What up, book nerds? It’s Sunday, which means we have another #BeyondTheBio lined up for you this week. This #BeyondTheBio is a special one, because it is our one hundredth interview! To celebrate, we’ve got an amazing author AND an amazing giveaway lined up for this week. One lucky winner will receive bookmarks, stickers, a book plate, and a signed copy of Julian Winter’s new book Running With Lions. It’s the adorable queer soccer romance you need on your bookshelf. There's a reason it's one of the hottest books of the summer! Just check out the interview below to find out why. And be sure to stick around until the end for a chance to win our special giveaway!
James: Hey Julian! I just finished your debut novel Running With Lions, and I'm in love. Can you tell our readers a little bit about what they can expect?
Julian: Hey James! Readers can expect a book full of hope, diversity, inclusion, and fun. Oh, and soccer! It’s about a high school goalie, Sebastian, and his diverse collection of friends/teammates, the Bloomington Lions. Sebastian is also bisexual, which isn’t a problem for his teammates or coaches. The Lions happily welcome players from all sexualities and backgrounds. They spend their last month of summer at a training camp preparing to head into their senior season with hopes of taking down their rivals in the first game of the season. But there’s a few things in Sebastian’s way of turning his rough-around-the-edges team into champions—mainly his ex-best friend, Emir. There’s bonding, lots of LGBTQ+ inclusivity, rejecting toxic masculinity, questions about the future, and a little bit of a love story that I hope is swoon-worthy.
James: I loved reading about queer kids playing sports. It filled my heart, TBH. Were you a pretty athletic teen yourself?
Julian: No. No, no, no. I’m a terrible athlete. I can’t walk and text without falling over. Fortunately, my younger sister was the soccer player and my inspiration/love for sports came through her. While writing the book, I found a lot of strength and motivation in reading queer teens’ stories on OutSports.
James: So are you more of a Sebastian or an Emir?
Julian: Great question! I’m probably more of a Sebastian. I share his insecurities, but I also have that fierce love for my friends and making sure everyone is included and feels important.
James: I loved the scene where the two boys went to the drive-in theater. If you could see a double feature at a drive-in, what two movies would you pick?
Julian: Okay, that’s a hard question. I’m a big movie buff. I’m such a comic book geek that I’d want to watch Captain America: Civil War and The Avengers: Infinity War, but I’m also a sucker for a good RomCom that I wouldn’t mind watching To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Love, Simon.
James: Both great picks! I'm a teacher, and my school mascot is a Lion, so I really loved reading about the BHS Lions in your book! What was your high school mascot?
Julian: An angora, which is a goat. Yes, it’s as exciting as it sounds. We didn’t strike fear into the hearts of many opponents.
James: So I'm imagining that you started your own school, Julian. What would you want your mascot to be?
Julian: Probably a Lion. Sorry, I know that’s lame. But lions represent strength, a fierceness that I love. They also roam in packs, which is definitely my brand. The loyalty of a pack speaks to my own friendships in life. My school would be about having pride in yourself!
James: I know this is your debut novel. Congrats! What advice would you give to teens who are hoping to one day publish a book of their own?
Julian: Don’t give up on your ideas. They might not always come together the way you want. Sometimes the journey to reaching “the end” is tough. There will be mistakes, writer’s block, character arcs that go nowhere… but your story is unique. It needs to be told.
Also, write with honesty and heart. Be yourself. Don’t write to make it somewhere. Write to take your reader somewhere.
And be kind to others! Treat people with respect. That’s so important.
James: I always love getting book recommendations from authors. Becky Albertalli was the one who first told me about your book, and I'm so glad she did. Let's keep the rec chain going! What are some YA books you've been loving recently?
Julian: How much time do I have?
I can’t get enough of Simon James Green and his books, Noah Can’t Even and Noah Could Never. I just finished a wonderful book by Will Walton called I Felt a Funeral, In My Brain and it was incredible. (Hey, readers, Sasha interviewed Will a couple weeks back. Check out that interview here.) Mark Oshiro’s Anger Is a Gift is an important read about social injustice filled with LGBTQ+ characters, something I’ve never seen before. Emily X.R. Pan’s The Astonishing Color of After and Kelly Loy Gilbert’s Picture Us In the Light left me weeping and wanting to be a better writer. L.C. Rosen’s Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts) is the sex-positive book I wish I had as a queer teen. C.B. Lee’s Sidekick Squad series is a fun read. Anything by Dhonielle Clayton. Caleb Roehrig kept me on the edge of my seat with White Rabbit.
The book that truly inspired me and made me feel alive as a reader and as a human this year is Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram. Read it. I promise, it’ll change you in the best ways.
James: Definitely adding it to my TBR! Do you have any projects in the works? I'd love to hear about what's next for you.
Julian: I do! My next book, How to Be Remy Cameron, is a YA Contemporary novel coming out next year. Remy Cameron’s this out-and-gay, super-likable guy at his high school that people admire for his confidence. But he’s beginning to feel like he doesn’t know himself. He’s assigned an essay in AP Literature that takes him on a journey of questioning and reconciling the labels people have attached to him.
It’s a book about self-discovery, family, what labels mean to us, and trusting yourself. There’s also a dorky romance in it that I hope people adore.
James: Sounds amazing! Last question. I noticed lots of 80's music references in your book, so give me some 80's songs that teens should most def add to their playlist.
Julian: Again, how much time do I have?
“Take On Me” by A-Ha, “Borderline” by Madonna, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears, “Africa” by Toto, “Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper, “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes, “Let My Love Open the Door” by Pete Townshend, “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie, “Alive and Kicking” by Simple Minds, “Never Surrender” by Corey Hart, “If It Isn’t Love” by New Edition, “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” by Janet Jackson.
I’ll stop there but if you ever need an 80s rec list, I’m here for it!
James: Someone needs to Spotify this ASAP!
That’s it for today’s interview with Julian. But don’t leave just yet! We’re teaming up with Julian to give away an awesome prize pack to celebrate our hundredth #BeyondTheBio interview! You can enter by clicking on the image below. And be sure to come back again next week when we’ll be having another fun chat with another amazing author!