Interview with Lyndall Clipstone, Author of Unholy Terrors

Lyndall Clipstone writes about monsters and the girls who like to kiss them. A former youth librarian who grew up running wild in the Barossa Ranges of South Australia, she currently lives in Adelaide, Australia, where she tends her own indoor secret garden. She is the author of Lakesedge and Forestfall.

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

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

Hi! Thank you for having me. I’m Lyndall Clipstone, author of the World at the Lake’s Edge duology and the upcoming Unholy Terrors. I live in Adelaide, Australia, in a 100-year-old cottage with my partner, our sons, and a shy black cat. I love all things dark, arty, and spooky. When I’m not writing you can find me immersed in a video game or drinking a big cup of espresso coffee.

What can you tell us about your latest book, Unholy Terrors? What was the inspiration for this story?

Unholy Terrors is a standalone dark fantasy where Everline Blackthorn, a holy warrior unable to work the necromantic magic of her sect, must team up with the monstrous boy she’s sworn to kill, for the chance to discover what really happened to her traitorous mother seventeen years ago.

It’s my gothic fever dream with intense Sofia Coppola vibes; lush, lyrical, aesthetic, and intensely romantic. I was inspired by a range of things: Gideon the Ninth, particularly the delightfully prickly relationship between Gideon and Harrow, Lost Souls which is the OG goth, vampiric romance story written in delectable prose, and Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, particularly the scene where Rey and Kylo Ren set aside their differences to fight side by side.

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

I’ve always loved to write, and storytelling is an enormous part of how I make sense of my emotions. Especially as a young adult, a time in my life where I felt quite adrift, immersing myself into books and writing provided so much solace. I love the endlessness of possibilities with speculative fiction, and how I can use things like magic, or monsters, or body horror as a lens through which to examine the real world.

How would you describe your writing process?

A mixture of organization and chaos, which is how I approach life in general, haha. I’ll start with plenty of vibes: playlists and moodboards and reading lists form a huge part of my early brainstorming. I like to have a loose outline before I start writing, and aim to visualize at least three key moments of the book very clearly. But as I draft, I will change things based on how I feel; new ideas always come up as I write and I let instinct guide the direction of the story.

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

The works of Australian YA authors Margot Lanagan and Sonya Hartnett were immensely influential to me, particularly Tender Morsels and The Devil Latch. And Poppy Z. Brite’s Lost Souls was the book of my teenage heart.

As an adult, two books which will always be special to me are The Secret History by Donna Tartt and We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. I will reread them each at least once a year, and I have a collection of different editions which I treasure.

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

I’m very visually inspired. I love cinema – some of my favorite directors are Sofia Coppola, David Lynch, Ari Aster, and Guillermo del Toro. I also love watching music videos – Florence + the Machine’s MVs are amazing.

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

I love writing romance scenes, or big moments of emotional introspection. Anything character focused. I adore the lyricism of prose, too, so any scenes where I can create an evocative atmosphere with descriptions are always very enjoyable.

The most challenging part of writing for me is the emotional self-care side of author life. Letting the story go, knowing it belongs to the readers, and coming to terms with the fact that it’s impossible to make anything I write “perfect” because there’s no such thing.

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?

I wish there was a magic answer for how to finish a book but I think it’s just persistence. There is so little we can control in publishing, but we do control the writing. Showing up and putting down the words is one of the few things completely in our hands.

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

I’m an illustrator and drew all of the artwork that appears inside of Lakesedge, Forestfall, and Unholy Terrors.

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)?

Which monster first made me want to write about monster romances. It was Hannibal Lecter. I’m completely obsessed with Thomas Harris’ novels and the 1991 Silence of the Lambs film particularly, but the tv show and the Hannigram ship also have rights.

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

I’ve always tried to treat writing like a job, even before I was published or agented, and set aside dedicated work hours to spend writing. Give yourself permission to value yourself as an author, regardless of what stage of career you are in. You deserve to carve out time for creativity.

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

Next year, I have my first ever short story, Cryptophasia, publishing in Neon Hemlock’s Crawling Moon anthology. It’s a dark academia homage to Bertolucci’s The Dreamers and is my first published adult work. And I may or may not have a few more book-shaped secrets which I hope to share soon!

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

I’ll never stop raving about With Fire in Their Blood by Kat Delacorte, which is a dark contemporary fantasy written in delicious prose and featuring the messiest, most chaotic bisexual love triangle ever.

Queer Comics Crowdfunding – Magical Boy Basil

Busy Geek Breakdown (TL;DR): If you haven’t checked out this webcomic, you’ll get hooked quickly. It has adventure, magic, teen angst, and plenty of geeky references. We need more stories like this, with complex representation of Queer characters. Checkout their newest Kickstarter. If you want to checkout the comic, you can do that here.

Get ready for an exhilarating adventure as “Magical Boy Basil” returns with its highly anticipated fifth chapter, “Magic Fight,” and you have the opportunity to make it a reality!

In this thrilling installment, Basil finds himself immersed in a world of enchantment as he investigates tangles, mischievous creatures born from fractured magic items. But what starts as a mere investigation takes a dramatic turn when Basil and his friend, Eli, become entangled in an epic magic fight between Noah and Aaron. Brace yourself for action-packed sequences, vibrant magical transformations, and plenty of laughter as Basil navigates through the concluding chapter of the first arc of “Magical Boy Basil.”

If you’re new to the comic, Magical Boy Basil is a free-to-read webcomic that updates every other Friday. It is an LGBTQIA+ story featuring a group of undercover teenage magicians that battle monsters in order to maintain the balance of the universe.

Magical Boy Basil is produced by Jordan Wild (writer) and Beck Murray (artist). They’ve been working on Magical Boy Basil together for 7 years now. (1 year of pre-production, and 6 years of publication)


Since the webcomic’s launch in 2016, the audience has grown to over 30,000 readers. In October 2022, Magical Boy Basil became part of the Tapas Early Access program, was number 1 in ‘New Releases’ the first week of release and has since exceeded 6 million views on the platform.

The first print edition of issues #1-4 (awarded “Project We Love by Kickstarter staff) were all successfully funded through Kickstarter.

Creative Team: Jordan Wild, R.E. Murray, and Sid McNulty

And here’s from my interview with one of the creators, R.E. Murray:

DGH: How has it been interacting with your fans, whether in person or online?

REM: I feel like we’re a small little comic but we’re almost always approached by folks at cons (notably Flame Con) who not only recognize us but are so excited by and love Magical Boy Basil. Having conversations with fans about the story, the genre, and life in general is my favorite part. Everyone is just so friendly!

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

REM: I think I almost exclusively write, draw, and am inspired by LGBTQIA+ content. I spent the first fifteen years of my life not knowing why I was different and only consuming heteronormative stories until I learned that queerness was real and that stories could be queer too- My stories could be queer even! 

DGH: 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?

REM: Usually there’s some back and forth with Jordan (our writer) as to what the character’s core traits should be or what a storyline should roughly look like. Sometimes it takes some teasing the threads out to come to a solid conclusion but sometimes designs or story beats will come on like a lightning strike. It’s very in the moment!

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

REM: Personally, I consume a lot of manga (and graphic novels) so it’s less anyone or anything specific and more a hodge podge of the things that catch my eye- how someone draws clothing folds or expressions or their shorthand for environment details- that kind of thing. I will say that Yuhki Kamatani has amazing visuals and that it’d be cool to try to incorporate more visual metaphors like they do.

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

REM: I think just telling a queer magical kid story is impactful in and of itself. After all, queer folk can have magical adventures and save the town/world too! Magical Boy is something I wish I’d had when I was younger and we’ve had younger readers come up today saying how excited they were to see Basil’s story so that tells me our message is coming out loud and clear.

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

REM: Oh gosh, no judgements please but I’ve never watched much Trek… That being said I DID watch Next Generation and I think Picard is a fantastically complex character.

(That was a close one, Beck. I was worried for a second. Everyone here knows I have strong opinions. Anyway, even now, we all know Jean Luc can get it. Then again, so can the new Captain Pike. Anyway, what was I saying? Let’s geek out more when we see each other at Flame Con!)

While webcomics provide an excellent and accessible medium (and I love being able to load them up on my Kindle or phone when I travel), there’s something extraordinary about holding a comic book in your hands. It brings the story to life in a unique way, immersing readers in vibrant artwork and captivating narratives. The creators of “Magic Boy Basil” understand this, and their desire to provide a complete and immersive experience led them to bring the series to print.

By supporting this Kickstarter campaign, you’ll help make “Issue #5 – Magic Fight” a reality and ensure that “Magic Boy Basil” continues its positive impact on readers. Let’s bring this extraordinary story full circle and place the power of “Magic Boy Basil” into your hands. Experience the magic, excitement, and heartwarming moments that await within the pages of this remarkable comic book. Back the campaign now and join us on this enchanting journey!

Title Image and all other images used with permission: The copyright of Magical Boy Basil belongs to Fireside Stories, LLC.

Interview with R. M. Romero

R. M. Romero is a Jewish Latina and author of fairy tales for children and adults. She lives in Miami Beach with her cat, Henry VIII, and spends her summers helping to maintain Jewish cemeteries in Poland. You can visit her online on Instagram @RMRomeroAuthor

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

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

I’m R.M. Romero, a fairy of fairy tales for children and adults who lives in Miami Beach with my orange cat, King Henry VIII.

What can you tell us about one of your latest books, The Ghosts of Rose Hill? What inspired the story?

The Ghosts of Rose Hill is the story of Ilana Lopez, a Cuban-Czech Jewish teen who is sent to stay with her aunt in Prague for the summer so she can focus on her studies instead of her passion for violin. There, she meets a ghost boy named Benjamin who has been dead for a hundred years, and a man with no shadow who offers to make all her dreams come true—for a price. The book came from my experiences working to maintain Jewish cemeteries in Poland and Ukraine during the summers.

It would seem that a lot of historical research has went into this book. How would describe the process and how it intertwined with you writing the actual novel?

I wouldn’t have been able to write the without having visited Prague and soaking up the feel of the city for myself. The first day I arrived, I went on a tour that was focused on the Nazi and Communist periods, and the guide pointed out Prague’s many half-hidden scars.Those scars stuck with me, and I found myself returning to the city again and again in my imagination long after I’d left. Most of the in-depth research was fact checking I did after I already had a draft of the book, to be honest!

The Ghosts of Rose Hill is said to be “a love letter to Latin American and Jewish diasporas.” What does it mean to you as an author writing this type of representation into your work?

As a Jewish Latina, I’m something of a unicorn. A lot of people hear about my background and say they’ve never heard of someone like me before! I didn’t intentionally set out to write a character whose heritage reflected my own initially. But the deeper I got into The Ghosts of Rose Hill, the more I realized it was a story about exiles, and that the idea of being in exile is such a key part of being both Cuban-American and Jewish.

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

Ages 12-15 were the most formative years of my life for me. What happened during that period and the interests and obsessions I developed during it have followed me into my adult life—and that includes poetry! When I started reading Dante and Sylvia Plath as a teen, I realized that poetry was more than the comedic rhymes I’d been exposed to in elementary school; it was raw and very real. The Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, Francesca Lia Block, Stephen King, and Brian Jacques were the authors who made me want to tell my own stories.

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

I’m what’s known as a “planster” or a discovery writer; I mostly fly by the seat of my pants while drafting, but I usually know the general direction of where the story is headed. If I plot too much of the book out beforehand, I lose interest in it because I feel too confined. As for what inspires me, traveling, music and visual art help spark most of my ideas.

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

I love exploring my characters and their journeys, and playing with language. I can sometimes lose myself in that language and character introspection, however. I have to remind myself that during action scenes, no one is going to pause to reflect on what’s going on!

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?

A first draft is, to quote the late Terry Pratchett, you telling yourself the story. It doesn’t have to be good; it doesn’t even need to make sense to anyone but you. Once you have the bones, you can restructure it. But you need something down on the page before you can do that! I remind myself of that when I’m pushing toward the end of a novel.

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

How autobiographical is The Ghosts of Rose Hill? Answer: almost entirely.

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

I’m secretly five black cats in a trench coat. I’d live off of sushi if I could and have double jointed elbows. I’m happiest living out of a suitcase.

What advice might you give to other aspiring writers, particularly for those interested in writing novels in verse?

Trends and what’s popular change from day to day; what you’re passionate about doesn’t. So write what you love! I’ll always advise aspiring writers to read widely and outside of their comfort zones. Any format and genre, whether that’s YA, historical fiction, non-fiction or poetry, will teach you something that will make you more skilled at your craft.

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

My next YA novel in verse, A Warning About Swans, comes out in July from Peachtree Teen! It’s a queer retelling of Swan Lake that takes place at King Ludwig II’s fairy tale castle in Bavaria about a swan maiden named Hilde whose magic cloak is stolen by a greedy baron and a non-binary artist named Franz who can paint the truth of souls. My next MG, Tale of the Flying Forest, is also in the works! It’s a Jewish Narnia story about a girl who travels to another world to rescue her missing twin brother and find the pieces of his broken heart.

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

Recently, I’ve been into the poetry of Richard Siken, We Are All So Good At Smiling by Amber McBride, Piranesi by Susanna Clarke, and Black Bird, Blue Road by Sofiya Pasternack.

Interview with Author Kika Hatzopoulou

Kika Hatzopoulou writes stories for all ages, filled with lore and whimsy. She holds an MFA for writing for children from the New School and works in foreign publishing. She currently splits her time between London and her native Greece, where she enjoys urban quests and gastronomical adventures while narrating entire book and movie plots with her partner. Find Kika on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok @kikahatzopoulou.

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

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

I’m so excited to be here! I’m Kika, a native Greek who’s been writing in English since childhood. I completed my MFA in Writing for Children at the New School in New York and have held teaching and publishing positions in the past. I love all things fantastical, both as a writer and as a reader!

What can you tell us about your debut book, Threads That Bind? What was the inspiration for this story?

Threads That Bind is my debut YA fantasy noir, the first in a duology that comes out from Razorbill in May 2023. It’s a twisty story about a detective with the powers of the Greek Fates that is charged with solving a series of otherworldly murders while navigating a soulmate romance and her complicated family dynamics. The story came together by combining a lot of the things I love: Greek myth, especially side characters such as the Fates, the Furies, and the Muses, noir settings, murder mysteries, post-(climate)-apocalyptic scenarios!

With many novels inspired by Greek mythology, there’s often a sense of these stories lacking original cultural context, i.e. relating back to real-life Greece or Greek culture.  As an author of Greek descent, what does it mean to you writing a novel like this?

It truly means a lot. Back when I was first querying this story to agents in 2019-2020, I often got the feedback that Greek-inspired fantasy is oversaturated or that my particular mix of Greek myth and noir would be a hard sell. The feedback discouraged me at the time, particularly as a Greek writing about their own culture, and because so many of the books referenced in the rejections were retellings written by non-Greeks and set in antiquity – which is vastly different to the Greece of today. Modern Greece is an amalgamation of cultures with a rich recent history of wars, immigration, and political upheavals. In Threads That Bind, I attempted to pull this modernity into the story and form a world that reflects our own. I feared such a weird combination of Greek myth, noir plot, and contemporary setting wouldn’t resonate with readers, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by early reactions that praise these very same elements!

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

I love creating and exploring new worlds – it’s one of my favorite parts of writing and one of the foundations of speculative fiction. When I first started writing as a teen, I was mostly imitating the stories I was reading at the time: Meg Cabot’s works and modern YA classics such as Eragon, Graceling, and The Hunger Games. But as my writing matured, I became more interested in reinventing the tropes I loved and exploring new ways to tell a story, which has led to manuscripts that range widely in age group and genre. Fun fact: when I signed with my agent, I was pitching Threads That Bind as adult, but after discussing it with my agent, we chose to send it to young adult publishers – both because Io’s character arc is one of coming-of-age and because YA fantasy is my first (true) love. I’d love to continue writing widely in middle grade, young adult, and adult in the future, but I doubt I’ll ever tell a story where there isn’t at least some small magical element. The act of reading is its own kind of magic; and for me, it’s all the better if there’s actual spells and powers in it!

How would you describe your writing process?

I think the best way to describe it is explorative. Strictly speaking, I’m a planner, but I like to pants the first chapters, take my time with the first act of each new story, and try different things before settling on the voice, world, and themes. And beyond that, I’m the sort of book nerd that enjoys every part of publishing. I love the first light bulb moment, I love brainstorming and outlining, I love the messy first draft and revising with my editor, I love nitpicky copyedits and pass pages (all of which shows you what a wonderful team I’m surrounded by!).

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?

Oh, yes, finishing a book is definitely one of the hardest parts! Every writer is different, but what personally helps me is dividing the story in smaller chunks. I love a 3 or 5 act structure, depending on the needs of the story, and I like to pause between acts and reorganize my plans for both the plot and the character’s journey. In the duology of Threads That Bind, I structured each act to end on a twist or revelation, which created some momentum as I wrote – I really wanted to get to that twist and put my vision into words! In more practical terms, I’d suggest using placeholders: for names, descriptions, worldbuilding elements, nitpicky things you need to research further. Keeping up momentum is crucial in finishing a first draft!

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

I love this question! The first one that comes to mind is The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. My jaw was on the floor the entire time I was reading it when I was 18. I remember I kept thinking, “I didn’t know we could write that!” For those unfamiliar with the book, it’s a character-driven zombie story that centers on religion and faith in a way I had never seen before. It really resonated with my experience growing up as an inquisitive kid in a religiously conservative community. More recently, I had the same experience with Naomi Novik’s The Scholomance trilogy, which are my absolute favorite books in the world. I guess something about teens picking apart the system they’ve been raised with really resonates with me!

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

Definitely myth and history, but also other media! I love that moment where you’re reading a book or watching a movie and a completely random small element of the story makes you go, “Oooh! This could be interesting to explore!” In terms of prose, and especially as someone writing in their non-native language, I have found that reading a text closely greatly helps in learning new words, new turns of phrases, new ways to structure a sentence or paragraph. And personally, because I love setting so much, I’ve lately been enjoying researching natural phenomena, scientific discoveries, and different types of governing systems. 

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

As I mentioned above, I have enjoyed all parts of writing so far, because I’ve been blessed with a really great publishing team! I particularly love the exploration of the brainstorming stage, but I think my absolute favorite part of writing is those internal monologue moments towards the end of the book when the character comes to terms with their own self-sabotage and chooses a new way to live their life. (If you enjoy character journey arcs, do check out Michael Hauge’s Six Stages!) What I usually have trouble with is trying to narrow the world I’ve created into a cohesive elevator pitch to send to my agent or editor! 

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

KH: I’d second the advice often given by other authors that you need to read a lot, read outside your genre and read critically. But I’d also suggest to seek the joy; do you love voice and character, romance, twisty plots? Hold on to that joy as you write, seek new ways to embrace that feeling, make writing time into a little ritual. Writing can be lonely and publishing is a hard business, so the joy that you find in your own creative process is vital to sustain you during the hard times!

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

I’m putting finishing touches on the sequel to Threads That Bind as I’m writing this. I’m so excited for readers to experience the conclusion of Io’s story and find out how the Muses’ prophecy comes to pass. I’ve also seen the sequel’s cover and I’m in awe – Corey Brickley have really outdone themself with this one!

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

I love this question! Some of my recent favorites are: Bitterthorn by Kat Dunn, which is a dark gothic fairytale with a swoony f/f romance; Bonesmith by Nicki Pau Preto which is a sprawling fantasy world with a kick-ass necromancer at its center; and Seven Faceless Saints by M.K. Lobb, a murder mystery in a fantasy world with one of the most well-drawn angry girls I’ve ever read!


Header Photo Credit Kostas Amiridis

Interview with Author Zachary Sergi

Zachary Sergi is a queer author of Interactive Fiction, including the print Choices novels, Major Detours and So You Wanna Be A Pop Star?, and the digital Heroes Rise, Versus, and Fortune The Fated series. Zachary was raised in Manhattan, studied Creative Writing at Regis High School and the University of Pennsylvania, and now lives in Los Angeles with his husband, where he also writes for television. Learn more by following Zachary on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook

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

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

This is where I get to write a whole novel, right? Okay, I’ll keep it relatively brief. I’m a queer author of (mostly) interactive fiction. Nine digital novels for Choice of Games (I’m exhausted just saying that) across the Heroes Rise, The Hero Project, Versus, and Fortune the Fated interconnected books (which readers—not me, I swear!—dubbed the Sergiverse). I also write a whole bunch of episodic series for various apps that are in-universe. But in the past few years, I’ve gotten to translate my interactive style into two hardcover Choices novels, Major Detours and So You Wanna Be A Pop Star? I’m from the Lower East Side of Manhattan, have lived in LA since graduating college (an unspecified number of years ago), and am a massive geek at heart: I have the action figure and comic book collection to prove it.

What can you tell us about your latest book, So You Wanna Be A Pop Star?: A Choices Novel? What was the inspiration for this story?

The other things I am a geek for are pop music and reality television competitions (I won’t list them because I watch all of them). I’ve been an avid watcher of American Idol, X-Factor, and The Voice since the start, plus a fanatic for most pop girl groups. If you follow me on Instagram (which my editor does), you’d know this. So it was actually Britny (editor) who emailed me asking if I’d like to do another Choices novel about a pop group. I had mostly written science fiction stuff up until then, and our first novel together (Major Detours) was about a tarot card cult. But I actually had a long-running idea about going behind the scenes of a Fifth Harmony / One Direction type group who are thrown together against their will and become famous overnight, but to make them mostly queer and gender-diverse so they could be dating (and hating) each other. This became the basis for Pop Star, which is by far the juiciest and most dramatic novel I’ve ever written (he says with devious glee).

One of the things that stands out about this book is that it’s an interactive novel (which is pretty unusual for young adult fiction.) What made you decide to go with this type of format?

Unusual indeed—and in print, maybe one of a kind? The print CYOA novels are mostly middle-grade, right? Anyway, I had spent many years writing digital interactive novels (Heroes Rise, Versus) and honing in on my own unique style for the publisher Choice of Games. My interactive fiction is like layering an RPG on top of a novel. I’m not super interested in open-world plot control, but instead providing the basis for the reader to build a character and their relationships, then using a series of statistics to determine alternate scenes and endings. My goal when a reader gets to a big choice is to make them stop and think. There’s rarely any winning or losing, it’s about making tough calls for gaining and sacrificing and defining all at once. 

It’s a long story, but I was on sub for a different print novel (This Pact Is Not Ours, more on this later) and my now-editor couldn’t take on that book but had read my interactive work and asked if I was interested in adapting that for a print format. The answer was obviously yes, and that’s how Major Detours was born. Britny (editor) and I put our heads together to invent a new interactive format for young adult, based on my body of work. Every formatting choice was made by us and the team, from how often to use choices, how they look, how many options—the list goes on. But the two biggest defining factors are that you always move forward in the page count and that there’s a personality-quiz like matrix in the back of the novel where you can plug in your choices and get a kind of reader horoscope, based on the decisions you made.

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

My favorite titles tend to have something in common (Busiek’s Avengers run, Hickman’s X-Men run, the Crossgen universe, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Everything Everywhere All At Once)—they all cross genre boundaries in a tone that is young adult/new adult adjacent. So I often say I write what feels organic to my instincts and influences in a blender brew, and it comes out young adult more often than not. I’m definitely a product of the WB-era teen TV dramas, and I’m so thrilled that Y2K vibe seems to be cycling back in (which I think has more to do with the age of editors/development execs/artists now in their 30s/40s and calling the shots, but who knows). 

That said, I am so proud to be a queer author in this space now more than ever representing queer teens. Pop Star also has a drag queen PoV character—I was not intending this to be a bold statement back in early 2022, but alas here we are. But I also know so much of the young adult audience is actually made up of geeky adult readers (like me), drawn to the genre because there just feels like there is more freedom to tell really big, open-hearted, diverse, fun stories.

How would you describe your writing process?

Outlines so thick they accidentally turn into novels? The following is also blasphemous for a mostly-digital writer, but I draft everything by hand at first (even when writing in interactive formatting language/code). I can get into the flow if it’s just me and a pen and some paper, no computer or phone in reach. Whatever time I lose typing my drafts up, I gain back in focus-without-internet-procrastination and using the typing as an edit process. I’ll do it as long as my aging wrists allow. I am also very intense about curating specific playlists for projects (most of which can be found on my Spotify profile). Bouncing between so many mediums, genres, and titles, I find the mood of music really helpful in re-anchoring myself in a project (and the lyrics don’t interfere with my process, thankfully).

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??

First, it helps to understand there’s a pretty standard cycle every creator goes through. It’s usually something like THIS IS THE BEST IDEA ANYONE HAS EVER HAD to THIS IS THE WORST IEA ANYONE HAS EVER HAD back to Hey This Is Okay to I Can’t Look At This One More Second. You bounce between those poles until a deadline arrives, basically. These downturns are inevitable, and I think that’s where many creators get stuck. Also, setting very small and realistic daily goals is everything, otherwise, the whole thing can feel daunting. Lastly, it’s essential to experiment and find a writing process that works for you—it usually involves lots of mental trickery, but the best guiding principle is that there is no such thing as a bad first draft.

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

I mentioned the big ones already (Buffy and EEAAO), but The Perks of Being a Wallflower always really hit home with me. It was books like The Magicians, The Hazel Wood, We Were Liars, and Surrender Your Sons that made me want to return to YA publishing after my digital run.

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

It used to be a much more unique answer when I discovered it in college long before the TV show, but The Handmaid’s Tale remains my favorite novel of all time. It does everything I ever want to as a writer in terms of character, prose, and societal allegory. I’m also constantly blown away by the work of Kristin Cashore. If you haven’t read Jane, Unlimited—run don’t walk. That book blew my plotting mind, and I write complicated interactive fiction for a living.

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

I love outlining and editing. First-drafting is maybe my least favorite part of the process—but there’s also nothing like the feeling of being in flow on a project and feeling things click. Outside of process, I find being a writer in the social media age—where we are basically expected to be full-time PR/Marketing people and author personalities who are also subject to the full whim of every criticism ever uttered about us—really exhausting. But on the flip side, we can reach and connect to readers in a truly unprecedented way, which is always what makes every ounce of perspiration worth it.

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

I am a rabid Bravo / Real Housewives fan. If anyone is looking for someone to write The Real Housewives of Earth 616, I’m your writer. But we said no work…Kelly Clarkson is my diva avatar of choice. Symone is my favorite drag queen. I have always hated and will always hate melted cheese. And I was outed in high school by someone who eventually became a very famous pop star, a story I wrote into Pop Star.

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)?

Will you accept our invitation to be on the next season of The Traitors? (The answer is yes).

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

The only thing that makes you a writer is actually writing, the rest is a matter of scale. If you can find a day job you love (or feel fulfilled by at least), take that day job and write on the side. If you absolutely have to write full-time, be prepared to make a lot of sacrifices, because most working writers live paycheck to paycheck. We hear a lot about the big success stories, but they’re the 1% of the 1% who ever get published. Finding an agent and an editor is largely not about your talent level or the quality of your writing, it is more like dating—it’s about finding your writing love match who gets you. Never spend more time absorbing a review than it took a person to write it.

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

Yes! So remember that novel I mentioned? This Pact Is Not Ours is a non-interactive (gasp) queer horror novel and it is being published this October by a killer new indie queer press (they have 5 books out right now, each one of them stellar): Tiny Ghost Press. The novel is another genre layer for me, my homage to early Kevin Williamson, I Know What You Did Last Summer set on Dawson’s Creek, with a dash of Stranger Things and We Were Liars. Here’s the premise: four college-bound best friends return to the idyllic campsite their families have visited every summer, only to discover they are cursed by an ancestral pact that threatens to tear their friendships–and the world—apart. It’s maybe the most personal and horrifying work I’ve ever written, and arriving just in time for spooky season (10.3.23). Preorders should be up next month!

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

In no particular order, these fellow young adult authors all have A+ queer books, and all happen to be absolutely lovely people too: Robbie Couch, Emery Lee, Adam Sass, Erik J. Brown, Aaron Aceves, Claire Winn, and Adib Khorram, to mention just a few. Their (multiple!) titles can be found wherever books are sold.


Header Photo Credit Chase Baxter

Interview with Author Trang Thanh Tran

Trang Thanh Tran (they/she) is a Vietnamese American writer telling all stories scary, otherworldly, and emotional. Trang grew up in a big family in Philadelphia but now calls the South home. They’re an alum of the Writing Barn’s Rainbow Weekend and Tin House’s YA Fiction Workshop. When not writing, they’re busy trying new food and watching too many zombie movies. Their Gothic horror debut SHE IS A HAUNTING is forthcoming from Bloomsbury in Winter 2023. You can also follow them on Twitter.

I have the opportunity to interview Trang, which you can read below.

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

Hiii. My name is Trang, and I’m a Vietnamese American writer of speculative stories. I love horror, iced coffee, and BTS. In my past life, I was a data analyst and honestly still have a soft spot for spreadsheets and coding.

What can you tell us about your debut book, She is a Haunting? What was the inspiration for this story?

She is a Haunting is about an angry, closeted bisexual girl with daddy issues who fights a haunted house in Vietnam that just wants friends and eternal servitude! It’s a coming-of-age ghost story with a strong core about family. It is somewhat of a dual-pov book, with most chapters coming from Jade Nguyen and the rest from Nhà Hoa, our unhinged French colonial house.

I’ve always been a major horror movie/book fan, but I didn’t see many main Vietnamese characters in the genre. So I wanted a Vietnamese American final girl front and center, and whose story is very specific. That meant working with a seed of my own fears about belonging and coming out—because I love when horror and emotion connects. From there I threw in all my favorite gothic horror tropes with a dash of bugs, parasites, and suspiciously delicious food. 

As a writer, what drew you to the art of storytelling, specifically speculative fiction/ horror, and young adult fiction?

Storytelling feels a little bit like magic. As a kid, I really loved escaping into stories so when I discovered you could actually do that magic yourself, I was hooked. I’m someone who can forget how happy or intensely they felt about something, but writing lets me remember. I tap into that experience so I can let my characters live in and for my readers to feel it. 

As for speculative and horror elements, I like working in my weird interests or metaphors. Focusing on a real story but letting that element of strangeness challenge the characters’ POV, it’s just fun! Young adult fiction is also a space I’m proud to write in, because stories can be an escape for someone who is at a threshold in their life—starting high school, navigating difficult relationships, and dealing with changing expectations. Everything is felt so strongly; the world is at your fingertips.

What do you think specifically drew you to ghost stories?

Sometimes the scary thing is not the ghost but what the ghost represents. I’m intrigued by the ways our past follows us, so a ghost story is a perfect way to force a character to confront that. How are they as people, because of something in the past? What will they do now, in order to not deal with some lingering trauma—even if not their own?

How would you describe your writing process?

I am somewhat of a chaotic drafter. While I always know my ending and the major emotional beats, I will draft lines out of order. Some for chapter 21, then some for chapter 1… It’s maddening putting it all together in a way that makes sense. But I am a very methodical reviser. I reverse outline in a spreadsheet, I lay out my character arcs in a spreadsheet, then I figure out what needs to be done by chapter.

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??

Unfortunately, the only way to finish a book is to write. For me, having an alpha reader who reads as you draft and who you feel completely comfortable with is key, because they keep you accountable AND excited to write. There’s that instant serotonin when they’re like, what will happen next?! Other than that, having a clear vision for what I want my book to be and how I want readers to feel allows me to draft more easily. I am chasing that end goal of crushing readers’ hearts. 🙂 

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

There was not a story that I felt reflected in when growing up. Mostly, I read to escape. I slipped into characters’ experiences that didn’t in any way resemble my own. For a period of time, I actually stopped reading because nothing I read touched me. But things are different now! I picked up Emily X.R. Pan’s The Astonishing Color of After at the library, and it just changed my brain chemistry. Like, we can write these stories centering BIPOC characters? I got back into reading then and found so many more stories, queer and more. 

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

Emily X.R. Pan who writes beautiful, gut-wrenching stories! Shirley Jackson’s writing is also an inspiration, for how much dread and terror she packed into few words. I’m also a fan of Mike Flanagan’s horror shows that blend emotional storytelling with wonderful visuals. In terms of artistry, I admire the BTS members’ frank conversations about creating under pressure, conveying an emotion through lyrics, and the work it takes to really execute a vision. 

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

I love when the writing comes easily when the words match the scene in my head. There’s something satisfying about creating something that is entirely your own and then sharing it with others. Hearing that someone saw themself or found joy or scares in my stories makes the challenging part of writing—when it’s difficult, which is the majority of the time—all worth it.

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

This may be weird, but: I’m a young cancer survivor. It influences how I work on my art and how I want to live my life. I’m now in my unhinged era, thank you.

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

Write for yourself first. Put in the things that you love and the rest will come together. But you gotta finish the book; push to the end.

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

I’m working on my second YA horror! Tag line—A monster learns to love herself. 

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

Into the Light by Mark Oshiro

The Black Queen by Jumata Emill

Hell Followed with Us by Andrew Joseph White (and ANYTHING he writes)

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come by Jen St. Jude

I promise you Wen-yi Lee’s The Dark We Know (spring 2024) is the perfect companion read for She Is a Haunting but also that it is gorgeously written, tightly plotted and gloriously angry all on its own.  


Header Photo Credit Heather Wall Photography

Interview with Author Sacha Lamb

Sacha Lamb is a 2018 Lambda Literary Fellow in young adult fiction and graduated in Library and Information Science and History from Simmons University. Sacha lives in New England with a miniature dachshund mix named Anzu Bean. When The Angels Left The Old Country is their debut novel.

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

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

In my day job I’m a librarian. I graduated with degrees in library science and history in 2020, and I work for a scientific organization. When I’m not working I take walks and practice tricks with my dachshund mix. 

I was a Lambda literary fellow in YA in 2018 and my first published pieces were short queer stories online—Avi Cantor Has Six Months to Live from Book Smugglers (2017), “Epistolary” with Foreshadow YA in 2019. 

What can you tell us about your latest book, When the Angels Left the Old Country? What was the inspiration for this story?

When the Angels Left The Old Country is my debut novel, an Ellis Island era fairytale about an angel and demon who study Talmud in a little village in Poland, until a girl from the village goes missing on the way to America and they have to go after her to find out what happened. It turns out that America is a complicated place full of magic and murders, and the streets are not paved with gold. 

When I started writing Angels, I’d just finished a draft of a YA contemporary that was focused on grief and loneliness, so, not a very cheerful project. I wanted to do something fun to decompress, and my comfort zones are fairytales and the history of immigration (my master’s thesis in history focused on Jewish immigrants to the USA in the 1920s). I really pulled together a lot of inspirations, basically everything I enjoy the most: historical queerness, immigration, supernatural creatures, bickering. 

As a queer and Jewish person, what does it mean to you writing a book like this?

The best thing about having this book out in the world is seeing people respond like “this is me, this is my culture, my life.” Especially to have people from traditional Jewish contexts respond like that to a queer story is very powerful. I hope that the book can help broaden for people the idea of what’s possible with a very deeply Jewish context and Jewish life, and help people see that history is complicated and many-layered. 

Queer people may not be well-recorded in history, but we do have enough sources to know that we’ve always been around. I like to think of queer history as a sort of mycelial network, where you have the mushrooms popping up above ground and those are the stories that managed to get written down, that’s what we see, but there’s a whole vast underground network of stories we don’t see. You have to extrapolate from what you do see to the thriving ecosystem underneath. And I hope this book helps people imagine that ecosystem in our past. 

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

It was really something I grew up with. My parents are big audiobook listeners and when my siblings and I were small we listened to a lot of books just around the house or on road trips, including Lord of the Rings and the Earthsea series. My siblings and I were also obsessed with Redwall and I was the fastest reader so I’d sometimes read them out loud and do voices. My sister and I would do a lot of collaborative roleplay storytelling. I just stuck with it. 

For me, speculative and historical are serving similar purposes—you’re exploring possibilities. Either “what would the world look like, if”, or “how might people have felt, when”. I read a ton of history for fun and I’m always fascinated by the things we just don’t know, and can’t know, about what people were thinking at any given time. How people whose thoughts weren’t written down experienced events. The historical and the fantastical are both full of mysteries. 

How would you describe your writing process?

I tend to gather a lot of inspirations from reading, and eventually, they come together to create a story. Often I’ll have a scene in mind, or a character dynamic, that becomes the seed of the plot. My stories are really focused on characters so it’s usually some idea of how two characters relate to each other that sparks inspiration. For instance, my first published story, “Avi Cantor”, began with the idea “psychic kid accidentally predicts a classmate’s death”, which is a situation that implies already some conflict and a certain relationship between two characters. For Angels, it was “angel and demon Talmud study partners.” How are two supernatural creatures with opposing roles in the cosmos, but an intimate personal relationship, going to handle cooperating together on a single quest? And that question powers most of the plot. 

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? 

My earliest exposures to queerness in fiction were through fanfic on Livejournal. It wasn’t until after I graduated from college that there really started to be a push for diversity in traditionally published YA, and there was an explosion of queer YA just as I was getting back into fiction (my undergrad degree was pretty intense and I didn’t have time to read for fun). I think fanfiction can teach you a lot about open possibility, but it’s important to see fully-formed original stories that reflect yourself as well. I’m glad that I don’t feel like a total outlier on the shelves and I hope we can keep expanding the industry so that everyone has equitable access to stories that speak to them. 

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

I mentioned that I take a lot of inspiration from history. Obviously from folklore as well. My shelves are full of folktale collections (Jewish and otherwise) and academic history books. I’m also really fond of children’s book illustration and I’m a big fan of some of the classics—Ivan Bilibin’s Slavic fairytale art, Edward Gorey and Maurice Sendak, Quentin Blake, Tove Jansson. A contemporary illustrator whose work I really like is Shaun Tan. 

I read pretty widely within YA, although I’m most drawn to fantasy and horror. Horror is fun because even if a horror story is bad, you can learn a lot from the failures. Maintaining suspense requires a really good grasp of structure and pacing and sometimes I just enjoy picking apart a story that doesn’t work and figuring out what I’d do differently. The most effectively suspenseful YA I’ve read recently was Ace of Spades, by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé. Even if you guess what’s happening there’s nothing you can do to extract the characters from the narrative, so you’re just internally screaming the entire time. 

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

There’s a feeling when you really get a handle on your plot that’s like when you’re getting to the end of a jigsaw puzzle and each piece you fit makes the next one fit faster. I love that feeling. Rewriting to add foreshadowing and strengthen the themes, that’s really fun. The hardest thing is to write action scenes. And for this book, the most frustrating part was making sure the Hebrew and Yiddish were consistently transliterated! For that, I have to shout out the copy editor, Anamika, who had to flag all my inconsistencies. I’m sure I’m going to do it again but there was a moment where I briefly regretted using so many Yiddish words. 

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

I love sheep. If you meet some sheep you can send me photos of them, I will always want to see them! 

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)?

There are a couple of sneaky classic Yiddish literature jokes in the book that I hope someone notices. If someone were to ask “when you said they got a ride in a bookseller’s cart, was that Mendele Mokher Sforim?” The answer would be yes. 

There’s also a line near the end where I describe Little Ash and Uriel as “the good angel and the wicked angel” and to turn things around and ask my readers a question: which of them is which? 

What advice might you have to give for aspiring writers?

Think about what elements of a story speak to you and play around with mixing and matching them. And don’t worry too much about what the meanest person on Twitter is going to think of your story. No one likes the meanest person on Twitter. 

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

I have another queer Jewish fantasy in progress, but no details on that yet because I don’t want to jinx anything! 

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

We’re in a great moment for Jewish fantasy right now. I’d recommend Rebecca Podos and Aden Polydoros for queer Jewish fantasies, and Gavriel Savit’s The Way Back for Jewish fantasy that’s not queer. A backlist title that I think not enough people read is Chris Moriarty’s Inquisitor’s Apprentice, which is a middle-grade Jewish fantasy. And I also want to shout out my Lambda cohort. Jd Scott has a short story collection, Moonflower, Nightshade, All the Hours of the Day, Lin Thompson has a middle-grade out called The Best Liars in Riverview and another book upcoming, Jas Hammonds has a YA contemporary We Deserve Monuments, and Jen St Jude’s apocalyptic love story If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come is out in May!

Interview with Actor and Writer Aislinn Brophy

Aislinn Brophy (they/she) is an actor, writer, and arts administrator based in the Atlanta area. She was born and raised in South Florida but made her way up to the frigid northeast for college. Their hobbies include pawning off their baking on anybody nearby, doing funny voices, and dismantling the patriarchy. Aislinn has a degree in Theater, Dance & Media, and her experiences as a performer consistently wiggle their way into her writing. In all aspects of her work as an artist, she is passionate about exploring identity and social justice issues. Their debut YA novel, How To Succeed in Witchcraft, is available now with a second untitled novel to follow.

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

Thanks for having me! My name is Aislinn Brophy, and I’m an author and an actor. I’m originally from South Florida, but now you can find me living in Atlanta with my lovely partner and our two cats. When I’m not working, I love dancing, making playlists for my friends, and playing D&D. 

What can you tell us about your debut book, How To Succeed in Witchcraft? What was the inspiration for this story? 

How to Succeed in Witchcraft is a YA contemporary fantasy that follows Shay, an overachieving witch at a prestigious magical magnet school in South Florida, who has to decide between getting the scholarship for magical university that she desperately needs or exposing the predatory drama teacher who controls the scholarship. It’s got potion brewing, a queer love story between two academic rivals, and magical musical theater!

I think my biggest inspiration for this book was the many years I spent at very intense schools. At this point in my life, I’ve thankfully fled academia for good, but I used to be a student who really bought into the idea that what I had to do to be successful was run myself into the ground. When I was writing How to Succeed in Witchcraft, creating Shay’s character was one of the easiest parts. Overachievers and their various hang-ups are very familiar to me. 

Your book is said to be based on a practical magic system, interrogating the power dynamics of a world based on witchcraft, particularly within a system of dark academics. Could you talk about how you approached the world-building within the book?

The world-building was the part of the book that took the longest to come together. I revised the details of the history and magic quite a lot between the first and final drafts! As far as the history went, I wanted to create a world that had similar systems of oppression to ours, because that would be most useful to me in addressing the themes I wanted to touch on. I thought the best way to do that was to have a specific point in history that was recent (but not too recent) where magic was discovered. Then I wrote an alternate timeline for how history progressed from that point onwards. I identified some key historical events—wars, political movements, etc.—and then figured out how the presence of magic would have changed them. I think the big idea I had behind crafting the history was “what if magic just made capitalism worse?”  

With the magic system, I started out with the idea that it was going to be very practical. It was going to be a system where skill with manipulating magic was quantifiable, and you could compare a witch to her peers and definitively say who was stronger. I also wanted magical skill to be practice-based rather than innate. You become more powerful in this world mostly by doing magic a ton. All of these elements were meant to play into the dark academia parts of the story. If you can quantify how strong witches and wizards are, and how good you are at magic is based on the sheer amount of hours you spend working at it, then all of that would make a cutthroat academic program even more toxic. 

On social media, you’ve discussed how much it means to you that the main character of How To Succeed in Witchcraft is biracial and queer like you. Could you talk about what that representation and what representation in general means to you?

Of course, it’s incredibly important to see people that share identities with you represented in media. At this point, I hope that’s not a ground-breaking thing to be saying. I want everyone to be able to read books that speak to their experiences, as well as books that reflect on lives they’ll never lead and things they’ll never face. Personally, I don’t remember reading stories with characters that shared many identities with me when I was younger, and that shaped who I thought could possibly be the main character in books. A lot of my early writing had straight white protagonists, because I had got it in my head that those were the people who got to be the heroes in fantasy. Now that I’m creating stories that are more authentic to who I am as a writer, I realize just how much that mindset was getting in my way. 

What I love most about the current moment in publishing is that going into the bookstore and looking at the shelves now feels very different to me than it did ten years ago. Obviously, there’s still a lot of racism, homophobia, and other oppressive forces at play in the industry. But now I can look at the shelves and see many more hugely successful books by marginalized authors. That’s no small thing. 

I’m really proud to be adding How to Succeed in Witchcraft to this current publishing landscape. My goal is to build a body of work that shows a lot of different facets of being a queer biracial person. This book is just the start. 

How did you get into writing, and what drew you to young adult fiction, specifically speculative fiction? 

I’ve been completely and utterly obsessed with speculative fiction ever since I started reading it as a kid. The reason my vision is so terrible now is because I spent a lot of my time as a child reading fantasy books in near-darkness after my bedtime. So when I started writing novels as a teen, I knew I wanted to write something that would make other kids feel that totally earth-shattering excitement that I felt from reading a really good YA fantasy. 

I have to credit fanfiction for getting me seriously into writing though. Before I made the switch to creating original work, I learned a lot of practical craft skills by writing a massive amount of fanfiction. That was a very formative experience for me as a writer. Fanfiction let me be unapologetically enthusiastic about creating stories, and it gave me a non-judgmental space to be bad. And honestly, you have to be a bad writer for a while before you become a good one, so I’m glad I got to do that in a place where nobody was really evaluating the quality of my work. 

How would you describe your writing process? What are some of your favorite/most challenging parts for you?

My process is probably best described as controlled chaos. I learned early on in my writing journey that I get lost during drafting without some kind of road map, so now I make an outline of what is going to happen in the book before I get started. Usually that outline starts out detailed and becomes more and more vague as it goes along. By the end, my notes on the plot end up being things like “Character A and B talk about something????” or “resolve subplot here maybe.” I do my best to draft a book based on that, it inevitably doesn’t go the way I’ve planned, and then I revise the resulting draft into something actually good.  

I struggle a lot with drafting, so that’s probably the most challenging part for me. I write slowly, and it’s hard for me to focus for long periods of time to get words on the page. On the other hand, I love editing. Thinking about the world I’m creating is tremendously fun for me, and I find that I get to do the majority of that once I have my bad draft on the page. 

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

The two authors that I would say are my greatest sources of inspiration are N. K. Jemisin and Tamora Pierce. I’m the biggest fan of N. K. Jemisin’s work. I just think everything she writes is brilliant. The nuance she brings to exploring power and oppression in her books is something I hope to achieve in my own work. And Tamora Pierce is a writer that really shaped how I viewed fantasy from an early age. I loved The Song of the Lioness series and the Beka Cooper books. All the female protagonists in her novels were powerful in a way that always stuck out to me. 

Aside from your work as a writer, what would you want readers to know about you?

I’m an actor! I mostly work in theater, which is why musical theater is such a big part of How to Succeed in Witchcraft. Most recently I had the pleasure of playing Rosalind in a show called Playing Mercury, which is a medieval-period comedy inspired by Shakespeare’s As You Like It

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

Here’s my question for myself: What’s your biggest dream as an author? 

I would like to write something one day that inspires people to write fanfiction about my characters. Honestly, I can’t imagine a bigger achievement for myself. If I created a story that people liked so much that they felt compelled to make their own art about my imaginary people, I could die happy.

What advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

Find what works for you, and do more of it. There’s no “one way” to be a writer. Actually, the only thing required to be a writer is to write sometimes. There’s a lot of advice floating around out there for writers. Read all the popular books in your genre. Write every day. Don’t write a prologue. Etcetera, etcetera. But if some of that common advice doesn’t seem like quite the right fit for you, that’s cool! Maybe it’s hard for you to read in your genre while you’re writing. Maybe you need to take lots of breaks to refill your creative well. Or maybe you want to write a novel that’s exclusively made up of prologues. These are all valid ways to write. What matters most is that you identify what you’re good at and what type of writing process works for you, and then do that stuff on purpose. 

Lean into your strengths! And if you write that prologue book, I want to read it.

What advice would you give for finishing a book?

Get something on the page. You can edit something, but you can’t edit nothing. This is advice I have to give myself regularly. 

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

I’m currently drafting my second book. I can’t say much about it at this point, since it’s still in early stages, but it’s set in a different world than How to Succeed in Witchcraft. The premise I’ve started with is that the book follows a witch and a non-magical girl who become trapped in a cycle of breaking up and getting back together after a memory spell goes wrong. We’ll see where it goes from there!

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

I’ll limit myself to the YA space since I always have way too many books that I want to recommend! Aiden Thomas’ The Sunbearer Trials, Jas Hammonds’ We Deserve Monuments, and Riss M. Neilson’s Deep in Providence are some of the newer/upcoming releases that I’ve been excited about. I also love Ashley Shuttleworth’s A Dark and Hollow Star and H. E. Edgmon’s The Witch King, which both kick off incredible, ambitious queer fantasy series. 


Header Photo Credit Nile Scott Studios

Interview with Author Linsey Miller

Once upon a time, Linsey Miller studied biology in Arkansas. These days, she holds an MFA in fiction and can be found writing about science and magic anywhere there is coffee. She is the author of the Mask of Shadows duology, Belle Révolte, The Game, What We Devour, and Prince of Song & Sea

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

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

Hello! Thank you! I’m Linsey Miller, the author of a handful of books, most recently What We Devour and Prince of Song & Sea. I enjoy writing about grief and morality in magical worlds, and I love books about queer kids saving the day. Outside of authorhood, I read a lot, bake a bit, and write less often than I probably should.

How did you find yourself becoming a writer? What drew you to young adult and speculative fiction specifically?

I read and wrote too much as a child to the point where I was banned from reading books in class a few times. In middle school, though, I read a book about a forensic pathologist and decided that was my ideal job. I stopped reading fiction while in college and tried to be a good student and focus on my studies. However, my father died after my first year, and I realized that I wasn’t sure if medical school and pathology were exactly what I wanted to do.

After I graduated, I didn’t really know what to do. I lived with my now-husband and our best friend, and they convinced me to try writing a book. So I did, and it was terrible.

But then I wrote another one, and the rest is history.

Young adult fantasy appeals to me because it provides a way for kids who may not get to triumph and be celebrated in the real world to win against their villains. The young adult category wasn’t bare when I was a kid, but it wasn’t very large. I decided that I wanted to write the books that teen-me needed and would have loved.

Growing up, were there any books or authors that touched or inspired you as a writer?

I think I read the Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce and the Abhorsen series by Garth Nix five hundred times as a kid. I loved Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith, Gifts by Ursula K. Le Guin, Octavia E. Butler’s short stories,  His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, and though I was older when they came out, all of N.K. Jemisin’s works.

Can you tell us about the inspiration behind your book What We Devour?

Of course! I call What We Devour my extremely ace book about eating the rich. I think the main concept for the world was the first thing that came to me. I was drove home late one night, looked up at the full moon, and thought, “What if that were an eye?”

Most of the inspiration for the plot came from two things—my desire to insert an ace girl into the “girl plans on killing/taking down the prince but he’s hot” fantasy romance trope and my childhood with a very pro-union father. I think magic provides an exceptional medium through which to explore morality and ethics, and the tropes I wanted to use had such interesting power dynamics that it felt right.

So all of that came together to inspire what I hope is a gripping book about aceness, workers’ rights, and how fantasy worlds which focus on revolts often don’t go far enough into dismantling systems of power.

Your next upcoming project is a book centered on Eric from The Little Mermaid? Can you tell us how you become involved in this project, as well as any personal connections you might have to that film and character?

The Little Mermaid came out the year I was born, so I jumped at the chance to work on it. While I didn’t see it in theaters, I liked it a lot as a kid because I thought Ursula was great. There is something extremely relatable in Ariel, Eric, and Ursula. Prince of Song & Sea provided a chance for me to explore that relatability and bolster Eric’s character, which was a wonderful challenge.

Also, I will take any excuse to sing “Poor Unfortunate Souls.”

How would you describe your writing process? What are some of the best/most difficult parts for you?

My writing process is structured but not set in stone. I will usually let a concept stew for a long time before committing it to paper. When I start working, I’ll rewrite the first few chapters until they’re what feels right for the tone and characters, and then I’ll write the climax and/or epilogue. I prefer to only seriously start working once the beginning and ending are figured out.

The most difficult part for me is definitely writing the initial draft. I get caught up too easily in making it “good” to the point where I’ll stop writing. My favorite part happens once that is done—rewriting. I love rewriting a book from start to finish. It feels very refreshing to create a new draft from the initial one and include all of the small details and foreshadowing. That’s when writing is the most fun for me.

Since Geeks OUT is a LGBTQ+ centered website, could you maybe tell us what queer representation means to you?

It’s a letter to the Linsey that could have been. I don’t think I saw the word ace outside of playing card references until I was in my twenties. Seeing the queer literature that’s available now across genres and age group is everything, from vengeance to hope, to me. 

Mask of Shadows, Belle Révolte, and What We Devour specifically are my attempts to write the books that would have saved me some confusion and tears growing up. There the books I didn’t know I needed as a kid. I hope they can be the book for a least one reader now.

Besides writing, what are some of your other interests?

I do a lot of baking, mostly cinnamon rolls and cakes.  Though it’s on hiatus now, I play D&D with a group of other authors on the Spell Check podcast. I also play a lot of video games, though I’m mostly working through the new Pokémon Snap right now.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Writing is a curious occupation because we often do it alone without any feedback for long periods of time, and that isolation can be challenging. Find your people and stick with them.

There’s a degree of failure that writing requires constantly, not just at the beginning. Write what you love and what you need, and don’t twist your work into knots to try and shove it into what you think is marketable.

Also, please backup your work and activate the “unsend email” option.

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

Oh, no. This is delightful, but I don’t know. I guess: Who are your favorite minor characters you’ve written?

I am equally fond of Isidora from Mask of Shadows and Franziska Carlow from What We Devour. They’re very different, but that’s mostly due to them responding to their trauma in different ways. At their cores, both are driven to help others to their own detriment.

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

I have a few projects that I’m working on, but there aren’t any that I can talk about. I hope I have more things I can talk about soon!

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

All of them! Some authors I love are Jordan Ifueko, Adib Khorram, Laura Pohl, L.L. McKinney, Katherine Locke, A.R. Capetta, Julian Winters, Linden A. Lewis, Ryan Douglass, A.M. Strickland, Alechia Dow, Rosiee Thor, and Ryan La Sala.

Interview with Author and Literary Agent Patrice Caldwell

Patrice Caldwell is a graduate of Wellesley College and the founder of People of Color in Publishing—a grassroots organization dedicated to supporting, empowering, and uplifting racially and ethnically marginalized members of the book publishing industry. Born and raised in Texas, Patrice was a children’s book editor before becoming a literary agent. She’s been named to Forbes’s “30 Under 30” media list, a Publishers Weekly Star Watch honoree, and featured on Bustle’s inaugural “Lit List” as one of ten women changing the book world. Patrice is the editor of two anthologies published by Viking Children’s Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope and Eternally Yours: Fifteen Stories of Paranormal Love. Her debut novel, Where Shadows Reign—the first in a YA fantasy duology—will be published by Wednesday Books, an imprint of Macmillan.

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

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

Hi y’all, thanks for having me! I’m Patrice, and I’m the editor of the YA paranormal romance anthology, Eternally Yours, which is out 9/20/22, as well as the YA Black Girl Magic anthology, A Phoenix First Must Burn, (it was published last year, so it’s out now) and the forthcoming novel, Where Shadows Reign. I’m also a literary agent, and a former book editor, so as I often say, I really love books and I’ve seen the industry from many sides!

How would you describe what you do professionally and creatively?

I make books happen! I represent, as a literary agent, a list of bestselling and critically acclaimed and debut authors and illustrators. I love my clients, they’re so talented and dedicated and fun to work with. I was an editor before I was an agent, so as an editor I received books on submission from literary agents, but as a writer, I always really related to and wanted to champion writers even more, so in 2019 I became a literary agent and now I’m the one working with them to develop their work and I sell it to publishers and manage and strategize their careers. When I’m not doing that, I’m talking to myself while at the grocery store (with my headphones on so it seems like I’m on a call haha) to work out plot points, leaving myself voice memos and random notes day and night when inspiration strikes…basically, I’m dreaming of and creating my own stories. I love writing and working with writers, so honestly, I feel like I’m in my dream career every day getting to do both.

What drew you to storytelling, and how did you get into editing and agenting specifically? 

My parents. They were really big about me reading and having books with characters who looked like me from a young age. I had a whole library full of Black characters, by Black authors and illustrators growing up. They’re also HUGE science fiction and fantasy fans, my dad also love theory, my mom loves horror…I grew up listening to him discuss and debate Fanon and Malcolm X and Jean-Paul Sartre with friends and my mom insisting I watch the original Freddy and Jason films (absolutely terrifying), back when Freddy vs. Jason came out. My dad also was a martial artist, and with him, I studied Capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art, and so much of that is a story. I was also a theater kid. My life was full of stories and storytelling growing up. It is no surprise that I ended up working in book publishing instead of as a lawyer like my mom hoped (it’s fine, now she brags to truly anyone that her daughter is an author). By the time I entered college, I knew I wanted to tell stories featuring characters who are more like me, and I wanted to help get more of those books by others into the world, too. I did internships with literary agencies, in marketing and publicity…anyplace that would have me, I wrote my first manuscripts, I networked so much, and then I didn’t get a job in publishing after I graduated. So, I worked in a different field for about a year, but I couldn’t get my love of books out of my head. Finally, I got an editorial assistant position and around the same time, I signed with my first literary agent who sold A Phoenix First Must Burn. Now, I’ve been working in this industry and writing under contract for the past few years.

How would you describe your upcoming anthology, Eternally Yours? What was the inspiration for this project?

I. LOVE. Paranormal Romance. HUGE fantasy and science fiction reader growing up, but especially gravitated to all things paranormal, urban fantasy, and gothic. Really anything with vampires, haha. My dad got me hooked on Blade, my mom on Underworld, and then I discovered Anne Rice (so happy we’re getting an Interview tv show soon! I am also a fan of the previous films in her universe, no matter how much Queen of the Damned deviates from the book) and Octavia Butler, got into Laurell K. Hamilton during Anita Blake’s best days (IYKYK), Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series (I’m nervous-excited for the new tv series!) and from there, worlds opened up. 

I mention this in my introduction for Eternally Yours, but what I felt was missing, what I really didn’t develop the words to explain until I got older, was that I wanted more queer characters and more characters of color…in other words, more people like the Black queer woman I am in these worlds. My publisher was in support of that and that’s why Eternally Yours exists…you have an incredibly diverse list of fifteen of today’s bestselling and critically acclaimed authors…I would describe it as THE book I wanted to read growing up (since, at this point, we’ll probably never get a sequel to Sunshine by Robin McKinley). My teen self would be so proud, and I’m so proud of these contributors, they really put in the work to make this anthology amazing.

How would you describe the process of creating an anthology? What goes into picking the contributors?

If you want to really dig into the topic of creating anthologies, I recommend reading this piece by Dahlia Adler (also, buy her books, including her anthology, That Way Madness Lies, it’s all Shakespeare retellings, and I have a story there called “Elsinore” that reimagines Hamlet with a little help from Dracula)

For me, it’s all about working with authors whose work I love and who I know can deliver. Once I figured out the genre (paranormal romance) I got to thinking about authors I’m fans of who want to write paranormal, whose novels either are paranormal or have those elements, and authors who you would never think would write anything paranormal, but I had a feeling they could pull it off. I thank being a former editor for this instinct, I understand writers really well and I pick up on all the things when I read their work. I am so happy with the entire contributor list, but speaking of inspirations, Melissa de la Cruz saying yes meant a ton. I was a HUGE Blue Bloods fan growing up (think Gossip Girl but with angels AND vampires) and, for Eternally Yours, she wrote a short story in the Blue Bloods world. I may have wept tears of joy.

Once everyone was signed on, they sent me pitches of their stories, I—along with the help of the editor at Penguin who acquired this book, Dana Leydig—approved them, they got to drafting and then we gave them notes and they revised again and again and again (thank y’all for putting in the work!!) until we were like, it’s ready to go! 

What advice would you give to other aspiring creatives/writers? 

Write your stories. As a writer starting out, I looked for others for approval and validation way too much. It led to quite a lot of cooks in the kitchen (my brain) and so my books were that disjointed, they were from me but not truly of me. I reached a point where I was like, okay it’s not working like this, with me listening to feedback from everyone, with me trying to be like all these other writers… what do I want to write, what stories do I need in the world… honestly that changed everything for me, it’s how I came up with the idea of all my published and under contract books. Fight for your stories. 

My dad once told me that I was very talented but had no discipline and he was right. I wasn’t making time for my art. I wasn’t making sacrifices for my art, and that’s not to say artists need to suffer, we don’t, it’s to say that I was doing so many other things, saying yes to so many other things, but I wasn’t saying yes to myself, to my writing, to the very thing that gives me life. I had to get real with myself and say, do you want this, okay focus on this. That sometimes means waking up at 6am and writing. It sometimes means writing before bed, or not going out with friends or hanging with family to get work done. It means setting boundaries and being clear with people about how important my work is to me. Like, I’m on deadline right now and, with few exceptions, I’m not going anywhere until it’s done. 

Try to find your balance, your flow, what works for YOU (not others). Take breaks when you need them. Don’t stress about writing every day, I don’t, and the work gets done—that’s what works for me.

Work on your craft instead of rushing to be published. When I became a better editor, a better reviser, my stories began to shine.

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

Yes! My next project is Where Shadows Reign. It’s the first in a YA fantasy duology. It was originally scheduled to come out this year, but my super supportive publisher moved it back because trying to revise a novel, edit an anthology, be a literary agent, and focus during the start of a pandemic turned out to be a lot to do at the same time (I know, no surprise). We’re setting the pub date, but it’ll likely be late 2023 or 2024, and the book is even stronger due to the extra time. You can add it on Goodreads and follow me on Instagram and Twitter for updates!

The book takes place a year after an epic war between vampires, humans, and the gods that created them both. It follows three characters: a vampire princess who undertakes a journey to bring her best friend back from the underworld; a young seer who only sees death and, for reasons, accompanies the princess; and a fallen angel who is hellbent on awakening her beloved, their world’s first vampire and the most bloodthirsty one who lived, who is entombed in this underworld. 

It’s very gothic and queer and inspired by my love for The Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice and John Milton’s Paradise Lost.

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

Okay, first, read Eternally Yours and A Phoenix First Must Burn as a large amount of the stories throughout both these anthologies are queer (Phoenix was actually called “delightfully queer” in a rave review), and then read their books!

Second, anything by Mark Oshiro, Sara Holland, Arvin Ahmadi, Dhonielle Clayton, and Adam Silvera. Love these people, couldn’t do what I do without them.

Third, my clients. Check out books by these authors: 

Mistakes Were Made by Meryl Wilsner (we may or may not call this book MILF book as its secret title…college senior has a hot hookup, oops it’s her friend’s mom, wait…now, they’re falling in now)

All Boys Aren’t Blue and We Are Not Broken by George M. Johnson

You Should See Me in a Crown and Rise to the Sun by Leah Johnson

These Feathered Flames and This Cursed Crown by Alexandra Overy

And for a few publishing next year, but available for preorder now, check out: 

Blood Debts by Terry J. Benton-Walker (NOLA set, magical families, estranged siblings, intergenerational curses)

Ravensong by Cayla Fay (war god sisters, Buffy vibes, romance, northeastern gothic)

Juniper Harvey and the Vanishing Kingdom by Nina Varela (first crush, a journey to a magical other world, perfect for fans of Rick Riordan)

Dear Medusa by Olivia A. Cole (if you loved Shout or The Poet X, you’ll love this!)

Finally, for a book I deeply love. I acquired this when I was an editor! 

Beyond the Ruby Veil and its sequel, Into the Midnight Void by Mara Fitzgerald. It’s a dark queer, hilarious, YA fantasy duology.