Ask the Author: Phil Stamper
What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?
I became a writer after a lifetime of reading, so it’s always hard to pinpoint the authors or books that made me want to write. Shortly after college, I fell into the YA dystopian trend hard. I read every single series that was out there, and I couldn’t get enough. I had my own idea for a dystopian novel, so I decided to try and write one myself. Four books, two genres, and nearly eight years later, my debut novel is finally coming out. It took a while, but I’m really happy with where I’m at now.
Along the way, I stumbled upon some amazing queer YA and realized my stories could not only be fun and cute, but impactful too. In recent years, I’ve been inspired by so many queer YA books, like I Wish You All The Best by Mason Deaver; Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian; The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante; Death Prefers Blondes by Caleb Roehrig; Bloom by Kevin Panetta and Savanna Ganucheau to name a few. I’m so honored to be able to add my book to the growing collection of LGBTQ+ YA out there now.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book?
I’d say my main advice is to keep trying. Focus more on the process of writing than on one specific book. The market’s always moving, and things are so subjective… and every time I write a book, I get the feeling that that is my best work. But as soon as I put my soul into another piece, I realize it’s not true. So keep improving your craft. Keep trying out new stories. Write what comes naturally to you, even write what doesn’t. Try a bit of everything, really.
I received 92 total rejections from agents between two books, and 84 rejections from editors between three books. This industry is not kind to its artists—even the nicest rejections hurt, bad. But I think you grow so much with each rejection and with each new story, that as long as you keep trying, one day it will turn around. Just know that for every supposed “overnight success” there’s usually years of frustration leading up to it that we never hear much about. Know you’re not alone, and stick with your writer friends—they’ll get you through the worst of it!
What is your book about for those who haven’t read it?
I like to describe The Gravity of Us as a contemporary reimagining of the 60s space race where two sons of astronauts fall in love after their lives are uprooted for their parents’ NASA mission to Mars.
The story follows Cal, a successful social media journalist with half a million followers who’s used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus.
Not long after, Cal meets Leon, another “Astrokid,” and finds himself falling head over heels—fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.