Jazz Hands for July
Or: Wow, I finally Managed To Send A Newsletter
Alyssa’s Emo Journal
I wrote a whole thing about how murder hornets ate my missing newsletters for May and June and I fought them for this July one, and also about time travel and memory and injustice, but I ran out of steam before I got to the ending, which was kind of the point of it I guess. Long story short: there hasn’t been a newsletter in a few months because I haven’t had the bandwidth. This one isn’t jam-packed with cool articles and book/anime/kdrama recs (and generally non-me things) like previous ones (though there is an interview with the amazing author Sarah Kuhn!), but August’s newsletter will be back in form and have a cool surprise to boot!
In lieu of random emo ramblings, I’ll share my my Keynote for the 2020 Chicago Spring Fling, which is a specific emo ramble:
We often explain to people outside of romance that happily ever after isn’t just all kittens and rainbows—and I believe, it’s really something more powerful than it often gets credit for. A happily ever after is an emotional reckoning, and the fantasy that one can be had in a world that often makes us do without.
There has been a LOT happening over the last few months! Here’s a bit of it.
News about When No One is Watching
Over at BuzzFeed, you can read (or be read!) an excerpt from the book , and catch this interview with Arianna Rebolini where I talk about the similarity between romances and thrillers, and how When No One Is Watching deals with the horror of racism.
It received a starred review from Booklist!
“Cole’s…latest is a searing indictment of the inseparable evils of racism and gentrification wrapped in an anxiety-inducing thriller with elements of romance and horror….Cole expertly layers plot twists, raising the stakes until the dramatic finale, and readers will cheer when the real heroes are revealed. Cole is a sure-bet suggestion for romance readers, and When No One Is Watching will expand her already enthusiastic audience.”
It received a starred review from Publishers Weekly!
“[An] outstanding thriller…Sydney’s paranoia and fear, coupled with her guilt at placing her mother in a nursing home, fuel the tense plot, which builds to a credible finale. This stellar and unflinching look at racism and greed will have readers hooked til the end.”
It got a great review from Book Riot’s Unusual Suspects newsletter!
“Alyssa Cole’s upcoming social thriller When No One Is Watching is so freaking good! I may have asked on my work Slack for a note to spend the day finishing it instead of working (super professional)–I ended up getting all of my work done first and then read the second half in one sitting because it’s the kind of intense and suspenseful read that you can’t put down, and when you do put it down you can’t stop thinking about it.”
She’s Single magazine also gave a great review!
“A suspenseful, clever, and heart-wrenching look at a Brooklyn neighborhood’s battle with gentrification… Cole’s newest book, a more modern and sinister novel, seems to transcend time, even as it is firmly placed in modern-day New York. Cole’s language, authenticity, and honesty in this novel are not only striking but stunning in their portrayal of a nightmarish sort of real-life horror story…The novel, When No One is Watching, that’s coming this September, is not only about dark secrets on a dimly lit Brooklyn street in a rapidly gentrifying community: it is about everything that can happen, that can fall apart and disappear, while people are not paying attention.”
It now has an earlier release date (September 1st) and you can preorder now!
Date Night is a virtual event I host via the fantastic Black-owned independent bookstore Loyalty Bookstore.
The event started in the wake of the 2020 Covid-19 outbreak as a way to have moments of connection and joy in the midst of everything else, and is still going strong! Our “dates” are some of the best romance authors out there, and we talk about their latest releases, writing, and various nerdy things. It’s been so incredibly fun getting to hang out with romance writers and readers for the last few months!
I’ve set up an archive of the videos from the event here, for those who missed out before or hadn’t heard and are interested.
Reject Squad Ultra!!!
Freaking amazing artist Erin O’Neill-Jones and I are working on some semi-secret Reject Squad Ultra!!! stuff! For those who don’t know, Reject Squad Ultra!!! is an anime I made up for the Reluctant Royals novella Can’t Escape Love—the main character’s, Reggie andGus, bond over the anime as she’s it’s ultimate fangirl and he needs to build an escape room based on it.
Not sure where this project will go, but for now, here’s a sneak peek of some of the characters! You’ll learn more about them soon, but in the meantime, can you pick out ultimate ship #PhilRora? To check out the full-length images (that are perfectly shaped for phone wallpaper btw), head over to Erin’s Ko-fi post!
Juneteenth Book Fest Romance Panel
I’ve got more video content for you! Was honored to moderate a panel with Beverly Jenkins, Rebekah Weatherspoon, and Farrah Rochon for the first annual Juneteenth Book Fest. Our video is below, but you can check out all the other videos here!
[Behind the scenes fun fact: I actually never received the confirmation email, with date and time, for our chat due to an email issue, so I had no idea this event was happening until ten minutes beforehand. I was sitting and having a cup of coffee after a workout and Rebekah was like “Getting ready for the Juneteenth event.” And I (the moderator) was like “What event?” lol]
Nerding Out With: Sarah Kuhn!
1) You are a geek girl of many, many talents, writing comics, YA novels, and sci-fi romance, among other things, and being a full time fashion maven! Can you give the Lunettes a brief summary of who you are and what you do?
Wow, thank you! You summed it up very well, but let me see if I can elaborate! I’m an Asian American (mixed race, third generation Japanese American) girl who writes books and comics about Asian American superheroines and nerds in love. I love to tell stories about Asian Girls Having Fun — finding joy, falling in love, enjoying fabulous food and life in general. I’m probably best known for HEROINE COMPLEX, my series of romance/fantasy (romantasy!) novels about superheroic Asians battling demonic cupcakes, singing supernatural karaoke, and eating lots of spam musubi in modern day San Francisco. And, as you mentioned, I also write comics and YA novels! In comics, I’ve been able to write for such icons as Cassandra Cain, Cher Horowitz, and Barbie (yes, the Barbie!). In YA, I write contemporary rom-com — my debut, I LOVE YOU SO MOCHI, is about a Japanese American fashionista who goes on a spring break trip to Japan and falls for a cute med student who moonlights as a costumed mochi mascot. And I have another book coming out next year called FROM LITTLE TOKYO, WITH LOVE, which is about a grouchy biracial girl who doesn’t believe in fairy tales and then ends up having an adventure that is very fairy tale, all set in LA’s magical Little Tokyo neighborhood. Finally, I appreciate that you called me a “fashion maven,” because that is a true life goal. I have really embraced my Auntie style in adulthood, and I love collecting vintage clothes in bright colors and patterns. I like to be dressed as loudly and clashingly as possible, so you can spot me from space.
2) Your latest release is book 4 of your Heroine Complex series, Haunted Heroine, a halloween-themed superheroine romance that sounds so freaking fun! Can you tell us a bit about what your superheroines are getting up to in this book, and *eyeballs emoji* why it's nicknamed "Horniest Heroine”?
Ha! In HAUNTED HEROINE, we return to Evie Tanaka, the heroine of the first HEROINE COMPLEX book. I really love the idea of showing my heroines aging and growing in life, and Evie’s been through a lot since the first book — she’s married now, she’s pregnant, and she’s settled into her superheroing partnership with her best friend Aveda Jupiter (aka Annie Chang). And then there’s a string of ghostly hauntings at her alma mater, Morgan College, and she and Annie have to go undercover as TAs to investigate (their “disguise" names are Eliza and Angelica — work!). I was inspired by my actual alma mater, Mills College, which is totally haunted, and all the fun I had in college — Evie and Annie never really got to experience being hijinks-having college girls, so I loved the idea of them getting to finally do things like go on late-night runs to Taco Bell, bond with their girl gang of classmates, and explore all the cobwebby corners of their creepy dorm. As for the HORNIEST part…Evie’s pregnancy hormones make her extremely lusty, but she and her half-demon husband, Nate, are having some communication issues and their sex life is a bit stalled — which only makes her more lusty. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say they figure things out — and because it’s Halloween, there are costumes involved.
3) Your recent comic release was a YA DC Graphic Novel called Shadow of the Batgirl featuring Cassandra Cain, an Asian-American assassin turned superheroine. I loved this book so much! It was a really moving and nuanced story about breaking away from toxic family, finding yourself, and of course finding people who make your life better (and there was romance!). How did it feel getting to write such an iconic character?
Thank you! It was a dream come true to write Cassandra. I have been obsessed with her since she debuted, and I still can’t believe I got to write a whole book about her. Her story is really dark, and I wanted to show her finding hope, experiencing love of all kinds, and actually getting to be a kid for a minute. One of the best things about working on this book was the team — me and artist Nicole Goux and editor Sara Miller became our own Batgirl Gang, and we all loved Cass so much and became so invested in her that she was truly real to us. We all cried over her journey, we all wanted her to be okay. I remember sending back proof corrections and I said something like, “Well, Cass would say it like this, though,” and Sara was like, “Sarah, you wrote that! Cass is a character, she’s not an actual person speaking to you,” and I was like, “But she is!"
4) I just saw that you're in a Netflix documentary short called The Claudia Kishi club, about the impact of the most stylish babysitter on your lie as an Asian-American girl. Can you talk briefly about how the character affected you, and how it feels getting to create and share works that are now influencing young Asian-American readers in the same way?
Seeing Claudia Kishi was one of the first times I truly saw myself in a book — she was a creative Japanese American girl who loved clothes and junk food and grew up in the mostly white suburbs. That was totally me! I loved that she was always so herself, and that she never made herself small. There are a lot of different factions of society that encourage Asian women to be small, or that assume we’re quiet and submissive. Claudia stomped on that idea with her stylish ankle boots. And she was centered in a way that was so matter of fact — I think for a lot of us, that was revolutionary. I really love that she’s become this connective tissue between Asian American creative women of several generations — just say her name, and we all show up. And now I feel like there are so many of us carrying on her legacy — I love that Sue Ding, the director of THE CLAUDIA KISHI CLUB documentary, wanted to make a film about that. A reader actually told me last week that for her, Evie Tanaka was her Claudia Kishi — Evie represented the first time she’d really seen herself in a book. That blew my mind! And made me bawl like a baby.
5) You have an upcoming Star Wars Audible Original Doctor Aphra, which is amazing! Can you tell us what it was like getting to write Aphra, and what your experience writing for audio was like?
I mean, it was so cool! STAR WARS was one of my very first fandoms, and seeing my name under that logo?? Hearing the narrator say my name, right after “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”?! Come on! I feel like a kid again, trying to tame my unruly hair into Princess Leia buns. And Aphra is one of my favorite characters ever, in any franchise. She is chaos personified, and the most unreliable narrator ever — a rogue archaeologist who craves thrills and danger and is just so damn charismatic. Writing her is pure fun, coming up with whatever wild thing is going to come out of her mouth next makes me giddy. Writing for audio was really cool — the story is based on the run of DARTH VADER comics that introduced Aphra, by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca, and then we expanded that to bring in more of her POV, more of her past and backstory, explain what she was doing when she was offscreen in the comics. Writing the script was sort of like melding all the different mediums I write in — prose, comics, screenwriting. You have to paint a picture, but not get too bogged down in description, and you also think about how people are processing a listening experience. It was a fun format to play in with a character like Aphra, because her unreliability really lends itself to that — she does things like erase parts where she thinks she looks less than epic, and re-record them so she’s more epic.
6) Do you have a current fandom you want to recruit Lunettes to, show you want them to watch, and/or book you want them to read?
I just read two books that absolutely blew me away! OF CURSES AND KISSES by Sandhya Menon is the first in a fairy tale-inspired YA series about young royals at boarding school. The first one is a take on Beauty & the Beast starring an Indian princess, and it just swept me away and made me all starry-eyed. I love the way she writes growing chemistry between two people who absolutely do not want to have chemistry, and the snowy winter setting is just magical. And then I also loved HARLEY IN THE SKY, a new YA contemporary by Akemi Dawn Bowman, about a multiracial girl who literally runs away to join the circus. Akemi writes some of the most beautiful, empathetic prose I have ever read — she makes you feel so deeply for her characters, and she explores the experience of being mixed race with such nuance and sensitivity. I wish I’d had her books when I was a kid!
7) What's next for you?
I’m working on the fifth HEROINE COMPLEX book — Aveda/Annie’s book! And I have a middle grade graphic novel coming out in August, THE RIVERDALE DIARIES: HELLO, BETTY!, with artist J. Bone. It follows Betty, Veronica, Valerie, and all their friends as they start middle school, and it is pretty cute, if I do say so myself. J’s design of baby Sabrina will melt your entire heart. I’m also working on a few things that are still a secret, and spending my summer buying loudly patterned rompers that I can wear around my house.
Capybara Corner (with special guest appearance by S(q)eal)