All posts by Dahlia Adler

Better Know an Author: Austin Chant

I am so excited today to welcome to the site Austin Chant, whose books probably get the biggest rec workout in the entirety of the LGBTQReads Tumblr. (That’s what happens when I get asked for trans m/m every day!) His newest release, Peter Darling, is all of two weeks old, and he’s here to share about it, tell us what comes next, and discuss trans lit rep in general!

We have to start with Peter Darling, and as much as I hate asking authors about their inspiration, I have to have to know how the idea of a trans Peter Pan assigned Wendy Darling at birth came to you, and what the process of writing that story was like. (And do you have any plans to retell any other works in the future?)

33358438I wanted to write enemies-to-lovers, and I was really intrigued by the idea of an antagonistic-but-loving relationship between Hook and a grown-up Pan—but obviously at least one of them had to be trans, because that’s how I roll.

So I settled on trans Pan, and I wanted him to have come from a real place rather than being a mythical creature; I’m most interested in trans characters who feel like they live in the same world I do. I’ve always really liked Wendy Darling: the storyteller, the one who longs for family and responsibility but also falls in love with adventure and danger. Traditionally, Wendy balances Pan in an interesting but deeply gender-essentialist way. Having Peter be an amalgamation of them both, rather than having Wendy be Pan’s external conscience and foil, gave Peter a lot to wrestle with and intrigued me more than writing them as separate people.

Since Wendy is a storyteller, it made sense to me for Pan to be a character who Peter invented, who allowed him to take on a different name and identity. Pan is Peter’s fantasy self—a free, badass, cocky little bastard who only has happy thoughts. What made Peter interesting to me was the tension between his two worlds: the violent, toxic catharsis of Neverland versus the extreme repression of living as someone perceived as a woman and as a trans person in the early 1900s. His real personality is somewhere in between, but it’s complicated by the baggage from both sides.

At the time I started writing, I was frustrated with what I saw as a lack of empathy for trans folks newly coming into their identities, especially those who were struggling and not expressing themselves perfectly. I wanted to write a trans character who was in an incredibly difficult stage of coming out—letting go of abusive relationships—and was, as a result, kind of a human disaster. A big part of grounding his pain was making him someone who valued his family as much as the character of Wendy Darling traditionally does, but who was torn between that and his loyalty to himself. I wanted him to lash out and fuck up as Pan would, rather than being a martyr. We all deserve happy endings, and we ought to be allowed to struggle and make mistakes, especially when we’re dealing with intense pain and distress. Ultimately, it was really, really fun (and sometimes exhausting) to write a trans character with that much complexity and rage.

Someday I’m going to figure out a way to write a retelling of The Picture of Dorian Gray. There’s a lot of opportunity for queer rage there, too.

I am a totally-not-secret Coffee Boy fangirl, and like other readers, I definitely wanted more! What made you stop it at novella length, and is there any chance we’ll be seeing an extended version and/or more of the characters?

32146161Well, the original version was published in an anthology and had a word count limit (which I still totally went over, oops). I probably won’t expand what’s published now, but I do have tentative plans for a sequel. It would be set significantly after Coffee Boy and be plottier, with more political drama, and look at Kieran and Seth’s relationship after they’ve been together a few years. I like the idea of them growing into a deadly, snarky power couple and fueling each other’s ambitions, and I think it would be fun to see especially Kieran come into his own.

Both Coffee Boy and Peter Darling are m/m Romances with trans main characters, which is probably the #1 thing I get asked to recommend on Tumblr. Do you have any particular favorites to recommend? And is there an aspect to your writing of adding to canon that which we barely see on shelves, or is that just a nice bonus?

My personal favorites are The Burnt Toast B&B by Heidi Belleau and Rachel Haimowitz and A Matter of Disagreement by E.E. Ottoman. There really aren’t a lot! As a trans guy who’s primarily attracted to men, I don’t usually see myself, so writing trans m/m is definitely a selfish thing. 😛 But I also want both cis and trans readers to see queer trans folks in loving relationships. Too often I feel there’s a preference for trans characters who are straight and gender-conforming and those characters just don’t reflect my experiences or the full glorious spectrum of my community. Also, trans guys can be queer as hell and it doesn’t undermine who we are. I don’t think that’s acknowledged often enough.

If I recall correctly, you said something about writing trans f/f…? Aaaand I see it there on your #authorlifemonth To Write list, so don’t even think of hiding it! What can you share about what you’re working on?

Hmm, I don’t want to share too much yet (because I’m still working on it!) but the tentative working title is In Starlight. It’s about Hazel, a young trans woman musician who gets tossed into the spotlight very suddenly and winds up meeting her childhood idol, a retired champion figure skater named Miranda, under not-so-ideal circumstances. It’s coming out from Riptide Publishing as part of an F/F series with some really awesome contributors, and I’m super excited to be a part of it.

What’s something you’ve seen in LGBTQIAP+ lit that’s really stuck with you, for better or for worse?

The consensus seems to be that us queers are kind of magical and I’m on board with that. I try to live my life as if that’s true.

What’s the first trans rep you ever recall encountering in media? What about the first good trans rep, since I suspect they were not one and the same?

The thing about being a trans man is that when I was growing up, almost all the (very toxic) mainstream representation of trans folks was of trans women, and I a) didn’t realize it related to me and b) didn’t necessarily recognize it as trans because mainstream media didn’t acknowledge that trans folks were a community with a shared identity. My perspective was definitely a privilege in that it kept me from internalizing a lot of the terrible messages that were being broadcast about trans women, though it also left me without any models for who I was. I think the first time I became truly aware of trans people was in fandom, not in mainstream media. The first genuinely good representation I encountered was in queer romance when I started reading EE Ottoman’s work.

While #ownvoices trans lit is growing, it still spent years being dominated by cis authors. What are some clues you’ve seen that the authors writing have not lived the trans experience?

A lot of times it’s the conflicts and the joys. Authors who are imagining what it’s like to be trans tend not to have a great sense of the more nuanced and subtle ways that trans folks experience the world, and when they write transphobia, it generally takes the form of big, explosive incidents—assault, blackmail, etc. Those things do happen in real life, but there are also a million other ways that trans folks encounter a world that isn’t built for us. Gender essentialism is everywhere, and much of it isn’t obvious until you’re trying to navigate society as a trans person.

Trans characters written by cis authors can also fall into the trap of having few defining traits outside of being trans; their central character conflict is that they are trans and the world sucks. That doesn’t make for interesting character growth, and it results in some incredibly repetitive stories. The trans folks I know in real life are a hugely varied group of people who experience transness (and transphobia) in a variety of ways because they move in different circles, have different dreams and ambitions, and have other intersecting identities. A trans farmer is going to have a different set of obstacles and triumphs than a trans marine biologist or a trans schoolteacher, but all that gets flattened when you view transness as a singular experience that creates the same internal and external conflicts every time.

Finally, I’m not sure I’ve ever read a cis-authored description of gender dysphoria (or gender euphoria) that rang quite true. That’s one of the big reasons I’m a proponent of leaving “trans revelation” stories to trans authors; knowing your gender as a trans person is a heavily personal and individual thing, and it’s virtually impossible to write well with only a surface-level understanding of that experience.

I don’t mean to rag on cis authors, though. I fully believe that cis authors are capable of writing wonderful trans characters… so long as they’re capable of writing us like people. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen, that’s not always the case.

Going back to #authorlifemonth for a sec, I see you have a dream of opening a Queer Romance bookstore. A) Hell Yes, and B) What books would you say would be absolute musts for your shelves?

I’m going to let out my fanboy self here and say that my #1 necessity is KJ Charles‘s entire backlist. But honestly, I’d want to get my hands on almost anything in print. I love ebooks, but there’s still something really special about print books, and it makes me sad that more LGBT fiction doesn’t get produced that way. I like a book I can hug and/or throw. I can’t think of anything lovelier than being surrounded by bookshelves full of queer romance.

What do you wish you got asked more often, and what’s the answer?

Oh, gosh. Who’s the best Captain Hook? The only acceptable answer is Jason Isaacs.

*****

sfqb1xvoAustin Chant is a bitter millennial and decent chef who grew up along the Puget Sound, ensuring that cold, rainy beaches will forever be part of his #aesthetic. Nowadays, he goes to college in Seattle and lives a double life as a game designer and a queer, trans romance novelist. Austin co-hosts The Hopeless Romantic, a podcast dedicated to LGBTQIA+ love stories and the art of writing romance. He aspires to fill his books with trans characters who get all the love they deserve. His works include Peter Darling, Coffee Boy, and Caroline’s Heart (in the Magic & Mayhem anthology).

Read & Buy Links:

Peter Darling: Amazon | Publisher

Coffee Boy: Amazon | Publisher

Fave Five: Bi YAs with Multiple Love Interests

Ask Me How I Got Here by Christine Hepperman

Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis

About A Girl by Sarah McCarry

Adaptation and Inheritance by Malinda Lo

Top Ten by Katie Cotugno

Bonus, coming in 2018: Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

Rainbow heart

TBRainbow Alert #11!

Heels Over Head (May 29th)
Author: Elyse Springer
Genre/Category: Contemporary Romance
Rainbow details: Gay
Why put it on your radar? Because it’s awesome to see a pro sports romance tackle a less common area, and as a bonus there’s a demisexual secondary character who’ll be helming the next book in the series!

27 Hours (October 3)
Author: Tristina Wright
Genre/Category: YA Sci-Fi
Rainbow details: Bisexual, Pansexual, Asexual
Why put it on your radar? Bi rep! Pan rep! Ace rep! Disability rep! PoC rep! In genre YA!

Insight (March 13)
Author: Santino Hassell
Genre/Category: Paranormal Thriller
Rainbow details: m/m
Why put it on your radar? Santino Hassell, man. How is all his stuff not already on your radar? But also, psychics and empaths and murder, oh my!

Huntsmen (April 13)
Author: Michelle Osgood
Genre/Category: Paranormal
Rainbow details: f/f
Why put it on your radar? Uhhh lesbian werewolves? But note that this one’s a sequel, so hit up The Better to Kiss You With first!

Tash Hearts Tolstoy (June 6)
Author: Kathryn Ormsbee
Genre/Category: Contemporary YA
Rainbow details: Heteroromantic asexual
Why put it on your radar? Ever dreamed of seeing the words “romantic asexual” on freaking big-five back cover copy? Dream no more! Plus an adorable premise, adorable romance, Russian lit references, interesting family dynamics, and more!

Fave Five: Same-Sex Ace-Spectrum Romances

We Awaken by Calista Lynne (f/f YA Fantasy)

All the Wrong Places by Ann Gallagher (m/m Contemporary)

Thaw by Elyse Springer (f/f Contemporary)

How to Be a Normal Person by TJ Klune (m/m Contemporary)

Overexposed by Megan Erickson (m/m NA Contemporary, Demisexual)

Bonus: Nab novellas with To Terminator, With Love by Wes Kennedy (m/m, Sci-Fi) and Making Love by Aidan Wayne (f/f, Paranormal Rom Com, Demisexual)

Double Bonus: Coming in May, Heels Over Head by Elyse Springer (m/m Contemporary) has a demisexual secondary character who’ll be the MC of the second book in the series

Rainbow heart

Around the Blogosqueer: Recommended Resources

Around the Blogosqueer is a feature used to highlight other LGBTQIAP lit throughout the internet, and today, we’re focusing on some great sites where you can find the pros in your area of interest! Some of these sites have been asked already to do a little writeup for us on exactly what they do (and if you haven’t, but your siteis here, please consider this an open invite to submit!), but for now, here’s where you can find some fabulous bloggers and book recs!

nruzqiko

Sistahs on the ShelfSotS is run by Rena, a Black lesbian who reviews Black lesbian books. You can also follow on Twitter at @SotS!

WoC in Romance – this is a site highlighting all Romance written by WoC, but there’s a page just for LGBTQ Romances. It’s run by Rebekah Weatherspoon, whose name you may recognize as being a prolific author of LGBTQ lit herself! You can follow on Twitter at @WOCInRomance, and make sure you check out their Patreon; link is in the pinned tweet!

Gay YA – This fab site is dedicated to LGBTQIAP YA and does great theme weeks and bi-monthly book chats under #GayYABookClub! Vee is the Head Enby in Charge (and also runs the @trans_lit Twitter account!), but there’s a whole great staff (including author Katherine Locke, who generally runs the book club chats) and a wide breadth of knowledge here. You can also find them on Twitter, Tumblr…basically everywhere.

LGBT YA -Author Lauren James runs this Tumblr-based review site, and she was actually our very first Around the Blogosqueer interviewee, so more on her and the site here!

Lambda Literary – The one and only! Follow along for reviews, awards, fellowships, and more!

Queer Sci-Fi – Exactly what it sounds like! Nicely extensive resource, covering more media than just books.

Queer SFF –  Also what it sounds like! It hasn’t been active in a few months but stands as a good resource for finding solid titles from 2016 and prior. More YA-centric than the above.

Queer Comics All comics, all queer, all the time! Run by Audrey and Taneka, this is an incredible resource for both print and web comics, and you can find them on Twitter, too, at @QueerComics.

Black Lesbian Literary Collective – To nab from their site, “The Black Lesbian Literary Collective creates a nurturing and sustainable environment for Black lesbian and queer women of color writers.” Looking for more reviews of Black lesbian fic? Ta da! The site is new, so it’s not packed with posts just yet, but there is already an active radio show linked to it. Find them on Twitter at @LezWriters.

The Lesbian Review – While m/m review sites are everywhere, it’s delightful to see a site with a pretty big following that does strictly f/f. Run by Sheena, you can find them on Twitter at @LesbianReviews!

And finally, though it’s really a single post I’m highlighting, my new favorite amazing resource is Reviews of trans and/or non-binary lit by trans and/or non-binary reviewers on Kink Praxis, which is Corey Alexander/Xan West’s author site. This is such an excellent and necessary service, and my great thanks both to them and to all the reviewers who’ve allowed their reviews to be linked!

Got your own favorite resources? Give them a shout in the comments!

Excerpt from Julia Ember’s F/F YA Little Mermaid Retelling The Seafarer’s Kiss!

Title: The Seafarer’s Kiss
Publisher: Interlude Press (Duet)
Date: May 4 2017
32890474Having long-wondered what lives beyond the ice shelf, nineteen-year-old mermaid Ersel learns of the life she wants when she rescues and befriends Ragna, a shield-maiden stranded on the mermen’s glacier. But when Ersel’s childhood friend and suitor catches them together, he gives Ersel a choice: say goodbye to Ragna or face justice at the hands of the glacier’s brutal king.Determined to forge a different fate, Ersel seeks help from Loki. But such deals are never as one expects, and the outcome sees her exiled from the only home and protection she’s known. To save herself from perishing in the barren, underwater wasteland and be reunited with the human she’s come to love, Ersel must try to outsmart the God of Lies.
*****

I’d never been particularly pious, but praying to Loki before the ceremony had seemed to help. Or at least, it had eased my anxiety even if the god of lies had had nothing to do with the ceremony’s outcome. I didn’t like the idea of adopting the trickster as my patron god, but if ever I needed a trick or two, it was now. The words of a remembered prayer tumbled from my lips. Everything inside me felt too frozen to make up my own plea.

Blue light shimmered against the back wall of my cave. It was pale and strangely electric and reminded me of watching lightning strike the sea from fifteen arm-lengths below. I swam to my crevice’s mouth. Peering out into the gray water, I squinted at the source of the strange glow. The light became so intense I had to look away. It radiated from a little ball I could hardly see. All of a sudden, it blinked and dimmed. A green and yellow sea turtle glided toward me. The electric blue light glowed from his eye sockets, and he stared right at me. A shiver ran up my back, and my blood cooled.

Above me, the patter of hail echoed through the ocean, followed by the crack of thunder. I wondered if I should scream for help. Was stress making me imagine things? Sea turtles couldn’t survive here, could they? With their cold blood, they needed the summer currents to survive. I shook my head to clear the image, blinked, but the turtle still swam toward me. If I screamed and there was no turtle, the king would think I was losing my mind, and I’d have less chance of defending myself against the things Havamal could say. Plus, I didn’t want to wake Mama. I took a deep breath. My heart felt raw and exposed, blistered and stinging, like a wound cleansed with ocean salt. I wasn’t ready to talk to her.

The turtle drifted peacefully toward me, like a moving lullaby propelled by the tide. The creature’s bright eyes dimmed further, and it cocked its head, winking at me as it coasted through a school of silver fish. Then it began to paddle rapidly; its thick flippers pumped faster and faster until its whole body became a green blur. Overhead, the hail and thunder intensified—almost as if Thor himself surfed across the waves. A bolt of lightning struck the sea and a fiery purple and yellow aurora of fiery diffused over the waves.

When I looked up toward the lights, the turtle slammed into me, knocking me back into the cave. Before I could scream, a hand covered my mouth: a hand that was pink, warm, and strangely dry.

The creature spun me around to face them. Their turtle shell had transformed into a billowing cloak of sparkling greens and golds. Caribou antlers covered with strips of fur stuck out on either side of a silver helmet; each antler was tall enough to scrape the ceiling of my little cave. Blue, electric light emanated from their very skin. A sea snake the color of dying coral wound about their waist. Their form was slim and elegant, androgynous. High cheekbones and pursed midnight-blue lips set off hooded, bright eyes, deep-set in their chiseled face.

I wanted desperately to swim away from them, to hide behind my kelp curtain, but they gripped my shoulders so hard I could feel bruises forming under my scales.

“Do you know who I am?” they demanded, raising a turquoise eyebrow.

The blue light shining from them made my scales glow as if I lay under the sun. A bubble of dry air formed in the ice cave and expanded until it filled the space. A warm feeling crept up from the tip of my tail, even while my stomach sank in fear. The horns reminded me of images from our legends that had been carved into the ice sculptures decorating our central hall. The statues in the hall had frozen their stories into our collective memories.

I swallowed. I was seeing the same face I’d seen every day since I was a child, engraved above me in the dining hall.

“You’re Loki,” I whispered. Why would the trickster god choose to help me? This was only the second time in my life I’d prayed to them. From everything I’d heard about Loki, my situation should have amused them. Maybe they were here to taunt me, to mock me for praying to them concerning a ceremony I didn’t care about and wasting whatever favor my birth season entitled me to.

They nodded, but their eyes never left my face.

“Are you here to mock me?” I asked, my voice trembling. It wasn’t a polite thing to ask a god, but after what I’d been through today, I didn’t have energy left for courtesy.

Laughing, Loki shook their great horned head. Their cackle was high and cruel, but then their eyes softened into something that seemed like affection. That look of care on their pale face was even more terrifying. They rested their warm hand on my back. I imagined their nails filled with poisonous venom and pulled away to avoid getting their toxin on my scales.

But Loki only smiled. “I’ve been watching you for a while, Ersel. It’s not normal for your kind to interact so closely with the human world. You’re curious and intelligent and you don’t follow orders like a sheep. I value all those things.”

I didn’t know what a sheep was, but I nodded at the compliment nonetheless. Their fingers played with the edges of their blue eyebrow. “I want to make a deal with you.”

My scales stood up on my back. Whenever the storytellers talked about Loki, they cautioned against making deals with the god. I cursed myself for carelessness, for letting Havamal follow me. If I hadn’t been such an idiot, maybe I wouldn’t have to decide between angering the god standing in front of me or doing what all our legends warned against: making a deal with the being who invented the lie.

 

*****

Interlude Press: http://store.interludepress.com/collections/the-seafarers-kiss-by-julia-ember

Fave Five: LGBTQ YAs Featuring First-Generation Americans

Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard (Portuguese)

A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay Smith (Japanese)

Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before by Karelia Stetz-Waters (Estonian)

 One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva (Armenian)

Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan (Persian)

Rainbow heart

Under the Gaydar: Asexual Rep

“Under the Gaydar” features books you might not realize have queer content but do! And definitely belong on your radar.

This time around we’re looking at books with major characters on the ace spectrum that don’t have that info in the blurb (and haven’t been on every post about this since the beginning of time; at this point I assume most people have discovered books like Quicksilver by RJ Anderson) – hopefully this will help expand your library a bit!

Depositphotos_40057967_s-2015This Song is (Not) For You by Laura Nowlin – Though the book doesn’t include the label “asexual,” discussion of being a romantic asexual (and finding your place in a romantic relationship) is a significant portion of this 2016 contemporary YA.

Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate – Redgate’s debut is delightfully infamous for being the first mainstream YA to feature an on-page Pansexual main character, but among the 7 POVs is another queer character on his own journey to figuring out he’s aromantic asexual. As with the above, you won’t see the word on the page, but you won’t be able to miss it, either.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan Maguire – Portal fantasy with ace rep and atmosphere to spare, from one of SFF’s most popular prolific authors.

Overexposed by Megan Erickson – M/M NA Romance with an on-page demisexual main character. I think that’s maybe all I need to say about that?

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman – I don’t usually feature books in which the character in question isn’t a POV character, but the presence of a major on-page demisexual character in YA is just too great to ignore! If you’re not in the UK, where it released in 2016, make sure you nab this one as soon as it’s available where you are.

27 Hours by Tristina Wright – Coming out in October 2017, this sci-fi YA features a host of underrepresented POVs, including one who’s ace.

Before I Let Go by Marie Nijkamp – Releasing in January 2018, this fabulous Alaska-set contemporary YA I have read and you have not (#CPlove) features an (#ownvoices) ace MC.

For some more instances of on-page labels in non-POV characters, check out Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham, Lunaside by JL Douglas, and Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg! And do check out this interview with Erica Cameron, to see which of her books apply as well!

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta!

I am so excited to help reveal the cover of Amy Rose Capetta’s Echo After Echo, a theater-centric f/f YA love story coming this October from Candlewick Press! (And not just because the cover is gorgeous!) Before you see the beauty, here are a few words from author Amy Rose Capetta!

*****

This book came out of two things: being a lifelong theater kid*, and falling in love. I spent a solid fifteen years of my life going from show to show, green room to backstage to onstage, always living for the next cast list, or waiting for the incandescent moment when my work as a playwright was put on its feet. This story started with a beautiful theater, and a girl who loved it. A voice keep dropping words into my ear when I was supposed to be writing something else. The reason I kept coming back, even though I was afraid this story would never find a readership outside of my own head? I was going through a time of serious uncertainty in my own life, and I needed to write a queer love story to give myself hope. It felt like epic love was never allowed for two girls, unless it was tragic. And while it turns out a theater is a ridiculously convenient setting for a mystery, I think the real reason I returned to it for this novel is that I learned to use my voice in the theater, just like the main character, Zara. It’s where I trained to become someone who infuses stories with honesty and truth. And this truth I had—this glowing certainty that tragic endings could be changed and new stories written—drove me to write Echo After Echo. Zara and Eli’s love story was a life-changing experience for me. Now it’s the most important time: when the lights dim, and the audience gets to see what happens.

*A few highlights of my theater life: being in a Shakespeare troupe for four years, performing a monologue on roller blades in front of Kurt Vonnegut (true story), writing a play set entirely in a supermarket, and being a lowly intern at a workshop of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first musical!

And now, the cover!

9780763691646

Debuting on the New York stage, Zara is unprepared—or Eli, the girl who makes the world glow; for Leopold, the director who wants perfection; and for death in the theater.

Zara Evans has come to the Aurelia Theater, home to the visionary director Leopold Henneman, to play her dream role in Echo and Ariston, the Greek tragedy that taught her everything she knows about love. When the director asks Zara to promise that she will have no outside commitments, no distractions, it’s easy to say yes. But it’s hard not to be distracted when there’s a death at the theater—and then another—especially when Zara doesn’t know if they’re accidents, or murder, or a curse that always comes in threes. It’s hard not to be distracted when assistant lighting director Eli Vasquez, a girl made of tattoos and abrupt laughs and every form of light, looks at Zara. It’s hard not to fall in love. In heart-achingly beautiful prose, Amy Rose Capetta has spun a mystery and a love story into an impossible, inevitable whole—and cast lantern light on two girls, finding each other on a stage set for tragedy.

Buy it: B&N * Amazon

amy-rose-capetta

Amy Rose Capetta studied theater at the Stella Adler Studio as a teenager before spending four years in a Shakespeare troupe. Echo After Echo is her first book with Candlewick Press. Amy Rose Capetta lives in Michigan with her partner and their son. You can find her on Twitter at: @AmyRoseCapetta and on Facebook: /AmyRoseCapetta