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Ray Stoeve kicks off the summer with a new Queer, neurodivergent romance

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Ray Stoeve — Photo by JP Martin
Ray Stoeve — Photo by JP Martin

Ray Stoeve is known for their brooding and angsty Queer YA books, but this summer, they're treading into a brave new territory: romance.

"It's funny, I'm a very romantic person," they said. "I love love and romance and all that jazz, but I had somehow never gotten around to reading romance novels. I think I absorbed some of the snobbiness that's out there [about] that genre."

After publishing several successful YA books, Stoeve finally picked up a romance novel and was immediately hooked. "It was just so much fun, and it was also way deeper than I had been led to believe romance novels were," they said. "That genre is very underrated and misunderstood, and because representation, in general, is very important to me in books — specifically, writing Queer and Trans characters in my own stories — it got me thinking about what I wasn't seeing in that genre."


Their latest book, The Summer Love Strategy, came to them as they continued to read YA romances and found something was missing.

"I realized that in Sapphic YA romance, I had never seen a Trans girl as the love interest, ever," they said. "That just felt so wrong to me, but reading that book and being [engrossed] in that relationship, and always thinking about representation and who was telling what stories, and who was in those stories, that kind of came together and sparked my desire to write this book."

More than just Seattle summer hijinks
The Summer Love Strategy is a fun romance full of tropes and plenty of summer hijinks on the surface. Readers who look deeper will find it's also a book about the intersections of Queer, Trans, and neurodivergent identities that paints a picture of how the world should treat people. Stoeve says they wrote the book specifically for Queer and Trans readers: "That's always who I am writing to and for and who I have in mind. I hope they will feel seen and enjoy it and feel fun and have a moment to escape, because the world is a really heavy place right now — for Queer and Trans teens in particular."

Stoeve also wrote the book with neurodivergent people in mind. "I hope that it also reaches neurodivergent people of all ages. There are multiple characters in this book who are autistic or have ADHD or aren't sure yet but think they might be neurodivergent, and that's been a big part of my journey," Stoeve said. "It can be such a process to accept that about yourself and integrate it into who you are and work through the internalized ableism that comes with that, and I hope that neurodivergent people will feel the sense of value that they have and carry respect in the way the characters treat each other comes across as this is how you should be treated too, and what the relationship and the love and respect the characters have for each other."

The book also emphasizes friendship and the meaningful bonds young women make with each other. "I love friendship so much. Friendship is so important to my life, and my friends mean so much to me," Stoeve said. "I think it's beautiful to see how the love you have for someone can change and grow and find new forms from where it started."

Pacific Northwest readers may find The Summer Love Strategy even more exciting, as the story is set right here in Seattle — and full of fun summertime Easter eggs for locals. "I set all of my books in Seattle, so I get to write what I most love about this place and the Queer community, and it just brings me a lot of joy to do that," Stoeve said. "[My characters] go to the beach, the pool, the Pride Parade, a MUNA concert, and a party. It was fun to write these classic setups of Seattle summer fun."

Book launch
Stoeve kicked off the summer adventures by holding their first-ever in-person book launch event at Charlie's Queer Books on Wednesday, May 8. "I love virtual events. I think they're great, and they can be very accessible to me in ways that in-person events aren't, but it feels really special to finally get to have a launch event in a bookstore where everyone I love can come, and I can sign everybody's physical books and connect in that way," they said.

They were also excited to host their launch party in the store that has quickly become a staple of Seattle's Queer community. "It's been interesting to have grown up in Seattle and seen how Queer community and Queer spaces have shifted over time from when I was young," Stoeve said. "To be at a point in the development of Seattle's Queer community where there are spaces like Charlie's Queer Books, where it's a bookstore, but he's hosting so many other Queer events — I've seen a D&D night, a crafting night, people are hosting their meetups there — it's more than just what the founding point was for the business. It gives us places to connect, meet each other, and feel a sense of belonging and safety that we may or may not have in the rest of our lives and to see possibilities for our own life."

Stoeve's third book, The Summer Love Strategy, is out now and makes the best summer beach read. The novel is available at Charlie's Queer Books, Third Place Books, and Madison Books.