Author Chat with Jasper Sanchez (The [Un]Popular Vote), Plus Giveaway! ~ (US Only)
Today we're excited to chat with Jasper Sanchez author of
The [Un]Popular Vote.
Read on for more about Jasper, his book, plus an giveaway!
Meet Jasper Sanchez!
Jasper Sanchez is a transmasculine author from the heart of Northern California wine country. He earned his BA in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania and his MA in cinema and media studies from UCLA. He now lives in Seattle with his cat. You can visit him online at www.jaspersanchez.com [jaspersanchez.com].
Meet The [Un]Popular Vote!
Red, White, & Royal Blue meets The West Wing in Jasper Sanchez’s electric and insightful #ownvoices YA debut, chronicling a transmasculine student’s foray into a no-holds-barred student body president election against the wishes of his politician father.
Optics can make or break an election. Everything Mark knows about politics, he learned from his father, the Congressman who still pretends he has a daughter and not a son.
Mark has promised to keep his past hidden and pretend to be the cis guy everyone assumes he is. But when he sees a manipulatively charming candidate for student body president inflame dangerous rhetoric, Mark risks his low profile to become a political challenger.
The problem? No one really knows Mark. He didn’t grow up in this town, and his few friends are all nerds. Still, thanks to Scandal and The West Wing, they know where to start: from campaign stops to voter polling to a fashion makeover.
Soon Mark feels emboldened to engage with voters—and even start a new romance. But with an investigative journalist digging into his past, a father trying to silence him, and the bully frontrunner standing in his way, Mark will have to decide which matters most: perception or truth, when both are just as dangerous.
~ Author Chat ~
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
The (Un)Popular Vote is the result of a confluence of coincidences in the summer of 2017. I’d been binging the West Wing and toying with the idea of writing a campaign book about a transgender politician. Then a wildfire devastated my hometown and forced me to reexamine the complex feelings I harbored about that place and what it was like to grow up as a not-even-closeted-because-I-didn’t-realize-I-was-queer teen there. And it was the culmination of five years of coffee shop reunions with my high school best friend, who also only came out as gay in college, about what it would have been like, if we and the rest of our friends had known we were queer back then. So this book was a thought experiment in historical revisionism and an apology note to my hometown scrawled on the back of a progressive manifesto of queer politics, all sprinkled with glitter.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
I love all my children equally, but I love some more equally than others. Ultimately, though, I have to say my favorite is my protagonist, Mark. He’s a character who has haunted me for the past fifteen years. He was the protagonist of the first novel I ever wrote, back when I was an awkward, pretentious, politics-obsessed teenager. He was a forty-something allocishet Republican and the literal president of the United States. (Things have really come full circle for him.) On the surface, my teenage progressive transgender disaster protagonist bears little resemblance to the original Mark Adams, but he has the same heart. He’s still a hopeless idealist who cares about everything a little too much. He is, in his words, “kind of a bleeding heart,” who’s willing to do (almost) whatever it takes. He’s kind of an idiot, and I love him for it.
YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?
The novel came first and, with it, a very different title: Utopia Heights, for the fictional suburb in which the book was set. I thought the title was an effective way to emphasize sense of place, and I was enamored with it. My agent, however, sagely pointed out that anything with “utopia” in the title sounds pretty science fiction. We went back and forth about other possibilities, and eventually, I suggested The Unpopular Vote. My agent suggested we add parentheses, and thus The (Un)Popular Vote was born. (And to this day, none of us are 100% consistent on whether the first “p” in “popular” is capitalized.)
YABC: Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
I’m going to define “the beginning” as 2007, when I finished writing that first novel. It was two weeks before my fifteenth birthday, and I was convinced that writing “Finis”—yes, I was pretentious af—was the beginning of everything. And I was right, just not in the way I thought. After some light revision, I actually queried that mess of a novel. (I still remember which agents, and they still work in the industry, and I am still mortified and very glad that I changed my name when I transitioned!) I was crushed to think that novel wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t ready. I kept writing through high school and college, and every new novel, I thought, this is it, this is the one, this will get me published. And each time, I got to the end and realized, no, I wasn’t there yet. I didn’t bother querying those novels because I knew I wasn’t there yet. I was afraid I was never going to get there. But I kept writing all those years, and finally, finally, I wrote something, and I knew. And I’ll tell you a secret: When the clock hit midnight on my release day, I listened to the song “Vienna” by Billy Joel. All of which to say, I’ve learned to be patient. Writing isn’t a contest with anyone, least of all yourself.
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
I know I’m not allowed to say “everything,” so I’ll go with Monty, the little Jack Russell terrier in the bottom right corner. I love everything from his little paws to his majestic tail to his aquiline snout to his bright blue eye. I love the way it looks like he’s standing up against the edge of the book, trying to paw it open like dogs claw at doors.
YABC: What’s on your TBR pile?
SO MANY BOOKS including but not limited to: The Passing Playbook by Isaac Fitzsimons, Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa, Gay Bar by Jeremy Atherton Lin, The Guncle by Steven Rowley, Not My Problem by Ciara Smyth, and a book of Yiddish folktales. (Also literally on my TBR: my cat, who sleeps on top of my hardcover stacks.)
YABC: Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
The most difficult scene to write wasn’t the most emotional (the last scene) or the most infamous (the cathedral scene). It was actually Mark’s election day speech in front of the student body. In the first draft, Mark’s speech was this pretty, polished treatise on privilege in suburbia. I was attached to it because I thought it was a good summation of some of the main themes in the book—and I just really liked the prose. But, my editor rightly pointed out that the speech didn’t make sense. It was too pretty—and by extension too opaque—and it wouldn’t win over any undecided voters in an actual election. She thought Mark’s speech should be messier—something that both demonstrated character development and also spoke to voters Mark hadn’t been able to reach before. So, I went back and watched some of my favorite speeches from the West Wing. (See Matt Santos’s speeches in “Freedonia” and “2162 Votes.”) I wrote draft after draft. I paced around a long-suffering friend’s office on our lunch hour orating. But finally, I ended up with something I could be proud of. Aaron Sorkin, eat your heart out!
YABC: Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
If you’re looking to support a trans and queer organization here in the Pacific Northwest, I’d recommend the Lavender Rights Project, which provides low-cost legal services to low-income trans and queer people.
YABC: What advice would you give to new writers?
Not to be controversial, but: Take every piece of writing advice with a grain of salt. So much writing advice I see is prescriptive. Like there’s a set of rules you must follow in order to be an author, and if you don’t write x number of words every day, you’ll be kicked out of the club with all hopes of publishing up in smoke. There are rules about routine and process and style, and it’s so fussy. You have to find what works for you, whether that’s writing every day, or only writing on weekends, whether you write 75-page outlines before writing your first scene or don’t figure out the plot until you’ve scratched the zero draft. And you might learn that what works for one writing project doesn’t work for another. The best advice I can give you is to ignore people who try to tell you that you’re doing it wrong. Do what works for you. Surround yourself with writers who support you and support them in return. Make your own rules. Don’t rush. You’ll get there, I promise.
The [Un]Popular Vote
By: Jasper Sanchez
Release Date: June 1st, 2021
Publisher: Harpercollins Children's Books
Three winners will each receive a hardcover copy of The [Un]Popular Vote (Jasper Sanchez) ~ (US Only)
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*