True Colorz is your web source for all things YA in the LGBTQ community! Our blog features new releases, featured authors, interviews, and reviews/recommended reading.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Featured Author & Giveaway: Winter Sandberg

Winter Sandberg grew up in a place nicknamed The Magic City, and the view from her house on the hill had her convinced the name fit perfectly for years. Spending time backstage or in music practice rooms took up a lot of Winter’s time, but hanging out with friends was truly preferred. Days after her eighteenth birthday, she headed to college not knowing how to cook.

Nowadays Winter gets paid to help people solve their family problems and then comes home and writes. She happily leaves the cooking to her husband, who is also teaching their daughter that skill so she won’t have to survive on ramen noodles when she moves away from home like Winter did.

Winter writes about transformative moments, exploring how characters manage to work through difficult times. How they respond may not be easy to see and is often not pretty, but they are genuine reactions to having life tipped on its edge. Coming out on the other side is where the good stuff is seen, and Winter likes to write about those moments of true growth rather than simply fading to black.

Connect with Winter Sandberg on Twitter @wintersandberg or visit her website:

Q&A with Author Winter Sandberg:

  1. If you could swap places with one of your fictional characters for 24 hours, who would you choose to be? Why? And what would you do that day?

    I would love to go and live as Kevin Magnus for a day so I could tell his father off properly. Ever since Kevin was a young boy, his father has neglected and emotionally abused him, programming him to become a product he can use in his own business dealings. Kevin is somewhat oblivious to the fact that this is abuse. He just thinks his dad is a prick. I’d love to put his dad in his place. The man deserves it, but Kevin knows not to ever rock the boat at home.

  2. Tell us about your cover design. Is there any symbolism from the story reflected in the cover?

    Hugo Thorson and Kevin Magnus have very intense feelings for each other, but neither are willing to come out in their community. The story is also set in the mid 1990s when being out was still a fairly rare experience in the rural Midwest. Yet, they want to let each other know when they are thinking of each other even when in public, so they find a way to privately display that affection in public. They want to touch, but not touch, so I asked Anne Cain to portray that reserved desire. I think the image she found is simply perfect, especially considering how much Hugo and Kevin love to be outdoors by the water.

  3. Tell us something about your characters that we won’t learn from reading the book.

    We know that Hugo is an actor in the book, but we have no idea that he grows up to perform as a drag queen as an adult.

    Kevin may seem weak because of his abuse, but he has a quiet strength hidden inside. Hugo sees it, and I think readers will too, but it’s not as obvious as Hugo’s. Kevin will eventually come into his own and have faith in himself, but it takes him longer.

  4. How do you research for your books?

    I do a lot of online research, take Google street mode tours of areas, and talk to people who live where my story is set to get an idea of the culture. With this book, I was lucky enough to live within driving distance of Austin, MN, and I’d already spent time in the SPAM museum to learn the history of the town. When I got in to writing more detailed descriptions of Hormel Nature Center and the high school, I knew I needed to get closer. I was flabbergasted at how gigantic the high school was, and that was seeing it as an adult who had already gone to college on 3 different campuses, so that’s saying something. I wrote a little about that reaction, through Kevin’s eyes.

  5. Do you have a nervous habit when writing? A guilty pleasure when writing?

    I have the horrible habit of twirling my hair while thinking, but only on my left side. The hair there is shorter now, but my stories get better when I twirl. I never had this problem when I had a pixie cut.

    My guilty pleasure has to be coffee, and I like it hot, so I have my mug sitting on a mug warmer. I drink far too much of it, though.

  6. What made you decide to write for a Young Adult audience?

    This book came about after I’d written a trilogy about Hugo and Kevin. In the first book, I explored their high school relationship, which wasn’t an ideal way to start a dating life, but Hugo and Kevin loved each other almost from the start. After writing their adult stories, I realized their high school story might be valuable to younger readers, but they’d probably never run across it because of the nature of the adult stories. After talking with C. Kennedy and Jamie Mayfield and being encouraged by both of them as well as my publisher, I decided to try to adapt Hugo and Kevin’s story for a younger audience. It is my hope that these men will allow me to tell one more story about their adventures during their senior year, but I haven’t been given permission by them yet.

  7. What would you like young readers to take away from your novels?

    More than anything, I want people to know they are equal to their straight peers. For years, I felt something was wrong with me because of my bisexuality. It wasn’t until I climbed over that mountain of shame people had built around me and came out safe on the other side that I started to thrive. Too many people in our lives tell us we are “less than” when we are GLBTQA, but we aren’t. We deserve just as much respect as anyone else, even if we do have to remain closeted until it is safe to come out. Just don’t forget to find your own magic inside.

Now Available from Winter Sandberg:

Private Display of Affection Hugo Thorson knows he’s gay, but coming out during high school is not part of his plan. His parents are open-minded, but Hugo doesn’t want to add more stress for anybody, especially his dad, who is fighting terminal cancer.

At a summer job he meets and befriends Kevin Magnus, and before long, their friendship becomes something more. Kevin knows this will anger his overbearing father, so he decides to protect his secret by dating a girl at school.

Hugo plays along, but it’s still hard to watch the two of them together just to make Kevin’s homophobic father happy. And when Hugo’s father dies, he realizes he can’t go on living the lie. He comes clean to Kevin, who decides Hugo’s true feelings are more important than his father’s expectations. One fact remains: Kevin and Hugo’s relationship must always be hidden behind friendship, lies, girlfriends, or secret kisses. Will they find a sanctuary big enough to hold their feelings?

Adapted as a Young Adult edition of the novel Spark by Posy Roberts, published by Dreamspinner Press, 2013

Private Display of Affection Giveaway!

Winter Sandberg has generously donated a free copy of Private Display of Affection for one lucky winner. To enter the drawing, please leave a comment below along with your email address.


  1. Thanks for the interesting article. The book sounds great so please put my name into the hat. Thanks

  2. I love the message of PDA, and I think it's wonderful that the YA audience will get a chance to experience Spark in a way that's just right for them. Thank you for the giveaway!

    caroaz [at] ymail [dot] com

  3. Sounds interesting!!!

  4. Sounds like a great one!

  5. Very interesting article about Winter Sandberg especially enjoyed the Q & A's. Looking forward to reading Private Display of Affection.

  6. And the WINNER IS....
    Congratulations Carolyn!
    (Winner selected by random number generator on 1/10/2014)