Emerging novelist, Daven McQueen’s The Summer of Juniper Jones (Wattpad Books, June 16, 2020) is about a pair of best friends who aim to fulfill their summer bucket list under difficult circumstances. When Ethan Harper, a mixed-race youth, visits his aunt and uncle in small-town Alabama, he is confronted with some of the harsh realities of being a black male. The historical coming-of-age novel has already been a hit online with more than 630,000 reads on Wattpad.
McQueen, 23, initially penned the book when she was a senior in high school. She knew she wanted to write about a summer at the lake but with a twist. The twist was partly inspired by a U.S. history class she had taken. “I’ve never been, like, a super big history fan before, but I was super interested in that class,” the California native tells So Booking Cool. “We went a little bit into the Civil Rights era, the Jim Crow era, but not as much as I wanted to. And I just wanted to learn more about what that time was like, and, so, I decided to set it during that setting.”
In addition to basing the story in the 1950’s, McQueen was also conscious about writing a book about friendship. “I was very intentional about it not being a romantic relationship in any way,” says the Brown University alum. “That in part was inspired by the number of really strong and wonderful platonic friendships that I have, and wanting to give space to friendship in a young adult novel… especially between a male and female protagonist [where] it usually ends in romance. Also honoring the idea of friendship as this very valid and very powerful form of love.”
The blatant racism Ethan endures in Alabama (excluding Juniper, the town’s free spirited and kindhearted resident) is a real-life ongoing issue, especially in America, that McQueen says needs to be addressed.
When asked about the advice she would give Black people about navigating these common realities, she says, “It’s hard to give any advice of, like, ‘here’s what you can do so you can feel better or beat it or whatever.’ But I think a big thing for me is really reaching out to community–communities especially with other black folk and spaces where you’re comfortable talking about all of these challenges and all of these upsetting things that come across the news all the time; and really feeling like we can lean on each other because I think so much of our strength as black folks and what we’re dealing with constantly, is to start a community and the ways that we support each other.”
Watch the interview to learn more about McQueen including what she thinks makes good and the best authors; some of her reading preferences and habits; her advice for overcoming procrastination when writing a book; how she discovered Wattpad; why she honors her early writing despite having been self-critical; why she does not see The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones being adapted for the screens; whether she will write another book; and more! For more information, visit McQueen’s official Wattpad page.