In this week’s episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin is joined by Daniel Stalter, as they discuss the first trailer for a reboot series of the movie I Know What You Did Last Summer, the trailer for Hawkeye and celebrate Gwendoline Christie joining the cast of Wednesday for our Strong Female Character of the Week.
Bill Konigsberg is the author of six books for young adults, which have won awards including the Stonewall Book Award, the Sid Fleischman Award for Humor, and the Lambda Literary Award. Bill lives with his husband, Chuck, and their two Labradoodles, Mabel and Buford. Please visit him on Twitter @billkonigsberg.
I had the opportunity to interview Bill, which you can read below.
CW: Discussion of mental illness and suicide.
First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT. Could you tell us a little about yourself?
Thank you, and sure! I’m the author of six young adult novels, all of which explore the lives of LGBTQ characters. I live in Phoenix, Arizona, with my husband, Chuck, and our Labradoodles, Mabel and Buford. Before turning to YA lit, which I did by publishing my first novel in 2008, I was a sports writer for ESPN and The Associated Press. In fact, I became the first openly gay man at ESPN when I wrote an essay called “Sports World Still a Struggle for Gays” in 2001.
As a journalist for websites for ESPN, how would you describe the transition from sports writer to young adult author? Would you say there are any times where your former writing experience bleeds into the other?
It’s really a different world. With sports journalism—any journalism, really—you’re looking to be as concise as possible, using an economy of words. Creative writing allows me to really branch out and explore language in a way that journalism never did. I would say that a bunch of my novels include athletics, and (hopefully) I do that well. ☺
Where would you say your ideas for books usually come from? Do you look towards anywhere specific for inspiration while writing?
It’s kind of all over the place. Sometimes, like with my most recent, THE BRIDGE, I get inspired with a concept and move forward from the idea. More frequently with me, I want to write about a specific character whose voice I hear in my head. It’s like I’ll get a line of dialogue or something that triggers me to explore more, as if a character is leading me and saying, “Hey there, come see about me!”
Some of your books, including The Music of What Happens, deal with the subject of masculinity, of characters trying to figure out what it means to be a “man” as well as navigating toxic masculinity. Could you lend us your thoughts on this?
This has been such a huge theme in my life. Maybe because of my youth, in which I played a lot of sports but was also dealing with what was at the time a secret, that I liked other guys? I think over time I began to really focus in on those questions about what it means to be a man, as opposed to the lessons we learn from media, or in our society. I think standing up and being counted even when you’re different is more courageous than so many of the toxically masculine attributes—violence, being taciturn—are. So yes, I seem to come back to that issue a lot. I think it’s important that we allow boys to be who they are, and not try to live up to some bogus and false vision of masculinity that breaks down the more you look at it.
Your latest book, The Bridge, deals with some very strong subjects, including suicide and depression. What drew you to writing about this? Is there any advice you would want to give to other writers writing this topic?
I was drawn to write about suicide and depression because of my own history with both. I have been dealing with chronic depression since I was a teenager, though at the time I don’t know that I knew what that was. In my mid-to-late 20s, I attempted suicide by taking pills. The pain in my life was just too much for me to bear, or that’s what it felt like at the time. It took me a long time to write about these things, because it’s such a vulnerable thing, talking about mental health. I didn’t want people to judge me based on that, but really over time I began to realize that was the same thing as not wanting to be judged for being gay. My life’s work, it seems, is to keep uncovering the things I’m not supposed to talk about, and writing about them in great detail.
As for advice for someone writing about this topic: I would stress the importance of not glamorizing suicide. Suicidal feelings can be so powerful, and what is most helpful, in my opinion, is letting people know that they are not alone, that other people have felt the same way. The most dangerous thing we can tell people who are struggling is that something good comes from completing suicide. We need to stress how important it is for all of us to stay another day, even when it’s really hard.
What advice would you give to writers in general, especially those looking to finish a book?
I’d stress that when we talk about finishing a book, often we are talking about finishing a first draft of a book! And by that, I mean that novels generally take at least three rounds of revisions to get really good! So instead of comparing your first draft to someone’s third (or eighth, you never know!), just get the words down so you can see what you have and get into revision, which is where a lot of the magic happens.
Aside from writing, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love spending time with my dogs, and I love spending time with good friends. Those are probably the things I spend most of my time doing, and I really enjoy both.
What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet, but wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)?
That’s a tough one. I’ve been asked a lot of questions over the years! Maybe something about legacy, about what I hope I have given to young readers. And the answer to that would be that I hope some young readers have seen their own hearts in my writing. That they have recognized something innately wonderful in my characters that they can also identify in themselves, and feel really good about.
As a writer who has been in the game for a while, how have you seen the landscape of young adult literature change since you first entered and today, or even since you were a young adult yourself?
In the 13 years since my first novel came out, the landscape of young adult literature has changed drastically. I remember winning the Lambda Literary Award with that first novel, Out of the Pocket. There were maybe 25 books that year to choose from that had LGBTQ protagonists. Now, on a yearly basis, there are probably 300! I think the quality of writing has improved a lot. I think the diversity of voices has grown significantly, though we are still working on that. I think the types of intersectionality seen in these novels today dwarfs anything that was happening 13 years ago. In short, I think we’re in a YA renaissance, where some incredible work is being done.
Are there any questions you are working on and at liberty to discuss?
I have a novel coming out next May called DESTINATION UNKNOWN. It’s about two boys meeting in 1987 New York City, with the AIDS crisis looming all around them. I have read so many books about AIDS, and have always dreamed of writing one. Having grown up in that time and place, it has been a huge issue in my life, and I think I’ve needed to write about it for a long time.
Finally, what queer books/authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?
I had the opportunity to interview Julie, which you can read below.
First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m Julie Sondra Decker and I’m an author, educator, and activist from Florida. I’m aromantic, non-partner-seeking, and asexual. I’ve always loved writing—most of my fiction is fantasy, speculative fiction, or science fiction, but whenever I’m passionate about something I love to write about that too, so I’m always writing articles, essays, rants, and sometimes even longer works. I’m a hobbyist musician and artist who also loves cartoons, baking, karaoke, reading, and spending quality time with friends. I do support work at an engineering firm as my main day job, and my side work has involved my writing and sometimes freelance editing. I live by myself in a big house with no kids and no pets, and though I socialize frequently, I really value my solitude. I’m always working on some new project.
As a person who identifies on the aromantic-asexual spectrum, how did you find yourself discovering this part of your identity?
I was a teenager in the 1990s before internet communities existed, so my access to similar people was limited when I was growing up. Dating other people was never my idea, and when I was propositioned, relationships I consented to never came with any spark of interest, neither romantic nor sexual. I didn’t realize those two attractions might even be separate because I wasn’t interested in either romance or sex, and since everyone else seemed to want both, I thought it was a single experience that just didn’t happen to me. I only understood them as distinct attractions once I met people who experienced one and not the other.
As I was first realizing this was pretty different from others’ experience in my school, I began to refer to myself as “nonsexual” and didn’t worry too much about it. I assumed that eventually I would like someone that way, but wasn’t in any hurry for it to happen, and none of the romantic or physical interaction I experimented with was inspired by intrinsic desires from me, nor was any of it satisfying or interesting. On a good day it was just boring, but most of the time it was actively unpleasant. Eventually I decided if I was going to have another relationship, it was going to be my idea, and I would wait for some indication from MY body or mind that I wanted this before I tried anything else. But I never did feel any kind of sexual or romantic attraction to anyone else, so I felt comfortable using my “nonsexual” term until the broader community grew up under “asexual” and gave me more widely used language for it.
How did you find yourself getting into this type of advocacy? Did anything in particular inspire you?
Since I always turn to writing as a means of expression, working out my annoyances in text seemed like a natural step. I had a rudimentary website in the late 1990s and one of its sections contained a page of rants. Most were on topics like “my roommate is annoying” or “I hate running out of toilet paper,” but one of the rants was essentially a top-ten list about responses I hated hearing when people found out I was not interested in sex. I listed the most common knee-jerk reactions, from “you just got out of a bad relationship” to “you’ll change your mind when you’re more mature”; from “you’re secretly gay” to “you’re too ugly to get a man”; from “you’re just trying to be special” to “you just haven’t tried ME yet.” (And of course, everyone’s favorite Bingo Free Space: “Have you gotten your hormones checked?”)
That essay got far more attention than the other complaints on the page, and suddenly I was hearing from other people who felt the same way I did. And what really struck me was how many of those emails were so desperate, sad, and grateful to find out they weren’t alone. I hadn’t ever been particularly concerned about my asexuality even though I was frequently irritated by ignorant comments, so hearing how lost these people had felt for so long was as eye-opening as it was heartbreaking. From that point on I worked to make content for various media and made myself available to be interviewed when there was interest, and when I realized many “gatekeepers” against asexuality cited a lack of published material on the subject as evidence that asexuality wasn’t a legitimate orientation, I decided a book needed to exist and that I was well placed to write it.
Your book, The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality, is considered one of the first non-fiction books on the subject. What inspired you to write this book and did the fact that it was one of the first published texts on the subject put any particular pressures on you?
Other books did exist but they were either textbooks (written by a non-asexual person) or self-published books (great but less mainstream reach). In an ideal world, I think people who want to learn about a subject should be willing to consider less traditional media coming straight from underrepresented voices with lived experience, but in the real world we have many people with traditional understandings of legitimacy, and unfortunately those people might be controlling our lives. Having a book out there to find makes it easier to order it to a library, cite it for a school report, bring it to your therapist, or lend it to a parent or partner to ease your coming out. And getting the message out there is easier with a mainstream publisher with its ability to reach markets that are less accessible to self-published authors or niche publishers.
I do say in the introduction to the book that it is not meant to be a comprehensive look at the topic, nor should it be upheld as some kind of ultimate word on everything asexual. But I knew that it would probably be The Asexual Book for quite some time and that made me hyper aware that a) I didn’t want to get anything wrong and b) I didn’t want to leave anyone/anything out. So I requested volunteer readers from dozens of specific demographics—I put out a call for test readers on my social media and got over one hundred responses (with more than half of them actually coming through with feedback). Every section in the book that represents an experience or identity has been read by someone who matches it and gave thoughts and feedback. (That’s why the acknowledgments section is so long!) In some cases I was simply told that I had already covered everything they could want, while in other cases I received enthusiastic suggestions for more points and topics to include, or occasionally critique and concerns. Non-asexual volunteers also read the parts for non-asexual people. And multiple bloggers whose work was significant in the asexual online world agreed to let me include quotes from them so we could at least have some distinct, diverse voices breaking up the general narration.
Despite the work I put in, there are obviously some things I would change today, and I have seen some parts of it get misunderstood or taken out of context for disappointing reasons. I’ve also seen legitimate criticism, and after discussing that early commentary with its authors, in two cases I was able to incorporate revisions that addressed the issues in the next edition of the book.
How have you seen the field of asexual media/literature change since the publication of your book?
There are more mainstream-published books on the topic, first of all. It’s nice to have other books out there that cover different ground and provide a different look at the experience of asexuality. I’ve also seen a veritable explosion of asexual characters entering fictional landscapes—in sitcoms, in cartoons, in comics, in literature—and more media personalities identifying publicly as asexual. We’re moving away from the simple need for awareness and more toward advocacy; the world knows we’re here, so what do we do about it?
As a writer who has been in the Aro-Ace (or Aspec) community for over twenty years, how have you seen the community evolve since your entry into it? How have you seen the world’s perception of aspec identities change (or not change) since then? What would you like to see change?
Within the communities, there was a question of core identity and microculture signifiers—what did WE count as asexual or aromantic, what language did WE want to use for ourselves, do we want to “reclaim” insulting commentary or reject it, what do we want our flag to look like? Are we queer? How do we fit in, and how do we not? Is it appropriate to name the majority, the non-asexual population, and is it possible to tease out what disadvantages being asexual or aromantic has as a marginalized identity? We talked about all these things, and sometimes argued about them, and sometimes invented new language to help describe more specific experiences within ace or aro identity, and sometimes dealt with waves of gatekeeping or harassment or bad media examples that set us up as targets. We’ve seen this movement evolve from internet communities just looking for someone to see us and hear us to a collection of organizations, individuals, and concepts that has political importance, allyship, pride, visibility, and resources. We’ve lobbied to have our orientation recognized in Federal non-discrimination legislation. We’ve successfully communicated to have definitions revised in major mental health resources to reflect the legitimacy of asexuality. And many of us have been able to support each other through forming or leaving relationships and talking to our loved ones about who we are.
I’ve definitely seen a shift in recognition of the orientations over the years—it used to be almost inevitable that coming out as asexual would then lead to a twenty-minute Q&A with someone who still walked away thinking “eh, it’s a phase, they’ll grow out of it.” Conversely, now almost everyone I talk to about asexuality has heard of it before their conversation with me. I’d like to see authentic understanding of asexuality and aromanticism grow in the future, and other developments I’d love to see would be a) more asexual and aromantic characters in popular stories; b) a revision of the DSM-5’s definition of asexuality and treatment of sex aversion since it’s currently still pretty problematic, as well as more information for and resources for mental and physical health providers; and c) the establishment and growth of physical organizations dedicated to asexuality and aromanticism.
For someone who is new to the ace community, what resources would you recommend checking out?
I generally tell new aces to figure out their preferred way of absorbing information and jump right in. If they want a written resource, I’m partial to recommending my own but also like to recommend ACE by Angela Chen, reading blogs and articles from my resource list, and reading through scientific research and/or posts on AVEN. If they like podcasts or interactive interviews, I have some of those in my resources list too. If they get something out of interacting, I recommend they start a blog and interact with other ace content, or post on and read/comment on posts in AVEN or ace/aro Facebook groups. If they want to go to ace meetups, I have resources for those (though they can be sparse). And if they want to watch visual media, there are a few news stories and a documentary to recommend, plus YouTube is full of vlogging aces who make everything from educational videos to fun debunks of popular misconceptions.
What are some things you wish you had known when you first came out as aspec?
I regret very little and can’t think of anything I’d change about how it all went down. But I think at the very beginning since I developed my identity in isolation, I was predisposed to believe MY experiences and definitions could be generalized, and I think it would have been good to know that some of them were not. I didn’t realize, for instance, that detractors who assigned me traumatic sexual experiences in my past to “explain” my orientation shouldn’t be countered with statements like “no, aces aren’t traumatized” since, well, some aces do have experiences like that and denying that it’s true for ME could accidentally throw them under the bus depending on how it’s phrased. But for so long I thought I was mostly just talking about myself and couldn’t see the harm that could do.
Aside from your writing and advocacy work, what are some things you would want others to know about you?
I can serve as a good example of an asexual, aromantic, unpartnered person who legitimately wants to be this way and isn’t sad or lonely. I generally don’t have trouble convincing other ace or aro people that this is true, but some of them have trouble seeing how they can be happy in their own lives when they’re surrounded by negative messages about their futures and lack positive examples of fulfilled aro and ace people. I’d love people to understand that asexuality and aromanticism has never been experienced as a hole or a missing piece for me and I formed whole without that part, and if someone out there feels broken or incomplete because everyone ELSE keeps telling them this piece is supposed to be there and is vital to a satisfying adult life, they don’t have to internalize that or live that way. We just don’t have omnipresent examples in our lives of how fulfilled ace/aro/unpartnered life might look, so we have to do more work to invent it and step into it ourselves. If we do that, I assure you we will be much happier.
What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet that you wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)?
I’ve seen other aces sometimes ask this question but I don’t think I’ve ever been asked it: “If you could take a pill to change you so you could experience sexual attraction, would you take it?” Or maybe, “Do you wish you were not asexual/aromantic?”
For me, it’s a very confident no. I’ve never had the envy some people talk about with regard to wishing I fit in more in this regard, nor do I have a particular curiosity about what it would be like to be like someone else. I’ve heard some people say that sounds impossible because why wouldn’t someone be curious, why wouldn’t we want to get involved with something that everyone talks about like it’s the best thing ever, but interestingly most of those people have at least one aspect of their identity that they’d never consider changing even if it were possible (e.g., a straight person who thinks it’s reasonable to insist aces must be awfully curious about what it would be like to be straight, but has never wondered what it might be like to be ace, and also wouldn’t take THAT pill).
But on top of that, I honestly get pretty fed up with hypotheticals like this. I haven’t been asked this specific question but I was once asked whether I would have sex “if I had to to save the world,” and what gender I would choose to have sex with if my sex acts could somehow save humanity. When I said I’d probably choose another woman, the person laughed and concluded I was a “hypothetical lesbian,” and brought it up several more times in other contexts insisting he had “proved” I was a lesbian. When people ask these questions they are often expressing that they don’t actually accept your REAL answer and want you to pick a box to sort you into that they find more comfortable, so they can then invalidate you and treat you like a hypothetical answer offered under duress reveals more about you than the answer that has applied in your non-hypothetical, real life all this time.
Sexual orientation isn’t a switch to flip, nor can it be controlled by a drug we can take, so entertaining the hypotheticals is not very practical. If something fundamental could be replaced with a different reality at the touch of a button, I’m essentially being asked what I might want if I were a different person. They want to hear that aces desperately want to be like them, or they want to hear that if we would choose to stay as we are then we’re accepting that our orientation “is a choice.” But everyone who asks leading questions to trap someone into admitting that REALLY their orientation constitutes close-mindedness or fear is projecting their own values onto someone who isn’t them. It’s peculiar, but it’s unfortunately pretty common.
Are there any projects you are currently working on and at liberty to speak about?
Not that it’s necessarily anything to get excited about because I have no guarantee that these projects will see the light of day, but I do have two YA novels in progress that have asexual characters—one protagonist in a realistic YA and one supporting character in a science fiction YA. If I am able to prioritize finishing one of them, get it through editing and into my agent’s hands, maybe it will get more exciting, but as such it barely counts as news. I’ve also written a science fiction short story with asexual protagonists (well, one asexual aromantic character and one graysexual demiromantic gender fluid character), but my submission attempts haven’t landed it a home yet.
I also continue to produce my Letters to an Asexual series on YouTube once a month.
What asexual or general LGBTQIA+ media (i.e. books/ television/etc.) would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?
Asexuality-nonfiction-wise, I did really like Angela Chen’s book ACE, and a book I recently read with a positive representation of an asexual and aromantic supporting character was The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home (a Welcome to Night Vale novel). Some of the more well-known representations of asexuality in visual media like Bojack HorsemanI still haven’t seen, but I did really enjoy the supporting asexual characters in Shortland Streetand Huge. In broader LGBTQIA+ media, I’m really enjoying The Owl House right now (a cartoon with canonically bisexual, lesbian, and nonbinary characters). And I think everyone already knows how much of a raging Steven Universefan I am, so recommending that is always a given—one of the characters was identified as asexual by one of the storyboard artists, even!
Dan Parent has brought Kevin Keller to Kickstarter! As part of Archie Comics‘ celebrating their first high profile LGBT character, you can now get every Kevin Keller story in one volume with over 700 pages of content.
As of writing this post, the campaign has pulled in $13,301 from 135 backers in just over a full day of being live. All reward tiers are still available and you can get the printed omnibus collection starting at just $45.
Dan Parent has been with Archie for over three decades and introducing Kevin Keller during that time is something that’s been important to Geeks OUT readers. That fact is important to Dan as well, who took the time to join Geeks OUT for our virtual Flame Con that was broadcast last month.
You can read the full press release from Archie Comics below.
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN… KELLER
Prolific Comic Creator Dan Parent Announces Kickstarter Campaign for KEVIN KELLER CELEBRATION!
To Mark His First Decade in Riverdale, Comic Omnibus Will Celebrate Kevin Keller’s Greatest Moments
(Los Angeles, CA) – XX, 2021– American comic book artist, writer and Archie Comics legend, Dan Parent, announced today a Kickstarter campaign to develop KEVIN KELLER CELEBRATION!, an omnibus of the trailblazing character’s first decade in Riverdale. With the blessing of Archie Comics, this complete compendium of all things Kevin will feature over 700-pages of comic book fun, chronicling Kevin’s game-changing first appearance to where Kevin’s legacy stands today.
“For the past 35 years, I’ve had the pleasure to work on multiple characters and titles for Archie, but my heart always comes back to my heart and soul, Kevin Keller,” said writer Dan Parent. “Being able to spearhead this campaign, with the support of Archie Comics, is the perfect way to continue the legacy of the character as well as celebrate the 80th anniversary of Archie Comics.”
Harvey Award nominee and 2013 GLAAD Award winner, Parent aims to build on the massive success of the highly successful Kickstarter campaign tied to his hit comic series DIE KITTY DIE with a comprehensive look at the life and times of Archie Comics’ first LGBTQ+ character. Fans of Kevin, Riverdale and Archie Comics will revel in this celebratory collection which features Kevin’s first appearance, the four issue mini-series, the complete fifteen issue KEVIN KELLER series, the LIFE WITH KEVIN graphic novel, highlights, extras and so much more!
“When Dan came to me with the idea of introducing Kevin to Archie Comics ten years ago, I knew we were on the precipice of a huge cultural shift for our brand and for that reason, among many others, is why we fully support Dan’s campaign efforts,” said Archie Comics CEO/Publisher Jon Goldwater. “The introduction of Kevin, Archie Comics first gay character, ignited readers and fans across the country and it’s a testament to Dan’s creative work that Kevin is such a positive and everlasting fixture in the world of Riverdale.”
Additional details on the KEVIN KELLER CELEBRATION! campaign as well as a full breakdown of Kickstarter rewards can be seen here.
In the return of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin is joined by Michelle Rose, as they discuss our first look at The Matrix: Resurrections, WandaVision making history at the Emmy’s for the MCU, and celebrate our first trailer for season two of We’re Here in This Week in Queer.
Gabriela Martins is a Brazilian kidlit author and linguist. Her stories feature Brazilian characters finding themselves and love. She was a high school teacher and has also worked as a TED Ed-Club facilitator, where she helped teens develop their own talks in TED format. She edited and self-published a pro-bono LGBTQ+ anthology (Keep Faith) with all funds going to queer people in need. When she’s not writing, she can be found cuddling with her two cats or singing loudly and off-key. Like a Love Song is her debut novel. Find her on Twitter at @gabhimartins and on Instagram at @gabhi.
First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?
Thank you so much for having me, friends! I’m super excited to be here! I’m Gabriela Martins, a Brazilian author, and LIKE A LOVE SONG is my debut. I was an English teacher for ten years and I’m also a linguist, now writing full-time while my cats cuddle on my lap.
How did you find yourself getting into writing fiction, particularly Young Adult?
I’ve always written fiction. My first-ever book was a rip-off of one of my favorite books at 11 years-old, only it was a lot gorier, and the protagonist was suspiciously like me. From then on, I wrote fanfic for many more years before starting to try to get published traditionally. And I tried and tried for a decade! I queried a handful of books, and they were all YA. I was always drawn to narratives that explore firsts, and being around teenagers for such a long time as a teacher has also definitely helped.
Your debut novel, Like A Love Song, features a Brazilian protagonist along with a variety of queer characters. As a queer, Brazilian author yourself have you ever felt like you were writing yourself, or parts of yourself, into this story? Also, was the title inspired by the Selena Gomez song?
I think we all write parts of ourselves in our stories, but being queer, especially so when we’re writing a story about finding out who you are, and having the courage to own up to it. My main character in the book isn’t queer, but she faces her own issues with self-acceptance throughout the book, more in relation to her heritage.
While Natalie, our main character, isn’t queer herself—which is also a conscious choice, as I grew up with the social and cultural message that queerness was contagious, and not truly who I was, just a product of being around so many queer people—her two closest friends and love interest are. I align way more with chaotic bi and sweatpants-loving Brenda than with all of Nati’s glamour in being a pop star, but I think there are bits and pieces of me in all of them in different ways.
The title actually came way later! The book’s initial title was You Can Call Me Nati, but our publishing team wanted that could tell you right off the bat that it was a romcom book and also showcase the musical aspect with a song as the title. I absolutely loved their suggestion, and we ran with it!
How would you describe your writing process? What do you wish you had known when you first started writing?
I wish I had known that revision is a biiiiiig deal. Before the shift from aspiration to day job, I am embarrassed to admit that… it’s not even that I wasn’t good at revising, I simply didn’t do it. I queried lots of books without having properly revised them. I didn’t even know how to. I write relatively clean drafts, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need tons of revisions! Working with skilled editors—my agent has a decade of history working as a RH editor prior to becoming an agent—helped me understand where my weaknesses are, so I can do a slightly better job at self-revising before I show anyone else my work. But I will say that I won’t be caught dead sharing a first draft with anyone, ever! That baby needs to sleep for a few days before I read it over and convince myself it’s not as bad as I think it is before I can even share with my critique partners. lol
Aside from your own book, is there any Brazilian media (i.e. books, movies/TV, music, etc.) you would want people to know about?
There are so many good things. Brazilian art is deeply prolific, and some of my favorite medias of all kinds are Brazilian. My favorite romcom movie of all time is Brazilian (“O Homem do Futuro”, a romcom/scifi crossover that is hilarious, nostalgic, and ultra-swoony). My favorite pop singer, IZA, is Brazilian, and I grew up with rock stars who were out and proud and defined rock’n’roll in Brazil: names like the late Cazuza, Cássia Eller, Renato Russo, but also Lulu Santos. Netflix recently released a Netflix Original called “Cidade Invisível” (Invisible City), a crime/fantasy show about Brazilian legends with a new spin.
Since your debut book is obviously inspired by music, did you listen to any specific artists while writing it? And who would you say are some of your favorite artists?
The album “Lover” by Taylor Swift had just come out, so I had that on repeat while I was drafting and revising. Funny thing, then “SOUR” by Olivia Rodrigo came out earlier this year, and I’ve been listening to that non-stop ever since! I feel like “Brutal” is just perfect for the book. I wish that song had been around already before the book was published, so I could add it as an epigraph. It’s just perfect.
As a writer, who or what you say are some of your greatest creative influences and/or sources of inspiration?
I read a lot and across a lot of different genres, so I feel like I should say books, but I do that for pleasure. What fills my well and ignites my veins really is music. Even little sparks of a story—a trope, a character name, the idea of a situation—only really take shape once I start listening to songs that fill in the blanks, and it snowballs from there. Some of the albums on repeat on my Spotify lately are SUNMI’s “1/6”, Taemin’s “Advice”, Olivia Rodrigo’s “SOUR”, Sum 41’s “Underclass Hero”, and Kid Abelha’s “Educação Sentimental”.
Are there any projects you are currently working on and at liberty to speak about?
In summer 2022 my sophomore book comes out, also with Underlined/PRH. It’s called BAD AT LOVE and it features Daniel, a rocker with a bad rep of being a player—but who’s actually super shy and only suffered a million tabloid misunderstandings—and Sasha, a stubborn and cynical teen journalist with no chance of going to college… until their paths cross. Daniel is challenged by his bandmates to date Sasha for the whole summer on a bet, and she’s offered a chance at a scholarship if she can find the dirtiest dirt on L.A.’s favorite bad boy. He is demi and she is pan, and I can’t wait for you to meet them too!
Finally, what LGBTQ books/authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?
Daniel Aleman was born and raised in Mexico City. A graduate of McGill University, he is passionate about books, coffee, and Mexican food. After spending time in Montreal and the New York City area, he now lives in Toronto, where he is on a never-ending search for the best tacos in the city. You can connect with him on Twitter (@Dan_Aleman) and Instagram (@danaleman). I had the opportunity to talk with Daniel, which you can read below.
First of all, congratulations on your new book, Indivisible! Where did the inspiration for this story come from?
Thank you so much! This story came from a deep desire to tell a story about immigration in my own terms. I wanted to write a book about immigrant characters that felt human, compassionate, and sincere, and which showed us a perspective that is different from what we tend to see on the news.
I feel as though representation of immigration in media tends to focus on the political and legal dimensions of this crisis, and I wanted to talk about it for what it really is: a human issue.
When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? How did you find yourself coming into the creative writing field?
I’ve been a storyteller my whole life. I started writing short stories when I was seven or eight years old, and I went on to write full-length novels by the time I was a teenager. Writing has always been such an intrinsic part of who I am, and the thought of becoming a published writer has always been in the back of my mind.
I started pursuing the path to publication when I was in college, which was when I began to learn about the process of finding a literary agent. It took me four different manuscripts and many years to sign with my agent, but ultimately, I feel like all the rejections I received helped shape me into the writer I am today.
What books or authors inspired you growing up? Who and what inspires you now?
I have deep admiration for series like Twilight and The Hunger Games, which sparked in me (and millions of other readers) a huge passion for young adult literature.
Nowadays, a couple of authors I absolutely love are Angie Thomas and Jodi Picoult, who have inspired me in more ways than I can count. I love books that tackle complex topics in a human, nuanced way that is accessible to broad audiences, and that is something that both Angie and Jodie do flawlessly.
The book’s focus on deportation and inequality in America’s treatment of immigrants is a truly relevant issue for all of us to focus on, especially now. As an immigrant, do you feel like have own life experiences have influenced your process writing this book?
Absolutely! There are many pieces of myself and my family in this story. Many of the emotions that the characters experience in INDIVISIBLE come from a very personal place, and I do believe I was able to portray a unique experience in this book, seeing as my own family immigrated from Mexico.
There is a famous quote, “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.” What are your thoughts on the ability of fiction as a medium for truth-telling and activism?
I adore that quote, because I believe it’s so accurate. I find that fiction can reveal so many things about ourselves and the world around us. In my case, I use fiction to understand myself better. In my writing, I explore many of the things that I fear and that I wish to change in the world, and my characters often mirror my own identity and experiences.
I also think that, as readers, fiction has a way of opening our eyes to the realities of people who are different from ourselves. Books have the enormous power to build empathy.
Besides being an author, what are some other things you would want people to know about you?
I am absolutely obsessed with Mexican food — particularly tacos. If I could pick a single food to eat for the rest of my life, that would definitely be it (particularly Al Pastor tacos, which remind me so much of Mexico City, where I grew up). I am also a dog person and an avid coffee drinker.
In regards to the realm of LGBTQ+ narratives, there are still many narratives that haven’t been told yet. As a queer person, would you say you intentionally sought out to write a story that you personally wanted to see in the world?
Definitely! With Indivisible, I wanted to tell a story that was a bit different from what we’re used to seeing. I think that stories that center queer issues have always been and will always be deeply relevant, but I also think that we need stories where we see queer characters dealing with issues that don’t necessarily center their queerness. With Mateo, I wanted to write about a boy who is loved for who he is and who is accepted by his friends and family — and who is also faced with challenges and ambitions that are unrelated to his identity as a gay teen.
What advice would you want to give other people who want to tell stories, especially their stories?
I think it’s so important to lead with honesty. As writers, we often feel pressure to adapt to what other people expect from us, but I think that the stories that come from a deeply personal, honest place always have a way of standing out.
It’s also important to persevere through rejection. Keep writing, keep creating, and eventually you will find someone who believes in your story as much as you do.
Are there any other projects or story ideas you are currently nursing and could tell us about?
Yes! I’m currently working on my second young adult novel, which is somewhat similar to Indivisible in terms of themes and tone. Though the plot and characters are entirely different, this will be another book about immigration, identity, family, and growing up too quickly. I am also working on a third young adult novel, which is a departure from my first two novels. I can’t say much about that project yet, but I’m really excited about it!
Finally, what queer books would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?
I always recommend Surrender Your Sons by Adam Sass, which I feel is sharp, poignant, and compulsively readable. Other recent favorites are Can’t Take That Away by Steven Salvatore and Jay’s Gay Agenda by Jason June. If you haven’t read these books yet, you need to add them to your TBR now!
#1 New York Times & #1 USA Today bestselling author P.C. Cast was born in the Midwest, and, after her tour in the USAF, she taught high school for 15 years before retiring to write full time. PC is a member of the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame. Her novels have been awarded the prestigious: Oklahoma Book Award, YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, Booksellers’ Best, and many, many more. Ms. Cast is an experienced teacher and talented speaker who lives in Oregon near her fabulous daughter, her adorable pack of dogs, her crazy Maine Coon, and a bunch of horses.
Kristin Cast is a #1 New York Times and #1 USA Today bestselling author who was born in Japan and grew up in Oklahoma where she explored everything from tattoo modeling to broadcast journalism. After battling addiction, Kristin made her way to the Pacific Northwest and landed in Portland. She rediscovered her passion for storytelling in the stacks at dusty bookstores and in rickety chairs in old coffeehouses. For as long as Kristin can remember, she’s been telling stories. Thankfully, she’s been writing them down since 2005.
I had the opportunity to interview both P.C. and Kristin about their latest book, Spells Trouble, which you can read below.
First of all, congrats on your latest book, Spells Trouble. Could you tell us in your own words what it’s about?
PC: Twin witches attempting to save their world and deal with teenage drama!
KC: Thank you! Spells Trouble is about two witches who, through protecting their town and learning more about their magic, find out not only what it means to be family but also what it means to be truly comfortable with yourself.
What are your favorite parts of the writing process? What is your least favorite?
PC: My favorite part is always the last third of a manuscript. I fly through those pages. My least favorite part is outlining and revising.
KC: I am the opposite. I love both outlining and revising. It’s the writing of the first draft that I absolutely do not enjoy. Funny since writing the book makes up the bulk of my job.
As mother and daughter, what would you say your artistic collaboration is like together? What would you say are the benefits of drawbacks of working with family?
PC: I love working with Kristin. Writing is such a solitary job that it’s wonderful to have her in the trenches with me. It’s great that she and I understand exactly what’s going on in the manuscript, so if I’m having an issue with a scene I can reach out to her for help – and she to me. Drawbacks? NONE! Because I’m the mom! (Insert maniacal laughter)
KC: I think that I bring the more regimented, organized side of the book creation process to the table whereas Phyllis brings spontaneity and creative freedom. She has really taught me to trust my creative instincts and to let my writing flow without judgment. The drawback of working with family is that work creeps into everything. It’s difficult to draw that line between personal life and work life when part of your personal life is wrapped up in work.
As Geeks OUT is an LGBTQ+ centered site, could you discuss some of the queer elements of the book?
PC: Kristin writes our wonderful queer character, Hunter, who I adore. Hunter is such a complex, interesting and strong character.
KC: Hunter Goode is a lesbian. Being the only person in the small high school of her small town who is out, she feels like an outsider. It’s always been interesting to her that others put so much of an emphasis on her sexuality when who she’s attracted to doesn’t make up who she is. Throughout Spells Trouble, Hunter struggles with her confidence and feeling at home in her own skin.
What advice would you give to other writers, especially those interested in fantasy or at least those trying to finish their first projects?
PC: Keep writing! And rewriting and rewriting. Read constantly. Research the job of being a professional author as you would any other job/career.
KC: Give yourself grace. Missed writing days, being emotional over rejections, not reaching word count or page count goals, needing space away from projects and people—these are just a handful of things that you’ll encounter on your writing journey. When they come about, be kind to yourself. You’re doing your best.
What LGBTQIA+ book/authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?
PC: I love love love Caleb Roehrig’s THE FELL OF DARK so much! It’s smart and funny and way scarier than I thought it was going to be. Actually, all of Caleb’s books are great!
KC: The two authors currently on my mind and at the top of my Audible library are V.E. Schwab and Tirzah Price. Schwab is one of my favorite authors. She wrote The Invisible Life of Addie Larue, which I’m sure you’ve heard of, but she’s written so many other amazing adult and YA stories. If you see one of her books in the store/library, get it immediately. I also recently listened to Price’s first YA novel, Pride and Premeditation. It is excellent, and she is so fun to follow on Instagram.