Simon James Green talks school drama, elections campaign for the LGBTQ+ club and his new novel, Gay Club!
Gay Club! is a hilarious story about LGBTQ+ students fighting to win Presidency at the club's election.
Gay Club! is a hilarious story about LGBTQ+ students fighting to win Presidency at the club’s election — exactly everything you would want and more from
one of the UK’s leading writers of LGBTQ+ teen fiction, Simon James Green.
Barney’s a shoo-in for his school’s LGBTQ+ Society President at the club’s next election. But when the vote is opened up to the entire student body, the whole school starts paying attention. How low will the candidates go to win? Buckle up for some serious shade, scandals and sleazy shenanigans. It isn’t long before it’s National Coming Out Day – for everyone’s secrets!
We had the honour to chat with Simon James Green on his latest novel, Gay Club!
The cover of this book is amazing – the colours are so sharp and bold, and I love it. Also, the Gay Club! tag line, “You don’t need to come out to come in”, is so perfect. What’s the story/inspiration behind these?
The Gay Club slogan was actually something I stole from a real-life school LGBT club that I visited! I meet a lot of LGBT clubs on my school visits, and this one just stuck with me. I hope they don’t mind – I didn’t actually ask their permission! (I’ll send them a free book!) I love the cover – and I have to thank Liam Drane (designer) and the whole team at Scholastic who signed off on the glittering holo-foil. Everyone wanted to make a splash, and I think we can agree that’s been achieved!
If you were attending high school now, would you see yourself running for President of the LGBT+ club? Or any other roles that would suit you better?
Oh my god, YES! President is absolutely the role I would run for! I was actually Head Boy at school, and, not being arrogant, but it really suited me – haha!
In Gay Club!, if you get selected as the national Youth Ambassadors, you will get many cool opportunities. Which LGBT+ celebrity would you want to meet the most and why?
Oooh, this is a hard one! I’m a very big fan of Stephen Fry – I love his books, and he’s so witty and tremendously wise – I just think he’d be really great company.
Gay Club! is honestly the pinnacle example of modern high school drama. Is it inspired by some of your school visits? In fact, do you have any unforgettable stories from your school visits you can share with us?
The best source of high school gossip is school librarians – who very often see it all! Actually, it’s not so much the drama that has been inspired by my school visits, but the campaigning zeal of the characters. The real-life students I meet are so clued-up and passionate about LGBT rights. It’s really refreshing to see and they are determined to change the world and make it better – they’re the true inspiration for Gay Club!
You write both children and YA books. What are the main differences and similarities between writing for these two age groups, especially in terms of the incorporation of LGBT+ characters?
I think the similarities are all my characters, from picture books, through to middle-grade and YA all feel like outsiders and need to learn to love the people they are. Another similarity is that all my books to date are funny, for all age groups. Beyond that, you’re dealing with characters who are at different stages of their lives, so the books reflect that. The MG books, for example, don’t deal with romance, but they do deal with friendship, and, in particular, close male friendship. It’s only then in my YA books where that, sometimes, becomes something more. Essentially, I try to remember where I was at with those things at those ages, and try to reflect that. That’s not to say my experiences are universal – they’re not – but it’s the best way I can go about it, I think.
Other than being an author, you are also a screenwriter. Do you think LGBT+ representation is doing better in books or in TV/movies nowadays?
It’s better than it was, but we still need more. Too many broadcasters have their one ‘gay show’ and that’s it. I’d like to see more diversity both in terms of the identities represented on screen, but also in the types of stories. Happy rom-coms are important, but so are more gritty, tragic pieces.
We are very excited for your upcoming visit to NYALit Fest and YALC! What can we expect from your panels?
I’m looking forward to it! Well, I hope to bring a mix of important LGBTQ+ issues to the events, mixed with some fun anecdotes and a bit of comedy – much like Gay Club!
You are one of the team captains of the YALC Quiz of the Year. Congrats! How are you preparing for the quiz?
By panicking. This will be an unmitigated and humiliating disaster for me. I’ve been so busy writing for the last twelve months, I am staggeringly ignorant of most recently published YA. This will be revealed during the quiz, and everyone will hate me because they’ll think I can’t be arsed with their books and care only about myself.
What is on your TBR list? And any LGBT+ books you would recommend?
Only on the Weekends by Dean Atta is fabulous, as is The King is Dead by Benjamin Dean.
Grab your copy of Gay Club! here.