Maybe you have heard about this upcoming book called Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, which releases next year (April 7th), or maybe you haven’t, either way I’m here to tell you about it and about how excited I am for it!
First things first (I’m the realest…I had to, I’m sorry), what is it about ? According to Goodreads:
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.
With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.
Doesn’t it sound amazing ?! I thought so, and then we had the incredible chance to interview the author, Becky Albertalli, about it and it just made even more excited!
Nadia: What can you tell us about your forthcoming debut, Simon VS. The Homo Sapiens Agenda? What should we expect?
Becky Albertalli: So excited to be here, and thank you so much for interviewing me. I’ve been a fan of this blog for a long time!
SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA is about this messy-haired gay kid coming out, getting to know himself, and managing some tricky relationship dynamics – all while falling head over heels for his anonymous email pen pal. You should expect a lot of flirtatious emails, Elliott Smith worshipping, a few serious moments, and a bunch of making out.
N: We here at GayYA are eagerly awaiting April 7th. What’s it like for you to have your book almost officially here?
BA: It is completely surreal. It actually feels a lot like a pregnancy – so much slow-building anticipation, curiosity, excitement, and anxiety. I really think this time between my book deal and my release date has been transformative. There’s so much happening behind the scenes at HarperCollins, but part of the process has also been about preparing emotionally to step into an entirely new role. It’s amazing to realize I’ll be a published author in less than five months.
N: Where did the idea for SIMON come from?
BA: The idea for the book definitely started with Simon’s character. I had this mental image of a blond kid wearing glasses and a hoodie, and he kind of evolved from there into this smart, funny, music-obsessed theater kid, who’s way less cynical than he thinks he is. I always knew Simon would be gay – I spent years working with gay teens and gender nonconforming kids as a psychologist and volunteer. In some ways, I think of SIMON as a tribute to these kids, their awesome families, and their absolutely inspiring courage.
N: What was your favorite thing about writing SIMON (book)? And/or about writing Simon (character)?
BA: For me, so much of the SIMON book really is the Simon character! I loved writing the flirty emails between Simon and his pen pal, Blue. That being said, my absolute favorite scene to write – and all of my former therapy clients should stop reading this now – was a scene where Simon manages to get drunk at a bar in Midtown Atlanta. I would seriously love to write an entire book in the voice of Drunk Simon.
N: I read you are a clinical psychologist, and that is amazing! (I’m working on becoming one myself! Also you worked with gender nonconforming children?? That is awesome!) Do you think your experience in Psychology has influenced your writing in any way? If so, how?
BA: I am so, so excited to hear you are working on becoming a clinical psychologist! I definitely think my training and experience as a psychologist has influenced my writing. I am super careful not to use ANYTHING that my therapy clients have shared with me in their sessions. But in general, it was such a gift for me to spend time with some incredible teenagers, see them interact, and re-acclimate to life in high school. Also, in graduate school, I had to write detailed session transcripts to bring to supervision sessions. It’s amazing how much it forced me to really listen to the rhythms of teenage conversation – so helpful for writing dialogue.
N: Is there something you hope readers will take from SIMON?
BA: There’s no question that SIMON is intended to be a feel-good book. I love happy endings, I love makeout scenes, and I’m probably just as much of a hopeless romantic as Simon is. I didn’t want to shy away from the reality of being a gay teenage boy in suburban Atlanta, and the story definitely includes some difficult moments. That being said, I think the joy outweighs the heaviness here. More than anything, I’d love for this book to be another reminder that gay teens do deserve a happily ever after.
N: I saw the cover reveal post on The Midnight Garden, and it seems Simon reallyreally likes Oreos. So, an important question from an Oreos enthusiast, does Simon like his Oreos complete, or is he like me? I like to eat the black part and leave the white part for someone else. 😉
BA: This is an extremely important question – and as an Oreo enthusiast myself, I have all the respect in the world for your approach. Simon takes his Oreos in many ways, but his absolute favorite is the soggy Oreo mushed in milk.
N: You’ve talked a bit on Twitter about how books that aren’t “about” being queer are maybe not the best thing. Could you talk a little about that?
BA: It’s definitely a complicated issue. I actually really love books that include LGBTQIA+ characters, but aren’t necessarily about being queer – and I think it’s amazing that we’re starting to see more books like this in the market. I do think it’s a problem if people *only* want to see books that don’t deal with queer issues. There’s this sentiment I hear sometimes that YA has moved past needing to explore these issues, but I don’t think we’re anywhere close to that point. Aspects of LGBTQIA+ identity are still so central to many teens’ experiences, and being queer can come with enormous stressors for teens – especially in certain regions of the country, certain religious groups, certain subcultures, and even specific families. Simon is a gay, white teenage boy who comes from a liberal family – in a conservative suburb – of a liberal city – in a conservative region of the country. So many environmental factors shape our experiences as we develop our sexual identities. It’s so important that we continue to tell a broad range of stories.
N: What’s on the horizon for you? Any future projects coming up? Do you think you’ll continue to write about queer characters?
BA: Right now, I’m just beginning edits on my second book with Balzer + Bray, which is a companion book to SIMON. Though the main character of my second book is a heterosexual teen girl, I’m excited about a few queer supporting characters. Also coming down the pipeline: a dual-POV gay love story set in New York City, co-written with my friend Adam Silvera (author of the stunningly amazing MORE HAPPY THAN NOT, which releases from Soho Teen in June).
I do know I’ll always want to write about queer characters, in both main and supporting roles. I’ll write about non-queer characters, too – but I try to keep in mind that writing straight, cis characters is a decision, not a default. Not every story is a good match for every author, but I do think all authors have a responsibility to approach diversity issues thoughtfully and intentionally.
N: Where would you like to see queer YA go next?
BA: There’s so much to be excited about in upcoming queer YA, and so much I’d like to see! I would love to see more exploration of intersectional diversity – especially more characters who are disabled or culturally diverse, in addition to being queer. I’d also love to see more queer historical YA (I fell in love with Robin Talley’s incredible LIES WE TELL OURSELVES, and I’ve been dying for more in that vein). It would also be great to have more stories about teens who identify in some of the less well represented groups under
the LGBTQIA umbrella – for example, trans and asexual teens (and I’m especially excited for I.W. Gregorio’s debut, NONE OF THE ABOVE, about an intersex teenager). Finally, in general, I’d love to see more book covers like Dahlia Adler’s upcoming UNDER THE LIGHTS, featuring gay and lesbian couples kissing.
Also, in general: more kissing. I want to see so much kissing.
I definitely agree with the “more kissing and happiness” part.
Thank you so much Becky for sharing some of your time with us!
(So, the verdict: SIMON sounds awesome amirite?)