Welcome to May We Present…, a new column from Lambda Literary that highlights authors with recent or forthcoming publications. For our second profile, it’s all about author Morgan Rogers and their debut novel, Honey Girl, out now from Park Row Books. Honey Girl is a queer coming of age story with a cast of dynamic characters and vivid settings. The novel begins with Grace Porter waking up in Vegas and discovering that she has drunkenly married a woman she met the night before. The rest of the book follows Grace as she navigates both the aftermath of this occurrence and the messiness of adulthood more generally.
In her writing, Rogers artfully negotiates the tension between connection and loneliness and exposes the harsh reality that in life the two are often experienced simultaneously. Honey Girl is a funny, engaging, and genuine read that also reveals profound truths about the human experience.
Below, Morgan Rogers discusses real and imaginary audiences, divulges the very last text she sent, and shares the origins of Honey Girl’s vivid characters.
When did you realize you had to write Honey Girl?
December 2018. I think it was Christmas Eve. I just knew I wanted to write a book with the married in Vegas trope, and so January 2019, New Year’s Day, I started writing. I even kept an accountability thread so everyone could see if I failed, ha!
Some authors write for an imaginary audience or reader. Who was your imaginary audience while writing Honey Girl?
I had a very real audience, actually! One of my best friends read each chapter of the first draft as I wrote it, and she would text me very aggressively if I took too long in getting them to her.
If we have to go imaginary, I guess in my head I was writing for people who felt similar to me, who wanted a story about two queer girls getting engaged in the context of a very popular trope. And then the audience transformed into people who feel lonely and lost and small in a big, terrifying universe. Queer people that feel like the scary, fearsome thing.
The novel’s characters are exceptionally vivid. How did you go about creating and writing such distinct characters? Where did they come from?
I take little bits from people I know and also myself. And then as all those things interact, the characters kind of take their own shape. I love face-casting, though, so I find a “face” for the character first, then their name. Then I usually do their age, zodiac sign, and things they like. And then I go from there.
From Las Vegas to Portland to New York, Honey Girl takes place in many different locations. What is your ideal writing environment? What about reading?
Well, in the Before Times before Covid, I could write anywhere, but usually on my laptop in my room. Sometimes ideas would hit me in the middle of the night and I would wake up and write nonsense on my phone thinking it made sense. Now, because I can’t really change my environment, I have to change what I write on. I write on my laptop, my phone, in Microsoft Word, Google Docs, the Bear app. That’s about as much variance as I get. As far as reading, I usually prefer an e-book, but now that I spend so much time at home on my computer, I like a physical book.
When you’re not writing or reading, what are you doing?
Listening to music. I am always, always, always listening to music. If I’m awake, Spotify is playing. I think I’ve earned out my Premium membership by now, and it should be free. Hi Spotify people, make my membership free.
What book you are most looking forward to reading at the moment?
In Honey Girl, you offer readers a glimpse into characters’ private text conversations. What’s the last text you sent?
“it was. mostly surreal.”
Teachers and mentors are important figures in your novel. Who are the LGBTQ+ writers or creatives that have most impacted you?
I think the LGBTQ creatives that are doing the work right now really live up to the ones that came before us and paved the way. Like, last year Leah Johnson took the world by storm with You Should See Me in a Crown, and she won a Stonewall Book Award for it. That really wows me. I’m obsessed.
Lastly, what’s the one sentence from Honey Girl that you just can’t get out of your head?
“She stands guard at the toaster because you can’t leave it too quick or too long, or the whole thing will be ruined.”