Peoria author behind 'Rabbit in Red' releases new LGBTQ young adult novel
The Peoria author behind the horror-inflected Rabbit in Red trilogy is taking a very different direction with his new book, Singlets and Secrets.
Joe Chianakas said Rabbit in Red was an ode to his love for pop culture, but his new series touches upon a topic that's a lot more personally meaningful to him.
"I've always had a particular passion for celebrating, promoting the LGBTQ community. And I didn't get a chance to do that so much with Rabbit in Red. And it's probably my biggest regret in writing and publishing," he said. "Not that I don't like the story by any means, but that I am a queer man, and I should use my platform when appropriate to celebrate and promote."
The basic premise of Chianakas' new young adult novel focuses on 14-year-old Aiden Rothe, a gay teen who falls for his wrestling team captain. He's bullied off of the team because of his sexuality.
Eventually, Rothe finds an ally in a teacher who helps him start a new martial arts club. But the wrestling team catches wind of it.
"So we have this really cool challenge, the wrestlers versus these outside karate kids, and a huge exhibition match and our main event. It's going to be Aiden versus the wrestling captain that he fell in love with. And how do you fight your your first love? And that sets up the conflict and the drama of the story," Chianakas said. "It is a roller coaster of twists and turns. But ultimately, it's a lot of fun."
Chianakas said most people can empathize with feeling like an outsider and dealing with teen drama during their high school years. He said his book adds the challenge of teens also figuring out their identity as part of the LGBTQ community.
"Sure, there are pockets of the world where things are very inclusive, and kind, and wonderful. But that's not everywhere. And I just want people to know that it's still very difficult for teens to come out, to be able to express themselves and feel safe about it, too," he said.
Chianakas said he hopes his book is a conversation starter, and he said it's not only for LGBTQ kids, but other teens and parents, too.
"I think in our community, let people see you reading books like this. Let them see the cover. When they asked you what's that about, you can say, 'Oh, this is about a gay teenager overcoming bullying,'" he said. "Start those conversations with your family and your friends, because you never know what someone is thinking or feeling or how they want to express themselves to you."
Singlets and Secrets was released Tuesday. It's available through Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and other booksellers. It's the first installment of a four-book series.
A book signing event is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 16 at Zeek's Comics and Games in Washington.