Jeff & Will discuss some queer graphic novels they’ve enjoyed including the Fence series by C.S. Pacat, plus two by Andrew Wheeler, Love and War and Sins of the Black Flamingo.

Author Julian Winters returns and in keeping with the comics theme, he and Jeff discuss Superman: Son of Kal-El and the representation it brought to the DC universe. Julian also talks about his new YA novel, As You Walk On By. Jeff also reviews As You Walk On By.

Look for the next episode of Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Monday, January 30.

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Show Notes

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Jeff: Coming up on this episode, author Julian Winters is back to talk about Superman and “The Breakfast Club.”

Will: Welcome to Episode 412 of the “Big Gay Fiction Podcast,” the show for avid readers and passionate fans of queer romance fiction. I’m Will and with me, as always, is my co-host and husband, Jeff.

Jeff: Hello, rainbow romance reader. It is great to have you here for another episode of the podcast.

Queer Graphic Novels

Fence by C.S. Pacat, art by Johanna the Mad

Will: We both hope that your 2023 has gotten off to a good start. I personally kick things off by tackling something that has been on my TBR forever. I’ve been aware of C.S. Pacat’s “Fence” series since its first issue premiered way back in 2017. Yeah, I know it’s another case of me being very late to the party, but I don’t know, better late than ever I guess. “Fence” is a sports comic that perfectly hits just about every sports anime trope there is. If you remember “Yuri!!! On Ice,” then you know exactly the tropes that I’m talking about.

All of it is amazing, which I mean considering that I don’t personally find this sport of fencing particularly interesting, is a testament to the storytelling power of the queen of slow-burn romance. Bow down to C.S. Pacat. I read each of the collected volumes and there are five of them so far, which are about the competition surrounding the selection of the new fencing team at King’s Row Private School.

We’ve got Nicholas, he’s the scholarship student with lots of passion and talent, but not a lot of technique. There’s Seiji who is a lean, mean fencing machine, and they, of course, become roommates and the odd couple sparks immediately start to fly. There’s nice guy team captain, Harvard, and his longtime bestie, rich playboy Aiden, and the big question there is will their friendship ever become something more?

It’s all so much fun with lots of sports action and teenage drama, all of it beautifully illustrated by artist Johanna the Mad.

Fence: Striking Distance by Sarah Rees Brennan

Will: And you know what? If the comics aren’t enough, I’d also recommend you check out the novelizations by Sarah Rees Brennan. I read “Fence: Striking Distance,” which takes our beloved teammates and spins them off into a whole new adventure. And admittedly, when I started reading this, I felt that the book was a little slow, but I quickly realized that the switch in format is what temporarily threw me off.

With comics, we’re told the story with lots of great art and very few words, which is great for action, like the scenes of fencing competition, but in the book it’s all words, which isn’t slower, it’s just going a lot deeper, which is great when you’ve got amazing characters like these.

In the book, coach wants the team to be more cohesive, so she sets them some team building exercises. Nicholas and Seiji, they continue to clash and drive each other absolutely up the wall, but after a sort of jewelry store heist, they became much closer friends. Harvard, meanwhile, wants to understand what the big deal about dating is, so he asks Aiden to teach him, and this understandably causes friction due to their deep unspoken love for one another.

I thought there was one particularly great moment where the team is getting on a bus for an away tournament, and all of Aiden’s fan boys have gathered to wave goodbye. One of them is holding up a handmade sign, and it says something like, “We love you Aiden, bon voyage.” And he sees it and he’s like, “Hey, thanks for coming out, Bon.” And Nicholas…

Jeff: Oh my gosh.

Will: …Nicholas turns to him and he goes like, “Hold up, you think because of the sign, his name is Bon?” And Aiden just shrugs it off and he’s like, “Eh, whatevs.” And this leads to the fan boys forever being nicknamed, The Bons. And it’s this sort of silly comedy that’s, like, sprinkled throughout all the teen angst and competition. It’s all utterly delightful. So whether you read the comics or the novels, the whole series is a lot of fun and I really recommend that you check out “Fence.” I’ve binge-read all of it in the last week and it was a perfect way to start off 2023.

Jeff: I’m kind of jealous. I mean, I’ve started my 2023 with some great reads that I’ll talk about on future episodes, but you had so much fun with this. I mean, you were in a very happy place the entire week that you read this, and I’m glad these books finally got some love, because we’ve had that first couple of collected editions of “Fence” in the house for quite some time. So I’m glad you picked this up and I’m probably gonna have to snag it. You loved it so hard. And I love sports romance, so, of course, I’m gonna love that too.

Love and War by Andrew Wheeler, art by Killian Ng

Will: And that love continues with a series that you and I both read. It’s called “Love and War” by Andrew Wheeler with art by Killian Ng. It’s a competitive tug of war, romance comic. I mean, sure, why not? It’s about a chunky cinnamon roll hero named Domo, who is eager to see Gabriel at the start of a new semester at Astra Academy, but Gabe has switched schools to their cross town rivals leaving Domo to co-captain the tug of war team with the wildly competitive Joe, girlfriend of Domo’s best friend, Nessa, inter flamboyant ballet student, Emil, who sets his own narcissistic tendencies aside to romance the reluctant Domo.

I mean, obviously relationship complications arise amongst the sort of secret dates and the strain of training and competition, and it all culminates in the final issue that takes place at the big tug of war tournament qualifiers. Will Joe and Nessa make up? Can Domo finally get past his past with Gabriel for the very real possibility of a happily ever after with Emil? The whole series has lots of really cute romance and snark and competition, and Domo is the kind of adorable sweetheart underdog that you can’t help but root for.

Jeff: I love Domo so much. From the very first time you meet him as he’s getting ready to return to school and the team, and then finding out that Gabe has gone, he is just the sweetest. And the sparks of his competitive streak as he has to deal with his whole co-captaity thing with insanely competitive Joe, was so hilarious.

Will: Oh, God. She’s so funny

Jeff: Because she is so competitive, and just in his low easygoing way, Domo manages to lead and take care of things and also be in competition with her, but not to her level which frustrates the crap out of her, which is also very funny. And that’s sparking romance with Emil, so, so good. I look forward to see where this series will be continuing.

Will: “Love and War” is a comiXology original, which means it’s exclusive to Amazon, and you can purchase issues individually or read for free with your KU subscription.

Sins of the Black Flamingo by Andrew Wheeler, art by Travis Moore and Tamra Bonvillain

Will: Another great series also by Andrew Wheeler, this time with Art by Travis Moore is “Sins of the Black Flamingo,” and the tagline for this comic is “Occult Noir, Miami Sleaze,” and I’m like, okay, I’m onboard. Let’s do this.

Jeff: It captured it perfectly.

Will: Our main character is a guy named Sebastian Harlow, and by night, he is the Black Flamingo, a hard-edged thief with a specialty in mystic artifacts. Now, every good anti-hero needs a team to back him up, of course. There’s Sebastian’s best friend, Ofelia, who’s a witch, and she doesn’t have time for anybody’s bullshit. Oh, my God, she’s amazing. There’s Abel, the lovable himbo Gollum, who is completely devoted to Sebastian, and there’s Ezekiel, an angel Sebastian rescues from the villainous Thorndike Scar, and it’s the recapture of Ezekiel by various right wing factions that leads to the action-packed climax of this five-issue series.

Jeff: Did you ever think you would utter the words himbo and Gollum together?

Will: Yeah, but once I read it, I was like, “Oh, my God, this is obvious. Of course, it is.”

Jeff: Completely.

Will: It makes perfect sense.

Jeff: Yeah, it’s the perfect adjective for Abel.

Will: So if you like a little more action and mysticism in your superhero comics, issues of “Sins of the Black Flamingo” are available to buy individually, or you know what? You can wait until February when the whole series is going to be bundled in the complete “Black Flamingo” graphic novel collection. It’s got great writing and great art. Check it out if you have a chance.

Jeff: Yeah, it was so good. I was so glad you turned me onto that because it was a super fun read.

Julian Winters Interview

Jeff: And keeping the comic love going a little bit further, when I had Julian Winters co-host with me back in December for our episode about our favorite Young Adult Reads of 2022, we chatted for so long, we couldn’t fit everything into one episode. One of the things Julie and I talked about was our love of DC’s “Superman: Son of Kal-El” series. And as we’re talking about graphic novels, hey, perfect time to share this with you.

Jeff: We’ve chatted a few times on Twitter and emails about “Superman: Son of Kal-El,” the comic book series that started summer of 2021. And briefly for people who don’t know, because I’ve talked about it on the show a couple times, this particular series focuses on Jon Kent, who’s the son of Lois Lane and Clark Kent. And as this series opens, he ends up becoming the Superman who’s, you know, protecting Earth because Clark has to go off-world to do, you know, stuff, and big battle with somebody who’s trying to take over the world and kill the superheroes and, you know, is in cahoots a little bit with Lex Luthor, a big bad out there, you know, he’s gotta take all this on.

But, you know, this was Superman got to come out. And he kissed a boy more than once in the pages of this comic and he had to introduce Jay to his mom. And this is the thing that always…that I laugh about. Early on, Jay came over to the farm to meet grandma and grandpa. He’s there for like five minutes and they sit down to dinner and then the farm blows up because, you know, people are mean. What a way to meet the grandparents. Come to dinner and then we’re gonna blow everything up. But anyway, you’re such a comic book fan. You’ve written comic book geeks in both “The Summer of Everything,” it’s in “Right Where I Left You,” as well. What did this series mean for you as the comic book geek and Superman fan, and that whole thing?

Julian: It meant…oh gosh, it means so much to me. Kind of just being able to see that on page, like you said, Superman is in this relationship with Jay and they’re…you know, you get to see them be affectionate, you get to see them have these vulnerable moments together. And it meant a lot to me as someone growing up hoping and looking for queer comic book characters and often either not finding them or when they did come out, then they disappear for, like, whole years before they came back around again and whatnot. So, it was a huge deal for me to have this series that focuses so much on Superman being human and, you know, his identity and him finding joy in who he is and discovering, you know, these really tough, difficult decisions that you have to make, but he just also happens to be queer. Like, it’s not, like, this whole thing where we’re spending 25 issues, you know, breaking down his queerness and what it means.

It just means so much to have a hero that just so happens to be queer, doing great things and making tough decisions, and not always getting it right also, which is…I think is super important to show. It’s a huge deal for me to see that it’s an ongoing series and also see that it is so well-loved. Like, people are obsessed with this series. And I love that because it gives me hope that we can have more series like this and we can have more characters who come out or who are already out and just living their best lives while also doing superhero things.

Jeff: I loved how they split the action with the romance and how they really hit so many of the typical romance beats between Jon and Jay. You know, it’s not just, this is an action comic and, “Oh look, over here there’s a little romance happening.” I don’t know that it was like a 50/50 split but that was intertwined so, so well, you know? And it doesn’t seem to be stopping. I mean, as you and I are recording, we know there’s at least a couple more episodes in the pipeline as well even as the story starts to change because we did kind of hit the end of the big battle. So, something else is going to be next.

Julian: Yeah. Something else is brewing behind the scenes.

Jeff: But, you know, the other scene that I love so much that was probably just a throwaway for some people was, there’s somewhere back in…it’s before Issue 10, I think, is that Jon leaves his cape with Jay for reasons I can’t even remember. But that hearkened back for me, like, at the end of “The Goodbye Girl,” when Richard Dreyfuss left the guitar for Marsha Mason. “Hang on to my cape, I will be back for this.”

Julian: Yes. Yeah. And it’s…I didn’t think it was a throw-away moment though I agree some people might. But it is such a big moment because it’s almost like a promise because we know what the symbol of that cape means to the world and he’s giving it to Jay and saying, “Hold on to this. I’m definitely coming back for this and for you.” So, that was like…it just hit so hard for me. I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is really happening. Like, this is like…”

And it also, I think, was a big one for me because you’re so used to when we have these queer romances that we’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop. What’s gonna happen to, you know, their partner, what’s gonna happen to the love interest that, you know, just, like, we’ve constantly seen this whole bury your gays kind of thing. And so that moment kind of just gave me confirmation, “Oh wait, he’s not going anywhere. He’s coming back and, you know, Jay will still be there and this is gonna continue on and grow.” And I think that was a symbolic moment that really resonated with me.

Jeff: I really hope…I mean, burying your gays aside because that is a real deal, it’s hard in a superhero universe to have a significant other, period.

Julian: Period. How Lois Lane has lasted this long.

Jeff: I know, right? But when you look at the movies, of course, we had to spin back time and forget all that ever happened, you know, for reasons and stuff.

Julian: Right.

Jeff: So, it’s, you know, the…you know, although, you know, even in the Marvel Universe, Captain America did finally get to hang out with Peggy Carter, so…

Julian: Only took, I don’t know, 17 three-hour movies, but we got there.

Jeff: Right? We’re just to the point now where Superman’s back. Clark has come home, they’re gonna end up and have some conversation about this at some point. I’m sure that Clark’s gonna be a good dad and be like, you know, just as Lois was. Do you have thoughts? This may be two separate things because these may not align well, but where do you think it may go and where do you want it to go?

Julian: Oh gosh, this is a tough question for me. First of all…

Jeff: I say that as I don’t know what I want. You’re more the authority here between the two of us.

Julian: I don’t know if I’m a…I mean, because again, I’m so used to comic books leaning so hard into the heroics and the saving the day and things like that. And I’ve forgotten about the little moments that are really also saving the day and have such a huge impact. So, I don’t know. I will say this last issue, like the opening scene, oh my gosh, my emotions, like, I had to stop myself from, like, not crying. But I really hope that, you know, viewers go back and read that because the big thing about, you know, it’s a flashback to when Jon is younger and he’s sort of getting his powers for the first time and how Clark helps him through that. Ugh. Like, chef’s kiss. Big for me.

Jeff: And that’s Issue 16 if people wanna check that specifically out, that’s Issue 16.

Julian: Yes. Please check out Issue 16. How do I…I don’t know how it’s going to go. I’m gonna say that Tom Taylor has done a fantastic job with this series with surprising me with every issue where I think something’s gonna happen and it kinda leads you in that way and then twists. And I love that. I love that it’s been such an unexpected thing. I don’t know what is gonna happen next. I can’t predict how the storyline’s gonna, you know, end and whatnot. So, I don’t know what to expect.

What I hope is that they continue these really vulnerable, important soft moments between father and son because I think that’s also what’s missing sometimes from not just the comic universe, but just fiction, in general, is showing that fathers and sons can have strong healthy relationships, that fathers can be empathetic and understanding, and genuine about their feeling towards their children. So, I hope that that’s where it goes. I hope that Clark listens to Jon and Jon is not afraid to kind of open up to him.

Jeff: I love that as a trajectory. Because like you, I want those soft moments. I want to continue to get emotional when I read this comic, you know, same as you with, you know, Issue 16 and that flashback. It was like, “Oh.” Or even that first kiss or the leaving of the cape, you know?

Julian: Right? Yeah.

Jeff: My romance heart loves that and the lover of the soft moments gets really invested in that. So, yeah.

Julian: Yeah. And I look forward to a more…now that, you know, Jay and Clark had, like, the abbreviated moment and whatnot. I am looking forward to, like, a more honest moment between Clark, you know, kind of, you know, looking at Jay like, “Okay, this is my son so he’s really important.” I’d love to see that kind of interaction.

Jeff: Okay. Tom Taylor, we’ve said what we want. Of course, you’re probably working five or six issues ahead of what we’re talking here, but we’ve said our peace there.

Julian: Please hear our pleas.

Jeff: Now, since we recorded, “Superman: Son of Kal-El” has actually ended. There were two more issues that came out after we chatted, and the series ended with number 18 that came out in December. I have to mention that issue 17, which actually came out just a couple of days after our interview, and I so wish we’d been able to talk about this. It had a great moment where Clark finally met Jay, and Jon and Clark had a really good talk. And I wanna share just one part of what Clark said to Jon. Yes, it’s a bit of a spoiler, but it’s really not a surprise that Clark reacted as well as he did.

Jon told him that he was very worried about coming out because he feared that that would put some distance between them. And Clark said this, “Every day of my life has been better since you’ve been in it, every single day. Who you love is the last thing that could change that. Anyone who makes your life better will always be a hero in my eyes.” I mean, hmm, way to go, Clark. That’s exactly the kind of thing we would want you to say, and frankly what every parent should say to their kid if they’re coming out.

If you haven’t read this series, I really can’t recommend it enough. All the individuals are out now in print and digital formats. There are also two hardback collectors editions out now, with the third and final collection coming out in May. And what’s next for Jon? His story is said to continue in “Adventures of Superman: Jon Kent.” Tom Taylor continues to write the series. And from what I’ve read so far, it sounds like it’s going to be some DC multiverse shenanigans going on. The new series is set to kick off in March, and I’ll definitely be checking it out to see what it’s all about.

Now, another thing I talked with Julian about is his brand new book, “As You Walk on By,” which comes out this week, and here’s the scoop on that.

I can’t let you get away without talking a little bit about “As You Walk On By,” which is your next book coming out in the middle of January. What are we gonna get as we meet Theo?

Julian: Oh my goodness. Theo is probably one of the messier characters ever. And I feel like saying that after coming off of Isaac, it’s a bold statement. But Theo is one of the messier characters in that he is walking through life thinking that he’s not, and then he gets a really kind of, I don’t wanna say harsh, but he gets…in one night, he gets a harsh reality check that, you know, you aren’t as great or perfect as you think kind of thing. So, Theo is one of the stars of his track team at school. He is queer and out at school, he goes to a magnet school. So, it’s very competitive and there’s everyone vying to, you know, like, build their academic status so that they get to great colleges. And Theo is determined because of his father to get into Duke University, and so he is on this journey to doing that.

But he gets dared by his best friend to ask his crush to prom. And Theo’s so driven by the goals that his father has set for him that for once, he just wants to have this one thing, which is, okay, I’m going to ask the boy I like to prom and have that one magical queer night that you don’t often see in, like, all the great movies on Netflix and whatnot, where it’s, like, the queer character gets to have the big moment at prom. So, that’s what he’s determined to do.

But at the party that he’s supposed to ask his crush out, he kind of chickens out and runs away to the bedroom upstairs and eventually kind of finds himself in this “Breakfast Club”-esque situation where he’s in a room with four other people and they’re kind of semi-strangers. They know each other in passing in a way. And it’s an eye-opening experience for him because they all decide, “Well, we don’t wanna leave this room, we don’t wanna deal with our problems downstairs.” And it is a night of being vulnerable, it is a night of, kind of, confronting your pasts, and it is also a night of, kind of, deciding who you’re going to be once you walk out this door kind of thing. And so, yeah, I hope people love that side of it and also love that Theo is allowed to be messy and flawed as a queer black boy.

Jeff: I love “The Breakfast Club” aspect because that, I think, of all the John Hughes movies was my favorite. Yeah, I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with that kind of atmosphere with teens of today and what they’re leaving downstairs.

What do you hope that young queer readers take away from Theo’s story?

Julian: There’s a lot of things I touch on in the book, which was not my intention. My intention going in was like, “Oh, I’ll maybe talk about this, may talk about that,” and it went a whole different direction. But I hope that queer readers, one, take away that they are more than deserving of that big night at prom or a party or wherever that they see in the movies for all these straight characters, that they are more than deserving of having that kind of night, that they are also deserving of healthy friendships.

The book definitely goes into the toxic friendships that Theo has and that he continues to have because that’s the status quo and that’s how it’s been, and that’s…you know, in his mind, he’s thinking, “Oh, it’s not that serious, you know, these microaggressions are not that big, you know, I’m making this all up,” kinda thing. So, I hope that queer readers take out that they need to have healthy relationships and that they don’t have to tolerate things. And the things that they’re thinking in their mind aren’t just made up. They’re real and they’re there for a reason.

I also kind of talk about the queer community in general and how it’s kind of like with the gay club about what acceptance means and what we do and don’t allow and the things that we, you know, kind of brush off or erase from people’s identity because we think, oh, you know, they’re this or, oh, they haven’t decided, or whatever it may be. So, I hope that they take that from it. But like I said, I really hope that they take that they’re deserving of big, wonderful moments and healthy relationships with people.

Jeff: What was your inspiration for Theo? Where did he come from?

Julian: Oh gosh, it’s funny because this whole book idea came to me…I was supposed to be editing probably “Right Where I Left You,” and I…or maybe in “The Summer of Everything,” and I laid down to take a nap instead and dreamt up this whole plot. So, there you go, writers. Sometimes it’s not bad to give yourself a break and take a nap.

But the whole inspiration from Theo kind of came from a little bit of wishful…things I wish for myself when I was a teen, kind of the chances and the dares that I wish I would’ve taken. I did some things I should not have done, but there are other things I wish I would’ve done for myself and not for like entertainment value to kind of like, you know, build myself up and give myself hope and confidence. But also the inspiration came from Theo in that I get a lot of great reviews and a lot of great feedback, but I often get that, “You know, you write these wonderful, great, you know, perfect, sweet characters.” And I realized, like, but I’m not wonderful and I’m not perfect and, you know, I’m not sweet all the time.

And the inspiration for Theo was that I needed to write a character that has made some horrible decisions in life. He’s made mistakes and he’s kind of veering a little bit in the wrong direction by doing everything for everyone else, not himself kinda thing. And I knew I needed to write that kind of character to show people that yes, I love writing, you know, this kind of character, but I also love representing this side of people because we are all multifaceted, we all contain multitudes and it shouldn’t be that a Julian Winters’ book is just this one type of person. I want you to see the other sides.

Jeff: Cool. I like that. Without giving a spoiler, could you share a favorite scene to write?

Julian: Yeah, yeah. I don’t think it’s…It happens in Chapter 2, so I hope that’s not too much of a spoiler.

Jeff: It’s not too bad. Yeah.

Julian: I won’t give it all away, but Theo is late to class because he was agreeing to this dare with his best friend. So, he’s late to class, he’s running to get to class and he bumps into another boy and they kinda have this collision and things kinda get, you know, messed up from there. And Theo realizes he’s just walked into the middle of this boy trying to prompose to his ex. And things go all downhill from there because the boy’s, like, kind of gotten like the glee club to kind of come out and sing and do all these big things. And now of a sudden, Theo is smack-dab in the center of the promposal and everyone’s like, “Oh, it’s for him,” but it’s not.

And it was my favorite scene to write because it’s this interaction between Theo and this boy that he gets to know later on in the book and whatnot and they kind of develop this really great friendship, or this relationship and whatnot. But it was so much fun to kind of write, like, this messy, mayhem kind of moment of a promposal going epically wrong. And I had so much fun writing it. And I think while editing it also, I didn’t change that much of what happened from, like, the first draft to the final draft. Like, it consistently stayed the same, the different parts of it happened, the different dialogue and like, oh my god, secondhand embarrassing moments of things. So, that was one of my favorites to write for this whole…

Jeff: Promposals are so fun too. There’s been a few books that have had promposals in them and it’s always fun to see what different authors come up with for, like, the promposal that maybe somebody sees or the ones that they’re doing for somebody else and, you know, all of that.

Julian: This one was…it was a lot of fun, but it was also like the promposal you don’t want. That’s what I wrote. The one that you’re like, “No, no, don’t ever do that for me,” kind of thing.

Jeff: What can you share about what comes up after “As You Walk On By?” We know you’re knee-deep in writing now, and that maybe that’s 2025.

Julian: Yeah. So I…what do I have? There are…I think I’m in…I counted earlier today. I think it’s four anthologies next year that come out that you can catch one of my short stories in what’s coming up. A week before “As You Walk On By,” comes out is “Cool. Awkward. Black,” edited by Karen Strong. So, I’m really looking forward to that one. I mean, it’s all black geeks and black nerds and it’s such a wonderful collection of stories. And then there’s a couple others I’m in throughout the year that may or may not be announced so I don’t wanna say.

And then hopefully my next YA will be announced sometime early next year. I don’t really know. I can’t say what it’s about, obviously, but I’m really looking forward to it because I think people will be surprised by what it’s about, but also maybe not as surprised if they really, like, paid attention to certain aspects of my online presence. So, yeah, it’s…I’m fingers crossed it comes out really well, but, you know, who knows what 2023 will bring.

Book Review: As You Walk On By by Julian Winters

Jeff: I have to give thanks again to Julian for the wonderful conversation that we recorded in December. If you missed our favorite YA Reads of 2022, you can find that in episode 408.

Now, let me tell you how much I loved “As You Walk On By.” Julian said that Theo is one of his messier characters, and that might be an understatement, because Theo is just not aware of what’s really happening in his life and how it impacts him. Now, I’m not gonna rehash what the book is about since you just heard that from Julian, but I do wanna quickly tell you what I loved so much about this book. First of all, it is the mess that is Theo. The journey that Theo is on through the book is really incredible as he goes from thinking life is all good to getting that previously mentioned harsh reality check, and then finding his way to the other side of it.

Theo has hit hard from so many sides, how terrible some of his friends are, the pressure from his dad about college, and dealing with his own past of in fact being a terrible friend. It comes at him fast, and some of it was jaw-droppingly shocking. Julian puts Theo through the ringer, but what that means is that watching Theo come back from all of this and become a stronger person and someone who is on their way to a better state of being is so rewarding.

I also have to shout out “The Breakfast Club” aspect of the story. Pulling together such diverse people in that bedroom where Theo is seeking refuge during the party was so very good, and I would love it if Julian can come back and dive into some of those other characters, perhaps for sequels or short stories or something like that, because there’s so much interesting things with these folks that are gathered up in this bedroom hiding from the party. The sharing that happens between Theo and the others with equal parts funny, sad, distressing. It’s a picture of four different yet similar teens trying to get by in high school with all the pressures that come from classmates, parents, and from social media.

And it goes beyond what we saw in the “The Breakfast Club” movie because we get to see days and weeks after the party and the bedroom scene to see how these new relationships hold up as that bubble kind of bursts from being holed up in that one room to now being back out in the world. I have to say that there were things that didn’t sort out like I expected them to, but I really love that because I so much love not guessing where some of this was gonna go.

And lastly, I have to mention the strength that some of these characters find to no longer accept, microaggressions, shaming, and bullying. It’s so important that friends stand up for each other, and that really everyone stands up even for strangers who are being attacked in the ways that they can, whether it’s on social media or in real life. Julian illustrates the harms from these types of attacks, and also the strength that can come from pushing back against them. I really hope that all the readers take that to heart. Oh, and the ending, ugh, so perfect in every way. After some of the intensity Julian puts Theo and the others through, it does all come out on the other side in the best way. I absolutely recommend that “As You Walk On By” by Julian Winters is part of your reading list.


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, head on over to the show notes page for this episode at The show notes page has links to everything that we’ve talked about in this episode.

Jeff: And just a quick reminder about our newsletter, if you’re not signed up for the Rainbow Romance Reader Report, you are missing out. Every Friday, it drops into your inbox with book recommendations, what we’re loving on TV, and news about the podcast. You could sign up for it at, or hey, look for that link in the show notes.

Will: All right, I think that’s going to do it for now. Coming up next on Monday, January 30th, we’re going to be joined by authors K.M. Neuhold and Mia Monroe.

Jeff: That’s right. K.M. and Mia have joined forces under the pin name Mika Nix, and we’re gonna find out all about their debut book “Hot Head,” which is book one of the “Drake Security” series.

Will: On behalf of Jeff and myself, we wanna thank you so much for listening and we hope that you’ll join us again soon for more discussions about the kinds of stories we all love, the big gay fiction kind. Until then, keep turning those pages, and keep reading.

Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find more shows you’ll love at Original theme music by Daryl Banner.