Gays Reading

Upcoming / Up & Coming feat. Jiaming Tang, Melissa Mogollon, Yael van der Wouden

April 23, 2024 Jason Blitman, Brett Benner, Jiaming Tang, Melissa Mogollon, Yael van der Wouden Season 2 Episode 49
Upcoming / Up & Coming feat. Jiaming Tang, Melissa Mogollon, Yael van der Wouden
Gays Reading
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Gays Reading
Upcoming / Up & Coming feat. Jiaming Tang, Melissa Mogollon, Yael van der Wouden
Apr 23, 2024 Season 2 Episode 49
Jason Blitman, Brett Benner, Jiaming Tang, Melissa Mogollon, Yael van der Wouden

In the April episode of their debut novelists series UPCOMING / UP & COMING, Jason and Brett talk to three new writers about their soon-to-be released books. Jiaming Tang (Cinema Love, May 7) talks about explaining his "accent" to people in Alabama; Melissa Mogollon (Oye, May 14) expresses her love of Rainforest Cafe; and Yael van der Wouden (The Safekeep, May 28) shares the secrets of erotic writing.

Jiaming Tang is a queer immigrant writer. He holds an MFA from the University of Alabama, and his writing has appeared in such publications as AGNI, Lit Hub, Joyland Magazine, and elsewhere. He is a 2022-23 Center for Fiction Emerging Writer Fellow and lives in Brooklyn, New York. Cinema Love is his first novel.

Melissa Mogollon holds an MFA in fiction from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a BA from the George Washington University. Originally from Colombia and raised in Florida, she now teaches at a boarding school in Rhode Island, where she lives with her partner and dog. Oye is her first novel.

Yael van der Wouden is a writer and a teacher. She lives in Utrecht, Netherlands, and The Safekeep 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 April episode of their debut novelists series UPCOMING / UP & COMING, Jason and Brett talk to three new writers about their soon-to-be released books. Jiaming Tang (Cinema Love, May 7) talks about explaining his "accent" to people in Alabama; Melissa Mogollon (Oye, May 14) expresses her love of Rainforest Cafe; and Yael van der Wouden (The Safekeep, May 28) shares the secrets of erotic writing.

Jiaming Tang is a queer immigrant writer. He holds an MFA from the University of Alabama, and his writing has appeared in such publications as AGNI, Lit Hub, Joyland Magazine, and elsewhere. He is a 2022-23 Center for Fiction Emerging Writer Fellow and lives in Brooklyn, New York. Cinema Love is his first novel.

Melissa Mogollon holds an MFA in fiction from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a BA from the George Washington University. Originally from Colombia and raised in Florida, she now teaches at a boarding school in Rhode Island, where she lives with her partner and dog. Oye is her first novel.

Yael van der Wouden is a writer and a teacher. She lives in Utrecht, Netherlands, and The Safekeep 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:

Quang, know, was just on and talking about Emily Henry and her new book is out today, the only other 2 things that I wanted to talk about that are coming out today are Providence by Craig Wills which is a really fun queer campus novel that It's a little bit like the talented Mr. Ripley. And I think this is a weird thing for me to say, but I'll just say it. And it's not a weird thing, but I, I think that the book is so much, I don't love the cover to this book. I think that the book, it makes it look like a YA book, and it's absolutely not that. I think it's a much more, um, adult book. But, it's, I really enjoyed it. The other thing that looks really interesting to me today that is coming out is Justin Taylor's reboot. Which is described as a raucous and wickedly smart satire of Hollywood, toxic fandom, and a chronically online culture following a washed up actor on his quest to revive the cult TV show that catapulted him to teenage fame. It's getting fantastic reviews so I'm really Interested to read that.

Jason Blitman:

I know. And I'm really looking forward to Bad Habit by Alana S. Portero. It is combining the vulnerable realism of Shuggie Bain with the poignance of Alma Dovar's films, a staggering coming of age deeply rooted in the struggles of a trans woman growing up in Madrid. I know, sounds so good.

Brett Benner:

It sounds really good.

Jason Blitman:

But speaking of things that are coming out soon this fantastic lineup of upcoming and up and coming debut authors, I am just so stoked. On today's episode, we have Jiaming Tang's Cinema Love, and that comes out on May 7th. Melissa Mogollon, whose book Oye comes out on May 14th.

Brett Benner:

Oh, yeah.

Jason Blitman:

And we have Yael Vanderwooden's The Safe Keep, which comes out on May 28th.

Brett Benner:

These books are on fire. They're on fire.

Jason Blitman:

and as we always say, if you like what you're hearing, please share us with your friends here at Gaze Reading, it's greatly appreciated, follow us at Gaze Reading on Instagram you can, what are other ways to get in touch with us, if you can subscribe to the podcast wherever you listen to the podcast, and while you're at it, even while you're listening right now, hop on over and give us a five star review so that more people will find us. Because the more reviews we have, the higher we get on the list of findable things. And thank you to those of you who have taken the time to write a review. It really means a

Brett Benner:

appreciate it. Yes.

Jason Blitman:

All of the books that we talk about today, you can find on our bookshop. org page. The link to that is in our show notes. Pre orders are super, super helpful for authors in general. They are tremendously helpful for debut authors. You can pre order audiobooks, you can save them at the library, putting a hold on it at the library. All of those things in advance are so helpful to authors any day of the week, but for debut authors especially. it's also worth saying, we talked to these authors for so long, there is so much bonus content, especially for, in general, but for this episode in particular. We talked to Melissa for an hour, and you're getting, maybe 15 minutes of her. Check out our Patreon, link is in our show notes, if you subscribe there, you get access to All of our bonus content and information in advance, and a little newsletter from Brett. There's a whole lot of stuff. Check out our Patreon. It's only 5 a month. For the cost of a coffee,

Brett Benner:

It's actually less than a cup of coffee. So there you

Jason Blitman:

Less than a cup of coffee.

Brett Benner:

That's right.

Jason Blitman:

Conversations today will be in order of release day. So we're going to start with GM Ming Andy Tang to talk about his book, cinema love a little about. Andy, is what he, was what his friends call him, and now that we're his friends we call him that. He's a queer immigrant writer, he holds an MFA from the University of Alabama, and his writing has appeared in such publications as AGNI, Lit Hub, Joyland Magazine, and elsewhere. He is a 22 23 Center for Fiction Emerging Writer Fellow and lives in Brooklyn, New York. Cinema Love is his first novel. Then we'll kick on over to Melissa. And Melissa Mogollon holds an MFA in Fiction from the Iowa Writers Workshop and a BA from George Washington University, originally from Columbia. And raised in Florida, she now teaches at a boarding school in Rhode Island, where she lives with her partner and dog. Oye is her first novel, and Jael Van Der Wooden is a writer and a teacher. She lives in Utrecht, Netherlands, and The Safekeep is her first novel. I'm Jason,

Brett Benner:

And I'm Brett.

Jason Blitman:

and enjoy this up coming and up and coming episode of

Brett Benner:

Gay reading. Good morning. How

Jiaming Andy Tang:

morning, hi, thanks for having me.

Brett Benner:

are

Jason Blitman:

being here.

Jiaming Andy Tang:

I'm good, so nice to meet you guys.

Jason Blitman:

too. You got your MFA from the University of Alabama but your bio doesn't say where you're from.

Jiaming Andy Tang:

I grew up in New York. So I went to Alabama for graduate school.

Jason Blitman:

No offense, but I couldn't help but think oh, you must be from the South if that's where ended up going.

Jiaming Andy Tang:

I wouldn't mind people mistaking me from the South, but no, not Alabama.

Jason Blitman:

And then I was like, is novel number two going to be what it was

Jiaming Andy Tang:

the deep South.

Jason Blitman:

in the deep South? I was like, I don't, something isn't. matching

Jiaming Andy Tang:

came in with an accent.

Brett Benner:

That would have been brilliant.

Jason Blitman:

Howdy, y'all.

Brett Benner:

How do y'all I'm so

Jiaming Andy Tang:

so funny because they thought that this was a Chinese accent. But I had to explain that I was gay. This is just,

Jason Blitman:

This is just my gay voice.

Jiaming Andy Tang:

It's just sometimes gay people talk differently. I don't know how to explain it.

Jason Blitman:

Wait, who's they? Like, when you say people just like everyone from Alabama

Jiaming Andy Tang:

not everyone very well meaning people from the local community. They're like, where are you from? I'm like, you sound different. I'm like, I'm just gay, I'm sorry. I'm from New York. Which is the same thing as telling them I'm gay.

Brett Benner:

It's just, it's a blanket thing that covers a lot.

Jiaming Andy Tang:

I know.

Brett Benner:

Oh my

Jason Blitman:

I was like, could it be classmates? Could it be like the woman that runs the dry cleaner? It was maybe both.

Jiaming Andy Tang:

It was maybe both. I was not talking to the woman who ran the dry cleaners, but mostly just people, locally. I used to work in publishing normally books take a long time to write. But then I started meeting a lot of people who wrote books in two years. And it was during lockdown and that was just like a very interesting material thing that happened the time that it took to write a book also seemed to shorten in certain ways for some people.

Jason Blitman:

We were just talking to Douglas Westerbeek who wrote a book called a short walk through a wide world and he works at a library, one of the largest libraries in the country. And you could tell that he always had wanderlust and always had a love of books. And it poured out in this novel. And I said to him, I was like, Doug, if you never write another book, this is all of your heart and soul in novel. And so it almost the concept of authors like quote unquote needing to write another book is so crazy to me because I'm like You've you're probably spent

Jiaming Andy Tang:

I feel exactly the same way. It's just like people keep asking me like, what am I working on for my next book? Or like, when am I going to start? And I'm like, I don't fundamentally, I have not changed as a person since I wrote this first book, which is really just, like, all of my bottom shelf trauma. I have not grown enough to reach the higher shelves I'm just stuck. I tried to write something new, but it was just a different flavor of, it was like Diet Coke of Cinema

Jason Blitman:

Right.

Jiaming Andy Tang:

was like it's not as good, but it's the same thing. I have not grown past it yet.

audioJasonBlitman11077481927:

So how are you feeling? Why don't you tell our readers what's your elevator pitch about your book? Our readers, our listeners, our listener, their readers too.

Brett Benner:

raiders,

Jiaming Andy Tang:

Yeah,

Jason Blitman:

some of them aren't readers. They're just listeners and that's okay.

Jiaming Andy Tang:

Cinema Love is a novel about gay men in rural China and the woman who married them. And much of the narrative is centered around this theater where gay men cruise for love and where they build a community in which they feel safe being queer. But for me, the emotional thrust of the book was always their wives. And these women who I guess their ambitions and their own desires intersect with those of the men and the ways in which these two groups of people move across time from 1980s in China to present day, New York.

Brett Benner:

That was very good.

Jason Blitman:

Yeah. Good

Jiaming Andy Tang:

Thank you.

Jason Blitman:

And taking a sip

Brett Benner:

Yes, exactly.

Jason Blitman:

tea as though you're on a talk show. You're like, let me tell. Okay. I'm going to take a sip.

Brett Benner:

This is the moment where the audience is

Jiaming Andy Tang:

They clap. I know my mic drop. It's just me taking a sip of tea.

Jason Blitman:

So you said this was like bottom shelf trauma for you.

Jiaming Andy Tang:

It is.

Jason Blitman:

can you talk a little bit about like how your bottom shelf trauma intersects

Jiaming Andy Tang:

Yeah.

audioJasonBlitman11077481927:

this book?

Jiaming Andy Tang:

It's not trauma in the sense where it's it's autobiographical, it's bottom shelf trauma in the sense where I am a gay man from a community where homosexuality doesn't culturally or socially exist. And so when I'm writing about these characters. and the ways in which they feel like they need to hide their desire, or the ways in which they don't even know how to communicate it in the absence of, a queer lineage. I'm talking by proxy about myself when I was at a younger age. And the other part of the book that sort of really looms large is the immigrant narrative part. And I, My, my relationship to being an immigrant is different from the traditional I guess immigrant narrative in the sense that I came to America when I was two, I very much grew up here, but I, but the communities that my characters live in and exist in, like these sort of decaying apartments that they tried so hard to make beautiful and these sort of like jobs where they were exploited by people in similar situations of who came here first. That was very much the patina of my childhood. And so it really colored My I guess it colored my descriptions that run through this book, even though it's not autobiographical at all.

Brett Benner:

The biggest surprise for this book and it's something you touched on and I love this is it really I was not expecting it to be about the women like it was I thought it was going to be based on the blurb here's the story about these men and trying to find love and so it's so surprised me in the best way

audioJasonBlitman11077481927:

At its core, it is about the man, but the the rest, the meat around

Brett Benner:

yeah I think the framework is the men but the oh my

Jason Blitman:

Yeah. And it's, and not to put my leg. white male privilege over it. But as, but what is interesting for me reading it I have a handful of friends who have, whether it's recently come out as bisexual or have been bisexual and are in straight presenting relationships and they're navigating what it means to also be fully fulfilled. sexually, romantically, emotionally. And so I'm seeing some parallels between what I, what those friends are going through and the characters in the book. Which is something that I don't think a lot of people think about

Jiaming Andy Tang:

Yeah. And the other thing that I was thinking about, this is a good, a tangential relationship, is that I've met a lot of people in the States who either grew up in more industrial, like the kind of town where there's a central religion that is the culture, like a small Rust Belt Bible town where people experience the same things. Where in, in the book, in the context of the book, they're living in China, which, it's not like homosexuality is explicitly like illegal there. I don't know that you would be arrested for being gay, but there's such a culture of saving face. that you pretty much can't, for fear of shaming your family, for fear of losing your job, you pretty much can't openly be even feminine as a man in many parts of views for poor working class parts of China. And I think that there are a lot of people in the deep South that are still having those experiences too.

Jason Blitman:

the deep South, in Hollywood, in sports, and so it's fascinating, I think, for people to I'm excited for people to read this book and almost think of it as being so removed because, 1980s China is like, not the

Jiaming Andy Tang:

Yeah.

Jason Blitman:

but to really look at it and be like, Oh, wait, this feels a lot more familiar even realized and themes of relationships and love and, non romantic love and what these or, romantic, but not sexual. And it was just like what these things mean. And I think really shares a spectrum of these relationships that, that I don't think enough people think about.

Jiaming Andy Tang:

And it reminds me to I remember when I was in my MFA program, this was like, maybe 2021 or 2022 and I was workshopping a chapter of a novel, and then I think somebody asked me about okay, so these characters, these gay characters now in New York, why aren't they hooking up with other people? Like, why don't, like, why aren't they doing that? And it's it was, Like, I don't think this person said it out of malice, or but it was so strange for them to say it, because just me, growing up in America I didn't feel comfortable being openly gay not just in Alabama, but parts of New York. And there are different thresholds that these people cannot cross in the book. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

audioJasonBlitman11077481927:

This is your debut. What are you excited for? What are you looking forward to?

Jiaming Andy Tang:

My god, I'm, I don't know actually because it's so harrowing to be a debut novelist because for so long it's a private thing, like you're not sharing the thing that you're working on with other people, and now I am. And not only that, I'm sharing something that I've written about many years ago. And so I've, my relationship with the book has now evolved beyond the point where I remember many things about it. It's like a homecoming. I'm excited to revisit it. I'm excited to revisit it with other people who are visiting it as a first time as my guide. That's how I'm thinking about it. I'm excited to go to the UK. To go on a little mini tour. But, those are the things that really bring me joy.

Brett Benner:

You have two beautiful covers to

Jiaming Andy Tang:

my friend calls the American cover tastefully horny.

audioJasonBlitman11077481927:

Oh, it is tastefully horny. Absolutely. Do you have other upcoming books, debut authors that you want to shout out?

Jiaming Andy Tang:

my gosh. You guys just talked to Melissa. I'm so excited about Oye. I'm excited by Helen Phillips Hum coming out, I think, in August. And there's this book that I read when I was in the UK last year. And it's a neo western called The Borrowed Hills. I think it's actually out today at the time of recording in the UK, but it comes out in America in June. And it was one of those books where I came in expecting a very masculine, violent kind of narrative, and it is that in some ways. certain ways, but it's so sincere, it's so tender. It's a book about loneliness. It's really the best book that I read last year. And it's coming out in June in the States. It's called The Borrowed Hills. It's so good.

Jason Blitman:

cinema. Love is,

audioJasonBlitman11077481927:

you know, sort of a

Jason Blitman:

love story. How did you meet your partner? Tell us how you found love.

Jiaming Andy Tang:

this is so funny. My partner was like, are they going to ask about me? Like about everyone? I'm like, no, of course not. Like, why would they ask?

Brett Benner:

Sorry.

Jiaming Andy Tang:

And we met during the MFA program. We were both writers. I was a fiction writer and my partner's name is Josh. They go by they, them pronouns and they.

Brett Benner:

I

Jiaming Andy Tang:

Shout out to Josh, and they were a non fiction writer. And I don't know we, we just clicked. It's it's, I think it's the thing where they didn't have a car, so they went everywhere by bike, and I didn't know how to drive,

Brett Benner:

a drive,

Jiaming Andy Tang:

landlocked. It was the thing where it's like, when you're in an unfamiliar place, and you're both gay and you don't know how open you can be, like you just draw towards other people who share that experience. And the other thing is that they had just come back from Korea, they were teaching English in Korea on a Fulbright grant and they were experiencing culture shock and so was I in the sense that I was coming from a big city to a really small town. so we just bonded. One day we were trying to go to the grocery store and we were trying to go to one that like was new to us. That was like a little bit fancy. But like we, on Google Maps it said it was like 12 minutes away, but then we were on the side of a highway.

audioJasonBlitman11077481927:

Yeah.

Jiaming Andy Tang:

I was just like, what is going on?

audioJasonBlitman11077481927:

Yeah.

Brett Benner:

you realize I've always, I've sometimes done on Google Maps where it would be like four minutes and I'm like, it's taking a lot longer and realize that I'm still on the driving directions and not actually on the walking directions. I've done that.

audioJasonBlitman11077481927:

Andy, this is so fun. Congratulations.

Jiaming Andy Tang:

Thank you for having me, guys.

audioJasonBlitman11077481927:

for you.

Brett Benner:

truly fantastic book And it's really so self assured. And so it does not feel like what I would have expected debut to feel like, whatever that is. It's really fantastic. So

Jiaming Andy Tang:

Thank you. And It was so nice to meet you guys. It was so much fun.

and now we have Melissa Mogollon talking to us about, Oye

Brett Benner:

Good morning.

Melissa Mogollon:

Hi. Good morning.

Brett Benner:

almost.

Melissa Mogollon:

Good afternoon.

Jason Blitman:

I still can't get over that we're both 954 kids.

Melissa Mogollon:

Yes, and Santi Sanchez is also 954 kid, which I messaged you about. But then I also found out that Alexandra

Jason Blitman:

Yeah,

Melissa Mogollon:

Parkland! I was like, you guys, we need to do a study on Broward County.

Brett Benner:

Jason, I think you need to take this up. I think there needs to be a Florida book festival and focus it on all the

Jason Blitman:

Yeah, there's a Miami Book Festival, the Miami Book Fair. There should be like a specific,

Melissa Mogollon:

Yeah. We should just pop up somewhere. Yeah.

Brett Benner:

Yeah.

Jason Blitman:

I'll

Brett Benner:

panel handle.

Jason Blitman:

No,

Melissa Mogollon:

was like, DMing Alexandra, or I think she goes by Alex, I'm not sure, we're not friends, but she's very friendly with each

Jason Blitman:

she's lovely. We love

Melissa Mogollon:

She's amazing. And she was like, we should just do a reading somewhere in, in the kind of somewhere on the Sawgrass Express, so I was like, perfect. I love it.

Jason Blitman:

the Sawgrass Mall.

Melissa Mogollon:

thought. I thought. Yeah, at like the Rainforest Cafe, which Santhi actually posted a photo in front of on social media recently. That was like elite dining. I had to beg

Jason Blitman:

It was elite dining.

Melissa Mogollon:

And I was put in an etiquette class in elementary school, I think. And the final exam was we had to go and dine at Rainforest Cafe and use the right fork and order correctly and sit like a lady. And I'm like, Florida BS.

Jason Blitman:

That's so funny. Brett, have you ever been to a Rainforest Cafe? No.

Brett Benner:

no

Jason Blitman:

Are they only in Florida? Was that the only one?

Melissa Mogollon:

Oh, my God, I did not realize I was Florida core. I thought this was national.

Jason Blitman:

thought so too.

Brett Benner:

What's the thing besides the name? What do they do? Is there soundtracks of monkeys squawking overhead?

Melissa Mogollon:

Oh yes, you nailed it. And like a certain hour of the evening, there's the thunderstorm

Jason Blitman:

Yes, thunderstorm.

Melissa Mogollon:

all the animals start freaking out and it actually scares a lot of the children.

Jason Blitman:

And it like, there's lightning and thunder

Melissa Mogollon:

It's the best part. They have a really good molten cake, I think, unless I'm confusing. I mean, I know Chili's has one because that was also super Florida core. I grew up going to Chili's every week,

Jason Blitman:

Melissa, breaking news. Not only is it national, there's one in France. There's one in Malta. There's one in the UAE. There's one in Japan.

Brett Benner:

Oh, I bet the Japan one's good. They probably have real monkeys.

Jason Blitman:

It is world

Melissa Mogollon:

Worldwide, baby. You know how McDonald's in different countries and territories has always its different flair and stuff? Like I'm so curious what the Rainforest Cafe,

Jason Blitman:

we do a tour?

Brett Benner:

Oh my

Melissa Mogollon:

my God, I wish

Jason Blitman:

But also like the food was garbage, or it was like, not, it's not like good food.

Melissa Mogollon:

I never knew that as a child. I loved it.

Jason Blitman:

course not. It's about the experience right? Okay, so tell us about Oye. Have you come up with your elevator pitch

Brett Benner:

pitch.

Melissa Mogollon:

I like tried to do one right before this because I knew it was coming. And I just feel like I change it each time, but it's so today's elevator pitch. Yeah. Today's elevator pitch is I said, Oye, to me is about a young Colombian American girl growing up in South Florida who has to spend her senior year taking care of her grandmother, who is. Her favorite person, absolutely bonkers, and unfortunately terminally ill. So it's kind of Luciana's journey, the protagonist, to, self acceptance and love. Unexpectedly through taking care of her grandmother. But it's a comedy, so it's supposed to be very funny. Even though it does deal with the kind of heavier themes of maybe, generational trauma homophobia. And a lot of the isms that come with growing up a teenager in South Florida that might not fit the traditional narrative. There it is.

Brett Benner:

There's also, it's a very unique way you tell the story as well. Can you just tell a little bit about that?

Melissa Mogollon:

Yes. The book is essentially a compilation of phone calls over the course of one year between the protagonist Luciana and her older sister Mari, who is away at school, but you only get Luciana's side. So it's her side of the conversation, talking to her older sister. And she's giving her updates about everything, big and small, about what's going on, begging for help, begging for her to come home, begging for some perspective, for some context, so like, why is our family like this? And. How am I supposed to deal and become my full self? So yeah it's on the phone. Which my goal was at some point that almost fell to the background for people as they were reading. It became almost intuitive to the way this character would speak. And it, I tried writing this book in a lot of different ways. And I was just like, no one's going to deliver it like Luciana would. Talking. Because, even her own interior voice as first person she's probably a lot nicer and subdued in her own head than how, her rage is so much more striking and funny and just scathing when she's actually Attack on attack mode when she's verbally, you know coming at her sister so it wasn't like, I'm gonna do this and it's only this way. I really tried a bunch of different ways I took her off the phone. I had maddie talk. I had all these kinds of things and just No one did it like luciana. I was like, she's just I gotta let her talk. And I knew it wasn't gonna be You know probably for everybody. But you know for those who it was for I was hoping it would be a pretty fun Enriching experience.

Jason Blitman:

It's interesting to really only get a piece of the story. You could essentially write a companion book where it's the other, it's Mari's story she's not like leaving voicemails.

Melissa Mogollon:

No

Jason Blitman:

she's, it's literally, you are getting one side of a conversation. It's like sitting next to a stranger

Melissa Mogollon:

Yes.

Jason Blitman:

in a park and

Brett Benner:

Yeah.

Jason Blitman:

only their side. And you're right, at first, it was, jarring is not the right word, but it was like, you almost, you crave the other side, when there is an argument, you do wonder like, Oh God, what did her sister say that. So very unique. And I, for me, this reader's opinion is that it did in fact fall to the background and you just it was interesting to see Oh, what's the next phone call going to be? It's also great. Like when there is a structure. It's like a safe space for a reader. Yeah,

Melissa Mogollon:

and a cool effect of the structure, which is not, wasn't my intention, but as I was reading it more, I said, this is awesome is you are alone with her thoughts, the way she is experiencing her reality. And also reality doesn't even matter because what is how she's experiencing it, which is. the effect you get as she's responding. It's almost like whatever Maddie said does matter, of course. But at the end of the day, these are, this is how Luciana's experiencing that feeling. And that's how she's responding. And also what was I gonna say about her being, you said something about your craving. Oh yeah. Like you're craving another voice. I love that you said that. Cause that's a feeling that I think Luciana has. As well, she's craving someone to give her directions, perspective, help influence. And that's why she's calling her sister so much. So I like that you had a parallel experience.

Jason Blitman:

but also like anyone who, A, has a sibling, B, has had family drama, C, just needed to talk to another person for advice, like it's so relatable.

Melissa Mogollon:

Yeah, that was like my goal.

Jason Blitman:

The sequel is Oy Vey, and it's the Jewish friend.

Melissa Mogollon:

That is so amazing. Yeah. Nico can be Jewish. Her friend

Brett Benner:

Oh my god, Oy vey, that is hilarious.

Jason Blitman:

perspective, calling Luciana, being like, girl, what is

Melissa Mogollon:

What is going on? Yeah. It's a chill.

Jason Blitman:

Oy Vey, come to my bar mitzvah.

Melissa Mogollon:

Yes. Yes. Yeah. Oye, I don't know if we got, if we talked about this, but Oye means a lot of things, but one of its variations in Spanish is listen up, like Oye, so that's why the title is

Jason Blitman:

it's not a the translation is not the same.

Melissa Mogollon:

No. But it could be used like Oive, like Oye, come on.

Jason Blitman:

do you have A Hurricane Wilma story?

Melissa Mogollon:

Hurricane Wilma. I was in fourth or fifth grade. I do remember that being

Jason Blitman:

I was about to graduate high school.

Melissa Mogollon:

weeks off of school. This is amazing. But no, no major damage with that one.

Jason Blitman:

We, it was just so funny because you talk about using hurricane evacuation as vacation. And I was like, that is so real. I literally during hurricane Wilma, our power was out for two weeks. Our school power was out for two weeks. Most importantly,

Melissa Mogollon:

That's why we were out. yeah.

Jason Blitman:

And we my parents stayed home, and me and my two sisters packed up and went with our neighbors to Disney World for a week.

Melissa Mogollon:

No, you didn't. That's

Jason Blitman:

Oh my God. vacation. It was so bizarre, and we, it was the first time we ever bought season passes. because it was cheaper to buy, you like bought season passes and then in turn you got a discount on the hotels and you got a discount on food and you could go whenever you wanted for They had no blackout. They probably had no blackout days No.

Melissa Mogollon:

so

Jason Blitman:

Because the rest of the city, the rest of the state was blacked out literally. Yeah.

Melissa Mogollon:

Yeah, no, but for Florida kids, it was like, we didn't know any better. It was the time off. And anytime I would be like, I love hurricane fire, I'd be like, don't say that. People die. Yeah.

Jason Blitman:

right and also there are some memories of just you put up the shutters, and it's dark, and it's cozy, which is such a weird

Melissa Mogollon:

It's so messed up. It's so messed up. Yeah.

Jason Blitman:

And I was the person in, when I was living in New York, and a hurricane would come, I ran around the building of my office being like, get your water bottles, do this, do that,

Melissa Mogollon:

Fill up your bathtubs. It, we were, I think it might've been Wilma too. Like we were like canoeing in the street. It was a blast. It was. So unsafe because you're not supposed to be, in the floodwater, but it, for kids, it was like two weeks off school. Yeah. And there was a lot of alligators too.

Jason Blitman:

yeah, I know. Literally, okay. Something else I have to talk to you about, especially because this is reading. Can you tell us when your obsession with Sandra Bullock started?

Melissa Mogollon:

Sandra Bullock is totally Lusanna's obsession. I wanted to give her an obsession. Mine is Rihanna. That is just, like

Jason Blitman:

okay.

Melissa Mogollon:

Everyone knows it. She's my everything. I love her and I wanted to give her someone like that to just obsess over and then I was thinking like who could this doctor potentially resemble to her and I was thinking of who's iconic maybe it wouldn't be typically be like everyone's like gay. I really gay girl's obsession. And I just thought I loved how like severe Sandra Bullock can be sometimes in her roles. And I thought that Luciana would probably be like very responsive to that and love it. I do love Sandy. I think she's gorgeous. I love her. So no, that was all I thought she could have her. So I don't have an obsession center, but I did. I was obsessed with Luciana. Calling her Dr. Sandra Bullock.

Jason Blitman:

So was I.

Melissa Mogollon:

Gays, we just have The complete, utter power To just make anything into miss anything into being a joker Anything about beauty, I think Awe is so gay coded to me in the book Like, she's a little twink To be like, Awe. And she, there's so much about her That I love that I'm like, You're in the community.

Jason Blitman:

I can't remember if I said this to you on Instagram or if I just have been thinking about it since the moment we became friends on Instagram. I am obsessed with your engagement photos.

Melissa Mogollon:

Aww, thank you.

Jason Blitman:

Gorge. So gorge. How dare the

Melissa Mogollon:

Styled by me, designed by me, everything by me. Those photos. So we got engaged that day. We had a picnic. We, so I just moved to Rhode Island in August. We used to live in Glendale and it's outside LA. And which we talked about, I think. So we had this park that we loved and I knew we wanted to do like a picnic and have a few little surprises for each other. Because we had talked about getting engaged for a long time. It was not a surprise. We like, I got to design my ring. She got to design hers and then we just paid for each other's. So we did a picnic where we kind of like,

Jason Blitman:

Is more expensive.

Melissa Mogollon:

I should know this. I feel like it was hers by 500. No, but she loves to remind everybody of that. So you're right on, you're right on the nail there. Or maybe it was mine and she complained about it. I can't remember. But she's obviously the one that You know, thinks about these things money. I'm like this one. So we had a picnic and then an hour after the picnic, we had the photographer come to document the moment and we walked around the park and we took photos. But we did get our hair and makeup done that morning, which is part of the fun and getting pampered. And then I picked out our outfits and then went to Trader Joe's that morning, got like all the flowers and the snacks to make the picnic be cute. And then yeah, I just got like champagne drunk in the park and took photos. It was really fun.

Jason Blitman:

So

Brett Benner:

I love that so much.

Jason Blitman:

know. Brett, you have to look at those pictures.

Brett Benner:

you had books that you had that you wanted to shout out

Jason Blitman:

Yes. Shout out your books that are upcoming that you're excited about.

Melissa Mogollon:

So this one is there is a Rio Grande in heaven by Ruben Reyes, Jr. I don't know if you guys have seen it. This cover to me is

Brett Benner:

that's it. Beautiful.

Melissa Mogollon:

So it's short stories about I believe Central America. I think Ruben is from Central America. But I do think like short stories, we don't, I'm obsessed with short stories. I love them so much. So it was really excited to see this coming out. I, it comes out in 2024. Obviously you guys know about cinema love already. Just stunning. So

Jason Blitman:

You're allowed to shout it out.

Melissa Mogollon:

Okay. No, I am. This is me shouting it out. And then this is brought up, see, by Christina

Brett Benner:

yes. She was on our first episode of this of Up and Coming Upcoming. love

Melissa Mogollon:

She's, I adore her. She's an amazing human. I knew her at school. Ruben also went to school, but he was a few years after me, but I knew of him through classmates. And then victim, which came out

Brett Benner:

yes.

Melissa Mogollon:

is it April? Oh no, we're in April.

Brett Benner:

in March. Yeah.

Melissa Mogollon:

March. By Andrew Boreha, and he's also an amazing writer and person. He lives in Miami, so we've been able to connect down there, but he's from New York originally.

Jason Blitman:

Oh, how funny. I know, we need to figure out, like, a Florida contingent,

Brett Benner:

you have to,

Melissa Mogollon:

We do. We do. And I'm like trying to connect as many Florida writers with Mitchell Kaplan from Books and Books as much as possible because he's amazing and a great champion and I know he would love to know as many new Florida voices. Oh

Jason Blitman:

Melissa, I'm obsessed with you.

Brett Benner:

You're

Melissa Mogollon:

know, I want to keep talking. Aww.

Brett Benner:

say you're adorable just because you look like you're 16. But you are so cute. I really wish I could, I want to hug you. You're

Melissa Mogollon:

I want to hug you too

Brett Benner:

I really, I'm sitting here thinking to myself, I would love if you were my teacher because your kids must just so identify with you. They must just look at you and be like, oh my god god, you're just you're, I'm so excited for you. For the book, for all

Jason Blitman:

I was first attracted to Oye because of the cover. And hello, freaking gorgeous. Do you know who designed it?

Melissa Mogollon:

Yes Alan Barry Reese. He's an Argentinian designer.

Jason Blitman:

Cool. I know. I love to shout out book cover designers when we

Melissa Mogollon:

He's on, he's tagged in my stuff on my Instagram. So if people want to check his stuff out,

Brett Benner:

this was so delightful.

Jason Blitman:

want to go.

Melissa Mogollon:

I know. I don't want to go either.

Jason Blitman:

Congrats

Melissa Mogollon:

My students are like,

Brett Benner:

Yeah, congrats. Yeah,

Jason Blitman:

That's, oh my God, you have, are you going to teach right now? What are you teaching?

Melissa Mogollon:

Yeah. No, I'm not. Yeah. No. Today I'm just going to go be an admin. I have to plan. We have our big, it's called day of engagement coming. I have prom. I plan prom is next week. So that's. It's

Brett Benner:

Oh,

Jason Blitman:

Congrats. Oh my god.

Melissa Mogollon:

you.

Brett Benner:

Tis the season.

Jason Blitman:

So exciting.

Melissa Mogollon:

Okay.

Brett Benner:

Have a great rest of your

Melissa Mogollon:

You too. Bye guys.

Jason Blitman:

For a little bit of clarity, and I think everybody figured this out, 954 is the area code of the county in which we grew up in. So that's just like a little bit of context. But our listeners are smart, so you've figured that out already. And now let's go on over to Yael talking to us about her book, The Safekeep.

Brett Benner:

We're thrilled that you're here.

Yael van der Wouden:

am so excited to be here. So excited to talk to you. I love your podcast so much. So this was a real joy.

Jason Blitman:

you're very sweet. Thank you.

Brett Benner:

We loved you. We loved your book. I was at my son's school in Ohio last week and I was flying home. So I read it on the flight, like one failed swoop.

Yael van der Wouden:

Thank you so much. That's good. I keep on thinking, I have had several people tell me that they read it on airplanes. I'm just like, I'm so thrilled to be like an airplane book that's what it works like that. Because that means that you just sit down and you want to get to the ending. And also, what a great way to not. You have to fully be present for a flight. I say somebody who is very much afraid of flying.

Brett Benner:

especially on Spirit Airlines.

Yael van der Wouden:

Yeah. Yeah.

Jason Blitman:

Brett, you should not be flying Spirit Airlines. Yeah, that probably means nothing to you.

Brett Benner:

No, but there's, it's like budget.

Yael van der Wouden:

That's what I assumed. I'm, I assumed you're, I would translate it to easy jet in my

Brett Benner:

Yes, that's

Jason Blitman:

You basically have to pay for a seatbelt. Like it's, you pay for

Brett Benner:

that's exactly right. And you are on like nothing more than like a bolted folding chair.

Jason Blitman:

I know that there is some content of you already talking a little bit about the book online, but for our listeners, can you give us your elevator pitch for the book?

Yael van der Wouden:

Absolutely, we'd love to. The book is about Isabel. And Isabel lives in her mother's old home in the Netherlands it's 1961, and this house that Isabel lives in is her only pride and joy in life. She has nothing else going on, she has no, she doesn't have a job, she doesn't have hobbies, God forbid hobbies, she doesn't have lovers, no friends. It's just this house and her desire to keep it just the way that it's always been. Everything needs to be neat and in order and in place. And this is her life, until one day her brother Louis shows up with his new girlfriend, Eva. And Louis says, listen, I have to go on a business trip so Ava must stay here. And Isabel says, absolutely not. And Louis says that's too bad for you because in fact, the house is on my name. So I get to make the decisions here. And Ava is everything that Isabel is not, right? Where Isabel is buttoned up and short of temper and very rigid in her ways. Ava is loud. She laughs a lot. She stays up late. She she wakes up late and she touches everything. And then things start to disappear around the house. It spirals out of control in many different directions that I hope will surprise the readers.

Jason Blitman:

The way that I have been telling people about the book, as I've just texted friends being like, you need to read this because it's sapphic, call me by your name.

Brett Benner:

Yeah. I said, yes. I said, you know what

Yael van der Wouden:

or the movie.

Jason Blitman:

The book.

Yael van der Wouden:

Okay. Okay.

Brett Benner:

do. I said, you do for pears what Andre Assam did for peaches.

Yael van der Wouden:

Thank you. I'll take that as a compliment and other people can take it however they want because I know people have very complicated feelings about that page. That I had a friend who called it Queer Rebecca, and that was like that was one that I was like, oh, yes. And then somebody else called it, if a Portrait of a Lady on Fire was directed by Hitchcock. And when that one came along, I was like, that's the one I want. That's, that's what I, that's what I was trying to do, I think.

Jason Blitman:

To be fair, I've never seen that movie, and maybe if I had, I would have felt that way. But I have read Call Me By Your Name, so for me, this was sapphic Call Me By Your

Yael van der Wouden:

All of these together, I think it's creating a, I think it's creating an atmosphere. I think that people are expecting, okay, gay, but also, for some reason, there's the terror of Rebecca, there's the terror of Hitchcock. Oh, the coin by your name, for some people, the peach was a little bit terrifying. But that's for them to figure out.

Jason Blitman:

For me, it's a matter of these two people that are not supposed to bond in any sort of way, and then find themselves in a position where, They do.

Yael van der Wouden:

Yes. And it's, the summer is a, is the third character, and the house is a, is another character, which

Brett Benner:

Probably 25 years ago, there was this play in New York. with Sigourney Weaver, and it was called Sex and Longing. All I remember, is Sigourney Weaver would sit on stage and she kept saying, sex and longing, I'm so full of sex and longing. and I kept thinking about it weirdly when I was reading this book,

Jason Blitman:

So funny.

Yael van der Wouden:

exactly. Sex and Longing. Yeah. That's where the book came from. Obviously written during the pandemic to know a surprise.

Jason Blitman:

Totally changing gears, and I'm sure this is going to come up in every interview that you do, but talk about it more because we're gays reading. I'm obsessed that you teach erotic writing.

Yael van der Wouden:

Listen, I wish people would ask about this more. By the way, as you're saying this, a massive rainbow has just appeared across the horizon just

Jason Blitman:

Yes. meant to be. We sent that your way.

Yael van der Wouden:

Thank you. It's very pretty.

Jason Blitman:

Wait, so tell me more. How did teaching erotic writing come to be? How did you get into erotic writing? And I gotta say the erotic writing that's in the book was

Brett Benner:

Oh my god. Oh my

Jason Blitman:

I couldn't believe how, yeah.

Brett Benner:

I said the same thing! I know, Jason, I was the same way. I was like, what is happening? I'm like, on this plane, I? was like, I am so turned on right now. In the ways that some straight up gay erotica doesn't I'm

Jason Blitman:

I literally was like, am I bisexual? I was like, I totally understand the straight male.

Yael van der Wouden:

compliment. The biggest compliment. I think it comes down to what erotic writing is about, which is not about the people or the actions or. Even the movements, right? The way that people move together. It's about, what did you just say, Brett? Longing and desire,

Brett Benner:

longing. Sex and longing.

Yael van der Wouden:

It's about the way that you create tension, specifically also leading up to the sexual encounter, let's call it. Because before they, the two characters end up having sex, you have. I don't know how many hundreds of pages of them just staring at each other, frustrated across the room, and the build up towards it also goes very gradually, and then you also have to push and pull, right? At one moment you think after they first kissed, you think that, That's going to be the moment, but that's not going, that's not the moment, right? Something happens in between, a brother shows up. And so the tension builds and builds. And so when the time comes, when they actually find each other, that sex is doing something for them internally, but also it's doing something for the plot. It's doing something for the storytelling. And through the sex, also we find out, Things about the character, so we are fully emotionally involved we are incredibly tense because the buildup has been for us as readers also very high, and so we get to experience the relief of the plot, the relief of the tension, and through that also arousal, so I think it, it really the way to create erotica and the way to create arousal as well has so little to do with the people, like The gender or the or the attraction of the characters on the page and more the way that you set it all up and the way that you've pushed them together and the way that you've played with the reader as well. I think that's a big part that a lot of people don't want to think about too much, but I do think that it's one of the most important things.

Jason Blitman:

There's also, word choice, I think when people think of like erotica or if you're gonna write a quote unquote sex scene, there are specific words that come to mind, like thrust, and whatever and just, and there are words that are like unsexy or just like typical. And I think if you're, if they're written in a, in a more poetic way that like is on, you're on that journey. There's also a different experience there too.

Yael van der Wouden:

Yeah, it's very it's, for me, it's really about the texture. I hope I don't sound like a. Like a douche, but it's about the texture of the language in a moment like that,

Jason Blitman:

that was a more articulate way of saying what I said.

Yael van der Wouden:

No, that's why I was like, I hope texture doesn't sound very pretentious. But what I mean by that is that the what you, what also creates tension in the moment itself, in the moment of the, like of the sex that the characters are having is that you want to create for the reader you want to create an effect where you're both a voyeur a comfortable voyeur and an uncomfortable voyeur. And so with a comfortable voyeur I mean you use words that are slightly more poetic that are obscuring because then it gives this effect of a curtain wafting over a window and that you can't quite see what is happening, right? If you describe for example, an elbow or a fingertip, then we're focusing in, like we're zooming in on small little details. And if you describe abstract language, we are not, we don't quite see the scene. And then if you contrast that with a really harsh word like fucking or cunt or something like that, then you create texture because you have the soft and the obscure and suddenly you're fully in it and that's what that creates slight discomfort as well and you as of a year and that tension between comfort and discomfort I think that's where erotica exists.

Jason Blitman:

Okay, but how did you get into this?

Yael van der Wouden:

Both more embarrassing and boring than I hope that the answer I wish I could give you some I was scouted one day because I was on the streets declaring, the virtues of ero. But the truth is that I was just a freaky little kid who read a lot of I was always looking for sex and stories.

Brett Benner:

A lot of nice men.

Yael van der Wouden:

That took me a lot. I was a full adult when I read her, but God, J. M. Owl. I forget the name of that series. But she wrote this this story about a prehistoric people and their trials and tribulations. Isn't I, the, oh God, I forget the name of the series, but there's a lot of sex in it. And I remember a friend at school gave me, especially the second book, which was called Something with Horses, The Valley of the Horses. And yeah, there's it's just 80 percent sex, and it was the secret, I think, that young girls passed around. Because the book really had this Outwardly appearance of just being, a very a tame historical novel and it really wasn't very problematic as well. Sort of in looking back at the entire series, which went in all kinds of different directions. But yeah, after that one, I just I kept on reading books and kept on looking for. That moment of sex. And I think over the years what happened is I started reading this when I was, I think, 13 or so, and I was myself. So I was like, so excited to have sex myself. But something happened, I think in that obsession is that also. Through being so focused on it and through looking forward to it and creating all these fantasy about what it might be like, I also became terrified. Rather than, as I grew older, rather than actually experimenting with people I just completely disappeared into these stories. And eventually, as I got older and I went and studied and met people, everything changed. and end up fine. But it took me a very long time to, to get there, to really tear down that wall of anxiety, all those expectations that I built up for myself. But in that process, I have spent just a lot of time with novels, with stories and also with other people's stories. Because, When, what happened is that I end up just having all these random facts about sex. And so a lot of friends that would end up,

Jason Blitman:

you've become an expert on it.

Yael van der Wouden:

I became a little expert, a little baby expert. And I would give my friends this, all these pieces of advice without ever having had sex myself. And

Jason Blitman:

Oh, that's so funny. When you originally were seeking it out, was it a matter of stumbling upon it and it being titillating and it excited you and so you wanted to find more? Was it a matter of like self discovery and trying to learn more about yourself through reading some of this content?

Yael van der Wouden:

think, I think it's both. So I think The biggest part of it is that it's a way, it's like going on a roller coaster, right? You get to experience the thrill of it without actually, you're not actually in freefall. You are safe. And when you read sex in a book, you get to experience the danger of vulnerability and the danger of coming that close to a person. I say danger, sometimes it's actually dangerous. Sometimes it's emotionally dangerous. Sometimes it's just scary without being dangerous. And on the page you can do all of that without actually, it's, you can put the book away whenever you want to, you can close it. You don't have to go through it. And also at the end of the day you live vicariously through a character, right? You are the voyeur.

Brett Benner:

It's an exquisite voyeurism.

Yael van der Wouden:

yeah, yes, it is. I was looking for a safe way to experiment and a safe way to to lean into sexuality as a young girl. And I think especially for young girls, there's not a lot of spaces where we can. experiment with our sexuality in a way that is socially acceptable. So in my secret little books, I could do that.

Jason Blitman:

Yeah, Al, do you have other books that are coming out this year that you're excited about that you want to shout out?

Yael van der Wouden:

Oh my gosh, yes. So there's this book coming out in October called Feast While You Can. It's lesbian horror and it's, I know, it's written by by Anjuli Datta and Michaela Clements, and they write together, they're a writing duo, and I've had the massive pleasure of already reading an early draft and it is It is terrifying and it is so sexy. If you want to read if speaking of good erotica, that book just completely blows so much out of the water,

Brett Benner:

I like the intake of breath. That was, I wish the viewers,

Jason Blitman:

you're sweating.

Brett Benner:

you are, you were like, Oh, I think the hand, I think you touched your mouth even that was like all of it.

Yael van der Wouden:

this is radio. We should not be able to

Brett Benner:

That's exactly right. We're just describing.

Yael van der Wouden:

Thank you. No, it's fantastic. It is also just beautifully written, and I don't want to say too much about it but I think that, I think it's going to be a great contribution to to queer literature in general. So

Brett Benner:

That's awesome.

Jason Blitman:

Thank you for joining us. We're so excited to share your book with everyone.

Brett Benner:

It's so great. It really, it's such a fantastic book.

Yael van der Wouden:

Thank you so much.

Jason Blitman:

And I hope the rest of launch goes well in the UK and then here.

Yael van der Wouden:

you, yes.

Jason Blitman:

Yeah. We'll talk to you soon. Brett, what a great group of authors.

Brett Benner:

Amazing. I know, and these books are fantastic.

Jason Blitman:

I hope everyone has a great day. reading week. And next week we are, we're rounding out our

Brett Benner:

final week of

Jason Blitman:

believe it. April April's zooming by. This year is just January was endless, and now it's a runaway train. So, Here we go. Um, Okay, bye!