I believe this is our last interview of the summer, and we have the pleasure of welcoming Camryn Garrett for it!
Q. Tell us a little about your writing and yourself!
A. This is menacingly vague, but I’ll try my best! I’ve been writing since I was around ten years old, when I first started writing and posting fanfiction onto fanfic.net (It really was a time.) When I was 13, I was selected as a TIME For Kids reporter, so I got to interview people like Kristen Bell, Warren Buffett, and RJ Palacio, which really gave me the confidence to keep writing. I think I started participating in NaNoWriMo the year before, so I’ve been writing full books since around twelve. I’ve also written at Huffington Post, MTV News, and Rookie Magazine. My debut novel, FULL DISCLOSURE, comes out this October 29th!
Q. What made you write the stories you did? What do they mean to you?
A. When I first started writing, I wrote white girls. This was back when I was like eleven or twelve. I wanted to write about white girls with nice hair and rich parents because they were the ones I saw in movies and TV. It’s actually interesting, because as I got more into the writing community, I saw more books about all sorts of people, like different genders and sexualities and nationalities and skin colors. It gave me the confidence to write about Black girls.
So it’s really important for me to write about girls like me, not only to get down my experiences and realize that I’m not the only one who has had them, but hopefully to inspire other people to write about people who look like them as well. It’s also really important for me to explore sexuality in my work. Black girls don’t really get to do that in stories. I’ve had a hard time working through my own sexuality, so my main character in FULL DISCLOSURE does, too.
Q. You’ve been involved with book!Twitter for several years. What’s it like seeing things from the other side? What’s been the biggest change?
A. There’s a ton of work involved in publishing, not just from the author, but from people working in marketing, editing, copyediting, etc. I never realized that before. I don’t regret calling out problematic books or anything, but I definitely think more about the system and the other people involved in it when I see things now. I also am trying not to get involved in things that just frustrate me and don’t seem like they’re going to lead to anything good, whereas before, I’d sort of jump into anything. Sometimes authors care about things that I don’t really care about, so I keep quiet about it. It’s weird.
Another big change is that a ton of authors are jumping ship and leaving Twitter, so they have accounts that are like “[author] update page.” It makes me sad, because I mostly enjoy Twitter and have so many great relationships from it. Everyone is moving to Instagram! I’m like “noooo,” I hate Insta! Come back!
Q. You’re currently in film school, and honestly I can’t wait to see the movies you’ll eventually make. What kind of stories do you want to tell through that medium?
A. OMG, this is so lovely to hear! Thank you so much for saying that. I really want to continue telling stories about Black women, but I think I’d like to tell more historical stories through film, and I already have some ideas. I really want to build a cannon of stories about Black women.
Q. What are some of your favourite tropes or themes to read in queer books? Are there any things you’d love to see in queer books in the future?
A. Oh, man. I love ALL OF THE TROPES. I think I like enemies to lovers the best, or like they don’t like each other and then they fall for each other. I also really like best friends to lovers. I feel that a lot, especially with f/f, because it can be confusing to figure out if you love her as a friend or as a girlfriend. I’ve had crushes on a lot of my close friends for this exact reason.
In the future, I want more m/m starring Black boys and written by Black men, so that the kids reading the books have authors like them to look up to, you know what I mean? Like I have Jacqueline Woodson. But I also want more f/f. There’s a lot out there, but I want it to get all of the attention, tons of attention, and I want more starring girls of color.
Q. Your book FULL DISCLOSURE comes out October 29th. What are you most looking forward to when it does?
A. I’m honestly so excited to go into a bookstore and see it on the shelf. I think I might actually cry when I do. I’m going to go to all the bookstores in my area and look for it, I think.
Q. FULL DISCLOSURE has a main character who’s HIV+. What drew you to that idea and what have been some of the challenges?
A. So it’s sort of a long story, but the basics are: I used to be really obsessed with Angelina Jolie, to the point that I read every available article about her. People Magazine used to have their archive online and they had a cover story about her adopting her son Pax from Vietnam, and they mentioned that he was in an orphanage where most of the kids had HIV except for him. It was odd for me, because I remembered reading a story about Angelina’s daughter from Ethiopia getting hospitalized and Angelina said she didn’t care if she had HIV. So I guess I was wondering what changed and how parents took care of their kids with HIV.
That led me to a bunch of adoption blogs. I really knew nothing about HIV, but these parents were super chill about it. I remember one mom had a list of frequently asked questions and most of them were about disclosing and deciding whether or not to. But I also remember that a lot of these blogs were written by super Christian people. One of them was like, “Our daughter has nothing to worry about until it comes to sex, and she won’t be doing that until marriage,” and I thought that was a little unrealistic. But then I was wondering about being a really horny kid with HIV.
I think challenges are just really wanting to get this right. I’ve done a lot of research and have gotten excellent notes from some amazing sensitivity readers, but any mistakes are totally my fault.
Q. Which three things would you take with you if you were to go on an adventure?
A. OMG, this is random! I’d take RED, WHITE AND ROYAL BLUE by Casey McQuinston, a magic bottle that magically refills with whatever drink you want, and my phone with a self-charging battery. Maybe that’s boring.
Q. Tell us something adventurous you did in the past year.
A. I went to college and lived alone in NYC for the first time! It was wild! I had to switch roommates halfway through! Sometimes I had no idea what I was doing! But now that I’m home for the summer, I miss it so badly.
Q. If you could go on a trip anywhere at all, where would you go and why? Would you go on a road trip, or backpacking, or a cruise, or something else?
A. Maybe this is random, but I’d like to go to Rhode Island. It’s close enough that I wouldn’t want to jump out of the car, but far enough that we’d get to see some nice scenery. I’ve heard it’s really nice there. I think I’d like to take a tour of the South, but like important locations of the Civil Rights Movement, if they do that.
Q. What’s your favourite recent queer read? What queer book are you looking forward to?
A. I recently read When Brooklyn Was Queer by Hugh Ryan. It’s a non-fiction book about the queer history of Brooklyn. It’s SO COOL. Like, there are queer love poems and there are trans people and people of color and Ryan discusses how both of these groups got specifically fucked over, but also how the queer community got dismantled in Brooklyn in general. He starts in the 1800s and ends in like the 1960s or 70s. I didn’t know so much queer history existed so close.
I’m really excited for How To Be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters!
Q. What’s something you’ve always wanted to say in an interview but no one has ever asked?
A. No one has ever asked me to quote the ending of Jerry Maguire in an interview, but I’ve been trying to figure out when I can do it and call out my agent (call out sounds like she did something bad, but I mean in a really lovely way.)
SO: “I love everybody. I love my wife! Marcee! I love my kids. Tyson and my new baby. My older brother and my younger brother Tee Pee. You’re militant, but I love you. I love my teammates. The Cardinals finally came around. Wait, I’m forgetting somebody.”
(here’s the part I’m changing)
Brianne Johnson, my agent. You are my ambassador of kwan, man.
(I don’t know if she’s gonna get that reference, but I mean the movie is so great, so.)
Camryn Garrett was born and raised in New York. When she was thirteen, she was selected as a TIME for Kids reporter, where she interviewed celebrities like Warren Buffett and Kristen Bell. Her writing has appeared in the Huffington Post, MTV, and Rookie Magazine. In 2015, she was named as one of MTV’s 8 Inspiring Teens Using Social Media to Change the World and in 2019, she was named one of Teen Vogue’s 21 Under 21 and a Glamour College Woman of the Year. Camryn is also interested in film and is a student at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She is a proud advocate of diverse stories and writers. You can find her on Twitter @dancingofpens, tweeting from a laptop named Stevie.
Thank you so much for doing this interview with us! We can’t wait for FULL DISCLOSURE to come out!