Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Interview with Lev A.C. Rosen for Camp


by Lev A.C. Rosen
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 26th 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT, Queer
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From the author of the acclaimed Jack of Hearts (and other parts) comes a sweet and sharp screwball comedy that critiques the culture of toxic masculinity within the queer community.

Sixteen-year-old Randy Kapplehoff loves spending the summer at Camp Outland, a camp for queer teens. It's where he met his best friends. It's where he takes to the stage in the big musical. And it's where he fell for Hudson Aaronson-Lim - who's only into straight-acting guys and barely knows not-at-all-straight-acting Randy even exists.

This year, though, it's going to be different. Randy has reinvented himself as 'Del' - buff, masculine, and on the market. Even if it means giving up show tunes, nail polish, and his unicorn bedsheets, he's determined to get Hudson to fall for him.

But as he and Hudson grow closer, Randy has to ask himself how much is he willing to change for love. And is it really love anyway, if Hudson doesn't know who he truly is?

Can you briefly describe CAMP and its characters?

Sure! Camp is about sixteen-year-old Randy Kapplehoff, who, for the past 4 summers, has attended Camp Outland, an LGBTQIA+ summer camp… and for all four of those summers has had a wild crush on Hudson Aaronson-Lim, who barely knows Randy exists. Randy is a nail-polish wearing, unicorn loving femme theatre kid, and Hudson a butch jock who every summer finds another butch jock to have a brief relationship with. Randy is determined to win Hudson’s heart, though, so this summer, he returns as butch jock ‘Del’ – the ultimate bit of acting. He’s determined not just to be a fling, but to make Hudson fall in love with him. He’s helped out in his plan by his two best friends, George, another actor who is sad Randy can’t be in the show this year, and Ashleigh, a techie who thinks this is probably all a terrible idea. There are a lot of other characters, including drag queen counsellors, exhausted camp directors, and a slew of campers, all queer in various ways. 

Who would you say is your favourite character from the story and why?

Obviously, Randy is the point of view character and I love him to death, but I think my favourite outside Randy is Mark, the theatre counsellor, who is also one of the counsellors who oversees the cabin Randy and his friends stay in. Mark is neurotic, overly invested in his campers, and needs to call his shrink regularly. He doesn’t understand all of the plan, but what he sees is Randy changing himself for a guy, and he hates that – he hates the butch thing, the masc4masc thing, and he expresses it… in almost colourful language, before stopping himself. 

How did the story occur to you? Did you find inspiration anywhere?

So the original inspiration comes from the old Doris Day/Rock Hudson 60s sex comedies. I love a screwball rom-com, and I really wanted to write something in that vein, but make it queer, and contemporary and YA. Those old movies are about the “battle of the sexes” which doesn’t really apply to an m/m relationship. So I made it battle of the butch/femme. People playing at the sort of person they think a butch wants, or a femme wants, but also kind of falling in love with them while pretending to be someone else! It’s delightful and screwball and sexy. 

If you could choose one song to describe your book, which one would it be?

Well, over the course of the book, the theatre kids are putting on Bye Bye Birdie, which I chose because it’s 60s and deals with ideas of gender and relationships. There’s one scene where Randy is trying to re-do his wardrobe to be appropriately “masc” and he’s putting on a fashion show for his fellow campers. Mark turns on “How Lovely to Be a Woman,” which is all about the various 60s stereotypes of femininity, and how they’re performative more than intrinsic. So I think that would be the one I’d like… although if it existed, the truly ideal version would be Troye Sivan singing it or something. 

What drink and place do you think will go with your book to have a perfect book date?

Camp food is, in my experience, never good. And I made it a point to emphasize that. But I think in an ideal world, Camp is to be read outside, in nature, like a summer camp, and it’s a burger, fries and strawberry milkshake kind of book. These days, outside is harder, but I think reading Camp will remind us all of the summer we seem to be losing. At least I hope it will. 

Can you recommend your readers any other books in case they are left hungry for more once they finish CAMP?

This is an excellent question, and I have two answers, depending on how you want to pair it. Camp is a sweet and sexy summer camp romance, and if you’re looking for more of that, then Running with Lions, by Julian Winters is an ideal partner. It’s a summer soccer camp queer romance, and like Camp, it deals with trying to be everything to all people, and found families and acceptance. But if after Camp you want something that contrasts it more, I’d suggest Surrender Your Sons, by Adam Sass, which is about a queer summer camp of a much darker nature, but which has a lot of similar themes to Camp – expectations, performance, the way queer love needs to be memorialized, and the way internalized homophobia can make us into bullies. I think Running with Lions and Camp is like a dessert pairing, but Surrender your Sons and Camp is more of a wine pairing. So really, the best thing to do is read all three. 

What would you say is the most difficult part of writing a book?

It really varies book to book. I always say every book writes itself differently, so you can’t expect to go in to each book with the expectation it’ll be like last time. Sometimes it’s about getting a handle on the character, sometimes the place, sometimes one scene is going to make you want to slam your head into a wall over and over, but sometimes its technical plot timing stuff. The difficult part shifts every time. 

What’s next for you?

Nothing I can talk about publicly at the time of writing this, but stay tuned…

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Lev Rosen is the author of books for all ages. Two for adults: All Men of Genius (Amazon Best of the Month, Audie Award Finalist) and Depth (Amazon Best of the Year, Shamus Award Finalist, Kirkus Best Science Fiction for April). Two middle-grade books: Woundabout (illustrated by his brother, Ellis Rosen), and The Memory Wall. His first Young Adult Novel, Jack of Hearts (and other parts) was an American Library Association Rainbow List Top 10 of 2018. His books have been sold around the world and translated into different languages as well as being featured on many best of the year lists, and nominated for awards. 

Lev is originally from lower Manhattan and now lives in even lower Manhattan, right at the edge, with his husband and very small cat. You can find him online at and @LevACRosen

1 comment:

  1. This book is already on my TBR and I can't wait to read it.