessions, Remi can be found drowning in fandom, rolling critical hits at the gaming table, digging in the garden, or feeding their video game addiction. They probably love Star Wars more than you do.
Remi is the author of THE DISASTERS (2018), SPELLHACKER (2020), THE ONE TRUE ME & YOU (2022) and other forthcoming novels. Follow them at www.mkengland.com.
Today on the site, we’re revealing an excerpt from the upcoming Queen of All by Anya Josephs, an #ownvoices YA fantasy with a plus-size lesbian protagonist releasing from Zenith Press on June 8th. Here’s the story:
Jena lives on her family’s struggling farm and in her beautiful friend Sisi’s shadow. She’s not interested in Sisi’s plans to uncover the Kingdom’s darkest secrets: the suppression of magic, and the crown prince’s systemic murder of those who practice it.
Jena only wants to keep a secret of her own—her changing feelings for Sisi. Yet when a letter arrives summoning Sisi to the royal Midwinter Ball, Jena has no choice but to follow her into a new world of mystery and danger.
Sisi falls into a perilous romance with the very crown prince she despises. Desperate to save her, Jena searches for answers in the halls of the palace and in the ancient texts of its library.
She discovers that the chance to save her friend, and their world, lies in her own ability to bring the magic back and embrace her own power.
And here’s the excerpt!
The most beautiful girl in any of the Four Corners of the Earth kicks me awake in the middle of the night.
Through my half-open eyes and by the light of the moon, I can see her perfectly sculpted face looming over mine. Her ruby-red lips, so entrancing that a passing bard once wrote a lengthy ode in their honor, blow hot air directly up my nose. The bard, for obvious reasons, did not mention the stench of her morning breath. As she begins to wake up, I cough, try to turn over, and fumble for our shared blanket with the intention of pulling it over my head and going back to sleep. It’s gone.
As I reluctantly blink my way awake, our bedroom comes into focus: the white-washed walls, the low rafters, the ladder down into the main room, the trunk where we keep our clothes, and then Sisi, grinning triumphantly, holding the blanket over her head.
“What do you want?”
“And good morning to you too, my beloved cousin,” she says, her dark-rose cheeks dimpling in an extremely winsome fashion. Most people can’t stay mad at beautiful Sisi for long. Luckily, I’ve had plenty of practice. I was still only a baby when Sisi and her brother came to live here, so for fourteen years, she and I have been making each other, and driving each other, mad.
“No, you see, morning happens after the nighttime. Which is what we’re having now. Nighttime. Morning is later.”
“Well technically, it’s after midnight. Thus, good morning.” She smiles at me again.
“And before dawn. Thus, good night.” I make another futile grab for the blanket, but Sisi has a good six inches of height on me and is quicker than I am even when I’m not drowsy from sleep. Defeated, I slump back against the frame of our bed. “Come on, you didn’t just wake me up in the middle of the night so that we could debate the finer points of timekeeping. Are you up to something? You already know I won’t want to be a part of it.”
“Listen.” She points down at the floor of our bedroom. Because we sleep up in the attic, I can just barely hear a low rumble of voices through the floorboards, coming from the main room below. “What are they doing awake at this hour? There must be something interesting going on.” Question and answer, all in one. As usual, I seem to be altogether unnecessary in this conversation Sisi is having with herself.
“Yes. I’m sure the price of grain has gone up fifteen milar a tonne, or something.”
“You have no spirit of adventure,” Sisi accuses.
“Another of my many faults.”
“Fine, then I’ll go by myself, and I shan’t tell you what I find.”
“Have fun. Do try not to get caught,” I advise.
She turns to face me fully, batting her long, dark eyelashes at me. It’s a trick that would certainly work on any of her many admirers among the local boys, but I’m immune to that kind of flattery. “Please, Jena? Sweet cousin, my dearest friend, it’ll be ever so much better if you just come with me.”
“Come where? Down the stairs? It’s not much of a valiant quest, even if I were inclined to be your brave companion.” After a moment’s thought, I add, “And I’m reasonably sure that I’m your only friend.”
But Sisi has no trouble continuing her conversation with herself, with or without input from me. “I’m sure you saw that carriage coming up the drive today?”
“No, it was a horse-drawn carriage!” Now, that’s a decent bit of news, I must admit. People around here use pushcarts, or occasionally mules and donkeys. Horses are unofficially reserved for the Numbered, as anyone without noble blood is unlikely to be able to afford their feed and upkeep. I carefully arrange my expression so Sisi won’t see that she’s caught my interest, but she continues on unabated. “Anyway, Aunt Mae might have said that, but I know for a fact that wasn’t the potter’s lad.”
“So Daren’s finally got himself fired, and the potter’s found someone new. I don’t see why that’s such a big deal.” The potter’s apprentice is famous around town for his clumsiness, and it would be no surprise to anyone if someone more suited to such a delicate profession replaced him. Daren is a good-hearted lad, as Aunt Mae always says, and he does works hard, but he likely breaks more pots carrying them in from the kiln than he sells in one piece. This is especially true when he delivers jugs for the cider press on our farm, since his infatuation with Sisi makes him nervous. Of course, everyone fancies Sisi—he’s not alone in that, just a little more hopeless than most.
“It wasn’t anyone from the potter’s. Nor anyone else from Leasane. It was a man around your father’s age. Better dressed, though, in some sort of gold-and-purple uniform. He gave Uncle Prinn a sheet of paper. I couldn’t quite see what was on it, but it was stamped with a golden seal and I’m sure it’s the Sign of the Three Powers itself. So, I can only assume that your father has been given a message from the Royal Court in the Capital. How often do you think a messenger from the King’s own home rides across half the Earth to seek out an apple farmer? And what could be in such a message?” She looks about ready to faint as she finishes her speech, her cheeks flushed with the effort of having so much to say so quickly.
I have to concede that this is indeed a good point—but I have a few good points of my own to make. “Sounds too good to be true. Which means it probably is. Perhaps this messenger just wanted a cup of cider and directions back to the High Road. If it was anything more than that, we’ll hear about it soon enough. In the meantime, why not go to bed? Or at least lie here and speculate so as to spare ourselves the inevitable results of snooping into what’s none of our business: we sneak out, we get caught, we get beaten, we get sent right back where we started no better off but for sore backsides.”
“You are becoming frightfully dull lately. Ever since that incident on market day—”
“Which was all your fault, I might add, though it was me who took all the blame. Here’s an idea, Jena, let’s not do our chores today! Oh, let’s steal the apple cart and ride it into town! It’ll be fun! We’ll meet boys! We’ll buy candies at the market! We won’t get caught! And when we do get caught, I certainly won’t run away home and pretend never to have left my sewing and not say a word when Jena’s getting thrashed for it!”
“Bruises heal. Unsatisfied curiosity never does.”
“I don’t know, I’m still a little sore—” To be honest, my feelings were hurt worse than my backside. Aunt Mae is strict, but she’d never thrash us so hard that bruises dealt out a week prior would still hurt. What stings isn’t the beating, now, as Sisi points out, healed and mostly forgotten. It’s the fact that I’d gotten one, and Sisi hadn’t. As usual, I get stuck taking all of the blame and the pain with Sisi getting away scot-free, since she’s too pretty and charming for anyone but me to stay angry with.
“A half hour, that’s all. Won’t you give your poor dear cousin, near to you as a sister, your closest kin in affection if not in blood, a half-hour’s worth of your rest, when I would wake a thousand night’s watching for you…”
I roll my eyes, but I must confess, even just to myself, that I do quite want to know what’s going on down in the kitchen. As usual, Sisi is, infuriatingly, right. “Just half an hour?”
“Thirty minutes, to the instant,”she promises, smiling with all the innocence she can muster.
“Shake on it, you scoundrel. I can’t trust you.”
She spits in her hand and offers it to me, and I take it. Sometimes I think Sisi would not have made a very good Lady of a Numbered House, even if her brother had not left the Numbered for his unsuitable marriage with my cousin Merri. Sisi and I shake, and then she yanks me out of the bed by our joined hands.
Today on the site, I’m excited to have both brains behind the exciting upcoming Toronto Pride-centric YA, When You Get the Chance, coming May 4th from Running Press! Here’s a little more about the book:
As kids, Mark and his cousin Talia spent many happy summers together at the family cottage in Ontario, but a fight between their parents put an end to the annual event. Living on opposite coasts—Mark in Halifax and Talia in Victoria—they haven’t seen each other in years. When their grandfather dies unexpectedly, Mark and Talia find themselves reunited at the cottage once again, cleaning it out while the family decides what to do with it.
Mark and Talia are both queer, but they soon realize that’s about all they have in common, other than the fact that they’d both prefer to be in Toronto. Talia is desperate to see her high school sweetheart Erin, who’s barely been in touch since leaving to spend the summer working at a coffee shop in the Gay Village. Mark, on the other hand, is just looking for some fun, and Toronto Pride seems like the perfect place to find it.
When a series of complications throws everything up in the air, Mark and Talia—with Mark’s little sister Paige in tow—decide to hit the road for Toronto. With a bit of luck, and some help from a series of unexpected new friends, they might just make it to the big city and find what they’re looking for. That is, if they can figure out how to start seeing things through each other’s eyes.
Tom: It’s been almost five years since I woke up to a text from you that said something like “hey Tom, I just had an idea: we should write a big queer Canadian YA novel together!” Obviously I was totally into it, and before long we were brainstorming and sending chapters back and forth. Do you remember what prompted you to reach out in the first place?
Robin: I missed you! You had moved two thousand miles away, and I missed hanging out and talking about writing. Plus I’d just written a non-fiction book about Pride, so I was out in schools and talking with young people, and realizing just how much queer kids and teens wanted to see their lives reflected in the books they were reading. It was really impulsive though- like I had the idea and sent the text about three seconds later!
Tom: One of the things I love most about When You Get the Chance is that the premise of the story grew from the situation we were in when we wrote it. I was on the east coast, you were on the west coast, and we both wished we could meet up somewhere in the middle to hang out. It was basically a no-brainer to echo that in the plot, bringing cousins Talia (your character, from B.C.) and Mark (my character, from Nova Scotia) together for a family funeral in Toronto. Once we had that framework established, I really felt like the rest of the story came together quite naturally – did you feel the same way?
Robin: Yeah, very much so. I think part of that came from the fact that we both think and care deeply about some of the same things: family, friendship, queer community and history, connections and sharing of ideas between older and younger people, the way our communities and language and identities continue to evolve. Once the characters came to life and the story started taking shape, it became clear that those themes were all woven into the book. I know we both have had opportunities to meet with lots of LGBTQ+ youth because of our previous books… Do you feel like those experiences and conversations influenced this story?
Tom: Absolutely. Like you, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to speak with LGBTQ+ youth groups, GSA’s, etc… and one of the things that I’ve been most struck by is how queer and gender non-conforming teens are able to hang out together in big groups, which would have been completely unimaginable when I was in high school. There’s a long – and proud! – tradition of coming out narratives in LGBTQ+ YA, and I will dig in my heels to defend those stories, because they’re really important, but the reality is that more and more they don’t reflect queer teens’ broader experiences. I will never forget visiting a large group of queer teens in Vancouver during Canadian Children’s Book Week, and during the Q&A one teen made a comment about how much they wanted to see more books that show lots of queer kids hanging out together, because that reflected their reality a lot more than a solitary queer teen in a world full of straight people. I described WYGTC and explained that it was on sub, and hopefully someone would pick it up. The group was so excited about it, and in the cab on my way back to my hotel, Eric called to say we had an offer! That was a definite high point in my career.
Robin: I remember that! I was actually at a cabin in the woods when I got the call…in the middle of a week of school visits as part of a book festival. In fact, the way we celebrated the news over the phone, from different parts of the country, fit right in with the way we wrote the book. And now, because of the pandemic, that will also be the way we’re launching it. We had originally hoped to be at Pride events together, in person, this summer- but it seems like those will have to be virtual events. Still, while parades can be canceled, pride itself cannot! Since Pride is a big part of our book, do you want to share something about your experiences at Pride?
Tom: I’ve lived in several different cities across Canada, which means I’ve been lucky enough to experience a bunch of different iterations of Pride. Each of them has developed its own traditions over time, but some aspects of Pride are universal, like the way the culture of a city or town transforms for just a short while into something much more vibrant and queer. At its heart, Pride is about community, and getting caught up in the energy created by so many people who are joyfully celebrating the right to be their truest selves is magical, every single time. What about you, Robin? Any particular Pride moments stand out?
Robin: I’ve been to Pride events in lots of different places too- from the Chicago Dyke March to the small and super friendly Pride celebrations on Salt Spring Island. Toronto Pride will always be special to me, because that is where my very first Pride events were, when I was still in my teens. And of course, I love going to Pride here in Victoria, with my family and community. My kid was just a month old at his first Pride march! In the last few years, I have been really lucky to celebrate with people who are attending their first Pride events, and that has brought me a whole new appreciation for how beautiful and brave and necessary it is. And of course, I love some of the other Pride events in my town as well- especially the Big Gay Dog Walk, which is exactly what it sounds like- lots of queer people meeting up to walk our dogs together!
Tom: I’ve really enjoyed doing this interview, because it played out exactly the same way the book did! I kicked it off and sent it over to you, and we went back and forth until we reached a natural end. On that note, I’m going to pass it back to you for the final word, but first I want to say that everything about this process has been a total pleasure. I value your friendship so much, and getting an opportunity to share this experience together has been a total treat! I can’t wait until we can finally meet again in person – at a Pride event obviously – and share a long overdue hug to celebrate WYGTC!
Robin: Oh, I CANNOT WAIT to celebrate this book with you in person! You are absolutely one of my favorite people and while I wish we lived closer, I am so grateful that we haven’t let the distance come between us. And I was thinking the same thing about this interview—it’s been so much like writing the book together! Condensed and sped up, and with less plot twists– but really fun! I’d write something with you anytime. Just saying…
When You Get the Chance releases May 4th, 2021 from Running Press Kids!
Vampires are definitely back in YA, though the rep has certainly changed up since the Bella and Edward days! Case in point: The Lost Girls by Sonia Hartl, coming September 14th from Page Street! You can read more about the book and author in this conversation, but first, you must check out this blurb and cover…
Getting over Your Vampire Ex is as Easy as Killing Him and Stealing His Girlfriend
Holly Liddell has been stuck with crimped hair since 1987 when she agreed to let her boyfriend, Elton, turn her into a vampire. But when he ditches her at a gas station a few decades into their eternity together, she realizes that being young forever actually means working graveyard shifts at Taco Bell, sleeping in seedy motels, and being supernaturally compelled to follow your ex from town to town—at least until Holly meets Elton’s other exes.
It seems that Holly isn’t the only girl Elton seduced into this wretched existence. He turned Ida in 1921, then Rose in 1954, and he abandoned them both before Holly was even born. Now Rose and Ida want to kill him before he can trick another girl into eternal adolescence, and they’ll need Holly’s help to do it. And once Holly starts falling for Elton’s vulnerable new conquest, Parker, she’ll do anything to save her.
To kill Elton for good, Holly and her friends will have to dig up their pasts, rob a bank, and reconcile with the people they’ve hurt in their search for eternal love. And to win the girl, Holly will have to convince Parker that she’s more than just Elton’s crazy ex—even though she is trying to kill him.
“A fast-paced and empowering thrill ride guaranteed to get your blood pumping.” — Caleb Roehrig, author of The Fell of Dark(speaking of queer vampire YA…)
And here’s the retro-Gothic cover, illustrated by Mercedes deBellard and designed by Kylie Alexander for Page Street Publishing!
Sonia Hartl is the author of Not Your #Lovestory and Have a Little Faith in Me (Page Street), which received a starred review in BookPage and earned nominations for the Georgia Peach Book Award, YALSA’s Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers, and ALA’s Rise: A Feminist Book Project List. She’s a member of SCBWI and the Managing Director for Pitch Wars 2020. When she’s not writing or reading, she’s enjoying pub trivia, marathoning Disney movies, or taking walks outside in the fall. She lives in Grand Rapids, MI, with her husband and two daughters. Follow her on Twitter @SoniaHartl1.
I am so excited to have today’s guest on the site, because this is seriously a project unlike any I’ve ever seen. Major Detours by Zachary Sergi is an interactive YA novel releasing from Running Press on September 7th, 2021, and today we’re not only revealing the cover, but we’re giving away three galleys with a different beautiful cover, and, because I had to know WTF it means that it’s an interactive YA novel, I asked Zach to share a little more about the process of making this happen!
But first, the book:
It’s the summer before college and four best friends—Amelia, Chase, Cleo, and Logan—are on the first leg of their road trip inspired by the unique tarot deck that Amelia inherited from her grandmother. However, their trip full of visiting occult shops, bonding, and sightseeing quickly takes a major detour when they discover that their tarot deck is more valuable—and coveted—than they could’ve ever imagined. Suddenly pursued by collectors who are after the legendary “lost” work of an infamous cult-following artist, the four friends will discover the fortunes that await those who unearth the deck’s four missing cards.
As the reader, you’ll get to make actual choices to further the friends’ road trip adventure in this first-of-its-kind interactive novel. Will you help the main characters, Amelia and Chase, learn and grow? How will you navigate Amelia’s steamy budding romances and overcome the challenges facing Chase and Logan’s queer-teen relationship? Will you uncover the mysteries of the tarot deck? The choices are yours to make!
Major Detours is more than the branching-path books from your childhood. Instead, this fresh format bridges the gap between nostalgic choose-your-own-adventure and the modern style of digital interactive fiction, with choices that always lead you forward in the story and feature four diverse, queer characters navigating relationships and self-discovery. In Major Detours, the reader can interactively engage in two queer romances (from 2 alternating POVs), between the challenges facing a teen cis-male monogomous long-term relationship and a budding discovery of pansexual and nonbinary identities.
And because I cannot keep this epic cover from you any longer:
**Art by Karl Mountford | Design by Marissa Raybuck**
And, as promised, here’s Zachary Sergi to talk about the creation and inspiration of this novel!
As with any novel, the links in the chain that led to the creation of Major Detours could take us decades back, but I’ll start us more recently: after years of writing digital interactive fiction novels for Choice of Games (Heroes Rise and Versus, which have found the most devoted and lovely readerships) and almost selling two TV pilots (one about a youth cult and another about tarot cards—sound familiar?), I decided to focus my energy on returning to my very first dream: writing and publishing a print novel.
That story spans several years (and includes writing a more straightforward YA supernatural horror novel), but this intention ultimately put me on the path to meeting my agent, Lucy Carson, and eventually my editor at Running Press Kids, Britny Brooks-Perilli. It turns out Britny had read my novels for Choice of Games and wanted to know if I was interested in adapting my unique style of interactive fiction for print.
Of course, the answer was yes. Though really, I had never set out to write interactive fiction. The first Heroes Rise came about similarly: a manager asked if I’d pitch Choice of Games as one of my first opportunities out of college (this was before iPhones had become popularized, so writing a novel that would live as an app for a brand-new publishing company was…a leap of faith, to be sure). As it turns out, like many others, I’m uniquely suited to write interactive fiction, having made up RPG games and stories my whole life (with my ever-growing action figure collection). As RuPaul often says, sometimes you have to let the dream dream you. I always dreamed of being a writer—and as the universe would have it, I’m meant to be an interactive writer.
Needless to say I was very up for the challenge of adapting the complex, coded style of modern IF for print. Britny and I then embarked on a very non-traditional process—perhaps fitting for a very non-traditional print debut. Britny (who has turned out to be my creative soulmate) pitched me a concept: road trip with a potential genre twist. I then pitched tarot cards, a subject I had spent lots of time researching and knew had hidden depths not reflected in pop culture yet. We talked style, then I drafted a full proposal, complete with a sample chapter and a totally new interactive format—one designed to feel as reader-friendly as possible.
After many months of additional drafts and conversations, Britny’s team approved the novel. After years of work, I had arrived at this dream-come-true destination—by taking lots of unexpected detours. But now I actually had to write this novel we had proposed…
Interactive fiction was born out of the interactive novels of the 80s and 90s: most think of the Choose Your Own Adventure line, but I actually grew up reading the Goosebumps: Reader Beware…You Choose The Scare line (I even tried building my own interactive slasher novel in the 3rd grade…so again, detour or destiny?) The novels written for Choice of Games, however, are all grown up: with sophisticated plots and characters, including complicated choices that are tracked by built-in coding and statistics (born out of early adventure video games). How were Britny and I going to replicate this digital/app-driven medium for print?
With lots of creativity, it turns out. The format we invented for Major Detours has three cornerstones. First: a more novelistic style. The original interactive print novels are what we call “bushy,” with lots of short story branches that end quickly and jump all over the book, then send you back to the beginning. In Major Detours, the choices always lead you forward and follow the spine of a linear plot—plus there are callbacks to choices you’ve made along the journey.
This leads us to the second cornerstone: a reading guide in the backmatter, where you can write in your choices using keywords. This unique system keeps track of your choices in a simple way, but once finished reading, you can then plug your choice-keywords into several reader personality profiles. Of course, the choices you make further the plot and branch scenes, but primarily these choices focus on shaping the interior lives of the two protagonists: defining their relationships, their struggles, and their beliefs. In doing so, you also build your own personality profile, choice by choice.
Third, the tone here is no longer middle-grade adventure; instead, we’re dealing with contemporary YA characters and their emotional, steamy, drama-filled coming-of-ages. Oh, and our teen crew is on a spooky tarot adventure, on the run from a maybe-cult of thrilling antagonists and answering deep questions about the meaning of life via the tarot. Some choice themes you will encounter: Can you predict the future or is there no such thing as destiny? Are spirits real or do we only ever haunt ourselves? How can long-term relationships survive going to college on opposite coasts? Is it better to fall for the mysterious good one or the seductive bad boy? Perhaps most importantly, these themes offer several queer romances to navigate… but saying any more about these would definitely mean spoilers for the alternate endings.
The Choices Are Yours
Interactivity, road trips, the tarot, cults, spirituality, queer joy—welcome to Major Detours, an interactive novel unlike any you’ve read before. We truly cannot wait to share it with all you readers!
How cool is that??
BUT WAIT. THERE’S MORE.
The galleys for Major Detours actually have a different cover, though it’s every bit as striking, and the Running Press team is giving three of them away here!
To enter, just leave a comment below! Let us know what you think about the cover, tell us about a choice you made (or wish you’d made), tell us your favorite game, or just acknowledge that this is really damn cool. Giveaway is open to U.S. recipients age 18 and over, and winner will be selected on Thursday, April 1st. Void where prohibited, and please allow for shipping delays due to *gestures around at the world*.
As a huge fan of Zack Smedley’s debut, Deposing Nathan, I’m thrilled to be revealing the cover of his sophomore novel, Tonight We Rule the World, which releases from Page Street on October 5th, 2021! Here’s the story:
Owen Turner is a boy of too many words. For years, they all stayed inside his head and he barely spoke—until he met Lily. Lily, the girl who gave him his voice, helped him come out as bi, and settle into his ASD diagnosis. But everything unravels when someone reports Owen’s biggest secret to the school: that he was sexually assaulted at a class event.
As officials begin interviewing students to get to the bottom of things, rumors about an assault flood the school hallways. No one knows it happened to Owen, and he’s afraid of what will happen if his name gets out. He’s afraid that his classmates will call him a word he can’t stand—“victim.” He’s afraid his father, a tough-as-nails military vet, will resort to extreme methods to hunt down the name of who did it. And he’s afraid that when Lily finds out, she’ll take their relationship to a dark, dangerous place to keep Owen quiet. Then, one day, Owen’s fears all come true. And it will take everything he’s got to escape the explosion intact.
Heartbreaking and hopeful, Tonight We Rule the World is an accessible coming-of-age story that examines identity, voice, and the indelible ways our stories are rewritten by others.
And here’s the haunting, evocative cover, designed by Julia Tyler for Page Street Publishing!
Zack Smedley was born in 1995, in an endearing Southern Maryland county almost no one has heard of. His critically acclaimed debut novel, Deposing Nathan, was a KirkusBest Books of 2019 selection, an ALARainbow List selection, a Lambda Literary Award finalist, and winner of the 2019 YA Bi Book Award. Alongside writing, he has a degree in Chemical Engineering from UMBC and currently works within the field. He spends his free time building furniture, baking, programming, screenwriting, and tinkering with electronic systems.
Tomorrow marks the fifth anniversary of LGBTQReads, but today we are celebrating a different creation of mine (because really, why run your own space on the internet if not to celebrate yourself as often as possible): That Way Madness Lies: XV of Shakespeare’s Most Notable Works Reimagined!
Of course, though I’m the editor of this one (and also wrote a story), anthologies do not happen without the brilliant authors behind the contributions, especially the queer ones! Here’s the copy including the official lineup:
Fifteen acclaimed YA writers put their modern spin on William Shakespeare’s celebrated classics! West Side Story. 10 Things I Hate About You. Kiss Me, Kate. Contemporary audiences have always craved reimaginings of Shakespeare’s most beloved works. Now, some of today’s best writers for teens take on the Bard in these 15 whip-smart and original retellings!
Contributors include Dahlia Adler (reimagining The Merchant of Venice), Kayla Ancrum (The Taming of the Shrew), Lily Anderson (As You Like It), Patrice Caldwell (Hamlet), Melissa Bashardoust (A Winter’s Tale), A.R. Capetta and Cory McCarthy (Much Ado About Nothing), Brittany Cavallaro (Sonnet 147), Joy McCullough (King Lear), Anna-Marie McLemore (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Samantha Mabry (Macbeth), Tochi Onyebuchi (Coriolanus), Mark Oshiro (Twelfth Night), Lindsay Smith (Julius Caesar), Kiersten White (Romeo and Juliet), and Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka (The Tempest).
I’m tickled to have two utterly delightful authors on the site today: Auriane Desombre, author of debut contemporary f/f YA romanceI Think I Love You (which just released yesterday with Underlined!) and Sonia Hartl, whose f/f YA vampire romance The Lost Girls releases September 14th from Page Street! They’re here together today to chat about their books, other faves, and more! Take it away, Auriane and Sonia!
SONIA: Hello! I’m Sonia Hartl, author of the upcoming f/f paranormal romance The Lost Girls (think John Tucker Must Die, with vampires, but make it gay). It will be out on September 14th with Page Street. I’m thrilled to be in conversation with one of my best friends, Auriane Desombre, whose f/f romcom I Think I Love You will be out on March 2nd with Underlined! It’s a hilarious and heart warming queer take on both Emma and Much Ado, and I love it with my whole heart. I’ve read this book a few times now and I’m so excited for the rest of the world to experience the joy of falling into an Auriane story.
Auriane, I love so many scenes in I Think I Love You, what was the first one that felt fully formed in your mind before you wrote it?
AURIANE: A lot of the banter felt fully formed going into the first draft! The witty back-and-forths in Much Ado About Nothing have always been my favorite parts of the play, so I was definitely most excited about incorporating that element into my modern take. There’s also a scene between Emma and Sophia at the first film competition screening, where they let themselves get more vulnerable with each other for the first time. That scene has changed a lot since the first draft (as you know, the film competition didn’t even exist until you told me I had to add a plot during the Pitch Wars mentorship!), but the vulnerable moments in that scene have been in my head since the beginning.
“John Tucker Must Die, with vampires, but make it gay” will never not be my favorite pitch for a book. I can’t wait for this one! What was your favorite part of turning that incredible premise into a first draft?
SONIA: I think my favorite part was building that bond between the girls who had all given up their mortality for this guy. Friendship is such a complex and satisfying relationship to write, especially with these girls who should’ve been enemies (according to societal expectations anyway), and I think allowing these characters to find the humanity in each other as they learn how to forgive themselves is where the heart of The Lost Girls beats strongest.
And speaking of girls who are/should be enemies, I love how well you balanced Emma’s optimism and Sophia’s pessimism in I Think I Love You. Which girl do you relate to more? Or does that change depending on the day?
AURIANE: I definitely relate to both of them! As a rom com writer, I obviously see myself in Emma’s love of all things romance, and I’m always rooting for a happily ever after. That said, I agree with Sophia’s view that friendships are just as important as romantic love. I’m also more of a Sophia when it comes to grand gestures and rom com finales—Emma might live for a grand gesture, but I always love the quieter, more matter-of-fact declarations the best.
The friendships in The Lost Girls are some of my favorite parts of the book, and the relationships in the main friend group are to die for (Get it? A vampire joke!). I’m also fully obsessed with the world your characters live in. What was the most challenging part of creating your own twist on vampire folklore?
SONIA: I think the most challenging part was creating something new, while also being cognizant that vampires are beloved and also come with certain expectations. I enjoyed playing with known tropes, but I took a few risks too that I wasn’t always sure would resonate with readers. Ultimately, I’m very proud of the story I told, but there were times when I wasn’t sure if what I saw in my head was translating on paper.
In I Think I Love You, you have such an incredible secondary cast! What is your favorite part about writing friend groups?
AURIANE: Yay for big friend groups! I loved fleshing out all of the characters and making sure they each had an arc of their own. Since the friend group in I Think I Love You is so big (and so messy, always in each others’ business), I had a lot of fun thinking through the different relationships the individual characters have with each other within the group, and how that affects the dynamic as a whole. This friend group in particular made that process extra fun because of all the scheming and matchmaking they get up to!
The Lost Girls has such a rich cast too, and I fell deep in love with the vampire girl squad. Which character was your favorite to write? Which do you relate to the most?
SONIA: My favorite character to write was Ida, because she’s such a grumpy cynic, but also has an incredibly soft center, and I loved peeling back her layers. As for who I relate to the most, my main character Holly and her love interest Parker are the two characters who have the most pieces of me in them. There are some things I’ll only ever be able to say through characters I create, and Holly and Parker both allowed me to drain some of the poison from old wounds.
You do enemies to lovers so well (and the grumpy/sunshine dynamic is perfection), what are your favorite romance tropes? Which one haven’t you written yet that you’d like to try?
AURIANE: Enemies-to-lovers is by far my favorite! I love the banter that fits into the beginning of the trope, and all the little moments that crack a rivalry and turn it into romance are so delicious. Aside from that, I’m always a sucker for some fake dating (which is one of the many reasons I’m obsessed with your debut, Have a Little Faith in Me!). Gooiest of brownie points to any book that combines the two!
In terms of tropes I’d like to try, the greatest tragedy of my writer life is that I have yet to work in a “there’s only one bed” scenario into any of my projects! That’s definitely a situation I’d love to play with at some point in a future manuscript.
I am obsessed with every single bit of the world in your book and your take on vampires. What is your favorite worldbuilding detail?
SONIA: I think my favorite worldbuilding detail started when I was doing some research on object memory, and how holding objects allows people to recall things in more vivid detail than sight, sound, or smell. I can’t really explain it without getting into what heirlooms are and their significance in The Lost Girls, so I’ll just say that I really enjoyed playing with the psychology behind object memory.
I love how funny and warm your book is, and the way it makes me smile every time I read it! What are some of your favorite queer romcoms?
Speaking of favorite f/f books, The Lost Girls is so important in so many ways. What are you hoping readers will get out of this fabulous book?
SONIA: What I hope readers will get out of this book most is that regret is too heavy a burden to carry, and it’s okay to share it with other people and let it go. It’s okay to walk away from people who hurt you. It’s never too late to forgive yourself for mistakes. And you deserve to love and be loved, always, freely, and without demand.
AURIANE: That’s such a wonderful message! This book has my whole heart, and I can’t wait for it to capture readers’ hearts too. I’m counting down the days until I can hold my copy!
Auriane is a middle school teacher and freelance editor. She holds an MA in English Literature and an MFA in Creative Writing for Children & Young Adults. She lives in Los Angeles with her dog, Sammy, who is a certified bad boy. I Think I Love You is her debut novel.
Sonia Hartl is the author of The Lost Girls,Not Your #Lovestory, and Have a Little Faith in Me (Page Street), which received a starred review in BookPage and earned nominations for the Georgia Peach Book Award, YALSA’s Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers, Bank Street College of Education’s Best Children’s Books of the Year, and ALA’s Rise: A Feminist Book Project List. She’s also the author of an adult romcom, Heartbreak for Hire (Gallery). When she’s not writing or reading, she enjoys playing board games with her family, attempting to keep her garden alive, or looking up craft projects she’ll never get around to completing on Pinterest. She’s a member of SCBWI and was the Managing Director for Pitch Wars 2020. She lives in Grand Rapids with her husband and two daughters.
Once you see the cover, it’ll become quickly clear why it feels so extra special to be able to introduce to you The City Beautiful by Aden Polydoros, a queer, Jewish historical YA thriller that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about in weeks. It releases from Inkyard Press on September 7th, and I could not encourage you more strongly to use the preorder links below! Here’s the story:
Death lurks around every corner in this unforgettable Jewish historical fantasy about a city, a boy, and the shadows of the past that bind them both together.
Chicago, 1893. For Alter Rosen, this is the land of opportunity, and he dreams of the day he’ll have enough money to bring his mother and sisters to America, freeing them from the oppression they face in his native Romania.
But when Alter’s best friend, Yakov, becomes the latest victim in a long line of murdered Jewish boys, his dream begins to slip away. While the rest of the city is busy celebrating the World’s Fair, Alter is now living a nightmare: possessed by Yakov’s dybbuk, he is plunged into a world of corruption and deceit, and thrown back into the arms of a dangerous boy from his past. A boy who means more to Alter than anyone knows.
Now, with only days to spare until the dybbuk takes over Alter’s body completely, the two boys must race to track down the killer—before the killer claims them next.
And here’s the magnificently Gothic cover designed by Mary Luna with art direction by Erin Craig!
Yes, that is my blurb on there! “The City Beautiful is the haunting, queer Jewish historical thriller of my darkest dreams.” Extremely accurate!
Aden Polydoros grew up in Illinois and Arizona and has a bachelor’s degree in English from Northern Arizona University. When he isn’t writing, he enjoys going to antique fairs and flea markets. He can be found on Twitter at @adenpolydoros.