The Queer Review meets Spanish author Álex Beltrán, whose debut novel Little Rock was published earlier this year. Growing up in Valencia, Beltrán’s love for storytelling took him to Los Angeles and New York to study film, leading to writing and directing the gay shorts, My Friend Jaime (Mi amigo Jaime) in 2013 and Lost Years in 2016. He continues to explore some of the themes of these films in Little Rock.
The Queer Review: How would you describe Little Rock?
Álex Beltrán: “I’d describe it as a bewitching LGBTQ+ love story that shows us that we should never give up in the face of adversity. It’s a queer coming of age novel, full of menace and dark academia vibes, that’s packed with love triangles, spicy sex scenes, and a dash of horror. Set in 1993, the story follows sixteen-year-old Owen Appletoff, a new student from California who is sent to a boarding school in England against his will. He soon finds himself developing feelings for his roommate, Taylor, and is also attracted to the school bully Daniel. There’s a tender story of queer friendship that unfolds while the dangers that lurk in the outside world are felt in the gloomy presence of the Kelpie, a spirit of ancient Celtic legend that haunts Owen with horrible nightmares.”
What inspired the book?
“I like to think of Little Rock as the result of my years of writing and creating short films. It also draws on my own personal experiences. Although I won’t go into detail, some parts of the book are more real than you may think at first glance.”
What do you hope that readers, particularly young LGBTQ+ readers, will take away from the book?
“It’s been labeled a YA novel, but Little Rock can be definitely enjoyed by adults and teenagers alike and is intended for more mature readers because of some of its content. Like I said, it’s about never giving up, no matter the odds. As a queer person, life has never been easy. From a young age, I learned that we have to fight everyday for what we truly believe in. As someone wiser than me once said: never regret a day in your life. Good days give you happiness, bad days experience, worst day lessons, and best days memories. Owen and his friends are no exception, even when life chooses to show its ugliest side, they weather the storm together. Ultimately, this is a story about everlasting friendship and hope for a brighter future.”
What’s your favourite piece of LGBTQ+ culture or a person who identifies as LGBTQ+; someone or something that’s had an impact on you and resonated with you over the years and why?
“Since an early age, films have always resonated me more than anything else. Looking back, the film that really struck me was Bob Fosse’s Cabaret from 1972. The first time I saw it was at my dad’s house one rainy afternoon. I was instantly drawn to it, but at that time I didn’t understand the entire scope of it, but something kept me returning to it again and again over the years. Two other favourites are The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.”
Álex Beltrán’s Little Rock is available in English and Spanish now. Support your local queer-owned independent bookstore. Find Little Rock on Goodreads and Amazon.
March 6th – March 13th, 2023 purchase Little Rock on Kindle for the special price of $2.99.
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