Please welcome Courtney Lanning to the site today, to discuss writing queer casts for queer stories, including in her recent release, Funky Dan and the Pixie Dream Girl! Here’s a little more about the book:
Roxie is a sweet trans girl who just wants to spend the rest of her summer vacation playing music with her friends in their band. Living in a southern college town like Fayetteville has its challenges. Dan is a shop wizard who would give anything to escape the store he’s been trapped in for a century under the watchful eyes of a witch and a talking fox.
Their paths converge when Roxie is given the ability to travel into dreams and tasked with fighting off nightmares.
Unbeknownst to Dan and Roxie, other dream walkers are searching for an enchanted key, and if they find it, they’ll plunge the entire city into a living nightmare. The shop wizard and pixie dream girl will have to team up to stop them, facing their own nightmares along the way.
Buy it: Amazon
And here’s the post!
It does my heart good to see so many queer stories being published this year. LGBTQ+ literature is going strong, and I hope it’ll just continue to snowball into 2022 and beyond.
Some of my favorite titles I’ve pounced on this year include The River Has Teeth and The Lost Girls (big sucker for ya lesbian fantasy novels). And while I can’t speak for authors like Erica Waters and Sonia Hartl, I can speak for myself as a queer author in terms of what’s driving my own LGBTQ+ writing.
My debut fantasy novel, Funky Dan and the Pixie Dream Girl, released on the last day of Pride Month, and it follows the adventures of a trans girl who is given the ability to travel into dreams.
When I was writing the book, all I could think to myself was I just don’t see enough transgender representation in the fantasy genre. Fortunately, Riverdale Avenue Books gave me an opportunity to help address that.
As I wrote chapter after chapter of Funky Dan and the Pixie Dream Girl, I found myself reaching into a cauldron of queer material that inspired me, not only growing up, but over the last decade of my writing.
Anime is something I’ve enjoyed watching ever since I was a little girl, and Sailor Moon was the first one I saw. I spent several years wanting to grow up to be a magical girl like Usagi and the other Sailor Scouts. But this anime also had a queer twist, introducing Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus as gay lovers in the third season.
It’s no secret that I took a bit of influence from Sailor Moon when I created the character of Roxie. I wanted to accomplish a few different things with Roxie’s character, primarily establishing her as a magical girl of my making and giving transgender readers a hero of their own to cheer for and reflect on.
When it came to overall themes of Funky Dan and the Pixie Dream Girl, I also found myself borrowing a bit from the cartoon Steven Universe, both in moments of levity and silliness with my characters and placing an importance on mental health care, which is something the show brings up repeatedly for most of its characters.
In chapter two, where Roxie first appears, she goes to see her therapist. It’s one of the first things she does, and I wanted to establish that as a normal part of her life. Given the discrimination and mistreatment transgender women face externally and the dysphoria that can eat away at them on the inside, I knew it was important to show Roxie taking steps to deal with her trauma and normalize addressing it.
Of course, I also had literature to pull out of my queer cauldron and mix into Funky Dan and the Pixie Dream Girl. My favorite author is Holly Black, and not long after coming out, my wife suggested I read her Tithe trilogy. So, I did, and quickly fell in love with those stories. To this day, they sit very first in line on the top level of my bookshelf.
Black showed me how important it was to have other queer characters throughout your novels, and throughout her books about faeries, she establishes not just queer characters but a magical world of Faerie where beings just are what they are with regards to gender and sexual identity. Nobody is treated badly for having an identity outside of the cis-het “norm.” In Black’s world of faerie, characters are treated horribly for other reasons, but that’s a different essay entirely.
So I knew I couldn’t just have a transgender protagonist and assume that was all the representation my story needed. So in Roxie’s tight friend group I introduced Tessa, a queer girl who plays guitar and drives a beat up old van she uses to transport all the band equipment.
In book two, The Ozarks Druid (coming out next year), I include other LGBTQ+ characters, like the protagonist, Aoife, a bisexual girl in a relationship with a drama student named Abigail. And there are more in books three and four. I intend to include a plurality of LGBTQ+ characters throughout my Boston Mountain Magic series. Black’s subsequent works like The Darkest Part of the Forest and the Folk of the Air series helped show me how important that is.
But I suspect most queer authors have their own rainbow cauldrons and brews they use to craft queer stories like I do. It’s my hope publishers will continue to seek out those authors and their queer cauldrons because the world needs all of it.
Courtney Lanning is a journalist in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She’s earned a master’s degree in multimedia journalism. When she’s not writing, Lanning is probably watching a movie, playing video games, reading or out running. Her debut novel, Funky Dan and the Pixie Dream Girl, released at the end of June 2021. She can be found on Twitter under @SapphicCourtney or on Facebook under Courtney Lanning – Author.