Fresh Voices: Katie Heaney

Welcome to Fresh Voices! In this new series, we are excited to share with you authors whose books capture a unique aspect of the human experience. Enjoy this Q&A with Katie Heaney, author of Girl Crushed!

June is Pride month, and we’re so happy to have Girl, Crushed as our monthly feature. What does Pride month mean to you?

Pride looks a lot different this year, and I think it’s more important than ever that, as much (or more) than we celebrate, we treat Pride month as a time to give our time and resources to the members of our community who need it most. Any money I have to spare this June is going to the Trevor Project and other nonprofits that work with trans and queer young people of color, who are already at-risk, and even more so now. The official Pride can be super corporate, and so for me it’s also a good time to gather with my actual queer community rather than the companies that want to sell rainbow merch for a few weeks.

What inspired you to write Girl, Crushed?

After coming out in my late twenties, I felt a certain amount of grief for the queer adolescence I didn’t get to have. This book was a good way to let myself have some of those vicarious experiences — and it was also a way to have fun imagining my own version of my wife’s youth. She came out at 14, in 2002, and I am so continually impressed by the bravery in that. I wanted to see a YA novel where the queer protagonists are already out and comfortable with their sexuality, so I wrote it!

What was the most difficult part about writing this story? What part was the easiest?

I think the hardest part for me was putting myself in the shoes of a main character unlike me. Quinn and I may both be anxious, but she’s confident and self-possessed in a way I just wasn’t at 17. The easiest part was the feelings. I’m 33 now, but I still have such ready access to those swoony teenage feelings about love. Maybe that never really goes away.

What character do you identify with the most and why?

I’m probably most like Jamie — kind of a control freak, type A, snarky.

If you could put any character from another book into this story, who would it be and why?

This question makes me laugh because I am, as I mentioned, a control freak, so the idea of inserting someone I didn’t put there already makes me kind of antsy. It’s already set the way I want it! But if I had to, my first thought is Jo March. I can see her definitely fitting in with these girls.

What do you want teens today to take away from this story?

I want them to know that it’s okay to figure themselves out on their own timeline, and also that they’ll never really be done figuring themselves out. I also think an important theme here is accepting that there are alternate futures for all of us, and that the one you’ve been counting on isn’t necessarily superior just because it’s the one you’ve always had in mind, or been told is right for you.

Katie Heaney

Katie Heaney is a freelance writer and was most recently a senior editor at BuzzFeed. Her writing has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Vulture, The Hairpin, The Awl, and Pacific Standard, among other places. She is the author of a memoir, Never Have I Ever, and the novel, Dear Emma. She lives in Brooklyn.

Random House Teachers and Librarians