Steven Salvatore is a gay, genderqueer author, college writing professor, Mariah Carey lamb and Star Wars fanatic. They are the author of Can't Take That Away and the recently published And They Lived... (both from Bloomsbury). They are also the co-founder of Pride Book Fest. Salvatore lives in Peekskill, N.Y.
Tell us about your book:
I have been trying to write And They Lived... over and over again since 2006, and the main character Chase is a version of me. I gave myself the ending I wish 19-year-old me had. I'll always carry this story--and the published book--with me wherever I go.
On your nightstand now:
All of the books. Seriously, my nightstand TBR pile is so high I'm officially overwhelmed and I might never read again.
I recently finished F.T. Lukens's So This Is Ever After and I am obsessed. It was the humorous post-fairy tale rom-com of my gay dreams. In terms of what I plan to read next? Ideally, TJ Klune's Under the Whispering Door, Winter's Orbit by Everina Maxwell, The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall or Legendborn by Tracy Deonn.
Favorite book when you were a child:
During my Dr. Seuss days, I was obsessed with Because a Little Bug Went Ka-choo! If you want a lesson in the ripple effect, misplaced blame and how one small action can trigger outrage, that's the book. Also, Bruce Coville's Space Brat series, which I cannot find in any bookstores, and I have no idea if it holds up, but I remember being obsessed. I also lived for the Boxcar Children mysteries by Gertrude Chandler Warner. But if I were to pinpoint my all-time favorite childhood book, it would, without a doubt, be From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. Iconic.
Your top five authors:
This changes all the time, and it's really hard for me to nail down, so I'll just list authors who have inspired me: James Baldwin, David Levithan, David Sedaris, Elizabeth Acevedo, Jason June, Kacen Callender, Laurie Halse Anderson and TJ Klune. I know that's eight and not five but I'm not great at following directions; I was that kid at the ice cream parlor who took an hour to decide on a flavor because the choices were too great.
Book you've faked reading:
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I mean, everyone has read that book, right? (Spoiler: Not me.)
Book you're an evangelist for:
There are way too many, but I will die on the altar of Casey McQuiston's Red, White & Royal Blue. It's the only book in the past five years that I've reread a few times.
Book you've bought for the cover:
I have a rule never to buy a book based on the cover. That said, I did avoid Red, White & Royal Blue for the longest time because of the cutesy cover--I thought it would be too fluffy, which is not really the kind of stuff I enjoy reading. Obviously, I broke down and got it because I was instructed that I needed to read it ASAP.
Book you hid from your parents:
A book of erotic short stories. There was one gay story in there, and I thought I would burst into flames every time I read it, but it made me feel so alive. Among other things.
Book that changed your life:
David Levithan's Boy Meets Boy. That was the first young adult book I'd ever read that I knew was marketed as young adult, and it's a bite-sized queer utopia. Without that book, I don't know that I would have ever been brave enough to write my own queer YA--or queer stories in general.
Favorite line from a book:
In David Levithan and Rachel Cohn's Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, there's a fairly long passage about The Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand" that has stayed with me ever since I read it a billion years ago.
Five books you'll never part with:
Nicolas DiDomizio's Burn It All Down because he's one of my closest friends and I got to watch this brilliant, wickedly funny gay mother-son buddy comedy/thriller grow into the incredible book it is. I'm so proud of him--it's truly a fantastic book! Red, White & Royal Blue for obvious reasons. The Meaning of Mariah Carey by my queen Mariah Carey because, hello, it's Mariah. The audiobook is the best audiobook hands down. The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune because it ignited the magic I felt reading as a kid in a very adult way. I can't explain it, but I loved that feeling.
And to be honest, I will never part with my own book, And They Lived...! I probably sound like an egomaniac, but I'm so proud of this book, and it's such a massive part of my heart and soul,
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. That was the first book I read that felt like it spoke directly to teen readers. I read it over summer break when I was in high school, and I was blown away by her craft and the compelling, heart-wrenching story. I've read it over and over in the last 20 years and it's still a master class in the power of storytelling.
The last book to make you cry:
Due to the pandemic, I've been a robot, unable to cry from books. UNTIL I read Jason June's Out of the Blue. It's not a sad book by any stretch of the imagination--it's a gorgeous queer fake-dating mermaid-human rom-com and JJ's exploration of gender was so exquisite. But the love story between the two main characters and the very adult realizations they come to just hit me square in the chest. As a gay adult who is just now understanding the depths and colors and strands of love, it's a book I'll cherish because it felt like a balm to my soul.