Dungeons, Drag Queens, D20: A Journey to the Underworld

Just in Case Disclaimer: This is a post about stars from RuPaul’s Drag Race appearing on an independent channel where comedians play RPGs. In case you did not realize this already, the language and references can get salty.

Have you watched all of Critical Role and don’t know how to get your RPG fix? Got behind on RPDR and want some new references to keep in your back pocket for trivia? Do you enjoy drag and/or RPGs? Check out D20, Dungeons and Drag Queens.

Still not sure? check out this trailer.

So, lets get started and say, “Hello Questing Queens!”

Welcome Adventurers to “Dungeons and Drag Queens,” where the worlds of drag and Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) collide in a fabulous campaign hosted by the ever-charismatic Brennan Lee Mulligan. Like Monet’s foundation, Brennan lays the character on thick.

In this Dimension 20 adventure, four iconic queens from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” embark on a quest to the Underworld, each bringing their unique flair and talents to the table.

The Queens of the Campaign

Bob the Drag Queen as Gertrude: The Wise Witch of the Woods

Bob the Drag Queen, winner of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 8, brings her comedic genius and charismatic personality to the role of Gertrude, a sardonic and powerful witch. Known for her sharp wit and ability to command attention, Bob infuses Gertrude with a sense of humor and depth that adds layers to the character’s solitary existence and magical prowess.

Alaska Thunderfuck as Princess: The Towering Orc Warrior

Alaska Thunderfuck, an icon from Season 5 and winner of “All Stars” Season 2, steps into the armored shoes of Princess, an orc with a penchant for pink and a heart as big as her stature. Alaska’s flair for the dramatic and her larger-than-life persona translate seamlessly into Princess’s bold and fearless approach to both fashion and combat.

Monét X Change as Troyánn: The Merfolk-Assassin with a Mission

Monét X Change, co-winner of “All Stars” Season 4, embodies the role of Troyánn, a determined assassin with a complex heritage. Monét’s regal presence and versatility shine through in Troyánn’s dedication to her task and the emotional depth she brings to her quest for redemption and truth.

Jujubee as Twyla: The Fierce Fairy with a Fiery Spirit

Jujubee, a beloved figure from Seasons 2 and 5, and “All Stars” Seasons 1 and 5, well known for one of the most epic reads in RPDR herstory (IYKYK) takes flight as Twyla, a fairy with a passion for dance and a fierce determination to restore her realm. Jujubee’s charm, wit, and resilience are reflected in Twyla’s spirited fight to protect her people and her unwavering belief in hope.

The Quest to the Underworld

Each queen has a personal wish to be granted by the Queen of the Underworld, leading them to form an unlikely alliance. Gertrude seeks a new beginning away from the dangers of witch hunters, Princess yearns to resurrect her slain family, Troyánn aims to uncover the truth about her mother’s pact, and Twyla hopes to restore the Fey realm. Together, they travel the Gallows Road, facing challenges and uncovering secrets that will test their strength, resolve, and friendship.

The Journey Ahead

“Dungeons and Drag Queens” is more than just a campaign; it’s a celebration of diversity, creativity, and the power of storytelling. As these queens embark on their journey to the Underworld, they remind us that the worlds of drag and D&D are not just compatible, but complementary, offering a space where identity is celebrated, and every roll of the dice tells a story of courage, camaraderie, and fabulousness.

So, grab your dice, adjust your wig, and your nails (because if you don’t have nails are you really doing drag?) , beat your face to the gods, then roll for Charisma (there are no specific rolls for Uniqueness, Nerve, and Talent) and prepare for a journey that’s as fabulous as it is fantastical. This show made me laugh (including the always embarrassing snort laugh) it made me cry, it gave me all of the feels.

There’s character development, action, amazing miniatures and set work, outstanding improv, and a whole lot of shade. With Brennan Lee Mulligan at the helm and a cast of queens ready to slay, “Dungeons and Drag Queens” promises to be an adventure like no other.

Title Image and blog post include promotional images from Dimension 20, used under the principles of fair use for the purposes of commentary, criticism, and discussion. Dimension 20, Dropout:, and its related marks are trademarks of their respective owners, and their use in this post does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by them.

Interview with Kacen Callender, Author of Infinity Alchemist

Kacen Callender is a bestselling and award-winning author of multiple novels for children, teens, and adults, including the National Book Award-winning King and the Dragonflies and the bestselling novel Felix Ever After.

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

First of all, welcome back to Geeks OUT! For readers who might be new to you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

I’m Kacen, a trans masc demiguy who spends about 70% of my time living inside the stories in my head.

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

One of the biggest inspirations was the desire to write a fantasy where there wasn’t a chosen one, or a special, magical group of people. In this world, everyone has the capability to be magical.

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

I’ve always lived in the magical worlds in my head, so the stories and characters need a place to go. Luckily for me, I get to put those stories into books.

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

I really loved Animorphs; that was the first time I saw a Black main character who wasn’t just a part of the supporting cast.

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

Right now, meditation is my greatest source. More ideas are able to drop into my head, and there’s more clarity about what I want to write, versus what others might expect me to write. Meditation also fuels that creative energy, so that I feel like I can write for days.

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

I think the challenges are specific to every writer. For me, the biggest challenge is getting distracted by what I think others will want to see in the novels I write, instead of staying true to the story that wants to be told. Usually, that distraction takes me off course and makes it difficult to write the book. If I feel that familiar hesitation and uncertainty, I look back at what I’ve written and the plot I’ve planned, and ask myself if it’s really the story that I want to tell, making corrections that are more authentic to me.

What advice might you have to give for any aspiring writers out there?

Find your authenticity and stay true to the story that you want to tell.

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

I’m finishing up a YA mystery, published by Abrams and expected either next year or in 2026, and I’m working on the sequel to Infinity Alchemist.

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

The Wicked Bargain by Gabe Cole Novoa!

Interview with Rebecca Thorne, Author of Can’t Spell Treason Without Tea

Rebecca Thorne (she/her) is an author of all things fantasy, sci-fi, and romantic, such as the Tomes & Tea series. She thrives on deadlines, averages 2,700 words a day, and tries to write at least 3 books a year. (She also might be a little hyper-focused ADHD.) After years in the traditional publishing space, Rebecca pivoted into self-publishing. Now, she’s found a happy medium as a hybrid author, and leans into her love of teaching by helping other authors find their perfect publication path. When she’s not writing (or avoiding writing), Rebecca can be found traveling the country as a flight attendant, or doing her best impression of a granola-girl hermit with her two dogs. She’s always scheming to move to a mountain town and open a bookshop that serves tea.

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

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

It’s such a pleasure to be here!! I’m Rebecca Thorne, a writer of all things fantasy, sci-fi, and romance. My books usually feature LGBTQIA+ representation, and are known for their witty dialogue and fast-paced writing style. When I’m not writing, I’m touring the country as a flight attendant—which has been my day job for over a decade. J

What can you tell us about your latest book, Can’t Spell Treason Without Tea? What was the inspiration for this story?  

This is so wild to see such a reception for this book. I wrote Can’t Spell Treason Without Tea after happening upon Travis Baldree’s Legends & Lattes in a Barnes and Noble—back when it was self-published. Aside from it being the exact story I needed at that time in my life—cozy, quaint, low stakes—it opened my eyes about the movement self-publishing has had on the industry. Before that day, I didn’t realize indie books could be in Barnes and Noble.

The actual story of Treason and Tea had been lurking in my mind for years. I wanted to write two women opening a coffee shop on the edge of a frozen tundra. Early iterations involved them serving adventurers who ventured into Dragon Country looking to steal from dragon hoards—but of course, it had higher stakes, because cozy fantasy wasn’t really around back then. When I found L&L, it made it easy to adapt this idea into something quieter!

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

I’ve been writing since I was 11, so by this point I’ve experimented with most genres. I’m a romantic at heart, so everything I write has some element of romance—it’s a safe place to observe those dramatic love stories without risking my own feelings. LOL.

I actually spent a lot of time writing contemporary when I was young. I used it to get a hang of the mechanics of writing and storytelling, without the chaos of creating a whole new world. Fanfiction was also a big driver in my writing development; taking someone else’s characters and setting, and creating fresh plots gave me the chance to really fine-tune my writing style without pressure.

Nowadays, I thrive on creating new worlds! Fantasy grabbed me about four years back, and hasn’t let go. J

How would you describe your writing process?

I’m all about efficiency. Treason and Tea was my fifteenth book, and on a slow year, I write 2 novels. On a good year, like in 2023, I write 5. I use a 5 Sentence plotting method to ensure my books have goalposts I can meet, and that gives me the freedom to discover everything in between those five sentences. But I tie word count goals to those plot events, and that helps keep my pacing on track!

Basically, it takes me about 3 – 6 weeks to draft a new book, and when I’m really moving, I can write 10,000 words in a day. That’s a big reason why I do both traditional publishing and self-publishing; I have so many books that it just makes sense to release some of them on my own. J

If you’re interested in learning more about my writing method, you can check out the craft book I published in December 2023: The 5 Sentence Method: How to Write Your D*mn Book, Already. It’s a lot of fun, haha!

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

My childhood was defined by fantasy classics like Patricia C Wrede and Tamora Pierce. I always adored the quartet idea from Tamora Pierce, so I’m thrilled that Can’t Spell Treason Without Tea is the start of my very own quartet!

These days, I’m reading almost exclusively sapphic fiction and diverse stories, since I grew up with straight, white protagonists. I’m thrilled we have so many great options to show LGBTQIA+ love stories, and that we’re seeing PoC and ND characters taking center stage. Gimme all the representation!

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

Ally Carter was one of my most formative authors. Back in high school, I remember reading her spy series; I’d finish the books the day they were released, and then re-read it immediately with an eye for how she hooked me for so long. Her quick-witted banter and easily-consumable writing style really stuck with me, and paved the way for my own writing.

My goal was always to be like those books: simple, easy to read, vastly enjoyable. These days, I add more intense themes into some of my books, but that goal never wavers. I always want my books to be as approachable as possible!

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

Dialogue is my absolute favorite. When I find two characters with chemistry, I love the way they can just fly off the page with their snark and humor. Adding puns for Kianthe really lightened the whole of the Tomes and Tea quartet, and made it an absolute pleasure to return to that world over and over.

As for challenging… I think I fall into the trap of boring conversation sometimes. I rely so heavily on dialogue to make my stories unique that I forget there’s actions outside of their words. So, if I’m not careful, I’ll wind up with a lot of eyebrow raising, smirking, laughing, etc. When I notice this happening, I try to add some kind of background activity—the characters making tea, or stocking a bookshelf, etc—just to keep things more interesting on every level. It… doesn’t always work. LOL.

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?

See the 5 Sentence Method above. In my opinion, half of the struggle in finishing a book is knowing how it ends—and if that isn’t mapped out, it’s a lot more effort to sit down and get it done.

Another issue I ran into when I was young is hopping from book to book. I would write 30k words, then get a shiny new idea and be convinced that was a better use of my time. Rinse, repeat. I finally realized when I was 23 or so that if I did that forever, I’d never accomplish my dream of being published, because you can’t publish an unfinished book.

Nowadays, when a new idea catches my interest, I write it down in Scrivener, then keep it in my brain and remain focused on my current project. Once that one is done, the new idea is my reward. It’s a much more sustainable option for me. LOL.

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

I… I don’t know. I love teaching publishing and writing—that’s my biggest passion in life, other than writing my own books. So, if you’re interested in learning more about that, find me on my socials—TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, etc—because I answer questions all the time!

If I had to pick a fun piece of trivia, it’s that I failed an FBI polygraph… twice. >.>

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 the best book you’ve ever written?

My answer is definitely The Day Death Stopped. No one seems to know about this book, which is a damn shame, because I really stretched my writing abilities for it. It uses footnotes and omniscient narration to follow 3 stories, one of which is told in reverse. The first chapter of the book is literally the book’s ending, so it’s honestly the culmination of all my writing. AND I somehow snagged Moira Quirk to narrate it. Go check it out, please; I adored it.

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

Don’t quit your day job. Better yet, find a day job you don’t absolutely loathe, get yourself happy outside of publishing, and THEN focus on getting that six figure book deal. Publishing is a business of rejection, so if you’re hoping some massive book deal will scoop you out of your misery, you’ll be disappointed over and over. I’ve watched those authors turn more and more desperate, and everyone around them suffers.

Find a job you like well enough. Then go towards your dream of publishing. It will lighten the pressure you put on yourself so much.

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

I’m always working on something! My newest idea is a cozy sci-fi that follows a doctor and a soldier on an edge-of-space station. It’s going to have adventure and coffee that makes someone immortal and space farmers markets and a great, adorable love story. I can’t wait!

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

This is How You Lose the Time War (Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone)is one of my all-time favorites! I reread it at least once a year; it’s so unique, and has gorgeous prose. Otherwise, I’m reading Bluebird (Ciel Perlot), which is a very fun sci-fi romp about an ultra-intelligent engineer trying to keep weapon schematics out of an evil faction’s hands. Next on my list is the Honey Witch (Sydney J. Shields), which I’m confident will sweep me off my feet—it’s Bridgerton, if Penelope discovered she was a witch and relocated to a magical island. Can’t wait!

Queer Comics: Emily Corn- A Graphic Novel of Cosmic Proportions and Personal Discoveries

Ever since Page Wooller announced they would be releasing the next book in the Emily Corn series at Providence QTZ Fest I have been excited to discuss with them how this journey started.

In a world oversaturated with superhero sagas and dystopian dramas, Page Wooller and Ali Vermeeren’s graphic novel, “Emily Corn“, emerges as a refreshing comet in the vast universe of graphic literature.

The Uncharted Journey of Emily Corn

At the heart of this tale is Emily, a character shrouded in mystery and isolation. Raised in seclusion, Emily’s journey is not just about discovering the world but also about self-discovery and breaking free from the confines of a shielded life. The revelation of a secret propels the story into a high-stakes adventure where Emily’s acceptance of her identity becomes crucial for the survival of Earth itself.

A Rich Tapestry of Art and Storytelling

Vermeeren’s artwork is a visual feast, a blend of shadow and light that perfectly encapsulates the dual themes of darkness and enlightenment prevalent in the story. The black and white palette underscores the eternal struggle between good and evil, making each panel a piece of art worth pondering over.

Accessibility: A Small Hurdle in the Digital Age

For those opting for the e-book format, be prepared for a bit of zooming in and out. The small text can be a strain on the eyes when read on a smartphone. However, this minor inconvenience does not detract from the overall experience, especially given the engaging narrative and striking visuals.

Conclusion: A Must-Read for Graphic Novel Enthusiasts and Beyond

“Emily Corn” is not just a graphic novel; it’s a journey of magic, identity, and the complexities of growing up. It’s a testament to the power of storytelling and how it shapes our understanding of ourselves and others. While there are areas where the narrative could have been more nuanced in its representation, the novel remains a significant contribution to the genre.

To those who have yet to delve into the world of graphic novels, let “Emily Corn” be your gateway. To the seasoned aficionados, add this to your collection and revel in the magic that Wooller and Vermeeren have so vividly brought to life.

For those who haven’t met Page, they are somewhat of a modern Renaissance person. A writer, dancer, painter, farmer and activist, musician, and previously wrote text books. Page is … an experience.

And Now on to the interview!!!!!

Damon: Have you had a big presence at Conventions (ie. Flame Con.)? Either way, how has it been interacting with your fans, whether in person or online?

Page: Due to our release date being in early 2020 during COVID, being a big presence at conventions was not a possibility for us. We instead contacted stores, a radio station in Australia and a few reviewers who wrote about the comic. Most contact with fans happened through Facebook, one person messaged about the excitement they had in getting a non binary comic book for their child who identified as being non binary, they said it would be a welcome distraction from all that was going on with COVID. Just reaching even one child and giving them hope that there are non binary characters in comics made me feel like I had a purpose.

Damon: How does your personal identity and experiences as an LGBT individual influence your creative process and the stories you choose to tell?

Page: My stories I draw heavily from my own experiences and identity as a non binary/ gender fluid human. There are times when I have felt totally alone with my feelings. This is another reason I felt like a story like this needed to be written, in order to reach those who have felt as alone as I have during my process of finding my identity. On one hand I don’t feel welcomed into the gay world and on the other hand I don’t feel welcomed into the straight world, so I’ve learnt to start creating my world, through stories.

Damon: Can you walk us through your typical creative process? How do you develop ideas, create characters, and bring your stories to life on the page?

Page: Mmm, my process is pretty complex, I start with a general frame work and then begin to gather scattered pieces of ideas from my head, small detailed experiences and creative ideas that I feel would fit into the plot of the story. At this time I’m never quite sure as to when these glimpses into my mind will occur, so I carry a note book and pen everywhere I go, scribbling down the ideas as fully as I can. Next I randomly transfer these scribblings onto the computer, in no particular order. The process then continues into ordering the sequences of the story into a streamline tail that runs smoothly from beginning to the end. This is then read and re read, edited and re edited until its clean and then I transfer it chunk by chunk into a graphic novel script for the illustrator to then work from, which gives a detail description of what occurs on each page, how many panels per page, characters in each panel and what’s being said by whom and so on.

Damon: Are there any specific comic book artists or writers who have influenced your style or storytelling approach? How have they inspired you?

Page: So many influences, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Marion Zimmer Bradly, Ann Rice, and Edgar Allen Poe to name a few. The main way these artists have inspired me is by the way they touch my visual thinking. I have dyslexia and one gift it gives me is the ability to see in images rather than words. Dimensions and form grow from words. All these artists have fueled this skill.

Damon: How do you envision your work impacting readers, particularly those who identify as LGBTQ+? What messages or emotions do you hope to convey through your stories?

Page: I hope to paint a clear depiction of how aspects of my own psyche have formed over the years as a child with an extreme imagination and a flare for the extravagant. I have never stopped learning and growing as we live in a world of adult absolutes. I love changing and finding out new things and this child like enthusiasm to uncover new things, like the ability to write while also having dyslexia which I only discovered in my fourties’ should never leave us. I hope the readers gain a reconnection to that inner child before the worlds rules of rational thinking took over and sensible choices were made over fun and adventurous ones.

Damon: Who is your favorite Federation Captain, and why?

Page: Ooo, I love this question, what a great one to finish on. I would have to say Janeway. I like powerful intelligent women who are in charge as role models that challenge male dominated characters. When I grew up there were very few gay role models in fictional stories and on the tv, so, I turned to women as my main arena of selected models. Women that stood against the overpowering male dominant stigma. Women who weren’t afraid to feel emotions and express them in the face of being opposed by with anger, violence and manipulation. It gives me goose pimples just thinking about it.

Good choice page …. good choice.

Interview with Katrina Kwan, Author of Knives, Seasoning, and a Dash of Love

Katrina Kwan is a Vancouver-based actress and author. After graduating from Acadia University with a BA in Political Science in 2017, she decided to pursue her love of writing and stumbled her way into the world of freelance ghostwriting. Over the course of six years, Kwan has produced roughly 150+ romance novels for her clients, published under various pseudonyms. She is very excited to be publishing stories under her own name. When she isn’t busy writing, you can sometimes spot her on TV! Her debut adult fantasy, The Last Dragon of the East, is expected Fall 2024 from Saga Press.

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

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

Hi there! My name’s Katrina Kwan and I’m a Vancouver-based author and actress. When I’m not busy writing, you can sometimes spot me in small parts on TV! (IMDb)

What can you tell us about your debut book, Knives, Seasoning, and a Dash of Love? What inspired this story?

Knives, Seasoning, and A Dash of Love is my debut adult contemporary romcom set to release December 19th, 2023 from the indie publisher Lake Country Press. I’ve always been a fan of culinary-centric movies and TV shows (Ratatouille reigns supreme, and HBO’s The Bear is a close second). I wanted to try my hand at writing a romance with an haute cuisine backdrop.

Like the main characters of your book, Knives, Seasoning, and a Dash of Love, have you ever had any personal experience with cooking, or was this something you had researched for the story? Are there any personal stories about food you would want to share?

I used to work as a server in college and a hostess in high school, so I worked in and around a kitchen setting for several years. I put a ton of effort into researching how a kitchen of this caliber functions by watching food documentaries and interviews with famous chefs. I really love this one particular series on YouTube, Paolo from Japan, who sometimes goes behind the scenes to film what goes on behind-the-scenes at local restaurants in and around Tokyo.

Can you give us any trivia (that hasn’t already been given) about the characters from Knives, Seasoning, and a Dash of Love?

Let’s just say that if you’re a fan of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, you might pick up on a couple of references here and there. It’s kind of an open secret—an if you know, you know sort of deal.

Since this is a book about food, I’m wondering what are some of your favorite things to eat?

I like to think that I’m very adventurous when it comes to food. A dream of mine is to one day travel the world and try dishes from every corner of the globe. Nothing’s off limits, and I’m not very squeamish when it comes to trying things that are a little out there. I once tried BBQ-flavored crickets once on a dare. (Very nice and crunchy!)

What drew you to writing, particularly romance? Were there any favorite writers or stories that sparked your own love and interest in storytelling?

I fell into writing romance as a result of my day job. I worked as a freelance ghostwriter for roughly six years, and all my clients happened to want romance novels written (there’s a very high demand for it, and equally high project turnover). I guess you could say I got a lot of practice in. When it came time to finally write my own stories, choosing romance was a comfortable genre for me.

I’m personally a huge fan of angsty romances. Stories that will take my heart and tear it in two. Tragic love stories that leave me crying at three in the morning are a special treat. I don’t like to think too hard about what that says about my psyche. Examples that come to mind are We’d Know by Then by Kirsten Bohling and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. They’re both authors who’ve broken my heart and I’m thankful for it.

In addition to Knives, Seasoning, and a Dash of Love, you have another book coming out, The Last Dragon of the East. Could you tell about the inspiration for this book? And what draws you to writing fantasy?

Yes! The Last Dragon of the East is an adult romantic fantasy that’s set to be published by Fall 2024 by Saga Press, an imprint of Gallery Books and Simon & Schuster! The story builds upon the Chinese myth of red threads of fate, invisible strings of magic that is said to connect soulmates across time and space. I’ve seen the myth depicted in movies, television (namely Asian dramas), and many of my favorite manga, but I couldn’t ever recall reading about it in a novel, and therefore was inspired to incorporate it into my next story.

I was drawn to writing fantasy because it’s so much fun. The possibilities are only limited by my own imagination, and I’ve been told I’ve got plenty of it to spare. Writing fantasy allows me to indulge in some good ol’ escapism. There’s no need to worry about the mundanity of our day-to-day when I’m too busy slaying monsters and saving Prince Charming.

How would you describe your general writing process?

I have a very strict writing schedule that I hold myself to. When I was still working as a ghostwriter, I needed to churn out roughly 20,000 to 30,000 words per week in order to keep to my client’s publishing schedule, which was typically one book per month (like I said, high turnover). I treated it like any other nine to five, writing from morning until afternoon.

The trick was to get used to writing my stream of consciousness without caving into the urge of going back to edit. That always comes later. On a good day, I could typically write 1,500 in thirty minutes. I’d sometimes time myself to keep myself on track. I know that probably sounds really stressful to a lot of writers, but ghostwriting was what paid the bills, and I was determined to get my work done in a timely manner. If I didn’t, that meant no food on the table.

Obviously now that I write stories for myself, I’m a little bit more relaxed, but a lot of these old habits have stuck with me. For example, I’m a part of a Discord group full of writers, and we often have “writing sprints” together to stay motivated and focused. Not to toot my own horn, but I think I’ve gotten pretty good about drafting as clean as possible.

I always start with a chapter-by-chapter outline and go from there. Sometimes when I feel like a section is dragging (or I get a sudden shower thought), I’ll take the story in a new direction, but I always make sure to at least have a roadmap I can fall back on to hit the main beats of the story. I guess I’d categorize myself as a hybrid pantser-plotter.

I typically hold myself to the Stephen King method of drafting at least six pages per day. It doesn’t always happen, of course, but I try my best. It’s important to me not to let a story sit too long, or else I’ll forget my train of thought or drop story threads I wanted to explore. I once scrapped an entire manuscript (it was roughly 90% complete) because I took a month break, came back, and decided I didn’t like it anymore and couldn’t remember where I was trying to go with the story. It’s important for me to write at least a little bit every day, and since I love what I do, it never actually feels like work!

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

I love full-circle endings. I’ve always found them incredibly poetic and satisfying to read, especially when all the pieces come together perfectly in the end.

A challenging element of writing for me is finding moments where I can slow down and let readers breathe. I write with the philosophy that if I, the writer, am ever bored with a section, then there’s a very good chance that the reader will be bored, too. My husband (the original beta reader for all my stories) says that I have a bit of an all gas, no brakes style of storytelling, and I recognize that can be very overwhelming to read.

I’m learning to take a bit more time and appreciate slower moments in storytelling. That’s why I take special care in the editing phase and look for areas where I can be expand and develop. If everything is action-packed, then the climax won’t feel very exciting, now will it? You must have moments of calm to appreciate the chaos.

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

I take a lot of inspiration from screenwriters. As I mentioned before, I’m a part-time actress based out of Vancouver, so I get to see a lot of behind-the-scenes of some awesome TV shows and movies that film here.

I find scriptwriting very interesting, and as an author, I can draw many lessons from the scripts I get to read. I’m rather envious of screenwriters because of how concise they are. Each page of a script is said to be roughly one minute of screen time. If your average movie is an hour and a half, you’ve got ninety pages to work with. That’s daunting for a writer like me because there’s zero page space to waste.

Every line of dialogue, every action note must count, and I try to apply that in my own writing. Everything in a story should be purposeful. No fluff. If it doesn’t serve a purpose, scrap it. As such, I’ve never been hesitant to kill my darlings. Maybe that’s where my all gas, no breaks style comes from (haha)!

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

I don’t know, actually. I’m a pretty open book!

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

I can get pretty quiet sometimes. There are moments when I need to step away and recharge, so if you’re trying to reach me over socials and I don’t respond, I swear I’m not ignoring you or anything! I’m super appreciative of everyone who sends me messages about my stories, and I try my best to reply to everyone, I just need a bit of time every now and then.

In this day and age, I think there’s an expectation that authors not only write, but do their best to market themselves, but juggling both can be exhausting for me. Sometimes I feel like an old lady shaking my fist at the clouds because I’m really not good with social media at all, but it feels like an inevitability. My biggest fear is that if I don’t use it, I’m going to fall behind or fall into obscurity—which would suck, because I want people to read my books!

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

I’m currently working on the sequel to The Last Dragon of the East. I don’t have a title for it yet (I’ve been calling it Project SWSTS), but in the same way that The Last Dragon of the East is based on a Chinese myth, Book #2 is heavily inspired by the myth of Houyi and the Ten Suns. I intend for this sequel to be a stand-alone, but it exists within the same fictional universe several thousand years before the events of The Last Dragon of the East, so readers are able to pick up either book without necessarily having to read the other (though it’s definitely recommended)!

What advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

Block out the noise. Don’t worry about what other people are doing. Don’t worry about trends, don’t worry about everyone else’s book deals. Focus on your story and you’re bound to finish it. Your story deserves to be shared with the world, and the only way you’re going to do that is if you sit down and write. You’ve got this!

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

Every single author at my indie press deserves a shout out! They’re all incredible people and amazing writers. We’ve got Kirsten Bohling, Camri Kohler, Juliet Bridges, Ann H. Fox, Erin Mainord, Kayla Morton, Kit Karlsson, Jeremy Harrison, Rae Valtera, Allie Doherty, Jayme Phelps, S. Reed, Ashley Merdalo, Hazel Marie, Kait DeMoney, True Sloan, Hannah Loraine, Haley Warrington and Brittany Weisrock! You can find a list of all published and upcoming titles here.

Interview with Zoraida Córdova and Natalie C. Parker, Co-Editors of Mermaids Never Drown: Tales to Dive For

Zoraida Córdova is the acclaimed author of more than two dozen novels and short stories, including the Brooklyn Brujas series, Star Wars: The High Republic: Convergence, and The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina. In addition to writing novels, she serves on the board of We Need Diverse Books, and is the co-editor of the bestselling anthology Vampires Never Get Old, as well as the cohost of the writing podcast, Deadline City. She writes romance novels as Zoey Castile. Zoraida was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, and calls New York City home. When she’s not working, she’s roaming the world in search of magical stories.

Natalie C. Parker is an author, editor, and community organizer. She has written several award winning books for teens and young readers and has edited multiple anthologies including the Indie Bestselling anthology Vampires Never Get Old. Her work has been included on the NPR Best Books list, the Indie Next List, and the TAYSHAS Reading List, and in Junior Library Guild selections. In addition to writing, Natalie also runs Madcap Retreats, which has partnered with We Need Diverse Books and Reese’s Book Club to host the writers workshops for their new internship Lit Up. She grew up in a navy family finding home in coastal cities from Virginia to Japan and currently lives with her wife on the Kansas prairie.

I had the opportunity to interview Zoraida and Natalie, which you can read below.

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

N: Hi Geeks OUT team! Thank you so much for having us! Zoraida and I are both authors of young adult, middle grade, and, in her case, adult SFF and we’ve been friends since the day we met. Which was at the very beginning of our careers.

What can you tell us about your latest anthology, Mermaids Never Drown: Tales to Dive For? What was the inspiration for the project?

N: To tell you about the inspiration for Mermaids Never Drown we actually have to back up a bit and tell you about the first installment in the Untold Legends series, Vampires Never Get Old, which came out of a writing retreat. We were both floating in a pool that was far too cold for rational people to endure, and Zoraida breezily mentioned missing vampires. Suddenly we were deep in a discussion about how many vampires were missing from the stories we were most familiar with. Our solution was an anthology featuring an array of voices who were excited to revamp, if you will, the mythology we know and love. That book came out in 2020.

Z: Back in the pandemic days! It became an Indie bestseller and since then, we’ve seen one of the stories from Vampires, “First Kill” by V.E. Schwab, be adapted as a Netflix show, which was very exciting. And we sold two more installments featuring two more of our favorite cryptids/magical beings. Which is how Mermaids Never Drown came to be.

As authors, you’ve both written about merfolk before. This is also the second mythological creature you’ve tackled in this anthology series. May I ask what do you think draws you and the other writers from the Mermaids Never Drown anthology to this mythological creature?

Z: Mermaids have always been my favorite mythological creature. There are so many metaphors that can be applied to magical beings, but for me, the mermaid story is about straddling two worlds. As an immigrant living in the diaspora, what better metaphor could I choose? I’m not trying to belong to one world or the other. I belong to both, and that’s pretty powerful for me.

N: I’ve been captivated by mermaids for as long as I can remember. I’ve been a swimmer, a sailor, and a SCUBA diver and all of the mercreatures I write tend to be monstrous in some way, always hungry with sharp teeth and rough skin. That really fits my experience of queerness–I have felt monstrous and strange and also hungry and vicious at various points in my life, like I both did and didn’t fit in my own body or among regular humans. So for me, mermaids and queerness have a lot to do with finding home inside yourself, and making a new one in the world.

Zoraida Córdova Photo Credit Melanie Barbosa

For many people, mermaids and merfolk in general have often been a queer symbol, a marginalized creature traveling between different worlds, longing for love and freedom. Could you maybe tell us about some of the queer contributions to Mermaids Never Drown?

N: So many of our stories play on that theme of feeling trapped or pulled between two worlds, or on being denied access to spaces that feel crucial to identity or a sense of history. The stories in this collection use mermaid mythology and tropes to explore everything from intergenerational trauma to diaspora to queerness. In particular, I’m very excited for Rebecca Coffindaffer’s Storm Song, which grapples with sexuality and expectations. Queer romance is front and center in Julian Winters’s We’ll Always Have June, and Julie Murphy’s The First and Last Kiss. Katherine Locke’s Nor’easter features a nonbinary protagonist, andand several of the other stories have queerness braided throughout, including Kalynn Bayon’s Return to the Sea, Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s Shark Week, and the story I’ve co-authored with Zoraida, The Merrow.

What draws you to the art of anthology creation?

N: There is something really powerful about being invited into a story. As a queer person, stories about magical and mythical creatures have felt strangely off-limits. Anthologies give us an opportunity to change that, and while there’s no single collection that can invite every single reader in, I love working on projects that are opening doors rather than closing them.

Z: Short stories were my first love. From the classics we had to read in school, to the strange and experimental zines and flash fiction I found in college, to putting together these collections with Natalie. I love giving other writers a prompt and seeing what unfurls from planting that idea.

As writers, what drew you to the art of storytelling, specifically young adult, fantasy, and romance?

Z: The real world is a mess, to quote our favorite soft shell crab. From the moment I decided I wanted to be a writer in high school, I’ve been dreaming up worlds. Fantasy is a reflection of our world, but at a distance. I don’t think you can truly leave the problems of our worlds behind. In fact, it should power your fantasy and shine a light on what, as an author, you are trying to say.

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

N: When it comes to anthologies, my favorite part is always getting the stories and reading them for the first time. It’s exciting every single time and I love the tantalizing feeling of not knowing how our authors will have tackled the prompt. It reminds me that stories are limitless and a single prompt can inspire wildly different and robust creations–it’s a kind of magic. The most challenging part is deciding the order of the stories! Seriously, we agonize over placement. Every. Single. Time.

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

Z: There are so many. I loved all the teen urban fantasy that came out in the late 90’s and early aughts. Those books really shaped me as a writer. I grew up watching Latin American TV, so I did see aspects of myself reflected in Spanish-language television and media, but until recently, that wasn’t the case in US American books and media. I think the first time I felt represented in a show was the first episode of ‘Jane the Virgin,’ which came out in my 20s. I’m still waiting for a book to do that to me, as an Ecuadorian person, but I’ve still found connections with books that feature strong main characters like Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo, Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton, On the Hustle by Adriana Herrera.

N: The first books I remember feeling a deep connection to as a queer kid were the Heralds of Valdemar books by Mercedes Lackey. It was the first time I’d ever seen queer characters on the page who weren’t villainized. In fact, they got to be the main characters, have magic of their own and go on epic quests! Now, there are many queer books that reflect parts of me and many that don’t, and I love that we are getting to have that kind of expansion in literature. In particular, I’m currently obsessed with the works of Zen Cho, Andrew Joseph White, Tessa Gratton (I know Z already mentioned her, but I can’t help it), Adib Khorram, and Mark Oshiro.

Natalie C. Parker

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

Z: Natalie and I have a podcast called Untold Legends, where we deep dive (no pun intended) pop culture with our authors. Season one is all about vampires, and of course, season two is about mermaids. You can listen here.

N: I know this is giving the impression that Zoraida and I do everything together, but we also work with a new company called Electric Postcard Entertainment. Our mission is to act as a launchpad for creators whose backgrounds and experiences have long been marginalized by entertainment industries. Aspiring writers can learn more here!

What advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

Z: Read everything. It was the first piece of advice I received, and it holds true. Consuming stories–in whatever format–is part of the job. For me, it sharpens my sentences, and helps me figure out how I want my own voice to be different.

Any specific advice for those looking to create/organize an anthology themselves?

N: My best advice is to take your time and be really intentional about the project. The more focus you can bring to the idea at the pitch stage, the better the collection will be in the end. So, what I’m saying is that it’s good to be very clear about your mission from the beginning. 

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

Z: I’m working on my next adult book. It’s tentatively titled The Fall of Rebel Angels and is a love story between a woman suspected of murdering her former lover and a fallen angel who is cursed to search for his wings on Earth every one hundred years.

N: I am just about to announce two new projects that will be released in 2024 and 2025. The first is my first young adult horror novel, which has been a dream of mine for ten million years, and the second is a project I pitched as John Wick meets Adventures in Babysitting. Full details, titles, and covers will be released VERY soon.

Finally, what book/authors would you recommend to the readers of GeeksOUT?

Z: All of the authors in our anthologies have tremendous novels of their own. Make sure you check out their work!

N: What Z said! I will also offer a quick set of spooky season queer YA reads for consideration: My Dearest Darkest by Kayla Cottingham, You’re Not Supposed to Die Tonight by Kalynn Bayronn, The Honeys by Ryan La Sala, and These Fleeting Shadows by Kate Alice Marshall, and Burn Down, Rise Up by Vincent Tirado.

Interview with Emma Steinkellner, Creator of Nell of Gumbling: My Extremely Normal Fairy-Tale Life

Emma Steinkellner is an illustrator, writer, and cartoonist living in Los Angeles. She is a graduate of Stanford University and the illustrator of the Eisner-nominated comic Quince. She is the author and illustrator of The Okay Witch graphic novel series.

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

Thank you! I’m a writer, illustrator, and cartoonist in Los Angeles, CA and I love making comics for young readers. I remember how much it meant to me to get completely absorbed in a fun book at that age and it’s really great to be able to make the books I would’ve wanted to read then now.

What can you tell us about your latest project, Nell of Gumbling: My Extremely Normal Fairy-Tale Life? What was the inspiration for this book?

This book is the illustrated journal of Nell Starkeeper, an (as she would put it) extremely normal 12-year-old kid living in the magical land of Gumbling, where her friends are fairies, unicorns, and Thumbkins and the history of the town is full of real-life fairy tales. When I sat down to come up with an idea for a new series, I thought about the kind of stuff I liked to read as a kid and I remembered how fascinated I was by fairy tales and I thought it would be fun to write a book of original fairy tales in comic form. Then, as I came up with those tales, I realized it would be cool if they all took place in the same land. And then, a couple of ideas later, I centered the story on the point of view of one kid in that land! 

Can you give us any trivia (that hasn’t already been given) about the characters from , Nell of Gumbling: My Extremely Normal Fairy-Tale Life?

There are a lot of fairy tale archetypes I play around with in this book: fairies, unicorns, witches, thumb-sized people. And I wanted to really set my imagination free as I designed these types of characters that have existed in plenty of other tales before. In the case of Nell’s unicorn frenemy Voila Lala, I smushed together a couple of design inspirations. First off, the unicorns are really more like unicorn-centaurs with human heads and torsos (no noses though, they smell through their horns!). And Voila in particular is really inspired by koi fish and candy corn, which you might be able to see in her overall color palette. And I keep the fairies’ wings in this world colorful but semi-transparent. That’s inspired by some colorful tissue shapes my older sister had on her window in our house growing up. I used to love the way the light came through those.

As a creative, what drew you to the art of storytelling, particularly to the realm of comics/graphic novels and fantasy?

 I love writing and I love drawing but I REALLY love putting them together. Even when I’m drawing context-less doodles in my sketchbook, I’m always kind of imagining a story for them. And even when I’m writing a text-only story, I’m tempted to draw some of the characters and settings. So comics and graphic novels really are the perfect form for me. And as for fantasy, I’ve always been drawn to whimsical genre stuff like that, as a reader/viewer and as a creator. And I think magic pairs perfectly with middle grade/coming of age stories, which can be full of such unique and strong emotions.

How would you describe your artistic background?

I come from a family of writers! My parents worked as writing partners, my older brother and sister both write. It would have been pretty impossible for me to stay away from writing. Good thing I didn’t want to! But I knew I didn’t want to only write. I loved performing, improv, singing and dancing, and drawing. And when I was around 14, I started to really focus on drawing and put my whole self into it. And the more I drew, the more confident I got, and the more I found that my passions for writing and illustration really support each other.

How would you describe your creative process?

Since I’m both writer and illustrator, I’m in conversation with myself a lot. A lot of people ask me what comes first when I’m making a graphic novel: the writing or the drawing? And the answer is…sort of both. While I’m outlining the script, sometimes I’ll come up with some moments, places, costumes, characters, or objects that I need to sketch out. By designing some of those visual elements, I get a better idea of how to write about them when I write the script (which is the next step). Once I’ve written the script, and revised it with my editor, it’s time to pencil the whole thing. That means I sketch out every page (in Photoshop), then we edit those sketches, I refine them to turn them into the final linework, and I add color! The whole thing takes about a year-ish.

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

I try to find inspiration all over the place. But for Nell of Gumbling, I kept coming back to a couple books that I couldn’t put down as a kid. The Amelia books by Marissa Moss and the epistolary books by Kate and M. Sarah Klise. It’s not hard to see how the humor and inventiveness of those books have stuck with me since 2002 when you read Nell. 

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

Growing up a cis, white girl, I didn’t really have any shortage of characters I could point to and go “oh look, it’s me” (Amelia from those Amelia books was one of them, she even had my exact haircut). Not every kid gets to feel that that often, although thankfully there has been a lot of progress in children’s literature and we now get a lot more diverse, inclusive stories created by writers and illustrators who write from their own personal experiences.

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

With this particular book, I’ve loved writing from the point of view of my main character. It’s pretty natural to sink into her voice because that was totally how I wrote in my journals as a kid. So I just love being in that state of flow where I might as well be writing in my own diary. There are special pages of the book where I’ll really sink into the illustration too, really finely-detailed pages like the map of Gumbling or the 2-page spread of the Feszht festival (Feszht is the winter holiday in Gumbling). But those are also a lot of hard work. So it can take a long time to get everything right. And I’m not the most patient person, so that can be tough. But ultimately, it’s always rewarding to slow down and focus so I can make something a little more special. 

Aside from your work, what are some things you would like readers to know about you?

Truthfully, I put so much of the stuff that I’m made of into my work, you can find a lot of  it there. Like the reason soup is such an important part of the regional cuisine of Gumbling? I love soup! 

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 much about the Gumbling Tales yet and I had so much fun with them. Since my initial goal for this book was to create an illustrated book of original fairy tales, the core spirit of it is kind of in Nell’s illustrated Gumbling tales in the back of the book. It was a challenge to come up with stories that had the vibe of fairy tales, but weren’t actual retellings of any tales. I do think of each Gumbling tale as having a few similar existing tales that are “cousins” to it, however. Like, The Soupman’s Wish, the Gumbling tale of a soup vendor who gives a lonely ghost some hot soup and is granted a wish in return— that is a cousin to any story of a kind character showing generosity to a supernatural being and getting something in return (Aladdin and His Magic Lamp, Diamonds and Toads, The Wishing Pearl, etc.)

What advice might you have to give for other creatives?

Journal! It feels so good to get what’s in your head down on paper, whether that’s your daily feelings, long term goals, reflections, or ideas for new stuff. Having a repository to put all that stuff in my brain helps me focus and gives me perspective. I guess this wouldn’t be beneficial to creatives only, but I find it very helpful creatively.

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

I just finished the second book in the Gumbling series! So you should look out for that later next year. And I’m starting on a third one. I’m very excited about both of them.

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

Twins by Varian Johnson and illustrated by Shannon Wright is so sweet and fun. Anything by Vera Brosgol. I love Jen Wang’s graphic novels too. 

Interview with Helene Wecker, Author of The Hidden Palace and The Golem and the Jinni

Helene Wecker is the author of The Golem and the Jinni and The Hidden Palace. Her books have appeared on The New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle’s bestseller lists, and have won a National Jewish Book Award, the VCU Cabel Award, the Harold U. Ribalow Prize, and a Mythopoeic Award. She currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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

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

Hello, Geeks OUT readers! I’m Helene Wecker, a writer of historical fantasy novels (primarily). Currently, I live in the Bay Area, but I grew up outside Chicago and will always be a Midwesterner at heart. I went to college in Minnesota and then spent a decade bouncing around between the coasts: first Seattle, then New York, and now finally California, where I’ve settled with my husband, two kids, and a dog. Back in my 20s, I worked in marketing and public relations for about seven years before I finally admitted that I hated it and switched my energies to fiction writing. I’m now in my late 40s, which is a fabulous decade from the perspective of life experience, but also deeply annoying when it comes to aches, pains, and overall exhaustion.

What can you tell us about the fantasy series you are currently most recognized for, The Golem and the Jinni? What was the inspiration for this story?

I started writing The Golem & the Jinni while I was at graduate school in New York. I’d decided that for my MFA thesis I would write a series of short stories that combined tales from my own family history and from my husband’s family history. I’m Jewish and he’s Arab American, and I’ve always been struck by the similarities in our backgrounds, specifically around issues of immigration to America, language, and culture. But the stories I was writing were very realist and sort of uninspired. When I complained to a friend about it, she pointed out that I adore stories that combine realism and fantasy, and she challenged me to do that with my own work. So I decided that instead of a Jewish girl and an Arab-American boy for my main characters, I’d turn them into the most emblematic folkloric figures I could think of from each culture: a (female) golem and a (male) jinni. That opened up the whole story, and the characters developed their own personalities and struggles, instead of merely being stand-ins for myself and my husband.

As a writer, what drew you to the art of storytelling, specifically historical fantasy?

I love the paradox of historical fantasy, of writing a story set inside known history that doesn’t contradict it at all but that, at the same time, is absolutely impossible. It makes the story feel like a secret that you’ve been let in on, and gives the narrative an intimacy that might otherwise get lost in the scope of the historical backdrop. It’s a challenge to write, which for me is part of the draw — but at the same time it’s really easy to bite off more than you can chew without realizing it.

For those curious about the process writing a historical fantasy book, how would you describe the process? What goes into the research and translating that into a book?

The research process has been gargantuan, and was especially so for the first book. I’d picked 1899 because I wanted this to feel like an “old world” immigration story, a folktale set in our real history — but I’d originally thought I was writing a short story, not a novel. Once it became clear that this was going to be an actual book, I had to stop and take stock of what I really knew about 1899 New York, which wasn’t much. So I went to the Columbia University library and just started reading everything I could find about the neighborhoods and the tenements, to establish a baseline of knowledge. From there I branched off into specifics like the history of Syrian and Jewish immigration to the U.S., and the stories and folklore they brought with them, and the different religious sects and backgrounds they came from.

For The Hidden Palace, I spent a lot of time researching Sophia’s travels in the Middle East. I read up on Gertrude Bell and T.E. Lawrence, and the history of Palmyra (which is worth a few novels in itself), and how World War I eventually drove Lebanon into starvation. New subjects kept popping up for me to research, like the Western Union telegraph system and its messenger boys, and turn-of-the-century Jewish orphanages (I based mine on a real New York orphanage, the Hebrew Orphan Asylum). I tried to use primary sources whenever I could — which was easier than it would’ve been a decade ago, considering how much has been digitized and made available on the Internet — and I tried to fact-check everything that wasn’t a primary source. I took the research process pretty seriously even though I’m writing fiction, because the details contribute to the overall lived-in feel of the books, and it’s important to me to get them right.

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?

This is a great question, and I’m honestly not sure of the answer. I don’t think I looked for myself in stories when I was young, because my own real-life childhood was deeply awkward and lonely at times. I read books, mainly scifi and fantasy, in order to escape that existence, not to find it again. That said, Paula Danziger’s teenage protagonists resonated with me strongly, as did Judy Blume’s. They captured the particular angst of being an adolescent girl and feeling like an alien, especially at school, and wrestling with the choice between fitting in and sticking out. Which, honestly, describes my own characters’ dilemmas too.

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

Neil Gaiman was a huge influence during a formative time in my life. I took my entire SANDMAN collection to college with me, and made my boyfriend (now husband) read it. (He, in turn, made me read all of LORD OF THE RINGS and THE SILMARILLION.) The various X-Men books of the ‘80s and ‘90s were also a big creative influence, and I think that there’s a way to see my characters in the X-Men tradition: powerful, flawed, unsure of their place in the world. Post-college, Michael Chabon was my biggest influence; looking back on it, if there was one book that turned me into a writer, it was THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY. These days, I read a lot of Ursula K. LeGuin, who was brilliant at engineering stories that hinge on moral and philosophical dilemmas.

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

My favorite elements are the research/planning before the first draft and the good, hard edit at the end. Everything in between is a long slog of frustration and woe. I’ve never written a complete, beginning-to-end first draft of a novel — short stories, yes, but not novels. I write a few chapters, decide I hate it, start over. It takes me a few stabs before I figure out how best to tell the story that I want to tell. It’s a very inefficient way to write, but for me it’s the only way that works.

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

1) If I couldn’t be a writer, I’d want be either a librarian or a film editor. My absolute perfect job would be to live as a student for the rest of my life, just going around and learning things all day long. I have no idea what practical purpose that would serve, but if anyone’s hiring, I’m your gal.

2) My kids keep me incredibly busy, mentally as well as time-wise. We’re finally past the just-keep-them-alive years, and now we’re at the early adolescent stage where we have to pick our battles and maintain consistency about what we allow and what we don’t. My older kid just turned eleven, and she would be perfectly happy to spend her entire life reading books and watching videos in bed in her bathrobe. It’s a lifestyle I can only aspire to, really.

3) If you asked me, “Helene, in your opinion, which movie has the best script in cinema history, line for line?” I’d be forced to choose between either Charade or Kung Fu Panda. Honestly, Kung Fu Panda might win.

What advice might you have to give for aspiring writers?

This might seem like an unorthodox answer, but: If you’re looking for a life partner, it’s imperative that they 1) respect your wish to write and 2) give you the time and space you need. They don’t have to be your biggest fan; they don’t even have to read your writing. But they have to understand that sometimes you’ll be in the office with the door shut, and they’re not allowed to come in and bug you with something completely trivial, or suggest that you skip writing that day and go out for a movie instead. There will be times when the writing comes first. They have to be okay with that, period.

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

I’m currently hard at work on Book #3 in the Golem and Jinni series. It’s set in 1930, which is 15 years after the end of The Hidden Palace, at the beginning of the Great Depression and the end of Prohibition. I’ve brought back a few characters who we last saw in the first book, and created a few new ones. I’m in the early drafting stage, though I’ve done my requisite failed chapters and seem to have settled into the story a little more. The jump forward into 1930 brings the setting closer to what feels like a recognizably modern era, which opens up a lot of directions for the characters to take — but from the reader’s vantage point, WWII and the Holocaust are just around the corner, and that adds a dread that the narrative can’t address directly without being too heavy handed. So it’s going to take a light and careful touch to get it right.

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

I don’t read for fun nearly as much as I’d like to these days, but I just finished R.F. Kuang’s Babel, which deserves all the praise it’s gotten. And if you like your historical fantasy with a dose of Old Hollywood, Nghi Vo’s Siren Queen is a phenomenal read. So is Jennifer Egan’s The Candy House, which is one of those books that crawls into your brain and just lives there for a while.

Interview with Claribel A. Ortega

New York Times Bestselling and award-winning author, Claribel A. Ortega is a former reporter who writes middle-grade and young adult fantasy inspired by her Dominican heritage. When she’s not busy turning her obsession with eighties pop culture, magic, and video games into books, she’s co-hosting her podcast Bad Author Book Club. Claribel is a Marvel contributor and has been featured on Buzzfeed, Bustle, Good Morning America and Deadline.

Claribel’s NYT Bestselling debut middle-grade novel Ghost Squad is being made into a feature film. Her latest book Witchlings (Scholastic) was an Instant NYT and #1 Indie Bestseller. Her graphic novel Frizzy with Rose Bousamra was the winner of the 2023 Pura Belpré Award for Children’s Text and an Indie Bestseller. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, and Tiktok @Claribel_Ortega, on Twitch as Radbunnie.

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

First of all, welcome back to Geeks OUT! How have you been?

Thanks! I’ve been great, busy working on more books, and had a good summer. 

What can you tell us about your latest book, Witchings: The Golden Frog Games?

The Golden Frog Games takes place a few months after the events of the first Witchlings book, and centers a magical olympics called The Golden Frog Games. Thorn is the first ever Spare to be a competitor but someone is turning her competition into stone and it’s up to the Witchlings to figure out who it is before Thorn is next! The stakes are bigger than book one, there are first crushes and new characters and we get to see all the Coven Houses too. 

As an author, what drew you to the art of storytelling, specifically middle grade and speculative fiction (especially witches)?

I’ve always loved fantasy and the potential for exploring real world issues through the lens of magic. Witches are the perfect vehicle for the stories I want to tell too, because historically they’ve just been people who were responsible for healing and helping those in need but were villainized for being different or misunderstood or just for being women. All of my books center the perspectives of women, and marginalized people so in a fantasy world witches really embody that experience. Writing middle grade fantasy is so much fun, and for me feels really comforting. There’s something special about a cozy town with adorable animals that has an undercurrent of danger just beneath the surface. It’s those kinds of stories that spoke to me as a child, so I think that’s why I’m drawn to write them as an adult. Also, my readers are the best. They are funny, and kind and ready to believe whatever wacky scenario I throw at them. Middle grade readers are willing to go along on the adventure with my characters and root for them no matter how weird they are. 

As a writer, you have spoken a bit about featuring Dominican and queer representation in your book, from your fantasy novels to your debut graphic novel, Frizzy. Could you speak a bit here about what representing those elements mean to you as a author?

I am just writing my honest experience which I think is important. Kids know when you’re talking down to them or keeping things from them, and while I always make sure that my books are appropriate for the ages I write for, I think writing about the world as it really is with all the diversity that entails is my job as an author. After all, being Dominican and queer are things that represent me, I shouldn’t have to keep my own existence from my books. 

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

I have quite a few! I always say that I aspire to write something as powerful, funny and perfect as Little Shop of Horrors, haha, so that’s my North Star. In terms of writers, Diana Wynne Jones, Lin Manuel Miranda, Leigh Bardugo and Gregory Maguire are big ones. I’m always inspired by my own life too, the things I love to do (like play video games) the music I listen to, or just my experiences are all sources of inspiration for me. 

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

I adore character creation and world building. It’s been so much fun for me to make up systems and monsters and pop culture in the Witchlings series. Writing on deadline is super challenging for me! I love taking my time with stories, and a lot of my writing process is about daydreaming and thinking about the story to let things come to me but I don’t get to do that as much while on deadline and it’s a bummer. 

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 would love to be asked more questions about the content of the Witchling series versus just the representation or diversity angle. I think oftentimes marginalized authors get looped into talking about diversity over and over again so our books get seen as a lesson to be learned rather than a story to enjoy. The Witchlings series is about friendship, and political turmoil and the nature of monstrosity– who gets called a monster versus who is really doing those monstrous things. I would love for people to know that despite the very adorable cover of the books, the core story is a dark one with parallels to many of our real world social and political issues. The ultimate message of the Witchlings series is about the power of community and how self-efficacy doesn’t have to come at the cost of that community. 

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

Focus on the words. Don’t get caught up in stats about querying, or what everyone else is doing on social media, focus on the words and your craft and being the best storyteller you can be. 

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

The third Witchlings book will be out next year, so I’m busy working on that and there is another graphic novel in my future which I will hopefully be able to talk about soon. 

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

Definitely check out Small Town Pride by Phil Stamper and In The Key of Us by Mariama J. Lockington! 

Interview with Trip Galey and Chris McCartney of Bona Books

In a world where corporate entities maintain a tight grip on the institutionalization of creativity and where representation mattering is still more of a conversation than a mainstream practice, a glimmer of hope emerges in a new queer press, Bona Books. The London-based press established by Trip Galey, Chris McCartney, and Robert Berg, Bona Books plans to be a place the queer community and allies can pick up science fiction and fantasy and see themselves fully reflected in it. As Chris says in one of the many gems from our recent chat, “To see that representation, to see the community that we love and the people that we love reflected in stories that we love” is what Bona Books is all about. I sat down with Trip and Chris (sadly, Robert was unable to join) prior to the launch of the Kickstarter campaign to fund Bona Book’s first anthology, I Want That Twink OBLITERATED!, which met its full fundraising goal in less than 32 hours after officially launching on September 13th, 2023, and was picked as a “Project We Love” by Kickstarter themselves. Our conversation was playful as much as insightful as we spoke about the innate queerness of science fiction and fantasy, obliterating twinks memes, and the space they hope Bona Books can hold in the world of publishing. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

First, I’d love to know a little bit about each of you and how books and reading were a part of your upbringing.

Chris: I was very much one of those kids who always had a book at all points. My earliest memories are all book-related. When I was very very young the way my dad would coax me to have a bath was he’d read to me. So, I have recollections of him reading The Hobbit and Sherlock Holmes stories. He read me the entirety of The Hobbit in installments and got to the end and I was like, ‘Yeah, this great! I love it!’ [Chris’s dad said] ‘There is a sequel, I’m not reading you that.’ [Laughs]. At age 8 or 9, I embarked on reading The Lord of The Rings and it took me about six months.

And by that time you were old enough to bathe yourself, I’m assuming?

Chris: Yes [laughs]. So, yeah, always been a bit of a bookworm and it’s kind of almost always been genre fiction. As I grew up I read lit-fic as well, but when I was going to the library as a child it was always straight to the science fiction and fantasy section. It was always the genre stuff. [Referring to the first part of the question] I’m probably a bit of a jack-of-all-trades as anyone who writes these days is. I don’t support myself writing. I’m a civil servant working for His Majesty’s government. I have had some short fiction published, I’ve got a novella that I’m working on with Trip here, which will be my first foray into editing, which is really exciting and, I suppose, in terms of how I slot into Bona Books and the Kickstarter is that one of my big skillsets in terms of my civilian life is project management. I’m the hyper-organized person who has a spreadsheet for everything so, I’m kind of the central admin making sure the Kickstarter gets off the ground. 

Trip: My first book was Go, Dog. Go! I forced my parents to read it to me so many times that I eventually learned to read just recognizing the words on the page from what they were reading me and they had to repair it multiple times with duct tape because I read it to the point it fell apart. I basically grew up on the road. My parents were professional Rodeo athletes so, I was on the Rodeo circuit in the back of the pick-up truck all the time. I would have a stack of books and that’s how I would keep myself entertained. I would just read as they drove. And then when I got older I very much just went straight for that fantasy section, but I grew up in the middle of absolute nowhere in the pre-Amazon days, not to date myself. So, I had to build my own science fiction and fantasy library and I went through a period of wearing nothing but cargo pants because the pockets on either side of the pair of cargo pants: exact right size and shape for a  mass-market paperback. I could have two, on the go, at the same time, which was necessary because I just read too much. 

I do support myself just with writing. That’s a mix of ghostwriting, a small bit of copywriting, and my debut novel is coming out 12th September, it’s called The Market of Dreams and Destiny and it’s out from Titan. That’s been a crazy experience. And in terms of Bona Books, I have started, and ran, and head-editored a small science fiction and fantasy magazine, which I did as part of my doctoral studies while I was a doctoral candidate as an extra project because I certainly didn’t have enough to do. [Laughs] That’s not a habit I’ve gotten into at all. So, I have done a bit of this contracts and acquiring short fiction before. But this is very much my first foray into doing it a bit more seriously. 

And just to jump in for Robert, I know a whole bunch of his stories. Robert’s grandfather was a lawyer and Robert lived with his grandfather growing up. [W]hen he was very little, [his grandfather would] take him out to see the moon and would tell him stories from Shakespeare and mythology. And then he obviously got into reading and one of his earliest memories with a book is he had this book, I don’t remember what book it is unfortunately, and he went to a petting zoo and the goat literally ate his book. Outrage ensued from there. He is [also] another big fantasy nerd. He works as a professional copyeditor and proofreader. He works with some actual publishers and he works freelance as well. In Bona Books, he is the eye-to-detail editorial and about ten years ago he had a reviews blog where he did a lot of pop culture reviews, including media. And so he has reviewed a lot of authors, some of whom may now be appearing as solicited authors in our anthology efforts.

That’s amazing! Storytelling has been a huge part of all of your upbringings and your lives thus far. What is the story of how the three of you came together? 

Trip: So, it will be Robert and my anniversary in October and we will have been together for… math, math, math… 16 years. So we’ve been together for yonks and then we moved over here six years ago for me to pursue a doctorate and five of those years ago we met Chris? Four and a half of those years ago? 

Chris: That sounds about right. 

Trip: I was doing my studies and lecturing in Cambridge and Chris was working at Cambridge and we have a mutual friend who introduced us and we just started meeting every week after I got done lecturing and after he finished work. We’d go to the pub, we’d have a pint or two and we would talk about, oh, I don’t know, science fiction and fantasy, and books, and writing for a couple of hours at a go before I caught the train back and he went to make dinner. 

At what point did those conversations turn into, ‘should we start a press??’

Trip: So, that sort of goes: group chat, meme, Chris comes into the kitchen (cuz we all live together now, three of us we share a flat called The Writer Flat in London) but I’ve talked for a lot so I’m going to let Chris talk.

Chris: You’re the one with the charismatic storytelling ability! 

Trip: Says the man who just got a short story published? Woo woo!

Chris: We’re not going to have this fight right now! [Laughs] Yeah, as Trip said, the meme came first. If you look it up on Know Your Meme there’s a little bit of a history to it. Originally there was a Wattpad comment and it took off a bit on the internet and it got picked up by Anthony Olivera, the comics writer and is in a Lords of Empyre: Emperor Hulkling and it’s thrown at the Marvel character, Wiccan, by the villain and he [Olivera] talks about the fact that it was him kind of wanting to queer the text of the comic so, that not only is there a queer character in it but it’s this queer culture reference that gay readers will spot in the language that’s being used and will be talking to them in a way that comics, even when they normally have queer characters in them don’t talk in that way. 

Anyway, that’s all by-the-by. We were making “I want that twink obliterated” jokes and I think Robert said, ‘That would be a great title for an anthology!” laugh, laugh, laugh, chat chat, chat. And that just stuck in my head for a second. I was like, “We have the skills. We have the technology. I’m ridiculously organized, Robert has a load of contacts and is an editor and proofreader, Trip has run a magazine before.” So I walked into the kitchen and was like, “Trip, we could actually do this.” And then we paused and went, yeah we could, couldn’t we? And I think it was about a minute before we got to, “We’re doing this aren’t we.” It was very much like that.  

Trip: Yeah, I have that scene burned in my mind. Just Chris coming into the kitchen and being like, we could do this… do we have to do this, do we need to do this… beat… I think we need to do this. Yeah. 

What else was underneath that need? There has to be something really grounding to take something that’s like, a fun meme, jokey thing [seriously]. I know so many people, including myself, who will joke with friends about, ‘Oh my god we should do this or we should do that” so, what exactly was it that really made that pivot to this is not just a joke anymore, we’re doing it?

Chris: For me, I’d say, it’s a real burning desire to see queer narratives out there in the world. Particularly, in science fiction and fantasy. Particularly, unapologetic queer narratives written by queer authors. Representation has gotten a bit better in science fiction and fantasy over the last few years. But… often queer characters written by non-queer people do better. My instinct would be that, we feel so starved for it and we so desperately want it to exist. To see that representation, to see the community that we love and the people that we love reflected in stories that we love. As soon as we realized, “Oh, that’s a good idea, that’s a good enough idea that people will like it,” not only do we have the skills to do it but, I think, if we put that out into the world and put it in front of people, people will back that. Because if it was an ok idea and you’re pushing a boulder up a hill, maybe you’d think twice. But it seemed like such an obviously good idea that it would be pushing through an open door. And if we have that opportunity and we can make those stories happen, then I think, like Trip said, it wasn’t really a choice. 

Trip: Yeah, It sort of felt like a foregone conclusion. Like the decision made us, we did not make the decision. [Laughs]

On that note, can you please pitch the I Want That Twink OBLITERATED! anthology and tell the readers at Geeks OUT what it and the Kickstarter is all about? And who are you hoping to reach?

Trip: I Want That Twink OBLITERATED!, is a fun meme. It is irreverent and it speaks directly to the community and that is, first and foremost, who we are hoping to do this for and who we are hoping to reach. It’s those portions of the queer community that loves science fiction and fantasy and those portions of  science fiction and fantasy who love queer content, be they queer themselves or allies. The concept of the anthology itself is classic pulp, science fiction, fantasy, and horror. The sort of things you would find on the shelf in like, the 40’s/50’s in those old magazines like, Weird Tales that were, for so long, a mainstay of not only the genre, but also the community. [T]hose magazines were such an ongoing conversation. Science fiction and fantasy is fantastic because of the feedback between fandom and the authors and between authors themselves. Science fiction and fantasy more than other genres are ongoing conversations about ideas. And you get those so much in those old pulp magazines where people would write in, and they would have ideas, and they would discuss this, that, and the other. 

So, it was really about that core root nurturing amazing part of science fiction and fantasy that a lot of minorities were shut out of in those days. Not just sexual or gender minorities, but all kinds of people who were just not invited to the conversation or had to work very very hard to get their voices heard in the conversation. We want that sort of classic pulp fun, but we want non-traditionally masculine heroes and villains. We’re talking, twinks so, The Obliterators and The Obliterated, we want to take the fantastic rich heritage and inheritance that we have from that period of science fiction and fantasy, but we want our part of that. We want our portion of that inheritance. We want the queer heroes, the queer villains, the unabashedly homosexual dialogue. Queerness has a culture to it. And it’s a whole collection of different cultures. But the way it intersects with fantasy and science fiction and these literatures of the possible it’s super exciting! It is that sense of new possibilities and new horizons, but in it, unrepentantly queer. 

Chris came up with several examples as part of our guidelines for publication and so we’re really hoping to see stories with like, trans berserkers fueled by queer rage, we want stories with gender-fluid starship captains, and a rainbow band of rogue’s crew stashing across the universe and having amazing pulpy adventures, we want stories with li-ter-al demon twinks. Unapologetically science fiction and fantasy and unapologetically queer. 

As you’re talking I’m just thinking about how sci-fi and fantasy are the perfect vehicles for queer stories and it’s hard to not feel like… I don’t know, I think about watching Star Trek with my dad back in the day. I feel like all of it has to be queer-coded in some way because it’s all about the expansion of the human experience and beyond. Those stories are so important, I think as we’re navigating who are we and what is this world and what is our part in it. Especially, with these political environments that keep wanting to make everything smaller and more binary. There’s not really a question there, just kind of a word vomit. I don’t know if you have any response to that. 

Chris: I think I completely agree with you. It speaks to queer experience. It probably, I cannot speak to this with any authority, but I suspect it also speaks to other forms of minority experiences as well. It’s all about moving towards the boundaries of what’s socially permissible. It’s about imagining other worlds. Or, at least, when it’s done well, it is. You have the sort of classic Star Trek format of every week they’re in another planet, every week it’s another problem planet and so, obviously, it’s never going to be, Oh yes! They turn up on a planet that’s exactly like ours, all of the cultural mores are exactly the same, and all the dominant assumptions are just reinforced. That’s never going to be what the story is. So, yeah, inherently you end up in that sort of marginalized space because that’s where the boundaries get pushed. That’s where the interesting things are. 

How do you think about that tension now where, as you mentioned before, there does seem to be more representation? It is a bit better, but it’s also such a heteronormative sphere that keeps caving in on everyone and also in on itself? I don’t even know if there’s really a question in there either, but in some ways, and to use Star Trek again, in the 60’s or in the Next Generation there is this huge, expansive feel to it. It feels like things have gotten just a bit more compressed.

Trip: Yeah, that’s a really interesting question because you can approach from multiple angles. If we’re talking, for example, publishing. Since this is an anthology, we’re a small press, we’re putting out queer work by queer authors, hopefully (support the Kickstarter!). If you look at the publishing ecosystem right now, 20 years ago you had the big 6, the big 7. There was a healthy mid-list, there was a healthy variety of imprints. We’re down to a big 4 and a lot of those medium-sized publishers have been swallowed up. There’s been a concentration of editorial talent and complete evaporation of editorial attention because people don’t have enough time. They don’t have enough time to do all the work. So, you get these big publishing houses, 20-30 years ago 20% of the books supported the other 80% in terms of sales if we’re talking just cold, hard, cash numbers, which I absolutely hate talking about, but that’s what it is. But now, the way the publishing industry has consolidated, we’re looking much more at 5% of titles bringing in all the money and covering the other 95%. So, there’s a lot more focus on those 5% of titles and publishing, like we’ve seen in Hollywood, they don’t like to take risks. If their financial continuation depends on 5% of titles hitting it big, they’re not going to take creative risks because that is much harder to predict. They’re not going to pump all of their marketing dollars behind those edge titles. Even if sometimes they do well. Even if they are excellent in their own right and there is an audience there for them. 

It’s so interesting because it seems very antithetical to financial advice where you want to diversify your portfolio. When you’re limiting yourself  by putting all of your eggs in one basket [it’s] kind of asking for a big problem down the line, which I think we’re definitely seeing in Hollywood at the moment with the strikes and everything, or one aspect of it. So, where does Bona Books fit into all of that for you? 

Trip: It’s a passion project, you know, we’re doing this because it is important to us. I can’t remember if this is Toni Morrison or not, I could be horribly misattributing this quote, but it’s something to the effect of, “If you can’t find the book you want to read, you have to go out and write it.” And that sort of sentiment has come up again, and again, and again on almost every single panel discussion I have been on with queer writers writing queer science fiction and fantasy. The queer stories that they want to read don’t exist. So they’re going out and creating them and they are writing them themselves. Chris, Robert, and I we do have the knowledge and the skills to take a run at producing anthologies of queer fiction for queer people and a wider audience and, between the three of us, we have the stability to take on a passion project like this. We’re not doing this to get rich or make money, like, publishing is not a great way to make money generally, with very few, small exceptions making it look the other way. We’re doing it because we love it and we can offer our skills and we can offer our time. We can offer as much of ourselves as we can spare to bring these things into the world so that they’re there for people to find. 

Chris: That’s the proper answer and all the focus should be on that. I’ll add that… in the back of my head I do have a little 5-year plan that’s going along. I think particularly with the Kickstarter and with how crowdfunding works we have to take it one day at a time, trying to get as many people as possible to hear about the Kickstarter. If the Kickstarter doesn’t happen then this doesn’t go anywhere. But we put a book together and, if that goes well, we’ll put another book together, then we’ve got a lot of experience under our belt at that point talking to publishers and working on layout and doing the editorial work. And if it’s successful, if there’s a bit of extra money in the kitty we can look at getting some novellas published, we’ll have more contacts… there’s a plan, but I don’t want to get out in front of my skis. I would love in five years time for it to be this little, small press. We’re never going to be doing dozens of books a year. But if a couple of times a year we put out something that people go, “Oh yeah, I always check out what Bona Books puts out because it’s got a really queer voice and they support and lift up queer writers” I would be chuffed a bit. 

As a debut author, Trip, with your book coming out around the same time as this Kickstarter, how is your mental health?

Trip: [MANIACAL LAUGHTER] Just insert maniacal laughter here. 

I will, literally, put that in the text [laughs in less maniacal]

Trip: I think the most generous term I can use is overclocked. There’s the book coming out, I am working very hard on the sequel right now, and then the Kickstarter and some other things that are all happening in September. So, yeah I’m slightly overclocked. But, I can’t complain because what am I doing? I’m writing queer science fiction and fantasy and I am working with my best friends in the world to produce more of it! 

Chris: The book is so good! 

That’s excellent. It’s so exciting! Is there anything else that I didn’t ask about that you would like to touch on?

Trip: While we do have solicited offers for this anthology, it is very important to us to foster new voices from the community. We want to get the word out to as many queer creatives and other minority creatives as we possibly can. We want your science fiction, fantasy, pulp, adventure stories starring twinks. You can be pro-twink, you can be anti-twink, put a twink in there as a hero, put a twink in there as a villain, we want to hear from every color of the queer rainbow. Send us your stuff please, please send us your stuff! We especially want to hear from women, we want to hear from… 

Chris: …We’d love to get more non-binary and trans authors on board, that would be wonderful, particularly given the non-trad masculine aspect of the anthology. That would be beautiful. As Trip said, every single stripe of the progress flag should be represented if possible. 

Trip: Writers of color, everyone. 

Where can people reach out to you if they have something to share?

Chris: We will have a submission guide linked to and funneled through the Kickstarter and we’ll basically open for submissions as soon as we know we’re funded.

To support the funding of Bona Books, the production of their first anthology I Want That Twink OBLITERATED!, future releases by them, and to submit your own work head to their Kickstarter page linked here. Also, be sure to also follow them on all the socials @bonabooksltd

Header art by Stephen Andrade