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
The fabulous Jamie and Rachel at Rockstar Book Tours have organized a phenomenal two-week tour for the release of Sing Sweet Nightingale! Monday through Friday for the next two weeks, you’ll find two posts a day–one review and one interview or guest post. And, guys, some of these guest posts are pretty fun!
Below is the full schedule of events so you can follow the fun! Please help me celebrate the birth of my first book baby by visiting these phenomenal blogs and entering the giveaway for an annotated copy of Sing Sweet Nightingale!
Thank you to Jamie and Rachel at Rockstar, all of the sweet bloggers who volunteered their time and their websites, and to all the readers who jump on board! This should be a fun ride! 😀
The paperback of my debut novel, Sing Sweet Nightingale, has been available for pre-order for a while, but just today I saw that the Kindle and Kobo e-books are finally up as well! So far, the Nook version isn’t live, but I’ll be sure to link that when it comes up too.
Asja (in glasses) and me Summer 2013
Also, my friend Asja recently interviewed me on Tangled Up In Words! This is probably cheating a little since Asja is basically like one of my sisters, but that makes it even more fun! The interview is long and contains lots of stories about SING and the last year of my life, so make sure you check it out!
Also, just in case you haven’t heard, SING releases in less than a month!! And it has been hinted that paperback pre-orders of the book may release into the wild a little early! Pre-orders also get you a lot of bonus entries (and a ton of cool points) in my ongoing contest, fyi. The grand prize package is pretty amazing. It includes a YEAR of free books from my publisher, an amethyst necklace inspired by SING, amazing books by Christina Farley and Vivi Barnes, swag from SING, plus a gift card! You don’t have to pre-order anything to enter, but you get a better chance of winning if you do! And if you’ve already ordered the book, that counts! The order doesn’t have to be placed within the contest time. Existing orders are just as good! Better, even, since you did it without the bribe. 😉
That’s all for now! More will definitely be coming soon, though. We’re getting to the time when interviews and blog posts and reviews will start popping up all over the place! In other words, I’m going to be very busy for the next two months… O.O
A while back, I received an email from the wonderfully sweet Amy Trueblood over at Chasing the Crazies. Which is an awesome title for a site. Amy asked if I would be interested in participating in a series of interviews she has been doing called Writer Odyssey Wednesday (W.O.W. for short). Of course, my answer was, “YES, PLS. WHERE DO I SIGN?”
The idea that I’ve finally reached the point where I can legitimately be included in a series like this is still a little strange. My debut release is nine months away (250 days, but who’s counting?). It feels like forever. In fact, it’s so far away that it still doesn’t seem real. But that’s just in my head, apparently. To other people, I’m already there. I made the deal, signed the contract, and am officially an author with credits to my name. Wow is right.
So, I agreed! Amy sent me a list of great questions and now you can read both those questions and my answers! I talk about my strange relationship with querying, how I found my glorious editors at Spencer Hill and my wonderful agent Danielle Chiotti, as well as a little bit about Sing Sweet Nightingale and the process of writing it and finding it a home. Click here to see!
In other news, this morning I sent a new book to my wonderful agent Danielle! It’s the second in a contemp series I co-wrote with my bestie Lani Woodland and I cannot wait until these books find a home and I get to share more details about them. I adore these characters and this world and everything about writing them. It’s FUN. There’s a lot to be said about partnering on a book with someone, too. Especially someone I get along with and work with as well as Lani. co-writing is probably not for everyone, but if you find the right partner, it’s divine.
In other other news, I’m heading back to Manhattan next week!! For the first time ever, I’m going to spend the Fourth of July in the Big City. Of course, that’s not the purpose of the trip, but it’s still convenient timing. I’m actually going in celebration of my sister’s 25th birthday and my cousin’s wedding (she’s getting married at the BRONX ZOO! How freaking cool is that?!). The reason for the trip doesn’t matter, though. I still get to spend an awesome week in New York City with people I love. I even get to drop by the Upstart Crow offices and meet some more of the interns and agents in person. So many fantabulous things packed into one trip! If you’re not already following me on Twitter or Facebook, go fix that! I’ll be posting about my trip on those two places more often than on my blog. Easier to access on the go!