Queering Up Your Bookshelf: Andrew J. Peters

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

Happy Wednesday!

Today, I welcome fellow NineStar Press author Andrew J. Peters to Queering Up Your Bookshelf to chat about the importance of representation and #OwnVoices authors all across the queer spectrum, his writing process, and his upcoming short story collection out with NineStar Press later this year.

Welcome, Andrew!


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Author Andrew J. Peters is the third most famous Andrew J. Peters on the Internet after the disgraced former mayor of Boston and the very honorable concert organist of the same name.

He’s an award-winning author, an educator and an activist. His novel The City of Seven Gods won the Silver Falchion award for Best Horror/Fantasy and was a finalist for Sci Fi/Fantasy Book of the Year at the Foreword INDIES. His Werecat series was a Readers’ Choice finalist at The Romance Reviews. He has written two books for young adults (The Seventh Pleaide and Banished Sons of Poseidon), and he is the author of the adult novel Poseidon and Cleito. His latest title Irresistible is a gay rom-com based on the oldest extant romance novel in the world.

Andrew grew up in Buffalo, New York, studied psychology at Cornell University, and spent the early part of his career as a social worker and an advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. He has been a contributing writer at Queer Sci Fi, The New York Journal of Books, The Good Men Project, Gay YA, YA Highway, and La Bloga.

While writing, Andrew works as an administrator and an adjunct faculty at Adelphi University. He lives in New York City with his husband Genaro and their cat Chloë.

Find Andrew online:

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What is your writing origin story?

Ha! What a great spin on a traditional question. Makes me feel like a superhero. :)

Well then, I was a shy, unathletic, pre-gay suburban boy in the early 1980s who withdrew socially and spent most of my time writing mysteries, plays, and musicals with coded homoeroticism. In sixth grade, I joined up with a friend to write a musical, which we very earnestly presented to the music teacher and the principal as a project we would direct our class to do.

The principal was a nice guy who probably didn’t know what to do with us. Naturally, the musical script was pretty awful. It was something of a rip-off of Annie called Lucy Mckay! and featured show-stopping numbers like “Just Me and My Pets.” Anyway, as a consolation, he told me I could read my mystery novel over the P.A. system during lunch period, which I proudly did as a serial. So I guess that was when I realized my storytelling magical powers. :)

Where do you usually write and what are the top three things you usually have around you when you write?

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My husband and I have a two bedroom apartment, and the second bedroom serves as my writing office, a guest bedroom, and--when we want to discourage overnight guests--we tell people it’s our cat Chloë’s room (she does like to sleep on the bed). It’s fairly cluttered but also pretty sunny, which I like, and it has an inspiration board that I made something like ten years ago when I started sending my work out for publication.

This is not at all a recommendation to the young ‘uns out there, but I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t tell you the three things I usually have around me when I write are coffee, cigarettes, and a pad of paper. I write primarily on a desktop, but while doing research, rather than starting a new doc, I take notes by hand.

What does representation mean to you and how does it feature in your writing?

That’s a huge-ish and important question. I think representation is always present. As writers, we’re representing the world, even those of us who write fantasy because our worldview consciously or unconsciously influences the kind of story and the people we write about. And I agree with feminist literary criticism, and queer literary criticism, and racial justice literary criticism that historically, and still today, stories about white, cis gender, heterosexual, typically middle class men dominate what we collectively call literature, and they don’t fairly or accurately represent the world we live in.

I see that connected to social justice in a broader sense because it’s about who controls the culture and the stories that teach us our position in the world as men or women or queer people or people of color, etc..

I’m also increasingly concerned about representation as it relates to authorship in terms of who gets to create stories about underrepresented groups. I’m often defending #Ownvoices in conversations with writers who say: “You’re taking away my creative freedom.” and “Why should author identity matter? If you’re a good writer, you can write about anything.”

My response to that is #Ownvoices is primarily about uplifting historically marginalized authors, not so much about portrayal, or simply expanding the number of books about marginalized people and communities.

I read about this topic a lot and have done some of my own research. #Ownvoices has focused mostly on children’s books and YA, so that’s where the most data is from. I’d love to see that effort expand to adult books. Anyway, somewhere between seven to 35 percent of children’s books published each year about people of color are actually written about people of color (from https://readingpartners.org/blog/12-diverse-childrens-books-written-ownvoices-authors/). I’d think people would agree there’s a problem there, and it’s institutional. Authors of color are writing stories about people of color, but their books aren’t getting published, or when they’re getting published they’re not getting supported and recognized in the same way books by white authors receive attention.

The same thing is happening in queer literature. It’s been a huge project to undertake, and my data was limited to looking at books ranked as popular or recommended by the ALA or short-lists for awards. But I’ve looked at gay authorship of gay SFF stories for instance and found, in 2017, that between zero and twenty-five percent of gay SFF titles that got voted popular, or recommended, or short-listed for awards were authored by gay men. The two biggest LGBTQIA+ identified presses had gay or M/M fantasy lists that included zero or as much as 14 percent of titles authored by gay men that year.

It’s important to contextualize that issue within a broader queer justice perspective, i.e. trans, non-binary, and queers authors of color are much less represented than gay, white, cis gender authors overall. But I use it as a starting point in the discussion. I mean, it’s wonderful we’re seeing more children’s and young adult books about trans kids, and lesbian mothers, and gay boys, but when you look at authorship, it’s still predominantly hetero, cis gender authors whose books are getting noticed.

I’ll be more succinct with my response to the second part of your question! I write stories primarily about gay men, largely drawn from classic myth and legend. It’s important to me to represent diverse perspectives within that niche, so for example, I have a short story anthology coming out later this year, and I wanted to use it as an opportunity to tell stories about gay men of all ages in addition to using some non-European inspiration points.

    

What are some of your favorite tropes (or ways to subvert them)?

Well, pretty hard for me to squirm out of using the fantasy trope of the reluctant, unlikely hero, but of course I love to cast the hero as gay and fairly un-hung-up about it. I like flipping the loyal sidekick character and making them a straight best buddy. Generally I approach evil villains with some nuance because I’m not a big fan of stories that are so declaratively good vs. evil. In my young adult fantasies (The Seventh Pleiade, Banished Sons of Poseidon), it was important to me to tell the bad guy, the High Priest Zazamoukh’s backstory, which shows how at one time, he wasn’t such a bad guy and how he became this terrible monster.

What is your writing process?

It’s hopefully become a lot better and efficient through trial and error. Good gods, my first novel (The Seventh Pleiade) took about ten years if I’m being honest, because I just started writing this story that was floating around in my head, and learned the very hard way, plotting doesn’t just happen magically! So I read all I could about writing craft, started using outlines, participated in critique groups and workshops, and I feel like the lessons learned have fairly well become embedded in my process. I’ll sometimes outline a story first, and sometimes, if I feel like I’ve clearly thought things out in my head, all the way through the end, I’ll just start writing and making some adjustments as I go along.

What is your best piece of writing advice?

Be humble and soak up all the knowledge you can. I do believe that writing is a talent some people are born with, and maybe this advice comes from the fact I realize I’m not the kind of fantasy author who’s a virtuoso of wordsmithery like Gregory Maguire or a genius of fluid, provocative prose like Samuel Delaney (they’re probably my favorite authors). So, to the extent there’s probably a lot of writers like me, I’d say: read, experiment, go to workshops, get feedback as much as you can. Talent can be learned.

What is the hardest lesson you learned while writing?

Ugh. The pain of crickets chirping a lot of the time. There’s something like a million books published each year, and that number is growing with the explosion of self-publishing. It’s hella hard getting your titles discovered.

What do you hope readers will take away from your work?

A smile. A laugh here and there. Maybe recognizing an emotional connection with one of the characters. That’s always my proudest moment when I hear that feedback from readers.

What was your favorite character or scene you’ve written recently?

This is quite an early preview since I’m just polishing up a YA adventure based on The Odyssey. It’s a pretty silly comedy adventure in which Telemachus goes looking for his father and teams up with Theseus and his hus-bull and the mischievous godling Nerites. Anyway, their search leads them to the nymph Calypso who is quite the over-the-top, evil seductress. She charms the hus-bull Asterion, and to get him back, Nerites convinces Telemachus to undergo a glamouring to disarm the nymph, outwitting her at her own game. It requires covering him in whale dung and reading an incantation, and things go terribly wrong.

What are you currently working on? What’s next for you?

Look for my short story anthology from NineStar Press later this year! Meanwhile, I’m starting to query the Telemachus novel while looking for a home to my epic fantasy series The Lost Histories.


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What if the gods created a man so beautiful, no one could resist falling in love with him?

Brendan thinks he’s won at life when he hooks a guy so gorgeous he parts crowds walking down the street. But he and Cal will have to overcome a jealous BFF, Romanian mobsters, hermit widowers, and a dictatorship on the brink of revolution. Their dream wedding in the Greek isles turns to madcap odyssey in this modern gay salute to Chariton’s Callirhoe, the oldest extant romance novel in the world.

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Queering Up Your Bookshelf: Interview with COMMON BONDS creator Claudie Arsenault!

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Good morning and happy Monday!

Hi, and welcome to this special edition of Queering Up Your Bookshelf to celebrate the Kickstarter of COMMON BONDS, an anthology featuring aromantic characters and focusing on platonic relationships. The anthology is scheduled to publish in early 2020 and centers aromantic voices. As of right now, their Kickstarter is less than $1,500 away from being funded, so let’s make this happen by March 31, 2019.

You can also follow COMMON BONDS on Twitter. All signal boosts are extremely appreciated.

Common Bonds is an upcoming anthology of speculative short stories and poetry featuring aromantic characters. At the heart of this collection are the bonds that impact our lives from beginning to end: platonic relationships. Whether with family, mentors, friends, colleagues, or found family, these links pepper our lives and their importance is often overlooked. We seek to highlight the various ways platonic relationships can enrich us. Furthermore, we want to explore the way aromantic people often redefine the relative importance of these platonic bonds, centering them in their lives over romantic ones. The details of our call to submissions can be found here.

Welcome, Claudie! Can you talk a little about how the idea for the project originated and what your goals are?

When I first thought of this idea, I’d already been craving a project by and for aros, rather than something that mixed aro and ace. At the time, I was talking a lot about platonic relationships in interviews leading up to my launch for City of Strife, and Aromantic Awareness Week rolled up. The concept was born. I don’t quite remember why or when B. R. Sanders tweeted something about an anthology of platonic relationships, but that pushed me to hit them up and make the idea go from vague concept to ‘assemble team and get working’.

Aromantic-only anthologies are still mostly uncharted waters, so we have a lot of goals we’re hoping to accomplish. One is to provide a fairly wide array of aromantic experiences, inclusive of the aro spectrum, of allosexual aros, of romance-repulsed one, etc. Another is to just … really enjoy having us as the heroes of stories about platonic relationships? We want to create an cohesive anthology of positive stories that center important non-romantic relationships and explores aromanticism within that context.

What are some aspects of platonic relationships, especially queerplatonic relationships, that resonate with you the most and how are they foundational for the queer community as a whole?

For me, personally, it’s the permission to be exactly who I want to be, and I think that extends to a lot of the community. I can discuss anything with my close friends and it’s such a great, essential feeling. I can’t really talk about queerplatonic relationships personally, as I don’t have one, but aros involved in them talk about that proximity and understanding quite a lot.

In general, I think found family is incredibly important to the queer community as a whole. It keeps coming up when you ask about platonic relationships, and I can see why: for a lot of us, found family is where we found support and unconditional love. Found family is the people who stand by us when we fight the world, who keep us true to ourselves. And yes, sometimes that’s the romantic partner, too, but in general it extends way beyond that.

What are some resources for people who want more platonic relationships in their fiction and are there ways for writers and readers to get involved in curating or contributing to these resources?

I may or may not have built an entire database of asexual and aromantic characters. It includes a column for “important relationships”, too, someone who’d want aro characters could filter every alloromantic one and then browse what’s left and the important relationships indicated for something that fits their mood.

I’m sure there are lists of things like “books focused on friendship” out there, too, though if anyone did those with aromantic characters… I haven’t been linked to them. It’s not something most readers tend to focus on, or most pub tend to market about, especially in queer lit.

What advice do you have for writers who want to include more platonic relationships in their work?

So all of what follows is meant first and foremost for alloromantic writers. Aro writers: write what you damn want. It’s good to question tropes you naturally reach for and to be aware of them, but some of us fit those harmful clichés and if you wanna write your own experience--write aros who are cold or whose aroness is tied to trauma or who want to be alone?--then go for it.

For aromantic characters, do your research. There’s no shortcut and so many pitfalls, so many ways in which we are dehumanized and erased. Some basics are don’t kill us, don’t ever imply we’d need romance to be happy, don’t use phrasings like ‘just friends’ which imply there’s a hierarchy in relationships, and one is more than others. Research the aromantic spectrum thoroughly and accept that it’s hard to explain, and sometimes confusing even to us, and you need to be kind and considerate and to listen.

Think about how your aromantic character interacts with romance and romantic behaviour. Do they enjoy these things even without (or with limited) romantic attraction? What do they think of as romantic? Do they want a life partner akin to romantic relationships or do they prefer to stay single? There are so many facets to aromanticism, and they impact how we interact with others and juggle their expectations of what “”proper relationships”” are and our personal desires.  

What are some things you would like to see more of when it comes to fictional platonic relationships?

Let’s make a list!

  • Fictional friends whose friendship remain the most important relationship in their lives even after they get romantic partners.  Couples let friends drop to the background all the time, and I want to see the reverse.

  • Lovers to Friends that posit the second relationship status in the better one for this particular pair (or more, even). I don’ mean “diss the romance”, I mean that for some people, the constraints and expectations of romance are a Bad Idea.

  • Friends or mentors or other close platonic bond who fall in and out of (non-romantic) love with each other, who have a history and have dealt with break ups and fights and work through them to form better, even more solid bonds. Basically, all the complexity we often only allow romantic relationships, but on non-romantic ones

  • Found families that 1) label it as such, and 2) aren’t created through things like restrained space or other plot-induced reason they had to be together. Thinking of spaceships and adventurer groups here. Those are great, but also I feel that the sharing of space induces a specific dynamic and I’d like to see something else

On the flip side, are there any tropes or pitfalls you wish people would avoid?

CW Incest

I am ready to never, ever read about twins having sex again. It’s gross, stop this. But beyond that, I can’t think of anything that sends me big NOPE flag in itself. It’s usually the framing of the relationship and the subtle reinforced hierarchies that rile me up, so it’s hard to give very concrete advice. Critical thinking is something you acquire through practice and experience and a willingness to self-examine.

What are some struggles you face both in and outside of the queer writing community? What are ways in which alloromantic writers could better support you?

Dealing with people’s expectations of what relationships matter most and what mine should look like on a daily basis is exhausting. Outside of the queer community, most of the challenges I face tie into the idea that if you’re not in a cisheteronormative couple, you have a problem to fix.

Within it, well, that might take a lot longer to explain. To focus on queer literary communities… the focus on romance and sex shuts so many aros out, so hard. So many lists and resources are divided into m/m and f/f, but what do you do when your stories have little to no romance? LGBTQ publishers are almost all branded as romance publishers, even those who accept other stories, and the message imbedded here is that romance is what matters. Not to mention, a lot of listing will throw ace and aro together, and then you’re stuck filtering the alloromantic aces out. It’s always a little weird and off-putting to watch conversations about the importance of found family and queer friends, then turn around and witness the entire marketing structure built on romance only.

There’s a lot people could do to make the landscape more welcoming, but I’m gonna be cheeky and say that supporting and boosting our kickstarter would be a damn good first step.

What is your process in creating and curating content for the anthology?

One of the first things we did was invite writers we loved and trusted to submit ahead of the kickstarter. We wanted good content to promote and we wanted to give aromantic writers a lead time knowing about this project.

Now we have an open call. At this time, our first step is to check if a story meets the criterias: does it have a character which can reasonably be read as aromantic? Does it center a platonic relationship? Is it speculative fiction? Then we discuss together what we love about the story, what needs revision, which ones fit our goal best, etc. And we make joint decision about which ones we want to keep.

How can everyone best support COMMON BONDS, its creators, and contributing authors?

The first and obvious thing is to back our Kickstarter. We need the money to pay our contributors, and the e-version of the anthology is only $8 (Canadian! That’s like $5-6 US).

We know not everyone can pay, though, and there are lot of others way to support. You can RT our tweets or, even better, make your own about why the anthology matters to you. You can tag writers you know (or submit yourself!), especially aromantic writers, and let them know about the Kickstarter and the call for submissions. If you know accounts with large followings that routinely signal boost kickstarters (that last bit is important) or queer initiatives, hit them up. Basically, the best thing is to get the kickstarter in front of as many eyes as possible.


Claudie Arseneault is an asexual and aromantic spectrum writer hailing from Quebec City. Her love for sprawling casts invariably turns her novels into multi-storylined wonders centered on aromantic and asexual characters. Her high fantasy series, City of Spires, started in February 2017, and her latest book, Baker Thief, features a bigender aromantic baker and is full of delicious bread, French puns, and magic.

Claudie is a founding member of The Kraken Collective and is well-known for her involvement in solarpunk, her database of aro and ace characters, and her unending love of squids. She was long-listed for the 2018 BSFA Awards for her essay Constructing a Kinder Future in Strange Horizons. Find out more on her website!

Queering Up Your Bookshelf: Jacqueline Rohrbach

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

Happy Wednesday!

Today, I welcome fellow NineStar Press author Jacqueline Rohrbach to Queering Up Your Bookshelf to talk bout asexual representation, balancing writing and mental health, and subverting the “special girl” trope in her upcoming release The Soulstealers, coming soon from NineStar Press.

Welcome, Jacqueline!


Jacqueline Rohrbach is an asexual living in windy Central Washington with her husband, two dogs, and two cats. Writing has always been a passion of hers, and when she decided to pursue her dream, she wanted to tell stories of people who are often left out or relegated to secondary character status or put in the villain box. She likes unconventional, even absurd, stories, sweet romances, dark fantasy, and horror. Really, she’ll write and read pretty much anything.

Find Jacqueline online:

WEBSITE TWITTER GOODREADS AMAZON


What is your writing origin story?

Although I was always an avid reader, I wouldn’t say I was a creative writer or even interested in it until high school. And then one of my teachers told me I was quite good. Cheesy as it sounds, that was the first time any teacher told me I was good at anything, and I sort of embraced that identity. Unfortunately, depression hit me pretty hard around that time, and I convinced myself I was only a good writer while manic. This created a lot of destructive habits around my process, and I had to abandon writing for the sake of my mental health. I only recently came back, but I’m glad I did.

Where do you usually write (share a picture if you’d like) and what are the top three things you usually have around you when you write?

I really only have a laptop and water. I know that’s pretty dull. Sorry.

What does representation mean to you and how does it feature in your writing?

For me, it helped me accept that I belonged to a group that I didn’t even know existed. I’ve never been interested in sex, but I always thought something was wrong with me and that I’d be cured after enough therapy. Then, after I wrote and published my first novel, The Worst Werewolf, I learned that other asexual people existed. It was very freeing and a huge turning point in my life in terms of accepting myself.

For that reason, I think representation matters in terms of seeing ourselves but also because it helps us see others. I learned a ton about other identities by reading diverse fiction and following diverse perspectives on Twitter. My lack of knowledge surprised and humbled me. For example, I didn’t know about the use of “they/them” as a pronoun for a single person before I met someone who used those pronouns. So, I’d say representation made me a better person and more responsive to the needs of others.

What are some of your favorite tropes (or ways to subvert them)?

Friends to lovers and enemies to lovers have always been my favorite tropes. I especially have a soft spot for friends to lovers or books where friendships are equally important. I remember reading Novak’s Uprooted and falling in love with Kasia and Agnieszka. I adore books with long courtship periods or where the characters misunderstand the other’s motivations so they’re always dancing around their true feelings. I’ll also always have a soft spot for anti-heroes.

The only trope I actively seek to subvert is the notion of the “special girl” who isn’t like the “other” women. When I wrote The Soulstealers, I created a “special girl” character: Arnaka Skytree. Throughout her journey, Arnaka learns other women are wonderful, especially girly girls, and that she needs their help to save the world. I started spite writing it after reading a series (I can’t remember the name of it) where the female hero character is strong because she beats people up, hangs out with men, and spurns women for being “useless.” I was pretty much grrr typing the entire time.

What is your writing process?

I’ll get inspired by something I see, hear, or watch and I’ll put it in my “ideas” folder. Sometimes, an idea is so overwhelming that I’ll stop my other projects to work on it. Usually, however, I plan my projects and stick to my schedule.

Almost always, I know the end of the story before anything else. I’m a pantser, so I usually don’t even have a foggy outline for the story when I begin. I find this helps me take my stories to unexpected places. This usually means I have a lot to do when it’s time to edit, but I’m a person who enjoys the editing process as much as the writing process.

What is your best piece of writing advice?

Learn to filter out people who are giving you ego-based advice. Instead, listen to people who are giving you advice to help you realize your vision of your story. It’s often difficult to hear criticism, but it is an important part of the process and something most writers need. Finding people who want to help you rather than dictate what you should or shouldn’t do can sometimes be difficult. Generally speaking, I tend to avoid people who claim their process is right where every other is wrong and those who claim they are superior writers to every other writer, published or otherwise. To me, that sounds like ego talking rather than an honest drive to help others.

Also, be kind to yourself.

What is the hardest lesson you learned while writing?

I am not the same writer when I’m manic, and I should prioritize my mental health and not force myself to work.

What do you hope readers will take away from your work?

That incredible feeling when you’ve read something fantastic and you just say, “Fuck yes!” Maybe I’m the only one who gets that after reading books.

What was your favorite character or scene you’ve written recently?

My favorite scene in recent memory comes from Just in Time, which is my Christmas novella for 2018. In the opening, The Ghosts of Future Past, Present, and Future fail to cure Evan Eazer of his misanthropy or convince him that he needs to make a change. It’s up to Phil (The Ghost of Imaginary Time) to take the lead and help Evan change his heart. I like this scene for its humor but also for Phil’s fragility and his earnest desire to be understood by people and to help them. When Phil tries to explain the concept of imaginary time to Evan, he fails, which leaves him open to ridicule and scorn. However, through his failure he teaches Evan the lesson he came to teach: the world is full of things that can’t be explained and that simple concepts, like the progression of time, are actually quite complex. Phil asks Evan to see beauty in that and he ultimately does.

What are you currently working on? What’s next for you?

Right now I’m working on a paranormal m/m romance. It’s a fun friends-to-lovers where a werewolf falls for his vampire bff. Afterward, I’m kicking around another f/f fantasy novel, which I’m really excited to start!


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Arnaka Skytree grew up believing she was chosen to bring new magic to the world. As the heir to the cult of druids responsible for keeping their floating palace habitable for the wealthy aristocracy, she’s expected to wield her power as those before her did: by culling the souls of peasant women. 

But when Arnaka learns more about the source of her magic, and that her best friend’s soul will be harvested, she embarks on a journey to end the barbarous practice and to restore a long-forgotten harmonious system of magic practiced by the original druids. Along the way, she discovers she’s not the only girl chosen to restore balance to their world—many others have powerful magic inside, and with them, she will tear the floating palace from the sky so everyone can live in the sun—out of the shadow of the eclipse.

Add THE SOULSTEALERS on Goodreads!

Chelsea Geter is the artist who drew Arnaka for the cover of The Soulstealers, and I’d like to thank her for the amazing job. She really brought Arnaka to life, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with her! If you’re interested in seeing more of her art, you can follow her on Instagram or DeviantArt:  https://www.instagram.com/liquidxsin/ or https://www.deviantart.com/chelseageter.

Queering Up Your Bookshelf: Victoria Lee

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

Happy Wednesday!

Today, I welcome Victoria Lee to Queering Up Your Bookshelf to talk about their writing origin story, involving secret romances and political intrigue with Lisa Frank characters, how living in other countries is beneficial for writing fantasy worlds, and the way they approached representation (yes, let’s make everyone queer, always!) and writing about abuse in their upcoming YA novel, The Fever King, out with Skyscape on March 1.

Welcome, Victoria!


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Victoria Lee grew up in Durham, North Carolina, where they spent twelve ascetic years as a vegetarian before discovering spicy chicken wings are, in fact, a delicacy. They’ve been a state finalist competitive pianist, a hitchhiker, a pizza connoisseur, an EMT, an expat in China and Sweden, and a science doctoral student. They’re also a bit of a snob about fancy whisky.

Victoria writes early in the morning, then spends the rest of the day trying to impress their border collie puppy and make their experiments work.

Find Victoria online:

WEBSITE TWITTER INSTAGRAM TUMBLR


What is your writing origin story?

When I was in first grade or so, according to my parents, the teacher told us to write down everything she said. And she started listing simple words. Well, at some point another teacher came in to talk to her and everyone else stopped writing. But baby Victoria, being a literalist, just wrote down that entire conversation verbatim. And when the teacher came back and resumed telling us simple words, allegedly I just kept the conversation going into a whole new fictional sphere.

Or maybe my origin story was the weird stories I built around the Lisa Frank characters on my folders and binders. Every time I closed my eyes I would escape into the world of Lisa Frank, which had political intrigue and forbidden romances and treason plots and illicit magic.

Or maybe it’s the fifty-thousand word novella I wrote when I was eight about a girl on the Oregon Trail, inspired by the computer game.

It’s hard to say when I first started considering myself a writer. I did a lot of school-level writing competitions as a kid, with short stories, and honestly I don’t really remember a time when I wasn’t writing some kind of fiction or another.

(How) did your life as an ex-pat in China and Sweden inspire your writing?

Just being exposed to all kinds of different cultures and lifestyles feels invaluable as a writer. It’s so important to expand your awareness of different ways of living and social norms and habits to include all those you didn’t grow up with. I also think there’s something very unique about being an outsider in someone else’s country for a long period of time and needing to adapt to those norms and social traditions. It helps you realize a lot about cultural and moral relativism, and how your way of doing things or thinking about things is limited in scope by the culture you grew up in. That’s particularly great when you’re writing fantasy and need to invent worlds that are totally unlike our own. You might not model those worlds off existing countries, but being aware of the wide expanse of ways people live can help you think outside the box.

What does representation mean to you and how does it feature in your writing?

In terms of queer representation specifically, it was really important to me to write a book in which there were a lot of queer characters who were just…casually queer. When I was growing up, I didn’t know any queer kids who were out. And then I went to high school—to an arts high school, specifically—and suddenly almost all of my friends were queer. In college, too, I hung out with an almost entirely-LGBTQ+ crowd. So my reality became a queer reality. When I watched tv shows and read books where everyone was cis and straight—or where there was just a token queer character—it rang false.

The initial draft of TFK had a lot of queer characters, and a critique partner told me she thought I’d have trouble selling the book or landing the readers because there were so many gay characters in the book, and didn’t I think it was a little unrealistic? That’s when I doubled down and made them all queer. Like. Literally all of them.

‘Cause hey: if it’s not unrealistic for everyone in a book to be straight, then how is this any less realistic?

How did you come up with the magic system in The Fever King and how did science play a role in this?

In the universe of The Fever King, magic can only be used if you understand the science behind it. So to do telekinesis, you have to understand physics—and to heal someone, you have to understand anatomy and physiology. I really enjoyed nerding out over science stuff when writing the book—especially the scenes where Noam was learning how to perform certain types of magic for the first time. I think being a scientist in my day job made me excited about writing a science-based magic system because it’d be one of the only kinds of magic I’d end up being good at. Plus there was just something so aesthetic about the idea of people having to study mundane science so hard to perform fantastical feats.

What is your writing process?

I’m a bit of a hybrid of a plotter and a pantser. I like to plot the main milestones of a story and then discovery write my way between them until they’re all connected. It ends up being the perfect combination of planning and being able to keep the tension and surprise myself.

In terms of the actual act of writing… There’s this café I love to write in. It’s in an old Victorian house and every room has a different vibe. It feels like you’re sitting in someone’s grandma’s living room writing a book. Plus their drinks are really interesting and they let me add bacon fragments on top of my maple latte once. So I have a soft spot.

What is your best piece of advice when it comes to writing and publishing?

Writing is rewriting! I want to write that on my forehead or put it in my twitter bio or something so it’s the first thing people see when they ask for writing advice. I feel like it’s so tempting to see your first draft as a final draft. But I don’t know anyone who wrote a perfect first draft. Everyone had to revise, with critique partners and agents and editors…often pretty heavily. And in some ways that’s comforting. Because you don’t feel the same pressure to write a perfect book right off the bat. You have permission to experiment and mess up and reassure yourself that you’ll fix it later.

What is the hardest lesson you learned while writing?

Honestly…probably that same lesson. That I won’t write a perfect draft, that I’ll probably even have to rewrite. It’s intimidating to think about that too much heading into a new book, especially. The other hard lesson I’ve learned is that you have to learn to let go of a book once you’re done with it. When a book is out in the world, you can’t change anything now—there’s no use thinking about things you would have done differently, or reading reviews and obsessing over everything that readers didn’t like. The book is done, it’s out there. The only thing you can do now is write the next book.

Abuse plays a prominent role in The Fever King. How did you approach this in writing about it and do you have any advice for other authors who might be tackling similar topics in their writing?

A lot of this plot line in The Fever King was drawn from personal experience. I wanted to represent characters who aren’t the “typical” victims people often talk about in the media. There’s so many ways survivors can blame themselves and be blamed by other people for violence done against them. Survivors will be blamed because they’re promiscuous, or mentally ill, or struggling with addiction—as if all these aren’t often the direct result of trauma. So in that way I tried to keep my approach very victim-focused. The character in this book is currently experiencing abuse, they haven’t survived it and already entered the process of recovery. I think that’s a fairly specific kind of experience to write about, too, with its own specific challenges and emotions attached to it.

My main advice to other authors writing about abuse is to keep in mind that there is no stereotypical way for a victim or survivor to behave. Some victims withdraw and become afraid of sex and socially anxious, whereas others throw themselves into partying and promiscuity and substance abuse. And so often we have a schema in our minds—a prototype of what victims are supposed to look like—that’s incredibly damaging to victims to who don’t fit that role. Allow your characters to be characters first and victims second. And allow their abuse to influence them in multiple ways. And most importantly…allow them to be more than their victimhood. Keep in mind their dreams, their hopes and wants for the future, the identity they have for themselves independent of their trauma. Don’t allow their abuser to steal their personhood.

What was your favorite character or scene you’ve written recently?

There’s a scene in the sequel to The Fever King where a character finally is able to really verbalize something traumatic that happened to them. And for me that was so difficult and powerful to write. Giving that character their voice in that moment felt like giving myself that voice. Every time you speak up against abusers you have to make the choice to do it: a hundred little choices, again and again, and writing this character slowly become more and more comfortable saying their truth was really meaningful for me.

What are you currently working on? What’s next for you?

I’m working on revisions for the sequel to The Fever King. It’s called The Electric Heir, and it’ll release in 2020. (Probably in March.) The book picks up six months after The Fever King leaves off, and it’s about twice as dark and twisted as the first.

Other than that…. I have a few projects underway, but I can’t say too much about them just yet! Hopefully soon.

BONUS QUESTION (from a fellow whisky aficionado): What is your favorite whisky?

Right now I’m really feeling the Bowmore 15. It’s just so…smooth and dark and peaty and tastes like…I guess I’d say a candied Lagavulin? It has notes of toffee and chocolate and ginger and vanilla and burnt fruit. My second favorites are the Lagavulin 16 and the Laphroaig Quarter Cask. I like my scotch to taste like a campfire in my mouth.


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In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.

The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.

Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.

Content Warnings

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EMPIRE OF LIGHT Release Day!

It’s finally here! It’s my “Gay Firefly with Magic” adult science fiction debut, Empire of Light’s official book birthday and part of me still can’t believe that this day is actually here and that there are real, actual copies of this thing I wrote out in the world, and people are sending me pictures of it in the wild, along with live-reading updates, and awesome reviews. This is a thing, you all! And it feels pretty fucking fantastic.


But I also wanted to talk a little bit about some of the things that happened on the way to getting this book into everyone’s hands, because so often we celebrate the successes without mentioning all the other shit that happened along the way of publication. So, here are some of the ingredients that helped make this book:

Writing out of spite:

I started writing this book when I honestly didn’t see a lot of queer books written by queer folk with queer protagonists (and antagonists, and supporting characters…basically queer EVERYONE) out there. I started writing Empire of Light at a time when I got The Look whenever I mentioned I wrote a book with queer main characters, felt distinctly unsafe as a queer person at conventions, and can’t count the times that I was flatly told I shouldn’t write what I write or that it would never sell. I’m really, really glad this has changed and that as I kept going, I not only found SO MANY more queer books (and fantastic authors to support!) but an amazing community that has my undying love because of how magically badass they all are.

Writing through extended breaks:

Part of the reason it took this many years for this book to finally see the light of day is because I absolutely had to take breaks. I first started writing seriously after I had immigrated to the U.S. and survived one of the most toxic and dangerous times of my life and in many ways finding writing and the community with it, finding a purpose and something that drove me, absolutely saved me—while also bringing snarky, sweary, and twisty af characters to life. My writing journey definitely took a few hard stops, like when I took extended breaks to let a manuscript sit, or when I had to take nearly two years off because I was finishing my teaching degree, studied full-time, worked as a student teacher, and held a full-time job because there was just me and somehow I had to eat and keep a roof over my and my cats’ head. And yes, extended breaks suck. This one certainly did and I honestly thought I had broken myself and my writing with it for a while. But I got back into it, not the least because people kept pushing me, cheering me on, and demanding I keep doing this thing. So, to those of you who never gave up on me, thank you can’t adequately describe the words I have for what you did for me.

The Emo-Coaster that is Publishing:

When I first started to write serious and learn about the publishing process, I thought that all I had to do was get an agent, who would sell my book, and I’d be set. Yeah, I was a naive baby writer, but hey, we all start somewhere. The truth is that a) publishing moves at a rather glacial pace (until it does not), b) there isn’t really a one-size-fits-all model (when is there ever?), and c) sometimes you can do everything right and things still go to hell. Empire of Light took me years to write into a readable version, more years to edit and finally scrape together the courage to query, and then, after nearly a year in the query-trenches, when I finally was in that magical place where I had to choose between three agents who wanted to represent me, things still didn’t quite pan out. My agent was lovely and I loved working with her. I got a handful of very complimentary rejections, and yes, if anything is harder than querying, it’s being on submission, but ultimately my agent couldn’t continue working due to health reasons and we parted ways. That was a bit of a rock bottom moment for me that honestly stalled my writing something fierce and I thought this book was pretty much dead, since big publishers had seen it. But then I went out and submitted it to smaller presses who didn’t require an agent and negotiated my own deal with NineStar Press, who have been absolutely lovely to work with.

So, yeah, this book took one hell of a winding road to get to where it is now and looking back, there are certainly things I could have done better. But, you know what? There are so many things I learned while writing, editing, querying, and working with my publisher, that I wouldn’t want to trade in for the world, because every little bit that went into this book is learned experience, is treasured memories, is a hoard of armaments and things I’ll know to do better, or differently, or to continue learning about for the next one. Because there will always be a next one.

But today, it’s the book birthday of my very first. And damn if that isn’t something.

Happy reading!

—Alex



Damian Nettoyer is the Empire’s go-to gun. He kills whoever they want him to kill. In exchange, he and his rag-tag gang of crooks get to live, and Damian’s psychokinetic partner and lover, Aris, isn’t issued a one-way ticket to an Empire-sanctioned lobotomy.

Then Damian’s latest mark, a suave revolutionary named Raeyn, kicks his ass and demands his help. The first item on the new agenda: take out Damian’s old boss—or Raeyn will take out Damian’s crew.

To protect his friends and save his own skin, Damian teams up with Raeyn to make his revolution work. As Aris slips away from Damian and his control over his powers crumbles, the Watch catches on. Damian gets way too close to Raeyn, torn between the need to shoot him one minute and kiss him the next.

With the Empire, Damian had two policies: shoot first and don’t ask questions. But to save the guy he loves, he’ll set the world on fire.

Queering Up Your Bookshelf: Amara Lynn

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

Happy Wednesday!

Today, I welcome author and #LGBTQwrimo and QWriters host Amara Lynn to Queering Up Your Bookshelf to talk about their m/m superhero/villain romance, Masks, being inspired by the thought of “I can do this, except gay” (samesies, by the way!), nonbinary representation, their publishing journey, and more.

Welcome, Amara! Happy reading!


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Amara Lynn has always been a quiet daydreamer. Coming up with characters and worlds since childhood, Amara eventually found an outlet in writing. Amara loves anything to do with pirates, villains and superheroes, angels and demons.

Amara is addicted to music and gets the most inspiration from moving songs and lyrics. When not writing, Amara usually reads, listens to podcasts, watches anime, plays a video game here and there (but mostly collects them), and takes way too many cat pictures.

Find Amara online:

WEBSITE TWITTER


What is your writing origin story?

I always feel really silly when I tell people this, but the reason I took up writing seriously was because of Twilight. After I read it, I thought, "I could do this, except gay." I stopped writing my bad fanfic I'd been dabbling in, and original work. I filled up these pocket notebooks with my gay vampire story, and it was so addicting. At some point, I'd like to revisit those vampires.

What has your publishing journey been like so far? Any ups and downs you’d care to share?

Publishing thus far has been kinda weird for me. I never actually thought this silly story about a villain would be accepted, but it was. I still think I might not have been ready. The low point so far has been that I had to rewrite that story into something coherent in four weeks, so that was fun. There's been a few more downs, but as far as ups I think finally deciding to self publish.

What does representation mean to you and how does it feature in your writing?

Representation means so much to me since realizing I was nonbinary. I want all the nonbinary characters! Most of the characters I've made lately are nonbinary so you have that to look forward to!

What are some of your favorite tropes (or ways to subvert them) when it comes to hero/villain stories?

I love forbidden/ill-fated relationships (but with happy endings!). I'm big on hero/villain stories, but the twist in my book Masks is that it's from the villain's point of view. I'm also a sucker for first love and fluff.

What is your writing process?

I usually start out with a premise or what if, then make and name my characters, then brainstorming and making notes. Once I feel like I have the whole story I start writing it all out!

What is your best piece of writing advice?

Don't worry about whether your story is good enough while you’re writing it. Just write!

What are your writing rituals? Do you listen to specific music, write in a specific place, have specific writing-related habits, etc?

I have to have music! I'm a music addict, but a very unorganized one. I usually write at my desk, though I've been known to write on my phone when inspiration strikes...

What is your favorite thing about the queer writing community?

I love that the queer writing specifically is just so welcoming and supportive.

What was your favorite character or scene you’ve written recently?

I had a lot of fun with my magic fluffy f/f writing this festival scene!

What are you currently working on? What’s next for you?

Right now I'm trying (and failing) to write a solarpunk winter story. I'm also preparing for the release of book two of Masks on March 26th!


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Avari has always been a social outcast, which is just fine by him; he has superhuman abilities and hates people. But his lab partner Chayton keeps being so friendly, and Avari can't stop staring at his alluring smile.

When he loses control of his abilities, Avari is faced with a startling revelation about himself—one that's both thrilling and dangerous. As Avari seeks to understand Chayton, he finds himself coming out of his shell, and his connection with Chayton grows deeper.

Meanwhile, a mysterious adversary appears who may hold answers to who Avari really is. Fueled by his curiosity, Avari continues his path of destruction—but he can't help wonder if his secrets will tear apart his shaky new bond with Chayton. 

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On Spite and other Things that Empower Me

Me, age 3, pre-Rabbit Heist. Yes, I was a Kindergarten Pirate (though people claimed the bandaid was to help my left eye become stronger). The expression says it all. I really think my parents should have known at this point that nefarious things were afoot.

Me, age 3, pre-Rabbit Heist. Yes, I was a Kindergarten Pirate (though people claimed the bandaid was to help my left eye become stronger). The expression says it all. I really think my parents should have known at this point that nefarious things were afoot.

I’ve spent a lot of my life doing things out of spite.

Spite is what made four-year-old me very much complicit in my then twelve-year-old aunt’s ploy to steal our neighbor’s rabbit, determined to save him from becoming stew. (Our neighbor totally caught on, but apparently our rabbit-stealing caper impressed him enough to let us keep the rabbit--we named him Peter. And no, Peter wasn’t the first, nor was he the last animal Tiny Me would steal--or bring to Kindergarten show and tell. My Kindergarten teachers were NOT impressed.)

Spite is what motivated fourteen-year-old me to become highly politicized and march against Neo Nazis in my German hometown. Spite also prompted an at the time probably questionably impulsive move to the U.S. but spite also helped me push through the mess that is immigration, paired with probably some of the hardest and most toxic times of my life.

It makes sense then, that spite is what prompted me to keep writing sweary queer science fiction, even after all the uncomfortable looks I got whenever people asked me what I wrote when I first started on this journey more than ten years ago. Spite kept my spine straight and my head high when I walked out of the intro session of an advanced fiction writing class in college when my professor told me to “consider what will offend your audience and don’t write that.” My professor followed that up with how she specifically didn’t want to see any “homosexuality, violence, or other vulgarity like that.” I still remember what it like to stand up after that and leave a crowded classroom, fully aware that everyone’s eyes where on me, when I stood up and said, “In that case, I suppose my very existence isn’t something you want to see in this class, so I hereby withdraw.”

I don’t remember what my professor said in response, because I was too busy getting the hell out of that room so I could fall apart and have a panic attack in the privacy of my car instead of in front of a packed classroom. At this point I very much like my sexuality, my identity, my writing, were an affront to everyone around me. Frankly, it was a shitty feeling and a personal low point that to this day motivates me as a writer, a teacher, and a person to do better.

Oh, yes, and spoilers: I graduated winning a shitton of awards and that former professor is now no longer teaches while I do. Spite - 1 : Bigotry: 0.

Oh, yes, and spoilers: I graduated winning a shitton of awards and that former professor is now no longer teaches while I do. Spite - 1 : Bigotry: 0.

Fortunately things changed. I kept going. I kept writing. I found supportive professors, friends, and a writing community who all get just how important representation of all kinds is not just to marginalized folk, but to everyone whose perspectives are expanded by unapologetic representation that transcends the pages it is printed on. Spite is what kept me moving forward when it was all I had to lean on.

But finding myself represented on the pages of queer books, finding people who not only felt similarly about representation and inclusion as I did, but also challenged and expanded my perspectives was a game changer. It truly made me realize how important being unapologetic about what we write, what we are, is. Not just for ourselves, but for those around us, because this shit has a ripple effect and you never know who might be having an existential panic attack in their car and needs your voice, your words, right the hell now.

So, whenever someone asks me why representation and inclusivity is important in writing, as well as all areas of being alive, my answer is simple: because no one should ever tell you you don’t belong. Because everyone does. And everyone can do better if they’re just willing to push on. If spite is what it takes, fine.

But it’s when spite turns into empowerment and community that magic happens. So, let’s all be a little magically spiteful today, whether it’s by saving rabbits from the stew pot, standing up to bigoted professors, or simply writing your resistance. Do the thing. And tell us all about it.

Oh, and yes, after what my professor told me, I resolved to write one hella gay, vulgar, and violent book. That book is Empire of Light and it comes out one week from now.

I think I win.

EMPIRE OF LIGHT Pre-Order Campaign!

Are you #TeamDamian, #TeamAris, or #TeamRaeyn?

Empire of Light releases 10 days (!!) from today and you can preorder it now from your favorite retailer in eBook and Print format.

To get exclusive #TeamDamian, #TeamAris, or #TeamRaeyn swag, save your receipts (or take a screenshot of your request confirmation at your local library) and fill out the Empire of Light Pre-Order Giveaway Form here to receive the following:

#TeamDamianSwag1.jpg

#TeamDamian:

  • Bookmark

  • Bookplate

  • #TeamDamian Sticker

  • #TeamDamian pin

  • #TeamDamian gin-flavored lip balm (print pre-orders only)

#TeamAris1.jpg

#TeamAris:

  • Bookmark

  • Bookplate

  • #TeamAris Sticker

  • #TeamAris button

  • #TeamAris vanilla-cinnamon-flavored lip balm (print pre-orders only)

#TeamRaeynSwag1.jpg

#TeamRaeyn:

  • Bookmark

  • Bookplate

  • #TeamRaeyn Sticker

  • #TeamRaeyn button

  • #TeamRaeyn lavender-mint-flavored lip balm (print pre-orders only)

Also, if you are pre-ordering Empire of Light, please consider reviewing it on Amazon and/or Goodreads!

Questions? Email me at alex[at]alexharrow[dot]com or use the contact form on this site.

Thank you all for helping me make this launch awesome! I can’t believe it’s only 10 days away!

Cheers and happy reading!

—Alex

Queering Up Your Bookshelf: W. D. Foster-Graham

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

Happy Wednesday!

Today, I welcome W. D. Foster-Graham to Queering Up Your Bookshelf to talk about drawing inspiration from his father, being a gay teen during the times of Stonewall, and representing often-overlooked African-American gay men in historical fiction.

Welcome, W. D. and happy reading!


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W.D. Foster-Graham is a native of Minneapolis, Minnesota. He received a B.A. in psychology from Luther College, and he was an original member of the multi-Grammy Award-winning ensemble, Sounds of Blackness. He has also been recognized by the International Society of Poets as one of its “Best Poets of 2003.”

His passion for reading and writing was inspired by his father, who read voraciously. His tastes in writing run to family sagas and M/M romance, seasoned with his own brand of African-American flavor—at the end of the day, it’s all about the love. He shamelessly admits to a love of romance novels, whodunits and classic movies of old Hollywood. He was also inspired by the late novelist E. Lynn Harris, who believed that an author should write the books he/she wants to read.

When not in laptop writer’s mode, he loves travel on the open road, nature walks, and time with his husband and son.

Find W.D. online:

WEBSITE TWITTER AMAZON


1. What is your writing origin story?

I couldn’t not write. It was hardwired into me from an early age. My father was a voracious reader, and I inherited that trait from him. It was common for me to go to the library and come home with a stack of books under my chin—and read every one of them. My reading translated into writing short stories as soon as I knew how. The idea for writing my first novel, however, didn’t come until I was in my late thirties.

2. What inspires your writing and how do you keep that inspiration alive?

The African-American LGBT authors and poets who went before me are part of it. The other part is much closer to home. My father was my biggest fan and my biggest critic. He always had my back. Rather than complain about a lack of representation, I took a page from him and wrote the books myself. Because all my novels are dedicated to him, as well as my husband and son, the inspiration is kept alive.

3. What does representation mean to you and how does it feature in your writing?

As an African-American/Native American gay man who was a teenager at the time of Stonewall, who didn’t see any characters who looked like me in the fictional stories I read in those days, representation is key. In my historical novels, my characters represent the successful African-American men who were often overlooked in novels past unless they were entertainers or sports figures, and LGBT family members are featured in them.

4. What are some of your favorite tropes (or ways to subvert them)?

In the world of m/m romance, my favorite trope would be friends-to-lovers. A close second is having a main character who realizes he’s not as “straight” as he thought he was.

5. What is your writing process?

Once I have the idea down, I create psychological profiles of my characters. Taking a page from Agatha Christie, I write the beginning and the ending of my novel first. My outline is brief and topical. From there, I write it the same way a movie is shot—out of sequence. It all comes together in the end.

6. What is your best piece of writing advice?

I was inspired by the late E. Lynn Harris when he said, “Write the books you want to read.”

7. What is the hardest lesson you learned while writing?

It happened when writing my first novel. It was to ignore the naysayers. I got over them and published the novel anyway. “Believe in dreams and never give up” is my motto, no matter how long it takes.

8. What do you hope readers will take away from your work?

Entertainment, inspiration, the importance of the richness of diversity and sharing our stories. If we don’t, who will? In my work, family is everything. At the end of the day, it’s all about the love. In the words of Aretha Franklin, “Be your own artist, and always be confident in what you’re doing.”

9. What is a great queer book you’ve read recently?

There were two: Play It Forward by Frederick Smith, and Visible Lives, an anthology paying tribute to E. Lynn Harris by Terrance Dean, James Earl Hardy and Stanley Bennett Clay.

10. What are you currently working on? What’s next for you?

I am currently writing two m/m romance novels. One is The Right to Be; the other is To Thine Own Self. My whodunit, Never Give Up, is ready for the next phase of publication. Since my novels are all part of a family saga/series, it’s best to read them in sequence. With the size of this extended African-American family, there’s plenty of room for more m/m romance in the future.


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Allan Beckley Christopher is a self-made, African-American multimillionaire. Starting out with nothing but family, high intelligence, ambition and drive, he succeeded against the odds. He dealt with racism, discrimination and the naysayers, Black and white, who were convinced he would never make it as an entrepreneur in the 1960s. Opening a fix-it shop in southside Chicago, through hard work and determination he turns it into a multi-million-dollar corporation.

He’s “made his mark.” His home is a thirty-room estate. He is among the Who’s Who of Black America. His company is listed in the Fortune 500. He is a “mover and shaker” in the community, and all the connections that accompany it. He faithfully attends church on Sundays.

But has he made it?

With the advent of his sixtieth birthday, his character, his past and his beliefs come into focus, honor and question as his story is told through the eyes of his family—including his four LGBT children-- and with it his impact on their lives.

The time is 1988; the place, Chicago.

“Is there more to learn? Well, if you were raised in a family, you know very well there is.”

       – LAVENDER Magazine

Note: Mark My Words: A Christopher Family Novel is a 3-book series.

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Queering Up Your Bookshelf: K. Parr

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

Happy Wednesday!

Today, I welcome author and NineStar Press pub sibling K Parr to Queering Up Your Bookshelf. K recently ran the #LGBTrelease hashtag on Twitter and is here to talk about the writing community and how important it is to find your people, inspiration from fanfiction, favorite tropes, and her upcoming release The Sun and Moon Beneath the Stars, forthcoming from NineStar Press.

Welcome, K and happy reading!


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K is a writer of multiple genres, including young adult, romance, fantasy, paranormal, and humor, all of which star LGBT characters.

She received her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in 2017.

In her spare time, K reads and writes fanfiction, keeps up with way too many TV shows, and dances wildly in her apartment.

She currently works as a teen librarian in Rhode Island.

Find K online:

WEBSITE TWITTER INSTAGRAM PINTEREST AMAZON


1. What is your writing origin story?

I started writing when I was young, maybe 5 or 6. My first story was called ‘Pie World’ and starred cavemen who learned they could cure their hunger by saying the word ‘pie,’ since a pie would then fall from the sky and splat on their faces!

I was 12 before I started to write more seriously. That’s when I came up with the original concept for ‘The Sun and Moon Beneath the Stars.’ I’ve been writing ever since!

2. What inspires your writing and how do you keep that inspiration alive?

Other stories and characters—either through film, TV shows, books, or video games—inspire my writing and keep my own inspiration alive! I particularly love complex, flawed characters, and storylines that challenge them to grow at every opportunity. Nothing is more cathartic than good storytelling with both comedic and dramatic moments!

Some of my favorites:

Characters - Dean Winchester, Bucky Barnes, Steve Rogers

Shows – Black Sails, Skam, Queer As Folk

3. What does representation mean to you and how does it feature in your writing?

As someone who is currently questioning, I appreciate stories that center on characters who are not the ‘typical’ protagonist. Representation is crucial, and not just for me, but the generations growing up who will hopefully be more accepting of themselves and others. I’m happy that my work can help fill gaps in the industry.

4. What are some of your favorite tropes (or ways to subvert them)?

As a fanfiction addict, there are SO MANY tropes I adore! My favorite is probably hurt/comfort. I could read that trope over and over again! I also love the pairing of royalty/commoner, which I’ve written three times now. I can’t seem to get enough of it!

5. What is your writing process?

I get a spark of inspiration, then let it percolate in my mind for a while until I can come up with a few scenes. After that, and because I’m a pantser, I sit down to write and see what happens! The story will either unfold as I write, or I get stuck and have to pause. I keep going until I finish the draft, and then I get beta readers to help me know what to edit, and I complete my project and start querying it!

6. What is your best piece of writing advice?

Find your community. Writing by yourself is tough, and at some point, you need an outside perspective. Engage writers on social media, join writers groups, meet writers at conventions. Find people who want to see you succeed, and help them succeed in return!

7. What is the hardest lesson you learned while writing?

Related to the previous question, the hardest lesson I learned was that I couldn’t do it all alone. It was, and still is, hard to find other writers to help, but my work—and my sanity—has benefited from it!

8. What do you hope readers will take away from your work?

I hope readers will fall in love with my characters and appreciate my characters’ journeys. I also hope they leave the story with a positive feeling, as major themes in my work include gaining self-worth, forgiving others, and being kind.

9. What was your favorite character or scene you’ve written recently?

I’ve been editing more recently, but there’s a character in my head who’s been nagging me to write his story. Long story short, Xander is cursed to live while his boyfriend is cursed to stay dead (though he managed to come back as a ghost). They’ve got to find a way to be together! Xander is snarky, sarcastic, and nihilistic. I love him, and will someday figure out how to tell his story!

10. What are you currently working on? What’s next for you?

Despite my usual love of fantasy, I’m actually editing an M/M contemporary romance that I’m hoping to sell soon! After that’s done, I’ll move on to an M/M romance fantasy, and possibly a sequel for ‘The Sun and Moon Beneath the Stars.’


Novel Aesthetic by K Parr

Novel Aesthetic by K Parr

Can two girls save their loved ones before it's too late?

After being orphaned and forced to work as a palace slave, 15-year-old Rasha decides to end her life, but when she plunges a knife into her chest, she doesn’t die. Instead, a strange, icy power possesses her. The last time it took over, someone got hurt, and Rasha can't let that happen again.

But she's got bigger problems. Her twin brother is alive, yet held captive by Solaris, a powerful sorcerer. When Rasha runs into Adriana, the selfish princess she once served, they discover Solaris is a common enemy since he destroyed the palace and kidnapped Adriana's parents.

Together, Rasha and Adriana set out on a rescue mission. Personalities clash and tempers flare, but other feelings surface as well, feelings neither girl could have predicted.

And with the help of a ragtag group of companions, they might just be able to succeed on their quest...until an ancient evil emerges to wreak vengeance on their world.

Coming soon from NineStar Press!