Queering Up Your Bookshelf: Chace Verity

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

Happy Wednesday!

Today, I welcome Chace Verity to Queering Up Your Bookshelf to talk about the importance of explicit and specific queer representation in speculative fiction, inspiration from fanfic, and how an important part of the writing process is always to “think about the tiddies.”

Welcome, Chace!


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Chace Verity (she/they) is publishing queer as heck stories with a strong romantic focus, although friendships and found families are important too. Chace prefers to write fantasy but dabbles in contemporary and historical fiction as well. As an American citizen & Canadian permanent resident, Chace will probably never call a gallon of milk a “four-litre.”

Find Chace online:

Website Twitter Newsletter


1. What is your writing origin story?

I don’t overly know. I know that I was in love with books before I could really read. I know the adults in my life couldn’t understand what I was non-stop babbling about. I know I was penning stories as soon as I could write.

In my memories, I can see the first “book” I wrote in preschool with a fifth grader at my side. I can see the first AOL chatroom I discovered filled with kids roleplaying. I can see my first website where I posted fanfiction. I can see the look of horror on a trusted adult’s face the first time I confessed I was writing a story about lesbians. I can see the first time I “finished” NaNoWriMo while sitting in the room where my grandfather would pass hours later. I can see the first award I got in college for a short story contest. I can see the first time a publisher accepted my submission. I can see the first tweet someone made about being excited for my debut novella.

Storytelling has always been a part of me. I often wonder when was the first time I decided to take writing seriously, but I think it’s always been serious. Just because I was a kid doesn’t mean I wasn’t crushed when people mocked my stories. Just because I was a kid doesn’t mean I lacked passion.

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

I like writing. It’s easy to keep doing something I genuinely like doing.

What I don’t like is trying to figure out which of my writer friends are real friends and which ones just think I’m a tool for their success, submitting stories that are my lived truth and being told it’s too unrealistic, promoting my books on social media and websites, coming up with back-of-cover copies/blurbs, trying to understand the new updates to programs I use for writing, and doing my taxes.

There are so many non-writing parts of writing that I didn’t cover up there. I think a lot of us get burned out by those instead of the actual act of writing itself. I get bogged down by the non-writing parts so often. Venting to my trusted friends helps. Taking a break helps. Reading my old stuff and remembering why I’m writing helps.

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

When I turned fourteen, I realized I was attracted to more than one gender. I started craving those kinds of stories with people like me. I started writing them.

I buy books now solely for the rep - both rep that aligns with my identities and rep for everyone with a marginalized background. I buy indie frequently since indie authors are more likely to tell me what kind of characters are in their books. I don’t know what the plot is sometimes. My hungry brain just sees “aromantic neurodiverse Thai unicorn tamer” and I’m like, “yes, thank u.” (Before I get anyone’s hopes up, I don’t know of any books with an aromantic neurodiverse Thai unicorn tamer. But if you have one, please send me your buy link.)

I make the representation in my books as clear as possible. I think it’s important for my readers to know there are queer folks, people of color, disabled people, and mentally ill characters in my SFF as well as in my historicals/contemporaries. I use modern queer terms in SFF to help signal who a character is for the reader. The first time I saw a reader excited to see the word “nonbinary” in My Heart Is Ready (which, incidentally, is now free forever), I knew I had found what worked best for me.

On the issue of queerness specifically, if I don’t explicitly state a character’s sexuality or gender, it’s usually because the character hasn’t told me. If a reader reads a character in a specific way, they probably saw something I didn’t see. I always hope that however a reader headcanons a character, it will help the reader feel validated.

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

I love found families in books across all genres. Mentor/mentee relationships, people from broken homes finding a healing reflection in other people from broken homes, lifelong friends realizing they would commit sins for each other, big bad villain accidentally adopting a cute little homeless kid, etc. I can’t get enough of it.

In one of my upcoming books, the first love confession is not a romantic one. It is from one person to another as they realize they had found a family. It makes me cry when I think about it.

5. What is your writing process?

- Get a plot bunny

- Let the idea percolate forever

- Maybe outline? Maybe write a back-cover-copy?

- E-mail my CPs, asking if it’s a bad idea

- Think about the tiddies involved if there are any and get thirsty (there are always tiddies; I have sodium bicarbonate desires)

- Draft!!! Sometimes in a few weeks and sometimes in a few years

- Always Be Working On Multiple Projects. There Is Never Just One.

- Work with my CPs on revision plans, revise, revise, revise

- Take frequent breaks from writing, often because my other job needs me to “show up” and “actually earn the paycheck”

- Get a plot bunny and start the process over

6. What is your best piece of writing advice?

Don’t surround yourself with people who won’t let you shine. There are a lot of people who will never be impressed with you for writing 100 words, writing 50k, publishing a short story, hitting the NYT best-selling lists, getting a movie adaptation, etc. Those people are always going to be like “is that it?” or “well, I did this” or “you better enjoy it while it lasts” or...well, I think you know what I mean.

Each of your victories should be celebrated. It’s hard to outline a story, figure out why your villain isn’t villainous enough, send queries, ask people to buy your book, etc. This is a world that doesn’t reward writers for being writers, especially those with marginalizations.

If you did something today in the name of writing, you are amazing. You don’t need someone to tell you that you are less than anything less than a glowing ray of sun.

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

The events that led to my response for the above question.

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

Even if they don’t find a character exactly like them, I hope readers will see they are welcomed in the worlds I craft across all genres.

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

Shelby Eileen’s Goddess of the Hunt is a breathtaking collection of poems centered around an aromantic and asexual Artemis.

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

When this interview comes out, my 1920s historical m/m novelette, Lucky Charm, will have just been released! Deaf protagonist, swindling childhood best friend, petty heists… I love writing historical fiction from the first half of the 20th century, but I haven’t gotten much of a chance to publish them yet.

May is going to be a contemporary month for me with my m/m novella Team Phison Forever’s release and a cis m/trans f short romance called “The Blundering Billionaire” in the Rogue Ever After anthology.

Later this summer, I plan to release a taboo fantasy romance I wrote last year. The center romance is an enby/f/f triad with a m/m side couple and an aromantic allosexual trans deuteragonist. The villain is queer, too, which I don’t often write because we too often see the only queer rep in media being the bad person. But if everyone else in a book is queer, it’s okay to write queer villains, yes? I guess that’s a topic for a different day.

Once I get that amazing trashy story released, I plan to return to my Absolutes series. The Absolutes are taking a tiny break for now, but it’s the fantasy series I am most passionate about. The prequel novella, My Heart Is Ready, is free to read!

As always, I’ve got other projects going on. Some need more time than others. They’re all diverse and mean so much to me. I hope they will touch other people’s hearts too.


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The last thing Corsine ever expected to do was break into a vault and steal some rare seeds. Corsine has a secret magic known as Maje flowing through her veins, but she’s never committed a crime before, and she’s terrified of the other Majerian hoarding the seeds at Rosales. But the risk is worth it if she can successfully prove how far she’ll go for her girlfriend.

Self-proclaimed harpy king Lester loves chasing rumors, but it’s hard to fly around and gossip while molting. However, he doesn’t have time to shed quietly when his best friend Corsine is behaving suspiciously about her trip to Rosales. Plus he’s dying to impress Corsine’s (hot) fearless traveling companion.

For Corsine and Lester, uncovering truths is easy, but revealing secrets is hard when love and friendship are on the line.

---

My Heart Is Ready is a complete, standalone 30k novella in The Absolutes series.

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Queering Up Your Bookshelf: Sara Codair

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

Happy Wednesday!

Today, I welcome fellow NineStar Press author Sara Codair to Queering Up Your Bookshelf to talk about their writing process, tips for writing nonbinary characters, and how mental health factors into their writing and their debut novel Power Surge.

Welcome, Sara!


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Sara Codair is the author over fifty stories and a few poems. They love exploring “what-ifs?” in the fiction they read and write. Their debut novel, Power Surge, which features a non-binary main character, was published by NineStar Press on Oct. 1, 2018. They partially owe their success to their faithful feline writing partner, Goose the Meowditor-In-Chief, who likes to “edit” their work by deleting entire pages. If Sara isn’t writing, they’re probably commenting on student papers, in the lake, on a boat, or hiking a mountain with their spouse and dog.

Find Sara online

Website Instagram Twitter Facebook


1.     What is your writing origin story?

As a child, I was perpetually making up stories, but I seldom sat still long enough to write them down. My first attempt to actually write a story with real words happened in first grade. The teacher required students to journal. We were supposed to write about things that actually happened. I wrote about my best friend’s brother putting on a cape, climbing to the top of another neighbor's garage, jumping off, and flying. I don’t remember exactly what my teacher said, but she made me re-do the assignment.

I never stopped making up stories. Mostly, those stories were fan fiction. After watching an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess, I would run and dance around the house, mentally acting out a new episode where a super version of myself showed up and turned out to be the real hero.

Overtime, the characters took on a life of their own so that they weren’t me but original creations. My head felt crowded. I started writing. I wrote a lot at the end of high school and through undergrad, but never really finished anything.

It wasn’t until I was an adult, barely coping with undiagnosed anxiety and bipolar disorder, that I found myself writing every single night, no matter what, until I had a 200,000+ word monster of a completed draft.

Since then, I’ve completed five novels and published one.

 

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

 Fear, nature, my favorite stories, questions, concepts and problems I grapple with, and random word generators spur the ideas for most of my stories.

However, sometimes I think it is my anxiety, or my fear of what it does to me, that keeps me writing and seeking inspiration. If there is not a fictional narrative about fictional characters running through my mind, then there is a more realistic one about all the horrible things that could happen to me and people I care about. When I’m driving, if I’m not plotting out the next chapter of my book, I’m thinking about all the ways I could get in an accident and die or accidentally kill someone else. If I don’t have a story in my head when I am trying to sleep, I’m thinking about all the ways the house could burn down and replaying the most insignificant conversations over and over in my head, making them seem more awkward and hurtful each time.

Writing is my passion, but my therapist and I agree it is also my most successful tool for combatting my anxiety.

 

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

Of all the questions you asked, this is the one I struggled the most with. I apologize if my answer seems rough or jarring in some places. 

When I hear and discuss representation, the idea of good representation and bad representation come up a lot. Even though I’ve labeled representation as “good,” I really don’t like looking at it as good and bad. 

To me, representation is about accuracy and truth. But sometimes, the truth isn’t “good.” Truth can be dark and ugly, and rather see the ugly truth than false positivity. I think this is especially true for representation of mental illness. 

Positive is a term better applied to representation of things identities and ethnicities. There are plenty of positive truths about being non-binary, but something like depression or anxiety? I feel like I would be doing harm if I tried to sanitize and make it positive, even if my intentions were good.

The world is a big, diverse place. All its inhabitants deserve to be represented in fiction, which to me, no matter how fantastical or far fetched, should still seek to explore or expose some kind of truth. The challenge to this is that what is true for one person might not be true for another.

 

4.              Power Surge has a nonbinary main character. What was your favorite part of writing Erin and did you incorporate any of your own experiences into writing them?

Erin is a character a long time in the making. When I first wrote Erin, I had never heard the term non-binary and had no idea how to really describe myself aside from saying that there were absolutely no labels that would ever fit me. 

Over ten years of stops and starts with the story I’d eventually call Power Surge, Erin evolved with me. They came out as non-binary when I did. They started using they/them instead of she/her when I did.

Erin isn’t me, but there is a lot of me in Erin. They are my flaws. They are things I fear most about myself. They cross lines I've Never crossed. But they also have strength and bravery and selflessness I’ve never quite achieved.

 Writing Erin has helped me develop a better understanding of who I am and who I am not.

 

5.     How does mental health feature in your writing?

More than half my characters have mental health issues similar to mine. It is a way to better understand my own mental health and fill gaps I see in representation.

Writing and doing research for Power Surge and another novel (which is currently shelved) helped me understand my own mental health and was actually one of the things that prompted me to seek a diagnosis and treatment

Each time I incorporate mental health into my writing, I do my best to portray it honestly. I hope my readers gain the same insight from it than I did. I tend to be optimistic about treatment (usually talk therapy and medication) since it has helped me a lot, but I don’t shy away from showing how much of a struggle it can be.

 

6.     What is your writing process?

My process is an inefficient mess, but it works.

I try to plan a little, but usually, the things I plan don’t stick once I start writing.

Mostly I just dump my ideas out during the first draft. As the characters develop, they take on a life of their own and I try to listen to them. I let the story go in whatever direction it wants.

The few times I tried to change this and stick to a more planned plot, I ended up with flat, boring characters. 

Once I get a complete draft, I let it rest for a few weeks. I print it and write all over it. Then I type up my changes, and send the draft off to get feedback. I repeat this as many times as I need to.

When I am happy with the content, I download the draft to my kindle and read it on that. I make the font big so I can only see a few sentences at a time. This forces me to actually focus on what is in front of me and is one of the most effective editing strategies I’ve tried.

People like to tell me to read aloud, but because of sensory and attention issues, that does not work for me like it does for other people.

 

7.     What is your best piece of writing advice?

Write what you want to write. Be selfish with your first drafts. Keep it real and true no matter how fantastical it may be. And when you revise? Don’t be afraid to take risks, especially when those risks involving cutting things and replacing them with new ones.

 

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

Characters are subjective. Some people might hate characters I love. I need to accept that and not try to make my characters be people they aren’t because of it.

 

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

With Power Surge?

Forgiveness. It doesn’t mean you have to like or be friends with people who hurt you, but carrying around a deep, strong hatred for them can turn toxic.

Medication is needed for many mental health problems and not having access to it has consequences. It can result in physical harm. It can fuck up relationships. 

Non-binary gender identities are real. And you can be non-binary and be with someone who is the opposite of your birth assigned gender and still be queer.

 

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

I’m getting the sequel to Power Surge ready to send to my editor and as it gets closer to the date I said I’d finish it by, I am getting more and more nervous.

After that?

There is a 1940’s novella I’ve been writing random  scenes from.

There is a novel about an urban community college for magicians that has been sitting unfinished for years

I want to write a middle grade novel inspired by a childhood spend in Antique stores.

 I need to tackle the third and final book of the Evanstar Chronicles.

 I have a very rainbow space opera that needs lots and lots of revising.

The list goes on. I’m not sure what order these things will happen it. Right now, I just to finish revising this sequel.


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Erin has just realized that for the entirety of their life, their family has lied to them. Their Sight has been masked for years, so Erin thought the Pixies and Mermaids were hallucinations. Not only are the supernatural creatures they see daily real, but their grandmother is an Elf, meaning Erin isn’t fully human. On top of that, the dreams Erin thought were nightmares are actually prophecies.

While dealing with the anger they have over all of the lies, they are getting used to their new boyfriend, their boyfriend's bullying ex, and the fact that they come from a family of Demon Hunters. As Erin struggles through everything weighing on them, they uncover a Demon plot to take over the world.

Erin just wants some time to work through it all on their own terms, but that's going to have to wait until after they help save the world.

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Queering Up Your Bookshelf: Dez Schwartz

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

Happy Wednesday!

Today, I welcome fellow NineStar Press author Dez Schwartz to Queering Up Your Bookshelf to talk about her next book in the ROAM series, HUNTER, out April 8 from NineStar Press, writing Dreampunk and Paranormal, and writing the beginning of the ROAM series totally without an outline!

Welcome, Dez!


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Vampire apologist and lifelong enthusiast of classic gothic horror, cryptids, and the occult; Dez Schwartz writes Dreampunk & Paranormal LGBTQ Fiction with a spellbinding balance of darkness and humor. When she’s not busy writing, she can most likely be found with a latte in hand, perusing antique shops for oddities and peculiar vintage books or wrangling her demonic (but adorable) cats.

Find Dez online:

Website Instagram Twitter


1. What is your writing origin story?

It's funny, considering the current pop culture climate. I actually got my start when I was in High School in 1999 and decided there was a desperate need for a female Ghostbuster. The first thing I ever wrote was a Ghostbusters fanfiction that introduced a woman to the team. People loved it which encouraged me to write more GB fanfics. I went on to write fanfiction for other fandoms such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and, more recently, BBC Sherlock and The Magicians. In 2015, I finally decided to make the leap to original fiction and sat down to write the first ROAM book. I've been consistently putting out work ever since.

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

In terms of thematic elements, I'm heavily inspired by existentialism, Victorian Gothic literature, and folklore. As for what sparks my imagination and gets me in the mood to write, I love listening to Southern Gothic Rock and 80s music, reading Oscar Wilde, and looking at historical fashion and art (primarily Rococo & Victorian). I think in order to keep your inspiration alive, you have to make it a point to seek out new information. You can easily do this online but I also love to visit museums, libraries, antique shops, and to travel when I can. Taking time to relax and refuel is essential.

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

Contrary to what industries seemed to believe several years ago, you can't just shove a minor character with little-to-no arc into your story and then pat yourself on the back. Thankfully, a lot of books, shows, and movies have improved on this over the past few years. My desire to write ROAM was greatly propelled by the lack of LGBTQ characters that I saw in leading roles. You know all those fanfics that I mentioned earlier? Every one of them had LGBTQ rep and I came to a point where I felt that what I really needed to be doing was putting original LGBTQ content out into the world. Fast forward to today and I have met so many talented writers that are all working hard toward the same goal—giving our community a catalouge of entertainment choices as vast as the choices that have always been available for everyone else. It'll take a while but we'll get there and I'm glad that the writing community has really come together to support one another in this.

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

I'm a sucker for anti-heroes, enemies-to-lovers, relatable monsters, and reluctant heroes. I don't really subvert these (since I do love them so much) but I try to find ways to make them feel fresh by creating new monsters or pushing boundaries in ways that I haven't seen others do often already.

5. What is your writing process?

I wrote ROAM without an outline. I didn't know what I was doing. I got little sleep and would stay up all night on some weekends to work on it. It was my first full length novel and I just dove in with reckless abandon and you know what? I love that I did. I learned a lot. HUNTER (ROAM: Book Two) definitely had an outline and I just finished the rough draft for DREAM WEAVER (ROAM: Book Three) which not only had an outline but also word count goals and deadlines that I set for myself. It was a much more streamlined process. I have a few other books outside of the ROAM series and those were outlined as well. I'm still evolving my writing process as I learn new tricks that work for me. Currently, I begin with a general outline to allow for flexibility, follow up with research, set daily goals to try and make whatever deadline I've set for myself, and then strive to write for about two hours a day when possible. I tend to write at home, either in my small office (Writer's Nook) or at the dining room table. I always have coffee on hand and I usually light a candle. I try to write when I have time alone, aside from my cats that narrow their eyes at me and flatten their ears when I randomly laugh at my own jokes while typing them. Behind every successful writing process is a feline critic. I'm sure you know this.

6. What is your best piece of writing advice?

Make mistakes. Don't be afraid to write anything that sparks your interest or to try new techniques. You'll learn to keep what works best for you and then you can toss out the rest. There's not one magical right way to do this job. In fact, that is what makes it magical.

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

Writing is a lonely craft. It becomes so easy to be impassioned about your work to the point where you obsess over it constantly, seclude yourself, and lose sleep in order to get all of the words down. Why do you write like you're running out of time? becomes a mantra. Be sure to schedule time in for friends and life adventures. Even if you have to physically do that by jotting it down in a planner to hold yourself accountable. Having coffee with Mary isn't going to hurt your writing. I promise.

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

The underlying theme in the majority of my stories is that you don't have to live up to society's expectations of perfection in order to have value. Hell, you don't even have to be a good person one-hundred percent of the time. You inherently have value because your energy, like all of ours, is part of the universe. All you have to do is decide what you want to do with that energy while you have it. Other than that, I write with a lot of humor so I hope readers leave the story having had a good laugh at some point.

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

It's a short story but I really enjoyed ROMANCING THE WEREWOLF by Gail Carriger. I love paranormal characters and humor so it was a great match for me. Like most everyone else, I'm still a mess over the beauty of CALL ME BY YOUR NAME by Andre' Aciman. I've met a lot of new LGBTQ writers that have books that have just released or are releasing later this year so I'm looking forward to really bulking up my collection.

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

As mentioned, I just finished writing the rough draft for DREAM WEAVER (ROAM: Book Three) so I'll begin revisions and editing on that soon. After that, I have a YA M/M Paranormal series, THE DEAD OAKS, that I'm in the midst of so I'll begin writing the next book for that. While I'm known for Dreampunk & Paranormal stories, I've been toying with the idea of writing my first Contemporary Romantic Comedy. I'll just have to wait and see where my muse takes me when I get there.


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HUNTER is the second book in the ROAM series.

Dr. Grady Hunter has a vampire infestation on his hands in the town of Shady Pines, but he’s been deserted by those best suited to help. After enlisting Chris Reed, a techno-mage, they find the vampires might only be the tip of a deadly iceberg.

Returning home from his dream travels, Ethan Roam is eager to experiment with his newly discovered powers. But Ethan isn’t the only familiar arrival in Grady’s life. As more reminders of his dark past crop up, Grady and Ethan are swept up in a mystery of cosmic proportions.

Grady must fight to keep an ever-evolving Ethan on his side while being challenged by the ghosts of his past.

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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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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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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!