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V.S. Santoni aims to reach kids like him in ‘I’m a Gay Wizard in the City of the Nightmare King’

UPDATED: Thu., Nov. 5, 2020

When author V.S. Santoni joined Wattpad a few years ago, he was primarily a content consumer. But when the idea for his popular “Gay Wizard” series came to him in 2017, he knew it was time to start posting his own work.

“(‘I’m a Gay Wizard’) was the first thing I ever posted, and it pretty much blew up immediately,” Santoni said, explaining how early success helped him to overcome his shyness about publishing.

In the sequel, “I’m a Gay Wizard in the City of the Nightmare King,” best friends Johnny and Alison wake up stranded in a dream prison designed by their old enemies at the Marduk Institute, a nefarious organization bent on controlling the wizard population. As the story unfolds, Santoni’s vibrant cast of characters is forced once again to prove that love and magic can save the day.

Celebrating the sequel’s release, Santoni will join Auntie’s Bookstore and a moderator representing Odyssey Youth Movement for a virtual book event at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Organizers will post the Zoom link on Wednesday afternoon. Fans will have an opportunity to submit questions during the event.

The idea for Santoni’s series started coming to him during a deep dive into the “Torchwood” fandom. In “Torchwood,” a “Doctor Who” spinoff, one of the leading characters, Capt. Jack Harkness, is bisexual.

“That was the first time I ever saw myself identifying with a character,” Santoni said. “I’ve always been a big fan of action, science fiction and fantasy. But that was the first time I saw a queer character, a queer male lead in an action science-fiction story.”

The world of sci-fi and fantasy fiction needed more stories like “Torchwood,” he said.

“I wanted to put more of these stories out into the world,” he said. “Stories where we have gay characters, but they’re not just sitting around being sad or dramatic; they’re fighting monsters in drawn-out action sequences.”

Santoni knew what he wanted to write, but he still found himself wanting a set of guidelines to start. National Novel Writing Month offered that.

“I’ve always messed around with writing, but I’d never finished a whole novel,” he said. But as he read more about novel structure, the idea of finishing a book started coming into focus, and the concept wasn’t as daunting as he had expected.

Authors need a different kind of push to start a project. For Santoni, that push was NaNoWriMo’s 50,000-word requirement.

“Till I had that measure, I’d never had a way of knowing if what I was writing was enough. But once I had that number … I just sat down and hammered it out a month,” he said.

Before writing his “Gay Wizard” series, Santoni had never written young-adult fiction. Instead, he primarily wrote contemporary adult romance fiction. But when the idea for the series came to him, he knew it was time to explore a new genre.

“I wanted to affect kids who were like me,” he said. “When I was a kid, I wrote this stuff for myself all the time, but I never saw it anywhere else, and I never really thought I would.”

When he discovered Wattpad and the diversity of representation that the medium promotes, he knew he had found the right platform.

When Santoni starts a writing project, the people are always first.

“I draw a lot from people I know in real life – I have a very diverse circle of friends … friends from every kind of background,” he said, explaining how he manages to maintain a level of vibrancy in his characterizations.

He hopes his readers, like him, will see themselves in the characters and find the stories empowering.

“The book is about teenagers standing up to a corrupted and evil wizard government,” Santoni said. “So, I hope my readers take away that if they are under an evil and oppressive government, they need to stand up to it.”

Santoni’s “I’m a Gay Wizard” and “I’m a Gay Wizard in the City of the Nightmare King” are available at Auntie’s Bookstore.

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