Hello everyone! It’s been a bit quiet here lately, but now we’re back! And we’re super excited to share Sadie’s interview with Jason June!
Max is my fave character. Who or what was your inspiration for her?
Max is the fab femme genderqueer person I wish I’d had the bravery to be when I was in high school. She embraces her femininity, wears feminine clothing, and seeks to challenge society’s assumption about what is and isn’t okay for people born biologically male to do. She does it by loudly declaring what’s fabulous about those around her, and in turn, it helps open the door for people to recognize what’s fabulous about her and the infinite possibilities of gender expression.
Also, I really love how you asked this question, because Max goes by she/her/he/him pronouns and tells people they can refer to her by whatever energy they’re picking up on. I do this too, but have found that 99.999999999% of the time, people choose he/him, which legitimately is totally fine, it’s just an interesting thing to think about that when given options, people still overridingly go with their assumption about genitals as opposed to energies.
Authors are known for being intensely quirky about their writing processes. We were wondering – are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you eat/drink while you’re writing? Do you listen to music as you go along, or is silence golden?
With each book I write, I realize I’m way more Type-A than I thought possible, which makes me a SuperPlotter. Before writing the novel I’m working on now, I wrote almost thirty pages of outline so I knew where I was going to go and could draft much faster. Of course, things still changed, but I’ve found that having that intense roadmap really helps me, and I can still get that “I’m flying by the seat of my pants” vibe when writing the initial in-depth outline.
As for the vibe of the writing room, I need no music whatsoever because I’ll start to sing along, or hum along if there aren’t any words, and then I get too pulled in by the music to focus on writing. I can do a crowded café (remember when those were a thing?) because I’m not attached to that noise in any way. I have approximately 17 cups of coffee along the way to keep me going. But I just got this 23 & Me result that said I’m genetically pre-dispositioned to consume more caffeine, so I was born this way.
Was there a scene in AGENDA that was really hard to write? Or maybe one that was particularly satisfying?
My absolute favorite part/most satisfying to write was the initial Gay Agenda. It gave me so much insight into Jay and figuring out what he wants and needs out of life. And to be able to just so unabashedly talk about his sexual desires was very important to me. In my teen years, I only saw pop culture portrayals shaming gay folks for our sexuality, which creates a whole shame spiral that many of us are still grappling with today. I am so honored to be able to be a part of this generation of queer creators who are showing that as long as things are safe and consensual, coming into your own as a sexual being with any human is a beautiful thing.
Is there a scene (or set of scenes) in the book that you’re particularly proud of?
I really really really love the ending. It’s stayed the same from first draft to publication, and without giving too much away, I think it’s such a tender moment of vulnerability for all parties involved, acknowledging that they’ve done wrong and acknowledging that they’ve been hurt. That sounds really vague and like…official? But you’ll know what I mean when you get there!
Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming mer-person book?
Yes! I’m so excited for OUT OF THE BLUE! I’ve been saying this is the queer reimagining of the movie Splash, but there’s a whole lot of difference between this book and the movie. It’s dual POV following a mer teen who has to go on land to help a human. They are not looking forward to it at all, but on land they meet a recently-dumped lifeguard who’s also a rom-com-director-hopeful who just wants his life to play out like the movies he loves to save face in front of his ex. Bingo! Our mer has a human they can help, and fake-dating ensues!
When was the first time you saw yourself represented in a YA book – if you have?
It was actually a very recent reading experience in Steven Salvatore’s CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY. Carey is a genderqueer protagonist, and so much of their exploration of what their gender and sexuality mean to them really rang true for me. I was texting Steven like, “Did you read my mind?” I’m only 33, and I’m about to phrase this like I grew up in the early 1900s or something, but back in my day (the mid-aughts) we were constantly told that there were only two genders, which led to so much confusion and just overall body unhappiness even after I came out as gay. It wasn’t until 32 that I really came into my genderqueer self, and I love that teens today will have books like CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY to show them the ways we can express ourselves and our gender are infinite.
Finally, can you please point our readers toward some recent or upcoming queer books you’re excited about?
Ohmigawd YES! Here are three that I read recently that I can’t stop thinking about:
Jonny Garza Villa’s FIFTEEN HUNDRED MILES FROM THE SUN. It follows Julián, a Latinx gay senior, as he gets drunk and accidentally comes out online, unleashing a whole storm of excitement (a Cutie McCuterson DMs him after coming out) and anxiety (having to still stay in the closet when it comes to his dad). Jonny has so perfectly found that balance of jubilation at being yourself after you come out that can come hand in hand with fear when we’re still in an environment that’s not safe. It’s so beautifully done, with both laugh-out-loud and heart-clutching moments.
Ashley Shuttleworth’s A DARK AND HOLLOW STAR. I just finished this one and it is an epic high fantasy told from four POVs, and they’re all queer! It was so amazing to get all this magical action and high stakes and be surrounded by queerness!
Emery Lee’s MEET CUTE DIARY. In this we follow Noah, a transgender teen, who runs a blog full of trans happily ever afters. But, all the stories are fiction. And when a troll calls Noah out for making up stories, Noah starts a whole fake-dating escapade to get real-life material that teaches him so much about relationships and what makes a good partner. I especially loved how Emery explores pronouns and gender here and everyone should read it!
There’s one thing Jay Collier knows for sure—he’s a statistical anomaly as the only out gay kid in his small rural Washington town. While all this friends can’t stop talking about their heterosexual hookups and relationships, Jay can only dream of his own firsts, compiling a romance to-do list of all the things he hopes to one day experience—his Gay Agenda.
Then, against all odds, Jay’s family moves to Seattle and he starts his senior year at a new high school with a thriving LGBTQIA+ community. For the first time ever, Jay feels like he’s found where he truly belongs, where he can flirt with Very Sexy Boys and search for love. But as Jay begins crossing items off his list, he’ll soon be torn between his heart and his hormones, his old friends and his new ones…because after all, life and love don’t always go according to plan.
From debut novelist Jason June comes a moving and hilarious sex-positive story about the complexities of first loves, first hookups, and first heartbreaks—and how to stay true to yourself while embracing what you never saw coming.
You’ve come here wondering, “What is the meaning of life?” Er, I mean, Jason June’s life. Jason June (it’s a two-name first name, like Mary-Kate without the hyphen or the Olsen twin) is a genderqueer writer mermaid who loves to create picture books that mix the flamboyantly whacky with the slightly dark, and young adult contemporary rom-coms full of love and lust and hijinks.
When not writing, JJ zips about Austin, Texas. He loves dinosaurs, unicorns, Pomeranians, and anything magical that takes you to a different world or time. JJ is a tried and true Laura Dern stan, and he is actively looking for an Andalite friend.