Unabashed and unapologetic with Michael Barakiva and April Daniels

Welcome to our LGBT podcast This Queer Book Saved My Life! In this episode, we talk with Michael Barakiva (he/him) about the LGBT book Dreadnaught by April Daniels (she/her), with special guest April Daniels! Dreadnaught is a groundbreaking YA novel about a trans teen superhero. Michael shares with us, “The honesty of her anger and the challenges that she faces helped me come to terms in really profound ways about my own coming out process.” Then, Michael and April talk about the politics of comics, writing queer superheroes, and what writing and publishing has meant to April as a trans author. She shares, “Writing was an escape for me. It was a way for me to take control of my life in a world that frequently strips me of control.”

Buy the LGBT books on this LGBT podcast at our Bookshop!

Episode transcript below!

Learn more about Michael and his writing at michaelbarakiva.com

Stay tuned to April’s writing and the next novel in the trilogy at aprildaniels.com

A big thank you to Natalie Cruz., Archie A., Bill Shay, Stephen D, and Paul Kaefer for being This Queer Book Saved My Life’s first Patreon supporters. Their sponsorship level directly supports transcription services that ensure this LGBT podcast is accessible to our deaf and hard of hearing audiences. Patreon supporters help keep us on the air and promote accessibility. They receive a variety of benefits, including shout outs in our episodes, social media mentions, access to live-streaming events, virtual lunch with me, or even better, bring me to work day where I can do a talk and Q&A around queer diversity, equity, and inclusion. You can subscribe at patreon.com/thisqueerbook.

Transcript

            J.P. Der Boghossian

            Welcome to the final episode of season one! Can you believe it?! Our first season! But, we are already hard at work on our second season which debuts Tuesday October 4, 2022. Our season premiere will feature a medal-winning Olympic author! We will have podcast cross-over events! We’re launching a new podcast short called 7 Minutes in Book Heaven where we will spend 7 cozy minutes with an LGBTQ author to talk about their new book. So stay subscribed.

            And if you’re in the Twin Cities August 24th, come Toast Twin Cities Historic LGBTQ Nightlife with us at Lush Lounge and Theater in NE Minneapolis. We’re talking about the memoir The Evening Crowd at Kirmser’s. Kirmser’s was the first queer bar in St. Paul, Minnesota. And this will be our first recording in front of a live studio audience. There will be a signature cocktail. Lush will serve its full menu. Quatrefoil Library will be there with books. Party starts at 6 p.m. Follow the link in the show description for more info.

            Speaking of Quatrefoil Library, thank you Quatrefoil for all of your continued support for this LGBT podcast. Quatrefoil Library is a community center that cultivates the free exchange of ideas and makes accessible LGBTQ+ materials for education and inspiration. Located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, visit them at qlibrary.org.

On today’s episode…

            [theme music]

            Michael Barakiva

            And something about the honesty of her anger and the challenges that she faces help me come to terms in really profound ways about my own coming out process that I don’t think I had processed fully.

            J.P. Der Boghossian

            I’m talking with Michael Barakiva about the book Dreadnaught by April Daniels. It is a groundbreaking YA novel about a trans teen superhero. And with Michael and April we’ll talk the politics of comics, writing queer superheroes, and what writing and publishing has meant to April as a trans author.  

            April Daniels

            Writing was an escape for me. It was a way for me to take control of my life in a world that frequently strips me of control.

            J.P. Der Boghossian

            My name is J.P. Der Boghossian and you’re listening to This Queer Book Saved My Life!

            Let’s meet Michael Barakiva and April Daniels.

            [plucky pizzicato music]

            J.P. Der Boghossian

            Michael’s pronouns are he/him. He is a Director and YA novelist. He recently founded Novel Readings, which has a really novel approach to supporting writers. Amongst many things, they provide professional actors to authors during the writing process so that authors can hear their work out loud.

            Michael authored two YA novels, One Many Guy and its sequel Hold my Hand. I adore both of these books and they are also the first YA novels written by an Armenian author featuring a gay Armenian hero.

            Growing up Michael said when it came to reading he was a old-fashioned fantasy kid. That second-generation post-Tolkien fantasy like Shanara and David Eddings.

            These days he old me he’s kind of all over the place when it comes to reading, but I would call it comprehensively eclectic, ranging from nonfiction like Sapiens and The Swerve. but also YA speculative fiction, fantasy, or science fiction.

            April Daniels’ pronouns are she/her. Growing up she wanted to read books that took her to fantastical or distant places. So that meant historical fiction or fantasy or science fiction. Or, as she explained to me, she didn’t want contemporary reality books because reality fucking sucked.

            When we recorded this episode, she had just finished The Devil’s Chessboard.

            April is the author of the popular and revolutionary YA novels Dreadnaught and Sovereign. We’re talking about the first in the series Dreadnaught and in it our hero Danny is  transgender and gains her powers when the superhero Dreadnaught falls from the sky and dies in front of her. He transfers his powers to Danny and in that act his powers cause her to transition from male to female – her idealized state.

Here is my conversation with Michael and April.

J.P. Der Boghossian

So Michael tell us what is the book that saved your life?

Michael Barakiva

The book that saved my life is Dreadnought by April Daniels and it is one of what I believe will be a trilogy but once we speak with April we can find out all about that which I’m super excited about! The second book is Sovereign and should I try to tell the story?

J.P. Der Boghossian

How would you describe it to folks who’ve never read it yet?

Michael Barakiva

I would describe it as the best book ever! Especially the best book in the YA sort of Science Fiction Fantasy, superhero, alternate present realm. To be more specific, it is set in an alternate present and there are superheroes. It starts with a Trans woman teenager witnessing the death of the most powerful superhero ever! As he is dying, he grants her his powers and part of his powers lead to the instant transformation of your most ideal physical self so she gets a whole bunch of superpowers. But, none of them is that her body changes from the boy body. She was born into a female body.

I was telling my husband this morning how excited I am to do this podcast. One of the many things that I love about this book so much is that April has created a beautiful structure. There is a super villain antagonist which is the one we expect in a superhero book but there is the parents who also function as sort of domestic antagonists. Then there is another antagonist who is a member of the superhero team to whom the Dreadnought belonged before he died. She is a turf who does not accept the new Dreadnought on her own gender terms. All three of these antagonists serve different and extraordinary purposes in propelling the story forward.

J.P. Der Boghossian

Every guest interprets the word saved differently. How would you describe the ways this book saved you?

Michael Barakiva

I think there are a few ways. The first is that in spite of how LGBTQI has been lumped together, I am a Queer man with a very strong gender identity. I know very little about the Trans experience. Reading this book was incredibly educational for me in that way. Another way is that April taps into the fury of her protagonist Danny and something about the honesty of her anger and the challenges that she faces help me come to terms, in really profound ways about my own coming out process that I don’t think I had processed fully. Something about the pandemic. really brought to the foreground to me about what a default cis and heteronormative space we live in and these books help me understand that and explain to me so much of the anger and frustration and rage I felt on a subliminal and subconscious level that I hadn’t been able to articulate to myself.

J.P. Der Boghossian

How old were you when you got the book and how did the book come to you?

Michael Barakiva

I reread it at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 so I probably read it for the time in 2018. I was trying to gear up and write this contemporary fantasy novel that I’m working on now called These Precious Stones and I was doing internet searches for LGBTQI protagonists in YA fantasy/science fiction and this book kept popping up. What I realized about this book that was especially inspirational for me and one of the things I’m really aspiring to with These Precious Stones is that it is truly epic. YA books tend to be shorter. I think there’s a kind of tension between the inherent length of a YA book and the fantasy/science fiction genre which really lends themselves to epic and the sprawling length of an epic. I found that most YA books that are fantasy or science fiction are not epic. They’re domestic. They have a small cast. There is a supernatural element to it. But the character doesn’t go on an extraordinary journey. Consciously or not, one of the things I’m really excited to talk to April about is how conscious she was in engaging what we think of as the traditional hero’s journey through the Joseph Campbell lens with her Queer protagonist. Explicitly for me, I knew that that was important that as somebody who had grown up reading fantasy books in which all of the characters were white; all of the characters were straight; all of the characters were Cis, more and more I started understanding how the erasure was damaging. As the other unfortunate trope in science fiction and fantasy, where the very rare Queer representation exists it is only in the villains. The entire Disney uber fits into this unfortunately as does most of the MCU.

So, all of those things about the book and finally I don’t know if I’ve said this or said this enough but the quality of the prose on a purely literary level is also extraordinary. This was very exciting for me because so often genre writing tends to be discarded in a non-literary lens. I remember when the New Yorker did the speculative fiction issue a few years ago and what a sort of big deal it was because of course we have the great writers: Octavia Butler and N K Jemison and Ursula K. Le Guinn, David Mitchell I would include in this category extraordinary prose writers who write in this genre but because it is genre, it is so often discarded and treated as pulp.

J.P. Der Boghossian

What was it when you were reading it that you realized, oh this is tapping into something that maybe I haven’t processed yet?

Michael Barakiva

There is a scene between Danny and her Cis male best friend after her transformation and he is so horrible to her. I remember though it’s written so beautifully because you’re in the scene with their dialogue and then there is sort of a fast forward and then later the protagonist recalls the actual words that he said to her and it’s so hideous and so horrible. The scene is written in such an unapologetic and unsentimental way, it just reminded me of so many of the things I’ve had to deal with as a Queer man and so many of the things I never imagined that Trans people had to deal with.

J.P. Der Boghossian

Tell us a little bit about your own coming out journey.

Michael Barakiva

I came out in the summer between undergraduate and graduate school to my friends and then over the course of the next year and a half to my parents. It’s important for me to say that the reason the coming out in my books is not such a big deal is because my family and my parents accepted my Queerness extraordinarily well. Most impressively, my father who is 92 now and of a generation where casual homophobia was the default and watching him wrestle and decide that his decision to love his children unconditionally would force a kind of transformation is one of the things that I’m most grateful for in my life. I think it’s important to represent those kinds of stories that not all coming out is traumatic. At the same time, it is important to understand that there are many places in this country and in this world where being Gay or coming out is still life threatening. As an artist I’m trying to represent a kind of experience while acknowledging the full gamut of potential danger. In an interview and April you’ll have the chance to correct me if I’m misremembering this one of the things that she said that I found really interesting was that she wanted Danny’s transformation to be instantaneous because there’s a sort of fetishized or pornographic trope around the slow coming out of a Trans person and that made a lot of sense to me. Because it is so easy for the Cis or straight gaze to fetishize those things and I think as LGBTQIA plus authors, it is really important to combat that. I didn’t want the coming out to be traumatic because I also think there is a kind of pornographic element to it like violence against Queer people.

J.P. Der Boghossian

Was there a particular character or passage in the book that you felt, wow, this is me and this is reflective of my experience?

Michael Barakiva

What I love about the book is that there are ways that I can convert the Trans protagonist’s experience into my own Queer experience. It opened up so many questions and doors I didn’t even know existed about the Trans experience. That’s why I feel so grateful to it and it works on so many levels. This teenager is suddenly gifted with superhuman powers and expected to behave like an adult and function in adult circles. For most of my life, one of the things that I love about being in my mid 40 s is that I’m not the youngest person in the room anymore. I spent a lot of my life being the youngest person in the room and feeling totally unequipped to engage with adults on their own level. That’s another thing that this protagonist has to go through. In that way I really relate to her.

J.P. Der Boghossian

How quickly did you read it? Overnight?  Did you parse it out over a few weeks?

Michael Barakiva

I devoured it. I read it twice because I devoured it the first time I was so hungry for it that I don’t think I allowed myself to enjoy the mastery of the prose that April wrote. I read the first one and I think the second one was already out and then I read the second one and I realized that I do this. It’s like starting a series before it’s done and then you’re so angry with yourself that didn’t have the patience to wait because there is talk about another book. So then I went back and I reread the first two and then I read both of them again in in the pandemic! I think another thing that April has done just incredibly is that in Sovereign, the second book, it is a perfect sequel in that it picks up all the themes and it evolves them without repeating them and also introduces enough new elements that it’s satisfying while making you feel like oh I’m still really delving into the ethos of this franchise.

J.P. Der Boghossian

I love that! Thank you. April hello! What was your favorite book as a kid?

April Daniels

I’m really bad at picking favorites. The first Harry Potter book though was the first book that I read twice in a row. Mainly when I was young it had to be some kind of fantastical or distant place. I could read historical fiction. I could read fantasy, science fiction or whatever but I always had to be going somewhere else! I didn’t want to read books that spoke about our contemporary reality because that fucking sucked for me and I didn’t want to be there.

I remember Harry Potter because that was the book that everybody was reading and you could talk to everybody about it. I was reading everything I could get my hands on that would take me to a different place.

J.P. Der Boghossian

Did you grow up in a reading household?

April Daniels

I did. The household I grew up in had a lot of things I would go back and change if I could, but I am very glad that we had a strong literary tradition in my family.

J.P. Der Boghossian

What have you been reading these days?

April Daniels

I’ve just finished The Devil’s Chess Board and JFK and The Unspeakable. I’m pretty sure that Alan Dulles murdered JFK! I’ve been reading some Paula Braxton. I read magic romance books that are good. I just discovered Sherry Thomas ‘ lady sherlock series which is a wonderful series. It’s Sherlock Holmes as a woman but it’s done in this interesting sensitive way. This one is actually really good. I strongly recommend it.

J.P. Der Boghossian

Did Covid change your reading habits at all?

April Daniels

Oh yeah. I read a lot more nonfiction than I used to. I still like fiction. Obviously, it’s beautiful. nonfiction I find to be very useful for developing long range writing plans because it gives you new avenues to explore and new ideas to look at.

J.P. Der Boghossian

I love that! Tell us a little bit about your writing and your work.

April Daniels

When I was younger, I wanted to get into video games and bullet dodge, did not get into video games. Holy crap that industry is not doing well. I like drawing but not enough to want to be a full-time artist and I didn’t like math and I’ve got kind of a visual tracking problem where little details can kind of escape me. I have dyscalculia and am dyslexic so being a programmer would have been kind of swimming upstream. I thought, I’ll do the story in a video game. There was this game developer called Troika Games that made some good but buggy games back in the day and I wanted to work for them as a writer. Their requirement was that you had to have so many published novels or produced television screenplays or whatever. So I’m like all right. I’ll just become an author and that’s a lot harder than I thought it was but you know after I went to UC Santa Cruz and I got a literature degree, I moved to Portland. I got day jobs and I wrote in and around the cracks of my day job and the one book that I wrote went nowhere. I tried to write a sequel to that book and got stuck halfway through and then one day I was like well let’s start a new project and that turned out to be Dreadnought.

J.P. Der Boghossian

What are your preferred name and pronouns?

April Daniels

My name is April Daniels and my pronouns are she her.

J.P. Der Boghossian

Where did where did Dreadnought come from for you?

April Daniels

The idea was that I would just write an unabashed power fantasy for young Trans girls and this was about 2014 so superheroes were big. I mean they’ve been big forever. I’m kind of getting sick of the Marvel movies at least but back then it felt like we hadn’t quite crested. I noticed that although there were a lot of capes on tv and in the movies and such, there wasn’t much in prose. I’d read a couple superhero stories in prose. I saw how sometimes some of my predecessors tried things that didn’t work. I read a few of those and I kind of thought that’s not how I’d do it or I’d do it this other way. and. I recognized that there was precedent but not a lot of competition and so I was hoping that it would be a popular but underserved market. That’s just the most popular power fantasy of the age There’s not a lot of competition eventually. I’d say within about an hour of deciding to do the project, I decided it would be a superhero story.

J.P. Der Boghossian

It takes a lot to finish a manuscript when you get started. What was it about the book that kept you going?

April Daniels

I don’t know.

I just put my head down and I kept going and then eventually I had a book. There’s this kind of magic moment about halfway through a book when you start realizing oh okay, this is how it’s gonna end. I was just doing my setups which is where you introduce the characters and you start developing themes and settings and such. Then I was afraid that I was spinning my wheels. It was an organic process. I wasn’t really calculating. It was more like does this feel right? Is this the time to do this? Do I need to set this up earlier? Do I need to do this? At some point it just it made sense. This is how things needed to go. I discovered that I had a complete manuscript.

J.P. Der Boghossian

Was there a particular passage or chapter that you found the most enjoyable to write?

April Daniels

I think my favorite part to write was the bit where Danny rejects the legion and goes off on her own and first really puts her power of flight to use and kind of finds a self-worth. That was probably my favorite part to write.

J.P. Der Boghossian

How so?

April Daniels

 I was just welling up and dredging up things that had been there for a while and that I had a format to express them now. I’d never seen that emotional experience transposed to fiction before. I really enjoyed exploring it and setting it up and playing it out.

J.P. Der Boghossian

Did you find in the writing that you found yourself changing who you were or how you were thinking about your own identity or journey as a human on this planet?

April Daniels

No, that happened after the writing. I didn’t. I was a very marginal person when I was younger. I had difficulty perceiving myself and my place in the world. Then I got published and that was terrifying! Oh My God that was horrifying!! Suddenly not being able to pretend that I’m invisible and realizing that there were a lot of people reading my work and forming opinions about it and in some cases by proxy me. That was a really weird, challenging experience. Learning how to write with the knowledge because I’d never written anything that got published before. So now I’m kind of in the midst of learning how to write. With the understanding that somebody’s going to be looking over my shoulder or at least reading the finished product. That’s been kind of a challenge.

J.P. Der Boghossian

How do you mean? What is that like for you knowing that someone’s over your shoulder?

April Daniels

Writing was an escape for me. It was a way for me to take control of my life in a world that frequently strips me of control. Coming to terms with the fact that writing is an act of pure control but publishing is an act of relinquishment because I let it go, it goes out into the world and then it’s not fully mine anymore. Dreadnought and Sovereign and all the characters associated with these books exist in other people’s heads now. They have meaning to other people that I’ve never met and it’s giving up that control and developing the trust to then go back and write again. It’s something I’m still struggling with to be honest.

J.P. Der Boghossian

How do you navigate that right now? What does that trust look like?

April Daniels

It’s a challenge. I’m trying to find the trust. I’m trying to find the sort of imp of the perverse that I had with me when I was writing because there are a few things in these books where I did not know if I’d be allowed to get away with that. Getting that sense of impunity and freedom back is a challenge.

J.P. Der Boghossian

After the break, Michael and April dive into how our politics drive how we think of and write superheroes.

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J.P. Der Boghossian

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[music]

            J.P. Der Boghossian

            How did the U.S. politics drive how we created superheroes? How should you pick the superpowers you give to them? Michael and April dove into this and I sat back and enjoyed the ride.

Michael Barakiva

Oh my God this is so exciting. I’m curious about how the sociopolitical alternate present that you created was formed?

April Daniels

I went to graduate school for political science. I thought I was going to go into government service. The more I learned about what the world of politics is really like, the more my cognitive dissonance built until it kind of snapped. I washed out pretty hardcore. I was not able to achieve my degree but I did get a pretty decent education on what power politics really works like and how it looks. I was trying to do superheroes but in the real world not in a sense of here’s what an actually heroic person would do if they had this power. More like what kind of institutional infrastructure would we need to see in order to create superheroes as we understand them in the world as we understand it. That ended up being a bunch of powerful but confused liberals defending a visibly faltering status quo. Then I got published three days before Trump was elected so that was kind of a mind fuck.

Michael Barakiva

Oh My God! Oh My God that’s amazing. That’s really interesting. When you were putting together the and I love that you said that one of your favorite sections to write was her rejection of the Legion Pacifica but when you were putting them together and the secondary and tertiary other superheroes, I love their power so much. I’m just curious how you went about creating that power dynamic and those characters. When you created the team of Legion Pacifica, did you think to yourself, oh they need a tank; they need a telepath; they need a…

April Daniels

No, I started with an institutionalist framework first. I wanted to constrain the action mainly to Newport City and so I thought the way to do that would be to give them a district of responsibility or a jurisdiction that focused on the northwest but did not cover the entire country. Basically, it would be a team of sort of medium weight super people with Dreadnought at their core and Karaka as the sort of Iron Man. He was an original content contender for the protagonist. I thought I’ll have a character who finds some magic armor or whatever. But then I went to science fiction. So having Dreadnought linked to or at least implied to be linked somehow to the Foo Fighters of World War 2 also helped create the political backstory that would lead to the current state of affairs. I was much more interested in the structure and the setting and then the characters. I just kind of jotted those down and then spruced them up where they needed to be spruced up. There wasn’t a lot of party balance so to speak it was more like creating a setting and then deciding what kind of people might be there.

Michael Barakiva

You just touched on something that is also really interesting to me and something that I’m wrestling a lot with in These Precious Stones which is how do you think the superhero genre which, let’s say is 100 years old and entered a kind of real mainstream through the MCU twenty years ago, how do you think that genre relates and communicates with fantasy and science fiction?

April Daniels

That’s a good question because it really incorporates elements of all of that. The modern superhero was born basically out of licensing disputes from comic book publishers in the early to mid-twentieth century. The idea of multiverse which Marvel is making a big deal out of showed up in DC comics because they had these golden age characters and then superheroes went through a big slump. The original Flash was a guy who wore a dough boy helmet with wings on it and then there was the silver age Flash who’s the more familiar guy in the red jumpsuit and those were originally completely separate characters.

They didn’t expect that these stories for children would stick around and so when the one generation of fans started hearing rumors of the old Flash because they’d talk with older readers, they were confused about that and then eventually you get this story with a famous comic book cover of both Flashes running to save the same guy who’s about to be crushed by a falling girder and that was really the sort of the camel’s nose under the tent with creating the concept of the multiverse. Similarly, a lot of Marvel’s characters weren’t intended to be in the same setting but they were all owned by the same company. So why not have them hang out with each other? All of these developments were all contingent upon the ebb and flow of the publishing industry at tat time such that it was really sort of a gumbo or a stew of just throwing everything in there and percolating it out. but crucially superheroes always almost always take place in a contemporary setting. They are almost always written to exist in our here and now and so what I think I have been developing is the idea that superheroes are kind of a fantasy setting of Liberalism. The American century of the empowered individual and then the way that they get that empowerment is just sort of a flavor issue. You’ve got Dr. Strange and Iron Man both of those are guys who get by on their wits. One does it with magic. One does it with technology. You’ve got Thor who’s an actual god etc, etc. But they’re all empowered individuals existing in or reacting to the American century and its consequences.

Michael Barakiva

That’s a fascinating history of superheroes and comic books and thank you for sharing that. I’ve sort of drifted from comic books in my last decade or 2 but one of the things that I’ve been really thinking about is how the origin story is so reflective of the moment in which the character is created. Silver Surfer is, you could tell that he’s a 60s creation because he’s on a surfboard. Hulk’s gamma rays are when there is this enormous amount of anxiety about gamma and nuclear experimentation or the Fantastic Four journey to outer space. I’ve been really interested in how the origin story creates an inadvertent timestamp for those characters. I have two podcasts that I love. I love Writing Excuses which is a genre podcast. It focuses on science fiction fantasy and horror and that’s fascinating for me because horror is not a genre I have any relationship to. I don’t want to see scary movies. I don’t want to read scary books. They have no relationship to that genre. I don’t want to be scared. The other one is Cerebro which is Connor Goldsmith’s queer view on X-Men which has really taught me why I was so drawn to the X-Men when I was a child even though I was still closeted to myself and had no explicit experience of those comics through a Queer lens.

Clearly you knew there was going to be a Trans protagonist, but did you think to yourself, how do superhero fantasy or science fiction genres respond to a Trans protagonist, or I just want to write a Trans protagonist in that genre and see what happens? I’m asking because I realize I’m a very young writer in that I came to writing late in my life and I’m only working on my first book. But there’s always a process for me where halfway through I realize what the heart of the book is and with my first book it was what happens when teenaged boys fall in love. The coming out is not the event. I just reached the point where I was tired of coming out stories. I wanted to tell other stories with the second one. It was really about faith and religion. How do Queer people try to reconcile their existence with christianity which is so explicitly homophobic? In so many denominations, specifically the Armenian Orthodox denomination of my protagonist and in this one I use this index card outlining system and the card at the very top is how does a Queer protagonist rewrite the hero’s journey? I’m just curious how explicit or implicit that journey was for you?

April Daniels

I wanted to write a Trans story and I didn’t. I was taking it a step at a time. For the first few chapters I was just focusing on developing Danielle’s immediate reactions to her transformation and then trying to fit that into her life. Little by little she’s kind of pushed into being a superhero. She doesn’t seek it out. She avoids it in fact. It’s only after she is uncomfortable at school and rejects the Legion and gets a friendly gesture from another teenage superhero that she really starts getting into caping. She only does cape that (that’s what they refer to the verb that is the action of being a super is the caping). She only really gets into that once it becomes clear that it will be an escape from all of the things that coming out and transitioning did not solve. I guess that you could read that as a metaphor of the risks and challenges that Queer people and young Queer people especially are forced to confront by our circumstances sometimes. But that kind of evolved organically. That was not like I had it from the beginning that this was how it was gonna go. It’s more like I introduced calamity early on. She’s a hell of a lot of fun to write and I knew that once I had her on stage again, she wouldn’t leave for a while. So, I tried to keep her offstage for most of the first half of the book. Danielle is kind of exploring and explicating her dissatisfactions with life and then calamity shows up to offer her an escape. That ends up bringing them into conflict with all sorts of villains, etc.

Michael Barakiva

I do want to jump in and say one of the many things that I love about your book so much is that the character’s voices are so distinct and the difference between Sarah and Calamity Jane is one of my favorite writer flourishes. I think to myself as I’m writing my book that I feel like if I took one random line of dialogue from the same character of your book and I didn’t know who said it just the syntax and the word choice would tell me who it was and that is something I’m trying to do in in my own writing.

April Daniels

Thank you. I did put effort into that and Calamity is just, oh my God, she’s so fun to write I enjoy her diction immensely.

Michael Barakiva

I think you just knocked that out of the park.

April Daniels

She is quite fun.

Michael Barakiva

I can tell that it is and that you loved writing her. She’s everything you want in that kind of character because she does like Doc Impossible. They just light up their scenes.

J.P. Der Boghossian

I really want to thank you Michael and April for joining us. Clearly, I enjoyed their conversation because I literally just sat there and marveled and then realized oh, our time was up! I suppose that’s not great hosting, but I got caught up in the moment.

I’m a huge fan of the superheros Wiccan and Hulkling in Marvel comics. And it’s no surprise that I tracked down every issue they’ve been in, even the ones where they literally are in four frames.

They’re gay and part of the one of the queerest superhero teams in all of Marvel, the Young Avengers. The other being the Runaways.

And listening to Michael and April, these two exciting and necessary YA authors, talk really made me think about how YA lit is pretty revolutionary and I might be comfortable to say that the most revolutionary queer work is happening in YA. Because young adult characters are coming into their own, in more ways than one, and YA authors are creatively exploring the entire emotional terrain, from representation of marginalized cultural communities to trans superheroes.

It’s refreshing and optimistic and I think if you want to rip down the walls of what’s possible for queer lives, get some Queer YA books. 

J.P. Der Boghossian

Thanks for listening to This Queer Book Saved My Life! Season two drops October 4th! Join us at Lush Lounge and Theatre on August 24 to celebrate Twin Cities Historic LGBTQ nightlife. Details on our website and social. Transcripts of all our episodes are available on our website thisqueerbook.com. Please don’t forget to support our sponsors Robert Berdahl at Edina Realty, Bookshop.org, Alley Cat Antiques, and Quatrefoil Library. And most importantly, keep writing, and keep reading!