Queering Up Your Bookshelf: Andrew J. Peters



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!


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

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

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

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

Find Andrew online:

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What is your writing origin story?

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

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

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

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

inspiration board.jpg

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.


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



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:


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!


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



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!

author photo.jpeg

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:


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


Queering Up Your Bookshelf: Amara Lynn



Happy Wednesday!

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

Welcome, Amara! Happy reading!


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

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

Find Amara online:


What is your writing origin story?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your writing process?

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

What is your best piece of writing advice?

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

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

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

What is your favorite thing about the queer writing community?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Buy a copy: AMAZON

On Spite and other Things that Empower Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think I win.

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



Happy Wednesday!

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

Welcome, W. D. and happy reading!


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

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

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

Find W.D. online:


1. What is your writing origin story?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. What is your writing process?

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

6. What is your best piece of writing advice?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foster-Graham Mark My Words.jpg

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

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

But has he made it?

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

The time is 1988; the place, Chicago.

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

       – LAVENDER Magazine

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


Queering Up Your Bookshelf: K. Parr



Happy Wednesday!

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

Welcome, K and happy reading!


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

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

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

She currently works as a teen librarian in Rhode Island.

Find K online:


1. What is your writing origin story?

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

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

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

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

Some of my favorites:

Characters - Dean Winchester, Bucky Barnes, Steve Rogers

Shows – Black Sails, Skam, Queer As Folk

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

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

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

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

5. What is your writing process?

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

6. What is your best piece of writing advice?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Novel Aesthetic by K Parr

Novel Aesthetic by K Parr

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

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

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

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

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

Coming soon from NineStar Press!

Queering Up Your Bookshelf: M.K. England



Happy Wednesday!

Today, I welcome debut author M.K. England to talk about their writing process, how writing without an outline is terrifying (hard same, here!), the usefulness of story seeds and specificity, and representation in their debut YA science fiction novel, THE DISASTERS, out now from Harper Teen!

Welcome, M.K. and happy reading!

MKE 2018 headshot.JPG

M.K. England is an author and YA librarian who grew up on the Space Coast of Florida and now calls the mountains of Virginia home.

When they’re not writing or librarianing, MK can be found drowning in fandom, rolling dice at the gaming table, climbing on things in the woods, feeding their video game addiction, or talking way too much about space and science literacy.

They love Star Wars with a desperate, heedless passion. It’s best if you never speak of Sherlock Holmes in their presence. You’ll regret it. THE DISASTERS is their debut novel. Follow them at www.mkengland.com.

Find M.K. online:


What is your writing origin story?

I’ve always loved reading and have dreamed of being an author since I was a kid. Sadly, I was painfully self-conscious for most of my life and couldn’t handle the terror of seeing my own words on the page, much less actually sharing my writing. I had to be perfect at something the first time I attempted it or I was an utter failure. I loved creative writing assignments in English class because then I HAD to write, but I never went beyond that. Throughout my early 20s, I collected scraps of paper with ideas, but never got up the courage to write any of it. Mid-20s, I finally started writing… the same book three times over three different years. I finally said FINISH SOMETHING DANGIT and forced myself to finish my first book NaNoWriMo-style in February of 2014. It was an awful book, but I learned a lot. Most importantly, I learned I COULD actually finish a book. Later that same year I wrote THE DISASTERS. I signed with my agent and sold the book in early 2016.

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

I’ve always wanted to write because of the way stories make me feel. When I read adventures or romance, it fills me with a sort of enthusiasm and ambition for life. This was especially true for me as a kid and teen. Stories build me up! That’s the kind of experience I want to create for my readers, and the kind of experience I still seek out in a lot of the reading I do. I feed that inspiration with creative works that fit the bill in all mediums: video games, TV shows, books, podcasts, movies, tabletop games, pen and paper RPGs, and so on. I want to keep that feeling alive in me!

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

Representation means everyone gets to have the feeling I described above. Everyone should be able to see themselves as the one with the power to dig into life and shape the world. Representation is really important to the world of THE DISASTERS because it’s set in Earth’s future. The people in the book are a reflection of all the people who were in my life at the time of its writing, especially my nieces and library teens (I’m a YA librarian). When I look forward two hundred years, of course it’s them who are saving the galaxy. What would it say if the fictional future weren’t full of beautiful diversity?

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

I wrote a lot of my favorite tropes into THE DISASTERS: found families, misfits, spaceship crews. On the romance side of things, I lovelovelove fake dating, friends to lovers, and anything that involves a queer couple coming out with a giant middle finger to the homophobes. In terms of subverting, I’m always a fan of anything that plays with gender and orientation.

What is your writing process?

I’m a big outliner. I find the prospect of diving into a story without a plan totally terrifying, and I’ve tried it before—it doesn’t work for me. My stories start out as little idea seeds that sit around for months or years until they bump into the right catalyst. Usually sometime around then a little bit of dialogue from the main character will pop into my head that gives me their voice, and once I have that I know I’m ready to start outlining. I’m a total external thinker, so I have to talk out the plot exhaustively with critique partners or family.

What is your best piece of writing advice?

If you haven’t finished something, FINISH SOMETHING. It doesn’t matter how bad it is, just race for the end to prove to yourself you can do it. Sometimes that’s the biggest lesson you need to learn. It was for me. Other than that, specificity is key when it comes to writing great characters. They aren’t just archetypes moving through a conflict, they’re also people who take exactly three drops of milk in their tea, who always step on ONLY the black tiles at the mall, and who totally overuse the word “badass” to the point that their friends want to strangle them. What are the weird things you know and love/hate about your friends and loved ones, and how can you get to that level of specificity with your characters?

What is the hardest lesson you learned while writing?

I have to be meaner to my characters. I really soak up the mood of whatever I’m reading or writing, so I can occasionally pull my punches when I should be leaning in harder. Gotta twist the knife!

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

Whoever you are, you have power, you have a voice, and you can be okay.

What is a great queer book you have read recently?

Okay, I know I’m a YA person, but I gotta recommend this great series of adult mysteries featuring the detective Roxane Weary. She’s a bi woman, a badass private investigator, and my personal favorite, she isn’t good with emotion and has lots of issues and demons to battle. There have been two books so far (The Last Place You Look and What You Want to See), and there’s a third coming in July 2019. Just… AHHHH! Read read read! (content warning for sexual assault in the first book)

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

Right now I’m working on copyedits for my second book, which will be out in early 2020. It’s a sci-fi/fantasy mashup, a futuristic world with magic, full of queer characters and mental health stuff. My main character is a total hufflepuff who thinks she’s a slytherin and can’t process an emotion to save her life. Can’t wait for y’all to meet her! I’m also getting ready to submit the sample chapters for what I hoooope will be my third book, which is another wild space adventure, but heavier on the queer romance. Fingers crossed!

The Disasters Final Cover.jpg

The Breakfast Club meets Guardians of the Galaxy in this YA sci-fi adventure by debut author M. K. England.

Hotshot pilot Nax Hall has a history of making poor life choices. So it’s not exactly a surprise when he’s kicked out of the elite Ellis Station Academy in less than twenty-four hours. But Nax’s one-way trip back to Earth is cut short when a terrorist group attacks the Academy.

Nax and three other washouts escape—barely—but they’re also the sole witnesses to the biggest crime in the history of space colonization. And the perfect scapegoats.

On the run, Nax and his fellow failures plan to pull off a dangerous heist to spread the truth. Because they may not be “Academy material,” and they may not even get along, but they’re the only ones left to step up and fight.

Full of high-stakes action, subversive humor, and underdogs becoming heroes, this YA sci-fi adventure is perfect for fans of Illuminae, Heart of Iron, or the cult classic TV show Firefly and is also a page-turning thrill ride that anyone—not just space nerds—can enjoy.


Queering Up Your Bookshelf: Kellie Doherty



Happy Wednesday!

Today, I welcome Kellie Doherty to Queering Up Your Bookshelf to talk to us about her upcoming release, Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties, how she got her start to writing in fanfiction, quickly disillusioned herself of the romantic notion of writing in coffeeshops, and how sometimes the best way to move forward is giving up on a project. Welcome, Kellie and happy reading!

Photo courtesy of Kellie Doherty

Photo courtesy of Kellie Doherty

Kellie Doherty is the author of the Cicatrix Duology (Finding Hekate and Losing Hold) and is currently working on a five-book fantasy series. The first book Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties will be out in early 2019!

During the day, she’s an office assistant and freelance editor, and by night she’s crafting adventures full of magic and daggers...and maybe a few dragons, too.

Find Kellie online:


1. What is your writing origin story?

I’ve always been a voracious reader. Ever since I was young, I devoured books. When we went on camping trips, I’d go to the library and leave with an armload of books only to have read all of them before we even got to the campground. I liked all kinds of stories—sci fi, fantasy, horror, mystery, comics, manga—and eventually all my reading led to me wanting to write. I started writing fanfiction and although it wasn’t in the book-ish realm—Digimon and Pokemon mostly—it sparked my creativity for sure. I credit J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series that pushed me over the edge, though, and inspired me to write my own original fiction.

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

Inspiration comes in many forms for me. I get inspired by epic things—legendary music like the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, amazing writing like V.E. Schwab’s Darker Shades trilogy, great character building like on Critical Role—but I also get inspired by small things—the colors on flower petals, the cat’s eye shine in the middle of the night, the unique names I’ve come across at work. I also get inspired by my characters, since that is by far my favorite part of writing—character creation. As for keeping that inspiration alive, most of the time it’s pretty easy, actually, especially if I get to create a new character or start a new section of a work-in-progress or even write a flash fiction piece! When the inspiration doesn’t hit, though, I simply immerse myself into the things that I know help me be creative—read a good book, watch some Critical Role, etc.—and that spark will eventually come back.

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

To me, representation means showcasing all facets of our society so everyone can have someone they can relate to. It means weaving in other diverse cultures and characters into the story so kids, teens, and adults can see themselves in the adventure. I read a lot of stories where men were the leads and women were “damsels in distress”—especially in fantasy and science fiction. Now all of my main characters are female who can take care of themselves. (Even if they are also super awkward in the process.) I also didn’t see many queer characters and being bisexual, I wanted to change that so my main characters are also queer. I really hope that my characters can speak to readers out there and help those readers see a little bit of themselves in my story.

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

While I wouldn’t call the damsel in distress a favorite trope, I do like to subvert it at every turn or use it in unexpected ways. My main characters are women and they can kick ass, but they are also in distress in different ways. Whether it’s being haunted by their past or hunted by evildoers, my main characters do need help from friends or family, but it’s not in that all-encompassing way that was portrayed in the damsel in distress idea. I also like playing with the “chosen one” trope and focusing instead on a character that may not have the best assets for the job or even be the most powerful. I also love the evil-in-waiting idea, where the evil was defeated ages ago only to burst forth once again to wreak havoc; the epic quest, where the characters go on this amazing adventure to complete their goal; and the stories that go into what the world would be like after an apocalypse!

5. What is your writing process?

My writing process starts with character creation. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s my favorite part of storytelling so I always start with a character. It doesn’t have to be the main character, either, just someone in the story that will knock on my creativity door and we go from there. After that, I dive into worldbuilding and plotlines and drafting and editing. I like to do my writing at home. I’ve tried the romantic notion of writing in a coffee shop, but the vibe doesn’t sit well with me—either the music is too loud or the people are talking about something vaguely distracting or the seats just aren’t comfortable. No, I prefer to write at home on my couch, with my two cats sitting next to me, my notes strewn about, and a cup of hot tea on the table. I usually write on my computer—it’s just faster, you know?—but I also carry around a notebook and have one sitting by my bed, too, in case inspiration strikes. I have a pretty busy schedule during the week, so I try my best to write during the weekends.

6. What is your best piece of writing advice?

End your last writing session in the middle of an intense spot so you’ll be excited and inspired to come back to it. Keep in mind, “intense” doesn’t have to be a life/death cliffhanger! It can be an emotional scene, a fight between best friends, a sudden crack in the middle of the woods, or a entrance into a new town—really anything that you’ll want to come back to after a long, hard day or if you’re not really feeling motivated to write.

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

Sometimes you have to just stop writing that story or poem or book and be okay with it. I wrote a novella for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and while I really enjoyed the characters and the basic plotline, the more I kept going back to the story, the more I just couldn’t get into it. I felt like I had to, though; I mean, I wrote the thing for NaNoWriMo, right? That had to mean something! I couldn’t have just concentrated on this one story for a whole month, wrote over 50K words, and basically worked myself dry all for nothing. But as much as I wanted to, I still couldn’t get into it. So I stopped working on that story and moved on to something else. Doing that, disconnecting myself from that piece, was like a weight off my shoulders, and I was thrilled to work on something new. Maybe someday I’ll try work on that NaNoWriMo story again, but maybe not—and that is perfectly okay. (And don’t worry, I do know that month of pure creativity wasn’t all for nothing; the month was intense but also really fun and made me prioritize my writing!)

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

Wow, so many things! I hope my work can provide a sense of escape from real life, a deep dive into imagination and storytelling to disconnect from the stress of the daily grind. I hope readers will find a character to connect with, to see themselves in, and will learn from their struggles and triumphs. I hope readers will take away an aspect of my characters to use in their own lives—whether it be the awkward girl who finally learns to be brave or the guilt-ridden woman who accepts her past or the fighter who changes tack—I want my readers to be inspired by them. Finally, I really hope my work can help readers to be creative! I was motivated to write because of the books I read and I hope my stories, my characters, my worlds can do the same for someone else.

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

Becky Chambers’ Record of a Spaceborn Few! The story is amazing, the characters are interesting, and one big thing at the beginning has an intriguing ripple effect on the rest of the story. Plus her worldbuilding is gorgeous. It’s what I call a “quiet queer” book since some of the characters are queer but it’s not the main storyline or even a secondary storyline. The queerness is just a part of them, one aspect not their whole reason for being in the story, and I love that kind of representation.

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

Currently I’m working with Desert Palm Press to publish my first fantasy novel called Sunkissed Feathers & Severed Ties. Basically, a woman gets a pendant fused to her neck and she has to deal with the deadly consequences of being its wearer. It’s the first book of a five-book fantasy series that I’m super exited about—the first four books will have a different main character and the fifth book will bring them all together. Right now we’re gearing up for the launch of Sunkissed Feathers, so that’s what I’ve been focusing on—final edits, design work, marketing, etc. Next, I’ll be working on book two of the series, which focuses on another main character named Orenda Silverstone.

Misti Eildelmann is a Vagari—a race whose innate crafting ability is connected to the creatures of the world. She’s also a Moon Knight. Misti is fighting a banished one when he slips a pendant around her neck that saps her strength. The pendant is dangerous. Deadly even. It harnesses crafting in a way not seen before, so she sets off to find help. Old and new friends join her on this quest, including her longtime crush Dylori Clyofis and a villager named Arias Silverstone. The journey is risky—filled with frightening suncreatures, evil worshippers, and twisted betrayal. Misti is thankful to have friends on this path into the scorching light, but something much bigger is waiting for them in the sunshine. Her pendant is just a piece of puzzle.


Sunkissed Feathers will be released in early 2019 so keep an eye on my social media for more info! Otherwise, check out kelliedoherty.com to see my other works available for purchase and the platforms in which you can purchase them.

Queering Up Your Bookshelf: Xan West



Happy Wednesday!

Today, I welcome Xan West to Queering Up Your Bookshelf to talk about writing kink, erotica, D/s dynamics, and their inclusion of PTSD, autism, fat rep, D/s dynamics, vulnerability, and food (seriously, check this novelette out for the food!) in their latest release, Nine of Swords, Reversed. I’m especially excited to share all the links Xan shares to previous blog posts and further resources on writing, representation, and writing kink and erotica in particular with you.

Welcome, Xan, and happy reading!

Photo courtesy of Xan West.

Photo courtesy of Xan West.

Xan West is the nom de plume of Corey Alexander, an autistic queer fat Jewish genderqueer writer and community activist with multiple disabilities who spends a lot of time on Twitter.

Xan’s erotica has been published widely, including in the Best S/M Erotica series, the Best Gay Erotica series, and the Best Lesbian Erotica series. Xan’s story “First Time Since”, won honorable mention for the 2008 NLA John Preston Short Fiction Award. Their collection of queer kink erotica, Show Yourself to Me, is out from Go Deeper Press.

After over 15 years of writing and publishing queer kink erotica short stories, Xan has begun to also write longer form queer kink romance. Their recent work still centers kinky, trans and non-binary, fat, disabled, queer trauma survivors. It leans more towards centering Jewish characters, ace and aro spec characters, autistic characters, and polyamorous networks. Xan has been working on a queer kinky polyamorous romance novel, Shocking Violet, for the last four years, and hopes to finish a draft very soon! You can find details and excerpts on their website, and sign up for their newsletter to get updates.


Content Warnings: references to erotica, kink, abuse, chronic pain, trauma

1. What is your writing origin story?

I come from a family of writers, grew up surrounded by amazing writers, and have been writing for my whole life. I started taking writer’s workshops when I was 8 years old. Whatever else I was going to do with my life, I knew I was going to be a writer as well.

I’ve written a lot of different genres, but I didn’t start seriously publishing my work until I’d been writing erotica for a few years. I wrote to explore my kinkiness, I wrote my fantasies for my play partners, I wrote to describe what I was seeing in kink communities, and I wrote to imagine something better. My first serious D/s relationship was abusive, and I wrote a story as a way to hold on to being kinky, by imagining D/s that was caring, careful, and supportive, instead of what I was experiencing. That story is a big part of what helped me to leave that relationship. After I did, I began to submit my erotica to anthologies. That story, the one that helped me leave, was my first erotica publication. It paved the way for all the others.

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

I draw inspiration from reading (especially in the genres I write, and not just from great books either), from talking to other writers, from the ache of not seeing my own reflection and the desire to see myself on the page.

With short stories, I’ve also been inspired by the challenge of meeting the parameters of a call for submissions; it’s a lot of fun to think about what I could write that fits a particular theme. And if I’m lucky enough to get solicited for a call, it gives me an extra push to write for it, because of my connection with that editor, and them wanting my work. Not all those stories end up in those collections, for a variety of reasons, but calls for submission have inspired some of my personal favorites.

I’ve noticed that readers motivate me a lot, that if I share things about my work, snippets, details, plot bunnies…and I get enthusiastic responses from readers, it helps me motivate to continue working on something or pick it up again. It also inspires me to sprint with other writers; I’m part of a queer writers slack where we sprint together a lot and share snippets, and that cycle of support and sharing and comraderie keeps me going.

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

When I talk about representation, I’m talking both about seeing marginalized folks represented with care on the page and also marginalized authors having support for their work. In my book reviews, I have a representation section where I mention character and author identities; to me it’s just as important to support Black authors as it is to support stories with Black characters, in a lot of ways it’s more important. I’d say the same for identities I share. I’m interested in books by trans and non-binary authors, even where the MCs are cis. Grandmother-nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds by Rose Lemberg, one of the fantasy stories that has resonated particularly deeply with me in terms of trans issues was by a trans author and had a cis POV MC.

In my own writing, I care particularly about the representation of identities I share. For example, in my most recent release, Nine of Swords, Reversed, I cared especially about the disability representation. I really wanted to show what daily life is as an autistic person with PTSD and chronic pain, and endeavored to illuminate that experience in some detail in the story. I was writing that aspect of the story particularly for disabled readers who have similar experiences; I wanted them to see themselves on the page. I also cared about showing that on the cover, and am so pleased with the way the cover showed a cane that looked like mine, the MC in a bed in a way that was lush and resonant, as both myself and the MC spend a lot of our daily life in bed.

4. What are your favorite things about writing erotica and kink in particular?

I really love writing dominants being vulnerable, having needs of their own, being supported by their submissive partners. So often dominants are expected to be stoic and inscrutable and have no needs of our own; I’ve written a series of essays about this issue. Essays are great; but showing the different ways that can look in fiction is a deep joy for me, and is about writing myself onto the page. I also really love describing the sensory experience of kink in detail; it’s such a visceral thing to write, and it’s wonderful to sink into writing that aspect of a story.

5. What is your writing process?

I try to capture inspiration and get enough down that I can pick something up again. I often have a number of projects that are partly done, and even more that have just a few notes, a couple paragraphs, a beginning to jump off from when I want to/am able to. My writing time and capacity is scarce because of my disabilities, so it’s rare for me to write big chunks at once.

I’m still fairly new to writing longer form romance, so I don’t have a set process yet. I’m playing around with different ways to write things longer than a short story. Erotica short stories, on the other hand, I’ve been writing for close to 20 years, so I have developed a process for those. I generally start with either the call for submissions or what I think of as the spark for the story, which are usually notes or a couple paragraphs I’ve written before. Then I often think through the structures that limit the story, draw it’s boundaries for myself, like length, pairing/grouping, theme, but also what I want to say with the story (a particular political point I want to make, a particular aspect of kink life I want to illuminate). These can come from the call, if there is one, or a market I have in mind, if I’m writing to market, or can come from me. Once I have that structure, as I write kink erotica, I also build a structure for the BDSM scene itself. I wrote a longish blog post describing this aspect of how I write kink. When I have some clarity about the kink in the story and what it will look like, then I think about how to put it into context, so that I establish character, consent, the emotional aspects of play and how they work. This is often when I start drafting, and see where that takes me. I revise as I write, so I get a fairly clean first draft, but it’s often missing aspects of the story that matter to me. I generally go back and layer in more emotional depth and internal tension, more sensory description, more vulnerability for the top, a deeper emotional arc, and the cues the reader needs for the characters identities. When I’ve done this, that’s when I send to beta readers and sensitivity readers and begin the editing process based on feedback from others.

6. What is your advice for authors writing t4t (trans for trans) relationships?

My biggest piece of advice about this is to do what you can to not think about cis readers, to shut them out of the room, so to speak, and let the trans folks interact with, talk to, build connection with each other, as if they are alone in a room together. Ideally, actually get them alone when you start writing, even if it means not starting at the beginning. Get a sense of who they are when they aren’t there for a cis audience. Dialogue is a great way to start.

So often we make trans characters explain themselves, teach, perform, be there for the learning of cis readers. Imagine you are writing an insider story that only other trans people will read, that’s for trans readers. Get inside the moments when trans characters are together, talking. What do they say to each other? What do they not say? What don’t they need to explain? What are they hiding? What are their places of connection? How do they feel that they must perform for each other? What shape is their armor? Where do they relax and breathe because no cis people are around? How do their insecurities manifest? Where are they afraid and what sparks those fears? What does their anger look like? What can they build together, that’s not for cis people?

I’d also suggest reading stories by trans and/or non-binary authors that center relationships between trans and/or non-binary folks. My recent release Nine of Swords, Reversed is an example; it has three central characters and they are all genderfluid. I’m going to suggest some other things you might read for that. (These are a sample of ten; there are more out there.)

• Nevada by Imogen Binnie

• A Boy Called Cin by Cecil Wilde

• Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girls Confabulous Memoir by Kai Cheng Thom

• Caroline’s Heart by Austin Chant

• Can You Say My Name Again by Nadia Nova

• Long Macchiatos and Monsters by Alison Evans

These are free:

A Portrait of the Desert in Personages of Power by Rose Lemberg

The Rivers Children by Shweta Narayan

Rental by Morgan M Page

This Shall Serve As a Demarcation by Bogi Takács

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

To consider feedback carefully and decide what I want to take in. Particularly when writing insider stories, like trans stories for trans audiences, for example. I wrote an essay about the importance of this, and how I do it.

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

I primarily write for queer & trans folks, disabled folks, fat folks, kinky folks, who want to see themselves on the page. So my greatest hope is that I created that kind of mirror.

Some of my stories are intended to be comfort reads; Nine of Swords, Reversed is one of those, as is “Tenderness”, which was printed in Queerly Loving Vol 2. I hope that these stories provide cozy comfort to readers.

I also really care about depicting access intimacy and queer chosen family and community on the page, showing folks being careful and caring with each other, honoring consent, and creating room for each other to be who they are. My queer kink erotica collection is titled Show Yourself to Me because one of the greatest gifts a play partner or lover can offer is to hold space for you to show them who you are. I would love for these aspects of my work to offer possibilities to folks who are struggling to imagine these things in their lives. One of the best compliments I ever got from a reader was that my story showed them the kind of queer chosen family that might be possible for them to have in the future.

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

I’ve mostly been reading winter holiday romance novellas, recently; I’m going to concentrate on the speculative fiction ones, as that’s the focus of your blog!

• I really enjoyed Holly and Oak by R Cooper, which is a contemporary fantasy winter solstice m/m romance that is full of angst and pining and witches who have adored each other from afar claiming their own destinies and finally finally getting together.

• I loved The Coyote’s Comfort by Holley Trent, which is a shifter second chance Christmas f/f romance with a very prickly coyote shifter MC who has a lot of emotional armor, a quality I especially enjoy in romance MCs.

• I adored Hearts Alight by Elliott Cooper just as much on my second read. This is a paranormal Chanukah m/m romance between a grumpy MC who hates the commercialization of Chanukah and a golem who he’s been pining for forever but never thought would be into him. I loved the family in this story, which includes a BFF brother in law who is trans.

• I found Keeping the Cookies by Brianna Lawrence wacky, hilarious and really wonderful. It’s a contemporary fantasy Christmas meet-cute m/m romance that has an awesome BFF and a fat love interest who I completely adored.

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

I am currently editing my contemporary kinky polyamorous queer m/f novella Their Troublesome Crush, which has a Jewish autistic demiromantic trans man submissive MC, who realizes that he’s got a crush on his metamour, Nora, a Jewish disabled femme cis woman switch, while they are planning their mutual partner’s birthday party. It’s slated to be out 3/18/19!

I want to finish a draft of Shocking Violet this year, which is my kinky queer polyamorous contemporary romance novel-in-progress that has 5 disabled queer MCs, four of whom are trans.

If I am able, I’d also like to write a Chanukah romance novella this year, tentatively titled Eight Kinky Nights! That one is at the very beginning stages of development.

Dev has been with xyr service submissive Noam for seven years and xe loves them very much. Dev and Noam have built a good life together in Noam’s family home in Oakland, where they both can practice their magecraft, celebrate the high holidays in comfort, support each other as their disabilities flare, and where Noam can spend Shabbos with their beloved family ghost.

But Dev’s got a problem: xe has had so much arthritis pain recently that xe has not been able to shield properly. As an empath, no shielding means Dev cannot safely touch Noam. That has put a strain on their relationship, and it feels like Noam is pulling away from xym. To top it off, Dev has just had an upsetting dream-vision about xyrself and Noam that caused one of the biggest meltdowns xe has had in a while. It’s only with a timely tarot reading and the help of another genderfluid mage that Dev is able to unpack the situation. Can xe figure out how to address the issues in xyr relationship with Noam before everything falls apart?

This romance novelette includes Jewish queer genderfluid mage MCs, the couple on the rocks trope, and fat, autistic, disabled, chronic pain, PTSD and depression representation.

Buy your copy here:

AMAZON GUMROAD Content Warnings

Other works by Xan West:

Show Yourself To Me: Queer Kink Erotica

 “Tenderness” in Queerly Loving, Volume 2

“Trying Submission” in Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year, Volume 3