I’m so delighted and honored to bring you an interview with one of my favorite contemporary authors, Phil Stamper. Stamper’s books have brought joy to me and I’m hoping that they can or will bring joy to you, as well.
Here’s Phil Stamper’s biography before we get into the interview:
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 by 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.
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. 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 he was 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, Phil is now the bestselling author of The Gravity of Us, As Far As You’ll Take Me and other queer books for kids and teens. He works in author development for a major book publisher in New York City, where he lives with his husband and their dog. Golden boys, the first book in his upcoming young adult rom-com duology, comes out February 2022. Small Town Pride, his debut middle grade novel, publishes in Summer 2022.
And now, onto the interview:
Hi Phil! I read The Gravity of Us as a very anxious 15-year-old in the middle of a pandemic. It brought me so much hope and joy. I reread it before the release of your second book, As Far As You'll Take Me. I was delighted and even more excited to read it the second time. What was it like for you to write The Gravity of Us?
Ah! I really appreciate hearing that it brought you joy in the midst of the pandemic. I wrote this back in 2016, during a hard time in my own life, and I found that writing a story that was adventurous and fun and bold and full of queer joy was exactly what I needed during that time, so it was surreal to see this book launch during such a hard time in the world. With The Gravity of Us, I wanted to write a book that paired my appreciation for the 1960s space race with a story of queer joy that wasn't at all affected by homophobia. We need all kinds of queer stories, but for this one, a swift love story that's not held back by homophobic incidents, or any of the teens really questioning their identity was exactly what I needed.
In As Far As You'll Take Me, it talks a little bit about how Marty starts eating less and less because he thinks that his partner is judging him because his partner is fit. What brought you to write this?
Marty's journey with disordered eating is one that doesn't quite fit the mold we're used to seeing in books. It's my own lived experience, but I've also found that it's incredibly relatable to a lot of queer teens who experience disordered eating. Knowing that teens out there see themselves in my books always means the world to me, because I didn't always have that growing up.
When we meet Marty, he's struggling to understand his anxiety, he's busting out of the closet for the first time, and he's also falling in love with the wrong guy amid a stressful cross-continental move. It may sound cliche, but this whole story is about Marty finding himself. To do that, he has to go through a lot of rough experiences along the way, which is what brought me to write this.
Also in As Far As You'll Take me, Marty does this thing when he gets anxious where he makes sure he's aware of all the things that he's anxious about. As a teenager and young person, I do the same thing. I just wanted to know if this came from a personal place or understanding from you?
Oh, definitely. All of Marty's experiences with anxiety are my own. I wrote the very first draft of this back in 2015 (before The Gravity of Us, actually!) I was living in London at the time, and I was dealing with a lot of anxiety myself. Writing this book was actually the first step I took toward my own anxiety treatment—I found that writing out these experiences through Marty's eyes helped me understand what was happening in my own brain, and it gave me the vocabulary to explain my experiences to my psychiatrist and therapist. So, yes I definitely think the same way Marty and many other anxious people do—you're definitely not alone! :)
That conversation with Phil Stamper put a smile on my face and reminded me of how much I loved his books. If you haven’t had the glorious delight of reading his books, I would recommend reading them. I’m going to share descriptions of his books and links on where to get them:
The Gravity of Us:
As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus.
Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another “Astrokid”, and finds himself falling head over heels-- fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting people who have become most important to him.
Expertly capturing the thrill of first love and self-doubt all teens feel, debut author Phil Stamper is a new talent to watch.
“Phil Stamper’s THE GRAVITY OF US is the first love, first launch, astronaut story I didn’t know I needed. I’m so starry-eyed for this wise, romantic gem of a book.”- Becky Albertalli, bestselling author of Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda.
“A grounded romance that shapes into its own lovely constellation.”- Adam Silvera, New York Times bestselling author of What If It’s Us.
“A big-hearted, witty, and intensely relatable debut about reaching for your dreams without losing what grounds you.” - Karen M. McManus, New York Times bestselling author of One of Us Is Lying and Two Can Keep A Secret.
Here’s where you can buy it:
As Far As You’ll Take Me:
Marty arrives in London with nothing but his oboe and some savings from his summer job, but he’s excited to start his new life-- where he’s no longer the closeted, shy kid who slips under the radar and is free to explore his sexuality without his parents’ disapproval.
From the outside, Marty’s life looks like a perfect fantasy: in the span of a few weeks, he’s made new friends, he’s getting closer with his first ever boyfriend, and he’s even traveling around Europe. But Marty knows he can’t keep up the facade. He hasn’t spoken to his parents since he arrived, he’s tearing through his meager savings, his homesickness and anxiety are getting worse and worse, and he hasn’t even come close to landing the job of his dreams. Will Marty be able to find a place that feels like home?
"A beautiful tribute to every queer kid who's ever had to leave their home in order to find one." - Leah Johnson, bestselling author of You Should See Me in a Crown
Here’s where you can buy it:
I’d like to thank Phil Stamper one last time for giving me his time and answering my questions! This was my first interview with an author (definitely won’t be my last!) and I’m so glad I was able to interview Phil. Thank you!
Phil included some awesome articles in the email he sent back to me. I would like to share those here so you can find out additional information about his books and how much recognition they’ve gotten over the time they’ve been out in the world!
Buzzfeed’s “40 Contemporary Books We’re Looking Forward To Reading 2021”: https://www.buzzfeed.com/rachelstrolle/2021-contemporary-book-releases-anticipating
Goodreads “56 of the Most Anticipated Young Adult Books of 2021”:
Cosmopolitans “Best Young Adult Books of 2020”:
Thank you for reading my interview with Phil Stamper!
~ SaraJane Devereaux
SaraJane Devereaux (Pronounced: Dev-Er-Row) is from Las Vegas, Nevada. SaraJane has a passion for reading and tends to read almost anything she can get her hands on. She has been making up stories for a long time, between telling stories with a pencil and paper or acting it out in front of her family, she's a storyteller at heart. Right now, SaraJane is focused on writing what her heart wants, but she wants to be a screenwriter as her career. She has been published on Blue Things Zine, Feed Us With Words, and SAST, just to name a few. She hopes that the world realizes that it's okay to still be obsessed with Hamilton in 2021.