Interview With Camryn Garrett

I believe this is our last interview of the summer, and we have the pleasure of welcoming Camryn Garrett for it!

TwoQ. 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?images

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.

Preorder FULL DISCLOSURE on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and IndieBound.

Thank you so much for doing this interview with us! We can’t wait for FULL DISCLOSURE to come out!

– Laina

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Interview with Em Ali

Hello wanderers! Today we have Em Ali with us for an interview!

Twitter conQ. Tell us a little about your writing and yourself!

A. My writing mainly deals with writing low-angst stories that deal more with the soft side of identity and romance. I am twenty-three years old and due to my anxiety and depression, I’ve always loved reading more fluffy pieces of romance than angsty ones.

Q. What made you write the stories you did? What do they mean to you?

A. Writing Soft on Soft was mainly about seeing two fat girls be in love. I wanted those cute moments, not ones full of exciting dates and high tension, but quiet moments. Like, domesticity is one of my favorite aspect of romance and relationships to explore. Whether it’s family working together to tidy up a space, make a meal, or lovers embarking on a night together dressed in PJs and making popcorn. That satisfies me. Graham’s Delicacies was more about exploring how dynamics work between entirely different couples.

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. I love friends-to-lovers, I love fake-relationships, the “oops there’s only one bed” trope. I see a lot of found family, which I adore.

Q. What drew you to writing romance?

A. Reading romance, basically. I was always interested in it. I’d read a lot of manga growing up, not necessarily shoujo manga, but anything that had a romantic subplot.

Q. You write fat positive romance. What are some of the things that are most challenging and most rewarding about that?

A. Nothing is challenging about writing fat positive romance. It’s rewarding when people see themselves reflected in June and Selena.

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Q. Both f/f and body positivity are underrepresented in romance. What would you like to see more of in that area?

A. F/F romance and body positive romance are there. They are underrated sure, but a lot of indie writers are doing the work. I want to see more people appreciate indie, and self-published work.

Q. Tell us one of your favourite experiences with someone who’s read your book.

A. Readers and authors should have some boundaries but since I was first a blogger on Twitter, I had some friends who sent me direct messages while reading Soft on Soft. I can’t pick a favorite, since all interactions make me happy.

Q. Which three things would you take with you if you were to go on an adventure?

A. Oh, I’d take a lot of books. I’m afraid I’m not much of an adventurer.

Q. Tell us something adventurous you did in the past year. 

A. I did try a new ice-cream flavor! I tried coconut and pineapple and I liked it. My most adventurous thing was self-publishing. It had a lot of bumps in the road but I enjoyed it.

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. I’ve never been to another country for anything beside religious reasons, so I’d like to go on a trip somewhere with a lot of touristy spots. I want to take loads of pictures and try eating new food.

Q. What’s your favourite recent queer read? 

A. My recent favorite queer read is Raze by Roan Parrish. It’s cis M/M contemporary romance dealing with insecurities, an age gap, and being a recovered user. I adored Raze.

Q. What’s something you always want to say in interviews but no one ever asks?

A. I’m afraid I don’t do a lot of interviews and the ones I’ve done so far have been so lovely.

Q. If you had to pick a world to live in from a story you’ve written, which one would it be and why?

A. Soft on Soft and Graham’s Delicacies are sort of connected. Graham’s is the location of June and Selena’s first date. I’d love to visit this place, grab something yummy to eat with my significant other.

Em Ali grew up on TV and K-pop like many in their generation.

Living in a secluded little island in the Middle East meant very little to do and a lot of time of nothing. At thirteen, they picked up their first book with the blessing of an older sister and has been in love with prose ever since.

Today, they spend the hours they’re not educating young minds proper English dreaming up and writing those fluffy hugs in the form of books.

They learned a lot about how to be a hermit and not interact with people, but they love to hear from readers! You can find Em on Twitter, Instagram, or their website, and support them on Patreon.

Make sure to keep checking in for more awesome queer content!

Luce

Interview with Cecil Wilde

Hello everyone! We have another interview for you today!

Cecil Wilde imageQ. Tell us a little about your writing and yourself!

A. Hello! My name is Cecil (they/them), I am a cute queer who writes stories about cute queers. I am approximately 50% caffeine by volume and one day I will be crushed by my TBR pile.

Q. What made you write the stories you did? What do they mean to you?

A. When I started, no one else was writing stories about people like me—at least, as far as I know. I’ve spent most of my life being excluded from lots of things in lots of ways, and realising that I could include myself—and lots of other people who’d probably felt the same way—made this feel like something worth doing.

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. Chosen family!!! I never get tired of seeing people with loved ones they’ve picked for themselves. But you know what I want to see, honestly? Books that are 100% completely normal and just like other books, except with queers in them. I don’t want the book or the story to have to be different to fit queer people in, I want the story-world to simply… have queers in it.

Q. What drew you to writing romance?A Boy Called Cin

A. Romance is about happiness, a happy ending is a necessary feature of a romance novel, and happy endings are a nice thing to have. Characters don’t get punished in romance—they learn a lesson that helps them grow as a person. Romance is a very healing genre.

Q. What do you think is the biggest challenge about writing romance as a queer author?

A. As far as actually writing goes, the pressure to somehow record the One True Queer Experience weighs heavy on me—and a lot of other authors, or so I’ve heard. For some people, a book I write might be their first or indeed only point of contact with, say, a genderqueer person. Striking a balance between writing something authentic and writing something that won’t leave that hypothetical person with a damaging impression is difficult.

Q. Tell us one of your favourite experiences with someone who’s read your books.

A. Semi-regularly someone will tell me one of my books was the first time they really felt like they’d seen themselves in fiction, and that means the world to me. I always make a very unflattering squeal.

Q. For queer readers who are new to the romance genre, what books would you recommend to them?

A. I’d recommend—earnestly—looking for books themselves that appeal to them. Romance is a particularly wonderful genre because it’s all about personal taste—do you like enemies-to-lovers? Do you like second chance romances? Do you like “oh no we’re trapped in a cabin and there’s only one bed”? It’s all out there. I can’t say generally “read this book”, because romance is about satisfying the id, and that’s a very individual thing.

Defying ConventionQ. Which three things would you take with you if you were to go on an adventure?

A. Oooh, what kind of adventure am I going on? I would take a notebook and pencil, which I will count as one thing. My phone comes everywhere with me and will thus also be making the trip. Can I take a friend? I would take a friend if I can, adventures are always more fun with someone to share them with.

Q. Tell us something adventurous you did in the past year.

A. I’ve started teaching myself how to draw and paint! I always wanted to, growing up, but I was good at more practical things like, y’know, writing, and therefore there was never a lot of time for visual art. I’m making time for it now.

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. Oh, anywhere at all, you say? Then I’m off to… Ankh-Morpork, and Gallifrey, and Rivendell, and Nilfgaard, and to Ancient Greece for a symposium and Rome to hear Caesar address the populace, and I’m swinging by Viking country to hitch a ride on a longship to go meet my ancestors in Ireland. And then I’ll grab my towel and thumb a lift on a spaceship. So uh. Something else, I suppose.

Q. What’s your favourite recent queer read?

A. It’s not my favourite book I’ve ever read, but remember what I was saying before about Perfectly Normal Books but with queers? I feel like The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue nailed what I mean by that. It’s not perfect but it is ultimately exactly the fun ride I wish there were hundreds of, I want to read a book with that kind of feeling every day of my life.

Q. What’s something you always want to say in interviews but no one ever asks?

A. I write all my notes in pencil because pen is too permanent.

Cecil Wilde is a writer and editor with a cat, a caffeine habit, and a glut of imaginary friends. You can hang out with them on twitter @softestpunk

Make sure to check back for more awesome queer content!

Luce

Interview with C.L. Polk

Hey wanderers! Today we’re excited to welcome C.L. Polk to the blog!

CL Polk Author LGQ. Tell us a little about your writing and yourself!

A. I live in southern Alberta and I write fantasy and I have a case of imposter syndrome that’s serious enough to make this question the most difficult one in the interview.

Q. What made you write the stories you did? What do they mean to you?

A. and here’s the second most difficult! But that’s because I don’t really have a deep reason. I came up with an idea, found it solid, and wrote it. I know I’m supposed to have a better answer than that, and I’m sorry. It’s just that if I overthink it or make it personal or acknowledge that what I’m writing is personal, then it becomes far too personal to share. So I compartmentalize my life and experiences away from my writing, because that’s the only way I’d ever show it to anyone.

Q. You write in the adult Fantasy genre. Something that seems to happen a lot with people perceived as women, and more so for people of colour than white people, is an assumption they’re writing YA despite all evidence to the contrary – one example of this being THE POPPY WAR. Have you dealt with this at all?

A. Not at all. I think it’s because Miles is a veteran and a doctor trained in surgery, and short of Doogie Howser, people don’t tend to assume physicians are teenagers. If someone is assuming that Witchmark is YA, they haven’t done it in front of me.

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. I am always super thrilled with stories where the queer character wins it all – they save the world, they get together with their sweetie, they find the family they’ve always needed. I also love worlds that model societies that don’t have queerphobia the way ours does, for that extra sense of escape.

Witchmark RD3 fixedbleeds new dressQ. Speaking of tropes and themes – let’s talk a little bit about worldbuilding. What was the process like creating WITCHMARK’s world?

A. It was a lot of thinking, and not so much with the writing things down. I knew some of the big points right away – the things I needed in order to create the situation I wanted, and the extra touches that came when I started thinking about the implications of my decisions.

I always knew that the city was going to be dominated by bicycle traffic. I also knew that I wanted a series of urban apple orchards. I knew that the geopolitics generally ran west to east, that it was bordered by a fjord to the north and a river and estuary to the south, and broad strokes of the political system—and I basically said, “that’s enough, I’ll figure out the details as I need them.”

Q. Laina is a big fan of Edwardian-set stories. Partly just because the fashion from that time period is just beautiful. Are there time periods you take inspiration from, aesthetically or otherwise?

A. I really enjoy the aesthetics of the turn of the 20th century, and it was an interesting time technologically. I knew I wanted electricity, telephones, and radio, so I centered on the postwar period for when I wanted to know if this particular advancement or that was plausible – or at least close enough to fudge. I couldn’t really go with a lot of Edwardian fashion, though, simply because the fashion of bicycling interferes with the fashion of long skirts with trains – I raised the hemlines to reflect the practicalities of travel.

Q. Tell us one of your favourite experiences with someone who’s read your book.

A. Oh gosh. I haven’t really had much contact with people who have read it. I’ve done one signing, and I just kind of threw the pages at the right people and ran away before they could say anything. I did just about die when I found out Anthony Rapp had read the book and given it a lovely review on Goodreads a few days ago—but I don’t think that’s exactly what you mean.

Q. Tell us something adventurous you did in the past year.

A. I did a lot of traveling. I’ve been to NYC twice in the past year, and both times for my NYC visits, I went looking for cute, cheap hotels to stay in, and I’m looking forward to my next visit and hotel experience. I really liked Pod 51, though the midtown location was far away from most stuff I wanted to do in town. The location of the Chelsea Inn was perfect for my second trip. The only problem? It’s a 5 story walk up. Guess what floor my room was on?

But I really love visiting New York and I hope I get another excuse to go back soon.

Q. You’re Canadian like Laina! (Have you ever pet a moose?) How do you think that has affected your writing journey? Challenges, benefits?

A. I don’t think it made that much of a difference. No wait, that’s not true, because never ever having to worry about getting sick or in an accident or needing to see a doctor or a specialist or getting surgery is a huge benefit. It gives me a lot of freedom that I often forget I have.

One thing it does is messes up my English. I use a lot of regionalisms and even Britishisms that I’m not the best at noticing, and so I have to be vigilant, and then it doesn’t really matter anyway because it’s still there. 41473380._sy475_

Q. What’s your favourite recent queer read? What queer book are you looking forward to?

A. I finished off A Memory Called Empire on the plane to Minneapolis not that long ago, and I really need Kellan Szpara’s Docile to be published so everyone can yell about capitalism and have feelings.

Q. What’s something you always want to say in interviews but no one ever asks?

A. I don’t think I’ve done enough interviews to have this experience? I liked the adventure question, though. I’ve never been asked that before.

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. I’ve been kind of wanting to go on a spa vacation. I recently discovered facials, manicures, and brow treatments and I love them, so the logical next step is to stay in a ritzy hotel and do spa treatments. Right? It makes sense to me, anyway

Q. You’ve had a long day of adventuring. When you settle down for the evening, what are you doing to unwind? Are you watching a movie or a tv show, listening to a musical or podcast, or something else?

A. If I’m not ready to go to sleep just yet, I’m probably chatting online. I love chats. I run a ton of them and they’re my #1 distraction. If I’m trying to sleep, I’m probably watching/listening to ASMR videos – I’ve been a tinglehead since I was a kid, and these videos just knock me out.

C.L. Polk is in a love triangle with fantasy and romance. After short story sales and contributing to the web serial Shadow Unit, she’s written fantasy and contemporary romance novels. She lives in southern Alberta and spends too much time on twitter.

Her debut novel Witchmark was nominated for a Nebula, a Locus, a Lambda, and the Prix Aurora Award in 2019. It has been translated into German, with French and Turkish translations upcoming. Her next novel, Stormsong, will release in February 2020.

Ms. Polk is represented by Caitlin McDonald of the Donald Maass Literary Agency.

You can also sign up to her newsletter, or become a patron on Patreon.

Thanks for joining us today!

Laina

Guest Post: Queerplatonic Relationship Rec List

Hi wanderers!

We have an awesome guest post for you today, so please welcome Lisa to the blog!


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“Queerplatonic” is a word that was coined to describe close and/or committed relationships between individuals which are not romantic. The Aromantics wiki defines a queerplatonic relationship as: “one which is more intense and intimate than what most people regard as a friendship, not fitting the traditional romantic couple model or the traditional bounds of friendship. It can be characterized by a strong bond, affect, and emotional commitment not regarded by those involved as something beyond a friendship.”

Here are some recommendations for things to read with queerplatonic relationships in them.

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1. Baker Thief by Claudie Arseneault

I was torn between recommending this and the Isandor series by the same author, but decided to go with The Baker Thief in the end. (You should read both though.)

The Baker Thief is urban fantasy meets crime meets coffeeshop AU. Arseneault plays with romance tropes in setting up the relationship between the main characters Claire/Claude, the bisexual aromantic bigender owner of a bakery called the Croissant-toi, and Adèle, a demisexual woman who is a police officer. I enjoyed the worldbuilding of the city of Val-de-Mer and magic as a source of energy, especially with industry depicted as literally soul-powered. The trope subversion in this book is a great example that non-romantic relationships can be depicted in a way that is just as, if not more, compelling than romance, and that there is a lot more to explore in this territory than most people – including writers – give it credit for. If you’d looking for a not-too-dark urban fantasy with amazing allosexual aromantic representation, I would recommend this!

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2. The Ice Princess’s Fair Illusion by Lynn E. O’Connacht

This is a short retelling of the fairytale King Thrushbeard. The book is all dialogue between Marian, the titular ice princess (actually: queen), who is aroace and just needs people to understand that, and Edel, an asexual lesbian princess, and it’s them telling each other the story about how they got together.

It’s an unusual format because it’s a “verse novel” and all dialogue, so you need to know that going in. I liked that Edel is sex-repulsed but Marian is not, and that they discuss queerplatonic relationships openly. Sometimes the conceit is a bit strained, but overall I found that it worked for me. This is one of those books where I got to the end and wanted to read and write all the fanfiction because there is such a rich world inside it, but because of the dialogue format, it’s often only hinted at.

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3. The Faerie Godmother’s Apprentice Wore Green by Nicky Kyle

This fantasy novella/short story about dragons and faerie godmothers plays with and subverts a lot of fantasy tropes, especially romance-related ones. It’s the kind of thing that makes me personally want to write lots of fanfiction based in the same universe.
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4. “Cucumber” by Penny Stirling

This is a poem that is free to read online.

I have read it a lot. It’s about a queerplatonic couple in a sword & sorcery world, but it’s also about the pressure that aromantic- and asexual-spectrum folks, or even those who are perfectly happy being close friends without a desire for a romantic or sexual relationship, face about their relationships in a world soaked with amatonormativity and erotonormativity. It’s short but it’s very healing and validating, I recommend giving it a shot if you’re arospec, especially if you’re also sex-repulsed.

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5. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

This book was written in 1990, before the word “queerplatonic” existed, but the relationship between Crowley and Aziraphale reads 100% like one to me. If you haven’t yet caught the Amazon Prime show, the basic idea is: an angel and a demon who have been living on earth since it was created, have been asked to bring about Armageddon. But they both like earth so much that they work together to prevent the world from getting destroyed.

Their relationship grows from a slightly reluctant partnership to a complicated friendship/frenemies situation to something I can only describe as a queerplatonic relationship, especially considering the ending. The book itself is wacky, witty urban fantasy and you sometimes just have to roll with the weirdness. It’s one of the most beloved fantasy novels for a reason!


Lisa is a genderqueer, aroace citizen of the world, based in London at the moment. When they’re not working sorting information and creating order out of chaos, they’re a book reviewer, writer, and aro/ace community activist. They’re especially into sci-fi and fantasy that explores and centres the stories of queer and other minority characters. In what’s left of their spare time, they enjoy making things out of yarn and spinning melodies and words to them. If you want to talk to them more, you can follow them on Twitter @ardyforshort.

Thanks again Lisa!

And we’ll see you all again very soon!

Laina

Interview with J. Emery

Hey wanderers!

We have another awesome interview to share with you today, so please welcome J. Emery to the blog!

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Q. Tell us a little about your writing and yourself!

A. I’m J. Emery. I’m pan and ace and mostly write fantasy though I’ve been slowly branching out into other genres. One day I might even make it to mystery. I’ve always wanted to write a cozy mystery series. In my free time outside of writing I usually go for horror movies (because I’m a huge chicken and I hate sleep) or video games.

Q. What made you write the stories you did? What do they mean to you?

A. I always feel like I should have a big sweeping tale about how I started writing but really I was just a quiet kid who started writing stories for fun and never stopped. Writing is what I do when I’m bored and need entertainment and it’s what I do when I have something on my mind and need to work it out. I’ve always gravitated to fantasy because of the freedom and even more so now that I’m writing queer characters. I like writing about them living their lives, going on quests, or learning magic, or whatever without having to explain their queerness. I can build a society where their queerness isn’t a source of conflict. It’s just accepted. And then I can spend more time writing about magical weapons and monsters which is a lot more fun anyway. I get a special thrill out of taking commonly used fantasy tropes and plots and putting aces in them.

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. Okay this is my favorite subject. I love tropes a lot and I build most of my stories around which ones I want to use next. My absolute favorite, forever, is enemies to friends/lovers. Whether it’s platonic or romantic doesn’t really matter, but I enjoy reading about people who got off to a bad start slowly coming around to a mutual understanding and building trust. Anyone who can write that well and make me believe it has my undying respect.

I’m also always here for books dealing with curses, fairy tales, or different takes on monsters. Oh and please give me more books about musicians. I have no musical talent whatsoever so I love reading about singers and musicians.

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Q. Which works would you say influence your writing the most?

A. I grew up on early YA fantasy books and all those teen thrillers in the ‘90s so that’s still kind of where my heart is. But Howl’s Moving Castle and Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones, the Dark Tower series by Stephen King, and Those Who Hunt The Night by Barbara Hambly had the biggest influence on the kind of fantasy worlds I wanted to write. And a brief nod to Castlevania (the Netflix one, not the games which I’m absolutely terrible at) for getting me back into vampires with its perfect mix of snark and action.

Q. How does the writing process work for you? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

A. I am absolutely a pantser though I’ve become a little more regimented about it over the years. The only planning I do is in my head and even that is pretty loose. It’s less of an outline and more like the options in a choose your own adventure book. They shift around depending on the characters’ personalities and what the emotional arc of the book is doing at any given moment. I generally don’t write anything down except for character and place names and most of the time I don’t even know how books end until I’m 75% of the way through the first draft. My method usually horrifies people when I tell them about it.

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Q. Tell us one of your favourite experiences with someone who’s read your book.

A. Honestly, my favorite thing is anytime someone reads one of my books and tells me they enjoyed it. I love when readers are as enthusiastic as I am about my characters and stories.

Q. Which three things would you take with you if you were to go on an adventure?

A. Probably my phone because I get lost really easy and it has GPS (and my kindle app so I can still read books), a notebook and pen (those count as one thing) so I can write and doodle, and a bag of snacks. I get hungry really fast.

Q. Tell us something adventurous you did in the past year.

A. Self publishing An Offering of Plums and Help Wanted last year was probably the biggest leap I’ve made in a while. I did it at a time when I had serious doubts about whether I was cut out for writing so it was really an act of faith to put them out into the world.

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. I’ve always wanted to take a trip by train so I’m open to anything as long as that’s how I got there. I like watching the scenery changing outside the window.

Q. What’s your favourite recent queer read?

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A. Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) by L.C. Rosen was my favorite recent book. It was amazing and managed to be sex positive while still allowing space for asexuality which I really appreciated.

Q. What’s something you always want to say in interviews but no one ever asks?

A. I… don’t know if I have anything that I’ve ever wanted to say specifically. I can confirm that my username (mixeduppainter) is due to the fact that I was a working artist for a number of years. I don’t paint anymore but that doesn’t mean I won’t still judge people strongly when they get art techniques wrong in books and movies.

Q. If you had to pick a world to live in from a story you’ve written, which one would it be and why?

A. The world in Help Wanted would be easiest since it’s similar to the real world but with magic interwoven into society, but really I think I would rather live in the same time period as my shady vampire hunter Belar. It’s sort of a dark, gaslamp world with monsters everywhere but the clothing styles are fantastic and if I’m going to live in a book forever I might as well choose something different.

J. Emery has been slowly writing their way through every fantasy trope since they were little (some of them more than once). Maybe someday they’ll have covered them all. And also made them much more queer.

In their free time, they can be found gaming and documenting the whole thing on twitter at @mixeduppainter. Their ridiculous levels of terror over horror games are near legendary. Add their latest book, Forgotten Monster, on Goodreads, and preorder it on Amazon and everywhere else.

Remember to check back for more posts throughout the summer!

– Luce

6 Non-Contemporary Queer Books I Liked and 5 I’m Excited to Read

Hey, wanderers! Laina here. This is part rec list, and part to read list. Because I just want to talk about books.

Contemporary books are great, but that’s not actually my favourite genre. I’m a speculative fiction girl with a thing for thrillers. And hopefully some of these books will help you with a bingo square or wo. So let’s talk about some of those!

36039295Other Words for Smoke by Sarah Maria Griffin

Summary (from goodreads): When the house at the end of the lane burned down, none of the townspeople knew what happened. A tragedy, they called it. Poor Rita Frost and her ward, Bevan, lost to the flames. Only Mae and Rossa, Rita’s niece and nephew, know what happened that fateful summer.

Only they know about the owl in the wall, the uncanny cat, the dark powers that devour love and fear. Only they know about the trials of loving someone who longs for power, for freedom, for magic. Only they know what brought the house tumbling down around them. And they’ll never, ever breathe a word.

The part where I talk: I read this pretty recently, and it was super weird and kind of creepy and I really enjoyed it. It’s very different and interesting.

22663629Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace

Summary (from goodreads): Breezy remembers leaving the party: the warm, wet grass under her feet, her cheek still stinging from a slap to her face. But when she wakes up, scared and pulling dirt from her mouth, a year has passed and she can’t explain how.

Nor can she explain the man lying at her grave, dead from her touch, or why her heartbeat comes and goes. She doesn’t remember who killed her or why. All she knows is that she’s somehow conscious—and not only that, she’s able to sense who around her is hiding a murderous past.

Haunted by happy memories from her life, Breezy sets out to find answers in the gritty, threatening world to which she now belongs—where killers hide in plain sight, and a sinister cult is hunting for strange creatures like her. What she discovers is at once empowering, redemptive, and dangerous.

The part where I talk: I constantly have this hope in the back of my head that if I talk this book up enough, it’ll eventually have a sequel greenlit by the publisher, or the author will decide to self-publish one. Probably a fruitless hope, but it will never die. It’s one of my absolute favourite weird queer books. It’s also genuinely creepy, and I love it.

29904219Not Your Sidekick by C. B. Lee

Summary (from goodreads): Welcome to Andover… where superpowers are common, but internships are complicated. Just ask high school nobody, Jessica Tran. Despite her heroic lineage, Jess is resigned to a life without superpowers and is merely looking to beef-up her college applications when she stumbles upon the perfect (paid!) internship—only it turns out to be for the town’s most heinous supervillain.

On the upside, she gets to work with her longtime secret crush, Abby, who Jess thinks may have a secret of her own. Then there’s the budding attraction to her fellow intern, the mysterious “M,” who never seems to be in the same place as Abby. But what starts as a fun way to spite her superhero parents takes a sudden and dangerous turn when she uncovers a plot larger than heroes and villains altogether.

The part where I talk: This is like queer Sky High. The world is so much fun and I really recommend checking it out. And we had a great chat with C.B. recently!

32768509Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Summary (from goodreads): At sixteen, Mina’s mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone has never beat at all, in fact, but shed always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the kings heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that shell have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queens image, at her fathers order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do and who to be to win back the only mother shes ever known or else defeat her once and for all.

The part where I talk: I also quite enjoyed this. If you’re a fantasy fan, I think you might like this one. Romance also isn’t a huge thing in this one.

32469736The Disasters by M. K. England

Summary (from goodreads): Hotshot pilot Nax Hall has a history of making poor life choices. So it’s not exactly a surprise when he’s kicked out of the elite Ellis Station Academy in less than twenty-four hours.

But Nax’s one-way trip back to Earth is cut short when a terrorist group attacks the Academy. Nax and three other washouts escape—barely—but they’re also the sole witnesses to the biggest crime in the history of space colonization. And the perfect scapegoats.

On the run and framed for atrocities they didn’t commit, Nax and his fellow failures execute a dangerous heist to spread the truth about what happened at the Academy.

They may not be “Academy material,” and they may not get along, but they’re the only ones left to step up and fight.

The part where I talk: I just read this a little while ago, and it was a lot of fun. I’m not the biggest science fiction person, but this kind of reminded me of a podcast I really like, Girl in Space, and I think I enjoy space opera-type more than other types. This makes me think “romp”, but also has a lot of heart and some great representation.

28589322The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

Summary (from goodreads): Greta is a Duchess and a Crown Princess. She is also a Child of Peace, a hostage held by the de facto ruler of the world, the great Artificial Intelligence, Talis. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Start a war and your hostage dies.

The system has worked for centuries. Parents don’t want to see their children murdered.

Greta will be free if she can make it to her eighteenth birthday. Until then she is prepared to die with dignity, if necessary. But everything changes when Elian arrives at the Precepture. He’s a hostage from a new American alliance, and he defies the machines that control every part of their lives—and is severely punished for it. His rebellion opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the rules they live under, and to the subtle resistance of her companions. And Greta discovers her own quiet power.

Then Elian’s country declares war on Greta’s and invades the prefecture, taking the hostages hostage. Now the great Talis is furious, and coming himself to deliver punishment. Which surely means that Greta and Elian will be killed…unless Greta can think of a way to break all the rules.

The part where I talk: “I’m not big on sci-fi”, I say, and put three sci-fi books on my rec list, and two more to come. Maybe I’m just not that into sci-fi written by white nonqueer men? Discuss in the comments 😛

Anyways. NO ONE EVER KNOWS THIS BOOK IS QUEER. Greta is bisexual (word not used, but she has romances with people of more than one gender) and she’s by far not the only queer character in this series. No one I talk to ever knows that unless I’m the one who told them!

I also really like this series, especially the second book. And they’re set in dystopian Canada. Like Shallow Graves, I don’t think these get enough attention, and I seem to talk about them every year during QSR.

And now here’s 6 books I’m excited to read! This was very hard to narrow down because I have a list of like 140 books I want to read XD

39678946Swipe Right for Murder by Derek Milman

Summary (from goodreads): On the run from the FBI.
Targeted by a murderous cult.
Labeled a cyber-terrorist by the media.
Irritated texts from his best friend.
Eye contact with a nice-looking guy on the train.
Aidan has a lot to deal with, and he’s not quite sure which takes top priority.

Finding himself alone in a posh New York City hotel room for the night, Aidan does what any red-blooded seventeen-year-old would do—he tries to hook up with someone new. But that lapse in judgement leads to him waking up next to a dead guy, which sparks an epic case of mistaken identity that puts Aidan on the run from everyone—faceless federal agents, his eccentric family, and, naturally, a cyber-terrorist group who will stop at nothing to find him.

He soon realizes the only way to stop the chase is to deliver the object everyone wants, before he gets caught or killed. But for Aidan, the hardest part is knowing who he can trust not to betray him—including himself.

The part where I talk: Queer thrillers!! I can’t get enough of them. There’s a couple coming out, I believe, and I want all of them. And a week of free time to read them in 😛

32941909The Dark Beneath the Ice by Amelinda Bérubé

Summary (from goodreads): Something is wrong with Marianne.

It’s not just that her parents have split up, or that life hasn’t been the same since she quit dancing. Or even that her mother has checked herself into the hospital.

She’s losing time. Doing things she would never do. And objects around her seem to break whenever she comes close.

Something is after her. But a first attempt at an exorcism calls down the full force of the thing’s rage. It demands Marianne give back what she stole. And Marianne must uncover the truth that lies beneath it all before the nightmare can take what it think it’s owed, leaving Marianne trapped in the darkness of the other side.

The part where I talk: This sounds weird and interesting and I really like weird and interesting. Sounds right up my alley.

36349389The Last 8 by Laura Pohl

Summary (from goodreads): Clover Martinez has always been a survivor, which is the only reason she isn’t among the dead when aliens invade and destroy Earth as she knows it.

When Clover hears an inexplicable radio message, she’s shocked to learn there are other survivors—and that they’re all at the former Area 51. When she arrives, she’s greeted by a band of misfits who call themselves The Last Teenagers on Earth.

Only they aren’t the ragtag group of heroes Clover was expecting. The group seems more interested in hiding than fighting back, and Clover starts to wonder if she was better off alone. But then she finds a hidden spaceship, and she doesn’t know what to believe…or who to trust.

The part where I talk: *vibrates* ARO PROTAGONIST. I really need to order this from the library.

…the dozen books I have checked out from the library, and dozen e-arcs on my kindle are just glaring at me right now.

29960804A Good Idea by Cristina Moracho

Summary (from goodreads): Fin and Betty’s close friendship survived Fin’s ninth-grade move from their coastal Maine town to Manhattan. Calls, letters, and summer visits continued to bind them together, and in the fall of their senior year, they both applied to NYU, planning to reunite for good as roommates.

Then Betty disappears. Her ex-boyfriend Calder admits to drowning her, but his confession is thrown out, and soon the entire town believes he was coerced and Betty has simply run away. Fin knows the truth, and she returns to Williston for one final summer, determined to get justice for her friend, even if it means putting her loved ones—and herself—at risk.

But Williston is a town full of secrets, where a delicate framework holds everything together, and Fin is not the only one with an agenda. How much is she willing to damage to get her revenge and learn the truth about Betty’s disappearance, which is more complicated than she ever imagined—and infinitely more devastating?

The part where I talk: I’m a sucker for this kind of book. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I love this type of story. I could make a whole list of “sad books about queer girls” lol.

36952571The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum

Summary (from goodreads): Ryann Bird dreams of traveling across the stars. But a career in space isn’t an option for a girl who lives in a trailer park on the wrong side of town. So Ryann becomes her circumstances and settles for acting out and skipping school to hang out with her delinquent friends.

One day she meets Alexandria: a furious loner who spurns Ryann’s offer of friendship. After a horrific accident leaves Alexandria with a broken arm, the two misfits are brought together despite themselves—and Ryann learns her secret: Alexandria’s mother is an astronaut who volunteered for a one-way trip to the edge of the solar system.

Every night without fail, Alexandria waits to catch radio signals from her mother. And its up to Ryann to lift her onto the roof day after day until the silence between them grows into friendship, and eventually something more…

The part where I talk: Another sci-fi book! I almost asked for the e-arc of this, but I had so many books to review (…so nothing has changed) that I didn’t think it would be fair to it. It sounds so good.

41951626._sy475_Crier’s War by Nina Varela

Summary (from goodreads): After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, designed to be the playthings of royals, usurped their owners’ estates and bent the human race to their will.

Now Ayla, a human servant rising in the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging her family’s death…by killing the sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier.

Crier was Made to be beautiful, flawless, and to carry on her father’s legacy. But that was before her betrothal to the enigmatic Scyre Kinok, before she discovered her father isn’t the benevolent king she once admired, and most importantly, before she met Ayla.

Now, with growing human unrest across the land, pressures from a foreign queen, and an evil new leader on the rise, Crier and Ayla find there may be only one path to love: war.

The part where I talk: I’ve said before I’m not the biggest sci-fi person, but I find this concept super interesting and I’m really curious about this one. And the cover is so cute.

So, what are some non-contemporary queer books YOU love or are looking forward to? I’d love to hear about them!

Peace and cookies,

Laina

Interview with Kyle Lukoff

Today we welcome to the blog Kyle Lukoff! We’re super excited to have Kyle do an interview with us.

headshotQ. Tell us a little about your writing and yourself!

A. Hm…I don’t think about my writing in any way that makes sense to explain. I just…sit down (usually at my favourite coffee shop), and type the words that make sense to tell the story or explain the concept that I’m working on at the moment. Right now I’m mostly writing about trans kids, but I’ve written fiction and non-fiction for adults, some short stories that don’t involve queer people at all, and too many half-finished essays to count.

As for me…my entire life pretty much revolves around books. I started working at Barnes and Noble when I was 16, and over the next 10 years worked at five different stores in three different states. I only quit B&N when I got into library school, and I’ve been a librarian since the spring of 2012. I work at an elementary school in New York City, and spend whatever free time I have at the gym, with friends, at dance parties and bars. And of course I read a lot, averaging one book every other day or so.

Q. What made you write the stories you did? What do they mean to you?

A. I think of my own stories the way I think of other people’s stories—the driving question is, “But what happened?” Like, years ago I had this image of a grizzled older trans man running into a nervous younger guy in a public restroom, and what that would be like. That one idea was so compelling that I wanted to know what happened to them, and I turned that into an as-yet-unpublished short story called THE MENTOR. A coworker at B&N once told a funny/horrifying story about a kindergarten class pet, a rabbit that had babies and then ate them, and I wondered how the teacher handled it, and that became another (also unpublished) short story. I write for the same reason I read, to find out what happens at the end.

Q. Writing a picture book with a trans main character is not something a lot of people have done, and WHEN AIDAN BECAME A BROTHER focuses on a part of AIDAN’s life that’s a little different from narratives about trans kids in media in general, as it’s not strictly about his coming out or his transition. Can you talk about that a little?cover

A. The first, and maybe too flippant, response is that I’m not interested in coming out or transitioning. I mean, don’t get me wrong, when I was coming out and transitioning, that was all I could think about—it was all-consuming, and endlessly fascinating. But that was also a very long time ago! I first came out as gay (as a girl who liked girls) my junior year of high school, in 2001, and since my identity has shifted a lot since those days, that initial coming out was really a lifetime ago. Similarly, I first figured out that I was trans in 2004, and started medical transition in winter of 2007, which means that I’ve been firmly anchored in my identity as a trans man for over a decade. While it is possible to write an interesting story the centers around coming out or transitioning, I wanted to draw from other wells of knowledge and experience to write this story, to show what could happen in a fully-realized trans life, not just how one begins.

Q. The art of AIDAN is beautiful. What things were important to you in that part of the process?

A. The first thing to know is that picture book authors typically have little to no control over the illustrations. AIDAN was a little out of the ordinary, since Kaylani and the whole editorial team wanted to make sure that nothing in it was inaccurate or inappropriate from a trans cultural competency standpoint, and that Aidan’s characterization was in line with what we wanted to see in a trans books for kids. On the whole, I think I only had a few notes that were important; mostly that I wanted Aidan to experiment with different aesthetics, and not just be a bland little masc kid. I’m white, and Kaylani is Black and Filipina, so while I know that I’m writing from my perspective, she interpreted Aidan as having a family that resembled hers, which is beautiful. It can be scary for an author to give up control of the images, but I’m not a visual or artistic person at all, and I’m lucky that my book found its way into Kaylani’s brilliant, talented, incredible hands.

Q. You work as a school librarian. How has that influenced your writing? What do the kids you work with think of your books?

A. My kids are all so excited about my books. I can’t say for sure what it means to them, since I try not to use my students to stoke my own vanity, but they get really excited when they get to look at an advanced copy, and seem very proud when I tell them about visiting kids in other schools.

For the most part, my students don’t directly affect my writing. I don’t ask them for ideas, and I don’t think I’ve ever been inspired by a kid (yet). And the thing with writing realistic dialog is that if I accurately transcribed a lot of what my students say, it would either be incoherent or so brilliant that no one would believe me. The way it affects my writing is that it helps me learn, every day in real time, what works in a picture book and what doesn’t. What makes a kid’s attention lag, what keeps them engaged, what’s too long and what’s too short, exactly where a page turn has to fall to make a moment impactful. If you want to write picture books, I cannot think of anything more valuable than a young audience to read aloud to every working day.

Q. What are things you want to see more of in picture books and other books for young readers? Are there any upcoming books you’d recommend?

A. I want to see books that explore difficult or challenging topics in a simple, clear way that leaves room for different kids to learn and interpret as is appropriate for them. Like, I think Suzanne Collins’s YEAR OF THE JUNGLE does an amazing job of showing a young child slowly realizing what a war is. And THE RABBIT LISTENED by Cori Doerrfeld shows how to support a friend experiencing grief.

Q. What are you working on next?

A. I just sent my agent the final (maybe??) revisions on a middle grade novel!! We’ll see what happens with that. And once that’s on sub we’re going to look at a few other picture book drafts I have, but who know what will happen! Right now I’m really just working on AIDAN, scheduling readings and trying to prepare for it to come out.

Ravens

Q. Tell us one of your favourite experiences with someone who’s read your book.

A. It hasn’t officially come out yet, so I haven’t had too too many people read it, but I’ve shown it to several moms at my school and almost all of them have cried, which miiiight have been one of my goals.

Q. What’s your favourite recent queer read that isn’t a picture book? OR What queer book that isn’t a picture book are you looking forward to?

A. BIRTHDAY, by Meredith Russo. I loved IF I WAS YOUR GIRL, and was on the committee that gave it a Stonewall, but BIRTHDAY is one of the best trans novels, YA novels, and just novels, full-stop, that I’ve ever read. I read it three time before it came out, and cried a total of 7 times—and I’m not someone who cries easily! Something about it is just so richly textured, so real, so heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time. I’m so excited for everyone to read it.

Q. What’s something you always want to say in interviews but no one ever asks?

A. I want people to ask if there are any trans community in-jokes! And the answer is yes. Like the scene where Aidan is picking between seahorses and penguins. Some trans men who give birth call themselves “seahorse papas,” because male seahorses are the gestational parent. And “penguin” is an extremely localized, very niche term for a cis guy who could be mistaken for a trans guy. Examples include Elijah Wood and all four brothers on Malcolm in the Middle.

Q. What’s your favourite thing about writing?

A. Honestly? I love that it gives me something to do. I have a great job, tons of friends, a busy social life, but I also get lonely and bored really easily. Knowing that there’s always another writing project to work on helps my mental health a lot.

Kyle Lukoff is also the author of A Storytelling of Ravens, which Kirkus Reviews called “not to be missed” in a starred review. After a decade as a bookseller, he now works as a school librarian and writer in New York City. Kyle first came out as trans in 2004, and has over 15 years experience discussing trans identities and issues with adults and children from many different communities. You can find him online at kylelukoff.com and on Twitter as @shekels_library.

Thanks so much, Kyle!

– Laina and Luce

Interview with Rory Power

Hello, wanderers! How’s your summer going? Have you been doing a lot of reading? We’re almost halfway through!

Today we are pleased to welcome Rory Power to the blog!

Version 2Q. Tell us a little about your writing and yourself!

A. I’m Rory, and I write speculative YA fiction that’s usually weird and also usually queer! My debut novel, Wilder Girls, features some of my favorite things in fiction – an atmospheric landscape, some angry girls, and a bunch of moments when the consequences of a character’s actions catch up with them.

Q. What made you write the stories you do? What do they mean to you?

A. A lot of why I write what I do is that it’s just what I’m interested in and what I like to see in books myself. I’m interested in science and in the ramifications of climate change, so I write about them. I love to read about complicated women, so I try to write about them. But another aspect, particularly as to why I write young adult, is definitely that I want to represent things I felt as a teenager – a sense of isolation, of guilt and of having to take care of yourself. I write about that for me, but I write about that too for teenagers who are feeling the same thing now I felt then.

Q. WILDER GIRLS seems like it’s going to be an amazing creepy queer read, which is one of my absolute favourite genres. What drew you towards that kind of story?

A. So many of my favorite stories are mysteries or thrillers, and I worked in crime fiction for a handful of years, so writing a mystery/thriller myself felt inevitable. Using that structure also gave me an excuse to send my characters off exploring their surroundings, which meant I got to write a bunch of creepy nature descriptions, which for me is the best part of writing anything.

Q. What are some of your favourite tropes or themes to read or write in queer books? Are there any things you’d love to see become more popular in queer books in the future?

A. We’re already seeing a ton of great queer fantasy and sci fi – Girls of Paper and Fire and Once and Future, for example – but I’m so excited to see more of it as it continues to grow in popularity. And as far as favorite tropes go, I love seeing “historically portrayed as straight” moments, but done with queer characters – give me a “girl comes down the staircase in a beautiful dress, but instead of a straight dude waiting for her it’s her girlfriend” moment and I’m automatically in.

Q. Which three things would you want with you most if you were, say, stuck on a creepy island with a mysterious disease spreading through the population?

A. Leaving aside useful things like phones and life rafts, I would want: 1) a lifetime supply of Goldfish crackers both for snacking and bartering purposes 2) a device via which I might access Spotify – I may have made my characters live without music but I refuse to 3) a very comfy sweater, because everything is better in a sweater

Q. Okay, more seriously – tell us something adventurous you did in the past year.

A. After a year of living in my city and being too anxious to use the transit system without being absolutely sure of how to purchase a ticket (what if people got delayed! what if people laughed! what if I didn’t have exact change! what if I did but somehow that was the wrong thing!), I finally overcame my anxiety – it involved watching the transit system’s instructional video fourteen times – and TOOK! the BUS! This, for me, is the height of adventure.

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. I love a trip that’s essentially just going somewhere pretty and then sitting down a lot. At the top of my list right now would be Lake Louise, I think, which I saw as one of the images in a screensaver once and immediately fell in love with. That, or Lake Brienz. So, bright lakes in cold climates with trees nearby is clearly the theme here.

Q. What’s your favourite recent queer read? 

A. I really loved The Devouring Gray, by Christine Lynn Herman, which features multiple bisexual characters. The way Christine writes bisexuality is really nuanced, and I love the freedom she allows her queer characters – they’re messy and instantly relatable because of it. I can’t wait to see more of it in the sequel!

Q. If you had to pick a world to live in from a story you’ve written, which one would it be and why?wgcoverupdated2019

A. I don’t think I’d want to live in any of the worlds I write about now. I’m really fond of Raxter Island, the island Wilder Girls is set on, but I would absolutely die within minutes of arriving there. To be safe, I’ll pick the world of Detective Pony, my first ever book, written at the age of six, because who wouldn’t want to live in a world where a pony can follow its dreams and become an officer of the law

Q. You’ve had a long day of adventuring. When you settle down for the evening, what are you doing to unwind? Are you watching a movie or a tv show, listening to a musical or podcast, or something else?

A. If I’m not writing (or reading) I’m probably watching something on TV. If it’s on Netflix I’ve probably seen at least one episode, whether it’s a prestige mystery drama or a half hour sitcom from the 90s or a show designed to be the successor of The Hills (it’s Selling Sunset and it’s incredible). I tend to process narrative visually – it’s how I work through most of my writing – so TV in particular resonates really well. It’s also excellent background noise for when I’m supposed to be working.

Rory Power grew up in New England, where she lives and works as a crime fiction editor and story consultant for TV adaptation. She received a Masters in Prose Fiction from the University of East Anglia, and thinks fondly of her time there, partially because she learned a lot but mostly because there were a ton of bunnies on campus. Wilder Girls is her first novel, and was released by Delacorte Press on July 9, 2019. You can find her on Twitter @itsrorypower

Thanks so much for joining us today, Rory! We’re super excited about Wilder Girls!

And thank you, wanderer, for reading this!

– Laina and Luce

Interview with Robin Stevenson

Hey, wanderers! How’s life treating you this week? We’ve got another interview for you this week – please welcome Robin Stevenson to the blog!

RobinStevensonQ. Tell us a little about your writing and yourself!

A. I was born in England, grew up mostly in Ontario, and now live on the west coast of Canada with my partner, our teenage son, our dog and our cat. I’ve been writing since my son was a baby. Before that I was a social worker and counsellor, and worked mainly with survivors of sexual assault. I write both fiction and non-fiction, for all ages. My newest books is a non-fiction book about reproductive rights and it is called MY BODY MY CHOICE: THE FIGHT FOR ABORTION RIGHTS.

Q. You write a variety of books that are a little different from a lot of books we’ve talked about on QSR before, from board books (PRIDE COLORS), to middle grade non-fiction (PRIDE: CELEBRATING DIVERSITY AND COMMUNITY) to hi-lo young adult (BIG GUY, UNDER THREAT) and YA (INFERNO, BLOOD ON THE BEACH co-written with Sarah N. Harvey). What’s it like to write so many different kinds of books?

A. I like the variety. My writing process for fiction and non-fiction is really different but I enjoy both. I love creating characters and following them around to see what kind of stories they will lead me into…and I love immersing myself in a topic I am interested in and learning as much as I can about it—like I did with my recent book on abortion rights. I find fiction is quite solitary—just me, my imagination and a lot of coffee—but non-fiction is very social. I have met wonderful, inspiring people through the research I have done, and stayed in touch with many of them. So that has been an unexpected and very enjoyable benefit of my recent forays into non-fiction.Under Threat

Q. I’ve talked about hi-lo books specifically on my blog a little, but not in a ton of depth. I think that’s something that the mainstream YA book community doesn’t talk about a lot. Would you like to talk about that some, and why you choose to write in that format?

A. I fell into it by mistake, actually! I had written a story about a teenage boy and it was too long to submit for publication as a short story, but not nearly long enough to be a novel. When I came across Orca’s Soundings series- short novels for teens that are about 15,000 words- I thought I’d give it a shot. They liked my manuscript and published it as Big Guy back in 2008, and I got some of the best reader e-mails ever! So I decided to write a few more- I have 5 published in the series now. I actually encourage my students to consider writing these, because it is a great writing exercise: to keep a story short and fast-paced, you have to write lean and make every single scene work to develop character and further the plot.

Q. Luce made a joke about writing books that your readers will chew on, but I actually thought that was a great question. PRIDE COLORS is for little ones who aren’t really reading yet themselves – what does it mean to you to create a queer board book, one of the first books a child will have read to them?

pride colorsA. For me, board books are all about the relationship between a baby or toddler and the people that love them. They’re about a child on the lap of their parent, or being tucked into bed at night, or cuddled by their uncle or grandmother. So I wanted to write PRIDE COLORS in a way that would speak to both children and adults. My hope is that little ones will enjoy the bright colors, the photos of adorable babies, the rhythm and rhyme, and the message of love. And I hope families with two moms or two dads will be happy to see photos that represent their families, because these are still rare. I hope people who are allies to the LGBTQ+ community will find this book gives them an easy way to be inclusive in how they talk about families with their kids. And I hope that parents reading it to their babies will appreciate the message in the words: it is so important that kids grow up knowing they will be loved and supported exactly as they are.

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?

BOTB

A. I read everything! I love contemporary queer YA novels like We Are Okay, by Nina LaCour, and Darius the Great is Not Okay, by Adib Khorram. I love clever twisty novels, like Patrick Ness’s More Than This, and Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not, and weird and wonderful ones like Shaun Hutchison’s We Are the Ants. I like historical novels that give readers a glimpse of being queer in a different time- like Robin Talley’s Pulp- and gorgeous lyrical ones like Anna-Marie McLemore’s  When the Moon Was Ours. And I like believable, complex characters who deal with hard things but get to have happy endings: I just read Meredith Russo’s Birthday and was blown away by how good it was. I like novels about coming out and figuring out what it means to be queer, and I like novels where characters who are queer fight zombies or solve crimes. So I guess I want to see more of everything… Actually, one thing I’d like to see more of are novels that show not just queer characters, but queer community- and ones that show the beautiful and important intergenerational friendships– and sometimes chosen family– within that community.

Q. Tell us one of your favourite experiences with someone who’s read one of your books.

A. There have been so many great experiences- it is really hard to pick a favorite! But I actually have a really wonderful story that I just learned about today. Back in February, I spent a week visiting schools on the Sunshine Coast, talking about my book PRIDE. We talked about how Pride began, what it means, how people celebrate it around the world, and how so many people are still fighting for the right to live openly as who they are. After I left, it turns out, those grade 5 and 6 students kept talking: they wanted to do something to show that everyone is included and supported at their school. And they did! They talked to their teacher, and their principal, and the school district superintendent, and they got permission to paint a rainbow crosswalk at their school. They raised the money themselves, and in May, they painted the crosswalk- just in time for Pride. I was so impressed and inspired by these students, so happy that they had such supportive adults around them, and so honored to have played a part in this lovely story.

Here’s a link in case you want to see these awesome kids and their crosswalk.

Q. What’s your favourite thing about writing?

A. I think it is the people I have met: The readers, of course, of all ages. My writing community, from whom I have learned so much. The librarians and booksellers and bloggers and editors and marketing folks…really, everyone. I love book people and feel so lucky to know so many of them.

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. I love travelling and would go anywhere- though I am always torn between trying to see new places and returning to the ones I have most loved. The most amazing trip I ever went on was one my partner and I took together 20 years ago: We spent a year sailing from Lake Ontario to the Bahamas and back again (my novel A Thousand Shades of Blue was inspired by that trip!) It was an incredible experience and I would love to do something like that again—maybe closer to our new home, out here on the west coast. There are so many beautiful islands and waters to explore in the Pacific Northwest.

MBMCQ. What’s your favourite recent queer read? What queer book are you looking forward to?

A. Oops! See question 5 for favorite recent queer read! But I can rave about it again here too: Meredith Russo’s BIRTHDAY is wonderful and everyone should read it. And for a queer book I am looking forward to, I have actually have three that I am super excited to read and can’t choose between: a thriller called KEEP THIS TO YOURSELF by Tom Ryan, a memoir by Shaun Hutchison called BRAVE FACE, and the novel LIKE A LOVE STORY by Abdi Nazemian- which I guess is historical except I can’t get used to using that term to describe books set in the 80s!

Q. What’s something you always want to say in interviews but no one ever asks?

A. I think I’d like to talk about LGBTQ+ refugees—and related to that, about a book I have coming out this fall. Over 70 countries around the world still criminalize same-sex relationships, and because of my book PRIDE, I have had the opportunity to get to know LGBTQ+ activists in some of those countries—as well as some who had fled their countries and become refugees in neighbouring countries that are often not much safer. LGBTQ+ refugees are a highly vulnerable group and as a queer person living in a much safer country, I wanted to try to do something to help. So I wrote a book—which is a small thing, but it is what I know how to do.Ghost's Journey

It comes out in September, and it is a picture book called Ghost’s Journey: A Refugee Story. It is the story of two men from Indonesia, a couple called Rainer and Eka, who had to leave their country when their lives were threatened. They now live in Canada with their cat Ghost, who travelled with them. The story is told through Ghost’s point of view, and the book’s illustrations were created from photographs taken by Rainer. All my royalties from the book, and partial publisher proceeds as well, will go to support LGBTQ+ refugees. So I would be really grateful to anyone who can help spread the word and make this little book a bestseller so that it can raise both awareness and funds! The organizations it will support are called Rainbow Railroad and Rainbow Refugee, and they do such important, lifesaving work.

Here’s the link to pre-order and here is an excellent video about the work done by Rainbow Railroad, in case you want to learn more about how this organization saves lives of LGBTQ+ people facing state-sponsored persecution.

Robin Stevenson is the award winning author of 25 books for kids and teens. She writes fiction and non-fiction, for toddlers to teens. Her YA novels include Blood on the Beach, Inferno, Hummingbird Heart, Escape Velocity and A Thousand Shades of Blue. She lives on the west coast of Canada with her family. Find her online at www.robinstevenson.com, on Twitter as @robin_stevenson, and on Instagram as @robinstevensonwrites.

Thank you so much, Robin, for all the great work you do for this community and for this interview!

Laina