GVN: Hello Adam! Thank you for speaking with Geek Vibes Nation about your upcoming YA slasher. Could you start by telling our audience a little about yourself and your upcoming YA slasher, Your Lonely Nights Are Over?
Thanks for chatting with me! I’m your twink barista crush who grew up and became an author of queer teen stories–some horror, some romance, but no matter the genre, my baby gays always feel like their situation is life and death (some are just more correct than others). Your Lonely Nights Are Over is a slasher that’s Scream meets Mean Girls, where we follow Dearie and Cole, two gay best friends who are endlessly devoted to each other but are kind of hated by the other queer kids in school. Hated or envied, depending on who you ask. That’s because they’re hot, popular, promiscuous, and totally uninterested in joining the Queer Club. This rivalry becomes complicated when a masked killer, Mr. Sandman, starts killing members of the Queer Club, and Dearie and Cole become suspects. If they want to stay alive (or out of prison), they’ll need to work with their frenemies in the club to unmask the killer before they strike again.
GVN: How did you come up with the idea for the novel? Did it change significantly over the course of the various drafts?
Mr. Sandman’s MO is that he kills the lonely. If you’re chronically single, recently dumped, or pining for someone you can’t have, you’re potentially on the chopping block. I got obsessed with this idea that kids in this school would pair up with each other (or not end an obviously failing relationship) out of fear. It’s a fear a lot of people can relate to–being single forever or being dumped–and I thought it would be neat if I literalized that fear into it actually being something that could get them killed. I wanted to show how people can be in a relationship and still be lonely. So much of gay YA is about falling in love and having that first boyfriend, but with that yearning comes a lot of pain and desperation, which can be felt more strongly be queer people. So it was important for me to show queer kids you don’t need a relationship to be happy by putting two best friends–who are single and loving it–at the center.
GVN: How did you develop the distinct voices of Dearie and Cole? Were there any struggles when it came to juggling both POVs?
Improv classes and decades of marinating in 90’s Kevin Williamson slashers helped me refine Dearie and Cole’s voices: just rude, catty jerkoffs who are always right. Because the story demanded that Dearie and Cole be so close, they practically share a brain, the real struggle was differentiating their voices. I decided early on that Cole would have an unbreakable wall of confidence, like Scream’s Gale Weathers or Buffy’s Cordelia Chase. With Cole, no matter what was happening, he would always have something to say. His classmates, the cops, the FBI, even the killer–no one gets the last word with Cole. With Dearie, I chose to make him like Alicia Silverstone in Clueless: a girly boy who is very flirty, loves pop culture, gets annoyed by a lot of people, but has a streak of vulnerability. Dearie wants to be seen as a good person by the Queer Club, and it’s this desire that the killer exploits and uses to drive a wedge between Dearie and Cole.
GVN: Dearie and Cole are borderline unlikeable when the story begins. Were you ever worried about having heroes the audience might find it hard to root for initially? Do you think protagonists have to be likable to be interesting?
I’m extremely uninterested in perfect little gay angel characters. God bless if that’s what others require in their gays, but my goal with this book was to show young queers who are catty, petty, and cutthroat–and still ask you to see that they deserve to live and have happiness. I wanted real. I wanted Dearie and Cole’s friendship to feel real so you’d be terrified of them dying or falling out with each other. Them behaving mean and dismissive in the beginning was a conscious choice because this is a story about how being seen as a “good person” and actually being good are night and day different. The killer and the suspects try very hard to make the school see Dearie and Cole as awful, so I wanted the reader to feel that way up front. So that as the story goes on and they fight for their lives, the reader hopefully interrogates their own preconceived notions. In my life, some mean gays turned out to be my closest friends, while some sweet gays turned out to be destructive, manipulative influences. I want this book to arm young readers with that knowledge so in their own lives, they’ll be less likely to fall for the sweet manipulators.
GVN: The novel has so many great supporting characters also. How did you create them? Do you have a method for creating well-rounded secondary characters?
Oh, I love my Queer Club. Counting Dearie and Cole, there’s ten of them, and I saw them all so vividly. Benny, the shy Marvel nerd who’s hopelessly in love with Cole. Mike, the cubby, newly out bi boy who has it so bad for Dearie he can barely speak, but around Cole, he runs his mouth way too much. Lucy, the fiercely independent mom friend. Even Theo and Grover, the harsh, judgmental queers who run the club. They all jumped out of my head fully formed. I don’t really have a method for creating them, except to pull traits from people in my real life. Being on Twitter helped me; I’ve observed a lot of WILD behavior from online queers, and they all ended up in this book, in one way or another. I know a lot of Benny’s. A LOT of Mike’s. The more I made them feel like real people, with sweet and harsh traits, the more readers would feel like they were people they knew, and in a slasher, that’s gold. Because then you don’t want anyone to die. Sorry!
GVN: The novel addresses many serious topics, such as racism, queer loneliness, emotional abuse, and bullying. Why was it important to you to include and unpack those themes in the novel? Did you struggle at all to balance those topics with the YA slasher/suspense aspect?
The bullying and abuse were always part of the story, and I think you can’t really tell a masked killer (where the killer is someone they know) without touching on manipulation. The killer toys with people. They frame Dearie and Cole. In my years on Twitter, I’d seen several people in the community get exposed as harassers or abusers, and I found it fascinating how for some people, that abuse was always obvious; but for others, a total shock. That’s where the racism came in naturally, because the pattern I’d noticed when these abusers were unmasked was that the white people were surprised, and the people of color usually had an inkling. Whiteness (or any privilege) has a fogging effect, where you can live perfectly comfortably not investigating certain things or odd behaviors that don’t add up. The more I wrote, the more I realized the white characters would be more easily fooled, and that that would create an avalanche of additional stress for the characters of color.
GVN: I love how you explored the differences in how Dearie and Cole are treated when it comes to bullying, murder suspects, etc., due to their race. Was that always going to be part of the novel or something that was added and deepened in revisions? Did you receive any resistance for your inclusion of that?
It was always part of it, but it deepened in revisions, thanks to my authenticity readers, four queer men of color who each gave tremendous insights into what being framed (a typical slasher trope) would feel like for Cole, a Latine boy. My own best friend, Terry, whom Cole is based on worked with me on developing that throughline. Because I knew the investigation would start tearing apart Dearie and Cole’s friendship, but until Terry started working with me, I didn’t fully realize that racism would be the wedge. Now, it’s obvious, but that was my white fogging, not seeing it clearly. Terry and I frequently have long conversations about interracial friendships, and how white friends who don’t interrogate and don’t keep their eyes open and listen, threaten to strain that friendship. Something happens in Lonely Nights that causes white Dearie to overlook certain racist traumas Cole is enduring, and that is almost as destructive of a force as the killer is. If Lonely Nights does nothing else, I want it to show white gays how to be better friends to queers of color. As a white person, I did worry about if it was my place to tell the story of a brown boy being profiled, but as I say in my author’s note, it’s not what the whole book is about, and I would be doing the story (and readers of color) a disservice by not acknowledging and honoring how this would go down in real life. But don’t worry: Cole always gets the last word.
GVN: I absolutely loved the mythos you built about Mr. Sandman and the supplemental material that helps frame the novel. What went into the decision to include that material? How did you strike a balance between using it to enhance the novel without giving too much away?
Well, I love an interstitial. As a reader, I love these high drama act breaks where we can get a breather, take stock of what we’ve just read, and get a taste of what’s to come. The six parts of the book get broken up by these episode descriptions for a fake docuseries on Mr. Sandman, which the characters have all seen. These kids are geeked about the killer (until he shows up in their real life), so when the slaying begins, they have knowledge from the show about how he kills, why he does it, and who was suspected. It was a fun way to get that same knowledge across to the reader. And oh my, you’ve got to the get the audiobook too: Torian Brackett does the Sandman narration, and it’s like Ghostface introducing Twilight Zone episodes. There’s this creepy background music, and it just sets the tone so well.
GVN: Is Mr. Sandman based on any real-life serial killers?
Mr. Sandman is a combination of the Zodiac and the Night Stalker. Sandman is sort of an inverse of Zodiac, who tended to kill these lovers’ lane couples–instead, being a lovers’ lane couple is what saves you from this killer. But like the Zodiac, Mr. Sandman was a killer from half a century ago whose identity remains largely a mystery. Like the Night Stalker, Mr. Sandman’s victims could be anyone (as long as they’re lonely). Any gender, any age. The randomness is what spread the panic of his killing spree.
GVN: What other YA slasher book, film, or television series universe could you see Dearie and Cole being dropped into and surviving?
Well, Scream, obviously. I feel like my boys could easily sort out who Ghostface was and how to stay one step ahead of them. But I think the other slasher villain they could handle is Freddy Kruger. Freddy’s angle is being witty and clever, but Dearie and Cole will ALWAYS win when it comes to verbal sparring. They could read him for filth!
GVN: Assign Horror Movie Superlatives to three or more of the characters in the novel.
Most Sidney Prescott – Frankie Dearie
Most Gale Weathers – Cole Cardoso
Biggest Flop – Grover Kendall
Shadiest Flop – Benny Prince
GVN: Can you tell us anything about what you’re working on next?
Next summer, my fourth YA book is coming out, a romance called Cursed Boys and Broken Hearts. While it’s not a thriller, it’s steeped in darkness; it’s almost a gothic romance. In Cursed Boys, Grant Rossi is recovering from yet another failed relationship—he feels cursed always to be the starter boyfriend. To escape his depression spiral, he runs off to the countryside, where he spends the summer with his Italian aunt in her crumbling Bed & Breakfast and vineyard. He used to spend every summer there as a kid until he had a disastrous falling out with Ben, his childhood friend he was in love with (who Grant believes started his “curse”). To save the B&B, Grant is tasked with working with a local gardener to repair the place—but it turns out the gardener is Ben…all grown up and looking great. It’s a twist on Beauty and the Beast (with Grant as the Beast), all about letting go of the past and how to fall in love when you feel totally unlovable.
GVN: Where can our readers connect with you online?
Sadly, I’m still the most active on Twitter! But I’m also on Instagram a fair amount. My handle is TheAdamSass everywhere, even TikTok, which I’m getting better at. I usually am out there, giving writing advice, gushing about horror movies, and yelling about movie studios holding up these strikes!
ABOUT YOUR LONELY NIGHTS ARE OVER
Scream meets Clueless in this YA horror from Adam Sass in which two gay teen BFFs find their friendship tested when a serial killer starts targeting their school’s Queer Club.
Dearie and Cole are inseparable, unlikeable, and (in bad luck for them) totally unbelievable.
From the day they met, Dearie and Cole have been two against the world. But whenever something bad happens at Stone Grove High School, they get blamed. Why? They’re beautiful, flirtatious, dangerously clever queen bees, and they’re always ready to call out their fellow students. But they’ve never faced a bigger threat than surviving senior year when Mr. Sandman, a famous, never-caught serial killer, emerges from a long retirement—and his hunting ground is their school Queer Club.
As evidence and bodies begin piling up and suspicion points at Dearie and Cole, they will need to do whatever it takes to unmask the real killer before they and the rest of Queer Club are taken down. But they’re not getting away from the killer without a fight.
Along the way, they must confront dark truths hidden beneath the surface of their small desert community. When the world is stacked against them and every flop they know is a suspect, can Dearie and Cole stop Mr. Sandman’s rampage? Or will their lonely nights soon be over . . .
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Writer. Video Essayist. Film/TV Critic. Pop Culture Enthusiast.
When he isn’t writing for Geek Vibes Nation or creating content for his YouTube channel, Tristian can be found typing away at the young adult novel he has been working on for three years.