Social queue is a funny and heartwarming autistic story about deciphering the confusing signals of attraction and navigating the path of love, following the love life of journalism intern Zoe Kelly.
We took five minutes to sit down with author Kay Kerr to talk about dating, activism, and the power of romantic comedies.
How did the dating world come to you as a way to explore Zoe’s world and some serious issues?
The idea of a young woman with autism realizing that she had missed the signs that people from her past had romantically interested in her landed in my head ready to go. And then I placed it in a media landscape because it is my background, as a former journalist.
I knew I wanted to write a romance, like my first YA novel Please don’t kiss me was pretty anti-romance, so I wanted to try something new. I also wanted to lean into comfort and escape, as I started writing this book during the bushfires of summer 2019/2020, and I wrote at the start of the pandemic. To dream of embarrassing dates and cute moments was a pleasant respite.
It was immediately exciting, and the other themes in the book fell on the page a bit by accident, as I imagined what this experience would be like for Zoe.
It also got me thinking about some of the not-so-nice moments in my dating history and how my autistic might have played a role in those (I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 20, so I did not have this framework of understanding at the time).
Are you a fan of romantic comedies?
I’m a huge fan of romantic comedies and romance novels, so it was a joyful experience to create a story like this with an autistic girl at the heart of it. I got to play with all the elements of romantic comedies that I love, tackle the ones I don’t like so much (enemies of lovers, I’m watching you), and write an uplifting story during the tough times.
I am so happy that we are entering the holiday season because I am ready for ALL Christmas themed love movies.
Zoe is really brave and speaks for herself, and at the same time full of anxiety and self-doubt – how did you cross the line in creating this in your character?
This duality is definitely something that exists within me and it was something that I wanted to explore. But I’m not sure I would call it bravery. At various times in my life this has been called rudeness, frankness, snobbery, brutal honesty, disorderly conduct, attention seeking, sensitivity, “telling it like it is” and self-destruction.
Now I see that my brain is just wired differently and there is a tag to replace all of the ones I just listed. I am autistic. It was quite heartwarming and affirming to write a character so well versed in self-representation and someone who strives to build a life that works for her. In many ways, Zoe is a draw for me.
So yes, she has a strong need to advocate for social justice and her own support needs, and she is also anxious and vulnerable. This is all part of it, and I think a lot of people can probably relate to themselves, whether they have autism or not.
The role Zoe takes in educating journalist Maia is noble but exhausting… is it something you have experience with?
This is something I see a lot in the wider disability community: it is up to people with disabilities to educate those around them, rather than people seeking their own learning and doing this work for themselves. I see a glimpse of the toll it takes, especially for people who do a lot of advocacy and activism work. I have so much respect for people like Carly Findlay, Chloe Hayden, Jordan Steele-John, El Gibbs and countless others who do this job.
Because it’s not just about educating, it’s about a lot of ableism, repression, aggression and ignorance. I get an abusive DM or have an offensive autism interaction with someone and want to go and hide in a cave for a month. I wish it hadn’t turned out that way. So the script with Maia was a way to explore the consequences that this kind of role can have. I don’t really have any answers, it’s just something that I think about and wonder about a lot.
The pandemic has really highlighted how little some people care about the lives of people with disabilities, and it’s so overwhelming. All the emphasis on “pre-existing conditions,” that little phrase people use to say “but we healthy people will be fine”, was hard to take into account.
For anyone interested in Social Queue, what other reading could you recommend?
For YA I would recommend Peta Lyre Normal Note by Anna Whateley, The boy who robs houses by CG Drews and Geek Queens by Jen Wilde. For adult readers I would also recommend The principle of the heart by Hélène Hoang, Late flowering by Clem Bastow and A room called Earth by Madeleine Ryan.
What’s on your TBR stack?
So many books! i just picked up My body keeps your secrets by Lucia Osborne-Crowley and Sad Mom Lady by Ashe Davenport from my local library because I’m in a non-fictional mood. I still have The half that faints by Brit Bennett on loan, and plan to read it next. I like the deadline that comes with a library loan; it is an incentive.
I bought recently The luminous solution by Charlotte Wood for creative inspiration. I also have a copy of Body of Light by Jennifer Down to read when I’m emotionally ready for it.
The next one on my YA stack is The haunts of the hometown, which is a horror anthology edited by Poppy Nwosu. It’s right over my head. My overflowing shelves and corners, my desk and my bedside tables can attest to the fact that even though I am a fairly fast reader, my appetite will always surpass my ability.
Featured Image: Jess Kearney