Interview with F.T. Lukens, Author of Otherworldly

By: Michele Kirichanskaya
Apr 13, 2024

F.T. Lukens (they/them) is a New York Times bestselling author of YA speculative fiction including the novels Spell Bound, So This Is Ever After and In Deeper Waters (2022 ALA Rainbow Booklist; Junior Library Guild Selection) as well as other science fiction and fantasy works. Their contemporary fantasy novel The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths & Magic was a 2017 Cybils Award finalist in YA Speculative Fiction and the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Gold Winner for YA fiction and won the Bisexual Book Award for Speculative Fiction. F.T. resides in North Carolina with their spouse, three kids, three dogs, and three cats.

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

First of all, welcome back to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself to readers who might not know you yet?

Hello, I’m F.T. Lukens. I’m an author of queer YA speculative fiction. My previous works include So This Is Ever After and Spell Bound.

What can you tell us about your latest book, Otherworldly? What was the inspiration for the project?

Otherworldly is a paranormal romance that blends elements of Faustian folklore and classical mythology in a contemporary fantasy setting. There are crossroads bargains, supernatural beings, liminal spaces, and a magical romance.

The inspiration was that I wanted to write a retelling and explore themes with different myths and folklore. I have always wanted to write a Faust-esque book because of a class I took in college. And magical bargains with dire consequences had started to appear in YA spaces again recently so it felt like a perfect time. I also relied on some classical myths and mythical figures as well as western European folklore to round out the worldbuilding.

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

The themes of young adult fiction—coming-of-age, finding yourself, making steps toward adulthood, making difficult choices—are themes to which most readers can relate. And I enjoy writing characters who are in that process of discovering themselves. As for romance, I am a fan of a good meet-cute and love writing them even if they are at times a meet-disaster. Also, I feel that books with a ‘happy ever after’ or a ‘happy for now’ are important for queer teens to be able to read and access as a part of YA shelves. It’s empowering to see queer characters thriving and overcoming odds in an adventure or romance.

How would you describe your creative process?

Honestly, it changes for each book. For Otherworldly, the process started with an idea for a specific scene between the two main characters. And from there I started brainstorming a narrative for how that scene would take place. However, I had started the novel as a high fantasy, more in the vein of So This Is Ever After but changed it to a contemporary fantasy. And when doing so, many of the details had to be altered, including that initial scene I had thought of. But the core of the story and relationships remained the same.

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

I’m a big believer that inspiration can come from anywhere at any time. I’m inspired by the authors that I read when I was a teen/young adult – Douglas Adams, Mercedes Lackey, Neil Gaiman—but I’m also inspired by authors who are my contemporaries. Like Ryan LaSala, Julian Winters, CB Lee, Beth Revis, Becky Albertali, etc.

For inspiration in general – I watch tons of movies and tv shows – especially anything speculative. I also read widely, not only fiction novels and comics, but non-fiction, newspaper/magazine articles, and the occasional social media app (though I’ve taken a huge step back over the past few years). I love browsing tvtropes.com and similar websites and watching YT videos on various subjects. And I like to explore new music as well.

What are some of your favorite elements of bring a book to life? What do you consider some of the most frustrating and/or challenging? 

One of my favorite things to write are character interactions, relationships, and dialogue. I think it’s one of the aspects of writing where I excel.

One of the most challenging is conveying the picture or thought I have in my head to the page. Sometimes, I forget to add a detail or explain a concept because it makes sense to me and to the world I built in my mind. And there are times I don’t quite translate the idea to the page. Luckily, I have an amazing editor who assists with that process.

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

Outlines! I’m a big fan of outlining. Recently, I’ve found that writing a detailed synopsis and then an outline of events through to the end has really helped with staying on task and following through. I also will utilize word sprints/timers and writing communities to help when I need encouragement. I use wordcount trackers because it’s helpful for my brain to see the numbers increase and to see the future finish line. And I like to envision the ‘happy ever after’ or ‘happy for now’ for the characters as well and it motivates me to give the characters that resolution.

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

I’m an avid crocheter and fiber artist and currently have too much yarn. I have a deep affinity for the characters of Nightwing and Spider-man from DC and Marvel respectively. I collect Funko Pops and action figures of both. I try to attend DragonCon in Atlanta every year as both an author and a fan.

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 haven’t been asked about the research I did for Otherworldly. And I know it might seem weird that a paranormal romance book would require many hours of research, but it did. I re-read Chrisotpher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and did research on crossroads bargains in media and in other cultures. I re-read the myths of Eurydice and Orpheus. I refreshed my memory by reading about classical gods and goddesses to develop the characteristics of those in the world of Otherworldly. And I read tons of articles on folklore for specific references.

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

I would say to not give up. I know it can be difficult. Publishing is a challenging business and can be disheartening. But just keep writing, practicing, and developing your craft.

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

Yes. I just turned in a manuscript for my next YA novel. Currently, it’s titled The Future Tense and it’s pitched as Wednesday meets Heartstopper.

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

I mentioned a few above but I think readers should check out Jason June, Ryan LaSala, Julian Winters, CB Lee, Terry J. Benton-Walker, & Sophie Gonzales.

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