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If you’re interested in romantic stories featuring lesbians and vampires, then check out “Youngblood” by Sasha Laurens.

What was your inspiration behind your most recent book?

I wanted to write a romance between a good girl and a bad boy with a heart of gold, but make it lesbians. Kat’s the good girl, who’s always trying to follow the rules — whether that’s the expectations of the popular girls or the heteropatriarchy — to make sure she can take advantage of the full ride she’s just gotten to an elite boarding school. Taylor’s a lesbian with no interest in conforming, but the bristly exterior she’s developed to protect herself in the cut-throat world of high school has also closed her off. Kat and Taylor are ex-best friends who haven’t spoken to each other in years, but when they find themselves roommates junior year, it’s a recipe for disaster — and a very chaotic romance. What does "Reading with Pride" mean to you?

It means reading about all facets of the LGBTQIA+ experience. We’re so lucky that publishing has finally recognized that we care about these stories — and will pay for them. The recent explosion of books about so many types of queer experiences was unthinkable even a few years ago. It expands the freedom of queer writers to tell stories, to create complex and real characters, to represent all kinds of identities and lives, and it expands our freedom as readers to slip into those worlds. And not to sound like a crass capitalist, but for me part of reading with pride really is doing it in a way that publishers, libraries and bookstores can see it and register that there’s an audience. Don’t pirate queer books! Why do you feel representation of a variety of people is so important when it comes to writing books?

This question is hard to answer because representing different experiences is very much at the heart of storytelling. Who wants to hear a story that exactly mirrors their own boring life? The whole point is the magical experience of immersing yourself in an experience that’s different from your own. That’s also how stories help us build empathy and expand our understanding of each other. Beyond that, the world is so full of diversity that to ignore it and fail to represent it is itself a creative choice. Literally everything that winds up in a novel is a creative choice and can be interpreted that way by a reader — even if the writer isn’t aware they’ve made that choice. This means writers have a creative obligation to consider who and what they’re representing and shouldn’t just lazily rely on normative categories. I thought about this a lot with Youngblood, which takes place in a very homogenous setting: an elite boarding school. Taylor is the only out student, Kat is the only student with a scholarship, and there’s very little ethnic diversity. I did this deliberately, because interrogating privilege is a major theme of the book and the reality is, in real life, elite spaces are still super homogenous. Tell us a little more about the book and why you decided to write it. "Youngblood" is also a vampire story — which is why I sometimes call it Lesbian Vampire Boarding School. I knew I wanted to play with the magical boarding school setting, partly so Kat and Taylor couldn’t get away from each other and partly because it’s just a fun set-up. I landed on vampires, because they come with a set of tropes that I’ve always found so campy and over-the-top (and let’s be honest, kinda gay) that I thought would be fun to mess around with. I also wanted to experiment with writing a YA vampire romance that didn’t have a ridiculous age gap. I’m sorry, but I just don’t think it’s appropriate for a teenager to date anyone over one hundred years old.  Anyway, I got to thinking about why vampires are always so filthy rich, and how wealth is so necessary to enjoying eternal life. Vampirdom — the society of vampires — became a way for the book to talk about privilege and how it structures these elite educational institutions. What can fans expect from your book?

A cute slow burn romance with lots of tropes — forced proximity (they were roommates!), a love quadrangle featuring a misguided Timothee Chalamet-look-a-like and an even more misguided disaster bisexual, rich kids behaving badly, a happy coming out story, a ball! and running through the rain to kiss the girl you love. I’ve gotten feedback from readers that they’ve really connected with Taylor especially, and how strongly she identifies as a lesbian, and I’m so glad that readers are embracing her. What's up next for you in the bookish world?

Honestly I’ve had to step back from writing recently to focus on my Real Job, but my next project will probably/possibly/potentially be an adult romance. Any updates will be posted on my Instagram @sashalwrites.