Interview with Kelly From Stacked Shelves

1. Who are your auto buy authors?

I will autobuy anything by Courtney Summers, Tiffany Schmidt, Sarah McCarry, Nova Ren Suma, Brandy Colbert (eagerly awaiting her second like wild!), and Trish Doller on the YA side.
On the adult side, I’ll buy anything by Julia Wertz, most Haruki Murakami, Megan Abbott, and Gillian Flynn. I used to also autobuy Curtis Sittenfeld but stopped for some reason, but her next book looks like it’ll be an autobuy for me.

2. How long have you been blogging about books?
I’ve been blogging at STACKED since April 2009, so 6.5 years. In terms of blogging itself, I had a LiveJournal when that opened a long, long time ago. I have total access to most of my teenage writing, journal entries, and a lot of book thoughts, since I often wrote about books there, too.
3. In your opinion, what needs to change about YA?
The same issues prevalent in publishing more broadly are prevalent in YA: white men dominate everything. They reign on the bestsellers list, they take home awards, and they’re sent out on publicity tours/campaigns far more than females are. Worse, though, is they’re seen as heroes and saviors of YA, despite the fact women paved the way for them to succeed. That doesn’t mean they aren’t writing great things or getting people to read. They definitely are. But the idolization of the white male author can stop any time.
4. How do you feel authors can make their books more diversified?
This is the kind of question I as a white woman shouldn’t be answering. Plenty of men and women of color have spoken about this much more eloquently than I am or ever could. Malinda Lo, Justina Ireland, Cindy Pon, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, and the entire crew behind We Need Diverse Books have written and talked so much about this. Their voices are the ones needing to be heard on this issue, not mine.
What authors — and readers — can and should do is promote the books doing it well and talk about the problems in the books that don’t do diversity well. Diversity isn’t about quotas or check boxes. These are real people and real lives here, and it’s my obligation as a white woman to shut up, listen, and then amplify their concerns and do better. It’s not about me. It’s about them. And to do better, I need to let them speak louder.
On a personal note: I make it my mission not to buy books by white men. Not that I don’t read them, but I get those books from the library. Because my money matters, I’m spending it on books by women and people of color. Full stop.
5. What do you want to see more of in books?
I will forever be wanting “Save the Last Dance” from the dude’s point of view. Because we don’t have enough black male leads in YA fiction, and we don’t have any black male leads who are dancers in YA that I know of.
Basically, I want more stories from more voices that are about lives we don’t see enough in the mainstream.
6. What book trends do you think are over?
I don’t necessarily think that trends need to be “over” since there are literally always readers looking for something — I know this from experience working with teens in the library. Vampires still matter. Werewolves still matter. Dystopians still matter.
What I am over, though, are novels which read as though they’re nostalgia for the author’s teen years. I don’t care about being a teen in the 80s or 90s unless it’s tied down to a particular moment in history (Skyscraping by Cordelia Jensen, for example, is about the AIDS fear and epidemic in relation to her parents’ relationship and her father being gay — that’s how to make the time frame work). Teens who wax poetic about bands that were cool back in those times but the stories are set in today’s time aren’t real to me, either.
And perhaps the thing that’s most unpopular to say: I’m pretty much over illustrated covers for YA. Some of them still look unique, but the vast majority all look the same to me. They’re getting boring and overused, and they’re making it difficult to tell apart.
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