KBKL Spotlight on Canadians: Tom Ryan

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A big Kick-butt Kidlit welcome to author, Tom Ryan!

Tom Ryan is the author of several books for young readers. He has been nominated for several awards, and two of his young adult novels, Way to Go and Tag Along, were chosen for the ALA Rainbow List, in 2013 and 2014. He was a 2017 Lambda Literary Fellow in Young Adult Fiction. Tom, his husband, and their dog currently divide their time between Toronto and Nova Scotia.

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Tell us a bit about your latest/upcoming project?

KEEP THIS TO YOURSELF is a young adult mystery/thriller (my first mystery!) and I am really excited about it. It’s about a gay teen named Mac whose best friend was murdered a year ago when a serial killer swept through their small town and then disappeared, leaving the case unsolved. When Mac discovers a clue that indicates his friend was on the case when he was murdered, he decides to start digging into the mystery himself. There are small town secrets, twists and turns, a sweet romance, and some seriously creepy moments, if I say so myself! I’m proud of this book and can’t wait to share it with readers. It’ll be out on May 7th.

I’ve also co-written a queer YA novel with my great friend Robin Stevenson. It’s called MEET ME HALFWAY, and it’s about two very different cousins from opposite sides of the country, who reconnect when a family emergency brings them to cottage country in Ontario, and they find themselves on a wild road trip to Toronto Pride. It’ll be out next spring (2020) from Running Press.

What are you reading right now?

As always, I’m reading several things at once. I’ve been digging into classic mysteries (Agatha Christie, etc…) and I’m just getting into THE FRANCHISE AFFAIR by Josephine Tey. I’m also reading CATCHING THE LIGHT, a really fantastic debut YA novel by a Newfoundland author named Susan Sinnot; it’s beautifully written, and I was thrilled to learn that it had been nominated for the 2019 White Pine award.

I also just finished THE VANISHING STAIR by Maureen Johnson, the sequel to TRULY DEVIOUS; it’s one of my favourite YA mystery series, and I can’t wait for the final book in the trilogy to come out next year!

Who is a Canadian author or illustrator that you’d like to see more people discover?

I’m a big fan of Carrie Mac. I’d love to see her novels get more attention.

What’s been the most surprising part of your publishing journey so far?

Just how much of a family the Canadian Kidlit community is! I’ve met so many wonderful, supportive people, and everyone is just one or two points of separation from everyone else. As a Maritimer, it makes me very happy to dig down and discover those connections.

When a reader picks up your books, they can always expect to find…

With my young adult novels, they can always expect to find queer characters (usually main characters.) Helping to increase LGBTQ representation in literature for young readers is one of my main priorities.

Back in the 90s I was a closeted kid who loved to read, and there were no options available to me, and I know it would have been encouraging and reassuring for me to have found characters like me in the books I was inhaling.

What’s the most Canadian thing you’ve put in a book?

I’ve included Cape Breton Island in three of my books so far. I grew up in Cape Breton, and still spend as much time as possible there. It’s a wonderful, beautiful place full of great people, and it’s my favourite place in Canada – and the world!

My first picture book, A GIANT MAN FROM A TINY TOWN came out last year from Nimbus, with beautiful illustrations by Christopher Hoyt. It’s the story of Angus MacAskill, the Cape Breton Giant, and I was fortunate enough to spend part of the fall traveling around Cape Breton speaking to school kids about the book. It was a great experience.

What would you like to see more of in the world of Canadian children’s literature?

I think that over the past few years there have been some great gains with regards to diversity in publishing, but there are still so many voices that deserve to be heard. Books are a wonderful way to experience the world, and the more access we have to stories from traditionally marginalized creators, the better. Greater breadth of representation results in empathy and compassion, and a richer, fuller perspective on society.

If you could spend a day inside of any book, which one would you choose?

What a great – tough! – question. One of my favourite books is NIGHT FILM by Marisha Pessl. I’d love to spend a day exploring The Peak, the mysterious 300 acre estate owned by reclusive film director Stanislas Cordova.

Lastly, we always end with: what’s your best piece of kick-butt advice?


We live in a time when there is an endless supply of fantastic, high end media to consume; incredible books, addictive TV shows, movies and comics and art blogs and Instagram feeds, etc…

My advice is to take time in the midst of consumption to create something of your own. Following the creative impulse brings incredible rewards, emotional, social and otherwise.

Absolutely! Thank you so much for joining us, Tom!


Kick-butt Kidlit friends, add Tom’s books on Goodreads!


Connect with Tom on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or through his website.

Tom Ryan Prize Pack – the very first signed ARC of KEEP THIS TO YOURSELF

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Other available prizes:


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