As draconian laws are passed and beloved books are banned, the LGBTQ community needs strong literary representation more than ever.
Thankfully, acclaimed New York Times & Washington Post writer and author Seamus Kirst has released the brand new book Dad and Daddy’s Big Big Family. As Harper attends her first family reunion with her two fathers, she is treated to a master class on what truly makes a family.
Michael Cook sat down to chat with Seamus on what inspired the release of his latest book, his passion for children’s books, and the why book banning seems to be the latest culture war our community is fighting.
Michael Cook: Your book Dad and Daddy’s Big Big Family is needed now more than ever; what inspired you to write and release this one?
Seamus Kirst: My inspiration for writing this book was to add to the amazing wave of LGBTQ representation in children’s books. After writing Papa, Daddy, and Riley, a few years ago – which is a book that is focused on the fact that Riley has two dads – I wanted to move into the space of writing children’s books that have matter-of-fact representation.
I deeply believe in, and am trying to write, parenting and family books on almost any topic imaginable with gay parents. These books are meant to be read by all families.
Just like same sex parents have used books featuring a mom and a dad for years, I believe any and all families can use books like Dad and Daddy’s Big Big Family to teach their kids about important family-related topics, as well.
MC: Tell me about Dad and Daddy’s Big Big Family…..
SK: ‘Dad and Daddy’s Big Big Family’ is a book that teaches kids about extended family through the eyes of Harper, a younger child who is going to her first family reunion.
At the reunion, Harper meets and spends the day with her second cousin, Noah, who is her age.
They believe that family ‘“‘are the people you live with‘,”‘ so after having a silly moment trying to figure out how they are going to fit all of these people into one of their houses, Dad and Daddy explain to them how though every family is different and can be made up of people you are related to or people you choose, the one constant in every family is that it is connected by love.
MC: You’ve taken the plunge into writing children’s books before; what initially inspired you to write a children’s book? What was the process like?
SK: I was a huge reader as a kid, and as I became older and started personal writing and journalism, I always dreamed about moving into the children’s book world. I received incredible advice from a friend to
‘write a book that you wish existed when you were a child, or a book that you would love to one day read to your children.‘
I always think of that when I go to the drawing board for book ideas, and am always glad to see how many books can check both of those boxes.
In terms of process, I first started working with an agent who then submitted my manuscript to different publishing houses. After Magination Press bought the book, I worked with an editor to get the manuscript into its final iteration. I then worked with them to find an illustrator. For both of my books I was so lucky to work with incredible illustrators. Devon Holzwarth and Karen Bunting are such brilliant artists and created these stunning visual worlds for my words.
After you nail down the final illustrations, the book is then off to the press. It’s always such a magical feeling when you hold your book in your hand for the first time. It’s an even more magical feeling when you watch a child light up as they read it!
MC:As a freelance writer and journalist, you’ve written about so many varied topics. What topic do you think you find that you derive the most passion about when you write?
The two topics I am the most passionate writing about are mental health and LGBTQ rights.
MC: How do you explain the nationwide hysteria from the far right that is causing people to ban important book titles and important books for children?
I think the hysteria is built upon calculated callous cruelty. It is incredibly disturbing to watch politicians weaponize homophobia and transphobia to try to score political points.
LGBTQ people exist and “Don’t Say Gay”-esque laws that try to erase us will never work, though that doesn’t mean they do not cause pain and great harm. LGBTQ teachers should be able to talk about their families. LGBTQ students should be able to talk about themselves. Children of LGBTQ people should be able to talk about their parents.
We have to continue to speak out and fight against these morally reprehensible laws, and vote out the people who champion them. We need all our allies to join in this movement, because, without a doubt, there are more people who are against these laws than there are those who are for them.
MC:After Dad and Daddy’s Big Big Family, what’s next?
I have three more books with two dad families being published by Magination Press in the next year and a half.
I am continuing to work on new books, and would also love to write LGBTQ YA and middlegrade.
Additionally, I am moving into the TV writing space, as well, and am excited to help contribute to the wave of powerful queer TV representation while writing and creating shows for kids, teens, and adults.
MC: How do your personal feelings about Pride influence your writing?
In our current political climate amidst an onslaught of oppressive laws being championed by hypocritical bigots, we need Pride just as much as ever. I love Pride as a holiday and as a celebratory month, but I also love it as a sentiment that exists all year.
The LGBTQ community has, and will continue to, contribute so much to our society, and I hope to continue to be able to write books that celebrate us for all that we are.
Follow Seamus Kirst on Instagram.
(Photos, Seamus Kirst)