Children’s Book Editor and Brand New AuthorCamille Kellogg (she/her) is a children’s book editor and the author of Just As You Are, a romcom that celebrates queer culture, chosen family, and falling in love against your better judgment.
The book follows Liz Baker, a journalist at a failing queer magazine. When a hot butch named Daria Fitzgerald buys the magazine and starts making lots of changes, the two immediately clash. But as they spend more time together and Liz starts to see a softer side to Daria, it’s hard to keep hating her—and even harder to resist the chemistry between them.
We chatted with Camille about life as an author, her butch identity, and why she decided to write a book that celebrates everyday queer experiences.
What made you decide to write this book?
I wrote Just As You Are because this is the book that my younger self needed to read. When I was figuring out my sexuality and gender identity, I didn’t have anyone to give me advice and I felt very lost. Since I didn’t have any real-world examples, I was really eager for books and movies that could show me what being queer was like. I wrote this book for anyone who feels the way that I felt then and could really use the reassurance that queer people get to have happy endings too.
The main character, Liz, feels very unsure of her gender identity and often feels like she identifies in different ways on different days. Why did you choose to write a character who’s uncertain of her gender expression?
A lot of the time, the public narrative around queerness is one of certainty: people often say things like “I was born this way” or “I’ve always known.” But so many of us haven’t always known. Figuring out your identity is complicated and there’s not a lot of advice out there about how to do it. It’s so easy to feel insecure or ashamed for not being certain, or to feel like you’re not butch enough, queer enough, whatever enough to claim a certain label. I wanted to write a story about someone who doesn’t work through their uncertainty, but instead learns to embrace it and accept that it’s okay to not feel a hundred percent certain about how she identifies.
The love interest in this book is a butch woman who wears incredible suits. What made you want to write a butch love interest?
I mean, the main reason that I wrote the love interest, Daria, as a butch character is because butches are sexy. Especially butches in suits!
On a more serious note, there are very few pieces of media that depict butches and even fewer that depict them favorably. With Just As You Are, I wanted to write a story where butch characters, nonbinary characters, gender non-conforming characters, and trans characters are celebrated and shown as desirable, fulfilled, and three-dimensional people.
How has your identity changed over time?
In middle and high school, I put a lot of energy into trying to fit in with other girls, but it never felt natural to me. In my early twenties, I started experimenting with cutting my hair and wearing men’s clothes. I was scared every step of the way and it took me a long time to feel comfortable using the words “lesbian” and “butch” to describe myself. I definitely over-compensated for a while and started acting more stereotypically masculine than really felt right for me, because I thought that was the way a “real” butch was supposed to act. These days, I love wearing button downs, bright patterns, and black T-shirts, but I also leave room for my style and presentation to fluctuate depending on how I feel.
What advice do you have for people who are figuring out their identity or style?
My biggest piece of advice is to be patient with yourself! It takes time to figure these things out. Let yourself experiment—start with something small, like a new shirt or accessory. If you feel good when you wear it, keep going in that direction! If you don’t, try something new. And remember to have fun! It’s easy to get caught up in worrying about how other people will react, but it can be so exciting to put on a piece of clothing that feels good. Celebrate those moments of joy!
What do you hope readers take away from your book?
I really hope that readers come away with a sense of queer joy. I want people to know that being queer can bring so much happiness to your life! I also want this book to spread the message that everyone belongs in the queer community. Right now, LGBTQ rights are under attack and we need to be banding together to fight for the most vulnerable members of our community, particularly trans people. I hope readers take away the sense that we’re all one community and we need to support each other.