It’s June and that means it’s time for another year of Pride Month spotlights! I’m so excited to spotlight And They Lived… by Steven Salvatore and share the interview with the author!
Welcome Steven! Thank you for allowing me to interview you! Can you start off by introducing yourself?
Sure! Hi, I’m Steven Salvatore, author of AND THEY LIVED…, CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY, and the forthcoming A SUPERCUT OF US, which is a tentative title and will most likely change, out May 2023. I’m a hopeless romantic, Mariah Carey lamb, Star Wars fanatic, and endless daydreamer who has an insatiable need to be loved and tell stories along the way.
How would you describe And They Lived… in one sentence?
I’ll go for a math equation, since I’m feeling spicy: Queer contemporary romance + big fairy tale vibes + heart and humor and gay sex = learning how to love yourself and truly live in a world that’s sometimes way too complicated.
Can you introduce us to the main character(s) of And They Lived…?
Chase Arthur is a budding animator who just wants to find his happily ever after. He dreams of working for Disney one day, animating fairytale musicals, and finding someone to love him. He’s a dreamer, but he’s gone through a lot in his life. He’s recovering from disordered eating and battling body dysmorphia, something that plagues the gay community and way too often goes unaddressed. At heart, he’s a genuinely good person with great intentions who doesn’t quite know how to deal with certain situations, or communicate effectively, even though he’s very self-aware. Maybe to a fault because it prevents him from really recognizing what’s right in front of him sometimes. He’s messy and makes mistakes but is just trying to learn. I love him so much. He’s basically me, just better.
His love interest, Jack Reid, is a brooding poet from Vermont who isn’t out yet and maybe trying to figure out exactly who he is and who he wants to be. He comes out as self-assured to Chase, but Chase still can’t quite figure him out. He keeps people at a distance, mostly because he’s afraid of what might come if he truly lets people in. He’s athletic and attractive and smart and creative. He’s the whole package. He’s also messy and puts Chase through the ringer. But at that age, 18, freshmen in college, who isn’t messy and confused and just trying to figure it all out, right?
Also, while he’s not a main character, Benny, Chase’s roommate, seems to be a reader favorite, and honestly, I would love Benny to have his spot in the sun because he’s my favorite.
What representation will readers find in And They Lived…?
Chase is gay and non-binary. At least he thinks he is–he hasn’t quite figured himself out yet; Jack, Benny, Xavier are all gay. Rhett is probably bisexual, but he hasn’t figured himself out yet. Sofia is Colombian and sexually fluid, though that’s not on the page. Chloe is Black and sexually fluid as well, but again, that’s not on the page either because the story didn’t go to those places. Chase’s best friend Rae is Jewish.
Do you know from the beginning how your books will end or do you let your characters decide their journey?
I know the feeling I want to end on, but I let the characters decide how we get there. With AND THEY LIVED…, I knew how I wanted to end it, I just didn’t know how I would get there until it happened. I like to give my characters the illusion of freewill, even though I’m behind them making their decisions.
Do you have a favorite scene, moment, or quote from the book?
Chapter 7, the thunder and lightning scene that inspires the original fairytale Chase creates and ends up animating. I also love Jack’s poetry, particularly the poem at the end of the book.
What is something readers will find in And They Lived… that they may not realize based on the synopsis?
That there is lots of sex, and a good mix of heartache and hope. It also has a mixed narrative: It’s standard prose, but there’s an original Brother’s Grimm-style fairy tale and poetry woven into the narrative.
What’s something you hope readers will take away from And They Lived…?
I hope readers, especially gay readers of any age, will be able to see parts of themselves in Chase or Jack or Benny, and know that they’re not alone. That they’re worthy of love and finding a grand romantic adventure that media so often denies queer folks.
What are three books you would recommend if someone enjoyed And They Lived…?
FRESH by Margot Wood; THE BLACK FLAMINGO by Dean Atta; HERE’S TO US by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
What’s next for you? Anything you can share?
My third young adult novel, A SUPERCUT OF US, publishes May of 2023, and it’s a family drama about twins Olly and Alex who have to learn how to live in the wake of their father’s incarceration and untimely death in prison, which gets harder when Olly discovers the existence of a secret half-brother, a secret he keeps from his sister until their half-brother shows up in their Adirondack lakeside town for the summer.
I’m also working on what I hope will be my adult debut, a gay romcom, and some other fun projects I don’t want to talk about yet because I’m superstitious.
ABOUT THE BOOK
From the author of Can’t Take That Away comes a sex-positive, fairytale-inspired YA novel that celebrates first love and self-acceptance, perfect for fans of What If It’s Us.
“My heart didn’t stand a chance. I loved it from once upon a time all the way to its joyfully complex ever after.” – New York Times bestselling author Becky Albertalli
Chase Arthur is a budding animator and hopeless romantic obsessed with Disney films and finding his true love, but he’s plagued with the belief that he’s not enough for anyone: he’s recovering from an eating disorder and suffers from body dysmorphia fueled by his father, and can’t quite figure out his gender identity. When Chase starts his freshman year of college, he has to navigate being away from home and missing his sister, finding his squad, and contending with his ex-best friend Leila who is gunning for the same exclusive mentorship. If only he can pull together a short for the freshman animation showcase at the end of the semester.
Then Chase meets Jack Reid, a pragmatic poet who worships words and longs to experience life outside of his sheltered world. But Chase throws everything into question for Jack, who is still discovering his sexual identity, having grown up in close-knit conservative family. Jack internalized a lot of homophobia from his parents and childhood best friend, who unexpectedly visit campus, which threatens to destroy their relationship. Chase will have to learn to love–and be enough for–himself, while discovering what it means to truly live.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steven Salvatore is a gay, genderqueer author, college writing professor, Mariah Carey lamb, and Star Wars fanatic. They hold an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. They currently live in Peekskill, New York, with their amazingly patient husband, whose name is also Steve. They are the author of AND THEY LIVED…, CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY, and the forthcoming A SUPERCUT OF US (May 2023.) They are also the co-founder of Pride Book Fest.