Listening In is a series of author interviews, featuring authors whose works have been transformed into audiobooks! National Book Award-winning author Kacen Callender’s latest, Stars in Your Eyes, is the “beautifully tender story of two grumpy/sunshine, fake-dating actors navigating their love story both on and offscreen.” This title is narrated by a full cast of narrators, including André Santana, AJ Beckles, Dani Martineck, Hannah Church, Avi Roque, George Newbern, Patryce Williams, Sarah Mollo-Christensen, and VyVy Nguyen!
Kacen Callender is a bestselling and award-winning author of multiple novels for children, teens, and adults, including the National Book Award-winning King and the Dragonflies and the bestselling novel Felix Ever After. Kacen enjoys playing RPG video games, practicing their art, and focusing on healing and growth in their free time.
Please tell us more about Stars in Your Eyes! Why should we listen to it?
Stars in Your Eyes is about actors Mattie Cole and Logan Gray who are starring together in a queer romantic film—but when Logan badmouths Matt in an interview and the film’s buzz takes a nosedive, the two are drawn into a fake dating scheme for the sake of publicity. The story itself is a heartfelt inspection of romance and relationships impacted by trauma, and one of my favorite books I’ve written—but I’m also excited by the audiobook’s production. The Forever publishing team really went all out with the casting!
Could you please tell us about your career as an author? What first drew you to writing?
I’ve always loved writing because it’s been a tool to reflect on my own life. My first book, Hurricane Child, was published in 2018.
We’d love to hear about your writing process. Please elaborate!
My writing process changes from book to book. Right now, I’m working on a fantasy series that has been outlined, with each first draft taking about six months to complete—but Stars in Your Eyes was a novel I’d brainstormed for about two years before I sat down to write it without an outline. Because I’d thought about it so much beforehand, I finished the first draft in about two weeks. The process is always up in the air.
What drew you to Contemporary LGBTQ+ Romance? When did you know that it was the genre you wanted to write?
I’m drawn to writing all genres, and I’m specifically interested in queer novels because I’m excited to see the stories I wish I’d seen when I was younger.
You have also written several kids & YA novels. What were the biggest differences in writing for adults versus kids? Were there any similarities?
Besides content, the biggest difference is in how the characters handle their wounds. For the middle grade range, the characters have experienced their first big trauma, or have inherited a trauma from their parents, and are navigating a world with a new lens on life for the first time. For my teen novels, the characters have held onto this trauma for a few years and their internal world has been shaped by it more drastically, and the novel’s theme focuses on their healing. For my adult novels, these tend to be characters who were not given the tools and resources on how to heal, and so whose lives have really been impacted and compounded by the trauma they’ve experienced, driving the plot with that trauma moreso than in my MG or YA novels.
What does representation in literature mean to you personally?
It used to feel like a special gift, and now it’s become the bare minimum for me. I don’t read books where I don’t see myself represented in some way, especially after a lifetime of not seeing myself as the main character.
Where is your favourite place to write?
There’s a café a few blocks away that has the perfect moody atmosphere.
Describe your writing style in five words or less.
Any advice for emerging writers?
Focus on what makes you genuinely excited.
What do you do when you experience writer’s block or reader’s block?
I go to the café I mentioned above—usually I write at home (buying an iced tea every time I sit down to write adds up after a while), but changing my setting is enough of a shift to move through the block. For reader’s block, I go to archiveofourown.com and read fanfic.
What has been the most exciting part of having your novels transformed into audiobooks?
I love the passion of the audiobook team and hearing the auditions.
Stars in Your Eyes has ten fantastic narrators. Did you have a say in the initial casting André Santana, AJ Beckles, Dani Martineck, Hannah Church, Avi Roque, George Newbern, Patryce Williams, Sarah Mollo-Christensen, and VyVy Nguyen? What made them right for the job? And was having a multi-narrator cast important to you?
Please recommend an audiobook you absolutely adored!
What are you reading (or listening to) right now?
I’m currently re-reading my own fantasy manuscript as the deadline is coming up fast.