Interview with Author Marshall Ryan Maresca

Marshall Ryan Maresca (he/him) is a fantasy and science-fiction writer, author of the Maradaine Saga: Four braided series set amid the bustling streets and crime-ridden districts of the exotic city called Maradaine, which includes The Thorn of Dentonhill, A Murder of Mages, The Holver Alley Crew and The Way of the Shield, as well as the dieselpunk fantasy, The Velocity of Revolution. He is also the co-host of the Hugo-nominated, Stabby-winning podcast Worldbuilding for Masochists, and has been a playwright, an actor, a delivery driver and an amateur chef. He lives in Austin, Texas with his family.

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

Hi, I’m Marshall Ryan Maresca, and I’m a fantasy author and a podcaster.  I’ve written 16 novels, a novella and a novelette, most of which take place in the same world.  I’m also the host of Worldbuilding for Masochists, a podcast about fantasy worldbuilding in deep and considered ways.

Your stories are a intertwined group of series all taking place simultaneously in the same city. How did you come up with this interesting way of telling your tales?

So, I started the worldbuilding work of the Maradaine setting in the 90s, and I had done a lot of the entire-world, broad-brushstroke work of it all.  With that, all of my early attempts to write in it tried to be these giant epics where, because I had made the whole world, I wanted to show off the whole world. When those projects didn’t work, I reconsidered my approach, deciding to narrow my focus to one city in the world, and from there, finding the stories in that city, and how they could come together to be facets of the larger story.

Since Geeks OUT is a queer centered website, could you tell us a bit about the LGBTQ+ characters featured in your books?

So, one of the ethos of Worldbuilding for Masochists is “Choose, don’t presume”, in that when you are building the world your stories are in, you want to make deliberate choices of what’s going on in your world, instead of falling back on lazy presumptions. And one of the top presumptions to push back on, for me, is heteronormativity.

Now, in the case of the Maradaine books, my intention was to show a culture in a time of social change, and part of that is shown with more visibility of LGBTQ+ characters as Maradaine goes on.  One of the main ones is Jerinne, from the Maradaine Elite books.  We first see her just having a crush on one of the other young women in her cohort, and then later has her first kiss with another woman, and then in later books she is starting a potentially long and serious relationship with Rian.  

With The Velocity of Revolution, I made completely different choices, namely: I created a culture where pansexual polyamory was a social norm, so almost all of the characters are LGBTQ+. 

There have been LGBTQ+ characters in the background of some of your stories, but recently one of the main protagonists in a series was portrayed as bisexual, why was this the time to show that aspect of them?

This is in reference to Asti Rynax in The Quarrygate GambitI’ve always known Asti was bisexual, but since the beginning of the series he’s also been carrying a lot of trauma, to the point he doesn’t trust himself to let his guard down at all, let alone be intimate with anyone.  I’ve had readers presume he was ace because of that, actually.  But Quarrygate gave me the opportunity to give him a quieter moment with Tharek Pell– another character whose queerness was strongly implied in his previous appearance in the saga, but not explicit.  And in starting to write that quieter moment, it was clear to me that Asti needed intimacy, and given his traumas, Tharek– someone who you would never describe as a “safe” character, but he’s definitely capable of protecting himself–  was the perfect person to have that with.  That moment actually wasn’t in my outline, but when I was writing, it just made sense for both of them.

As a writer, what drew you to writing fantasy?

It’s funny, I can’t think of an exact, you know, origin story for that.  It’s just a genre that’s always pulled at me, and which I’ve alwasy found the most interesting, just out of the limitless possibilities it has.

Were there any books or authors that touched you or inspired you growing up? 

Two of the big ones were the Green Sky Trilogy by Zilpha Keatly Snyder and Watership Down by Richard Adams.  Both are absolutely fantasy stories– though Green Sky is kind of fantasy-embedded-within-scifi — but neither of them look like “traditional” fantasy, which I think was instrumental in a lot of my mindset as I’ve been approaching the genre.

Where did you get your start in creative writing? What pulled you to fiction?

It had always held my interest, I know somewhere around middle school I made my first attempts at “writing a novel”, not that I had any idea what I was doing.  I actually remember in 7th grade I was attempting to write a fantasy novel called “The Last Righon”, but I had no idea what a Righon was or why someone might be the last one.  I just thought it sounded like a cool fantasy title.

How would you describe your writing process? Are there any methods you use to help better your concentration or progress?

Despite my prolific output, I actually have something of a slow-cook process.  Often I will have an idea, and then outline it roughly, put it to the side to marinate, then outline it more thoroughly, put it aside again to stew, and THEN, much later, start actually drafting.  Honestly, Velocity probably had the fastest turnaround from concept-to-draft in 18 months.  

As far as concentration tactics, I’m a big fan of putting in earbuds and then one song on repeat so it drowns out all the “what about this shiny thing?” thoughts that pull me off track. 

What’s something you haven’t done as a writer that you’d like to do?

I still have a space opera type project stewing in one of the crockpots in the back of my head.  Haven’t quite cracked it yet.

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

Right now, I’ve been calling 2023 a “rebuilding year”, as I’m creating some new projects that aren’t Maradaine, as well as readjusting the long-term Maradaine plans.  One of them is a secondary-world fantasy, sort-of gaslamp, about people trying to build a theater company in a new city, where I’m also using magic in very class-specific ways as a tool of wealth inequality.  I’m enjoying drafting it, but there still are pieces that haven’t clicked into place.

Aside from writing, what do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

I’m a big fan of cooking from scratch, which I find very zen and relaxing… most of the time, at least.  If you look at my instagram (https://www.instagram.com/mrmaresca/), pretty much everything that isn’t shouting about books is food porn.

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

How about, “Hey, are there going to be any new audiobook versions of your books?”

YES THERE ARE.  In April and May we’re getting all four of the Streets of Maradaine series in audiobook, starting with The Holver Alley Crew (https://www.audiobooks.com/promotions/promotedBook/655954/holver-alley-crew-a-streets-of-maradaine-novel?refId=64976), followed by Lady Henterman’s Wardrobe,  The Fenmere Job and The Quarrygate Gambit.  

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

I have to plug my co-host Cass Morris, whose Aven Cycle books are very bisexual (as is she!).   And I’m probably not telling your readers something they don’t already know, but I just adored CL Clark’s The Unbroken.  Also Andrea Stewart’s Drowning Empire series, Victor Manibo’s The Sleepless, and Jordan Kurella’s I Never Liked You Anyway

Interview with Author & Scholar Golan Moskowitz

Golan Moskowitz is Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. He is a literary scholar, cultural historian, and visual artist who works at the intersection of modern Jewish studies, gender and queer studies, and trauma and memory studies. Moskowitz has published works on Jewish comics and graphic novels, on queer-studies approaches to intergenerational Holocaust memory, and on the life and work of Maurice Sendak. He is the author of Wild Visionary: Maurice Sendak in Queer Jewish Context (Stanford University Press, 2020).

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

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

Thank you, and sure! I grew up in a Jewish Israeli-American family in upstate New York (in Albany and Saratoga Springs). After high school, I majored in visual art at Vassar College and went on to complete graduate studies at Brandeis University (a joint MA in gender studies & Jewish studies, followed by a Ph.D. in Jewish studies). I’m currently based in New Orleans and live with my partner, Trey, who is a music educator and choral conductor. 

How would you describe what you do professionally/academically?

I’m a cultural historian and literary scholar who works on twentieth- and twenty-first-century queer Jewish creativity, intergenerational memory and trauma, and Jewish American popular culture. My current professional title is assistant professor of Jewish Studies at Tulane University, where I teach courses on Holocaust film and literature, Jewish comics and graphic novels, Jewish American pop culture, and sexuality in Jewish culture. I’m also a core faculty member of Tulane’s Grant Center for the American Jewish Experience.

What can you tell us about your most recent book, Wild Visionary: Maurice Sendak in Queer Jewish Context? What was the inspiration for this project?

As a queer child of an immigrant, a grandchild of Holocaust survivors, and a visual artist who had been raised on Sendak’s picture books and who loved them, I always felt a sort of kinship with him. This feeling was magnified after learning that his youth was overshadowed by social and emotional challenges related to growing up in a Yiddish-speaking Jewish-American family while news of their relatives’ deaths in the Holocaust was emerging. My interest in Sendak further grew after he publicly “came out” to the mainstream press as gay in 2008 at age 80. Despite coming out, however, his sexuality continued to feel like a sort of “open secret.” When he passed away in 2012, I was a Ph.D. student looking for a dissertation topic, and Sendak’s obituaries and tributes to him were circulating widely. He was on many of our minds at that moment in time, and it seemed to me that his specifically queer accomplishments and legacy were not being substantively addressed and that these must surely be intertwined with his Jewishness, which was such a crucial part of how he understood himself in general. As a Jewish studies student interested in visual art, intergenerational relationships within American immigrant families, Holocaust studies, and queer childhood studies, Sendak seemed a perfect subject on which to base my dissertation project, which would become the basis of this book.

For those who are familiar with Where the Wild Things Are but unfamiliar with Maurice Sendak’s life, what facts did you come across in your research that seemed the most surprising/interesting to you?

Beyond the widely-publicized fact that the Wild Things drew inspiration from Sendak’s unkempt immigrant relatives who both loved and frightened him during his childhood, I was interested to learn that Sendak’s initial idea for Where the Wild Things Are emerged during psychoanalysis (with Bertram Slaff, who was also gay and Jewish). And that Sendak authored the text to this story on Fire Island, a region that was known both for its family-oriented Jewish communities and for its gay and lesbian communities. I was also surprised to learn more about Sendak’s experience living discreetly as a young gay man in the early 1950s in Hell’s Kitchen. On a more general note, I was struck by Sendak’s contributions as a mentor to other important artists, including other gay Jewish artists like Brian Selznick.

As a scholar, why do you believe it’s important to highlight the queer and Jewish elements of this author’s life in the context of his work?

Sendak claimed that much of his work was concerned with excavating, processing, and sometimes exorcising difficult feelings experienced in his youth, which, as I learned, was an undeniably Jewish and queer youth. Queerness and Jewishness, as forms of difference in broader social contexts, may both relate to Sendak’s works’ central themes of loneliness, hybridity, self-transformation and performativity, sometimes-invisible forms of turmoil, emotional resilience, and unlikely heroism. Additionally, the twentieth century, in which Sendak came of age and matured as an artist, saw world-shaking changes in relation to Jewish and queer experience, impacting Sendak’s creative consciousness (i.e. Nazism and the Holocaust, unprecedented levels of acceptance of Jewishness in mainstream American culture, the Gay Liberation Movement, the AIDS crisis, etc.).

As an author, what drew you to writing, specifically non-fiction?

I’ve known since elementary school that I enjoy writing. Possibly because I was shy around most people and felt more comfortable expressing myself to others when given the time and space to first find the right words. This might relate to having been raised by a mother who was not a native English speaker and who loved reading. From an early age, she would take my sisters and me to the library regularly to choose books to read, and we would talk about them together. Writing about books in school felt like an extension of this, and I was fortunate to have teachers who recognized and nourished my writing capacities. 

How would you describe your writing process?

I tend to shovel pieces of inspiration (article links, cited quotes, my own short musings) into separate Word documents organized into subsections by topic, sometimes color-coding them to differentiate content. I use these as connectors and building blocks as I free-write within those subsections about ideas or tensions that emerge, and when one idea begins to “take off,” I might create a new section or document for it to grow larger. A handful of these “idea documents” can later amount to sections of an article, or chapters of a book (sometimes with content switched back and forth between different documents as the work becomes more defined). I see writing as a layered process, almost like sculpting a block of clay: at first, you’re figuring out the general shape, and then you are repeatedly refining, scrapping, and reworking to get all of the parts to make sense and to fit seamlessly together toward some dynamic end-goal. Some pieces will inevitably need to be cut away (even if you’ve spent time on them!), and others will need to be moved or sculpted further. And, of course, you want to leave a little room for spontaneous discovery, which happens best for me when I’ve returned to my documents after having taken a day or so to marinate.

Growing up, were there any stories in which you felt touched by/ or reflected in? Are there any like that now?

Lois Lowry’s The Giver changed my life in fifth grade because it showed me that an effective and well-written allegory could speak so directly to internal and relational experiences that felt otherwise impossible to name. I remember identifying so much with the protagonist, who was sensitive, serious, observant, and somehow different from a lot of the other young people around him. As someone who often got along better with adults than with children during my childhood, I was also captivated by his relationship to the elderly bearer of memory, a position that was both incredibly important and undeniably burdensome. Without consciously knowing it at the time, I think this conceit also resonated with my experience as a grandchild of Holocaust survivors who felt the urgency of remembering a difficult past and of making sure that the wider world remembered it.

As a writer, who or what would you say are some of your greatest creative influences and/or sources of inspiration in general?

My writing is influenced by so many different people and sources. High on that list would be the work of Naomi Seidman, Daniel Boyarin, Marianne Hirsch, Alisa Solomon, Jonathan Freedman, Riv-Ellen Prell, and Kenneth Kidd. Years ago, Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott was also a formative read.

What are some of your favorite elements of writing? What do you consider some of the most frustrating and/or challenging? 

I love that writing allows us the opportunity to connect worlds. Whenever I write, I’m drawing from a number of different sources, which means I’m interweaving and experimenting with new negotiations across chasms that are not always bridged. There is something incredibly rewarding about making beauty, coherence, and new knowledge out of elements whose combination palpably matters to you. Most challenging aspects include getting started beyond the initial collecting of material, as well as keeping all components of the project “straight” within my working memory when the project has significantly grown and is still in a state of flux.

Aside from your work, what are some things you would want others to know about you? 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)?

What brings you joy? I love to paint and draw (mainly portraiture) when time allows. My childhood dream was to be a gallery artist, and I love tapping into my inner visual artist, sometimes gifting drawings to relatives or close friends. I’m excited to share that one of my portraits will soon be appearing as the cover of a forthcoming academic anthology on third-generation post-Holocaust literature (literature composed by grandchildren of survivors). 

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

My recommendation is to not expect perfection in your first draft. Some of my best writing, I think, has come from the fresh perspective that a day (or a month) allows me when I return to my earlier words with a refreshed mindset. I also suggest finding a writing buddy or a writing circle to hold each other accountable for writing progress/deadlines, as well as to get low-stakes feedback to strengthen your work-in-progress and others’ work-in-progress. This is also an important way to grow your professional network and foster community as a writer.

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

I’m currently in the research stage for a forthcoming book on Jews and drag. It will chart Jewish involvement in the performance art of drag in America over the past century or so, as well as analyze representations of Jewishness within drag performances, past and present. I’m also hoping that the book will expand theoretical approaches to studying trans, genderqueer, and non-binary experiences, especially in relation to Jewish studies and ethnicity studies.

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

I recently published an annotated bibliography called “Queer Jewish Texts in the Americas” that lives online at the Oxford Bibliographies website. I’ll single out a couple of those texts included. For those interested in historical records, I highly recommend Noam Sienna’s A Rainbow Thread, which offers fascinating Jewish LGBTQ source documents from the ancient period through the 1960s. An important interdisciplinary anthology with excellent literary and cultural studies essays is Queer Theory and the Jewish Question, edited by Daniel Boyarin, Daniel Itzkovitz, and Ann Pellegrini. The writings of Irene Klepfisz, a Jewish lesbian Holocaust survivor, are also powerful and important. Adrienne Rich’s “Split at the Root: An Essay on Jewish Identity” (1982) is also a stirring read. More recently, writers like Joy Ladin, Max Strassfeld, S.J. Crasnow, and Abby Stein have also offered crucial trans perspectives in Jewish scholarship, prose, and poetry.

Star Trek (But Make it Gay): TOS

Busy Geek Breakdown:

Lifelong Trekkie or have never seen an episode? Check out:

Season 1; Episode 5.  Season 2; Episode 4. Season 3, Episodes 2, 10, 19, 21.

Pay special attention to the balance creators and actors held between pushing cultural issues and the FCC Rules on Obscenity (more closely regulated prior to 1984). It featured storylines that addressed controversial issues, such as racism, war, and politics, and depicted violence and sexuality in a more frank and realistic manner than was typical for the era.

If you just want to see a young George Takei shirtless, oiled up, and wielding a sword, not to mention a savage comeback by Nichelle Nichols, watch Season 1; Episode 4 “The Naked Time”. (that’s the actual title) Or just go here.

Note: If you watch the show on Paramount Plus, the original Pilot is listed as Season 1; Episode 1. This throws the episode count off for Season 1.

For seasoned Trekkies, or people who just like numbered lists, skip ahead here.

For the Total Star Trek Red Shirts (read: Noobs) read below:

The first Star Trek series, known as The Original Series (TOS), was created by Gene Roddenberry and premiered on CTV in Canada on September 6th, 1966. It later aired on NBC in America on September 8th, 1966. The show followed the voyages of the USS Enterprise under Captain James T. Kirk and was set in the 23rd century, presenting themes of a Utopian society and racial equality. It was originally referred to simply as Star Trek prior to the release of spin-offs.

Despite performing well in its time slot when it first aired, the show was cancelled after three seasons due to budget issues resulting in lower quality episodes and a shift to a Friday night time slot. However, after entering syndication, the show’s popularity skyrocketed. It was notable for featuring the first African-American officer in a recurring role, as well as a Japanese-American in an intelligent and capable role rather than the racist farce many other shows used. They even has a Russian officer, as this was the height of the Cold War, and Roddenberry’s vision of the future meant that such things were far behind us.

A decade later, the original cast reunited for the movie Star Trek: The Motion Picture aboard a refurbished USS Enterprise. They went on to appear in five more films, culminating in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country in 1991, which was produced during the spin-off series Star Trek: The Next Generation and shortly before Gene Roddenberry’s passing. Characters from the original series also appeared in later Star Trek productions, including the seventh movie, Star Trek Generations. Of course Leonard Nimoy also played a role in the Kelvin timeline films later, where all of the characters were re-cast with modern actors.

Alright, now that we’re all on the same page, let’s Dive in!

A few years ago, I began a re-watch of Star Trek, starting with TOS, and posted out-of-context Tweets of my reactions. I’ve recently re-watched some of my favorite episodes to discuss LGBTQ+ stories, including Queer Coding and allegory. Disclaimer, while working on writing up my notes for my Star Trek TOS re-watch, I’ve been catching up on several years of RuPaul’s Drag Race. This may or may not have impacted which details I notice and my narrative style.

The Original Series of Star Trek featured several episodes with queer-coded subtext and some moments that fans have interpreted as having LGBTQ+ themes. However, it’s worth noting that because the show aired in the 1960s, overtly LGBTQ+ representation was impossible due to the time’s social and cultural context. In addition, the original series aired just four years after Illinois became the first state to decriminalize homosexuality and went off the air a few weeks before the Stone Wall Riots in June 1969.

Lucille Ball and Gene Roddenberry played a significant role in balancing queer coding and pushing issues of LGBTQ and racial equality in Star Trek The Original Series while keeping the show on the air in a less tolerant time.

Lucille Ball was instrumental in getting Star Trek on the air, as she owned Desilu Studios, the production company that produced the show. She was a well-known trailblazer in the industry and was committed to promoting diversity and inclusivity in her productions. It was because of her support that Gene Roddenberry was able to push the boundaries of what was acceptable on television at the time, including addressing issues of LGBTQ and racial equality.

Gene Roddenberry was a visionary who believed that science fiction could be a tool for promoting social justice and progressive values. He used the genre to explore complex social issues, including gender, race, and sexuality, in a way impossible in more traditional programming. He recognized the potential of science fiction to push the boundaries of what was acceptable on television and in society.

Gene Roddenberry on the set of Star Trek: The Original Series
Photo Cr: StarTrek.com

One way Roddenberry pushed the envelope was through queer coding, which refers to the subtle ways in which character or situation portrayal suggests same-sex attraction or non-conforming gender identities without explicitly stating them. This allowed Roddenberry to address LGBTQ issues in a way that was less likely to attract backlash from conservative viewers and censors.

Overall, Lucille Ball and Gene Roddenberry were instrumental in balancing queer coding and pushing issues of LGBTQ and racial equality in Star Trek The Original Series while keeping the show on the air in a less tolerant time. They were pioneers in the industry and used their positions of power to promote diversity and inclusivity on television. Their legacy continues to inspire and influence future generations of creators and viewers alike.

Now that you’re all briefed, On To The List!!!!!!

6. “The Enemy Within” (Season 1; Episode 5):

One episode often cited as having queer-coded themes is “The Enemy Within” from the first season. And not just because you get to see this adorably grumpy ‘Unicorn Dog”.

The above image is published under Fair Use – this image is copyrighted, but used here under Fair Use guidelines. Owner/Creator: Paramount Global (was ViacomCBS and/or Paramount Pictures and/or CBS Broadcasting, Inc.)

In this episode, Captain Kirk is split into two separate beings by a transporter malfunction, with one half embodying his “good” qualities and the other half his “bad” qualities. The “bad” half is more aggressive and sexually assertive, and at one point, he attempts to assault Yeoman Rand, one of the few prominent women on the show (you can tell he’s a bad boy because of his demand for Saurian Brandy, his eye makeup, the attempted Sexual Assault, and the manic yelling “I’m Captain Kirk!”.)

This split allows the writers to explore the duality of human nature in a unique and thought-provoking way.Some have interpreted this scene as a metaphor for sexual violence against women. However, others argue it has homoerotic undertones, with the aggressive Kirk representing a repressed homosexual desire. Ultimately, he realizes that embracing his more primal nature makes him a good Captain, as without it, he’s too meek and mild to make any of the difficult decisions he’s called upon to make.

1966 … ‘ Enemy Within’ – Star Trek” by x-ray delta one is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

As the episode unfolds, the crew must grapple with the consequences of their captain’s split personality and work together to reunite the two halves of his being. The scenes between the two versions of Kirk are compelling, highlighting our internal struggle to reconcile conflicting aspects of our personalities.

Now, while this episode may not explicitly include the LGBTQ community, its themes of identity and acceptance are universal and can resonate with all viewers, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. And that’s something we can all appreciate, right, my loves?

So, while, “The Enemy Within” may not be the most groundbreaking episode of Star Trek regarding LGBTQ representation, its exploration of human duality and the power of acceptance is universal and timeless. The costume choices and character interactions are on point, and the episode is engaging and thought-provoking. Let’s all remember that we all have light and darkness within us and that acceptance and understanding can help us find peace and wholeness in ourselves and the world around us.

5. “Mirror, Mirror” (Season 2; Episode 4):

Another episode with queer-coded subtext is “Mirror, Mirror” from the second season, which features an alternate universe where the crew of the Enterprise is all ruthless and power-hungry. In this universe, the Tehran Empire (vary much Nazi type ideals of extreme xenophobia and subjugation, mixed with a slight Klingon aesthetic) has expanded instead of the Federation. (You can tell that Spock is evil because he has a goatee )

Let’s dive into “Mirror, Mirror.”

“Mirror, Mirror” is an iconic episode of Star Trek, exploring the concept of parallel universes and the darker sides of human nature. While the episode doesn’t specifically address LGBTQ issues, its themes of power and domination certainly have relevance to the experiences of many in the LGBTQ community.

One aspect of this episode that caught my eye was the costume choices. The uniforms worn by the crew of the USS Enterprise in the mirror universe are noticeably different from their counterparts in the regular universe, featuring more revealing cuts and darker colors. These costume choices help to emphasize the mirror universe’s more aggressive and dominant nature and create a distinct contrast with the regular universe’s more formal and modest uniforms.

The above image is published under Fair Use – this image is copyrighted, but used here under Fair Use guidelines. Owner/Creator: Paramount Global (was ViacomCBS and/or Paramount Pictures and/or CBS Broadcasting, Inc.)

Spock is fascinating in this episode, as he must confront the darker aspects of his nature in the mirror universe. As a Vulcan, Spock prides himself on his logical and rational approach to life, but in the mirror universe, he is more aggressive and emotional to survive. This exploration of internal conflict and the struggle between reason and emotion is something that many in the LGBTQ community can undoubtedly relate to.

Throughout the episode, the crew must navigate the unfamiliar and dangerous mirror universe while grappling with the consequences of their actions in that world. The power dynamics and struggles for dominance are starkly evident. The episode serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of unchecked ambition and the importance of recognizing the humanity in others.

While “Mirror, Mirror” may not be explicitly LGBTQ-inclusive, its themes of power, domination, and the darker aspects of human nature are undoubtedly relevant to the experiences of many in the LGBTQ community. In addition, the costume choices are striking and help to emphasize the contrast between the regular and mirror universes. At the same time, exploring internal conflict and the struggle between reason and emotion is thought-provoking and engaging. Overall, “Mirror, Mirror” is a classic episode of Star Trek that resonates with viewers today.

4. “The Enterprise Incident” (Season 3, Episode 2):

“The Enterprise Incident” is a thrilling episode of Star Trek that sees the crew of the USS Enterprise embark on a dangerous mission to steal a Romulan cloaking device. While the episode doesn’t address LGBTQ issues directly, its exploration of power dynamics, secrecy, and the blurred lines between truth and deception resonate with many in the LGBTQ community.

In this episode, Captain Kirk fakes his own death and disguises himself as a Romulan to steal a cloaking device.

During their time on the Romulan ship, Spock very nearly seduces an incredibly thirsty Romulan commander to gain her trust. Do you see a trend yet? Riker isn’t the only First Officer who can get it, as he navigates the complex political landscape of the Romulan Empire to carry out the mission. Spock’s Vulcan stoicism and ability to think logically under pressure are critical to the mission’s success. In addition, his interactions with the Romulan commander provide a fascinating exploration of the tensions between different cultures and worldviews. While the scene was controversial then, it is often cited as an example of queer coding in the series.

One aspect of this episode that I found particularly interesting was the costume choices. The standard Romulan guards look pretty dorky. The Centurions look a bit cooler, and the Commander has this amazing two color 1960’s go-go dress and boot combo that really makes her stand out. However, the uniforms also blur the lines between friend and foe, highlighting the episode’s themes of secrecy and deception.

Overall, “The Enterprise Incident” is a tense and exciting episode that explores the complexities of power dynamics and the blurred lines between truth and deception. While it may not directly address LGBTQ issues, its themes of secrecy and the struggle for acceptance and understanding are undoubtedly relevant to the experiences of many in the LGBTQ community. In addition, the costume choices are striking and help to emphasize the episode’s themes, while the character interactions are engaging and thought-provoking. Overall, “The Enterprise Incident” is a classic episode of Star Trek that is definitely worth watching.

3. “Plato’s Stepchildren” (Season 3, Episode 10):

In this episode, the Enterprise crew encounters a group of telekinetic aliens who force Kirk and his crew to perform for their amusement. During the episode, Kirk is forced to kiss his crewmate Uhura, and Spock dances and nearly face stomps Kirk. While the episode was controversial then, it is now considered a landmark moment in LGBTQ representation on television.

Let’s dive into “Plato’s Stepchildren.”

“Plato’s Stepchildren” is an iconic episode of Star Trek that has become well-known for its groundbreaking portrayal of an interracial kiss between Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura. However, the episode’s exploration of power dynamics, control, and the use of force is also highly relevant to LGBTQ issues.

The episode occurs on Platonius, where a group of powerful telekinetic beings known as the Platonians have enslaved anyone who doesn’t have powers and forced them to do their bidding. The Platonians delight in exercising their power over the humans, subjecting them to various forms of humiliation and torture.

One aspect of this episode that caught my eye was the costume choices. The Platonians wear flamboyant, brightly-colored outfits that emphasize their power and status serving up some greek god, Olympus type realness, while the humans wear drab, gray clothing that symbolizes their oppression and lack of agency. These costume choices highlight the power dynamics at play on Platonius and the struggle for freedom and self-determination.

Of course, this episode is a classic example of Bill Shatner’s ‘AAAAAAACTING!!!!!’ – as the away team is psycho-kinetically compelled into degrading and dangerous shenanigans for the entertainment of a power-drunk psychopathic god figure.

Also, I realize that most folks likely watched this on an old clunky Black and White Television set, not digitally remastered on a big screen HDTV.

Vintage RCA Television Ad circa 1966

However, during Mr. Spock’s forced dance scene, they could have picked a dancer closer in height or build to Leanard Nemoy, or at least not had him look directly at the camera. Ah well. That’s one of the great things about Star Trek, all the random things you can catch on a re-watch.

Dr. McCoy is also fascinating in this episode, as he battles with the ethical implications of saving the life of a monster. This exploration of power dynamics and the use of force to control and subjugate others is highly relevant to the experiences of many in the LGBTQ community, who have faced similar forms of oppression and humiliation throughout history.

Of course, the most memorable scene in this episode is the interracial kiss between Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura, which was groundbreaking for its time and remains a powerful symbol. Also, stick it to the racists and haters, NBC executives initially tried to film a different version without the kiss to air in the deep south, but the actors purposely messed up every single take in which they didn’t kiss.

The above image is published under Fair Use – this image is copyrighted, but used here under Fair Use guidelines. Owner/Creator: Paramount Global (was ViacomCBS and/or Paramount Pictures and/or CBS Broadcasting, Inc.)

While this wasn’t technically the first interracial kiss on television, it was undoubtedly one of the most talked about. For perspective, remember that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a huge Star Trek fan. So he actually talked Nechelle Nichols into continuing as Ohura instead of leaving to pursue her stage career.

In conclusion, while “Plato’s Stepchildren” may not address LGBTQ issues directly, its exploration of power dynamics, control, and the use of force is highly relevant to the experiences of many in the LGBTQ community. In addition, the costume choices help to emphasize the power dynamics at play in Platonius. At the same time, the interracial kiss between Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura remains a powerful symbol of love and acceptance. Overall, “Plato’s Stepchildren” is a classic episode of Star Trek that resonates with viewers today.

2.”Requiem for Methuselah” (Season 3, Episode 19):

In this episode, the Enterprise crew encounters a reclusive immortal who becomes jealous of his android girlfriend/daughter who falls in love with Kirk. There are a lot of dynamics here, and this episode could definitely be considered an allegory for coming out and awakened sexual desire/ gender identity.

Let’s dive into “Requiem for Methuselah.”

“Requiem for Methuselah” is a thought-provoking episode of Star Trek that explores themes of love, mortality, and the pursuit of knowledge. While the episode doesn’t address LGBTQ issues directly, its exploration of these themes is highly relevant to the experiences of many in the LGBTQ community.

So, the costumes: Rayna wears a stunning, flowing gown emphasizing her otherworldly beauty and grace. In contrast, Flint wears a more practical, utilitarian outfit that reflects his scientific pursuits. These costume choices highlight the distinction between the two characters and their different approaches to life and love.

The above image is published under Fair Use – this image is copyrighted, but used here under Fair Use guidelines. Owner/Creator: Paramount Global (was ViacomCBS and/or Paramount Pictures and/or CBS Broadcasting, Inc.)

Kirk plays a significant role in this episode, as he is forced to confront his emotions and desires when he falls in love with Rayna, and somewhat creepily stirs the first ever feelings of desire in her (She is an android who has heretofore had no emotions). This exploration of the complexities of forbidden love and passion is highly relevant and tragically, as Rayna finally starts gaining her own agency, saying “I choose. You do not command me!” she is torn apart by her own conflicted emotions and identity and dies.

In addition, Flint provides an exciting exploration of the pursuit of knowledge and the quest for immortality. His desire to live forever and accumulate knowledge and power is highly relevant to the human experience, as many people strive to leave a lasting impact on the world.

Overall, “Requiem for Methuselah” is a poignant and thought-provoking episode of Star Trek that explores themes of love, mortality, and the pursuit of knowledge. While it may not address LGBTQ issues directly, its exploration of these themes is highly relevant to the experiences of many in the LGBTQ community. Additionally, the costume choices highlight the contrast between the characters, while the character interactions are engaging and thought-provoking. Overall, “Requiem for Methuselah” is a classic episode of Star Trek that is definitely worth watching. Also, at the very end, Spock very questionably intrudes Kirk’s mind with an uninvited mind meld but instead of going through the very well know, “My mind to your mind, your thoughts to my thoughts” bit, he just puts his hand on Kirk’s sleeping head and says, “Forget”.

The above image is published under Fair Use – this image is copyrighted, but used here under Fair Use guidelines. Owner/Creator: Paramount Global (was ViacomCBS and/or Paramount Pictures and/or CBS Broadcasting, Inc.)

1.”The Cloud Minders” (Season 3, Episode 21):

In this episode, the Enterprise crew visits a planet where the ruling class lives in a city in the clouds while the working class lives on the surface. During the episode, Spock engages in a romantic relationship with a woman from the ruling class (who is super thirsty for him, and has amazing eye makeup. We also get to hear some great line as she learns about the ‘7 year itch’ that Vulcans get *see Season 2; Episode 1), challenging the societal norms of the planet. This episode is also a great reminder that it’s pretty easy to have a utopia in the clouds when you completely subjugate and enslave people. This episode echos many of the racist arguments used to enslave people in our own history (but in Spaaaaace!) This episode was especially on the nose in 1969, and an example of when Star Trek didn’t pull any punches.

(Disclaimer: They use the r-word in the episode when discussing the effects of the gas)

Let’s dive into “The Cloud Minders.”

“The Cloud Minders” is a fascinating episode of Star Trek that deals with themes of class inequality and social justice. While the episode doesn’t address LGBTQ issues directly, its exploration of these themes is highly relevant to the experiences of many in the LGBTQ community.

The characters from the planet Stratos wear ornate, flowing robes that reflect their privileged status, while the Troglytes wear more utilitarian outfits that reflect their oppressed status. These costume choices highlight the stark contrast between the two groups and their different social standings. Also, the guards have super fun hats.

The above image is published under Fair Use – this image is copyrighted, but used here under Fair Use guidelines. Owner/Creator: Paramount Global (was ViacomCBS and/or Paramount Pictures and/or CBS Broadcasting, Inc.)

Droxine also plays a significant role in this episode, as she is initially dismissive of Kirk and Spock due to her prejudices against them as outsiders. This exploration of prejudice and bias is highly relevant and is unfortunately all too familiar to the LGBTQ community, who have faced discrimination and stigma due to their identities.

In addition, the episode raises important questions about social justice and the distribution of resources. The Troglytes are forced to work in harsh conditions to mine the valuable mineral zenite (which it turns out impact brain function, and a simple respiratory renders the caste system toothless), while the Stratos inhabitants enjoy a life of luxury and privilege. This exploration of class inequality is highly relevant to the experiences of many in the LGBTQ community who have faced discrimination and barriers to accessing resources and opportunities.

Overall, “The Cloud Minders” is a thought-provoking episode of Star Trek that deals with class inequality and social justice themes. While it may not address LGBTQ issues directly, its exploration of these themes is highly relevant to the experiences of many in the LGBTQ community. The costume choices highlight the stark contrast between the two groups, while the character interactions are engaging and thought-provoking. Overall, “The Cloud Minders” is a classic episode of Star Trek that is definitely worth watching.

It’s important to note that the queer coding of these scenes and episodes is a matter of interpretation and is not explicitly stated in the show. However, they offer a glimpse into how LGBTQ+ themes and characters were explored in media during a time when overt representation was impossible.

These episodes and others demonstrate Star Trek: The Original Series’ willingness to explore themes of gender and sexual identity in a groundbreaking and provocative way. While the series may not have always been overtly LGBTQ-inclusive, it pushed the boundaries of what was considered acceptable on television. It paved the way for future series to explore these themes more deeply.

If you enjoyed this, please let us know, and check back soon for The Next Generation!

Interview with Author SL Rowland

S.L. Rowland (he/him) is a wanderer. Whether that’s getting lost in the woods or road-tripping coast to coast with his Shiba Inu, Lawson, he goes where the wind blows. When not writing, he enjoys hiking, reading, weightlifting, playing video games, and having his heart broken by various Atlanta sports teams.

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

Thanks for having me! I’m a fantasy author of over ten books and audiobooks. I got my start writing LitRPG, (If you’re not familiar, think Dungeons & Dragons meets epic fantasy) and I’ve just started branching into more traditional fantasy with my first cozy fantasy, Cursed Cocktails.

What can you tell us about your newest story, Cursed Cocktails? Where did the inspiration for this book come from?

All credit for the inspiration goes to Travis Baldree and his amazing debut novel, Legends & Lattes. It’s an amazing story of a retired orc barbarian who opens a coffee shop. I didn’t know how much I would be drawn to the idea of high fantasy with low stakes, but I loved it.

As I was reading, the idea for Cursed Cocktails started to form. It grew for months and months in the back of my mind while I finished up another project, and by the time I was done, I had this whole world that was ready to be explored. I knew I had to write it.

Cursed Cocktails seems to fall into the “cozy mystery/fantasy” genre, which is a genre I didn’t know I needed until I read and loved it. What caused you to move into that genre?

I felt the same way. After discovering cozy fantasy, I immediately fell in love with the possibilities it could offer for storytelling. One of my favorite tropes is the retired hero/adventurer, and seeing what these characters do when the fighting is over.

After the last few years, I kind of felt like everyone needed a bit of an escape from the doom and gloom of the real world, and cozy fantasy offers that. I love high fantasy and dungeons & dragons, and some of my favorite moments are the small scenes in a tavern or camping by the woods. The idea of writing full novels that capture that feeling was incredibly appealing to me.

As a writer, what drew you to writing fantasy, especially works intended for LQBTQ+ audiences?

Fantasy has always been a big part of my life. I grew up playing RPG video games and reading the Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter. As a kid, I’d often go out into the woods pretending I was on some epic quest and looking for hidden treasure. I’ve always been drawn to the fantastical, magic, elves, dwarves, and the like.

When the idea for Rhoren first came to me, I knew he was an LGBTQ+ character. It wasn’t what defined him, it was just part of who he was. And I wanted to tell his story to the best of my ability.

Since Geeks OUT is a queer centered website, could you tell us a bit about the LGBTQ+ characters featured in your books?

I’ve had several books feature LGBTQ+ characters as side characters, but Cursed Cocktails was the first one I’ve written with an LGBTQ+ protagonist. Rhoren is an elven blood mage suffering from the chronic pain caused by years of using blood magic to defend the realm. Once he retires, he moves to a warmer climate in the hopes that it will help with his pain. He’s a little broody at times with a good heart and a desire to help people. When he arrives in Eastborne, he meets Kallum, a human bartender who’s naturally charismatic with a detail oriented personality. The two have an easy-going relationship, balancing one another out in a lot of ways.

Where did you get your start in creative writing? What pulled you to fiction?

I dabbled with creative writing growing up, but never really pushed myself to explore it or hone my craft until much later in life. I had a pretty dysfunctional childhood growing up, but I always found escape in fantasy books and video games. Learning to write fiction has been a lifelong process. There were some very bad Harry Potter-esque attempts at worldbuilding in high school, and then I wrote a few post-apocalyptic short stories in college.

At 27, I took my first shot at writing a novel. It was a post-apocalyptic novel about a guy who dives into a lake and wakes up in the apocalypse. The book wasn’t very good, but it got me started down the path that would eventually become my career. This was when I first realized what it was like to have the characters really come to life in a story, and become more than just words on a page. By 29, I’d started researching publishing and eventually indie publishing. I published my first novel at 30, and I’ve been doing this ever since.

What magic systems/worlds/characters draw your attention?

There’s so much that I love–tolkienesque high fantasy, grimdark, cozy, litrpg. I think they all have something to offer, and depending on my mood, I’ll read just about anything. I love the retired adventurer trope, like Kvothe in Name of the Wind or Viv in Legends & Lattes, which has become a pretty popular in cozy fantasy as well. Morally grey characters can be fun. As long as the characters are written believably, I’ll ride along for the journey.

Your latest book contains drink recipes for the cocktails created in the books. Did you develop them yourself? Have you tried them all? Do you have a favorite?

Creating the drinks for Cursed Cocktails was a really fun experience. I worked in upscale restaurants for 10 years, so I have quite a bit of drink knowledge. Plus, I love a good cocktail. I had an idea for the type of drinks I wanted to include, and I knew I wanted to have a recipe book as a bonus download so that readers could make the drinks themselves.

One of my readers is an amazing bartender, and he’d made one of the magical drinks from my Sentenced to Troll series for fun. I reached out to him for some suggestions, and he helped me narrow down a list of real-world cocktails to use as a guide. Every drink in Cursed Cocktails is based off of a real-world cocktail, with all of the ingredients translated to a fantasy setting.

I’ve tried a good portion of them and one of my favorites is the Nelderland Mule, which is based on a Moscow Mule. There’s something about the copper mug that really sets it off.

Where do you see your stories going in the future? More like Cursed Cocktails, back to your previous works, or in a new direction?

I’d like to do a mixture of stories. One thing about creating the world for Cursed Cocktails is that it’s really epic in scope, allowing for a variety of story styles set in the same world. I already have a handful of story ideas I want to explore there, but I also love litrpg, so I’m sure I’ll write more in that genre as well. I just want to tell good stories with fun characters, wherever that leads me.

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

I’m currently working on a second book set in the world of Aedrea, the same setting as Cursed Cocktails. It will feature a character who made a brief appearance in the first book. I intentionally made the world epic, with nine kingdoms and a deep history, so that I could tell a lot of small-scale stories within the setting. I already have ideas for several more books.

After this current book, I’ll be wrapping up the sixth and final book in my Sentenced to Troll series before doing another book within Aedrea.

What’s something you haven’t done as a writer that you’d like to do?

That’s a good question. Doing a book tour sounds pretty cool but also incredibly stressful. 

Aside from writing, what do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

I spend a lot of time walking my dog, playing video games, weightlifting, or getting lost in a good Netflix binge. I’m also a big fantasy football nerd, so that consumes way too much of my time in the fall. My interests are all over the place, so there’s usually something to keep me occupied.

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

There are so many great stories that fall under this umbrella with more releasing by the day. It’s great to see more representation in fiction. I think as readers, we can all enjoy stories that are different from our own, but it’s a nice feeling when you can relate to a character on a personal level.

A few of my favorites are The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune, Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree, and Can’t Spell Treason Without Tea by Rebecca Thorne. They all have great characters and are feel-good stories.

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@slrowlandauthor on TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook

Interview with Author Sarah Whalen

Sarah Whalen is the author of This Doesn’t Mean Anything, the first of four interconnected books in the series. She writes ace-affirming love stories and grumpy girls who learn to let other people in. When she’s not writing or reading, she spends her time journaling and being an angry feminist killjoy.

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

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

Hi! I’m Sarah, a 23-year-old just trying her best. I graduated college in May 2022, and now I write kissing books.

What can you tell us about your debut book, This Doesn’t Mean Anything? What was the inspiration for this story?

 This Doesn’t Mean Anything basically functions as a rant/commentary on the things I experienced when I went on dating apps for the first time during my freshmen year of college and how I was treated as a person who wanted a romantic relationship with things like hand holding and cuddling, but just without sex. 

As an asexual author, what does it mean for you having written an ace romance?

I wrote the book I wanted to see in the world. We’re lucky now to have more ace representation, but back when I was first figuring out what asexuality was, there was almost nothing. I enjoyed Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann, another ace author, and I’m so happy that other ace readers have variety and options for books that make them feel seen now. I also like being able to show people – both aspec and allo – that there is no monolithic asexual. You can be ace and still want a romantic relationship. You can be sex-repulsed and want a romantic relationship. You can be ace and want a sexual relationship. There’s no one “correct” way to be ace, and nothing about what you want relationship-wise invalidates your identity label if YOU think it fits. That’s all that matters, and you don’t have to prove or justify yourself to anyone.

I also desperately wanted to show other sex-repulsed aces that there ARE people in the world who will NOT make them compromise any boundaries, and you don’t have to settle just because you’re afraid of being alone. And that you don’t HAVE to worry about finding another asexual person – allo-ace relationships exist.

As a writer, what drew you to the art of storytelling, specifically romance and new adult fiction?

I’ve always been a big reader and I guess writing was just the next step. I used to carry around sheets of loose-leaf paper and write stories during recess. 

As far as new adult romance, I originally wrote and shelved a young adult project, but I think the story I wanted to tell with This Doesn’t Mean Anything just fit the new adult age range (keep in mind that I also wrote both these projects while I was in the age range, so that definitely is the major factor – I think I finished my shelved YA manuscript when I was around 17). 

I imagine that as I age, so will my characters and the genres that I write in, but I love the exploration and discovery that comes with new adult characters – they’ve grown up a little bit and kind of know themselves, but there’s always new things that teach us who we are. And there’s always stories to tell, representation to be seen.

How would you describe your writing process?

The majority of This Doesn’t Mean Anything was actually written during my senior year of college. I had a long commute, so in the morning, I would put on my book’s playlist and just think about scenes I wanted to write while stuck in traffic, and when I got to campus, I would just word-dump everything I came up with during the drive. I also write on my phone a lot at night when I can’t sleep or if my chronic pain is flaring up and I can’t be at my desktop.

These days, I light a candle, play music or typing ASMR or use the I miss my cafe website for some ambient noise, have my “Holy Trinity” of coffee/energy drink, water, juice/tea/soda on hand, and I just write what I want. I have a loose outline, but I’m very much a mood reader and a mood writer.

Many authors would say one of the most challenging parts of writing a book is finishing one. What strategies would you say helped you accomplish this??

Honestly, I would say that the hardest thing about writing for me personally is not letting the imposter syndrome get the best of me (which can hinder finishing or even editing in the first place). For me, I just have lots of different affirmations for myself, such as:

  • Whatever I’m writing is the worst the book will ever be, and it can only get better from there. 
  • SOMEONE out there needs my words, and no one else can tell this story like I can. This is going to be someone’s favorite/comfort story one day, but it won’t be if I never finish.
  • Past me would be so proud of how far I’ve already come.
  • You can’t edit a blank page.

When the imposter syndrome got really bad, I used to have the impulse to delete my whole manuscript, so I’d end up leaving my laptop in a different room if the urge got really strong.

Growing up, were there any stories in which you felt touched by/ or reflected in? Are there any like that now?

I don’t think I ever felt particularly seen in any stories until I was a young adult. There are two books I’ve read in the past five years that made me feel SO seen. One was A Pho Love Story by Loan Le. I’m Vietnamese American, and it was incredibly refreshing to see a story about Vietnamese American teenagers that were allowed to just be YA characters while also experiencing the things I have, and even more so because it wasn’t a story about the Vietnam War. I think we tend to be reduced to that a lot in the media, and I used to have to settle for what little representation this offered. 

The other book is Loveless by Alice Oseman – just to read about a sex-repulsed asexual character who desperately wanted to show that she DID experience love, just not in the way society prioritizes – I almost cried.

As a writer, who or what would you say are some of your greatest creative influences and/or sources of inspiration in general? 

A lot of my stories and characters stem from me wanting to see things in books and realizing sometimes that means I have to do it myself. 

What are some of your favorite elements of writing? What do you consider some of the most frustrating and/or challenging? 

I honestly love being able to fall in love with my characters and think about them reacting to different situations. Reader reactions are some of my favorite things – I love getting messages from readers about This Doesn’t Mean Anything, because they remind me of who exactly I’m doing all of this for. It’s extremely validating (and sometimes entertaining if I get an angry message or live tweet thread).

Related to that is that it can be hard fighting through the imposter syndrome – especially because I don’t actually read reviews. I don’t check This Doesn’t Mean Anything’s Goodreads page because I try really hard to keep that boundary as an author. It means I don’t know if people actually like my work unless they reach out to me, and that’s definitely a Me issue that I’m working through.

Another thing is that non-writers truly have no idea what it’s like – whether that be the nuances of traditional publishing, the struggles of independent publishing, or even just the craft. Writing IS hard. It’s even harder when the people in your life don’t actually respect your work or they have some warped notion about how “easy” or lucrative it is.

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

I absolutely adore interacting with fellow readers and writers, but I’m shy and almost never make the first move of swiping up on a story or DM-ing, but I will definitely answer if someone just wants to randomly message me about a book or something. 

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 always wanted someone to ask about which anime characters my characters are most like. Nick is DEFINITELY Loid Forger from Spy x Family – they’re both domestic overprotective mother hens and I love them. Christian has Aizawa from My Hero Academia energy – just Tired Dad figure.

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

Couple things – don’t “kill” your darlings, but “cryogenically freeze” them (stole that from Tumblr). Cut your words, but keep them in a separate document, because you never know what you can use in another project.

Write the self-indulgent fluffy love scenes even when you know it won’t see the light of day. It will help you remember why you love your story and your characters. (Plus – bonus content!)

If you’re stuck, the problem is probably about ten lines up.

And lastly…LEARN TO LET THINGS GO. You can’t always edit things. You have to learn to just stop editing and let things be. You’re gonna look back and think “why did I write it like that?” But you can’t let the desire to be “perfect” stop you from publishing in the first place. It’s how you grow as a writer.

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

I am CONSTANTLY working on a number of projects. There are three sequels to This Doesn’t Mean Anything (plus a novella!), a book I’ve been describing as The Illuminae Files x The Raven Cycle but with cryptids, a YA marching band book, another novella, and a supernatural story involving demon bargains.

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

SO many! I loved Ace of Hearts by Lucy Mason, Loveless by Alice Oseman, Tears in the Water by Margherita Scialla, I Am Ace by Cody Daigle-Orians, Refusing Compulsory Sexuality: A Black Asexual Lens on Our Sex-Obsessed Culture by Sherronda J. Brown, Forward March by Skye Quinlan, How to be Ace by Rebecca Burgess, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, and How to be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters.

The Geeks OUT Podcast: Beast of a Thousand Backs Again

Geeks OUT Podcast: Beast of a Thousand Backs Again

After taking a much needed break, the Geeks OUT Podcast is back! Kevin (@Gilligan_McJew) is joined by special guest Bobby Hankinson (@bobbyhank) as they discuss the news about this year’s DC Comics Pride lineup and get #DownAndNerdy as they talk about all the pop culture they’re consuming right now.

After taking a much needed break, the Geeks OUT Podcast is back! Kevin (@Gilligan_McJew) is joined by special guest Bobby Hankinson (@bobbyhank) as they discuss the news about this year’s DC Comics Pride lineup and get #DownAndNerdy as they talk about all the pop culture they’re consuming right now.

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BIG OPENING

KEVIN: DC Comics announces DC Pride lineup
BOBBY: We’re less mad at Chris Pratt for his Mario voice (but still mad about other stuff!)

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DOWN & NERDY

KEVIN: Scream 6, Star Trek: Picard, The Last of Us, Poker Face, Servant, X-titles, Specs, Blue Book
BOBBY: Vanderpump’s #Scandoval, Wrestlemania season/WWE 2k23, XMEN 97, Black Adam, MCU Phase 4 rewatch, Mandalorian

Interview with Author & Illustrator Mike Curato

Mike Curato is the award-winning author and illustrator of the Little Elliot series and the graphic novel Flamer and has illustrated a number of other books for children, including What If… (by Samantha Berger), Worm Loves Worm and All the Way to Havana.

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

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

Cheers, queers! I’m Mike Curato. I am an author and illustrator of graphic novels and children’s books.

What can you tell us about your most recent graphic novel, Flamer? Where did the inspiration for this story come from?

Flamer is the story of Aiden Navarro, a chubby fourteen-year-old Filipino-white mixed kid who is away at scout camp. The year is 1995, and Aiden is navigating friendships, bullying, and how they can overlap. He has lots of questions about his religion, struggles with his body image, and deals with racism. All of that is the backdrop to Aiden confronting his sexual identity, and questioning his very existence. Also, there are fart jokes. The story runs parallel to a lot of my personal experiences as a teen. 

As opposed to your other work, much of which includes children’s books based in fiction and fantasy, Flamer is semi-autobiographical. What made you decide to explore the personal in a young adult graphic novel?

While much has changed in nearly thirty years, queer youth still face many of the same challenges that I did. Except now, they don’t have to think they’re alone. I wrote Flamer as a life raft for those young queers who have not found their community yet, who don’t feel safe, who feel like there’s no one out there who understands them. Writers are called to create the books they want to read or wish they had when they were younger. Flamer is my response. I’ve also heard from a lot of adults who felt very seen by this story in a way that they hadn’t before.

How did you find yourself getting into storytelling, particularly comics and children’s books? What drew you to the mediums?

I loved picture books as a child and was an avid comic book reader from middle school through college. In high school, my dream was to one day write and illustrate for X-Men. In college, as an illustration major, I rediscovered my love of children’s books. I figured, why limit myself? I want to do it all! The magic of picture books is that there is so much emotion and wonder boiled down into just 32 to 40 pages. Meanwhile, a comic plays with time and pacing in its own unique way with limitless possibilities. Picture books and comics lay somewhere between the written word and film, each commanding their own realm. That kind of magic excites me.

As someone who has worked on many of their own picture books, as well as having collaborated with others, can you give insight or advice into what goes into making a picture book?

Laughs? Tears? Metric tons of ice cream? There are so many ways to approach making a picture book (or any type of book), but my free advice is that you have to be moved by your own book if you want it to resonate with a reader. That’s the test. If your book doesn’t make you feel something, then it’s not ready to be shared with others. Don’t waste the time and trees otherwise.

As a creative, who or what would you say are some of your greatest creative influences and/or sources of inspiration?

Whoa, buddy, that’s a long list. Here are some names in no specific order: Alison Bechdel, Edward Hopper, Ian Falconer, Michael Sowa, Jillian Tamaki, Mariko Tamaki, Mark Ryden, Gene Yang, Berenice Abbott, Pierre + Gilles, David Small, Tillie Walden, Wes Anderson, Isabel Arsenault, Beatrice Alemagna, Chris Van Allsburg, Shaun Tan… I think I need to stop with names because I will just keep going, but I also need to say that my friends and family are probably my biggest inspirations and support system.

Besides your work as an author/illustrator, what are some things you would want readers to know about you?

My sister made fun of me once for a promo reel I made for a picture book that I illustrated. I guess I have a certain way I speak when talking to children and parents that’s “cutsier” than my normal self. But in my defense, I can’t really sell picture books by being a sarcastic cussing mess, which is how I appear in my natural habitat. So if you see those clips, just know that I did it for the kids. You should also know that I am a sugar fiend, film buff, Pisces sun (splash!), Scorpio rising (smack!), and world traveler who loves karaoke.

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

THANK YOU for this. 

Q: MIKE! If you were on Drag Race, who would you be on Snatch Game?

A: Edina Monsoon, darling!!! Help mama…

Are there any projects you are working on or thinking about that you are able to discuss?

Well, wouldn’t you like to know! Yes! I am currently working on my very first adult graphic novel called Gaysians, which centers the gay Asian American experience, all T (some shade). It features an ensemble of friends in early 2000s Seattle as they navigate dating, family, racism, and transphobia. It is going to slaysian the house down boots.

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

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden

The Check, Please! series by Ngozi Ukazu

The Heartstopper series by Alice Oseman

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell

The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen

The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag

The Marvels by Brian Selznick 

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Melissa by Alex Gino

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo


Header Photo Credit Dylan Osborne

Interview with Author & Illustrator Emily B. Martin

Emily B. Martin splits her time between working as a park ranger and an author/illustrator, resulting in her characteristic eco-fantasy adventures. An avid hiker and explorer, her experiences as a ranger help inform the characters and worlds she creates on paper. Her books include Woodwalker, Ashes to Fire, and Creatures of Light. When not patrolling places like Yellowstone, the Great Smoky Mountains, or Philmont Scout Ranch, she lives in South Carolina with her husband, Will, and two daughters, Lucy and Amelia.

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

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

I work as a park ranger with the National Park Service during the summertime and as an author/illustrator during the school year. I love baking, hiking, camping, gardening, and being with my family.

What can you tell us about your latest book, A Field Guide to Mermaids? What was the inspiration for this story?

For me, nature and magic have always gone hand in hand. During childhood hikes with my family, my parents would always point out not just the flora and fauna of the region, but of mushrooms that could be fairy houses or ivy drifts that looked like sleeping monsters. When my own kids were born, I continued this tradition of looking for both magic and science outside. When I first started publishing novels, I knew A Field Guide to Mermaids was something I wanted to tackle when I felt ready to both write and illustrate something.

As an author, what drew you to the art of writing?

I’ve always written as a hobby and turned to it particularly when I began staying home after my daughters were born. It helped me maintain a sense of self outside of being a new mom. After a while, my husband asked if I had ever thought about publishing anything. I hadn’t really, but out of curiosity, I started researching what it took. That brought me through the querying and pitching process to my first published book, Woodwalker, then my first trilogy, then my first duology, and now my first picture book.

What drew you to fantasy, particularly mermaids?

Fantasy was a real home for me as a young reader, and now it’s one of many tools I use in my role as an environmental educator. I try to communicate to park visitors that nature is full of magic if we know how to look for it. And everything in nature—plants, animals, people—revolves around water. I hope looking for mermaids will pique kids’ curiosity in the aquatic ecosystems near them.

How would you describe your writing process?

I’m definitely a plotter. I like having my basic structure laid out before writing—otherwise, I tend to be frozen by all the possibilities my plot could take. My sketchbooks play an important role in developing not just my illustrated books, but my novels as well. With Field Guide, I also went in a cyclical process of research – writing – sketching – repeat. 

Growing up, were there any stories in which you felt touched by/ or reflected in? Are there any like that now?

I was fortunate growing up to be represented by many of the young heroines in my favorite books, but one character that made me feel especially seen was the character of Queen Helen in the Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. Helen is described as not classically beautiful, with a broken nose and awkward features. In a world of button-nosed, sleek-haired Disney princesses, I used to be self-conscious about my own large, hooked nose and bushy dark hair. I loved reading a character who looked similar and was also skilled, brave, empathetic, and beloved by other characters.

As a writer, who or what would you say are some of your greatest creative influences and/or sources of inspiration in general? 

Some of my greatest creative influence comes from being outside and learning about nature, especially for this book. When I first started planning it, I wondered if I would be able to come up with enough habitats and aquatic creatures to fill it out, but every time I started exploring, both outside and in books, I found more and more things I wanted to include.  

What are some of your favorite elements of writing? What do you consider some of the most frustrating and/or difficult? 

I love research. I love finding new things that spark my imagination and nudge that desire to create, and then I love weaving them into my text and illustrations. I also love the stretches of time where the writing just flows and I can tell all my previous work is coming together.

The frustrating parts for me are all the tertiary parts of writing—keeping up with my finances, tracking sales, maintaining my hardware and software, that kind of thing.

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

For a long time—like ten years—only my best friend knew I wrote and drew fantasy and fan fiction and art. I was painfully embarrassed about it throughout grade school. Now I love that there’s a huge, proud writing culture built around all the weird niche interests we were into in grade school and how they made us the authors we are today. Dinosaurs! The age of sail! Marching band! The Silmarillion! They’re all in the mix for me.

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)?

What’s my favorite owl? Thank you for asking—I’m partial to the barred owl because their call is just the best and they’re such a quintessential Birds 101 Checklist owl, but I also adore the eastern screech owl, and I love the barn owl for being such a nightmare.

What advice might you have to give for aspiring writers?

For young writers in grade school, my best advice is to just have fun with it! Find a friend to write stories with, write fan fiction, and write without worrying if it’s good or not. All of these things helped me foster my own love of writing without realizing that’s what I was actually doing. 

For older writers, it’s helpful to keep your focus on the long game rather than pinning all your hopes and expectations on one manuscript. Writers who expect to publish one novel and rake in the cash/accolades are setting themselves up for stress and disappointment. Adjusting your goals toward slowly building a sturdy career over many books is more realistic and satisfying.

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

I always have several other manuscripts going—I have an adult novel with my agent and a middle-grade fantasy in the drafting stage, and then several others in the planning stages. 

Finally, what books/authors (related to mermaids or otherwise) would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT? 

I really love Makiia Lucier, Intisar Khanani, and the aforementioned Megan Whalen Turner. One thing they all have in common is juxtaposing the mundane with the magical, which makes their worlds feel lived in. On a completely different note, I adore Robin Wall Kimmerer’s work on the spiritual and scientific connections between humans and nature.

Interview with Author Mia Tsai

Mia Tsai is a Taiwanese American author of speculative fiction. She lives in Atlanta with her family and, when not writing, is a hype woman for her orchids and a devoted cat gopher. Her favorite things include music of all kinds and taking long trips with nothing but the open road and a saucy rhythm section. She has been quoted in Glamour once. In her other lives, she is a professional editor, photographer, and musician. Mia is on Twitter at @itsamia and on Instagram at @mia.tsai.books.

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

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

Hey everyone! I’m Mia Tsai, a Taiwanese American author of speculative fiction. I’m also an editor, a musician, and an amateur orchid keeper.

What can you tell us about your latest book, Bitter Medicine? What was the inspiration for this story?

Bitter Medicine is an adult contemporary fantasy with lots of romance about two people whose lives are ruled by others and who, through extraordinary circumstances, learn to value themselves and each other. More specifically, Bitter Medicine stars a magical Chinese calligrapher named Elle, whose magic makes her calligraphy come to life, and Luc, a French half-elf who relies on Elle’s magic for success in his classified missions. Both of them are hiding secrets, of course, and it’s those secrets, which clash and intersect, that threaten the relationship they’ve built.

There isn’t a single inspiration for Bitter Medicine, but I told myself I wanted a world where I could show the magic inherent in written Chinese, plus a story of love and pain and mental fragility, where an Asian woman goes through depression and grief and her community steps up unequivocally to support her. I also love spy movies, so I brought a little of that into the book as well, then mixed it all with mythologies from multiple cultures.

As someone who has been noted to be influenced by xianxia stories, can you name any of your own personal favorites?

I just finished watching Cang Lan Jue/Love Between Fairy and Devil! I think I’ve had the opening theme stuck in my head for a good three or four days. I loved how much fun the show had with tropes—there’s body swapping and secret curses and an enemies-to-lovers storyline—and I appreciated the comedic bits. We all expect to cry in xianxia dramas, I think, so to be able to laugh a lot was refreshing.

As a writer, what drew you to the art of storytelling, specifically speculative fiction, and romance?

I was a huge bookworm as a child. I suppose I still am, since I’m never not reading something, whether it’s short stories for Giganotosaurus and Strange Horizons (where I’m guest editing the wuxia and xianxia special issue alongside Joyce Chng and Yilin Wang!), manuscripts, or eking out time to read for fun. But really, the truth is that fanfic got me started in stories from a young age. I loved the books I was reading so much that I didn’t want the stories to end. When I was in third grade, I wrote fanfic for a school assignment, and it’s been off to the races ever since.

Of all the genres, I steeped myself in fantasy the most, and it shows. I needed the escape as a child and having magic and romance in stories was perfect. There could be no overlap between those things and my real life. In books, I could fly with dragons, recite cantrips with mages, fall in love with my rival, and I wanted to write stories that did the same.

How would you describe your writing process?

Stop-start, at once fast and dramatic but also slow and painful. There’s a lot of agonizing, overthinking, doubt, and crying. Any idea I think has legs will get a zero draft that’s completed quickly; I think my fastest on record was ten days. And then, after that, I let the idea bake for a few years before I come back to it, look at what I did, and start over from scratch. That first draft takes a lot longer, anywhere from six months to a year, and then there are revisions…

There’s a lot of competition with myself, whether it’s word count goals for the day—they only ever seem to go up—or challenging myself to do something new, like write a whole book in a new style. I don’t recommend my process, really, and there are days when I wonder why I don’t quit. I don’t like writing, but I like having written.

Growing up, were there any stories in which you felt touched by/ or reflected in? Are there any like that now?

There were a great many books I felt touched by, stories of stubborn girls who find their inner fire and go out and change the world, and maybe find some romance along the way. I wanted to believe I could also be a warrior the way Aerin and Sabriel and Eilonwy were warriors. As books go, there weren’t many with characters who reflected my lived experience, and there still aren’t many at all. These days, Asian fantasy especially has been growing, and I have loved to read books like A MAGIC STEEPED IN POISON by Judy Lin, ASH by Malinda Lo, or WANT by Cindy Pon as a teen.

As a writer, who or what would you say are some of your greatest creative influences and/or sources of inspiration in general? 

I look to my life as inspiration. Anything and everything I experience can become an element in a book. I used to volunteer at the Atlanta Botanical Garden; I worked in the orchid library and with the orchid specialists. Being surrounded by botany got the mind going, and orchids are featured a little in my next book. Music, too, is a huge source of inspiration. I listen to a lot of music, since I’m a musician and all, and I do my best to listen to as much as possible when I’m in the mood for it.

As writing goes, I’ve always wanted to have John Irving’s ability to make a reader cry on one page and laugh hysterically on the other. I’m going to keep working on that.

What are some of your favorite elements of writing? What do you consider some of the most frustrating and/or difficult? 

Being finished with writing is my favorite! No, but on a serious note, when I draft, I do so chronologically and use tentpoles. And so arriving at the pivotal scene, the one I envisioned originally and around which I built the entire story, is one of my favorite parts of writing. It’s like the cake I told myself I’d eat but only after tasks A through Z were finished. I also enjoy editing a lot. I think I write just so I can make fixes and tweak language without annoying anyone but myself.

Drafting has got to be the most frustrating aspect of writing for me. I wish the words would simply appear and be done so that I could take my red pen out and get to work.

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

I moonlight as a photographer every once in a while, and I love taking portraits of people. I used to do commercial photography professionally, though that didn’t last too long.

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)?

What’s your favorite cocktail? A vieux mot, which is a dry gin, elderflower liqueur, and simple syrup concoction (just in case anyone wants to buy me a drink).

What advice might you have to give for aspiring writers?

Finish what you’re working on. No matter how good or bad, you should finish it. There are lots of writers out there who are always working on something in progress, and they spend years tinkering and perfecting—no. Finish it. Then you can edit it. At least you have finished it.

Additionally, finishing begets finishing. Finishing something proves to you that you can finish something, which gives you the confidence to go forth and finish your next something.

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

I have a project titled Key & Vale which is out on submission right now. It’s a science fantasy set in a post–climate change world where cataclysms have wiped out many archives, so many so that people are left floundering. Key is a memory diver, an archaeologist gifted with the ability to taste blood and hallucinate the memories encoded within through use of a mushroom. Her job is to rediscover old knowledge, but it comes with a price: she can lose herself to the memories. Vale is Key’s guardian, tasked with keeping Key’s mind and body whole—but if that isn’t possible, she will be Key’s executioner.

Also, it’s sapphic.

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

We’ve got an exciting year of books coming up! I’m of course looking forward to Ehigbor Okosun’s FORGED BY BLOOD, Emma Mieko Candon’s THE ARCHIVE UNDYING, SL Huang’s THE WATER OUTLAWS, and many, many others.


Header Photo Credit Michelle Li Wynne Photography

Interview with Author Ian Eagleton

Ian Eagleton is an education consultant, author, and elementary school teacher based in the UK. He is also the founder of The Reading Realm, an educational app for teachers. 

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

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

Hi! Thanks so much for having me! My name’s Ian. I was a primary school teacher for thirteen years and I now write children’s books which specialize in LGBTQ+ inclusivity and diversity. I also write educational resources for companies, enjoy going to the gym, swimming, reading, and films. Some of my previous books include Nen and the Lonely Fisherman (illustrated by James Mayhew) and Violet’s Tempest ((illustrated by Clara Anganuzzi).  

What can you tell us about your latest book, The Woodcutter and The Snow Prince? What was the inspiration for this story?

The Woodcutter and the Snow Prince is very superficially based on The Snow Queen. I suppose it links to the story in that the main character is called Kai, there’s a wicked Snow Prince and the setting is very wintry and magical. But the actual story is quite different to The Snow Queen and was inspired by a German fairy tale called “Jorinda and Joringel”.

In the story, there’s an evil witch who turns young maidens into birds and captures them and keeps them in cages in her castle. She transforms any young men she meets into statues. The story is quite dark and strange, and it got me thinking about why the witch was like this. What was it about these young, heterosexual couples that she hated so much? Could she even control her powers? Was she misunderstood in any way? 

When I sent the story to Sam at Owlet Press, there was something missing, however. The setting didn’t quite work and wasn’t quite magical enough and I couldn’t quite get to grips with the witch and her motivation. Sam suggested setting the story at Christmas time and I immediately thought of a Snow Prince. I was still interested in rumours and the stories we tell each other, so wanted there to be all these terrifying myths and tales about this supposedly wicked prince. 

Once I had hit on the idea that there might be more to his story and that he could be saved, the rest of the story came together! It’s a really exciting, thrilling story full of adventure, peril, strange creatures, love, and hope! 

As a writer, what drew you to the art of storytelling, specifically children’s books?

I was very lucky that my Mum read to us every night. I used to love all the Alfie and Annie-Rose books and a book called Garth Pig and the Ice Cream Lady by Mary Raynor – I can still recite parts of it now. I also have very fond memories of being read Rebecca’s World by Terry Nation. I remember howling with laughter as I sat at my teacher’s feet and how we all begged her to read certain parts again and again. Never underestimate the power of being read to! I think I wanted to capture that magic and sense of hope in my own story writing.

What else drew me to writing children’s books with an LGBTQ+ theme? Possibly a sense of injustice. I never saw any gay men in the stories I read and always felt a bit excluded from the literary space. I have been with my husband for ten years now and we have a son. When we started thinking about having children, I desperately wanted to make sure that our child saw their family in the books they read. I think I was also writing for the little boy who felt different and never saw himself in fairy tales, and the gay teenager who was bullied and felt alone. 

For those curious about the process behind a picture book, how would you describe the process? What goes into writing one and collaborating with an artist to translate that into a book?

It’s a very long, often challenging, and arduous process! I often write very quickly and maybe have a finished version of a story in a day. At this stage, it’s just scribbles and thoughts and ideas. It’s also bloated and far too long. A picture book should be around 500-700 words, so I spend an awful lot of time editing and chipping away at the text. Very often a lot of my writing can actually be shown in the artwork by the illustrator so I just leave comments about what I’m visualising and seeing in my head. I spend a lot of time talking to my agent and editor about the direction I’d like the story to take, the atmosphere I’m trying to create if there are any themes that need picking up or anything I’ve left unsaid that might need to be explained in the artwork. Although, I don’t tend to work too closely with the illustrator – I’m a writer, not an artist! I might give feedback on how I thought a character might look but it’s usually best just to trust the illustrator and leave them to do their job. That way they feel uninhibited, completely free to develop and transform my words into something magical. Trust and letting go are very important parts of the job. 

What advice might you have to give young writers?

Keep a diary! As a child, I kept a diary from the age of 10 until I was in my twenties. I always urge young writers to keep a diary too. I used to write everything in it – stories about what had happened to my hamster, film reviews, lists of new words I’d found, favourite books, what I’d had for dinner, and so on! A diary is a very special thing as it allows us to write just for ourselves and not worry about other people or if we’ve spelt something incorrectly or that our handwriting is messy. Writing in a diary should be enjoyable too. Have fun – doodle in it and illustrate it!

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

Lots! As well as being a dad, working as an education resource writer, and generally trying to eat healthily, go to the gym, and not fall apart at how scary the world is right now, I’m also working on some new picture books. I can’t say too much about them, but one involves a little girl, some cute dogs, and adventures with her daddies, and the other is a celebration of a two-dad family and the great outdoors. I also have my debut middle-grade book Glitter Boy, which is being published by Scholastic, coming out in February 2023. It’s a joyful, hopeful story that tackles the effects of homophobic bullying and how damaging it can be. It also explores LGBTQ+ pride and history, the power of friendship, poetry, and dance, and the need to call upon our friends, neighbours, family, and community when times are tough. It’s a real celebration of being true to yourself!

Apart from all those exciting projects, I’m also working with my agent on some new picture books, so it’s a busy time. However, I feel very lucky to be able to write LGBTQ+ inclusive books for children which will hopefully spark a desire in them to make the world a happier, fairer place when everyone gets to see themselves in the books they read. 

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

I’m going to recommend some LGBTQ+ themed picture books I love if that’s OK! Perfect for sharing with your family or maybe just reading yourself as an adult – they’re a wonderful way to look back in time and heal that inner child! 

The Woodcutter and The Snow Prince by Ian Eagleton, illustrated by Davide Ortu, is published by Owlet Press. Out now, £7.99 paperback. www.owletpress.com