Dear Hero by Alyssa Roat and Hope Bolinger Author Interview

Author Information

Alyssa Roat studied professional writing at Taylor University. She is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E., the publicity manager at Mountain Brook Ink, and a freelance editor with Sherpa Editing Services. She has had 200+ bylines in publications ranging from The Christian Communicator to Keys for Kids. Find out more about her here and on social media @alyssawrote.

Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a graduate of Taylor University’s professional writing program. More than 800 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer’s Digest to Keys for Kids to HOOKED to She writes about 250-300 articles a year. Her modern-day Daniel, “Blaze,” (Illuminate YA) released in 2019, and the sequel “Den” released in 2020. The final installment Vision releases in August 2021. 
Her superhero romance she co-wrote with Alyssa Roat releases from INtense Publications in September 2020. Sequel Dear Henchman set to release in April 2021. Her favorite way to procrastinate is by connecting with readers on Instagram and Twitter @hopebolinger. Find out more about her at

Book Description


Up-and-coming teen superhero Cortex is on top of the world—at least, until his villain dumps him. If he’s going to save his reputation, he needs a new antagonist, and fast.

Meanwhile, the villainous Vortex has once again gotten a little overeager and taken out a hero prematurely. Will any young hero be able to keep up with her? Maybe she should work on finding a steady relationship with an enemy she won’t kill in the first round.

So the two turn to Meta-Match, a nemesis pairing site for heroes and villains, where they match right away. After throwing punches at each other behind coffee shops, practicing their fight choreography, and hiring henchmen to do their bidding (mostly just getting them coffee), they begin to realize they have a lot more in common than just names that annoyingly rhyme. 

But not everything in the superhero world is as it seems. Who are the real heroes and villains? And just how fine of a line is there between love and hate? When darkness from the past threatens them both, Cortex and V may need to work together to make it out alive. 

Publication Date: September 28,2020

Author Interview

Thank you to the authors of Dear Hope, Alyssa Roat and Hope Bolinger for the chance to interview them about their new upcoming book, Dear Hero.

1). For those who are meeting you both for the first time what would you say are 3 “Good To Know” Facts About You? 

Hope: Oooh boy, ok. I dress up in costumes and walk around in them in my downtown for no reason. 2) I don’t sleep to alarms. In first grade, I trained myself to use the pineal gland to wake me up at the same time each morning. 3) I play handbells, one of the hottest instruments since the lyre. 

Alyssa: I think Hope beat me to the wacky ones, so I’m going to be a little less exciting. 1. If I could live anywhere, I would move to London ASAP. 2. I was going to go into medicine until my mom encouraged me to pursue my dreams as a writer as a career path, and we can all thank her for that. 3. I don’t understand why it isn’t socially acceptable to be nocturnal. 

2). What would you say are your 5 favorite books – and why?  

Hope: Yikes, this is hard. I think it changes on the daily. I do know books in my top five are The Great Gatsby (beautiful symbolism), The Book Thief (wonderful book, such a clever voice), The Percy Jackson Series (because, why not?), The Woods by R.L. Toalsen (shows grief in a poignant way), and Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers (I’m not usually a fan of historical fiction, but she makes it enticing). 

Alyssa: Why would you ask such a mean question? I’m going to have to go with Pride and Prejudice (a masterpiece of wit and social critique), To Kill A Mockingbird (one of the most compelling narrative voices in all of literature), The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas (yes I’m counting that as one; the worldbuilding is outstanding and the plot twists are on point), The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis (you have to read it like five times, it makes you think so much), and The Giver by Lois Lowry (beautiful voice, haunting philosophical questions).

3). Would you say that any of those books/authors inspired you to become a writer? If so, how? If not, what did inspire you to become a writer?  

Hope: Oh, for sure. Good reading inspires good writing. But what did inspire me to write actually came in the form of a friend from high school. They wrote books, and I wanted to talk with them about something other than Doctor Who. So I wrote books. The rest is history. 

Alyssa: I started dictating stories to my parents when I was small; by kindergarten, I was writing them myself, even if my block letters were nearly illegible. I think The Chronicles of Narnia, A Wrinkle in Time, and the DragonKeeper Chronicles by Donita K. Paul were the main books that convinced me I wanted to be an author. I don’t know exactly when I decided for sure, but I have vivid memories of declaring to my teacher in fourth grade that I was going to be an author someday.

4). Tell us a little bit about Dear Hero and your inspiration behind the story?  

Hope: Sure! So Dear Hero follows the story of a villain and a hero who match in a nemesis-pairing app. They fight behind coffee shops, but they don’t expect to fall in love. When a shadow organization haunts both of them and their pasts, they may have to team up to make it out alive. It’s difficult to pinpoint an exact moment we got inspired. Alyssa and I had some parody YA twitter accounts where we made fun of YA and superhero cliches and tropes. My friend was also on a dating app at the time, and we saw quite a few superhero movies come out that year. Everything clicked together, so we hopped on a Google doc and started writing.

Alyssa: What if being a hero or a villain was a career path like any other? What if it involved building your social media platform and fighting bigger and better nemeses for clout? At that point, what does it even mean to be a hero or a villain? I think a lot of our own Millennial/Gen Z (Zillennial?) experience played into it as well. Turns out, becoming a hero or a villain as a teenager is a lot like the real world.

5). Your story starts off in the virtual world. Why did you choose that as the setting for your book? Did our current pandemic have anything to do with your choice in the setting?   

Hope: Well, we wrote the book back in 2018, so we didn’t foresee any global pandemic happening. But because it’s mostly over text message (with some voice-to-text thrown in during the action sequences) it had to be virtual. We’d also noticed a number of storytelling apps like HOOKED that have millions of readers that tell stories only through virtual chat format. 

Alyssa: Our original idea involved hero/villain pen pals, but we wanted it to be snappier, with better dialogue, so we modernized the concept. The idea of a hero/villain pairing app was too funny to pass up. By the time the pandemic hit, our book was already contracted with our publisher and in the editing phase.

6). What was something about Dear Hero that you struggled to write or come up with?

Hope: I wouldn’t necessarily say we struggled a lot. Alyssa and I write well together. But the most difficult part was we were working 5 jobs collectively that summer and had a three-hour time difference between us. Most of the difficulty came in finding a good time to write. 

Alyssa:We wanted to include action scenes, but how to do that in a text-based format? We scratched our heads a bit. Cue the superhero gadgets and speech-to-text. We had a lot of fun with the quirks that come from software like that, onomatopoeias, and techie characters.

7). What would you say was the most surprising thing that you learned while writing your novel?  

Hope:For me personally, it was that I can improvise and “pants” my writing far more than I realized. I’m usually a plotter, but because we both wrote this in real-time, and Alyssa is more of a pantser, I had to learn to let go of some of the control of an outline. It really did pay off. I’m completely in love with the finished product. 

Alyssa: I learned how much fun it is to co-write. It’s a great way to avoid writer’s block; if you can’t think of something, your co-writer can. I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist and a control freak, but with a writer I respect and trust like Hope, it was a ton of fun giving up part of the reins and wondering what hilarious thing she would come up with next.

8). What do you hope your readers take away from reading Dear Hero?  

Hope: Besides laughter, we’d love for readers to reevaluate what it means to be a hero versus a villain. The book often flips the definitions of both on their heads, showing everyone has a little of hero and villain inside of them. 

Alyssa: I’d say, don’t let society put you in a box or tell you who you are. Choose your own identity, and don’t bow to stereotypes. Everyone around you is more complex than they might first seem.

9). What is your next project? What have you been working on recently? 

Hope: Ohhh boy, I’ll try to keep this short. I have a trilogy out, and the third book, Vision, releases next year with Illuminate YA. The sequel to Dear Hero, Dear Henchman, releases next April. In addition to that, I have about six other books out on submission with publishers. Depending if any of them get acquired, that will determine what I write next (since most of those have sequels). 

Alyssa: Most relevant here, our sequel Dear Henchman releases April 2021. The first book in my YA contemporary fantasy trilogy, Wraithwood, releases June 2021, and in my spare time (ha!) I’ve been working on a low fantasy inspired by a mix of the Sonoran Desert where I grew up and ancient Egyptian, Byzantine, and Israelite culture (weird mix, I know!).  

10). What advice do you have for aspiring writers? 

Hope: I always feel like I could write a book for this question alone. My best advice is to trust the process. It will take a lot longer than you anticipate. Publishing involves a lot of stop and go, and a heck of a lot of hustle. 

Alyssa: Take every opportunity you can. You’re going to have to take on a lot of gigs you don’t like before you get to where you want to be (cough cough, my stint in journalism). And right when you’ve had it and you’re about the throw in the towel, that tends to be when you hit a breakthrough, if you just hang on.

You can pre-order their book at

Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Intense Publications

Cemetery Boys- Blog Tour Stop- Author Interview

Author Information

Aiden Thomas is a YA author with an MFA in Creative Writing. Originally from Oakland, California, they now make their home in Portland, OR. As a queer, trans, latinx, Aiden advocates strongly for diverse representation in all media. Aiden’s special talents include: quoting The Office, Harry Potter trivia, Jenga, finishing sentences with “is my FAVORITE”, and killing spiders. Aiden is notorious for not being able to guess the endings of books and movies, and organizes their bookshelves by color.

Their debut novel, CEMETERY BOYS, will be published June 9th, 2020.

You can find Aiden Thomas at:

  1. Website
  2. Twitter
  3. Instagram

Book Description

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.

Author Interview

Thank you to Hear Our Voices Book Tour for the opportunity to host the author interview on my page. I’m very excited to share with you all what I learned from the author and more reasons why you need to get this book now. Another big thank you to Aiden Thomas for the opportunity to get to know more about them and their debut novel.Well let’s not wait any longer and jump right into the Q & A portion of this interview.

For those who are meeting you for the first time what would you say are 3 “Good To Know” Facts About You?

  1. I’m a Cancer sun, Leo rising! (I don’t actually know anything about astrology but whenever I tell folks they go, “that makes so much sense!” so I guess it’s important for getting to know me!)
  2. I’m 5’11”! For some reason, people always expect me to be short but I’m actually pretty dang tall in person!
  3. I’m totally obsessed with the anime Haikyuu!! and spend most of my time on Twitter looking at fanart. 

What would you say are your 5 favorite books – and why? 

  1. “The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller because it has the most beautiful prose I have ever read!
  2. “Labyrinth Lost” by Zoraida Cordova because that was the first time I saw my culture reflected in a book. It’s because of The Brooklyn Bruja series that I realized I could write a book like “Cemetery Boys!”
  3. “When the Moon Was Ours” by Anna-Marie MeLemore because it was the first time I read a book with a trans character (and the book itself is so beautiful).
  4. “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins because the pacing and action is so good! I must’ve read that series close to a dozen times at this point.
  5. “I Hear the Sunspot” by Yuki Fumino which is technically a manga series, BUT it holds a very special and important piece of my heart! It’s a gay romance and one of the main characters is deaf. It’s the first time I saw deaf/H.O.H. representation in a book and it’s done so well! I recommend it to literally everyone.

Would you say that any of those books/authors inspired you to become a writer? If so, how? If not, what did inspire you to become a writer? 
They’ve all inspired parts of my writing, but I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in elementary school! I’ve always had really vivid dreams, especially nightmares, so when I was little as we had to do journaling for class, I’d write them down like a story. Then as I grew up, reading great
books made me want to write great books, so that’s what led me down the path of pursuing it as a life passion!

Tell us a little bit about Cemetery Boys and your inspiration behind the story? 
“Cemetery Boys” is a contemporary paranormal fantasy about a trans boy named Yadriel who is trying to prove to his family he’s a brujo. He decides, in order to do that, he’s going to summon the spirit of his cousin, Miguel, who died under mysterious circumstances and release him to the
afterlife. Unfortunately, he ends up summoning the spirit of Julian Diaz, the resident bad boy of his high school. The two have to work together to find out what happened to Yadriel’s cousin and what happened to Julian’s friends the night he was killed. As they go about trying to solve
these mysteries, Yadriel ends up developing feelings for Julian and that complicates everything. The inspiration for the premise actually came from a writing prompt I saw while scrolling through Tumblr! It said, “What would you do if you summoned a ghost and you couldn’t get rid of it?” and
instead of the creepy scenarios that other folks were coming up with, my mind immediately went to, “And what if he was CUTE??” I also really wanted to write a book with a trans main character where it was less about being trans, or figuring out his identity. I wanted it to be a fun adventure
where the main character just so happened to be trans.

Your story is set in East Los Angeles and takes place around the Day of the Dead. Why did you choose that as the setting for your book?
I was born and raised in California and I decided to have “Cemetery Boys” take place there because the city is really a central place where so many different Latinx communities come together. I wanted to reflect that in the brujx — how they all have this magical Mesoamerican lineage, but they also come from different Latinx countries and pieces of those cultures are
celebrated and make up the brujx community. I chose everything to center around Dia de Muertos because it’s my favorite holiday, but also because it all revolves around death and the afterlife, which perfectly aligned with the premise!

What was something about Cemetery Boys that you struggled to write or come up with?
I’d say the research part of writing “Cemetery Boys” was surprisingly challenging. The Latinx diaspora made it really difficult for me to have definitive research. I wanted to incorporate different Mesoamerican cultures — Aztec, Maya and Inca — to really establish that brujx were
around before and during the establishment of these cultures, that they have an ancient magic. The problem is that, due to colonization, indigenous Mesoamerican traditions and mythos have been destroyed or erased. Physical remnants of our history were widely destroyed, so we have
to rely on oral tradition and try to decipher the few artefacts we do have access to, most of which have been stolen from us and put into museums. I was surprised by how difficult it really was to find research, but, if nothing else, it did give me room to be creative and make my own mythos for my brujx. And, luckily, there’s no shortage of death gods in Mesoamerican myths!

What would you say was the most surprising thing that you learned while writing your novel? 
Honestly, learning the ropes of the publishing industry was a big crash course! I had no idea what publishing was like before I sold my first book to Swoon Reads/Macmillan. I didn’t even have a Twitter! So writing “Cemetery Boys” taught me a lot about what publishing is. I’m also constantly surprised by how wonderful and supportive the writing community has been.

What do you hope your readers take away from reading Cemetery Boys? 
I really hope readers will find connection and feel seen when they read “Cemetery Boys”. I wanted to create a story for readers to connect with Yadriel on universal truths that are basic to the human experience, things like struggling to fit in, feeling accepted for who you are, and being loved. A lot of queer teens experience their first sense of belonging or affirmation with queer bloggers, YouTubers, Tiktokers and, of course, characters in books — like Yadriel. Even if they can’t talk to them personally, seeing people with their identities, seeing themselves reflected in books, or internet stars telling them they’re valid gives them a sense of community and comfort. I really hope Yadriel can be that for some folks.

What is your next project? What have you been working on recently?
Right now I’m kind of dabbling in a bunch of different stuff! My second book is already ready to be published so I’ve been taking time to explore my writing and different genres I’m interested in. I’ve been working on a trans romcom, as well as a Maya myth retelling, and I’ve also got a dark fantasy idea that has to do with kids cursed by Aztec death gods! I’m going to have a lot of fun figuring out what my next book will be!

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
FINISH YOUR FIRST DRAFT! I feel like writers always ask for advice when it comes to improving their story, but you have to get that rough draft down before you can make it better. The hardest part is finishing that manuscript, and you can query or get published until you have a completed draft to work on!

Check out the rest of the stops on this book tour here.

Pre-Order this book now at:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository | Kobo | Google

Release Date: September 01, 2020

Author Interview: James Brandon

About the Author: James Brandon produced and played the central role of Joshua in the international tour of Terrence McNally’s Corpus Christi for a decade, and is co-director of the documentary film based on their journey, Corpus Christi: Playing with Redemption. He’s the cofounder of the I AM Love Campaign, an arts-based initiative bridging the faith-based and LGBTQ2+ communities, and serves on the Powwow Steering Committee for Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits (BAAITS) in San Francisco. Brandon is a contributing writer for Huffington Post, Believe Out Loud, and Spirituality and Health Magazine. Ziggy, Stardust and Me is his first novel.

Hello James

Thank you so much for taking your time to talk to me about your debut novel Ziggy, Stardust, & Me.

Let’s start by hearing a little about Ziggy, Stardust, & Me, how would you describe your book to someone who hasn’t read it?

James: Ziggy, Stardust, & ME is set in St Louis in 1973 when homosexuality was still considered a mental illness and crime. Jonathan, the protagonist, is working really hard to fix his illness and believes he has fixed himself. He believes that he has fixed himself until Web comes into his life. The story then becomes about these two boys discovering love in a time and a world that won’t let them.

What was your inspiration behind Ziggy, Stardust  & Me?

James: A friend of mine showed me the episode of This American Life- 81 Words which tells the story about how the American Psychiatric Association (APA) decided in 1973 that homosexuality was no longer a mental illness. It was about a moment in time in queer history where the APA and the Gay Liberation Movement were fighting each other because the APA had classified homosexuality as mental illness. The Gay Liberation Movement was fighting because they insisted that they were normal and they didn’t need to be treated. In December 1973 the APA removed homosexuality from DSM, and now LGBTQ+ people were suddenly cured from this illness. I didn’t know anything about history after being out for such a long time and this woke me up. I think that without being taught our history LGBTQ+ people don’t feel a sense of rooted ness and they feel loss without that. I want to help teach our history and give sense of connectedness to LGBTQ+ people.

What are your 10 favorite books and why?


Ari and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz- is my classic go to.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson- has beautiful transportive writing

Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian- is another beautiful queer historical documented piece of history

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi- is about a black trans girl and is a beautiful book.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong- is a spectacular book that has prose that is out of this world.

The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante- is a beautifully written book.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens- is a beautiful book and extraordinarily written. It is a book that inspired me as a writer.

River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy- is her debut novel that is coming out in late October.

The Stand by Stephen King- his version wasn’t edited and is where I learned how to write character because his characters are so defined, rich, and full

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera- creates an immersive world that I loved getting lost in.

From those 10 books would you say that any one of those influenced your life greatly or is there a book you didn’t mention that has influenced you life?

James: I would have to say that all have to some degree. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe was the first queer book I read. Before this I was not aware of queer books and I didn’t really seek them out but when this one came to me it inspired me to want to write a book. It really showed me the importance of having queer protagonist in a book, and gave me validity for someone who didn’t see that growing up. I would say that this book influenced my writing in a way too.

What would you say was the most surprising thing that you learned while writing your novel?

James: My editor, Stacey Barney is a genius, one thing she worked really hard on this book for a couple years, was pushing me on not believing the journey that Jonathan takes to self acceptance. After being out for over 20 years, this caused me to question my own journey towards self acceptance and question how much I really accept myself now. There’s a quote in the book “once the seed of shame is planted within it never goes away” that really is the journey into Jonathan and his soul, we have a choice to let that seed grow, strangle our soul and become miserable or acknowledge that seed and become better people because of it. This was a surprising realization to make and a beautiful surprise. Due to this realization and Stacey Barney’s notes, I am a more humble and awakened human.

What was something about Ziggy, Stardust and Me that you struggled to write or come up with?

James: There wasn’t anything easy about it, the struggle was really and something that me and Stacey worked on a lot was honing in on Jonathan and Web’s relationship. I wanted to create this bubble that their relationship stays in while the chaos of life goes on around them. I wanted to keep this bubble of love safe, pure, and for this to be their escape while they were not allowed to be gay and every faction of society was screaming to get their voice heard. It was important to pay attention and listen to the two boys and what they needed and wanted to make their relationships thrive.

Your story is set in 1973. Why did you choose that as the setting for your book? Do you think this book would have the same impact if it was set in a different time period?

James: If this was told in a different time period it would not have the same impact due to the APA decision occurring in 1973. In The American Life- 81 Words there is one doctor who changed his mind about homosexuality after meeting a gay boy who hugged him. I kept thinking about this and wanted to figure out who this boy was who was able to change the mind of an older males and this is how I created Jonathan. I wanted to show a time that younger people don’t recognize as an important part of our history. The Stonewall riots and this event marked a turning point for the current LGBTQ movement and more people of all ages need to know this was a real time and these are real things people endured just in their day to day existence.

How did you deal with the emotional impact the book might have had on you as you were writing the story?

James: There were intense moments in this book and intense moments when writing it. Jonathan experiences treatments that were experienced as a normality during this time period. I interviewed people who under went some of these treatments and I wanted to create a sensorial experience for the reader when Jonathan experiences these treatments. This was really the only way for the reader to feel some empathy as I felt empathy for these people. Because self-care and one’s own mental health is so important I was aware and clear of my boundaries when writing and made sure to separate my own identity from my characters. As I was immersing myself in these things, I let myself feel it and wrote through tears. Once words and tears pushed through I made sure to get away from the writing and come back to it later, allowing myself some space. It was important to feel those feelings, because as humans we have to do that in order to move through things we’re working on.

What do you hope your readers take away from reading Ziggy, Stardust, & Me? 

James: I want my readers to understand the importance of believing in yourself and embrace that which makes you different. The things that make you different, make you unique and that’s what we need in this world right now. Don’t be scared and don’t shy away from who you are and being you when people tell you you can’t, prove them wrong and be that. Recognize that uniqueness is why we are here.

Is there more in store for Jonathan or is there something else that you are currently working on?

James: There is currently no planned sequel to Ziggy, Stardust, & Me. I have written another book and what I do know is that each book I write will have some moment in LGBTQ history that has been lost or forgotten.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

James: There were so many times that could’ve given up and so many reasons why one could give up because writing is REALLY, REALLY, REALLY hard. If don’t go in knowing that it can feel daunting and overwhelming. It’s important to never give up, believe in what you need to say and don’t let anyone else tell you that what you are trying to say isn’t good enough because if you need to say it its important and we need to hear it.

About Ziggy, Stardust, & Me: In this tender-hearted debut, set against the tumultuous backdrop of life in 1973, when homosexuality is still considered a mental illness, two boys defy all the odds and fall in love.

The year is 1973. The Watergate hearings are in full swing. The Vietnam War is still raging. And homosexuality is still officially considered a mental illness. In the midst of these trying times is sixteen-year-old Jonathan Collins, a bullied, anxious, asthmatic kid, who aside from an alcoholic father and his sympathetic neighbor and friend Starla, is completely alone. To cope, Jonathan escapes to the safe haven of his imagination, where his hero David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and dead relatives, including his mother, guide him through the rough terrain of his life. In his alternate reality, Jonathan can be anything: a superhero, an astronaut, Ziggy Stardust, himself, or completely “normal” and not a boy who likes other boys. When he completes his treatments, he will be normal–at least he hopes. But before that can happen, Web stumbles into his life. Web is everything Jonathan wishes he could be: fearless, fearsome and, most importantly, not ashamed of being gay.

Jonathan doesn’t want to like brooding Web, who has secrets all his own. Jonathan wants nothing more than to be “fixed” once and for all. But he’s drawn to Web anyway. Web is the first person in the real world to see Jonathan completely and think he’s perfect. Web is a kind of escape Jonathan has never known. For the first time in his life, he may finally feel free enough to love and accept himself as he is.

Click here to find more about James Brandon and you can get Ziggy, Stardust & Me at Penguin Random House.