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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Lindsay Smith, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Guest Post: Amy Rose Capetta on Something Good Happened in 2016: LGBTQ YA Genre Fiction

By Amy Rose Capetta
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

One of the standout differences in the LGBTQ offerings in 2016, as opposed to previous years, is a boost in genre fiction.

While I love reading LGBTQ books of all kinds, in my truest and nerdiest heart, I’m a lifelong reader and devoted writer of genre fiction.

Stories with marginalized main characters tend to take a particular route through the publishing world--starting with “issue” books, expanding into a broader range of contemporary fiction, and finally arriving at genre fiction.

My first two published novels--Entangled (2013) and Unmade (2016)(both Houghton Mifflin Harcourt--are space opera and feature a f/f romance between two secondary characters.

The farther into the series I got, the more I knew that my heart was completely wound up in the story of those girls. I knew what I wanted to do--what I needed to do--write about queer characters in the kind of stories I love best.

Unfortunately, I could think of few traditionally published YA novels that fit into the categories I wanted to write.

I threw myself into the work, focused on crafting the best stories I could, and tried to cloak my worries in stubborn optimism. I’m beyond happy to say that my 2017 novel coming out from Candlewick is a mystery novel with a queer love story at its heart.

I know that I’ve been lucky. I have so many other stories to tell, as do so many LGBTQ authors. But the readers are what I keep coming back to.

Every time I find a new, beautifully crafted world with LGBTQ characters in it, that world changes mine a little bit. And if I’d had those books as a young reader--it would have changed everything.

One of the authors I looked up to as proof that LGBTQ YA genre fiction was possible is Malinda Lo.

Her science fiction fantasy (SFF) books featuring queer girls are among the handful published before 2016, including Ash (Little, Brown, 2009), a lush and lyrical retelling of Cinderella.

When I asked Malinda about her own favorites of new and upcoming books, she said:

"In November, Audrey Coulthurst's fantasy novel Of Fire and Stars (Balzer + Bray) [came] out.
"An early version of this book was Audrey's submission to Lambda*, and when I first read it I honestly wasn't sure if I trusted my own assessment of it because it checked so many of my personal reading faves. I was almost afraid it wasn't real!
"It's a high fantasy about two princesses who fall in love with each other against the backdrop of political intrigue and one girl's growing knowledge of her own magical talents.
"It also involves (to my eternal delight) plenty of romantic horseback riding lessons. Ever since reading Robin McKinley's novels as a teen, this has been one of my absolutely most favorite tropes in fantasy.
"And Of Fire and Stars is also such a delicious, slow-burning romance. Anyone who enjoys romances should love this book."

I had the opportunity to talk to Audrey Coulthurst as well, and ask her what she loves about writing genre fiction.

Audrey Coulthurst
"Perhaps the best thing about writing genre fiction is how boundless the opportunities are; writers of SFF are not obligated to create worlds that have the same social structures or prejudices that are present in ours.
"As a teen it would have been very meaningful to me to find a fantasy book that felt familiar in the ways I loved—the medievalesque setting, magic, and political intrigue—but also showed me that it was possible for a girl to fall for another girl in that imaginary world.
"Desire for that kind of book is what inspired me to write Of Fire and Stars.

"There still are not a ton of LGBTQ books in YA SFF, but that means a lot of opportunity exists for writers. I can’t wait to see what new releases arrive in the coming years.
"What I would love is not necessarily to focus on creating a SFF LGBTQ YA category, or expanding LGBTQ YA to include SFF, but for characters of all gender identities and sexual orientations to be present on the page in many different kinds of stories and for those to be accepted as part of the broader canon."

In the spirit of adding LGBTQ books to the broader canon, here are some excellent reads that will be at home in any collection.

Readers who loves high fantasy will no doubt embrace Of Fire and Stars, while those who enjoy high-paced adventures with pirates and sea monsters will delight in The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie (Flux, 2016). Fans of myth retellings in contemporary settings, should run out and immediately read About a Girl by Sarah McCarry (St. Martin's Griffin, 2015).

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova (Sourcebooks, 2016) is a rich fantasy starring a bisexual Latina bruja. The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow (McElderry, 2015, 2016) features deftly written dystopian politics and a beautiful queer romance. Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee (Duet) is an exciting new addition to the YA superhero genre. Christopher Barzak’s Wonders of the Invisible World (Knopf, 2015, 2016) is a beautifully written contemporary novel that weaves in fantastical elements. Lizard Radio by Pat Schmatz (Candlewick) is a fantastic sci-fi novel with a nonbinary main character.

While these novels will appeal to anyone who loves great storytelling, for queer readers, the expansion into genre fiction is positive for so many reasons.

As Corinne Duyvis, the author of the excellent YA fantasy novel Otherbound (Amulet, 2014), puts it:

"The delight of these books is that queer readers can see themselves in the same adventures that cishet readers can. Too often, queer characters only get stories about being queer, and aren't allowed much of an identity or adventures beyond that.
"While we need issue books, we also need more. Some readers want an escape from the real world. Some want to be empowered in a supernatural fashion. Some just love reading about dragons and are tired of being excluded from all the exciting dragon stories, damn it.

"You can't say it's 'representation' when it only exists within a very narrow kind of narrative, often dictated by cishet people. Representation means representation everywhere."

And she points out that queer readers aren’t the only ones who benefit.

"Queer genre books are also essential for cishet readers. Many who might not pick up a 'queer book' will still be exposed to queer characters that way. It helps normalize our existence.
"It's been proven in studies that exposure to positive representation of queer characters/people can actively increase acceptance, so it's important that books of all kinds accurately reflect our reality and the queer people in it.

"Finally, because these books often aren't about being queer, the flap copy often doesn't mention this aspect of the characters.
"This can be negative, since it makes the books harder for queer readers to find, but also positive, since it makes the books safer to read for teens whose parents who might not want them reading queer books."

It’s important to remember that just because a book has an LGBTQ main character, that shouldn’t be seen as limiting its readership to queer readers--any more than a book with a straight main character would be limited to straight readers. LGBTQ books shouldn’t be treated as “niche” or special interest.

When I asked Alex London, the author of dystopian YA novel Proxy (Speak, 2015), what he was most excited about in LGBTQ YA, he said:

"For me, I thought the most exciting part of publishing LGBTQ YA would be connecting with the young LGBTQ readers who were hungry for the kinds of adventure stories I write, where traditionally LGBTQ characters have been lacking.
"And the response has been touching and uplifting and inspiring (and sometimes, although rarely, heartbreaking--a book can provide some armor but it can't rescue a kid from homophobia and bigotry, especially when it comes from their parents and community).
"However, the LGBTQ response has not been the most exciting part for me. I have really delighted in the response from cis het kids and teens who are mostly willing to engage with queer heroes like they engage with any other character. They want someone they can root for and thrill with and if that character is queer, so be it.
"I've loved the anxious emails from straight readers pleading for one of the gay boys I've written to find a boyfriend. I love the emails from straight readers asking how to be better allies to their queer friends.
"Essentially, I've been thrilled that my books have acted as mirrors and windows, but most thrilled that, for some, the books have been, as [YA Goddess] Teri Lesesne puts it, '...doors books that offer them a sense of how to be powerful change agents.'"

Another highlight of my talk with Alex was his explanation of the delights of writing genre fiction.

"Writing genre, I think, frees up a part of my imagination to imagine sexual and gender identity politics beyond what our society currently can.
"I think sci fi and fantasy are freeing in that way, although I think we could all push these boundaries farther than we do.
"I love what Ursula K. Le Guin writes about the power of fantasy and sci fi not to offer prescriptions or predictions, but to dislodge the imagination from thinking that the way things are is the way they have to be. Imagining other possible realities, from our relationship to economics, our understanding of the natural world, or the bonds that connect us to each other and to our bodies--those are the joys of genre.
"I think genre fiction has the unique ability of queering our minds anyway, so it seemed natural to me to write queer characters within it."

This is one of my favorite elements of genre fiction--the expansion of possibility. The inclusion of a wider range of stories, worlds, people, and the ways they might live.

Seeing beyond our own time, place, and circumstances can be truly mind-expanding and life-changing.

As Lindsay Smith, author of the forthcoming A Darkly Beating Heart (Roaring Brook, 2016), reminds us, historical fiction is another genre we can look to for stories of LGBTQ characters who have grappled with different realities.

"My first published LGBTQ stories have been historical (“City of Angels,” in the A Tyranny of Petticoats: 15 Stories of Belles, Bank Robbers & Other Badass Girls, edited by Jessica Spotswood (Candlewick, 2016)) and time-travel-y (A Darkly Beating Heart).
"I’ve always loved historical fiction, and taking into account the social pressures and situations LGBTQ characters faced in different places and periods provides an interesting challenge.
"I think across the board people assume things were always worse in the past, but there are so many more stories to be told."

Even with the recent increase in genre fiction, there are still relatively few LGBTQ YA historical fiction titles. A recently announced anthology, All Out, edited by Saundra Mitchell (Harlequin Teen, 2018) features LGBTQ historical fiction short stories from a number of incredible authors. This is a good one to pre-order and put on the to-be-read list now.

I’d like to share some closing thoughts from Tristina Wright, author of the forthcoming 27 Hours, a thrilling sci-fi novel which features a main cast of queer characters that span many identities.

When I asked her what she values most about writing genre fiction, she said:

Tristina Wright
"Giving us the spotlight to be the hero, to solve the puzzle, to slay the monster, to get the romance, to do and to be instead of furthering a straight character's journey.
"Genre can reflect the hope and optimism for the future. It can reflect the universe we want. It can contain the people around us, but in better versions.
"We can write a world where horrible things happen, but homophobia isn't one of them. Some will laugh and insist that's not realistic but, then again, neither are dragons."

Thank you for checking out this post--it’s part three of a four-part series.

Check back for the final installment, about the future of LGBTQ YA, challenges that still need to be met, and where we go from here!

Notes from Amy Rose

*Lambda Literary holds a yearly retreat for emerging LGBTQ writers, where they are mentored by experienced professionals in the field.

Cynsational Notes

Amy Rose Capetta is the author of three YA novels: Entangled and Unmade, a space duet (out now from HMH), and Echo After Echo (Candlewick, 2017), a queer love story wrapped in a murder mystery and set on Broadway.

(See New Voice Amy Rose Capetta on Entangled from Cynsations.)

She is on the writing team for the second season of Remade, a YA sci-fi thriller from SerialBox, and works with writers on their novels through Yellow Bird Editors (with a special interest in genre fiction and LGBTQ fiction of all kinds!)

She is the co-founder of Rainbow Boxes (@rainbowboxesya), and holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Amy Rose lives and writes in Michigan with her girlfriend Cori McCarthy, who is also a YA author, and their five-year-old, who wants to be a wizard.

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2. Sekret/Lindsay Smith: Reflections

In June, at Books of Wonder, I met (among other fine writers) the debut novelist Lindsay Smith, who professed a love for Russian culture. She has traveled to Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Siberia. She writes about foreign affairs in Washington, DC. And for her first novel she imagined a 17 year old named Yulia who has psychic capabilities and is "recruited" (to use a kind word) by the KGB.

Lindsay's sentences have pace and glimmer. Her knowledge of that time is stunning. And when I reached this passage, about East Berlin, I knew I was in the company of a like-minded researcher and writer. How beautifully she captures that place. It's a slightly different (by which I mean earlier) Berlin from the one I write of Going Over. But it is wholly recognizable to those who have read the history books.

East Berlin is a concrete crypt. Everywhere I look, stark, flat buildings rise out of shell-shocked rubble and watch us with broken windows for eyes. The streets hold no cars. The old buildings—from before Stalin seized this land for his own—look safe from one side, but when we pass them, the rest is crumpled by artillery fire, the wreckage blocked off by barbed-wire fences. The few people we pass fix their stares on their feet and hurry past us. Coal smoke and sulfur linger around every corner as we wade through half-melted black slush.
 Congratulations to a young writer with great seriousness of purpose—and reliable knowledge.

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3. Fierce Reads Tour - Spring 2014

Is the Fierce Reads tour coming near you?

Check out the May and June cities and dates at

You can also read excerpts and watch trailers on the website. 

Now normally, I'd only be really excited if they were coming to my area, and you may have noticed that Los Angeles is NOT on either list! However, I'm fairly certain that if you beg (i.e. Tweet and comment on Facebook) while the Spring Tours are going on, Macmillan might consider sending their Fierce authors to your neck of the woods in the Fall. 

At least, I'm totally hoping it works that way, so I turned on notifications for both Twitter and Facebook, haha :) Make sure you @Fiercereads #Fiercereads and *ahem* #LosAngeles! (or, you know, wherever you are, but hopefully L.A. :P)

Stay tuned tomorrow for a review of Ava Dellaria's Love Letters to the Dead

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4. Going Over (and me) at Books of Wonder (and thanks for two kind new reviews)

I'm always honored when Peter Glassman of Books and Wonder notices a book I've written and invites me to his store.

So of course I said yes to his recent invitation to join Brian Conaghan, Padma Venkatraman, Lindsay Smith, and Marthe Jocelyn for

Great Teen Reads Night
June 24, 2014
6:00 - 8:00 PM
Books of Wonder
18 West 18th Street
New York, NY 10011

New York friends, I hope you will join us for this panel discussion and signing. More information is here.

And thanks, too, to two recent reviewers who found Going Over and had kind things to say. Miss Literati concluded her review with these words:

I found GOING OVER to be exhilarating to read. It was a great book and I’m excited to read other books by Beth Kephart! — Miss Literati

And then there was Ruth Compton, Librarian and Readers' Advisor, who wrote:

Ms Kephart has created a hauntingly lyrical and powerful story about lives in a divided Berlin, about choices and consequences, about love and loss that draws you in and won’t let you go long after you’ve put the book down. —  Ruth Compton

Thank you, Miss Literati and Ruth. And hello, Books of Wonder.

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5. Great Teen Reads. June 24. Books of Wonder. New York City. I'll be there. Will you?

How entirely psyched am I to visit the Big Apple next week?

Entirely psyched.

It will be a day away among people I love in a city I've got a thing for.

It will be a privilege.

I'll spend the day in Brooklyn, with my dear friend Rahna Reiko Rizzuto and her pottery-brilliant Ming. I'll see my son, who has just taken on a second job and (in addition) been elected a co-vice president of Marketing for his NYC Alumni Association (love. that. young. man. and I have to give him a personal high five). And I will spend the evening hours among wonderful YA talents, in the Great Teen Reads event at Books of Wonder.

I'll be there with gratitude.

Speaking of gratitude, I have this photo in my possession because of one Dahlia Adler, who so incredibly kindly wrote of Small Damages and Going Over here, and who, rumor has it, I will meet at the store! Speaking of gratitude (again), might I also mention that I will meet, at Books of Wonder, a certain copy editor, Debbie DeFord Minerva, who wrote to me after she worked on One Thing Stolen, the Florence novel—words I will never forget.

Join us?

Books of Wonder
Tuesday, June 24
6 - 8 PM
18 West 18th Street
New York, NY 10011

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6. the story is what got you here: Gail Caldwell and other books of summer

I have a dream, and it is this: to make this, the summer of friendship, also the summer of books. Both things at the same time. My idea of heaven.

(Throw a few good meals in, and it would be exponential heaven.)

Recently, with readerly hopes, I went out and bought some new books. To add to the piles of books not yet read. I don't know. I could not help it. On my list:

Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us (James Nestor)

All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr)

The Frangipangi Hotel (Violet Kupersmith)

Hungry (Heather Swain)

Sekret (Lindsay Smith)

I also bought Gail Caldwell's new memoir, because of course I had to; anyone who loves memoir must. Caldwell's truth talk is exemplary, which is to say that her stories are always bigger than herself. Caldwell never talks at us, as some memorists do. She draws us up at her table, gives us some tea, and makes room for conversation.

New Life, No Instructions is a slender volume—a story about a woman who has never married, who has no children, who has recently lost her best friend and her beloved parents, whose hip is finally giving way. What will send her living forward? What lessons are there in the intimacies of friendships that are built out of years and proximity?

Caldwell doesn't have all the answers; she doesn't pretend to. But she searches with such tremendous authenticity, she yields such simple and lovely vignettes, she honors those who have passed on, she is alive, she is on her river.

And she talks to us about telling the truth about the stories that have made us who we are. Words for all of us:

I've also been asked if I was resentful about getting a new diagnosis as late as I did, at least a decade beyond the initial symptoms that indicated my hip was failing. The answer is no, and not because I'm trying to be valiant. I think it's because of all the years I've spent in AA meetings, listening to people's stories. They can be terrible stories, full of anguish and fear and disrepair. But the point is not to spin the narrative; that defeats purpose, in some way, of story itself. You can't change the tale so that you turned left one day instead of right, or didn't make the mistake that might have saved your life a day later. We don't get those choices. The story is what got you here, and embracing its truth is what makes the outcome bearable.

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