Jeff & Will kick off this episode with their thoughts on Heartstopper season 2, and the movie adaptation of Red, White & Royal Blue.
Timothy Janovsky discusses his new book New Adult, including its inspiration from time travel movies like 13 Going on 30. He talks about the book’s themes of character growth, “queer time,” memory, and the impacts of making the wrong choices. He also shares how he started writing romance during the pandemic, his love of rom-coms, and his favorite tropes. We also get details on his forthcoming books, including The (Fake) Dating Game, and a queer holiday romance spin on The Santa Clause.
Look for the next episode of Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Monday, August 28.
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.
- Heartstopper on Netflix
- Red, White & Royal Blue on Amazon Prime Video
- Timothy Janovsky Interview
- Timothy Janovsky: website | Facebook | Instagram | TikTok
- Never Been Kissed by Timothy Janovsky
- You’re A Mean One, Matthew Prince by Timothy Janovsky
- New Adult by Timothy Janovsky
- The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
- This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith
- Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
- Beach Read by Emily Henry
- Christina Lauren on Amazon
- Tessa Dare on Amazon
- 13 Going on 30 on Amazon Prime Video
- Annabeth Albert on Amazon
- Xio Axelrod on Amazon
- Afterglow Books website
- The (Fake) Dating Game by Timothy Janovsky (pre-order until January 23, 2024)
- You Had Me at Happy Hour by Timothy Janovsky (pre-order until July 23, 2024)
- Home for the Holidays on Amazon Prime Video
- The Santa Clause on Amazon Prime Video
- Supermarket Sweep (original series) on Amazon Prime Video
- Second Chances in New Port Stephen by TJ Alexander (pre-order until December 5, 2023)
- The Lake on Amazon Prime Video
- Schitt’s Creek on Hulu
- 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, Timothy Janovsky joins us to talk about his new time traveling rom com.
Will: Welcome to episode 434 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 here for another episode of the show. 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 the opportunity to ask questions to our upcoming guests, go to patreon.com/BigGayFictionPodcast.
So, we have been living in a queer programming boom here in the first half of August, especially on Netflix and Amazon. It started off at the beginning of the month as “Heartstopper” season 2 dropped on Netflix. It’s no surprise we are tremendous Heartstopper fans, and Season 2 was oh, so good. We’ve actually already started a rewatch of it even though it’s only been out a couple of weeks now. I really loved how they brought. In this case, what is the third book in the graphic novel series to life. Sending the gang to Paris. We get to see Charlie and Nick kind of navigate what it means to maybe start being an out couple.
Nick certainly goes through his challenges trying to figure out who to come out to and when to do it. Things get a little more real in this series too, I think, because we saw some snippets of Charlie’s mental health struggles in season one, but they really come into play here in season two. And I know that will even play more into season three .
It’s wonderful to see how the show opens up from the graphic novels too. We get to see so much of Tao and Elle, explore their relationship. It’s really amazing to watch Isaac’s story. Isaac doesn’t exist in the graphic novels. And so everything around Isaac’s story was just brand new and exciting. And I know I’ve seen some interviews with Alice Oseman about this particular season and how personal the character of Isaac is for them, as they were also going through their own figuring out that they are Ace. So, really tremendous to see that. And, ahhh, I can’t wait to get the rewatch done so I can just relish all in it again that I loved it so much.
And then, just this past Friday, “Red, White & Royal Blue” made its movie adaptation premiere on Amazon. I think we were all eagerly awaiting to see how that would turn into a movie. I liked it. I thought it was really sweet. It certainly super focuses the story on the relationship that forms between Alex and Prince Henry. There’s so much in the book, especially around politics, that didn’t make the cut of the movie, and I think that’s fine.
The stuff with the relationship came through beautifully. I thought the actors, Taylor Perez and Nicholas Galitzine, were just excellent as Alex and Henry. I don’t know that I could have cast it any better if I had tried. Their chemistry was so good, and the way that they played falling in love and navigating through everything they had to go through, I thought was really sweet. I suspect I’ll be watching this again just to pick up more nuances in it.
I was happy that so much of the key scenes of the book, I mean, not just the cake falling on them, but even the turkey being stuck in Alex’s room at Thanksgiving, going through the museum, and things like that. It was really lovely. I think they did a good job taking a pretty long book and condensing it down into a two hour film. It made me so happy to sit there and watch those characters come to life on my screen.
Will: Yeah, like you said, the end of summer has become an embarrassment of riches when it comes to queer programming. I really like both of these as well. And I’m just grateful that these actually just exist now in this time and place.
And while it’s important to acknowledge its place in cinema history, I think for the longest time, ” Brokeback Mountain” was the only touch point that, frankly, an entire generation of people have had for queer storytelling. And that’s all well and good. And amazing as that is, it of course is a story that centers queer trauma.
I’m particularly grateful that now we have a new generation of storytellers that center queer optimism. I’ve seen online that’s the identifying buzzword for “Heartstopper.” It’s not just that the characters, you know, are soft and the show is kind of sweet and lovely, it’s that the story does tackle difficult subjects, but it does it with a forward thinking lens. They’re not going to die at the end. They have strength and courage and a way to contextualize and speak about what they’re going through.
I think it’s darn lovely, and I’m looking forward to even more stories with soft heroes.
Jeff: I like those terms, queer optimism and soft heroes. I think you have finally labeled the brand of things that we like. It’s not just nice guys doing nice things. Soft heroes is a great term for that. You probably don’t need me to tell you this, but I’ll tell you anyway, “Heartstopper” can be found on Netflix, and “Red, White & Royal Blue” can be found on Amazon Prime Video.
Now, let’s get into our interview about a book that I would love to see made into a movie. Timothy Janovsky in fact draws on some movies like, “13 Going on 30,” for his latest book “New Adult,” about a struggling stand up comic who ends up seven years in the future where he has everything he ever wanted career wise, but the boy he loves and his family don’t want anything to do with him.
You may have heard Will rave about Timothy’s other books in the “Boy Meets Boys” series, and we’re excited to finally have him on the show. Of course we talk about the new book, what brought him to writing romance and why he loves the genre so much. And we learned about the exciting stuff coming up in 2024.
Timothy Janovsky Interview
Jeff: Timothy, welcome to the podcast. I’m so happy to have you here.
Timothy: Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to chat.
Jeff: Will’s been talking about your books since “Never Been Kissed,” and he loved “Matthew Prince” as well, and so I was like, I must read “New Adult” so that I could talk to you about your books. But before we get into that book, for our listeners who may not be familiar with “Boy Meets Boy” yet, for whatever reason, tell us a little bit about the prior two books and the series as a whole.
Timothy: Yeah, so I got them all back here, but the “Boy Meets Boy” series, in my head when I was conceptualizing these three novels, were basically I wanted to write bridge books. So, I mean, the third one has the moniker “New Adult,” but they’re all considered new adult novels. And they were basically male/male romance stories that I wanted to tell for YA readers who wanted to read up aspirationally.
I would put any of these novels in the hand of a teenager and feel comfortable and safe. An older teenager, if they wanted to read them and, you know, chat with an adult about them or just talk to their friends about them. And then for older, like adult romance readers, who wanted to read kind of nostalgically back to their college and early 20s days about how messy and confusing and fun that time period can be.
So the first in the series is called “Never Been Kissed.” It’s about Ren Roland. He’s never been kissed, never been in love, but he wants this movie-perfect ending more than anything. So on the night of his 22nd birthday, he gets very drunk and very nostalgic, and he sends out his almost kissed emails, which were emails he had written and saved in a folder to all the boys he crushed on before coming out of the closet.
And he accidentally, drunkenly, sends these emails out to all the guys and he gets one response from his number one high school crush and former friend, Derek Haverford. And through that exchange, he finds out they’re going to be working together at their hometown’s vintage drive-in movie theater for the summer.
And so a lot of chaotic messiness ensues in the concession stand and across the fields and everything. But basically that summer, Ren is trying to figure out, like, can I finally have that perfect kiss before the credits moment that I’ve been dreaming of? I call that one my sweet book.
Then we go to my sour book, which is “You’re A Mean One, Matthew Prince.” It’s a loose riff on the “Schitt’s Creek” riches-to-rags trope, which is about a spoiled heir to kind of an American power couple who makes the PR snafu of buying an island and gets shipped off to his grandparents house in the middle of nowhere in the Berkshires for Christmas.
When he arrives, he finds out that not only is he going to be sharing a bedroom with a local college student who has fallen under some financial hardship and can’t go home to be with his own family for Christmas. Not only are they going to be sharing a bathroom. Not only are they going to be sharing a bedroom. But they’re also going to be sharing bunk beds for the holiday season.
And so there’s some forced proximity tension. And as the town holiday charity gala creeps ever closer, they lose their organizer. Matthew steps forward as a bid to get home early on good behavior so he can throw his massive New Year’s Eve party. But a little bit of family magic, and a lot-of-bit of romance will throw a wrench in that plan for him.
Jeff: And it’ll all be good in the end.
Timothy: So those are the first two books.
Oh yes, exactly. We’ll get that H E A, that fade to black moment. So, yeah.
Jeff: You’ve got a background in writing and performing comedy. You’ve done playwriting. You’ve done some short stories. What led you to starting this romance series?
Timothy: Well, I actually think that what spurred me to wanting to write a romance series was the COVID pandemic.
I was working as an actor in New York right out of undergrad. Right before COVID started. So I was going on auditions, and I was doing plays and shows. I was teaching dance as kind of my stable, you know, spending money job that, you know, paid my bills. And then COVID shut that whole industry down. When I was kind of home and alone and needing comfort, I turned to romance novels because they provided me a safe place to know that at the end of this journey with these characters, I was going to get that warm, fuzzy feeling that I loved from all my favorite romance movies growing up.
And so I actually sat down to write what would become “You’re a Mean One, Matthew Prince.” At the time it was called “Over the River and Through the Woods” because he goes to grandmother’s house. It was something that I had conceptualized, much to my friend’s chagrin, on a tubing trip we went on to the Berkshires. My best friend invited us all to go and stay in her grandmother’s cabin for the weekend, and we were going to go tubing. I got to this small town, and I was like, oh my gosh, there should be a Christmas movie set here, and it’s going to be about this guy, and he’s going to be rich, and this whole thing. And the whole weekend, I annoyed them to no end.
But when COVID hit, I was like, I need something that’s going to really bring me joy. And I knew that Christmas and romance are two things that always, always bring me joy. And so I just, without any expectations, without any kind of precursor, I just sat down and started writing it for me. And I treated it as my job for the time being, because in those early days of the pandemic we weren’t even leaving our houses. I would just sit at my desk, and I would say, “Okay, I’m gonna write 2, 000 words today. I’ll write them whenever I can, and by the end of this, I’ll have a romance novel. And if it’s just for me, it’s just for me, but if it sees the light of day, even better.”
Jeff: Had you always been a romance reader before the pandemic, or was it the pandemic that kind of brought you into just reading the genre?
Timothy: I was reading around the genre for a while. I started out writing young adult fiction. I actually started my journey to traditional publishing when I was like 16 years old. I was just like set on having a novel. I just knew I wanted to write books. And one day I wanted to, you know, have a story on shelves for people to consume. And I was writing YA fiction with a little bit of magical fantasy bent to them. Some of them were about pop stars. Some of them were about underwater cities. They were all very varied and very weird.
But I was inspired very heavily by the YA romance at the time. I was reading a lot of, like Jennifer E. Smith for instance. I was reading her “The Statistical Probability of Falling in Love” and “This Is What Happy Looks Like.” These just very sweet and sentimental stories that found two people, usually in kind of some happenstance meeting, and falling in love.
And then, right around the time that I was in high school, publishing started putting out queer YA novels. I started reading “Will Grayson, Will Grayson,” and I was reading other work by David Levithan and stuff like that. And I started thinking like, “Huh, okay. Maybe there’s room for queer folk in romantic stories too.” But it really wasn’t until the pandemic that I started picking up like adult adult romance novels because up until that point I was pretty focused on wanting to be a young adult author, wanting to write in that space, so that was predominantly what I was reading.
But I had read some adult romance before that. I had read some Christina Lauren. But during COVID I picked up Emily Henry’s “Beach Read.” And that was the book, especially because it was written in single POV, present tense, just like all my favorite YA novels, that I was like, oh my gosh, wait, maybe there’s a space for me in adult romance too.
And maybe I’d kind of like sunk my claws into YA. And I was like, maybe I had sunk my claws into it because that’s what I was experiencing at that time. But you know, romance follows us to any age. And so I was like, as I grow, my stories can grow too. And so that’s why I wanted to write a story, or multiple stories, about characters in their early twenties who don’t really know how to do their own taxes, who are trying to figure out what their career is going to look like, like how they’re going to hack it on their own. Cause those were all questions that I was wrestling with at the time that I was writing them.
Jeff: You call yourself in your bio as a multidisciplinary storyteller. That certainly comes through between the comedy, the playwriting, the short stories, now romance novels. Let’s go back further than when you were 16 and thinking about publishing. What made you a storyteller? How was that the thing you were going to devote your life to?
Timothy: Oh my gosh. I think when I was very young, I had a knack for wanting to perform. I have vivid memories of my female cousins, like, putting me in a wig and an apron and painting my… and I would lip sync to Britney Spears, like, at family… I’m sure my parents were like, what is going on? But, everyone was in on this production. There was lighting, there was sound design, and I just… I really fell in love with the way that sharing performance and story could connect people, whether it was through laughter or pain or whatever comes out through those stories.
And so pretty soon after that, I think my parents were like, do you want to try theater? That might be a good place for you. The sports don’t seem to be working. The lip syncing does. Would you want to try theater? And so I tried theater. I did dance. I went to college for acting. But I was always kind of drawn back to modes of storytelling that are, again, about connection. And I think that’s how I found my way into comedy, which is taking the absurd and vulnerable parts of yourself and putting them on display for others. I found those commonalities actually in writing romance, specifically, because you’re taking your quirks, you’re taking your baggage, and you are saying, “Here’s all of me, am I still lovable?” And the romance community and romance stories always say, “Yes. Yes, you are.” By the end of the novel, it says, no matter what you’ve been through, no matter what you’ve done, everyone is worthy of love. And so I think I came to storytelling just through a way of wanting to express myself. I think there’s also a nugget of me being a queer child who didn’t quite know how to express that.
And so it was easier to put on the wig and paint my nails and write the short stories where, you know, the princess saves herself rather than there being a… I just think I, I was using storytelling as a way to process my own emotions. And now as an author, what’s really cool is I get to process those emotions, put them out in the world, and then people get to read my work and process their own emotions.
They’re like, wait, I’ve also had that experience, which I think is a whole new level of kind of emotional validation I wasn’t expecting.
Jeff: You’ve had storytelling in so many different formats now, including the performance aspect. Is there one that now you gravitate more towards than the other? Or do you continue to see where you’ll just go wherever I guess the feeling takes you, whether it might be back to performance spaces or more comedy or more novels or everything?
Timothy: Yeah, I think for me, I mean, the writing has kind of consumed my time as of late. Selling the “Boy Means Boy” series led to me signing a contract with Harlequin to help launch a brand new series called Afterglow Books, which is high heat, diverse stories for everyone. So now I’m writing those. I’m writing some more magical romances for St. Martin’s Press, which will be out in 2024.
I think every mode of storytelling that I’ve explored before becoming a romance author has served to train and inform my work as an author. And I say that mostly because I was drawn to comedy, I was drawn to dance, I was drawn to theater because, again, that power that story has to connect people.
And one of the things that always shone through for me was that when I was studying acting pretty intensely in college. We would have these exercises where we’d have to sit down, read a play, annotate it, and then we’d get a character, and we’d have to go away and write these journals as the character from the first person. What is this character doing between scenes? What were they doing before the play started? How do we know these characters? And I think that was the groundwork that taught me, this is how you build a character. This is what a character arc looks like. There are going to be obstacles in their way in order for them to achieve their goals.
What tools do they have to move through them? What tools do they still need to pick up along the way? And so, I consider writing romance novels and novels in general as my cheat sheet way of playing all the roles I probably will never get to play on a stage, or in a Netflix series, or in a movie. Yeah, I think I’m cheating a little bit. But it’s a lot of fun cheating, so I think it’s okay.
Jeff: Now, “New Adult” continues in this romance, rom-com space, but there’s some different twists going on in this book than what we’ve seen in the other two. Tell us a little bit about Nolan and Drew’s story.
Timothy: So “New Adult” is about Nolan Baker. He is a struggling stand up comedian living in New York City. He shares a very tiny apartment with his best friend, Drew. They moved together from their hometown in New Jersey to New York City together.
And Nolan, over the last few years, has been desperately in love with Drew. But he has promised himself that he is going to become a successful stand up comedian before he lets love into the picture because he has this life plan that by 30 he’s going to be a successful comedian, he’s going to have the right man, and he’s going to have a corgi.
Then his sister goes and gets engaged and there’s going to be this big blowout wedding. And things aren’t really going well in the comedy space. So he thinks, “Okay, well, if I can go to the wedding and I can avoid one of the three dastardly questions he’s been trying to avoid forever, which is, why don’t you have a real job? Isn’t New York City dangerous? And why don’t you have a boyfriend?” He’s like, “I’m going to consider a switch in job and I’m going to ask Drew to be my wedding date.”
Then on the night of the wedding, he gets the phone call of a lifetime that says, “Hey, if you come down to this club right now, you’re going to get an opening slot for this big comedian. And this could be your big break.” And Nolan has a choice to make, which is either stay at the wedding with Drew, with his family, with everyone, or chase the dream. And he decides to chase the dream. And while his set brings the house down, he gets back to the wedding and finds out that he has irreparably damaged a lot of his relationships.
So he gets handed a goodie bag on his way out. They’re like, get out of here. And he goes upstairs. And when he’s going through this stuff, he finds a set of magical healing crystals. And he thinks, “Oh, this is nonsense.” But as the night wears on, and he can’t fall asleep, and he’s racking his brain, he thinks, all right, I’m just going to try them. And so he wishes to wake up, after all the bad stuff has happened, he wants to be successful, he wants to be universally loved.
So he wakes up, seven years in the future, with everything he’s ever wanted, except his family won’t take his calls, and Drew hates his guts. So now he has to figure out what happened, how to fix it, and how to win back the trust of those that were most important to him. So the journey kind of doesn’t start there. But that magical twist is what leads to the introspection and the true romance of the story.
Jeff: It was so amazingly great just how it all spread itself out, including me actually talking back to the book going, “Oh, don’t do that. No, don’t do that. Don’t go to the club.” Of course, you have to go to the club otherwise, there’s no book.
Timothy: I was in a book club one time where somebody said in all well, they’d only read two of my novels so far, but they decided that my brand, my author brand, is “Oh, baby. No.” Like, they’re reading the book and often the characters do something and they’re like, “Oh, baby. No!” Like, they’re like, that’s the wrong choice!
Jeff: You had two ways to go with that and you picked the wrong one.
Timothy: Yeah. I think that’s… I mean as a writer, and I think again going back to me being an actor, is that that’s always the most interesting arc. If they make the right choice all the time, we don’t ever see them wrestle with like the meat of what’s maybe not working in their life. So for Nolan in particular, he has, like you said, he has to make that choice or he never will realize that he has to change, not only for the sake of his relationships, but also for his own personal growth.
Jeff: What inspired you to add the magical elements this time out? Because the other two books don’t have that, the magical healing crystals or other kind of magical elements in play.
Timothy: Well, I’ve always been drawn to movies and books that kind of have a little bit of a speculative element to them and I have a very vivid memory of being on a trip to a family reunion and sitting down with some of my cousins and watching “13 Going on 30” for the first time.
And something about that bubblegum pink world and this, like, inexplicable magic that happens to this young girl stuck with me. I thought it was very comedic. I thought it was very charming. A lot of times when I sit down to write, because romance has a formula, it has certain beats that readers expect you to hit, leading their way to the happily ever after. And so with the first two books, it was like, okay, I was learning my way through the beats, right? And then I was like, Huh, you know, it’s always stuck with me, “13 Going on 30.” You know what I’ve always really liked about that? The time jump element. What if I matched that on to a queer protagonist in his twenties struggling, who wakes up seven years in the future. What might his life look like? What might that romance be like? And so I like to joke that my “New adult” is a friends to lovers to enemy to friends to lovers to friends to lovers trope, which maybe has never been done before. I’m not a trailblazer, but if it hasn’t been done before I wanted to just play around with the form.
I’m really, really interested in the concept of queer time. That LGBTQ folk don’t necessarily experience the same firsts or relationship markers that our straight peers do in the same way or on the same timeline. And I think “New Adult” was a way of hyperbolizing that concept, saying, like, what if you missed seven years of your life? How do you wrestle with the consequences of actions that are still reverberating through your existence? And so I don’t know. I really just wanted to play around. I really, really love wacky zany books and movies and TV shows. And so this was my first foray into that.
Jeff: Looking at the tropes because there is that friends to enemies to lovers too, following it along that way, but also it sets up a second chance romance, because there’s the possibility, sort of spoiler, it still leads to a happily ever after. Hit 30 seconds forward if you don’t want to hear this listeners, but there’s a possibility that Nolan stays in 2030 and maybe doesn’t go back. But then he and Drew second chance themselves into something okay in that timeline potentially too. So I liked how all of that kind of connected itself together.
Timothy: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s so interesting too, because one of the things that I wrestled with when I was conceptualizing the book was that I started with the idea that I wanted to write a time jump story. But I didn’t necessarily know who the characters were yet, and I kind of had to build them from the ground up. And so, originally, I was thinking, okay, maybe we meet these characters while they’re still in New Jersey. They’re still in high school. They’re just about to graduate. What would that be like?
Then it opens up kind of a can of worms for us, right? Because we watch “13 Going on 30,” and we think, “Okay, like, we’re watching it, and we know Jennifer Garner is an adult woman dating Mark Ruffalo, who’s an adult man. But the… the concept of her being 13 years old raises a couple of red flags here and there, you know.”
And since I was writing this from the first person present tense, I was like, I really need to sit with this. So where can we meet these characters? Where is this going to be the most beneficial for Nolan to learn these lessons? And what I actually found while writing it was that kind of possibility that they might stay in 2030 kind of stemmed from the fact that I am very much not one of those writers who loves to push his characters down the stairs. I’m not one of those people who likes to see them suffer because there’s enough suffering in the world. I don’t want to have to sit down and, and put it on the page.
One of the things that I noticed when I put Nolan in this 2030 timeline was I was like, this is an existential nightmare. If you woke up and you had missed seven years of your life, I mean, that’s highly traumatic. Of course, in the movie it’s played for effect, and in the book it’s comedic. I mean, it’s absurd, certainly, but he really has to decide, like, can I live without seven years of my core memories and actions that spiraled out from one decision I made at 23?
There is, you know, a scene with his father in the 2030 timeline where I think it comes into sharper focus for him that experience and memory are kind of a sense of currency. If you lose that currency, then you’re missing an element of yourself. And that’s very hard to wrestle with, I think
Jeff: I enjoyed the moments where he had to like sort that stuff out. There’s the stuff with his father in 2030, and just him piecing together how bad he was in aspects of those seven years as he looks at videos and other things he can get his hands on to plug in some of that missing time too. It’s like, yeah, one choice just took you right off down that path.
Timothy: Yeah, I mean, I think one of the things that I, as a 26 year old person right now, I often think about, okay, like, if I’m faced with a choice and I make the wrong decision, how’s that going to affect the 17 decisions that come after it? And so I think writing and reading always offer a safe space for you to explore those things so that you know the positive things can come out of wrong choices as well.
When Nolan, spoiler for anyone listening, is that even when Nolan goes back, you know, he’s still made wrong decisions prior to the moment that we see in the book. Like in the years prior to that, he’s done wrong by people. He just hasn’t recognized those wrongdoings quite yet. And they become so exaggerated in the future that you can’t ignore them anymore.
Jeff: You mentioned that you’re writing the “Boy Meets Boy” series as new adult cause you like writing in that age. What was it like in this book always writing Nolan as a 23 year old, cause even in 2030, he’s still at his core, a 23 year old, albeit now inhabiting a 30 year old’s body, but having to write Drew as a 30 year old, because he aged and been through so much. So now you’ve got this disparate bit of character. How was that experience?
Timothy: Oh my gosh. You know, I think it only helped to heighten this idea of character growth and existential dread that kind of came forth. This is completely a romantic comedy for anyone listening.
Jeff: It really is. I can’t tell you enough how hilarious this book is throughout all of it. We’re making some of it sound really deep with this existential stuff, but it really isn’t.
Timothy: I think it goes back to my love of like Nora Ephron. Those movies are so… People remember them as being light and fun and the thing you watch at the slumber party. But when you watch them as an adult, you’re like, this movie is about grief, like this movie is about capitalism. You’re sitting there and you’re like, “Oh, these are not things I was considering when I was having my teenage slumber parties.”
And so with, with “New Adult” specifically and with, you know, the disparate character growth, is that I think what Nolan realizes in moving forward to the 2030 timeline is that we are often products of our own actions and the byproducts of the actions of those around us. And so, Nolan has a friend from the comedy club that he cuts his teeth at in 2023, who he wakes up 2030, and they’re his manager, and they are cutthroat, and they are ruthless. They are not the friend that Nolan remembers from 2023.
And at first, Nolan’s like, “Oh, well, this is just the industry.” But then as the book goes on, Nolan’s like, wait, this is how I was acting. That this was the priority. This was the only important thing in my life. I think with Drew, he sees this soft, lovable, nerdy in the best way, hermit become, I think he calls him a “hardened crime fiction daddy” or something at some point, or something like that. And he’s like, damn, some of this is you. Some of this is just you having grown up and experienced the world and have gone through things in your childhood and you’ve seen stuff. But some of this is me hurting you in a way that I couldn’t even wrestle with when I was 23. And so what I think is interesting as well is that Nolan puts on this new form. I think he refers to it as like “high stakes Rent the Runway.”
Jeff: Yes. I loved that.
Timothy: This is a completely new me and he has to kind of figure out, okay, I can repair these relationships in this timeline and earn my experience. Or I can fight my way back to the past, and I can make better, healthier choices that will lead to the me I was meant to be.
I think one of the scenes that spoke to me most in the 2030 timeline wasn’t even with Drew, but it was with his mom. And he sees her for the first time. He has this observation about her that she almost seems like an actress hired to play his mom in a biopic of his life because she looks the same and yet not. And she acts the same and yet not. He has that bit of uncanny valley because that’s a person he’s known since birth. Drew, he’s known since high school, but her he’s known since birth. And he kind of sits back and thinks, “Whoa, this is strange, but this is also a very human experience.”
And it’s even something that I have thought about. Not that I’ve ever wished on healing crystals and woken up in the future, unless I have, and now I’m future me, and that’s why we’re talking. You know, you start to recognize things. You start to think like, “Oh, parents are people. They had lives before me. What was that like? They’re in a relationship. Why have I not explored that?” Yeah, he’s got a lot to work through.
Jeff: This book seems in a lot of ways like it’s quite personal for you, perhaps, because you’ve got Nolan as stand up comic, which is certainly something that you’ve done. And Drew with his love of romances, which certainly you have. Why these two professions? Why now? And how tied is all this to you?
Timothy: I think it’s pretty tied. I think I was just starting to dip my toe into stand up comedy when the COVID pandemic hit. And so I never really got the full experience of what that was like. Also during COVID is when I started my own mental health journey. I started exploring different facets of myself that I maybe didn’t know about before.
I come across to people very often as an incredibly extroverted. As a performer I think people assume that performers are very extroverted. But as a person I’m very introverted, and so it’s very hard to balance those two things that are seemingly incompatible. And so I think with Nolan, I gave him this stand up comedy career because I wanted it to be something that was very difficult to break into. It was this industry that like, you have to fight tooth and nail for that. And yet everybody around you kind of thinks it’s “ha ha, you make jokes. Ha ha, you, you know, you’re serving nachos all night just for ten minutes up on stage.” That’s not a life. And yet we pay hundreds of dollars to go see these comedians bring levity and joy and humor to our lives.
And we have comedians like Hannah Gatsby, who are doing work that is, I mean like, it’s kind of cracking open tough issues. And so I think for me, again, it’s a road I didn’t fully explore or take, and so I got to do it in fiction.
And with Drew, I knew from the beginning that he was an avid reader, and that he would want to be an independent bookstore owner. And I had toyed with a bunch, maybe that it was just a general independent bookstore. When it came down to it… I was writing “New Adult” right before and during the release of “Never Been Kissed” and I have just found that the romance community is incredibly accepting. They’re open armed people who are ready to embrace people from all walks of life, all experiences, all abilities. And I wanted to celebrate that somehow in the book.
I also think it lent itself very nicely to the idea that we could have Drew in 2023 being like, I’m going to open this romance bookstore, to Drew in 2030 opening this like, crime fiction, like bloody bloody store, right? Like it, it helped me as a writer give a shorthand to the reader to say like, look what’s changed. And I personally would just say as an author, shout out to independent bookstores, because they are the people that are getting my books into the hands of the readers that need them, want them, read them ravenously, write me on Instagram. There is nothing like an independent bookstore, and I want to celebrate that, too, in the pages of the book.
Jeff: Yeah, I’ll pretty much read anything that has a bookseller involved in it, because I love the idea of having that bookstore that curates in whatever way it is whether it’s all one genre, or whether it’s a carefully curated collection of multiple genres. Because that’s where the community is, and that’s where you’re going to, as they understand you, are going to make a much better choice for you than any algorithm ever will.
Timothy: Yeah. And again, it goes back to that idea that storytelling is a form of connection. There are people that are intermediaries of making that connection and independent bookstores and booksellers are so integral to that because they’re community spaces. Like you said, I mean, there’s just nowhere else. I mean, Instagram and TikTok, they are wonderful for getting the word out about books and connecting people across continents, and I think it’s beautiful. But that face to face interaction you get to have with people over a story that you both love. I mean, it’s just unmatched.
Jeff: Yeah, absolutely. I love in your book, you highlight in the acknowledgements many romance authors who you have a connection to, several of which write specifically in the queer genre like Annabeth Albert and Xio Axelrod. Certainly some of our favorites on the show. But you also, in the book, make one specific shout out about Tessa Dare as someone who Drew is emulating as he was writing texts to a guy when he was still in high school. What was it about Tessa’s stories that made her the author to use for that?
Timothy: It was a combination of a couple of things. First of all, it was a combination of finding an author who was lasting, right? Whose name would be recognizable to a romance reader. Two, was actively publishing in the year that Drew was writing these text messages. And three, I really wanted it to be an author who wrote predominantly heterosexual historical romance because I thought there was some comedy to be had in the fact that Drew was trying to emulate this sense of chivalry that probably doesn’t translate too well. First of all, into text message. But second of all, into high school in 20 whatever it is.
So, I just, yeah. And I find her stories to be very romantic. And I think historical romances, not that I’ve read a wide berth of them too too much, but I do think they offer a great way for queer readers to read between the lines, and pick out pieces of queer identity. Because there is senses of secrecy, and forbidden romance, and button up society. These are all things that I think we as queer folk kind of wrestle with. Part of me thinks that maybe Drew, probably not consciously, but was reading between the lines in those stories, and learning something about himself in them.
Also because that boom of traditionally published LGBTQ romance is unfortunately still a relatively new wave in publishing. And, for the most part, especially for me, I read self-published and traditionally-published authors stories across the spectrum. I’m not certain that Drew would have been aware of some of these major indie publishing LGBTQ romance authors that were really crushing the game then, because it wouldn’t have been on his radar too yet.
Jeff: It was interesting hearing you say earlier that you’re writing aspirational books for those who are reading young adult and looking to graduate up and it does kind of bring something that I noticed as I read because there’s no explicit sex in this book. They make out. You know they’ve had sex for sure. But it’s not there.
And I like that. At least for me as a reader, I’m not reading necessarily for the sex. I want to see the romance more. So I didn’t miss that aspect of it. I don’t find a lot of books that do exactly what you’re doing. And so I think it’s really great that you’ve given that kind of aspirational move over because it doesn’t have to just be young adult and then some of the more explicit things that we can get into, which are also perfectly fine, but there’s this other option here.
Timothy: I also think, for me, I want to tell a wide berth of stories. So, for instance what I have coming down the pipeline with Harlequin, those are explicit, steamy, on-the-page sex. And it was, as a writer, definitely stretching an entirely new muscle. But when I sit down and I’m conceptualizing a story, I’m never thinking, like, this book is gonna have sex, or this book is going to this, this book is going to that.
I learn about my characters, and then decide how expressing the feelings that they have towards each other would manifest. So in “Never Been Kissed,” I mean, Ren discovers that he is on the ace spectrum, and that, you know, him and Derek’s relationship is going to take time and trust and balance in order to move into that kind of physical realm. Whereas “Matthew Prince,” I mean, they’re sharing a bunk bed, and these are two allosexual twenty somethings. They’re both, you know, hot and ready to go. Like, I mean, it’s not explicit, but it’s on the page. And so, I think I’m coming at these stories from a realistic perspective of who are these people, and how might they relate to one another, and how does that either elevate or detract from the romantic story that they’re participating in.
Jeff: You’ve named a couple scenes that you like a lot, a thing with his mom, and some stuff with his dad. What is your favorite scene to write within “New Adult?”
Timothy: My favorite scene is one that takes place pretty early in the book. Nolan has a little bit of an unfortunate accident at work and it’s kind of the physical wake up call he needs to realize that maybe his life choices are not leading to the best result.
He finds himself in bed one night, kind of sulking, and he hears from the hallway Drake featuring Rihanna’s “Take Care.” And he sees a little fishnet leg poke into his room, and then all of a sudden Drew is there, in a full nurse’s get up, like a slutty nurse costume, with a tray, and Tylenol, and a band… And he does this wacky little dance.
And Drew and Nolan have always kind of… I conceptualized that, you know, even in high school, they were always trying to, even in the heavy moments, make each other laugh. That was kind of Nolan’s whole ethos is that laughter can cure things, laughter can be… and so Drew does this really wacky display for Nolan to make him feel better.
And I think it’s the first time in the book that Nolan cannot tamp down his feelings or attraction to Drew. It’s also one of the only scenes… I wouldn’t say one of the only… but it’s one of the most prominent scenes that has carried me through every draft of this book, and that I just refused to let go of. I think it’s the one scene that shows how friends can make really good lovers. It shows both the friendship they had built, and the lovers they can be. Which sounds so cheesy now that I’m saying that out loud, but I really love that scene.
Jeff: It’s a nice scene because it does say a lot that nerdy Drew, as you called him earlier, would go to that level to give Nolan a laugh and make him feel better. And it says a lot about the power of their relationship and also what it could morph into.
Timothy: And it almost feels out of character for Drew. But I wanted to give him that moment of the spotlight because, you know, part of their relationship too, they love to watch “Drag Race,” they love… So I wanted to give him this larger-than-life moment that showed he isn’t just like the homebody. He does have this really wacky sense of humor, like Nolan. This is something they connect on, and Drew doesn’t show that to anyone else. It’s special to Nolan.
Jeff: Now something else that your bio mentions is that you have a self appointed certificate in rom-com studies with the accreditation pending. How are you doing on your accreditation items?
Timothy: I mean, I watch lots and lots of romance movies and read lots and lots of romance novels, so I’m definitely, you know, checking off the syllabus. I think for me, and especially when I made that joke in my bio, is that it occurred to me that over time I’ve been absorbing and retaining and believing these romance stories have been told forever. And there is something to be said about knowing the history. You know, knowing the rules of the genre, knowing the beats. And then kind of coming in and making mess of the house a little bit. And so, I always say that I have a certificate in rom-com studies because when I make mess of the house, I’m like, well, I got that certificate on the way. It’s on the way.
I’ll have that certificate one day, and therefore, I can draw on the walls. I can add a new addition if I want to because I think romance comes in all shapes and sizes and doesn’t look like one thing. And so if we all continue to keep telling the same story, we don’t offer ourselves or readers the opportunity to grow with us. So I say accreditation pending because I’m a lifelong learner and I’m always willing to be wrong.
Jeff: I hope you’ll publish the syllabus one day. That we can all get the certificate with you.
Timothy: I think, I think a lot of my, as I was saying earlier, a lot of my romance author peers love to post their Spotify or Apple Music playlists of songs that inspired the book. But I love to post my letterboxed watchlist of movies that have either inspired or are referenced in the book. Because I’ve come to the conclusion, over the years, that I am an amalgamation of all the pop culture that I’ve ever consumed. And so there are, I think, layers to be found in the books that you might not get have you not seen these or interacted with them or what have you. So that’s kind of like a mini-syllabus.
Jeff: I’m well versed in the time travel movies that we see in “New Adult.” I just fell right into all of that pretty quickly.
Jeff: You mentioned that one of Drew’s favorite tropes is practice kissing, which is always a good one. What are some of your other favorite tropes to both read and write?
Timothy: I think for writing, I am very often writing forced proximity. I don’t think any of my novels so far have not had the two heroes thrust together in some kind of project or mission or there’s always kind of something tethering them together outside of just dates and cute moments. They’re working towards a common goal. I always find the best banter comes out of that.
But one of my favorite tropes to read specifically is only one bed, just because I find that one giddy. I think it’s silly. I think the rationale the writer or the screenwriter has to come up with to justify that situation is always just… it always makes me laugh. It puts a smile on my face. Yeah, I wrote it in “Never Been Kissed.” And then in “Your A Mean One, Matthew Prince,” I wrote only one bunk bed, which is, you know, a riff on, if you will. And so I think there’s something fun about… I guess it’s only when that is a subsection of forced proximity. So I guess that’s how they tie together.
Jeff: You’ve given us some hints of the future with the Afterglow stuff coming up and some other things in 2024. What more can you get into that and tease us a little bit more about what’s yet to come?
Timothy: Yeah. So, I mean, it’s going to be a very busy 2024, I think. So in January of 2024, Harlequin will be launching Afterglow Books, and one of the first titles out of the gate is my fake dating romance called “The (Fake) Dating Game,” which takes place on the set of a “Supermarket Sweep” style game show. It’s between a down on his luck dance instructor and a maddeningly sexy hotel concierge who team up to try to win this hundred grand to get themselves both out of debt. That is a higher heat novel, older characters.
Following that up, I will also be putting out in the summer a novel called “You Had Me at Happy Hour,” which is another Afterglow book, which is a grumpy/sunshine, sommelier mixologist book, which I’m super, super, super excited about. It explores OCD and erectile dysfunction, and there’s lots of sex toys. It’ll be a good time.
And then the very last one I’ll be putting out, I’m sorry if everyone will get very sick of me in 2024, but the very last one will be my second Christmas novel, which I’m very excited about. It’s currently titled “The Merriest Misters.” And it is a marriage in trouble, queer spin on the Tim Allen “Santa Claus” movies. And so it’ll be magical and Christmassy and, I mean, it might piss off Tim Allen, but I’m willing to cross that bridge.
Jeff: “Supermarket Sweep,” how did you land on that game show?
Timothy: I go off on mini-obsessions all the time and if you want to know at any given time what my mini-obsession is, you just have to look at one of my books and you’ll know. So, “Never Been Kissed,” it was female film directors from the 1970s. For “Matthew Prince,” it was like, ABC Family/Hallmark Christmas movies and why there aren’t more LGBTQ stories in there. I know we’re getting them, but not quick enough for my liking.
And just at the time, I was just really obsessed with game shows. Game shows was something I always watched with my mom when I was younger after school. And I had vivid memories of “Supermarket Sweep,” and for some reason, when they revived it recently with Leslie Jones, who I always loved on “SNL,” I think she’s hysterical, I just became obsessed with it again.
I was like, this is so joyous and so ridiculous, I want to write a romance novel about it. And, for better or worse, it’s definitely the most fan fiction-y story I’ve read. It is definitely the most wacky. And it runs the gamut of emotions from food play to grief. So we are, yeah… Only time will tell how readers receive it. But it was really one of those stories that just kind of poured out of me in a funny little wave, and I had a blast writing it.
Jeff: I look forward to checking that out because I have memories of the original “Supermarket Sweep” mixed in with that reboot that happened. And books that are set in reality TV are always interesting. “Charm Offensive” from Allison Cochran a couple years ago was so good.
Timothy: She’s an incredible, incredible writer. And such good friends. We actually met in a Facebook group for writers before either of us were even published. We both had book deals, but we didn’t know that we’re both writing male/male romances with characters on the ace spectrum. And, I mean, we’ve been writing buddies ever since. And she is perhaps one of the only people who has read “The (Fake) Dating Game” in full, so it has her stamp of approval.
Jeff: That’s a good stamp to have.
So, of course, we love recommendations here. So what have you been reading or watching recently that our listeners might want to check out?
Timothy: Okay, so you mentioned loving Christmas stories, and I had to pull it off my bookshelf because I got this nice little bound manuscript to blurb it. This won’t be out until October or November, but I just finished reading “Second Chances in Newport Steven” by T. J. Alexander. This is a trans/cis romance. It trades snowy mountains for Florida beaches, and it is a Christmas story that’s basically about… it’s a second chance romance about coming home and finding a place is not exactly as you remember it, both for good and for bad. It actually reminded me a lot of “Home for the Holidays” the movie with Robert Downey Jr. It’s a single dad romance, which is just like catnip for me. So I loved that. Yeah, it’s such a good trope and it’s not in queer romance as much as I would like it to be.
And then I just started watching… this is also a single dad trope. I just thought about that. I just started watching Amazon Prime “The Lake.”
Jeff: That’s so good.
Timothy: Yes. Oh my gosh. I had heard of it, not picked it up. And then my partner had, had read a review of it somewhere and was like, “You want to try this? Like we’re between shows.” I was like, “Yeah, let’s just try it.” And I really fell head over heels for that story. It is charming. It is winsome. It is Canadian, which …
Jeff: It’s so Canadian.
Timothy: So Canadian. But what’s funny about it is that like, it is both just as kind of acerbic as “Schitt’s Creek, and yet it’s somehow also more mature. It explores, like, it goes a little bit above the emotional leveling of “Schitt’s Creek” and goes a little there. But then it also goes the opposite way, where it has, like, these stories about his daughter that feel very YA and very coming of age that are just equally as beautiful. I just find it, it’s just incredibly charming. I really like it.
I think the romance even in the show is so well drawn. That it sometimes… I feel like when I’m watching a comedy, the romance feels like the subplot. Where it’s like, this feels like the romance is very much building the character arc and the central relationship between father and daughter, which is just so good.
Jeff: It’s amazing how much they pull off in an episode that’s usually 35-ish minutes. I mean, it’s pretty much sitcom length per episode, but there’s father/daughter, there’s his relationship, there’s the stuff going on with his sister and the fight over the house, and then the culture of the community. It’s all just artfully balanced, so you never feel like you’re tilting one way or the other between the story you’re following.
Timothy: Oh, and it’s so easy to follow too, which makes it, it’s so seamless. My partner loves to joke that when it comes summertime, I love my “beach lady” book, which is every summer there’s a slew of like women’s fiction and romance and general fiction about women going to a beach or a lake and discovering something about themselves.
I don’t see a ton of that in queer fiction, but I also don’t really ever see it depicted in like a movie or a TV show. So it was just refreshing to sit down and watch this and be like, “Oh, this gives me the same summer nostalgia feeling.” And it’s very queer. Like it is very, very queer. And I just, I’m so glad that that’s being embraced.
Jeff: Yeah. I hope it gets a season three fingers crossed.
Timothy: Oh my gosh. Yeah. I hope it has a nice long life and I hope it finds an even bigger audience in the way that “Schitt’s Creek” did.
Jeff: So for everybody who wants to keep up with all this amazing stuff coming in 2024 and beyond, what is the best way to keep up with you online?
Timothy: Yeah, you can find me on Instagram @timothyjanovsky. You can find me at timothyjanovsky.com. I have a newsletter there that I don’t send it out too often. So you won’t be bombarded. And then you can find me on TikTok where I am trying to dance the best I can, which is also @timothyjanovsky.
Jeff: Excellent. Well, Timothy, thank you so much for being here. We wish you all the success with “New Adult” and we can’t wait to see what’s coming in 2024 as well.
Timothy: Thank you so much. This has been wonderful.
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’ll have links to everything that we’ve talked about in this episode.
Jeff: Thanks so much to Timothy for talking to us. I loved “New Adult” so, so much. I love movies like “Big” and “13 Going on 30” and others where there’s the time travel element. Timothy’s spin on that was so much fun with an already adult Nolan going forward to find that he didn’t quite get what he wanted. And isn’t that always the way things work? It’s like, be careful what you wish for kind of thing.
Timothy balanced the story so perfectly between Nolan having to sort out the possibilities of getting back to the time he belonged in, figuring out what exactly was going on in his 2030 life, and also making amends with the people that mattered just in case he couldn’t get back. The chemistry between Nolan and Drew is so swoony good in all the time periods. Timothy really nailed that.
And of course, I love a book that features a bookseller, and Drew was so great with his love of books and running a store. As I said in the interview, I’m always down for a book that has a bookseller as a main character. I love “New Adult,” and I can see why Will loves Timothy’s books, and I suspect I’m gonna have to go back and read those now that I’m a fan too. And of course, I really can’t wait to read all the things Timothy has in store for us next year.
Will: All right, I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up next on Monday, August 28th, journalist and podcaster Tre’Vell Anderson joins us to talk about their book, “We See Each Other: A Black, Trans Journey Through TV and Film.”
Jeff: Tre’Vell’s book is part memoir and a look at history as they write about Black trans characters in TV and film and how those relate to and inform their own journey as a trans person. This book is an incredible read, and we look forward to bringing you this conversation in the next episode.
Will: On behalf of Jeff and myself, we want to 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 frolic.media/podcasts. Original theme music by Daryl Banner.