I haven’t read many books in verse, but it’s something I’ve enjoyed. The Song of Us is told in verse and that caught my eye. Today I have an author interview on my stop for the book tour hosted by TBR and Beyond Tours. Keep on reading to find out more about The Song of Us and the author, Kate Fussner.
The Song of Us by Kate Fussner
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary Romance
Publishing Date: May 30, 2023
This stunning debut and wholly original queer middle grade novel-in-verse retelling of “Orpheus and Eurydice” adds a new chorus to the songs of great love, perfect for fans of Other Words for Home and Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World.
Love at first sight isn’t a myth. For seventh graders Olivia and Eden, it’s fate. Olivia is a capital-P Poet, and Eden thinks she wants to be a musician one day, but for now she’s just the new girl. And then Eden shows up to Poetry Club and everything changes.
Eden isn’t out, and she has rules for dating Olivia: don’t call. Don’t tell her friends. And don’t let anyone know they’re together.
But when jealousy creeps in, it’s Olivia’s words that push Eden away. While Eden sets out to find herself, Olivia begins a journey to bring Eden back—using poetry. Both Olivia and Eden will learn just how powerful their words can be to bring them together . . . or tear them apart forever.
Content Warning: Homophobia, mental illness
What inspired you to write The Song of Us?
I was in a master’s program, earning my MFA in Creative Writing for Young People, at Lesley University. I had just finished a Young Adult prose manuscript, and I was planning on spending a semester revising it. But my mentor insisted, instead, that I pick up an entirely new project. At first, I was furious! I didn’t have any other ideas and she wanted me to not only come up with a new novel idea but one for a new audience, too. That challenge seemed impossible. However, when I was doing yoga later that morning, I got the spark of inspiration for a queer novel-in-verse version of “Orpheus and Eurydice.” I can’t quite believe how all of the pieces fell into place so quickly, but something in me said I had to write this story, and THE SONG OF US was born.
What has been the favorite part of your publishing journey so far?
There are so many moments that have brought me joy, but by far the most exciting day so far was when I got to hold my Advanced Reader Copies for the first time. There’s something so exhilarating about realizing that the Microsoft Word document I’d been working on for so long was suddenly a physical book to hold.
If you were a character in The Song of Us, what kind of character would you be?
There are pieces of me in all of the characters in THE SONG OF US, so this is a hard one for me! If I have to choose, I think I most identify with Olivia, who believes that her words can get her through all situations and has a hard time letting go of controlling the situations she finds herself in. I could also learn a lot from her, and how she learns to ask for and accept help from those around her.
Describe The Song of Us in five words or less.
Queer love, middle school hijinks
What is your favorite quote from The Song of Us?
“that’s what they call
of famous songs
so anyone can learn them
all my life I’ve performed
so anyone can like me
tonight I shut my fake book,
decide with each step
it’s time to play
the real me.”
What do you hope readers take away from your story?
I hope that readers are able to find themselves in Olivia and Eden’s love story, as well as the many challenging situations that they encounter in middle school. I hope that young queer readers realize that they should get to be the heroes of their own love stories, and that their stories, lives, and words always matter.
Could you give us 5 random facts about The Song of Us (think the story, writing, publishing, anything that comes to mind)?
- The school details are largely inspired by my time as a middle school and high school teacher at two different Boston Public Schools.
- This is the first novel-in-verse I’ve ever written! In fact, before I started this novel I hadn’t written poetry since high school.
- The original version ended about 10 poems earlier, and was a lot less hopeful on the page (even though the ending was always hopeful in my mind!).
- Although most of the book has changed, the very first line “My mother liked to say,” has remained the same since the very first draft.
- The owner of the keyboard that Eden buys is named after my high school music teacher, Mr. Davis, who nurtured my love of music and deepened my knowledge in his music theory class. His teaching had a profound impact on me.
If the synopsis and interview have you curious about The Song of Us, click here for the full tour schedule. Amazing bloggers and bookstagrammers have been talking about this book throughout the week.
About the Author
Kate Fussner writes books for young people and bakes the perfect chocolate chip cookie. She holds a B.A from Vassar College, an M.Ed. from University of Massachusetts Boston, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing for Young People from Lesley University. After over a decade of teaching English for the Boston Public Schools, Kate now spends her time writing and walking her dramatic dog, Mrs. Weasley. She is represented by Eric Smith at P.S. Literary. Her writing has appeared in the Boston Globe, WBUR’s Cognoscenti, and elsewhere. She and her wonderful wife live in MA.
A big thank you to Kate for taking time to answer my interview questions! Have you read any books in verse you’d recommend? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.