Robbie Couch talks with Jeff about his debut young adult novel, The Sky Blues. Robbie shares the inspiration for main character Sky, Sky’s friends, and the fictional Michigan town where this rom-com / mystery story takes places. We also find out Robbie’s author origin story, what’s coming next, and there’s also a book recommendation.
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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.
- The 100 Day Project website
- Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake on Amazon Prime Video
- Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man on Amazon Prime Video
- ABT Live from City Center on ABT.org (program available through April 18)
- Robbie Couch Interview
- Robbie Couch: website | Twitter | Instagram
- The Sky Blues by Robbie Couch on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Legally Blonde on Amazon Prime Video
- Miss Congeniality on Amazon Prime Video
- You’ve Got Mail on Amazon Prime Video
- The Wedding Singer on Amazon Prime Video
- Fever Pitch on Amazon Prime Video
- Michael Crouch on Amazon | Libro.fm
- Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Becky Albertalli on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Adam Silvera on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- Julian Winters on Amazon | Kobo
- Leah Johnson on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- PEN15 on Hulu
- The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller on Amazon | Kobo | Libro.fm
- The Sky Blues Virtual Book Tour Information on RobbieCouch.com
- 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.
Will: Coming up in this episode, we’re headed back to high school as we talk to Robbie Couch about his debut novel, “The Sky Blues.”
Jeff: Welcome to episode 301 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of gay romance fiction. I’m Jeff Adams. And with me as always is my co-host and husband Will Knauss.
Will: Hello, rainbow romance readers. We are so glad that you could join us for another episode of the show. Before we get to our author interview. Jeff and I wanted to give you a quick update about what we’ve been up to lately.
We haven’t talked about the 100 Day Project recently. We wanted to let you know that we have called it quits.
So, as you may or may not remember, on January 31st Jeff and I chose to take part in the 100 Day Project, which is an online challenge where you commit to creating something for 100 days in a row.
I committed to two different projects over the course of the challenge. One was an art challenge, drawing hearts and posting them every day on my social media. The other was a reading challenge, reading short stories and then posting my quick reviews every day.
In our last update, I know I mentioned feeling a little bit burned out, that I was reaching my breaking point. And when we hit day 50, I decided that enough was enough. March was kind of just wonky. Burnout is a real thing and I decided to give myself a break, and I decided day 50 was good enough.
When it came to the art project, I was no longer feeling inspired. I’d gotten to the point of where I was just writing down pithy, inspirational sayings, and then drawing a heart around them. So I was sort of half-assing that and I just didn’t really want to go there.
And then when it came to the short stories, it wasn’t the stories themselves that I was burned out on. I love reading those, but it was sort of the process that I had created that surrounded them. Finding the stories every day started to become a chore. And the process of coming up with something interesting to say in the reviews every single day was getting harder and harder. So I made the executive decision that I was personally not going to move forward with this particular challenge.
Jeff: I think it’s good that you stopped for self care. I really do. Cause you were getting definitely burned out. I think you made the right choice in this case because self care is so very, very important. And I think that’s an important message for anybody listening to that the self care, even to stop a creative project, is an important one.
I also stopped right around day 50. I don’t know that I stopped on 50, but it was right in that range that I also stopped. I finished my short story, the first draft of what I’m putting into the anthology this summer is done and now I need to edit it. That editing is why I stopped what I was doing, because my challenge was to write for at least 30 minutes a day. I have a very hard time when I’m in a position to have to edit something, but also create new words. And I have such a finite amount of time for any of my creative projects during the week. Like anybody who works a full-time job as I do, you know, you work those, 8, 10 hours, whatever your working day is. And then you have to make that flip over to creative work. And there gets to be a point where my brain just stops.
So I have these finite hours and I really have to spend the time right now on editing to get that story ready to hand over to the anthology folks in just about six weeks. And so it was a little bit of self care on my part as well to focus on the editing, not stress so much about new word creation in this moment.
I’m happy with the story. I’ve started editing. I love the characters I created and can’t wait for everybody to meet them.
So that’s how we ended up on the 100 Day Project. If you’re having a 100 Day Project, we hope you’re continuing to go well, and that you’re also taking care of yourself while you do it.
We have had a great time lately watching some dance programs. New York City Center, which is a place that we visited periodically while we lived in the city, has recently rolled out some streaming programs that included four from Matthew Bourne.
Now you might recognize the name Matthew Bourne as he created a phenomenon back in the late nineties with his re-imagining of “Swan Lake” with male swans. And if you’ve never seen that, if you have seen the movie “Billy Elliot,” you’ve actually seen a little bit of “Swan Lake” at the end because that’s actually the show that Billy goes into when he’s an adult.
And one of the programs in this package was actually a brand new recording of “Swan Lake,” which made it all pretty and high-def and everything. It was just really, really gorgeous. We saw this show back in 1998 during its Broadway engagement, and we really loved it and enjoyed revisiting it as part of this digital package.
We also watched Bourne’s take on the opera, “Carmen,” which he retitled “The Car Man” and took its plot from “The Postman Always Rings Twice.” It was another really great dance program. Some interesting takes on the story there and some really amazing choreography.
City Center also brought out a brand new performance from American Ballet Theater to the screen, which was actually shot on their stage. Now, ABT’s been doing a lot of stuff over the pandemic, creating what they call the ballet bubble and doing new works in various locations around New York. And it was nice to see them back on the City Center stage, where they often do some programming in the fall. This particular program featured choreography from ABTS artists in residence, Alexei Ratmansky. It was wonderful to see one of our favorite dance companies on the stage again.
If you want to add some dance programming to your viewing, Amazon Prime Video has several Matthew Bourne programs, including the new version of “Swan Lake.” The “ABT Live from City Center” production is available to stream through April 18th. So we’ll have links to those in the show notes. If you’re interested.
Will: All right. Debut author week continues as we focus on the young adult debut from author Robbie Couch.
Jeff: So you heard last week in episode 299, how much I loved “The Sky Blues” and I really enjoyed digging into the book with Robbie to talk about the blending of the rom-com and the mystery elements, as well as how he created the incredible cast of characters that he put on the page. So let’s get into that interview now.
Robbie Couch Interview
Jeff: Robbie welcome to the podcast. It is so wonderful to have you here.
Robbie: Thank you so much for having me. I’m very excited to be here.
Jeff: Congratulations so much on the release of “The Sky Blues.” It came out earlier this week. I reviewed it last week in episode 299. Oh my God. I love it so, so much. But for people who maybe missed that review or haven’t picked up the book yet, in your words, what is “The Sky Blues” about?
Robbie: Well, thank you so much. If you can’t see, I’m turning red on our zoom chat. Thank you so much. Yeah, The Sky Blues is about Sky Baker, who is an openly gay senior in high school.
And when you first meet him right in chapter one, it’s not necessarily in the best place because he’s dealing with some family rejection, he’s dealing with some homophobic bullying at school. But the one thing that he really has going for him that he’s, he’s really excited about is the idea that he’s going to be able to prompose to Ali who is his big crush.
He’s pretty much obsessed with Ali at school. And he’s not even sure if Ali is gay or bi or if he’s into Sky at all, but he’s like, you know what, I’m going to go for it. I am a graduating senior. Why not? So he’s coming up with a bunch of different promposal ideas to ask Ali But before he’s able to do so, a homophobic, anonymous hacker leaks his list of proposal ideas and an e-blast that goes out to the whole school. And he is clearly very, very devastated. And he’s not exactly sure how to go from there, but as you’ll learn, he figures out to be resilient, and how to move on.
And now he’s got to figure out, who this anonymous hacker is and if he’s going to get revenge and yeah, it was, such a fun book to write. I’m so happy that it resonated with you.
Jeff: One of the things I loved about Sky, and you touched on it a little bit, he’s going to make this promposal. He’s got it down that he’s going to do it. He’s thought about it for a long time. Cause even as we meet him, his wall is full of ideas on how to pull this off. But as confident as he seemed there, he also has these immediate moments where he starts to pull back whether it’s the bully or how he feels like he has to carry himself at school and things like that.
And he’s so nuanced right from the get-go. It was really amazing to read that he’s just not the teenager full of confidence, going out and doing this thing. How did you find that right balance for him?
Robbie: Yeah, thanks. I think that I drew from not only my experience, but I think a lot of queer people’s experiences who, it takes a certain amount of courage to initially come out and to be yourself, especially in a town like Rockledge (fictional town of Rockledge) and just kind of own your queerness and be open. But then there’s also, I think, kind of a phase that oftentimes comes after that, where you have to deal with rejection, and you are moving through the world as an openly queer person for the first time. And you might feel some awkwardness and insecurity around that.
And so, I kind of wanted it to capture a teenager who was in that sort of complicated space where, Sky is openly gay and he was courageous to come out as a 17-year-old, even though he knew that it could you be coming out into rough waters potentially. But yet he’s still navigating that space and it’s complicated and it’s messy.
And I didn’t want to have a teenager that was, or any character that is just, purely confidence or purely insecure. I think it’s good to find the nuance because that’s the human experience.
Jeff: And for Sky, he certainly is all over the place throughout the weeks that the book covers.
Robbie: For sure. Yes. That’s true. That’s definitely true.
Jeff: What was the inspiration for the character of Sky.
Robbie: I definitely drew from my own experiences in terms of the world around him.
Growing up in the rust belt in small-town Michigan, a lot of his experiences moving through that space I drew from my own upbringing in that corner of the world. But I think more specifically to Sky as a character, I did a story, I used to work at a progressive media company back in 2016, and I did a story on LGBTQ youth homelessness. And I knew that LGBTQ youth homelessness was a very big issue, up to 40% of homeless youth are queer. But it wasn’t until I did the story where I actually talked to real young people who had been living on the streets and experiencing rejection, that it really opened my eyes to the crisis that it really was.
I wrote that story. Right about the same time that I was throwing around a few ideas, I knew I wanted to write a book and a little aha moment went off in my brain because I thought this is a theme that I wanted to really carry into the story in terms of family rejection.
Sky isn’t homeless in the sense that it is living on the street, but he was kicked out of his house because of his homophobic mom. That was kind of the main thing that inspired the theme in my brain that got me thinking about who Sky is. And then it kind of went from there.
Jeff: And it’s interesting that you made the choice to not show any of that drama that went on getting kicked out and the landing with the family that he did. You start in a place where he’s, I’d say doing pretty well as he’s planning the promposal, and the big pivot is everything getting leaked rather than the drama of before.
Was that part of earlier drafts or did you always know that was just going to be backstory for him?
Robbie: That’s a good question. If you remember from the book, there’s a few pages where he’s describing the incident of getting kicked out and that part of his life.
But it’s not, as you mentioned, we don’t start there. It’s not a primary focus of his experience on the page, at least in the beginning. And I think there’s so many stories that center queer trauma, and I of course, wanted to bolden the themes of family rejection and some darker elements to being queer.
But I didn’t want this to be a story where we were really focused on the trauma of being a young queer person and being rejected and being kicked out. And I think if you start there not that that automatically is, this is the main focus and the centering of his story, but it just, I guess I just didn’t want to start off in such a dark place.
I wanted to start off with readers really knowing Sky in a different way and understanding who he was and then taking them back to what that experience had been like a few months prior to the book starting.
So yeah, I think it was, I’m just realizing now it was a much more conscious decision that I had even realized. But didn’t want to really start out in such a dark place because I think that LGBTQ youth deal with a lot of trauma and we don’t need to constantly be focused on that.
Jeff: It’s interesting how you have the book structured in a lot of ways, because I feel like at its core, it’s a romcom. With the promposal and the things that go on around that. But then there’s the element of kind of the mystery of who hacked the promposal, who leaked all that out. There are elements of Sky getting to learn about his father.
There’s everything that kind of gets piled in around the homophobia. So you’ve got some of these things that could really be heavier and the romcom element kind of counterbalancing it. What was it like for you to weave all these threads together? Because it’s a lot of different elements that come together to really, make this well-rounded book.
Robbie: Yeah. Thanks. I think having the emotional pace and the emotional rhythm of the book was something that I wanted to really be thoughtful about. And that was something that throughout the editing process, I really was careful in terms of paying attention to not just the plot points of the book, but how Sky is feeling and the emotional ups and downs of his experiences.
And so it was tricky, like you mentioned, because a lot was going on at different times. But I think really if, when I think about romcoms that really resonate with me and the types of stories that might fall into the romcoms genre, a lot of my favorites still have darker elements to them and they have more serious or substantial elements to their stories, even if they still fall under a romantic comedy.
And I think that that’s what makes them stick. I think that stories that really have heart and depth and yes, at times maybe some darker elements that’s that reflects real life. And so, I didn’t want to make a story that was necessarily all sunshine and rainbows. I think that it’s okay to have the darker side of life peppered in to do something that overall can be still a very optimistic romcom story.
Jeff: And I have to ask, based on that answer, what are some of the romcoms that you love that kind of fall into that category?
Robbie: So I was born in 1988, so I am definitely a child of like the nineties and the early oughts. So man, ” Legally Blonde” was a big one. I loved “Miss Congeniality.” There’s of course all the Meg Ryan “You’ve Got Mail.” Even though more recently in that big of a fan is Adam Sandler. There was definitely a few like Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore “Wedding Singer.” And what was the one “Fever Pitch?” Although that was Jimmy Fallon, I could go on forever, but yeah, there’s definitely a handful that really made a mark on me.
Jeff: Now you mentioned that you grew up in the rust belt of Michigan and, and Sky’s living in a fictional town that’s over on the west coast of Michigan, along Lake Michigan. What are some of the parallels for your hometowns and high school experiences?
Robbie: I would say, I mean, my own upbringing certainly informed, fictional Rockledge.
And I think a lot of the mental space that Sky is in feeling isolated, feeling kind of trapped in that corner of the world, I drew from my own experiences, living in the rust belt in that area of the country. I think it can feel a little isolating at times, it can feel, especially if you’re from a marginalized community, you can kind of feel like you’re the only person that knows what it’s like or has that lived experience in your town.
And that can be really rough. So I certainly drew upon that. At the same time I definitely wouldn’t consider this book autobiographical in the sense that Sky’s experiences are pretty different than my own. I have two very loving, accepting parents. And I actually wasn’t out in high school.
I came out in college. And as mentioned Sky came out as a senior in high school. So he has to deal with a lot more blatant homophobia than I did when I was a teenager when I was in high school, because I wasn’t out. So there’s certainly differences, but the world around Sky, the community that he’s in and just kind of the types of personalities I think you’ll run into in, in small town America, I certainly drew from my own experiences growing up in that area of the country.
Jeff: And it’s interesting you talk about the way that marginalized people can feel in those scenarios. And you have a wonderfully diverse cast in this book. The people that Sky is friends with at the high school, or who come into his orbit as a result of everything that happens, you really painted a wonderful picture, even knowing at the same time what that town is like with that kind of, 1% living on the river and then everybody else.
So at the same time I really loved how you piece that together. How did you decide how you wanted to essentially cast your supporting cast?
Robbie: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think I knew that I wanted to have an inclusive story. I think it’s really important to have diverse stories and have people that reflect the real world – have characters that reflect all the different, I mean, not that every story has to have everyone’s lived experience… so that was important to me.
And I also knew that I wanted the theme of feeling like an outsider in a small town to be present on the page. So I wanted Sky to not only have his own lived experience as a gay kid, but also have the various characters around him, his friends and different people in the community who represent different marginalized groups.
I wanted their own identities to help Sky learn about the world around him as well. So there’s Marshall, who’s black. There’s a trans character. There’s an Iraqi American character. Right? And so you kind of get snippets of what their experiences are like living in a predominantly white working class blue collar town. And that was important to me to make sure that there were multiple characters that could talk about or bring their lived experience to the page.
Jeff: Were you concerned at all about bringing other lived experiences to the page that were different than your lived experience?
Robbie: Yeah, totally. And I think that, I would never, this is Sky’s story and Sky is a cisgender white gay kid. And so, I never want to suggest that this is a story where, it’s Marshall’s story as a black character, right? Like it’s definitely seen through the eyes of, Sky who’s is white and cisgender.
But I think it’s really important for authors, especially authors of privilege, who are writing characters who are part of other marginalized groups to take the steps to make sure they’re being responsible with how they’re portraying those characters.
I worked with authenticity readers to make sure that I was very thoughtful about how those other characters were crafted and if their lived experiences were authentic and, to make sure I wasn’t inadvertently leaning into any harmful stereotypes that I wasn’t aware of. And it was a really positive experience.
I know it can be kind of scary for authors to work with sensitivity readers, like thinking that they’re going to get a bunch of really negative criticism or feedback, but it was really wonderful because it felt like a team/collaboration. How can we make the representation better?
How can we make sure that the characters on the page feel authentic and I highly recommend using authenticity readers, if there’s any authors out there listening and are on the fence about it. I think it’s really important.
Jeff: And the nice thing that it did is it really, if you look at it through the eyes of Sky, he found so many other people who were carrying some of the things, things that he was around, I have to behave this certain way.
I have to keep these things inside. And then, as the reader, we get to see all of that too from these other characters, it really fleshed out a lot of things. I thought for the story, especially as it leads to everybody kind of banding together, not just to support Sky, but to say we’ve kind of had enough of this crap that’s going on in the school and everything with the people who are trying to keep the marginalized characters kind of at bay if you will.
Robbie: For sure. Yeah. That’s a really important point. There are a few scenes where Sky sort of has, I guess you could say, mini aha moments learning from Marshall’s experience, for example, as a black kid, living in Rockledge or learning about Dan’s experience or Ali’s experience. Right? So, Sky definitely doesn’t go into it knowing everything or thinking he knows everything about all the characters, but along this journey, he realizes, Oh, these other marginalized people are also feeling the weight of being different in this town in different ways that I haven’t experienced.
So Sky’s on this own journey learning about other people as well. And yeah, I think you put it really nicely at the end, and I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but certainly many of the characters feel like they, I guess, pushback on some of the darker elements of, of small-town life in America.
Jeff: It’s a really interesting thing with the adults too because I always enjoy reading how adults are portrayed in young adult stories. And there’s such an amazing diversity in that cast as well between, Skye’s homophobic mom, who I wanted to punch to be quite honest, the wonderful family that he’s moved in with, but then the very different teachers that we find at the school as well. And how they play into everything that’s going on. A nice cross section there again of what one might expect to find in a town like this.
Robbie: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s one of the really great things about small towns in a way is you, I feel like you get such an eclectic group of people.
I think sometimes small towns can get a bad rap in their portrayal and being very close minded and being like a breeding ground for bigotry or homophobia and racism. And to be sure, as you see in “The Sky Blues,” there’s absolutely elements of all of those darker things. But at the same time, I think small towns can really have the most fierce, courageous, bad-ass allies and adults who stick up for the little guy.
I know that was my experience in small town America as well. That’s something that I wanted to bring to Sky’s world as well. There are several adults that you just want to give them a high five or a hug or both. And there’s other adults that you’re like, come on. Are you kidding me right now?
I think that’s a reflection of a reality.
Jeff: With all the elements in “The Sky Blues,” what do you hope people come away with after they’ve read it?
Robbie: I think one of the main themes that was really important for me to have kind of front and center, especially for young queer people who are reading it, is the idea of a found family and chosen family. Sky, it’s no secret from pretty much chapter one or chapter two, that he is dealing with a lot of family rejection and feels a little lost when it comes to having allies at home. And I think it’s really, really important for queer people and especially young queer people to know that you can find your people, you can get out there in the real world and find friends and other folks who love you unconditionally and can become your family.
So that was certainly one of the elements that I wanted to make sure was pretty clear in this story. But at the same time, one of the magical things about books is that when a person reads it, they can take something entirely different away from it.
Right? So, I kind of don’t want to be in a position where I’m dictating or overly prescriptive in terms of what people should get from it. Whatever tugs at your heartstrings about the book, that’s great. I just hope it makes people feel things and resonates with readers.
Jeff: So, I know you haven’t gotten a chance to listen to your entire audiobook, but you got Michael Crouch as the narrator, and Michael’s done the Simonverse books. He’s done books for Adam Silvera, so many amazing YA books. What’s it been like for you to have him voice these characters and how have you felt just listening to the pieces you’ve heard so far?
Robbie: Oh my gosh. It’s such a delight. Michael Crouch is absolutely amazing.
And I had the opportunity to work with Simon and Schuster, my publisher, we were looking at a few different voice actors and Michael Crouch was my number one choice because I could just so easily see him bringing Sky’s story to life. And I was really crossing my fingers and hoping that he would be free and that he’d be able to do “The Sky Blues” and it worked out.
And I’m just so happy about it. And yeah, to your point, listening to the audio excerpt, it was just like, immediate chills all over my body. I just, I felt so, so great about the voice that he was able to give Sky and the way that he tells his story. So it’s been very, very cool to have someone like Michael Crouch be a part of this.
Jeff: Let’s talk about your origins as a writer. This is your first novel. What started you on the path towards adding novelist to who you are?
Robbie: Yeah, it’s been a journey. I think even as a small kid, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I remember my first time it kind of clicked in my brain that I liked writing and I liked telling stories, I was in fourth grade. I was in Mr. Volks fourth grade class, and I wrote a book called “When the Seaweed was Smiling.”
And it was about how the seaweed in the lake that my aunt lived on in Metro Detroit attacked me and pulled me under. And then at the very end, I woke up and realized that it was all a dream. And I remember having so much fun, writing the story and getting an A on it. And my teacher being pretty impressed with it and something clicked in my head and I thought, you know what, I like doing this. I’m apparently not bad at it. I should kind of see where this takes me. And I remember always starting stories and books, I probably started a million books throughout middle and high school. I would get an idea, I get an inspiration, and start writing. And of course, the vast majority of the time it went nowhere.
I wouldn’t write over like a few pages, but I was just that kid always thinking about stories. And then when I got older, when I got into college, I became a journalism major because I liked the idea of telling stories and I kind of went into hard news direction for a few years.
And then a little bit later into my twenties, I kind of refocused and kind of recalibrated the space I want it to be in, in terms of telling stories. And that’s when I really started to get back to the idea of writing a novel. And now I’m here and it’s, as you mentioned, my debut and it’s, it’s just. It’s nuts.
Jeff: In your head was this book always the debut or were there several options of what could have been the debut? And this one just happens to have been out there first.
Robbie: Yeah. I have a massive Google doc with just so many random ideas and character ideas and hooks, and it’s just a hot mess to be honest.
And “The Sky Blues” is the one that kind of came to be first in terms of really seeing it through and, really getting to the heart of the plot and understanding the characters. And so, I would say it was the first story that really became fully imagined in my head, but there’s certainly other stories that are half-baked, sitting in that Google doc, that I hope to someday be able to bring to life.
Without giving too much away, there’s already plans for a book two and a book three. I can talk about book two because that’s public, but there’s other books down the road that that are kind of being workshopped in that Google doc. So hopefully they’ll become real books at some point.
Jeff: A book two, in terms of sequel to “Sky Blues,” or just a book two in the books that you’re putting out?
Robbie: Not sequel to “Sky,” although maybe someday there could be a sequel. That would be wonderful. I would love to revisit Sky’s world at some point down the road. But book two is called “Blaine for the Win” and its actually a story that is kind of inspired by “Legally Blonde,” which I already mentioned a little bit ago.
I sound like someone who’s absolutely obsessed with “Legally Blonde,” but maybe I sort of am. And yeah, speaking of romcom, it’s so much fun. It’s been a blast to write. I’m kind of in the revision stage working with my editor now on it. But it’s been terrific. And so yeah, that’s going to be book two coming out next spring.
Jeff: Also young adult?
Robbie: Yep. Contemporary, YA and very queer, very gay. It takes sort of the same bones of “Legally Blonde” in terms of the story structure and a lot of the same themes, but then has a lot of queer kind of dashed in. So it it’s been a blast.
Jeff: Do you think you’ll sit in young adult for a while, or are there already ideas in your head of ways you want to branch out into new adult or adult?
Robbie: I think for a while, I’ll be in YA. I love the genre and I feel like I’m just getting started and there are a number of books that I kind of have in that Google doc and floating around my brain. So I definitely see myself working in YA for the foreseeable future, but certainly I can also see myself leaping into different genres. At some point I would love to write a series at some point as well. So I definitely have bigger goals in the literary world, but for right now my debut is just getting out there. I’m really focused on working in contemporary YA right now.
Jeff: Who are some of your creative influences, whether it’s books or movies or whatever, who do you look to for those inspirations?
Robbie: Well, the first book that I remember being obsessed with as a kid was “Mame,” which is kind of random. I bring it up to people in they’re like auntie what? But I see you nodding. So you know.
Jeff: I know exactly what you’re talking about.
Robbie: Yeah, it was, even though there wasn’t anything explicitly queer about it, it was so queer in so many ways.
And I actually haven’t ever seen the film version of it, but I loved, loved, loved the book. I fell in love with it. And that was sort of one of the first times that I could not put a book down. So Patrick Dennis, the author of “Auntie Mame” is someone who I always think of. And I will say there’s certainly dated elements to the book, it’s from the fifties.
So if anyone picks it up now there’s certainly parts to it that I don’t endorse. But it was an amazing story, but yeah, I think many YA authors, especially in the queer space. Becky Albertalli, Adam Silvera, I’ve gotten a chance to meet them both and am friends with Adam, and they were the huge influences in terms of shaping my career.
I know Adam’s book “More Happy Than Not” was actually the first time that I had read queer YA and realized, Oh, wow. There’s like, a way to have queer characters, to have a gay lead and have a book still be marketable and do well. And there’s room/there’s space in this genre for stories like this. So that was a few years ago now. But, yeah, Julian Winters, Leah Johnson.
There’s a lot of queer authors that I think are doing terrific work that I’m constantly drawing inspiration from, but I’m definitely someone who’s a big proponent of always being on the lookout for creative energy or creative thoughts. I’m always like jotting down notes in my like phone app and Even in like the film and TV worlds, like “PEN15,” I like ate that series up so much and got so many like funny ideas.
And I loved how “PEN15″navigated being like, just over the top. Ridiculous. But also having a ton of heart, I could go down to “PEN15” rabbit hole, which I want to do now. but yeah, there’s so many, great authors and books, and people doing creative things in all different mediums.
I’m definitely a big proponent of keeping your eyes open and getting inspiration from all different types of things.
Jeff: And what’s a book you’ve read recently that you would actually recommend to our audience?
Robbie: I would say, “The Song of Achilles,” which I know might be old news because it’s already gotten, it’s already won a bunch of awards and out of bestsellers list.
So I’m sure many people have read it, but I just finished it and I’m still thinking about it. It’s still like on the forefront of my brain, Madeline Miller. It’s just, just amazing.
Jeff: It’s mind blowing.
Robbie: So good. It’s so good. And honestly, the whole idea of like Greek mythology at first I was like, I just don’t think this is going to be a good fit for me, but three pages in I would say I was hooked. She’s just a great writer and it’s a terrific story. So I would definitely check out “The Sign of Achilles, if any of your listeners haven’t yet.
Jeff: Yeah, it’s certainly having a Renaissance right now. All of a sudden that book is like resurfaced after a while, which has been really wonderful.
Robbie: And I think, someone should definitely fact check this, but I think that’s one of the books that they’re on a Tik Tok. There’s been a lot of books that have gotten sort of second waves or third waves because teens or younger people have discovered them and then posted about them and like, crying on Tik Tok, and books kind of have another, like you said, another Renaissance after they like go viral in certain spaces, which is so cool. And if any book deserves to have a second or third wave it’s, it’s definitely “The Song of Achilles.” It’s such a great story.
Jeff: So we’ve talked a little bit about what’s coming next for you. You’ve got the book two. You’ve got the book three. You’ve got an amazing book tour lined up. If people are listening to this, right as this episode drops, you’re in the midst of that.
Who are you getting paired up with on this virtual book tour you’re getting to do? Cause it’s some pretty amazing names.
Robbie: Yeah, thank you for asking about this. I’m so excited to be working with Anderson Bookshop out of Illinois, out of the Chicago area. And I’m in conversation with Julian Winters. I’m a big fan of all of his books. He is a terrific, terrific writer and It was kind enough to help me launch “The Sky Blues.” I’m working with him.
And then I mentioned Adam Silvera earlier, a queer YA icon, I guess you could say. He’s so great. So amazing. And he is teaming up with me. I have an event on April 10th. Hosted by Skylight Books here in LA, but it’s of course a virtual event, so anyone can come. I’m so excited. I’ve never done a book tour before, let alone a virtual one. I’m kind of in unchartered territory or unshared or waters, but I’m so, so excited.
Jeff: We’ll put a link to your events page from your website in our show notes so that folks can drop into those events.
I mentioned your website. How else can people keep up with you online to know how “The Sky Blues” goes and, as you move towards book two next year?
Robbie: Yeah, so I am on Twitter, way too much probably. So you can definitely find me on Twitter. It’s spirits at Robbie Couch on Twitter. I think there’s an underscore under my, between my first and last names, but hopefully people will be able to find me pretty easily. And then on Instagram @ Robbie Couch as well. I’m pretty active on both those platforms and, yeah, totally reach out. Ask questions, say hi. I would love to hear from folks.
Jeff: Fantastic. Well, Robbie, thank you so much for coming and talking about this wonderful book with us. We wish you all the success as you get through the debut week for “The Sky Blues.”
Robbie: Thank you so much. This was a blast and I had so much fun.
Will: This episode’s transcript has been brought to you by our community on Patreon. If you’d like to read the conversation for yourself, simply head on over to the shownotes page for this episode biggayfictionpodcast.com. And don’t forget the shownotes page also has links to everything that we’ve talked about in this episode.
Jeff: And “The Sky Blues” along with some of the other books we talked about with Robbie are available from Libro.fm and you’ll find notations for those in the shownotes. Remember when you get an audi book from Libro.fm, you’re supporting a local bookstore of your choice so we hope you’ll give them a try. The Libro.fm app is super easy to use. Plus, as a listener of the “Big Gay Fiction Podcast,” you’re eligible to get started with a two month audiobook membership for the price of one. To get details on that, simply go to biggayfictionpodcast.com/librofm.
And thanks again to Robbie for coming to talk about “The Sky Blues.” I really hope you’ll add this amazing book to your TBR because Sky is someone you all really need to meet. And in the meantime, I very much look forward to what Robbie does next coming in 2022.
Will: All right. I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up on Monday and episode 302 it’s time for an episode full of reviews. We’re going to tell you about everything that we’ve been watching and reading.
Jeff: It’s been a great few weeks between some really great movies and some amazing books. So look forward to talking about that next week.
Will: Thank you so much for listening until next time, stay strong, be safe and above all else Keep turning those pages and keep reading.