Adam Silvera joins Jeff to talk about the Infinity Cycle series, and the new book Infinity Reaper. Adam discusses how the books have evolved from outline to finished story and that after publishing four contemporary young adult books, writing urban fantasy was actually a return to his roots. He also shares a few details about the forthcoming book sequel to What If It’s Us, the book he co-wrote with Becky Albertalli. Adam offers a book recommendation too.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find many more outstanding podcasts at frolic.media/podcasts!
Here are the things we talk about in this episode. Please note, these links include affiliate links for which we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase.
- Throwing Hearts by N.R. Walker on Amazon (audiobook on Libro.fm)
- Rainbow Space Magic website
- The Gilda Stories by Jewelle Gomez on Amazon
- Episode 245: J. Scott Coatsworth & Angel Martinez Discuss Rainbow Space Magic on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- 11 Black Authors Writing Amazing LGBTQ+ Characters on Frolic
- Clubhouse website
- #100 Stories #100 Days on WillKnauss.com
- Adam Silvera Interview
- Adam Silvera: website | Twitter | Instagram
- Infinity Cycle series by Adam Silvera on Amazon (audiobooks also on Libro.fm)
- Infinity Son by Adam Silvera on Amazon (audiobook also on Libro.fm)
- Infinity Reaper by Adam Silvera on Amazon (audiobook also on Libro.fm)
- City of Bones by Cassandra Clare on Amazon (audiobook also on Libro.fm)
- X-Men Comics on Marvel
- Supernatural on Netflix
- Charmed (Original Series) on Peacock
- More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera on Amazon (audiobook also on Libro.fm)
- The Postmortal by Drew Magary on Amazon (audiobook also on Libro.fm)
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins on Amazon (audiobook on Libro.fm)
- What if It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera on Amazon (audiobook also on Libro.fm)
- Here’s to Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera on Amazon (pre-order until December 28, 2021)
- They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera on Amazon (audiobook also on Libro.fm)
- Fable on IGN
- Young Elites series by Marie Lu on Amazon (audiobooks on Libro.fm)
- Halo on IGN
- Gears of War on IGN
- We Need Diverse Books website
- How It All Blew Up by Arvin Ahmadi on Amazon (audiobook on Libro.fm)
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Patreon.com
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast patrons on BGFP website
- Libro.fm website (use this link to receive your Big Gay Fiction Podcast special offer)
- Frolic Podcast Network website
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Jeff: Coming up on this episode, we talk to Adam Silvera about his brand new book, “Infinity Reaper.”
Will: Welcome to episode 291 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of gay romance fiction. I’m Will Knauss with me as always is my co-host and husband, Mr. Jeff Adams.
Jeff: Hello everybody.
Will: Welcome back Rainbow Romance Readers. We are so glad that you can join us for another episode of the show.
It is officially March. And you know what that means. We’ve got an announcement. I’m very pleased to announce that the March Big Gay Fiction Book Club selection is going to be N.R. Walker’s “Throwing Hearts.” It’s certainly the cutest thing I’ve read in a long time, possibly ever.
Jeff: I agree. It was so freaking adorable. I loved it so, so much. And I’m excited to get to talk to you about it.
Will: Pottery, crotchety seniors and lots and lots of sweet romance.
Now members of our Patreon community, we’ll get a sneak preview of this episode coming up this week. It will become available to everyone else in the regular podcast feed on Thursday, March 25th.
Jeff: Make sure you pick up “Throwing Hearts” if you haven’t read yet. You will not regret it.
We want to let everybody know that Rainbow Space Magic, which is an online LGBTQ plus science fiction and fantasy convention, is back for a second year the weekend of March 12th through the 14th. Among the events are a keynote address from author Jewelle Gomez, who wrote the first black lesbian vampire novel, “The Gilda Stories.” And that was a winner of two 1991 Lambda Literary Awards.
You can find the complete schedule, author list and registration information at RainbowSpaceMagic.org. And if you want to hear more from the organizers, you can catch the interview we did with J. Scott Coatsworth and Angel Martinez last year for the debut of this con. You can find that in episode 245.
Will: And in another little tidbit of news that we’d like to share, this past week Frolic Media featured an article we wrote on 11 Black authors writing incredible LGBTQ+ stories who have appeared on our show. The article showcases Xio Axlerod, Jayce Ellis, Riley Hart, Adriana Herrera, Fredrick Smith and Chaz Lamar, LaQuette, Joe Okonkwo, Christa Tomlinson, A.E. Via and Julian Winters.
We think that these are all authors who should be on your TBR. We’ll have a link to the article on our shownotes page so that you can learn more about these amazing authors.
Jeff: We also made our first appearance on Clubhouse this week. I was in a conversation with Frolic’s Sarah Penna and we had a conversation about our five favorite LGBTQ romance novels. Now it would be no surprise that I had stuff from my always go-tos. I talked about Sarina Bowen, TJ Klune, Lucy Lennox, Adriana Herrera and Casey McQuiston. It was a wonderful conversation and really the first time I’ve dug into Clubhouse. And if you don’t know what Clubhouse is, it is this new, everybody’s sort of talking about it, social media platform that is all about audio. People can come in, have panel discussions. You can raise your hand, come up on the stage, say a few things.
It’s a really interesting place. If you’re on Clubhouse, make sure to follow me @BigGayFiction. And I also want to recommend if you’re there, check out the Diverse Shelves Club, where they really are working to amplify books by BIPOC and LGBTQ authors and basically they’re trying to amplify all of own voices. And it’s a really interesting place where they’re always talking about books that you probably want to add to your TBR. So check that out and, keep an eye on our social channels for more stuff that we’ll be doing on Clubhouse in the future.
Will: And, one last bit of personal news before we get to this week’s author interview. Jeff and I are still taking part in the 100 Day Project. If you’re listening to this on the day that it goes live, we have just hit day 30.
Jeff: Yay us! One third of the way through.
Will: So in terms of progress, I feel pretty good about everything that I’ve been doing.
My attempt to draw 100 hearts in 100 days and post those online is still going strong. My attempt to read 100 stories in 100 days and write reviews and share my thoughts on those stories on my various social media channels that’s still going strong as well. Although I was talking with Jeff just the other day and I’m starting to feel a tad bit burnt out because in addition to this 100 Day Project, I’m also still reading full length work to be reviewed here on the show and it’s starting to get to be a lot.
Not that I’m not enjoying it. I will always love gay fiction. But, you know, that old saying you can never have too much of a good thing. I think I’m starting to reach the like upper threshold of what I’m capable of consuming. So we’ll see how that goes for the rest of the a hundred days, but still going pretty well.
Also, Jeff and I have been working on our diets since we started the challenge on January 31st. We’ve been watching what we’ve been eating plus doing some intermittent fasting. And in the first 30 days I’ve dropped 15 pounds and Jeff has dropped close to 20.
Jeff: Yeah, it’s been really good. Getting into a healthier eating habit and I’m dealing with intermittent fasting far better than I thought I would. I wasn’t sure I could go for such a long span of time. Like, especially in the morning before I got to breakfast, but so far so good there.
As I’ve said before on the show, and I will say it again for the rest of the hundred days I am sure—your heart drawings absolutely delight me. Every single morning, this new heart gets produced and I’m just like, “Awwww, so cute.”
I’ve also been working on writing every single day in this hundred days. My plan is to always write at least 30 minutes. Most days I’m writing more than that. I’m actively working on a short story that’ll get published later this year. So yeah, so far so good on the a hundred day project. As we hit day 30.
Now I have to say it was such a thrill for me to talk to this week’s guest, Adam Silvera. I love what I do on the podcast. I get to talk to so many amazing authors, but then there are these moments where I talk to an author who is a major influence on my writing specifically. And in Adam’s case, it’s especially of the writing that I do for my young adult stories.
A few episodes back, I actually reviewed “Infinity Son” to be ready for “Infinity Reaper” that comes out this week. Adam talks about creating the world in this series and what readers can expect with the new book. He also shares a little bit about another project he’s got coming out this year, which is this equal to “What If It’s Us,” the book that he co-wrote a few years ago with Becky Albertalli. This interview is packed with such good stuff, and I hope you guys enjoy it.
Adam Silvera Interview
Jeff: Adam, welcome to the podcast. It is so wonderful to have you here.
Adam: Thank you so much for having me. I’m super excited to talk about everything.
Jeff: And a lot of that everything involves the second book in the Infinity cycle that comes out this week. It’s called the “Infinity Reaper.” But before we get to that, let’s set the stage a little bit for folks who have not read the series yet with the first book “Infinity Son.” Tell us about this story and the brothers, Emil and Brighton.
Adam: Absolutely. So “Infinity Son” is my fifth book that I’ve published but it is my first fantasy novel. And it takes place in an alternate New York where magic is real. The people who have powers are called Celestials, and people who steal powers from mythical creatures such as phoenixes and basilisks, they’re known as specters. And the brothers, Emil and Brighton, have grown up in this world. And so you get to see, sort of, magic play out from social media angles as well. And you have Brighton who is a big social media head. He loves Instagram, and YouTube, has his own channel and aspires for fame. And then Emil is our softer brother who works at the museum gift shop.
And, yeah, it explores what happens when Emil finds himself with the powers of a special kind of phoenix and Brighton doesn’t. So, it really creates this really fun dynamic where Emil has powers he doesn’t want, and Brighton is just obsessed over Emil’s powers and wants them for himself.
Jeff: The dynamic between them was so interesting between being on essentially equal footing and then ending up with getting exactly what one didn’t want and the other one didn’t get it at all. Was that as fun to play with as I think it would be?
Adam: It was. And it’s really interesting too because I originally didn’t design this story to be a brotherhood story. You know Emil was my main character and then I had really loved the name Brighton but I had, kind of, intended that to be for Emil’s love interest. And then while writing the first sentence of the book, Emil says something like, “My brother, Brighton.” And I’m like, “Your brother? I have a whole outline that does not include a brother. Where is this coming from?” But I followed it and I was like, “Oh, this is a really interesting dynamic.” I have an older brother. He’s two years older, and Emil and Brighton are twins.
But, yeah, I had so much fun with Emil being this chosen one who really doesn’t wanna be chosen. He’s not excited to be the hero. His anxiety is really spiraling because of it, and then Brighton just, sort of finding himself in his brother’s shadow for the first time even though he’s been the overachiever his entire life and just getting more and more envious as the book progresses.
Jeff: Yeah, and that’s putting it lightly that he became more envious. One of the things I like so much about the way that you structured this book to get us integrated into it, your lead-in is kind of like the classic disaster movie setup where you see the universe, you meet all of these characters, you kind of see their normalcy before everything pivots. And I love how much normalcy you gave us, not just with the characters, but with the world you created.
Adam: Yeah. Thank you. I mean, it’s interesting, because, you know what people don’t like the most about the book I would say is because I don’t stop and explain every single new magical term, basically. But that didn’t feel organic for me because Emil and Brighton have lived in this world, right? And it’s told from their perspective. So they’re not gonna stop and explain everything that they’ve grown up knowing, you know?
I think so much about a lot of my favorite books growing up, including “Harry Potter” or “City of Bones,” where the characters were new to those worlds. So, as the reader, we got to learn things as the characters were learning them, right? That was such an easy way to do it. But when you’ve grown up with phoenixes being creatures already you’re not gonna stop and take a paragraph to explain what a phoenix is in the same way that no one ever stops to explain what a pigeon is in New York because you do that, and then it starts othering your world, you know? And I’m like, “No it’s contemporary for them. It’s special but not really.”
And, yeah, so it was always my goal to just make it feel like I was true to the character’s voices. So, I don’t know. Sometimes it could be a lot to take in but readers are smart. You pick up on it and you catch on.
Jeff: And that’s another of the many things that I liked is because you didn’t take the moment to take the info dump. It’s like, “Okay, there’s phoenix powers. These are the celestials This is this.” And I just took it in as I went and I wasn’t, “Wait, what?” You know?
Adam: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s about giving the reader what they actually need. And I promise you like everyone… There’ve been a lot of people who were like, “I wanna know who the first celestial was.” I’m like, “Do you know who the first witch or wizard was in ‘Harry Potter?’ You don’t. You do not. We never got that information and you were fine. Like, I promise you, it’s gonna be okay.”
I know it’s a love for the world as well where you want more of it. I’ve been that reader. I wanna know who the first mutant was and stuff like that. I mean, I guess we do know that like Apocalypse but just in terms of other other fandoms or whatever, you really… When you love something, you love it, you know? But, for me, it just wasn’t important to share that information.
And there were actually a lot of things that were included in the book, and my editor and I had numerous conversations about what do we actually wanna keep here. Because when you start including all these details about your fantasy world, you’re asking your reader to commit them to memory because maybe it’s going to be important in that book. So, if I give you 20 new terms or whatever but only 4 are integral to the main central plot of this installment, then you’re gonna be so distracted. You’re gonna be like, “Well, what happened to that magical ring that we learned about in Chapter 7 or where’s the…?” I don’t have magical rings in my book, just a random example. But you start paying attention to these things and it’s like, “Oh, I guess that was just a cool little detail.” You know, and I had tons of cool little details in the book that could have been more fun for some people, but I wanna arm you with what you need for the story.
And I think there are a couple instances with “Infinity Son” especially where there are some sentences that are gonna appear, kind of throwaway. And they’re huge in Book 2, you know? But it wasn’t necessary for you to have all the information yet, so I felt like I’ll just hold on to it until it’s actually more in your face.
Jeff: As the reader, I also like that because I mean, it’s like what you could run into when you’re writing a mystery. If you point out too many things that are red herrings, it becomes like, “Oh, my God, what? What’s going on?”
Adam: A hundred percent. Yeah, and I’ve always felt that way when reading thrillers. I’m like, “Okay.” And then it starts feeling really dizzying. And I do think great thrillers do know how to throw you off a scent a little bit. But sometimes you play your hand too heavily. And I’m like, “I don’t wanna do that.” I want the fiction to feel true to the characters, whether it’s a fantasy world or a contemporary world. That perspective I’m in, that’s where I give the most thought to. It’s not, how can I make this easier for the reader? Maybe that’s my failure as an author but as an artist that is how I work through my books.
Jeff: “Infinity Son” was a giant shift for you after four contemporary young adult books. And now you’re over in urban fantasy. What was it like for you to kind of take that leap and create a lot of your own world? I mean, I loved, as a former New Yorker, how many New York reference points I got in alternate New York but still, big leap. You had a lot of stuff to create here.
Adam: Yeah, I mean, I had… So what’s really funny for me is that I got into writing when I was 11, and I was writing fantasy stories. So, for me to have published so many more realistic novels, that was more jarring for me than the fact that I was transitioning to becoming a published fantasy author at Book 5. For me, this was coming home in a lot of ways. My writing roots are 100% in fantasy, and in the shows I watched, and the video games I played, and the books I read, and the movies I have watched. It has always been fantasy. I mean, I had comic books that I was drawing me in magical situations and friends in magical situations. And that was my true joy.
And what was more of a challenge was sort of finding my own voice in fantasy just because a lot of my early fantasy writing experiences were rooted in fanfiction which I always recommend for aspiring authors and emerging writers just because it gives you this opportunity to just focus on the craft of writing and the joy of it without having to create your own magical system or characters from scratch or whatever. You have your templates, and now just go have fun and go write and see if you can commit to it.
But now I wasn’t doing fanfiction. I was creating my own world, and that was definitely a challenge. And I wanted to pay homages to some of my favorite stories growing up, which, of course, included “X-Men,” and “Harry Potter,” and “Supernatural,” and “Charmed.” And those are really formative stories for me growing up, but what does an Adam Silvera now look like? Well, it looks a lot queerer than all those other stories. So, you have a gay chosen one, you have a bisexual shapeshifter, you have a bisexual vigilante, I mean, and tons of other queer presences throughout the novel as well. I often tell people, “If you wanted ‘X-Men’ to be just a little bit gayer check out ‘Infinity Son,’ ”
Jeff: That’s a perfect tagline.
Adam: Yeah. I mean, “X-Men” is… it’s queer throughout the comics, but you’re not seeing that in the mainstream movies at present. I just wanted to serve that side of me and just write a fantasy novel that I think I would have absolutely obsessed over more than 10 years ago.
Jeff: And I love that it’s queer without queer being the most important thing about any of these people.
Adam: Nope, no one’s coming out, which, you know, those stories are all valid. That is not what I needed for this book, you know? And I’ve told my coming out stories, too. And maybe I’ll tell more, but I know for sure that I’ll tell more. I have an idea I’m really excited about. But in this space, I’m like, “No, I want them to be out, and cool, and accepted, and definitely recognizing what it means to be a queer person in the world and the prejudices that we can encounter.” But for the most part all the real danger comes from the magical war that they’re participating in.
Jeff: And I guess flip my question around the original question I just asked, all that fantasy, how did you end up writing contemporaries for your first novels?
Adam: Yeah, that’s a really great question. You know, I think writing has always been therapeutic for me, and especially within the past 11, 12 years or so. And I just recently started going to therapy consistently in the past year, you know? And it completely changed my life. Before that, writing was my therapy. I tell everyone writing was therapy before therapy. And that’s how I just was able to sort through my feelings about everything I’ve been through, my traumas, my history, the things I wanted for myself, my fears especially.
My books tend to always be generated by a fear of mine. And I was going through a lot of stuff in my early 20s, and I needed to write about it. And the story originally was designed to be this big dystopian trilogy and then this is my first novel “More Happy Than Not” which, right now in its published form, is about a 16-year-old boy named Aaron Soto who wants to forget that he’s gay through a memory alteration procedure. But before that, the idea was much bigger. It was about bounty hunters who were previously gay, and then they had their minds wiped. And now they became bounty hunters to track down other gay people. And completely different story. It bored me writing it within Chapter 1 to the point where I killed off the main character. Genuinely, I was, like, “Oh, that’s not it for me.”
And then I read an adult novel, “The Postmortal,” by Drew Magary, and it’s a standalone novel that takes place in a world where death… They have an injection that prevents you from dying of aging completely. So you can get the shot at three months, and you’ll be three months for the rest of your life or whatever, you know?
And so, yeah, it was really interesting. I was like, “Oh, my God, if this has been a YA novel, especially when dystopian was really big, this would have been a trilogy for sure.” And I really admired how the story had such a grounded approach and was able to tell it within a single volume that inspired me to do the same with my book. And I just loved being able to write about the Bronx with just a slight hook of speculative fiction attached to it that keeps the book shelved in contemporary realistic sections even though there’s a small sci-fi element to it. And I think that’s true for a lot of my books.
Jeff: And certainly, the characters that you’ve got here in “Infinity Son,” I mean, it’s certainly in their tradition of the characters that you’ve created in all the books. They’re very strong teenagers kind of, figuring themselves out. There’s a lot of messiness involved with that. Were those characters more difficult to find their balance in this grander stage of the magical war that’s happening?
Adam: Yes and no. You know, it’s so tricky, because I went back and forth numerous times on how I was gonna tell this story. Is it just Emil’s perspective? I was like, “Okay, maybe it’s just Emil and Brighton, the brothers.” And then I was like, “Okay, but they’re both so close. And, yes, they do have varying perspectives, especially for twins, but I wanted someone who was more grown up within the world and with power.”
So that’s where Maribelle Lucero comes from and she’s the daughter of the Spell Walkers who are basically our X-Men of the novel in short. And she’s, kind of, grown up in that spotlight as well. And I’m like, “Okay, we now have the perspective of someone who has grown up with powers versus Emil who gets them very early on in ‘Infinity Son.’ ” And then she’s a celestial, which means she was born with powers and I wanted the perspective of someone who is a specter a.k.a. they got their powers from the blood of a creature. And I’m like, “Okay. What does it take for you to make that leap and make that choice?” you know?
And that’s where Ness Arroyo came from. And at one point, I cut Ness out of the book and then wrote him back in a week before the advanced copies went to print. It was wild.
Jeff: I’m so glad you wrote him back in because he is one of my favorites.
Adam: And he’s kind of… He’s the fan-favorite of the series. And it’s so interesting because everyone loves him so much. And he has, I think, the fewest amount of chapters. His chapters are so short because I had to protect a lot about his identity in that novel for a few reasons, which is one of the reasons I’d written him out at one point where I’m like, “Oh, how can I dance around this?” And I just figured it out, you know? But yeah, he has significantly more chapters in “Infinity Reaper.” It’s very balanced now. I loved figuring out how I could use each character’s perspective to just, sort of, better help the reader settle into the war at hand, and the different stakes, and just their own personal feelings to it, you know? But writing a book with four narrators is very challenging, and I hope I never do it again.
Jeff: As the reader though, I really liked it when it became clear that we were gonna go into other heads other than just Brighton and Emil, too, because just to open it up that little bit was really interesting. It added a nice depth, I thought.
Adam: I am so happy that it worked for you. I am never doing it again. Outside of this series, I swear. I don’t even wanna do two narrator novels anymore because I feel like I need a break. I feel like I just wanna stay in one character, but all the stories I keep conceiving, they’re multiple narrators and I’m sure a third is gonna sneak in, and then a fourth, and then a fifth. I’m gonna be like, “What is happening? I’ve lost control.”
Jeff: You mentioned when you started outlining this, that it was only Emil. There wasn’t the idea of the brothers. What was your seat of inspiration for Emil and what his journey was gonna become in this book?
Adam: Yeah, so it’s really, really interesting because, again, this book was originally…it’s a young adult novel with adult appeal but it was originally conceived as a dark fairy tale for the middle-grade audience. It was called “The Girl with Monster Blood.” And there was gonna be a character who was like “The Boy with Phoenix Blood” in it, you know? So there’s a big ritual that happens in this book that was the complete central plot for this fairy tale thing. And you learn about this essence called Reaper’s Blood and basically within the Infinity cycle. And that was the main plot of this dark fairy tale for middle grade.
And I just wanted to go darker with it in ways that I didn’t feel quite comfortable introducing for children because I just didn’t have the range to understand yet what some readers are prepared for at that age. And I was building my career in YA, and I was like, “You know what? I wanna tell a YA story.” It was in my YA years that I really, really got into fantasy and stuff, too. But then it was a different narrator. The narrator for YA originally was Maribelle, who is in the book, and she’s a central character but she’s no longer the main character. The story doesn’t revolve around her anymore.
But that plot completely changed. And at the time, there were no Spell Walkers. There were literally no heroes in this book. It was just sort of the gang of specters who had stolen their powers from creatures. And I kept working on it, and the story just wasn’t right. I was starting at the wrong place. You could kind of say that I was starting that book where Book 2 in a series kind of began.
And then I realized that one of my favorite things about fantasy stories is when you get to see the hero get their powers for the first time. And that wasn’t the case in this incarnation where Maribelle was the narrator. So then I started playing with it again. And I was like, “You know what? I want to see a queer boy at the center of this kind of, become the chosen one. And I want to see the kind of character that I could have been if I found myself in this situation,” you know, which is why Emil is very anxious about it.
You think that these characters are gonna welcome these destinies and be like, “Oh, I have powers and it’s cool.” Emil’s like, “No, I’m only doing this because I’m gonna help you guys out. And in doing so, I might find out how to get rid of these powers for good and I can live my life.” You know he is not trying to be doing this for the rest of his years. His happy ending is getting to expel these powers for himself, you know? So that’s what he’s working towards. And if he can save some lives along the way, fantastic, you know? But the moment he can do this, he’s out.
And they’ve agreed to that for him. You know, ultimately, to answer your question, I wanted a queer boy as the chosen one. And just figuring out that’s what he actually wanted for himself if he would have made that choice if given and the answer is no. But now, what do you do with it regardless?
Jeff: And I loved hearing how much of a discovery writer you are, where you’ve got this great outline, but then it’s Brighton becomes the brother. Boom.
Adam: Yeah, and you’re like, “I can do the easy thing and just stick to the outline or I can explore where that happened.” And now, it’s like all the marketing around this series is about the brotherhood and being at the center of this war. And I’m like, “God, I can’t imagine Brighton not being a character, Brighton not being Emil’s brother now.”
Jeff: Right. So let’s get into “Infinity Reaper.” You left people on such a cliff at the end of “Infinity Son.” I mean, that was like, “Whoa.” I was glad I waited for basically a year to read it so I have a much narrower timeframe between the cliffhanger and the next book. What can you tell us about “Infinity Reaper” that doesn’t give up too much?
Adam: Yeah, it’s everything that could go wrong goes wrong in “Infinity Reaper.” We have some characters who are making some very questionable choices. And I think you do develop some understanding for why they’re making these choices, but it can still be really absolutely maddening and frustrating, and you’re gonna wanna shape some of the characters especially Brighton. Brighton, you know, he wants fame and glory, and he doesn’t like being overshadowed. And he wants to step into the spotlight, and he’s willing to, kind of, risk it all to do so.
And you’ll have to read “Reaper” to see how that works out for him. But I really do think that, whether you were shocked or not at what happened, this is what I’ve been building towards, and that was always the ending for “Infinity Son.” Once I knew this was a story about the brothers and one having powers and the other one not, yeah, it gets really wild, and I’m so excited. I love “Infinity Reaper.” So I love “Infinity Son” but “Infinity Reaper,” I got to do so many things that I’ve been dreaming about writing for years. And, yeah I mean, there’s new phoenix powers that are hinted at in Book 1 but people haven’t really caught up on it being a real thing just yet. And you see that it’s real, and it’s really cool. And everyone who’s read the book so far, they say that it’s among their favorite passages and chapters, and I feel really fulfilled with what I was able to do with that so far.
Jeff: That just gets me all the more excited. I’ve only read the first chapter so far. And I totally get what you mean with Brighton because even in that first chapter, I’m like, “Brighton, really? You want it that bad.”
Adam: Yeah. And give it a couple more chapters and you’ll see, sort of, his explanation behind that big choice that he’s made. This is what I love about writing all these additional narrators. You really do have to get into their head especially in first-person perspectives. And I don’t know if I would have come to this conclusion if I weren’t writing Brighton’s perspective, you know? I don’t wanna spoil too much. But really I think it was really to my greatest benefit that he’s one of the narrators for the story, even though he pisses off so many readers. I’m like, “He’s supposed to.” He’s not… But for some people, he’s their favorite character because Brighton speaks a lot of truths, whether we want to say those truths out loud or not along to them, you know? And he just doesn’t have a filter for these things.
I definitely share a lot of Brighton’s sentiments, not all of them but thankfully I have the ability to exercise my craft as a writer to dig deeper. When I notice that I feel uncomfortable or out of line sometimes, I’m like, “I don’t think Brighton would though. I think Brighton would say this thing.” And Brighton is the character who says the quiet thing out loud for sure.
Jeff: You’re writing magic now and these different types of humans between the specters and the Spell Walkers. You’ve got huge battle scenes. I swear every battle in “Infinity Son” just kept ratcheting up, the tension, the number of people involved. What kind of preparation did you take to work out those aspects so that it all makes sense and keeps driving the story forward without bogging it down?
Adam: I try to picture it like a movie. I’m like, “Okay, what would be really fun to watch play out for sure?” But I also want to pay actual attention to what I think it would be like to get hit by a fireball or to be thrown across a park and then slammed into a tree. I find myself saying, “It knocks the breath out of me” a lot. But it would knock the breath out of you a lot. At some point, you start tearing down those details because, like, “Okay, cool I get it.” But I’m like what would it actually mean to find myself just completely rattled around in the dark?
There’s a really, I think, creepy scene in “Infinity Reaper” where there’s basically a fight scene in the dark. And only their opponent can see them, and it puts them at a gigantic disadvantage. And they’re already, kind of, weak from the fight that happens very early on the book. So they’re still reeling from the final showdown from “Infinity Son” and no one has their bearings together yet. It’s really intense and I remember the copyeditor reading it and just being like, “Oh, my God, that was so creepy.” And I feel it again in my chest right now even talking about it and I’m like, “Okay. Well, what would that be like?” And you have no sense of movement. You can be thrown across the room and have no idea when you’re about to hit impact with the wall or anything or whatever you’re going to hit, right? And then you’re trying to figure out what’s clattering? And it can be really disorienting, and ultimately, disorienting.
I love paying attention to bruises and cuts. And did I say like, “Oh, I felt like my arm was about to break.” So then you’re gonna have arm pain for the rest of the book pretty much because these books take place in over the course of weeks and everything too. And, I mean, if you can’t heal, then you can’t heal, you know?
I think one of the challenges sometimes is that you wanna make sure that none of the characters are so powerful that it seems like they can’t lose the fight. And so I make a point to eliminate or knock out the most helpful player sometimes to really put eveyrone in a more difficult predicament.
Jeff: But you do that for even Emil and Brighton too. Sometimes they get the easy win because you kind of got to have a give me in there somewhere. But, none of this is easy for them. And I like how it keeps coming back to have to be a hero and do the right thing in all of this but then you flip back, and you’re 18 years old, and you might just wanna go curl up with mom.
Adam: Which is Emil often. Emil really is just like, “I just want to be with my mom,” you know, but it’s like, “Well, too bad, you’re the chosen one.” And, again, he’s not an official chosen one but that’s how he’s treated because of his past lives in which we learn about in “Infinity Son.” And, yeah, so that’s really difficult for him. He wants to do the right thing but he also just wants to be a kid.
And you know, I’m such a fan of so many YA novels. And, I mean, let’s use Katniss in “The Hunger Games” for example or whatever. I’m like, “I would never be Katniss. I would never be that brave. I would never be that effective.” And Katniss, of course, is traumatized by everything that she has gone through, and she’s gonna be traumatized for the rest of her life. And she succeeded in so many ways, but she’s not gonna able to shake all that off.
And that same could be said for all these characters here because, at the end of the day, I just remind myself that even though this is a fantasy world, these are human characters. They are not 500-year-old wizards. They can die. And we see a death in “Infinity Son.” And there’s more on the way throughout the rest of the series and…
Jeff: I really hated you for the “Infinity Son” death.
Adam: A lot of people did.
Jeff: Like, dude. That’s terrible.
Adam: Yeah, and that death doesn’t go ungrieved in “Infinity Reaper.” That is a big death. And I think sometimes in a lot of books I’ve read where I’m like, “Should we only be missing this person? Wouldn’t you be kind of…?” And it’s like, “No and it really warps the character who has been affected by this other character’s death.” So I had different plans for this character in this book even a different ending at one point, and it changed because the grief just never faded. You know? And I’m like, “Yeah, but that’s honest.” It just wouldn’t but I didn’t know that from my outline because I wasn’t… You know, when you’re outlining, it’s like, “Here are, I think, the cool beats for the story. Here’s what feels natural, whatever.” I’m like, “No, you learn what’s natural when you’re actually in the character’s headspace and following their lead and not just forcing them into your engineered situations.”
Jeff: How close did “Infinity Son” or even “Infinity Reaper” stick to their outlines?
Adam: “Infinity Son” changed a lot. “Infinity Reaper” changed a lot. There are new characters in “Infinity Reaper” that appeared literally zero times in the original draft, between the draft I turn into my publisher and then what is final, whole new characters, whole new settings, the book is twice as long. I mean, that story really, truly grew. And I turned in a very rough draft, which is why it was on the shorter side. But new characters came about but my editor really just trusted me. He was like, “Look, I know you know what you’re doing.” And I turned in a version of that book that looked pretty unrecognizable from what was first in I would say maybe 30%, 40% the essence of what was in the first draft probably stayed. One of the character’s ending completely changed. And I’ve now set up an interesting challenge myself for the next installment.
Jeff: Nice. And speaking of next, how many books do you project in the Infinity cycle?
Jeff: Traditional trilogy.
Adam: Traditional trilogy. It was always pitched as a trilogy. Book 3 will be out in 2022. But, yeah, from what I planned out, if I could have done a duology, I would have. The story was…it was too big. You know, I’m really excited to see how things come together for the finale. I already know where I want everyone to end up, and I hope I’m able to honor it because I think it’s really cool. But also, as we’ve talked about already, I’m open to seeing where the story goes and where the characters take me.
Jeff: I’m totally shipping for Emil. I’m not gonna say who I’m shipping with because I’m not gonna spoil anything, but I’m totally shipping Emil. But I hope you make that happen.
Adam: Yeah. I mean, a lot of people are and I’m excited for people’s reactions/a little nervous of when they read “Infinity Reaper” because some dynamics get shaken up a little bit on that front. There’s a lot of queer love and slow-burn attractions growing within the series but things definitely get really hot in “Infinity Reaper.” Yeah, so I remember one of my team members read it and she was like, “I don’t care about romance but I love these two.” And she was like, “That was really hot.” I was like, “Cool. Great,” you know? So, really excited to serve the queer community that way.
Jeff: I’m excited to see how you work it in because it’s always tough with romantic suspense. I mean, this isn’t romantic suspense but there’s this whole other big thing going on. And you find those tender moments where you get to have that moment of relax a little bit maybe and have that tender moment that doesn’t go against the context really.
Adam: Yeah. And that’s all well said too because that was intentional, especially in the case of “Infinity Son,” where I know that I want to be writing more about the romance stuff but I’m like, “If I were really in this situation right now, I would not be getting hung up on this. I literally am trying to stay alive. People are hunting me. There’s a quest for immortality that we’re racing against the clock here. I do not have time to have a backyard date right now,” you know?
And you’re right but it is the quiet moments where you’re, kind of talking to each other about the war and you’re getting to learn more about each other. And, yeah, there are no backyard dates in “Infinity Reaper” either, but there is a chapter that I love. It’s called Obsidian Night, and it’s one of my favorite chapters in the book. And you definitely get to see… Basically, I call it my whole new world, magic carpet ride chapter. Yeah, so you’ll know it when you see it.
Jeff: Yeah, you’ve got another book coming out this year and I’m super excited to see this on your list, “Here’s To Us,” which is the sequel to “What If It’s Us” that you wrote with Becky Albertalli that came out back in 2018. I’m so excited to see more about these two because I just adore them. Any teasers you can offer us on what’s in store in the sequel?
Adam: It’s really gay as any story involving Arthur and Ben is going to be. Becky and I are having so much fun with this book. And there’s some fun off-Broadway action. There’s some fun fantasy book action. There are some really, really cute new boys in it. Things are tricky for Arthur and Ben but it is the first time they have seen each other since the ending of “What If It’s Us.” So we get to be with them for that moment, and it’s huge and feels very true to the essence of their story. Their reunion’s very, very fun and special.
Jeff: Oh, I can’t wait. What was it like to you to flip back to that contemporary space and to flip into co-writing outside the Infinity cycle? That either felt really good or was such a slingshot
Adam: It was brutal, it was brutal. So, it’s really interesting because when I was writing “Infinity Son,” I was also dropping “What If It’s Us” with Becky all those years ago. And at one point “What If It’s Us” really had momentum, so we just finished that. And then I finished “Infinity Son” after, but then we edited “What If It’s Us.” I was editing “Infinity Son.” It was a whole thing and then “What If It’s Us” got published, “Infinity Son” was out or about to come out. From “Infinity Son,” I went straight into the sequel, “Infinity Reaper.” And I would love to have just done “Infinity Kings” so I could have done all three books in a row, but I whiplashed right back to “What If It’s Us” world.
And I thought it was gonna be really easy. I talk to Becky every day and I really kept telling her “I can’t wait to be writing ‘Here’s To Us’ because it’s just one narrator that I have to write. I get to write half a book.” And these books aren’t as long as my fantasy as “Infinity Reaper.” And it’s been so hard and the voice is so different to slip back into it. And it was a really weird process, too, because Becky’s been writing… We have a really solid outline. But Becky’s been ahead of me the entire time. She’s writing Arthur chapters without my Ben chapters. So we’re finishing this draft by the end of the month, and then we have to go back and make everything make sense and just gel it together.
But it was so different from when we wrote “What If It’s Us.” It was a strain for us in a lot of ways, and we have found our ways through it. But COVID hit us also in different ways, too, you know? And it really affected our writing schedules. Becky writes books a lot faster when her two young boys are in school, and I am a very social person who lives alone and it’s been really psychologically hard for me as well. And then it’s all these deadlines to have two books out in one year or whatever, it is a privilege that has come with a lot of stress.
But, yeah, I mean, we’re getting through it. It’s hard. Oh, God. I don’t know I’ll ever do a series again after Infinity cycle and “What If It’s Us” unless I’m able to do them linearly just because it’s been hard.
Jeff: And I was gonna ask about that, too, because those two series are your first series. So maybe going back to standalone now it sounds like.
Adam: Yeah, it’s funny. I went from having no series to two sequels out within the same year. I’m like, “God, I have no idea what to expect for these things.” And I’m experiencing it twice over but, you know I wanna return to my Death-Cast universe, which was first created and “They Both Die at the End.” And the kind of beauty of those books is that they can all be standalone.
You know, so I get to work in a world that I love writing in but new characters. I get to keep it fresh for myself. And if I take an extra year to write a book, I’m not leaving you with the “Infinity Son” cliffhanger because that’s really important to me. I really do respect the relationship between my readers and I want to not keep you guys waiting longer than you have to, especially for supporting me so early on with the book’s life. And I mean, I do my best. “Infinity Reaper” was supposed to come out in January, and it’s coming out in March because I needed more time. And I went through a lot of mental health stuff and I’ve decided to prioritize that which is my own, sort of character growth that I didn’t have years ago. And a better book came from it. You know, we could have had a book out at the beginning of January. It wouldn’t have been as good, and I’m glad that I took the time to produce a book that I am proud it’s gonna be on shelves.
Jeff: And it’s good to hear, too, that you did take the self-care moment. I mean, 2020 was crazy. And it’s good to do what you need to do for yourself, which then is good for the end product as well.
Adam: A hundred percent. And I really, really, especially through 2020, have such a deeper love for story and engaging with story and the privilege of being entertained by stories. And I’m like, “Yeah. No, I want to make sure that, when someone’s going through a hard time, that my book can be that escape for them, you know?” I want to make sure that that is just something I continue to honor because, once the book’s out there, it’s out there, so I hope it’s something that I’m proud of.
Jeff: Let’s talk origin story a little bit. You mentioned before that you started at 11. What got you started to pick up the pen?
Adam: You know, it’s funny. So, when I was in third grade, we would get these spelling contracts where you get your 10 new vocabulary words. You use them in a sentence and everything. And one week, my mom and I, we decided to make it “Titanic” themed. So I created all these sentences that were about the “Titanic,” which was not the assignment. You could literally…sentences could about anything. I did the book cover for it. We did “Titanic” doing glitter. I got A plus plus plus on that assignment. My mom still has it in her closet somewhere. And the entire thing was “Titanic” themed. I just loved telling stories and just absorbing stories.
And then we had a gigantic computer, and I just found myself writing myself in magical situations, and then as I read “Harry Potter,” writing “Harry Potter” fanfiction, as I watched “Charmed,” writing “Charmed” fanfiction. “X-Men,” I remember writing an “X-Men” storyline in my composition notebook where Jean Grey was pregnant but the pregnancy was only gonna last three months because I didn’t wanna write about her being pregnant for nine months. So, I made it a psychic, magic-ike pregnancy or whatever, which I guess has been done in many fantasy stories as well.
So I mean, I just have always been engaged with storytelling that way. Even when I wasn’t always actively writing I always paid attention to story. Like video games. People don’t understand that video games were big for me when I was conceiving stories as a teenager and just paying attention to story and plotlines. I was just as invested in those stories as I am today with books and TV shows.
Jeff: I love the “Titanic” story. That is one of the best origin stories I’ve ever heard on this podcast.
Adam: Thank you.
Jeff: What video games were inspiring you for story as a teenager?
Adam: I loved Fable. Fable was my favorite video game in my teen years. It’s basically a quest story where the choices you make determine your morality. So you can be good, you can be the bad guy. And my brother’s always the hero, and I was always a fan of the villains growing up. So I was one constantly, in the video game not in real life, stealing from people’s houses, and throwing fireballs through people’s windows, and attacking the townspeople and everything.
And then the more and more choices you make, it alters your appearance. So, by the end of the game, I had double horns, swarms of insects just flying around me, and dark eyes. And yeah, I was just powerful. And then you get to make these final choices. And, of course, it was like, “Do you donate the prize money to the town, do you save the dog, or do you keep the money for yourself?” I was like, “Keep money for yourself.” You know I was pure evil and I loved it.
And I do love villain stories now. It’s partially why it’s so fun to write from some more shadier perspectives in the Infinity cycle and why one of my favorite fantasy series is “The Young Elites” by Marie Lu. I loved Adelina as a narrator because she makes dark choices. And you sympathize with her in some ways, and you’re like, “No, you’re going too dark. Come back. Come back.” I was really inspired by that. I loved “Halo.” I liked “Gears of War,” but, yeah, I’ve played a lot of video games.
Jeff: What led you down to become a YA writer, which is what you’ve written to date so far? What was it about that that spoke to you?
Adam: I think it’s a time of my life… You know, I wrote “More Happy Than Not,” my first novel, when I was 22. So, it was 2012. That was an interesting stage in my life. I was really processing a lot about coming out. I was processing things that happened in my later teen years, and they still felt really close and intimate to me that I was able to easily find that voice, which is, when I started trying to write my first novel, the very first version of “Infinity Son..”. Not the middle grade one, there was a different adult version that combined some storylines. I won’t bore you with the details.
But I was writing about people in their early 20s when I was 18, 19. I was like, “I didn’t know what that was like.” And I remember marriage was a big plot point for me at 22 because that’s what I thought it was like. You know, and for some people, it is, of course, but that was not my reality, you know? I really viewed 22-year-olds like they could have been 30 in my head for all I knew, right?
Throughout my 20s, I’ve had a lot to process. Especially when you had a closeted childhood and you’re an artist who’s now expressing yourself in these things, you are now getting to let some of these stories breathe for the first time and let them out. And I’ve had so many stories that I’ve wanted to tell and just sort through my feelings, but honestly I don’t think I have…I will probably have eight or nine YA books. I don’t think I have nine more in me. Honestly, I think I will probably tell some more adult novels now that I wanna explore things that happen to me in my mid-20s up until this point, and I wanna get into writing some more TV, you know?
But I don’t think I’m going to a YA novelist for the long run. And I am extremely proud of everything I’ve done. And I definitely have stories I’m still really bursting to tell in the YA space. But I would be very surprised if in 10 years, when I turned 40, that I’m still publishing young adult novels at the rate that I am now at least.
Jeff: And your story is really caught with people, even from the first one. What do you think you’re bringing to YA that has made people stand up and take notice?
Adam: Oh, man, I couldn’t even… I do not know. And I would feel really arrogant speaking to that. But, I know that much like so many other authors, I am just so honest. And I think my books are publishing at a time, especially “More Happy Than Not,” where there was a call for diversity and within our fiction and within our writers and everything. And I think I really got to benefit from that in so many ways because of the work of organizations such as We Need Diverse Books.
And, you know my book came out the same year that We Need Diverse Books got really big and that we were holding publishers accountable for, “Why are we only publishing cis-gendered, heterosexual, white writers, you know?” I sold my book before I knew that We Need Diverse Books is going to be a thing, this book about a gay Puerto Rican in the South Bronx and an economically challenged family much like my childhood. And a lot of publishers did not bite on that. It was widely rejected.
My first publisher was Soho Teen, which is an imprint of Soho Press. And, you know definitely a smaller publisher but really powerful and such a great team there. And I worked with an editor who I didn’t know, even though I had so many industry contacts, but he was the only one who understood what the story was trying to tell and wasn’t trying to make me turn the gay kid straight or the Puerto Rican boy, white. You know, let me tell my story as it was for me, and I really respected that.
And yeah, and I just…I don’t know. I think, since then, I’m one of the more, sort of public-facing queer authors and everything I do is queer. I don’t have a single novel that is just narrated from a heterosexual perspective. And again, that’s also a point of privilege of mine, right? I didn’t have to do that. And I’ve been out to everyone since I was 21 or something. So I didn’t have to worry about that. And all my stories, they’re all gonna be queer. I just wanna continue contributing to the queer catalog. You don’t need me writing a straight book, a straight character right now. Yeah.
Jeff: What’s a book you’ve read recently that you would recommend our listeners?
Adam: “How It All Blew Up” by Arvin Ahmadi. It’s incredible. It follows a Muslim Iranian boy who is being detained at the airport. And while doing so, he’s being interrogated by the officer and he’s telling this nonlinear story of this beautiful, out-of-country trip to Rome that he’s just had where he has spent the summer and everything, escaping from his problems from home. And it is so gorgeous. It’s so beautiful paced. I want more people reading that book. So, yeah, “How It All Blew Up” by Arvin Ahmadi.
Jeff: I’m putting that on my TBR immediately.
Adam: Yo, you’ll love it. Seriously, the main character Amir is incredible.
Jeff: Is there anything else you could tease us about coming up? I mean, we’ve talked about there’ll be a third Infinity cycle. We know about “Here’s to Us.” Anything else you can drop a hint on?
Adam: I’m hoping to return to the Death-Cast universe, so They Both Die at the End as my next work. I also have another standalone novel that I’ve been, kind of tinkering with. It plays with time in a really fun way, and that would be a really, really interesting story for me to tell. I’m so excited about it. I have a title for it and everything, which of course I can’t talk about, so maybe I shouldn’t have even said that, but it’s just annoying. But I think my next thing probably after the Infinity trilogy is wrapped up will be something in the They Both Die at the End universe.
Jeff: Fantastic. How can everybody keep up with you online to follow the release of “Infinity Reaper” and everything else that’s coming?
Adam: I keep it really simple. It’s just @AdamSilvera, silver with an A at the end. And my website is adamsilvera.com where there’s an events page. You can see some of the upcoming events for this book for the “Infinity Reaper” as well as everything I have going on for the rest of the year. And, yeah, I’m doing a lot of fun virtual things and chatting with a lot of fun people with different topics as well for each night. But, yeah, I’m always active on Twitter and Instagram. So that’s the absolute best and fastest way to find me.
Jeff: Fantastic. We’ll link to everything we’ve talked about in the show notes so that everybody can just easily go click to it. Adam, thank you so much. I have so much enjoyed this conversation.
Adam: So have I. Thank you so much for having me. It’s been so fun.
Will: This episode’s transcript has been brought to you by our community on Patreon if you’d like to read the author interview for yourself, simply head on over to the shownotes page for this episode at BigGayFictionPodcast.com. And don’t forget the show notes page also has links to everything that we’ve talked about in this episode.
Jeff: And you’re going to find a lot of links to Libro.fm in this episode, because practically every book we talked about has an audiobook that’s available on Libro.fm. You’ve heard us say it before. We love the Libro.fm service. The fact that you can buy an audiobook from them and also support a local bookstore of your choice is such a fantastic thing to help out those local bookstores.
Now, all you need to do to take advantage is get the free Libro.fm app. It works so good. You’re not going to have any issue working with that app. And then you can go to BigGayFictionPodcast.com/librofm. And you’ll be able to sign up for a special offer that they have for our listeners, where you’ll be able to get a two month audiobook membership for the price of one. So make sure you check that out.
And thanks so much to Adam for coming to talk to us. I love all the details that he had on how much the “Infinity Cycle” books have changed from the time that he outlined them to actually writing them and even stuffing new chapters in right before the ARCs went out. I can’t imagine what that was like for his editor to deal with that kind of deadline. And plus, it was great to hear how urban fantasy was really like coming home for him after so many contemporary books. So looking forward to digging into this new book this week.
Will: All right. I think that’ll do it for this week’s show. Coming up next Monday on episode 292, Joshua Ian is here to talk about the new book and his “Darkly Enchanted” romance series.
Jeff: That’s right. Joshua continues that series on March 8th with the release of “Manchester Lake.” We’ll also talk about the books that he writes under his alter ego Lawrence I Hill.
Will: Thank you so much for listening until next time, please stay strong, be safe and above all else. Keep turning those pages and keep reading.