Gays Reading

Upcoming/Up & Coming feat. Christina Cooke, Daniel Lefferts, and Rebecca K Reilly

January 18, 2024 Brett Benner, Jason Blitman, Christina Cooke, Daniel Lefferts, Rebecca K Reilly Season 2 Episode 34
Upcoming/Up & Coming feat. Christina Cooke, Daniel Lefferts, and Rebecca K Reilly
Gays Reading
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Gays Reading
Upcoming/Up & Coming feat. Christina Cooke, Daniel Lefferts, and Rebecca K Reilly
Jan 18, 2024 Season 2 Episode 34
Brett Benner, Jason Blitman, Christina Cooke, Daniel Lefferts, Rebecca K Reilly
In the first installation of their debut novelists series UPCOMING / UP & COMING, Jason and Brett talk to three new writers about their soon-to-be released books. Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy, Jan 23) talks about how it took 13 years to write and publish her book; Daniel Lefferts (Ways & Means, Feb 6) shares how his novel emerged from a short story he wrote in college; and Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin, Feb 6) explains the unique publishing process in New Zealand, where her book has been a bestseller for over 3 years.

Christina Cooke’s writing has appeared in The Caribbean Writer, PRISM International, Prairie Schooner, Epiphany: A Literary Journal, and elsewhere. A MacDowell Fellow, Journey Prize winner, and a Glenna Luschei Prairie Schooner Award winner, she holds a Master of Arts from the University of New Brunswick and a Master of Fine Arts from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Christina was born in Jamaica and is now a Canadian citizen who lives and writes in New York City. Broughtupsy is her debut novel.

Daniel Lefferts was born in upstate New York and now lives in Hudson, New York. He holds an MFA from Columbia University and has taught writing at Columbia and Rutgers. Ways and Means is his first novel.

Rebecca K Reilly (Ngaati Hine, Ngaati Rehua Ngaatiwai ki Aotea), born 1991, is a Maaori novelist from Waitaakere, New Zealand. She has a BA (hons) in German and European studies from the University of Auckland and an MA from the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington, where she won the Adam Foundation Prize in Creative Writing for 2019. Greta & Valdin is her first novel.

**BOOKS!**
Check out the list of books discussed on each episode on our Bookshop page:
https://bookshop.org/shop/gaysreading | By purchasing books through this Bookshop link, you can support both Gays Reading and an independent bookstore of your choice!

Join our Patreon for exclusive bonus content!

Purchase your Gays Reading podcast Merch!

Follow us on Instagram
@gaysreading | @bretts.book.stack | @jasonblitman

What are you reading?
Send us an email or a voice memo at gaysreading@gmail.com

Show Notes Transcript
In the first installation of their debut novelists series UPCOMING / UP & COMING, Jason and Brett talk to three new writers about their soon-to-be released books. Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy, Jan 23) talks about how it took 13 years to write and publish her book; Daniel Lefferts (Ways & Means, Feb 6) shares how his novel emerged from a short story he wrote in college; and Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin, Feb 6) explains the unique publishing process in New Zealand, where her book has been a bestseller for over 3 years.

Christina Cooke’s writing has appeared in The Caribbean Writer, PRISM International, Prairie Schooner, Epiphany: A Literary Journal, and elsewhere. A MacDowell Fellow, Journey Prize winner, and a Glenna Luschei Prairie Schooner Award winner, she holds a Master of Arts from the University of New Brunswick and a Master of Fine Arts from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Christina was born in Jamaica and is now a Canadian citizen who lives and writes in New York City. Broughtupsy is her debut novel.

Daniel Lefferts was born in upstate New York and now lives in Hudson, New York. He holds an MFA from Columbia University and has taught writing at Columbia and Rutgers. Ways and Means is his first novel.

Rebecca K Reilly (Ngaati Hine, Ngaati Rehua Ngaatiwai ki Aotea), born 1991, is a Maaori novelist from Waitaakere, New Zealand. She has a BA (hons) in German and European studies from the University of Auckland and an MA from the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington, where she won the Adam Foundation Prize in Creative Writing for 2019. Greta & Valdin is her first novel.

**BOOKS!**
Check out the list of books discussed on each episode on our Bookshop page:
https://bookshop.org/shop/gaysreading | By purchasing books through this Bookshop link, you can support both Gays Reading and an independent bookstore of your choice!

Join our Patreon for exclusive bonus content!

Purchase your Gays Reading podcast Merch!

Follow us on Instagram
@gaysreading | @bretts.book.stack | @jasonblitman

What are you reading?
Send us an email or a voice memo at gaysreading@gmail.com

Brett Benner:

I'm so excited about this new series that we're doing.

Jason Blitman:

I know, me too. For people who don't realize we get piles and piles of galleys of advanced reader copies of books that are coming out. And it is upsetting when we can't feature everyone or can't talk to everyone. And so we were really inspired to get to talk to more people by doing this. Upcoming and up and coming series. Debut authors talking about their upcoming, books. Upcoming. And they are up and coming.

Brett Benner:

Yeah. And, and, and they're all like gaze reading certified.

Jason Blitman:

Gaze reading certified. Stamp of approval. So here's a little bit about each of the authors. The first person you'll hear from is Christina Cook. She wrote a book called Broughtupsy. Christina Cooke's writing has previously appeared in The Caribbean Writer, Prism International, Prairie Schooner, Epiphany, and elsewhere. Born in Jamaica, Cooke is now a Canadian citizen who lives and writes in New York City. And then we'll hear from Daniel Lefferts.

Brett Benner:

Daniel Lefkowitz was born in upstate New York. He holds an MFA from Columbia university and has taught writing at Columbia and Rutgers and Ways and Means is his first novel.

Jason Blitman:

Obviously, that's why he's a part of Upcoming and Up and Coming!

Brett Benner:

Yes. And then lastly,

Jason Blitman:

lastly we're gonna hear from Rebecca k Re, whose, book Greta and Valdin has been a New Zealand bestseller for years now. So, Rebecca K. Riley, born in 1991 is a Maori novelist. from Waitakere, New Zealand. She has a BA in German and European Studies from the University of Auckland and an MA from the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington, where she won the Adam Foundation Prize in Creative Writing in 2019.

Brett Benner:

and you guys in our show notes, we're going to put all of their release dates, um, which begin on the 23rd with Christina Cook

Jason Blitman:

And Daniel's book, Ways and Means comes out on February 6th, Greta and Valdin also comes out on February 6th. From Rebecca K. Reilly.

Brett Benner:

Fantastic.

Jason Blitman:

Yay! You know, and so usually, a little sort of peek behind the curtain, we won't release episodes until the book is released. but, you know, now we're, they're really only giving sort of like little pitches and, and talk a little bit about their process. So there's nothing to spoil and also, you know, pre order their books and pre order from the library, pre, you know, pre put the holds on from the library, because it's a great way to support these brand new writers.

Brett Benner:

And whet your appetite.

Jason Blitman:

and whet your appetite. As always, if you like what you're hearing, please give us a,, review wherever you listen to your podcasts. Five Stars goes a super long way and gets listeners to find us. Follow us on social media. We're at GaysReading on Instagram. We have a Patreon where we post bonus content and, and, which is exciting because this episode we have so much bonus content. So, we can, we'll share a lot,

Brett Benner:

You'll also get an advance on Patreon for what's coming up and what guests are coming before we let the rest of the world know.

Jason Blitman:

Yes, exactly. Uh, and if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, you could email us at gaysreading at gmail dot com. I think that's all of the housekeeping. Even though I, I always listen back and I'm like, oh, I forgot that one thing. And so this'll be, this'll be done. That one thing. Anyway, I'm Jason,

Brett Benner:

And I'm Brett.

Jason Blitman:

and enjoy this special upcoming and up and coming episode of Gayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

Hello, is

Jason Blitman:

Hi, Christina.

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

You're on

Brett Benner:

We're on West coast. Yeah. We're still

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

so it is morning there.

Brett Benner:

and you're in New York, right?

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

I am.

Brett Benner:

Very nice. Very nice. So nice to meet you. You too. I'm Brett.

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

Hi

Jason Blitman:

And I'm Jason.

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

Nice to meet you. How's my Delilah voice?

Jason Blitman:

Delilah.

Brett Benner:

delilah.

Jason Blitman:

It's funny that you bring her up. Cause I just saw someone post on Instagram literally yesterday. In fact, like the store so recently, the story might still be there. Saying, asking is she secretly like all right.

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

I

Jason Blitman:

And I was

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

someone could get there. I could see it.

Jason Blitman:

too. I've never thought that until that moment. And I was like, did you just ruin Delilah for me?

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

I know. I know. It's, I just, my question is more like, is Delilah an AI robot? Because I swear she's been on the radio since the dawn of time.

Jason Blitman:

Forever and sounds the

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

Sounds the exact same. I'm just that voice is AI. There's no way. There's no crackling. There's no aging in her voice. Nothing. She's simply The same, but how can you be the same, Delilah?

Jason Blitman:

This song is for you. This song goes out to Lindsey from Jordan.

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

I'm glad that we're asking all of the hard questions

Brett Benner:

these are the hard,

Jason Blitman:

That's what gaze reading is about. So let's dive in. For our listeners, what's the elevator pitch for Broughtupsy?

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

For sure. Broadupsy is essentially a queer family saga following two sisters navigating their estranged relationship. One sister has left the island left Jamaica and is now living abroad. Another sister never left out of a sense of allegiance to her, to their mother who has passed. And so they're trying to kind of knit their family back together while also navigating all of the frictions that come with growing up in two totally different cultures at the same time. Was that

Jason Blitman:

It was good.

Brett Benner:

great. That was great. You worked on that?

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

I tried.

Jason Blitman:

my new favorite thing is reading a physical copy while listening to an audio book. If I'm able to,

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

Mhm.

Jason Blitman:

the audio book is out of control.

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

She's amazing. Alicia killed it.

Jason Blitman:

It was like one of the best audio books I've ever heard.

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

Oh, thank you.

Jason Blitman:

It truly, she was. She must be a performer like it what I was like, this could be a one woman play It's like it was so freaking good I was like, I hope Christina doesn't feel weird that I'm gonna be gushing about how good

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

Not at all. Not at all. Not at all. I could never. Audiobooks just A, I'm not like a natural born performer at all. And it just, the stamina you have to keep the energy and to bring that verb and to bring that kind of nuance and emphasis In a context where you can't feed off of the energy of the audience. It's just

Jason Blitman:

or other performers.

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

Yeah. It's just you in a dark room

Jason Blitman:

what

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

imagining it in your

Jason Blitman:

what's so special about the audiobook is So much of the story itself, as you just described in your wonderfully articulate elevator pitch, is about culture. She like, blasts the culture into her storytelling, and so that, for me, was why I just felt so embraced by the story, I think.

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

I worked with Penguin Random House Audio on the audiobook and they were amazing. And amazing in the sense of, I fell in love with it. I was just like, listen. As the listeners of this podcast will learn as they dive into the book, the sentences, how the story is put together is so crucial to understanding the narrative itself. How the sentences, how they feel in your mouth, how they roll all of the tongue, the literal experience of reading the book is part of the point of the book. And so you need to find a way to replicate that same quality within the audio book itself. Meaning that. This isn't the kind of novel where it just needs to be read, it needs to be, it needs to be inhabited, it needs to be experienced, it needs to be performed.

Jason Blitman:

Highly recommend to our listeners picking up a copy and listening to the audio book simultaneously because it was like really a special experience. Can you share a little bit about how the book came to be?

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

For sure.

Brett Benner:

And the amount of, and the amount of time it took you to get there.

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

yes. So that's, yeah. So I'm a big believer. I don't, I try, I'm still a person. I very much have my prides and my Privacies, but I try not to hide my brushstrokes. And so I am getting better at being quite forthcoming in the sense that this is a novel that's about 13 years in the I spent about 10 years writing it. I started it during my first It started out actually as a short story collection, because at 20 to, 20 something year old me, the idea of writing an entire novel made me want to cry and hide in a corner, because what do you mean I have to write 200 pages? That's impossible! So stories, I was like, Oh, 12 pages. I can do that. And I can just do that over and over again until it somehow amounts to a book. And so I started during my first master's degree where I was really interested in how culture shapes your sense of self. And how experiencing multiple cultures can both open you up, open up your perspective in such like a nuanced and like expansive way, while also make you feel completely ill fitting, right? That you, that there is no one place that you can ever really call home again because everywhere that you've been Changes you, but also makes you already out of sync with wherever it is that you're going to go next. So I spent my first master's really digging into the thematics that, that you'll see in the novel and trying to understand them in a way that is on the ground and in a way that is in the body. So not just as these kind of like heavy intellectual conversations. But as like, how does this matter to the person at Walmart, right? Like, how does this matter in a you are in your life way? And then I progressed from there to in my second master's at the university of. Iowa looking at, okay how do I do that through story, right? What're, the actual mechanics of putting this together into a narrative where other people can inhabit and understand all of these things that I have spent so much time ruminating on and on pulling together and having my own. Epiphanies and like breakthroughs within, like how can this matter to other people, right? Which is all about like, how well can you tell a story. So that process took about 10 years. Also partially because, I've, I'm very upfront in saying that this book is not my life. Like I do not have a little brother who died. I do not have no. I do not have an elder sister who's who stayed behind on the island. My mother is very much alive. She literally tried to call me just now and I had to press ignore.

Jason Blitman:

Sorry, Mom. Sorry, Mom. Do you have siblings?

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

I do. I have two older sisters, so I'm the youngest. But this book is heavily inflected by the kind of emotional realities that I have experienced throughout my life. And also heavily influenced by the kind of personal and cultural and queer conundrums that I've found myself faced with and writing this book was really cathartic in the sense is that I, it had like a safe place where I could put it and someone else that I could, expose all of that to, and then like work through it. to find a place of peace. So if anything this book, both in terms of my evolution as a person and my evolution as a writer is really such like a record in that sense. So that process took 10 years and then the process of publishing it took another three to four,

Jason Blitman:

Yeah.

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

Mostly because I was quite adamant after spending a decade working on this, that if I was going I wanted to publish the book on, on its own terms, I had multiple conversations with editors early on in the process who liked Some of the facts of it, they liked that it was this kind of like gender variant Immigrant woman or they liked the fact that it was like, gender variant woman in this kind of like queerly hostile place But they didn't like the story right? They didn't like how like emotionally inflected it was They didn't like, how like lush and descriptive it was and so I had Opportunities where I could have kept the things that I had created that they liked and written it to a kind of standard to meet publication sooner. And I refused simply because I was like if I'm going to fail, I'm going to fail on my own terms. It's gonna be because, I respected and honed and really crafted, created this kind of vessel for my vision. And then the vessel never left the dock versus I warped my vision to meet someone else's standards. And then I would just in 10 years, resent myself. Integrity?

Jason Blitman:

Yeah. No, it's important to have, integrity.

Brett Benner:

Really thank God you did for someone to say, we don't like that it's so descriptive and lush. And that's one of the things for me that's so evocative of the book. It's, it is that descriptive prowess you have, that really, speaks to these, all of it.

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

Thank you

Jason Blitman:

For our listeners, can you define Broughtupsy?

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

Oh, brotupsy refers to someone's upbringing whether they were well trained in a sense of like their manners, their sense, their sense of self how well they understand the family culture and how well they will So a lot of people have been saying that um, They don't have any manners. They are not well bred. Oh,

Jason Blitman:

I love that. Are there any books coming out this year that you're looking forward to,

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

so many. I'm especially excited for Emily. Rabbit toes book. Lessons for survival. Because one of the things that I, I'm very interested in is this idea of like climate anxiety and how do you keep living at what feels like the end of the world. And so I love the way that she inhabits that from. Like a real kind of lived perspective, so again, not just talking about it in terms of like the thematics and the kind of like intellectual nuances of it, but like, how do you live in it? How Then another would be, this is actually a book that's coming out in paperback is, which there it is, The Unsettled will be

Jason Blitman:

Oh, yes.

Brett Benner:

Yes.

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

I also adore that book. I adore it because it deals with, things like the struggle for Black liberation and freedom, and how that's often thwarted, not just by police brutality, but also is thwarted by people being people. Like it really gets inside of, Of people who are spewing the right message, but for all the wrong reasons, it is like expanding the canon of african american literature and bringing it Into the current moment without feeling like it's clickbait

Brett Benner:

oh, that's awesome.

Jason Blitman:

Christina, this has been so fun.

Brett Benner:

You're fantastic.

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

been awesome

Jason Blitman:

I know.

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

so much for having me.

Brett Benner:

We're So excited for people like to experience this, to read it or listen to it. I actually, cause Jason, has gone on and to me separately about how amazing the audio is. So I'm certainly going to check that out as well cause I can't wait to hear it. So

Jason Blitman:

good.

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

and the final thing I'll say, if I can very quickly, is that please, anyone who is listening to this, do not feel any shame around. Listening to the audio book and never reading the physical book. That is okay. I've met so many people who are just like, Oh, yeah, I read it through listening to that's. Fine. What's important is that you're engaging with these kind of like imaginative projects that you are giving them your time and your due attention in whatever means works for you. So please let go of that shame. You are not a lesser reader or a lesser person for finding joy in audiobooks. There is literally, that is, we want you to.

Jason Blitman:

Experience it however you need to experience the fact that reading, you're able to either do it with your eyes or do it with your ears, I think is a really special thing, because that is not true for all art forms, it's not true for, you can't do that. Eat a meal with your ears, right? So to be able to experience something in multiple ways, however you need to do it is we're big champions,

Brett Benner:

that's right.

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

Amazing.

Jason Blitman:

I hope that the fact that this book took 13 years doesn't make you not want to write another one. But if it does, I understand but we look forward to whatever comes next from you.

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

Thank you.

Jason Blitman:

Even if that's,

Brett Benner:

everything

Jason Blitman:

pithy

Brett Benner:

it may be a short story and that's

Jason Blitman:

right?

Brett Benner:

Yes, maybe next will be a book of short stories. That's great We're all we're here for it.

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

We'll see

Jason Blitman:

what a joy! I'm like, I just want to keep hanging out with you, you're so fun

Christina Cooke (Broughtupsy):

thank you. I appreciate it.

Jason Blitman:

All right. Bye

Brett Benner:

Alright, we'll see you later. Bye.

Jason Blitman:

And next up we have Daniel Lefferts talking about his novel Ways and Means.

Daniel Lefferts:

I'm using my boyfriend's serious headphones as opposed to my AirPods which I thought would be better. So I just want to make sure they work.

Jason Blitman:

They

Brett Benner:

They work

Daniel Lefferts:

Okay.

Jason Blitman:

Lots of people use AirPods, so in the future, should you need to,

Daniel Lefferts:

Okay.

Brett Benner:

But you look very professional today.

Daniel Lefferts:

Oh, thank you. Yeah.

Jason Blitman:

You have a collared shirt on.

Daniel Lefferts:

I'm trying to keep the Christmas spirit with the dark green.

Jason Blitman:

I wasn't sure if you were doing Christmas spirit or like matching book cover green.

Daniel Lefferts:

Let's just say both.

Jason Blitman:

Both, yes. There's very little content about you online, so I wasn't even 100 percent sure what you looked like.

Daniel Lefferts:

Yeah, I I haven't really done that much writing outside of this book, and I, I have a very limited social media presence, so I'm a little mysterious,

Jason Blitman:

very mysterious and elusive. That's, we, Brett and I were just talking about how that's part of what makes this series fun, is like giving authors content.

Daniel Lefferts:

yeah, and this is actually my first interview about the book, so I'm very excited. A little nervous but mostly very excited. Okay,

Jason Blitman:

We don't bite.

Brett Benner:

we'll be

Daniel Lefferts:

you at your word.

Jason Blitman:

I would say unless you ask nicely, but that's like a very, an obvious joke. It's low hanging fruit.

Brett Benner:

It really is. First of all, just congratulations on the book which is great. It's it's so good.

Jason Blitman:

Daniel, the hardest question that everybody has for their book

Daniel Lefferts:

Huh.

Jason Blitman:

is what is the elevator pitch for ways and means?

Daniel Lefferts:

Ways and Means is set in New York mainly in the summer of 2007. against the backdrop of the presidential election of that year. And it follows a gay NYU finance student who becomes involved with and at first enigmatic, and then ultimately very nefarious billionaire. Meanwhile, he's embroiled in a three way romance with an older couple named Mark and Elijah, and the book also tracks their moral and financial dilemmas. It's a book about money, class, art, politics, gay life, gay sexuality, and the intersections between these things during a period of intense American crisis.

Jason Blitman:

A professor and has asked their students this question before.

Daniel Lefferts:

This book has a sort of an interesting life. I first what it's called. It first really came to life at, in like very embryonic form. When I was in college, I wrote a short story about. The character, Alistair, a gay NYU finance student in trouble and the sort of affair with an older couple was part of that too, but I was 21, so I had a sort of very different relationship to a 22 year old and a relationship with 30 year olds and then I, I put that aside and I was doing other things in my early 20s, and when I finally returned to this, I was 28 I think at that point the interest of this particular relationship was that I felt like putting these characters together allowed me to navigate between sort of an experience of youth that I was still thinking about and also, my age at that time, the growing pains of nearing 30.

Brett Benner:

One of the reasons That I really loved all of that beyond the sexiness of it is for me, there's so many books that we're reading, you read a lot of books that have queer content or queer characters, and that is the basis of the book, whether it's a coming out story, a trauma story. And so I loved these characters because the sexuality in a lot of ways was almost secondary. It was just this, they were gay. They were involved with each other. There was this throuple that, that kind of comes out of it, but that wasn't the thrust of the story that was just a sidebar. And I, so for me, I love that. And I just was like going forward, we've Jason and I've talked about this before, I want more of that with queer content. Just people who are queer who have life situations that are happening and also have great Interesting sex and have these amazing relationships, but that isn't the story per se. I really appreciate that

Daniel Lefferts:

Yeah. That's something I thought a lot about. I, I I grew up on books that dealt with, those narratives of coming out, those narratives of shame exclusion, and they really nurtured me when I was a teenager but I felt like for my own book, I thought it would be interesting to take gayness as, as a given, something that's no longer being dealt with in an active way. It's no longer the focus of their imaginations or their anxieties and to just put them in the world and give them other things to do and think about while never losing their sexuality as like the lens they see the world through.

Brett Benner:

Absolutely. It's so And my other thing I was thinking about is the decision to place all of this Like the Trump backdrop.

Daniel Lefferts:

Yeah.

Jason Blitman:

When you started writing it, I don't know when you started writing it, because you said you were 21. I don't know how old you are. Yeah. But had 2016 happened,

Daniel Lefferts:

No. So I'm 34. So it was way before what I wrote in college was just a, like a 15 page story that wasn't even finished. And, it was like, it was just basically a character study. Nothing was happening. My professor was like, this is great, but what is it? That kind of thing. And I put it aside for a long time, but I always, at the back of my mind felt that when I. Got up the strength to write a book. I felt that this character could carry it. But I was 21 I didn't know what it was about thematically. I didn't have a burning question I was trying to answer. I was just playing with sentences and dialogue, and then, when I finally got around to starting this book, I was 28 and it was 2017 the character and his situation were very alluring to me still, I took that as evidence that there was something there, that this idea had been with me all this time. But in the meantime, I'd grown up and developed preoccupations that were really magnified. By the 2016 election. I've been writing things in between still aimlessly like when I was at my MFA program I was writing these things and I wasn't really interrogating why I was writing what I was writing. But once I had a massive pages, I realized that something I kept returning to was class. How much money, different characters had the differentials between those amounts, and how they invigorated or poisoned those relationships. It was almost an obsession. And once I realized that, I was, I felt like then I could wield it. What if I built something around this preoccupation? As I was having that realization, that was like 2015, 2016. And to me, the 2016 election felt among other things, among many other things, like a great class drama, the triangulation of Clinton, Sanders and Trump just felt like it I don't know, it took the veil off realities that we are norm, we were normally or maybe still are normally content to leave covered like we don't think of our society, our American society as stratified by class, we don't think, we have this sort of fantasy of class mobility in egalitarianism that really doesn't hold up under scrutiny. It also, the period right before 2016 to me also felt like the last gasp of that meritocratic fantasy. I'm from a lower middle class. I'm just speaking generally. I'm from a lower middle class background. I'm gonna, get good grades. I'm going to You know, maybe take on a lot of debt to do that, but it'll pay off. I'll get this gleaming corporate job. And all the steps to a great life will just follow naturally from there. This isn't really happening anymore, or at least not at least not as much as, or as often as we were led to believe. So all of those things were swimming around. And I felt that this backdrop would mobilize these characters and lend the story a sense of urgency and depth. So it just made sense to me.

Brett Benner:

Now, what are you, what are plans for you? Next? You have ideas already germinating in terms of what you want to say next or what's next in the pipeline. Yeah.

Daniel Lefferts:

You mean what I'm working on?

Brett Benner:

Yeah. Yeah.

Daniel Lefferts:

It's very larval, but Since we already talked about this I am going to set, I think, my next book in Florida. It's just, it's pulling me.

Jason Blitman:

Happy to be a resource.

Daniel Lefferts:

I may take you up on that because I'm not a native. But yeah, I think, it's interesting, like, when I was planning this book and when I was writing it, and even up until recently, like doing the, final edits on it I just felt I'd access this vein of thinking about, money and politics and class that, invariably my next book and even the book after that would focus just as much on that. But I'm starting to see that I really exercised something, I think, in writing this book. And I think my interests are broadening and moving in directions that I wasn't anticipating. But I think, a certain level of Gay outrageousness will reappear and and, I'm still thinking about the larger socio political context in which gay men operate, I think that's a really interesting pairing.

Jason Blitman:

To take us back for a second, you were 21 when you started, you said you were 28 when you picked it back up, and you said you're 34 now. So this has been a bit of a journey for you, writing

Daniel Lefferts:

it has. Yeah.

Jason Blitman:

You've said your next idea is in its larval stage, which I'm obsessed with that term. But do you feel like you've cracked open something in you now?

Daniel Lefferts:

I think so, when I decided to pick this book back up, I was really struggling to get into it. I would keep writing like five pages. And being like, this is horrible. And, but I couldn't really pinpoint why it was horrible to me. And then I remember the day that I just scrapped the like 15th version of the five pages and started over and I. It was like, I know this sounds like simplistic. It wasn't this simple, but I essentially landed on a voice. And it was really exciting. It wasn't like radically different from how I sounded before, but I was able to read that and think, this is good, I'd this, I want to keep doing this. And. This book has undergone so many revisions, like some really transformative, a lot, just still major but more cosmetic. It's, I've discarded many more pages than appear in this book now, but I feel that I've found like a momentum a rhythm that I'm excited to, bring where, wherever it leads.

Jason Blitman:

That's interesting. I think that, the idea of working a muscle, right? Not to say that writing any book is easy, but I do imagine once you've done it once, then even emotionally, you can say, I've done it once, I could do it again.

Daniel Lefferts:

Yeah. It's still really hard, especially starting something. But the critical difference is now I can say, I've experienced this before and I got over it, I survived it, it still sucks, but I remember surpassing it. So that's helpful.

Jason Blitman:

Are there any books that you're excited about coming up?

Daniel Lefferts:

Yeah. One book that I'm really excited about is a new book by Joseph O'Neill. It's coming out in June. Joseph O'Neill wrote Netherland, which is a I think considered like one of the most preeminent, if not the most preeminent post 9 11 novel. He also wrote The Dog and which was like about a lawyer working in Dubai. And he has this new book out. It's about two brothers, one of whom is a soccer agent and they they go to Africa to scout a soccer prodigy there. The reason I'm, I just when he was like one of my favorite contemporary writers is because he writes a lot about the professional classes, which is something that I'm drawn to as well. And he has like a really amazing sort of high formal but still contemporary style with which he takes on sort of contemporary politics, contemporary economics. So I'm really excited about him and Godwin coming out. And then another book I'm excited about is my friend Jesse Stevens has a book of stories coming out, Ghost Pains. I'm just, obviously I'm biased, but I think I would like it anyway.

Jason Blitman:

That's okay.

Daniel Lefferts:

so

Jason Blitman:

Listen, we're shouting out upcoming books. That doesn't matter.

Daniel Lefferts:

So those two are on my radar for

Jason Blitman:

Cool.

Daniel Lefferts:

Yeah.

Jason Blitman:

I love that. We're so excited for you. Congrats on on the

Brett Benner:

book is, The book is fantastic. It's sexy and compelling and thoughtful and thought provoking. I hope it's I hope this whole experience is great for you,

Daniel Lefferts:

I'm just very grateful. Thank you so much. Thank you both. This was amazing.

Jason Blitman:

Of course. All right. Have a great

Brett Benner:

Have a great day, Dan.

Daniel Lefferts:

Okay. Bye bye.

Jason Blitman:

Bye. That was Daniel Lefferts. And now here is Rebecca K. Reilly talking about her book, Greta and Valdin. Rebecca, how are you doing?

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

I'm fine. I It's a very, hectic time, but yeah, I'm doing well.

Jason Blitman:

Thank you for hopping on with us in a crazy time of year, but also like you're about to have a book launch in the States,

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

And yeah.

Jason Blitman:

all over the play in the UK.

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

UK. For me like, in Australia is relevant.

Jason Blitman:

Oh, wow. The book didn't come out in Australia yet.

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

no, I think that's that's something that I guess people don't know about is that if you have a book published in New Zealand, we don't have distribution or whatever in Australia, which is like a country that's five times bigger. If your book was published in Australia, it will come out here. But if it's published here, it's not going to come out there unless you get it published in the UK and then they'll distribute it in all Commonwealth countries.

Brett Benner:

That's wild. Yeah.

Jason Blitman:

much about all of that

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

I think that I'm like, On the level of national expert on all of these things, like everywhere I go every time I'm speaking to other authors and stuff, I'm like, Oh yeah, so if they like do this and then so this sort of like print run, that's not good. And if they like, don't do the publicity, then that's also bad. And if you like, don't get it ARC and they're like, what's an ARC? We don't like have advanced copies.

Brett Benner:

Yeah.

Jason Blitman:

that's so fascinating. You're just like, the book comes out, and it comes out, and that's it.

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

Everything is so tight and you hear, we don't really have like cover reveals or anything like that. And we obviously don't have a publisher's marketplace, anything like that. So you just hear that someone is going to have this book coming out and then maybe you can look on their social media and find out when, if they have it, if they, if they use that sort of thing. But otherwise it's A bit of a mystery and then people will start, you really need the book to get a review. Otherwise, no one's going to know about it.

Brett Benner:

Then it's a testament to the book because it is a bestseller

Jason Blitman:

was just gonna say, that's so

Brett Benner:

that's amazing because then it speaks so highly of your book.

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

Yeah, you just have to, I think, yeah, it's really different that the launch is the starting point for a book in this market, not a year in advance. So you launch the book and we like always have. Like a public event, so you're like, hopefully people are going to show up to my launch and then and then you hope that you're going to get reviews and then if you're like super, super lucky, then you'll get like a lot of word of mouth, which is what happened to me. I didn't really get any reviews for the book until. Six months after it came out,

Jason Blitman:

Wow.

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

I think it was a lot to do with we went back into lockdown. So everyone,

Jason Blitman:

the book originally came out in New Zealand in May of

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

May 2021. was like, it was okay. It was doing okay ish. And then in August somebody came into the country with COVID and then they locked the whole country down and then they released everybody except, Those of us who live in Auckland, basically, I figured this out in miles earlier, like 25 miles around the international airport. Everyone was locked down for four months and everybody else was free and living their lives. And rest of us were just like in our houses. And it was the only reason that you could go out was one person from your house could go to the supermarket. Or you could go to the doctor and you could walk around the block, but like only really one person at a time. You can speak to other people. I think the one thing is different from here than other places is we didn't have like takeout food. You just had to cook every day for yourself for four

Jason Blitman:

For four months, non stop. Oh my

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

So I was in that situation, but I think Wellington, the capital of New Zealand is more where the literary scene is focused. So all those people were they were talking about the book, they were getting out and about

Brett Benner:

And you just didn't know

Jason Blitman:

You were locked down, and you emerged, and everybody knew about your book. With

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

I got invited to a lot of festivals and then on one day, one afternoon, they all called me and they were like, we're just going to cancel all the people who live in Auckland and we're replacing you with a quiz.

Jason Blitman:

a quiz?

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

Yeah, and apparently the quiz was awful.

Jason Blitman:

Wow.

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

feel bad. Nobody had a good time at the quiz. They really would have rather have seen you. I was like, I would rather

Brett Benner:

Me too.

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

be in my house crying. And then and then the book, so traveled overseas because also in New Zealand, we don't have agents. So if you want your book to go overseas, you're like Googling, how do I query a book? And it's you need an agent. And you're like how do I get an agent? And then luckily someone. In the UK, who's now my agent, Martha, she emailed my publisher saying, does Rebecca have an agent just because I've heard about this book on Twitter and I ordered it to the UK and I just wanted to know like when it's coming out here and they were like, oh, it's not. And she was like, who's Rebecca's agent? They were like, no one. And she was. getting started out as an agent and then was like I would like to represent her.

Brett Benner:

Amazing.

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

And that's,

Jason Blitman:

every step of the way of you publishing this book is so insane, because I was also listening to you on another podcast where you like, literally never even talked about being an author before. And one day you were like, I'm gonna write a book. And then Brett on her phone started just like typing little stories on her phone. And that's and now she's getting published internationally.

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

now my thumb doesn't work properly.

Jason Blitman:

Can you tell us like what a little bit about that journey for you.

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

So basically the year was 2018. I Had just been dumped, and I, after, like five years, and I was like, oh no what am I doing with my life, am I working at this call center, I hate it, no one at the call center likes me I'm like not making very much money to the point that if I'm not splitting rent with someone then I like can't really afford to live anywhere maybe I should it. You're like, and when you're like in the bottom of where you can go, you're like, maybe I should just live my dream. And I was like, I'm going to write a book. And everyone was like, Maybe you should get Tinder. Everyone's obviously, you're not getting over this, and you are struggling, and you need help you don't need to move to Wellington and write a book. You don't need to apply for a masters, you don't, you just need to chill out and meet someone new. And obviously I was like, no, everybody's wrong, that was difficult for my friends because I had never spoken about wanting to write or told them that I, wrote on my phone Or anything like that. So they weren't like, yeah, we support you. You are so talented or whatever. They were like, I don't know if this is something that you know how to do.

Jason Blitman:

Listen, we all need friends that are gonna be real with us,

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

Yeah. And we're not a positive people. Yeah. No one is hyping anyone.

Jason Blitman:

So funny. Oh, they probably are now, though.

Brett Benner:

yeah, now they're like,

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

oh yeah, no. Now they'll listen to an hour of me talking about, cause everything that happens to me, I have to give so much context when it's like a good or a bad thing.

Brett Benner:

I'm amazing.

Jason Blitman:

So an agent. This is a good thing.

Brett Benner:

Right exactly.

Jason Blitman:

Oh,

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

Yeah. Everybody thought that was a bad thing. They were like, Oh, so the person wants to come and take all your money. It's I wouldn't have any money if I didn't have an agent.

Jason Blitman:

Oh, that's so interesting. Do you have an elevator pitch for Greta and Valden?

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

I've never had to pitch it.

Jason Blitman:

Really?!

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

course, no.

Jason Blitman:

Alright, how would you

Brett Benner:

Here's your launch. This is your launch.

Jason Blitman:

You're gonna have to do this now. People are gonna be like, describe Greta and Valden. Now you get to practice.

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

I know, the first three years, I didn't have to do that, Veldin is a book about two siblings who have come together, I think, at difficult times in their lives. But now as things change with themselves and their family, they realize that they're not really at the same point in their lives anymore as Veldin turns 30 and Greta wants to be more independent. It's a story about, I don't want to say finding yourself, but it's a story about change and moving from being young to being a little bit older and confronting your own history.

Jason Blitman:

It's funny, finding yourself, but maybe also like rediscovering yourself, continuing to

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

That's true.

Jason Blitman:

as you grow. I would say those are true things. Yeah, they're not quite like coming of age, but

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

No.

Jason Blitman:

they're like re coming of age.

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

Yeah. I guess so. It's this is difficult. It's difficult because you're like, if it's a re coming of age.

Brett Benner:

But isn't it they just, can you say they're just continuing to evolve as people?

Jason Blitman:

Yeah,

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

That's true.

Brett Benner:

Because that doesn't stop. But, so it's just, and there's certain there's touch points that happen in our lives that make you go to the next kind of level up, so to speak.

Jason Blitman:

I feel like I know you just from reading the book because of the like sentence structure and the jokes and the humor within the story. And I will say for me, maybe it was like the editing process of taking out some of the like Kiwi specific things. But for me, Where I was like, Oh, some people might have a hard time with this is it's dry in a hilarious way. Like it is dry humor that I'm obsessed with. And I'm like, Oh, if somebody reads this sentence and takes it literally, they're not going to understand. That was the cultural difference for me.

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

Not the words,

Jason Blitman:

No,

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

I think we have to At the moment the film Next Goal Wins is out, a Taika Waititi movie, and it's been like critically panned like across the board, but for us we're like, oh this is a normal movie.

Jason Blitman:

Oh,

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

You guys, the thing that happened was that Taika Waititi made a normal New Zealand movie, and all of the Americans are like, this is awful. Yeah, this is the sort of thing that we like to make, and I'm sorry you don't like it.

Jason Blitman:

is so funny. So interesting that this book is starting to really cross borders a bit. That,

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

Yeah, it's exciting.

Jason Blitman:

very cool. Do you have any books that are coming up that you're excited about?

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

It's the new animals by Pip Adam and it came out with the Dorothy project and this was a book that won the New Zealand National Book Award in 2018 and it Caused a stir that it won that

Jason Blitman:

love a stir.

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

I think it's an amazing book and it's one of the best books written in New Zealand. Now it's finally emerged across the world. So I wanted to promote that. It's about people working in the fashion industry for the first half of the book and then it's becomes totally. Yeah. Sci fi, it's not really the right word, but it stops being real halfway through the book.

Jason Blitman:

Interesting. Okay, cool. I'm excited to check it out. Okay, and before I let you go, I have to ask. The book is so unapologetically and also, what's the right word? It's just so queer. being like a queer book. Obviously there are queer characters and it's just oh, and that person's queer and that person's gay and that person's this and that person's that. And it's just you live in a world that is so colorful. And I was like, that's cool. How did that come to be? Why was that important to you?

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

I guess I just didn't think about it. And in the way that I wasn't, I didn't think that the book was going to be published. So I was never imagining an audience, or Explaining a story in a way that was catering to a specific type of person or whatever. I was just writing. I was actually writing what I wanted to write, Which is not a freedom that you can get twice in this industry. And. So yeah, I think, because I wrote it in a workshop setting, because I was in the MA writing program at the time, because I did have opposition to that, but I was like I don't care. It's not for you. So Where to write these? It's for me. It's for my phone. And it's for the Assessment criteria at the end of the year.

Jason Blitman:

want to pass the class.

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

Yeah, exactly. And I got this feedback letter being like, even the granddad is gay. And I was like, he's not gay.

Jason Blitman:

That's funny.

Brett Benner:

Interesting.

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

your, this is on your reading comprehension. This is.

Jason Blitman:

You're picking up whatever subtext you're doing on your own.

Brett Benner:

That's really cool though.

Jason Blitman:

So to your point of only having that freedom once.

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

oh, difficult second book.

Jason Blitman:

Of course. What are you working on? Are you allowed to talk? What are you can you

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

I would legally be allowed to talk about it, but I haven't, I have not really written since this book. I think I obviously wasn't expecting the publicity of this to go on for three years.

Jason Blitman:

No, this is like the longest

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

I wish I had written another book, but I haven't at this point.

Brett Benner:

Thank you so much. This was

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

Thank you so much. It's my first my first thing for the book, not talking to people whose job is the book.

Jason Blitman:

We're honored to be your first, first of many, hopefully, and we're so excited for you and congrats.

Rebecca K Reilly (Greta & Valdin):

Thank you.

Jason Blitman:

All right. Bye Rebecca.

Brett Benner:

Bye, Rebecca. Thank you. Thank you. again to our guests and good luck with all of their books when they come out. They're all fantastic reads and like we said earlier, please check them out. Check out our bookshop. org page. It has all of them listed.

Jason Blitman:

Have a good rest of your day. We'll see you

Brett Benner:

Thanks all. See you soon.

Jason Blitman:

week. Bye.

This is the um, uh, Um, Uh, transcript.