#LGBTQMonth Author Interview: Lucas Rocha!

Hi everyone!

I hope your reading is going well! Today I am joined for another interview by the wonderful LUCAS ROCHA author of the recent Where We Go From Here! I encourage you all to go purchase it from your local indies now!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hi, everyone! My name’s Lucas Rocha, I’m 28 years old and currently live in São Paulo, Brazil. I’m a writer and librarian, and my debut novel, WHERE WE GO FROM HERE (PUSH/Scholastic, 2020), will be out in the world on June 2nd! It’s a book about three gay boys living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, whose lives becomes intertwined in the face of HIV. It’s a story about love, friendship and overcoming prejudices, with a lot of laughter, music and, the most important, people living life at its fullest!


ABOUT WHERE WE GO FROM HERE

An absorbing debut novel about three gay young adults in Brazil whose lives become intertwined in the face of HIV, perfect for fans of Adam Silvera and Bill Konigsberg

Ian has just been diagnosed with HIV.

Victor, to his great relief, has tested negative.

Henrique has been living with HIV for the past three years.

When Victor finds himself getting tested for HIV for the first time, he can’t help but question his entire relationship with Henrique, the guy he has-had-been dating. See, Henrique didn’t disclose his positive HIV status to Victor until after they had sex, and even though Henrique insisted on using every possible precaution, Victor is livid.

That’s when Victor meets Ian, a guy who’s also getting tested for HIV. But Ian’s test comes back positive, and his world is about to change forever. Though Victor is loath to think about Henrique, he offers to put the two of them in touch, hoping that perhaps Henrique can help Ian navigate his new life. In the process, the lives of Ian, Victor, and Henrique will become intertwined in a story of friendship, love, and stigma-a story about hitting what you think is rock bottom, but finding the courage and support to keep moving forward.


THE INTERVIEW

Hi Lucas! Thanks for being a part of LGBTQMonth! I want to first ask – where did you first get the idea for Where We Go From Here?

Thank you so much for having me! It’s an honor and I’m really excited about the book reaching the UK readers! I started to think about this story when I was working at the Brazilian Center of Health Studies, a non-profit organization that publishes a magazine for the diffusion of Health Studies. I worked there copyediting articles, and once in a while a theme caught my attention. One day I stumbled upon an article about how Brazilian people perceive HIV and HIV-positive people in the 21st century, and I saw a lot of misconceptions and prejudices in these interviews. So, thinking of ways to change that, I started to develop these three characters that guide the novel, showing the ways in which they deal with HIV from different perspectives: a character that’s been recently diagnosed with HIV, a HIV-positive character that has been living with his diagnosis for three years, and a HIV-negative character who develops a romantic relationship with one of the others. What I intended was to show that the stories of HIV and HIV-positive people don’t have to be The Sad Story anymore; that they can thrive and, more than surviving, that they can be able to live full, happy and messy lives.

What was it like working with a translator to translate it into English? Were there any difficulties or was it easy?

Working with Larissa Helena, the translator of the book, was nothing but a dream! She’s also Brazilian, so she understands a lot of the humour and was able to translate it perfectly. Overall, we had to make small changes in some of the references in the book for the English readers but, other than that, it was an incredibly positive experience, because the essence of the book is still there. Working with Orlando, my editor – who also has a Brazilian family background – was amazing, because he is such a great editor and all of his suggestions were so on point that he made the story even better.

That’s so great! Did you feel having HIV positive characters was an important decision for you?

Yes, it was. I think that, when it comes to HIV narratives, there’s a lot of books and movies about the Aids crisis and about the inevitability of death or a life soaked in sadness for the HIV+ character. And I know that these histories are important too – I have a lot of them as my favorites – but I didn’t want to talk a story about people dying from HIV; I wanted to tell a story about people living despite the virus, because I think that this should be the focus of the narratives, if we are talking about contemporaries that reflect the reality: HIV does not equal death anymore.

But, even with all the information, there’s still prejudice for HIV+ people, so I hope this book can shed a little light about all the wrong things that we, as a society, presume about being a HIV+ person or having a sexual relationship with a person who has the virus.

I agree so much, balance between the two is so important. In the spirit of LGBTQMonth, what are some of your favourite LGBTQ+ books or TV/films?

HERE THE WHOLE TIME, by Vitor Martins: a sweet queer novel about a fat boy who must share his bedroom with his life-long crush for fifteen days. It is also a Brazilian novel, and one of my favourites because it tackles themes like fatphobia, body image and overall insecurities of growing up being fat and gay, all with a lot of humour and heart-warming moments.

LIKE A LOVE STORY, by Abdi Nazemian: this is one of the most beautiful novels I read in my life. It talks about the power of community for queer people, wonderfully portraits the mess that is being afraid of coming out, and it’s also a tribute to Madonna, to pop music in general and, specially, to love. And, the most important part, it’s set in New York during the Aids crisis and it shows us how young queer people dealt with this new and unknown world. It is just an incredible book.

I loved Here The Whole Time and wow, Like a Love Song sounds amazing! What is the best piece of advice you could give to aspiring authors/artists?

This may sound cheesy, but I guess the ultimate advice is: believe in yourself and what you want to give to the world. There’ll be a lot of people (and, sometimes, your own mind) telling you that there’s better writers/artists in the world, and maybe this is true, but you can only find out if you are one great artist if you put your work on the paper.

Other more practical advices are: finish what you’ve started and don’t delete a project in the middle ground, because you’ll probably come to a point where you will find everything garbage (that’s normal); write first, edit later; and, of course, have fun writing!

Great advice! Did you have a favourite character to write from Where We Go From Here? If so, who is it?

I shouldn’t be the type of writer who picks their favourites, but I cannot stop thinking about how much I love my side characters. I had so much fun writing Eric and all his drag queen friends. I think that they spark a lot of fun scenes along the book. I’m also very happy with Gabriel, Ian’s best friend, just because he is the kind of person who is willing to hop into his old car and drive 100 miles just to make sure his best friend is really okay. I have a lot of people like Gabriel in my life, so he reminds me of my own friends, and that’s a wonderful feeling.

That’s so sweet! Tell me, what does an ideal day of writing look like for you?

Without noises or with a planned playlist, alone, probably in the morning with a giant cup of black and sugarless coffee and nothing else to do besides writing. I really adore to write first thing in the morning, the sunlight still a bit cold on my skin and the thought the I have a lot of time to figure out where I want my characters to be in the next scenes.

And finally, can you tell us a bit about what to expect next?

I wish I could know! Hahaha! I’m trying to use this social distancing time to write as much as my mental and physical health allows, but there’s nothing much that I can say about those stories, only that they definitely are set in my beautiful country Brazil. And I really hope that people can continue to read my books and continue to discover other voices inside and outside the English language, because there’s incredible stories being told all around the world!


Thank you Lucas and thank you again for joining LGBTQMonth in an interview! I’ve loved having you! Where We Go From Here is out now in the UK from David Fickling Books!

Review | Music From Another World by Robin Talley

Music From Another World

by Robin Talley

YA Historical, Romance, LGBTQ

Goodreads | Bookshop | Book Depository


It’s summer 1977 and closeted lesbian Tammy Larson can’t be herself anywhere. Not at her strict Christian high school, not at her conservative Orange County church and certainly not at home, where her ultrareligious aunt relentlessly organizes antigay political campaigns. Tammy’s only outlet is writing secret letters in her diary to gay civil rights activist Harvey Milk…until she’s matched with a real-life pen pal who changes everything.

Sharon Hawkins bonds with Tammy over punk music and carefully shared secrets, and soon their letters become the one place she can be honest. The rest of her life in San Francisco is full of lies. The kind she tells for others–like helping her gay brother hide the truth from their mom–and the kind she tells herself. But as antigay fervor in America reaches a frightening new pitch, Sharon and Tammy must rely on their long-distance friendship to discover their deeply personal truths, what they’ll stand for…and who they’ll rise against.

A master of award-winning queer historical fiction, New York Times bestselling author Robin Talley once again brings to life with heart and vivid detail an emotionally captivating story about the lives of two teen girls living in an age when just being yourself was an incredible act of bravery.


Last year for #LGBTQMonth, I read Pulp and it ended up being one of my favourite books of the year, so I decided it would be a good idea to follow up this year with another Robin Talley book – and one that sounds right up my street!

Music From Another World is set in the 70s, USA and follows pen-pals Sharon and Tammy as they learn more about the fight for gay rights protests and Tammy comes to terms herself with being gay. It is a secret she can tell nobody, but someone Sharon on the other side of the letters is the exact person she needs to walk into her life. And Sharon will soon feel the exact same.

I enjoyed this! I really love the 70s as a historical period so it was great to get to read a book set in it and I really enjoyed the backdrop of punk music, and Bowie and Patti Smith and all the references, it really strengthened the setting and I loved how important a part music played in the novel.

I also really loved both Tammy and Sharon as characters. They were different in a lot of ways but similar at the same time, and it was such a joy reading them get to know each other and fall in love. I also loved Sharon’s brother, Peter, I thought he was a great addition to the cast of characters.

One thing that sort of bothered me about this book though was the format it was written in. It was told through a series of letters and diary entries from start to finish, and at times I found it unrealistic how both Tammy and Sharon managed to recall events word for word and action for action. It sort of took me out of the story and think it would have worked better if it was just written in a normal format with the letters between Sharon and Tammy every now and again, instead of the whole way through.

Overall I did enjoy Pulp more, but I am definitely glad I read this gorgeous sapphic story and it was so fascinating to learn about just how hard the LGBTQ+ community had to fight in the 70s and how much has changed – and how much still has to change.


#LGBTQMonth Author Interview: Benjamin Dean

Hi everyone!

I really can’t believe how quickly this month is going, can you?! But not to fear, because today we have another exciting author interview – and today it’s with the wonderful BENJAMIN DEAN – author of the recently published Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow! Keep reading to check out his interview!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Benjamin Dean is a London-based Middle Grade author and celebrity journalist. His debut novel, Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow will be published by Simon & Schuster UK in February 2021.

Aside from realising his childhood dream of being an author, biggest achievement to date is breaking the news that Rihanna can’t wink (she blinks, in case you were wondering).

Benjamin can be found on Twitter as @notagainben tweeting about Rihanna and LGBTQ+ culture to his 10,000+ followers.


ABOUT ME, MY DAD AND THE END OF THE RAINBOW

My name’s Archie Albright, and I know two things for certain:

1. My mum and dad kind of hate each other, and they’re not doing a great job of pretending that they don’t anymore.

2. They’re both keeping a secret from me, but I can’t figure out what.

Things aren’t going great for Archie Albright. His dad’s acting weird, his mum too, and all he wants is for everything to go back to normal, to three months before when his parents were happy and still lived together. When Archie sees a colourful, crumpled flyer fall out of Dad’s pocket, he thinks he may have found the answer. Only problem? The answer might just lie at the end of the rainbow, an adventure away. 

Together with his best friends, Bell and Seb, Archie sets off on a heartwarming and unforgettable journey to try and fix his family, even if he has to break a few rules to do it…


THE INTERVIEW

Hi Benjamin! Congrats on your first published novel! Where were you when you found out it was going to be Waterstones’ Book of the Month and how did you react?

Thank you so much! I was exactly where I’ve been for the entire process of this book – at home! I got a surprise phone call from my editor who told me the news and I just couldn’t believe it. To get such an incredible accolade for a debut book that I wasn’t even sure would find a publisher, let alone a reader, was incredible. I think I’m still riding that high all these months later!

It is clearly well deserved! Did you feel it was important to write a children’s book so openly and positively LGBTQ+?

Absolutely. To hide or censor the LGBTQ+ community is to make it “other” and that’s not how things should be. We exist, just like everybody else, and children should be able to see that. I needed to see that when I was a kid. It was just instinctive and natural for me to write openly about my community because that is the life I live and I won’t hide that from anybody.

I couldn’t agree more! What does the ideal writing day look like for you?

I think I’m still trying to figure that out! I work best in the middle of the day and in shorter bursts. I usually find I’m too tired or distracted to jump into creative writing early or late in the day, so anywhere from lunchtime until late afternoon/early evening suits me perfectly, with lots of snacks and minimal distractions. I’m not one for writing in a cafe – I just start listening into other people’s conversations!

What is the first thing that comes to you when you start something new – plot, setting or character?

It’s usually a concept, or a particular scene. For End of the Rainbow, I was thinking about people I’d met who’d come out as gay much later in life than I had, and how that might affect both them and the family around them. As soon as I thought of the concept, the scene where Archie overhears his dad coming out in an argument with his mum jumped into my head pretty much fully formed. I’d say that’s the same with most of my books and ideas – it starts with the concept, and if a couple of scenes quickly follow, I know I’m onto something.

That’s so interesting! In the spirit of LGBTQ Month, what are some of your favourite LGBTQ+ books or TV/films?

I really love all of Adam Silvera’s work, but particularly They Both Die at the End. I’m also a huge fan of It’s A Sin, as well as I May Destroy You, which included such a fleshed out, nuanced LGBTQ+ storyline. 

Yes!! I May Destroy You was absolutely incredible! What is your biggest piece of advice for the aspiring authors/artists who are reading this?

KEEP GOING! And take all of the opportunities you can get your hands on. My journey into publishing wasn’t anything like what Google told me it would be, and it really only came about because I took a chance on a short story competition that I didn’t even end up winning! But it put me in touch with my first agent and here I am. Oh, and make sure you’re writing about something that appeals to you – if you’re lucky enough to get it published, you’re going to be working on it, and then promoting it, for a REALLY. LONG. TIME.

Great advice! What is one thing that you always try to strive for to include in your writing?

I just strive to include characters that represent the world I see around me. I have friends from so many different backgrounds, and I live in London, which is so culturally diverse in many ways. Somewhat selfishly, I also strive to have a main character that I see myself in. I spent far too long seeing main characters who I just couldn’t identify with in any way, but now I have the power to change that in stories of my own.

And finally, what can we look forward to next? Can you tell us anything about what you’re working on now?

I’m currently working on what feels like a million things at once, most of which I’m not allowed to talk about yet…BUT, I have been working away on my second book, which will be out early next year. Although it’s not a sequel to Rainbow in any way, it shares a lot of the same themes and includes a big Pride element. I’m really looking forward to bringing new (and old…) characters to life.


Ooh, that sounds so exciting!! Thank you so much to Benjamin for being a part of #LGBTQMonth this year – it was so lovely to have you! Now everyone, go and check out his debut book, Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow!

#QueerRecs: Top 5 Trans Books!

Hello everyone!

For my second #QueerRecs post this month, I’ve decided to share some recommendations of my favourite novels featuring trans representation!


Wonderland by Juno Dawson

If you haven’t read anything by Juno Dawson, then you are seriously missing out! Wonderland is such a fun, queer retelling of Alice in Wonderland that has a trans main character, Alice. It is such a wild ride, and fits nicely into her London Trilogy (see also: Clean, Meat Market) which is also amazing.


Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

This was such a bundle of joy to read. The writing was so heartfelt and beautiful and I felt myself really immersed in Felix’s world and his story – it also felt like such a privilege to be able to get to experience a sort of life I will never know how it feels like to live and be able to appreciate the trans community even more!


All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

This was a glorious memoir-manifesto from George M. Johnson, which looks at what it is like to grow up both Black and queer. It really tugged on my heart strings and I really appreciated Johnson being so tender and honest in their writing.


I Wish You All The Best by Mason Deaver

I have to admit, this is a book I haven’t read yet, but one I definitely want to bring attention to. I’ve seen nothing but good things about Mason Deaver’s I Wish You All the Best, and am really going to try get around to it soon!


Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

This is another choice that I haven’t actually read yet, but same as above, I’ve heard such amazing things about Cemetery Boys and Aiden Thomas in general that this deserves its own shoutout. I also can’t wait for the UK publication in July so I can finally get my hands on a copy!


And those are some of my #QueerRecs for books with trans/non-binary representation! Have you read any of these books? Let me know in the comments below!

goodbye banner

Review | Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar

Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating

by Adiba Jaigirdar

YA Romance, Contemporary, LGBTQ

Goodreads | Bookshop | Book Depository


Everyone likes Humaira “Hani” Khan—she’s easy going and one of the most popular girls at school. But when she comes out to her friends as bisexual, they invalidate her identity, saying she can’t be bi if she’s only dated guys. Panicked, Hani blurts out that she’s in a relationship…with a girl her friends absolutely hate—Ishita “Ishu” Dey. Ishu is the complete opposite of Hani. She’s an academic overachiever who hopes that becoming head girl will set her on the right track for college. But Ishita agrees to help Hani, if Hani will help her become more popular so that she stands a chance of being elected head girl.

Despite their mutually beneficial pact, they start developing real feelings for each other. But relationships are complicated, and some people will do anything to stop two Bengali girls from achieving happily ever after.


Ever since I read and loved the bundle of joy that was The Henna Wars, I have been eagerly awaiting the next book from Adiba Jaigirdar and I’m so glad that it lived up to all my expectations!

Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating (also, what a fun title, right??) follows the two title characters as they decide to fake-date to make everyone at their school believe they are together. Hani so she can convince her friends that she actually is bisexual, and Ishu so she can become more popular and make Head Girl. But feelings soon get in the way, and the pair have to confront whether or not they want their dating to stay fake…

I really loved this. I felt like i raced through it because it was so easy to get to know the characters and get invested in their lives. I loved the setting of Dublin of course, because everything felt so familiar to me, especially since their school setting is something I went through myself and all the Irish references that only Irish people could get. I thought Hani and Ishu were both fantastic, well-crafted characters. They were both so different but also so alike, and their blooming romance just felt so natural. Jaigirdar did a fabulous job of writing these realistic characters but also crafting such an authentic, beautiful romance.

I also really enjoyed the side characters, such as Nik, and even enjoyed loathing Hani’s friends, Aisling and Dee, who clearly aren’t good friends at all. I thought the pace was perfect too and there was never a point where I felt like I’d lost interest. I was gripped from the first page. Jaigirdar’s second book also raises great conversations about being queer and being Muslim, so this was also fascinating to read.

A perfect choice to read this June for #LGBTQMonth, I can’t recommend this enough!


#LGBTQMonth Author Interview: Adiba Jaigirdar!

Hi everyone!

I hope your reading is going well! Today I am joined for another interview by the wonderful ADIBA JAIGIRDAR, author of The Henna Wars and the recent Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating! I encourage you all to go purchase it from your local indies now!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adiba Jaigirdar is the author of The Henna Wars and Hani & Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating. A Bangladeshi/Irish writer and teacher, she has an MA in Postcolonial Studies from the University of Kent, England and a BA in English and History from UCD, Ireland. All of her writing is aided by tea, and a healthy dose of Janelle Monáe and Hayley Kiyoko. When not writing, she is probably ranting about the ills of colonialism, playing video games, or expanding her overflowing lipstick collection. She can be found at adibajaigirdar.com or @adiba_j on Twitter and @dibs_j on Instagram.


ABOUT HANI & ISHU’S GUIDE TO FAKE DATING

Everyone likes Humaira “Hani” Khan—she’s easy going and one of the most popular girls at school. But when she comes out to her friends as bisexual, they invalidate her identity, saying she can’t be bi if she’s only dated guys. Panicked, Hani blurts out that she’s in a relationship…with a girl her friends absolutely hate—Ishita “Ishu” Dey. Ishu is the complete opposite of Hani. She’s an academic overachiever who hopes that becoming head girl will set her on the right track for college. But Ishita agrees to help Hani, if Hani will help her become more popular so that she stands a chance of being elected head girl.

Despite their mutually beneficial pact, they start developing real feelings for each other. But relationships are complicated, and some people will do anything to stop two Bengali girls from achieving happily ever after.


THE INTERVIEW

Hi Adiba! It’s such a pleasure to have you back again for LGBTQMonth! The first question I wanted to ask – what has been the biggest challenge for you writing your second novel? Did you feel any pressure coming off The Henna Wars?

Hi Ross! It’s a pleasure to be back again for LGBTQMonth, so thank you for having me! The biggest challenge with this second novel was actually doing revisions. Honestly, writing it was very easy for me. I wrote it in 30 days, and it just kind of flowed out. But once I sat down to revise, I often felt very stuck, even though the revisions were not really major. I think it’s because I wrote the book in 2019, way before The Henna Wars came out, but I was revising the book in 2020, during The Henna Wars’ launch, in the middle of a pandemic, while going through personal crises…it required me to figure out how to write and revise in a completely new kind of environment and in a new kind of world, which is not easy. Thankfully, I didn’t feel any pressure coming off The Henna Wars, because I wrote it way before that book came out and even turned in my revisions a couple of weeks after the book came out. I didn’t have the time to feel pressure, thankfully! 

Wow, that’s so quick! Was there anything you felt you did differently to book two than book one? Has your craft changed in any way?

Honestly, not really! The biggest difference between working on the two books was the level of revisions each needed. The Henna Wars had about 6 or 7 drafts total, and went through quite a few revisions. Hani and Ishu only went through one round of revisions with my editor, and that was it! I think it’s a very personal book in a lot of ways, so I ended up writing it quite fast. It was completely pantsed like The Henna Wars

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always loved stories and telling them so I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. I’ve loved reading and writing since I could read and write. It just took me a long time to realise that being a writer was something I could actually do, both because so many people still frown at the idea of a career in arts, and because of the lack of representation I grew up with. 

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what songs helped Hani and Ishu come to life?

I only really listen to instrumental music when I write and I don’t pay much attention to what kind of instrumental music. But I do listen to music with lyrics before I sit down to write because it helps me get into the vibe of the story, or the voices of the characters. I have my entire Hani and Ishu playlist here! 

Ahh I love book playlists! What comes to you first when writing – character, plot or setting? Does it change with each project?

It can change for each project. For Hani and Ishu what came first was the trope: fake dating. Then the plot, which gave rise to the setting and the characters. All of these things are usually in play with each other as I write. They all developed together, especially as I pantsed the whole book. 

That’s interesting! In the spirit of LGBTQMonth, can you tell us some of your favourite LGBTQ+ books or TV shows/films?

Yes! I really love How It All Blew Up by Arvin Ahmadi. It’s such a beautiful and authentic representation of queer Muslimness and it really spoke to me. I also love Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé. I’ve never read a thriller quite like that before, and I rarely find thrillers that feature queer characters of colour. I am a big Kelly Quindlen fan, and I think last time I spoke about her book Late To The Party, but of course since then I’ve also read and loved her latest novel She Drives Me Crazy

Ah I’m very excited for Ace of Spades! As an Irish person myself, I love to see your books set in Dublin and in places that are familiar to me as a reader. Was this always an important choice for you?

I love writing books that feel very authentic to me, to who I am now but also who I was when I was younger. And as an extension of that, hopefully books that feel authentic to people who share my life experiences or my marginalisations. So it always made sense to me to write books set in Dublin, Ireland as I’ve spent most of my life here. This is where I was a teen, and it’s where I came of age. I don’t know what that looks like in other places in the world, and though I’m sure I could write it given the right amount of research and dedication, for now it’s important for me to represent this specific experience of being a queer teen of colour in Dublin, Ireland. 

As a queer author yourself, what was the first book or form of art where you first felt seen/represented?

Honestly, I’ve never read a book or seen any piece of media that made me feel wholly represented. There’s definitely still a huge dearth of diverse representation in books, and there are still many people waiting to see themselves on the page for the first time. The first time I read a book with characters of colour, and by an author of colour though, was Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses. It made me feel represented in that I had never read a book like this before which featured characters of colour (even if they weren’t the same race or ethnicity as me), and spoke very starkly about race at a time when I had never really encountered that in literature before. It was definitely an important book in my journey to becoming an author. 

That really is such an incredible book. And finally, have you learned any advice about writing since our last interview that you could give to any aspiring authors/artists?

I feel like I learn new writing advice every day. I would advise aspiring authors/artists to seek out fellow authors/artists because there is nothing that is more helpful to the creative process than bouncing ideas off of people. Getting on the phone to one of my writer friends and brainstorming ideas is really the only way to get over slumps during revisions or drafting. Also, finding a community, especially in the early days of being in something like the publishing industry is so incredibly helpful. The friends that I made before I got an agent or a book deal are so invaluable to me, both for my and for my publishing career. 


And that’s some really great advice too, thank you Adiba and thank you again for coming back for another interview! I’ve loved having you!

Review | Mother Mother by Annie MacManus

Mother Mother

by Annie MacManus

Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Historical

Goodreads | Bookshop | Book Depository


Mary McConnell grew up longing for information about the mother she never knew, who died suddenly when Mary was only a baby. Her brother Sean was barely old enough to remember, and their father numbed his pain with drink.

Now aged thirty-five, Mary has lived in the same house her whole life. She’s never left Belfast. She has a son, TJ, who’s about to turn eighteen, and is itching to see more of the world.

One Saturday morning, TJ wakes up to find his mother gone. He doesn’t know where – or why – but he’s the only one who can help find her.

Mother Mother takes us down the challenging road of Mary’s life, while following TJ’s increasingly desperate search for his mother, as he begins to understand what has led her to this point.

This is a gritty, affecting novel about family, grief, addiction, and motherhood. And it asks the question – if you spend your life giving everything to the ones you love; do you risk losing yourself along the way?


Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review!

To be fair, I am always a bit cautious when I see another celebrity announcing that they’ve written a book, because writing a book is no easy feat, and I know that from experience. But when I heard about Annie Mac announcing her fiction debut, I was intrigued. I am a huge fan and the premise of the book sounded right up my street – and I have to say, I was definitely not let down!

Annie MacManus’s debut, Mother Mother, follows the character of Mary and her son TJ. One day, TJ wakes up and discovers his mother missing, following an argument they had the previous night. Meanwhile, we stretch back all the way to when Mary was just a child and the novel follows her life as she grows up during the Troubles in Belfast and falls pregnant with her son at a young age, and we learn her mother died when she was only young. It deals well themes of family, addiction and motherhood in a blend of the past and present and we come to find out where Mary has disappeared to.

I found this novel gripping straight away – what I think I liked most about this was how little I knew about it before I started it. I think that really added to the atmosphere of the mystery of the story – I really felt as though I couldn’t imagine what happened next. It was such a hard-hitting and poignant portrayal of family and how addiction can bleed through and turn things to rot.

I think MacManus did a great job too of blending in the past with the present. There wasn’t any point where I preferred the other, I think she got the balance just right, as well as the perspective with TJ and Mary. I also really enjoyed the setting of Belfast and how it was set during the 90s and 00s, because as an Irish person myself, I really saw my country reflected in this and recognised certain places and references, which is always a plus! This is definitely a debut I would recommend for all fans of a slow-build mystery!


Review | Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

Detransition, Baby

by Torrey Peters

Adult Fiction, Contemporary, LGBTQ

Goodreads | Bookshop | Book Depository


Reese almost had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York City, a job she didn’t hate. She had scraped together what previous generations of trans women could only dream of: a life of mundane, bourgeois comforts. The only thing missing was a child. But then her girlfriend, Amy, detransitioned and became Ames, and everything fell apart. Now Reese is caught in a self-destructive pattern: avoiding her loneliness by sleeping with married men.

Ames isn’t happy either. He thought detransitioning to live as a man would make life easier, but that decision cost him his relationship with Reese—and losing her meant losing his only family. Even though their romance is over, he longs to find a way back to her. When Ames’s boss and lover, Katrina, reveals that she’s pregnant with his baby—and that she’s not sure whether she wants to keep it—Ames wonders if this is the chance he’s been waiting for. Could the three of them form some kind of unconventional family—and raise the baby together?

This provocative debut is about what happens at the emotional, messy, vulnerable corners of womanhood that platitudes and good intentions can’t reach. Torrey Peters brilliantly and fearlessly navigates the most dangerous taboos around gender, sex, and relationships, gifting us a thrillingly original, witty, and deeply moving novel.


Detransition, Baby had such an air of originality about it and it was such a fresh, interesting read. Following the lives of three different characters, Torrey Peters delivers an excellent, thought-provoking and hilarious novel.

Reese is a trans woman living in New York City who longs for a child. Ames is her ex, who detransitioned to live again as a man to make his life easier. And Katrina is his boss, and lover. When Katrina reveals she is pregnant, Ames figures this is the perfect way to get Reese back into his life on a permanent basis – but it turns out asking her to be the third parent of a woman’s child she doesn’t even know isn’t as smooth sailing as he thought it was.

God, I really enjoyed this. I felt it was so fascinating and it had me hooked from the very beginning. Reese was an excellent character, who at times I loved and at times I hated. She was selfish but she was also driven and I really liked seeing these two sides of her constantly clash and get in the way of the relationships she builds with other people. It raised some really great questions about motherhood and womanhood and the prose was so subtly beautiful that there are times when you need to just pause and take a breath.

I loved how it was written, with the sort of dual perspective as well as the setting in both the present and past. I really enjoyed getting to know especially Reese and Ames as characters and to learn a little more about what it means to be trans in today’s day and age and how far the trans community have come and how far they still have to go. I was thoroughly impressed by this beautifully tender novel and I also found myself laughing out loud at a lot of times. Perfect for #LGBTQMonth should you wish to read more books by trans authors (which should always be a big yes!), I really recommend this!!


#LGBTQMonth Author Interview: Ciara Smyth!

Hi everyone!

I hope your reading is going well! Today I am very excited to welcome the wonderful and hilarious CIARA SMYTH to my blog, who is the author of The Falling in Love Montage and her latest novel, Not My Problem! If you haven’t already read these belters, I cannot recommend them enough!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ciara Smyth studied drama, teaching, and then social work at university. She thought she didn’t know what she wanted to be when she grew up. She became a writer so she wouldn’t have to grow up.

She enjoys jigging (verb: to complete a jigsaw puzzle), playing the violin badly, and having serious conversations with her pets. Ciara has lived in Belfast for over ten years and still doesn’t really know her way around.


ABOUT NOT MY PROBLEM

Aideen has plenty of problems she can’t fix. Her best (and only) friend is pulling away. Her mother’s drinking problem is a constant concern. She’s even running out of outlandish diseases to fake so she can skip PE.

But when Aideen stumbles on her nemesis, overachiever Meabh Kowalski, in the midst of a full-blown meltdown, she sees a problem that—unlike her own disaster of a life—seems refreshingly easy to solve. Meabh is desperate to escape her crushing pile of extracurriculars. Aideen volunteers to help. By pushing Meabh down the stairs.

Problem? Solved. Meabh’s sprained ankle is the perfect excuse to ditch her overwhelming schedule. But when another student learns about their little scheme and brings Aideen another “client” who needs her “help,” it kicks off a semester of traded favors, ill-advised hijinks, and an unexpected chance at love. Fixing other people’s problems won’t fix her own, but it might be the push she needs to start.


THE INTERVIEW

Hi Ciara! I’m such a massive fan of your books so it’s a privilege to have you onboard for LGBTQMonth! Can you tell us what it first was that got you into writing?

Thank you so much, that is so kind! And you do such wonderful work promoting books, truly bloggers are unsung heroes! I have always been a big reader of course but when I was very, very little my Dad used to read me these books where all the characters were sentient vegetables. They were written and illustrated by a nine year old girl, Jayne Fisher. I was so jealous that she’d made her own book and I think that was the first time I considered that I should do something like that when I grow up. It took me a bit longer than Jayne to get there though. 

As a queer author yourself, what do you think the importance of LGBTQ+ representation is, especially in young adult fiction?

I think it is vital. I really believe that accepting my own sexuality would have been a lot easier if there had been more (or any) easily accessible representation when I was a teenager. We have come a long, long way and the fact that there is a range of LGBTQ+ fiction available for young people is fantastic. But there needs to be more. One book or even twenty books can’t do it for everyone. There needs to be so much choice that it doesn’t matter if you hate this book or that book that is supposed to be your rep, because there’s loads more out there. 

This is so, so true! What does an ideal day of writing look like for you?

You know how some people are productive in the morning and some are productive in the evening? I’m basically only any good between 11am and 3pm. So, I’d have eggs on toast, 3 cups of tea and then settle down. Preferably mid scene so I know what’s happening next and I don’t have to think about it. Then once I’ve knocked out 2000 perfect words I’d be whisked away to a spa for a lot of massaging and jacuzzi and a manicure. I realise that’s more of just a dream day with some writing thrown in but that will have to do. 

One day I envision this for you, I really do. As an Irish reader, it’s always lovely to see books set in my home country. Was it an important choice to set both your books in Ireland or did it just come natural to you? 

I think it’s a mixture of both. While there wasn’t tons of YA around when I was young, what I did read was often Irish. One of my favourites was Sisters, No Way! by Siobhan Parkinson so it never seemed strange to me to set my book in Ireland. But I also don’t think I could set them anywhere else. I think my writing voice does just come out sounding Irish and I feel like to set it elsewhere would mean flattening it, or stripping it of something. We have such a weird and wonderful way of speaking in Ireland and I get a real kick out of putting that into novels that get sold around the world. 

In the spirit of LGBTQ Month, what are some of your favourite LGBTQ+ books or TV/films?

I adored Dating Amber, there’s even a wee reference to it in Not My Problem. I think A Date for Mad Mary is utterly fantastic and totally underrated. At the moment I’m reading Love is for Losers by Wibke Brueggemann and it’s so much fun, I think readers who enjoyed The Falling in Love Montage will like this one too. 

Ahh, I loved Dating Amber so much too! What’s the best piece of advice you’ve learned so far for aspiring authors/artists reading this?

Structure is your friend. When I started writing I felt like structure and beats and arcs would make stories boring and predicable, but really, without structure you don’t have a story. All you have is a bunch of scenes in a row and no one will care about it. I am a very character driven writer and I really recommend Story Genius by Lisa Cron for writing character driven plots. 

Ooh, I shall have to check that out! If you had the opportunity to live anywhere in the world while writing a book that took place there, where would you choose?

What a good question. I really love all of those New Englandy set books like Prep, Election, The Fever. So while I don’t think I’m the right person to write one, perhaps if I infiltrated a boarding school there I could give a shot. As a bonus I am a huge Sylvia Plath fan so I would visit Smith College and nerd out. 

Honestly that sounds like so much fun. How many drafts do your books usually go through before publication?

Not My Problem went off to my US editor as draft one (sorry Stephanie) and from there, there was a developmental edit, a line edit, a copy edit, pass pages and then in the UK there was an anglicisation phase too. So five or six. But I think if you’re talking about drafts where things might really change then only two. But there is one chapter that was a real nightmare and went through at least 4 different complete rewrites because for ages I couldn’t pin point what purpose it served. When my editor honed in on this it all fell into place (hopefully).  

Oh it definitely did! Finally, what can we expect next from Ciara Smyth?

My mother can expect that I will not update her on what I had for dinner every day, as much as she would like me to. My friends can expect that I will send an overly long voice note giving out about something. My cat can expect that I will shove that tablet down her throat because I care more about her health than my own safety. As for readers, well, I have been taking a little holiday from writing but you can expect that I will soon get back to work and bring you something probably funny, probably sad and probably with swearing. 


I would expect nothing less! Thank you so much Ciara for being a part of #LGBTQMonth!

#QueerRecs: Top 5 Debut Books!

Hello everyone!

For my first official #QueerRecs post this month, I’ve decided to share some recommendations of my favourite debut novels featuring queer protagonists!


Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran

I have nothing but good things to say about this debut novel. It’s such a swoon-worthy, gorgeous slow-burn of a romance between a queen, Lia, and her spymaster, Xania. Both characters were so authentic and felt as though they both jumped off the pages of the book. As well as that, it was so clear that the world and the political intrigue was craft so well with complete care that I’d find it hard to believe anybody not falling head over heels for this book!


Me, My Dad and the End of the Rainbow by Benjamin Dean

I’m cheating a little for this recommendation because I haven’t actually started this yet! However I have it on my TBR for the month and want to use this opportunity to shout about this book, seeing as Benjamin is one of the authors I was lucky enough to interview. I think this book is going to give so much joy to the children growing up who read it, and I can only imagine the change it would have had in my life to see gay parents being so normalised. I can’t wait to read it! For fans of MG, I would also recommend Proud of Me by Sarah Hagger-Holt!


Real Life by Brandon Taylor

This was a glorious triumph of a debut, and I am very excited for what Brandon Taylor delivers next. I think the main character of Wallace was such an interesting and fresh voice – I loved how detached and unreliable he was. The tone of this book was so great too and I felt like I was able to savour every piece of prose. This one really resonated with me and for fans of adult, I’d definitely recommend this story of exploring what it means to be Black and queer.


Boy Queen by George Lester

I have all the fond feelings about this wonderful, charming debut! I expected to love it before I began, and love it I absolutely did. I think George Lester did such an incredible job of mixing humour and heart within this novel, and I really felt like I resonated with the characters in this. I am so excited for what he decides to write next, because if it’s anything like the camp and drama of Boy Queen, I will love it!


Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett

I loved this so much. I thought it was an exceptional debut, and it almost blew my mind a little when I realised it was just that, and not the tenth book in a wide-spanning back catalogue. This follows the story of Simone, who is HIV positive and has to navigate her life around this and prove that it doesn’t have to have a negative impact on her life. This had some beautiful prose and did a great job of breaking the stigma around HIV!


And those are some of my #QueerRecs for debut books! Have you read any of these books? Let me know in the comments below!

goodbye banner