The Debut Review: 20 Questions With Dustin Thao (9/1/21)

For this Debut Review, we’re chatting with YA author Dustin Thao as he answers 20 questions about himself and his heartfelt debut, YOU’VE REACHED SAM.

Before we hear from Dustin, let’s dive into YOU’VE REACHED SAM. This emotionally charged love story asks, what would you do if you had a second chance at goodbye? Filled with engrossing friendships and a diverse cast of characters, YOU’VE REACHED SAM is a beautiful story of heartache and first love. Seventeen-year-old Julie thinks she has her future all planned out, but when her boyfriend Sam dies, everything changes. Desperate to hear Sam’s voice just one more time, Julie makes a call to listen to his voicemail, but when Sam picks up the phone, Julie gets another shot at goodbye.

YOU’VE REACHED SAM is a hopeful and remarkable portrayal of love and grief, perfect for fans of I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN, FIVE FEET APART, and John Green.

NOW LET’S HEAR FROM DUSTIN!


1. How are you doing today?

I started the day off with a bagel so I’m great! I recently moved to NYC so things have generally been more exciting. No offense to Chicago but the wind was too much.

2. What are you currently reading?

I just started PICTURE US IN THE LIGHT by Kelly Loy Gilbert. It’s been recommended to me by so many people. I’m told it’s heartbreaking so I’m prepared for a good cry.

3. What’s been your favorite part of your journey publishing YOU’VE REACHED SAM?

I can think of a few. I got to be on a panel with Benjamin Alire Sáenz! I mean, it was virtual but that still counts, right? It was my first panel, too. I got to ask him about his writing. He said he doesn’t do deadlines. I aspire to be like that. But my favorite part of my journey is probably seeing my cover for the first time. When I woke up and saw the email, I thought I was dreaming. Is this real? Why is it so beautiful? I’ve heard stories about authors not really liking their covers. Even Benjamin said he wasn’t a fan of his at first. So, I’m very grateful for the piece of art that Wednesday Books came up with for YOU’VE REACHED SAM.

4. What’s your go-to writing snack?

Flamin Hot Cheetos remains the supreme snack. But Oreos are a close second.

5. Where’s your favorite place to write?

It depends how close my deadline is. When time isn’t an immediate concern, I enjoy going to coffee shops and pretending to write. But if my deadline is coming up, I just lock myself in my room and try not to cry.

6. What’s your guilty pleasure tv show?

My favorite show to rewatch is Futurama. That show embodies my childhood. The musical episode lives rent free in my head. If it ever comes back, I would love to write for them.

7. What’s something that made you smile today?

I announced my preorder campaign this week! We are giving away lenticular bookmarks where Sam disappears over and over again *insert teary eyes emoji*. Someone commented “This is the cruelest piece of swag I’ve ever seen” and I honestly love that.

8. What’s on your TBR pile?

DARIUS THE GREAT DESERVES BETTER by Adib Khorram

9. What other debuts are you loving/excited about?

OPHELIA AFTER ALL by Racquel Marie

JADE FIRE GOLD by June CL Tan

WITHIN THESE WICKED WALLS by Lauren Blackwood

10. Best advice you received for writing your debut?

I think all authors go through the stage of freaking out over negative reviews. The reality is we all get them and that’s okay. I think it was my editor who said, “You aren’t going to be able to please everyone, and what one person sees as jarring another will see as brilliant.” I often remind myself of this.

11. What’s your favorite city in the world?

Seoul. They have karaoke bars on every corner. It’s wonderful.

12. What’s a movie/show/book that inspires your writing?

WandaVision is honestly one of the best shows I’ve seen in years and it influenced book 2 which I’m currently revising…

13. What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not writing?

Lately, I’ve been going on long walks through the city. Oftentimes it ends at a happy hour.

14. Favorite bookstore and/or library?

I’m originally from the Pacific Northwest so Powell’s Books will always be my favorite place.

15. What was your favorite book as a child?

The Time Quintet series

16. What’s a fact about yourself that surprises people?

People are always surprised to learn I’m in a Ph.D. program. I just started my third year. It’s a mess.

17. If you could write about anything in the world next, what would it be? Go crazy!

I would love to write an adult sci-fi novel. Hopefully for my third or fourth book. In fact, I already have an outline for one… I just need my agent to be on board. But if you’re asking me to go crazy, I’d write the next Shrek movie. I’d call it “Shrek: Forever and Ever.”

18. You’re currently getting your Ph.D. and writing novels…HOW?

To be honest, it’s a struggle. I’m in a vortex of deadlines. I’m surprised I haven’t been kicked out of the program. That said, it can be nice to have something else to focus on as publishing is mostly waiting and waiting and more waiting.

19. Who was your favorite character to write about in YOU’VE REACHED SAM?

I think Sam’s best friend, Oliver, came easiest. I really loved writing his friendship with Julie. A lot of people tell me he’s their favorite character. Honestly, I would love to write more about him in the future. I wonder if people would be interested in that.

20. What’s the best phone call you’ve ever received?

As of today, it’s probably the first call with my agent when she offered representation. It was a day or so after I pitched my book on Twitter. What most people don’t know is that she actually requested my book two weeks before. She even emailed me saying she was halfway through and loved it! She even asked to follow me on Twitter! She must have finished reading the day of the pitch contest because she emailed me in the morning. And the rest is history.

YOU’VE REACHED SAM by Dustin Thao; 9781250762030; 11/9/21.

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