Welcome back to another interview for another LGBTQ author!
Today we have the hilarious L. C. ROSEN, author of multiple novels including Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts), as well as the recently published Camp! The US paperback of Jack of Hearts was also just published on the 26 May so go show these books some love if you enjoyed this interview! I can assure you, they’re 100% worth the read – full of humour, heart and shameless honesty!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lev Rosen is the author of books for all ages. Two for adults: All Men of Genius (Amazon Best of the Month, Audie Award Finalist) and Depth (Amazon Best of the Year, Shamus Award Finalist, Kirkus Best Science Fiction for April). Two middle-grade books: Woundabout (illustrated by his brother, Ellis Rosen), and The Memory Wall. His first Young Adult Novel, Jack of Hearts (and other parts) was an American Library Association Rainbow List Top 10 of 2018. His books have been sold around the world and translated into different languages as well as being featured on many best of the year lists, and nominated for awards.
Lev is originally from lower Manhattan and now lives in even lower Manhattan, right at the edge, with his husband and very small cat. You can find him online at LevACRosen.com and @LevACRosen
Lev is represented by Joy Tutela of the David Black Agency.
Sixteen-year-old Randy Kapplehoff loves spending the summer at Camp Outland, a camp for queer teens. It’s where he met his best friends. It’s where he takes to the stage in the big musical. And it’s where he fell for Hudson Aaronson-Lim – who’s only into straight-acting guys and barely knows not-at-all-straight-acting Randy even exists.
This year, though, it’s going to be different. Randy has reinvented himself as ‘Del’ – buff, masculine, and on the market. Even if it means giving up show tunes, nail polish, and his unicorn bedsheets, he’s determined to get Hudson to fall for him.
But as he and Hudson grow closer, Randy has to ask himself how much is he willing to change for love. And is it really love anyway, if Hudson doesn’t know who he truly is?
Hi Lev! I read Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts) last year and adored it. I thought it was the breath of fresh air YA needed. What particularly struck me was how completely unashamed and honest the character of Jack was and how open he was to everything thrown his way. So my first question—do you think this kind of character is important in YA fiction?
I think all kinds of characters are important in YA. There’s not one type of teen – a variety of teen characters in a variety of YA books is realism. I’m always so amused by articles saying “kids in YA don’t act like real kids” like there’s one type of kid in the world. There are as many types of kids in the world as there are kids, and characters who are unashamed and honest are just one type – but a type just as important as any other. I think often we like our teens – especially minority teens, like queer ones – to be clean and happy and aspirational. We don’t like bad or messy kids in YA. Bad, messy minority kids are worse, and it’s usually because adults are scared for minority kids – they have enough to battle already, they need to be perfect little angels. And I say no to that. Sure, they have a lot to battle, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get to be kids.
I also loved how open you were about sex, especially in the LGBTQ community, because it’s quite rare in YA. We definitely need more of Jack’s frankness. Were you worried by a response to this or do you feel like it’s your responsibility?
I don’t like the word ‘responsibility.’ It’s a heavy word, something you come to ploddingly with a ‘well, I have to do this’ mentality. That’s not how I wrote Jack. I wrote Jack with rage and love. I wrote about sex with rage and love. This wasn’t something I felt I had to do, it was something I wanted to do, a book I wanted for my teen self and for teens out there today. And yeah, I was sure it was a terrible idea and would never get published. I knew it would be blocked by gatekeepers. But I tried anyway, because I wanted to, and now that it’s out there, I hope it gets to the kids who will get something out of it. Of course, that’s the hard part, the part I don’t have much control over. Making sure it gets to kids.
So true! I’m excited for Camp, which I’ll be reading as part of this month. Have you got a memorable character you’ve written from it?
I think so. Randy is a fantastic nail polish wearing, fan clapping theater kid with a PLAN for winning the guy he’s been crushing on for four summers at his LGBTQIA+ summer camp. Said dream guy, Hudson, is masc4masc, and Randy isn’t masc, but he is an actor, so he comes back this summer as Del, Hudson’s dream boy, with the intention of winning his heart before slowly going back to being himself. Del is a role he has to play, and sure, it means giving up a lot, but he’s doing it for LOVE. Is the plan a good idea? His friends don’t think so. Will it work out? Probably not. But you’ll have to read to find out.
Oooh, I’m totally intrigued! What is your writing process like? What’s the most important thing to start off with when beginning a new project?
I wait until I have a whole central idea – plot, characters, setting, climax – before sitting down at the computer. That doesn’t mean it’s a complete idea start to finish, just that I know the situation my character is in, what they want, and generally where they’ll end up. The journey is the fun part and while I may have some broad strokes when I sit down to write, I usually don’t know the details of it. I figure that out as I write – but I usually think a scene ahead of my writing. I’m not a ‘follow the characters’ person, usually, because I’ve already followed them by the time I’m typing. My brain gets way ahead of my fingers even if I weren’t trying to do that, anyway.
Who are some of your favourite queer characters from books or TV/film?
This is such an impossible question because there are so many and the moment I send off these answers I’ll think of a dozen more. And then you don’t want to leave anyone off… no, no, impossible. I’ll say only who I’ve been thinking a lot about: Corky and Violet, from the movie Bound. Violet especially. What an amazing character.
When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer? And why YA?
I get this question a lot and I always feel so guilty I don’t have an answer. I always wanted to be a writer. I’ve always told stories. I don’t have a defining moment, it’s just always been there. As for why YA – because I read YA, I read it now, I read it as a teen. And I write what I read. I read everything, so I write everything, and that includes YA.
What does an ideal writing day look like to you?
Hell of a time for that question. An ideal day is one where there’s a COVID vaccine or it never existed and things are normal again. Then it would be get up, write, work out, shower, editing or research, grocery shopping (or some kind of walking). After that my husband would come home, we’d eat and watch TV and then maybe I’d do a little writing after that, too. Every night I try to write a checklist of things to do the next day – scenes to write, information to check, things to edit. But all of that has been thrown to the wind now. Now it’s just do whatever when it comes to me.
Haha, so fair! What’s your best piece of writing advice for aspiring authors/artists?
Learn to take critique politely, for a start, and learn to take rejection and keep going. A piece of advice I was once given is that being a published author doesn’t have much to do with being a good writer. There are plenty of good writers in the world. What makes you a published author is the ability to take rejection and keep going over and over and over again. Because not all stories are for all people and you need to find the people who want your story. And that’s a long road with a lot of rejection for really stupid stuff. So yeah, being able to take rejection and keep submitting is honestly the most important skill you can have if you want to be published.
You’re so right! How do your characters’ names come to you? Have you ever used a name from someone you know in your own life?
I actually usually use baby name statistics and look at the year my character would have been born – usually not the top ten, but the top 100. I read them all until one jumps out at me. But for Camp it was easy because I was inspired by those old Doris Day/Rock Hudson movies. The love interest became Hudson because of that, and the protagonist became Randy/Del – for his full name, Randall, after Tony Randall, who usually played Hudson’s neurotic and often gay-coded sidekick in those movies. I also made his last name Kapplehoff, which was Doris Day’s real last name. The Tony Randall character, though, is Randy’s counselor, Mark, and I got that from baby name stats.
That’s such a cool idea! And finally, what can we expect next? Are you working on your next book, and if so, what can you tell eager fans about it?
I’m working on a few things right now, but I don’t talk about projects that haven’t been announced yet – it’s bad luck.
Thank you so much for being part of #LGBTQMonth, Lev! We were so delighted to have you!
Camp was published last month, as well as the US paperback of Jack of Hearts (and other parts)! You should all to go order them—from your local indie bookstore if they have it, or anywhere else!