Lez be honest: gay Young Adult (YA) novels is where it’s at. No matter how old you are, there’s nothing like reliving first love, heartbreak, and growing up while reading some damn good writing to boot.
Gay author Kelly Quindlen made a splash in queer fiction with two self-published novels. Her first, a Young Adult novel titled “Her Name in the Sky,” sold over 13,000 copies and was part of Buzzfeed’s “15 Books Every Young Gay Woman Should Read.” Quindlen published her adult novel “A Different Kind of Us“ on Wattpad, where it had over 877,000 views and won the Watty Award for LGBT+ fiction.
GO has the exclusive cover reveal for Quindlen’s new Young Adult novel “Late to the Party,” which features not one but four queer main characters and is out in April 2020 from Roaring Brook Press. Here’s the book description, courtesy of Roaring Brook’s parent company Macmillan Publishing:
Seventeen is nothing like Codi Teller imagined.
She’s never crashed a party, never stayed out too late. She’s never even been kissed. And it’s not just because she’s gay. It’s because she and her two best friends, Maritza and JaKory, spend more time in her basement watching Netflix than engaging with the outside world.
So when Maritza and JaKory suggest crashing a party, Codi is highly skeptical. Those parties aren’t for kids like them. They’re for cool kids. Straight kids.
But then Codi stumbles upon one of those cool kids, Ricky, kissing another boy in the dark, and an unexpected friendship is formed. In return for never talking about that kiss, Ricky takes Codi under his wing and draws her into a wild summer filled with late nights, new experiences, and one really cute girl named Lydia.
The only problem? Codi never tells Maritza or JaKory about any of it.
From author Kelly Quindlen comes a poignant and deeply relatable story about friendship, self-acceptance, what it means to be a Real Teenager. Late to the Party is an ode to late bloomers and wallflowers everywhere.
And here is the gorgeous cover:
I spoke with Quindlen, who lives in Atlanta, about teenage FOMO, writing in a full house, and how who you are and what you believe can go hand in hand.
GO Magazine: Describe “Late to the Party” in a nutshell. What inspired you to write it? Is any of it inspired by real life or things you experienced as a teen?
Kelly Quindlen: It’s a story about the loneliness you can feel as a teenager, even when you’re surrounded by peers, and about that journey of figuring out who you are beyond the safety net of your friendships. The whole time I was writing it, I kept coming back to this gnawing, visceral feeling I remember from adolescence that was really about my fear of missing out. I was scared I wasn’t doing the whole “teenager” thing the right way. Like, other kids my age were sneaking out and getting in trouble and falling in love, and I was just sitting at home watching The Disney Channel. And, looking back on that, I asked myself, “how much of that had to do with the otherness I felt as a queer kid?” It was definitely part of it, but it wasn’t the whole reason. So, the four main characters in “Late To The Party”—who are all queer—experience some version of that FOMO feeling and have to grapple with how their sexuality affects that, but the book isn’t about their sexuality. Their queerness is an inherent part of their identity the same way their anxiety and unworthiness and restlessness are.
I’m absolutely thrilled with the cover for this book because it perfectly captures that feeling of being on the wrong side of the door, hoping that you have the guts to knock and another person has the compassion to answer. The cover designer, Kerri Resnick, really nailed that feeling of longing and wanting to belong.
GO: Talk about your writing process a bit. Any particular habits?
KQ: I write both by hand and on the computer. I usually have a general idea of where I’m going, but I have to let myself stumble into it. The best feeling in the world is when my characters kind of “take over” and lead me to a place I never expected.
One thing that does the trick for me is camping out at my parents’ house for a few days, especially if my siblings are home visiting. I grew up as the oldest of four, so our house was always buzzing with activity. I find it really comforting to plop down on the family room couch and work on a manuscript while my parents and siblings flit in and out of the house. I get a lot of great writing and revising done that way.
GO: According to your Tumblr, you “care deeply about the intersection of queerness and faith.” Can you talk more about this and why it is important to you?
KQ: It often feels like we live in this weird Venn diagram space where being queer and being a person of faith are supposed to be mutually exclusive, but that’s reductive, and it’s wrong. Faith does not belong to straight/cis people and queerness does not belong to secular people. You can be both! Growing up Irish Catholic has been a huge part of my identity, and I will never give that up just because I fall in love with other women. If anything, I have come to understand my faith better through surrendering to the coming out process and trusting that I’m letting my heart work the way it’s meant to.
I’m part of a group called Fortunate & Faithful Families that serves as a haven for Catholic families with LGBTQ children. We host a retreat every year for parents who are struggling with reconciling their love for their child with their love for a flawed church that doesn’t often embrace that beautiful child. Let me tell you—it’s an amazing, transformative experience watching people come in at the beginning of the day with these hidden wounds and burdens of shame, and, by the end of the day, they’re sharing and laughing with other parents who have a gay daughter or a bisexual son or a transgender child. It’s healing and communal and powerful, and I think it’s really at the heart of Christianity to love a person instead of a rule.
And I don’t only want to mention Christianity, because every queer person from a religious background should feel like their faith tradition can still be their home after they come out. We’re in a really important, unprecedented time where we’re seeing leadership on the LGBTQ equality front from Jewish people and Muslim people and every tradition out there. The Young Adult book industry is sticking its neck out, too, with inclusive work from authors like Sara Farizan, Brandy Colbert, Sabina Khan, and others. It’s really heartening to see.