ARC Review of When You Get the Chance by Tom Ryan and Robin Stevenson

Disclaimer: I received an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Cousins Mark and Talia used to spend summers together at the family cottage, but when a fight happened between their parents, those happy summer days ended, and they no longer talked with each other. When their grandpa dies, Mark and Talia are reunited for the funeral.

Although Mark is sad about his grandfather, he’s more interested in trying to go to Pride in Toronto while they are there for the funeral. He’s grown up in Halifax, and while they have a Pride event there, it’s nothing compared to what happens in Toronto.

And while Talia is sad about his grandfather, she’s more interested in trying to meet up with Erin, her partner, who recently left Victoria and moved to school early—which just happens to be in Toronto.

But their parents have other plans. Instead of either of them staying in Toronto, the families decide to go to the family cabin to begin to decide what to do with it because Mark and Talia’s grandmother’s health is also declining.

But when their grandmother’s health calls their parents away, they decide to unleash a plot to get them both what they want: Mark to Pride and Talia to Erin in Toronto. Can you say roadtrip time?

When You Get the Chance is a beautiful look at family secrets, dealing with the past, and the messiness of teen life. These are not perfect characters; they are not written to be that way! Their personalities are very nuanced, and it was honestly refreshing to see how messy they were at times. They are incredibly realistic and act like some people I know in real life. This very realistic messiness was dealt with in such a careful way by Tom Ryan and Robin Stevenson, and I loved how much the characters grew throughout the novel.

I absolutely loved this read, and it’s one that I definitely recommend!

Preorder here: 

IndieBound

Barnes & Noble

 

 

DRC Review of The Fell of Dark by Caleb Roehrig

Disclaimer: I received a digital review copy from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Auggie lives in Fulton Heights, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. It’s a decaying suburb, and unfortunately, it’s known to be a hub for vampires. Yes, vampires. An average of three people die each year in Fulton Heights of vampire attacks, and public places in town are equipped with emergency kits to handle vampire attacks.

So why should Auggie care about Algebra when he lives in a vampire town? Why does he have to get tutored in Algebra so he can hopefully actually pass it this time around when there are bigger issues to worry about?

And then Auggie finds out from Jude, a vampire, that the world as he knows it is coming to an end—and he may be the only one to stop that from happening.

The Fell of Dark is Roehrig’s fifth novel, but it is fourth original novel. (He has an intellectual property work titled A Werewolf in Riverdale which releases April 7) . While Roehrig became known for his twisty whodunit thrillers, Last Seen Leaving and White Rabbit, he has also expanded his range of thrillers to include Death Prefers Blondes and now The Fell of Dark which might best be called a paranormal thriller.

Roehrig has carefully crafted a world where vampires are known to walk among us and carefully crafted two cults of vampires: the League of Dark Star and the Syndicates. The amount of careful world building Roehrig did was outstanding, but it never once feels like an info dump on the reader. As Auggie comes to know elements of the vampire world that he didn’t know prior, the reader learns along with him in ways that fully immerse the reader into the story.

As Roehrig is also known for, The Fell of Dark includes a multitude of queer characters including queer vampires. And within this, Roehrig also manages to sneak in a bit of mid-twentieth century queer history.

Roehrig’s The Fell of Dark is a novel that you can really sink your teeth into and rejoice in delight, and it’s an absolute must read.

The Fell of Dark releases July 14.

Preorder here: 

IndieBound

Barnes & Noble

 

ARC Review of The Phantom Twin by Lisa Brown

Disclaimer: I received an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Isabel and Jane are the Extraordinary Peabody Sisters. Sold to a carnival shortly after they were born as conjoined twins, they are a part of the “Freak Show” in the carnival. When a doctor sees their act, he believes that he can successfully separate them, giving Jane what she’s always longed for: her own life separate from Isabel.

But then the surgery goes wrong, and Isabel is the one to survive. She’s then haunted by her twin Jane as she tries to navigate life no longer conjoined and now no longer an asset to the carnival.

Isabel finds allies along the way, but she also finds that she shouldn’t be so easy to trust people. She must find ways to navigate her new life successfully before she can no longer go with the carnival.

The Phantom Twin is a historical graphic novel that explores the idea of the old school freak shows in a new light. This is a quick read.

The Phantom Twin releases on March 3.

ARC Review of Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

Disclaimer: I received an eARC through Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Pepper’s family is behind Big League Burger which has quickly launched into popularity across the U.S. and is spreading internationally.

Jack’s family runs Girl Cheesing, a small deli with only one location.

While both go to the same school, their worlds unexpectedly collide when Big League Burger launches new grilled cheese sandwiches, one of which is clearly a blatant rip off of the Girl Cheesing Grandma’s grilled cheese special. Not one to take it sitting down, Jack uses the deli’s Twitter account and fires off a tweet reply which unexpectedly goes viral. And quickly, Pepper’s mom instructs her to fire back because while Big League Burger has a social media manager, Pepper really is the brains behind it.

And so the feud begins.

But there’s another problem. Pepper and Jack may be crushing on each other without actually knowing the other is behind it on an anonymous app that Jack built while simultaneously engaging in a Twitter war that neither knows they’re behind.

Tweet Cute was a refreshingly fun read. While dealing with some hard-hitting topics (struggling family business, tense family dynamics), this read remains a fun read throughout.

This is told in alternating perspectives, and I thoroughly enjoyed both perspectives.

Tweet Cute releases January 21.

Author Interview with Ryan La Sala

I had the honor of interview Ryan La Sala for my blog, and oh boy, this one is something quite out of this world. I somehow got approved for an eARC of Reverie earlier this summer, and I found it to be such a compelling read. (Review is here)

First a bit about Ryan (from his website) :

Ryan La Sala has always lived on the partition between the real and unreal. He writes about surreal things happening to real people, and his stories are almost always queer. His first book, REVERIE,  focuses on the worlds we build within ourselves—our dreams and our delusions—and how they warp our reality. You can read an interview about it here.

Ryan grew up in a quaint suburb of Connecticut with his three siblings and three parents. He studied Anthropology and Neuroscience at Northeastern University in Boston and now works atop an antique movie theater at a digital design agency in Somerville, MA. He lives in a house festooned in decorations from past theme parties, where the TV alternates between Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Kingdom Hearts, and Sailor Moon. If not writing, Ryan is doing arts and crafts with his roommate, lounging around on gym equipment while listening to publishing podcasts, or listening to NPR while cooking. He loves CATS the musical unironically.

And, for those wondering, Ryan writes about drag queens but is not regularly in drag himself. He just doesn’t have the nose for it, and that’s okay.

Ryan is represented by Veronica Park at Fuse Literary.

And then a bit about Reverie, his forthcoming book (again from his website):

All Kane Montgomery knows for certain is that the police found him half-dead in the river. He can’t remember anything since the accident robbed him of his memories a few weeks ago. And the world feels different… reality itself seems different.

So when three of his classmates claim to be his friends and the only people who can truly tell him what’s going on, he doesn’t know what to believe or who he can trust. But as he and the others are dragged into unimaginable worlds that materialize out of nowhere—the gym warps into a subterranean temple, a historical home nearby blooms into a Victorian romance rife with scandal and sorcery—Kane realizes that nothing in his life is in accident, and only he can stop their town from unraveling.

And now for the interview!

Can you tell us a little bit about your publishing journey so far?

I’ve been wondering about my publishing journey recently, and I’m pretty sure I did everything wrong. I wrote a book so indulgently gay and tailored to my tastes that I was sure it was never going to get me represented by an agent, never mind sell to a major publisher. And to make it worse, I wrote about ~*~DREAMS~*~, and fantastical amnesia, which are rather threadbare territories in the genre. And then, when it got rejected, I ignored everyone’s advice to ‘please for the love of god write something different’ and just kept choo-chooing along.

And THEN, instead of having a nice and professional and smart digital presence, I sort of turned into a virtual clown on Twitter, known for not wearing pants and not knowing how to spell, which is actually who I am IRL.

Anyhow, my agent found me on twitter. So did editors. And my nightmarish, gay-ass book has found a dramatically enthusiastic audience even before publication. It’s a dream – PUN INTENDED – come true.

Anyhow, I wouldn’t recommend anyone follow in my footsteps. Truly I’m baffled any of this worked. But somehow doing stuff the wrong way has worked for me, so here I am!

You have another job in addition to the writing job. How do you find balance in this?

It’s true! People can’t possibly imagine me in a professional scenario, but I actually work in project management and tech. I oversee engineering and design projects for websites! It’s fun and nerdy and I really love the agency I work for. It’s also super demanding, so I’ve got to be pretty organized with how I spend my time.

For instance, I take great care in making use of my time outside of working hours to get all my writing deliverables done, so that I’m not distracted when I’m in the office or working with clients. This includes not just my actual writing, but also all the creative assets that come with promo. Many of my tweets are drafted/planned out the night/weekend before (I flinch at calling these ‘creative assets’ but I guess they technically are, given my origin story?). The images and gifs I put together are designed and edited while I’m dawdling at the gym. If I’m stuck on the train, I’ll write up email responses in my notepad and send them during lunch. Even right now, I’m on a train on my way home from a client visit, making the most of a few minutes to respond to interview J I’m chronically behind on writing stuff, but I do eventually get everything done.

Reverie features a drag queen sorceress. Can you tell us the story behind how that came to be?

Growing up, I spent many summers as a little kid running around Provincetown, a popular performance spot for queens, and I was enamored with every queen I saw. Drag queens are incredibly powerful, just by the nature of their ability to create an entire fiction around themselves. They are the collision between fantasy, power, and self-possession, and I admire the raw individuality it takes to create yourself every single day.

So much of REVERIE has to do with having the guts to manifest the things you believe in, and for me there is no one more prepared to do that than a drag queen. Anyone else could command the forces Poesy commands, but as the book shows, no one is quite as willing, or anywhere near as determined.

While Reverie is fantasy, it’s a very grounded fantasy and takes place in Connecticut. Are any of the places in your book inspired by real life places?

Actually, yes. While Easy Amity, the town in the book, is fictional, it may or may not be based on the real places of West Hartford (where I grew up), and Middletown, where my sister attended college. The Cobalt Complex is drawn from my childhood exploration of the factories that line the many rivers in CT, most of which are abandoned and in a state of thorough decay.

When I first sold REVERIE, I took a few days to go and re-explore the places that had inspired the book. I visited libraries, a jail, high schools, and more abandoned factories than I’d like the police to know about. It’s all real stuff, even the stuff you probably think I made up.

What is your biggest hope for the first year that your book is available to readers?

In the first year of REVERIE’s life, I would really love to see it inspire readers to create their own art. Fan art is cool, and of course adored by me, but the best response I have gotten to this book is the growing contingent of readers who have reported that after finishing the epilogue, they felt the wild urge to create something. I love that. I want that. And I want that especially for the creators out there who are maybe shy of their imagination, because they’ve been othered by media, society, or their family. If this book gets people to really sit down and explore their inner worlds, I will consider my job done well.

When not at your day job or writing, what do you do for fun or to relax?

I live with two dogs, and I love to annoy them with improvised songs about what I think they’re dreaming about. I also occasionally haunt a gym, where I’ve been known to lift a weight or two every few hours. I also love to go to the movies by myself, and binge anime (not by myself, but it’s very very very hard to convince any of my friends to sit through really any anime with me).


Thank you so much to Ryan for the time and effort put into this interview.

Reverie releases December 3, and I’ve included important links below:

Add Reverie to Goodreads

Pre-order Reverie

Follow Ryan La Sala on Twitter

Author Interview with Adib Khorram

Today, I have the great honor of doing an interview with Adib Khorram, author of the award-winning (and life-changing) Darius the Great is Not Okay.

First, here’s a bit about Adib (from his website)

ADIB KHORRAM is the author of DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY. If he’s not writing (or at his day job as a graphic designer), you can probably find him trying to get his 100-yard Freestyle under a minute, learning to do a Lutz Jump, or steeping a cup of oolong. He lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where people don’t usually talk about themselves in the third person. You can find him on Twitter (@adibkhorram), Instagram (@adibkhorram), or on the web at adibkhorram.com.

And here’s a bit of Darius the Great is Not Okay (again from his website):

Darius doesn’t think he’ll ever be enough, in America or in Iran. 

Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s a Fractional Persian–half, his mom’s side–and his first-ever trip to Iran is about to change his life.

Darius has never really fit in at home in Portland, and he just knows things are going to be the same in Iran. His clinical depression doesn’t exactly help matters, and trying to explain his medication to his grandparents only makes things harder. Then Darius meets Sohrab, the boy next door, and everything changes. Sohrab introduces Darius to all of his favorite things–mint syrup and the soccer field and a secret rooftop overlooking the city’s skyline. He gets Darius an Iranian National Football Team jersey that makes him feel like a True Persian for the first time. And he understands that sometimes, friends don’t have to talk. Sohrab calls him Darioush–the original Persian version of his name–and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab.

By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, Adib Khorram’s brilliant debut is for anyone who’s ever felt not good enough–then met a friend who makes them feel so much better than okay.

And now for the interview!
Darius the Great is Not Okay is frequently included on lists for LGBT+ books, but in the book itself, Darius’ sexuality is never overtly stated. Was this an intentional decision/what drove that decision?

It was quite intentional. For me Darius’s story was always, always about friendship; I didn’t even realize he was queer until I was deep in revisions. I think it’s important to show pre-coming out queer narratives, and I think it’s important to show that queer identity is only one small part of people.

Darius has won quite a few literary awards which is incredible. What has been your most personally rewarding moment in the year since the book first released? (Doesn’t have to be literary award related!) 

It’s hard to pick a rewarding moment—there have been so many—but I will share a trend that’s stuck with me. I do a lot of school visits and I talk about my own growing up as a queer kid, and a diaspora kid, and I love the conversations that spurs. Sometimes it’ll be a big discussion and the students will get to see their friends and classmates with greater empathy than before. And sometimes it’s a quiet moment of connection where a student is struggling with something and asks me for advice. Making life better for young readers is why I do this.

Darius portrays the quiet struggles of mental illness so well. After I made my mom read it, she told me, “now I understand you and your dad a little better.” Why was it important to you to include this mental health representation?  

When I first started writing Darius back in 2015, it felt like there was a huge crop of books about mental illness that all dealt with suicide. While that’s certainly a possible outcome of living with depression, it’s not the only one, and I wanted to push back on that narrative.

You work a job outside of writing. Because of that, what does your typical writing day look like?

I don’t know that I really have a typical writing day! Sometimes my dayjob will be kind of slow and I’ll take time off to write. Sometimes it’ll be busy and get no writing in. Sometimes I’ll be on a job site but waiting for someone else to finish before I can do my work, and then I might squeeze in some writing there. My favorite writing days are when I can gather with some other local YA authors and we write, talk, and get lunch!

Your next sold book is a picture book. How has this process been different than the process for Darius?

With a novel, I’m in charge of describing everything in words. But with a picture book, I have to leave room for the illustrator. So much gets to go unsaid. It’s been so cool to work on something and know it’s going to be transformed into something even more amazing.

If you had the opportunity to co-write a YA novel with any author (living or dead), who would you pick and why? (And if you wouldn’t want to do a co-write, explain why.)

I met Lana Wood Johnson back in 2014 when we were both querying bad novels. We posted our queries for critique, ripped each others’ to shreds, and have been friends ever since. Her debut, TECHNICALLY, YOU STARTED IT came out this year, and it shares a lot of themes with Darius: nerds, queerness, mental health, parent relationships. I think we’d have a blast working on something fun and nerdy together!


Thank you so much to Adib for doing this interview with me! I’m still in shock that so many authors said yes, and I’m still shocked that Adib said yes.

Darius the Great is Not Okay is such an incredible book. You can read what I had to say about it here, and I included links below to check out.

Add Darius the Great is Not Okay on Goodreads

Buy Darius the Great is Not Okay

Add Seven Special Somethings (the forthcoming picture book) to Goodreads

ARC Review of All-American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney

Disclaimer: I received an eARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

While boarding a plane to visit Dallas, Allie’s father begins to be harassed for speaking Arabic on the phone. Allie, Muslim herself but white-passing, calms down the situation, something that she’s used to doing. But that incident along with visiting her family in Dallas sparks a change in Allie. She’s never really explored her own religion, and for the first time, she wants to.

But at the same time, none of her friends at her newest school know that she’s Muslim. As she begins to see the world through a different lens, she begins confronting what it means to be a Muslim in America, to be white-passing, and to stay silent or speak up in the face of oppression. Add to the mix a boyfriend whose father has made a career out of hating Muslims, and Allie’s life becomes even more complicated.

This is an #ownvoices novel that explores deeply the idea of being Muslim in America and what it means to take ownership over who you really are. While this is a bit on the lengthier side, it’s a pretty fast-paced read, and it’s extremely high quality.

It’s one that so many people need to read.

All-American Muslim Girl releases November 12.

Author Interview with Phil Stamper

Up next in the author interview series is an interview Phil Stamper, author of the forthcoming The Gravity of Us. I read this as an ARC (read the review here), and I loved it so much.

Here’s a bit about Phil Stamper (from his website):

Phil Stamper grew up in a rural village near Dayton, Ohio. He has a B.A. in Music and an M.A. in Publishing with Creative Writing. And, unsurprisingly, a lot of student debt. He works for a major book publisher in New York City and lives in Brooklyn with his husband and their dog. THE GRAVITY OF US is his first novel, but he’s no stranger to writing. His self-insert Legend of Zelda fanfiction came with a
disclaimer from the 14-year old author: “Please if you write a review don’t criticize my work.” He has since become more open to critique… sort of.
And here’s a bit about The Gravity of Us which releases February 4, 2020.

As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus.

Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another “Astrokid,” and finds himself falling head over heels—fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.

And now for the interview!

In the book, you take the world that was built in the 1960s for the first era of human space flight modernize it. Why did you specifically decide to do this?

This is a great question, and I think it was actually a bit of trial and error that got me to this point. I started drafting the novel as a YA historical fiction novel, actually. In the plan for this novel, I was going to build a teen m/m love story into the actual Apollo program. But I had a hard time making it work. Among the issues, it didn’t feel very relevant or exciting as a story. I wasn’t feeling that “spark” you get when a piece is really coming together.

And then I had the idea to make it a contemporary, and I started to find so many parallels between the issues the astronaut families would face today and what they really did face 50 years ago. I replotted the book, adding the social media and reality show elements, the “Orpheus” missions to Mars, and I found a way to reference the drama of the 60s while not getting too caught up in nostalgia. I decided to go for it during NaNoWriMo 2016, and ended up drafting the full book in three weeks. It just worked so well.

In the book, both Cal’s mother and Leon struggle with mental health issues. However, Cal does not explicitly struggle with mental health. Why was it important to you to include mental health issues from the perspective of a perceived outsider (i.e. Cal)?

This really came from my own personal experiences—I’ve spent a lot of time (over the last half-decade especially) learning how to manage my own mental health, and for me, part of the challenge of that is in how to communicate it to others. Too often, it can feel like it’s “me against the world” when mental health is concerned, and I found it almost therapeutic to write from the perspective of a character who may or may not have the same experience, but who still takes the time to listen and understand.

Given the right circumstances, would you consider a sequel?

Absolutely! I loved spending so much time in this world, and I could definitely see the potential for more stories within it. Keep your fingers crossed. 🙂


Thank you so much to Phil for his time and thoughtful answers!!

I’ve linked some important links below:

Add The Gravity of Us to Goodreads

Pre-order The Gravity of Us

Info about Phil Stamper’s awesome pre-order gift (a bookplate that’s been flown into space!) 

Follow Phil on Twitter

Author Interview with Stephanie Kate Strohm

Continuing the interview series, I have an interview today with Stephanie Kate Strohm, author of eight books, the most recent being That’s Not What I Heard. I have read every single one of her books, and I have freaking loved all of them.

Here’s a bit about Stephanie:

Stephanie Kate Strohm is the author of It’s Not Me, It’s You; The Taming of the DrewPilgrims Don’t Wear PinkConfederates Don’t Wear Couture; The Date to SavePrince in Disguise, Love a la Mode,and That’s Not What I Heard. She grew up on the Connecticut coast, where a steady diet of Little House on the Prairie turned her into a history nerd at an early age. After graduating with a joint major in theater and history from Middlebury College, she acted her way around the country, performing in more than 25 states.

Although she was born in New York, she currently lives in Chicago, and doesn’t discriminate against any type of pizza. When she’s not writing, she loves baking, walking her dog Lorelei, taking dance cardio classes too seriously, and playing board games with her husband.

And here’s a bit about Stephanie’s most recent book:

What did you hear?

Kimberly Landis-Lilley and Teddy Lin are over. Yes, the Kim and Teddy broke up.

At least that’s what Phil Spooner thinks he overheard and then told Jess Howard, Kim’s best friend. Something about Teddy not liking Kim’s Instas? Or was it that Teddy is moving to Italy and didn’t want to do long distance? Or that Kim slid into someone else’s DMs?

Jess told her boyfriend, Elvis, that he needs to be on Kim’s side. Especially if he wants to keep her as his girlfriend. But Elvis is also Teddy’s best friend.

Now, Kim’s run out of school for the day. Jess is furious. Elvis is confused. And half the lunch period won’t talk to Teddy. Even the teachers have taken sides.

William Henry Harrison High will never be the same again!

And now for the interview!

That’s Not What I Heard is probably the funniest book I’ve ever read. I know that you briefly worked as a teacher. Did any of your experiences impact how you crafted this book?

My year and a half working at a high school informed EVERYTHING about the teacher scenes – even down to the PE teachers eating a whole rotisserie chicken every lunch. I started midway through the year, and I was shocked by how much being in the teachers lounge reminded me of being back in high school – and even more shocked by how much the teachers knew about all the students’ social lives! (And also, by how many teachers fell in love and got married!) I’d wanted to write a YA that included some of high school from the teachers’ perspective ever since I started teaching, so I’m so glad I finally got the chance to. Ms. Somers’ POV was my favorite one to write.

You have an (adorable) one year old. How has his presence impacted your writing career? 

My son has changed everything about my life, including my writing. I used to only write when I felt like it, and then when I did feel like it, I’d write in giant, uninterrupted chunks. Now, my process is completely different. I write every single day (thanks, nap time!) and I usually only write 500 words – before baby, I thought that 500 words was nothing. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that it added up more quickly that I would have guessed! Writing has become a slow and steady process, but I’m making it work. The other big change is that I find it harder to find the time to dedicate to social media – and that I need to make sure events will at least cover the cost of a babysitter before I commit! I love doing festivals and panels and school visits, but it’s a little more challenging to schedule everything now.

If you could choose exactly one of your books to become a movie/tv series, which one would it be and why?

This is tough, but if I could only choose one, it would be Prince in Disguise, because i LOVE Christmas movies!! White Christmas is my all-time favorite, but I spend most of December glued to the Hallmark Channel. Name a made for TV Christmas movie, and I’ve probably seen it!

It’s Not Me, It’s You and The Date to Save both are told through an oral history type of style. What were the main challenges of this and your favorite parts of utilizing that style?

The biggest challenge was being able to move the plot along without exposition – I definitely got the hang of it eventually, but it was a process! My favorite part was not having to write any exposition, hahahaha – the oral history style is basically all dialogue, which is my favorite thing to write!

You have some extensive history working as an actress. How would say that this has impacted you as a writer?

And back to dialogue, I think the reason I love writing it so much is because of my background as an actor. I really like getting into characters’ voices, and I think it helped give me a sense of what dialogue sounds natural and what sounds stilted. Plus, I like to think it helped develop my sense of comic timing and how to pace a joke.

If you could co-write a book with another author, living or dead, who would you pick and why? 

Emily Bronte. Wuthering Heights, now with LOLZ!


Thank you so much to Stephanie for her time!!

And here’s some links to check out her works!!

Add Stephanie Kate Strohm’s books on Goodreads

Author Interview With Tom Ryan

In continuing my interview series, I have the great pleasure today of doing an interview with Tom Ryan whose most recent book is Keep This To Yourself. You can read my review of that book here.

A little bit about Tom Ryan from his website:

Tom Ryan is the author of several books for young readers. He has been nominated for the White Pine Award, the Stellar Award and the Hackmatack Award, and two of his books were Junior Library Guild selections. Two of his young adult novels, Way to Go and Tag Along, were chosen for the ALA Rainbow List, in 2013 and 2014. He was a 2017 Lambda Literary Fellow in Young Adult Fiction.

Tom, his husband and their dog currently divide their time between Toronto and Nova Scotia.

And a bit about Tom Ryan’s most recent book (also from his website):

A town ripped apart.

A message from beyond the grave.

And a chance for justice.

Last summer, a serial killer terrorized the sleepy seaside village of Camera Cove, killing four people before disappearing without a trace. Like everyone else in town, eighteen-year-old Mac Bell has been trying to move on from the tragedy—easier said than done when Mac’s best friend, golden boy Connor Williams, was the final victim. But Mac is starting to accept that he might never find closure…

Until he discovers a note that Connor left him the night he died—a note hinting he’d found out the killer’s identity and needed Mac’s help. Now, Mac’s on a mission to solve Connor’s murder once and for all. And nobody—friends, neighbors, or even the cute stranger with his own connection to the case—is beyond suspicion.

Can Mac untangle the truth before the killer strikes again?

And now on to the interview!

Keep This to Yourself is the first book that you’ve had published with literary agent representation. How has this process been different for you?

I’ve been publishing in Canada for almost a decade, and it’s not entirely necessary to work with an agent here, so for many years I didn’t. At a certain point I decided that I wanted to expand my horizons a bit, so after writing a first draft of KEEP THIS TO YOURSELF I began querying, and signed with Eric Smith relatively quickly. One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about working with an agent is that I don’t have to spend valuable time figuring out contracts! I really don’t enjoy the ‘business’ side of publishing, so I’m happy to have someone on my side who can handle that end of things. It’s also great to have someone to bounce ideas around with, and come up with a strategy when it’s time to submit a new project.

Keep This to Yourself features the Catalog Killer, a creepy serial killer. Did you do any research into serial killers for this book/if so what did that process look like?

I didn’t do a lot of specific research into serial killers, but I do listen to a lot of true crime podcasts, and have read a lot of crime fiction over the years, so I’d absorbed some details about how serial killers tend to operate (many leave a signature, etc…) that I was able to include as I created the Catalog Killer and developed their M.O.

Keep This to Yourself’s protagonist Mac is gay. At this point in time, I’ve probably only read a dozen of thrillers that have queer protagonists. Why was it important to you to specifically write a thriller with a gay protagonist?

I’m gay myself, and I have committed myself to writing queer characters into all of my young adult novels. My previous YA titles were straightforward contemporary, but with KEEP THIS TO YOURSELF I really wanted to write a mystery/thriller with a main character who I would have had an easier time relating to if I’d picked this book up at fifteen. I read a lot of mysteries during high school (Christopher Pike, Lois Duncan, lots of classics like Agatha Christie) but they never featured an insecure gay teen detective, so I decided to write one!

One of your upcoming books is a co-write with author Robin Stevenson. If you had an opportunity to co-write with any other author (living or dead), who else would you want to co-write with and why?

Great question! I had a blast writing with Robin, who is one of the loveliest people alive, so I’m tempted to say I’d do it again with her, but instead I’m going to be a bit more creative and say that I’d absolutely love to co-write a mystery with Maureen Johnson. It’s clear from interviews she’s given that she’s a devoted fans of mysteries, and I’m obsessed with her TRULY DEVIOUS series. The main character in the TRULY DEVIOUS books is named Stevie Bell, and my main character in KEEP THIS TO YOURSELF is Mac Bell; someone speculated on twitter recently that maybe their cousins and could join forces to solve a mystery, and to be completely frank that would be a dream project!

What does your typical writing day look like?

I am a very methodical writer, and when I’m working on a book, I follow a very specific routine. I get up early, usually between 530 and 6, take my dog for a long walk during which I listen to my project playlist to get in the mood and work through problems and ideas, then I get home, shower and have a quick breakfast, and bring coffee into my office around 8. I try to get 2000 words a day, which can take me anywhere from two or three hours on a good day, to the late afternoon on a slower day. I work best when I’ve been following this routine regularly for days or weeks, and have had an opportunity to really sink into the story.

A hypothetical: Congratulations! You’ve been asked to write an IP work for one of your favorite things. What would you write IP for/would you accept that offer? Explain. 

Another cool question! There are a bunch of IP projects I’d love to tackle, but one in particular is Nancy Drew. As a child I spent some time in the children’s wing of my local hospital, and someone had donated a complete set of the Nancy Drew detective novels, which I totally inhaled. Those books really spearheaded my love of mysteries, and I think the characters and atmosphere are ripe for different perspectives. I also know that a Nancy Drew tv series is in the works, so who knows? Maybe there will be some tie-in novels.


Thank you again to Tom Ryan for his time and thoughtful answers!

I’ve dropped some links below to further check out Tom’s work.

Add Keep This To Yourself to Goodreads

Add When You Get the Chance (co-written with Robin Stevenson) to Goodreads

Buy Keep This To Yourself

Follow Tom Ryan on Twitter