YA author Jason June, whose breakout teen debut novel, Jay’s Gay Agenda wowed readers and critics alike, is back with a new novel, Out of the Blue, a stand-alone dual LGBTQ POV rom-com that asks is love enough to conquer your way of life and everything you’ve grown up believing.
A merperson falls for a lifeguard during their mandatory month on land where they must help a human in order to become an Elder. The one thing that merperson Crest didn’t plan on was falling for lifeguard Sean while helping him win his ex-boyfriend back by making him jealous.
Jason, who prefers to go by JJ these days, has planned to be a merperson since he first saw The Little Mermaid and strongly identified with King Triton’s daughters. While he waits for his fin to appear, JJ writes young adult works full of queer joy, love, lust, and magic.
When JJ launched the book in June, he discussed his love for all things merpeople with our congenial queen (and fan) Nina West and now, JJ talks to us about the inspiration for the novel, which Publisher’s Weekly raved, “hilariously highlights the often messy realism of interpersonal relationships, and uses that realistic grounding to build toward a true-to-life—rather than picture-perfect—conclusion.” and what’s next for him in our exclusive interview. Dive in and get to know more about this engaging voice in YA literature.
Were you surprised by the success of Jay’s Gay Agenda?
I was definitely blown away by the reactions! It’s been so fun to see folks’ varied responses to my little messy gay Jay.
Describe how this new book came to be. What inspired you to write it?
I’ve always been totally enamored with merpeople, and knew I’d have to write a novel with a merperson at the center of the story. I’m also fascinated with the way we can fall in love with physical spaces, be them cities or houses or public locations. And I thought what better way to explore love for a space than a merperson, who loves the ocean, but then finds themself in a serious crisis of self when they have to literally choose between love for their home or love for a person that they never expected to come across during their time on land.
What is your writing process like? Do you have someone specific in mind (as your audience) when you are writing?
I definitely keep in mind queer teens today when I’m writing. I want my stories to be fun and fast-paced and an example of the type of queer joy I hope we can see more and more of, especially now when we see constant attacks on LGBTQIA+ rights and existence.
What is the appeal of merfolk to you?
There’s just something so magical about being able to live underwater away from the pressures of human society. I’m also so in love with the idea of a group of people not hung up on arbitrary gender rules based on parts. When everybody’s just got a tail, there’s no, “Oh, since you have this part you must look and act and dress like this”, you know?
What’s the better mermaid movie – The Little Mermaid or Splash?
This is such a wishy-washy answer, but they’re tied! Why do we have to pit merpeople against each other? 🙂
I asked before about making a film out of your books. Who would you love to see in a film adaptation of Out of the Blue?
I’d really love to see queer actors playing these roles. I try not to get too hung up on a specific person, because then that sort of closes your mind off to realizing other people you hadn’t even thought of could be perfect for the role.
When you chatted with Nina West about the launch of the book, you had mentioned the original draft was much darker. Do you ever want to put that version out into the world (perhaps for an older audience)?
That version will never see the light of day! It just wasn’t me. I’m not an overly dark person, so it just didn’t sound like I knew what I was doing when I wrote it. I’m much more of a gay Muppet kind of person, so it’d be like asking Gonzo to write a deep drama.
What are your earliest book-related memories? Are there any works or authors that significantly impacted you as a kid?
I was completely ROBSESSED with the Animorphs series by K.A. Applegate. Those books taught me how you can get so wrapped up in a world (or entire universe, in the case of this sci-fi series) and characters just from words printed on a page. I have such a soft spot in my heart for these books, and they definitely set me on the path to becoming a writer.
If you could “Jason June-ify” any book, which would you choose (and what changes would you make)?
I definitely wouldn’t want to step on the toes of any other writers who put their whole heart and soul into their book, so I’m going to choose a story out there that doesn’t have a book yet that I’d love to write. If the world ever needed a queer YA take on teen Jareth from Labyrinth starring David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly, I would love to write it. It’d be so campy and magical!
Is there anything you’re still hoping to achieve as an author? Are there other worlds you want to discover?
I am completely in love with Christmas, so I know I for sure need to write a gay holiday story at some point!
What’s next for you?
I’ve got two YA novels coming out in 2023 that I’m so excited about! First up in May is Riley Weaver Needs A Date to the Gaybutante BalL, and it’s about the ups and downs of dating as a gay femme person, as well as how labels regarding our gender and sexuality can both limit and liberate us. Then in October there’s The Spells We Cast, the first in a fantasy duology about a magical cowboy with elven powers and the sprite descendant he must compete against (and totally fall for) in a magic competition.