Hayley Kiyoko How one of the most popular music videos became a novel

When Hayley Kiyoko was 15, she fell in love with her best friend. The Los Angeles native wasn't going out at the time, often self-isolating at home, rather than experience the loneliness of watching her crush flirt with boys in Santa Monica. Eventually, her best friend became a girlfriend of sorts, and they held hands under the table. But when Kiyoko wants her first kiss, her friend is horrified and her heart is broken. "It didn't end well," said Kiyoko, who locked herself in her room for days after the breakup. "I want to change my own narrative of how things should end. I want it to end with hope."

Nine years later, the singer-songwriter realized that hope herself with the 2015 music video for her single "Girls Like Girls," which she directed and starred in, which also served as her public announcement of being gay. Although Kiyoko was concerned about the reaction to some outlets' refusal to air "explicitly" queer content, the viral clip sparked massive joy and has now been viewed more than 151 million times on YouTube. "The music video took on a life of its own, and I always wanted to expand on the story [even more]," she said.

In May, Kiyoko released her debut novel, a young adult novel that borrows names and characters from the video. Girls Like Girls is set in 2006 and centers on 17-year-old Curley, who meets Sonya and instantly falls in love with her after moving to rural Oregon. The former worries that he is not worthy of love, while the latter has never dated a girl. The story revolves around their courtship and the final chapter is very similar to a music video.

“I’m not Kohli, but what Kohli went through, and a lot of the scenes in the novel, I experienced verbatim,” Kiyoko, 32, said. "Coli was a vehicle for me to learn to love myself and get stuck in." Fall in love with this girl. Sonia represented a real person in my life that I fell in love with. "

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It's not lost on her that queer novels are hitting shelves and that books with LGBTQ+ content account for nearly half of all book bans and challenges, a number that will jump nearly 40% in 2022, according to the American Library Association. The "Green Light" singer (who fans call her "Lesbian Jesus") recalled how she hid certain reading material growing up and cried when she saw the final product.

"If you take the lid off there's just a gold bike inside, just in case you're not carrying a book in a safe place that blatantly says 'Girls Like Girls' . I feel like this will help support those who are still People trying to find themselves,” she said, citing the story’s theme of self-worth. “We all deserve to be loved, and we all deserve the kind of love you see in fairy tales.”

Below, Kiyoko discusses the possibility of further expanding the Girls Like Girls universe.

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You added a LiveJournal entry to provide insight into Sonya's mental state. How significant is this to your own experience?

It's a big part of my life where I read other people's LiveJournals over and over again trying to determine if they are talking about me. I thought it would be interesting for readers to include [these entries]. The younger generation obviously has new forms of social media, so it will be a new experience for them, and then for my generation and the older generation, they may feel nostalgic.

Can you talk about how you adapted the plot of the music video in the final chapter of the book?

Deciding where the music video should fit in the novel was the hardest choice to make. I felt like people would expect the book to start where the music video ends, so I tried to do the opposite. I put it last. It was fun to intersperse different scenes from the video throughout the novel, such as the pool and makeup scenes. It was hard to put together, but I figured it out.

When the book ends, Curley and Sonia are at a new beginning. Will you write a sequel?

We'll see how the book does [commercially]. Many people told me that when the book ended, they still wanted more. I kind of like that and it's done on purpose because I feel like it respects the video. When the music video ends, it's beautiful, but you still want more from it. This is a tribute to that.

Do you have any plans to adapt this book into a feature film?

Discussions of a feature film are still ongoing. The book's success will certainly push that forward, but it's a challenge to get queer projects, let alone produce and support queer content that ends with hope in this industry. There's a reason there isn't a lot of representation, and when we finally got representation in movies and TV, they took it away.

A Disney Channel producer recently revealed that your character Alex on "The Wiz" was originally supposed to have a relationship with Selena Gomez's Steve. How do you think their relationship would develop today?

I have no idea. When everyone found out about Stalex , I found out at the same time. I didn't know that was my intention at the time, but I'm glad we all share that thought.

Back to the books! What message do you hope readers take away from it?

I hope they learn to love themselves more and know they are worthy of love. They may get messy at times, but they deserve love and a hopeful or happy ending. I hope this book will also help heal those of the older generation who have fallen in love and had their hearts broken or it never came true. I want people to feel seen, heard, understood, and hopeful about their future.

This interview has been edited and condensed.