Jeff & Will welcome Mark Kanemura to talk about his debut children’s book I Am a Rainbow. Mark—who is well known for his stint on season four of So You Think You Can Dance, his time dancing with Lady Gaga, and his Instagram dance parties—discusses how he came to write this book and how much it reflects his childhood. He also shares what he hopes readers of all ages take away from it, and what Pride means to him in 2023.
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. These links are current at the time the episode premieres, however links are subject to change.
- Boyslut: A Memoir and Manifesto by Zachary Zane
- Episode 427 – Dominic Lim Hits “All the Right Notes” on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- “Bleeding Love” performed by Mark Kanemura and Chelsie Hightower on YouTube
- Episode 420 – Alice Oseman Discusses “Solitaire” and “Heartstopper” on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- Mark Kanemura Interview
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast Links
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, dancer and now children’s book author Mark Kanemura, joins us to talk about “I Am a Rainbow!”
Will: Welcome to episode 428 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’s great to have you with us for this final episode of Pride Month.
As always, the podcast is brought to you in part by our remarkable community on Patreon. If you’d like more information about what we offer to patrons, including a monthly bonus episode that you’ll find nowhere else, and the opportunity to ask questions to our guests, just like Rebecca does in this very episode, go to patreon.com/BigGayFictionPodcast.
Will: So as we wrap up this pride month, I’ve been getting out more and enjoying some of the weather. I’m not a complete shut in. I’ve been going on walks and listening to some non-fiction recently some of which has just blown me away.
One of which is Zachary Zane’s “Boyslut: A Memoir and Manifesto.” And boy, if ever there was a book that does what it says on the tin is this one. It is both an unflinchingly honest memoir and it’s also a modern manifesto on bisexuality specifically and overall queerness in general.
It is wild and crazy. It is funny.A truly sex positive look at all of the sexual hangups and kinks we all share. It is a very wild ride. As well as an educational one. But saying something is educational isn’t exactly, like, a really great selling point. So, I’m just gonna tell you this is a crazy, outrageous, sexy book. And as I mentioned, I listened to it while I was on my morning walks, and the audiobook is read by the author. So, his unique voice as a writer really comes through loud and clear.
So I think if you’re looking for something a little bit different, you should really check out Zachary Zane’s “Boyslut”
Jeff: You Had me at Memoir and Manifesto.
Will: It’s so good.
Jeff: Now I’m gonna put that into my audiobook queue cause I didn’t… Folks, sometimes you hear things on the show just as I’m hearing them too.And I didn’t know he’d read this book and so I’m already sold on needing to put this into my own audio queue this summer cause that sounded kind of awesome.
And you know, we’re gonna kind of keep in the memoir area a little bit here, even as we talk about a children’s book. Plus, you know, last week had some musical theater geek out moments with Dominic Lim. Well, it’s about to happen again here with Mark Kanemura. I am so excited I got to talk to Mark. I have to say that the interview day I had with Mark was kind of a benchmark moment for the podcast because I talked to Mark the same day I talked to Alice Oseman, and putting those two together in the same day, I think Will could attest to the fact that I was kind of bouncing off the walls a little bit that day.
But I’m so happy that Mark came to talk about his debut children’s book. I Am a Rainbow. I’ve been a huge fan of Mark’s since I saw him and Chelsie Hightower perform “Bleeding Love” on season four of “So You Think You Can Dance,” and I’ll have a link for you in the show notes so you can experience that if you’ve never seen that before. I have followed his career ever since, and “I Am A Rainbow!” is so amazing in how it approaches telling children that it’s okay to be who they are and to let their inner light shine through.
And as you’ll hear in the interview, it is a sort of a memoir for Mark as it very much leans into his life growing up. And, of course, he’s gonna give us some recommendations of some things that he’s been enjoying. And we hear what Pride month means to him.
Mark Kanemura Interview
Jeff: Mark, welcome to the podcast. It is amazing to have you here.
Mark: Thank you for having me. I’m so excited to join you.
Jeff: You’ve got this amazing book that’s just coming up called “I Am a Rainbow!”
Mark: Yes, I’m so excited. I’m so excited.
Jeff: I was so psyched when I first heard about this because I think I saw it first get listed on things almost a year ago. And having followed your career for so long and loving your Instagram videos, changing the wigs, and dancing around, to see that, kind of, manifest into a book is like that is going to be so awesome. Tell folks, in your words, what this book’s about.
Mark: So, this book is about my childhood. I mean, it’s loosely based upon my childhood experience growing up as a vibrant, creative, expressive kid and just his journey of trying to find his way through life and what he’s gone through as far as bullying, finding acceptance, finding his friend group, his chosen family, learning how to feel comfortable in his self and in his creative power. Those are some of the themes that it deals with and what it’s about.
And it’s interesting because I feel like it is based on my childhood but there’s things through my adulthood that are also tied in there. And that’s been really fun to incorporate just because I feel like the last three years, I would say, have been a very, very specific journey of getting back in touch with my inner child. I mean, a lot of the things that you see that I do on Instagram are things that I’ve been doing since I was a child. My dad’s not active on social media, but some of my friends back home will show him some of the videos that I do and he just laughs because he’s like, “You’ve been doing this since you were a kid. So, for me, it’s not anything shocking. You’ve been putting out these productions. You’ve been putting on these costumes. You’ve been dancing, singing, acting, and doing all these things.” So, it just made sense. It made sense with revisiting my childhood and getting back in touch with that inner child to sort of create this children’s book.
Jeff: I love that your dad sees some of your videos because one of the first images in this book is you in the living room performing “Phantom of the Opera” and it’s so appropriate that Phantom just closed…
Mark: I know, I know.
Jeff: …just recently, that that is the first image in the book. You’re in the mask, and you’re sort of in the boat, and your dad’s raising curtains and the chandelier which I love. Did you perform “Phantom” in your house?
Mark: Yeah, absolutely.
Jeff: That’s awesome.
Mark: So, the reason I wanted to put “Phantom” in the book or have some nod to it is because “Phantom” really did sort of change my life. I mean, not to sound dramatic but it really did. I mean, I think that was the first touring production of a Broadway musical that my parents took me to go see. And I just remember sitting in my seat experiencing the show, and I was just completely blown away. I was just like, “Oh, my gosh. What is this? What is happening right now?”
And “Phantom” is such a large, grand-scale musical production that I think for any child’s first musical, it’s going to make an impact in some way. I mean, for me, I think a lot of people would assume that it was the singing or the dancing or the acting, which it definitely was. But I was also just so invested and intrigued by the overall production, I mean, the costumes, the lighting, the set. Like, everything just blew my mind.
I think when the show ended, I just sort of sat there. I was just speechless because there was so much to, sort of, take in but it was from that moment that I knew that I needed to be a part of this world somehow. I didn’t know what it was; I just knew that there was something that lit up inside of me that I was like, “Whoa, I need to be a part of this world.” And that’s when I expressed interest in theater to my parents, and they started putting me in some local theater classes.
But, yeah, I mean, that specific scene is something that happened in the living room. Like, I remember cutting this chandelier out of cardboard, and we had a fishing line. And our house was really cool. There was this beam where you could sort of string things through and use it as a curtain or to lift up props. So, yeah, I created this cardboard chandelier, attached a fishing line, and I had my dad pull it. And we performed “Phantom.” We had a production of “Cats” as well. Any sort of money that I would get from birthdays or whatever, I would save up to go and buy Broadway soundtracks or lighting equipment. I remember going to RadioShack and buying strobe lighting. And I was like, “Oh, this is so exciting. I get to invest in my own productions.”
Jeff: My mind is utterly blown because I was just guessing like seeing it in the book. I’m like, “What a nice way to embellish what had happened and the fact that you made a chandelier that your dad actually raised.”
Mark: Oh, yeah. Absolutely.
Jeff: I loved that. I absolutely loved that.
Mark: Yeah, and I felt very lucky, too, just because my dad was always very supportive of what I did. I mean, he worked the graveyard shift overnight, so he was always home with us during the day. So, any help that we would need as far as hanging anything or just bringing the production to life, he was just always around to help out in any way that he could which, as I got older, I understood that that was not an experience that everyone has. And I do feel very lucky and grateful to have had parents that have been very supportive of my creative endeavors.
Jeff: That’s awesome. Who did you bring into your fold to be all these other characters as you were doing them or did you try to play them all?
Mark: My poor younger sister was the victim of all of my shows. I mean, she was also very supportive and just went along with all of these things. I mean, it was like, “Hey, Marissa, you want to do this show with me?” And me asking her wasn’t really asking her. It was more like, “You’re going to be a part of these things.” So, she was always at my side and in all of my shows or if I wanted to experiment with makeup. I mean, we would even put our own version of Ice Capades on with our rollerblades and have an outdoor show in our little patio. Yeah, we were always doing things like that, putting on our own little new shows or… I don’t know. We kept ourselves entertained for sure.
Jeff: I love that. I wish I lived in your neighborhood and watched all this go down.
How did this book come to be? Did you decide you wanted to write a children’s book or were you approached to write a book or somewhere, kind of, there in between?
Mark: Writing a children’s book was never on my radar. From a young age, I was very focused and very driven. I knew that I wanted to be a part of the entertainment world and part of theater. So, yeah, I mean, as a kid, I had very specific and vivid dreams of dancing and touring with artists.
With what I’ve been doing in the past three years when I stopped touring and dancing as much, I was just exploring my creativity and, sort of, bringing together all of these things that I love, which was dance, and music, and fashion, and drag, and theater, and the overall production of things. And I just, sort of, brought those things together naturally. And it was bringing a lot of joy to my life, and I loved that it was bringing a lot of joy to other people’s lives. So, it was this win-win situation. And the more that I was doing it, I realized that it was really tapping into this part of myself that I feel like I hadn’t been in touch with in a long time, and I realized that that was really my inner child and really reminded me of a lot of the things that I was doing as a kid.
And that’s when I kind of had the idea or this thought of, “Wow, it would be really cool to write a children’s book.” And right before the pandemic, it was like in February, I met with my managers who I had just joined up with. And after the meeting, they were like, “Hey, so we would love if you could send us a few of your goals or things that you would like to do.” And there were only two or three things that I was very specific about, and one of them was a children’s book.
And then the pandemic started and it was just like, “Oh, what’s happening? What’s happening?” I started doing these Instagram live dance parties over the pandemic, which was amazing, brought a lot of people together. It was a really great way for all of us to stay connected and sane with everything that was going on. And someone who was watching or participating in the live had a sister who worked at Little, Brown, the publishing company, and I think she approached her sister and was like, “Hey, I really think you need to do a book with this guy.”
So, I remembered getting this email. I think it was in May actually of 2020, and I opened this email. I saw the subject line, and it just said “children’s book” and I just immediately just started getting teary because I was like, “Whoa, this is wild. This is so, so, so, so crazy that this is happening.” So, they basically wrote this long email about how they’ve been following my journey and how they would love to have a meeting with me about writing a children’s book, and I was just like, “Absolutely. I would love to do this. It’s been circling around in my brain.” So, we hopped on this call, and it just made sense. And they were very open to hearing about the ideas that I had and things that I wanted to write about and explore with a children’s book, so that’s, sort of, how it all came to be. Yeah.
Jeff: I love that. It sounds you almost wished it into existence with the goal list you gave to your agents. You just had to put it out there.
Mark: Oh, totally. Yeah. It was definitely one of life’s surprises because, again, it wasn’t anything that I had set out to do or even imagined myself doing until recently. So, yeah, it’s been very, very cool.
Jeff: What was it like putting the writer hat on to start to craft the story and all that?
Mark: Very different. Very, very, very different just because with my background, the way that I express myself is through my body. I mean, that’s how I communicate. That’s how I speak. So, to get into this new world, I was very nervous, but I worked with Mary-Kate who works at Little, Brown, and we also worked with Steve who helped me to just put this story together because I had the idea… They even asked me, they were like, “Do you want to give it a shot with writing?” And I was like, “Oh, absolutely.” So I went for it and started writing, but it was also really helpful to have people that are in this world and that do this because, again, I’m very aware that this isn’t my area of expertise. So, to have people that could help me bring my thoughts and my expression to life was very helpful.
Jeff: I’ve talked with some other children’s book authors what you have to do to really hone the story down, because you have a few number of words and a few number of pages to get it all through there. What was it like honing down from what the grander concept could have been into really focusing the story?
Mark: Well, that’s one thing that really stood out to me was, when we began the process, they were like, “Hey, we want to send you some children’s books just so that you can kind of do some research and see what’s out there.” And I hadn’t picked up a children’s book in a really long time, so they sent me a bunch of books. And one thing that really stood out to me with the books that made some of the greatest impressions were the simplicity. Like, I really, really admired and appreciated how this very effective storyline and message was… There was something so simple about it but so effective that it sort of blew my mind. I was like, wow, it is so incredible to me how, again, there’s just this simplicity that really makes an impact.
Jeff: Does it connect to your sense, also, of being a dancer-choreographer? I think about the “So You Think You Can Dance” numbers that were 90 seconds. And so often you were telling a complete story in those 90 seconds, or even if you’re in a music video, you’ve still got the arc in about three and a half, right? Is it, kind of, the same like getting down to those basics? Is there, kind of, an analogy there?
Mark: I would say so. There’s a rhythm. There’s a flow that needed to be found and needed to be massaged and worked through just because, as we were working on it, I feel there were certain points or certain things that would stick out that were like, “Ugh, that’s not feeling… Something is not flowing about that, or there’s not enough of a high or a low with that.” And there were certain things or certain moments that I wanted to have a bit more weight to them. So, yeah, I’m very aware of, sort of, the movement, the flow, the pacing. So, I do feel those things are very much related. Yeah.
Jeff: What was it like to see yourself drawn both as young Mark and more as your current self?
Mark: Wild. I cried. I mean, it was wild. I mean, not only was it me but with my family that’s mentioned in the book, I really wanted them to be represented as well just because I love the family that I come from. I mean, my dad is Japanese, my mom is Samoan, and Portuguese, and Ukrainian, and Irish. So, it’s very mixed, and I love the idea of that being represented in a book just because for me, I’ve realized how that sort of visibility is important.
I guess I relate it to watching Janet or Madonna and watching their music videos and seeing a diverse group of background dancers with them. And for me, that made a big impression just because it was something that I saw as a kid and I was like, “Oh, wow. There are people that look like me.” So, I feel that’s something that I could possibly do. And sure enough, I would have dreams about dancing behind Madonna or Janet, and that was something that, later on in life, I started doing was dancing with artists. So, for me, that visibility was really important. And I feel like, especially coming from Hawaii, there’s just so many different cultures and so many different people there that I wanted that to be represented in the book.
Jeff: So, I thought you had great diverse representation too in the friend group that Mark formed.
Mark: That was important for me. Yeah, just because my friend group was the theater geeks, my dance friends, and within that group alone, I mean, there were so many different types of people that I wanted that to feel true, and I wanted that to feel accurate. And again, for me, the visibility is important. I want to make sure that when kids or teens or adults see and read this book, that there might be a character that they see that they relate to or that they can see a little bit of themselves in. So, yeah, that was something that was very important for me.
Jeff: How was the collaboration with the illustrator, Richard Merritt, as you kind of put all this together?
Mark: It was really cool. It was something…again, I think because it was so closely tied to my life, it was just so interesting because it was this process of sending pictures of me as a kid, of me as an adult, of my family. I mean, they even wanted reference photos of the house that I grew up in. I would send them pictures of certain foods or certain snacks that I wanted mentioned in the book as well.
And any time that we would get, we would get another batch of illustrations from Richard, I really had to sort of prepare myself mentally and emotionally and make sure that I was in the right space just because I would usually end up getting very emotional. It was really beautiful to see. I mean, there was sort of… Maybe there was a little bit of expectation or thought of what it would look like, but I just feel Richard really just elevated it, and there’s so much… The thing that really stood out to me about his work was just the color, the vibrancy but also the warmth.
There was something warm about it that was really beautiful and important for me just because I wanted the book to feel a hug. I wanted it to feel accessible to a lot of people. I wanted it to have that feeling of groundedness, of warmth. And I feel it really captures that, but there’s also really fun details here and there. I feel like I would look through it and see everything, but then I would go back and I’m like, “Oh, my gosh, what’s that?” or, “Oh, that’s cool.” And there’s just so many little things that I also love about the book because I feel it’s something that you can kind of go back and pick up on all these little details, which is so fun.
Jeff: Do you have a favorite illustration?
Mark: Yeah, I think that I… So, when we were looking for illustrators, they had asked me if there was a certain sentence or passage that we wanted to submit for illustrations. And for me, it was the moment where these beautiful, bright colors are coming out of Marky. And for me, that was the peak for me of the book. So, I wanted to see how illustrators would interpret that moment. So, for me, that illustration really, really sticks out for me.
Jeff: Nice. And that’s a gorgeous one too.
Mark: Thank you. I mean, yeah, Richard did an incredible job. I mean, when I saw that, I was like, “Whoa.” For me, that part was…it was really important. I was really, really specific about… because I’m a very visual person. I knew what I wanted it to look like. I knew that Marky was going to be there. I knew that there were going to be these ribbons, and streams of color, and confetti, and glitter that were just sort of swirling around him and his friends and his family. And so I was very descriptive in the visual aspect because, again, that’s how I work. That’s where my background is, is in sort of this full production and this full picture and how that came to life.
Jeff: And I thought that it echoed your Instagram stuff as well like that moment of all the color and all the life and just everything was just fabulous.
Mark: Thank you, yeah. Yeah, and that’s the cool… Again, it’s based on my childhood, but there’s a lot of nods to things that have happened in my adulthood with this journey of getting back in touch with my inner child. The rainbow cape thing, for example, is something that was a part of my adult journey, and that was something that was a really big part of, again, this exploration, this adventure of getting back in touch with my inner child. And I just felt, whenever I put this cape on, it sort of felt like I was this superhero, and I kind of felt that way with this tape. I kind of felt that way with wigs. There was something very powerful about putting on this costume, this drag. It brought some confidence, it brought this inner power, and I wanted that to be a part of Little Marky’s journey as well.
Jeff: I also really like the…it’s essentially the closing spread of the book where you’ve got Little Marky, and then a little bit more grown up, and then you’re an adult, and then there’s you as you are today. And it’s just that journey. I think that’s so powerful for the young kids who are going to see this to see you started here, and you ended up here, and it’s just all on those two pages, just the journey.
Mark: Yeah, and a journey it’s been. Yeah, I do feel when I saw that page, I felt very emotional about that page just to see, again, this progression into where we are now just because it’s been a journey. There’s definitely been some ups, but there have been a lot of downs that just seeing that page makes me feel proud of myself and of the things that I’ve had to overcome and work through. And the fact that I’m here and standing and can share the story is, yeah, I don’t take lightly. It’s a big deal.
Jeff: I think it’s a really important story for now. I mean, you started this journey basically three years ago. And I think these books are all the more important now with just the ongoing attacks on queer youth and trans youth and drag artists and all of this. And this sends such a positive, uplifting message, kind of… It’s a piece of defiance in itself in some areas of the country these days. What message do you hope that queer youth take from this book?
Mark: I was really intentional with the way that I wanted people that were reading this book to feel. I wanted them to feel seen. I wanted them to feel safe. I wanted them to feel accepted. I wanted them to have a sense of belonging. Because even though this book is about my childhood and about my creativity and my queerness, I also just think it’s a book about anyone that feels different or that feels they don’t belong or that feels they don’t fit in. And that’s important for me just because… I think because of my own personal journey of my childhood and my teenage years and how difficult those years were, I have that understanding of how challenging that can be, and how dark that can feel, and how isolating that can feel.
So, as an adult now, it’s really important for me to make people feel those things, to feel seen, to feel loved, to feel accepted, to feel they have a sense of belonging because I do have a lot of experience working with kids as a dance teacher, and that’s something that even in those settings, I want to make sure that kids feel that way as well just because, again, I have that understanding of what it feels to not have those things and to not feel those things. So, yeah, that’s something that I really hope that people take with them when they read and experience this book.
Jeff: I love that. It kind of gave me a little bit of goosebumps as you were talking about that because it’s so difficult to see what goes on today in 2023.
Mark: It is. Yeah, I feel we’ve progressed a lot, but I also feel there’s just… It just feels really intense, and I hope that this book is a reminder that people belong in this world, and that they can be themselves, and that there’s a place for them, and that their own unique light and color that they bring to this world is very much needed, especially in these times. And, yeah, that it’s important to bring that, that element of yourself to the world.
Jeff: Any particular message for parents who might have a Little Marky in their home right now?
Mark: I would encourage parents that may have a Little Marky to be open, to be as supportive and as accepting as they possibly can be just because I know that for myself, as a child, I didn’t share a lot of my feelings and what I was going through. So, I would also just keep in mind that you don’t necessarily know what your child may be going through or experiencing, or the hardships that they may be going through at school, or even just personally with feeling comfortable in themselves. And it really does make such a big difference when you have parents that can be loving, and supportive, and accepting just because, for me, I had that. I had that with my parents and with my sisters.
But because of the experiences that I had at school and just in the world, that made life really, really difficult for me. And there were moments in my teenage years where I felt like I didn’t want to exist to be quite frank. And to this day, I really do have my sisters to thank just because, in my middle school years, there were some really dark years where they were there for me in ways of showing their love, of showing their support, of reminding me of who I was. And it was lifesaving for me. So, I would encourage parents to stay open to show and share their love, and support, and acceptance with their child because I mean, it really does make a huge, huge, huge, huge difference in the lives of the children.
Jeff: I love that. Thank you for sharing that. This interview is going to go out during Pride Month on our show. What does pride mean to you in 2023?
Mark: For me, pride is such a beautiful, fun, powerful time just because I love going out to those spaces. I love going out to celebrations and seeing so many different types of people. I love seeing families. I love seeing the older generation. It’s a reminder for me of how far we’ve come and also of the work that still needs to be done.
But it really is such a reminder of the strength and the resilience within our LGBTQ+ community. I mean, it really does amaze me how far we’ve come, and the things that we’ve had to get through, and the things that we’re still trying to overcome and push through. So, yeah, pride is, as fun as it is, it reminds me of the things that we’ve had to go through, our resilience as a community.
And also it makes me appreciative and grateful of the people before that have sort of paved the way to be where we are now. I mean, I feel grateful because I’m able to express myself and do these things on social media and in the real world. And I don’t feel that those things would exist if the people before us weren’t fighting for these rights and these freedoms. And yeah.
Jeff: We love getting recommendations on this show—things to read, things to watch. What have you been checking out lately that our listeners should maybe also be checking out?
Mark: Music-wise, because music is a really big part of my life, I’ve been listening to Jessie Ware’s album a lot. I love disco. She has a lot of influence of disco. That album has been bringing a lot of joy and a lot of movement to my life. I would also recommend my friend, Nina West wrote a wonderful book called “The You Kind of Kind.” And I just actually saw her last night in “Hairspray.” So, if you’re in LA or… They’re touring right now, so they’ll be in LA for a few weeks. But if you get a chance to go and even take your kids to go see “Hairspray,” it is such a wonderful show, and Nina does such an incredible job. And she’s such a light in this world. I love everything she brings to the world through her drag, through this children’s book that she has. She’s such a light and has such a warmth about her. Yeah, that’s another recommendation that’s been bringing a lot of joy and light to my life for sure.
Jeff: “Hairspray” is such a good choice. That’s just a good show on so many levels.
Mark: Yeah, it was opening night here in LA last night. I went to go see that, and it was really, really fun. And, I mean, there were kids in the audience too, enjoying the show and it was just great.
Jeff: As we wrap up, I got a question that not only on my mind but also Rebecca, who’s a member of our Patreon community for the show, we all want to know what’s next for you. Where do we get to find you after the book’s out and out there in the world? What’s on your radar?
Mark: When it comes to my journey and my life especially lately, I feel like I’ve gone through seasons or periods where I’ve been very, very focused on one thing. For example, I feel like my dance career, I was very focused and very driven on a very specific thing, dancing and touring with artists and doing music videos.
And I’ve sort of come to learn that life can be really interesting and full of surprises that I sort of have a general idea of where I want to go or the things that I want to sort of bring to the world, but I try and leave space for life’s surprises just because I feel like… This book, for example, is definitely one of life’s surprises. Like, this was so unexpected and, again, not something that I set out to do. It’s been more of a recent sort of dream. But for me, my focus right now is with this book, just because we’ve been working on it for so long that I’m so excited to finally share it with the world. But that’s where my focus is.
And then from there, I want to continue… I am very driven and passionate about connecting with people and creating spaces that people feel some freedom, freedom to express themselves, freedom to be themselves, freedom to feel safe, to feel seen, to feel a sense of belonging. So, that’s sort of, I would say, my mission going through life and I feel it branches out in sort of these different opportunities whether that’s through dance or through social media or through his book. But I’m just, kind of, yeah, staying open to whatever life has to offer in this moment.
Jeff: Is it a thought that you might author some more, whether it’s a children’s book or something else?
Mark: I would love that. I really enjoyed this adventure, and I do feel with everything that’s going on, I do want to make sure that our youth, again, feel a sense of belonging, feel a sense of acceptance, so that they can grow up living and thriving and being themselves. And, yeah, I think the more reminders that are out there for them of these things, I think is important and is very much needed now. So, I would love the idea of another book or another opportunity to just connect with people.
Jeff: Yeah, I would love to see what other children’s books can come out of your brain after this because this was just amazing.
Mark: Thank you. I appreciate that.
Jeff: What’s the best way for people to keep up with you online? Obviously, you’re active on Instagram.
Mark: Yeah, I would say I’m the most active on Instagram and my handle there is @mkik808. I’m also on Twitter and TikTok and stuff, but I’m not as active on those platforms. I would say Instagram is where it’s at for sure.
Jeff: Fantastic. We’ll link to that and everything else we’ve chatted about in our show notes.
Jeff: Oh, Mark, it has been so amazing to get to talk to you and to meet you and wish you all the success with “I Am a Rainbow!”
Mark: And thanks for having me, too. I really enjoyed this. Thank you.
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 BigGayFictionPodcast.com. We have links to absolutely everything that we’ve talked about in this episode.
Jeff: Thanks so much to Mark for spending some time with us. I so much enjoyed the conversation and I love that his story is out there now for young people, and really people of all ages should just go pick up this book. It’s really such a delight.
Will: All right. I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up next Monday, we’ve got a special panel of YA authors telling us all about their newest books.
Jeff: This is such an awesome panel. We’ve got Abdi Nazemian, Jason June, and Sonora Reyes. We got to chat with them just before they headed off on a mini book tour for Pride Month. We’re gonna talk about their latest books and how these books are actually also a reflection of each of them. It’s an amazing conversation that you’re not gonna want to miss.
Will: If you’ve hung into the very end and are still listening, Jeff and I want to personally thank you so much and hope that you’ll join us again soon for more discussions about the kinds of stories we all love the, big gay fiction kind, of course. 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 frolic.media/podcasts. Original theme music by Daryl Banner.