The Boy from The Barn

Continuing on with the theme of taking blog topic suggestions friends have given me on Twitter, @northie_writer suggested that I write about how easy or difficult it is or isn’t to include non-cis queer people in romance stories. Honestly, I don’t have a ton of non-cis queer people in previous books I’ve released, but an upcoming book has a character who is genderfluid.

Before we start, if you are not versed with what it means to be non-cis or are not versed in gender identity, this is a great jumping off point.

As you can see from the above NPR glossary, there are a lot of terms people use to label their gender. Or they prefer not to label their gender at all or feel they have no gender. Gender expression varies greatly from one individual to the next. Even two people who identify as men might express themselves differently. Not every genderfluid person will express themselves the same.

It really is up to the individual how they express their gender based on internal feelings, their dress, behaviors, and so forth. When dealing with other people, it is always a great idea to ask about preferred pronouns and gender terms.

I’ve always identified as cis-gender male and connect with my gender assigned to me at birth. I use he/him pronouns, but would not be offended if someone used they/them. Even if someone called me she/her, I don’t think I’d get all that upset. Sometimes I do like to paint my fingernails (because a guy likes to feel pretty sometimes) and I have a penchant for cardigans, but that doesn’t change the fact that I feel male and connect with that gender.

Regardless, in POSSIBLY TEXAS (coming March 2021), there is a character who is genderfluid.

Auguste Anderson is biologically male, assigned male at birth, generally uses he/him pronouns, but identifies as genderfluid. He expresses this a lot in his clothing choices. He spends his days at the barn down by Susurrus Creek, working on his art, and then does mysterious things when night falls. He’s also the person who shows the main character, Jordan, around Possibly proper.

He is “The Boy from the Barn,” which you will learn more about when you read the book.

For me, writing Auguste has been as natural as writing any other character I’ve ever written. A character’s voice pops into my head, and I just seem to understand them. Maybe I don’t understand how it feels to be genderfluid or non-cis since I am cisgender, but I understand what it means to be Auguste.

Writing Auguste is like writing any character who is radically different from myself–which is almost all of my characters, to be honest. I write who they are as a person, as I see them in my mind’s eye, and try to honor that. I do my utmost to be respectful and educated about different identities, ethnicities, genders, religions, and so forth, all while keeping my mind open to learning more each day. However, I also try to stay true to the character.

One thing I keep in mind when writing different identities is this:

If I am writing someone of a different race or ethnicity, I could speak to dozens of people who align with that race or ethnicity, but none of them will have the same experience. Though they will have many things in common (most likely), experiences differ from person to person.

The same can be said for non-cis queer people. I could never one-hundred percent describe the experiences of a non-cis queer person so that every non-cis queer person would say “It me!” when they read the story. All I can do is learn as much as I can about non-cis queer people and do my best to honor that while staying true to the character. I also have to do it fearlessly–like I do with all of my characters. I can’t get into my own head about whether or not what I write will align 100% with every person who shares a character’s identity. I will most likely ruffle feathers unintentionally. I have to accept that and be willing to listen to people who feel I did a character injustice or was not as respectful as I could have been.

It’s all part of being a writer. You hope you are respectful and educated and kind, but sometimes you might fuck up. All you can do is keep an open mind and be open to listening, learning, and growing.

Aside from these facts, there is one thing I am certain of when writing a non-cis queer person in a romance story.

Love is universal for those who experience it.

This goes for ANY character I write. Sex, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, creed, sexuality…love is love. Culture and environment (not to mention nature vs. nurture) might play a role in how someone expresses their love, but the feelings are the same for everyone. When we find our person, it’s the same for us all. A non-cis queer person will not feel love in a different way than a cisgender queer person. Love is love is love is love…

In the end, I’m still writing a story with a romantic element between two human beings. What they look like, how they identify, and how others see them doesn’t factor greatly into their human experience with love.

When people read about Auguste, I do want to represent non-cis queer people well and be as respectful as possible. But I also don’t want people to think that how he loves is different because of his gender expression (or lack thereof). Like many people, Auguste wants to love someone for who they are, and have that person return the love, regardless of how gender is expressed.

So, to make a long story short, I don’t find writing any character difficult based on their identity(ies). As long as I can keep an open mind and lead with kindness and respect, things usually fall into place.

And if they don’t, I’m always willing to learn and grow.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,

Chase

Gimme More

On Twitter, I recently asked friends to suggest blog topic ideas for me. My creativity had run dry for blog post ideas. I suppose my muse was only interested in my fiction writings and had no desire to assist me with the blog for a while. While the muse has returned since my Twitter post went live, there were so many good ideas presented that I just had to use some of them.

Felyx Lawson, author of L.I.F.E., suggested that I write a post about what I want to see more in LGBTQIA novels. While I am an author and can write any thing I feel that a story needs, I’m also a reader. I don’t just write–I read, too! There are certain things I’d love to see more of when I read other people’s books.

Readers–even those who also write–have opinions about books. Imagine that...

Overall, just seeing more LGBTQIA novels is great. Ask someone older than me who identifies as LGBTQIA, and they will tell you how they struggled to find a single story that accurately represented them in their youth.

Even if there was a book, it was terrifying to buy a copy or ask for it at the library. Buying books online has only been somewhat common for around 20 years. The teenagers of my generation (and those that follow) are the only ones who have benefited from relatively anonymous shopping for LGBTQIA materials.

Thank to the internet, fan fiction posted on personal sites, sites like Archive of Our Own, Wattpad, Tumblr, and even Amazon, it has been increasingly easier for young LGBTQIA people to find stories that better fit their human experience. All without worrying about judgment from others, coming out before they are ready, or having to travel to an LGBTQIA bookstore the next town over.

Publishers big and small have seen the market boom for LGBTQIA books–and realized the expendable income LGBTQIA people are willing to part with for stories that align with their lives.

Things are definitely getting better for LGBTQIA people as far as the publishing world goes.

However, there is still specificity to LGBTQIA experiences that a lot of popular books are missing.

Larger bodies, people of color, disabled characters, immigrants, age gap, polyamory, and basically any letter in LGBTQIA that is not the L and the G need more representation. Furthermore, they need more genuine representation, preferably by authors who write Own Voices.

Not that I mind reading about an MC who is a hot jock or a slender twink or a lipstick lesbian. I don’t mind the billionaire falling in love with the hot commoner who doesn’t know how hot they are stories. Any story told well that is entertaining is in danger of meeting my eyes.

But what about the jock who falls in love with the chunky guy? Or the two chunky guys finding love? Where are my shades of skin tones from alabaster to onyx? And can the stories simply be about the romance without there being the undertone of: “will the hot guy love me even though I’m fat?

I’m guilty of that last one, so no shade to any writers.

While I’ve been reassured that many heavier people often are worried that their body type will make people feel a certain way about them, I would also love to see representation of fat people who are comfortable in their skin and know their worth as romantic and sexual beings.

I want to read about an LGBTQIA immigrant and throuples. Why is love between three people any less valid than that between two people? I want accurate trans, bisexual, intersex, and (for God’s sake) asexual rep.

I don’t want every POC I read to be “light-skinned” to make them more palatable to white readers. Ebony and onyx and copper and golden and dusky and olive–all skin tones are gorgeous. Every shade deserves their LGBTQIA story to be told. And I’m desperate to read them.

I’m tired of seeing age gap romances being viewed as “taboo.” Two consenting adults finding love should be celebrated–not judged. There need to be more romances where adults (regardless of arbitrary characteristics) are allowed to love each other and have their happy ending.

Disabled characters are lacking in all publishing, as far as I’m concerned, but especially in LGBTQIA stories. In two upcoming books, I have a disabled character who uses a wheelchair and another who is non-verbal due to a congenital condition. I’ve written stutters and lisps and ASD–and I want to see more disabled characters without the disability being the only plot point to the story.

I want to see a broad spectrum of LGBTQIA people and learn about what it’s like for them to be LGBTQIA…and themselves.

I want to read how they love, how they mourn, how they make money, deal with family issues, find acceptance. Because, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I want my media to more accurately represent what my life looks like. It’s not all Caucasian gay twinks and jocks walking around and falling in love at prom. Black, brown, short, tall, thin, fat, with a range of abilities and means and privileges (or lack thereof), accents and religions, and ages and ethnicities. Stories I’ve read that meant the most to me are not just the well-written ones that were the most entertaining–they were the ones that made me consider how I think about people different from me. They challenged me to consider what it’s like to be “othered” in a way that I am not familiar with in my daily life.

They taught me compassion, empathy, and sympathy. Those stories touched the deepest part of me that is human.

The best stories taught me about life.

And in life, I want to see the rainbow.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,
Chase

On Second Thought…

Recently, I posted something personal on Twitter that made me think back on my life over the last 3 1/2 years–the entirety of my writing career (well, the part where I was getting paid). It seems like it has been a lifetime (in a good way) since I made my first dollar from some truly awful erotica. It feels just as long since my first novel–JUST A DUMB SURFER DUDE–was published on June 25th, 2018. I remember clearly the moment I hit the button to make it available for purchase on Amazon/KDP. My only thought was: “Well, we’ll see what happens.

Who knew that a little book about a trio of friends and their love entanglements at an exclusive boys school in Vermont would actually give me a writing career?

Regardless, though 3.5 years is far from being a lifetime, a lot can happen in such a length of time. Love, loss, health concerns, triumphs, failures, sadness, happiness, humiliations, love, sex, fights, reconciliations, friendships…food. So much life is lived and so much experience is gained in such a relatively short amount of time. This is especially true between one’s early teenage years and 30 years old. They are such formative and informative years of life.

If you told me what would happen between June 25th, 2018 and now, I wouldn’t have believed you. In fact, it probably would have terrified me. Not that my life isn’t great and filled with joy–because it is–but there have been struggles and sadness along the way, too. Such is life, right? You just hope that the joy outweighs the sadness. In my case, the joy has made the sadness seem like nothing more than a petty annoyance.

I’m so grateful.

I’m not the same meek, self-conscious 26 year old I was when I first published. Okay. Maybe I’m still a little self-conscious, but I’m working on it. Also, I am pretty meek, I suppose. Unless I’m on social media and I have to “be on.” My default setting is “chill” unless I’m with people I am close to in real life.

Forty-two months have irrevocably changed me. Almost entirely for the better, in my opinion. Some may disagree, but that’s not something with which to concern myself. As I creep up on the beginning of my fourth decade of life, I don’t just look back on life itself, but on my creations.

When I write, I borrow a lot from life. Not to say that every event in one of my books has happened in my life, but the emotions, philosophies, morals, beliefs, sense of humor–it all guides my brain when it tells my fingers what to tap out on the keyboard. Each time I wrote a book, it was like capturing the essence of who I am in a snapshot in time.

It makes me wonder…would those books be the same if I had written them now?

Ultimately, I have realized that every book I’ve written was a perfect snapshot of who I was as a writer *and* a person at that moment in time. There are things I’ve written that don’t resonate with me as deeply as they once did. There are things I’ve written that I am only starting to decipher as my innermost self trying to explain the world to me. There are stories I’ve written that I don’t think I would have written now because I don’t know if I believe what I wrote anymore.

It’s more common that I still 100% percent stand behind my stories, but there are exceptions. I’m not the same writer…because I’m not the same person. I’ll never be the same person. I’m evolving. As people do.

As things stand today, it’s possible that these thoughts have led me to a certain belief when it comes to writing and telling stories. Whatever it is you feel you have to get out, the stories you feel have meaning to you, it’s so important to tell them during the period of life that they come to you. They hold more weight and meaning. They help a writer to understand their journey as a person more deeply. And readers will feel more deeply connected to them. Even if the story stops resonating as much with readers, there are more readers coming along, moving into the stage of life that those stories resonate with, who will discover them.

Those stories live millions of lives in the hands of readers.

Writing is not just a person explaining what life means to them, but helping others to discover all of the different ways life can be lived. Stories help readers learn who they are, who they were, and who they want to become. An author takes their readers on a journey with them because as we all age and learn and experience and grow, the more stories we have to tell. The more insight we can pass along.

Books can be (and, arguably, should be) entertaining, but the best books leave a piece of the author’s soul with the readers. It creates a monument to what once was a snapshot of the writer’s life–even if it’s complete fiction.

I’m so honored to share my soul with you all.

Hopefully, it helps you on your journey. At the very least, I hope you’re entertained.

Tremendous Love & Thanks,
Chase