What’s your book about? Genderqueer zombie? Werewolf what? What?
Yes. First, this book deals with police violence. It deals with it in a different way than recent realistic-fiction YA like The Hate U Give and Dear Martin, but a character is shot by police near the climax of the book. This book features a scene of physical abuse near the start of the book (Z’s uncle, who hates zombies, shakes them after their eye falls out in church). Z escapes their abusive relative. The book also features some fatphobic and homophobic bullying. There is a reference to a boy having been pushed off a roof. There is also structural racism which impacts characters of color.
Are the werewolves and zombies a metaphor for something?
This book deals with structural oppression which really does exist (homophobia, transphobia, racism, ableism) and oppression which does not exactly mirror real-life oppression (control of werewolves, imprisonment of shapeshifters). I am interested in using speculative fiction to talk about oppression, but magical oppression in my book doesn’t have 1:1 correlation to real oppression.
Is Z a boy or a girl?
There are multiple transgender characters in Out of Salem. Z, one of the protagonists, is genderqueer and uses they/them pronouns. People may also use the word nonbinary to describe Z. There are two other out transgender characters (a trans man and trans girl) who are both homeless werewolf anarchists.
There’s a typo in your author bio– it says “xie”, and that’s not a real word. Pronouns? What?
I am transgender and use the pronouns xie/hir (pronounced Zee, Heer, as in: xie reshelved about 145 books after hir preschool class visit) in addition to the pronouns he/him. I prefer xie/hir for contexts where I am presenting as an author. I identify as a genderfluid trans man. I am down to talk about my identity to teenagers if they want to talk about it. I will talk to adults about it too, but depending on the situation, you may need to pay me.
It’s so cool that radical fiction like this finally exists! How does it feel to be the first transgender fantasy author/first transgender YA author/first anti-state YA author?
Out of Salem is not: the first YA with a transgender protagonist, the first YA with a genderqueer character who uses they/them pronouns, the first fantasy book by a nonbinary author, the first YA novel to say cops are bad, etc. There is a long and storied tradition of people writing wacky, trans, and otherwise radical books! Out of Salem may be the first YA to feature a genderqueer zombie, but I don’t make any claims on that. I’m not the first anything, not the only anything, and won’t be the last anything.
As a librarian and an author, I deeply want to see all kinds of transgender fiction, and all anarchist etc fiction, circulate, get read, and get recommended. Some of my favorite YA trans books are Birthday by Meredith Russo (love story), Lizard Radio by Pat Schmatz (anti-authoritarian), PET by Akwaeke Emezi (anti-state and anti-capitalist and pro-restorative justice), and Dreadnought by April Daniels (superheroes). If you’re interested in learning more about transgender YA, please see Ray Stoeve’s master list of YA and middle-grade (ages 8-13) titles by and about trans people.
Is Aysel Turkish? Are you Turkish?
Aysel, the 14-year-old lesbian werewolf, is Turkish-American and Muslim. I am not Turkish-American, a lesbian, or Muslim; I asked a Turkish-American poet named LEYLA ÇOLPAN to read my book as I was revising and give feedback on what I could do better.
Why is Aysel fat?
Because a lot of people are fat, and fatness isn’t bad. A lot of teens get constant messaging that they should hate their bodies if they are fat, and I think that’s wrong. I hope I wrote Aysel in a way that makes it clear that her worth, and many competencies, have nothing to do with her body size.
How long is this book?
This book is kind of long (448 pages). If teachers were going to only ask students to read part of the book because of time considerations, I think chapters 1-2, chapter 9, and chapter 14 are best.
Can you give me a free copy of your book? Can you give me (x) free copies?
I am unable to provide free physical copies of Out of Salem to classes or book clubs that want to use it. However, if you are having a hard time getting a copy of the book, email me and I will help you find a way to access the text via PDF or e-book. It is also available in many public libraries!