Maya MacGregor Talks The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester (part 2)

  
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This is part two of my discussion with Maya MacGregor about their process in writing The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester. This book is a delightful YA mystery/ghost story with an autistic and non-binary main character, and it’s on Pride Month sale for $1.99 in ebook format through the month of June! I was fully engrossed in the mystery aspect of it, and also loved to see the main character finding a supportive community.

Content note for this book: it does mention trauma and hate crimes. That said, it’s overall very much about surviving and thriving and not about sensationalized suffering.

The cover of The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester by Maya MacGregor, featuring Sam Sylvester, a non-binary, androgynous teen with a full sleeve tattoo on one arm, and short, silvery lavender hair.
The cover of The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester, featuring art by Lauren Franklin.

You can listen and/or read the transcript of our conversation below.


Julia
Welcome to the OMG Julia Podcast, where we talk about creative lives and processes. This is part 2 of my covnersation with Maya MacGregor, author of The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester. We ended part one with Maya saying how glad they were to see lots of queer representation in media lately, and how they hoped to see more of it.

[transition music]

Julia
And I'm really glad to see that this autistic character is also presented as someone capable of forming meaningful emotional attachments because I feel like that's one of the most persistent myths that I see when people put autistic characters into media is the idea that like basically they're robots who don't have feelings.

Maya
Absolutely.

Julia
They're incapable of empathy. They're incapable of making connections with other people.

Maya
Yeah.

Julia
And therefore there to be pitied. And in fact, when you dig into all of the actual experiences of autistic people, that's not an accurate representation of the experiences that real people have at all.

Maya
Yeah, it's really, really different. I'm reminded of this study. My first disastrous attempt at an autism diagnosis, the person who assessed me was so behind on actual peer reviewed research in her field that she literally said to me that because I had attempted to have friends I couldn't possibly be autistic.

Julia
What?

Maya
There was a study that UCLA did in like 2016, I think, and they were studying the gender differences in presentation of autism in children. I think they tracked about 40 kids, and research is so far behind so it was very binary, very like girls here, boys here. But what they showed was that the boys behave sort of stereotypically, as one might quote unquote “expect” from an autistic kid. They were frequently alone, off doing things themselves rather than engaging with the other students.

But the autistic girls would go from group of girls to group of girls, and would bid for attention and bid for inclusion, attempt to play, or attempt to do something with their peers, but they were rebuffed every time. But what the researchers noticed was that, to a teacher's eye, it would look like those kids were actually engaging and that they were behaving quote unquote “normally”, but when you looked closer you realized that the the autistic girls were being rejected at every turn. But they were trying really hard.

That was my experience my entire life, was trying so so hard. I felt like I was always missing the key to to open up some sort of social acceptance, and that study is just such a perfect picture of how easily we are missed.

And as an non-binary person who was assigned female, that was so much my experience of of life and growing up. And so the idea that even clinicians these days will tell us that if we desire to have relationships or friendships, that we can't possibly be autistic… That is just so unbelievable to me, because even solitary autistic boys who present quote unquote “typically” when it comes to autism still want and have bonds with other human beings, and value those bonds.

With Sam, I think in revisions I got even more militant about these things when I was just like, “We do have feelings, and we do have empathy!” Most of the autistic people I know actually fall on the hyper empathic scale of things, where we feel too much and can't turn it off.

Julia
Since I've since I've learned a lot more about autism as an adult —and I really only started learning about the real different ways that autism actually presents probably three or four years ago —it's been fairly recent, and it took me a while to really internalize that, oh, this matches my experience of the world in so many ways. This is simultaneously a very powerful realization, because it makes me able to reframe and forgive myself for things that I've done that have just not worked out for me. But also make me realize things that I already had started doing to compensate.

I realized several years ago, and this is before I'd learned anything about how autism presents, that I react very differently to sensory input than some people. And I had not realized that this was a difference about me until one day… it was a winter day, and I went to a friend's solstice party, and it was very dark because it was the afternoon. Where I live, it gets in very dark at like 4pm in the midwinter time, and so it was it was very dark and very cold outside, and I got to this person's house and I rang the doorbell. And inside, the house was all brightly lit and the heaters were on and it was a party full of people and I went from outside, cold, dark, with only my headphones and music that I was listening to on my own, to sudden, inside a very brightly lit, warm place full of people.

And my friend let me in and was like, “Hi. Welcome. How are you?”

I looked at her and I said, “I'm sorry, just give me a minute to accustom myself to the temperature change and stuff.”

And she was like, “What?”

And I thought that this is just a normal thing that most people did. It’s like you just need minute to recalibrate. I'm not in a dark, cold, outside place. Now I'm in a warm, bright, inside place.

Maya
And there's people here.

Julia
Yeah, and I’ve got to readjust before I can actually talk to you. Like, I cannot answer your question about how I'm doing. That's not possible at the moment.

Maya
Yeah.

Julia
I thought that was just something everybody experienced, but it turned out no. In fact, the vast majority of people don't think twice about it. They just would go into that house and immediately be engaging in whatever the rules of the social situation would say that you should do.

Maya
Yeah, and there's so much active processing that happens in those social situations as well. We call it camouflaging or masking. Over painstaking, long periods of trial and error, most autistic people learn (to a degree) social scripting. And that's a constant thing. Even in our conversation, my brain is reminding me to make a sound of agreement at certain intervals to cue that I am paying attention.

But that's an active part of me, because of like I've learned by being yelled at if I'm sitting listening to someone and not making eye contact contact, and looking at something else. They assume I'm not listening, and that I don't care.

Julia
Yeah, and I've always struggled with that. I remember getting in trouble with my teacher in first grade for not looking at her.

Maya
Yeah.

Julia
This is also sort of complicated for me because I've also always had vision problems, and my eyes don't track together, so one eye is always going off in a different direction. So even if I am theoretically trying to look at a person, they might see my other eye wandering and assume I'm not looking at them.

And I remember just getting in trouble. I was at a catholic school and this was a very scary nun.

Maya
Oh god.

Julia
She was like, “You're not paying attention to me. You don't look at me when I speak. You're very disrespectful.”

When I'm listening really hard, a lot of the time the way that I listen is by turning away.

Maya
Yep!

Julia
And like maybe even closing my eyes because I'm focusing so hard on hearing.

Maya
Yeah, that's 100 % how I am as well and it happens all the time, to the point where it's sort of comical, where I'll be out somewhere with people and there'll be other background noise and so I have to look away from the person speaking if I'm going to actually hear them. It never fails where they will track where I'm looking and I'll have to be like, “No, there's nothing over there. I'm just looking at a completely innocuous patch of grass because I need to hear you better.”

That's something that doesn't make sense to a lot of people, but that's something that's really normal for me. I really have to focus, especially because I have auditory processing delays, which hit really hard if there's any sort of competing noise. I can do like one masking script at a time. It’s either make eye contact with a person, or hear what they're saying.

Julia
Right.

Maya
And I generally prefer to hear what they're saying to forcing myself to make eye contact that feels really uncomfortable for me.

Julia
Yeah, and I think that there are lots of things like that. There are lots of little ways that I've sort of arranged my life so I compensate. I have had multiple conversations with people where I'm like, “Oh, you know I listen better if I'm looking down, and I'm not not listening to you.” And I've sort of just started saying that to people, which I had started doing several years ago before I'd ever worked out anything about autism. And I usually, if asked, would have explained it as like, I have all these vision problems and focusing my eyes takes extra effort, which it does. But like people I think are more likely to believe that physical reason.

Maya
Yeah.

Julia
But the thing that I was going to say, when you talked about if anything autistic people that you know seem to have hyper empathy.

Maya
Yeah.

Julia
Yes. I can't count the number of people that I've met who are actually autistic who say things like, “I cannot watch embarrassment humor, like it hurts me physically to watch it.”

Maya
Yeah, Always Sunny and Curb Your Enthusiasm, like I could not make it through much of those shows because it's like actively physically painful for me to watch. And I really struggle with some things in general when it comes to seeing depictions of of pain and human trauma um onscreen. I can handle it sometimes, but I do much better with warnings. It fascinates me to a degree that there's this assumption, and the stereotype that like, even a certain famous author whose initials are JCO, on Twitter have said offhanded backhanded comments about autistic people not having empathy.

It's such pervasive myth. It's really hurtful. The way that we process things outwardly is perceived as so cold and so feelingless, I guess. I look back on the times where I've been assumed to be without empathy and without warmth, and those are times where I was feeling so many things at once. I was containing this absolute maelstrom inside of me of sensory overwhelm and emotional turbulence. It absolutely amazes me that they see a still still surface and assume the worst, I guess?

Julia
Yeah, and I think that also comes through when you're showing Sam on the page, like sometimes Sam is just overstimulated and shutting down, and the reactions from people around them are very negative.

Maya
Yeah, there is such a specific script to existing in a way that is socially acceptable that can be really difficult to explain to people who are not autistic, I think. There's so much that just neurotypical people do instinctively that for us is not only not an instinct, but it's like an active construction of an expectation in order to not be met with social censure, which is such a difficult line to walk. Especially when you're navigating a world that can be physically painful because of the sensory inputs, and Sam most definitely shows that in the book, and that’s stuff that's right, again, right out of my own experience.

I don't want to give a spoiler, but there's ah, a particular moment where Shep gives Sam a gift, and that gift is is really predicated on the fact that they want to accept Sam for who they are and that's something that was also really important for me to show.

Julia
Yeah! I know what moment you're talking about, and I think that is a really thoughtful, kind, and caring gift, and it shows Sam that Shep is willing to meet Sam where they are rather than ask Sam to change into a different person.

Maya
Yeah, and Shep also has that just sort of curiosity, and doesn't assume things about Sam, which is something that I also wanted to show. Because I really appreciate that. If a neurotypical person asks me a question, or checks in with me if we're going to a loud place or something like that. That means a lot to me.

We are sort of pressured into adapting everything about us to a sort of hostile world. So it feels really really nice when neurotypical people are willing to meet us halfway, as opposed to us having to change ourselves and how we relate to everything. How we behave, how we look, where we look. All of these different things create a huge amount of emotional pressure and stress and exhaustion. To have neurotypical people who are are willing to ask questions and to be like, “Okay, well this room's really loud. How about we go somewhere else?” Or any number of things that show that they're willing to also adapt, rather than simply expecting autistic people to mask everything we're feeling and experiencing for their comfort.

Julia
Yeah, and I think this is also true for Sam's experience as a non-binary person because I think that a lot of people who are nonbinary are sort of, they're assigned a gender at birth and then socialized as whatever they have been assigned and people expect them to conform to that binary and not actually express their own self.

Maya
Yeah.

Julia
And I feel like Sam is very resolute in expressing their gender presentation the way that they want to now. I feel like the trauma in their past was so much that coming through that, they survived it and now it's like, “I'm not going to conform.”

Maya
It's also really notable that there's literally a term coined by autistic nonbinary people to describe the relationship that's quite common between autistic people and gender as a concept, and that's like gender vague or gender meh. It's really common that autistic people don't feel attached to any particular gender and don't see the point of it. Like, I know for me when I was growing up, I just was baffled by the whole thing, like getting told, “Oh you're a girl, you can't do that.”

Because they still told me those sort of things in 1980s, and I remember just being like “What does that have to do with literally anything? Like how is this pertinent to playing ninja turtles?”

I think that Sam particularly, they feel very strongly that they just don't want to mess with the binary. It's just no.

That's a really common autistic experience, and actually that was one of the things like when I was first sort of, you know, noodling into autism as a possible explanation for me. There's a table of autistic traits in girls, and one of the things on there is literally like, “may not feel very attached to gender,” or “quite confused by gender in general,” and I was like oh.

Julia
Yeah, that describes me exactly. What I was going to say about Sam is that they seem to have kind of gotten to a point where they're like you know what? I'm not comfortable in the role that people have assigned as female, and it seems more like they're they're interested in expressing all of the things that they do like and also in just existing and being comfortable in their skin and not wanting to work extra hard to present something that other people think that they should.

Maya
Yeah, that's definitely a huge part of it for Sam,and for me. We talk about expectations in terms of the binary, but there's also expectations put on non binary people. And I think that there's this idea that a non binary person is either going to be moving toward the gender to which they were not assigned, or be very androgynous. And, you know, I think that I don't like that anymore than being sort of pushed at this idea of whatever femininity is supposed to look like.

I've described this as they're being sort of trans toward, where you're assigned one thing, and you are moving in the general direction of another thing, and that can be either as a binary trans person, or as someone who feels like they're trans masculine or transfeminine. But there's also sort of a trans away from, and that's how I identify with the word trans. Like, that to me resonates as a trans away from. So I like to think of backing myself all the way away from gender binary.

And that's definitely where Sam is as well, is that sort of place of, “You know what? I'll just be over here.”

Julia
Yeah, I think that's fairly similar for me. Before the pandemic, I used to do standup comedy, and I haven't done it since early 2020, and at this point like I don't know if I'll ever get back into it just because it's so hard to calculate risk and all of that stuff, and I've kind of slipped out of it. But back in the back in the day I used to have like a whole set about my experiences with gender.

Maya
Yeah.

Julia
And I would just basically be like, “You know, gender doesn't make sense to me. I feel like there's a code that people who identify as women, like they know it, and they have it, and I don't. And I don't know how to get it, and I don't know how to read it.”

And I've always felt that way. And when I do it in standup, like that turns into a big joke. Like, not a joke about how being nonbinary is a joke, but a joke about how I interact with the world. But on a very real basis, that is my experience. And it doesn't mean that I don't wear dresses, because sometimes I do.

Maya
Yeah.

Julia
But it does mean that there are multiple times where I'm put into a situation where I'm with a lot of cis women who really strongly identify with that gender, and they seem to understand what is happening, and what should be happening, and what I should be doing, and it's very clear that I do not fit, and I don't always understand why or how.

Maya
Yeah, I think that's definitely something that I experience as well, and you know, I struggle with the term, presentation, or expression. Although it's a useful shorthand. But for me, like I'm just a person wearing people clothes and if I happen to like makeup and sparkly things and having my hair long, like I've got reasons for all of those things, and you know, most of them are sensory.

You know, I like my long hair so I can pull it back away from my face because when it's short I Just cannot keep it out of my face. And I like glitter because it's sparkly and that's a visual stim for me.

When we get to like those sorts of things, and someone's like, “Oh you, you present femme.”

And I'm just like, “When?”

Because two hundred years ago, someone standing here in a tunic and some leggings would be indisputably masculine, whatever hair length they had. It's such a thing to bring up all the time is that our concept of what is feminine or what is masculine, and what fits in either of those two boxes, shifts dramatically based on historical context, geographicical location.

It's always fun to sort of like poke at that a wee bit for me if someone's like, “Oh you're, you know, very femme.”

And I'm just like, “According to what, really, exactly? Like yes, maybe in this present moment of cross section of 2022 and Scotland…”

When I'm at home and I'm alone and I'm just doing my little thing, I don't even think about gender. I'm agender. My particular flavor of non binary is agender, if that wasn't clear. And so it doesn't even cross my mind, and then I go outside and people are throwing gender at me and calling me ma’am and lady and all these things. Thank god I'm in Glasgow where just everyone calls you pal, which I love. But it's always a bit of a brace saying like, “Oh, yeah, I forgot I didn't grab my antigender brolly before I left the flat.”

Julia
Yeah, I hear you, I hear you very much. Let's move on to another patron question and the next one is about specifically writing YA. Did you find any particular challenges or especially fun aspects of writing YA versus writing adult?

Maya
I found it really actually freeing in a lot of ways, and healing in a lot of other ways. You know, I've mentioned already that I wrote the book that I wish I'd had at the time. And I found that quite cathartic, to go back and almost feel like I was healing my past self and giving a gift to my past self. Because that person still exists, you know, is still part of me. And so I can do that.

And in terms of challenges, I think it was just sort of the fear of not really in the way if I was going to meet the sort of expectations of the industry. Because there are a lot of sort of expectations and in every different category and genre. I think one of the most rewarding things for me about writing YA is the enthusiasm. There's so much hunger for representation in YA particularly right now, and as a result the readership is is just really enthusiastic. I've been so touched by a lot of the messages that I've gotten that have communicated that this book did what I wanted it to do. I think in terms of adult fiction, I frequently feel like I'm screaming into the void.

I do occasionally hear from people. I do get some feedback from people that's positive and feels really good about my adult fiction, but there's just this difference in scope, perhaps, and willingness to be excited if that makes sense. And I feel like in YA there's a lot of hunger and passion, and it makes it really special to get the chance to write for young people.

Julia
Have you actually heard from from teens who have been reading the book?

Maya
I've heard from some younger, book bloggers and book instagrammers. I don't actually know how old all of them are. Some of them are in their late teens for sure. I actually got an invitation to travel up to an arts festival farther north in Scotland. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to actually say where yet. It's a student led, and a high school pupil led festival, and they asked for me personally. I made it that far without crying about this release and that got me. I'm really excited for the chance to go and to be invited by young people because they are excited about this book.

Julia
Yeah, that's wonderful. Wow! That's so exciting.

02:18:12.21

Maya MacGregor

Yeah, I’m really floored. I'm just so Excited. I don't know if I'm allowed to say anything yet, but it's just a wonderful opportunity, and it's so exciting to me to get to participate, and to work directly with particularly queer youth. I'm really just pleased that the book is resonating with people.

Julia
Yeah, that's so great. I wanted to ask you personally, how did you go about constructing the mystery aspect of this? Is that something that you had been doing before in other books? Was it new to you? And what were the roadmaps that you used internally to figure out how to make a mystery seem mysterious and compelling?

Maya
Oh gosh. So I don't actually know how to answer this one because it either came really naturally or didn't at all, and I am not really sure which. I tend to be a plotter or a planner. at least when it comes to and my writing process. I tend to sketch out the turning points. But I feel like a lot of the a lot of the structuring of things happens internally, so I just sort of… my brain percolates enough to the point where it's like right, we've got this distilled into its elements and now just write it.

But, in edits, one of the things that we worked on was particularly just tightening motivations and being clearer about what certain things were happening at different points. Without giving spoilers, there's a couple of different things going on in the book in terms of interactions with this mystery and with Sam. I really focused on the characters. That was where most of my energies went into, and I felt like the mystery itself sort of came very naturally out of the characters who were involved

Julia
I think it sounds like you're saying the motivations of the different characters are what drew of the mystery?

Maya
Yes, yeah, absolutely.

Julia
Very cool. Another patron question is what parts of a novel are you most excited to write? Is it character development? Big dramatic moments? The setting? What gets you very excited?

Maya
To be really cheeky and say the end? I tend to get a really strong pull toward a protagonist. That tends to be how my stories start and germinate in my mind. I really love my own cheeky answer because, honestly, I struggle a lot during the first third of a book. Every single time, I feel like I've forgotten how to write, I'm never going to be able to finish a book again, I give up on life and everything, and I'm going to go lie face down on a carpet. But when I hit that like thirty-forty percent mark, there's a beginning. I can look at that and be like, “Right, that's a chunk of book. Things are happening.”

Then I start getting really excited, and particularly in the last quarter… our brains are such fascinating things, and mine works beneath the surface a lot. I go through what I call dormant stages where I don't write at all but stuff is percolating in the background, and doing things. One of my favorite parts is when I get to start seeing these subconscious threads tie themselves together as I write. And that to me sort of feels like this magical process. And a lot of that stems from characters. I feel like a lot of my work is really character driven, even the stuff that is very hack and slashy, like my Ayala Storme series, which is an adult series. That’s still really based on character motivations, who they are as people, and what that does to the situations in which they find themselves.

Julia
W
hat was your journey like getting this particular novel written and published? So you said you started it in 2017. How long did it take you to get a first draft, and what happened in between writing the end on that first draft and the publication date?

Maya
Yeah, so I wrote this in 2017, and I want to say it only took me a couple of months to finish. I mentioned that I have dormancy periods, but I work like a volcano where after those dormantancy periods, I get this massive eruption of words, and I tend to use that to get through entire books quite quickly.

We went on submission quite quickly with this. There were only a few tiny revisions my agent suggested. We got a lot of final round sort of rejections on the book, and I mentioned that we got a revise and resubmit about six months after we submitted it.

It was really disheartening because several of the rejections we got on the book were sort of on the axis of of queerness or autism or transness, and those were really difficult. I'm fairly immune to most rejections these days. I've gotten hundreds of them. I don't really take them personally. But I did take those personally. It's really hard to not take something personally when it pertains to part of your own personal identity.

Ultimately those sorts of things show that it's not a good fit, and I wouldn't really want to work with someone who didn't accept or have a desire to understand my characters and myself. So that's okay, but we ended up sort of shelving the book after about a year and a half on submission, and I didn't think it was ever going to get published.

Once upon a time in 2012 I signed with my first agent, Jes Negrón, who was with Talcott Notch. Together she and I sold several books, but then all of my books got orphaned in the space of three weeks, I think?

Julia
Oh no.

Maya
And then poor Jes had to leave the industry due to personal stuff not long after that, so I had to find a new agent. And that was Sara Megibow, my new agent.

Jes went and worked somewhere else for quite a long time and then left there and got back into publishing as an editor. She was working for um, Boyd Mills & Kane as a children's editor, and she was only doing pretty much like picture books and maybe middle grade, I'm not sure.

But in 2019, she started acquiring YA, and she knew that I had this book that we'd shelved. She was one of the first people who pulled me out of the slush pile back in 2012, like, she has really believed in me and my writing for a decade. When she asked us to send her the book, we sent it to her.

And in 2019, I was going through a separation and also a massive visa thing, trying to you know, make sure I could stay here, and I ended up in New York in the process of getting my new visa. Jes told me that they were offering on this book. She said that at the acquisitions meeting, when she'd taken it for second reads and everything from the whole board, who were to decide whether or not they were going to acquire it, and she said that they were just incredulous and wondering how no one had picked me up yet. I started crying into my chimichangas. I think we were at a mexican restaurant.

Through circumstance and stuff being as it is, Jes ended up leaving her job right after the contract was signed, and so I got moved to Suzy [Krogulski], who's my my new editor, and right as the pandemic hit, so things were definitely a bit of a… a bit of a time to be doing lots of very huge life things all at once.

It's really funny to me that YA is actually really hard to break into. But in all these years I've not really managed to break into adult science fiction and fantasy. Most of my successes with that have come from self-publishing books that got orphaned. But with YA, BMK got bought by Astra through the course of my editorial process and everything that was going on with the pandemic. They have believed in this book so strongly, and my publicists have done just amazing jobs with this. It's been such a thing that started out as a shelved novel, and has turned into a book that I'm so proud of, and have a really good team behind who believe in it, and believe in me.

And they've just bought my option book as well, which is called The Evolving Truth of Ever Stronger Will, so that will be out in a couple of years, and I'm excited to do another book with them.

But it's funny to look back and just be like this this book was out of commission, and now it's in the world. It's real.

Julia
Yeah, that's wonderful. So the option book, is that a completely different standalone book, or is it set in the same world as Sam?

Maya
It sort of sat in the same world as Sam, but it's not in the same part of the country. Will takes place and in rural Maryland, and it's similarly a neurodivergent, non binary protagonist and a mystery with a paranormal flavor of it. It's definitely a sort of sibling novel to to Sam.

Julia
Will we see any of the characters from Sam making any appearances?

Maya
No, I don't think so. At this point in the draft, there's no crossover, but I could be possibly worked upon to do something.

Julia
I Just always love it when I see like a little cameo Easter egg. Even if it's not a main character or anything. But yeah, that's really exciting. I'm excited to read it.

As the author of this book, did you have any input about the cover art, or the narrator, or anything like that?

Maya
Yes, I'm so excited that you asked me that question because I love getting to talk about these people!

Usually authors don't get much say in covers and audio book narrators and stuff like that besides like general ideas and sort of directions. Astra was really hands on with with me and letting me be involved in that. They showed me who the cover artist was. Their name is Lauren Franklin. They're a phenomenal artist out of Minneapolis. The second I saw their portfolio I was just like, “Yes, this is perfect.”

They gave me a chance to sort of go back and forth with and some revisions for the cover, and Lauren just absolutely knocked it out of the park. I'm so in love with the cover, and I get so many comments on just how perfect it is for the book.

And in terms of narrator, Audible similarly involved me in that process far more than I really have ever been involved before. I've done now 7 books with Audible, and my first 6 were done with Amber Benson, who's absolutely tremendous from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I'm still in awe of the fact that she's read 6 of my books, but with Sam Sylvester, it was really important for me to have a non-binary actor.

It's definitely difficult to to find someone who hits every single aspect of a character's identity, but we found Allegra Verlezza, who is a non binary voice actor in New York. I was given two different auditions and to listen to, and one was Allegra’s, and the second I heard their voice I was just like, “That's it. That's Sam. There we go.” And they did a really spectacular job.

Julia
Yeah, that's so cool that you actually did get to have some input there, and it sounds like both the cover artist and the narrator are nonbinary as well?

Maya
Yes.

Julia
That's very cool.

Maya
Yeah, I really love that, and just huge amounts of respect for my publisher working to make that true. Both my print publisher and Audible as the audiobook publisher. I just really appreciate their, not just willingness, but proactiveness in doing that.

Julia
That's so cool. Well, thank you so much for talking to me. This has been wonderful. I've really enjoyed hearing all of your insights, and I know that all of my subscribers and patrons are going to love them as well. Do you want to end by telling us where we can find you and or your work online.

Maya
Yeah. My website's quite easy. It's just https://mayamacgregor.com, and all of my social media is sort of funneled under a Gaelic word, which I will spell and it's a pun on the name Maya. Because in Gaelic there's a word for hare, as in hippity hoppity, and that is quite close to it. So it's maigheach, and it's spelled M-A-I-G-H-E-A-C-H. Um, and I'm @maigheach on twitter, instagram, tiktok. I am one of those terminally online elder millennials, so I'm around.

Julia
Wonderful, thank you so much.

Maya
Thank you so much for inviting me.

[transition music]

That was a wonderful conversation, and I’m so glad Maya could talk to me about this book. If you like YA, mysteries, ghost stories, or books with lots of queer characters and found family, I highly recommend The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester. If you read ebooks, you can pick up the ebook version of this for just $1.99 through the month of June, 2022, because it’s on sale for Pride!

If you’ve enjoyed this interview and you’re not already a patron or subscriber, please consider joining my Patreon at www.patreon.com/juliarios, or Substack at omgjulia.substack.com. All subscriber fees and Patreon pledges directly support me in my work, and also subsidize the stories I buy from other writers to share with everyone!

My next big patron and subscriber perk is going to be a story from the Worlds of Possibility project. If you want to read it before it becomes publicly available, you can do that by becoming a supporter. I’d love to have you!

I’m also planning to do more interviews like this, and patrons and subscribers get the chance to ask questions, so if that interests you, please do join.

Thanks for listening, and I’ll catch you next time.

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