I’m turning over the blog to my well-read-beyond-her-years niece Maggie Gabriel, for her interview of my good friend Sam J. Miller, author of The Art of Starving (Harper Teen). Starving is Sam’s first published Young Adult novel, but recently it has been impossible to pick up a Science Fiction magazine or journal and not see one of his short stories in it. We can only hope that he doesn’t forget all of his friends when the movie adaptations inevitably come his way.
Bay Area readers will have two chances to hear Sam read:
- Tuesday October 17th, 2017 7:30pm at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Avenue, He’ll be joined by local favorite, Ananda Esteva reading a sneak preview of her new novel, ‘The Wanderings of Chela Coatlicue,” soon to be published on Transgress Press.
- Wednesday October 18th, 2017 7:30pm at the Green Arcade Bookstore, 1680 Market Street, San Francisco. With Juliette Torrez (Kapow! Poetry and Comics, Madness and Retribution) Tomas Moniz (Rad Dad) and Michelle Gonzales (Spitboy Rule)
MG: What was the inspiration for Tariq?
SJM: Tariq evolved pretty naturally for me as I thought about who Matt was as a character, and how he was both attracted to and menaced by masculinity and the expectations of how boys should be and act. Manly, confident, athletic men can be threatening at the same as they can be hot as hell! The key to Matt as a character is that he’s wrong about pretty much everything, and that includes thinking Tariq is a villain when he’s really a boy who is good and kind and strong and hurting inside. I also loved the idea of a gay romance between a Muslim boy and a Jewish boy.
MG: How did you come up with the title and the cover art?
SJM: When I wrote the book, its title was RULES OF THE BODY. That’s why every chapter starts with a “Rule”! But my agent felt like it needed a more compelling title, something that stood out from the rest and raised questions in the mind of the reader, and we decided on THE ART OF STARVING before we started sending it out to editors. As for the cover art, I’m in love with it, but I’m afraid I can’t take any credit for it. I was lucky that HarperTeen assigned brilliant art director Jenna Stempel to design it, and she chose gorgeous art by Matt Blease. That’s generally how it goes at the big publishers. Authors have very little say over what goes on the cover of their books.
MG: Do you consider yourself an activist?
SJM: Absolutely! I think there is so much suffering and oppression in this world, and that we all have a duty to fight back against that to the best of our ability. These days, with the government doing so many scary things, we need to be activists in a lot of different ways. Calling senators, going to protests, retweeting people who are trying to expose the truth and fight the good fight. But activism is more than that – it’s about being kind to people who might be hurting, or standing up for people who need it. For my day job, I’m fortunate to be a community organizer at a great organization called Picture the Homeless, where I work alongside homeless people fighting against police abuse and bad city policies that keep them from getting housing. So I get to raise a lot of hell and support a lot of powerful people who are dealing with unthinkable violence and pain from the police, from the government, from their fellow citizens who look at them as less than human – but still believe that they can come together and fight collectively and nonviolently for real social change.
MG: Dogs or cats?
SJM: Dogs! Well, I love them both, a lot, but I am allergic to cats, so I can’t have one.
MG: Do you plan on making more books?
SJM: Every day I’m above ground, I’ll be writing words! I have a novel called BLACKFISH CITY coming out in April – it’s not young adult. It’s set in the far future, after rising sea levels and climate change have transformed the globe, in a floating city in the Arctic Ocean, where one day a woman arrives with a killer whale and a polar bear at her side. And I’m currently working on my second YA novel, tentatively called UNPHOTOGRAPHABLE