Our Friend is Here! is a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.
Asian Heritage Month Edition is a month-long event at The Quiet Pond, where Asian authors and bookish content creators are invited to celebrate being Asian, Asian books, and the experiences of being an Asian reader. (Note: Here is an explanation of why we are calling this guest series ‘Asian Heritage Month’.)
Last year when I hosted fourteen authors at the Pond to promote the Keep Faith anthology, one of the authors that I hosted was Emery Lee. Back then, I told Emery that one day, I would have em back at the Pond one day to feature eir own book. You can imagine then, friends, why I feel like today’s Our Friend is Here: Asian Heritage Month Edition post feels particularly special to me.
For those of our friends out there who are not familiar with Emery, eir YA book, Meet Cute Diary, was announced in mid-April this year!
Today, I have the absolute pleasure and delight of having Emery Lee emself returning to the Pond. I am so so happy for Emery and I cannot wait to read Meet Cute Diary, which not only sounds delightful but also a necessary and empowering addition to queer, specifically trans, literature – and I think when you read the author interview that I did with em, I think you will agree with me and feel excited about eir book as well!
Emery returns to the Pond today as a cute and smiley narwhal drinking some bubble tea! (Oh, do I miss bubble tea.) But before I formally introduce you all to em, here is a little bit more information about Meet Cute Diary, eir debut slated to release in 2021!
Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee
Sixteen-year-old Noah Ramirez loves love, but as a trans boy at a conservative school, he never had much hope for an epic romance of his own. To combat the loneliness, Noah created the Meet Cute Diary, a blog dedicated to documenting trans meet cutes across the globe to give his fellow trans people a new hope for love. Only, the Diary’s entirely fiction, inspired by near-meet cutes Noah stumbled into and rewrote happy endings for.
When a twist of fate brings Noah to Denver for the summer, he sees this as the perfect opportunity for his own meet cute. But when the Diary is exposed as a fraud, Noah has to put his love story on hold to save the Diary, and the hope it gives his trans readers—unless he can use his own staged romance as evidence of the Diary’s credibility. And really, as a boy who’s spent the last year doing nothing but writing fake romances, building his own should be easy.
But as Noah’s feelings spiral past the realm of fake dating, and he begins to see his own dream romance come to life before his eyes, he starts to have his doubts. Turns out dating in real life isn’t quite the same as dating on the page, and with the Meet Cute Diary hanging in the balance, Noah will have to decide what he’s willing to sacrifice for the ultimate happily ever after.
The cover isn’t final, but I kinda love it anyway? I always love illustrated book covers and the feelings that this book cover is giving me — I love it. But how about that blurb? I haven’t read this book yet – it sounds utterly charming and real. And even though I haven’t met Noah yet, I already want him to find joy and have his happily ever after.
Find this book on:
Author Interview: Emery Lee
Xiaolong: Hi Emery! A big welcome back to the Pond and thank you for visiting us again – it’s so good to see you! For our friends who are only just meeting you for the first time, can you tell us about yourself?
Emery: Hey! Thanks for having me back! And sure! My name is Emery Lee, and I’m a kidlit author, artist, and recently, a YouTuber!
Xiaolong: Congratulations on your recent book deal, Meet Cute Diary! We at The Quiet Pond are so happy for you. Can you tell us a little bit about Meet Cute Diary and what it is about?
Emery: Yeah, so Meet Cute Diary is the story of a sixteen-year-old triracial trans boy who, coming from a Catholic school background, has always felt like a swoon-worthy meet cute romance just wasn’t in the cards for him. To live out his fantasies, he made a blog of fake meet cutes where he’d write awkward situations he’d been in into meet cute stories with happy endings for trans people. When he goes to Colorado for the summer, he finds there’s a troll trying to expose his blog as fake, and so to convince his readership that it’s real, he sets up a whole fake dating scheme with one of his readers, and, of course, romance and chaos ensue.
Xiaolong: The main character of Meet Cute Diary is a trans teen and I’m delighted that we are getting more trans representation in young adult literature! What was it like to write about a character who is trans, and where did you draw your inspiration from?
Emery: So, Noah isn’t actually the first trans character I’ve written, but he was the first that had me laying that transness so bare on the page. Previously, it always felt like something I could dabble with but never really delve into, so this was kind of a leap of faith in hoping that people would really connect with him and care about his story, especially since I wasn’t looking to write an educational narrative, but just a bit of trans joy. And for me, Noah’s transness is actually very close to home. I’m transmasc myself, and while Noah is binary trans, I find his identity is actually very closely tied to my own, and his experiences with transness are all very much drawn from my own experiences, as are much of Noah’s personality, really.
Xiaolong: Your road to publication has been a long one. How do your earlier works compare to Meet Cute Diary, and how have you grown as a writer?
Emery: It’s actually harder to figure out what they have in common with Meet Cute Diary than how they’re different LOL. When I first started writing, I didn’t feel like I was allowed to write marginalized characters, and my earliest works really show this. Even when I had marginalized characters, they were rarely intersectional and a lot of those identities were implied or very weakly explored. I also used to write a lot of darker stuff, largely because that felt like the only way to really express some of the emotions I’ve carried from personal traumas and just my marginalized experience as a whole. On the other hand, Meet Cute Diary was very much supposed to be an exploration a joy, a way of looking at all the good things that we can still have even if/when things are rough. It doesn’t pretend that pain doesn’t exist, but it doesn’t dwell on that pain. It’s all about building your own happiness even when the world isn’t so eager to let you have it, and I think that’s a very different direction than I ever thought I would go in as a younger writer.
Xiaolong: If you could tell younger “doesn’t-know-e’ll-be-published-one-day” Emery three things, what would you tell em?
Emery: Your whole cast doesn’t have to be white. Actually, your whole cast can be not-white. Really, that’s a thing. Stop trying so hard to write the perfect novel. There is no perfect novel, and the best novels you ever write will be niche in some way. And stop getting caught up in internet drama. It’s just there to distract you from the stuff you actually care about and the ways you can make actual change.
Xiaolong: This is a question I ask all my guests, so here’s a question – just for fun! What is a food that reminds you of ‘home’ – wherever or whoever that may be?
Emery: Spam! I can’t think of Spam without thinking of my grandmother. I think it’s just because I was really picky as a kid, but she used to always make me Spam fried rice or Spam musubi and I was in love with those.
About the Author
Emery Lee is a kidlit author, artist, and YouTuber. Hailing from a mixed-racial background, e’s pledged eir writing to contribute to the spread of diversity in fiction and the fight for equality. When away from reading and writing, you’ll most likely find em engaged in art or snuggling cute dogs.
Again, I’m so happy that Emery visited the blog today. I never expected that one of the most joyful experiences I’d have as a book blogger is seeing writers and friends write for years and then for their hard work and dedication to be rewarded in ways that is fulfilling and exciting for them. I hope you all are as excited as I am for Meet Cute Diary! I have a feeling it’s going to be a good one.