If you're interested in books set in the 1950s with a hint of magic in them, then check out "Innate Magic" by Shannon Fay.
What was your inspiration behind your most recent book?
The earliest kernel of the idea goes back to when I was taking a course on theater in Renaissance England. I learned about the old British sumptuary laws, part of which limited who could wear what kind of fabrics or even colours. It got me thinking about what if there was a magical underpinning to these laws — if people could make magic clothes how would that would affect society? Especially in a country as class-conscious as England? My novel is set in 1950s London and follows Paul Gallagher, a middle-class lad who is trying to move up in the world by learning magic. I decided to set it in the '50s because to me it’s such an interesting time in England, with cold-war tensions, post-war scarcity, and moral panic over gay people.
What does "Reading with Pride" mean to you?
Growing up I only heard about books with LGBT content when there was some kind of scandal around them (of course, that just made me even more eager to read them!). Since there weren’t a lot of books with gay characters available to me when I was a teen, as an adult, I feel like I’m making up for lost time. I love that there is so much amazing stuff coming out from fellow queer creators — I will drop everything whenever Carmen Maria Machado or Rivers Solomon has a new book out. For me, Reading with Pride is about acknowledging a part of myself that for a long time I didn’t see in fiction, and lifting up the people creating queer stories.
Why do you feel representation of a variety of people is so important when it comes to writing books?
I think even when writing fantasy or science fiction, it’s important to still hold to a real-world truth, that truth being that every single person on Earth has their own wholly unique experience and identity. To not have a cast that featured gay people, people of colour, disabled people, would be to write a book that misses out on the complexities of the world and the chance to revel in the joy that comes with it. To not have a diverse cast renders a book not just flat, but would for me feel dishonest, not reflective of my own lived experiences.
Tell us a little more about the book and why you decided to write it.
For most of my life, when a bisexual character showed up in a movie or TV show, it was often used as a punchline, or a throwaway storyline to make a show seem more ‘racy.’ It rarely delved into what it was like to be attracted to genders besides your own, to have to justify your sexuality not just to others but to yourself, to try and find a space for yourself in the broader queer community. Part of what I wanted to do in Innate Magic had a bi main character who felt true to me and my experiences. Paul and I are very different (I wish I had his confidence!) but writing him has helped me express some of my own feelings on attraction and sexuality.
What can fans expect from your book?
"Innate Magic" is an adventure story with twists and turns, magic and mayhem. I wanted to write something that would make people laugh on one page, and have them biting their nails in suspense the next. It’s set in a time and place that was often hostile to gay people, but the characters weather it with grace and wry humor.
What's up next for you in the bookish world?
I’m just wrapping up my edits on External Forces, the sequel to Innate Magic. It’s been a lot of work but I really hope fans of the first book enjoy it! I love the world and the characters, but I am also looking forward to working on something new — either a historical crime novel, or a murder mystery on a spaceship.