On The Booked Shelf today we’re in conversation with Gabe Cole Novoa, author of Latine YA Historical Fantasy THE WICKED BARGAIN, which Publishers Weekly has called a “swashbuckling tale brimming with sorcery” set during the 1820’s among the Caribbean.
The novel released on February 28, 2023 and if you’d like to learn more about this YA fantasy featuring a trans masc non-binary protagonist, read below!
Where did the idea for THE WICKED BARGAIN come from?
Cole Novoa: The short answer: I wanted to write about queer pirates
The long answer: I wanted to write about queer pirates and was inspired by a couple “deal with the devil” stories I came across while researching Mexican myths. It occurred to me that a deal with the devil story would meld nicely with a pirate story, and the rest all came together quickly.
What did you love most about writing this novel?
Cole Novoa: Something that was really special to me about this book was not only writing a trans protagonist, but writing a trans protagonist who uses they/them pronouns in a third person POV. This felt really significant to me because it gave me the opportunity to help normalize using they/them pronouns, and I hope people who aren’t used to using gender neutral pronouns may feel a little more comfortable with it by the end of the book. I also hope people who use they/them pronouns for themselves might feel seen in a way that’s currently somewhat difficult to find in books.
Were there any pieces of historical research involved in writing TWB that stood out to you during the drafting or editing process?
Cole Novoa: There was! I didn’t know a ton about the 1800s when I first began brainstorming the book, so I certainly did a decent amount of research around the history of the Caribbean and Latin America as a whole in the 1800s, the clothes people wore, food they ate, weapons technology they had, etc. I also read up on pirates which was really fun and I learned a bunch of cool facts! I think the most interesting bit to me was learning about the different strategies pirates used to steal from merchants—and how easy it was, especially at first, because merchant ships were largely unguarded!
The story is set during the 1820’s in the Caribbean! What was it like exploring this setting through a fantasy lens and what’s important to you when worldbuilding YA fantasy?
Cole Novoa: I’ve come to realize I really enjoy writing (and reading) historical fantasy because it asks me to reimagine a time period with, well, magic! This gave me an opportunity to shine a light on an incredibly important time in the Caribbean and Latin America’s history, while also considering what it might be like for someone with magic to live during such a tumultuous time.
As for the second part of that question, whenever I’m worldbuilding with magic the first thing I think about are the rules of magic and how society is framed around that magic. In The Wicked Bargain most of society doesn’t know about magic (and those that do believe in magic think it’s evil) so that was a little easier in the sense that I took an existing framework and considered the dangers to someone living in that kind of society. Other times, when I’m working on a book where society is largely aware of magic, I think about how that magic would influence culture, development of technology, how people see the world, etc. It can be a really cool process!
Its always great to see more LGBTQ+ rep in fantasy! What did you enjoy the most about writing a trans masc non-binary pirate MC?
Cole Novoa: I really loved being able to write a trans person as a hero in a book that wasn’t about being trans. There’s nothing that I enjoy reading more than magical queers, and it was such a blast to write a protagonist whose experience with their gender and body was familiar to me having a magic-filled adventure.
In 3-5 words what can readers expect from THE WICKED BARGAIN?
Cole Novoa: Pirates, demons, magic, much queerness
Author Bio: Gabe Cole Novoa (he/him) is a Latinx transmasculine author who writes speculative fiction featuring marginalized characters grappling with identity. Now leveled up with an MFA in Writing for Children, when he isn’t being nerdy at his day job, or buried under his TBR pile, you’ll likely find him making heart-eyes at the latest snazzy outfit he wants to add to his wardrobe. Gabe is the author of The Wicked Bargain (out Feb 2023), an untitled Pride & Prejudice retelling (Winter 2024), and the Beyond the Red trilogy
The Wicked Bargain by Gabe Cole Novoa is out now!