In this all new episode of the Geeks OUT Podcast, Kevin (@Gilligan_McJew on all socials) is joined by Mike Moon (@freemoonman1982), as they discuss Disney versus Ron DeSantis and the state of Florida, feel #queerjoy in the new teaser for the animated movie Nimona coming to Netflix, and talk about what they’re getting Down & Nerdy with in pop culture.
KEVIN: In move against DeSantis, Disney cancels moving employees to FL, where a teacher is under investigation for showing Strange World
Melissa de la Cruzis the #1 New York Times, #1 Publishers Weekly, and #1 IndieBound bestselling author ofIsle of the Lost and Return to the Isle of the Lost, as well as many critically acclaimed and award-winning novels for readers of all ages. Her books have also topped the USA TODAY, Wall Street Journal, and Los Angeles Times bestseller lists and have been published in more than twenty countries. Today she lives in Los Angeles with her family. She is Filipina-American.
I had the opportunity to interview Melissa, which you can read below.
First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m Melissa de la Cruz and I’m the author of over sixty books for all ages. Sixty and counting! I’m best known for Disney’s Descendants, Blue Bloods, Witches of East End, and the Alex and Eliza trilogy.
What can you tell us about your latest novel, Going Dark? What was the inspiration for this project?
I was fascinated by how the media tends to obsess over certain missing people – specifically pretty, photogenic white women while ignoring other cases—especially when it’s a person or woman of color. So I wanted to tell a story that delved into that issue and brought it to light.
As an author, what drew you to the art of storytelling, specifically young adult fiction?
The minute I started writing my first YA novel I knew this was the perfect genre for me. I think I am a kid, and a teen, at heart and I very much relate to their sorrows and anxieties and their humor.
Growing up, were there any stories in which you felt touched by/ or reflected in, in terms of personal identity? If not or if so, how do you think this personally affected you as a writer?
Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club was huge for me, I was a teen in the 80s it was the first time I read about people who looked like me in fiction. But I also hated the way it cemented the Asian American experience as one of tragedy and sorrow. I came from a loving and hilarious close-knit family and I wanted to write about girls like me in the way they say the Wakefield twins were written about in Sweet Valley High.
As a writer, who or what would you say are some of your greatest creative influences and/or sources of inspiration in general?
When I was a teen I loved Anne Rice, Stephen King, Dune, and Lord of the Rings. Those are my primary influences. But when I got older I also loved Bret Easton Ellis and Jay McInerney. I love commercial fiction and am drawn to bestsellers, I like reading what people like to read. In the YA genre, I’m a huge fan of Holly Black, Maggie Stiefvater, and Leigh Bardugo. I’m a huge fan girl of the romantasy genre in YA.
What are some of your favorite elements of writing? What do you consider some of the most frustrating and/or difficult?
I love entertaining myself and making myself laugh or being clever on the page. What’s frustrating sometimes is really trying to figure out how to tell a compelling story while still having it make sense. I think that’s one of the hardest parts.
Aside from your work, what are some things you would want others to know about you?
I’m also the co-director of the Yallfest book festival and the co-founder of Yallwest. Every year we bring thousands of kids to our festivals who have never owned a book in their lives and they get to choose a book to bring home. My best friend Margaret Stohl and I founded the festivals to carve a place where authors like us, who wrote for kids and teens, were respected and celebrated. We do it for the kids and for the author parties. ☺
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 something you want to do but haven’t done?
I would love to write a musical! I can write the book. But I need a songwriter to do the music. I’ve been toying with this idea for a long time. I hope I get to write one!
What advice might you have to give for aspiring artists?
Never. Give. Up. Believe in yourself. Be confident in your work. Then keep knocking on that door till it opens. Also, be nice and professional. I think the secret to longevity is being reliable and easy to work with.
Are there any other projects you are working on and at liberty to speak about?
Sure! Headmaster’s List my first YA thriller, available now, is about the truth around a fatal car crash. Snow and Poison, my retelling of Snow White is out now as well. The next Blue Bloods book: After Death is out in July. Then I have a new MG series debuting with The (Super Secret) Octagon Valley Society out in the fall, and the fourth Never After book: The Missing Sword out in December. I’m also working on The Ring and the Crown TV show for Disney+.
Finally, what books/authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?
Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace is my favorite novel of all time. I read it when I was 23 and in a deep depression and it lifted me out of the darkness. You can skip the War parts lol. It’s about family, and love between a family, siblings, mothers, and daughters, with lavish parties and swoony romances. I try to get everyone to read it. Don’t be intimidated! It is so wise.
Once upon a time, Linsey Miller studied biology in Arkansas. These days, she holds an MFA in fiction and can be found writing about science and magic anywhere there is coffee. She is the author of the Mask of Shadows duology, Belle Révolte, The Game, What We Devour, and Prince of Song & Sea.
I had the opportunity to interview Linsey, which you can read below.
First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?
Hello! Thank you! I’m Linsey Miller, the author of a handful of books, most recentlyWhat We Devourand Prince of Song & Sea. I enjoy writing about grief and morality in magical worlds, and I love books about queer kids saving the day. Outside of authorhood, I read a lot, bake a bit, and write less often than I probably should.
How did you find yourself becoming a writer? What drew you to young adult and speculative fiction specifically?
I read and wrote too much as a child to the point where I was banned from reading books in class a few times. In middle school, though, I read a book about a forensic pathologist and decided that was my ideal job. I stopped reading fiction while in college and tried to be a good student and focus on my studies. However, my father died after my first year, and I realized that I wasn’t sure if medical school and pathology were exactly what I wanted to do.
After I graduated, I didn’t really know what to do. I lived with my now-husband and our best friend, and they convinced me to try writing a book. So I did, and it was terrible.
But then I wrote another one, and the rest is history.
Young adult fantasy appeals to me because it provides a way for kids who may not get to triumph and be celebrated in the real world to win against their villains. The young adult category wasn’t bare when I was a kid, but it wasn’t very large. I decided that I wanted to write the books that teen-me needed and would have loved.
Growing up, were there any books or authors that touched or inspired you as a writer?
I think I read the Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce and the Abhorsen series by Garth Nix five hundred times as a kid. I loved Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith, Gifts by Ursula K. Le Guin, Octavia E. Butler’s short stories, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, and though I was older when they came out, all of N.K. Jemisin’s works.
Can you tell us about the inspiration behind your book What We Devour?
Of course! I call What We Devour my extremely ace book about eating the rich. I think the main concept for the world was the first thing that came to me. I was drove home late one night, looked up at the full moon, and thought, “What if that were an eye?”
Most of the inspiration for the plot came from two things—my desire to insert an ace girl into the “girl plans on killing/taking down the prince but he’s hot” fantasy romance trope and my childhood with a very pro-union father. I think magic provides an exceptional medium through which to explore morality and ethics, and the tropes I wanted to use had such interesting power dynamics that it felt right.
So all of that came together to inspire what I hope is a gripping book about aceness, workers’ rights, and how fantasy worlds which focus on revolts often don’t go far enough into dismantling systems of power.
Your next upcoming project is a book centered on Eric from The Little Mermaid? Can you tell us how you become involved in this project, as well as any personal connections you might have to that film and character?
The Little Mermaid came out the year I was born, so I jumped at the chance to work on it. While I didn’t see it in theaters, I liked it a lot as a kid because I thought Ursula was great. There is something extremely relatable in Ariel, Eric, and Ursula. Prince of Song & Sea provided a chance for me to explore that relatability and bolster Eric’s character, which was a wonderful challenge.
Also, I will take any excuse to sing “Poor Unfortunate Souls.”
How would you describe your writing process? What are some of the best/most difficult parts for you?
My writing process is structured but not set in stone. I will usually let a concept stew for a long time before committing it to paper. When I start working, I’ll rewrite the first few chapters until they’re what feels right for the tone and characters, and then I’ll write the climax and/or epilogue. I prefer to only seriously start working once the beginning and ending are figured out.
The most difficult part for me is definitely writing the initial draft. I get caught up too easily in making it “good” to the point where I’ll stop writing. My favorite part happens once that is done—rewriting. I love rewriting a book from start to finish. It feels very refreshing to create a new draft from the initial one and include all of the small details and foreshadowing. That’s when writing is the most fun for me.
Since Geeks OUT is a LGBTQ+ centered website, could you maybe tell us what queer representation means to you?
It’s a letter to the Linsey that could have been. I don’t think I saw the word ace outside of playing card references until I was in my twenties. Seeing the queer literature that’s available now across genres and age group is everything, from vengeance to hope, to me.
Mask of Shadows,Belle Révolte, and What We Devour specifically are my attempts to write the books that would have saved me some confusion and tears growing up. There the books I didn’t know I needed as a kid. I hope they can be the book for a least one reader now.
Besides writing, what are some of your other interests?
I do a lot of baking, mostly cinnamon rolls and cakes. Though it’s on hiatus now, I play D&D with a group of other authors on the Spell Check podcast. I also play a lot of video games, though I’m mostly working through the new Pokémon Snap right now.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Writing is a curious occupation because we often do it alone without any feedback for long periods of time, and that isolation can be challenging. Find your people and stick with them.
There’s a degree of failure that writing requires constantly, not just at the beginning. Write what you love and what you need, and don’t twist your work into knots to try and shove it into what you think is marketable.
Also, please backup your work and activate the “unsend email” option.
What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet but wish you were (and the answer to that question)?
Oh, no. This is delightful, but I don’t know. I guess: Who are your favorite minor characters you’ve written?
I am equally fond of Isidora from Mask of Shadows and Franziska Carlow from What We Devour. They’re very different, but that’s mostly due to them responding to their trauma in different ways. At their cores, both are driven to help others to their own detriment.
Are there any projects you are working on or thinking about that you are able to discuss?
I have a few projects that I’m working on, but there aren’t any that I can talk about. I hope I have more things I can talk about soon!
Finally, what LGBTQ+ books/authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?
After a little break, the Geeks OUT Podcast returns with Kevin and Jon Shutt, as they discuss Jamie Lee Curtis officiating her trans daughter’s wedding in cosplay, the trailers for Roar and Men, and celebrate the queer and ally employees who participated in the #disneywalkout in This Week In Queer.