Continuing with Queer YA Scrabble, today we have the pleasure of bringing you an interview with author Suzanne van Rooyen. Find letter hidden in this post (it will be in green), and you’ll be one step closer to solving our anagram and having a chance to win a FABULOUS box of books. 🙂
Suzanne van Rooyen is an author from South Africa. She currently lives in Sweden and is busy making friends with the ghosts of her Viking ancestors. Although she has a Master’s degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. When she grows up, she wants to be an elf – until then, she spends her time (when not writing) wall climbing, buying far too many books, and entertaining her shiba inu, Lego.
Nadia: Hello Suzanne! We are glad to have you back on the blog, thank you for joining us again! For the new readers out there, could you tell us a bit of yourself?
Suzanne: Thank you so much for having me! It’s such an honour to be back.
I’m a tattooed story-teller from South Africa and the author of The Other Me and I Heart Robot, two very different YA novels, but both feature LGBT+ characters. I’m now living in Sweden where I teach music by day and write by night, or lunch break, or in any spare moment I can get! When not teaching or writing, you’ll find me wall climbing or jogging through the beautiful Viking cultural preserve I live on with my shiba, Lego.
N: You shared a blog post with us a few years ago about Diversity in YA, looking at what’s hitting the shelves today, do you think things have changed? If so how? And what are your hopes for the future?
S: Oh indeed! The publishing industry has seen some major changes for the better when it comes to diversity. The #WeNeedDiverseBooks social media campaign has drawn attention to diverse titles – not only books featuring LGBT+ characters – and continues to make waves across the world, uniting authors who are diverse and write diverse and reaching new readers who are crying out for books in which they can see themselves, be they LGBT+, people of colour, people with disabilities etc. It’s an exciting time in publishing because many agents and editors have embraced this push for diversity and are now seeking more than just ‘issue’ books. Twitter events like #PitMad and #MSWL have shown just how many writers are writing diverse and just how many agents and editors want those titles. It’s lovely to see. I think it also helps that celebrities like Laverne Cox and now Caitlyn Jenner have so bravely made their stories public, helping to educate people and pave the way for greater acceptance and understanding for those who are different. That’s why diversity in YA has always been so important, to show teens in particular that they are not alone. Not that the struggle is over… We can definitely still do better. I’m still holding out for the trans equivalent of Katniss Everdeen to take the spotlight, but the difference is I now believe that can and will happen. It’s no longer a pipe dream but rather just a matter of time before we see that level of popularity for a character who comes from a previously marginalized group.
N: How important is diversity in your writing?
S: What’s most important in my writing is authenticity. The world is diverse with a multitude of races, gender identities, sexualities, religious identities, neurologies, physical capabilities… to write authentically I have to be aware of real world diversity and include characters in an authentic and and holistic way in my stories even if that means writing outside my immediate experience. It takes courage on the author’s behalf to do that and a heck of a lot of effort to do well, but for me it’s not an option not to write that way.
N: What would you say is your favorite thing about writing?
S: The creative freedom. Getting to create a world and character from scratch, and then getting to live vicariously through my characters. Writing is also a catharsis – as cliche as that might seem – it’s a cliche because it’s true, and I sometimes really need to escape from reality for a while or take my real life frustrations out on fictional characters.
N: What can we expect from your future books? Are you working on something new right now?
S: I’m currently working on an African inspired YA fantasy novel featuring a very diverse cast of characters. It’s been an absolutely ball to write, taking me back to the African folk tales I grew up on as a kid. I’m also about to start edits on my new adult novel, Scardust. Scardust, my NA debut, is a gay sci-fi romance and will be published next year by Entangled. I’m super excited about this book. It took me more than two years to write and is probably the darkest book I’ve written yet 😉
N: And last but not least, what are some of your favorite LGBTQAI+ YA titles?
S: Coda by Emma Trevayne is always first on my list, followed by Proxy by Alex London, Made of Stars by Kelley York, An Unstill Life by Kate Larkindale, and The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson.
I’m definitely adding The Other Me to my TBR. You can win a copy in GayYA’s Queer YA Scrabble prize pack! Just find all the letters hidden in the next four posts (the letters will be in green) and unscramble them to solve the anagram! Enter to win here.
The giveaway closes on June 8th, and winners will be notified on the 9th. The giveaway is open to the United Kingdom, Ireland, United States of America, Canada, Mexico, and anywhere in continental Europe except Russia. Unfortunately, do to the prohibitive cost of shipping, the giveaway and auctions are not open to countries in Africa, South America, Asia or Australia.