Today we’re welcoming to the site author Nem Rowan, author of Witcheskin and Rough Sleepers, genre mashups of horror, urban fantasy, and romance with trans and queer representation set in the UK that make for perfect reads for this time of year! The books are being rereleased following the closing of Less Than Three Press, so the author is here to give them a boost and talk about how bisexuality unexpectedly found its way into his stories!
My two books, Witcheskin and Rough Sleepers, recently received a re-release through JMS Books after the closing down of Less Than Three Press, and both have transgender representation in them. What I didn’t plan for when I wrote these books was the representation of bisexuality! Rough Sleepers was one of the finalists in the Bi Writers Association’s 2018 Annual Book Awards for the Romance genre, and this made me consider how and why I seem to write in bisexual characters, sometimes without even meaning to.
I am a transgender man, and this makes a large impact on the kind of characters I write and the way I write about them. Being trans means I sometimes approach certain fictional situations in a different way to how a cis-gendered writer might, taking into consideration the character’s self-esteem, physical presentation and anatomy. When you write trans characters as a trans author, a little part of yourself always makes it into the story, whether it’s in something the character says or does—such as coping strategies for living in a world that can be quite hostile at times—to the reasons for the clothes they wear. But, whether a writer is trans or not, a part of yourself is always there in the writing, and I suppose I didn’t consider that my sexuality would have such a far-reaching, yet subtle, influence on what I wrote as well.
Just a little warning that there are spoilers ahead for those who haven’t read my books!
In Witcheskin, the character Wenda and her husband Evan were in a poly relationship with the main villain of the story, Geraint. At the time of writing, I never considered that this would actually mean—as they were in an equal triad—that both Evan and Geraint were bisexual. It’s never explicitly written in the book, but I had always considered Maredudd, the love interest and secondary main character, to be bisexual, in that his character is heavily inspired by water, and the fluidity of water. It was not a far stretch for me to imagine Maredudd dating a man, a woman, or anyone really, and perhaps that is why he is so ready and willing to accept Owen. Maredudd has no boundaries and lives a free, sometimes wandering, life. Why wouldn’t his sexuality be like that too?
Moving on to Rough Sleepers, the categorisation of the main character’s sexuality became complicated when it came to defining its place in publishing. Leon is bigender, and (s)he switches between male and female frequently throughout the book. Leon’s sexuality is hard for him/her to define, and even harder for me to define, even though it’s clear that Leon is chronically attracted to masculinity. Ceri, on the other hand, had his sexuality pre-planned for me, since he appears as Geraint in the first book, and after dating Wenda for a time, then goes on to be in a relationship with Leon. Even Mecky, one of the other main characters, leans heavily into bisexuality, as she is attracted to both masculinity and femininity, and seems to take particular interest in gender transformation. I never planned any of these things when I wrote the book; I just wrote it.
My third, currently unreleased, novel The Things We Hide At Home, which hopefully will be getting the release it deserves through JMS Books, is the first book I’ve ever written with a strictly gay male/male romance, and I’m not entirely sure why it ended up that way. The main character, Tenny, is a trans male who is also gay, and is quite different to Owen in how he navigates the world. Perhaps when I wrote this novel, I was going through a particularly gay phase myself. Bisexuality, at least for me and the bisexual people I know, seems to fluctuate in waves, and is never a static block of 50% masculine, 50% feminine.
I think when authors allow their characters to evolve completely organically, by simply guiding them along the vague path chosen by the plot line, they sometimes end up choosing their own sexualities. When I create characters, their sexuality is the last thing I think about. At times, their default sexuality just happens to be bisexual, even if I don’t realise it, and it opens them up to choosing their loves in sometimes totally unexpected ways. Only later, when they have established a solid personality and romance do I then decide what to do about their sexuality, and even then it may just be a small note jotted on a pad somewhere.
Likewise, I’m not saying it’s wrong to pre-plan your character’s sexuality. That’s an impossible thing to refrain from if the story is deeply entwined with that aspect of the character, for example, in a coming out story, or a book based on someone’s life experiences. But, that’s just not my writing style! I think it’s wonderful that writers will actively choose to make their characters LGBTQ+ because it’s important to get that work out there, to the people whose lives we are representing, to the people who need it the most. It could be that my books, and other authors’ books, are found by accident while searching, by someone who needed to see themselves in a main character, being brave and finding their place in the world, because that makes all the difference when you feel isolated and alone.
I feel that bisexuality is sometimes under-represented, and I’d love to see it written about more and more in the LGBTQ+ fiction world. It doesn’t necessarily mean having a gay couple at the forefront—it could have a male and a female in what appears to be a heterosexual relationship, but if one or both of them is bisexual, it’s still queer. We can’t, as a community, do bisexual people a disservice by dictating who they fall in love with, whether it’s gay or straight or anything else, because then we risk becoming the oppressors we’ve fought against all these years.
Bisexuality isn’t greed or indecision; it’s just another sexuality colour in the rainbow.
Nem Rowan lives in Sweden with his wife and their girlfriend. He loves reading non-fiction and is fascinated by True Crime and unsolved mysteries, especially missing persons cases and serial killers. Nem is also well-read in mythology and folk tales, particularly British and European folklore. He is a huge fan of Horror movies and Retrowave music.
Nem started writing when he was 11 years old and since then, he’s never looked back. Romance has always been his favourite genre after inheriting a box of Mills & Boon novels from his grandma, but being a Horror fan, there is always some way for him to work in a bit of that to make sure things don’t get too mushy.