If you’re a lover of LGBT+ romance in YA books, you would’ve definitely heard of a highly recommended 2020 release, The Gravity of Us. Today’s post for the Pride Month Features has Phil Stamper, the author of this queer YA romance, on the blog to answer questions that dive into writing historical fiction and gay romance.

As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus.

Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another “Astrokid,” and finds himself falling head over heels–fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.

Expertly capturing the thrill of first love and the self-doubt all teens feel, debut author Phil Stamper is a new talent to watch.

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Q/A with Phil Stamper

You have mentioned in your interview with The Nerd Daily that you first saw The Gravity of Us as a YA historical fiction but it ended up being a contemporary novel—and a great one at that. How were you able to infuse the relevant timeline of modern narration with the nostalgia of the past background of space missions that had first inspired you?

This is a great question, and it’s something I grappled with a lot over the course of writing the novel. The setting for The Gravity of Us is unique in that they’re simultaneously stepping onto a TV set (thanks to the reality show StarWatch) and a nostalgia-heavy recreation of the 60s space race (thanks to NASA). The smartest thing I did when balancing all this was actually making my main character a bit of a cynic. Cal’s a social media journalist who never fully buys into the reality show or the retro aesthetic, and I think having a cynical voice leading the story really kept the story grounded in the present.

The Gravity of Us is one of the most recommended comfort books and readers love the gay romance that unfolds amidst the media-induced space drama while focusing on the emotional impact of being an ‘Astrokid’—and a queer teen. What is the process of crafting such a balanced story that dives into heavy themes but gives all the happiness too?

I think the balance of heavy topics and light, aspirational moments is what makes contemporary YA so enjoyable for me. This book is a romance, so I wanted that happily-ever-after (or happily-for-now) story. I also kept the main characters more or less protected from homophobia on the page so their love story could flourish. My editor is also really good at highlighting moments where I can expand on characterization and just let my characters have fun, which helps me focus on the joy around them as equally as the stress.

Cal and Leon’s story is bound to leave the readers wanting for more so it’s only predictable to ask you what future work(s) should everyone be excited for. Also, till the enthusiasts wait for your next book(s), what should they read after The Gravity of Us—to experience a YA queer romance and the realistic tides of feelings?

As for what to read next, I would recommend Camp by L. C. Rosen and Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender. Both of those novels have great romantic storylines, and they capture that same balance between presenting meaningful issues and celebrating queer joy.

My sophomore novel, As Far As You’ll Take Me, follows 17-year-old Marty Pierce, who leaves an unsupportive living environment in Kentucky and moves to London to pursue his dream of being a professional musician. Along the way, he finds friends who become his new family, tries to figure out how to have a relationship with his friends and family back home, struggles to manage his overwhelming anxiety, and even falls in love… with the wrong boy. It’ll be out in February 2021, and I’ll be revealing the cover and preorder information soon, so keep an eye out for that!

Phil Stamper grew up in a rural village near Dayton, Ohio. He has a B.A. in Music and an M.A. in Publishing with Creative Writing. And, unsurprisingly, a lot of student debt. He works for a major book publisher in New York City and lives in Brooklyn with his husband and their dog. THE GRAVITY OF US is his first novel, but he’s no stranger to writing. His self-insert Legend of Zelda fanfiction came with a disclaimer from the 14-year old author: “Please if you write a review don’t criticize my work.” He has since become more open to critique… sort of.

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