Jason June is a genderqueer writer who loves to create picture books that mix the flamboyantly wacky with the slightly dark, and young adult contemporary rom-coms full of love and lust and hijinks.
Jason June’s work includes the pun-filled picture book, Whobert Whover, Owl Detective; queer-inclusive Valentine’s story, Porcupine Cupid; whimsical Scholastic chapter book series, Mermicorn Island; and his upcoming gay YA rom-com, Jay’s Gay Agenda.
We chatted with Jason June about his inspiration and how he found the gift for writing he shares with young people and how he hopes his work can impact a whole new generation of readers.
How did you get started as a writer?
I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember. When I was really little, I would copy down words to my favorite movies like Labyrinth starring David Bowie, and it was there that I really fell in love with the ability to create whole other worlds through words. But it wasn’t until I entered my twenties and worked at a literary agency that I saw firsthand authors working toward their dream of becoming published, and that gave me the boost I needed to pursue writing as a career.
What drew you to writing for young people?
I think young people are still in the mindset to believe that magic (literally or figuratively) exists in the world. When we grow up, we get so bogged down in work and bills and the nitty gritty details of life that I think we lose that sense of wonder.
So, I like to write for the youngest generations of readers because it gives me more space to discuss that magic exists, not just in fantasy lands, but in the connections we make with people around us in the real world.
How would you describe your style of writing?
I’m really dialogue forward in all of my writing. We can learn so much about people from what they say or don’t say, so I like to really dive into a character’s voice to pull out their personality quirks and beliefs about the world. Through it all, no matter what character is the star of the book, I think I have a Jason June trifecta of humor, heart, and queerness.
My first instinct is to make people laugh, but I really want to do that while exploring the magic that can be formed by connecting to other humans through their hearts (something I think is extra important now due to all the time we’ve had to stay apart in the pandemic), and I want to center queer voices and themes since we’ve been kept out of the main character role for so long.
Who inspires you?
I am really inspired by queer kids today who need to see characters like them in books, who need to see different gender expressions, who need to see love of all kinds. When I was a kid, options for stories with gay characters, with any type of queer character, were few and far between. That leaves a lasting effect when you never see yourself or a character you can relate to in media.
I’m so happy we’re entering a new age of publishing where queer stories and voices are celebrated, and I’m incredibly honored that I get to play a part in making LGBTQIA+ books.
What are you hoping to achieve with your work?
First and foremost, I want my work to be an escape for my readers. I hope they laugh while they’re there and have a minute to just stop thinking about their worries and anxieties and can recharge for a bit. This year has really shown us the crap the universe can throw our way, so if my books can help you tune that out for a second, my work here is done.
If they were to make films out of your books, who would you cast to play the main characters? Who would you want to direct them?
I’m not sure how Hollywood execs feel about this, but I always say it would just be so fabulous if Jay’s Gay Agenda was cast with queer actors and had a queer director at the start of their career. The book is all about a gay teen being introduced to the queer community for the first time, so I think it would be so fitting if the actors were getting introduced to the world too.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
It’s actually advice not given to me but that I read in a Marie Claire interview with the writer, producer, and actress Natasha Rothwell when she was asked this same question. She mentioned hearing the quote “Be prolific, not perfect” and when I read that I had this resounding bell of clarity clanging in my mind. I want to write all sorts of stories, and I’ll never be able to write everything I hope to if I become too obsessed with all the tiny things in what I’m currently working on. Of course, I want to make all my books as good as they can be, but I don’t want to become so wrapped up in perfection that I lose sight of my dreams.
You can find Jason June’s books on Amazon or wherever you get your books. Find Jason June on socials @heyjasonjune or on his website at heyjasonjune.com.