Today is a very exciting post that I cannot believe is actually happening! It is an interview with the author of the incredible novel, Camp, L.C Rosen! I am a huge fan of Lev and the books he writes and wrote a review of Camp which you can find here!
This will be my second time interviewing Lev which I can’t quite believe, last time we discussed LGBTQ+ characters and intimacy issues in YA novels and a whole lot more. This time we discussed toxic masculinity, positive and safe sex and more! I won’t ramble too much more here so here is my question time with L.C Rosen!LC: Lev
L: Lev, please could tell us a little bit about your latest novel, Camp and what your inspiration behind it was?
LC: Sure! So Camp is about Randy Kapplehoff, a queer, nail polish wearing, unicorn loving theater kid, who for the past 4 summers has been attending Camp Outland, an LGBTQIA+ summer camp, and for the past 4 summers has been wildly in love with Hudson Aaronson-Lim, a masc4masc jock who doesn’t know Randy exists. So this year, Randy comes back playing the ultimate role: Del, a masc4masc dream. He plans to win Hudson’s heart as Del, and once they’re in love, gradually slide back into being himself, staying in love the whole time. But as you might expect, things don’t go quite as planned. It was actually inspired by old 60s screwball sex comedies, like with Rock Hudson and Doris Day. I wanted to bring that disguises, seduction, battle of the sexes! comedic energy to a contemporary queer summer camp.
L: In both your books, Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts) and Camp you promote safe sex and talk openly and positively about sex. Why do you think it is so important to do this, not only in young adult books but in general life?
LC: Because no one should be ashamed of their desires. Shame around sex confuses the hell out of me – if you tell people to be ashamed of something that most people want to do, they’re going to do it anyway, but they’re going to do it while confused and upset, they’re going to punish themselves and others for wanting it, they’re going to not know what they’re doing in terms of staying safe. If you teach people (including teens, in a healthy, respectful way) that sex is normal, fun, messy, weird, and desire is complicated and different person to person, and that’s okay – if you teach them all that, and that’s just part of culture, something we all know – then it becomes so much less of a big deal, so much less wrapped up in shame and then people can just have sex in a way that suits them, and safely and healthily and it doesn’t have to be this big thing. So I feel like if we just act like that already – at least in my books – it can bleed into real life, at least for some people.
L: Again, both you books talk openly about toxic masculinity and femme shaming of queer men, even within the LGBTQ+ community. Why did you want to show this in your books and why do you think it is so relevant to talk about this in today’s society?
LC: Because coming out isn’t the end of the story. There’s this idea that once you come out life is happy rainbows and kissing cute boys and homophobia will never impact you again, unless you live in the South or something (I guess that’s the North in the UK? Wherever your homophobes congregate in great numbers). But no, even in liberal enclaves, homophobia is there, it just isn’t “call you a fag, gaybash you” homophobia. It’s more insidious. Once you’re out, even people who genuinely love you can try to mold you to what they think the ‘ideal gay’ is. Maybe that means cute and chaste, maybe it means gender conforming and patriarchy enforcing. But that kind of homophobia – the creeping quiet kind – it sneaks into your brain. Especially if you’re a teenager, in the closet or out, and it tells you that if you are gay, there’s only one way to be gay and still be a valuable person. That, of course, is bullshit. Your queerness can look however you want it to, and you are still valuable. Being femme or slutty doesn’t make you a bad gay. Being a bad person and gay makes you a bad gay.
L: What do you want to see more of in future young adult books and what can we as readers do to make young adult books more accessible?
LC: Well, I think there are plenty of YA books about straight people, so we should have a few years of only queer books. That seems fair. I think it would really make the book world stop and think about who they sell too, too. There’s this idea and expectation that queer people can read and related to straight characters no problem, because they’re the default, but ask a straight person to read about and related to a queer person and you’re raving mad. That’s ridiculous, of course, and I think the way to change it is to stop thinking of queer books as only for queer readers. Just give the queer books to everyone. Only queer books. Accessibility for readers is down to the readers and how much empathy they have. We can try to politely suggest they have empathy, but I think giving them no other choice could work well, too.
L: Finally, what do you hope people take away from your novel, Camp?
LC: Honestly, the big thing I hope they take away is the feeling of a great summer, filled with romance, and the love of the queer community. I want them to feel that community, in all its diversity. I want some big summer love feels for my readers. And if, after that, they also have a moment to think about toxic masculinity and patriarchal gender roles and queerness and how they all intersect, and how they can be a better ally by thinking about it, or how they can love their queerness more, then awesome. But my big hope is that they just take away that feeling of summer and romance and the love of the queer community – especially for those teens who are missing out on summer and the queer community because they’re stuck inside.
L: Thank you!
I had so much fun doing this interview! Thank you so much to Lev for being wonderful! Also, thanks to the wonderful Simon from Penguin for setting this up!