Ray Stoeve is the debut author of Between Perfect and Real. Pride Book Tours has kindly arranged a Q&A between myself and Ray Stoeve which you can find below.
Dean Foster knows he’s a trans guy. He’s watched enough YouTube videos and done enough questioning to be sure. But everyone at his high school thinks he’s a lesbian—including his girlfriend Zoe, and his theater director, who just cast him as a “nontraditional” Romeo. He wonders if maybe it would be easier to wait until college to come out. But as he plays Romeo every day in rehearsals, Dean realizes he wants everyone to see him as he really is now––not just on the stage, but everywhere in his life. Dean knows what he needs to do. Can playing a role help Dean be his true self?
Between Perfect and Real is an emotional read, both uplifting and heart-wrenching, was the writing process a similarly emotional journey?
There were definitely highs and lows in the process of writing this book! Moments when I didn’t know how to make it into the kind of book I imagined in my head, times when I was sure no one would want to publish it. On the other end of the spectrum, finding community and discovering that so many people wanted to see my book in the world—agents, editors, other writers and readers alike—was hugely encouraging. And of course, writing through all the emotions Dean experiences, and returning to the feelings rollercoaster of my own teenage years and early adulthood, was quite a ride. Seeing the positive response to the book leading up to and after release has given me so much joy and I can’t wait for UK readers to discover it too.
What drew you to writing for a young adult audience?
First and foremost, I wanted to see more queer and trans representation in young adult books. What I had growing up was pretty limited, and I wanted to help change that. Also, I love YA just as a reader, so it was natural to write in a category I already enjoy personally. I also love the depth and breadth of topics you can explore in YA; I worked in education for a short time, and YA for me is almost a form of teaching, of facilitating an exploration of themes, ideas, and experiences that teens often have but don’t necessarily get to address in the classroom.
Can you describe Between Perfect and Real in five words?
Honest, heartwrenching, funny, affirming, and uplifting.
Is there a favourite quote you can share from Between Perfect and Real?
To be honest, I think the opening lines are my favorite! “I think I might be trans. I mean, I know I am. I think.” That was the hardest part of the book for me, because it took me so long to figure out the right way to open it. But when I thought of this line, it encapsulated for me the rollercoaster of coming out and transition that myself and so many other trans people I know have been through, and cut right to the heart of Dean’s experience.
What is the best advice you can give to aspiring writers that would have helped you when you started writing?
Don’t listen to anyone who tells you there’s only one right way to write or be a writer. Cultivate the writing habits and style that works for you, and read widely in the genres and categories you want to write in; this will help inspire you and expose you to different techniques and ways of writing. Figure out why your characters are the way they are, even the minor ones; each of them is the main character in their own storyline. Pull from your own life experience, your heartbreaks and joys, the ideas and events you’ve most struggled with; your writing will be stronger if you write the stories only you can tell.
Did you listen to any particular songs while writing?
Yes! I make a playlist for each of my manuscripts that helps me get in the headspace of that particular story while I write. Lorde, Tegan & Sara, Taylor Swift, The Cure, and David Bowie all appear multiple times on Dean’s playlist, particularly “Rebel Rebel” by Bowie; I think of that song as Dean’s theme song.
Which three authors would you love to meet?
China Mieville, who is one of my favorite sci-fi/fantasy authors of all time; Judy Blume, because her books deeply influenced my young adult writing; and in an ideal world, Leslie Feinberg, who has passed away, but whose book Stone Butch Blues changed my life when I read it at age nineteen.
Thank you so much to Ray Stoeve and Pride Book Tours for this Q&A. I love Ray Stoeve’s writing advice about minor characters; ‘each of them is the main character in their own storyline’. Look out for my review o Between Perfect and Real soon.
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