As Kane pieces together clues, three almost-strangers claim to be his friends and the only people who can truly tell him what’s going on. But as he and the others are dragged into unimaginable worlds that materialize out of nowhere—the gym warps into a subterranean temple, a historical home nearby blooms into a Victorian romance rife with scandal and sorcery—Kane realizes that nothing in his life is an accident. And when a sinister force threatens to alter reality for good, they will have to do everything they can to stop it before it unravels everything they know.
This wildly imaginative debut explores what happens when the secret worlds that people hide within themselves come to light.
According to your website, you are represented by Veronica Park at Fuse Literary. How did you know Veronica was the right agent for you?
She understood my villain. It sounds like an odd criteria — usually you’d want someone to really emphasize with your hero — but for me, the hallmark of understanding REVERIE is understanding why Poesy does what she does, and what it matters that there’s a great deal of sympathy for her in the book’s narrative. That’s always been the case with the reactions to REVERIE that I value; a critical understanding of the villain.
Plus she goes by Agent V, which reminded me of Sailor Venus (who goes by Sailor V sometimes). And if I were to have one Sailor Scout as my agent, it would absolutely be Sailor V(enus). They share a lot of great qualities: compassion, leadership, smarts, resourcefulness, and a sense for drama. I appreciate those things in a business partnership, and in an artistic partnership.
And lastly, Veronica understands potential in a way that is really impactful for queer creators. First, she believes in queer story tellers, and is a huge advocate for such a thing. But she also understands the harsher battle queer creators face in a largely heteronormative industry, and having her understanding alongside my project was essential in finding the right home for REVERIE.
Lesson learned? I strongly encourage writers to ask both "who will be my best advocate?" AND "who will be the best advocate for the work I can't help but produce?" Veronica is both of those people for me.
Those are excellent questions to consider in looking for an agent! You've stated that you've "always lived on the partition between the real and the unreal." Can you elaborate, and in what ways, if any, did this inspire the worldbuilding in REVERIE?
Yes, of course! From a young age, I used had the urge to participate in the stories that most inspired me. It might have been because there was no one like me in stories (being gay, and very flamboyant, and proud about it), or it could have just been the self-centered nature of a child. But I never outgrew it. I’ve forever sought to take my wild imagining and externalize them, map them onto my own world, and live among them. As a kid, that meant roleplaying and acting out stories and participating in drama. It also meant pretending to have magic powers all the time, and collecting any strange artifact that I thought might curse me or transport me to a magical land.
As an adult, I’m very conscious of the power I can exert on the reality around me. I am more focused in my creative pursuits. I spend less time lying about magical powers, and more time writing about magical powers. I spend less time role-playing heroics, and more time crafting elaborate schemes to get my gay heroes in front of kids, and into classrooms, and out there on social media.
So I sort of see myself as the line between the real and unreal. Kane, the hero in REVERIE, occupies a similar position. He's halfway in, halfway out of fantasy at all times, and as a result he is the person best suited to navigate the reveries (a dreamy phenomenon taking over his town). He understands how stories work, how adventures can turn ugly, and so he's able to navigate in many different kind of stories.
As for the reveries themselves, many are built off of recurring daydreams that have swept me up at one point or another. I can't give specifics, but many of the more bizarre portions of the book are very much related to the things that scare me, captivate me, or disgust me. As a kid, I used fantasy to deal with a reality I didn't love, so it's kind of fitting that these fantasies now align characters that are conversely trying to reclaim their own love of reality.
What a great way to build a fantastical world based on the reality you experienced. What are your thoughts (and/or opinions) about the upcoming CATS movie?
THANK YOU for asking about this.
I adore CATS, and unironically. I sort of went as a joke my first time because I won tickets to see it, and heard it was bananas. But then I fell in love, and I saw it two more times that year on Broadway, and then went to the national tour. I am super excited about the movie. Here is why:
CATS defies so much about what we think a story should be. Most people say there’s no plot, but in fact the plot is just incredibly hard to interpret as a plot, since the show is truly about a bunch of humanoid CATS singing about themselves. Ultimately, they also have a goal, but it almost doesn’t matter because the point of the show is uncanny spectacle, self-referential lyrics, and shenanigans. It’s this huge, elaborate hoax dressed up as a Broadway show, and it’s been baffling the public for years, yet folks love it.
I love CATS, and I love the confusion is causes. I’m so excited that the movie looks like it’s going to be this gorgeous, grotesque spectacle. It’s creating the exact level of artistic panic that I absorb to become more powerful. More Ryan, if you will.
And….the movie will feature Jennifer Hudson belting Memory. This isn’t an opinion. It’s wish-fulfillment. It’s how I know the universe is looking out for my very specific, very narrow interests.
I think I'm interested now too! What are some of your current projects?
My immediate next project now that REVERIE is out is: playing Pokemon Sword. I just bought it today, and I can’t wait to explore the new region. Aside from Pokemon, I’m also going to work on some cosplays I put off this fall, so I have some killer looks ready to go for cons this spring and summer.
Recently I got to write an essay on Tor.com about my lifelong obsession with Sailor Moon, and that was super cool! I’m hoping I get to do even more essay writing, now that REVERIE is out, and now that people are beginning to associate me with a queer perspective on culture and media.
I’m also in the midst of editing my second book, due out in late 2020. It’s about arts and crafts, cosplay, relationship drama, and the lessons learned in the world of competitive costuming. It’s not related to REVERIE at all, so I’m a little anxious folks are going to be upset with me for doing that and not working on, say, a sequel, but I’m hoping I get to do both. Interpret that as a hint, if you want. 🙂
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