Happy Pride Month! Jeff kicks off the show with news about two in-person events he’s taking part in during June. He also recommends two books perfect for Pride reading.

Lee Wind discusses his latest YA thriller/romance A Different Kind of Brave, which mixes action, a love of James Bond films, gadgets, and a romance into a page-turner of a story. Lee talks about his inspirations for the book and how it evolved during the writing process. Lee also previews two books coming later this year The Gender Binary is a Big Lie, and For the Love of the Half-Eaten Peach. Plus we find out what Pride means to him in 2024 and get some great book recommendations.

Look for the next episode of Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Monday, June 17.

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Show Notes

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.


This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.


Jeff: Coming up on this episode, we kick off Pride Month talking to Lee Wind about his latest book, “A Different Kind of Brave.”

Hello, Rainbow Romance Reader. Welcome to episode 455 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of queer romance fiction. I’m Jeff, and 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 guests, go to patreon.com/BigGayFictionpodcast.

And don’t forget, you can get book recommendations delivered to your inbox with the Rainbow Romance Reader Report. It’s a look at the books that are new and coming soon that we are excited about. Plus, we also have recommendations for you about what we’re currently reading and watching. You can sign up for the Rainbow Romance Reader Report at BigGayFictionPodcast.com/report.

Upcoming Live Events

Now, as Pride 2024 begins, I’m excited to tell you about a couple of events that I’m part of in the Sacramento area. First up on Wednesday, June 5th at 6:30 PM I’ll be in conversation with TJ Klune at the Sacramento Public Library, Tsakopoulos Library Galleria. We’ll be talking about publishing, writing. Queer identity, book banning, being neurodiverse, and we’ll be talking about “Somewhere Beyond the Sea,” which is the upcoming sequel to the bestselling, “The House in the Cerulean Sea.” It’s gonna be a fantastic evening. But don’t worry if you can’t join us in person, we’re gonna have this conversation for you as a podcast episode coming up a little later this summer.

Then on Friday, June 14th at 4:30 in the afternoon, I’ll be at one of my favorite local bookstores, A Seat at the Table Books in Elk Grove, for a conversation with Frederick Smith. We’re gonna be talking about his new queer romance “One and Done,” which is such a terrific workplace romance that’s set in San Francisco. This romance between Taylor and Dustin is so, so good, and it really needs to be on your summer reading list. And I’m so happy that I get to be part of Fred’s launch week events for that book.

There are links in the show notes so you can get more details and RSVP to these events. And if you’re in the area, I hope to see you there.

Book Recommendations

Finding My Rainbow by Josh Coleman

Now I’ve got a couple other books to recommend to you for Pride Month as well. You know, we love a good children’s book here, and we featured many of them over the years of the show. A new one that I really love is called “Finding My Rainbow: A Journey of Courage, Acceptance, and Pride” by Josh Coleman and illustrated by Shimanto Das.

Now Josh is the president of Central Alabama Pride, and the book is based on his life growing up in a small town in Alabama. It follows a young boy named Josh as he navigates growing up, discovering his identity and seeking acceptance. Now, as you may know, I lived in Alabama for about 15 years, starting when I was 10. And this was during the eighties and early nineties, and I certainly kept my queerness hidden at the time. I love so much knowing that a vibrant and visible queer community exists today in Alabama. And that this terrific book is out there written by someone who grew up there, and that it shows what’s possible in life for young queer people. It’s so wonderful that the young people in Alabama, and in other conservative states, and really anywhere, can read this book and possibly see themselves or someone they know in the story. Many thanks to Josh for putting this book out there and for working for equality in Alabama. If you’ve got kids in your life, I hope you’ll pick up this book for their bookshelf. Or, hey, even for your own bookshelf. I know I’m very happy to have it on mine.

Queer Cheer by Eric Rosswood & Jodie Anders

And there’s another book I wanna tell you about too. And this one is perfect to dive into for Pride Month. It’s called “Queer Cheer” and it’s by Eric Rosswood and Jodie Anders. Now you may remember Eric from a couple years ago, back in episode 377. He was here alongside strongman Rob Kearney talking about their children’s book collaboration “Strong.” “Queer Cheer” is a new book for teens that features advice, words of wisdom, affirmations, some questions that are gonna make you think, there’s some fun illustrations and doodles. Eric and Jodie also feature the voices of many queer teens in the book. And here’s the thing, while this book is designed for teens, I think the book is really meaningful for all ages. I found so many thought provoking and inspirational things as I read the book. There are some great affirmations like “by being visible and living my truth, I inspire those around me to do the same.” And, “I have all the time I need to explore who I am.”

Plus, there’s activities like reviewing your social media to see if your bio accurately reflects who you are, and to see if your photos and posts best reflect your true personality and style, and why or why not that is the case. “Queer Cheer” could make a great gift for any teens in your life. But like I said, I think it really has a place on anyone’s shelf so you have it to read anytime you might need an encouraging queer pick me up, which is certainly something we can all use from time to time.

Now let’s get into my conversation with Lee Wind. I reviewed his new YA thriller romance, “A Different Kind of Brave” back in episode 449 in March, and I’m so honored that I was able to blurb this book for Lee. As I say in that blurb, “readers are gonna love this tale of rebellion, standing up for what’s right, the struggle for identity, and young love.” I really love this book so much and I’m really excited that I got to talk to Lee for this Pride Month episode.

We’re also gonna talk about a couple of his upcoming books, including the non-fiction “The Gender Binary is a Big Lie,” and the children’s book “For the Love of the Half-Eaten Peach.” Plus, we’ll hear what pride means to Lee in 2024, and get some great reading recommendations too.

Lee Wind Interview

Jeff: Lee, welcome back to the podcast. It’s wonderful to have you here again.

Lee: Thanks Jeff. I’m really excited to chat and to catch up.

Jeff: Me too. I’m so excited we get to talk about this. It kinda like brings us a little full circle from the last time we talked. So you were here last in June, 2019, and we were talking about “Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill” at the time, but towards the end we were kind of talking about things that you kinda wanted to work on, which was a mashup of a gay teen with a spy thriller. And now five years later, we’ve got “A Different Kind of Brave,” which came out earlier this spring.

Lee: I have a copy too.

Jeff: We both have copies.

Lee: It matches.

Jeff: I love this book so much. I talked about it on the podcast when it came out, but I’m excited to have you here so that you could tell everyone what the story of Nico and Sam is all about.

Lee: Oh, thank you so much. This is the book that I felt so silly when I was writing it, right? Like the world is a dumpster fire and here I am writing this sort of like… it just felt so frivolous. But I just couldn’t stop myself. Like it was so fun writing this sort of like… I call it my gay teen love letter to James Bond movies. And what was crazy was that I kind of, in the middle of it, I realized that it wasn’t frivolous. Like it actually was kind of a big deal that I was centering these two queer teens and I was having them have to save the world, or at least part of it. And it just became more and more important and then I just kept thinking like, wow, what this would’ve meant to me.

So the story’s called “A Different Kind of Brave,” and there are two main characters, Nico and Sam. Nico is sort of living a life of adventure, but it’s pretty horrible. We open up with an opening chapter where he’s basically escaping from this gay reprogramming institute that he’s been kidnapped and forced into about a week before the book starts.

And so the book opens with this big action sequence of him escaping, and then he is on the run for much of the book. And he’s sort of living the life of adventure, but the reality of a life of adventure is kind of horrifying.

Then the other character is Sam, and he’s this Upper West Side, New York City, only child who’s really privileged. His parents wanna give him everything except for their time. So they wanna give him space, but they don’t really realize that they’re giving him way too much space. So he’s kind of adrift. He’s latched onto this idea that James Bond is the role model and he wants to be just like James Bond.

He’s obsessed and knows all the movies and all the clothes and the watches and the gadgets. He’s just like this complete James Bond super fan, and he wants a life of adventure more than anything. He thinks his life is incredibly boring.

Of course, these two characters end up meeting. Nico, on the run, ends up going to Peru and then Mexico when he’s working under an alias. There’s a lot of aliases in the book. He’s working under an alias at a resort in Mexico. And Sam is actually supposed to meet his parents at this resort in Mexico, but they bail on him at the last moment. And then suddenly the two guys meet and sparks fly. It’s a kind of a meet cute where they’re both using an alias because Sam has this thing where he,thinks that James Bond walks with magical penis swagger. That’s kind of the expression. And James Bond kind of does. Like if you watch Daniel Craig in like almost any of the Daniel Craig James Bond movies, there is like a moment where he’s using a tractor to claw at a train, and then he rips the roof off and he runs on the tractor and he jumps down in the train car and he lands and he adjusts his cuffs. And then he sort of strides. That is a totally magic penis swagger kind of moment. And that is what Sam is obsessed with.

So when Sam meets… Nico’s hobby is sort of like doing stunts, movie stunts, but not James Bond movie stunts necessarily. He is obsessed with these stunts in the sort of free run, parkour kind of thing. So he’s doing a sequence when they meet, and Sam is smitten. He’s just sure he’s met an actual real life James Bond character.

So when they introduce each other, you know, Nico is under an alias, and then Sam is like this guy will never want someone like me. I’m just too boring. I have to be someone like James Bond. So when Nico introduces himself under the false name and says, “Hi, I’m Warren.” And then Sam just blurts out, “I’m James,” like the James Bond thing. So suddenly they’re both using aliases and it’s kind of awkward because they’re both thinking, oh my gosh. And of course, it’s a romance, they’re gonna end up together. But they also want to go back to the institute to free all the other teens that are still trapped there. And so that becomes the arc of the story.

And then I’m kind of just in love with them. I think they’re great characters and I can’t wait for more adventures.

Jeff: They’re so fun going between their version of saving the world and to the things that are important to them, but also just how cute they are when they are able to play out their romance too. These two very different teens come together, from completely different backgrounds, completely different everything and finding these little ways that they make their connections.

I’m curious, as you were coming up with all this, where did Nico and Sam come from for you? Are there specific inspirations for the two of them, or how did they start to form as you were writing?

Lee: Well, I’ve been obsessed with James Bond movies for a really long time. Like I’ve just loved them and it was one of the very few things actually that I shared with my father that we both really loved. We didn’t see a lot of things in the same way. But like we both love James Bond movies, but for different reasons.

I think as we both love the gadgets, we both love the cars. I love the action sequences. He loved this sort of like womanizing. I did not. But there was a moment. Okay, so Ursula Andress coming out of the ocean in “Dr. No” was this really iconic James Bond moment. She’s in a bikini. She is beautiful. And she’s, you know, this naive kind of character that Sean Connery kind of seduces and somehow rescues and you know, she’s the Bond girl of that movie. Not my thing, but I liked all the other things. I liked the quips, I liked the sense of humor.

But then fast forward, Daniel Craig is James Bond and the first movie he did was “Casino Royale.” There is a moment where he is coming out of the ocean in a square blue trunk thing. And he is so hot, and it is cool because it is this nod back across all these James Bond movies to this moment of, you know, pure objectification of this beautiful woman. And here we had this James Bond that is being objectified for the viewer, for the male gaze, but it’s gay this time. Or at least with a wink, it’s gay. And I was like, oh my gosh. I think that, when I look back, that was the moment I was like, I need to do a gay Bond thing.

There are some other queer audience references in Bond movies. But that moment was a moment where I felt included and excited. And I was like, okay, so if I’m gonna do a gay teen spin on Bond, I wanna talk about like how much I love the Bond movies, but I also wanna talk about how they are really, really problematic. Like James Bond is a horrible role model.

I wanted to start with a character that didn’t know that, that just idolized James Bond. And then, over the course of the journey of the book, his internal journey is that he realizes that James Bond is kind of a terrible person. Like, you know, he has his good qualities, but like he totally uses sex as a manipulative tool, right?

He’s always seducing people to get them, to help him to achieve his aim. He’s not particularly concerned with other people’s feelings. Those were really the things in this book that I was kind of like looking at and trying to get Sam to recognize that, like, wow, James Bond is kind of a schmuck.

What I’m hoping is in future stories with them, assuming that we can get the publisher to pick up future stories, I wanna explore other things like this idea that violence is the best solution to any problem, which is pretty much a James Bond thing as well, you know, a trope in a lot of action movies, right? Like the incredibly high bystander body count, which is something that makes me crazy when I watch action movies as much as I love them. As much as I love the action sequences and the gadgets and all that other stuff, like there’s stuff I wanna make a comment on.

And then I thought, okay, well if this is a romance, what’s the other character? And I thought the flip side would be a character who is living that glamorous life of adventure that isn’t glamorous at all. It just seems cool on the surface, but is actually riddled with guilt. And, that was a really important thing too, like how do I show not just the flash, right?

James Bond movie’s always open with a big action sequence, right? And I love action and I love books that fly and that are real page turners, and that’s what I try to write. But like, you can’t open with an action sequence if you don’t care. Like you have to care about the character. Like there has to be some way, not that it has to be a purely save the cat kind of moment, but like there has to be something you like about the character for us to care that they’re in danger. Or that they’re in peril in some way.

So I feel like I was trying to like balance that for both of these characters and then just try to really have fun with it and lean into it. What was the slow burn of that? The reader knows they’re going to eventually end up together. So that was sort of fun, setting it up and then all the callbacks that I was able to do, that the reader knew, but that the other teen did not know about the first teen. That was fun.

There’s a moment where there’s a callback to something that happened to Nico that all the readers know. Sam doesn’t know it. And then Sam tries to do something kind for Nico and gives him a gift. But he presses that button for Nico, and Nico freaks out and Sam has no idea what’s happening, but the reader knows. I love that kind of thing.

Jeff: It’s interesting, the slow burn that you mentioned because usually in a romance, your characters meet in the first chapter, maybe it’s chapter two. But Nico and Sam don’t come together for many chapters. I’d say almost the first act of the book. So you’re a good bit into the book. Did you wrestle with that at all since it is also a romance and like when you bring them together on the page?

Lee: What I ended up doing was doing two points of view. So every chapter changes back. So the first chapter is Nico’s point of view when he’s escaping. Then the second chapter is Sam’s point of view. I also added two devices where I said that Nico was sort of riddled with guilt that he escaped, but none of the other teens did. There are 68 other teens trapped in this institute. He has these sort of flashback nightmares that we get to see. So we sort of see memories of what he experienced and what he’s feeling. That gives us sort of a window into his humanity.

Then on the flip side, Sam has been assigned by his therapist this, sort of what he calls bullshit therapy homework, which is he has to, at the end of particularly challenging days, he has to write a journal entry. Not diary, because that would be not Bond like, but a journal entry about one good thing. What’s one good thing that happened in the day? And that was a great way of me kind of getting into his head for the reader and also him processing a lot of the James Bond stuff and how it relates to his life.

So I had a lot of fun with those moments. And I feel like once the reader was really grounded in who these two characters were, that sort of inevitable collision of the two lives felt like you were building towards something that hopefully pays off.

Jeff: It worked so well how they have that collision. Then there’s the typical kind of romance they have to break back apart. For various reasons, they end up breaking apart. But then what drives them back together and keeps all the adventure going, I’m just like, I love that they’re so there for each other. There’s not really a pause. They wanna protect the other one. But at the same time, you know, Nico’s up for whatever Sam needs and Sam is up for whatever Nico needs and let’s go do it.

Lee: What was really crazy was that originally the book was very different, like in the early drafts, it didn’t open in the same spot. It actually opened a week before. It opened with Nico being kidnapped and taken to this institute. And we had a week of Nico being there, plotting his escape. And then on page 65 he escapes. It was too dark. I don’t wanna traumatize readers. I want them to be excited and I want it to be fun. And yet, you need some opposition, right? So it was trying to find that balance of I want it to be dangerous, but I don’t want to give my readers nightmares.

So how do I kind of negotiate that? I got some really good feedback from the publisher about you know, maybe there’s a way to give us tastes of what he experienced without us having to go through it with him. And in fact, sometimes he’ll wake himself up before truly terrible things happen. We know that they’re going to happen, but we don’t see it on the page. And I think it’s a way of protecting the readers and, you know, making it really more a celebration of joy, of queer joy, than it is about like, wow, this is a really like dark adventure. It’s not intended to be dark. It’s intended to be joyful, but still, you know, there’s an edge.

And then the other crazy thing was that in the first draft, there was like a whole second part to the book. The entire book was the first act of my first draft. The big epiphany for me working on it was like, this is not one book. This is at least two books in how I’ve conceptualized it and peeling that second adventure off. I don’t know if you or your listeners know about the old “Hart to Hart” TV show.

Jeff: Oh, Oh I certainly know “Hart to Hart,” absolutely.

Lee: Okay, I love that show and I was thinking I want Sam and Nico to have adventures kind of like that, where there’s this overarching romantic arc that is very satisfying. We always get more about the relationship, but there’s new adventures each time. Almost like a Bond movie also, right? Like there’s always a new villain. There’s always a new thing that Bond has to save the world from. And that was what I was really thinking about. So the first episode, the first book, the first movie, the first, needed to be them getting together and resolving that first adventure, which is going back to the institute. Not a whole other, you know, obstacle and plot thing and figuring that one out was when the book fell into place.

And I was like, oh, that’s this story. This story is them coming together. And then tying the loose end of Nico escaping and needing to try to go back to try to free the teens. That’s what this book is. And then the subsequent book can be that other adventure part. So that was really fascinating. Like I had to learn how to write and as I wrote it.

Jeff: I love how you had gadgets coming from everywhere. Nico’s got people in his group who are essentially his Q in the end. But then Sam also has his version of Q on his side of things. So I love how you kind of doubled up there.

Lee: Oh, well you can’t get too many gadgets, right? And what I was really excited was that the cover design, the hummingbird on cover, if you look really closely, the eye is a camera. So it’s actually a hummingbird drone, which I was really thrilled about.

Yeah, I love gadgets and I love coming up with what would be a cool gadget and how is it important to the story too, right? It needs to have some payoff. One of the interesting things I’ve been thinking a lot about, cause I last week submitted the outline of book two to the publisher with the hope that they’ll go for it. It’s called “A Different Kind of Enemy.” In doing that I was thinking, well, what’s the new gadgets? But I also think it’s really weird that in Bond movies they have total amnesia what the gadgets were from the previous movie. And I’m like, wait, there were some good gadgets in this first book that I think that they would still use cause they would be helpful.

And why in the world would you pretend you didn’t have this great gadget from the first book? So it’s kind of fun to start playing with those kinds of things. But definitely like, there’s even a moment in this book where, Byron, who is one of the people on Nico’s team, asks Nico what drone would he have wanted? What would be the next bird or, flying creature that he should do? That pays off in “A Different Kind of Enemy.”

Jeff: Fantastic. I can’t remember the name of the person on Sam’s crew who was his Q, but Byron and him should just get together and build gadgets cause they both had different specialties in there too.

Lee: Yeah, Ari. Ari goes by they/them and is this sort of just gender queer, fabulous personality. There’s this whole subplot where Ari is maybe not so secretly in love with Sam, but it is very unrequited. And so there’s some shenanigans that happen with that as well.

It’s been fun to establish these characters. For me, like the easy thing is plot. That’s really fun. But making characters feel three dimensionally and real is where I really put in the work. And I’m so excited that I have these characters that feel so real to me now and to readers. And then it’s like, oh, I get to just play.

Jeff: You had mentioned when we were on the show, and this was just a whim of an idea back then, that you were looking for some queer history angles to hopefully, maybe weave into it. You make some nods here and there to things. There’s a moment when they’re in San Francisco and they go by the LGBTQ Museum briefly. Were there other little Easter eggs in there that maybe I just kind of glossed over or? Cause I know cultural and history, those are important for you. How was it trying to work some of more of that stuff in amongst all the action and romance?

Lee: I feel like I can’t help it. Like finding queer history is so exciting to me that I can’t help but like kind of tuck it in places where I think it’s appropriate. There was another one in that San Francisco moment where he’s in the museum and he sees the sculpture of the youth.

I never want it to feel like it’s medicine. I’m only putting it in if it feels like it’s chocolate, and it’s cool, and it’s interesting. And yeah, there was this whole thing where there was basically a sanitorium, like where they sent when they caught someone that was in the military in World War II for being gay. There was like a prison for them, like a mental institution for them, on an island in the Bay Area. That was shocking to me that was just, you know… I wanted to include just a mention of it because there are echoes in what’s happening in our world today. But also echoes with what happened with the character, with why Nico is basically imprisoned in the first place.

So I think a lot of it too for me is these sort of like cultural moments of going back and talking about how problematic some of the Bond movie things are. Also in San Francisco, there was this Bond movie, “A View to a Kill,” where Bond is fighting on top of the Golden Gate Bridge. There’s a Zeppelin and the Bond girl is suddenly like useless. Like, she’s slipping around in high heels, you know, and totally needs to be saved.

There was this moment where Sam is thinking about this and is going, well, I don’t want a love interest that is useless, and that is slipping around in heels. I want it equal. I want someone that is… I want Nico, basically. And, I thought that was really fun to get to point out because yes, there are references to history, but in a funny way, like movies are part of our cultural history as well.

And using the references to those was a lot of fun. I guess I riff off of things, right? Like I riff off of movies and I riff off of history. I feel like there’s crazy amounts of Easter eggs. The more you know me, the more you’re like, oh, well that moment was that.

It’s almost crazy how much, when you’re writing fiction, so much truth comes out in it. So much of your… I mean, if you allow it. So much of my authentic truth came out on the page. I’m not Sam exactly, but I’m not Nico exactly. But I’m both, right? I’m also… I’m everybody. I’m all of the characters because I think that we have to be if we’re gonna write them from a place of compassion and they’re not, you know, cardboard cutouts. Hello, I am here to advance your plot.

Jeff: What was your favorite scene to write? If you could narrow it down.

Lee: The action scene. I frigging love action scenes and coming up with really cool ways for them to do things and like getting them into real pickles and being like, okay, how are they gonna get out? What can they actually do? How are they going to do this? And not everything has to be like super high tech.

There’s some really interesting things you can do with baking soda and glue and a straw that actually come into play later in the book. And that’s really neat that. I love those sort of chemical reaction things. I was just watching on social media, like what’s the difference between baking soda and baking powder?

And I was like, wow, that is actually really, really cool. It turns out, I can’t remember which is which. But I believe that baking powder has acid in it, and baking soda does not. So if you’re cooking with ingredients that include acid, like lemon juice or something, then you use baking soda. If you don’t have acid in your other ingredients, you use baking powder.

I love stuff like that. I just collect weird, random facts, that will end up in another book. Like when I went to Vegas for a conference and somebody told me about how they pipe oxygen into the gambling spaces of casinos to raise the oxygen level, to make people kind of like extra alert and extra excited and extra happy and extra kind of up, I was like, that is gonna end up in one of my books. I just collect these facts and I keep them. I have a running list of them and I think are cool, and I’m like, how can I work that in?

So yeah, I love the action sequences. I really love the opening sequence of the book. I think it’s really fun and I think there’s enough balance of us caring about him quick enough, but I’m really proud of the opening chapter and how the book opens.

And there’s a really fun twist that I won’t give away, but he does do something that leaves a message for everyone left behind that I was just gleeful when I figured that one out. I was so excited.

Jeff: it’s a classic opening gambit cause you could just see the credits running after that to get this thing started.

Lee: But then it was also the balance too, right? Because Sam’s scene couldn’t start at that same action level. Sam’s not an action hero.

Jeff: Not yet.

Lee: Not yet. Yeah, exactly. So like that was also really interesting. I had to go backwards cause in the original draft, we were with Nico for a really long time, right? The whole like getting kidnapped and being imprisoned and escaping. And then he went on his way to Peru and he didn’t meet… I didn’t even introduce Sam until Mexico.

Jeff: Oh, wow.

Lee: And it was like a third of the book had passed and readers hadn’t gotten to meet Sam and I was like, this isn’t working. I need to introduce Sam earlier. So I had to figure out what the heck is Sam doing before he gets to Mexico to this resort? So that was really fun of figuring out who he was and making it real in that way. I’m really happy at how it all turned out, but it was a bit like doing one of those very complicated puzzles.

Jeff: It sounds like there’s a lot on the cutting room floor here, if you will, going from that first draft into where the book is. Is there a favorite moment that got left behind that you’re like, oh, if there was a director’s cut, it would go in here?

Lee: Well, you know what, yes, there is, but it wouldn’t go in the director’s cut because it doesn’t make any sense. But when I was starting with the idea, I did this pretty extensive action sequence of Sam in New York City being chased. Like he realizes he’s being surveilled, and he decides he’s going to walk up to them and take their photos so he can try to figure out who they are.

And then when they see him taking their photos, they start chasing him. And so suddenly he’s running through a construction site, through a traffic jam. I worked so hard on this scene and then only later to realize like, this does not belong in this book. This makes no sense at all. So I’m hoping I can take some of it, because there were some really good action moments, and sort of repurpose it in a future adventure now that Sam actually is kind of that guy that would be able to have some of that skillset.

But yeah, so that was interesting cause it was almost like the scene I needed to write to get me into the tone of the book. But then I was like, wait a minute, this makes no sense in this first book. So yeah, so that action sequence, I think was great to write and really important to write, but didn’t belong in “A Different Kind of Brave.”

Jeff: You’re right. Not in the director’s cut. It would be like in the deleted scenes that you’d have some commentary on for why it was there, but never used.

Lee: Totally. In the deleted scenes. Yes.

Jeff: Now, “Different Kind of Brave” is not your only book this year. You have been a busy guy. You’ve also got coming out in August, the second book in your “Queer History Project” coming back on the history angle and this one called “The Gender Binary Is a Big Lie.” Tell us about that book and what we’re gonna get later in the summer.

Lee: Thanks. So here it is. This is the ARC. It is not saying that the gender binary doesn’t exist. What it’s saying is that the idea that there’s only two ways to be a human is a lie. And in fact, I do believe that is a big lie. There are so many other cultures that see gender differently than we in the west do. And there are so many individuals that have, throughout time, lived their lives outside of this gender binary that has been imposed on many cultures.

And sort of through colonization sort of took over much of the world. And it is very eye-opening and kind of a liberation for everyone to recognize that gender is this social construct that is completely not substantive in terms of the lines that we draw between different kinds of people.

The running metaphor of the book is a rainbow. When we look up in the sky and we look at a rainbow, we have been trained in our culture and in our school system to say that there are seven colors in a rainbow. But if you go back in time to Aristotle, you know, thousands of years ago in Greece, he taught that a rainbow has three colors and sometimes four. Ancient Chinese philosophers said that there were five colors in a rainbow. They’re different colors. The idea there being seven colors in a rainbow was actually created by Isaac Newton to match the notes on a Western musical scale. We wanna draw coloring book lines on things as humans, but actually rainbows have like hundreds of thousands of colors. There are so many colors in the visible spectrum.
And then the crazy thing is, that like rainbows have so much else too. Like there’s all these colors we can’t see that aren’t visible to the human eye. And all these ideas about rainbows that we have, like that a rainbow is an arc. But it’s not an arc. A rainbow is actually a circle. We only see it as an arc because we can’t see below the horizon line. So like there are all these things. We’re so sure we know about rainbows that are completely wrong and it’s very similar to gender.

There are all these things we are completely positive. We know about gender that turns out when you look at them, aren’t true at all. Even the idea of that girls wear pink and boys wear blue. You go back only a hundred years in America and it was reversed. Pink was the color for boys because it was a decidedly stronger color, right? And blue was the color for girls cause it was daintier. And that was from like a catalog of baby clothes.

It is so interesting when we really start to look at like, how do we construct this idea of gender? We have people in our world that… 1.7% of people in our world are born intersex. And that is the same number of people who have red hair. And I bet we all know somebody with red hair, but many listeners I imagine don’t know somebody intersex.

And then we created this weird thing where we operate on babies to basically make their bodies match this idea that there should only be two kinds of bodies, when in fact there’s all this variety naturally in nature. And it’s just starting to look at some of those things.

It’s not an encyclopedia. It’s more like tapas. It’s like here are some really cool things about gender that I learned and I wanna share with you all because I know that for me, when I was growing up, even though I identify as a cis man, I forced myself to do all these things that felt masculine.

Like I really messed my voice up, and I had to go to a speech trainer for a long time because I forced my voice so artificially low because I thought that was masculine. And, in fact, that goes back to “A Different Kind of Brave” because like, what is manly, right? What is toxic masculinity and what is cool masculinity? And that’s actually one of the things that I find fascinating. And so I have Sam sort of wrestling with that question. What does it mean to be a guy? What does it mean to be a man? But also like it’s not so black and white, which is why there are characters that are gender queer in “A Different Kind of Brave.”

You know, we look at the data of kids, younger people, today and they’re identifying in really larger numbers as gender diverse in some way. And it’s kind of this terrible disservice we do to them to be like, well, you’re the first people that have ever not identified as men or women or as boys and girls when it’s completely not true.

So the book has a couple of introductions going through what is gender and what is sex, physical body sex, and how do we look at it and what is natural? And looking at examples from nature, both plants and animals, and also humans, cause we are part of nature as well. Then a lot about terminology and about language. And then we get into the chapters of examples and there are some longer chapters where we go more in depth, like on the Mahu and Hijra in India.

One of the shockers to me was that in my own Jewish tradition. I was raised Jewish, but I didn’t know that there were all these other genders in Jewish tradition. I had no idea. This is the religion I was raised in and nobody ever said anything to me. It seemed very binary. But it turns out there were four other, maybe five, depending on how you count other genders in traditional Jewish thought. And that was really fun. And again, like “No Way They Were Gay,” it’s really based in primary sources. It’s like a container that I just filled with all these voices because I don’t wanna come and speak for these people. I want us to hear their voices. So I kind of feel like I’m like hosting a party to talk about gender and that’s what “The Gender Binary is a Big Lie” is about.

Jeff: That has like a lot of really interesting research to take on to write that book.

Lee: It was enormous and intimidating and felt a little bit like, oh, I’m writing a PhD thesis. But again, I don’t want it to be like medicine. I want it to be like chocolate. I want it to be fun. I don’t think it’s really a book that someone sits down and reads cover to cover. It’s a lot. But I think it’s easy to pick it up and read about, you know, Sister Girls and Brother Boys in Australia and it’s like, that’s a four page section.

And that’s really fascinating to hear them talking and hear their voices and really hear their stories. And then try and also look at how gender was colonized and how gender became a way of power, sort of like race became a way of power. Race is also sort of a social construct about who deserves positions of power and who deserves special treatment or less special treatment in our culture.

So looking at how gender plays into all that was really fascinating as well. The idea is that it’s, again, not an encyclopedia. It’s like an invitation and there’s a crazy extensive end note section where every single thing is really referenced back to where did I get it and who said it. And again, we were able to do the thing where primary sources are bold in the book, which I’m very proud about because I think it’s really important for younger readers in particular to know what are the people saying and then what is Lee, as the sort of the host of this party of discussion saying, and what’s interpretation and what’s actually primary sources.

Then there’s the crazy thing of that you actually have a lot of hostile primary sources that we need to go to because there aren’t friendly primary sources that let us know about certain things. And interestingly enough, I did go in real life to that queer museum in San Francisco. One of the things that I learned there in one of the exhibits ended up being in the introduction chapter of “The Gender Binary in a Big Lie” because there was a very hostile source that was referencing that when the missions came into California how the missionaries worked to eradicate the existence of third gender people in the sort of native nations that they encountered.

They were saying that there were two or three of these third gender people in every village they came across in an area that stretched over a hundred miles, which was fascinating. And yet also helping readers understand and work through like, okay, well this is a hostile primary source, and they’re saying some horrifying things, but also look at how they’re acknowledging that this was so prevalent in these communities at that time.

And so that was another kind of like, for me, an Easter egg, right? I got that at the same museum that the thing about the soldiers that were caught being gay were imprisoned on Treasure Island on the way to San Francisco at the same exhibit. So that was fun how it kind of came together for me.

Yeah, I’m really proud of it. It was a very difficult book to put together and, in particular, because I really wanted to do justice to it and to have it be something for our community, for the queer community.

It’s not for the haters. There are gonna be so many haters of this book, and that’s fine. I didn’t write it for them. I wrote it for those people that need to see some light and need to see some reflection of their gender diverse selves in history. And also for those of us to recognize that even if we fall within one of these two boxes that the culture says are the only places to go, there are a lot of stereotypes and misconceptions that we have about maybe even ourselves and how we express our gender.

There’s one great question posed by one of the people I quote in the book, which, if you’d never been criticized for gender nonconforming behavior, what would you do differently? And I can think about would I paint my nails? I mean we gender things that are so odd in our culture, like soap. Do we really need to gender soap? It is crazy how much that sort of becomes like marching orders of, oh, you’re a boy, you need to like sports, you need to wear blue. It’s kind of wacky. And when you pull it back and you really start to look at it, you’re like, wow, this is really messed up.

Jeff: I’m looking forward to reading it and to start to take in all these different viewpoints. As much as we talk about gender, perhaps way too much these days, we also don’t know all this history behind it either and how we’ve really constructed it the way it is, maybe over the last century or two. So yeah, looking forward to seeing that book.

This episode begins Pride Month for us, and it’s interesting having you back for Pride five years later, exactly in the same month. What does pride mean to you here in 2024, these days?

Lee: Community. It’s the community that I didn’t have when I was scared to come out. And I think that there’s this great quote by Anne Lamott. I may have even shared this five years ago cause I’m obsessed with this quote. But she talks about how, in “Bird by Bird,” she talks about how lighthouses don’t run all over an island looking for boats to save. They just stand there and they shine. And I think about that so much because it’s like I’m never gonna convince everyone in the world that I am right and they’re wrong about history. Or rather, Abraham Lincoln was in love with another guy. Or whether, you know, the gender binary is indeed a lie or not.

Like, it’s fine, I don’t need to convince everybody. But I am driven to sort of shine a light on the cool things that I’ve found and I wanna share them with the people that want to have that light in their world and in their lives. and I think that’s very exciting.

So I feel a lot… I felt very alone and very isolated as a kid and as a teen. And I just want every book I put out to be like a hug. That sounds terrible, but like, just to let them know that they’re not alone. And even if it’s like this silly page turning adventure story that has this love, gay love, queer love, at the heart of it, like that feels like a hug to me. And I want to just empower my readers. And, generally, people… I just feel like you can’t unlearn something, right? Once you’ve learned some of the history, that it gets so exciting, right? You feel included. You know that, oh, this isn’t brand new, right? Thousands of years ago there were people that lived multiple genders all over the world. Then that, sort of, it’s kind of cool. It makes you feel a little better about like, oh, you know, we’re in a sort of conservative lash out moment, but the actual diversity that they’re lashing out against is not new.

I think that’s very comforting for young people today. And I say young people, but really, I mean, the books are written for, well, the nonfiction books “No Way They Were Gay” and “The Gender Binary is a Big Lie” is really for ages 11 and up. And then the YA novels are really for 13 and up. I know that I have a lot of adult readers of these books too. But you know, that’s the age level. Because they face such opposition in the novels, that’s why the novels are sort of for slightly older kids.

Jeff: I love the lighthouse quote. I’ve heard it in a few different places referring to different things, but it’s always, I think, such a wonderful idea that the lighthouse is there as the beacon of light. And it’s a great way to think about these books too.

Lee: And Jeff, I think it’s everything. At one point I said to my husband before I was ever published, and I said, Ugh, I’m just so impatient. I want the light to go on in my lighthouse. And he looked at me like I was nuts. And he was like, what are you talking about? Everything you do, every talk you give, every blog post you put out in the world, that’s light.

And so, I’ll put it back on you. Like every podcast you do, that’s light in the world. Like these conversations, like the one that you had with Adib, the one you’re having with me, you’re putting light into the world. You’re making our world a brighter and better place. And I think that, you know, enough of us do that we can win.

Jeff: Yeah, if there’s enough light, the light will eventually win.

So tell me what’s next. You mentioned, you just put in the outline for hopefully the second book. Interlude Press, if you’re listening, we need that second book sooner than later. Anything else coming up on the radar that we should be looking out for? Is there something you wanna seed today that we’ll talk about in like 2029?

Lee: That sounds fun, actually. I will say first of all, that I have a picture book coming out in September which is a story that I first discovered doing the research for “No Way They Were Gay” and it’s called “Love of the Half-Eaten Peach.”

So in China, well before China was unified, so back in the time of Confucius. There was this guy who was the ruler of what was called the state of Wei. His name was Duke Ling of Wei. And there was a guy that he loved whose name was Mi Zi Xia. And Yuan and Mi Zi Xia were walking through an orchard one day and Mi Zi Xia picks a ripe peach off of a tree and starts to eat it. It is so delicious. He stops halfway through and he gives the half-eaten peach to the Duke. The Duke makes a really big deal out of this. He’s like, I can’t believe you would give up your own joy for me. That’s not a direct quote. And anyway, something about that moment really captured the imagination of people at that time.

And for over a thousand years, the way they said gay in Chinese, was love of the half-eaten peach. So that’s like, like one sentence in “No Way They Were Gay,” but I couldn’t get it out of my mind. And I thought, wow, this feels epic. I wanna do an epic retelling of this story, but almost like “Cinderella,” like a fairytale. Like what would be the epic retelling of “Love of the Half-Eaten Peach?” And that’s what this picture book is. It’s illustrated by Jieting Chen. She is a queer Chinese American illustrator who is incredibly talented. It’s coming out from Reycraft. It is beautiful, and I am very excited about it because it is queer, queer, queer. It’s my second picture book to come out into the marketplace but this one is hella queer and I’m really, really excited about it.

Jeff: Can’t wait to see that.

Now as we wrap up, we’ve gotta get some recommendations. What have you been reading or watching that our listeners should check out?

Lee: Okay, so, I just read “Girls Like Girls” by Hayley Kiyoko I love this book. She had a song, right? “Girls like girls like boys do.” I won’t sing it. But she’s amazing. She’s a pop star and she wrote this YA book that was inspired by this song that she wrote that was a huge hit. And it’s great. It’s just really this girl, teen love story where one girl is sort of getting slightly gaslit by another one. And it’s just empowering and hopeful. I love that.

I have a list here cause I knew I was gonna be asked this. “The Darkness Outside Us,” Eliot Schrefer. Sort of a sci-fi. Have you read that yet? Oh, so good. It was this… I won’t say too much about it, but man, it is this sci-fi love story, crazy reboot romance. It’s like the best “Black Mirror” episode, but like really queer and so fun and I actually believe that he just has the sequel coming out, so I’m excited about that.

“All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson. I had not read that until recently. I listened to the audio book. It’s a memoir slash manifesto. It was great. It was really, really fascinating about sort of growing up black and gay and it is the number two most banned book in the US for two years running. “No Way They Were Gay” gets on the challenged and banned lists, but like five in a year. Like, that book got challenged like more than 60 times last year. So, they are really amazing and really speaking up against book banning. It was very fun to listen to the audiobook because they narrate it themselves and that’s always fun when it’s like a memoir. So I love that.

And then I really loved also “The Spells We Cast,” Jason June. Sort of like very, kind of like a world of magic and you know, romance. And that was just fun. So I kind of, I guess I dip into a lot of different genres when I read.

Jeff: You did. It was a really great list.

So tell us, what is the best way for people to keep up with you online? Follow the release for “Gender Binary is a Big Lie,” for the Children’s book, and everything else you’ve got coming up.

Lee: So the easiest way is just my website is Lee Wind, L-E-E-W-I-N-D.org. That’s the, hub to get to everything. My Instagram is there, my videos, and also have an email list that they can sign up for. I think that’s really the best single place to find out about me.

Jeff: Excellent. We will put a link to that, plus everything that we’ve talked about into our show notes. Thank you so much for coming back to the show. I’m so glad we got to talk about this book and learn about what’s coming up too.

Lee: It was a real pleasure, Jeff. Thank you.


Jeff: This episode’s transcript has been brought to you by our community on Patreon. If you’d like to read the conversation for yourself, simply head on over to the show notes page for this episode at BigGayFictionPodcast.com. We’ve also got links to everything that we’ve talked about in this episode.

And thanks so much to Lee for talking to us about all of his books. I really love how queer history runs through all of his storytelling. That history is so important to keep alive, and I really look forward to not only the books still to come this year, but anything that he’s got coming up next.

All right, I think that’s gonna do it for now. Coming up next on Monday, June 17th, Pride month continues as Frederick Smith joins us to talk all about his new workplace romance, “One and Done.” That’s right, not only are Fred and I together for the event at A Seat at the Table on the 14th of this month, he’s gonna be here too. And you’re not gonna wanna miss hearing all about his brand new book.

Thank you so much for listening, and I hope that you’ll join us back here again soon for more discussion about the kinds of stories that we all love, the big gay fiction kind. Until then, keep turning those pages and keep reading.

Will: 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.