It’s two posts for the price of one on Reads Rainbow today as we are bringing you both an ARC review and an author interview. Chase: The Boy Who Hid is a middle grade science fiction novel, out in just a few days, and we had the pleasure of talking to the author, Z Jeffries, about it (among other things).
So, this post starts with five reasons you should read this book, and follows on with the interview. Enjoy!
Don’t forget, you can also follow Z Jeffries on twitter.
Don’t hide from your feelings. Hide from the giant robot trying to kill you.
I always knew I’d inherited my grandad’s mind for science and technology, but when he goes missing, I get his spot in a top-secret government game of hide and seek. The military camouflage challenge, DARPA’s game where shapeshifters, mechs, and telepaths hide from a robot seeker, is also where Grandad vanished.
To find out what happened, I’ll play along- gain the team’s trust, master the tech, and avoid catching feelings for the team navigator. If I can do all that, then maybe I can survive the dangerous game. But if it comes down to winning or finding Grandad, I’ll ditch the game and betray my team in a millisecond. Even if it means I go missing, too.
Book One in the Hide & Seek Series, the action-packed coming of age stories of STEM-minded queer kids getting their hands on the tech of the future.
Chase: The Boy Who Hid
Published: 15th October 2020
Rep: bi mc, nonbinary character, Black lesbian character
5 Reasons to Read this Book
ARC kindly provided by author
Number one. The first reason to read this book has to be the found family. I mean, who doesn’t love found families? Especially ones who are shoved together under odd circumstances and forced to work together, but don’t really know or like each other, at least not immediately.
Number two. If you liked the kind of concept of The Hunger Games but wanted something with less blood, guts and gore, and significantly Not As Dark, then this is a sort of MG equivalent.
Number three. Continuing from the above point, this is a fun and fast-paced book. You get straight into the action from the first chapter and it just doesn’t let up throughout.
Number four. At heart, it’s a book about a boy who misses his grandfather and the whole story revolves around that love, which is great.
Number five. The casualness of the LGBT rep in this is a thing of beauty. We go on and on about it in YA or adult lit — and, yes, it’s so important there too — but the most important place to see it has to be in MG lit.
Let’s start at the beginning. How did you first get into writing?
I was an absolute book worm. I always read above my age, always was trying to read things I was told I wasn’t old enough for, and I always got in trouble for sneaking a book to bed and reading by flashlight. Maybe it was because my Mom was an English teacher, but I’d always written, too. I tried to write my first novel in 6th grade. I tried writing a play in 8th grade. It wasn’t until college I found people who would read what I wrote, or perform it, or listen to it.
What are your favourite genres to read and write?
Science Fiction and Fantasy. I love exploring human nature in different contexts, which drives my to fantasy. I’m also frustrated that I’m limited by time and life expectancy, so Science Fiction gives me glimpses into possible futures for the human race.
And are there any genres or tropes you wouldn’t write?
I’ve tried writing Romance, but it was too difficult for me. My stories are all mysteries with the plot or character getting revealed bit by bit. In Romance, the author and the reader know the outcome. That made building the mystery and intriguing the audience very difficult for me. I have so much respect for Romance authors. They possess a knack I lack.
How do you get inspiration for your books?
Boredom is important. I thought up my current series, Hide & Seek, mowing lawns as a kid. Boredom, the yearning to escape, to adventure, to experience more of life keeps my thoughts constantly bubbling. Some of these bubbling ideas are interesting enough for me to picture an image or a moment that drives me to learn more.
Do you have a writing playlist? And if you do, does it focus more on the lyrics or melodies, vibe of the songs?
I’ve never been a creature of habit. I rebel against routine. so very early, I trained myself to write through any distraction. So thankfully, I can write with or without music. That being said, when do listen and write, I love dubstep for sci-fi action, orchestras or strings for fantasy battles, and Billy Eilish for sad scenes (lol). Vibe of the song definitely matters more than lyrics or melody.
What’s your writing process? At what point do you let other people read your drafts and who are they?
I may be an old man, but I’m a baby writer, so I’m still finding my process. Hopefully, I never completely do. Hopefully, my journey writing leads to different processes for different books, and my career will be a journey of constant self-improvement. I’m on this planet to learn, and I don’t plan on ever stopping. My alpha reader is my sister, who eats books for breakfast. She’s a voracious reader with wide tastes, so anything I write is in her wheelhouse. She’s also protective of me, so she tends to only give positive notes, which helps me see what’s working. She usually gets draft 2 (but every book is different; sometimes I start with draft 1 or zero).
Summarise your most recent/next book in up to 5 words and a meme.
You can’t run from yourself.
Which three authors would you say influenced your writing the most?
If (when!) your book(s) were to be made into movies, who would you like to direct them?
Oh man…Robert Rodriguez, Justin Lin, or Lexi Alexander. Anyone who knows how to structure action and character moments. But not a straight, abled, white guy. I’d like to see what different experiences could bring to an adaptation, and business-wise, a movie couldn’t get made today today without the opinions of the aforementioned built in to the process.
Rec us some great LGBT books you’ve read recently! One can never have enough recommendations!
Anything by Sarah Gailey. I recommend the American Hippo series so much, it’s an inside joke between my wife and I. I’d also like to push short fiction by them (Bread and Salt and Milk is a favorite of mine), and by a friend and hero of mine, Alexis Ames. She and another friend of mine, Jess Clapton, are going to be at the forefront of a future wave of queer SFF. They both make me feel way too many feelings and I can’t wait for the Reads Rainbow readers to be able to devour books from both of these ladies.
What’s one piece of advice you would like to give your younger self?
Write more. Cheapen your words. Basic capitalism: supply and demand. If you increase the supply of words, they’re cheaper to “produce.” But unlike many products, stories and ideas don’t have expiration dates. Now that I have two pen names and two mailing lists, I love that I have a backlog of short stories and ideas I can chat with my readers about. And boy oh boy, I wish I had more. Now that my demand is going up, I can cash in all the words I have stockpiled.
If you could have dinner with one member of the LGBT community, dead or alive, who would it be?
That’s tough. I’m cheating and giving two answers.
James Baldwin. He’s one of the smartest writers in modern history. He also placed himself as witness to the civil rights era. It would be tough conversation, I imagine as a cis white man, and it probably would leave me feeling very optimistic, but the man saw and spoke of truths others either couldn’t see or wouldn’t name.
But for a lighter, easier conversation, Charlie Jane Anders. She’s a big hero of mine, an amazing mind, and from what I hear on her podcast, she’s just cool. Her stories are so out there while her characters are so real. I feel like I learn about being a human everytime I read her work or hear her speak.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Z Jeffries can’t wait for you to read his debut YA novel. A son of an English teacher, one of his earliest memories was after a day at kindergarten, sitting in the back of his mom’s classroom and listening to her describe Dr. Jekyll reeling from the violence of Mr. Hyde. Under various names, he’s written, produced, and directed theatre in Chicago and along the east coast, as well as published several adult short stories. His interests include space travel, cheese, and whether cheese will be allowed during space travel. He lives in American suburbia with his wife, daughter, dog, and garden. Visit ZJeffries.com just for the heck of it.