Today, we have some of our favorite authors of LGBTQIAP books, who were kind enough to take part of our collaborative post. The prompt is for the authors to talk about the favorite things they’ve written in their respective queer books. It’s not a secret that there’s a stigma when it comes to authors talking about their accomplishments. It always equates to self promo or bragging, this piece aims to uplift creators and the beautiful things they’ve done.
Michelle Kan, author of No More Heroes
“From the very beginning, my intention with NO MORE HEROES was always to make sure that it was a fun experience for both myself and my readers alike. Seeing as it drew heavily from many of the things that inspire and excite me, I figured this would be a straight shot from the beginning! My passion for action media, video games and graphic novels helped to shape the themes and structure of the book. My love of martial arts, parkour and other movement disciplines helped to shape the sway and the language of my story. This alone was enough to make it hands-down one of the best creative experiences I’ve ever had.
But it was the inclusion of my own self and sense of identity, my idiosyncrasies, insecurities and thought processes, that helped to shape the inhabitants of the world that I ended up creating – and it was the result of that inclusion that ended up taking me by surprise.
NO MORE HEROES is the first piece of work in which I’ve expressed myself so deeply and thoroughly after realising my asexuality, aromanticism and genderfluidity. My being asexual meant that my characters were enchanting in images that I could connect with personally, and were also asexual themselves in some instances. My being on the aromantic spectrum meant that the connections between them were based on friendship and camaraderie, and romance was never a concern. And the flex and flow of my genderfluidity was channeled into the character of Fang, as was my ethnicity and experience with anxiety, to create for the very first time a multifaceted character that I could so absolutely see myself in within a piece of fiction.
The literary action film nature of NO MORE HEROES meant that it was already an exhilarating writing adventure in and of itself. But being able to express myself so fully across the universe that I created made NO MORE HEROES an unforgettably cathartic and gratifying experience – and that was one of the most rewarding things of all.”
Ashley Herring Blake, author of How to Make a Wish
It’s PRIDE month. I suppose I’m supposed to regale you with all the reasons—and there are myriad—why I wrote How to Make a Wish. Why I wanted Grace to be bisexual, why I wanted the central romance to be with another girl, why this, what that. But I’m not going to talk about Grace’s bisexuality. The book does that pretty thoroughly, I think, as to many previous posts I’ve written. No, for this PRIDE post, I’m going to talk about something that, in my opinion, is integral to any coming out experience, any queer experience, any human experience.
When I started writing How to Make a Wish, it was clear that Grace was going to have a tough go of it. Her mother was out of control—Grace couldn’t fix her, but neither could Grace break free. Any outcome was terrifying. Knowing all that she would go through, I needed a constant for Grace. I needed something that she could rely on, even when things became unbearable. And that constant was Luca. Her best friend from childhood, the person who knew all of her secrets and still loved her. He fought for Grace, advocated for her to leave her mother and live her own life, and even when that pissed Grace off, she knew, deep down, it was because he loved her. I never wanted anything romantic between them. I wanted a platonic male-female friendship, because those are so rarely seen in YA and because I truly believe they exist. But more than that, I didn’t want anything muddying their friendship. Often, we elevate romance above friendship in books, but, particularly in high school, friendship is paramount. At the end of the day, through all the people we date or don’t date as teens, what we really want is for someone to see us, the real us, and to love us just as we are. That is who Luca is for Grace. He’s not perfect. Their friendship isn’t perfect. They argue. But when the shit goes down, Grace knows he’ll be there.
I love this aspect of How to Make a Wish, not only because it sees Grace through all of her storms with her mother, but also because Luca and Grace’s friendship endures and evolves through and beyond her queerness. Luca helps Grace to figure out she’s bi. Not by defining her, but by simply being with her as she thought through it. That’s not a huge part of the book—it’s more backstory than anything—but as I wrote the heart of the book, it informed a lot of Grace and Luca’s interactions. It showed me something about friendship and helped me see the kind of friends I want and the kind of friend I want to be.
So, as part of PRIDE month, I’m going to focus on friendship. On being with, in, and through. Remembering and uplifting those who struggle, who celebrate, who have fought battles before me, and who continue to fight today.
C.T. Callahan, author of Plastic Wings
One thing I really love about Plastic Wings is the romantic exploration throughout. The story starts with Evie being very young and having a crush on a guy she barely knows. As time goes on, she ends up with different partners, starts to discover her own asexuality, and just really starts to understand that relationships are varied.
There are a lot of stories, particularly young adult, in which the main character finds love immediately with one person and that love is considered to be the greatest love to ever exist. While some people do find their life partners in one shot, I think this standard is really unrealistic for a lot of people. I wanted Evie to have a chance to explore. At the start of the story, she doesn’t even consider the fact that she doesn’t experience sexual attraction. Only as she begins to explore different forms of love and relationships does she realize that she doesn’t have that same level of attraction that many people, like her sister, have. She really grows from the beginning of the book to understand what love is and how it works. She learns about romantic, platonic, and sexual love. She grows into herself and begins to acknowledge what she wants and deserves in a relationship, and I think that’s a journey that often gets left out of young adult novels.
Dahlia Adler, author of Under the Lights
Under the Lights was a really fun surprise for me in a lot of ways. People often wonder why Josh has such a big role in a book that’s really f/f romance above all else, but the book didn’t start out that way; it was supposed to be Josh’s book, and then it was Josh and Liam and Vanessa’s book, and then it finally became Josh and Vanessa’s book…which her storyline totally took over. Even when it was down to just Josh and Vanessa, I was trying to give both of them these hetero romances that just…did not work, because he kept gravitating to Van instead of his love interest, and she just had zero chemistry with hers. Ultimately, I realized the only person she did have chemistry with was a waitress who shows up early in the book, and that waitress turned into the character of Brianna, and voila.
What was really wild about the realization that Vanessa was a lesbian was that I had to make zero changes to her character to support it, even though she already existed as a major secondary character in another book. As I wrote her, I couldn’t help thinking, “How amazing that people think being gay is a choice, and here I have a fictional character I couldn’t make straight if I tried.” And it was awesome, how organic it was to watch her grow and come into her own, for me to figure out exactly who she was, which is also why my favorite thing to hear about the book from readers is that it helped them understand their own sexuality.
And part of that, as I’ve written about before, lies in that it helped me do the same. And I think that comes through on the page, at least a little bit. I know some people think Van’s so late to figure it out, being 18, but that’s nothing compared to some people; I was 29 when I was writing this and working it all out! There are just so many answers to “How could I not know?” that I think people don’t realize, and for Van, being an actress, constantly having to be in touch with a variety of emotions that aren’t her natural ones and forging relationships that aren’t real (e.g. in Behind the Scenes) has really confused how well she knows herself. And yes, that’s an unusual situation, but I think many of us have backgrounds that lend themselves to just…not understanding all the options. And that’s okay. We get there. But it’s nice when books can help!
Tristina Wright, author of 27 Hours
I’ve been writing 27 HOURS on and off since 2005. At first, it started with a character—a bisexual boy dropped into something far bigger than himself. There were monsters and mysteries. There were friendships and disparities. There was a vast world entrenched in chaos, but my focus was on a point in the middle of this storm.
Over the years, as the story twisted and reformed into nearly a dozen iterations, he remained the same. The cast grew. One by one, they formed on the page. Queer. Disabled. Nonbinary genders. A spectrum of skin colors. The friendships wove together. An ensemble was born.
Along the way, I realized I was writing pieces of myself—the Past Me who needed to see bisexuality in a book like it was no big deal. Who needed to see disability on the page, and it wasn’t centered in the plot. I was writing my friends, who needed to see their romantic and sexual orientations as a piece of the whole, not a plot twist. I was writing for those who’d been told their intersections of race and orientation and disability were too much in the same person. It was a book that started with a boy and became something for all those who’ve been told that they were too much to simply just be.