Addressing the issues of gender identity and self-discovery, the young adult novel “Felix Ever After,” written by Virgin Islands author Kacen Callender, will soon be televised.
Amazon Studios has announced that it is slated to develop an adaptation of the book for Amazon Prime with Field Trip Productions.
Kacen is Black, queer and trans, and prefers they/them or he/him pronouns. Born and raised on St. Thomas, Kacen is a graduate of Antilles School, with a Bachelor’s degree from Sarah Lawrence College and a Master of Fine Arts from the New School’s writing for children program.
Having worked in the publishing industry in New York as an associate editor at Little Brown Books for Young Readers, Kacen recently transitioned to being a full-time writer, based in Philadelphia.
Besides “Felix Ever After,” Kacen is also the author of the Stonewall Book Award-winning and Lambda Literary Award-winning novel “Hurricane Child” and “King of the Dragonflies,” both for middle grades, and the Lambda Award finalist young adult novel “This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story.” They have also written an adult novel, “Queen of the Conquered,” a Caribbean-inspired fantasy series about colonialism, resilience and defiance. Its sequel, “King of the Rising,” is set to debut later this year.
Writing for a variety of different readers comes easily for Kacen, who is also venturing into graphic novels and writing for TV.
“As adults, we forget that children have the same emotions and the same intellectual ability, it’s just that they’re kind of feeling things for the first time, so things are a little bit more intense,” they said. “I like storytelling across the board and I’m grateful I’m able to go from category to category, genre to genre.”
With “Felix Ever After,” published in May by HarperCollins, Kacen tells the story of a transgender teen struggling with identity and self-discovery while falling in love for the first time.
It’s a celebratory and joyful story that Kacen wished they had as a teenager to help them figure out their gender identity a lot sooner. They wrote “Felix Ever After” for teens who still need to see themselves and still need help figuring themselves out.
“It was only when I was in New York and in my mid-twenties that I started to figure out the language around being trans and about gender identity in a way that I just never had access to before,” Kacen said. “Everything just started to click into place for me about my feelings and experiences as a kid, and I realized I was trans.”
In the novel, Kacen also wanted to discuss intersectionality, and what it means to be Black, queer and trans and have multiple marginalizations.
“This is probably one of the first rom-coms for Black, queer, trans people, period, but also for Black people who are also queer,” they said. “We never really get to see our stories in joyful ways. Our stories are usually full of pain and heartbreak, so I wanted to tell a story where we end up happy.”
Kacen said they had a beautiful childhood growing up on St. Thomas, but also struggled with feelings of isolation, questioning their gender identity and sexuality, but not having the language or the community to help them come to terms with it.
“Last time I was there, there was still kind of a culture that depended a lot on homophobia and transphobia,” Kacen said. “It’s just so difficult that a place I love so much still kind of has that baseline rejection of who I am. I don’t know if things have changed there that much, but I hope they have, and I hope that they will continue to change, as the world continues to change. The world itself has a lot more access to trans people. People that may not have ever met a trans person before may realize that we’re not as evil as they were told growing up, so I hope things start to change a little.”
“Felix Ever After” is available at most booksellers.