Questions #2

I love the questions you’re asking, so keep them coming! Today we have two questions from ‘Nathan, who asks:

Okay, I have a two-part question: Have you bumped into much negative feedback for writing LGBTQ characters? (and, the second part, to make it a less negative topic) What have been the best moments of having written LGBTQ characters?

Writing LGBTQ characters has been fantastic. I don’t want to jinx myself, but I’ve honestly not had much negative feedback from the writing portion. I did have some issues with starting a GSA at the first school I worked at, but it was concerns on the part of an administration that wasn’t sure just how the GSA would benefit the school or students.

My biggest concern was with how my family–mostly my grandparents–would react. They come from a generation where being gay is just unheard of. Growing up, I found myself butting heads with my grandfather on many issues…a lot. It’s just who I am and it’s how he was raised. But even my grandfather has done me proud.

Book signing other viewWhen Andy Squared first came out, I had to explain what it was about. Of course my grandparents wanted to read it, but I did worry. I didn’t know how they would take it. I didn’t write it for them, obviously, but as my grandparents, I still wanted their approval. But I wasn’t sure if it would happen. When I had my book release party at the Bristol Public Library, they came. I couldn’t have been more nervous when I was standing at the podium reading from the book. At my feet I had my former students, and my grandfather sat right in front of me. When I opened the floor to questions and his hand went up, I wanted to crawl under a rock and hide. But he surprised me. Rather than asking about Ryder and Andy’s sexuality and some, ahem, scenes, he commented on the style of writing and how he could picture being with the boys as they rode horses.

Book Singing with students at my feetAfterwards, he admitted he hadn’t finished the book yet, but that he was enjoying it. And when he finally did finish it, he told me how it had changed his mind on LGBT people.

I cried.

Then he surprised me again. He and my grandmother read the newspaper, and they enjoy columns like Ask Amy and such. In one, a mother had asked about her teenager being gay, and what books to read to help her understand, etc.

My grandfather wrote to the columnist and explained how his opinion had changed after reading Andy Squared, and how he realized how difficult LGBT teens have it when their family doesn’t accept them. I still have the email he sent me somewhere.

I cried again.

I guess you could say that was also one of the best moments of having written LGBTQ characters. Even though my books are primarily for teens, having a 70+ year old man read the book and change his opinion was pretty spectacular.

Readers have also contacted me from all over. My first ever reader email was from a young man in Costa Rica who had to order the book from the US and have it shipped to him. Another was from a young fan who reached out to me on Facebook, telling me he was going to come out to his family. I kept in touch with him for several months after that, checking in to see how he was doing. I also recently had a reader FROM upstate New York contact me, thrilled to see his part of the state represented with gay teens!

So the best moments are definitely when readers reach out to me to talk. I love that. I will always respond to readers, so please, don’t be afraid to reach out!

Your burning questions answered!

Do you ever wonder how an author gets their ideas? What inspired certain stories or scenes? What their favorite spot to write looks like? I know I have wondered that many times for my favorite authors! It’s interesting to find out about the people we read and what inspires them.

So I’m asking you, dear readers, to submit your questions! What do you want to know about me? What burning questions do you have that you just need answered? Feel free to post a question on my blog, the Facebook page, or send me an email!

The first question comes from Shelley, who asks:

What got you started writing? Why young adult specifically? Why GLBT themed?

 

All great questions! And it’s a long answer. Sort of. So sit back, folks, and listen up!

I’ve always considered myself a writer because I enjoy crafting stories. I was imaginative as a child, and would play with dolls and toys like a normal child did and create stories for them. I have a very specific memory of my first grade class. The teacher would post the lessons we had to get through for the day on the board, and some of them were at our own pace. At the very end of the list was free-writing. I loved to rush through my work to get to that because free-writing involved a box of pictures cut out of magazines pasted to card-stock. We had to pull a picture out of the box at random and write a story around it. It wasn’t often that I got to the end of my lessons, but by the end of the year I had a thick folder of stories I had written.

After that, I continued writing. I would keep composition notebooks full of stories. First I started with writing fanfiction. In sixth grade I started reading the Animorphs series, which had just come out, and I was obsessed. I wrote stories with those characters in new situations. Then I discovered Sailor Moon. I wrote crossover stories featuring the Animorphs kids and the Sailor Scouts. (I think I might still have one of those notebooks somewhere…)

Once my family got on the internet, things took over. I discovered fandoms and connected with people who wrote fanfiction. I read fanfic, I wrote fanfic, I posted it on different websites and started getting feedback. Then one day I had this brilliant idea to do a crossover with Final Fantasy characters…and original characters. I had written OCs before, but usually they were Mary Sues… ahem. This new crossover had dozens of original characters, and eventually I started writing it on my own, taking the Final Fantasy characters out and creating my own mythology. I started that when I was 18, and 12 years later I’m still tweaking that world. Eventually I will finish it.

About that same time I fell into other fandoms and discovered the magical world of online RP (role-play) writing. I was hooked yet again. I made some great friends, some of whom I still talk to today. I wrote with them, interacted with other writers, created complex stories and worlds that started with characters from a series, but evolved to becomes its own world.

By now I’m in college. I know I’m going to be an English teacher. There are certain courses that you must take. The one that truly started all of this was Literature for Young Adults with Dr. Cappella. In that course we had to read between 2-3 YA books a week and write about them. But we also had to write our own book. He said, “The only way to really know how to teach and understand young adult literature is to write it.”

Back up a semester. I was hanging out with a group of friends in the student center, eating a chicken ceasar wrap, and we were talking about TV shows. I had recently discovered Queer as Folk and I was extolling its virtues, when one of my male friends told me how much he loved the show. I didn’t think anything of it. We started talking about Justin and Brian, and it never clicked to me exactly why this conversation was significant until my friend pulled me aside after and came out to me. Talk about a “duh” moment. He had been giving me signals the entire conversation, and I was just completely oblivious! After, we became close and often wandered away from our group of friends. I introduced him to my favorite place on campus: Stack 2.

The library on campus at the time had LGBT books in a separate stack. I thought it was great because I could just wander down there, grab a book, and read. I visited almost every day and I only saw another person there once. It was warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and had a couch. Basically, heaven. I had discovered I enjoyed reading about LGBT protagonists much earlier when I was about fifteen and had read Aristoi by Walter Jon Williams and had been reading it since.

So, going back to the YA class, when Cappy told us we had to write a novel, I talked to my friend about the assignment. I had no idea what to write. And he said, “Why don’t you write a book about a gay teen? I wish there had been books like that when I was younger.” And I thought…. huh. Why not?

Andy Squared was born. The first draft was incredibly rough and it took my seven years from start to finish to get it where I wanted it, but I kept going because my professor encourage me to keep going because he saw something important in the pages, and my friend read it and loved it.

I could have stopped there, but I had always wanted to be published. So I wrote, and rewrote, and rewrote some more. I eventually found a home for Andy and Ryder with Bold Strokes Books.

By the time Andy was accepted for publication I was teaching. I had students I worked with come out to me, and it meant so much to me that they would trust me with that information about them. When that first student honored me with that trust, it reminded me of my friend from college and I thought, “This. This is why I teach, and this is why I write. I need to keep writing these stories. These kids need voices. They need to see more characters like them so they know they’re not alone.”

It’s getting better out there. From the time I started writing in college until now, hundreds of LGBT books have been published for teens by small publishers and the big houses. But we can still do more. Stories need to be about more than just coming out. I keep writing because I want my students to see queer teens in the same positions as their straight counterparts. I want them to be the heroes and heroines of dystopias, fantasies, and scifi novels. So I’ll keep writing until the ideas run out. And that doesn’t seem to be anytime soon.

Boston Pride 2015

Until yesterday, I had never been to a Pride event. I had always wanted to go, but they were either too far away from me, or I forgot about it/didn’t know about it until it was too late. This year I had the opportunity not only to go to Boston Pride, but to help represent my publisher and sell copies of my YA titles.

WHAT A BLAST!

Boston is only about an hour and half from where I live right now, so it was really exciting to be able to make the trip for the day. I left early in the morning, had a heart attack navigating the tunnels into the city, but found a parking garage close to where I needed to be.

Just some of the books we had to offer. And me posing in the background.

Just some of the books we had to offer. And me posing in the background.

I was early. But it was still nice to see everything as it was being set up with so few people around. Because when eleven o’clock hit, it started to get busier. And when the parade reached us at around one, oh my GOD it was wall-to-wall bodies.

Since Boston is the home of my favorite drag queen, JuJubee, I had been hoping to meet her. She responded to my facebook post about being there, but sadly that wasn’t the case. However I sold out of all my YA titles, and fast! By an hour into the festival I was worried I wouldn’t have any left! With a little over three hours to go, I did sell out, but that just meant helping the other authors!

I was happy to have been able to bring Julie Blair and ‘Nathan Burgoine’s books as well. It was nice to have a good selection for festival goers!

I got to hang out with great authors from my group. I knew Cathy Frizzell from the Rainbow Book Fair in NYC, and Dena Hankins from the retreat last summer, but I also got to meet Jean Copeland and Holly Stratimore and their respective partners. Fun times!

Jennifer Lavoie, Jean Copeland, Holly Stratimore, CF Frizzell, and Dena Hankins

Jennifer Lavoie, Jean Copeland, Holly Stratimore, CF Frizzell, and Dena Hankins

But what was even better was the opportunity to connect with the readers. That was amazing. There were a lot of young adults there, and I had a blast talking with them. Some readers had no idea we existed and eagerly snatched up books. Some didn’t realize we were the authors until we asked if they wanted the books signed. Some readers were young – like one girl who bought Meeting Chance with her two dads and her little sister near – or older who had read a lost of LGBT fiction in their lives. Either way, I appreciated them all.

Dena looks on while Jean signs her novel and I...stare at something.

Dena looks on while Jean signs her novel and I…stare at something.

I can’t wait to do it again. I know all of us want to go back next year, and I hope I get to do more Pride events. I was originally going to do Providence Pride next weekend, but that had to be cancelled since no other authors were interested. And it’s a bit late for NYC Pride. But hey, maybe next year?

What do you think? Would you like to see Bold Strokes Books and NYC Pride next year? If you would, leave a message here! I’ll let my publisher know you want to see us! Any other Pride suggestions or events? Let me know! I’ll pass it along!

 

Rainbow Book Fair – April 18, 2015

Hi everyone!

It’s that time of year again! Next Saturday, April 18, I will be at the Rainbow Book Fair in NYC, helping promote and sell books for my publisher, Bold Strokes Books. But the most exciting part? I’ll be selling copies of The First Twenty almost a month early! You can buy the book at any time of the day, but if you want to chat or have it signed, I will officially be at the table from 5-6 with YA author Jeremy Jordan King, author of the Immortal Testimonies series! It’s going to be a great event! If you’re in the area, please stop by and say hello! We’d love to meet you! RBF banner

The First Twenty – are you ready for it?

The First Twenty coverIt’s just about a month for the release of The First Twenty and I’m getting excited! The author copies came in and they are BEAUTIFUL! I mean really, look at that cover! Stunning.

This book is my longest at 233 pages, and it looks great! I can’t wait to see what readers think!

If you read it, be sure to let me know what you think! I love getting feedback from my readers, and I would love to link to your review on my page.

Tristant and Elijah – OFFICIALLY RELEASED!

So excited! Tristant and Elijah has officially been released everywhere and so far the reviews are great! Head on over to the reviews section of the page to see more, but here’s a few excerpts!

I truly loved the supportive role that Tristant played for Elijah in his journey. Elijah’s anguish, and Tristant’s empathy and kindness are palpable. These two are really tender boys–and I’m glad that they found each other. – Veronica from V’s Reads

 

I found the story to be relevant and one we can all relate to. Many of us have had the experience of having a crush on someone we cannot have. – Amos Lassen

 

Have you read Tristant and Elijah? Let me know what you think! I’d love to hear from you!

 

Rainbow Book Fair: Saturday, March 29 in New York City!

I am thrilled to announce that I’ll be in New York City on Saturday, March 29th signing books with fellow Bold Strokes Books authors. I’ll be present at the table from 1-2 PM with Nora Olsen, author of the phenomenal YA book Swans & Klons. If you’re there, please stop by and say hello! You’ll be able to pick up a signed copy of Meeting Chance and some other great BSB books!

The Rainbow Book Fair is being held at the Holiday Inn Midtown from Noon to 6 PM. I promise it’s going to be a GREAT event. Last year I had a ton of fun and bought so many books from other authors!

See you there!

Book Review: Slash and Burn by Valerie Bronwen

The Angels and Demons Literary Weekend brings former New Orleans resident Winter Lovelace back to town from her gig as writer-in-residence at a prestigious women’s college in upstate New York. Winter desperately needs a break from the book she is struggling to finish, and hopes that this weekend will inspire her and trigger her creativity.

 But while waiting for a friend in a hotel courtyard, a body lands at her feet, and Winter is dragged into a baffling mystery quite against her will. The victim is a notorious “m/m romance” author who is also a homophobe, and the list of people who wanted her dead is quite extensive. Winter herself is considered a suspect! 

 To make matters worse, Winter’s ex shows up to cover the story for a local news station…an ex Winter had hoped she’d never see again.

Move over Stephanie Plum! (Okay, I probably shouldn’t say that as I’ve never read a Janet Evanovich book, but whatever, still move over) There’s a new detective (sort of, accidentally) in town! In this first novel by Valerie Bronwen, Tracy Norris comes to life on the page as a teacher and mystery writer of a best-selling series about Laura Lassiter. She’s also a best-selling lesbian romance author on the side under the penname Winter Lovelace. When she goes to New Orleans for a writing convention, little does she know she’s about to have a body land at her feet. Literally.

I loved this story. I wish there was another one right now because I wouldn’t even be writing this review now, I’d just immediately dig into it. Tracy is an unforgettable narrator with a sharp sense of humor. I found myself quite frequently either laughing or biting my lip from being too loud. I may have even snorted a few times.

Anyone who has ever been deeply involved in a fandom needs to read this book. There’s always that ONE PERSON who thinks they are the god of that world, and in this book you have Antinous Renault. From the first page I wanted to punch her face, and reading more about her just made me think of all the people I’d encountered in my various fandoms over the years.

Who needs to read this book? Quite frankly, everyone. Like mystery? Read it. Like reading about authors and their struggles? Read it. Like lesbian authors? Read it. Like m/m romance? Read it. Have no idea how crazy some writers can be? Read it. Ever in a fandom with the BNF that everyone loathed? Read it.

I can’t wait for the next Valerie Bronwen book. You can bet it will be preordered the minute there is a release date!

This book can be ordered from Bold Stokes Books right here.

Book Review: Asher’s Fault by Elizabeth Wheeler

The day fourteen-year-old Asher receives a Minolta camera from his aunt Sharon, he buys the last roll of black-and-white film and takes his first photograph—a picture of a twisted pine tree. He’s so preoccupied with his new hobby he fails to notice his dad’s plan to move out, his increasing alienation from his testosterone-ridden best friend, Levi, and his own budding sexuality. When his little brother drowns at the same moment Asher experiences his first same-sex kiss, he can no longer hide behind the lens of his camera. Asher thinks it’s his fault, but after his brother dies, his father resurfaces along with clues challenging Asher’s black-and-white view of the world. The truth is as twisted as the pine tree in his first photograph.

I loved this book. So much so that, despite having to work the next morning I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to finish it. Teens everywhere, gay or straight, will relate to Asher, Garrett, Levi, Jennifer, and Kayla. There are so many different personalities in this book, each one so realistic I felt as if I knew them personally.

Asher is struggling to accept his parents divorce, especially when his father leaves his mother for another woman. His younger brother, Travis, annoys him, but as you find out from the blurb alone, his brother dies right at the same moment he has his first kiss with another boy. And I mean literally right at that moment.

What follows is a beautiful story about truths and lies. What is the truth? How do we know who is telling the truth and who isn’t? Asher’s friendship with Levi starts to fade when his friend becomes a member of the football team, and though Kayla is so different from him and doesn’t want to fit any mold, she appears to be the one person who understands him the most.

I love that Asher uses an old camera to capture his photos rather than a digital camera. There’s just something so much more special about taking a photo that way. His care in taking the photos is shown very carefully on the page.

I’m very happy that there will be a sequel because I want more of everyone. I want to know what happens between Asher and Garrett, and if Asher ever confronts his mother and father with the truth about Travis. Needless to say I was shocked when at the VERY end you find out a secret.

And reader’s are left with the biggest question of all. When it comes to Travis’s death, whose fault was it really?

You can purchase Asher’s Fault from Bold Strokes Books here.