Following on from her smash hit, last year’s The Paper & Hearts Society, the amazing Lucy Powrie is back with a joyful sequel just in time for Pride month this June!
Olivia Santos is excited for her last year at secondary school. But when a parent complains about LGBTQ+ content in one of the books, the library implements a new policy for withdrawing books. Olivia is distraught - she’s demisexual and knows how important it is for all readers to see themselves represented.
Luckily, she’s the mastermind behind The Paper & Hearts Society book club, and she knows exactly what to do: start a new club, find ways of evading the system, and change the policy for good!
With two book clubs to run, exams to prepare for, and a girlfriend, just how long will it be before Olivia burns out? After all, creating a book club and trying to get the #ReadWithPride hashtag to get noticed is going to take a lot of energy.
Sometimes, when you’re in too deep, it’s up to your friends to look out for you ...
In celebration of Lucy’s publication, we thought we would catch up with her for an exclusive Q&A:
How do you feel to be returning to the Paper & Hearts Society series?
It’s incredibly exciting to be able to follow The Paper & Hearts Society over the course of three books! I love the characters and I love their world, and, most of all, I love getting to write about a passion for books. I feel very lucky.
Are there any returning characters we can look out for?
Yes! All of the members of The Paper & Hearts Society are back, but there are new characters, too. In Read with Pride, Olivia begins a campaign to get her school library to stop restricting access to LGBTQ+ books, and along the way finds herself accidentally forming a new book club. I had a lot of fun having the two groups team up.
What inspired the character of Olivia?
I like to think that Olivia is who I would want to be if I was an extrovert. Actually, that was the challenge as I saw the world through her eyes in Read with Pride – it was difficult to imagine what that would be like! Olivia is very enthusiastic and throws herself into everything she does. I wish I was more like that!
How do you hope the character of Olivia inspires LGBTQ+ readers?
I know the importance of seeing characters who are like you on the page, and I hope that readers will see themselves in Olivia, or any of the other characters, in Read with Pride. I wanted to write the characters so that they were at different phases in their lives: some have already come out, while others aren’t ready yet, and either is fine. I wanted to make it clear that each journey is unique, and there’s no single “right” way to identify on the LGBTQ+ spectrum.
Now that Pride is postponed, what would you advise readers and industry professionals can do to ensure LGBTQ+ visibility in the upcoming months?
We are going through a very scary, upsetting time at the moment, but out of it will come new opportunities and my hope is that this will increase accessibility. Pride events like festivals and parades may be cancelled, but that doesn’t mean they can’t take place online, and therefore reach audiences who may not be able – or may not feel comfortable – to participate in them in their usual form. It may not be Pride as we know it, but the industry can still show the role that books play in making people feel understood, proud, and not alone.
What were your three favourite books growing up?
As a young child, anything by Beatrix Potter; as a young teen, I was obsessed with The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.
How did you find the experience of writing ‘Read with Pride’- were there any highs or lows?
Second Book Syndrome is REAL. There have been highs, but there have also been maaanyyy lows. Writing Read with Pride was such a learning curve, but despite it all I don’t think I’d change anything (although I wouldn’t want to relive it!). I truly believe that with every book you write, you become a better writer and all you can do is ride the rollercoaster of emotions and do your best.
The highlight was most definitely writing the words “THE END” for the first time. I cried!
When you are not writing, what do you get up to? Any upcoming projects we can look out for?
When I’m not writing, I spend lots of time reading, usually with my very loveable dog, Digby, who demands constant attention and cuddles – and he likes to press the keys on my laptop keyboard as I’m writing! I’m also a museum volunteer, and will be starting a history degree in the autumn.
As for upcoming projects, I’m currently working on the third and final book in the Paper & Hearts Society series, which comes out next year. I can’t say much right now, but what I will say is that it’s set in a bookshop and I think it’s my favourite in the series yet.
How would you describe ‘Read with Pride’ in three words?
Friendship, books, burnout.
Do you have any book recommendations for readers who enjoyed your book?
I’m a huge fan of Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper comics, which I think are genius – Alice does so much for YA and I think all of her books are great. I would also recommend Out of the Blue by Sophie Cameron and the Proud anthology, edited by Juno Dawson.
For books perfect for young teens, you need look no further than fellow BLM authors Alexandra Sheppard and Katy Birchall. Their books are warm and funny, and would also make great summer holiday reads.