Hey there! We’ve got another amazing interview for you on #BeyondTheBio today. Today’s guest author is Kheryn Callender, whose new book This Is Kind Of An Epic Love Story came out in October. They love video games and reality TV. Today’s guest interviewer is Crystal. Crystal’s a high school student who loves collecting Harry Potter merch and has a fish named Picasso. Her all-time favorite book is Becky Albertalli's Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda. Be sure to stick around to the end of the interview for a chance to win some personalized swag. And if you're a teen reader interested in hosting an interview of your own, be sure to stick around until the end to find out how you can. Let’s get to it!
Crystal: Hi Kheryn! So your book, This Is Kind Of An Epic Love Story, came out late October, the day before Halloween, and it is a definite treat. A relatable, epic love story between two of the cutest, most awkward boys I have ever had the pleasure of reading about. Felt like a dream, honestly. For those who haven't yet had the pleasure of reading your book, can you please give a little info on what they can expect? Kheryn: Hey! Thanks so much for your kind words. This Is Kind Of An Epic Love Story is about film buff Nate and his ex-childhood best friend and crush Ollie. Nate has a hard time believing in happy endings in relationships because his father passed away when he was young, and he's recently gone through his own break up, but once Ollie comes back to town, Nate has to figure out if he's willing to put himself at risk for heartbreak. I think readers might expect laughs, tears, frustration, and joy as they read about Nate, Ollie, and a super realistic group of teens. Crystal: As a member of the LGBTQ+ community myself, I can’t tell you how happy I am to know that books like yours are out in the world. What inspired you to start writing This Is Kind Of An Epic Love Story in the first place? Kheryn: Thank you, that makes me really happy to hear! I wanted to write EPIC LOVE STORY because I, like Nate, have struggled with whether happy endings in relationships exist, and because I wanted to see more happy romantic books for queer people of color. I was super inspired by books like Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda (also known as Love, Simon) by Becky Albertalli, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Sa'enz, and Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan. I hope there can be more wonderfully happy rom-coms for queer teens filling the shelves. Crystal: So, Nathan Bird. I've got to say that he's probably one of the cutest, insecure cinnamon rolls I've ever read about. Tell me if I’m wrong, but I get the impression that his character resembles you in a few ways. Was Nate in any way based off of your own experiences? Kheryn: That's 100% spot-on! A lot of Nate's insecurities about taking the risk to opening up to others is something I've always struggled with, and I also wanted to be realistic and honest as a person who makes mistakes and needs to learn from them. In his fear of being hurt, Nate pushes away others, including Ollie; that's something I've done a lot myself, and like Nate, have needed to learn and grow as a person to not hurt others, because I'm afraid of being hurt first. Crystal: I had very mixed feelings about Florence at the beginning of the book. She and Nate had a really bumpy relationship, but she was also a pretty good friend. How did you feel writing such a complicated friendship? Kheryn: You're not alone. A lot of people have very mixed feelings about Florence. Like Nate, she's also made her fair share of mistakes, and has had to learn and grow from them. Their friendship feels realistic to what a lot of teens and adults experience: the different sorts of complicated love, and realizing that two people might not be healthy for one another, no matter how much they love each other. It was difficult to explore a painful friendship, especially when both Nate and Florence care so much about one another, and don't want to see each other hurt. Crystal: Alright, so the little family bonding moments between Nate, his sister, and his mom were actually some of my most favorite parts in the book. Especially toward the end. It felt like, even if everything wasn't perfect, it was going to be okay. Did you always know how you wanted to end the book? Kheryn: Thank you. Nate's scenes with his mom and sister were some of my favorites to write. I didn't know how I was going to end the book for a long time, honestly. I just knew I wanted it to have a happy ending. I was racing along with Nate, not really sure what was going to happen, as he ran out the door and decided to finally share his feelings with Ollie. Crystal: This Is Kind Of An Epic Love Story really shows readers the importance of taking risks when it comes to love. What advice would you pass on to someone who’s struggling to express their feelings? Kheryn: This is something I've struggled with a lot as well. Like Nate, I think I've come to the conclusion to just go for it. Take the chance and tell the person how you feel, because you never know how they'll react. If it's too scary to do face-to-face, you could always write your feelings down and share them with that person. No matter how it ends up, I think it's always worth sharing your feelings, as long as you're comfortable doing so. Crystal: So, I'm a Harry Potter nerd, and I appreciated the references in your book. (I really think Ollie's a Hufflepuff, BTW.) Which house are you in? Kheryn: Haha, yeah, Ollie's pretty solidly both a Gryffindor and a Hufflepuff, but I decided to put him in Gryffindor because he's brave enough to be honest with Nate about how he feels. But, he's definitely a fluffy Hufflepuff at heart as well. According to Pottermore, I'm also a Gryffindor!
Crystal: I love Toby Maguire, Flo's dog. He reminded me of my dog sometimes. Do you have any cute dogs in your life? Kheryn: I don't right now, sadly. I ended up writing about pets because I want one so badly myself! I'm hoping to get a dog this year, though, so cross your fingers for me. Crystal: This Is Kind Of An Epic Love Story was amazing, and it has to be one of my own favorite books of all time. But I’m stuck now. What should I read next? Kheryn: Thanks so much, that means a lot! Definitely read Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, and Boy Meets Boy if you haven't already. As for newer books you might not have read yet, check out Running With Lions by Julian Winters, Odd One Out by Nic Stone, Let's Talk About Love by Claire Kann, and Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram. Crystal: So now that This Is Kind Of An Epic Love Story is out in the world, what do you plan on doing in the future, Kheryn? Any plans? Kheryn: I'll have a few more books out in the next couple of years, including a queer middle-grade, and another queer YA, this time featuring a transgender main character. I'm super excited about it! It doesn't have a title yet, but I hope you'll keep an eye out for its announcement in the next few months.
That’s it for today’s interview with Kheryn. If you're a book-loving teen like Crystal, click here to learn how to become a guest host for an upcoming #BeyondTheBio interview. It's an easy and fun way to connect with your favorite authors. Plus, it looks great on your college applications! And don't forget to enter this week's giveaway! We’re teaming up with Kheryn to give one lucky winner personalized swag from This Is Kind Of An Epic Love Story. You can enter the giveaway by clicking on the image below. Good luck!