Happy release day to The Scapegracers by H.A. Clarke from Erewhon Books. This book is perfect for people who want to read about lesbian witches who are gay written by a queer author. In this young adult debut, Sideways Pike, an outcast, casts a spell at a Halloween party and accidentally forms a coven with three popular girls. Clarke hops by the blog to talk inspiration, craft, friendship, and a multitude of music recs.
Crafting The Scapegracers
What came to you first: the magic or Sideways?
Impossible to disentangle the two! Sideways is part and parcel of my thinking with this magic system, and before I knew nearly anything else about the book, I knew she was at a party casting spells. I figured her out and her world out in the same process. There are rules for this magic system, I suppose, but many of them are dictated by rules situated around Sideways herself, her body, her trauma, the circumstances she moves through as she goes about her weird little life. It’s loud and gay and prickly and overwhelming. They match.
Throughout the book, we learn that Sideways and her friends have more in common than they initially thought. How did you put together this unlikely coven?
I really love late eighties through early aughts girl clique movies, particularly the ones that veer toward horror—Heathers, Jawbreaker, The Craft. These movies often deal with a certain destructive homoerotic desire between women. The whole conceit of Mean Girls hinges on a not-lesbian taking revenge on a popular girl for having broken their friendship by accusing her of lesbianism. Jawbreaker is about a popular clique’s super lesbian-coded groupie obsessing over a popular girl to such a degree that she becomes something like her after said popular girl’s murder. I have no text to prove that Nancy in The Craft is queer, I just believe it to be so and will hear no criticism on this point. Anyway, these movies near exclusively feature the girl clique violently dissolving, often with queer consternations as a motivating factor in their undoing.
Jing, Yates, and Daisy are a Popular Girl Clique™ who remain committed, if not sometimes complicated friends, and their relationship with Sideways is animated by things other than manipulation, jealousy, or whatever else it was the 90s thought motivated teenage girls. Queerness is uniting rather than dividing. The camp remains.
I enjoyed how absolutely excellent those chapter headers were. Where did you find inspiration?
I like titled chapters. They’re goofy in a way that makes me happy. Sideways can take herself a bit seriously, but the chapter headings were a space where I could just be unabashedly silly in her voice.
Did you have a favorite scene or moment to write?
The scene at Daisy’s cheer practice, or the chapter where Sideways reminisces about her mom. Maybe, weirdly, the last party? It was cathartic to write.
Is there a playlist for the epic parties thrown by Daisy, Jing, and Yates?
There are several. Music is vital for my writing process. I can’t write without music, nor can I enter certain affective headspaces safely without having planned a musical throughline to keep me anchored. I have diegetic and nondiegetic playlists depending on what I need—music that makes me think of the parties isn’t necessarily what would be playing. Being said! If you are making a Scapegracers party playlist, the remix of Ringtone by 100 Gecs with Charli XCX, Kero Kero Bonito, and Rico Nasty has cemented itself in my brain as a reign of scapegrace song. Also, tracks from all the artists involved there.
Publishing and Related
Is The Scapgracers your first book?
I count my first book as a project I did as a six year old about my cats. My mother helped me bind it and everything. The Scapegracers is my first published book though, if that’s what you mean.
Is there anything you’d tell past!Clarke that you didn’t know when you started?
Past!Clarke was a ridiculous nineteen-year-old who knew next to nothing about the book community and contemporary publishing. Did they know about twitter pitching events? No. Did they know that there were dedicated community spaces for querying writers? No. I was more alone than I needed to be, and while it ultimately worked out fine, I probably would have benefited from more peers earlier on. You know. For friendship reasons.
What Comes Next
Wbat are you working on next?
I am being wildly infidelitous with other projects right now, but they are trending toward adult SF and raging queerness, like potentially more so even than with this trilogy.
Are there any books you’d recommend for us to read while we wait for the next rager?
Non-exhaustively, I’ve been into Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power, Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson, Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas, Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, In The Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado, and The Faggots & Their Friends Between Revolutions by Larry Mitchell.
Got any sick playlists?
H. A. Clarke is here and queer, etc. They have been published in PRISM international, Portland Review, and Eidolon. They were a 2019 Lambda Literary Fellow in Young Adult Fiction and a Pushcart nominee. They currently research queerness, labor, and monstrosity in grad school. The Scapegracers is their first novel.