Author Interview || Lyssa Chiavari

We have Lyssa Chiavari today on the blog to share a bit about her new release, Cheerleaders from Planet X! This is a fun and refreshing take in SciFi where cheerleaders fight aliens (I know, what a great idea). I’m sure many readers will love this book as much as I did when it comes out later this month.

Interview

Q1: Cheerleaders from Planet X has such an original story! Can you tell us a bit about where this idea came from?

I know it sounds trite, but it actually came from a dream I had! A loooot of my short stories have come from dreams, but this was the first full novel I’ve written that stemmed directly from a dream. It seems like a lot of times my subconscious is working out for me what I should write next, because I always know when I wake up when something’s meant to be written down rather than just being an ordinary dream. In the case of Cheerleaders, I woke up and immediately wrote the first two chapters in a frenzy. I don’t think I ever could have come up with such an off-the-wall premise consciously!

Q2: Did you take some inspiration from SciFi movies or other books that have a similar vibe?

Definitely. The book makes a lot of references to things like X-Men, video games, Star Trek and Star Wars. When I had the dream that inspired the book, I’d been watching a lot of Shadowhunters and Carmilla, and I felt strongly influenced by both while writing the book. (Particularly Carmilla, with the heroine being named Laura—that was also from the dream, and I’m sure that’s why!)

Q3: The first thing that called my attention to this book was the wonderful cover. Was this your idea since the beginning or did you go through many different samples?

Thank you so much! I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do for this cover, or whether I wanted to design it myself or hire a designer (I run a design business, Key of Heart Designs, but I usually have others do my own books). One day I was browsing some stock photo websites just to look for ideas, and I wound up finding everything I wanted right away. So I opened Photoshop just to mess with it and see if it came out like garbage, but I was so happy with what I came up with that I decided to get the stock photos and go with it!

Q4: I think there’s so much to explore in this universe and would love to know more about it! Is there going to be a sequel?

This is something I was on the fence about, since I had some ideas for a sequel but I wasn’t sure if I should commit to it since I’m already in the middle of another series (The Iamos Trilogy, through Snowy Wings Publishing). I also wasn’t really sure whether anyone would really be interested in such a weird story, so I thought maybe I shouldn’t waste any more time working on “side projects” that wouldn’t really sell. But I’ve been absolutely blown away by the reception! Just in preorders, the book has sold more than enough to justify branching it out into a series, so I couldn’t be more thrilled. 

That was a long, convoluted way of saying: Yes! There will be a sequel! I’m not sure of the timeframe or if the series will wind up being longer than two books, but there is definitely a second book coming. 🙂

Q5: What are some LGBTQIAP+ authors that have left an impact in your life or in your work?

One of the first lesbian authors I ever read was Sarah Diemer, and her books absolutely changed my life—particularly because they helped me figure out that I liked girls. Plus, they’re just good stories. My absolute favorites are the ones she wrote as Elora Bishop, such as The Benevolence Tales and Cage the Darlings. (These have been re-released under different titles and a different pen name, but if you look them up on Goodreads the editions are linked, I think, so that will help you track them down.)

The biggest influence on my writing, and especially on Cheerleaders from Planet X, has been Malinda Lo. I absolutely loved her Adaptation duology, and the way it brought together conspiracy theories and alien invasions in a way that defied conventions. I got to meet her at a convention in Portland back in 2013, while I was still working on my first book, and I have the photo pinned on my bulletin board next to some of my own book swag, as inspiration to keep going!

I also have been hugely impacted in a personal way by my friends Lauren Jankowski (author of The Shape Shifter Chronicles and founder of Asexual Artists) and Claudie Arseneault (author of the Isandor Series and founder of my publisher for Cheerleaders from Planet X, the Kraken Collective). Both of them have introduced me to other queer authors and helped me carve out a home for myself in publishing. They’re both wonderful at boosting underrepresented voices in the publishing community. Plus they’re great people, great friends, and great authors!

Q6: Do you believe there are any challenges in writing and publishing F/F fiction compared to other categories?

There are, but I think it’s improving? When I was writing the story, I did get some pushback from a few people who worried that I was boxing myself into “too niche of a market” with F/F*, but pretty early on in the book’s development I was invited to join the Kraken Collective, a co-op publisher of LGBTQIAP+ spec fic, so I knew I had a home for the book and that took the pressure off. I figured I would just tell the story I wanted to tell and just see what happened. But the reaction to the book really is what makes me think that things are improving in publishing for queer stories. It’s been absolutely phenomenal. Like I said, just in preorders it’s absolutely obliterated my other series, the one that “conventionally” would be expected to sell better because it has M/F romance (granted, the main characters are asexual, but they are heteroromantic). People want queer stories, and they’re putting their money where their mouth is. I can’t speak to the state of traditional publishing, since I have only worked with indie/small presses, but on this side of things I’m really feeling optimistic for the future. 

*Which really pissed me off, because I’m bi—I like to write both M/F and F/F stories, and being told I should only write one makes me feel kind of like I have to cut part of myself off or hide part of myself away.

About the Author:

Lyssa Chiavari is an author of speculative fiction for young adults, including Fourth World, the first book in a trilogy set on Mars, and Cheerleaders From Planet X, a tongue-in-cheek send up of all things sci-fi. Her short fiction has appeared in Ama-Gi magazine, the Wings of Renewal anthology, and Perchance to Dream, a young adult collection of Shakespeare retellings which she also edited. Lyssa lives with her family and way too many animals in the woods of Northwest Oregon.

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