Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Tom Early here to answer a few questions about himself, writing and his latest release, Aspect of Winter. Welcome, Tom. We have a few questions for you this morning.
Q. Why write for YA readers?
YA is where representation matters most. There aren’t enough YA books out there that feature protagonists that aren’t straight, and there are even fewer books that manage to be the proper adventure fantasy story and just also happen to have gay characters. I want to help change that.
Q. I have always loved the idea of a college for magical studies, what draws you to this element?
It’s kind of impossible to ignore the influence Harry Potter has on any author who attempts to write a magical school type of story, and I won’t deny that it definitely helped give me the idea. But Harry Potter is about early schooling, and not more of a college element. Janus University seems kind of like the next logical step for what to portray. You’ve got powers, and that’s great. But what do you do with them? What is the world like when magic is readily available and there’s no real control of powers after a certain point? Aspect of Winter, especially the later books in the series, aims to answer that.
Q. Friends to lovers is a favorite trope for so many readers, is it one of yours too?
It depends. I’ve never been a fan of childhood friends to lovers because it just seems unrealistic to have two people who have been as friends for years and years to suddenly want to be more. But newer friendships that eventually expand their boundaries is far more realistic for me. I find the idea of a friendship that progresses over a few months to a relationship to be a lot better, and a lot less abrupt than love at first sight, either. Love takes time to grow, but it isn’t something that is inherently likely to happen from years of friendship, either.
Q. Do you have a favorite story that you read as a younger reader?
I read The Name of the Wind many, many times when I was younger, and still do occasionally even now. I wouldn’t quite call it YA, but it’s definitely read just as much by teens as it is adults. The story just manages to set up a slow pace and make it work, which, especially for fantasy, is incredibly difficult to do well.
Q. What feeling do you want your readers to take away at the end of this and any of your stories?
Aspect of Winter is meant to be a story that you enjoy reading. I wrote it to entertain myself, and hopefully it entertains anyone who reads it as well. But making Fay gay, and Sam pansexual, and Tyler bisexual isn’t a coincidence. I want people to realize that it’s just as easy to enjoy a good YA book with non-straight main characters as any other.
Q. Did you bring any of your school history and make it part of the Janus College learning experience?
The high school Fay and Sam go to at the beginning of Aspect of Winter is loosely based off my own high school experience. Their efforts to get into Janus University is like a fictionalized, combat fantasy version of the college application process. And their time at Janus University in book two is meant to be similar to my own college experience in the feeling of freedom and courses and choices offered, but Janus University is a bit more ruthless than my own school is.
Q. What’s next for Tom Early?
Well, there’s definitely book two, which is tentatively titled The Doorway God at the moment. I’m about in the middle of it at the moment and working pretty much every day on it. But I have other novels I’m working towards publication with as well. One of them is high fantasy and features a bisexual assassin and an asexual princess and an epic plot against the safety of the entire world, and another tells the story of a possibly delusional young man trying to find a boy who was taken from his mother in 1930’s England. But finishing the Aspect series is first on my list.
Title: Aspect of Winter
Author: Tom Early
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Cover Artist: Sadie Thompson
Length: 260 pages
Release Date: October 15, 2015
Blurb: 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.
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.
Winner’s Prize: Free signed copy of Aspect of Winter