I love reading, and always have. While most kids were out playing or tuning into their favorite TV shows, I was sitting on the couch entirely immersed in a book. Growing up, it was a point of contention between my parents: My dad thought I wasn’t socializing enough. My mother fervently advocated that I be allowed to dive headfirst into as many fictional worlds as I wanted. Lucky for me, my mother was very good at arguing her point and my parents struck a balance; I could read as much as I wanted as long as I signed up for a club or played a sport. So, I made the effort and joined the local soccer club, but no matter how much fun I was having or how many new friends I’d make, I still preferred the company of fictional characters to my real-world peers. I continued to voraciously digest as many books as I could get my hands on.
My love affair with fiction started to change when I got to high school, though. I was finding novel upon novel for young adults experiencing their first love, but none of them really resonated with me. I always knew I was a little different, and it was around that age I realized why: I was gay. Needless to say, at that time—the early 2000s—there weren’t very many YA books about girls who liked girls. I found one in my school library. Only one—Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden—and it had been written twenty years earlier. I didn’t even know how much I needed that book until I read it. At 15, it changed my life. It made me feel normal in a way that no other book geared at teenage girls ever had; it was the first time I’d seen my personal experience, my feelings, as a young queer woman, reflected back to me on the page.
It wasn’t until I reached adulthood I realized how unfair it was that the pickings were so slim for queer kids. So, when I decided in 2012 that I was finally going to follow through on my life-long dream of writing a book, I set out to write one that I would have wanted to read as a teen—one that I could relate to, and that would show the next generation of LGBTQ kids there was a place for them not only in the real world, but in the world of fiction. At the time, a new genre was gaining steam: New Adult. It was a game changer—the first genre that straddled the line between YA and adult fiction, where it was acceptable to set younger people in more ‘grown up’ situations. That was the story I wanted to tell—one where big life changes were on the horizon for my characters. I set to work on The Gravity Between Us, the story of two college-aged best friends, one famous and one not, who were trying to navigate their intersecting worlds and their changing feelings for one another.
It turns out there was an audience for it. I’ve talked to hundreds of people, aged 16 to 60, who read and enjoyed the book. Some even said that it changed their lives, made them feel seen for the first time ever. That is the highest praise and most touching feedback an author could receive. I set out to entertain readers, never imagining that I would affect anyone the way Nancy Garden had affected me.
After a long sabbatical from the genre, I wrote my upcoming New Adult Lesbian Romance novel When Sparks Fly in the early months of the 2020 Covid-19 quarantine. In the absence of my ‘in-person only’ job, and with global health and economic anxieties mounting, I sought the quiet comfort of my computer and let my creative mind run free. The story of Britton Walsh—a funny, sarcastic, intelligent orphan in her final year of high school who had survived numerous hardships on her own for 18 years—took on a life of its own. I ended up with the tale of character who discovers not only romantic love, but parental and platonic love, and for the first time in her young life, finds a place where she belongs.
Today in 2021, it’s estimated that 1 in 6 Gen Zers openly identify as LGBTQ. One in six! At that age, I never could’ve imagined being so comfortable with myself. But I’m glad for the change, and it seems that the publishing industry is finally catching up. My book will be among many—not just a handful—of LGBTQ novels released this year. I am so proud of every author who chooses to tell our stories. There will always be a need, and room, for more. I hope to keep contributing to the ever-growing collection.
(c) Kristen Zimmer
About When Sparks Fly:
The room is dark, except for the streetlights coming through the blinds. I can barely see her, but I feel her. She pushes me up against the wall and we kiss harder than we ever have before. I’ve been waiting so long for it to happen, and finally, it’s going to. Then the bedroom door flies open, and someone screams her name…
Britton Walsh has never had a home. After a lifetime in the care system, she doesn’t expect she’ll ever find one. But beginning her senior year with new foster parents in a new city, means starting over yet again. Tom and Cate Cahill seem okay. The hitch? Their daughter, Avery.
Beautiful, popular and cool, Avery is everything Britton is not. She’s all Britton could ever ask for in a sister, or even a friend––but having survived without either for so long, Britton knows the way her heart races whenever Avery enters the room can only mean one thing…
But Avery has a secret. Something that is eating away at her and stopping her letting anyone in, least of all Britton. Will Avery’s insistence on punishing herself for a mistake in her past make Britton’s last year of high school, and finding a place to call home, impossible? Can two such different people ever find common ground, friendship, or maybe even something more?
An unforgettable new adult lesbian romance for fans of Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters, Her Name in the Sky by Kelly Quindlen, or Nancy Garden’s classic young adult coming out novel, Annie on My Mind.
New Adult novel: recommended for 17+ due to mature themes and sexual content.
Order your copy online here.