Andrew Joseph White is a queer, trans author from Virginia, where he grew up falling in love with monsters and wishing he could be one too. He is a graduate student in George Mason University’s Creative Writing program and has a habit of cuddling random street cats. Andrew writes about trans kids with claws and fangs, and what happens when they bite back. Hell Followed with Us is his first novel.
In this post, Andrew discusses the process of writing the book he wishes he could’ve read growing up with his new YA novel, Hell Followed with Us, what he learned about himself in the process, and more!
Name: Andrew Joseph White
Book title: Hell Followed with Us
Publisher: Peachtree Teen/Peachtree
Release date: June 7, 2022
Genre/category: YA post-apocalyptic horror
Elevator pitch for the book: After escaping from the fundamentalist cult that caused Armageddon, 16-year-old transgender boy Benji joins a group of queer rebels fighting to survive in a ruined world—but the cult infected him with a vicious bioweapon, slowly transforming him into a rotting beast, and they’ll do anything to get him back.
What prompted you to write this book?
A whole lot of things pushed me toward this story. Coming out as trans was difficult, to say the least, and it left me with a lot of rage and fear to work through. I also came out into a world where transphobic legislation and rhetoric was (and still is) on the rise—when so many people are disgusted by your existence, what are you supposed to do?
Because of this, I knew I had to write about a trans boy who could fight back against those who wanted him erased. And I also knew I had to write for kids—for teenagers like the one I was, confused by myself and everything else, looking for answers. It all came together into a book that means everything to me.
How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?
From the initial bolt of inspiration to publication day, it took almost four years. I came up with the idea in 2018, where it appeared to me in a sudden rush—he has to turn into a monster, I have to write about a trans boy who turns into a monster—and the heart of it has stayed the same ever since.
And the book wasn’t always a critique of right-wing Christianity. I created a few different belief systems for the story’s cult before deciding that I could, and should, draw inspiration from a real issue affecting the trans community. Doing so brought a deeper, richer meaning to the work, and it’s something lots of readers will relate to.
Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?
Thanks to social media and my close group of author friends, I was never truly shocked by any part of the process, though it was humbling to see my own work undergo it all. And I’ll admit, it never sunk in how many hands a book passes through until I tried to keep track! An agent, an editor, a designer, a typesetter, multiple copyeditors, and on and on. Looking at a bound book in a store, it’s easy to forget just how many people put so much effort into making it happen—but it takes a whole lot of amazing people.
Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?
One of the ways this book surprised me actually changed the course of my life. One of the characters is autistic, and I promised I would do the best research I could: not through doctors, or parents of autistic kids, or other “outside” sources, but through meeting actually autistic people and listening to their stories. Turns out, their stories sounded a lot like mine—and that put me on the path to realizing I’m autistic too. I’m so grateful to the autistic educators and friends who helped me figure out this book, and myself.
What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
It depends on the type of reader. This book was written for trans kids—the ones facing down adults who don’t understand them—and I hope they find catharsis, a mirror, understanding.
I hope readers who aren’t transgender will come to a better understanding of what their trans peers go through in order to be who they are. And I hope all young readers come a step closer to understanding their own strength and are inspired to be themselves, no matter what.
If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?
Write the messy parts of your lives! Write your anger, your love, your fear, your hope, with reckless abandon, no matter how ugly it might look on the page. Because I promise you, there’s someone out there who needs to hear it.