When Will Taylor was a child, there were not a whole lot of books with LGBT representation. Therefore, he wanted to write a story featuring queer characters for children, hence "The Language of Seabirds."
What was your inspiration behind "The Language of Seabirds"?
I was 10 when I realized I was queer, which was also right around the time I became an avid reader. Queer rep in kids’ books was basically nonexistent in the early '90s, so I settled for books about hidden worlds, secret codes, and, when I could find them, fierce friendships between boys. One book that really rang true for me was "Bridge to Terabithia," the classic about two misfit kids building their own separate world, and I’ve wanted to create a book like that (but with queer kids) ever since. Now that I’m a grownup writing for the 8-12 age range, "The Language of Seabirds" is my heartfelt attempt, hopefully giving kids today the book I really needed when I was young.
What does "Reading with Pride" mean to you?
This definitely goes back to the last question, but there’s a pride that comes from seeing yourself reflected on the page, and that’s something so many of us missed out on when we were growing up, seeing as publishing has only recently started giving real shelf space to our stories. Happily, we’re at the beginning of what might just be a queer-lit golden age, so “Reading with Pride,” to me, means diving in and enjoying the full range of queer stories out there, from all members of the community, showing the entire messy, wonderful, tangled, vivid, gorgeous scope of our lives and selves.
Why do you feel representation of a variety of people is so important when it comes to writing books and characters?
Book publishing, like any media, shows a reflected image of our world. When that image is distorted so certain groups of people are excluded, stereotyped, or misrepresented, it has a real-world impact on the way those groups are treated and perceived by the society they exist in. Real representation, on the other hand, can provide the opposite effect by empowering and strengthening. Everyone deserves to see themselves on the page, full stop. Importantly, though, not every author should try and tell every story. It’s the members of underrepresented communities who should be the ones to write, share, and profit from their own lived experiences, and supporting marginalized authors goes a long way toward telling the publishing industry you believe that.
Which character did you relate to the most and why?
I have to be super unoriginal and say my main character, Jeremy. Like me, he has an inner world he wants to share and be known for, but only with a few carefully chosen people. He also spends most of his time on guard, hiding and self-monitoring, and that’s something I remember vividly from my late elementary years and am still unpacking today. I think most queer people can probably connect to that feeling.
I also relate to his reaction to the love interest, Evan, which is equal parts “I want to be with you” and “I want to be like you.” Evan is very impressive to Jeremy, and Jeremy wants to level up, as he sees it, and become impressive, too. Of course, part of what he learns is that the only way to do that is to be true to himself. (Something else I’m definitely still unpacking for me!)
What can fans expect from your book?
My first books were romps through hidden networks of linked-up pillow forts, so fans might be surprised by this one. But I hope they and new readers will enjoy the nervous young romance, the feeling of being right on the edge of your own life, the beauty of the Oregon coast in summer, and the quiet, in-between moments when our boys can exist and laugh and grow in the safety of their own secret world. Plus, to be completely honest, I did add in some forts.
What's up next for you in the bookish world?
I’ve got two books that came out this year: "The Language of Seabirds" and "Catch That Dog," a bouncy, heartachy friendship story about a girl and her rescued poodle. I’m currently working on what will hopefully be my next book for elementary kids: a medieval escape adventure I absolutely adore and cannot wait to share. Once that’s done, I’ll be starting my very first Young Adult project, a high school musical-mystery-comedy (very gay, obvs) which should be a complete blast to write, and, hopefully, read!