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ARC Book Review and Interview with the Author. Boy Queen by George Lester

Title: Boy Queen

Author: George Lester

Length: 389 pages

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Synopsis: Robin had it all figured out: a future on broadway, a top secret boyfriend and two ride-or-die best friends. Then all his worst nightmares came true. Now, his life is a hot mess. With nothing left to lose, Robin falls wig-first into the glittering embrace of Drag, and comes face-to-face with the queen he was always meant to be. Robin’s about to lest that sometimes your new self is your true self.

This was absolutely delightful. That was literally my first thought when I finished the book. I put it down and said in my head ‘that was absolutely delightful’. I would even quite like a sequel if I’m honest.

I loved the characters. They are eccentric but so real. Robin is a fantastic character. He was a wonderful protagonist for us to follow on his journey of self discovery. His friends were great. George made us care about these characters and it gives even more meaning to the book.

I love to read this in a book, a femme character taking centre stage. Robin at one point in the novel says ‘I’m camp’ and he wears it like a badge of honour and I love that. It’s representation like this that will help so many young people reading this book. It’s so important. Representation matters and I’m so proud of George for writing a character like this. I love it.

The relationship in the book are so important. I loved the relationship between and his mum. It was beautiful to read. I loved the romance too, but I won’t say anymore on that because I don’t want to spoil it for you, but it was swoon worthy. And a slow burn and you know I love those. I also love the relationship Robin has with himself, it’s amazing to read how he comes to realise what he deserves and it’s so important for young queer people to read.

Of course the drag is fabulous. I want to go the club, I want to see Robin perform and I want to hang out with him and his wonderful friends. It makes me a little sad that I can’t.

I can’t recommend this book enough, it’s once of those charming, important quick reads (because you won’t be able to put it down, I couldn’t). And like I said, I want a sequel!

Thanks to Amber at panmacillan and MyKindaBook for gifting me with a copy of this book in return for an honest, unbiased review.

And now for the interview. Thank you so much George for agreeing to do this. I really appreciate it.

1) What was your main inspiration for the book? This book is very much the combination of a lot of the things I love rolled into one. First of all, I am a theatre kid. I am a performer under a different name ( George Lennan, if you must know) and did dance classes and theatre growing up. I even did an MA in theatre at Mountview. It’s been a massive part of my life and is now one of the many careers I am pursuing. Second of all, I am a huge drag race nerd and on my MA I did a 45 minute solo drag show and created That Gurrrl (my drag persona) who has had such a huge impact on my life. And finally, I am a huge fan of queer romance and YA contemporary fiction, so if you put all those things in a pot, throw in a Lorelai Gilmore/Rory Gilmore mother/son dynamic and some glitter. You probably have Boy Queen. The other thing have that inspired this book heavily was wanting show drag as something more that what is shown on Drag Race. I feel like I’ve written this sentence some many times over the past few weeks, but there is so much more to drag than you see on Drag Race. I love the show, I do, but what you see on the show is just a fraction of the absolute magic and brilliant creativity and imagination that exists on the community. If you are a fan, I urge you to go out and look for it! It will blow your mind!

2) I love the relationships in this book. Can you talk a little more about them? Absolutely! As I mentioned in the previous question, was the Gilmore Girls-esque mother/son dynamic. I am a huge fan of the show and remember tweeting many moons ago that I wanted a YA novel version of it but ( as far as I’m aware) that just never happened. So I decided to write it into Boy Queen. This wasn’t just fun for the mother/son dynamic though, I really enjoyed having that in other characters too. My favourite kind of books and tv shows are the ones where characters have their own language that they speak in, a collection of references that each other just get that implies a history and I hope that came across with Natalie, Greg, Priya and Robin. The snappy dialogue and quips were honestly one of the most joyful parts of the book to write. And then of course comes the drag artist where I really had to sharpen my reading glasses. Where this probably became the most fun was with Seth because he was brand new to Robin, so he had to spend some time establishing exactly how to speak to him. And getting tongue tied because… you know… cute boys.

3) What do you hope young queer people get out of this book when they read it? Above anything else, I hope they get a really fun and joyful read featuring queer characters. Sure, the book has it’s dramatic moments and it’s sadder moments, but above everything else I wanted the book to be joyful and a celebration of queerness and drag. I hope it puts a smile on some faces. That would be wonderful! The other thing would be that not getting into drama school isn’t the end of the world. I know for a fact (having experienced it first hand) that it really can feel like that. When you live and breathe theatre, everything becomes a few clicks more dramatic, so not getting into drama school can feel like your life/career/everything is over. It’s not. Rejection is hard, it really does suck the big one, but it’s a part of life! ( A very big part of life of you’re going into the creative industry! Wow!) So take a deep breathe, reassess, do not give up. Keep working. I didn’t go the drama school when I was 18/19 years old. I got rejected from almost everywhere. I ended up studying for a BA in drama and Creative Writing, following which I went to work in publishing. When I realised just how much I missed acting, I started doing amateur theatre and, when I felt like I was ready, did an evening course at ArtsEd followed by my MA at Mountview. It was all about timing. This was the right time for me. Sometimes the universe just knows better!

4) Did the story change over time? Oh absolutely! Every single draft there was something new going in and something old coming out. We tried a lot of different things as the story went by and I am certain there has to be a good twenty to thirty thousand words on the cutting room floor. (They were replaced by other things in the book, I didn’t write a 110,000 word book! Jesus!) But that is the magic of editing. I don’t know where I would’ve been without my editors. They aren’t as close to the book as you are so they see things that you can’t and help you hone the story in ways you couldn’t even imagine. Priya wasn’t even in the first draft and now I can’t imagine the book without her. There is a scene where Robin and Seth are at Eternity together, and that wasn’t in the original draft either but it is such a fab scene that I can’t imagine it any other way! The only problem with this is when I come to write my next book and I find myself comparing the draft zero to my fully edited, copy edited and proofread draft of Boy Queen. Don’t do that. That way sadness lies.

5) How does it finally feel to have your first book out in the world? It is honestly the most surreal feeling in the world. This has been such a dream for me and has been for so many years that it is just surreal, that’s the best word for it. The team at PanMacmillan are working so hard on this book, and I feel every day something cool gets tweeted or posted and I have to pinch myself because I cannot believe it’s been happening to me. I feel so lucky. I have had a literary agent for about six years, I’ve written four books with him ( this is book five), and there were I wondered if maybe it would just never happen for me. So the fact that this is happening, just at the right time (pandemic aside!) with what turned out to be just the right book (I honestly couldn’t be happier Boy Queen is my debut!) is just wonderful.

George’s new book Boy Queen is out from August 6th 2020, £7.99 and is available from all good Bookshops. You can find him on Instagram @TheGeorgeLester or in drag @ThatGurrrlQueen.

A huge thanks to George for agreeing to do this little Q+A. It was absolutely fantastic and is filled with some brilliant advice.

It’s out now.

Until the next review

JTH

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