Interview with Author Amanda Lovelace

amanda lovelace (she/they) is the author of several bestselling poetry titles, including her celebrated “women are some kind of magic” series as well as her “you are your own fairy tale” trilogy. she is also the co-creator of the believe in your own magic oracle deck. when she isn’t reading, writing, or drinking a much-needed cup of coffee, you can find her casting spells from her home in a (very) small town on the jersey shore, where she resides with her poet-spouse & their three cats.

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT. Could you tell us a little about yourself? 

thanks so much, and of course!

my name is amanda lovelace, and i’m an author, poetess, and oracle deck creator.

i’m most known for my first poetry series, “women are some kind of magic”, which includes some bestselling and award-winning titles: the princess saves herself in this one, the witch doesn’t burn in this one, and the mermaid’s voice returns in this one. there’s also an oracle deck based on the series, believe in your own magic, which i co-created with illustrator janaina medeiros.

my more recent releases include my modern-day persephone collection, flower crowns & fearsome things, as well as my “you are your own fairy tale” trilogy: break your glass slippers, shine your icy crown, and the yet-to-be-released finale, unlock your storybook heart (march 15th, 2022).

most of my works explore things like trauma, feminism, and empowerment.

What first drew you to poetry? Do you remember any poets or poetry collections that inspired your love for the medium?

music, actually!

the lyrics in songs always moved my soul and helped me cope with the more serious things going on in my life, especially as a child and teen. i loved bands like linkin park and evanescence, and i eventually began writing my own “lyrics”, which i realized later were also poems.

in terms of poets, though, emily dickinson is always the first name that comes to mind. her simple-yet-intricate verses about nature, religion, and death continue to haunt me through adulthood. i’ve visited her old home in amherst, massachusetts (which was turned into a museum) a few times now, and i’m moved by the beautifully intense energy there every time.

What can you tell us about your latest book, flower crowns and fearsome things?

as you may or may not know, persephone is the greek goddess of spring as well as the queen of the underworld. on the surface, these titles directly oppose one another. how can someone frolic through a meadow yet still manage to reign over a place like the underworld? regardless of how impractical it may seem, persephone chooses to be both, embodying them for equal parts of the year.

flower crowns & fearsome things begins with a poem that reads, “who said you can’t / wear a flower crown / & still remain / a fearsome thing?”, and it’s titled “make persephone proud.” 

i wanted to write a collection about a modern-day speaker who seeks to make persephone proud—embracing both the sensitive wildflower and the angry wildfire inside of her. much of it is loosely based on the myth of hades and persephone, but i would call it an archetype exploration more than anything. 

the poems are a little messy and contradictory, and they’re supposed to be, because that’s the whole point of the collection: women should be allowed to be those things and so much more. this collection is me shamelessly reveling in that.

From the looks of your poetry, fairy tales seems to be strong component of your work. Why do you feel you keep getting drawn to these stories?

i’ve asked myself that a lot, haha!

i think it’s because fairy tales and fantasy books were my coping mechanisms growing up—when things felt hopeless, the magic in those stories inspired me to keep living to see another day, even if it was just to read another chapter. 

since my very first collection, the princess saves herself in this one, i’ve wanted to write my past and present struggles into those fairy tales and give myself a happy ending. it gives me a renewed sense of hope, and people have told me it gives them hope, too, so i keep doing it, and luckily, people keep reading.

though my more recent collections (i.e., the “you are your own fairy tale” trilogy and flower crowns & fearsome things) are a *little* more fictional than my previous collections, there’s always a piece of my truth in everything i write, whether it’s a feeling, a belief, or a personal experience. these collections have given me the chance to explore topics that didn’t fit into other collections, so in some ways these ones feel even more personal to me, and they give me just as much hope.

Aside from fairytales, is there anything else you feel inspired by?

magic—real life magic, which some people might spell like magick

when i started to call myself a witch, my perspective on the world and on life itself completely changed, and i think that’s something that can easily be seen when you look at my earlier works versus now. i see the sparkle and purpose in everything, and that inspired me to create the believe in your own magic oracle deck, and it’s inspiring even more projects that i can’t wait to share! 😊

As a queer/ Aspec person, I just want to say it makes me really happy to see more asexual/ queer writers out there? Are there any times you would say this part of your identity plays into your work? 

yes, absolutely! 

it’s not always very obvious because, well, poetry, but that piece of me is in almost every collection i write.

in shine your icy crown, the second installment in the “you are your own fairy tale” trilogy, the speaker realizes that she has “much more interesting things to do” than to kiss boys. she ultimately chooses herself, not one of the many princes vying for her attention. as the collection goes on, she makes it clear that she wouldn’t mind ending up with someone else, but she’s not totally attached to the idea, either – it would just have to be the right person, the one who will “let in more stardust than storm clouds”. that’s something i can definitely relate to as someone who’s demisexual (which is on the asexual spectrum). i view her as demisexual as well.

in my next collection (and the finale of the “you are your own fairy tale” trilogy), unlock your storybook heart, the speaker is pansexual, which is another one of my queer identities. i can’t say a lot about this project yet, but i will say that i’m super excited—and admittedly also very nervous—for it to hit shelves. sadly, some readers made it known to me that they didn’t appreciate it when the speaker in break your glass slippers (the first installment) expressed her attraction to women. i’m not going to let that hatefulness effect my work, however.

Aside from writing, what are some things you would want readers to know about you?

what else is there?! haha~ 😊

  1. the only place i like better than home is the woods.
  2. spearmint tea > peppermint tea
  3. i’m a huge swiftie.

What advice might you have to give to other aspiring writers?

write that idea, even if it’s a little weird. (weird is good, actually.)

write that idea, even if no one else has written anything like it before. (maybe that means you should be the one to do it.)

write that idea, even if everyone around you tells you that there’s no market for it. (who says you can’t make one?)

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet but wish you were asked, as well as the answer to that question?

Question: You co-created an oracle deck, believe in your own magic, based on your first poetry series, “women are some kind of magic”. Will we also see an oracle deck based on the “you are your own fairy tale” trilogy?

there’s nothing currently in the works, but as that trilogy comes to a close, it has admittedly been on my mind more and more. may the stars align to make that happen!

Finally, what queer books/authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?  

literally anything by anna-marie mclemore. they’re an extremely talented YA author, and they make me question my writing skills daily. if you’re looking for a more specific recommendation, then my personal favorite would have to be blanca & roja!

for poetry: nikita gill, renaada williams, and ari. b. cofer.

Interview with Kat Calamia

Kat Calamia has been working in the comic book industry as a critic for over a decade with her YouTube channel, Comic Uno. She’s been writing for Newsarama since 2017 and also currently writes for DC Comics’ DC Universe – bylines include IGN, Fandom, and TV Guide. She writes her own comics with her titles Like Father, Like Daughter and They Call Her…The Dancer. Calamia has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and minor in Journalism through Marymount Manhattan and a MFA in Writing and Producing Television from LIU Brooklyn.

I had the opportunity to interview Kat, which you can read below.

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Of course! My name is Kat Calamia. I’m the editor, creator, and one of the writers for Bi Visibility: A Bisexual Anthology. I’m the writer/creator for the superhero drama, Like Father, Like Daughter, and the psychological martial arts thriller, They Call Her…The Dancer. I’m also the co-creator for WebToon’s queer romance, Slice of Life.

I’ve been a comic book critic for over a decade with my YouTube channel, Comic Uno. I currently write for Newsarama and have bylines with IGN, DC Comics, Fandom, and TV Guide. 

What can you tell us about your upcoming work, Bi Visibility: A Bisexual Anthology? What inspired the project?

Bi Visibility is a comic book anthology about bisexuality. It features 20 creators, telling a total of 9 stories ranging from romance to high fantasy.

As a bisexual creator myself, this is one of the most important projects I’ve ever worked on and a subject near and dear to my heart. Growing up, I had very little bisexual representation. I knew the label existed, but I didn’t know what it looked like, how it felt, or that could be bisexual. This was the driving force towards putting together this anthology. Representation matters! 

Can you tell us a bit about some of the artists/stories we can expect to see featured in the anthology?

There’s such a great range of creators and stories on this book. There are some creators that have worked on other sides of comics like journalism, PR, and lettering. Then we have other creators that are making their comic book debut with this anthology. 

As for the stories, we really wanted to display a diverse palette. This volume dives into dramatic stories like coming out, but then on the other side of the spectrum we have stories that dive into the fantastical world of D&D. We really have a narrative for everyone! 

Credit: Melissa Capriglione

Also, what exactly goes into making an anthology? Could you describe what it was like for you working in that process?

Well, first there’s the call for action. A couple of months ago we asked for writers and artists to write a script or showcase their portfolio if they wanted to apply for the anthology. This is how we picked the 20 creators that are now featured in the book. Once we narrowed this down, it was smooth sailing. We had an absolutely wonderful team, which really made everything a well-oiled machine.

As a comic book creator and journalist, what pulls you to comics? Do you remember any of the first comics (queer or otherwise) that drew you to the medium?

I’ve honestly been a comic book fan all my life. My dad got me into comics when I was really young. Instead of reading Snow White, we read Silver Age Superman comics. 

What pulls me to comics? I would say at first superheroes, but as I learned more about the medium it was the marriage of literature and visual storytelling. It really is the best of both worlds. The only limitation is your imagination! 

As for queer comics, I’d say Yuri manga really got me into queer storytelling. They have a plethora of queer content that traditional American comics just hasn’t fully tapped into – well at least to the extent where you get monthly physical releases from a solely GL genre.  

As a bi person, what do you hope this anthology says about bi identity (other than the fact that it’s real and people should stop calling it a phase, urgh)? 

I just hope people see the different facets that bi people go through, even if they learn that through an action spy thriller about having to give up your “bi card”. 

What advice would you give to other aspiring creators?

CREATE!! Put the stories out there that you want to tell! There are so many avenues opening up that’s making this more and more possible. 

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet and wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)?

You’ve asked all good ones! 

When can readers expect to see the completed anthology?

The book is actually all wrapped. I have the printed books all in my living room HAHA. They can expect the digital book a week or so after we wrap the Kickstarter and the physical book a few weeks following that.  

Are there any others projects you are working on and at liberty to discuss?

Our next Kickstarter we’re launching is actually in October. It’s for a physical version of our queer romance WebToon, Slice of Life. 

When gritty anime protagonist, Lady Vengeance, is brought to the real world by a super fan, she’ll learn there’s more to life than darkness and revenge…and she’ll find love with the super fan’s twin sister – a kind-hearted cheerleader.

Slice of Life is a queer romance that deconstructs the “Slice of Life” genre, unpacking the importance of everyday narratives to tell a larger story about the meaning of life from the point of view of a fictional character.

Finally, what LGBTQ+ books/comics would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?

For manga, I recommend books like Girl Friends and Bloom into You. For traditional comics there’s some great representation in Ms. Marvel with Zoe’s character, Heavy Vinyl is a wonderful queer book over at BOOM!, and, of course, there’s Runaways

Interview with Author Gary Lonesborough

Gary Lonesborough is a Yuin writer, who grew up on the Far South Coast of NSW as part of a large and proud Aboriginal family. Growing up a massive Kylie Minogue and North Queensland Cowboys fan, Gary was always writing as a child, and continued his creative journey when he moved to Sydney to study at film school. Gary has experience working in Aboriginal health, the disability sector (including experience working in the youth justice system) and the film industry, including working on the feature film adaptation of Jasper Jones. His debut YA novel, Ready When You Are, will be published by Scholastic in the United States in February 2022 and is available for pre-order now.

I had the opportunity to interview Gary, which you can read below.

First of all, congratulations on your debut book, Ready When You Are. Could you tell us a little about yourself and the book?

I was born in a little town called Bega in country New South Wales and moved to Sydney when I was 19. Ready When You Are is a story about an Aboriginal boy named Jackson who is also growing up in a small country town. Jackson meets a boy named Tomas who begins to awaken all these hidden feelings in Jackson – feelings that terrify him and excite him at the same time. It’s a story about falling in love for the first time and accepting who you really are. 

Where did the inspiration for Ready When You Are come from?

The inspiration for the book came from my own teen experience of growing up in a small country town as a closeted gay Aboriginal kid. I was really inspired to start writing after reading Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. 

What drew you to writing? Were there any stories or authors you felt inspired you or touched you as a reader?

I’ve loved writing for as long as I can remember. When I was nine years old, my teacher had me read a story I wrote in front of the class and I think that seeing my classmates’ reactions – laughing hysterically and rolling on the floor – really made me realise the power of writing. I loved books as a young kid as well. I loved Australian books by authors Paul Jennings and Andy Griffiths, I loved the Goosebumps books but my favourite was Captain Underpants. 

As an Aboriginal queer author of a book centered around an Aboriginal queer teen, this story seems like an intimate story for you. Were there any challenges, benefits, or unexpected discoveries in drawing from such personal experiences?

This is a really personal story for me and it was so important to allow myself to be vulnerable when I was writing, because I really wanted to articulate how I felt when I was a teen. It was challenging at times to explore the racism Jackson experiences in the book and hone in on those emotions, but by being vulnerable as a writer, I was really surprised by the authenticity I was achieving and how true to my experience the story began to feel.

Are there any other books you think stands in conversation in yours, in terms of queer or Aboriginal representation?

To be honest, I have rarely seen any books featuring queer Aboriginal characters. The only one that comes to mind while I’m typing this answer is Songs That Sound Like Blood by Jared Thomas.

Aside from writing, what are some of your other hobbies and interests?

I love watching Rugby League and have recently fallen in love with walking. I listen to at least twenty minutes of Kylie Minogue music each day and I’m a filmmaker as well, so I love watching movies and making them.  

What advice would you have to offer to aspiring writers?

Just keep writing. I believe you have to get through a lot of bad writing before you get to the good stuff, and that was certainly true for me. Just keep writing and reading and writing!

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet but that you wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)?

I’ve never been asked for my top three favorite Kylie Minogue songs. They are: 1. Your Disco Needs You. 2. On A Night Like This. 3. Get Outta My Way.

Are there any projects you are currently working on that you feel free to speak about?

I’m currently working on another YA novel as well as a MG fantasy! Both feature Aboriginal protagonists and explore growing up Aboriginal in Australia.

What are some things you hope readers will take away from reading Ready When You Are?

I hope readers will feel both hopeful and satisfied when they finish the book. The most important thing I want readers to take away is that it’s okay to be yourself. It’s okay to love yourself and love who you are.

What LGBTQIA+ books/ authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?

Invisible Boys by Holden Sheppard.

Loaded by Christos Tsoltakis 

Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertally

The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis

The Geeks OUT Podcast: True, Justice, and the Bisexual Way

The Geeks OUT Podcast

Opinions, reviews, incisive discussions of queer geek ideas in pop culture, and the particularly cutting brand of shade that you can only get from a couple of queer geeks all in highly digestible weekly doses.

In the return of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin is joined by Aaron Porchia, as they discuss some of the biggest news #SinceWeveBeenGone, including the revelation that trans Amazons exist in Nubia & the Amazons, and celebrate Superman coming out as bisexual in This Week in Queer.

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BIG OPENING

KEVIN:  Ruby Rose goes scorched earth on Batwoman to conflicting responses from the studio and costars
AARON: New trailer for Home Sweet Home Alone

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DOWN AND NERDY

KEVIN: Halloween Kills, No Time to Die, Batman: The Long Halloween, Evil, Chucky
AARON: Titans, Black Hammer, Future Feeling

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STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER

DC confirms there are trans Amazons in Nubia & The Amazons

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THIS WEEK IN QUEER

On National Coming Out Day, Superman comes out as bisexual 

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CLIP OF THE WEEK

New teaser for The Flash

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SINCE WE’VE BEEN GONE

New trailer for The Batman, New trailer for animated Catwoman: Hunted, First look at Shazam: Fury of the Gods, New teaser for Black Adam, HBO Max takes over Pennyworth for season 3, New teaser for Peacemaker, HBO Max renews Titans and Doom Patrol, First look at Naomi – all from DCFanDome

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THE WEEK IN GEEK

MOVIES

• The MCU release schedule has been changed (again)
• New trailer for The Black Phone 
• New trailer for Scream (5)
• Fingers crossed nothing gay will be removed from The Eternals
• New trailer for Uncharted

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TV

• Hulu orders History of the World Part II series from Mel Brooks
• Hulu cancels Y: The Last Man
• New trailer for Marvel’s Hit-Monkey
• Mel Gibson cast in John Wick spinoff series The Continental
• CEO of Netflix earns the ire of Hannah Gadsby, trans staff at Netflix, and the queer community
• New trailer for season 5 of Big Mouth
• New teaser for Cowboy Bebop
• New trailer for animated series Fairfax
• New trailer for Hawkeye
• Disney+ makes a big casting announcement for Ashoka series
• New trailer for animated series Harriet the Spy

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COMIC BOOKS

• DC Comics puts their money where their mouth is with Milestone Initiative
• Marvel celebrating 200th issue of Black Panther

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SHILF

• KEVIN: 007
• AARON: Anakin Skywalker

Interview with Author Steven Salvatore

Steven Salvatore (they/them and he/him) is a gay, genderqueer author, writing professor, Mariah Carey lamb, and Star Wars fanatic. They hold an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. They currently live in Peekskill, New York, with their amazingly patient husband, whose name is also Steve. They are the author of CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY and AND THEY LIVED…. They are also the co-founder of Pride Book Fest. Steven is represented by Jess Regel of Helm Literary Agency.

I had the opportunity to interview Steven, which you can read below.

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT. Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Thanks so much for having me! I’m honored to here! My name is Steven Salvatore and I’m a gay, genderqueer (they/them and he/him) author—my debut CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY came out this past March, 2021, and my next novel AND THEY LIVED… comes out this coming March 8, 2022. I’m are also the co-founder of Pride Book Fest. I spend most of my time daydreaming about all the stories floating around inside my head. Honestly, if I could live inside my stories, I would. That’s kind of how I write: Embody my main characters, walk around in their heads, do what they would do. Thankfully, it hasn’t gotten me in trouble yet, but maybe that’s because so many of my main characters tend to share my same obsessions: Like, Carey Parker in CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY, I’m obsessed with Mariah Carey. Like Chase Arthur in AND THEY LIVED…, I’m a Disneynerd. Like the main character in my 2023 release A SUPERCUT OF US, I’m a Star Wars fanatic. I could go on and go, but basically, if you want to know who I am, read my books and meet my main characters and that’ll tell you everything you need to know. 

When did you know you were first interested in writing, and what drew you specifically to Young Adult Fiction?

I’ve been writing stories since I was eight years old (that’s as far back as I can remember, anyway.) I started by writing The Lion King fanfiction, and eventually that lead to me trying to write original stories. It took me a long time to hone my craft, though. I got my undergraduate degree in writing, and went on to get my MFA in creative writing, but I had to really work hard to improve to get to where I am today, where I can more easily tell the stories I want to tell; a lot of that had to do with my identity because I lied to myself and suppressed who I was for such a long time that my stories felt like they were lying or that they just existed on the surface of something much, much deeper. Once I came out, I was able to start writing my truth, and as I continued to explore my genderqueerness I really came into myself as a storyteller.

I was first exposed to YA in undergrad in a children’s literature writing course, and the voice of YA drew me in. It felt raw and honest and chaotic and straightforward in a way that adult literary fiction just wasn’t. Now, you see more voice-y adult commercial fiction being published, but that wasn’t the case 15 years ago. 

Where did the inspiration and the impetus to write your debut book, Can’t Take That Away, come from? What about for your upcoming book, And They Lived…?

When I started CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY, I was processing my own complicated relationship with gender and realizing that I’m genderqueer. It started when I was teaching a creative writing course in the spring of 2018 and I decided to participate in the free-write prompt I gave my students. Carey Parker appeared on the page in their therapist’s office, holding a pair of ruby red slippers that were destroyed. I knew immediately who they were: a diva without a stage. I didn’t know the full story yet, but Carey was the person I wanted to be in high school. I imagined what it would have been like if I knew all aspects of my identity in high school and as I wrote, I channeled all my thoughts and feelings and experiences into Carey and their story.

AND THEY LIVED… has a slightly different origin story. The main character, Chase Arthur, has existed in my mind since I was 15-years-old. He was my way of escaping the world around me. And I’ve tried to write his story so many times over the years but could never get it right. Then I realized that his story is not just his story, but his story with his first love, Jack, who is based on the first person I fell in love with. It didn’t go the way I had hoped, so this was a way for me to rewrite my past and give myself and my version of Jack our happily ever after.

Like Ali Stroker’s book The Chance To Fly reimagines Wicked with a disabled lead, you also reimagine a more diverse portraying of the Broadway musical, this time with a genderqueer lead. What do you think your book has to say about musical theater, both its power, limitations and possibility for reinvention?

I think the beauty of musical theater is the energy and creativity and power of the live performance structure. The obvious limitations—the fact that everything exists on one stage, in the performances and dialogue, and is person-made as opposed to computer effects—are its greatest strengths, and in that stage has the ability to reinvent what’s possible: gender-diverse, racially diverse, and ability-diverse casting can broaden up the possibilities, and the fact that actors are always rotating in and out means that many different actors can embody lead roles, which will show audiences that the only limitations that exist are the ones that imposed by those in power. So really, that’s the real limitation: the imagination and agenda of those in power, who hold the purse strings (who are usually cis, straight, white, able-bodied men.) Theater has and always will be the most progressive and imaginative and raw form of entertainment. Hopefully Carey Parker can represent that for readers.

On that note, what’s your favorite number from Wicked and are there any other musicals you enjoy?

“The Wizard and I” will forever be my favorite. I will always love RENT, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Newsies, Beauty and the Beast (my first Broadway show—it will always stay with me!)

Something I’ve noticed with a lot of queer authors is that they often write the books that they wished their younger selves had. Did that in any way feel true for you?

Absolutely. I wish I had a gay genderqueer diva like Carey Parker as a teen. I wish I had a supportive mom, like Carey had. Perhaps if my book existed for me, I would’ve felt less alone and could’ve shared that with my own mom. Likewise, if I had a love story like Chase’s in AND THEY LIVED…, maybe I wouldn’t have thought that love wasn’t just a fairytale idea. It’s so important to have stories like these so that young people—and older folks too!!—feel valid, loved, supported, and can see themselves and all the possibilities, good, bad, and in-between.

Were there any stories (queer or otherwise) that you read or watched growing up that had touched you or felt relatable in any way? What stories feel relatable to you today?

Queer stories? No. I had nothing growing up but Will & Grace, and while I enjoyed it, I never felt like a “Will” or a “Jack,” so I didn’t think I fit in anywhere because those were the only two representations of gay male archetypes I saw. I wish I saw more stories that reflected me when I was young so that I could have related better to myself. 

The stories I relate to today are the ones that showcase the queer experience in all of its shades—from identity to sex.

I also want to address the idea of relatability, too. Because for me, stories shouldn’t necessarily be just about that aspect. I love stories that showcase something different than what I know because it’s about exposing me to different thought processes, different cultures, different practices and such. I think that every good story is a human story, and in that way, we can and should all relate to the humanity that exists in every story. But beyond that, as an adult, I don’t feel like I need to personally relate to everything I read in order to love and enjoy them the way I did was I was younger and never saw any aspects of myself.

What advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

Don’t give up! Writing is fun, but it’s also hard work, and it’s a long path to publication, if that’s your journey. But that doesn’t have to be your journey, either. Every writer has their own relationship with writing, and the most important thing is to keep doing it, over and over again. Try and fail. And then try again. Find your people, other writers you can trust to share your work with so that you can improve and learn from and share in successes with. Write, write, write. If you can’t live with telling stories, then do whatever you can tell to share that. Because the truth is, only YOU can tell YOUR story. 

Aside from writing, what are some things you would want others to know about you?

There are so many things, so many goals I have, so much of my past and present, so much of my personhood and personality that I could share if I wanted to. But honestly, I just people to remember that I’m human. I’m vulnerable and sensitive and emotional. Sometimes I think people forget that writers are human. 

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet and wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)?

I am obsessed with cheese, so “What’s your favorite cheese?” 

Thank you for asking! I would have to say a good cambozola. 

Can you tell us about any new projects you are working on and at liberty to discuss?

My third novel, A SUPERCUT OF US in coming out Spring of 2023, and I’m super excited about that—very Jandy Nelson’s I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN meets Dawson’s Creek with a bit of HBO’s Euphoria, which is told from two points of view—a brother and sister—who are dealing with their incarcerated fathers’ death and the mess he left behind for them, including an unknown half-sibling. I also have other projects in the work s

Finally, what LGBTQ+ books/authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?

Jason June’s JAY GAY AGENDA, Julian Winters’ THE SUMMER OF EVERYTHING, Nicolas DiDomizio’s BURN IT ALL DOWN, Kalynn Bayron’s CINDERELLA IS DEAD, PJ Vernon’s BATH HAUS, Kacen Callender’s FELIX EVER AFTER, TJ Klune’s THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA, Margot Wood’s FRESH, and anything by Becky Albertalli, Adam Silvera, and Casey McQuiston.

Interview with Ryka Aoki

Ryka Aoki is a poet, composer, and teacher and author of Seasonal VelocitiesHe Mele a Hilo (A Hilo Song)Why Dust Shall Never Settle Upon This Soul and The Great Space Adventure. Her next novel, Light from Uncommon Stars is forthcoming from Tor Books September 2021.

I had the opportunity to interview Ryka, which you can read below.

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Thank you for having me! It means a lot to be chatting with the folks at Geeks OUT. I’m Ryka, and I write, compose, and teach martial arts and self-defense to queer and trans women at the TransLatin@ Coalition in Los Angeles. My favorite composer is Chopin and since COVID, I miss eating hot pot with friends. I think everybody reading this should watch “Yuri on Ice.” I have a pet python named Peppermint. And my latest novel is Light from Uncommon Stars!

What inspired you to get into writing, particularly speculative fiction? Were there any writers or stories that sparked your own love and interest in storytelling?

I can’t ever remember not being a writer. It always just seemed to be that thing I did. Even when I tried to do something else, I always came back to writing. 

Growing up, I enjoyed science fiction and fantasy. Magazines like Analog and Amazing made me fall in love with the short story. Isaac Asimov’s “Nightfall” was another one. But I also felt there was something self-assured in that writing—it seemed almost overly indulgent—in a way that I wasn’t allowed to be. When it came to my own writing, I was quite aware of my own nonwhite background and outsider identity…and I realized that people like me were not meant to save the Universe.

Instead, I found much more resonance with writers like Toni Morrison and the late Primo Levi who wrote of worlds much closer to us, sometimes tragically so. So, I channeled my writing into poetry and literary fiction and essays. In fact, I still love all three.

What brought me back into speculative fiction was a short story I wrote for the trans speculative anthology Meanwhile, Elsewhere. I didn’t expect it, but writing a science fiction short story gave me a very familiar thrill. I wanted more,

And I as started watching anime and manga like “Aria,” “Space Battleship Yamato,” and “Sailor Moon” and “Macross” I realized, in a very SMH way, that there was more to speculative fiction than what was being produced in the United States. 

And so, I took everything that I knew, and channeled it into imagining what I wanted to know. I’m very happy with the result. ☺

Music and food seem to be pretty strong elements of your latest book, Light From Uncommon Stars. What prompted you to write with this in mind?

Culture is conveyed so often and so well through food and music, yet there’s comparatively little cooking and music in science fiction. Yes, I know there’s some, but compared with space battles and aliens and epidemics and geologies…not too many depictions of rice porridge. 

More personally, unlike a lot of my friends, I don’t have the constant “internal monologue” that people were talking about so much a year or so ago. So nonverbal forms of communication such as food and music feel very close and real to me.

I tell people that I love them with my cooking. And sometimes, I don’t need to watch a movie; all I need is the soundtrack.

When I write, I have music playing and I have rice cooking. I have images and smells and tastes and dreams of where I want a story to go. But words on the page can feel almost after-the-fact. I have these feelings and they go on the paper and everything that I was feeling at the time—the music or the food or the way my feet feel on the floor—makes their way into my work.

But often, I don’t even know how the words are going to be coming out. Of course, later I’ll go back and edit them. But the way the words form is still a mystery to me. 

On that note, what would you say are some of your favorite things to eat and favorite artists/ types of music to listen to?

I’m particular with the music I listen to as I write. I use a lot of YouTube. I search for what would make a great soundtrack for the story or chapter that I’m writing. For example, the novel I’m working on right now has a lot of wistful, slightly mysterious music because I’m hoping to put some of that into the book. In general, I like music that’s not too percussive, because it startles me, and I try to avoid piano music because when I hear piano, it just makes me feel guilty that I’m not practicing.

Also, some music is just too emotional. If I am listening to the soundtrack of “Your Lie in April” I’m not going to get any writing done. I’m just going to be crying.

With food? Even though I talk about them all the time in Light from Uncommon Stars, my main writing food is not donuts. It’s potato chips. I have to be careful when I’m writing because if I’m not careful, I can cut through an entire big bag of potato chips while I’m concentrating on work. So instead of buying a big bag of potato chips, I have to buy small bags of potato chips so I can keep track of all the potato chips that I’m eating.

At least that’s the theory. What usually happens is that I just eat all the small bags of potato chips anyway.

When many people think of science fiction, many often think old white cis men. Yet as a genre, science fiction has always attracted marginalized writers, from female authors such as Mary Shelley and Octavia Butler (who also further revolutionized the field as a woman of color) and Jewish science fiction writers who invited new realities outside of the hostile ones they inhabited, as seen in the various Jewish comic book makers who were drawn to the field due to anti-Semitic hiring practices in other fields. What’s your take on this as a trans woman of color? 

This is not an easy question to answer. On one hand, so many amazing female writers and artists have done brilliant work before me, and it feels natural to want to continue this legacy. 

However, there are in cases where some of my writing role models have said damaging things to queer and trans women. And there’s always the possibility of anti-Asian sentiment. So, I will always respect and admire the work, but will also be careful not to idealize the creators themselves.

I guess that’s just another way of saying that I try to keep grounded and focused on own universe and my own writing, because I know that here I can find inclusion, possibility, and love—at least in a way that works for me.   

What are some of your favorite elements of writing?

Besides the potato chips? I love the first part of writing, when there’s a blank page in front of me and I have pretty ink and a nice fountain pen.

And I love all the middle parts, and the frustration when something’s not quite working because then I just laugh at myself and say, “You asked for this! You’re the one who wanted to be a writer—now look at you!” I love writing a scene and crying while I’m writing, and thinking, “Gosh, I don’t know for certain, but think my readers are really going to like this!”

I also love people-watching, and going to places that I’m writing about to catch a scene, maybe taking a picture. Sometimes I don’t know what I’m going to catch. Maybe it’s just a color or maybe it’s someone pushing an ice cream cart. And then it’s going to show up in the book, and that’s the best thing.

And I also love the last part of editing, where I’m just tying up those little loose ends here and there. But each time I do it, the manuscript shines—it’s amazing how much like poetry a late-edit novel can behave.

What advice would you have for aspiring writers, especially other queer writers?

It’s good to be queer. It’s good to be trans. It’s good to be beautiful. It’s good to be badass. It’s good to be a pillar in the community. It’s good to be a good friend. (Actually, it’s really great to be a good friend.)

But if you’re going to be a writer, what’s most important is to be good with you. Sometimes, even though you are part of a queer chosen community, you must consciously disengage from that queer chosen community. And you’re going to feel guilty sometimes. 

But please try not to. 

Yes, there are so many compelling stories around you, but as a writer, you desperately need time and space to listen to your own.

And I know that can suck, because being queer or being trans is lonely all on its own. I know all about that one. 

But nobody else can write your story—the one only you can write. The one that the world needs to read. When they talk about bravery as a writer, I found where I’ve had to be the bravest is where I’ve had to be alone. But so many readers have been grateful for what that loneliness produced. 

So, is it worth it? For me, absolutely. 

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet, but wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)? 

“So many of the bonds in Light from Uncommon Stars are maternal. What does motherhood mean to you?”

One of the toughest parts about my being a trans woman, taking hormones and doing all the medical things that one does, is that I sterilized myself. Sure, I can bank my semen, but even then, I’m never going to be able to physically give birth. Speaking for myself, because all trans women are different—but speaking for myself—this is emotionally the most difficult part about being trans.

However, life goes on. I teach, and I have these books, and in these books, I can write characters who are mothers. I think I’m always going to have mother figures in my work. I’d like to say it’s for altruistic reasons, but some of it is envy. I so wish I could be a mother.

And yet, my books are like my children, and seeing them out in the world interacting with folks that I will never meet making new friends…that makes me so very, very proud.

In addition to being a writer, what are some things you would want readers to know about you?

Gosh, the whole point of being a writer is that it helps me interact with people. I don’t know where I would be without writing. 

Let’s go with this—I am very grateful to be able to pursue something that I love very much. However, being transgender in this country remains precarious for all trans people. It seems that every time we relax, someone wants to take one of our human rights away or another. I’m very lucky to have had the chance to speak with you, and even more so to have this opportunity to become a writer. I am very, very grateful. 

However, having this sort of opportunity and feeling safe are two different things. 

So, I encourage non-trans-identifying people to get to know more of the trans people in your community. Maybe first as allies, but as later friends–even as family. Not the lip-service kind, but the real kind. There’s a lot there to love. I think your life will be so much better for it. And, if enough of y’all do this, I think it’s going to be easier for trans people like me to exhale and sleep at night.

Are there any other projects you are currently working on and at liberty to talk about? 

I’m deep in the middle of my next novel. It’s not a sequel, but it’s going to take place in the same universe as Light from Uncommon Stars and there may even be a couple characters that carry over. I can’t talk about it too much, but, as I told my editor, if I can write the story that’s in my heart, I’m going to be thrilled and proud to bring it to you.

I’m also writing a weekly newsletter called “Ryka’s Most Excellent World” (rykaworld.bulletin.com) where I can explore topics that might seem random, even contradictory, to uncover insights and relations that may be hidden in plain view. One of my recent essays discussed supermarkets and supersymmetry and makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin. 

And, because of COVID, I’ve not been able to have self-defense classes in person. so, I’m working with two of my senior students to create a manual of everything we teach for the TransLatin@ Coalition. It’s exciting because we’re going to be writing it in Spanish and English. 

Finally, what LGBTQ+ books/ authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?

Sure! The first is Samuel R. Delany. A good place to start is Dhalgren. The second is Rachel Pollack, with Unquenchable Fire or Doom Patrol. Both Delany and Pollack are in their 70s—Samuel Delany will be 80 next year. 

With so much beautiful queer (and BIPOC) and trans literature being produced, by so many beautiful LGBTQ+ writers, Delany and Pollack remind us that so much of what we think is new today was also new years ago. 

And that’s the way it should be, because as long as humans have been able to see the stars, LGBTQ+ people have been there to fill the skies with stories amazing and profound. 

Interview with Jeremy Atherton Lin

Jeremy Atherton Lin is an Asian-American essayist based in the UK. He has contributed to The Yale Review, Noon, Granta, The White Review, ArtReview, Literary Hub, Port, The Face, W, Tinted Window and the Times Literary Supplement. His debut book Gay Bar (2021) was selected as a New York Times Editors’ Choice and the Guardian Book of the Week. Jeremy’s mixtapes can be heard on NTS Radio, Spotify and Mixcloud. He has also appeared on NPR, BBC Radio London, BBC Radio 4 and Resonance FM. Teaching and speaking engagements include The Courtauld Institute, Cornell University, Central St Martins, the Royal College of Art, Camberwell College of Arts, University of Glasgow, Birkbeck University and the Edinburgh International Book Festival. He is an editor at Failed States, the journal of art and writing on place.

I had the opportunity to interview Jeremy, which you can read below.

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT and congratulations on your debut book, Gay Bar! Could you tell us a little about yourself and the book? How did you find yourself gravitating toward this specific topic?

Thanks so much for having me. Sorry I’m late! I’m Jeremy, from California and currently living in London. My favorite color is pale lilac. I love pickles, okra and nectarines. I write, and teach sometimes, always seem to be running errands, and ride a rusty Dawes Galaxy that my next door neighbor gave to me.

With Gay Bar, I revisited spots where I’ve hung out over the years in an attempt to interrogate the connection between place and identity. I conceived the book around 2017, when over half the gay bars in London had closed within a decade. So this got me thinking: What does it all mean? Should we unequivocally lament the closure of these venues, or is it possible their time was up? Why should my identity be dictated by a commercial aesthetic and particular form of socializing? Had gay bars informed me, and how? With each bar in the book, I dug deep to figure out what went on before my time there, uncovering euphoric and problematic histories, dating to the 1970s and as far back as the 17th century. 

When it comes to gay bars, what often comes to mind is “gay men” rather gay men and women, or queer people in general. Why do you think that is?

One reason could be that, in very general terms, women have often socialized in private spaces. In the States, for instance, there is an incredible history of house parties in locations like Oakland and Fire Island. Some early lesbian-run bars were known as much for other aspects, like poetry readings and live folk music. Commercial gay venues were generally dominated by white men. Now, of course, the most exciting parties may be those that center womxn, femmes and trans people of color. But my choice to write specifically about gay bars populated by men was deliberate — I was interested in rethinking a somewhat passé institution.

While the historical and symbolic significance of gay bars can’t be denied, there is something to be said about how gay bars have not always felt accessible to various members within the queer community, including the disabled/neurodivergent members of our community and others. How do we reconcile the idea of this queer safe space and its limitations?

It’s hard for me to think of gay bars as safe spaces at all — in that they rely on the consumption of booze, usually neglect to provide adequate wheelchair access, are lookist and ageist and have been blatantly racist and sexist, too. It was never my intention to write about what gay bars should have been or could be, but rather to consider what they have been, including the failings. 

As a queer woman who’s also asexual, I’ve found that bars (gay or straight) haven’t exactly felt comfortable for me, since most contain an element of hook-up culture. Do you find the gay bar to be inherently sexual in nature or is the answer more complicated?

Oh, yes, the answer is always more complicated, right? Bars, after all, are commercial spaces, and sexuality of course has been repurposed as a weapon of commerce. Bars and other institutions of gay culture were selling sex even at the height of AIDS infections — they just sold an idea of sex, of its promise, and not just a promise of getting laid but of power and status. But in terms of my own approach, I was absolutely interested in gay bars as a site in which to cruise and engage in semi-public sex. I wanted the book to be as much about sexual proclivity as cultural identity, and about the tension between.

This book seems be a reflection on the past (both your own personal experiences as well as the collective memories of the queer community). As a writer, how did it feel exploring the lines between non-fiction writer/essayist and historian?

I would not claim to be a historian. I am, however, very interested in history as one strategy of learning, including the foibles of historical retelling. I gave myself the title of essayist in my twenties as a kind of risk, as if on a dare, and that’s how the job has remained — all about trying things out through writing. To essay, as a verb, means to attempt. 

I sometimes say that I’m an unreliable narrator of non-fiction. Why do we expect our fictional characters to be flawed and complicated in order to appear ‘real,’ yet demand non-fiction authors achieve some kind of neutral and all-seeing stature? Writing Gay Bar, as I searched my memories, it was very much through the lens of my specific positionality — as Asian-American, gay, cis, West Coast, and so on. So I’m not going to bury any of these aspects, but lean in. And as I researched the historical elements of the book, I found various events — and the ways they were reported — to be delightful, funny, icky, repulsive, depressing, sexy, everything. I’m not inclined to hide my impressions of what I’m seeing. I reveal my point-of-view by selecting the very stuff that I find the most delightful or repulsive or whatever to share with the reader, because I want us to go on an intense journey together. And I can never be an objective guide.

What have been some of your favorite gay/queer bar experiences?

Those moments when I realized I’m dancing in a fire trap, but still can’t resist the beat. 

In the time of Covid-19, has there been any cognitive dissonance about writing about a subject that has been shut down for so long?

I had mostly finished the book before the pandemic, but the interviews have been conducted throughout lockdown so yes, there was a kind of estrangement. On a personal level, I’m pretty adaptable. I began making radio shows as a way of communicating with others under the new conditions. And I’m very lucky to have a roof over my head, and a partner with a sunny disposition, so we approached much of lockdown as if it were a two-person house party. 

In an article from i-D, “the gay bar is dead: how the queer space killed it” the author writes about the shifting cultural perspective on bars and how the gay bar may be losing significance in terms of other queer people finding alternative spaces to celebrate queer identity. What’s your take on this and your take on the future of gay bars?

I think these kinds of spaces have been, at their best, about exploring the possibilities within oneself and between others, rather than arriving into one uniform thing. And as everything continues to evolve, the ways we explore need to change, too. So the advent of new forms of coming together seems absolutely as it should be. However, that doesn’t mean I believe there’s no longer a need for the old school gay bar. For one thing, some elder lesbians, gay men and trans people might happen to like perching on a barstool in a comfy old dive, and I hope they continue to have destinations that afford them that kind of refuge. 

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet, but wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)?

“Which Sex and the City character are you?” Answer: I’ve never watched Sex and the City.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers, both those working on their craft and looking to be published?

Make playlists and mixtapes. For me, fostering musical arcs and a logic of transitions is akin to the nuts and bolts of storytelling. So that’s my advice on craft. As for getting published, I’d say worry first about the integrity of what you’re making. My own trajectory has been long and full of detours, but I was learning and improving. Then when the time comes, try sending short, polite emails to the agents who represent other writers you admire. Be precise, humble and open. Bring your sense of humor. Be prepared to listen. And remember: Be brief.

Finally, what queer books would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?

I’m going to recommend a book that isn’t explicitly queer, but to me has a kind of queer undercurrent: The Mountain Lion by Jean Stafford. The young girl at its heart is prickly, dissatisfied and non-conforming. She’s perceived by others as unlikable, but she’s struggling to make sense of a sick world. Many, if not all, of the same things could be said of another of my favorite books, Cruddy by Lynda Barry. I am recommending them because they are about being messy. And I identify as a mess as much as anything.

Interview with Author Jason June

Jason June (it’s a two-name first name, like Mary-Kate without the hyphen or the Olsen twin) is a writer mermaid who loves to create picture books that mix the flamboyantly wacky with the slightly dark, and young adult contemporary queer rom-coms full of love and lust and hijinks. When not writing, JJ zips about Austin, Texas, with his Pomeranian, Pom Brokaw.  His work includes the queer-inclusive Valentine’s Day picture book, Porcupine Cupid; the whimsical chapter book series, Mermicorn Island; and the YA rom-coms, Jay’s Gay Agenda (out now) and Out of the Blue (May 31, 2022).

I had the opportunity to interview Jason June, which you can read below.

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT. Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Thanks so much for having me! My name is Jason June (it’s a two-name first name, like Mary-Kate but without the hyphen or the Olsen twin), and I’m the author of Jay’s Gay Agenda and the upcoming Out of the Blue. I love writing YA featuring the love lives and shenanigans of queer characters!

When did you know you were first interested in writing, and what drew you specifically to Young Adult Fiction?

I’ve been writing my entire life! I actually started by writing down word for word the dialogue in the movie Labyrinth starring David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly. I was probably seven years old and completely robsessed with that movie. But in that moment I realized the magic of a movie started with the words in a script. And then I became completely smitten with words in general, and read like my life depended on it. My love for YA came about a few years ago, after a few failed attempts at publishing middle grade fantasy. I needed a palate cleanser to just clear my mind, and became totally wrapped up in contemporary YA and how there is magic in real life that doesn’t have to be literal fairies or witches or potions, but the sort of electric buzzing that occurs when we’re creating strong connections in our teen years. 

Where did the inspiration and the impetus to write your debut book, Jay’s Gay Agenda come from? (Also I’m very curious how you came up with the title.)

JGA is very loosely based on my experiences as the only out queer kid at my rural eastern Washington high school. While I didn’t keep my gay hopes and dreams in a list, I did have a diary that detailed all I couldn’t wait to experience when I finally met another gay person. I didn’t get to jump into a queer community until college, but I used that diary as the seed for the book along with my Type-A Virgo tendencies of list-making, which led to the creation of the titular Gay Agenda. I specifically wanted Gay Agenda in the title because I think it’s hysterical that some people think there is this Queer Master Plan, and instead wanted to show how each person in the LGBTQIA+ community has their own individual relationship wants and goals, and the chaos and joy and magic that can come about when you actually start accomplishing them. 

One element that people have seemed to responded to is the open discussion about sex positivity in Jay’s Gay Agenda? (Also on a small note, as an asexual person, thanks for the brief asexual acknowledgement.)

I’m really happy that people have responded so well to the sex positivity in the book. Going in, I knew that was something I wanted to include in this story because starting around the age of 15, I was thinking about sex constantly, but everywhere I looked I was told that my desire was wrong. So JGA was made to be an antidote to that, to show gay teens that as long as everything is safe and consensual, their physical desires are just as beautiful as anyone else’s. It’s part of human connection for so many of us! And thank you for the thanks! I think it’s important to note in any sex positive discussion that all sexualities are fabulous!

Something I’ve noticed with a lot of queer authors is often they write the books that they wished their younger selves would have wanted. Was this in any way true for you?

Absolutely! I needed to know I wasn’t alone when I was a teen in my relationship and physical hopes and dreams, but minus a selection of books I could count on less than one hand, I couldn’t find many books that I felt truly represented me. It’s why I pretty much stopped reading for enjoyment in high school and didn’t really get back into it until after college. It’s now super important to me to write stories that will always center a queer protagonist and queer relationships.

Were there any stories (queer or otherwise) that you read or watched growing up that had touched you or felt relatable in any way?

Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez was the first time I read a book where I was like, “Okay, wait! I relate to this!” It’s actually one of the books I was thinking of above where there was representation I could connect with. And there was Marco on Degrassi

What advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

To keep at it! You’re going to hear no so many times. No, an agent doesn’t want to take you on as a client; no, an editor doesn’t think your story is right for their imprint; no, a reader doesn’t like your book. But you’ve got to keep going! There are going to be those times that people say yes, they absolutely love what you’re writing, or relate to your story, or can’t wait for what you’re coming out with next. So anytime you hear a no, know that a yes is out there for you too, and you’ve got to keep writing for those yeses. 

Aside from writing, what are some things you would want others to know about you?

Chikorita is the best Pokémon and that’s all there is to it. 

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet and wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)?

I honestly can’t think of one! Interviewers like you are so good at coming up with questions that let me discuss the heart of my work, so I don’t feel like I haven’t been able to talk about the things that mean the most to me. So thank you! 

Can you tell us about any new projects you are working on and at liberty to discuss?

Yes! My second novel with HarperTeen comes out in May and it’s called Out of the Blue. It’s a contemporary YA with light magical elements featuring queer merpeople! It’s dual POV between a merperson (Crest, pronounced like the actual sound of a cresting wave, which is impossible for humans to say, so they go by the human name Ross while on land) who has to come on land for a month to help a human, and the recently dumped lifeguard (Sean) that Crest fake dates to help Sean save face in front of Sean’s ex. And we all know what happens when fake dating ensues! This is about romance helping us discover parts of ourselves we hadn’t yet realized, and it also explores the whole emotional journey of having to choose between love for a person and love for your home when you literally have to choose one over the other. I’m so excited for it! 

Finally, what LGBTQ+ books/authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?

I love love love book talking! Here are a few that I have absolutely adored this year:

Jonny Garza Villa’s FIFTEEN HUNDRED MILES FROM THE SUN. It follows Julián as he gets drunk and accidentally comes out online, unleashing a whole storm of excitement (a Cutie McCuterson DMs him after coming out) and anxiety (having to still stay in the closet when it comes to his dad). Jonny has so perfectly found that balance of jubilation at being yourself after you come out that can come hand in hand with fear when we’re still in an environment that’s not safe. It’s so beautifully done, with both laugh-out-loud and heart-clutching moments.

Ashley Shuttleworth’s A DARK AND HOLLOW STAR. It it is an epic high fantasy told from four POVs, and they’re all queer! It was so amazing to get all this magical action and high stakes and be surrounded by queerness!

Emery Lee’s MEET CUTE DIARY. In this we follow Noah, a transgender teen, who runs a blog full of trans happily ever afters. But, all the stories are fiction. And when a troll calls Noah out for making up stories, Noah starts a whole fake-dating escapade to get real-life material that teaches him so much about relationships and what makes a good partner. I loved it so much and everyone should read it!

Stephan Lee’s K-POP CONFIDENTIAL in which we follow Candace as she moves to Seoul to train to become a K-Pop idol! I loved every last second of this and felt like I could see the choreography and hear the music. And I just finished the sequel, K-POP REVOLUTION, which comes out in spring 2022, and everyone should preorder it now!

Interview with Cartoonist Damian Alexander

Damian Alexander is a cartoonist and storyteller who grew up in and around Boston. Damian’s illustrations and comic shorts can be found on The Trevor Project, Narratively, The Nib and others. He loves ghost stories, miniatures, and watching cartoons with his cats on sunny afternoons.

I had the opportunity to interview Damian, which you can read below.

First of all, congrats on your debut book, Other Boys! Could you tell us a little of what it’s about?

Thank you so much and thank you for interviewing me! Other Boys is a graphic memoir, primarily following my middle school experiences in the mid-2000s, but follows little me from kindergarten up until that age. Bullying, gender roles and stereotypes, and the death of my mother are some of the more serious issues it touches on. Though I made sure to sprinkle humor throughout and balance it all with bright and colorful artwork. Eventually the story leads up to middle school me realizing that I’m gay. I’ve wanted to tell a story about growing up as a little boy who played with dollhouses and doesn’t fit in, but never knew I’d be writing one about myself.

What first attracted you to comics? Were there comics or stories that caught your eye growing up that later inspired you to become an artist yourself?

When I was really little I would read “The Peanuts” comic strips in the newspaper with my grandfather and I loved how these colorful and cartoony characters were so poignant and witty. I think that was the first series that drew me to comics. My grandfather also gave me older comic books before I could even read, so I’d just stare at Archie and the 1994 Super Boy because I thought they were cute and didn’t realize it yet. Later, I found Brian Selznick’s illustrated books and fell in love with them, and it really got me into illustrated storytelling.

Could you describe your artistic background in some detail. Like how you got into art and what your art education was like?

I had always been interested in art because I always loved cartoons. My grandfather used to draw all the time in our dining room when I was growing up, and I’d watch him in amazement. He was a retired garbage man and it was like a side hobby as he got older. Most people in my family liked to draw, but would eventually move on from it at some point to pursue a different career. I come from a very low income family, so dreams were often put on the back-burner. I wasn’t lucky enough to afford art school, but I was lucky enough to end up at a public high school with great art classes and teachers. I continued to take art classes through college while also studying writing.

Queer graphic memoirs is definitely an emerging field right now. What drew you to writing non-fiction and do you believe your book stands in conversation with any other books at the moment?

There’s a lot more graphic memoirs coming out now than I’d ever seen before and I think “Other Boys” will fit comfortably beside books like “Flamer” by Mike Curato. In all honesty, I was much more into fictional stories and escaping in worlds of fantasy. Though occasionally I would post these little shorts online about my childhood, inspired by the weekly format of “The Peanuts,” and people liked them so much. “Other Boys” just blossomed out of that.

Your graphic novel originally started as a webcomic, correct? What drew you toward that medium?

The webcomic format is so easy and accessible. Anyone can just draw up something they think is funny or interesting, post it, and then get immediate reactions. The format also allows any artist from any diverse background and skill level to share whatever they like whenever they want. And allows queer artists like me to be seen as well. For the longest time comics seemed very white, straight and male, but I’m loving all of the diversity that’s breaking through recently.

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet but wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)?

I suppose, something like, “What were your artistic influences for this book?” I’ve been nervous people might not realize the way I illustrated the book was entirely intentional. The bold primary colors and black outlines are meant to be reminiscent of the cartoons, video games and LEGO sets I loved growing up. A lot of graphic memoirs have simple muted color schemes, and I wanted an explosion of color to fill the page, helping to off-set the melancholy tone at times. These colorful shows, games and toys, are what helped me get through the bad times during my childhood.

What messages do you want to give to your readers through your art? What stories or messages do you wish you had gotten when you were a young reader yourself? 

I would like my readers to know that they are not alone. I felt so alone as a kid, and I wish that I had even the slightest inkling that there were people out there who understood me or were even a little bit  like me.

What advice might you have to give to other aspiring creatives who might want to make their own comics? 

The best advice I think I could give young creators is to just keep drawing and keep sharing it. Even if someone puts you down, which will probably happen at some point, just don’t let that stop you from doing what you love. At the same time, don’t feel pressured to share if you’re not ready or comfortable with it yet.

Finally, what queer books/comics would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?

For other queer graphic memoirs I would recommend “Flamer” by Mike Curato as mentioned above, and “Spinning” by Tillie Walden. Some queer young adult novels I think Geeks OUT readers would also love are “Surrender Your Sons” by Adam Sass, as well as Caleb Roehrig’s “Last Seen Leaving” and “White Rabbit.” I also love everything by Brian Selznick, but especially “The Marvels,” which made me cry when I first read it.

Interview with Author Amy Ratcliffe

Amy Ratcliffe is part of many fandoms, including Star Wars, The Witcher, and anything Tolkien. She’s cosplayed as Han Solo and Merida. She’s the author of Star Wars: Women of the Galaxy and Elee and Me. She’s the managing editor for Nerdist, a host, and an entertainment reporter. Her latest book, A Kid’s Guide to Fandom, was illustrated by Dave Perillo and is available now. Based in Los Angeles with her husband and two cats, she’s always looking forward to the next time she eats pizza.

I had the opportunity to interview Amy, which you can read below.

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Thank you! I’m a geek, an author, an entertainment reporter, a host, and a managing editor for Nerdist. My first fandom was probably The Wheel of Time book series; I started reading them as a teen. Then fast forward several years later, and I fell in love with Star Wars: The Clone Wars and that series (especially Ahsoka!) led me to discover my passion for writing.

How did A Kid’s Guide to Fandom come to be? Did someone reach out to you about the project or did you generate the idea on your own?

My incredible editor at Running Press Kids, Britny Brooks-Perilli, emailed me with the idea of writing something to help kids learn about fandom and get involved. Through a lot of back and forth, the project took the shape of a guide. We wanted it to be welcoming, practical, and helpful for any kids who might be curious about finding other kids who felt enthusiastic about similar things. 

How did you get your start in pop culture journalism?  What would you say are some of your favorite fandoms to cover?

When Star Wars: The Clone Wars premiered, I was just finding my way in the blogging world. At the time I was blogging about regional travel and food, but it never quite clicked. Then in gushing about The Clone Wars it hit me: I could start a blog about geeky things from my perspective. I launched Geek with Curves through Blogger in around 2009 and I did so with the intent of covering a wide range of topics and styles with the hopes that I could build a portfolio of sorts to show editors who might have paying work. And after a couple of years of pouring a lot of hours into Geek with Curves, I started getting a little money writing for various outlets.

The fandoms I cover depend upon what’s in the pop culture zeitgeist to some degree, so recently my favorites have included: Shadow and Bone (I adore the books this series is adapted from), Loki and the MCU at large, and Star Wars.

Many would argue that pop culture isn’t that important to talk about, serving merely as shallow entertainment. What would you say is the significance or function of pop culture in our culture?

This is something I think about a lot in my role at Nerdist. Pop culture is hugely important. Stories are never just stories. Fiction is a reflection of our world and sometimes a lens through which we can examine IRL issues. Representation matters. Stories can present different perspectives and ideas, and writers reacting to those stories through essays or interviews can do the same. As a culture we give a lot of attention to pop culture, so we can’t dismiss it as shallow at the same time. Pop culture should broaden our horizons.

What advice would you give to someone looking to break into your field?

It’s definitely a constantly changing field, and I recognize that the path I took over 10 years isn’t as likely to work out now. So I’d say get in touch with entertainment writers and editors you admire. Challenge yourself to think of pitches connected to contemporary pop culture—even if you’re not ready to pitch yet, it will help put you in the right mind set. Have some kind of writing samples, even published through your own site or blog, to share with editors. And once you do start pitching, be very aware of the kind of stories the outlet you’re pitching to publishers. Finally, be persistent.

In your book, A Kid’s Guide to Fandom, you advise kids to reach out to their parents/guardians upon first entering fandom, which might be tricky for some closeted kids? Are there any alternatives you might suggest?

That’s a really good point! When kids are entering spaces online or IRL where they’re meeting new people, I think it’s wise for someone else—usually an older someone else—to be in the loop for safety. Perhaps closeted kids can stick to sharing details about only the fandom, whatever that may be.

Since the time of the pandemic, are there ways you’ve seen fandom evolve, change, or adapt when much of fandom hasn’t been able to meet up IRL?

In the earlier days of the pandemic, before many of us experienced Zoom fatigue, being able to meet up online was a boon. It was an easy way to connect with people regardless of distance, or traffic, or schedules. For myself and for friends, playing RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons became easy and happened on a more regular schedule because we took away the in person aspect. Likewise conventions have scrambled to bring experiences online for fans, and it’s made those kind of events more accessible. I hope we see more of that accessibility in the future, even after it’s safe for in person events to resume.

Can you name any of your favorite fandom experiences growing up?

I definitely didn’t know the word fandom until I was in my 20s, but looking back, I was absolutely part of The Wheel of Time fandom. I started reading the Robert Jordan books in high school. I had to visit a family friend to use her dial-up internet in order to visit fan sites and roleplay as an Aes Sedai in a fan forum.

Are there any other projects you are working on and at liberty to speak about?

I have a few projects in the works right now, but I can’t talk about any of them yet unfortunately.

What queer books/media would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?

I recently read and adored Molly Ostertag’s The Girl from the Sea graphic novel for middle grade readers. On the adult side, I recommend Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop and Cat Sebastian’s The Queer Principles of Kit Webb.