The Extraordinaries

From the Publisher's Weekly announcement:

LAMBDA award-winning author TJ Klune's LGBT #ownvoices teen series, THE EXTRAORDINARIES, pitched as a smartly funny, romantic tale of teen superheroes and the everyday geek boy who follows them, to Ali Fisher at Tor Teen, in a six figure deal, at auction, for publication winter 2020, by Deidre Knight at The Knight Agency, and to Sam Bradbury at Hodder & Stoughton, in a very good deal, for simultaneous UK publication (NA/UK)

So. Yeah. This is a thing.

A big thing.

A fucking huge thing.

And now that I've had time to settle with it, let's discuss, shall we?

Last year, I had just come off finishing writing Ravensong, a book that turned out to be one of the hardest to write (not because of content, but because it fucking took forever--more on that in the coming months). I wanted to go back to writing something funny. I had this idea that'd been percolating for a while, a story about a boy named Nick who idolizes (a bit obsessively) the superheroes (called Extraordinaries) that protect his city, to the point he writes self-insert fan fiction about them, and more specifically, the Extraordinary known as Shadow Star.

And it was going to be Young Adult (YA), something I told myself I was never going to write.

Why?

Because I had a dumb chip on my shoulder. (Remember the whole I'll never write werewolves thing? Yeah.) I like writing romance, and I thought YA romance was unrealistic. People can meet the loves of their lives as a teenager, but how often does that really happen?

But I was spending some time with my teenage nephew, who is a voracious reader. He was showing me all the books he's read, and I thought back to when I was his age, and what I would have given to have happy queer characters in books. The late 90s/early 2000s were a different time. Queers existed in fiction (and still do, honestly) as tragic figures or background characters that didn't revel in their queerness.

I decided I wanted to write a book I wished I could read at that age.

And I was wrong, of course, to think that YA (specifically romance) is unrealistic, to have that chip on my shoulder. Teenagers these days (sometimes not even by their own choice) are more self-aware than I ever was, or even might be now. They are the future, and they are taking up arms in a fight I wish they never had to face. And maybe they do meet the loves of their lives. And even if they don't, who gives a fuck? I have a character here that can fly. Queer boys loving each other at sixteen is the easiest thing in the world.

I knew, going into The Extraordinaries, that it was going to be unapologetically queer. This isn't a coming out book. These characters are out and proud and don't take shit from anyone. Their parents/guardians are supportive.

What I didn't anticipate was how much fun I would have while writing it. Nick is...well. A bit ridiculous. And very protective of his father, though their relationship is strained. And he might or might not be in love with this best friend Seth, though their friends Jazz and Gibby (two girls in a relationship of their own) think they're being stupid about it.

It's not until Nick has an...awkward encounter with an Extraordinary that he makes a decision: he is going to become an Extraordinary himself, which is the crux of the book.

(And, to my eternal glee, I incorporated parts of Nick's fanfiction throughout the book, and I purpled all over that prose, just like a sixteen year old TJ would have.)

I finished, and thought, huh.

What next?

I was at a crossroads. I wanted to do something different. Something more.

I contacted Deidre Knight, an agent. She approached me shortly after Wolfsong was released, wanting to see about representing me. At the time, I was wary, given that I'd built this career I have on my own. And, it didn't help that at the time, I was about to start writing the three Verania book sequels and the last BOATK book, so I didn't need someone representing me for sequels.

But this? This was something new.

I wrote to her, asking her if we could talk. We did. I told her my vision. I signed with the Knight Agency. I sent her the book. She read it, sent it back with notes. I made the changes and sent it back.

And then she fucking made it rain.

Oh, I got rejected. Disney said they liked it, but "we already have Marvel properties." (I absolutely could not argue with that, lol.) Another publisher said it needed to be rewritten as a "coming out" story. (No thank you.)

But then three publishers wanted it, and they went back and forth, and it happened so goddamn fast, I could barely keep up. This whole process went much quicker than it normally would have, all thanks to my agent.

The Extraordinaries went to Tor in a three hardcover deal that I hadn't even imagined in my wildest dreams.

Tor, man. Tor, Tor, Tor.

(And then, just a few days later, a deal for the UK rights with Hodder & Stoughton. WTF?!?!)

Jesus Christ.

I didn't expect this. I am humbled by it, and over the moon about it. And what really sold me on them, what I really loved to hear (aside from, you know, $$$) was their commitment to queer characters. We were on the phone with Tor (and later, with Hodder) for an hour, and I made it clear how important it was for me to not de-queer these characters, to let them be flamboyant and happy and strong and make stupid mistakes that lead to them becoming better people, all without homophobia playing  a part.

And they got it.

The Extraordinaries is still a ways off, the first book being published in the first few months of 2020, but for a good reason. The publishers want to make this a priority, to make it as successful as possible, because they understand queer stories are important.

This is the biggest thing that's ever happened to me, and after publishing 20+ novels, I've got a great following that has helped me get to this moment. Thanks for that.

Caveat: this doesn't mean I'll be only writing YA from this point on. I'll still be doing my more adult books too. In fact, my agent and I are gearing up to do this whole process all over again with a book called Don't You Wish You Were Here? which is another queer romance that is unlike anything else I've written before. And I've got the wolves and Kori/Corey and a bunch of other non-YA things to look forward to.

But still. Can you imagine? A three-book, six-figure deal, man.

Holy shit.

And I'm only just getting started.

More soon!

tj