Kathie: Hi Jake, and welcome to Fast Forward Friday! I had the pleasure of reading an eARC of your upcoming book, ALMOST FLYING, which comes out on June 8th with Dial Books. It’s such a great story, and I hope everyone has it on their TBR list. Can you tell us a bit about it in your own words?
Jake: SO happy to be here, Kathie! ALMOST FLYING is a queer middle-grade novel that centers around an amusement park road trip. It features a first crush, a prickly stepsister, and TONS of roller coasters!
Kathie: I love stories where the main character has an “awakening” about some aspect of themselves, and Dalia goes through her own roller coaster ride of emotions during one week without it feeling rushed. Did the pacing come naturally, or was it challenging to include so many thoughts and feelings in a short time frame?
Jake: It was definitely a challenge! The first draft of the book was much more meandering, but I think that was because I really wanted to get all of Dalia’s thoughts and feelings out onto the page. This was my first time going through the editing process with a book–from self-editing all the way to the official copy-edits, and it was an incredible experience. I love being able to mold something that came out of my brain so raw and unfiltered into something intelligible that will hopefully resonate with my tween (and not-so-tween) reader.
Kathie: This story has a number of important relationships, and I loved how they connect and influence each other. I especially liked how the age difference between Dalia, and Alexa and her friends, added a mature support network and relationship modeling for Dalia. Which relationship was the most fun for you to write, and which character would you most like to be friends with?
Jake: Thank you for saying that! It was really important for me to model positive queer relationships in older teens for the younger main characters, whether those be romantic or platonic. One of my favorite relationships to write was the one between Alexa and Dhruv, since they have such a lovely queer friendship that they both feel is almost familial. And I’d most like to be friends with Dhruv, for sure.
Kathie: What would you like young readers to know about this story, and what do you hope they’ll take away from it?
Jake: I’d love for young readers to know, first of all, that they can find all the roller coasters in the story as POV videos on YouTube. I know this seems like a small, silly thing, but watching those videos as a kid (and an adult) allowed me to escape and dream and relax. And I hope that they’ll come away knowing that they deserve to be loved as they are, however they are, and that there are always people who will care about them, even if those people aren’t biologically related to them.
Kathie: I had no idea there were so many different types of roller coasters! Are you a fan of them, and if so, what style do you like the best?
Jake: I know, it’s shocking how many there are! I’m a fan of all types of roller coasters, but I never knew the official names for the different kinds before I was doing research and digging into Dalia’s voice. My favorite type of roller coaster is definitely a wooden roller coaster, even though they give you major whiplash!
Kathie: What’s one thing you learned about yourself or your writing while publishing this book?
Jake: First of all, that I have no idea where to place commas (this past sentence was no exception)! But jokes aside, I learned that my writing voice isn’t something to be ashamed of. I’ve always been told that I “write like I speak”–which is true, and I love that about my writing. I think it makes it more accessible, fun, and unique than it otherwise might be.
Kathie: Can you tell us where readers can go to find out more about you and your writing?
Jake: Yes! You can go to my website, jakewhosagirl.com, or you can go to my Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok, which are all @jakewhosagirl!
Kathie: I really appreciate you taking some time to talk with me today, Jake, and I wish you all the best with your book’s release.
Jake: Thank you so much, Kathie! I’m so grateful for all of your work in the middle grade space.
Jake Maia Arlow is a podcast producer, writer, and bagel connoisseur. She studied evolutionary biology and creative writing (not as different as you might think) at Barnard College. She has lived in various places, but can always be found with an iced coffee. You can find her on all social media platforms @jakewhosagirl, or at her website, jakewhosagirl.com.