TJ Talks to TJ: A Totally Normal Author Interview

Greetings, friends, and thank you for joining us. My name is TJ, and today I’m going to be interviewing…*checks notes*…TJ.

TJ: Thank you for having me, TJ.

TJ: It’s my pleasure, TJ.

TJ: Do you think this format might end up being somewhat confusing and/or irritating for readers?

TJ: Most likely. Well, let’s begin! So, TJ, first of all, why don’t you tell us something incredibly fascinating about yourself. No pressure.

TJ: Uhh… Well, I was a three-time Scrabble champion in elementary school, and I used to be able to do a round-off back handspring without killing myself in the process. Is that fascinating?

TJ: Eh. Let’s move on. Tell us about your books.

TJ: Sure thing. My first book came out way back in 2007, and it’s a gay romance called Talking About Fungus because I didn’t listen to the repeated pleas of my writer friends and change the title to something that did not bring to mind venereal disease.

TJ: Good call on that one.

TJ: My second book, Following Grandpa Jess, came out in 2013 and involves no fungus of any kind. While it was marketed as a gay romance, it’s really more of a family story with a gay romance in the midst of it, and I find it far less cringey to look back on than TAF.

TJ: TAF being…

TJ: Talking About Venereal Disease.

TJ: Gotcha. Well, this is all very fascinating. Why don’t you tell us now about the projects you’re working on currently? Our reader(s) desperately want(s) to know more about them, I’m sure.

TJ: Well, the one I’ve been focusing on lately is Guardians, a YA LGBTQ+ fantasy/action novel in which queer teens fight to save the world from an invasion of dimension-hopping body snatchers. The book is actually in its final editing phase, though I’m sure I’ll wake up at 3 AM some night with the realization of a massive plot hole that will require me to deconstruct the entire story and build it back up again from scratch. For now, though, it’s pretty much finished – huzzah!

TJ: Huzzah indeed. And why do you think Guardians is worth our reader(s) caring about even the slightest tiny bit?

TJ: Well, it’s a pretty fun adventure, for one thing, and really one of my goals in writing it was to set a story in my hometown in Western Pennsylvania (one of the whitest, straightest places on Earth) and then fill it with queer people and people of color. So that is what I have done. :D

TJ: Well, it sounds like our reader(s) will have a gay old time reading it.

TJ: I hope they do, TJ. I hope they do.

TJ: And your other project, TJ?

TJ: My other project is Chosen, a queer fantasy epic I’ve been working on for the past 7,000,000 years [citation needed]. I’ve actually finished it a bunch of times and then scrapped it and started over, because I enjoy rolling boulders up and down hills for eternity, apparently.

TJ: Wonderfully obscure reference, thank you.

TJ: You’re welcome.

TJ: Well, I think we’ve just about run out of time, so why don’t you tell our reader(s) where they can find you on social media, buy your books, etc.

TJ: Well, if you want to buy my books, you can head over to the Books page and buy-buy-buy away, and if you want to find me on social media, I’m @TJBaerAuthor over on Twitter.

TJ: Glorious. Well, thank you so much for being here with us today, TJ.

TJ: I didn’t really have a choice in the matter, TJ, but you’re welcome, and thank you for having me.

TJ: Wonderful.

TJ: Indeed.

Queer Stuff and General Recommendations

I’m currently celebrating my second day off of the year (which does in fact sound bad now that I type it out :P), so I actually have both the time and brain-power to write up a blog post. I shall offer you a moment to rejoice.

In any case, I wanted to share some awesome queer-related content I’ve run across over the past…however long it’s been since my last post. (Self to Self: You know you could just open up a new tab, open your blog, and see when the last post was, right? Self to Self: Ain’t nobody got time for that.)

Rowan Ellis

I just discovered this excellent individual yesterday, and I’ve been zipping through her videos and very much enjoying them. She has a ton of interesting, thought-provoking content regarding queer representation (and the lack of it) in media, and there’s also a piece on homophobia in schools that is informative, uplifting, and of course also absolutely infuriating. It’s pretty incredible that we’re able, these days, to surround ourselves with like-minded people and become somewhat insulated to the ravages of homophobia, but videos like this remind me both how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go. In any case, Rowan Ellis is insightful and well-spoken, and her videos are definitely worth a watch.

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

Much like Steven Universe, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is a show meant for kids that features a queer showrunner doing her absolute best to include as much representation as possible within the narrow realm of what kids shows are allowed to do. While I would love to see shows like this being more overt, She-Ra is probably one of the least subtle about its queerness of any show aimed at children that I’ve ever seen. It’s both a show about female power and a show that rejects any notion of traditional gender roles. While there are some suggestions of possible heterosexual relationships in it, nothing is overt on that side, either – the entire universe has a pansexual feel to it, existing outside the binary, and I really like that. Plus, the characters are awesome, the writing is fun and engaging, and it’s just a really freaking good show all around. Highly recommended.

This Is How It Always Is, by Laurie Frankel

I happened upon this book when I was at Target yesterday, and while the generic, YA-sounding title initially put me off, when I turned it over and read the back, I was pretty much hooked. It tells the story of a quirky, rather awesome family whose youngest child is transgender, and it follows them on their journey to try to both support and protect her. It takes the subject matter seriously but also finds joy and humor in it, and the characterizations, plot turns, and story crafting are all top notch. My only not-even-really-a-criticism is that the author takes a bit too much pleasure in inserting “BUT LITTLE DID THEY KNOW~*~*~” lines at the end of many of the chapters, and while this is effective to a certain extent, I do think it’s a bit overused throughout the story. But that’s the most minor of nitpicks, and as far as literary sins go, it isn’t even on the list. This is an excellent book, and it also has the distinction of being one that I finished, closed, stared at for a few seconds, and then flipped back to the beginning to start reading over again. Good, good stuff.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

I’ve been a 99 fan for years (Noin Noin!), but the show has recently done me (and many others) the glorious service of revealing that fan-favorite Rosa Diaz is bisexual. I’ve always felt drawn to Rosa for her ability to exist in both stereotypical “masculine” and “feminine” spheres (plus, she’s just freaking hilarious), but this latest addition to her characters is great, particularly since they actually give her a coming out narrative, female romantic interests, and – at long last – a girlfriend we get to see and meet. And it’s Cameron Freaking Esposito! ‘Nuff said.

I also recently watched Netflix’s Voltron series (all eight seasons straight through, because I am insane and obsessive), and that show is an example of a very good series that nonetheless got the idea of LGBTQ+ representation somewhat wrong. They do a good job of having a lot of gender-nonconforming individuals, strong women, and hints of LGBTQ relationships throughout, but what they thought to be their crowning queer achievement, the revelation that Shiro is gay, was a bit of a flop.

On the one hand, I like that his gayness is something that just exists and doesn’t have to be a big deal, but on the other hand…it’s a big deal, and it would be nice if we got more than, “This scene implies he has a boyfriend. Now the boyfriend is gone. Also, he got married to a man after the show ended, KISSSSSS.” Is it nice to have a legit gay kiss concluding this series? Yes. But we don’t know this person Shiro is marrying, there was no lead-up to it at all, and the lack of romance or even meeting this character before makes it feel very tacked on, as if the showrunners are saying, “Look, see? GAY PEOPLE. Behold, we give you representation.”

I’m one of the fans who felt cheated by the ending of The Legend of Korra, because while I love the fact that the showrunners are implying a romantic relationship between two female characters, it’s one of those cases where there’s just Nothing for the entire series and then BAM, look, There Is Gay! No lead-up, then surprise gayness. Voltron’s handling of Shiro had the same sort of feel to it, though they at least took it a step further and spelled it out. Korra and Asami hold hands, look at each other in a way that could possibly be construed as romantic, and step off together into the future, but Shiro and his nameless man-love at least are shown getting married, are outright stated to be in love, and are given a kiss that the “camera” lingers on and which ultimately closes out the series.

There was definitely effort there, but it was ultimately lacking, I suppose is the point I’m going for.

Anyway, this got way longer and ramblier than I was anticipating. :P The point: There are many exciting queer-related developments in media, and I’m anxious to see what comes next. <3