Time for another Pride Month book spotlight! I’m so excited to be able to share my interview with Steven Salvatore and also spotlight their book, Can’t Take That Away!
Thank you for allowing me to interview you! Can you start off by introducing yourself?
Thank you so much for having me! I’m Steven Salvatore, they/them and he/him, and I’m the author of CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY and hopefully many more books to come. I’m an educator, and I’m obsessed with Mariah Carey and Star Wars. I live in New York with my husband, Steve. Yes, we have the same name, no I don’t like the jokes about it, but it does make a great conversation starter.
How would you describe Can’t Take That Away in one sentence?
CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY is a power ballad of a book: It tells a powerful story that’s both joyful and full of hardship, but it swells and crescendos and at the end, it’s triumphant.
Can you introduce us to the main character(s) of Can’t Take That Away?
Carey Parker is a genderqueer teen diva who is struggling to find their voice. They’re a singer, and dream about becoming a diva like their hero, Mariah Carey, but something is holding them back. They’re afraid about stepping into the spotlight and standing in that white hot glow. They’re dealing with their grandma’s Alzheimer’s, money issues at home, a bully at school, and weird tension with their best friend, so they’re just trying to survive all of that. But they quickly learn that just surviving isn’t enough. When they audition for their high school production of WICKED and land the lead role of Elphaba, they immediately face backlash and homophobic discrimination from a teacher and their bully and are kicked out. They have to be brave, stand up, speak out, and take the stage to bring about change to their school and community.
What representation will readers find in Can’t Take That Away?
I’m genderqueer, so the genderqueer/non-binary representation in this book was really important to me. I had never fully seen myself in a story before I wrote this, so being able to see Carey on the page in all their genderqueer glory means everything to me. There will always be tons of queer rep in my books, so in this book, there’s on-the-page bisexual, pansexual, lesbian, and gay rep as well.
Do you know from the beginning how your books will end or do you let your characters decide their journey?
I’m a pantser all the way, but most of the time, I have an end scene or at the very least a feeling that I know I want to capture, and do. How my characters get there? That’s the fun part!
Do you have a favorite scene, moment, or quote from the book?
My favorite scene is when Carey and their love interest Cris are rehearsing “As Long As Your Mine.” It’s very emotionally charged and it was a lot of fun to write. It runs the gambit, from anger and tension to sexual tension to emotional release to breathless shock and back to anger. I love scenes that take readers for a ride, so that’s my pick.
What are three books you would recommend if someone enjoyed Can’t Take That Away?
JAY’S GAY AGENDA by Jason June; I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST by Mason Deaver; ANGER IS A GIFT by Mark Oshiro. Honorable mention: DUMPLIN’ by Julie Murphy
What’s next for you? Anything you can share?
My next book, AND THEY LIVED… comes out March 2022 from Bloomsbury. It’s a college-set sex positive romance about a budding animator obsessed with Disney fairytales who just wants to find his happily ever after. When he meets brooding poet Jack during his freshman year of college, his world is turned on its axis and he learns that happily ever after is actually pretty complicated. I also have some more projects in the works, including an adult book I’m really excited about.
ABOUT THE BOOK
An empowering and emotional debut about a genderqueer teen who finds the courage to stand up and speak out for equality when they are discriminated against by their high school administration.
Carey Parker dreams of being a diva, and bringing the house down with song. They can hit every note of all the top pop and Broadway hits. But despite their talent, emotional scars from an incident with a homophobic classmate and their grandmother’s spiraling dementia make it harder and harder for Carey to find their voice.
Then Carey meets Cris, a singer/guitarist who makes Carey feel seen for the first time in their life. With the rush of a promising new romantic relationship, Carey finds the confidence to audition for the role of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, in the school musical, setting off a chain reaction of prejudice by Carey’s tormentor and others in the school. It’s up to Carey, Cris, and their friends to defend their rights–and they refuse to be silenced.
Told in alternating chapters with identifying pronouns, debut author Steven Salvatore’s Can’t Take That Away conducts a powerful, uplifting anthem, a swoony romance, and an affirmation of self-identity that will ignite the activist in all of us.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steven Salvatore is a young adult author, educator, Mariah Carey lamb, and Star Wars fanatic who spends most days daydreaming and making up stories. They are queer–gay and genderqueer–and use pronouns he/him and they/them.
Steven grew up in Tarrytown, New York. They studied writing and art history at Ithaca College, and received their MFA in Creative Writing with a concentration in Writing for Children from The New School. Formerly a full-time Assistant Professor of Composition and Director of the Writing Center at The College of New Rochelle (CNR), they oversaw the Freshman Writing Program and taught creative writing. After CNR officially ceased academic operations in August of 2019, they began teaching part time at Pace University and Westchester Community College. They also volunteer at The LOFT (an LGBTQ+ resource center in White Plains, New York) where they facilitate a creative writing workshop. As an educator, Steven is passionate about progressive activism on and off campus and advocating for young people. Steven currently lives in Peekskill, New York, with their amazingly patient husband, whose name is also Steve.
Steven is represented by Jess Regel of Helm Literary Agency. Their debut novel CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY is out now! Their follow-up, AND THEY LIVED… will be published March of 2022, from Bloomsbury.