Today, I was lucky enough to be interviewed on The YA Cafe podcast with Laura Moe! It was a great conversation about Island of Exiles, writing, asexuality, death rituals, speculative fiction, the popularity of dystopia, and more. Not necessarily in that order.
Fox Benwell is known around Twitter for his tireless queer and disability activism, his dog and cat photos, and his impeccable taste in ties. The author of The Last Leaves Falling (published under the name Sarah Benwell), he is genderfluid transmasculine and has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/fibromyalgia. Because of the marginalization he has faced, he is committed to creating safe, intersectional spaces for people like him. “It’s important to me to try to be the kind of visible role model I wish I’d always had—to do what I can to make things better for the next generation.”
For Anna-Marie McLemore, magical realism is an essential staple of both her writing and her cultural heritage. As a queer Mexican-American girl, she grew up reading the genre—she cites magical realism novels such as Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolateas the reason she fell in love with literature. Now, they are the reason she writes it.
To McLemore, writing magical realism comes naturally. “[Magical realism’s] heart is the intermixing of the ordinary and the ethereal, and I fell into that easily both because it felt right for my work and because it’s where I come from. The origins of magical realism hold close the idea of culture and community, and rising out of the forces that try to hold down your culture and community. It’s a worldview that feels true to who I am and where my stories live.”
Photo Credit: Lani Woodland
Erica Cameron is fighting for visibility. As an asexual author writing asexual characters, she is working to make her identity known and normalized in the public consciousness. Asexuality—describing individuals who experience little or no sexual attraction to anyone—is frequently misunderstood. Even people familiar with its definition may not fully grasp why, for example, there are asexual awareness marches.
Cameron is well aware of this. “What they don’t realize is that we’re not fighting for rights, we’re fighting for recognition,” she says.
During the RT convention in May, I was lucky enough to meet Marieke Nijkamp, one of the co-founders of the wonderful blog DiversifYA. The blog has an interview series where they invite authors to talk about their own diversity whether that’s sexual orientation, race, disability, or anything else. She asked me to answer questions about what it was like growing up on the asexual spectrum and I was thrilled. So thrilled that I may have gone a little verbose when answering the questions!
Below is a short excerpt from the interview, but you can read the whole thing on DiversifYA.
1. How do you identify yourself?
Since I didn’t discover the term “asexual” in the context of a potential human orientation until last year (I was 29 and already divorced), I’m still figuring out my precise classification. For now, however, I think heteromantic graysexual is close. Both sides of that label set are subject to change if necessary, though.
2. What did it feel like growing up asexual?
You know that feeling when you’re hanging out with a group of people who have known each other for ages and they’re all really nice and everything but they keep referencing people you don’t know, places you haven’t been, and inside jokes you don’t get?
Yeah, that’s what growing up asexual is like. Especially when you don’t know that asexual is an orientation option and so you can’t ever quite put your finger on why you’re ever so slightly on the outside of most groups.
I was incredibly excited/nervous/thrilled to receive a radio interview request about Sing Sweet Nightingale. My first one ever!
It was nerve-wrecking to call in and hope that I could come up with off-the-cuff answers that made sense, but I think that I succeeded. The conversation revolved around the theme of emotional abuse, something that is a key element in the book and very important to me personally. I am immensely thankful to KPRS 103.3 in Kansas City and DJ Julee Jonez for helping me spread awareness on this important issue.
On her website, Julee had this to say about it:
One in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence. What’s more alarming? Only 33% of teens who were in a violent relationship ever told anyone about the abuse. But would teens pick up a book about emotional abuse? Author Erica Cameron, who was in an emotionally abusive relationship, figured out a way to marry the theme with a creative read in her debut novel, “Sing Sweet Nightingale”, the first volume of The Dream War Saga, a four-book young adult series. Listen in as we chat about the read and the serious issue of emotional abuse.
At 11:30 CST on Monday March 9, tune in to Hot 103.3 FM KPRS in the Kansas City area (or online) as DJ Julee Jonez interviews me about #singsweetnightingale and the impacts of emotional abuse. If you listen, you could possibly win one of three copies of my book that she’ll be giving away!
Even though it’s kind of expected, I didn’t do an official launch party for the release of my debut novel Sing Sweet Nightingale. Instead, I had a whole release weekend of events! It was busy and crazy and so many levels of amazing I don’t even know how to describe it.
Plans for this weekend o’ awesome began last year when my editress Danielle Ellison warned me to block out the weekend of March 8th. “You’re going to be in Virginia,” she said. Since I had no reason to protest, I didn’t! I started making plans to join my editress, her bookstore One More Page, and the Arlington Central Library at Washington Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia for the inaugural NoVaTEEN Book Festival.
Turns out that it was going to be more than just the festival! On Friday, I joined Diana Peterfreund at Yorktown High School in Arlington, Virgina to talk to two different groups. Since this was my first ever school visit, I was really nervous, but it went so well! The kids were respectful and interested and they asked good questions. Lelia from One More Page Bookstore in Arlington coordinated the event for us and she was so sweet! All in all, it was a great morning.
Saturday was the main event, NoVaTEEN Book Festival at Washington Lee High School! It started with a keynote speech by the incredible Phyllis Reynolds Naylor at 10 and ended with a group signing at 4. In between were larger panels in the school’s auditorium and smaller sessions in several of the nearby classrooms. I joined Jon Skovron and Lea Nolan for a “breakout session” at 11 where we spent a lot of time discussing the different constructs of hell and then I got to sit back and listen to other people talk for a couple of hours before my own main-stage panel! At 3, I joined fellow debut author Elle Cosimano and veteran Victoria Schwab along with moderators Elisa Nader and Aimee Agresti for a discussion on Bad Boys and why they’re so amazingly attractive. I got to talk about my early love for the rogue George Cooper from Tamora Pierce’s Alanna series and what makes the difference between a bad boy and a villain. Somehow, I didn’t make a fool of myself, so I call the whole day a win!
Sunday, I headed to Alexandria, Virginia for a solo signing and talk at the cutest bookstore: Hooray for Books! During the event, we revealed the title for The Dream War Saga, book 2: Deadly Sweet Lies. The staff was fantastic and I hope I get to go back there soon!
And then, Monday, my mom, my uncle, and I spent the afternoon at the International Spy Museum while I played #iSpy with Marni Bates on Twitter. It was a blast!
So now, pictorial proof:
Arriving in DC!
It snowed a few days before we landed. This was all that was left when we arrived.
But my Uncle’s backyard looked a lok more wintery!
These are the FIRST finalized copies of SSN I ever saw! And they were at my Uncle’s house waiting for me!
Hanging out with my mom and my uncle in Maryland
Mom practicing piano at my Uncle’s house
When your mom comes with you on a school visit, you get pictures like this. Here I am arriving at Yorktown High! 😉
Another picture in front of Yorktown
The super-cool Diana Peterfreund joined me at Yorktown
Lelia from One More Page coordinated our visit for us and she was so sweet!
Talking to a class at Yorktown
More from Yorktown!
I’m thinking this was misplaced because I don’t see an exit O.O
In front of Washington Lee for NoVaTEEN!
Everyone thought this was fabulous!
I got to meet my Agent-Sister Elisa Nader! She’s wonderful <3
They got me gluten free pizza! Because they were so sweet
I got to hug these two during NoVaTEEN! Sarah Guillory and Danielle Ellison are two of my SHP loves <3
My book for sale at NoVaTEEN
Waiting for a panel to start during NoVaTEEN
At the end of the day was the Bad Boys panel
I got to share the stage with Elisa Nader, Elle Cosimano, Victoria Schwab, and Aimee Agresti
Signing after NoVaTEEN
I was so lucky my mom didn’t mind hanging out all day!
All of the authors who participated in NoVaTEEN. A GREAT group!
The authors and the organizers! Thank you for all your work!
Such a nice display set up at Hooray For Books!
I got my own little corner of the store at Hooray For Books
We revealed the title for book 2 at Hooray For Books: Deadly Sweet Lies
I was even in the window of the store!
The staff at Hooray For Books gave me a present! They were so sweet <3
Out to lunch before the Spy Museum!
We visited the Spy Museum on Monday at the recommendation of Marni Bates
The elevator makes you look EVIL!
Part of the Spy Museum. I bought a copy of this in the gift shop.
I also bought these in the gift shop. 😀
But that’s not all!
I flew home Tuesday morning, grabbed lunch, rushed to work, made my students write essays because I didn’t have anything else prepared for them, rushed home, jumped online, and did an hour-long live chat with the girls from Reading With Me! We gave away prizes and I answered a lot of questions. But don’t worry! Even if you missed the live event, you can still watch the whole video on YouTube! Or by clicking play on the video below:
Phew! Now I’m home and a little sad because all of those awesome things are over! But now I get to start working on my thriller work in progress again and then jump into edits on DEADLY, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to keep busy! 😉
I just want to say one last thank you to everyone who made this weekend so special. There’s far too many people to list individually, so just know that if I saw or spoke to you this weekend, you’re part of the list. Thank you so much! <3