I am so excited to be part of the blog tour for Graham’s Delicacies, a collection of three queer short romances. I loved Ali’s Soft on Soft (I even interviewed the MCs for this blog!), and was super excited to read a spin off book set at the bakery where June and Selena had their date. This collection is all the soft queer low-angst foodie goodness I needed on a hard day, and I was especially glad that two of the stories had non-binary MCs! I am thrilled to share this interview with Em today.
A Bit About Em
Em Ali grew up on TV and K-pop like many of her generation. She learned a lot about how to be a hermit and not interact with people, but she’d love to hear from readers.
An Interview with Em
How would you describe yourself to a new reader just discovering your work?
I’d say I’m a fledgling writer, figuring out how to best deliver all the cute queer tropes we want so badly in romance. I’m figuring out what I like writing best and I definitely want readers to associate me with fluffy no-conflict queer romances!
What sparked Graham’s Delicacies for you? What made you want to write those particular stories?
The first story was simply me writing Jen’s story since she popped up during a re-read of Soft on Soft. I was jokingly telling the cute girl I like how I should give Jen a baking genius as a partner. I basically wrote teeny tiny pieces of the bakery then a lot of indulgent smut. Once I finished Saccharine, I couldn’t stop myself from writing Delectable; James and Sam demanded my attention. It was only a matter of what tropes I wanted to fulfil for Alex when I was done. They snuck up on me, those six people.
I really appreciated how your queer characters had other queer folks in their lives in Grahams Delicacies and Soft on Soft. I treasure romances where queer MCs aren’t alone in an allocishet book world. What are some of your favorite romances with queer MCs who are connected to other queers?
I definitely adore the found family Anna Zabo created in the Twisted Wishes series. The ease of someone knowing exactly where you fell on the spectrum and understood it without explanation charmed me. I also like the community Katrina Jackson wrote in the Welcome to Sea Port series. I was so inspired by the fluffiness and the subtle angst that showed how she really took care of her characters.
One of the things I most appreciate about your work is how soft it is, how it really lets me luxuriate in moments of comfort and care as a reader. Tell me about writing romance that is intentionally fluffy and comforting at this historical moment. What is it like to write these stories now? How do you approach it?
I have no idea what I’m doing, to be honest. I think I spend so much time stuck in my own head, thinking of worst case scenarios, that when I sit down to write, I don’t want to invest my time in angsty things. Sure, my characters aren’t free from daily-life anxieties, but I focus on the happy moments, that leave me personally smiling when I write. I wrote a lot of my own friendly dates in my books. Talking about books, caring for cats, but I also wrote scenes I wished could happen in real life; like talking to my sister and having her understand me like James does in Graham’s Delicacies.
Writing is a hobby for me, definitely, and lately it has become the thing that made me light up inside. Whether it’s pushing myself to write all the fun sexy bits, or the teeth rotting softness of people who genuinely liked one another. It’s therapy to me.
Graham’s Delicacies includes two romances with non-binary characters, including one romance that’s between two non-binary cuties, Jen and Emilie. It’s rare to find romances between non-binary characters, and I appreciated that representation so much. Can you tell me a bit about what led you to write these particular non-binary romances, and about your process for developing these characters?
You know, I was reading this question and thinking “I don’t think I intentionally wrote Jen as also nonbinary” but I gave her teeny tiny gender feels because I am incapable of writing characters who don’t think of their gender identity. Moreover, Jen does identify as a female so it would be safe to label them as an f/nonbinary pair.
I wanted Emilie and Jen to be totally at ease together. I wanted the established couple’s story; how did they get together, how did they fit one another when they seemed so different. I wouldn’t say writing is like unlocking the characters, but it was fun getting to write a female passing person’s point of view.
I am very happy that this book allowed me to write all the nonbinary fluffiness because I want to write more of it. I want to write acceptance, love, and friendship for nonbinary characters because I often see so many ugly things being directed at us in real life.
Both Grahams Delicacies and Soft on Soft are books where food is rather central and one of the ways that characters express care and affection for each other. What do you enjoy about writing foodie romances?
I enjoy the research! I’m a bad baker. I haven’t made a basic cake in years! I do however enjoy eating them! I love sweets of all types, though I am picky with what I eat. Writing this book was exciting because I tried to understand baking a bit more; and the internet was so helpful! The saffron cakes I had because of this book didn’t hurt!
What’s next on the horizon for you?
More nonbinary romance! I am currently in the process of revising Shelby’s story! If you read Soft on Soft, you’ll probably think that rings a bell. Shelby is June’s best friend. They’re a dream to write. I might have given Shelby so much of what I love that I’m kind of excited for the world to meet them. They’re nonbinary, queer as heck, and resilient. They’re so strong in the face of day to day bullsh*t.
More About Graham’s Delicacies
Six people and three love stories all in one bakery.
Jen goes to work, agonizes over college, and looks forward to the stolen moments in the kitchen, where she can watch Emilie bake love into every donut, cake, and brownie. Their delicate friendship takes a step towards a budding romance. But will Jen’s impulsiveness help their romance surviving its first hurdle?
James has never been kissed but he wants to, especially by Sam, who he can’t talk to without turning into a little jerk, and who is made of all the good stuff. Will James’ insecurity in his inexperience ever allow him to make the move to kiss the boy?
Alex won’t let some foodie with a video camera bash their beloved bakery, even if it means they have to be petty. Except they’re nowhere ready for Yujin, the one who got away, and the one attempting to woo them. Will Alex’s second impression of Yujin let them see the sincerity in the bashful king?
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