Ryan La Sala is a fantasy writer rooted in the northeast United States. His first book, REVERIE, is a YA fantasy due for publication with Sourcebooks FIRE in January 2020. It’s about what happens when your dreams chase you back, and yes it has a drag queen sorceress as the villain.
Hi Ryan, welcome to YA SH3LF. What steps did you take to get your first book published?
Oof, good questions. When it comes to steps I’ve taken to get REVERIE published, the answer is: every step, usually twice. REVERIE is my first book, and the only book I’ve ever written, and so it has suffered every lesson, trial, tribulation, misstep, and failure.
The longer answer is: I finished writing the first real draft of REVERIE right after I graduated college, in 2014. I queried it, failed, queried again, failed, and so on until I finally found time to re-write it significantly a few years later. Finally, a draft I was happy with! I queried that, and everyone hated it. In fact, it wasn’t until I participated in DVPit, a twitter contest designed to spotlight marginalized voices, that things changed. Suddenly, I was in contact with multiple editors about REVERIE. I was discussing potential acquisitions and revisions notes. It was nuts. And still I lacked an agent.
Finally, my awesome agent Veronica Park and I found each other (also through DVPit, my third try I think?). And just in time! She helped me figure out an actual submission strategy, and REVERIE sold to Annie Berger at Sourcebooks Fire in a two book deal.
Lessons you can learn from me: your book isn’t bad, but your query might be; twitter contests work; being funny on twitter works.
What can you tell us about Reverie and Kane Montgomery?
Kane! My gloomy, gay hero! REVERIE is Kane’s story. Kane is a gay teen growing up all alone in a Connecticut suburb. He was outed at an early age, and it put an automatic distance between him and his peers that he never figured out how to bridge. Now he lives in fantasies of the way the world could be, but he lacks the drive to make real the things he dreams for himself.
Which is why he’s an interesting character to give reality-bending magic to. You see, Kane discovers an innate ability to not only perceive the magic that weaves reality together, but to also unravel and reform it to his desires.
Writing Kane was familiar. Like him, I got outed super young, and I know the peculiar loneliness that a life apart enforces even when you are surrounded by people who love you. I really hope he finds a home in the hearts of readers who know what it’s like to keep entire worlds in your head.
“Reverie : a state of being pleasantly lost in one’s thoughts; a daydream.” I love this title! How did you decide on that title?
Reverie is a term used in this book to describe a type of reality-warping phenomenon in which a person’s subconscious fantasies manifest as a fantastical world around them, entrapping anyone who gets too close. Reveries can be any genre. Action, adventure, romance, dystopian, whatever. But they’re always dangerous, and only Kane can unravel them. He does this by learning to understand, and then resolve, the core conflict of the subconscious that created them.
This book is entirely focused on what happens when we become lost in our own heads, and when our own dreams chase us back. The term has always been used in the book, but setting it as the title was actually my editor’s idea. We wanted something simple, evocative, and clear. Reverie fit.
Plus doesn’t “Ryan La Sala’s REVERIE” sound fittingly delusional? I can’t wait to see that phrase in reviews.
What was the most challenging part of writing Reverie?
Oh, this is something I’ve always wanted to talk about. REVERIE takes place in a suburb of Connecticut, but it also takes place in the dreamy, alternative worlds of the reverie’s themselves. And so instead of inventing one world for this fantasy novel, I had to invent….many, each with enough world-building to feel suitably material and real. It was extremely fun and I don’t regret the choice. In fact, I had to take a few reveries out of the final drafts, and several became full-fledged book ideas I’m working on now.
Drag. Queen. Sorceress. Where do you get your ideas from?
A lot of people know about REVERIE because the villain is a drag queen sorceress hellbent on harvesting dreams. Her name is Poesy, and she is incredibly important to me. Like many of my characters, she represents what makes me feel powerful, and like many drag queens she represents the sort of power that seems to bend reality itself. I am fascinated by the art of drag, and the way a queen can create an entire story with just her presence on a stage. And I am fascinated by powerful femininity. If you pay attention to REVERIE, you will notice the priority of power put on flamboyance, femininity, and eccentricity. Growing up, I clung to those qualities in myself, and found power in them early on, and I seek to create magic and worlds in which that same power exists.
Oh, also, anime. If you opened my chest and sought out my soul, you’d find Sailor Moon playing an infinite loop at the very basis of my artistic taste.
What are some books that have inspired you to write? And what are some of your favorite books that you would recommend?
Well of course Sailor Moon (an incredible read if you can find the manga). Proxy by Alex London comes next; that’s the book that told me it was okay to write Reverie, and I owe it so much. Other favorites right now: The Library at Mount Char, The Fifth Season, Paprika. All nudged me in specific ways of wonder.
It’s unsavory to admit this, but a lot of the books that inspired me to write did so not out of wonder, but out of spite. I read tons of fantasy growing up that I found captivatingly bland and heterosexual, and I wanted to do better. Ultimately, it was spite that got me writing Reverie. I won’t list those books. No one cares. What I’m saying is that if you can’t find a story to love, love yourself and write what you want to read.
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