Cute Mutants Book tour: Galaxy Brain by SJ Whitby & Interview with the Author

Yesterday the final installment in the Cute Mutants series by SJ Whitby published. Which means the series is complete and now is a perfect time to marathon the whole thing! Currently, the whole series and the spin-off are on sale for kindle!

Title: Cute Mutants Volume 5: Galaxy Brain
Author: SJ Whitby
Series: Cute Mutants
Published/Publisher: October 2021, Self-published
Genre/s and Tags: Young Adult, Science-Fiction, LGBTQ, Fantasy, Superheroes
Goodreads synopsis:

This was one more hit in a long and dirty fight. I’m exhausted and useless, but I don’t know how to stop. I’ll keep taking punches until I don’t feel them anymore.

“Everything’s different now. We’ve still got enemies everywhere, but we have the power to fight back. It’s time to change the world. No matter what it takes.”

The final book in the Cute Mutants series finds our heroes finally in a position of strength and power… but this only means more foes are ready to ally against them. And the cost of victory may be higher than anyone realises.

I’ve currently read books 1-4 and will link my reviews below. I also made some mood boards associated with the main gang from book 1.

Reviews:

Mutant Pride

Young, Gifted & Queer

The Demon Queer Saga

The Sisterhood of Evil Mutants

ID: Cute Mutants Volume One sitting on a book stack of Cute Mutants Volume 2-4. Next to Vol 1 is a Found family candle tin. At the bottom of the book stack is a Dylan & Dani magnet.

This series is absolutely one of my favorites ever and when I asked SJ if they would be okay answering some interview type questions for both this and the bookclub I run on Instagram, they agreed!

Me: Hi SJ! So excited to talk to you about the Cute Mutants series and now Volume 5: Galaxy Brain which is out now. For those who don’t know about the Cute Mutants series, can you give us an elevator pitch about book 1?

                SJ: I am very bad at elevator pitches, but here are some I’ve used over time

  • superpowered queer girl gang
  • a My Little Pony friendship is magic story, but with more kissing, blood, and queer girls
  • an X-Men superfan gets powers of her own, chaos ensues
  • X-Men, but make it gay(er)

Me: Can you tell us about your publishing journey, how you went from idea to book/series and why you chose indie publishing?

                SJ: Cute Mutants was written as a ‘selfish’ book. I was feeling in a slump about writing and decided to write my dream book, something totally self-indulgent that referenced some of my favourite stories/vibes and was a book I knew I’d have loved. I also wanted to center women/queers because so often (not always) they take minor roles. So I wrote what I loved, and didn’t care about the market. It came very easily – I think the first draft of Vol 1 was written in about sixteen days, although a few key things shifted (Dylan and Dani were not going to end up together, but once I’d written a couple of scenes with them, the idea kept popping into my head). I always loved series, and superheroes seem to naturally lend themselves to ongoing stories, so by the time I was in the middle of book 1, I’d already sketched out two more in my head.

Self-publishing came because I didn’t want to wait years and years to release these books. Between that and my very real frustration with the angst-inducing process that was querying agents, going the indie route seemed like an interesting option to get things out there for anyone who was interested. I knew there was a very real possibility of failure, but I figured I’d give it a try! I’ve been hugely lucky to have some amazing, smart, and helpful friends who’ve boosted me along the way and help make up for my many shortcomings XD

[ID: The three Cute Mutants books in a diagonal line. In the top left corner is a Brave candle and a rainbow bookmark that says Bookish Merch. Below the books are two rainbow mug rugs and a rainbow bat sticker. Sitting on Cute Mutants Volume 2 is a rainbow heart pin that reads Sound Gay I’m In. 

Me: Now that you’ve released six books, what was the most surprising part of writing the Cute Mutants series and its spinoff Weapon UwU: Godkiller?

                SJ: I think how easily it all came together. Writing these books has been a near-constant joy, and even during line edits (which I usually hate the most), I’ve always loved being in this world and spending time with my chaos children. I also probably didn’t expect how many ideas I’d have spinning out from it, because there are a lot of concepts I want to play with in this universe.

Me: Related to this, did you know how the series was going to end when you started Mutant Pride? Or have things changed with each book?

                SJ: I definitely didn’t know how it was going to end when I started Mutant Pride, and not even exactly when I finished it. It was during Book 2 that it all fell into place and the final book has most of those key ideas in place… some things definitely changed, including one of the biggest twists of the whole book, but the core plot is all there.

Me: Now I’m going to test you! During the Wick and Jane Book club read, I made all the members come up with their mutant powers and a drawback to it. If you were a mutant what would be your power?

               SJ: Some would say I already have the superpower of writing fast (I drafted two books for a total of 180k words in September, which is fast even for me). The drawback is a bad sleep schedule, my focus drifting to mutants and their shenanigans, and the desire to always be writing another book.

Me: Cute Mutants centers on Dylan, but out of our main cast do you have any other favorites?

                SJ: Alyse is like my idealised best friend. I adore her! And obviously Dani. And Penance. And I have a huge soft spot for Lou and his arc, which is one of my favourite things (especially in Weapon UwU, where he really steps up and becomes a leading man). Honestly, I love so many of my characters, and I keep bringing in new ones, which causes me problems in other ways XD

Me: Besides X-men, is there anything that was an inspiration for this series?

               SJ: Buffy the Vampire Slayer is probably the other huge inspiration, particularly in balancing the emotional tone between snark and deeper feelings. Also, someone pointed out that Dylan has vibes of a foul mouthed Gen-Z Lorelai Gilmore (talking really fast with pop culture reference) and that’s probably more unintentional but is definitely in there.

In a lot of ways, Cute Mutants is me indulging a lot of my favourite tropes: found family, monstrous girls (and not-girls), banter for days, enemies/rivals to friends, ride or die friendships, and of course hurt/comfort (I like to ‘joke’ that Cute Mutants is hurt/comfort in book form – these events are going to hurt, but I’ll give you a sweet fluff scene afterwards to make you feel better).

ID: Cute Mutants Volume 3 surrounded on the top and right side by rainbow flowers. Above the book is a rainbow Pride bookmark. Below the bookmark, is a white mug that says Pansexual whale and has a whale in the pan colors (pink, yellow, blue) on it.

Me: What are some of your favorite books/authors?

                SJ: This is always hard! Here are some, new and old that I truly love (there are so many more, but this is off the top of my head)

  • Bad Witch Burning by Jessica Lewis
  • Gearbreakers by Zoe Hana Mikuta
  • The Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner
  • Scorpio Races / The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
  • An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Me: Thanks so much for talking to me about this series. Most of my followers know I’m obsessed with it, but I’d love to know what’s coming next for you?

                SJ: Well, a whole lot, including a bunch of books set in the world post-Galaxy Brain. These are all scheduled for publication later this year and into next (yes, I’m aware this is probably overload, but they’ll all be out there for when people are ready lol)

  • Shitty Mutants (a Patreon novel about a group of less-than-superheroes who get embroiled in high drama when they’d just rather not)
  • The Mutant Archives (short stories series coming to Patreon about various paranormal occurrences through the secret history of mutants)
  • The Mutantsitters Club (MG novel about a young nonbinary kid who’s the only person without powers in their friend group)
  • Project Himbo (multi-POV weird-scifi book about resurrection, relationships, and the power of narrative)
  • Secret Things Vol 1: Imposter Syndrome (the sequel series to Cute Mutants!)
  • Weapon UwU Vol 2: The Morningstar Option
  • Agents of DREAM (strange and fantastical novel about Dylan’s step-sister Hazel)
  • Secret Things Vol 2: More Secrets (the sequel series gets bigger and weirder!)

Me: Is there anything else, you’d like for people to know about the Cute Mutants series?

                SJ: The main thing I’d like to say is thank you so much to everyone for supporting these books! My original goal when I published Mutant Pride was to sell 100 copies, and I worried that I’d never find people out there who wanted to read about a bunch of chaotic queer kids and their wild adventures. To have people pick up and love these books has been a huge honour, and I’m thrilled every time I see a photo of my book in the wild, or have a reader send me a message. To create a world and a group of characters that resonates with people is a huge privilege, and thank you for everyone who’s come along for the ride! Hopefully you want to stay on the path, because I’ve still got a lot to show you 😀

Buy Links

Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Book Shop | Amazon

ID: Cute Mutants Volume 1-3 sit in a book stack while to the right, Volume 4 stands face out. In between them is a rainbow cloud bookmark with the above quote in black font. A rainbow layered Brave candle sits on top of the three books with a magnet of Dylan & Dani in it. Slide 2: A close up of the candle & magnet—the label of the candle has a progress pride flag hanging from a balcony with BRAVE across it in white font. Inside the candle is a 6 stripe glitter rainbow and a wood wick. Slide 3: A top down view of the magnet balancing on the candle rim. Dylan is wearing a white t-shirt with a red heart, a blue-gray open jacket and jeans, in their right hand they hold a sword which has a pink arc trailing it and a “hi” speech bubble. Dani is wearing a blue crop top, jean shorts and an open white jacket. Between them their hands are clasped upright.

About the Author:

SJ Whitby lives in New Zealand with their partner, as well as various children and animals. They are predictably obsessed with X-Men and spend too much of their free time writing.

Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram Website

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