Queering Up Your Bookshelf: Dawn R. Schuldenfrei

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

Today I welcome Dawn R. Schuldenfrei to Queering Up Your Bookshelf to talk about how fellow queer romance writers KJ Charles and Jordan L. Hawk inspired her to keep writing, favorite tropes, and her upcoming release, LIMINAL HEARTS.

Welcome, Dawn!


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Dawn R. Schuldenfrei (she/her) writes primarily fantasy. She happily fulfills the role of “the quiet one everyone used to think was normal,” surprising family and innocent bystanders with her dark and twisted sense of humor at the perfectly inopportune moment.

She hopes to one day meet all her characters, and those of her favorite authors, since she knows they're out there somewhere.  Until then, she'll continue to have conversations with them in her head, and occasionally out loud (but she'll pretend she's talking to the dog).

 Find Dawn online:

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.1. What is your writing origin story?

I’ve enjoyed writing for almost as long as I can remember. It was a hobby at first; I planned to be a microbiologist at the time! Then I realized I didn’t like living in the lab, and I’d rather live in my head.

I had a little luck early on with publishing some poetry and nonfiction pieces. Then I got distracted by kids and marriage problems, and took a break for about a dozen years. I wasn’t reading fiction during that time either. But a couple years ago I was in a really rough relationship patch, and looked for an outlet via books. I stumbled onto Jordan L. Hawk and KJ Charles, and it was like the whole world opened up again. They really motivated me to get back into my own writing.

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

I love excitement and adventure, and I can’t find that in the real world, so I want to create it, for myself and for other people. I get inspiration from reading good books (fiction and nonfiction). Everything goes into my brain and crashes around until fun things pop out.

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

I think it’s important to show as many different people living their unique lives as possible. I’m panromantic ace, but I didn’t even know asexuality was a thing until I was in my mid-30’s. It would have been immensely helpful to understand that part of myself when I was younger.

Also, seeing depictions of queer people bonding and loving each other, platonically as well as romantically, can give a better sense that there’s community out there for everyone, and if you don’t have that community in your life yet, there’s still hope of finding it someday.

4. How do you balance your writing life with everything else life throws at you?

My balancing act is more like teetering violently from one side to the other while desperately hanging on by my toes. I’m ADD, so my brain likes to leap all over the place and jump on whatever catches its attention at the moment. Plus, I have kids that need me to varying degrees, so my schedule can be erratic. I’ve found putting deadlines on myself and then using other people to enforce them (scheduling with my editor so I know I have to send her my WIP by a certain date, telling everyone what my publication date will be, etc.) helps me get things done, even if it means pulling some late nights.

5. What has your publishing journey been like?

I attended the Odyssey Fantasy Writers Workshop in the late 90’s, and started submitting stories for publication after that. I got a lot of nice rejection letters: “I really like this story, but we don’t have a place for it at this time.” I had some small successes, but when I came back to writing recently, I realized I didn’t want to deal with the gatekeeping and turnaround times of the mainstream publishing world. I want to follow my own schedule, find my own cover art, all of that. So this time around I’m going independent.

6. What are some of your favorite tropes and how do you subvert them?

I really like chosen one and hidden heir type stories. Sometimes I mix things up by adding some weird humor to it (one of my planned series involves a farmer-turned-detective and his psychic chicken). Sometimes by just changing up where the story goes versus where readers expect it to: the chosen one fails, the rediscovered heir walks away, those kinds of things.

7. What advice do you have for new authors?

Write what you like; there are readers for it out there somewhere. Don’t listen to people who tell you there’s only one way to do something, or even worse, that thing can’t/shouldn’t be done. Usually that just means they don’t know as much as they think they do. Over the years they’ve declared horror dead, fantasy done, and so on. And they’re always wrong.

8. What is one thing that surprised you about your current project?

When I started LIMINAL HEARTS, I wanted to write a unicorn story for adults. Where the unicorn was there to rescue a middle-aged woman, instead of some virginal kid. Then it turned out my unicorn needed more rescuing than the human woman did. Maybe now it’s a human story for unicorns?

9. What is one of your favorite scenes or characters that you have written recently?

I have a critter based on a hellbender salamander in my current book. His name is Sal, and he’s pretty adorable. One of my favorite scenes is when the main characters realize the hard way that he likes to get wet whenever he can. Even if he’s inside the house, and the only water around is in the toilet

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

My current work is called LIMINAL HEARTS, and it’s book one in my RULES OF CHAOS series. I have a prequel short story out already, and five books total planned. LIMINAL HEARTS follows Anaya, a unicorn who can take human form, and Tara, a panromantic asexual human, as they try to save the Lake Champlain monster from an evil unicorn. It’ll be out at the end of June.

Next will be book two, which doesn’t have a title yet. It’ll follow half-fae/half-gnome Elsee, the protagonist from STRINGS ATTACHED, the prequel short. She’ll have to figure out what has the Appalachian Fae Court all stirred up and how to stop her aunt, the queen, from ruining Elsee’s life, and possibly the whole area.


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Battle musical chairs!

Half-fae/half-gnome Elsee has avoided the games and power plays of the Appalachian Faerie Court so far. She prefers hanging out with her grandfather in the stony caverns around Lookout Mountain, Georgia, and making music with the local humans.

But then her aunt, Queen Aoife, comes to claim Elsee’s most prized possession. When she can no longer avoid fae rules, Elsee must find her own way around them.

Because even family needs boundaries, and nobody touches this girl’s banjo.

Magic is moving. Things are stirring. Let the games begin…

Book 0 of the Rules of Chaos series.

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COMING SOON: LIMINAL HEARTS (Rules of Chaos, Book 1 )

Fall in Vermont is lovely: beautiful leaves, cool days, slimy lake monsters, an evil unicorn…

Tara wasn’t expecting to meet the woman of her dreams at her little library in Starksburgh, Vermont. She’s asexual for starters, which makes finding someone compatible a bit hard. She’s okay with that: she has friends and a decent life.

But this woman really stands out. Tara knows she’s found a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and she’s not about to let that get away. Even if it means following a human-looking unicorn into the stranger depths of the backwoods.

Anaya came to Vermont tracking a supernatural killer, one who’s a little too familiar. The human she meets is a pleasant distraction, but could she be more than that? How much can Anaya trust herself? Does she have the strength to save herself, let alone everyone else?

The Loch Ness Monster has been devoured…can Anaya and Tara keep the Lake Champlain Monster from being next?

Queering Up Your Bookshelf: Taylor Brooke

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

Today I welcome Taylor Brooke to Queering Up Your Bookshelf to talk about authentic representation, juggling multiple projects—and genres—at once, and their experience co-writing their upcoming m/m second chances romance, Shadows You Left, out May 20 from Entangled.

Welcome, Taylor!


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Taylor Brooke (they/she) writes Queer books filled with magic and attitude. After an exciting career in Special Effects Makeup, she moved to Oregon and settled in the mountains with her plants and one-toothed cat. Connect with her on Twitter @taysalion. 


Pre-order SHADOWS YOU LEFT

Taylor's backlist titles including her critically acclaimed debut FORTITUDE SMASHED

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What is your writing origin story?

I started writing when I was young, but I didn’t get serious until I was in high school. I started creating original stories, roleplaying with friends, establishing rules for worlds and narratives we played in regularly. I probably did most of my writing in the fanfiction space, though. That’s where I built a name for myself and really worked to hone my craft. Without Archive of Our Own, I probably wouldn’t be a published author today.

 

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

That’s a tough question. I’m constantly working on something which both feeds and starves my inspiration, to be honest. If I’m not working, I feel like I’m falling behind, and when I am working, I’m constantly wishing I had less on my plate. It’s this weird game I play with myself where I see how far my creative limits can be pushed before something breaks - usually a scene I’m working on or my sleep schedule. Then I’ll take a step back and slow down. Really though, I think the most important part of my writing regiment when it comes to keeping inspiration alive is having something I’m unapologetically passionate about hanging around in the wings. Right now, that passion project is a book about a sheltered evangelical boy who gets roped into joining a satanic fraternity. It’s different than anything else I’ve got in the pipeline - written in first person, intimate voice structure, personal themes being explored. I know that book will be there if I need a break from something else, and I know I can always put what I’m working on down and go re-read what I’ve written of that manuscript for a self-hype moment. Sometimes just reminding yourself that you’re capable can refill the creative well.

 

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

Representation means authenticity. That’s a complicated thing I just said and I’m going to do my best to explain it. Representation, like a lot of things in publishing, is marketable to a point. As long as representation is palatable to a certain readership then it is allowed to exist in our industry. Unfortunately, that representation is rarely authentic. So, to me, when we talk about representation as something universal we do a disservice to the authors and creators doing their best to write from their bones. We’re setting them up for failure. Because authenticity is not a one-size-fits-all publishing trend, it’s not something we all experience the same way or twice over. It’s a deliberate, personalized, realized experience of self, culture, sexuality, ethnicity, gender and emotion in a way that only that specific person can express. Does that mean their particular authenticity won’t speak to someone else? Of course not. I relate to a lot of authentic representation out there today, but that doesn’t mean it’s in the same vein of something I’d write. Relating to a story doesn’t always mean significance can only be found in telling stories in its likeness. To me, representation is the effort to diversify the industry by allowing the same story to be written by six different people, from six different backgrounds, in six different ways, and not to call it a dead trend like vampires or werewolves or heist YA books. It’s allowing more voices to tell stories we have heard again in different ways while also being allowed to tell new stories as well. It’s a re-balancing of power. An effort to be inclusive. It’s looking at a bookshelf and knowing there is something for you or me or them or us waiting to be read.

 

What is your writing process and does it differ between your YA and NA/adult projects?

So, to be honest, my writing process doesn’t differ between my YA and NA projects. But my my writing process does change depending on each and every project. Right now, I’m working through my passion project (a college YA which is what I think the industry is calling NA now, don’t quote me) from beginning to end. But when I wrote FORTITUDE SMASHED, I jumped between chapters depending on what I was feeling like writing that day. With my 2020 book, which I wish I could talk about but I can’t just yet, I wrote it from beginning to end, did a change from first person to third person in a re-write, and also went through four large-scale revisions to change the pacing of the book. It always depends. It’s always a surprise.

 

What was your experience like, co-writing SHADOWS YOU LEFT with Jude Sierra?

It was a wonderful experience. It was fast. A little messy. Very emotional. I feel like me and Jude were both working through personal things as we wrote what would turn out to be an extremely personal book for us both. We for the characters, I wrote all of Erik’s chapters and Jude wrote all of River’s, but we were both hands on in the editing process which helped smooth out any inconsistencies in our overall voice. We had a rough outline that we built off of as we went, and we were in constant communication about what worked and what didn’t as the story built itself. Overall, I think it was a strange, month-long writing workshop where I learned how to speed write, self-edit and critique all in one go.

 

What are some of your favorite tropes in YA and NA and how do you subvert them?

If I don’t say Soulmates one of my readers might bite me. I do truly love the soulmate trope. Fate. Destiny. True love. It’s something I’m extremely fond of and I enjoy looking at the trope through the lens or why rather than how. Why do we believe in fate? What does fate mean to us? Why do we react to it so strongly when it’s presented to us in creative outlets? All those questions are powerful driving forces in how I subvert the trope. Instead of looking at soulmates as a way to create a romantic arc, I look at soulmates as a way to unpack our own complex relationship with relationships.

I’m also a big sucker for enemies to lovers and friends to lovers.

 

Do you have any advice for authors who are writing for different audiences like YA and NA/adult?

Make sure you have an agent on your side who knows the industry well. Also, make sure you advocate for yourself. Look for different publishing avenues and opportunities. Never count yourself out for something unless you truly don’t want to do it. If you can write for different audiences and you enjoy writing for different audiences then do your best to create work that will stand apart from each catalog. YA should feel YA. NA should feel NA. Adult should feel Adult. Granted, sometimes these categories can overlap, but you want to make sure the voice of your books and your brand is strong for each pen name or category/genre you write in. You want people to be able to find you no matter where you go.

 

Who is your favorite character you have written and what do you love about them? (Yes, this is like picking your favorite child, sorry.)

Aiden Marr is and always will be my favorite character. It’s selfish of me to say he’s my favorite because he’s an autobiographical character, but the journey I went on as I wrote about him in FORTITUDE SMASHED and CURVED HORIZON will stay with me for the rest of my life. We changed, me and him. We grew and healed and lived. That’s something I can’t say I did with any other character - not like I did with him.

 

You are one of those authors who always seems to have a lot of projects going on. How do you schedule out your day and what do you do for self-care?

I do always have something going on. Truthfully, I’m not the best person to ask because my advice isn’t great. My self-care is having a thick skin and knowing that hard work is what’s getting me to where I want to be. I also like bath bombs, but that isn’t really self-care for my writing. I’d like bath bombs even if I wasn’t busy. I think the best thing you can do for yourself as a writer is to find what works for you. Twitter is full of hot takes and lots of drama at all times, but honestly? You don’t need to be anxious to be a writer. You don’t need to have self-doubt. You don’t need to constantly question your work. You are allowed to exist and be happy about it. You’re allowed to write and be happy about it. Granted, talking about mental illness is important, but I’ve seen a lot of writers online relating the industry to mental illness as if the two are related, and in some cases they might be, but a lot of the time they aren’t. My self-care is knowing that this industry owes me nothing and that I am happy to be writing stories people love. I eat a lot of Thai takeout when I’m on deadline. I also take the weekends off (unless I’m behind). But my mentality, the way I approach what is owed to me and what I can take for myself, is truly the best self-care I give myself.

 

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

Right now I’m working on a few different things, but unfortunately I can’t tell you much about any of them. I will tell you that I’m working on a YA about cats and fate and the complexity of changing love, another YA with a non-binary protagonist, and a NA/College YA about family, faith and new beginnings.


ERIK

The white picket fence.
The happily-ever-after.
That life was never meant for him.
For years he’s been bouncing from city to city—from one cage fight to another.
That’s his outlet. That’s pain Erik can control.
But in Seattle, everything changed.
River’s an artist.
He’s a pretty boy.
He does yoga.
Someone so soft shouldn’t be intrigued by Erik’s rough edges.

RIVER

His life was quiet. He had a simple routine.
Designing tattoos, avoiding drama. Well, mostly.
Then Erik comes along—scarred and dangerous, shrouded in mystery.
A mystery River can’t resist trying to solve.
Maybe a secret as dark as his own.
Neither of them expected a relationship so complicated, so intense.
Neither of them expected…each other.
Erik and River are both trying to escape a shadowed past.
But the thing about shadows is: the faster you run, the faster they chase you.

Queering Up Your Bookshelf: Roberta Blablanski

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

Happy Wednesday!

Today I welcome Roberta Blablanski to Queering Up Your Bookshelf to talk about inspiration through positive feedback, spreading positivity on social media, and representing asexual characters in nuanced ways without a “cure” narrative.

Welcome, Roberta!


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Roberta Blablanski (she/her) hails from The Big Easy: New Orleans, Louisiana. She draws inspiration from her colorful hometown and her former life as a college radio DJ. When she isn’t writing, she spends her days searching for the world’s best Bloody Mary and avoiding people she went to high school with. Her normal habitat is curled up in bed with a good book and a cup of coffee.

Roberta developed a love of books at an early age, spending her summers at the library. Years later, after watching the American version of the television show Queer as Folk, she began searching for books featuring queer characters finding love. Most recently, she began writing queer love stories of her own, drawing from her own personal experiences and creating characters and story lines as vibrant as her ever-changing hair color.

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What is your writing origin story?

I never fancied myself as someone who could be a writer.  From the moment I could read, my nose was stuck in a book.  I was content being a reader and losing myself in the characters and worlds others created.  In February of 2018, I was on a search for a funny amnesia story with LGBTQ+ elements.  I kept coming up short, so I decided to try to write it myself for fun.  As I completed a chapter, I would send to a friend whom I met through the queer online writing community.  She encouraged me and provided amazing feedback.  The result is far from the initial goal and needs a lot of work, but it was a great experience.  The story has good bones and I’m hoping to tackle it and whip it into shape at some point.

 

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

For me, inspiration comes from all over.  It could be lyrics to a song, a commercial, a random person, a meme, a conversation…My mind is constantly thinking what if this happened instead?  

 

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

To me, representation means seeing the positive inclusion of characters and people across the sexuality and gender spectrum in books, mainstream media, and every day life.  People, especially young people, need to see themselves represented so they know they are not alone. 

In my writing, I include queer characters and show them experiencing the ups and downs of life.    Normalization is important.  Generally, no one bats an eye at MF pairings in books.  I want all other pairings to be as accepted.

 

How do asexual characters feature in your writing and how much of your own experience do you tend to write into your characters?

My project for NaNoWriMo last year was my first attempt at writing an asexual character.  It was also my first year participating in NaNo, and I was wholly unprepared…which is probably why I barely managed 10k words.  I do have plans to revisit this manuscript upon completion of my current project to flesh it out into a proper story.  The asexual character is based very closely to my own experiences, except this character gets a different HEA. 

The characters in my other stories, while may not share my sexuality, do have certain aspects of my personality, whether it be changing hair colors, or social anxiety, or a love for the tv show ALF.  I also tend to base the family members of my characters on my own family.

 

Any tips for authors who want to ensure they include positive representation of asexual characters?

There is no “magic cure” for asexuality.  Asexuality isn’t a condition or disease that needs curing.  To imply such is to equate asexual people with being defective, and we are not.  I think that’s the biggest point to keep in mind when writing an asexual character.  Asexual people need to be shown as regular people who have relationships just like everyone else.

 

What are some of your favorite tropes and how do you subvert them?

I love the fake relationship trope! I haven’t tried writing it because there are many other writers who have done a fantastic job.  I think it’s a trope I prefer to read rather than write.

 

What was your favorite part of writing RETURN TO SENDER?

I absolutely loved writing the scenes that take place in the 1980s.  It’s my favorite decade and I got to relive bits of my childhood.  A close runner up is the letters and journal entries written by one of the characters.

              

Tell us about #LovePirates and what inspired it?

The Love Pirates hashtag was created by Malini, another friend I met through the Twitter writing community.  It started off as random playful tweets and evolved into a movement of sorts to promote positivity (love), support, and respect.  There’s so much negativity in the world, and we want people to know that they can find a safe space with us.  Malini designed our Twitter banners, we do pirate-themed #FollowFriday, and we post random pirate memes and gifs.  We “recruit” new Love Pirates all the time, and anyone is welcome to “join”.

 

What is one of your favorite scenes or characters that you have written recently?

I wrote a scene based off the tv show The Dating Game, and I had a blast coming up with silly, innuendo-laced responses to questions such as “What is your idea of a perfect date?”. 

 

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

My latest project is titled is Addiction, and it’s the story of the effects of one MC’s drug addiction on his relationship with his fiancé.  It’s full of angst but does have lighter moments like The Dating Game scene.    I’m hoping to self-publish in August. 

Then next is my asexual F/F college romance that I am determined to finish.  Writing an own voices story is something I’m really looking forward to. 


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College professor and website designer Drew Hampton has had only one great love in his life. A loner as a teen, he found solace in art, his self-styled mullet, and the television show ALF. Then a new boy moved in next door, and he discovered love.

Mechanic Wes Harrison was thrown into adult responsibility at a young age. He’s managed to build a good life through hard work and determination; however, he hasn’t been in a relationship since high school.

Drew and Wes were deeply in love thirty years ago, but then they were torn apart. Unlucky at relationships after their separation, both men treasured memories of their one true love.

Fate intervenes and gives them a second chance. Will they rekindle their once great love and find happiness, or has too much time gone by?

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Queering Up Your Bookshelf: Brooklyn Ray

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

QUEERING UP YOUR BOOKSHELF

Happy Friday!

Today, I welcome Brooklyn Ray to Queering Up Your Bookshelf to talk about their writing process and their Port Lewis Witches series of novellas and novels, how they juggle many projects at once, and tips to write great, emotion-packed sex scenes.

Welcome, Brooklyn!


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Brooklyn started their career when they developed The Port Lewis Witches, a novella series about a group of Queer witches, necromancers and other magical creatures living and loving in a coastal Washington town. When they're not writing, Brooklyn can be found polishing crystals and offering tarot readings at a metaphysical shop in the Pacific Northwest. They also create ritual items, candles and other magical goods that can be found in their Etsy shop, and work as a developmental editor on various Queer stories. Follow them on Twitter @brookieraywrite for information about upcoming releases.

Find Brooklyn online:

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What is your writing origin story?

Much like most writers, I’ve been writing since I was very young. I didn’t actually start developing stories with substantial plots or movement until I was in high school, writing fan fiction and roleplaying with friends. I think that really started it - fan fiction. I was able to play in a world that wasn’t mine and develop established characters in ways I thought suited them. It was on my own terms. Storytelling within a set universe I loved enough to expand on my own. When it came to Brooklyn Ray, I started writing Paranormal stories that the traditional side of publishing had deemed unsellable. Which is hilariously out of touch, to be honest. I saw the submission call for INTO THE MYSTIC VOLUME ONE and tried to co-write a short story with an old friend of mine. Unfortunately, that friendship came to an end, so I decided to whip something up on my own. Thalia jumped into my head followed by Jordan, River and King. Then Port Lewis. It unraveled this gigantic universe I was desperate to play in. Then came Ryder, who lived like a splinter between my ribs for months and years before I had the courage to write him. He’s the wonderful writer faux-pas, you know? The autobiographical character we’re not supposed to give to readers. It’s too much of yourself, right? It’s too intimate. But if I didn’t write Ryder and his story then I’d be doing a disservice to myself and my gender and the right to explore my own identity freely. Writing him opened doors inside myself I hadn’t known how to unlock. Now I have… So much planned. Too much, if I’m being completely honest. All good, though. All fun. All things I’m ridiculously excited for.



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

I take inspiration from a few different places, but mostly it comes from my own practice as a witch. I study demonology, alchemy and kitchen witchcraft quite a bit, and I wanted to inject typical Paranormal Romance with actual realized magic. Obviously there are embellishments and exaggerations and straight up fantasy in my books. But the core of the magic--The Orders, the elemental spellcraft and ingredients--those are all based on real magic I’ve experienced and used in my life.

When it comes to keeping that inspiration alive I honestly just… keep practicing. I recently opened an Etsy shop where I offer Tarot readers, custom candle craft and wax melts. I plan on adding some Port Lewis inspired goods soon, a Christy inspired salt scrub, crystal kits inspired by the Port Lewis Witches, personalized crystal kits. I also try to practice in the kitchen as much as possible, utilizing ingredients based on metaphysical merit in my dishes. Energetically enhanced french fries? Perfect writing snack.

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

That’s an interesting question. Representation is broad, you know? It can be anything and everything, but to me, representation means seeing identities I align with penned with empathy and skill on the page. That doesn’t happen often. To pick one, gigantic area of representation, the Queer community, we have a lot of work to do. I want to see a variety of characters, relationships, character arcs and settings used in tandem with marginalized identities that don’t center marginalization. I also want to see people within the community back off on policing how we all explore our identities. There will ALWAYS be problematic writing, stories and characters, but putting a cork in character creation, especially if those characters are messy and human, because they’re marginalized creates a network of characters that lack depth. I’ve seen anthologies use purity policing tactics to gatekeep their own community. I’ve seen Queer readers and reviewers go after authors for creating characters they didn’t resonate with even though those characters were ownvoices. I’ve seen authors mine representation for diversity cookies instead of writing a good story. It’s a mess. We gotta clean it up.

What is your writing process and how do you balance working on so many projects at once?

This is a good questions, especially for me. I have two pen names. Right now I’m working on five projects under Brooklyn Ray and several other New Adult and Young Adults projects on my other pen name. As for the Brooklyn projects, I’m currently writing CYCLONE, editing BEHIND THE SUN, ABOVE THE MOON, waiting for a response on a contemporary proposal, drafting concept proposals and submission guidelines for an aromantic anthology and running my Patreon. It’s a lot. And to be honest, I don’t have a good answer for you, because my answer is: Hustle. This industry is booming with buzzy authors who are knocking things out of the park on the daily, and it can be super frustrating to watch success lean on everyone else but you. Keep to your hustle. Eyes on your own paper. Work hard. Create, edit, find critique partners and make sure you don’t allow yourself to slip into bad habits.

I say this with love: This industry waits for no one.

You get to set your own pace and you get to take as much time for self care as you need, but to do that and to juggle projects without getting overwhelmed, it’s best to work on yourself and only yourself. No need for comparison games. No need to entertain friendships that are one sided. Let yourself be your own guide. Hold yourself to high standards.

What is your advice on writing great sex scenes?

Emotion, emotion, emotion. There’s so much to explore when you’re writing sex scenes and it isn’t always about who’s doing what and what’s being tossed away or how something feels physically. It’s about how someone feels when they’re engaging in sex with another person or multiple people. Is this sexual encounter a transaction? How does that make your character feel and why? Is this sexual encounter going to influence or move your character to experience emotions they weren’t expecting? (Michael Gates from UNBROKEN can tell you all about this)

Because we all experience sex differently, I encourage writers to look outside their own box. Pleasure and arousal happen in different ways for different reasons with different partners. Positioning your characters to feel certain ways--sexy, vulnerable, uncomfortable, desirable, loving, experimental--is an important aspect to building a sex scene that adds texture to your story.

How do you approach individual character arcs mixed with series arcs in the Port Lewis series?

I kinda cheated. Each character gets their own novella in this series which made it easy for me to move through their arcs. However, this did make influencing other characters and building an overall arc really, really difficult. I have to look at what decisions will ripple into eight novellas with an outcome that might impact every single character I’ve touched on throughout the series. Tethering characters with individual conflicts that serve the overall conflict has helped move the story, that’s for sure. Also, I think it’ really important to allow your characters in a large cast to be selfish. When I’m working on an individual story inside the Port Lewis Witches I’m making sure the POV character at that moment is moving the story based on how they feel, what they want, and how those emotions impact the people they care about.

What made you decide to write The Port Lewis Witches as a series of novellas and add companion novels later?

Accident! I didn’t think DARKLING was going to be as loved as it was. I didn’t even plan to write UNDERTOW. But then I realized how many people wanted to see what happened to these characters and where they went, so I did. Since DARKLING was novella length I decided to stick to that format for the rest of the books in the series. What happened with UNBROKEN… Well, that was a serious, hilarious accident. If you ask my brother and cirlce-mate, he’ll tell you it was quite a humorous three months watching me argue with that manuscript. I intended to write it for Carina’s submission call for short, super sexy stories. It had to be under fifteen thousand words. Well, that didn’t happen. The sex scenes were too long. Michael’s character arc was too personal and too layered. I had to expand it. That’s really the only reason UNBROKEN became a novel, and weaving Victor and Michael into The Port Lewis Witches (Yes, y’all, it’s happening) was something I knew needed to happen. These characters came into existence at just the right time.

I will be expanding the series and doing spin-off books, but not for a while. Right now, everything I write is tethered in one way or another to the universe and rules I’ve established in Port Lewis. No matter where I got or what I write, you’ll be seeing or hearing about characters we’ve already met. This could change, of course. But everything I have planned as a solo author? One universe.

What are some themes in the Port Lewis Witches series? Did you decide on them before writing the series/each book or did they crystalize while you were working on each story?

Ah, yes, themes. I explore a lot of different stuff in the Port Lewis Witches. I didn’t really decide on any of true themes for the books. They happened naturally as I wrote. I knew there would be found family, exploration of identity, resistance to old world rules, healing themes, but I wasn’t expecting those same themes to develop the way they did. Michael’s arc in UNBROKEN was absolutely unexpected and extremely cathartic. I still get shaken up thinking about the work I did internally as I wrote that book. Anyway, each book in the series will push the characters to explore different themes or change the themes that were established in the previous book. In DARKLING the theme is self-acceptance and found family, but UNDERTOW pushes both those themes to explore new territory. It dissects them. Self-acceptance at what cost? How far will a found family go to stay together and what might break them apart? You’ll see these themes continue to stretch and morph as the story continues.

What is your favorite thing about writing a series like The Port Lewis Witches?

It’s pure, selfish, magical fun. I never intended The Port Lewis Witches to grow into what it is now and what it’ll hopefully become, but I’m so thankful I’m able to play in this universe with these characters. Traditional publishing would never make space for a Queer, bloody, sexy series about witches in the Pacific Northwest, and I’m so grateful the indie community has rallied for it.

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

Right now I’m working on CYCLONE, but I’m not churning out words on the daily for it. It’s a process and I know I need a bit of a break, so I’m focusing on edits for BEHIND THE SUN, ABOVE THE MOON, working on some additions for my Etsy and brainstorming some new content for the future--werewolves, maybe. Vampires, definitely. Angels? For sure happening. Hopefully I’ll be able to get CYCLONE done in time for a Spring 2020 release. Then I’ll get to work on Christy’s book.

Hustle, right? I just gotta keep working on what I love and hopefully the pieces will align how I want them to.


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DARKLING (Port Lewis Witches, #1)

Port Lewis, a coastal town perched on the Washington cliffs, is surrounded by dense woods, and is home to quaint coffee shops, a movie theater, a few bars, two churches, the local college, and witches, of course.

Ryder is a witch with two secrets--one about his blood and the other about his heart. Keeping the secrets hasn't been a problem, until a tarot reading with his best friend, Liam Montgomery, who happens to be one of his secrets, starts a chain of events that can't be undone.

Dark magic runs through Ryder's veins. The cards have prophesized a magical catastrophe that could shake the foundation of Ryder's life, and a vicious partnership with the one person he doesn't want to risk.

Magic and secrets both come at a cost, and Ryder must figure out what he's willing to pay to become who he truly is.

Also available as a starter to the series-- PORT LEWIS WITCHES VOLUME ONE (print edition) with the exclusive prequel REBORN and the bonus short story HONEY

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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

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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:

Website Facebook Twitter Goodreads Pinterest


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: 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.


The Fever King.jpeg

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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