#LGBTQMonth: Our final Author Interview with Lauren James!

Hey guys! Wow I can’t believe this is our last author interview! #LGBTQMonth has come and gone so quickly but I’ve enjoyed it so much! Anyways, without further ado I am delighted to welcome Lauren James to my blog. Author of The Next Together and The Last Beginning, and her anticipated new novel coming in September, The Loneliest Girl in the Universe! I’m so excited to get my hands on a copy!

1. As someone who is bi, would you or have you sought out members from other sides of the community for research for characters who, for example, might be gay?

I would research any characters who aren’t within my own experience, such as trans, Muslim, disabled, black – or even anyone who wasn’t from England! I usually research by reading #ownvoices novels, watching youtubers talk about their own experiences, and following people on tumblr. I’ve not yet hired a sensitivity reader, but I have a few projects coming up where I plan to. I’m going to use this Writing in the Margins resource to find a suitable intersectional editor, I think.

2. Who is your favourite LGBT author?

Sarah Waters, Alice Oseman, Cat Clarke, Alex Gino, Meredith Russo and V E Schwab are all amazing examples of how to combine accurate representation with genuinely thrilling and literary writing that will appeal to a broad audience.

3. Do you bring your own experiences surrounding the LGBT community and outside of that into your own works?

Absolutely! Everything I do impacts everything I write. I think one of the most important things an #ownvoices writer can bring to fiction isn’t necessarily the big experiences you have as a minority, but the smaller, everyday experiences that straight/white/cis people might not necessarily pick up on. The nuances of being in the LBGT community that aren’t tragic backstory or Pride parades, but everyday domestic life, in all its rainbow colours. That’s the real authenticity that only someone inside the LGBT community can write.

4. What are your thoughts on the mentality of some writers forcing diverse characters into the works to become more appealing and accepted the world of literature?

I think social media has done a lot for the diverse fiction movement, both good and bad. It’s brought a lot of attention to the issue, and encouraged publishers to take strides to increase diversity on their list and in their offices, but at times it can feel quite forceful and angry.

I can completely understand why some authors have felt the need to include diversity in their fiction for fear of backlash. I’m sure that, on the other side, there are also authors who are afraid to write about minorities because social media is so vocal that they’re worried about the backlash if they got it wrong – or just not-quite-right.

I think, ultimately, you have to ignore all the chatter and just focus on what you, personally, think is right. Every book should be written primarily for the author, first and foremost. You have to look at the world around you and try to write about it as realistically as possible – or what’s the point of being a writer?

5. Out of all of your works, which was your favourite to work on and why?

Always the last one I finished, I think! When I’ve done all the hard work and can look at a complete, perfect finished book. The one I’m always writing always feels like a terrible disaster while I’m in the process of getting it down on paper.

My next release is The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, a psychological thriller set in space, and I’m very proud of it.

6. Do you have an essential LGBT+ literature recommendations?

I run an LGBT YA review blog here on Tumblr, and all of my five star reads are here. Some include:

L: We Are Okay, The One Hundred Nights of Hero

G: Timekeeper, I’ll Give You the Sun

B: Girlhood, Far From You

T: When the Moon Was Ours, George

A: Radio Silence, Clariel

7. Any advice for aspiring authors?

Find out what makes your writing unique and own it. Be completely shameless about it in your query letter. If you love the zombie cats in your novel, make sure they are front and centre in your query. You need to find an agent who loves your book as much as you do, and spending months crafting the perfectly written query letter isn’t going to do that – but maybe persuading them to read the book with the promise of zombie cats might.

8. What is your writing kyrptonite?

TUMBLR. I always waste forever on tumblr. Although, to be fair it is a writing tool too. I do a lot of brainstorming on tumblr, often based on text posts like this, which is the most perfect thing to come across on your dash when you’re struggling for inspiration. I think the online community is a brilliantly creative place.

In particular, fanfiction is training a huge generation of writers better than any Creative Writing course could – and it’s all based on enthusiasm and enjoyment, which is just incredible!

9. What do your future plans include?

I want to write for as long as possible. I want to be a writer for my whole life, and earn a living wage from it. Everything you read tells you that for a new author in the 21st century, it’s not possible to support yourself by writing. I’m going to fight to prove that’s not the case. I’m doing okay so far, I think…

10. If you could spend a day with any character from one of your works, who would it be and what would you do during that time?

Spart! Everyone who reads The Last Beginning loves Spart – he’s had at least 3 declarations of love and/or marriage so far – and I totally agree. He’s an Artificial Intelligence who’s very sassy and wise, and obsessed with trashy tv shows. I could write him into every scene I write in any piece of fiction for the rest of my life, and it would improve it exponentially. I’ll probably miss writing his dialogue the most.

I think I would want to go time travelling with him, like Clove!

Lauren James was born in 1992, and graduated in 2014 from the University of Nottingham, UK, where she studied Chemistry and Physics.

She started writing during secondary school English classes, because she couldn’t stop thinking about a couple who kept falling in love throughout history. She sold the rights to the novel when she was 21, whilst she was still at university. The Next Together has been translated into five languages worldwide. It was described by The Bookseller as ‘funny, romantic and compulsively readable’ and Kirkus as ‘An ambitious, promising premise . . . James is one to watch’. It was longlisted for the Branford Boase Award, a prize given to recognise an outstanding novel by a first time writer. Her other novels include The Last Beginning, the epic conclusion to The Next Together which was named one of the best LGBT-inclusive works for kids and young adults by the Independent, who called it ‘ideal for teenagers. The Last Beginning is on the ball’. A short story set in the world of The Next Together series, Another Together, is also available. The Loneliest Girl in the Universe was inspired by a Physics calculation she was assigned at university. Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and all of her books feature scientists in prominent roles.

She lives in the West Midlands and is an Arts Council grant recipient. You can find her on Twitter at @Lauren_E_James, Tumblr at @laurenjames or her website http://www.laurenejames.co.uk.

#LGBTQMonth: Author Interview – Meg Grehan!

Hey guys! Hope you’ve all been doing well. I took on The Space Between as my book for our second readathon and I’ve already finished it and adored it! Which is why I’m super excited today to welcome Meg Grehan, a fellow Irish writer, to my blog for an interview for #LGBTQMonth! Don’t miss it below!

1. Is there any particular reason you decided to write The Space Between in verse?

I started writing in prose but it didn’t feel right. I was writing a section filled with a lot of panic and I really wanted to capture that feeling but it just wasn’t working. I kept adding more and more words, more description but it started feeling too weighed down with words and eventually ridiculously over-written. So I got to thinking about the nature of mental illness, especially depression and agoraphobia and how isolating they can be and how quiet your world can get when you’re in the depths of them. I realised that at my worst I very rarely spoke. Sometimes my girlfriend would arrive home at 6pm and I would speak for the first time that day. Verse felt like the perfect way to express that because it has no rules, you can use as many or as little words as you want, you can use format and form and shape and punctuation however you like to show how a character feels. It’s such a fun, liberating way to write. But also, I just really, really love it!

2. Have you ever written in prose? If so, how did you find it compared to writing verse?

I have! I still do, I’ll usually go with whichever fits the story best but I much prefer verse. Prose is a little harder for me, I tend to stress more about pacing and worry about over-writing. Verse just comes naturally!

3. What’s some of your favourite books with LGBTQ characters?

Ooh here we go! My very favourite is Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue, it’s a collection of fairytale retellings with a very feminist, queer twist and I could read it over and over and over. I’ll always have a soft spot for Sugar Rush by Julie Burchill since it was the first I’d ever read. Everything Leads to You by Nina Lacour is one of my favourites, it’s gorgeous. The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness is my absolute favourite series. Ash by Malinda Lo is incredible. Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire, Nina is Not Ok by Shappi Khorsandi, Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler, Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown, Why be Happy When You Could Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson, Read Me Like a Book by Liz Kessler, George by Alex Gino, Wildthorn by Jane Eagland, The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg, Lumberjanes… I could go on and on! Oh and Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley is a special one for me because it’s also about agoraphobia!

4. Who’s your favourite character from The Space Between and why?

I’m not sure I could choose! I’m tempted to say Mouse the dog because nothing would have happened without Mouse! I don’t think I could ever choose between Beth and Alice and there’s only one other character, a delivery guy who pops up once in the whole book but so many people have told me they loved him, so we’ll go with the delivery guy!

5. Do you have a writing schedule that you follow?

I have a writing schedule that I try to follow!

6. When did you first realise you wanted to be an author?

Probably when I read The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton for the first time as a kid. It made me so certain that magic was real, I believed in the Faraway Tree 100%. It made me want to have adventures and go to magical places but I was such a shy, quiet kid so I started writing adventures instead. I was a bookish kid, if I wasn’t reading I was writing. I had a tiny writing desk in my room and I would sit and write ‘books’ and staple them together and draw covers. It was always something I loved, that made me feel calm and happy.

7. How do you select the names of your characters?

I kind of wait until a name appears and feels right, if it takes a while I’ll use a stand-in name and replace it later. Beth and Alice actually had very different, very Irish names for the longest time. My emails with my my publishers are full of debates over names!

It’s different with each project though; sometimes I start with a name, sometimes I change names a million times, sometimes the perfect one just pops up out of nowhere. A story I’ve been working on recently needed very specific names so I’ve had to do a lot of research to make sure I picked the right ones, that’s been a lot of fun!

8. How long did it take you to write The Space Between?

A couple of weeks, it was my Camp Nanowrimo project last April. I wrote it during the first half of the month, spent the second half piecing it all together and sent it off in May. It was all very fast! It had been sitting in my brain for months beforehand though, it had plenty of time to grow before I actually felt I could sit down and write it.

9. Do you have any advice to aspiring writers?

Try everything! I had never written verse before and now I love it with my whole heart. Try anything and everything that interests you, write melodramatic poems or noir crime stories or haikus or whatever it is that you have hiding behind that little bit of doubt in your head.

Be nice to yourself, being creative can be hard and inconsistent so try to be understanding and treat yourself with the patience and kindness you would show anyone else.

Take lots of dance breaks.

10. And finally, what are you working on at the moment?

Too many things! A verse story, a super exciting project with a friend, a script…

#LGBTQMonth: Blogger Interview – Jessi Hood!

Hey guys! I hope you’ve been enjoying #LGBTQMonth so far! It’s hard to believe we’re over halfway through July! Where has the year gone?? Anyways, today we have an interview with the wonderful blogger, Jessi Hood! (Twitter – @bibliojessi, Blog – bibliojessi.wordpress.com!)

1) What inspired you to start blogging?

I started off with booktube, I can’t remember exactly how but in May of 2015 I stumbled across booktube and decided I wanted to make one. Since then I have moved over to blogging, and now I love blogging!

2) Do you consider yourself a diverse reader?

Yes! Much more so now than even a year ago. I have recently read a vast majority of diverse books and it has improved my quality of reading so much.

3) Who are some of your favourite LGBTQ+ characters from books?

Definitely Grace from How To Make a Wish and Charlie from Queens of Geek. I really saw myself in both of those characters.

4) Would you recommend any LGBTQ+ authors that you’ve read?

Ashley Herring Blake, Adam Silvera, and M. Hollis!

5) How long does it take you to read books?

Usually a few days to a week.

6) Do you write?

I do a little. I’m trying to write more and more. 🙂

7) Do you have an all time favourite novel?

It is subject to change, but right now it’s How To Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake! I adore that book and saw myself so much in Grace.

8) If you could go to somewhere in the world, where would it be and why?

I wish I could go back to Costa Rica. I went there once, and it’s the most beautiful place I ever ever seen. Not only that, but the people there were so kind and welcoming, it was an amazing place to be.

9) What are some of your most anticipated books coming in the future?

27 hours by Tristina Wright! I love Tristina and I’m so excited to read her debut novel.

10) Are there any book-to-movie adaptations you’re excited for?

SIMON VS. THE HOMOSAPIENS AGENDA!! I can’t wait to see that! Also The Hate U Give, I don’t think they’ve started filming yet but I know there’s plans to make it a movie!

#LGBTQMonth: Author Interview – Alice Oseman!!

I would 100% put Alice Oseman in my top 3 favourite writers, so naturally I screamed when I saw that she was willing to take part in an interview for #LGBTQMonth!! Her books are utterly incredible. Her first novel, Solitude, and her most recent (though I need Book 3 right now) Radio Silence are both written so well, their plots are so immersive and they’re both extremely diverse. She also runs a webcomic called Heartstopper, which is kind of a prequel to Solitude  and it is adorable!! Check out her interview below and check out her books if you haven’t already! She is an amazing human being!

1. Do you have a writing schedule?
Definitely not! I find schedules and deadlines make me very stressed. I’d probably be a lot more productive if I did have a schedule, though!

2. Out of your own LGBTQ characters in your works, who is your favourite and why?
Probably Aled. I see a lot of myself in him. He gets absorbed by his fictional worlds and creations, even sometimes at the expense of real life relationships.

3. What’s your most helpful piece of advice for aspiring writers?
Write the book you want to read.

4. Do you have an interesting writing quirk?
Probably that I always draw my characters. It’s so much fun and it genuinely helps me to get to know them better!

5. What was your hardest scene to write?
In Radio Silence, it was the final scenes between Frances and Aled. There were a lot of complex emotions to be expressed.

6. Who are some of your favourite LGBTQ characters from books you’ve read?
I really loved Ari from Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz and really felt for him in that story. I also loved Clove from Lauren James’s The Last Beginning and all her awkward nerdiness.

7. Snog, Marry, Kill! Charlie, Carys or Raine?
Oh my gosh! If I have to choose… I’d say snog Raine, marry Charlie, kill Carys (sorry Carys).

8. What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?
I’m terrible at choosing favourites! I’m sure there are loads. I recently read Peter Darling by Austin Chant. It was absolutely beautiful and definitely deserves more attention!

9. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Not really! I knew it was an option, but I didn’t have any need to use a pseudonym. I’m very proud of what I write!

10. Can you tell us anything about the infamous Book 3?
One musician, one fangirl, one week… lots of angst.

#LGBTQMonth: Author Interview – Moira Fowley-Doyle!

Hi everyone! Today I’m so glad to welcome the wonderful Moïra Fowley-Doyle to my blog today with her interview for #LGBTQMonth! She is the author of The Accident Season and the most recently The Spellbook of the Lost & Found. I have unfortunately read neither (yet!) but I have been assured that there are LGBTQ characters in them!

1. Have you any advice for aspiring authors?
Write what you love. Write what you’d want to read rather than what you think other people want to read. Fall in love with it hard and fast and when it starts to feel like a chore step back and change direction. You don’t need to write every day or even every week but you do need to finish what you’ve started. First drafts are never perfect – they’re just you telling yourself the story. Everything else happens in the edits.

2. Snog, Marry, Kill: Rose, Rowan or Ivy?
Kiss Rowan, marry Rose (because presumably marriage leads to more kissing)… and I suppose that means poor Ivy gets the chop.

3. Who are some of your favourite LGBTQ characters from books?
So! I love almost every character in every book by Jeanette Winterson but let’s go especially with Silver in Lighthousekeeping. I also love Nan in Tipping the Velvet and dare anybody not to fall in love with Sue and Maud in Fingersmith, both by Sarah Waters. I love Beth and Nora in The Cure for Death by Lightning by Gail Anderson Dargatz. I love Clove and Ella in The Last Beginning by Lauren James. I love every messed-up character in A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskovitz and in About a Girl by Sarah McCarry. I also love every character in Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente. I love Dirk and Duck in the Dangerous Angels series by Francesca Lia Block and I love Ronan and Adam in the Raven Boys series by Maggie Stiefvater. I love Noah in I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. I love Cameron in The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth and I love Astrid in Ask the Passengers by A.S. King and I’m happy that I can have such a long list of fantastic, layered and nuanced LGBT+ characters that I know will only keep growing.

4. Do you like to write in cafés?
I prefer to write in my office at home because I’m free to move around and stretch when I need to, and the coffee is limitless. I try to write with my whole body – back straight and neck long and wrists bent at the right angle so as to minimise repetitive strain (I’m someone who writes and draws constantly so it’s very easy for me to injure my wrists) – and my office set-up is perfect for long writing sprints and hours at the computer screen. But café writing can be lovely for a little change of scene.

5. Which was more fun to write – Spellbook of the Lost and Found or The Accident Season?
The Accident Season was more fun to write for a few different reasons. I wrote it before I had a publisher or even an agent, and I wrote it before I had kids. I fell in love with it straight away and banged it out in one fast dash – the first draft took only six weeks from first words to the end. I dreamed it every night, I ate and breathed it. I could write all night if I wanted to (and sometimes I did) – it was a huge, immersive experience for that month and a half, and each round of edits (with my agent and then later with my editors) was a new excitement. When it came to writing Spellbook, I was already on deadline. I had just come home from a whirlwind pre-publication book tour for The Accident Season and I had a two-year-old child and a two-month-old baby who didn’t like to sleep for more than two hours at a time, day or night. I was sleep-deprived and hormonal and terrified I wouldn’t be able to pull off the whole writing-a-book thing again. The first draft was a bigger mess than a first draft usually is. I second-guessed myself and held back and it was only after a couple of rounds of edits that I could let myself write brave and true and fall in love with my story. It took a while but once it happened, Spellbook was a wild ride. It was tangled and overgrown and challenging and beautiful and I ended up putting even more of myself into it than I did with The Accident Season and despite the difficulty I had writing it at first – or maybe because of it – Spellbook is the thing I have written that I am the most proud of.

6. Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes. I wanted to be a writer when I wanted to be a ballet dancer as a child and I wanted to be a writer when I wanted to be an artist as a teenager. I didn’t always tell people that I wanted to be a writer, but I’ve always written – I wrote my first novel at the age of eight in one of those wide-ruled Aisling copy books that every Irish child had for school, and one day I’m going to rewrite that story because it actually had a pretty great concept. I’ve kept diaries since I could write full sentences and have two giant crates-full in my attic. The earliest are arguably the funniest because when I was five years old I thought that diaries should be written as a list (1. I wok up. 2. I hab my brekfast. 3. I sed “HALLO” to mammy. 4. I sed “HALLO” to daddy. Et cetera) and also because I was an abysmal speller until well into my late teens. I think part of what attracts me to writing is having had the practice of trying to tell my life like a story for so many years. Keeping diaries makes you see stories everywhere.

7. Do you have a set schedule for writing?
I write best in the morning, with a bowl of coffee and my tarot cards beside me. Because I have kids who get up early for preschool I can’t really write into the night anymore. My writing schedule is structured around childminding: I work on weekday mornings until I pick my kids up from school, and two days a week their grandparents take them after school so I can write all day. Although I sometimes miss being able to write whenever and for however long I wanted, I’ve learned that I get focused much faster when I know I only have a few hours to work in – I can’t afford to procrastinate or get distracted so I actually end up diving deeper in. Which means I sometimes get this strange culture shock when I have to resurface and be a human being again.

8. What would you tell your younger self?
I’d tell her to keep going and I’d tell her to be brave. I’d tell her to follow her instincts, to take up space, and to not be afraid to make a mess.

9. Do you have any unpublished or half-finished books? If so, would you ever consider returning to them?
Well like I said I wrote this pretty great book when I was eight that I totally plan on coming back to… I pilfer thoughts and characters from my younger self all the time. Parts of The Accident Season started life as a (very different) short novel I wrote when I was 16 and two of the characters in Spellbook were plucked from a book I started in my early twenties but never finished. The book I’m working on now grew from a story I wrote when I was ten or eleven which became the beginnings of a novel when I was a teenager which became the roots of this book, now. I should add that to the advice to give to writers: cut ruthlessly but keep everything. You never know where it’ll end up two decades down the line.

10. And finally, what are you working on next?
I’m working on a weird, tangled book about a family and a bull and three old witches and the sea but because it’s still at the first draft stage I can’t say very much about it. I like that books are kept secret until they’re announced, though. It’s gestating; it’s still forming. I’m not sure what manner of creature it’ll come out as, but I’m excited to find out.

And so are we! Thank you so much for interviewing and I hope to see you all back here tomorrow for wonderful extracts from History is All You Left Me​!



#LGBTQMonth: Author Interview – Lisa Williamson!

I’m delighted to announce we have the amazing Lisa Williamson for an interview today. She’s the author of the fantastic The Art of Being Normal and most recently, the hilarious All About Mia. Both are fabulous books so I urge you to read them if you haven’t already, after you’ve read her interview of course 😉 Enjoy!

1. Do you try and portray homo/bi/transphobia in your works?
This was certainly the case with TABON. Not all trans people encounter bullying and prejudice but the majority do and I felt I had to explore this. I didn’t want to paint an overwhelmingly gloomy picture though. While working as an administrator at the Gender Identity Development Service, I came across so many young people who were surrounded by amazing support networks and I wanted to represent this in TAOBN alongside the instances of bullying and transphobia. 

2. Do you have an LGBT+ role model?
Lots! Rebecca Root, Juno Dawson, Ellen Page, Kristin Stewart and Jack Monroe to name just a few. 

3. Which LGBT literature character do you admire?
The entire cast of Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan. It’s such a powerful, beautiful and heart-wrenching book. 

4. From a lot of LGBT+ people in the reading world, there is now a stigma against authors who include white, cis, straight characters in their works. What are your thoughts on this?
As an author, I always want my books to represent the world around me and, certainly where I live in London, this world encompasses people of all ethnicities, gender identities, sexual identities and social and economic backgrounds. I don’t think there should be a backlash against authors who include white, cis, straight characters and I doubt there’s anything to gained for attacking authors and their existing works for this reason. It is far more effective to put our efforts into encouraging own voices writing. Writing should never be a tick box exercise and I strongly believe representation for the point of representation alone usually fails to resonate with readers. It always needs to come from a place of authenticity. This doesn’t necessarily mean basing our writing on our personal experiences but it does mean writing about LGBT+ themes from a place of sensitivity and truthfulness. 

5. Out of all of your works, which was your favourite to work on and why?
All books present their own challenges and the process is generally one of intense highs and lows. TAOBN was special for me because it came from a place of real love. Writing it, I had no idea it would be published one day – I just knew I needed to tell this story, even if only a handful of people read it. The fact it’s now been read by thousands of people blows my mind every single day.  

6. Do you have an essential LGBT+ literature recommendations?
Lots! I’m going to limit it to three though: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan, Everything Leads To You by Nina LaCour and I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. 

7. Any advice for aspiring authors?
Tell the story only you can tell. This doesn’t mean it has to be based on things you’ve experienced firsthand. It just needs to come from a place deep within you. Don’t be too hard on yourself or feel you have to make every word poetic and perfect. Just get the story down, and don’t get bogged down with style or feeling you have to comply to a trend. Often simplicity can pack the biggest punch of all. Finally, don’t rush or force it – it’ll be ready when it’s ready. 

8. What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Hmmmm, I’m not sure I’m all that quirky in my approach of writing. Unlike a lot of writers who need silence to work, I like a bit of a buzz around me. In fact, from next week I’ll be renting a desk in a busy shared office. I’m a sociable thing and really feed off other people. 

9. What does your work schedule look like when you are writing?
On a typical day, to get up around 7.30 and do a quick workout (some weights or yoga, maybe a run if the weather is nice). Then it’s breakfast, a shower, then down to work. I always stop at 12 for lunch and a bit of telly before getting back to it around 1pm. I’m not very good at knowing when to stop for the day which is one of the reasons I’ve decided to rent office space. I’m going to treat it like a proper 9-5 job and avoid writing at home where at all possible, in an attempt to get a better work/life balance going.

10. Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

Everywhere! Newspaper articles, snippets of conversation, talking to friends, other books etc. I also sometimes just get ideas popping into my head when I least expect it. Once I’ve got an idea, I usually turn to the internet to find out more. I like to let ideas percolate for a few months before I start writing, scribbling lots of ideas in notebooks as I go along.

Thanks so much for interviewing, Lisa!


#LGBTQMonth: Extracts from The Art of Being Normal!

Hey everyone! Welcome back to my blog. Today for #LGBTQMonth we have two exciting extracts from Lisa Williamson’s debut novel The Art of Being Normal. It is an incredible piece of fiction that follows the story of David as he realises he is trans, and when he meets Leo and strikes up an unexpected friendship, some big secrets start to reveal themselves. I really enjoyed it and considering we have an interview with the fabulous author herself coming up, I decided to choose two extracts from the book to urge you all to pick it up and read it!

One afternoon, when I was eight years old, my class was told to write about what we wanted to be when we grew up. Miss Box went round the class, asking each one of us to stand up and share what we had written. Zachary Olsen wanted to play in the Premier League. Lexi Taylor wanted to be an actress. Harry Beaumont planned on being Prime Minister. Simon Allen wanted to be Harry Potter, so badly that the previous term he had scratched a lightning bolt on to his forehead with a pair of craft scissors. 
But I didn’t want to be any of these things.
This is what I wrote:

I want to be a girl. 
(from chapter one)

I can’t help but get a shock every time I look at him. Not that he looks bad, because he doesn’t, but it’s hard to get my head round him being here, dressed like, well, like that. But the weirdest thing is that it’s not actually that weird, because the clothes he’s wearing suit him, way better than anything else I’ve seen him wear. He seems less awkward in them, less self-conscious about what his body is doing. I even start to feel a bit guilty about continuing to think of him as a ‘he’ at all.
(from chapter thirty-six)

Thanks for reading and join us tonight at 8PM on Twitter for our first #LGBTQChat!!

#LGBTQMonth: Author Interview – Claire Hennessy!

Hello all!
Claire Hennessy is such a talented writer and I adore her books so much so naturally, I was over the moon when I found out she agreed to an interview! She is the author of Nothing Tastes as Good and most recently, (the heavily inclusive) Like Other Girls! If you haven’t read either, then I urge you to read both right now! Check out her interview below!

1. As a writer, what would you choose as your spirit animal? 
I am pretty sure someone will yell at me for cultural appropriation if I answer this…

2. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? 
Put the writing first and worry less about exams. You’re a writer, not an academic. Stop thinking that exams will validate you as a person. No really, stop.

​3. What was harder to write – Nothing Tastes As Good or Like Other Girls? 
They were both tricky in different ways but neither were soul-destroying. I’m not a big fan of the ‘tortured artist’ idea – there are much harder jobs out there.

4. Are you friends with any other authors? If so, how do they help you to become a better writer? 
I am indeed. I think it’s more about moral support than anything technical or craft-wise – justifying the time that you’re taking to work on a book, especially if it’s not your full-time job (which it isn’t for most people).

5. Have you ever gotten reader’s block? 
Oh, this is a really good question. Yes, totally – because I have always studied or worked at things that involve a lot of reading, there are definitely periods of burnout where you just need to watch TV and not pick up a book. But I love TV, so it’s not exactly a hardship.

6. What is a book that’s made you cry? 
I get misty-eyed a fair bit when reading (which is super-awkward on public transport) but I sobbed my way through John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars the first time I read it. Like, proper hysterical crying.

7. Have you any advice for aspiring writers? 
Be less precious about what you put on the page (or the screen). Be comfortable with making messes or writing something even if it’s not a complete story or poem. It might be someday, but in the meantime just write. A lot of the ordering of stuff happens when you’re editing, not when you’re first putting words down, but we’re trained in school and work not to think of it that way. (Like, think about exams – it’s all first-draft stuff!)

8. Who are some of your favourite LGBTQ book characters? 
There are several queer characters in Moira Fowley-Doyle’s recent The Spellbook of the Lost and Found and I love them all. Joel, the best friend in Deirdre Sullivan’s Primrose Leary trilogy. A long-time favourite is Nic from Sara Ryan’s Empress of the World, which is about a bisexual teenage girl who falls in love at a summer camp for gifted kids (i.e. the best plotline ever, if you live in my brain). Emma Donoghue’s Hood is not YA but has the best falling-in-love-in-an-Irish-convent-school story ever and a relatable, authentic narrator in Pen who details her frustrations with and yearnings for the more dramatic Cara; I also love Landing and the two very different women who fall in love across the Atlantic. I’m very fond of Brent Hartinger’s Geography Club series, which has several gay and bisexual characters in it. Also not YA, but Cyril Avery in John Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies captured my heart, as did Flannery in Sylvia Brownrigg’s Pages For You (to which a sequel is coming, hurray!) and Tammy in Tom Perrotta’s Election.

9. Since the recent publication of Like Other Girls, have you got anything planned for further down the line?
I’m working on something new but it’s at very early stages yet!

10. And most importantly, just WHO is your favourite character from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt?
Kimmy herself, definitely. I love her optimism and determination and general weirdness. Plus she learns life lessons from The Babysitters Club. I also have a soft spot for Andrea, her disastrous therapist, because, well, Tina Fey.



#LGBTQMonth: Author Interview – Non Pratt!


Hey guys!
Today we want to thank the wonderful Non Pratt for agreeing to an interview for #LGBTQMonth! She is the author of Trouble, Unboxed, Remix  and most recently, Truth or Dare.
Check out her books if you haven’t already and check out the interview below. (Also you don’t want to miss her answer to question #1, because it is hilarious!)

1. Who is your favourite LGBT+ character in literature?
If it wasn’t cheating, I’d say Remus Lupin (as far as I’m concerned he’s bisexual), but unless an author takes the time and care to write sexuality into canon, then it doesn’t count as representation. And my other pick is a bit of a plot spoiler (why am I making this so hard?!). SO I’m going for a non-spoilery, totally canonical pick of Mum K – the spikier and more sarcastic of the two mums in Susie Day’s excellent The Secrets of Sam & Sam. It’s a younger book (ha, you didn’t specify YA!) but the reason I love Sam and Sam’s mums is that it shows us that we can all have a ‘traditional’ happy ending, even if was hard to start the journey. And Mum K has excellent sass.

2. Have you come across unfair or offensive LGBT+ representation in literature? *Without naming*
I probably have, but wouldn’t necessarily have been aware of it at the time – I used to be a largely uncritical reader and it’s taken time and energy to educate myself as to what constitutes fair representation. I’d say the biggest injustice isn’t specifically bad rep, but the absence of rep. There are fewer bi and ace characters than gay characters and fewer f/f romances placed at the forefront of stories compared to m/m. And that’s not even starting to address characters transitioning, or identifying as non-binary having stories that aren’t dominated by that aspect of their life.

3. Do you actively seek out LGBT+ fiction or if a book includes it, that’s a bonus?
I’m a very lazy reader, although occasionally I take a little more agency in my reading habits and try to steer myself towards books I know are more inclusive. Having said that, I’m usually more inclined to read something if I’ve heard good things about it – and the people I listen to care enough about diversity and representation that I get steered in the right direction! I now have a lot less patience for an all-white-straight-cis-able cast.

4. Do you think that the literature today is more open and diverse or have we a long way to go yet?
*More* open and diverse, yes. That doesn’t mean we haven’t a way to go. Few stories centre LGBTQ+ characters and sometimes I get a sense that publishing thinks it’s checked the ‘coming out’ box and doesn’t need to produce new material. We should have gay superheroes and ace romances and anything intersectional. There’s always further to go.

5. Out of all of your works, which was your favourite to work on and why?
Unboxed. It was by far the easiest to write. Most of my books take about 18 months, Unboxed took one month to draft. It was a dream of a book. Looking back, I think it was because Alix, the narrator, is a character that’s close to me in terms of the way she looks at the world. That and the fact that it’s a novella, so it’s meant to be about a quart the size of the others!

6. Do you have an essential LGBT+ literature recommendations?
I love love love The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson. Leo is one of my favourite characters in all of literature. Radio Silence by Alice Oseman is also fantastic – Alice writes like no one else and she cares so deeply about her characters and how she represents on the page. No one in her main cast of characters in this book is white/straight. Love it. I’m also a big fan of Juno Dawson. Her non-fiction voice is a joy to read in This Book is Gay so I’m sure I’ll love her latest, The Gender Games when I get my hands on it.

7. Any advice for aspiring authors?
Always the same advice: if you are young, be patient. It can take time to work out what you want to say and how you want to say it. Writing is not a race. Also, do it for love. If publishing is your goal and not the act of writing, why are you doing it? Writing takes ages, but the reward of publishing is short-lived. If you love it, crack on, keep loving it, never stop.

8. What was the most interesting thing you learned while working on your books?
While I was researching traumatic brain injuries for my latest book, Truth or Dare, I learned a lot of different things about how the brain works and all the things it controls. I’m not sure interesting is really the right word, though as so much of what I learned has such a profound effect on real people’s lives that reducing it to an anecdote feels wrong. So instead, I’ll say that the most interesting thing I did was visit the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability and talk to the staff and patients there.

9. What do you think makes a good story?
The burning desire to inhabit a fictional world, your brain imagining what those characters are up to long after you’ve put the book down.

10. How long did it take to create your books?
As I said before, my novels take about 18 months from first idea to ‘finished’ draft – by which I mean that if someone intercepted the email and published whatever draft I’d sent to my editors, I wouldn’t self-combust in shame. There’s a lot more usually happens after that though! For my novella, Unboxed, it was a dream. I reached the end of the story within a month, spent another month editing myself, then sent it off. If it had been published the next day, I’d have been happy.



#LGBTQMonth: Our first blogger interview – Sarah R. Hatch!

Hey everyone!
For today, we got the chance to interview the wonderful Sarah R. Hatch who blogs over at https://writtenwordworlds.com/! Check out her blog where she does reviews and book tags!
And below, you can check out her interview. Feel free to answer any of the questions in the comments below.

1. What inspired you to start blogging and reviewing books?
Like all the other book bloggers out there, I’ve always had a passion for reading and writing, but I was never really a part of the online community during middle school. I enjoyed watching booktube, but I didn’t realise there was a whole world of blogging that I hadn’t discovered yet. It’s funny, but I actually started blogging and reviewing books because of a school assignment. In 9th grade, we had to choose a project to work on for the entire year, and I wanted to do something to do with reading or writing, but at that stage, I was way too camera-shy to have a go at booktubing. So I decided to make a blog where I could discuss books. Most of the other kids in my grade stopped working on their project when the year was over, but I wanted to keep reviewing books — it was something I’d fallen in love with. And so I’m still here today, almost four years later, because of that school assignment!

2. Who are some of your favourite LGBTQ characters from books?
One of my favourite queer characters would definitely be Delilah from The Flywheel — it was the first book I read with a queer protagonist, and it has a special place in my heart, because it was the first novel that made me feel like my sexuality was valid and the things I was feeling mattered. I also adore Rhy from A Darker Shade of Magic, Aled Last from Radio Silence, and Charlie from Queens of Geek. I just want to hug all those queer munchkins!

3. Who are some of your favourite writers?
I could honestly name about 300 authors, but I’ll try to refrain myself. One of my absolute favourite authors is V.E. Schwab. She’s so incredibly talented and I just adore everything she’s written. I’d probably fangirl over the shopping lists she writes, let’s be honest. I’m also a big fan of Adam Silvera — he makes me feel all the feels. Angie Thomas is simply phenomenal and I’ll never not be recommending The Hate U Give to readers of all ages, and I also love Becky Albertalli. I could go on forever!

4. Do you write? If so what are you working on?
Yes, I do! I’m currently working on a few things because I have the attention span of a gnat and like to move between projects. I’m editing a science-fiction fantasy novel I started during last year’s NaNoWriMo, which is kind of about queers pondering morality and immortality — it’s nowhere near as philosophical as it sounds though! I’m also writing the script for a podcast that my co-creator and I are launching towards the end of this year, which we’ve dubbed ‘Audible meets Wattpad’. And finally, I’m planning (well, more like creating aesthetics for) a novel that I would like to begin writing next month!

5. If you could only bring three things when you’re stranded on a desert island, what would they be and why?
Ooh, this is a tricky one! The millennial me immediately says ‘LAPTOP! PHONE!’ but I’m not too sure how well they would work if there was no signal? And I’d probably need a powerpoint, which I won’t find on the island. So the practical me would opt for a notebook and a pen, that way I could still write, and even try and send a message out to sea. For my last item, I would choose a speedboat. Is that against the rules? Look, I’d prefer to escape this island if possible. I already miss wifi.

6. What’s more important: characters or plot?
While we can all agree both characters and plot are integral, I’d much rather see characters I adored doing boring, mundane tasks than characters I hated leading a really interesting narrative. For me, sometimes the best scenes in a book are the ones where the characters aren’t doing anything dramatic or aren’t busy saving the world — it’s where they’re doing normal things and holding normal conversations, because sometimes it’s these things that allow to you get to know them better. There’s nothing I love more than genuine, three-dimensional characters that I can relate to in one way or another.

7. What are you currently reading?
I’m actually just between books at the moment! I finished reading When Dimple Met Rishi earlier today — which I adored — and now I’m trying to decide what to read next. There are so many exciting books waiting to be read on my shelves! Let’s be honest, 90% of my shelves are books I haven’t read yet. I’ll probably either pick up How to Make a Wish or A List of Cages. Too many books, too little time!

8. What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
I think perhaps the most noteworthy author in this category would be Patrick Ness. I first picked up one of his novels when I was in my early teens, and I didn’t enjoy it as much as it had hoped. Something most of his books have is that strange, somewhat sci-fi element, and I think it took me a little while to really understand the depth and meaning of these aspects. And then I read Release a month or so ago, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ll definitely be picking up whatever he writes next.

9. What was your first ARC to review?
While I don’t think it was my first ARC, maybe my third or fourth, the most memorable ARC I received in my early blogging days was Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick. I was so excited to receive a book by such a well-known author, and I think I screamed a little bit in class when I was offered a copy.

10. Do you believe in writer’s block?
Absolutely, though I think it happens to people in different ways. For me, I haven’t experienced the typical way it manifests — when you don’t know what to write or how to get out of a plot hole or when you’ve run into a brick wall. Because I’m the type of person who works well under pressure and with a deadline, I know that I have to get the words down. If the storyline is dragging, add in an explosion! If the characters don’t have enough dialogue, give them a new friend! I think the most important thing about writing to me is having fun and enjoying what I’m doing and while writing is something I’m serious about, I need to remember not to take it too seriously. Just have some fun with what you’re writing!