Author Interview with Rob Rufus

Today, I have the honor of interviewing Rob Rufus, author of YA historical fiction novel The Vinyl Underground. 

First, here’s what the book is about:

During the tumultuous year of 1968, four teens are drawn together: Ronnie Bingham, who is grieving his brother’s death in Vietnam; Milo, Ronnie’s bookish best friend; “Ramrod,” a star athlete who is secretly avoiding the draft; and Hana, the new girl, a half-Japanese badass rock-n-roller whose presence doesn’t sit well with their segregated high school.

The four outcasts find sanctuary in “The Vinyl Underground,” a record club where they spin music, joke, debate, and escape the stifling norms of their small southern town. But Ronnie’s eighteenth birthday is looming. Together, they hatch a plan to keep Ronnie from being drafted. But when a horrific act of racial-charged violence rocks the gang to their core, they decide it’s time for an epic act of rebellion.

And here’s a little bit about Rob:

Rob Rufus is an author, musician, and screenwriter. His literary debut, Die Young With Me, received an American Library Association Award and was named one of The Best Books of The Year by Hudson Booksellers. It is currently being developed for the screen. His musical projects, Blacklist Royals/The Bad Signs, have released numerous full-length albums and toured in over a dozen countries.

And here’s the interview!

1.) The Vinyl Underground is your fiction debut after publishing a memoir. Can you talk about your road to publishing?

It was honestly harder to publish a work of fiction than my memoir.  My former publisher didn’t think the protest movement of the 1960s was a “relevant” topic to young readers, which in and of itself is troubling given the current political/social climate.  I was very happy to find the book a home that understood and welcomed hard topics and conversations.

2.) The Vinyl Underground takes place in 1968, one of the most turbulent years of the 20th century. What type of historical research did you do for the book?

It was really important to me to get the details right.  I read a LOT of books, watched a lot of documentaries, read articles and watched news stories from the time to get a sense of how the narratives were discussed without the gift of hindsight.  I also talked to people who participated and lived through the events covered in the book.

3.) There were several years in which the Vietnam War took place. What drove the decision to set the book in 1968?

1968 was one of the most turbulent years in American history.  We almost got out of the war, but then doubled-down in full force.  Martin Luther King was assassinated, and the Democratic Convention sparked one of the most violent sociopolitical protests in American history.  I think I chose 1968 because the country was ready to blow, which felt very familiar.

4.) Your book is filled with rich atmospheric details that makes the book come alive in that time period.  How do you handle historical world building?

I think mainly research, research, research.  It helped that I am very enamored with that time period.  My dad is a Vietnam Vet, but would never talk about his experiences.  So, all of my life I’ve immersed myself in the culture, music, and history of the war to get some sort of understanding of what his life was like.  When it came time to write the book, it was easy for me to close my eyes and see that world come alive.


I absolutely loved The Vinyl Underground, and you can read my review here.

(Disclaimer: I am an affiliate of Bookshop and earn a small amount if you click on that link to buy.)

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

 

 

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.

ARC Review of I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick

Disclaimer: I received an eARC through the author/publisher’s early reviewer program in exchange for an honest review.

We begin an interview room in a police station where Anna Cicconi confesses to the murder of Zoe Spanos. How we got to that point is the question.

Freshly graduated from high school, Anna gets a job as a nanny for a family who live in the Hamptons. She needs a clean break from her former reality in which she would get blackout drunk or high on various drugs, and what better way than to be put in a position where she is responsible for another human life besides her own.

As she arrives to the small village of Herron Mills, she receives many strange looks, and she eventually finds out that she bears a striking resemblance to Zoe Spanos who disappeared between New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

For a reason that she cannot explain, she feels like she knows Zoe even though her friends convince her that Anna and Zoe have never met. But Anna knows things about Zoe that aren’t public information, and how else can she know these things?

Anna decides to investigate Zoe’s disappearance, getting close to Zoe’s (former?) boyfriend. And in the end (or in this case the beginning of the book), she decides that she knows Zoe so well because she killed Zoe.

But not everyone is buying it. After all, how can you kill someone that you never even met?

Told in “then” and “now” segments, I Killed Zoe Spanos is a twisting psychological thriller that will elevate your heart rate and leave you second-guessing everything down to the last page.

In I Killed Zoe Spanos, Kit Frick is able to carefully weave together her best book yet.

I Killed Zoe Spanos releases on June 2, 2020.

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DRC Review of Camp by L. C. Rosen

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

For the last few summers, Randy has come to Camp Outland, a camp for queer teens. He was free to be himself more fully, even being the lead in the musical there last summer. But this year, Randy is gone, and Del is here instead. Del doesn’t wear nail polish. Dell doesn’t do musical. Del does sports instead. Del wears different clothes.

Why? So Randy aka Del can attract Hudson, a guy who is only into “straight-acting” guys. He has a plan. He will get Hudson to fall in love with Del and reveal himself as Randy, hoping that Hudson has fallen in love him enough that he won’t have any problems being himself around Hudson.

At first, Del’s plans goes better than he expects. Turns out, Hudson was so oblivious to Randy in the past that Del is able to fully pass himself off as a new camper. Hudson takes advantage, eschewing his former reputation as a playboy at the camp, to quickly begin a romance with Del.

But as the summer unravels, pieces of the past find ways to pierce into the relationship, and Del finds himself wondering, is a relationship worth it if he has to change who he is to be in it?

Camp is an important look at toxic masculinity as well as some of the issues that are very real in the queer community, from problems with those that won’t accept you outside of the community to problems with those that won’t accept you from inside the community. It is a very worthwhile read.

Camp releases May 26, 2020.

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Author Interview with Alex London

Today, I have the amazing honor of doing an interview with Alex London, author of 25+ books. I’m still freaking out about this one.

First a bit about Alex (from his website):

Alex London is the author of over 25 books for children, teens, and adults, with over 2 million copies sold. For middle grade readers, he’s the author of the Dog Tags, Tides of War, Wild Ones, and Accidental Adventures series, as well as two titles in the 39 Clues series. For young adults, he’s the author of the cyberpunk duology Proxy and the epic fantasy Black Wings Beating. He’s been a journalist reporting from conflict zones and refugee camps, a young adult librarian with New York Public Library, an assistant to a Hollywood film agent, and a snorkel salesman. He lives with his family in Philadelphia, PA.

And here’s a bit about Alex’s latest series, The Skybound Saga which begins with Black Wings Beating:

The people of Uztar have long looked to the sky with hope and wonder. Nothing in their world is more revered than the birds of prey and no one more honored than the falconers who call them to their fists.

Brysen strives to be a great falconer―while his twin sister, Kylee, rejects her ancient gifts for the sport and wishes to be free of falconry. She’s nearly made it out, too, but a war is rolling toward their home in the Six Villages, and no bird or falconer will be safe.

Together the twins must journey into the treacherous mountains to trap the Ghost Eagle, the greatest of the Uztari birds and a solitary killer. Brysen goes for the boy he loves and the glory he’s long craved, and Kylee to atone for her past and to protect her brother’s future. But both are hunted by those who seek one thing: power.

And now for the interview!

You’ve published 25+ books, all of which are quite different. Does your writing process change from book to book/genre to genre? 

Not really, in terms of the fiction anyway…. although they are indeed all quite different. Each book kind of teaches me how to write it and every book has it own unique challenges and demands. The technical process is usually the same. I have some idea of the major early beats of the story, the character’s wants and needs and flaws, and a few things I want to happen, which I use as signposts while discovering the story as I write. I tend to strive for word count goals, so I lay down a quick rough draft that isn’t usually very good, and then I sort of make a post-first draft outline to see where my gaps and leaps are and then I revise and revise and revise. For me, most of what makes my books readable happens in revision, but that first draft is about discovering what the heart of that book is, why I’m actually writing it vs. why i thought I was writing it when I first sat down. My books to tend to be smarter than I am and they teach me what they are as I go through the process of writing them.

In several of your books (Skybound Saga Trilogy, Wild Ones trilogy, and the Proxy duology), you created some pretty impressive worlds. What does your initial world building process look like?

I LOVE world-building. I actually think all fiction writing is world-building, even in contemporary realistic fiction. You’re always choosing details, guiding the reader’s perception and where you point their imaginations builds your worlds. I never liked info-dumps in fantasy and sci-fi so I tend to approach world building through my characters—what do they believe and know about their world, what do they discover. I find ways to provide that information through the language characters use, through the assumptions they make, the food they eat, the jokes they tell. I often don’t have too detailed a plan when I begin, but as I go I am very deliberate about asking myself questions on the world. I always ask myself: who has power in this world, and how do they keep it? How does power move? What does everyone in this world know (even if it’s not “true”)? And I like to know a little about what they eat and where it comes from. That can tell you a lot about how to build a world.

In late summer 2018, you and your husband welcomed Baby Human into your lives. How has her presence changed your writing life and writing habits? 

Yeah…in every way. Time is more precious; there is more pressure to deliver but also more demands pulling at my mind. The act of writing is the same, but this first year has been hard to actually do it, or at least do it well. I’m still learning how, but she gives me a heck of a good reason to figure it out!

In addition to your 25+ published books, you have quite a few published short stories. If you had to choose one, which one is your favorite published short story and why?

Definitely “Indoor Kids” in the anthology, It’s A Whole Spiel edited by Katherine Locke & Laura Silverman. It was my first YA contemporary story and my first explicitly Jewish main characters (who weren’t me…I did write an entire nonfiction book about my relationship to Judaism and Israel). It’s also my first fully romantic story with the plot and tension comes from flirting and crush, which I just had the most fun writing. I’m really proud of the story and the voice and the process really made me want to write more contemporary YA.

If you had the opportunity to write an IP book for anything of your choosing, what would you choose and why?

No comment…mostly because my dream project is somewhat in process and I can’t say any more about it. I will say, as this one isn’t happening, I once pitched an AMAZING m/m Pacific Rim graphic novel to the company that owns that copyright and I’m super proud of the story and would love to actually write it one day. Honestly, I might just to it as fanfic sometime.

If you could choose ANY of your 25+ books to become a movie or tv series, which one would it be and why? 

Any of them! All of them! The thing about Hollywood adaptations is that even the bad ones bring new readers to the books and the books exist no matter what, so I’d love the chance for that to happen to any of my work. It’d be wild to see any of my daydreams rendered on screen by talented filmmakers. That said, I’ve been going through a long journey to the small screen with PROXY, my 2013 sci-fi novel and I really hope something comes of it. As is the way of Hollywood, I’m not allowed to say more…but there is a process underway!

I think the visuals in Black Wings Beating would be super cool to see on the big screen. I love some good visual spectacle that also feels gritty and real (Like Mad Max: Fury Road) and Black Wings Beating could certainly provide that with the right creative team behind it. It’s not like anything we’ve seen before, that’s for sure. Keep all your fingers and toes crossed! Conversations are underway on that too with some cool and passionate people, but we are in very early stages, which have just as much substance as air at this point.


Thank you so much to Alex for his generous time! This has been a dream interview to do, and I’m still in disbelief that Alex said yes.

As always, here’s some links for you to check out:

Checkout Alex’s YA books on Goodreads

Check out Alex’s other books on Goodreads

Follow Alex on Twitter

Make Alex rich (YA edition)

Make Alex rich (children’s lit edition)

Make Alex rich (adult non-fiction edition)

Author Interview with Caleb Roehrig

I have the honor of interviewing Caleb Roehrig for the blog today! It’s been a dream to interview Caleb, and I’m so thrilled I get to do this.

Here’s a bit about Caleb:

Caleb Roehrig is a writer and television producer originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Having also lived in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Helsinki, Finland, he has a chronic case of wanderlust, and can recommend the best sights to see on a shoestring budget in over thirty countries. A former actor, Roehrig has experience on both sides of the camera, with a résumé that includes appearances on film and TV—as well as seven years in the stranger-than-fiction salt mines of reality television. In the name of earning a paycheck, he has: hung around a frozen cornfield in his underwear, partied with an actual rock-star, chatted with a scandal-plagued politician, and been menaced by a disgruntled ostrich.

And a bit about his latest book:

Teenage socialite Margo Manning leads a dangerous double life.

By day, she dodges the paparazzi while soaking up California sunshine. By night, however, she dodges security cameras and armed guards, pulling off high-stakes cat burglaries with a team of flamboyant young men. In and out of disguise, she’s in all the headlines.

But then Margo’s personal life takes a sudden, dark turn, and a job to end all jobs lands her crew in deadly peril. Overnight, everything she’s ever counted on is put at risk. Backs against the wall, the resourceful thieves must draw on their special skills to survive. But can one rebel heiress and four kickboxing drag queens withstand the slings and arrows of truly outrageous fortune? Or will a mounting sea of troubles end them — for good?

And now for the interview!

Since your debut came out in 2016, you’ve had a busy career with two additional published books, two forthcoming, and three short stories coming. What do your writing days/nights look like to accomplish all that? 

OOF. Ugh. This has actually always been a bit of a moving target, but…lately it’s been moving in a bad direction, haha. When I wrote my debut, I was living in Europe without a work visa, and my schedule was eight hours of writing a day: 3 pm-7 pm, break, 10 pm-2 am. Three moves and several spirals later, my schedule while writing THE FELL OF DARK and A WEREWOLF IN RIVERDALE (simultaneously) often had me up until 5 am. (Not something I want to maintain!) (I am happy to report that over the past two months, my bedtime has moved back to 2 am!)

Your first two books are told in first person while Death Prefers Blondes is told in third person. What drove those specific decisions?

This is such a good question! I cut my teeth on first-person detective fiction—Sue Grafton, Raymond Chandler, Sara Paretsky—and I really love the opportunity it affords to dig into the main character’s innermost thoughts and feelings. However, when I was plotting DEATH PREFERS BLONDES, and I knew it was going to be an ensemble narrative, (and one with plenty of switching back and forth, even within the same scenes and sequences,) I had to consider what would be the cleanest and most elegant way of effecting those transitions. Ultimately, I decided that a third-person limited perspective would be best.

Your books are set in many locations. Last Seen Leaving in Ann Arbor, Michigan, White Rabbit in Vermont, Death Prefers Blondes primarily in Los Angeles, and the forthcoming The Fell of Dark in the Chicago suburbs. What drives your decision for book settings?

Environment is an absolutely crucial factor for me when I’m plotting a story, and to date I’ve chosen settings that are all personally meaningful. Ann Arbor is my hometown, I got married in Vermont, I lived in Los Angeles for ten years, and I lived in Chicago for one year before that (and now live there again!) In many ways, it’s a chicken-vs-egg situation: I choose the location because its vibe fits the atmosphere I want for the story, but the story can change as it develops because the environment of the location requires it.

Writing can be immensely stressful. What ways have you found to relieve some of that stress? 

I always give the most disappointing answer to this question, but here it is: running. I want to be clear that this is what works for me, because I know it isn’t possible or enjoyable for everyone—but it might be the only thing that truly works for me. I burn off anxious energy, I build up endorphins, I give myself a full hour to do nothing but mentally focus on the story I’m trying to tell while my body is otherwise engaged. Anyway, I guess that’s my answer and I’m sticking to it!

What has been your most rewarding part about being an author? 

Typically, I’ve always answered this question with a glib remark about how I can show up late for work with a martini in both hands and still not get in trouble, but the truth of the matter is, I’ve never felt luckier in my life. I get to tell stories, and I get to see people engage with them; I get paid to let my imagination run wild—and my fantasies were always as alive to me as the real world anyway. Plus, at least in my books, I can control the chaos spilling into everyone’s lives, and I get to decide when and how it ends.

I often fall into the trap of looking ahead at upcoming releases that I miss so many fantastic books already out there. What already released books would you say are absolute must-reads (any genre)? 

To shout out a few titles just off the top of my head, for YA: NOTEWORTHY by Riley Redgate; ALL OF THIS IS TRUE by Lygia Day Peñaflor; UNDEAD GIRL GANG by Lily Anderson; THE DARKEST CORNERS by Kara Thomas; KEEP THIS TO YOURSELF by Tom Ryan; The Engelsfors Trilogy (THE CIRCLE, FIRE, THE KEY) by Mats Strandberg and Sara Bergmark Elfgren; for adult fic: LOCK EVERY DOOR by Riley Sager; THE LIE by CL Taylor; THE DARE by Megan Abbott; GARNETHILL by Denise Mina; and the VI Warshawski series by Sara Paretsky.

As an author, you sometimes have an opportunity to read early versions of upcoming releases. Besides your books, what upcoming releases should we add to our TBRs? 

REVERIE by Ryan La Sala; SURRENDER YOUR SONS by Adam Sass; THE GRAVITY OF US by Phil Stamper; HOW TO BE REMY CAMERON by Julian Winters; SCAMMED by Kristen Simmons; THE LIARS OF MARIPOSA ISLAND by Jennifer Mathieu; DARK AND DEEPEST RED by Anna-Marie McLemore; and DARLING by K. Ancrum!


Thank you so much to Caleb for his time!

Links for Caleb Roehrig 

Add Caleb Roehrig’s books to Goodreads
Make Caleb Roehrig Rich
Follow Caleb on Twitter

Links for all of Caleb Roehrig’s recommendations

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate
All of This is True by Lygia Day Peñaflor
Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson
The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas
Keep This to Yourself by Tom Ryan
The Engelsfors Trilogy by Mats Strandberg and Sara Bergmark Elfgren
Lock Every Door by Riley Sager
The Lie by CL Taylor
The Dare by Megan Abbott
Garnethill by Denise Mina
The VI Warshawski series by Sara Paretsky
Reverie by Ryan La Sala
Surrender Your Sons by Adam Sass
The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper
How to Be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters
Scammed by Kristen Simmons
The Liars of Mariposa Island by Jennifer Mathieu 
Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore
Darling by K. Ancrum

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

Author Interview with Adam Sass

Today, I have the honor of hosting an interview with Adam Sass who is the author of the forthcoming book Surrender Your Sons which is slated for a fall 2020 release.

Here’s a bit about Adam from his website:

Adam began writing books in Sharpie on the backs of Starbucks pastry bags. He’s sorry it distracted him from making your latte. Raised in an Illinois farm town, his desire for a creative career took him to Chicago, New York, and currently, Los Angeles.

He is a Creative Producer for ATTN:, an issues-driven social media video creator. He interviewed conversion therapy survivors for a video promoting Focus Features’Boy Erasedit has garnered over 1.6 million views.

Along with authors Patrick Ness and L.C. Rosen, he spoke to U.K.’s iNews about the taboo of gay sex in YA fiction.

He is a frequent co-host for the monthly YA Book Club at Barnes & Noble at The Grove, alongside Not Your Sidekick author C.B. Lee.

His short story “98% Graves”was nominated by Writer’s Digest for Best Science Fiction Story of 2015.

A gay geek, he is also a recurring co-host on the popular Buffy the Vampire Slayer podcast Slayerfest98, alongside special guests like Last Seen Leaving author Caleb Roehrig and RuPaul’s Drag Race alum Trixie Mattel.

His debut YA novel SURRENDER YOUR SONS is slated for release Fall 2020 by Flux. He is represented by Eric Smith of P.S. Literary.

And here’s a bit about Surrender Your Sons

Pitched as a queer LOST, SURRENDER YOUR SONS is about Connor Major, a gay teen whose summer vacation turns into a nightmare when his religious zealot family has him kidnapped and taken to a conversion camp on a forgotten island. There, he teams up with the other kidnapped LGBTQ+ teens to uncover the camp’s dark secrets.

And now for the interview!

Can you briefly explain your road to publishing so far?

I first started writing books when I was a barista at my local Barnes & Noble Café. I’d scribble ideas on the backs of pastry bags as I was looking out on the bookshelves, imagining my books in there one day. Flash forward many years, and I finally had something that was both finished AND worth somebody’s time. It took exactly 4 years to the day to go from my very first query letter on Surrender Your Sons to the call from my agent Eric Smith offering to represent me. Eric had even turned down Surrender (gently, and with good reason!!!) a few years before. I was so new to the business and the craft (I’d gotten my start writing screenplays, which are a very different beast) that it took a while for the revisions to finally stick. Then almost another year exactly from Eric putting my book on submission to editors, we got picked up by Flux. All in all, a 5-year journey of 110 combined agent and editor rejections on a single project. Many close calls, but we got there. Surrender will live!

From the summary of Surrender Your Sons, the book deals a bit with conversion therapy. I would imagine that this was a very difficult book emotionally to write at times. How do you protect your mental health while writing about such intense things?

What protected my mental health the most during writing was the reason I wanted to tell this story in the first place: escapism. Surrender Your Sons is intensely emotional and well-researched about the topic, but this story is a thrilling adventure first and foremost. Please go read Boy Erased for a hyper-realistic portrait of what it’s like going through this torture. Or Orpheus Girl or The Miseducation of Cameron Post for searing, sensitive dramas. What Surrender Your Sons provides is the kind of catharsis that’s difficult to get with non-fiction or straightforward dramas. It might be wish fulfillment, but I wanted a story that put queer kids front and center in the driver’s seat of their own thriller. Conversion therapy is an insidious horror that is almost impossible to pluck out of our society, root and stem, and I made sure to honor the weight of what this does to people. However, as a queer person who has seen so many horrors attacking my community go unavenged, I wanted to write a story where the right people got their asses kicked. So, to answer your question, whenever Surrender got into the dark-and-difficult stuff, I felt protected with the knowledge that I could have my kids give it back as hard as they were getting it.

What are you looking forward to the most for your debut year?

I mean, I’m going to faint when I finally see my cover. But honestly, I’m looking forward to seeing people hold the book in IG stories and blogposts. People who don’t know me IRL, total strangers, who find the book and think it’s as cool as I do. That’s the magic.

You have another job outside of writing. How do you attempt to find balance between your “day job,” writing, and downtime? 

I don’t! I really need help! Actually, what helps me is the old taking things day-by-day. I break up writing, my job, and downtime into achievable action items, then keep a really detailed calendar to keep it all straight so I don’t HAVE to keep everything in my head. I just look down at the paper and know that for this day, in this hour, this is the only thing I have to focus on. Of course, life is unpredictable and some things take longer, so I try to take an organic POV to my calendar and I adjust on the fly. This way won’t work for everyone, but for me, a mixture of planning and staying flexible helps keep me on the right path.

Further down the line, if you had the opportunity to co-write with another YA author, would you take that opportunity/which authors would you like to co-write with?

Co-writing books sounds like such a lovely thing, and I would jump at the right opportunity with the right person. Although, my hectic schedule and “let’s change this plot element because I got a whim” energy would probably make them see red. I would want to co-write something where it felt like the story really needs two different voices, more than just having a dual POV. I would say Caleb Roehrig because I’m such a fan, but I wouldn’t want to do that to our friendship! I think I’d like to write with someone who has a totally different perspective on life than myself, but embraces work in the same way–like Claribel Ortega or Camryn Garrett.

We have the quite the wait for Surrender Your Sons to be released. What books do you recommend for us to read to tide us over while we wait for your YA debut to explode on to the scene?

Why does it have to be a year away?! Believe me, I suffer with you. In the meantime, please check out Keep This to Yourself by Tom Ryan, a scary and nasty-in-the-good-way thriller. Keep your eye out for Reverie by Ryan La Sala in December–a totally inventive take on YA fantasy. Then, Surrender Your Sons will be here before we know it!


Thank you so much to Adam for agreeing to do this interview with me!!

And here’s some links to check out:

Adam’s Info

Add Surrender Your Sons to Goodreads
Follow Adam Sass on Twitter

Adam’s Suggestions of What to Read While Waiting

Add Keep This to Yourself by Tom Ryan to Goodreads
Add Reverie by Ryan La Sala to Goodreads

Adam’s Suggestions of Heartbreaking Conversion Therapy Reads

Add Boy Erased to Goodreads
Add Orpheus Girl to Goodreads
Add The Miseducation of Cameron Post to Goodreads