queer authors

Author Chris Tebbetts Talks LGBT Representation, New Novel

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It’s Pride Month, making it an obvious time to showcase some amazing LGBTQ+ books across all sorts of genres. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to speak with author Chris Tebbetts, whose new YA novel Me, Myself & Him comes out July 9th. Not only does his novel feature a gay protagonist, but for every pre-order, Chris will be donating $1.00 to Pride Center of Vermont!

When Chris Schweitzer takes a hit of whippets and passes out face first on the cement, his nose isn't the only thing that changes forever. Instead of staying home with his friends for the last summer after high school, he's shipped off to live with his famous physicist but royal jerk of a father to prove he can "play by the rules" before Dad will pay for college.

Or . . . not.

In an alternate time line, Chris's parents remain blissfully ignorant about the accident, and life at home goes back to normal--until it doesn't. A new spark between his two best (straight) friends quickly turns Chris into a (gay) third wheel, and even worse, the truth about the whippets incident starts to unravel. As his summer explodes into a million messy pieces, Chris wonders how else things might have gone. Is it possible to be jealous of another version of yourself in an alternate reality that doesn't even exist?

With musings on fate, religion, parallel universes, and the best way to eat a cinnamon roll, Me Myself & Him examines how what we consider to be true is really just one part of the much (much) bigger picture.


Your new book, Me, Myself & Him, uses parallel timelines to tell the story. What made you decide to try out this style of writing?

I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of the multiverse, which posits the existence of infinite realities in as many dimensions. Also, like a lot of storytellers, I’m semi-obsessed with asking “what if?” about pretty much everything and anything. When I apply that to my own life, it brings up questions about what might have happened if I’d made slightly (or majorly) different choices along the way. What if I’d chosen a different college to go to? What if I’d had turkey instead of tuna for lunch yesterday? And in what ways might those choices we all make every day impact (or not impact) where we end up in the long run?

Since I couldn’t write a novel with infinite possibilities, I landed on the idea of exploring two different outcomes that flow from the same inciting incident—which in this case involves my character passing out and breaking his nose while huffing whippets behind the ice cream store where he works.

Lastly, I have to give a nod to the movie Sliding Doors, which was the first time I ever saw someone tackle the idea of parallel narratives in this way. I love the puzzle aspect of putting all those possibilities into one story. It’s like brain candy for me as a writer, and hopefully, for my readers as well.


This book has been described as a hybrid of memoir and fiction. Can you flesh that out a little bit for me?

The prologue of this book—and its inciting incident—are autobiographical. I really did have a drug-fueled accident behind the ice cream store where I worked when I was nineteen. From there, as I spun out my two different realities in the novel, I created a world around my character that is largely fictional, but still based on some of my own experiences. I’m from Yellow Springs, Ohio, and a lot of this book takes place in a very similar town, which I call Green River. My character is gay, as am I, but he’s come out to himself and the world at a far younger age than I ever did. On top of all that, the whole story is filled with what I’d call emotional truths from that time in my life—the last summer before college. And one way I reflect that hybrid is by naming my protagonist Chris Schweitzer, which is to say that I gave him my first name but not my last. All of it reflects one of the motifs in the book, where pretty much every character tells the truth some of the time, and lies at least once, if not many times.


How has your identity as a member of the LGBTQ+ community influenced your writing?

I’ve always felt as though I exist in a kind of limnal place. I’m a white, middle class, cis male, with all the privilege that goes with it. I’m also a gay man in a sometimes homophobic world. And without consciously going about it, I think I’ve always been a bit of a fence straddler that way. My writing is relatively commercial and accessible, which is to say, reflective of the mainstream in which I spend a lot of my life. But my work also reflects some knowledge of what it means to be other, to exist outside of some people’s definition of societal norms.

In a way, I’ve never really been an either/or kind of person. I’m a both kind of person. I’m a “yes, and” kind of person. Which, I suppose, jibes perfectly with the idea of writing a novel that doesn’t choose between two realities, but rather, embraces both.

We’ve been fortunate enough to see more and more novels featuring LGBTQ+ protagonists. There’s been a great deal of progress, but representation still has a long way to go. What do you want to see in terms of representation in fiction?

My gay protagonists (in this book, and in my previous YA, “M OR F?” co-authored with Lisa Papademetriou) are what I’d call incidentally queer characters. Which is to say, their sexuality is neither the problem nor the driving issue of the novel itself. We’re seeing more and more of that kind of thing in queer characters these days, with stories that show far more than the historic marginalization by which queer characters have long been defined, or maybe over-defined.

And to be clear—stories that reflect the sometimes ugly realities of what it means to be queer in our society are important. I hope people continue to write those stories for as long as they’re relevant, but I also hope we can continue to make room on the shelf for stories that set aside those issues in favor of the zillion other queer stories waiting to be told.


You’re donating $1.00 for every pre-order of this novel to the Pride Center of Vermont. Do you have a personal connection to this organization?

The feeling here in Vermont, for me, has always been that the state is one big small town. This is a place where you see Bernie Sanders at the grocery store, where everyone seems to have mutual acquaintances, etc. So even though I haven’t been directly involved with the Pride Center up to now, I’ve always supported their work, and have admired the people who help run it, including the folks I’ve known for years, as well as the new guard, leading our state’s queer community into the future. When I was deciding on which organization to benefit with my pre-order campaign, they seemed to me to be the most comprehensive representation of what I wanted to support with a book like this one.


This is your first solo young adult novel. How was it different from writing for middle-grade readers? Do you prefer one over the other?

I’ll be honest here. On the one hand, ME, MYSELF, AND HIM is the most personal thing I’ve ever written, by far, and I wouldn’t trade the writing experience for anything. Writing truly can be therapeutic, and it’s no exaggeration to say I found a bit more of myself by writing this book. There’s a certain freedom in YA, content-wise, and I could really “go there” in a way I’ve never done before.

That said, the bulk of my career has been built on middle grade fiction (including the MIDDLE SCHOOL series with James Patterson and the STRANDED series with Jeff Probst). And while it’s great that I don’t have to choose between one or the other, it’s also true that if I did have to choose, my heart leans toward middle grade. There’s something about the outward-looking, wide-eyed exploration of the world that I’ve gotten to do with my middle grade books that appeals to me in a deep way. That may have something to do with the fact that when I’ve never been a more voracious reader than back in my own middle grade reading days. So it makes sense to me that I’d gravitate in that direction as an author.


If you could take one of your characters in this new novel out for cinnamon rolls, which one would it be?

It would have to be Swift, the romantic interest who appears in one of the story’s two threads. I had to fall in love with him a little in order to write him, so he seems like a good choice to me. Also, as a tangent: that character, Swift is an example of how our subconscious minds can kick in during the writing process. His name came to me in a completely random way. I work a lot with my own first thoughts and impulses when I’m writing, and when it came time to name this love interest of a character, I told myself I’d use whatever came to me first. For whatever reason, at that moment the word “swift” popped into my head. So I made good on my intention, and I went with it. It was months later before I realized that my primary association with the name Swift is the author Jonathan Swift. And as it happens, my husband’s name is Jonathan. I love how he kind of wormed his way into my story like that—and I love the kind of surprises that writing can throw my way, when I let them in.


Me, Myself & Him is available July 9th. Read more about the book and how your pre-order will help the LGBTQ+ community at http://christebbetts.com/.


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10 Queer Authors You Need To Follow Immediately

This year during Pride Month take some time to support the work of talented queer authors. As time goes on, more and more queer authors are getting published in both fiction and non-fiction. What is so amazing about this is that queer voices are being heard more often across the media, which means queerness in culture is getting more normalized as time goes on.

I’ve been out and proud since college -- though I am embarrassed now that it took so long for me to figure it out. I grew up around LGBT individuals and couples and I cultivated my love of writing because of male/male fanfiction. Once I finally understood that I was bisexual, I was obsessed with finding books about queer characters, and it was a challenge.

There are some amazing resources out there to help you find fantastic novels featuring queer characters, but I wanted to find queer authors who are writing about queer characters.

These are some of the amazing queer authors that I’ve found. I tried to focus on finding modern LGBTQ authors who are still regularly producing content so you can support their work as they write more amazing books.

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Author 1: Malinda Lo

If you’re like me, you probably heard of Malinda Lo because of her lesbian re-telling of Cinderella. Taking a problematic tale and flipping it to make it not only a story of a female hero, but a queer hero, is enough to snag anyone’s attention. Malinda Lo has several other YA fantasy novels, including one that was published just a few months ago.

Malinda Lo also researches diversity in YA. She’s a proud Asian author who posts regular social commentary on topics revolving around diversity.

Genre: YA Fantasy
Popular Work: Ash

Author 2: Sarah Waters

This author writes about events set during Victorian times with lesbian themes. That’s something you simply don’t see very often. She spends a lot of time doing research for her work, creating a vivid setting that feels completely realistic. I may be a bit biased because I love the Victorian period, but she’s written about other time periods as well.

She’s not published anything new in the past couple of years, but you should definitely check out her old work and keep your eyes peeled for new releases.

Genre: Historical Fiction
Popular Work: Tipping The Velvet

Author 3: CB Lee

If you are looking for diversity in the books you read, this is a queer author you need to check out. Her work features characters who are: bisexual, transgender, Hispanic, Chinese -- and that’s just the start! But her most popular work doesn’t focus on this diversity specifically, because the characters are too busy having superpowers.

Her books are the kind of stories I was looking for when I was a teenager. Keep an eye on her work; she’s not going away anytime soon.

Genre: YA Sci-Fi
Popular Work: Not Your Sidekick

Author 4: Saleen Haddad

I’ve not read this author yet, but I am so excited to. He plays with the role shame has in the life of a gay Arab man in his debut novel, which takes place in an unspecified Arab country after a failed political uprising. This is a unique perspective when it comes to queer stories and I’m really eager to see what this author has to say.

This is his first novel and he doesn’t come from a writing background, so I’m not sure if he plans to keep writing. Either way, his voice is one to listen to!

Genre: Literary Fiction
Popular Work: Guapa

Author 5: David Levithan

David Levithan is pretty well known in the LGBTQ fiction scene, and for good reason; he’s been publishing books featuring strong, gay characters for over a decade. As a teenager he was one of the only authors I could reliably find publishing YA with queer characters in my local library. He’s still writing so keep an eye out for his work.

He also has done collaborations which are worth checking out as well.

Genre: YA
Popular Work:  Every Day

Author 6: Sara Farizan

I cannot talk enough about this author. If You Could Be Mine isn’t just a story about two women falling in love, it’s a story about two women falling for each other in Iran. I was so excited to discover a novel that focuses on a part of the world we rarely get to see in Western media. The cover art for her new book was just announced, which focuses on the topic of race in high school.

She also has a second novel, Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel already published. If you like diversity and YA fiction I highly recommend you look into her work. Immediately.

Genre: YA
Popular Work: If You Could Be Mine

Author 7: Charlie Jane Anders

This author and advocate wrote the award-winning speculative fiction novel All the Birds in the Sky. This is a story that combines magic, technology, and the apocalypse all into one book. She’s also organized a lot of events that are aimed at the queer community. She’s still writing and her newest work should be coming out next year.

I feel as though trans individuals are highly underrepresented, so I’m excited that someone so proud and vocal is getting published.

Genre: Speculative Fiction
Popular Work: All the Birds in the Sky

Author 8: C Alexander London

This man has written across a huge range of genres, so you’ll probably find something you like by him. I’m not kidding. He’s written YA, middle grade lit, picture books, and adult books. He’s a gay man writing gay characters into stories that didn’t used to have gay characters.

You can read this author’s work yourself, but also share his picture books with children. Like I said, he’s written something for everyone.

Genre: Everything
Popular Work: Proxy

Author 9: Chinelo Okapanta

This Nigerian-American author made a huge splash in the literary world and is proof that those who work in education can also publish amazing novels. I could list all the awards she’s been nominated for with her debut novel, but that would simply take up too much space.

She’s also published a lot of short stories and essays, which are worth checking out if you can find them.

Genre: Short Stories, Literary Fiction
Popular Work: Under the Udala Trees

Author 10: C.A. Higgins

C.A. Higgins is a relatively new author, which means she’s got many years ahead of her to keep publishing books. Her work is firmly written for sci-fi fans, dealing with both classic topics (space) and newer topics that have been gaining traction in fiction in recent years (AI). Also, she has a degree in physics, which gives her an edge over other science fiction authors.

To be fair, I’ve only seen her mention girl crushes in several interviews, so I’m not exactly sure where she fits under the queer umbrella, but she’s an author to watch!

Genre: Sci-Fi
Popular Work: Lightless

BONUS Author: April Presnell

Ok, so I’m not published yet and I don’t have any books out that you can read, but I’m getting close to finishing the first draft of FanFact, a story about a fangirl who finds herself in the “fictional” world of her favorite book series. She runs into Blane and Liam, the two boys she ships in the series, and gets tangled up in the plot of the third, not yet released book in the trilogy.

Every project I work on features queer characters, so stick around if you’re interested! I blog here weekly and send out the occasional email to email subscribers with exclusive content.

Genre: Fantasy
Popular Work: FanFact

You can read a preview of FanFact here:

FanFact Excerpt 1
FanFact Excerpt 2
Exclusive Short Story For Email Subscribers

Who is your favorite queer author? Let me know in the comments!