While the Geeks OUT Podcast is on a short hiatus, enjoy this special episode featuring Kevin and Geeks OUT President, Nic Gitau, as they chat with queer icon Wilson Cruz, from Star Trek: Discovery. We discuss his breakthrough character on Discovery, his groundbreaking portrayal of Rickie in My So-Called Life, and his work as Executive Producer on the AppleTV+ docuseries, Visible: Out on Television. You can listen to the audio version by clicking on the link above, or if you’d like to watch this lively interview, check out the YouTube link below.
Alice Oseman was born in 1994 in Kent, England. She graduated from Durham University and is the author of YA contemporaries Solitaire, Radio Silence, and I Was Born for This. Learn more about Alice at aliceoseman.com. I had the opportunity to interview Alice, which you can read below.
First off, how would you describe your evolution as a writer? At what point did you realize you could write professionally?
Well, definitely Digimon and Pokémon! Digimon – in the first three seasons, anyway – had a high level of complex character development and compelling relationship dynamics that has informed every single story I have ever written, which sounds a little silly, given it was just an anime about monsters for kids, but I think it’s true. It made me fall in love with ‘character writing’ and made me realise how much I loved seeing characters grow as people and become stronger and wiser over a long period of time. That’s probably why another of my big inspirations was the Artemis Fowl series, which is a story about an evil, conniving child genius learning to be a good person.
As for today, all sorts of things inspire me – books and movies and music and more. It’s hard to pinpoint one thing in particular.
How would you describe your writing process?
Different every single time. When I was younger, I imagined that I’d find writing books easier as time went on, because I’d had more practice. But the opposite was true. Every story I’ve written has presented new challenges that I’ve had to tackle in a completely different way. But generally I like to plan my stories very carefully before I start them, and then I write them chronologically.
It all began with your novel Solitaire, which has since expanded into a world occupied by your following novel Radio Silence and Heartstopper graphic novel series? How would you describe/ define your evolution as an artist/writer since then?
I like to think I’ve grown a lot as a writer and a human being since then. This year, I decided I wanted to edit Solitaire to make it more consistent with my work now. I wrote it when I was seventeen and was very much still developing as a writer and a human being, and while there are lots of things I love about it, there are lots of things that now make me very uncomfortable to read back. People are still discovering it for the first time due to its connection with Heartstopper, so I decided it needed to be updated a little. The edited version hasn’t been released yet, but I’m excited to be able to share and talk about that book with pride once again.
In an interview with The Guardian, you had stated “romance is not the center of your world.” One of the things I most admire about your work is your commitment to writing love stories that aren’t always necessarily romantic. Could you expand on your feelings about romance and love in the YA genre?
That is a very old interview now, I think! I have nothing against romances at all – I often love reading them, and Heartstopper is very much a romance with an array of romantic relationships in it. But I also think friendship can be just as powerful, or sometimes more so, than romance, and stories about that are sometimes not given the attention or celebration that romances are. That’s the theme of my most recent YA novel, Loveless.
Your most recent novel Loveless, centers an aromantic-asexual protagonist. In some ways this story seems to relate personally to your own identity as a person on the aro-ace spectrum. How was working on this story different from your previous writing experiences and what challenges did you face?
Loveless was the hardest book I’ve ever written for a variety of reasons. It is a very personal story, but no more so than Radio Silence was, and it’s definitely not autobiographical. But Radio Silence was hard to write too! Writing about something that has directly affected you requires you to dig up a lot of personal emotional stuff – stuff you usually like to keep buried inside. I was also constantly anxious about how people would receive the book, given that there is so much intense discourse surrounding aro-ace identities, both in and outside of the LGBTQ+ community. And my audience was bigger than ever – which is amazing, and I’m so lucky to have a big readership, but I was terrified of disappointing people. To add to all that, I found the plot incredibly difficult to figure out. I restarted the book many times and missed almost every single deadline I was set. I worked through Christmases, skipped gatherings with friends, and felt anxious every second that I wasn’t working on the book. By the final six months of working on Loveless, I wasn’t able to enjoy any aspect of my life until the book was done. Honestly, writing Loveless affected my mental health in a very negative way, and I still haven’t quite recovered from the experience. I don’t regret it, because I know it’s helped some people out there, and I’m so genuinely proud of how the book turned out. But I think I need a break from writing books for a while.
Hypothetically speaking, if the characters of your books or you yourself could interact with characters from any other fictional universe, where would they be from?
The only fanfiction I have ever written was a crossover between Solitaire and Artemis Fowl. Artemis Fowl is just such a fun character, I’d love to see any of my characters interacting with him and his weird magical world.
Can you give us some trivia about the characters from your books?
People often ask me what careers Nick and Charlie go into when they’re older! I imagine Nick plays semi-professional rugby for a few years before becoming a primary school teacher. Charlie likes books, so I always imagined he might go into publishing.
What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet but wish you were asked?
Anything about webcomics. I just love talking about webcomics. Ask me anything about webcomics and I’ll be happy!
What are some of your favorite webcomics?
Some of my faves include:
Long Exposure by Mars – A teenage nerd and his bully gain supernatural powers after coming across a strange government facility. Romance and chaos ensues! https://longexposurecomic.com/
Charity Case by Malacandrax – An aspiring musician begins to develop feelings for both his new housemates. This is a beautifully drawn slow-burn polyamorous romance! https://tapas.io/series/Charity-Case
What advice would you give to people who wish to make their own webcomic, be they writers, artists, or both?
Plan carefully! Going into a webcomic without a plan will almost certainly lead to either boredom or burnout. Whether you are the writer, artist, or both, plan your webcomic thoroughly. This might include a plan of the plot, developing the characters before you begin writing, practising drawing pages to find a style that’s comfortable, or anything else that expands your vision of the project. Webcomics usually take a very, very long time to make. You have to be sure you won’t get bored six months in!
What advice would you give to writers who are learning how to write and learning how to finish their own stories?
Have fun. Don’t worry about getting published or what anyone else might think of your work. Just focus on writing something that brings you joy. And write whatever you want! Horror, contemporary, poetry, fanfic, whatever you like. Just have fun.
Finally, what are some LGBTQ+ media (i.e books/ comics/ podcasts/etc.) you would recommend to the readers of Geeks Out?
I’d recommend the webcomic Long Exposure by Mars (https://longexposurecomic.com/), which follows two teenagers who acquire superpowers, use them very poorly, and fall in love in the process. I’d also recommend the manga series Given by Natsuki Kizu, which is a gorgeous YA story that explores queer romance and grief.
In this week’s episode super-sized episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin is joined by Aaron Porchia, as they discuss the massive amount of shows/movies announced by Disney/Marvel/Star Wars, get excited about the multiverse of characters coming to Spider-Man, and celebrate Gottmik as the first trans man to join Rupaul’s Drag Race in This Week in Queer.
In this week’s episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin is joined by Brett Manness, from The Comic Book Queers Podcast, as they discuss Warner Bros. shocking move to premiere 2021 movies on HBO Max & theaters at the same time, get excited at the news of a possible Naomi series from Ava DuVernay, and celebrate Elliot Page living his truth and coming out as trans and nonbinary in This Week in Queer.
KEVIN: Warner Bros. to stream all movies on HBO Max while in theatres BRETT: New cast members announced for Hawkeye
DOWN AND NERDY
KEVIN: Uncle Frank, Freaky, The Happiest Season, The Christmas House, Fargo, The Other History of the DC Universe BRETT: Mariah Carey’s Xmas Special, The Mandalorian, Fortnight, Daredevil
STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER
The CW is developing a series based on the comic Naomi
THIS WEEK IN QUEER
Queer actor/activist Elliot Page comes out as trans and nonbinary
In this week’s episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin is joined by Geeks OUT President, Nic Gitau, as they get into the spirit with a new queer holiday movie trailer “Dashing in December” and the early X-mas miracle of “Wonder Woman 1984” coming to theaters and HBO Max on 12/25, and celebrate The CW developing a Yara Flor centric “Wonder Girl” series for our Strong Female Character of the Week.
In this week’s episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin is joined by President of NYCGaymers, Raffy Regulus, as they discuss the new trailers for Adventure Time: Distant Lands – Obsidian & HBO Max’s Superintelligence, and celebrate CBS featuring new Star Trek: Discovery trans pride merch (with proceeds going to GLAAD) in This Week in Queer.
KEVIN: After a small COVID outbreak on set, production on Chicago Fire shuts down RAFFY: Nonbinary option in Call of Duty – also don’t vape into your Xbox
DOWN AND NERDY
KEVIN: Over the Moon, We Are Who We Are, Legendary, Dash & Lilly, Punchline KATE: Mandalorian, Miles Morales, Genshin Impact, X-Men X of Swords
K. Ancrum is the author of the award winning thriller THE WICKER KING, a lesbian romance THE WEIGHT OF THE STARS and the upcoming Peter Pan thriller DARLING. K. is a Chicago native passionate about diversity and representation in young adult fiction. She currently writes most of her work in the lush gardens of the Chicago Art Institute. I had the opportunity to interview her, which you can read below.
First, how did you come to realize you wanted to be an author?
I’ve written books since I was 13, but I never really considered it to be a viable professional option until I was around 19. At the time I was writing on tumblr at lot and had started to write a web-book on there that was gaining a surprising amount of popularity. An agent who predominantly represented non-fiction began following the story and eventually reached out to me and encouraged me to consider submitting my work to agents who represent fiction. I think if she hadn’t approached me I probably would have continued writing just as much as I do today, but it would probably just be for my own satisfaction, instead of as a career
Who or what stories inspired your own personal realization as a writer?
A WRINKLE IN TIME was extremely influential and was the reason I started writing in the first place. I read it when I was 12 and I remember thinking “I want to make something that makes other people feel the way this book made me feel.”. I’ve mentioned this one quite a lot in interviews, but HOLES was also massively influential to me in regards to understanding that writing can be an intensely technical skill, from a very young age.
A large theme in your books, especially in The Wicker King, is on negligent adults who either refuse to recognize teens in need or are oblivious to it? Could you expand on this topic?
There are so many ways that parents can be “not there” for their children and I think that a lot of the time only a few ways are discussed.
The Wicker King was unique in that it showed many kids without present adults and how that impacted them, rather than orphaning the main characters for convenience. August had a mother who was physically there but emotionally unavailable in a way that wasn’t really her fault. Jack’s parents were physically absent and emotionally absent, but provided for him financially. Roger and Peter’s parents absence was more periodic but they formed a bond between each other that didn’t allow for outsiders very similar to Jack and August’s but less destructive. Rina’s parents straight up moved away to England and left her living in squalor as a barely-adult teenager. She’s perilously lonely and friendless and pushes people away. This book is filled with isolated children trying to make a house into a home: Rina letting August and Jack into her apartment and integrating them into her routine. August and Jack playing house and clawing each other to the bone searching for warmth. Peter and Roger letting August into their world and slowly forming a bond of trust with him.
I had a lot of friends in similar situations and a lot of them didn’t make it out okay in the end. It was a bit of a relief to have this make believe space to pretend that there could have been a world where they were okay.
Your books, while all grounded in the real world, seem to contain otherworldly elements, relating to magical realism like in The Wicker King, literally being out of this world in The Weight of the Stars, or even fairy tale elements like in Darling. Did you intentionally set out for this or did the style organically evolve this way?
Its intentional. I like fabulism and I feel more comfortable there than in strictly fantasy or contemporary. A lot of real life seems to straddle the ordinary and extraordinary and I enjoy playing with that in my own work.
Your upcoming book, Darling, is said to be a modern twist on the classic Peter Pan story. In what ways will the story touch upon the original tale and what ways are you planning to invert it? Also, fellow queer author, Aiden Thomas, is also coming out with a Peter Pan based novel, Lost in the Never Woods. Any theories for why this story seems to be resurging all of a sudden?
This is going to sound strangely straight forward, but it’s because the Peter Pan book copyright expires January of next year. There’s going to be an explosion of Peter Pan content for probably a year after. I plotted DARLING in 2013 and have been waiting for this to happen to release it.
Hypothetically speaking, if the characters of your books or you yourself could interact with characters from any fictional universe, where would they be from?
This is less characters and more about the fictional universe but, I’m very enamoured with Narnia and the melancholy freshness of the worlds in that IP. The concept of life-supporting worlds/universes at different life stages: Some barely budding with small creatures in the light of a weak young sun and some in desolation and burdened under the weight of time cast red in the light of dying stars. The newness of creatures trying to find a home in these places, living their own individual creation myths. There is a lot about the books that is worth giving one disapproving pause. But I think I would like to be that place in the magician’s nephew where the world was so new that anything you plant becomes a kind of tree.
Within your writing and work in general, what messages do you want to give to your readers? What do you wish you had received from books as a young reader yourself growing up?
I wish there had been more LGBT content. I actually went into this in a paper I recently wrote about fanfiction and I want to include an excerpt:
We are in an interesting age of resurgence of mass produced LGBTQIAP+ media. As you all know, progress isn’t linear and its a bit too early to boast that “Things have permanently changed”, but currently we’re doing a lot better than we were just ten years ago. It’s recent enough for me and many other LGBTQIAP+ YA authors to vividly remember the time before these changes. It has also existed briefly enough that we can dubiously envision a time in our future without it. The maintenance of a place where marginalized communities can create and share artwork is vital, and has always been a part of LGBTQIAP+ culture. Fan fiction, small indie publishers and self publishing communities have been supporting marginalized writing for almost a century and show very little sign of being eroded by the shifting tides of public moral opinion or whims of mass production. Fan fiction in particular, is the cheapest and lowest risk form of community building within this art form. It is not a mistake or coincidence that nearly all of the mainstream published authors who admit to their past participation in fan fiction culture are women, people of color and LGBTQIAP+ people. Groups that have been historically underserved by mainstream media. Fan fiction isn’t a stepping stone to “real writing” or a place where people write weird NSFW. It’s a hurricane shelter: A place we can play in on an average day, and the most important place for our survival when the weather begins to look dangerous.
Are there any other projects or story ideas you are currently nursing and would be at liberty to say?
Yes! I’m working on an UNTITLED Train Heist Novel. A cool UNTITLED cult novel for Scholastic and an adult novel about immortality called WE STOOD ALONE, that hasn’t been purchased yet but my fingers are crossed!
Finally, what are some LGBTQ+ books or authors you would recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?
Please please please buy Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas and Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender. They are both stunning and written with so much love.
In this week’s episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin is joined by KateMoran, as they discuss Supernatural problematically confirming a character’s queer identity, check out the new trailer for Shonda Rhimes’ Bridgerton, and celebrate Grant Morrison coming out as non-binary in This Week in Queer.
KEVIN: Latest episode of Supernatural confirms a queer shipping KATE: Kotaku publishes list of video game company execs and what campaigns they donated money
DOWN AND NERDY
KEVIN: The Dead Don’t Die, Star Trek: Discovery, Queen’s Gambit, Legendary KATE: Kipo, Korra, Steven Universe, Mandalorian, ACNH, Sims, Among Us, Phasmophobia
STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER
New trailer for Shonda Rhimes’s new Netflix series Bridgerton
When did you first realize you could tell stories through words and images? What drew you to the graphic novel art form?
I think I internalized the combination of words and images at a very young age, from children’s picture books, which remain one of my favorite forms of media. I started reading graphic novels (specifically, Japanese manga) when I was in junior high, when they started to trickle onto my local library’s shelves. I love both writing and drawing, so graphics novels seemed like the perfect merger of my two loves.
Your book, Genderqueer, features one of the first discussions of asexuality I’ve seen in comics. If you feel comfortable, can you expand on your relationship to your asexual identity and what the process was like in depicting it?
Asexuality can be very hard to define or explain to people who haven’t spent time thinking about it, since it’s the lack of something, rather than the presence of something. I’m actually aromantic as well, which I think is maybe an even more important factor in how my life has developed. I received so much passive messaging from basically every single book and movie that eventually I would both fall in love with someone and also want to have sex with them. Though I did get crushes as a teen, I never had any desire to act on them. I think I kind of just kept waiting, thinking, well, is this romantic urge going to just hit me out of the blue at some point like I’ve been taught to expect? But it never did. By age 30 I felt confident saying “okay, enough time has passed that I think I can firmly say that romantic partnership is just something I don’t care about at all, and sex is interesting only at the level of curiosity.” I tried to depict this partly through trial and error experiences that helped me fumble towards greater clarity.
Within the course of your graphic novel, you discuss how your identity has changed and evolved over the years, showcasing the beautiful and often frustrating reality of gender/sexuality identity exploration. Can you expand on that?
I spent a lot of time not knowing what I was, not having a label for how I felt. I can’t tell you how many countless pages of journal entries I wrote asking, “Am I gay, am I bi, am I a lesbian, am I a boy, am I a girl, am I neither, am I half and half” etc. This questioning took up a huge amount of my mental space, and I definitely wanted to hold the readers in that period of uncertainty, in that undefined grey area.
In Genderqueer, pop culture plays a very big role, whether being mentioned within the form of comics/manga, figure skating, fantasy literature, etc. How as queer individuals do we respond and relate to the pop culture around us in terms of conceiving and understanding our own identities?
As a young queer person who only knew two or three out queer adults, and was uninterested in dating and sex, consuming queer media was my main form of exploration and discovery of queer identities. I think lots of young queer feel this need to research who we are, especially if we don’t see any role modes in our family or community. Many of the queer books I read as a teen remain my very favorites to this day because of how intensely intimate and emotional it felt to read them.
What’s a question no one has asked you yet or that you wish was asked more?
I wish more people asked me, “Should I write my own memoir?” so I could tell them yes!
What are some of your favorite elements of comics/graphic novel medium? What craft elements/techniques stand out to you the most?
One element I love is called a non-adjacent sequence. It’s a series of panels or even pages which are repeated, with a new twist, two or more times in a book. The idea is that the reader will either consciously notice this call back and flip back in the book to find the first example, or else be unconsciously influenced by the repetition and better understand that the two scenes are linked. In “Gender Queer” I used the same panel layout for pages 125 and 219. I also repeated the same plant motif on pages 66, 67 and 191.
Aside from Melanie Gilman, the queer/ non-binary mentor stated within your book, who are some of your other creative/artistic influences?
I am influenced by a lot of other cartoonists, especially ones who draw from their own lives: Mari Naomi, Lucy Knisley, Lucy Bellwood, Erika Moen, Raina Telgemeier, Alison Bechdel, Dylan Edwards, Ajuan Mance, Thi Bui, Sarah Mirk and Shing Yin Khor immediately come to mind. The comics journalism website The Nib has also impacted me a lot- I am both a reader of and a contributor to their site, and their latest anthology “Be Gay, Do Comics.” Many of my very first nonfiction comics were published by The Nib and I benefited greatly from working with their all-star editorial team.
As a creative person, what advice would you give to other aspiring artists/writers?
Go forth! Be recklessly honest, be gentle, be bold, be strong, be soft. If you tell your own darkest secrets with a spirit of compassion towards your younger self, you will help readers heal their own wounds.
What are some things you wish to say to your trans/non-binary readers?
I love you, and we are family.
Are there any projects you are working on at the moment and are at liberty to speak about?
I illustrated a YA prose novel called “We Are The Ashes, We Are The Fire” by Joy McCullough which is due out from Penguin Random House in Feb 2021. It’s got some very heavy themes, but also a renaissance-fair obsessed nonbinary teen character who I love very much. I am also developing my next full length graphic novel in collaboration with the nonbinary cartoonist Lucky Srikumar.
Finally, what are some LGBTQ+ comics or books you would recommend to the readers of Geeks Out?
Buckle your seatbelt, I have a lot of recommendations. I post 100 book reviews per year on Goodreads, so feel free to follow me on there if you want even more! But here are some comics with trans and nonbinary characters which I really loved: Grease Bats by Archie Bongiovanni (a slice of life comic – nonbinary main character) (author is also nonbinary)
Heartwood: Non-binary Tales of Sylvan Fantasy edited by Joamette Gil (anthology of short comics, all with nonbinary authors)
The Avant-Guards by Carly Usdin and Noah Hayes (an ongoing comic series, one nonbinary character, one trans character)
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell (a slice of life comic – a nonbinary secondary character)
Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu (fantasy YA comic – a nonbinary main character)
Snapdragon by Kay Leyh (a trans secondary character)
Stage Dreams by Melanie Gillman (trans character, nonbinary author)
As The Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman (trans character, nonbinary author)
The Deep and Dark Blue by Niki Smith (trans main character)
O Human Star by Blue Delliquanti (trans secondary, nonbinary author)
Wandering Son by Takako Shimura (a manga series, multiple trans characters)
Paradise Kiss by Ai Yazawa (a manga series, one trans character)
On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden (sci-fi comic – a nonbinary secondary character)
The Geeks OUT Podcast returns this week as Kevin is joined by Bobby Hankinson, as they discuss Cartoon Network’s new anti-racist PSA, swoon over Timothy Olyphant in the new season of The Mandalorian, and with election day looming we celebrate AOC reaching out to voters while playing Among Us as our Strong Female Character of the Week.