We’re pleased to welcome local author Sam LaRose to our very first author interview. They’ve recently donated the entirety of their Dark Little Town trilogy and agreed to give a little of their time to answering a few questions about their writing and more.
Sam LaRose is the nom de plume of a nonbinary person living on a defunct dairy farm with their dog and four cats. A library director by day, Sam has written a novel each year since 2009 and is active as a municipal liaison for the local NaNoWriMo group. Read on to learn more!
When did you start writing?
Late elementary, early Middle School? So sometime between 1999 and 2001? I started with fan fiction, because my sister got me hooked on it. 2004 is when I started writing what would be the earliest (and most terrible) draft of the Dark Little Town novels. Someone with good sleuthing skills can probably find my old works from high school and college still online.
Tell us about the genre(s) you write in and what drew you to it/them.
Mostly, I like to write contemporary/realistic fiction. On occasion, I enjoy some light fantasy. It's easier to write a world I’m already familiar with than it is to create one from scratch. Even my fantasy novels are usually “our world but with magic”. It’s fun to imagine. Not sure why. It’s just what I do.
What’s your writing routine?
I can’t say I really have one. The most consistent habit I have is taking my laptop to bed with me. I have an alarm that goes off at 10 PM, so I brush my teeth, crawl into bed with the laptop and a cat, and just write for an hour or so. I’m usually dabbling with something from the time I get home and after dinner, but the most focused writing is during that time.
What’s your writing soundtrack?
I don’t listen to a ton of music while I write (which is ironic, given that I write about musicians!), but if I do it’s stuff like Blink-182, Walk the Moon, Matchbox Twenty, or soundtracks like Hamilton, Greatest Showman, and the music from Steven Universe.
I mostly “watch” TV while I write. Which means the TV is on, and I’m not paying attention to it because I’ve watched the episodes a billion times. The Big Bang Theory is a great example of that. Lately, it’s been When Calls the Heart, The Good Witch, and Heartland. All three of which could definitely use some LGBT representation to take a good show to the next level.
What’s the last book you read that you really liked?
I actually DID read novels in 2020! But mostly, I read a lot of comics and manga. A manga I am in love with right now is Perfect World by Rei Aruga. It deals with the topic of accessibility in Japan, specifically to wheelchair users. Great for fans of A Silent Voice (which is about deaf culture).
The last novel that I really liked was probably No Parking by Valentine Wheeler. It features an older asexual woman who runs a bakery. She becomes friends with the restaurant owner next door. It’s probably one of the best ace romances I’ve read so far. It was quick and light.
What do you do outside of writing?
I’m a librarian, so books are basically my life. If books aren’t around though, I like video games, cooking, some handicrafts. I’ve been working on embroidering a Steven Universe quilt since 2016. I even got Zach Callison to sign the Steven block at Daisho Con that year. (I really miss conventions!)
You're active in NaNoWriMo each year. What does that entail, and would you recommend it?
National Novel Writing month is a quantitative goal of writing 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. I’ve done it successfully every year since 2009. While I write year round, November is the one month where I’m goal oriented. It’s a great event if you want to do habitual writing of any kind. I think everyone who wants to write should give it a try at least once.
NaNoWriMo also offers a great community locally, nationally, and internationally. I enjoy being a Municipal Liaison for the WI: Elsewhere region, as well as a forum moderator. Being a volunteer for them has been a rewarding experience of its own. I’ve enjoyed speaking in libraries as my day-job about NaNoWriMo, and because Elsewhere is a big, spread out region, we host a lot of online events. The pandemic didn’t affect us much at all in 2020, which was great.
What’s something you wish people knew about writing?
Writing is a honed skill. Real Talk is not the quality of Something More, because I did a lot of growing up between writing those two books. I think Real Talk is still a good novel, but I hope people who don’t like it will still try Pants Optional and Something More, if they didn’t like something about it. I got better!
Speaking of the trilogy, many of the characters are artists of some flavor (musician, pen and ink, journalist, writer). Is there something that draws you to writing them? Have you dabbled in the various media you write about?
The band exists because I got my start writing with NSYNC fanfiction. Then I had the dawning realization, as “writing fake stories about real people” started to get a bad rap in fanfiction circles, that I could still write about musicians and I didn’t have to feel bad for thinking JC/Lance was a perfect OTP.
I have members of the family who are great musicians, artists, etc. My only real skill is writing. I dabble with some handicrafts like embroidery and loom knitting. I wish I was a better artist. My doodles are very geocentric.
The third book in the series, "Something More," features a nonbinary character. What went into creating Dani, and can you tell us more about them?
Dani changed a lot from the earliest draft of Something More. Since I came out as non-binary myself in 2019, I really wanted to include a character who used alternate pronouns, and then later decided to change them. I think it’s important to normalize neopronouns and fluid identities. Lastly, Something More was an experiment to use they/them pronouns in a fiction novel, which only a few other authors have attempted so far. It was easier than I thought it would be --although I knew from the beginning that Dani was going to change their pronoun so I occasionally would misgender my own character. Although, I misgender myself constantly, so that shouldn’t be surprising.
Dani is the most obviously non-binary character. Mora, who appears first in book one, is (when pressed) pansexual genderqueer and uses she/her. She was inspired by Elliott Sailors, although a lot of people read her as Ruby Rose inspired. (That probably just says a lot about how long I’ve been working on these novels).
What location within these novels would you pick to set up a laptop and write?
Most people might expect me to say Java Pub, but since I don’t drink coffee, cafes don’t appeal to me. Instead, probably Hughes Castle. It’s based on Oheka Castle, on Long Island. It has a really interesting history and I’ll bet it’s easy to find a secluded place to get some writing done!
Do you have plans to keep writing in this setting, or do you have new sights on your horizon?
I really, really love writing these characters. They feel like a family with a lot of story left to tell. Right now, I also have a Mora spin-off that I’ll be editing soon. I think that spin-off series will also include two more books, at least, focusing on other residents of the Alphabet City Apartments. I have a few past NaNoWriMo projects as well that I’d like to get polished and published at some point. I always have something percolating in my head; it’s just finding the time around day job duties and the other stories to get them written.
You have a duology coming out soon involving Dylan from the Dark Little Town series. Tell us all!
No Spoilers! I spent November writing a spin-off novel about Mora, overlapping the end of Something More. While I was writing that, I started getting this inkling of an idea that I couldn’t resist jumping right into writing for December.
It’s a time jump, 3 years into the future. Dylan comes home after 3 years in LA. He’s struggling to find where he fits in with his friends. They’re all doing exciting things, he feels like he hasn’t got much going for him. Things are also weird with Tyler and Jordan shows an interest in getting to know him anew. There is also some conflict over privacy with his parent’s security team, as he wants to be more independent.
I don’t think you will need to have read the DLT Trilogy to enjoy it, but it will definitely help. It will revisit all of the characters, as well as some new ones that I can’t wait for people to meet. I’m really excited for my first round of beta readers to get their comments back to me. If all goes well, they’ll come out together at the end of May.
Where can people go to keep up with your current projects?
I’m on the standard social media; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok. Those links can be found on my website: www.samlarose.com
People can also get on my Books2Read announcement list: bit.ly/samlarose