On Marching Ahead with Skye Quinlan

Forward March  is author Skye Quinlan’s third book, although the first two were not published.  The first was sci-fi and the second fantasy.  She commented “baby Skye had a lot to learn. I think I probably queried too early, and I think I bit off more – a lot more – than I could chew” with those two genres.  Instead, she decided to try contemporary fiction, and  Forward March  was written in a month.  When asked why she thinks she got published versus anyone else, she observed that there were very few “marching band books,” she has “asexual representation” which there is little of, “there’s a little bit of politics in” the book, and referencing her having queried it around the time  Red, White and Royal Blue  (by Casey McQuiston) came out, she added “I think I hit the market at the right time.” For now, considering herself a “contemporary rom com author,” she wants to stay in this genre. 

So far, all of her books (even the unpublished ones) are in the YA genre. “I just love it. I love the authors. I love the books. I love the readers.” When younger she would write fan fiction, so was “already heavily rooted in YA subculture… It was a really natural transition going from fan fiction…to my own worlds and my own characters.” She appreciates her “dedicated little fan base… The readers are the BEST!” A sequel to  Forward March  has been “discussed.” 

Ms. Quinlan misses the characters from the unpublished fantasy book, but has learned a bit about rejection.  When asked how she handled it, she said, “I cry about it. Publishing is not easy.” She went on to explain that actually being published does not mean rejection stops. “You take it in stride, you cry about it, and then you go back out the next day and roll with it.”  However, she did admit that she will “doordash ice cream if it was a really bad rejection.” Along the way, she has learned that “your first draft does not have to be perfect.” She tends to rewrite a few paragraphs at a time “over and over and over again until I am happy with them.  Then I move on because I want a perfect first draft in one document.” She continues to struggle against this habit, and laughing, said her agent “hates” the habit too.
Being a “band geek at heart” (she played clarinet for ten years), in addition to being “very academic focussed,” Ms. Quinlan spent several months telling her wife that she wanted to “write a book about band.” For this author, the band room at school “was my home away from home.” She wanted to “memorialize some of the memories” she has from band events in high school.  One particular memory was revived in the book: “nothing beats football Friday night at a championship game, except we lost the championship game” unlike the team in  Forward March . Another setting in the book, a renaissance scene, is based on the “Circleville Pumpkin Festival” where her high school band used to march in the parade and play during the days’ events. 

In college, her degree was originally in anthropology.  Ms. Quinlan wanted to be an archaeologist and anthropologist, but then “realized I live in Ohio” with few opportunities for such work.  Switching her major to “women’s gender and sexuality studies,” she wanted to be a counselor for queer teens.  Unfortunately, she had to take a semester off and did not return to college. Her childhood career dreams were extremely different. At the age of 8, she wanted to be a sled dog racer.  She recalled reading Gary Paulsen’s  Winterdance – The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod   at the age of 7 or 8, but did acknowledge that it is not a children’s book.  She also described taking the family dog outside and telling her to “mush. Ms. Missy did not do it.” Her yearning for sled dog racing went so far that she found schematics on line and asked a neighbor to build a sled.  Laughing, she explained in her defense that her grandfather, grandmother and uncle all bred various dog breeds.  However, by age 15, she wanted to be a car racer.  This she explained was due to her grandfather taking her to car shows and races during summer times.  He also had a show racing truck, but told her to “leave the racing to me.”  

Covid affected Ms. Quinlan some on a professional level.  She has ideas for a “dystopian apocalyptic” book, but her agent feels it is too soon for such a topic.  On a personal level, Covid affected her significantly. Prior to their marriage and just before Covid hit, she and her wife had to move out of a contaminated apartment.  They went to their respective families’ homes, but then were unable to see each other for several months which she found very difficult.  She wishes she had known as a teenager, that family is more than those one is related to by blood. “Family is what you make, it’s what you choose for yourself.” Remembering some difficult relationships from when she was younger, she also said she wished she had known “the concept of what it means to be toxic – how to recognize toxicity in other people and myself.” This is one issue you can find in Ms. Quinlan’s debut novel, Forward March .