Writing

Why I Write What I Write

On Twitter a few weeks ago, I asked if anyone had anything they wanted me to blog about, and my friend Char was kind enough to toss out a whole list of potential topics that were really intriguing regarding my writing process, why I write certain things, how I write, etc., but the one that caught my eye first was “What draws you to M/M romance and what do you specifically find delightful in writing the male gaze from the male gaze?”

At first, I sort of stared at the prompt because I’m currently editing an f/f or sapphic romance, which will go out to my newsletter subscribers at the end of the month (which you can join by clicking here). My immediate answer is that I don’t write M/M romance so much as that I write queer romance. I think a lot of newer readers might assume I write M/M only because Kinship and Kindness and The Reanimator’s Heart, my last two releases are both M/M, but if you look at my previous series, The Ingenious Mechanical Devices, you’ll see that there’s an ace-allo M/F(but would be enby in 2023) couple, a gay couple, and a pan-bi M/F couple with various other queer side characters. And subsequent books in the Paranormal Romance series will have a lesbian F/enby couple as well.

It’s mildly annoying that M/M romance tends to get the most attention and sales, which on one hand I am grateful for, but I like to write about all sort of queer characters. Within the queer community, there are those (like myself) who will read about anyone and just enjoys queer couples in general. Other readers tend to be more insular and only read MM or FF, which is fine, but that really isn’t the audience I write for.

My choice of genre/romantic couples stems from my own gender and sexuality. I tend to just say I’m nonbinary and queer for simplicity’s sake, but if we’re getting more granular about it, I’m agender nonbinary (slightly masc leaning, slightly) asexual omniromantic. Aka, gender is *giant shrug* but basically Anne Hathaway in Twelfth Night and my sexuality is that I like people of all sorts but don’t feel sexual attraction.

Because of my gender and sexuality, I am attracted to different genders and my identity in relation to those genders is complicated at times since we don’t really have commonly used words for nonbinary attraction to men or women or other enbies. Because I am slightly masculine leaning, M/M romance made sense in my head. Before I knew what being nonbinary was, I used to say I felt like a gay man trapped in a woman’s body. I felt queer, I felt like that feminine masculinity that I often saw with queer men (highly related to Nathan Lane in The Birdcage as a tween/teen because being a woman was a parody of who was I, but I couldn’t put that into words. Besides that, Anne Rice’s books, which were highly influential in my tween/teen years for realizing queer people even existed, were mostly M/M or focused on queer men. Gay men of the late 80s/early 90s were a major touchstone in figuring out my gender identity and that what I was feeling was queer attraction, so M/M tends to be the attraction I relate to most.

Complicating this was that I dealt with dysphoria, which made it difficult to write cis F/F romance. I often joked there are too many layers of Victorian Era clothing and that’s why I avoided F/F romance, but no, it was that trying made my dysphoria kick up horrifically. For a long time, I had a very hard time reading or writing cis F/F romance, but once I realized I was nonbinary, that lessened greatly. It was strange, but somehow realizing I wasn’t a woman despite the body I came prepackaged in gave me distance enough that I could enjoy those books without my brain rebelling. This is why I’ve actually been able to think more about Ruth’s book (Tempests and Temptation) and write Flowers and Flourishing (though one MC is a trans woman).

Sexuality and gender are complicated, writing is complicated, and dysphoria bleeds into the creative side of your work whether you like it or not. For a while, I was ashamed that I couldn’t write F/F romance. I wanted to, and I am attracted to women. I couldn’t understand the mental block, but once it fell away, it was like, “Oh, yeah, that revelation seemed to clear a lot up.”

The crux of this long digression is that I don’t write for the M/M gaze. I write for the queer gaze because I write queer characters of all genders and sexualities. If you’re looking for exclusively M/M content, that certainly isn’t me, but if you want series with trans characters, nonbinary characters, gay/lesbian characters, asexual characters, and bi/pan characters who get happy endings, then I’m the writer for you.


As a side note, Sarra Cannon’s Publish and Thrive course is going to be running soon. This 6 week class is what helped me restart my career last year, and it was certainly worth the money. If you’re new to indie publishing or want to get back into the swing of it by refreshing your knowledge on best practices or marketing, I would take a look. I wrote out 40+ pages of notes when I took it, and now that she has expanded it, I will be taking it again since I have lifetime access to the course. She also has payment plans set up if you want to join but can’t pay in full upfront. If you use this link to sign-up, I get a commission as a former student.

If you would like to know more or have questions about the course, I would be happy to answer them!

Personal Life · Writing

When a Happy Ending is an Act of Defiance

I’ve been struggling to think of what to say this past week. Or really the past month or so, because most of my thoughts amount to “I have lots of feelings, none of them good.”

Living in the US, I have been constantly surrounded by headlines about overturning reproductive healthcare/abortion, attacks on queer relationships, and transphobic laws that seem to want to stamp out our existence. It’s so much all at once that it’s mind-numbing. I’m a nonbinary person with a uterus, and while my reproductive health is somewhat secure due to steps my partner and I have previously taken, this is all a lot. I think for anyone who gives a shit about other people, this past month has been a lot.

I’m tired, my brain feels pulled in a hundred directions, and I feel the negativity creeping through my veins because a very loud minority has decided I shouldn’t exist and many of my friends shouldn’t exist. Or if they do, it’s only on their terms.

And it has made it very hard to write lately. The weight of hatred and uncertainty looms over me constantly, but it reminds me why I started writing in the first place.

Back in 2014, we were still fighting to have same-sex marriage recognized. States were facing lawsuits after banning it even after it was legalized country-wide. Anti-queer sentiment was overt, loud, and just as painful as it is now. I remember staring at my books with their cast of queer characters and wondering if there was still a place in the world for me. Publishers were still pushing queer characters to the sidelines or cutting queer plotlines all together unless they were not on the page. I’ve written before about why I self-published, so I won’t stay on it too long, but the sidelining of queer characters/relationships was why I decided to self-publish. No publisher or company or anyone but me could make my characters straight.

Writing queer characters who eventually got their happily ever after was an act of defiance. In romance, marriage is the usual happily ever after because that’s what cis het M/F couples do. It’s recognizable, it’s legally binding, it’s overt. I wanted that for my characters even if that wasn’t legally possible in the 1890s. The next best thing was a faux wedding (as seen in Dead Magic‘s binding ceremony), but having queer characters find each other, love each other, live closely, and be recognized as a couple by their friends and family was still defiance.

When you write anything involving historical elements and queer characters, reviewers will toss back in your face that “being gay was illegal” back then. Well, so was prostitution, adultery, theft, and murder, yet all those happened as well and no one complains when they read about those things in historical romance. The double standard is eye-roll inducing, but each of those obnoxious reviews spurred me to write more queer characters and eventually more trans characters.

In the back of Kinship and Kindness, I even included a short further reading section about trans people in the 1800s. So many lived normal lives where they worked regular jobs, socialized, and even married. Often, the weren’t even outed as trans until after death, but people don’t want to take into account that people could blend in or that their communities protected them or at least looked the other way if they knew. We all know of famous supposedly straight historical figures who had a “roommate they were really close to” or “a dear friend” they often holidayed with in the South of France that people still refuse to believe were some flavor of queer.

When we write queer characters during times that feel fraught, it is an act of defiance. Writing their lives is a declaration of our existence, our struggles, our love for each other. The stories don’t have to be happy. Their lives don’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) perfect. But writing queer characters into existence as complex, real people is hammering home that we cannot be stamped out. We will not disappear.

I’ve been trying to remind myself of this as I work on my writing. My projects matter even when the world feels like it’s pressing in. There’s always the hope that someone will see themselves in my characters and feel better for a time or lose themselves in whatever drama is playing out. The Reanimator’s Heart has a society of paranormals where people are more likely to be queer than not, and there’s also a lavender marriage where each participant has a partner of their own (one of which is a sapphic trans woman and the other is an autistic gay man). Even if it’s the mid 1890s, everyone manages to live a fulfilling life and eventually find happiness, and that matters.

If you’re writing queer books right now, no matter how bleak it feels, it still matters. Someone out there is clinging to your work in this storm.