disaster gays: an interview with nina varela [cc]

[Kav]: Hello you gorgeous individuals, it’s Kav here and
today I’m here with the legend herself –
Nina Varela. [Nina]: It’s me, hello. [K]: So if you’ve been
on my Twitter or Instagram, like anything, in
the past, like, two months, it shouldn’t come
as a surprise to you that I am obsessed
with her book. And Nina– [N]: #1 one fan. [K]: Thank you for
acknowledging that.
Nina has very graciously agreed to stay
with me in the cold after her San
Francisco event to chat about this book
because I have a lot to say about it.
Kaliray and Nadia are behind the camera
stalking me to put me under some more
pressure. So with that, we’re just gonna get started
with the interview. To start off, give us
your best Crier’s War pitch. [N]: Ooh, okay. It’s about a
world in which androids have taken
over and have subjugated all the humans,
and the main plot is the forbidden
romance between the Android princess and
her human handmaiden.
And also, in there, there’s a revolution where
the humans are uprising against the
androids. [K]: Pretty accurate. [N]: Yeah, I’ve gotten no better the
elevator pitch, like, as long as I’ve been
doing this, but, hopefully that’s good. [K]: So
obviously you’re a big fan of music – you
made playlists for, like, all of your main
characters, and then I went and spent,
like, two hours making a playlist for the
book for fun. [N]: It was so good. It was perfect. [K]: Thank you.
I put a lot of thought it – I, like, structured
each song in a specific order to, like,
correspond with the events of the book
at the time. [N]: I appreciate that. [K]: This book has helped me a
lot in procrastination- [N]: Yeah, yeah, they wrote an essay on lesbianism in Crier’s War. [K]: I did! I did.
[N]: I’m so excited to read it. [K]: I did. [N]: A+ already.
[K]: Because you love
music and I love music, can you choose
one song to represent the book, and then
one song to represent Crier and Ayla?
[N]: Ooh. One song to represent the book– I’m trying to
choose a different one every time. So I
think for this–this one it’s going to be
“Yellow Flicker Beat” by Lorde. [K]: Ooh, that’s a good song. [N]: Yeah. And then Crier is going to be “I
Wish I Was the Moon” by Neko Case. And Ayla is
“Raise Hell” by Dorothy. [K]: That’s good.
Making the playlist was so hard because I
was like I can’t put any of the songs
you’ve put on the playlist on it.
[N]: I know, I chose good ones. [K]: So I was like, I need to find new songs.
[N]: I had to, like, stop myself from having,
like, at least five Janelle Monáe songs on each one, but
like, sapphic androids, like, she corners the
market. [K]: And this wasn’t, like, originally a
question on my thing, but then you were
talking about Harry Potter in there – so
can you sort Crier, Ayla, Benjy, and Queen
Junn into Hogwarts houses? [N]: Yes. Ayla is
a Slytherpuff. Crier is a Gryffinclaw.
That’s just their dynamic. Benjy is a
Hufflepuff. [K]: Yes.
[N]: And Queen Junn–I feel like it’s,
like, obvious that she would be a
Slytherin, but she is a Slytherin
‘cuz she is so cunning and ambitious, and ready to
take on all the adults. [K]: Yeah, I mean
I’m a Slytherin and you can tell the
Queen Junn and I are the same person. [N]: We’re both Slytherins!
Yeah, exactly. You could easily be the Bone Eater or the Mad Queen. [K]: Exactly. Right, that’s how all my friends
talk about me. [N]: Yeah, yeah. [K]: Also, ’cause you mentioned being an astrology gay – do Crier and Ayla
have birthdays, and if so, what are their signs? [N]: I don’t know their birthdays, but their
signs are – Ayla is an Aries Sun, and then
I think it was, like, Scorpio rising,
and then…I don’t know her moon, I forget what it was…
Maybe Aquarius Moon to be honest, maybe.
And then Crier is a Leo Sun, and,
I believe, maybe Pisces Moon. I think her
rising is maybe…oh Virgo rising, I think
it was. Yeah. [K]: And now onto the
questions I actually wrote down. [N]: Okay.
[K]: How different is the final published version
of Crier’s War from your very first draft,
and are there any, like, big non-spoilery
changes that were made that you can
share just for fun?
[N]: Yeah! Like the first draft and the final
draft are not super different. At that point,
most of the changes were superficial. It
was more like the first outline to the
first draft, like everything changed.
‘Cuz originally, like, the androids
were much more futuristic. They were called, like,
enhancements. During the process I kind
of realized that I didn’t want to go the
futuristic way; I wanted to make it, like,
feel more lush and timeless like a fairy
tale which is how, like, the alchemy and magic
came along. So that was like the big
change. And then from like the first
draft to the final, draft I took out, like,
an entire 50-page sequence, or more even,
where they broke into, like, a fortress.
Yeah, we went full-on ice fortress —
whatever that was called in Six of Crows.
And they, yeah, like, broke in and, like, Ayla
disguised herself as an Automae.
I don’t even know what happened. I think they were,
like, following Kinok. They basically,
like, just wreaked havoc in this, like,
Automae kind of convention thing. It did not
add anything to the plot obviously. So I
had to take out, like, 50 or 60 pages of that.
[K]: I feel like you did talk about this a
little bit during the event, but all
these people weren’t there, so give us a
little insight into your world-building
process. [N]: For me, it always begins with
I get really obsessed with certain
places visually. I’m writing a middle-
grade right now that’s set in Appalachia
because I got really obsessed with, like, the
Blue Ridge Mountains. And I get obsessed
with the Texas desert or, like, recently
the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path in Wales
because I was reading this book about it.
Yeah, the world originally came from the
idea of, like, this castle right on the
edge of the cliff, or of, like, these black
rocks and, like, the freezing ocean. And then I
started thinking about how the Automae
would look and what I wanted that world
to look like in terms of the
civilization and the kinds of things that they
believe in and the kinds of stories they
tell each other. And so that’s where, like,
a lot of the world-building during the
actual writing process came from – is like
wanting to make it feel like a fairytale, but then also wanting the
characters to tell each other stories
and to have, you know, things they believe
in, and then I had to figure out what that
looked like. In this specific world what
would that look like – what would they
need to believe in? What would they be
scared of? And a lot of it just came from,
like, that very emotional place.
[K]: Benjy is Ayla’s best friend in the book and I’m
a Benjy rights activist. That’s my
protest movement – it’s for Benjy’s rights. So,
give us some tea on him. [N]: His character
goes to a place in book two that I
don’t know if a lot of people are
expecting, but I think that seeds were
planted during book one and I’ll see what people
think. [K]: I’m gonna re-read the book and, like, look for the seeds. [N]: He’s a very sweet boy.
He’s a good boy. Yeah, he is just very, like, idealist – this,
like, fiery rebel boy who is,
you know, willing to put his life on the
line for what he believes in, and in book
two he grows up a lot, like they all do,
but he–he really grows up a lot and becomes
a little bit less soft, but not in a bad
way. That’s the tea. [K]: Do you know at this
point how the story is ultimately going
to end? [N]: Yeah. I’ve written book two.
I always knew what the eventual ending
would look like. Yeah, and it was just,
like, a matter of–especially in book two–just writing toward it. I kind of, like,
reverse-engineer it – like I know what the
ending needs to be and then I have to
figure out what has to happen in order
to make that happen. So yeah, the ending–
I really like it. I hope that it is what
people need it to be. But yeah, I had a
lot of fun writing it. It came out
the way I wanted it to. So, I hope they’ll like it.
[K]: So, you, like, kind of talked about this in
there, and you were like ‘people ask me all
these deep philosophical questions when
I’m just, like, gay and I just wanted to
write about girls.’
Regardless I’m gonna ask you a deep,
philosophical question. So, a lot of this
novel really focuses on that idea of
what it means to be human. [N]: Oh no! [K]: First of all, why did you choose that
theme, and to make it even harder, what do
you think it means to be human?
[N]: Yup, there it is. I should have known that
this was gonna happen. I chose to write
about that, again,
because, like, the character of
Crier was the first that I just sort of
knew who she was. And so, like, the
question of, you know, ‘what does it mean
to be human?’ is very natural when you’re
dealing with androids. Obviously, you
can go like the ‘oh, like, they’re not homosapiens route,’
but that’s not fun. So I
wanted to have this, you know, race that
looks exactly like humans, and,
you know, they think like humans.
If you have something that looks and speaks
and acts, essentially, exactly like a
human except for a few differences, then
why are they not? That question came,
like, very naturally and organically as I was, kind of,
developing this. Now I’ll answer it.
I don’t think it’s emotion. As much as, like, you
know, Crier having emotions,
especially for Ayla, is like a lot of what makes her
open her eyes and, kind of,
take off, like, the veil of privilege and
realize how harmful
the system that she benefits from is – I don’t
think it’s emotion. I think a lot of
people say, like, love is what makes us human,
or, like, compassion is what
makes us human.
I don’t think so; I think everyone’s brain is
different and we all experience things
in different ways. I think a lot of it is
telling stories. I think it is a very
uniquely human urge to want to tell and
share and remember stories. That’s one of
the first markers we have of, like, what
we think of as the modern human. We have, like, the cave paintings and, like, the carved animals
and that’s how we know, ‘oh these creatures were humans as opposed to whatever else.’ We’ve always
been the same; we’ve always had this urge. It’s in every
culture. I think it is in every person.
I think that it is telling stories. I think that that’s
a lot of it. That’s part of why I focus so
much on that in the book. The stories we
tell ourselves to make sense of the
world, especially like the confusing,
scary parts that we don’t know
how to deal with otherwise.
I think that’s it. [K]: So basically what
you’re saying is that the book community
is more human than anyone else?
[N]: Exactly. Yeah. Actually, like, stories are
what make us empathize with people
and understand people even if they’re, like,
super different from us.
Stories are how we humanize ourselves to
each other. And also book people are more
human than everyone else. [K]: Not to get
too political ‘cuz I don’t want to,
like, inadvertently politicize your book.
I haven’t, like, talked about this
before for that reason. To me, this is a book about colonization. [N]: Yeah.
The disparity between
the Automae and humans – it’s represented
in humans from the beginning of history
till now. How much of that was intention
or how much of that was, like, you trying
to build fantasy and the real world was
like no? [N]: I think a lot the second one
because I’m not the person to write
the colonization book. You know, that’s not
the story that I should be the
perspective on. A lot of it was just, you
know, coming up with this world in which,
obviously, one type of person is the
dominant culture, I guess. Even though
it’s a fantasy, like, it comes from me. I
live in reality on Earth. The stories
that I’ve heard, and, like, the history that
I’ve learned obviously have bled into
the book. A lot of that was just – even in
this fantasy world, the dominant culture
would act like this – essentially, like,
appropriate human culture into their own
civilization and, like, you know,
cherry-pick what they like best and
leave out whatever parts they don’t care
about which are often the human parts.
It’s kind of as you said. Like, I didn’t
set out to write the colonization book –
you know, it’s not, like, a racism allegory,
‘cuz again, I’m not the person to write
that. But it is just like–it’s impossible
for reality to not bleed through.
[K]: And I think it’s interesting that
the humans are, kind of, the quote unquote,
like, ‘marginalized’ because that forces all
readers to empathize because all readers
are humans. [N]: Yeah. [K]: Unless, like, my dog’s reading the book, which I don’t think he
is ‘cuz he’s pretty dumb. But yeah, I
think it’s interesting ‘cuz then
we’re forced to empathize with this
group and, kind of, look inward at
ourselves and maybe our own privilege in
that case. [N]: Right. [K]: So now I’m shifting more into
questions about us be author to get some
tea on you do you see yourself more in
Cryer or a nele my current self in Prior
my past self and Ayla yeah I was like a
very eerie teenager and like I didn’t
even have a good reason I was just
miserable I’m like dramatic in the way
that I think it’s very natural for a
teenager to be I think that’s like a
very beautiful thing about being a
teenager’s having so much emotion I was
a 12 years old in my room listening to
starring role by marina of diamonds oh
you’re thinking that like I had faced
the worst of the worst
oh yeah Paramore and the dark like
thinking you know this boy doesn’t like
me and that’s the most pain that anyone
has ever felt like I love that I have so
much love and respect for teenagers
empathetic or kind to them as they
should be and that’s why I’m writing for
I’m writing for teenagers especially
care teams but all of them so Eila again
with like my love letter to like the
Avery dramatic teenage girl and egg hire
who is also immature obviously annexed
on the play is just super naive she’s
well-intentioned but often is so naive
that her intentions turn out that she’s
much more me now and I’m less inherently
angry more situationally angry I want
things to be better I would love to
destroy the system love that I’m very
like kind of calm and nerdy these days
not Vitus bicurious as they used to be
all the time there’s a little bit of me
say like Isla Damas look I see myself in
a lab but then I want to devote an essay
about cars war and that’s completely a
crime oh yeah yeah do things by writing
this is very I know the answer to this
but I’m gonna ask it anyway just for fun
do you see yourself always including a
queer and stop at narrative in your work
can you talk about why that is I was
like I don’t have it it needs right
straight stories I think straights have
plenty of people writing stories for
gonna write for the clears especially
this topics that’s just like what I want
to see more of than what I love reading
and the people that I want to write
stories about are this like you know
young lesbians messing stuff up saying
thank you right now right about yeah I
think it’s interesting could you talk in
there about how you wrote your straight
romances back in the day you know
growing up all my characters were white
and straight now that I’m writing like
clear brown characters yeah I feel like
I’m just naturally a better writer
because you know organic and authentic
oh yeah when I was like writing this
stray romances for some reason it always
felt like a little bit I did have
feelings for boys I identified as
bisexual for a long time I don’t really
anymore but that was real at the time
but still queers love differently and I
was not writing that kind of story
I always felt like there was like the
pane of glass between me and those
stories and I was just sort of writing
what I thought I was supposed to write
instead of what I really wanted to write
and so as I grew older and like kind of
realized I was clear and then you know
started wanting to write more about love
stories between girls that’s when it
started feeling closer to my heart and
like really coming from my heart there’s
so much more me
first of all I want to make a disclaimer
that no author who’s marginalized or who
writes about marginalized characters is
obligated to let make that their brand
or like talk about it all the time
something I’ve noticed is that
especially like in this event today you
don’t try to lessen the queerness you
are very upfront about the story being
gay about how you want to see more
prayer stories you don’t try to like
appease other people to make it seem
more appealing and I do really
appreciate that I make a point to say
the word lesbian as often as I can which
you know has gotten me unsavory
reactions from people their reactions
that you might expect I think it’s
important to use those words if I’m okay
talking about their life back not
everyone is and that’s absolutely valid
and understandable but I am and
it’s good to just be vocal about it if
you’re able to open be open if you’re
able to and you feel safe doing that
like especially using the word lesbian
when she has a lot of connotations as
like inherently dirty or like
pornographic and stuff not to get too
deep out here on Friday night in the San
Francisco but a lot of times I think
about the reason why I took so long to
identify what the word lesbian is
because of all those connotations
so I think that hearing people who are
comfortable like you said talking about
it in that way paves the way for you
know like teenagers we were right for to
experiment with different terms in a
more accurate way and see what actually
fits that ya figure now if you change
labels of billion drives that’s valid
it’s good to just have those words and
take away any you know negative
connotations and to like just talk about
the truth of them and you know write
stories about the truth of
what’s something that your readers might
not know about you that might surprise
them oh my gosh you are you’re just like
walking in here like I was crying in a
coffee shop yesterday I’m a Pisces like
PI all the time I cried earlier today I
forget why oh why because like I saw a
video on Twitter of a soft dad my big
weakness is like gentle dad’s my friends
always send me every single video and
I’m like baby I’m a Pisces moon so I get
it oh yeah I don’t know it is my bio but
like from the south I grew up like big
ol red state which is part of the reason
why it took me a while to realize I was
here I’m very lucky my parents are
accepting I like new clear adult couples
growing up the peer couples that I knew
were like like a butch lesbian couple in
their 50s and that was the only thing I
knew that lesbians were I didn’t like
person identify that I didn’t know that
there could be like it’s a different
kinds of clear
me that’s another thing that I’m loving
seeing all these clear books is because
it shows you like
here and there’s
one way there’s no one way
and anything you are is completely
balanced so yeah southern upbringing so
if you could collaborate with any author
on the future book which author would
you choose so mean like obviously like a
book we will do it call me leave I
really left our essence writing style I
think that we fun collaboration what I
feel like I keep temporary I think
they’ll be really fun like I’m
definitely a fantasy for now but any of
the funny for any writers that would be
the most I call a collaboration of all
time one Cara mention I wish you all the
best in their like I physically
responded and they’re from North
Carolina to we could do like a whole
place in Ko Olina
kind of on that note this is a question
I asked all the author’s hopefully that
are on my channel unless I forget what
advice would you give to aspiring
writers especially aspiring marginalized
writers it’s not
you’ll really kind of
like you could do it it’s true that
career writers for periods of color it’s
not unreasonable to think that the doors
are closed
but it is not impossible
more and more writers are being
published each day and the door is
getting wider and wider every day even
if it’s not this project even if it’s
not your third project like your story
is you know it is relatable there is a
market for it
teens want to read it don’t listen to
people who tell you no that’s not true
don’t listen to people who tell you that
your story is not
like whatever you write is real and
your story is important
to be so hard but I’ve heard even
hearing that message especially for
someone I mean I don’t want to say on
the other side cuz with each book you
have to kind of fight that battle again
but for someone who’s made it through
once to even like hear that it can at
least give you like a little motivation
ya know I will take don’t give up it is
not impossible
and you should tell your story can I
have to ask this till nina has this dog
I know you should not compare dogs
because they’re all cute but she is like
by far and let the talk through to the
stubs I’ve ever seen oh yeah so is she
thriving and living her best life she’s
thriving she lives in the lap of luxury
we got her first alerted got her from a
shelter so I think like the first couple
years of my my laundry and now I’m
making up for it by making sure that she
gets every single thing she can probably
want and support she deserves
a little monster who gets everything she
wants that’s how it should be yeah
that’s how it should be those are all my
questions but I have a few other closing
thoughts to say the book I’m currently
working on with my very sad or crating
series on my channel that gets like I
thought once a year I haven’t talked
about this here yeah and I’ve talked
about it look like my one friend Adriana
so that’s that they’re not the main
person I’m talking to right now but I
decided to turn my contemporary novel
into a fantasy the entire plot of it
it’s 100% inspired by Carter’s war 100%
the second thing which is a huge claim
like anyone who’s been on my channel for
like any amount of time my friends
behind the camera can confirm I don’t
say this a lot so you know I love
Cassandra Clare fun fact
I love Cassandra Clare he’s my Cassandra
Clare tattoo exciting I read those books
in like 2012 for the first term and I’ve
been consistently obsessed with them
ever since and I have not been as
obsessed with the series as Cassandra
Clare until I read Criers war that has
never happened to me I’ve never written
an essay about like a frickin book
before or I’ve made a playlist and like
made like aesthetics for it I have not
done that in years like this literally
took me back to when I was like 12
watching like fan videos of Cassandra
Clare’s books like I am NOT then I was
obsessed so when I say this is in my top
three books of all time like I’m not
joking like I teeth thrown out in silver
for you we’re happy but not still saved
me in many ways but like also lesbian
sorry Adam you don’t write less shit
maybe someday you should I was hoping
you’ll say out
islands or introduce Whedon inna it look
like it always y’all yeah yeah you don’t
came up to me and was like oh you like
gay stuff here’s Nina that’s literally
what happened
when I say that I don’t say that lightly
because you all know how much I love
Cassandra Clare like nothing holds a
candle to it until I read Criers more of
it when I talk about this book and not
being flippant in my love for it
I’m very serious about anything Thank
You Nina for sitting with me in the cold
San Francisco
there’s a question all the links
terrific follow Mina she’s very much for
their days over on through their head
mariano be like story you can purchase
thank you all for watching this
that’s all thank you


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