I have a book coming out on Tuesday.
More precisely, I have a book with a queer protagonist, a bisexual protagonist, a world-saving protagonist coming out on Tuesday.
Later this year, I have another book with a bisexual protagonist happening.
Here’s the order in which I wrote the novels I’ve thus far written (this is relevant):
- PRIMEVAL (2008ish), which you will likely never see because it was the first one and it’s like a really optimistic finger painting, if I used David Eddings and LJ Smith as paint.
- ELEMENTAL (2008-09ish), the sequel. Ibid.
- SHRIKE: THE MASKED SONGBIRD (2012)
- STORM IN A TEACUP (2008 – 2012, but all but the first chapter in 2012)
- A HALL OF KEYS AND NO DOORS (2013)
- SHRIKE: RAMPANT (2013)
- STONEBREAKER (2014-2015: this is on submission and is an epic fantasy and I’m goddamn proud of it and hope it sells someday)
- ANY PORT IN A STORM (2015)
- TAKEN BY STORM (2015)
- EYE OF THE STORM (2015-2016)
- LOOK TO THE SUN (2016- in progress)
- ALADRA (2016- in progress)
There’s a timeline hidden in those books.
My life story is hidden in those books.
It’s plied together like spun Harris wool, made into yarn, woven into stories.
TW for mention of abuse and rape.
In 2008 I was raped twice. When SHRIKE: THE MASKED SONGBIRD was first written, it dealt with that. Clumsily, painfully, in a way that didn’t make it past those early drafts, because when I wrote it I felt helpless, and when it was published, I’d taken pains to take back control.
In 2011, my cousin died. Suddenly. Shockingly. One day he was preparing for his daughter’s first birthday and celebrating making it to the big 3-0 the week before, the next he was gone. I couldn’t write about it for over a year. Then I wrote A HALL OF KEYS AND NO DOORS, which ended up dealing with that…and with something else. Unexpectedly. Also clumsily, also painfully, also in a way that didn’t make it past early drafts. In writing A HALL OF KEYS AND NO DOORS, I came out to myself.
I knew Ayala wouldn’t stay with her love interest from STORM IN A TEACUP. As Veronica Mars is wont to say, “The hero is the one who stays.”
I knew who she needed to love. I knew who needed to love her.
I wrote the rest of the Storme story with painstaking deliberation. I carefully planted seeds of trust. I watered them and fertilised them and watched them grow up while the world of that story came tumbling down. Writing the rest of that series? I needed to fall in love with a woman. So Ayala did for me.
I watched characters like me dying on screen. Over and over, I watched myself die on screen. Queer death after queer death after queer death.
Sometimes those stories are important, but when that’s all you see, you need another narrative.
I was desperate to see another narrative, so I wrote one. I wrote A HALL OF KEYS AND NO DOORS and came out to myself. I wrote ANY PORT IN A STORM, TAKEN BY STORM, and EYE OF THE STORM and owned it.
These books will never not be personal. And they will never not be political, because our world politicises my agender body, my bisexual life, my loves, my self. I have to fight to be included. I am not the default. These books are #OwnVoices books, but when I wrote them they were not OUT voices books. I was not out. Closets are oppressive things. Needing them is a product of oppression.
Writing bi characters is still a radical act because being bi in a world that tells us our sexuality is whoever we are currently fucking erases us every day — being bi is a radical act. It’s asserting and coming out over and over and over to people who often ought to know better. As my friend put it the other day:
If you’re not bi because you have a (whatev) gender partner at the moment, then I don’t like pizza anymore because I didn’t have any today.
— Olli Crusoe (@OlliCrusoe) June 14, 2016
Bi people are not part straight and part gay. We’re 100% bonafide queer. We’re not straight when we’re in a relationship the world perceives as straight. Every relationship we have is a queer relationship because we are queer. Ayala was no less bi when she was with Mason than she is with Mira. Full stop.
It’s hard to write coherently about this right now, in the wake of Orlando. It’s hard because of so many reasons. The #QueerSelfLove tag this week was so needed, to see queer faces saying, “I’m here. Let me show you around my life, because I am a person.”
Having to promote a book coming out next week, a book that has a queer protagonist, is daunting right now. I could just shut up about it, but I’m tired of queer people having to shut up, to be polite, to just blink through the homophobia and the bullshit. To smile through the jovial transphobic jokes, to be invisible and marginalised even if we have intersectional identities. To need sanctuary in queer spaces with all of us always having known what happened at Pulse could happen to us.
Ayala’s story is important to me, not just because she’s a badass with swords who fights for her world and her family, but because she is queer, because she is not tragically queer, because she also gets to fight for her happy ending.
Promoting anything right now feels horrible. But one thing that I feel good about is that I can offer SOMETHING to my queer family that I wrote for me, but that maybe right now somebody else needs. I can offer a story where Ayala gets to be queer and can put our world’s burden of homophobia down. Where the men in her life don’t sexualise her or ogle her and Mira. Where the worry is the fate of the planet and not, you know, the gender identity of Ayala’s romantic partner.
EYE OF THE STORM is coming out Tuesday. Until then (and a little beyond), the other books in the series are on sale.