Hello again, everyone!
I hope your September is off to a great start. Fall is on it’s way and since I live in Florida, I’m hoping I don’t have to wait until December to enjoy it. I am NOT a hot weather gal!! Since my last blog, I have had the great pleasure of meeting some lovely readers from all around the globe at Dragon Con and personally delivering my new release, This Time. I hope you all had a fantastic weekend. It was so great to meet you all.
To all who have bought the book, I thank you, and I really appreciate the wonderful feedback and reviews I’ve been getting. This one was a labor of love and pushed me to grow as a writer, so I am particularly fond of both the finished product and the message with in. If you’re a hopeless romantic in search of a story where true love knows no bounds, I hope you’ll give This Time a try.
Also, if you’re looking for some great deals on lesfic, or maybe wanting to discover some new favs, checkout the huge sale at iheartlesfic now until Friday Sept 14. A bevy of authors, myself included, have books offered ranging from free to $1.99.
Now, onto this month’s featured author…I had the opportunity to sit down at Panera with fellow local writer, Rae Magdon, to have our chat in person. If you’re not familiar with Rae, she’s a wonderfully diverse writer who hits a wide array of genres and works hard to represent everyone in the LGBTQ community. We tackled the difficult topics of whether or not artificial intelligence can ever truly become a “person,” representation in lesbian fiction, and the joys of plain bagels.
SW: Alright. So, I’m going to put you on the spot a little bit. In three words or less, what words would you say describe your books?
Rae: Happy queer endings. (Laughing)
SW: (laughing) Great, I love that!
Rae: Or hopeful queer endings, you know?
SW: Hopeful queer endings. I like that too, and it’s exactly three words. Perfect. What would you like your writing to be known for.
Rae: (laughing) Could I use a same answer? Happy queer endings.
SW: Sure! Absolutely.
Rae: I just want people to know that you can be queer, like be a lesbian or bisexual or trans woman and be a hero; Be the hero or protagonist of your story and your story is not destined to end in tragedy. And by providing these hopeful narratives with a queer protagonist it means that people can have hope for their real lives and that deeply impacted me when I was reading stories growing up. I wanted to kinda pass it along.
SW: That’s a wonderful message. So then, what were some of the stories you read?
Rae: Well, I read a lot of, you probably remember this, The Xena Royal Academy of Bards, because it was free and I was a teenager. I didn’t have my own credit card to buy stuff, so…and these days fan fiction has filled in that gap of free reading material for people who can’t necessarily buy books.
SW: That’s how it all started?
Rae: Yeah. I read a lot of that and it made me realize for the first time that like, you can be a lesbian and be happy, and that was a message that was deliberately contradicted by everyone in my real life social circle, and so…to have that message was imperative.
SW: And you’re still very active in fanfic?
Rae: Yeah, I write a lot of fanfiction. I write fanfiction from The Legend of Korra, a lot of… Umm, I write for the Wynonna Earp fandom, Clexa, and I also write for Mass Effect, which is a video game by Bioware. Um…Sheppard and Liara and it’s…Sheppard is the main character, so to have the ability to romance a female companion who is also a main character when you are a female main character…like almost no video games do that. So Mass Effect and Bioware are really special to me.
Rae: You’re seeing more of it now though. When was it released? I think 2008. So it was like 10 years ago.
SW: If any of your books could be a movie, which one would you pick?
Rae: Lucky Seven.
SW: Is that one you’re working on right now?
Rae: It was just published in February.
SW: Oh, okay. So, what are you working on now? Lucky Eight?
Rae: Lucky Eight, a sequel. Lucky Seven is like Ocean’s Eleven, 50 years in the future cyber punk, only instead of robbing a casino, they are taking down an evil corporation with a virtual heist.
SW: It sounds great. Who would you want to star in it?
Rae: I don’t do fan casting.
SW: You don’t have to-
Rae: But Gina Rodriguez would make a great Elena Nevares.
SW: Sounds good to me. Who’s your favorite character you’ve written?
Rae: That’s a really tough one. Um… That’s a really tough one. Riley, my non-binary werewolf protagonist from Fur and Fangs has been really popular. Umm, I think the fact they openly use they/them pronouns over the course of the book, they come to start using those pronouns has meant a lot to some of my non-binary readers. And they are from the south, so they have all these dorky little southernism phrases like: As confused as a chameleon in a bag of skittles. So, they have all these cute little sayings from the south. I asked my father-in-law to help me with those, because he knows all kinds of weird ones.
Yeah, umm…but as much as I love Riley, I think tied for favorite is Sasha, from Lucky Seven as well. She is the leader of her team and she is a black, gender non-conforming lesbian, who is really important to her identity and yet it doesn’t define who she is. And in Lucky Seven she just covers a big twist about her memories in the middle of the book. Because it is science fiction, anything is fair game, so it really changes her perspective of things. And the book is half-told from her point of view. At first, you’re seeing her through Elena’s perspective and she seems kinda cold and distant and even a little bit cruel. Then, she finds out the big thing about herself and who she is and it completely flips and she is the narrator for the rest of the book. People go from like, thinking Sasha is cool, but not really relating to her a whole lot, to suddenly like, “Oh my God!” and her being their favorite.
Rae: And that’s exactly what I wanted to happen. And she is my favorite for sure.
SW: Very cool. And so, your favorite bagel seems to be plain.
SW: Is that your guilty pleasure food or do you have something else?
Rae: I’m boring. I like cheese pizza, plain bagels, and vanilla ice cream. I’m embarrassed to say that, but I also like Asiago bagels, onion bagels, egg bagels-
SW: Everything bagels?
Rae: Um, there a bit too crunchy in texture to me. We’re talking everything bagel, but I like a lot of bagels. And I like the occasional cinnamon bagel.
SW: Yeah, I like their cinnamon crunch bagel, or something like that, with hazelnut spread.
Rae: But I don’t think you necessarily have to have flavor on a bagel for it to be a good bagel.
SW: Oh yeah, definitely not. Bagels are definitely good. When I get back on carbs again (laughing) I’m gonna have a ton of them. Um, where was I at? So, if someone wanted to write more characters…or get into writing characters that are poly, asexual, and so on… How do you recommend they get started in that so they don’t feel like…I know a lot of people are afraid to-
Rae: To mess it up.
SW: Mess it up. Yeah.
Rae: Well, if you wanna write more diverse characters, you should read firsthand accounts both fictional and non-fictional of the group you’re trying to represent. You should do a basic Google search to figure out what the most common stereotypes plaguing that group are, so you are not asking Diversity 101 questions when you get to the next step. Which is to contact a sensitivity reader and be willing to exchange services with them if you’re completely broke, or pay them for their time. Which is what I do.
SW: What’s a sensitivity reader?
Rae: A sensitivity reader is someone from a group you’re trying to represent and you have them read your manuscript. Not to pick up typos and stuff. The sensitivity reader will go through and say maybe this isn’t so accurate to their personal experience as a member of that group. And it is important to recognize that sensitivity readers are still individuals. Minority groups, including ours, are not monoliths and everyone is different and so you’re never going to please everyone.
Rae: No matter what. So, if you do get criticism even after you’ve used a sensitivity reader, don’t cry, “I used a sensitivity reader!” I mean, you still have to either accept the criticism as something you can work on or not going to pay attention to because it’s more like harassment so… hopefully you can turn that into something useful.
SW: I can. Thanks.
Rae: But yeah, you wanna do research by reading firsthand accounts. You wanna do a basic Google search to know what the most common stereotypes are. My other advice, besides sensitivity readers, is to add more than one of the group your trying to represent.
SW: So, it’s not like the token?
Rae: Yeah, so it’s not tokenism. With Sasha, she is gender non-conforming. She presents in a masculine way. Unfortunately, there is a stereotype that all black women must be masculine. So, having Sasha as the only black woman, even though I think she is totally appropriate and cool as a character, and there are masculine presenting black women who deserve to see themselves in fiction…to have her be the only one might have made some unpleasant implications. And so, one of the other characters is also black. Her name is Val and she presents in a much more feminine way. And, I mean, I always refer to this about writing bisexual characters, because people ask me, “How do you write bi characters?” And I say, “Well, I have more than one.” Because then you can have one who is like slutty, but then you can have one that approaches sex differently and you’re not falling into a stereotype.
SW: I see.
Rae: Or you can have one who, a female bi character that ends up with a man, but you don’t have to upset your sapphic audience, you can also have another bi character that ends up with a woman. And you have to make both pairings prominent for it to work or else someone is going to feel cheated. But to have more than one bi character, you can have them be a different gender, different races, different…. like have different abilities and disabilities, and then like, that’s how the bi community is anyway.
Rae: So, your only reflecting reality when you do that, but adding more than one, having two or more, like two, three, five more of the group your trying to represent shows that there is a difference between them and they’re not just the token. Sorry, I have a lot of feelings about that question.
SW: It’s okay and that’s great. And I have to admit that, um, for me…I’m finding it harder and harder to write where I’m not second-guessing the analysis of what race or identity had such and such a result. And it’s hard for me, because I seriously never think of that stuff when I look at or meet people. Like the one I just finished, I had written it one way, then when I decided on a little unfortunate twist for one couple, I actually went back and made changes because…I don’t know…it seemed too negative for that particular group and I didn’t want to perpetuate that cycle. You know what I mean? But I hope it came out well.
Rae: It’s hard! It’s complicated. And it’s like we’ve been steeped in this stuff since childhood. And if it was just one story, it wouldn’t matter, but it’s…
SW: They pile up.
Rae: Yeah, they pile up on each other. Like one of my favorite shows just killed off one of their black male leads. Their only black lead.
SW: Wynonna Earp?
Rae: Yeah. And it was so disappointing. And I totally understand their reasons and they let him choose his ending.
Rae: He’s the one that wanted to leave and like, I get that, but at the same time, it still contributes to the trope.
SW: Right. Right.
Rae: And I mean, you don’t have to. Something doesn’t have to be perfect for you to enjoy it. What you can’t just say, if you make bunch of excuses instead of acknowledging, “I like this show that did something shitty.” They had their reasons, but it’s still a cultural problem and there has to be space to discuss that.
SW: True. Yeah. Well, we’ll see how that one goes, what they do.
Rae: We’ll see.
SW: Who they replace him with or how they go with it, but um, yeah…I saw that episode. I was watching it the other night.
SW: Yeah, so, that’s good information. Lots of good things to think about, you know, if you’re trying to get started. I never would have even thought about half of what you said. You know what I mean? Because there is just so much of it. All right, so, what inspires your stories?
Rae: Um, well actually I read a lot of children’s literature. Ah, and I really enjoy that. That obviously doesn’t inspire the smutty parts.
Rae: But some of the basic plots have been inspired by children’s literature I grew up with. Um also, usually my books are framed around a question. For example, Lucky Seven is framed around the question what makes you human? Um, if you are a clone of yourself, but you have the same memories, are you still the same person? If you are an artificial intelligence at one point, do you become an actual person?
SW: Uh hum.
Rae: If you have some of your memories forcefully erased and then you have a different perception of your life, does that make you a different person or are you still the same person? So dealing with artificial intelligence and cloning and memories as a way to explore the question what qualifies as a human? It was a really interesting question to me and that turned into a book.
SW: Interesting. Have you seen the James Cameron series that’s on tv? One of them was on artificial intelligence. One was time travel. They interview all these different people and they go back to like the earliest literature on the AI one about where robots come from, what it means, how it evolved, and future applications. You know, half the people think that Terminator is coming and the other half of people thinks you know, they can evolve but at what point to do they become, you know…people?
SW: Because that one place in Saudi Arabia actually gave that artificial intelligence, Sophia, a citizenship. Did you see that?
Rae: No, but it’s an interesting question and I felt it necessary to explore. Also, the theme of Capitalism on steroids, because of the current climate that we live in and the place we live. I felt like that theme was just…it had to be included in the book and it is cyber punk. So, that’s a big part of cyber punk as well.
SW: Very cool. And so, you don’t just write cyberpunk. You write many different genres. When I was looking on your site there were thrillers, you’ve done sci-fi, various others…
Rae: Fantasy, sci-fi, mysteries, thrillers.
SW: Now you’re doing video games. What else do you wanna do?
Rae: Well, I wrote a screen play for Tello Films that is being turned into a web series.
Rae: It’s called Room 13 and it’s about a music student. It’s loosely based on my life, except for the ghost parts, unfortunately.
Rae: Or fortunately (laughing) but it’s about a music student who, um, while practicing in a haunted practice room finds the ghost of a girl who died there. And together they start to form a friendship and eventually a romantic relationship. They have to figure out how she died and what happened.
SW: Very neat.
Rae: And so, I also wrote the music for that, because in my other life, I was a flutist. I went to school and got a bachelors degree in flute performance. So…
Rae: In my other life that’s what I did.
SW: Nice, you’ve got a lot of things going on for you. Do you still play the flute at all?
Rae: Yeah, sometimes.
SW: That’s cool. Um let’s see, what else? How many tattoos do you have?
Rae: Um, I have these…(holds up arms) which are the female characters who inspire me. Korra and Asami, from Legend of Korra. Lexa and Clarke from The 100, and then Sheppard and Liara from Mass Effect. And then I have one on my hip that I got on my honeymoon. It’s of a family crest.
SW: Very nice. No Xena tattoo?
Rae: No Xena tattoo.
SW: No Wynonna Earp? No WayHaught?
Rae: Maybe someday.
SW: (laughs) Maybe.
Rae: I could always add.
SW: Sure. Well, I really appreciate you sitting down with me today, Rae.
Rae: You hit on a lot of topics that I really care about and that I am excited to discuss.
SW: Great. That’s good to hear. One last question. Actually, I think you already nailed it with the flutist, but I was going to ask if there was a little-known fact you’d like to share? But the flutist was certainly interesting.
Rae: Well, I was a flutist in my previous life and you can use that. I’m trying to think of another interesting fact about me…I rode an ostrich in Aruba. I swam with dolphins in Hawaii.
SW: Did you stay on the ostrich?
SW: How was the ride?
Rae: It was fine.
SW: Was it? It looks crazy.
Rae: They’re big solid birds. Really big!
SW: Sounds fun. Thank you again, Rae, and I wish you tons of success on your upcoming projects.
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