Queering Up Your Bookshelf: Tash McAdam



Happy Wednesday!

Today, I welcome my awesome friend Tash McAdam to Queering Up Your Bookshelf to talk about writing queer dragon riders and trans superheroes, their action-driven dystopian YA debut, I Am The Storm, and writing stories that don’t center on queer or marginalized pain.

Welcome, Tash!

Photo by Tash McAdam

Photo by Tash McAdam

Tash is a Computer Science and English teacher in Canada, although they were born and raised in the hilly sheepland of Wales (and have lived in South Korea and Chile before settling down in Vancouver). Tash identifies as trans and queer and uses the neutral pronoun 'they'. As an English teacher they are fully equipped to defend that grammar! They have a degree in computer science so their nerd chat makes sense, and a couple of black belts in karate which are very helpful when it comes to writing fight scenes.

Their novel writing endeavours began at the age of eight, although they will admit that their first attempt was derivative, at best. Since then, Tash has spent time falling in streams, out of trees, juggling, dreaming about zombies, dancing, painting, learning and then teaching Karate, running away with the circus, and of course, writing.

They write fast-paced, plot-centric action adventure with diverse casts. They write the books that they wanted to read as a queer kid and young adult (and still do!)


1. What is your writing origin story?

Great question! Essentially, I complained so much about the YA novels I was reading (the shoehorned in romances, the pointless love triangles with two white bread nobodies, the romance-is-the-main-point-never-mind-the-plot, the predictable endings etc) that my now-fiancée dared me to write a book. I think her exact words were ‘well if you think you’re so clever why don’t you write your own book? And stop bothering me, I’m reading.’ (I love her).

2. What inspires your writing and how do you keep that inspiration alive?

The story idea for my first ever writing project, which was my first ever novel was born when I was in one of those super tiny showers. It wasn’t draining, and I was thinking well... What if it fills up forever and I drown in this tiny weird box? That was the inspiration for the Tank, where they drown telepaths in anti-power goo so they can wipe their memories, and that idea went on to spawn a whole series. I think I’ve never really lacked for ideas and inspiration, it’s more the ... sitting my butt down and doing the work that’s a problem for my ADD self. But I’m always inspired! By everything! Every story, ever sunset, every face on the bus is a story waiting to be born as far as I’m concerned. My gdrive has 42 story universes in it right now (.. it’s the meaning of life. I now force myself to delete and old one if I have a new idea)

3. What does representation mean to you and how does it feature in your writing?

Representation means everyone should have characters that they share their various traits with. It means that we all deserve to deeply connect to characters and the stories they’re part of. It means that when a kid (young!me) goes to the library and ask for books about girls who want to be boys, they don’t hand out ‘I dressed up as my own twin for plot purposes’ books and think that that cuts it. It means we all get adventures.

As for rep in my writing... well, I’m an action driven kind of guy. I’m in it for the plot and the action, I’m not much for Finding Oneself, or Romance, which makes a lot of the queer fiction out there feel like it’s not for me. I hate having to choose between rep and a good, plotty story. It’s getting better now, for sure, but there’s still not many action-based stories out there with MCs I identify with. Sidekicks are getting more and more diverse, but where are my queer dragon riders and my trans superheroes? Hint: They are in my books.

My stories put marginalised identities front and centre, but are focused on the action-based storyline, which is never to do with The Struggle of being queer/ trans / marginalised in some other way. Unless you count being a telepath as being marginalised, because I guess that’s a whole thing, in the X-Men style of elaborate sexuality metaphors. Ha.

4. What is your favorite thing about writing queer YA?

Writing stories I’m pumped to read. Stories where the queer kids have adventures, and Dumbledore isn’t only gay if you squint.

5. What is your writing process?

Procrastinate for at least two hours... finally realise I’m running out of time and need to get on with it, bribe myself to write for ten minutes, immediately get super into it and forget to stop and pee or drink water etc. My hyperfocus is strong.

6. What is your best piece of writing advice?

Be a shark. This means, keep swimming (or in this case, writing). When you get bogged down in editing as you write, that’s when things fall apart, in my opinion. The more time you waste crafting each sentence to be Perfect, or thinking about cover art, or choosing your perfect TV show cast, the less time you’re putting words on screen/ paper for. Your book won’t write itself. Everything book-related except the writing can come later. Be a shark.

7. What is the hardest lesson you learned while writing?

You can’t please everyone, nor should you try. That’s hard for me because I’m a people pleaser. I’ve had people slam me because they ‘don’t like Young Adult Fiction’ (thanks for reading!), because my story had ‘too many Asians’ (actual quote, please show yourself out), and because I didn’t adequately explain on the back cover why young people are fighting in a war (read the book). Opinions are subjective. I don’t like everything I read, so why would I think everyone would like what I write? I mean, I wish people would keep their unhelpful criticisms to themselves, and stick to the stuff that might actually, I don’t know, help me improve as a writer, but that is not the world. Write what you want to read, find your crew, they will love it, and it will Feel Great. Ignore the people who don’t get your stuff, it’s okay. Don’t take it personally.

8. What do you hope readers will take away from your work?

Oh wow, that’s a tough question. I think at the heart of all my stories is the message that we aren’t able to reach our potential (and save the world) without a team. Teamwork makes the dreamwork. We all have different skills and abilities and it is in our communities that we are powerful. Also, possibly, destroy the status quo because the status is not quo. (credit: Dr Horrible).

9. What is a great queer book you have read recently?

I recently finished ‘I’ll Give You The Sun’ by Jandy Nelson and it blew me away. I really enjoyed the artistic and poetic, metaphorical writing style (which is super unusual for me, I mostly enjoy very fast-paced and driven stories that aren’t bogged down with much waxing poetic). Highly recommend checking it out. It tells the story of twins who lose their mother in their teens, and it’s a dual timeline (one twin tells the past, one tells the present) mystery that’s also a coming of age story, and a coming out story all at once. Masterfully told.

10. What are you currently working on? What’s next for you?

Right now I’m working on a new novel, the first in a new series, although I definitely should be working on the sequel to Warp Weavers (Magic, mystery, interdimensional warfare, Buffy meets Dr Who, out Dec 2019). My new story is a post AI apocalypse, where children have been bred for the express purpose of passing unnoticed in a robot controlled society so they can destroy the evil AI overlord. I entirely blame Person of Interest for this brainchild.

Cover by Natasha Snow

Cover by Natasha Snow

Keep your head down. Don’t look anyone in the eye. Never even think about technology if one of those ghostly, grey cars is sliding silently down the road. They'll see the thoughts inside you, if you let them.

Sam's a technopath, able to control electronic signals and manipulate technology with his mind. And so, ever since childhood, his life has been a carefully constructed web of lies, meant to keep his Talent hidden, his powers a secret. But the Institute wants those unusual powers, and will do anything to get a hold of him and turn him into one of their mindless slaves.

Sam slips up once. Just once, but that's enough. Now the Institute is after him in full force. Soldiers, telekinetics and mind readers, all gunning just for him.

Newly qualified rebel soldier, Serena, doesn't even know she's chasing a person, all she knows is that she has to find whatever the Institute is after before they do. But, tracking an unknown entity through an unfamiliar city, with inaccurate intelligence, unexpected storms, and the Watch on the prowl, will she even survive? Will she get to Sam before the Institute does? His special skills could provide the resistance with an incredible advantage, but not if they can't get out of the city, and over the huge wall that stands between them and freedom.

Buy your copy here:


Review: HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME by Adam Silvera

25014114This book broke me in the best of ways. I can't count how many times this book made me tear up and days after finishing, it still sits with me. Partially, this might be due to HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME being in many ways a reflection of what I went through when I lost my best childhood friend to a car accident at 18. Although this happened more than 11 years ago now, so much in this book brought me back, from that very first scene of Griffin's refusal to go see Theo at his open casket funeral to the way he keeps talking to Theo as if he was still around and could answer his many questions at any moment. HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME definitely was a book that hit me on a very personal level, but that's not all that made it work for me. Some might comment on how its pace is often slow and how this is a book that, while split into dual timelines of history and now, is very much steeped in the past. This, and Silvera telling Griffin and Theo's story predominantly from a second person point of view made this book a unique experience and drew readers even more closely into Griffin's grief.

It is incredibly challenging to build tension and reader sympathy when the ending already is a foregone conclusion--or so it seems. It turns out that there is much more to Griffin's story than Theo's death. This is a story about friendship, love and loss, family and mental illness. What I loved most about HISTORY is that it completely skips any platitudes. Instead, it is often painfully honest, complicated, and oh, so very messy in its treatment of grief and all the character relationships entangled in it.

Speaking of character relationships, there are so many of them to root for, no matter what we already know about the ending. And in a way very much reminiscent of Silvera's debut, MORE HAPPY THAN NOT, there always are unforeseen twists woven into the narratives that kept me turning pages and left me unable to put this book down.

A special shoutout goes to the overall good representation of both LGBT issues and mental illness. I loved how coming out hardly was an issue in this book and I couldn't help but love both Griffin and Theo's friends and family for the way they supported both of them. Also, despite all of its sadness, this book contained one of the funniest condom-buying scenes I have ever read. I'm still smiling just thinking about it. Loved that part.

When it comes to mental illness rep, I loved the way Silvera portrayed Griffin's OCD as such an integral part of who he was. I loved how it was part of both Griffin's character and the plot--this story wouldn't be the same without it and I loved the nuanced approach Silvera took in describing how Griffin, his family, and his friends all respond to it. I want more books with this kind of intersectionality, please.

Overall, HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME was a book about relationships. Not just romantic relationships, either, but I loved how both Griffin and Theo's families were such an integral part of what made this story work. All relationships in this book are complex, messy, and ultimately real, which is why this book and its character will probably stick with me for a long time to come.

So far, HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME definitely is my favorite read of 2017. While the year is still new, I anticipate this one to keep its place among my favorites for a while. So, go read it and come discuss your thoughts with me!

Cheers and happy reading!