Interview with Gabi Burton, Author of Sing Me to Sleep

Gabi Burton grew up reading and writing in St. Louis, Missouri. She graduated from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine in 2021. Now, she works as a paralegal and author on the East Coast. When she’s not working or writing, she’s probably watching Netflix, scrolling through Twitter, or finding beautiful places to walk—preferably near a body of water.

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

Thanks for having me! I’m Gabi and I’m a YA fantasy author. In my every day life, I’m a paralegal who never wants to be a lawyer. When I’m not writing, reading, or working, I’m probably watching something trashy on Netflix or out for a walk somewhere.

What can you tell us about your debut book, Sing Me to Sleep? What was the inspiration for the project?

Sing Me to Sleep is about a siren named Saoirse who lives in a kingdom where her existence is illegal. She lives in disguise in her kingdom’s army by day, and at night, she satisfies her craving to kill as an assassin. When she becomes a bodyguard to the crown prince, she’s enlisted to help him track down a deadly assassin— but he doesn’t know the killer they’re looking for is actually Saoirse.

I got the inspiration for Sing Me to Sleep while on a zoom call with author friends. It was Spooky Season so we were talking about monsters and someone mentioned sirens. I’d always loved mermaids and sirens and I thought the idea of sirens as monsters was really compelling. The first element of Sing Me to Sleep was Saoirse as a character. I knew I wanted to play around with the idea of her monstrosity. I wanted her to be a flawed character who is beautiful, deadly, out of place, and more powerful than she knows how to handle. The world of Keirdre and the rest of the story developed around how I wanted her to feel and how I wanted her to show up in the world.

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

I can’t remember what first drew me into wanting to tell stories because I’ve wanted to be an author since before I can remember. As a kid, I used to bounce a ball against the wall for hours on end and tell myself stories in my mind. I kept track of character names and plot points in notebooks I hid around my room. When I started middle school, I got a laptop and started typing those stories out. They were all awful of course and they’ll never see the light of day but at the time, I loved them.

Because I started writing as a kid, I first wrote books for kids about kids. I was writing from the only perspective I knew at the time. As I grew up, my characters tended to grow up with me. When I aged past my characters, I started writing stories for childhood me, a Black girl who read voraciously but never about people who looked like her. I wanted to write books she would have loved, with characters she could see herself in.

If I’m being honest, I never actually wanted to write fantasy. All the books I wrote before Sing Me to Sleep were completely different genres. I loved reading fantasy, but writing it felt too daunting since I wasn’t the biggest fan of worldbuilding or descriptions. When I became fascinated by the idea of writing about a siren, I decided to bite the bullet and write fantasy. I fell in love with writing the genre as well as reading it. And now, all my ideas for future books are fantasy and I want to add magic to every non-fantasy idea I’ve ever had. So, I wasn’t drawn to writing fantasy as a genre so much as I was drawn to writing about a mythical creature that forced me to step outside my comfort zone in order to tell her story.

How would you describe your creative process?

My creative process tends to be very character driven. I’m a plotter, first and foremost, which means I need an outline before I can start writing. But before I even get to the outline stage, I have to know my characters. Most of my ideas start with a main character, before I even have a plot. I match character concepts with ideas I have for a premise. The characters shape the premise and vice versa until they fit together. After that, I outline. I usually outline until just before the climax and then write the book up until that point, edit it a few times, and after a few rounds of revisions without an ending, I finally figure out how I want the story to end. After that, I can finish writing the book and I’m free to edit over and over again some more.

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

Characters are easily my favorite part of writing! I love digging into their brains, exploring why they are the way they are, and what experiences they’ve had that shaped them into who they are. In that same vein, writing character dynamics and dialogue are some of my favorite parts of writing.

There are a lot of elements of writing that are battling it out for most difficult. I think the hardest part of the writing process changes depending on my mood and what aspect of writing is giving me grief in the moment. That said, endings are definitely on the list of the most challenging aspects of writing. And so is drafting. And I’ll add descriptions in there as well. It takes me several drafts before I figure out how I want a story to end, and even after that, I tend to rewrite my endings more than any other part of the book. Drafting is one of the most frustrating parts of writing because first drafts are inevitably terrible and powering through a rough first draft is hard. Descriptions make the list because I’m not naturally a very visual person so I have to use parts of my brain that normally lie dormant when I write descriptions, especially descriptions of people.

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

I definitely didn’t see myself reflected in any books I read as a kid. I don’t think I read a single book by a Black author about a Black person doing something other than being a slave or living through segregation before I was twenty. That said, I read lots of books that, though not reflective of me, I loved and I think are really influential to my writing now. I could rave about Kristin Cashore forever. She’s the author who made me fall in love with fantasy as a genre and a prime example of how to write strong female characters. Graceling and Fire will forever be some of my favorite YA fantasy books of all time.

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

I love streaming but I have horrifying TV watching habits. I rarely finish TV shows. I have a habit of switching shows whenever a character annoys me too much. Which means I tend to switch shows about once a week. I love rewatching shows but I usually start from the beginning so I’ve only actually finished, from start to end, a handful of shows. If you asked me my favorite TV show, I’d probably say something like The Good Wife or Grey’s Anatomy but technically, I haven’t finished either and probably never will. It drives my friends crazy.

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 is your favorite mermaid or siren related media? H2O: Just Add Water! I absolutely adored that show as a kid. My whole family knew when it was on, I had dibs on the good TV in the living room because I was obsessed. It’s currently on Netflix and sometimes I rewatch a few episodes to see if it’s as great as I remember. It always is.

What advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

Finish the book! An estimated 97% of people who start writing a book never finish it. If you finish the book, you’re already in the 97th percentile of all aspiring authors. Of course, that’s easier said than done. When writing, all authors run into the inevitable moment (many, many, many times) where you doubt yourself and think the book you’re writing is awful.

I’ll go ahead and spoil it for you: it is awful. But that’s ok. Your first draft, especially for your first book, is allowed to be awful. That doesn’t mean it can’t become great with time and edits. You have to let it be bad in order for it to have a chance to be good. It’s easiest if you have encouragement. Writer friends to write with you, cheer you on, and boost your ego can be invaluable to cranking out that first book.

Any specific advice for those wishing to write fantasy or picture books?

Detailed worldbuilding can be fun but know when to let go. A lot of authors spend a ton of time developing every element of their fantastical worlds. They know the name of every kind of made-up flower and when they bloom. The know the pH of the water in their fictional rivers. They know the history of their kingdom’s monarchy going back 1,000 years. There’s nothing wrong with that! Knowing your world to that level of detail can help immerse you in the story. But remember that just because it’s knowledge you have, doesn’t mean it’s information that should go into the book! Know your world inside and out, build the world so readers can envision it, but not every detail you crafted about your story should make it into the book. Those details might be useful for informing your writing process but that doesn’t mean it’s relevant information your reader is interested in, especially if the only way to convey it is through info dumps.

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

I’m working on the sequel to Sing Me to Sleep now. It’s called Drown Me With Dreams and it’s set to come out in June 2024!

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

Anything by Kristin Cashore! For more recent fantasy books (by Black authors!) I’d recommend Daughters of Jubilation by Kara Lee Corthron, Blood Scion by Deborah Falaye, The Blood Trials by N.E. Davenport (it’s a blend of sci-fi and fantasy), and Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury. There are a few upcoming Black fantasy books I’m super excited about as well, including So Let Them Burn by Kamilah Cole and The Poisons We Drink by Bethany Baptiste.

Interview with Eunnie, author of If You’ll Have Me

Eunnie is a Korean-American illustrator based in Washington. She loves exploring relationships through her art and writing, and finds much joy in the portrayal of queer intimacy. When she’s not cooking up new stories, Eunnie spends her time napping, watching video essays, and collecting hoodies in every color. Follow her @eunnieboo

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

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

Hi, I’m Eunnie, and I’m a lesbian illustrator and cartoonist. I love drawing and writing character interactions, watching animated films, and singing, especially while I work. Happy to be here!

What can you tell us about your debut graphic novel, If You’ll Have Me? What inspired you to create this project?

If You’ll Have Me is a YA sapphic romcom about two girls named Momo and PG. It’s a quiet love story about communication and intimacy, inspired by the sweet, fluffy feelings of shoujo manga and my own desire to see a queer college romance.

Can you give us any trivia (that hasn’t already been given) about the characters from If You’ll Have Me?

Oh I love this! Yes.


  • the type to carry everything in her bag or purse—she’s always extra prepared when she goes out
  • loves RPGs, but will usually avoid first-person games because they tend to give her motion-sickness
  • played the flute in high school band


  • fell out of a treehouse and dislocated her right wrist when she was young—she became left-handed because of this
  • secretly hates spiders but will never admit it because she likes being Momo’s knight in shining armor
  • would probably be interested in audio engineering

How did you find yourself getting into storytelling, especially comics/graphic novels? What drew you to the medium?

I’ve always liked telling stories, whether it be in conversation, writing, or art, but whenever I drew an illustration, I’d often feel like one picture wasn’t enough! Comics seemed like the next logical step, especially since I was already a fan of manga and webcomics. The fact that you can just pick up a pencil and create a world all your own, with endless opportunity to fill it with everything you love… It’s so exciting and so good.

How would you describe your art background?

I’ve been drawing ever since I was little. Around seventh grade, my brother gave me my very first tablet, and I became obsessed with digital art. When I was in high school I started seriously considering it as a career. I went to art college, got a degree in design, and now I work full time as a production artist for a small game company.

How would you describe your creative process?

On a typical illustration, I tend to jump around a lot. I’ll start coloring before I’m done inking, or I’ll have multiple WIPs up so I can constantly be doing whatever I’m most interested in. For my graphic novel, I had to focus on one part of the process at a time, so that was a bit of a challenge, mentally!

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

I’m constantly inspired by the artists I follow and the stories I read. I have a special place in my heart for indie comics—ShortBox Comics Fair is coming up soon, and that’s always such a treat. Music is a big source of inspiration for me, too. I often find myself wishing that I could make others feel the way a song makes me feel. I want my art to evoke emotions like that.

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

I can’t recall any stories that spoke to me in terms of my identity, so I think the closest answer might be A Series of Unfortunate Events. At the time, I felt it really grasped the unfairness of being a child, and having adults dismiss or belittle you because you’re young. Nowadays, I think My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness captured a lot of feelings I had as well, about sexuality, anxiety, and self-doubt.

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

It might not be apparent in my art, but I do enjoy horror! I’m too much of a weenie to watch most horror movies (unless I know literally everything that’s about to happen), but I like watching in-depth reviews and reading scary stories. I think it’s a genre that deserves more recognition.

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

So this isn’t really a specific question but I just wanted to talk about games because I keep hearing about Baldur’s Gate 3 and I’m like, do I need to get this? I don’t know if I’d be any good at D&D, but I’ve always been curious about it. The character creation is so intriguing to me. Disco Elysium has also been on my radar, and I’m dying to pick up Ghost Trick and River City Girls 2, but there’s still favorites I want to revisit, like Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing and Splatoon… Ahh! I miss playing games.

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

I’m currently writing the script for my second YA graphic novel! It’s another sapphic romance, and it’s going to be a bit more serious in tone—something more fantastical and dramatic. I still have a long way to go, but I’m really excited. I can’t wait to share more, in due time.

What advice might you have to give to aspiring creatives, especially those interested in working on their own graphic novels one day?

Wow there’s so much I could say, but for brevity’s sake: If you want to get into traditional publishing, you’ll need multiple sources of income or some kind of support system in place. The reality is, if I tried to live off the first quarter of my book advance alone, I wouldn’t have been able to afford rent. I got by because I had another job with a steady paycheck and health insurance, and friends who looked out for me. I think artists tend to deal with this sort of thing because we love what we do so much… but it’s still labor. And until the conditions in these industries improve, you’ve got to take care of yourself.

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

I’m personally fond of the Kase-san series by Hiromi Takashima. It’s just so sweet and gives me the most fluttery feelings. More recently, I started reading She Loves to Cook, and She Loves to Eat by Sakaomi Yuzaki, and I’ve been enjoying that too!

Interview with Anna Sortino, Author of Give Me a Sign

Anna Sortino is a young adult author who writes stories about disabled characters living their lives and falling in love. She’s Deaf and passionate about diverse representation in media. Born and raised in the Chicagoland area, Anna has since lived in different cities from coast to coast, spending her free time exploring nature with her dog or reading on the couch with her cat. Give Me a Sign is her debut novel.

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

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

Thanks for having me! I’m Anna Sortino, and I’m the author of the upcoming YA novel Give Me a Sign. When I’m not writing, I love spending time outside, crafting, and obsessing over my pets. Originally from Chicago, I’ve since lived in DC, CA, and soon, NC.

What can you tell us about your debut book, Give Me a Sign? What was the inspiration for this story?

Give Me a Sign is a sweet YA contemporary romance novel set at a camp for deaf and blind kids. Lilah wears hearing aids and feels caught between deaf and hearing. She gets a job for the summer where she finds community, brushes up on her ASL skills, and falls for a cute Deaf counselor. It’s up to Lilah to find where she belongs, especially when the comfort of camp is no match for struggles in the real world.

The main inspiration for this novel was the setting. Growing up, I went to a similar camp. We were kids enjoying the summer, hanging out in the lake, getting mosquito bites and sunburn, and eating tons of s’mores. We were loud, animated, and eager for interactions in the Deaf community that many of us didn’t have access to back home. When it comes to disabilities, there are always a lot of stereotypes or assumptions at play. I wanted to use this setting to write a book full of disabled characters, showing a wide range of experiences, while centering joy.

How did you find yourself getting into storytelling, particularly young adult and romance? What drew you to those things?

Growing up, I was always a big reader, hiding away with a book whenever attempting conversation grew too taxing. After deciding upon the idea for Give Me a Sign, I realized summer camp was the perfect setting for a teen romance! Young Adult explores the time in our lives when we’re figuring out where we fit into the wider world and what things are most important to us. It’s a great age category to explore questions about identity and belonging.

How would you describe your creative process?

Bursts of frantic creativity and lulls of stalled frustration.

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

My greatest influences are some of the amazing disability advocates out there doing the work. Every time Imani Barbarin (@crutches_and_spice) comes across my newsfeed, or an incredible documentary like Crip Camp makes its way to Netflix, I’m reminded that our stories are important and deserve to be told.

As someone who is part of the d/Deaf/HOH community, disability seems to be a strong element in your work. How did you set about representation in your book, particularly representing a three-dimensional language like ASL, or general Deaf culture onto the page?

I grew up in a household with a mix of significant hearing and vision losses, so to me, accessibility can be commonplace, as simple as watching tv on a school night with closed captions while voicing aloud anything that might be hard to view on screen. My entire life I’ve been surrounded by disability. Since my hearing aids can be an obvious giveaway, many people have felt comfortable sharing their otherwise invisible disabilities with me. Some might consider the sheer volume of disabled characters in Give Me a Sign as extraordinary, but I know for a fact that a novel with an entirely able-bodied cast is not an accurate representation of the world we live in.

When it comes to depicting a visual language like ASL on the page, each Deaf author puts their own spin on it. Since Give Me a Sign is a first-person story told from Lilah’s perspective, it was important to me that the ASL read how she was internally interpreting it. As her comprehension progresses throughout the novel, so does the complexity of the signed translation.

What advice would you give for authors for portraying disability (whether that of their own or of others) within their own work?

For those wanting to write a novel with a more inclusive cast of characters, please do your research and utilize authenticity readers. So much of our disabilities make us who we are, therefore it’s not as simple as creating a character and sprinkling a disability on top. Also, consider whether you are the right person to tell a certain narrative—disabled people should first and foremost be the authors of our own stories, because for far too long, that hasn’t been the case.

For disabled authors, know that while infusing your experiences into fiction can be cathartic, don’t feel like you have to give every piece of yourself to the world. It’s okay to keep some distance so any negative comments that may come about your novel won’t shatter your self-worth. Also, support your fellow disabled authors since we’re in this together, and the world needs all our stories and perspectives.

What’s something about Deafness/disability you might want someone to take away from this interview?

Deafness is a spectrum, and every individual has their own experience with it. Kids with hearing loss aren’t born with an innate knowledge of ASL, so it’s important to foster community and shared learning so that children can flourish with the benefits of Deaf culture.

What are some of your favorite elements of writing? What are some of the most challenging?

I absolutely LOVE revising. The hard part of getting all those initial words down on the page is over, and I get to play around in this new world I’ve created. During drafting, I might struggle to write a hundred words, but during revising, I could blink and have accidentally written five thousand new ones. It’s like the pressure is off—this book is a real thing and now I can totally enjoy creating it.

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

Meet my writer’s assistants! I’ve got a mischievous Shiba Inu named Mika, and a daring little orange cat named Zuko. Both find it of the utmost importance to obstruct my keyboard and remind me to stand up every once and a while.

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

“Are you a hand model?” And the answer is, kind of!

To help my illustrator (the incredibly talented Christina Chung) get the positioning just right on the cover of Give Me a Sign, I took reference photos of my partner and I signing the words used. The result was such perfect and life-like signing!

Follow up question, “So what are the characters saying on the cover?”

Lilah is signing “right!” while Isaac signs “interesting.”

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

Ah there’s much in the works that I wish I could discuss! I will say that my next YA project has been referred to as a “slightly older sibling to Give Me a Sign”, and I can’t wait to share more about that one soon.

What advice might you have to give to aspiring writers?

Find people who will help make your journey more bearable. It’s no secret that publishing is tumultuous, and you’ll want to make friends with fellow writers who understand the ins and outs of the querying and submission processes. Because no matter how many times you explain it to folks outside the industry, they won’t fully understand why some piece of news has you either dancing around the room or crying into your pillow. That’s what your writer friends are for.

Finally, what books/authors, including possibly those related to Deafness/disability, would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?

I could rec books for daaaaays. To keep it short and sweet, here are some great reads by Deaf authors:

Middle Grade – Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte

Young Adult – The Loudest Silence by Sydney Langford (summer 2024)

Adult – True Biz by Sara Nović

Interview with Crystal Maldonado

Crystal Maldonado is a young adult author with a lot of feelings. She is the author of romcoms for fat, brown girls, including The Fall of Whit Rivera, which will be released Oct. 10, 2023; Fat Chance, Charlie Vega, which was a New England Book Award winner, a Cosmopolitan Best New Book, and a Kirkus Best YA Fiction of 2021; and No Filter and Other Lies, which was named a POPSUGAR and Seventeen Best New YA.

By day, Crystal works in higher ed marketing, and by night, she’s a writer who loves Beyoncé, glitter, shopping, and spending too much time on her phone. Her work has been published in Latina, BuzzFeed, and the Hartford Courant. She lives in western Massachusetts with her husband, daughter, and dog. Follow her everywhere @crystalwrote.

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

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

Hi, Geeks OUT! Thank you so much for having me. I’m a young adult author who writes inclusive stories for fat, brown girls that hopefully make you laugh and swoon at the same time. I’ve long been a huge fan of the YA genre, especially as a reader. Romcoms are the way to my heart! Outside of reading and writing, I love shopping (I’m obsessed with anything glitter and I collect quirky earrings), rewatching “Gilmore Girls,” playing Animal Crossing, boy bands, TikTok, and Beyoncé.

What can you tell us about your latest book, No Filter and Other Lies? What inspired the story?

“No Filter and Other Lies” follows 17-year-old Kat Sanchez, a fat, Puerto Rican photographer who’s obsessed with Instagram. While grappling with typical teenage insecurities and some difficult family dynamics, she becomes fixated on gaining clout on IG. When that doesn’t happen naturally, Kat takes matters into her own hands: she steals her friend and co-worker’s photos, makes a new identity on Instagram, and starts to catfish (or #katfish, in Kat’s case). Suddenly she gets that attention she’s always wanted, but it all comes crashing down when Kat meets a follower she develops feelings for and she has to decide whether to come clean or keep up the lie.

This story was my attempt at writing about a fat girl whose fatness wasn’t integral to the story, and who was, quite frankly, a little unlikeable. Kat’s decision to steal her friend’s photos is awful! But don’t we all sometimes do things we’re not proud of? I wanted to explore that imperfection through her story, and also shed some light on how immense the pressures of social media can sometimes feel, especially when you’re a teenager. I hope I accomplished that!

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

Young adult fiction has always been my favorite, and I’ve been reading it for as long as I can remember. I was absolutely obsessed with the “Gossip Girl” (by Cecily von Ziegesar), “Making Waves” (by Katherine Applegate), and “California Diaries” (by Ann M. Martin) series when I was in high school. I also read a ton by Paula Danziger and Sarah Dessen. I would devour those types of books, finishing them in a day!

As a writer, I can’t help but be drawn to young adult fiction, especially contemporary romance. First, I’m such a sucker for those first feelings—the swooning, the loaded glances, the butterflies! I also think a lot of our teen experiences and the big, raw emotions that come with it are universal, and there is something very comforting reading about others who feel the same way you do. I also think YA allows you to explore important issues, like identity and sexuality, in meaningful and nuanced ways, which is important to me.

No Filter and Other Lies is said to feature queer and Latinx representation. What does it mean to you as an author writing this into your work?

When I was a young reader, I rarely saw these parts of myself in books I was reading. There were so few queer characters; many Latinx characters were stereotypes; fat characters were never the love interest; and forget about characters that had one or more of those identities. You just didn’t see that. So, even though I loved books, the lack of representation often made me wonder if books loved me back. I knew as an author I wanted to try to fix that by creating characters that I’d have appreciated when I was a teenager in hopes that readers might pick up my books and feel less alone.  

How would you describe your writing process? What inspires you as a writer?

My writing process is definitely chaotic. I wish I could say I was one of those pragmatic authors who has a specific routine, who is great about creating outlines, who sits down and writes 1,000 words per day, but none of that is true. My writing is very much about feelings and daydreaming. I spend so much time imagining my characters, who they are, what scenarios they’ll find themselves in, and what might happen—all before I even write one word! Once I develop the characters, then I’m usually able to sit down and figure out a rough outline, but I very much change direction as I’m going.

Sometimes I’m inspired by other media I consume, like books, movies, music, or TV shows, but sometimes my inspiration comes from personal experience or even small things. The idea for my upcoming book, “The Fall of Whit Rivera,” came to me when I was sitting in a rainy parking lot waiting to get my daughter from daycare and drinking a pumpkin spice coffee. So, I never know when inspiration may strike, and I kind of love that!

What are some of your favorite elements of writing? What are some of the most challenging for you?

One of my favorite parts of writing is getting to know the characters. It sounds really silly to say since the characters aren’t real, but you get to a point where they feel real, you know? After a while, you start to know what your character would or wouldn’t do. I also love writing dialogue! For me, that’s how I build on the relationships between characters in an authentic way. But I’ll admit I find plotting and outlining to be challenging. I’m very much that person who sometimes thinks, “Can I forget the plot and just write on vibes and feelings?”

One of the hardest parts of writing a book is finishing one. Were there any techniques/ strategies/ advice that help you finish a first draft?

Don’t edit while you write! This used to be my biggest downfall. I would go back and re-read my book over and over and over and then get hung up on the editing, which would slow down the writing. Now I try to write a first draft as fast as I can and give myself permission for that draft to be messy. First drafts are supposed to be bad! It’s more important to get the story down on the page than it is to have a perfect first draft. Polishing your work comes in the editing. Just write! 

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

“Have you ever been catfished?” And the answer is… YES. Back in the days of America Online, when I was around 11 or 12, I made friends in Backstreet Boys chatrooms. I was young and naïve then, and I was catfished by this random person who pretended to be Nick Carter. We would talk all the time and I was so infatuated. We’d email and he’d be like, “I’ll be thinking of you at my concert tonight,” and I was like, “Wow, I can’t believe THE Nick Carter and I are in love!” Obviously, that person very much turned out not to be Nick Carter. That person’s mom emailed me and my friend to say he had been just pretending to be Nick. It was totally devastating at the time, but it’s hilarious when I look back on it. And also super embarrassing. I can’t believe I willingly shared that.

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

I’m deeply passionate about trying to do my part to make the world better, however possible. I think empathy is one of the most important traits anyone can have, and I’m trying to teach my daughter to bring kindness into every interaction she has. Also: I have a very adorable dog named Obi!

What advice might you give to other aspiring writers?

Write your heart out, get that first draft done, and then be open to edits. It’s through the editing that your book will really come alive. And never read reviews for your own books on Goodreads!

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

I briefly mentioned my next book, “The Fall of Whit Rivera,” which will come out mid-2023. It tells the story of Whit Rivera is a Type A, office supply-obsessed, pumpkin spice latte-sipping, fat Puerto Rican girl, whose story is an ode to second-chance loves, bodies, family, being Puerto Rican, living life with chronic illness, and New England autumns. I can’t wait for people to meet this new character!

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

There are SO many amazing LGBTQ+ books and authors out right now. I love anything by Anna Marie McLemore (“Wild Beauty” is one of my all-time favorites), Adib Khorram, and Jonny Garza Villa. I also adored “The Summer of Jordi Perez” by Amy Spalding, “The Grief Keeper” by Alex Villasante, and “Cemetery Boys” by Aiden Thomas. Lastly—and not a YA rec—“Honey Girl” by Morgan Rogers was phenomenal. Happy reading!