Thanks so much, Tom, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: What kind of books do you write?
Tom Early: Fantasy, mostly. And YA pretty much exclusively at the moment. There’s something fun about seeing teenagers interacting in a world where the rules aren’t always that clear and seeing what happens.
JSC: What’s your writing style – pantser or plotter?
TE: That’s a fun way of putting it. Pantser, definitely. I don’t really plan anything out beyond maybe the way I want the story to end. Everything else, I figure out along the way.
JSC: Tell me about Aspect of Winter – what’s it about?
TE: Aspect of Winter follows the story of Fay and his friend Sam and later their friend Tyler as they try to get accepted into Janus University, a college for people who have magic. It’s not as fun as it sounds, however – Janus University is absolutely ruthless in determining who is worthy of being taught, and magic brings a lot of risk to it. In a way the story is a lot like applying to college is in real life. You know, if you replaced all the essays and forms with magical battles.
JSC: Did you draw on your own high school experience to write this book?
TE: Not heavily. The appearance of the school and some of the characters that Fay and Sam are with towards the beginning of the story are loosely based on my own experience, but only a little.
JSC: Were the characters inspired by anyone in particular?
TE: Fay is something of a nicer, more cautious version of my own teenaged self mixed with a determined personality that I’ve never had. Sam is a mixture of two of my closest friends from high school, one of whom is the person who designed Aspect’s cover! That being said, Sam’s a lot more extreme than either of them, but her quirks are all them.
JSC: How is writing YA LGBT fiction different than writing “regular” MM romance?
TE: For one, there’s definitely no explicit sex scenes in YA fiction. Which is good for me, since I’ve never had the talent for writing erotic scenes. But in my experience, writing YA fiction is about having a plot that’s driven by something more than romance. There are so many important experiences teenagers have to overcome in the process to adulthood, and YA fiction should reflect that.
JSC: Tell me one thing no one knows about you. :)
TE: I once made a series of incredibly embarrassing happy noises while eating a red velvet muffin. The only problem was that I was in the library, and pretty much everyone there turned to look at me with alarm. I regret nothing. It was that good of a muffin.
JSC: What’s your next project?
TE: Aspect of Winter has a sequel I’d like to have finished this winter, and I’m working as best I can to make that happen.
And now a little more about Tom’s book, Aspect of Winter:
It’s hard enough being gay in high school, but Fay must also deal with hiding his magical ability—powers he barely understands and cannot possibly reveal. His best friend Sam is his only confidante, and even with her help, Fay’s life is barely tolerable.
Everything changes when Janus University, a college for individuals with magical capabilities, discovers the pair. When the university sends a student to test them, Fay and Sam, along with their classmate Tyler, are catapulted headfirst into a world of unimaginable danger and magic. Fay and Tyler begin to see each other as more than friends while they prepare for the Trials, the university’s deadly acceptance process. For the first time, the three friends experience firsthand how wonderful and terrible a world with magic can be, especially when the source of Fay’s power turns out to be far deadlier than anyone imagined.
AS IT turned out, being wedged into the small space below the math wing staircase was exactly as uncomfortable as I’d imagined. Now, I was in there of my own choice, sort of. I held still and listened, letting out a sigh of relief when I heard the boys’ voices fading. I decided it was safe and did my best to wriggle out.
Groaning, I brushed myself off and realized that I’d somehow managed to cover the majority of my backpack in a thick layer of dust. Rumor had it that years ago the staircase used to be green. Now it was gray. I looked at my backpack in disgust and let out a breath, concentrating. The dust glittered as a layer of frost covered it. When I hoisted my bag onto my back once more, the dust slid right off, the frost preventing it from clinging.
Clean backpack in hand, I trudged up the stairs, across the hall, and walked into the classroom. I took my customary seat in the back next to the poster detailing the derivative rules of calculus, feeling a flash of pity for Ms. King as I watched her try to get anyone to listen, and grabbed my book of the day as the front row began its usual antics. Today they asked Ms. King about her love life, which, while incredibly rude, was extremely successful in throwing her off-balance.
I would never understand high school, even after nearly four years of it. It seemed barely tolerable for everyone involved, including the people who fit in. I didn’t fit in, and so every day was a new chapter in the purgatory of hiding what I could do.
I sent a grateful prayer to the high school gods as class was interrupted by an announcement saying we needed to go to the nurse’s office for a new immunization or something. Ms. King pulled us out of the truly thrilling world of integrals and sent us down one at a time. I was one of the last to go.
Stepping back into the hallway, I prayed that I wasn’t going to run into any of Logan’s crowd again on my way down. The number of times I’d heard “fag” muttered under someone’s breath was already too high.
The school had two hallways running between the faculty area and the math wing, and most people took the lower one. I chose the glass hallway because it was usually empty (this surprised me as well, but apparently using stairs was just too much for many of my classmates), and it was pretty cool to be able to see the entire campus from what was effectively its highest point. I trailed a finger across the glass as I walked, leaving behind a fractal line of frost in the warm September air.
I smirked. For as long as I’d been at Owl’s Head High School, there had been, in the eloquent phrasing of high schoolers, “spooky shit” in the fall and spring where kids would come across ice or cold areas in warm weather. I knew I needed to keep my head down, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t have a little fun.
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Tom Early is currently a student at Tufts University who probably spends more time than is wise reading and writing instead of studying. More often than not, he can be found wrapped in a blanket on the couch forgetting most of the things he was supposed to do that day.
When not writing, Tom can be found either reading, gaming, drawing, scratching his dog, or bothering his friends. He also frequently forgets that it’s healthy to get more than six hours of sleep a night, and firmly believes that treating coffee as the most important food group makes up for this. If you show him a picture of your dog, he will probably make embarrassingly happy noises and then brag about his own dog. He’s always happy to talk about any of his previous or current writing projects, because people asking him about them reminds him that he should really be writing right now.