I’ve been lucky enough to feature Phil on the blog to ask him a few questions. It’s been a pleasure getting to know him more and hearing more about his ambitions for The Gravity of Us.
The coycaterpillar reads presents Phil Stamper.
Phil Stamper grew up in a rural village near Dayton, Ohio. While it could be seen as a boring lifestyle to some, he kept himself entertained through playing the piano and writing stories that stretched his imagination. He has a B.A. in Music from the University of Dayton and an M.A. in Publishing with Creative Writing from Kingston University. And, unsurprisingly, a lot of student debt.When he first left his home state, he landed in Washington, DC with no job prospects, $800 in graduation money, and the promise of a walk-in closet to live in. (He’s a Gryffindor, if that wasn’t clear.) Not long after—and he’s not totally sure how—he was jumping headfirst into a career in non-profit PR and sleeping in a real bed. He loved writing for a living, even if hewas writing press releases and news stories… and hundreds of emails to annoyed journalists. But after a while, the dry writing started to get to him, so he thought he’d finally work on that book he always wanted to write…Years later, with a new degree and two new cities under his belt, he works in publishing development for a major book publisher in New York City. He lives in Brooklyn with his husband and their dog. That book he always wanted to write never sold, and neither did the second or third. Butat the intersection of hard work, talent, and luck, his fourth manuscript sold to Bloomsbury Kids. With the tension of the 60s space race and the warmth of a charming love story, he couldn’t be more proud to present his debut novel, THE GRAVITY OF US.
What was the Inspiration for this story?
Well, as I’m a Certified Nerd™, I’ve always been obsessed with accounts of the 60s space race and the missions that followed. I’ve read dozens of astronaut/engineer memoirs, watched every documentary I could find, and I’ve even been known to raid antique shops in my search for LIFE magazines from the era.
While I’ve always been fascinated by the science and technology behind these missions, one thing always called out to me in the background of every astronaut memoir. The astronaut families essentially became the celebrities of this era, frequently gracing the covers of magazines and giving interviews for national news outlets. This meant the astronauts’ spouses and children had to be immaculately dressed, polished, and ready to entertain, all while not knowing if their husbands or fathers would come home alive that night.
In The Gravity of Us, I wanted to capture this brilliant tension while also showcasing a contemporary queer love story.
2)What made you tackle the social issue of social media presence?
The story features an “amateur” journalist protagonist with a large social media presence, because I wanted to show how teens can change the world in their own way. Cal does this through a fictional social media platform called FlashFame.
I first drafted this story in November 2016, a time when many Americans felt helpless and, honestly, abandoned by traditional media. In this way, the main character is able to avoid “Fake News” and sensationalism by focusing on real issues, and it’s easy to see why mainstream America would flock to honest reporting after being denied it for so long. So, even though FlashFame is a non-traditional reporting venue, he finds success because his message comes across in a way that’s fresh and honest, even if that sometimes puts him at odds with some key players in the space program…
Do you believe that there is enough representation of LGBTQ+ in YA genre?
I’m always going to say there can be more. There should be more. We’re hitting a stride with queer books, though a high percentage of those books feature cis white gay men as main characters. It’s so amazing to see bits of my experience on the page, but we need to keep pushing for diversity in LGBTQ+ YA.
But, as I said, it’s changing. Some of my new favorite authors, like Mason Deaver and Kacen Callender, have found some incredible mainstream success lately. I can’t wait to read Something Like Gravity by Amber Smith and Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian. It makes me so happy to see such diverse, intersectional LGBTQ+ rep on the shelves, but we need to keep it up. Publishers must keep seeking out new, underrepresented voices, and these authors and books need to have the marketing support they deserve.
So, to answer it more simply: I’m very happy, but we certainly aren’t “there” yet. 🙂