#IndiePride: Raina Nightingale – Kindred of the Sea

Kindred of the Sea by Raina Nightingale. #IndiePride

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Kindred of the Sea by Raina Nightingale.

When Corostomir and his partner march into battle and find themselves dreaming the dreams of trees, they know that all is not what it seems. . .

The Valor Alliance has declared war on Elethri, naming it haunt of demons and forest of the nightmare. But when the Valor Soldiers are driven back with enchantments of sleep and not with arrows, his partner, Aderan, and their friend soon convince Corostomir that a nation that will not shed the blood of its enemies, let alone that of its own people, cannot be in the thrall of the nightmare. Corostomir and Aderan must now make a difficult decision, one that is forced when the Valor Alliance sends the Army back to attack Elethri, this time by sea instead of land.

Kindred of the Sea is an enchanting tale about the love and intimacy possible in an asexual relationship and a trope-defying Portal Fantasy.

Author’s Moodboards:

Various images of caves.
A group of knights; a woman in a garden; a forest; a campfire; a cathedral; a ship at sea; candles.

A note from the author:
Everything is not about sex.

A weird thing to start a post for Queer Month with, I suppose. Or maybe that’s just another misunderstanding on my part.

If I remember correctly – and my wording is certainly not the original – someone described ‘Queer’ as meaning that one’s identity is not defined by societal conventions relating to one’s biological gender. I’m wary of communities and afraid of groups, but I figured that was something I could get behind.

Everything is not about sex.

Maybe that’s an odd thing to say, maybe it isn’t. But it’s what it’s about for me.

There’s two sides to this for me: we’re different, and it’s good to be different, but also, I think being aware of our differences and how other people are different can be helpful to us personally, kind of like forests usually aren’t monocultures of just one plant all exactly the same!

I’m asexual. Sometimes, I’m afraid of that label. Sometimes, I’m afraid to use it for anything I do or write. I’m half-afraid of all labels. It’s hard for me to deal with labels. I don’t understand labels very well. I am going to make mistakes in how I use it, from at least one person’s point of view, and probably a lot more than that.

I’m asexual. For me, that means everything is not about sex, in both ways that statement can be read: not everything is about sex, but also, for me personally, nothing is about sex. Romance is a lot harder for me to speak to. I can understand sex and what that is. After all, it involves a biological function. That might not be all it involves, but it’s enough for me to start with. Romance? I’m not so sure. I need to get someone who experiences both sexual and romantic attraction to explain the difference to me sometime, but I also suspect romance is one of those words that means different things to different people.

But what I do know is, not everything is about sex or romance. I’ve always been frustrated by how much gets made about sex – and romance. By how very often, in stories, everyone seems to need to get a love interest or have a sexual – or at least a romantic – relationship. Very often, the two go together. In a way, asexual representation is something that has been deliberate, or at least conscious – though definitely so instinctual I doubt it could have not developed – in my novels, since long before I knew the word – or that so many people were so drastically unlike me and all those romantic and sexual feelings weren’t exaggeration and/or literary license. When I wrote the Return of the Dragonriders Trilogy (at least when I wrote DragonBirth at thirteen), I was still a little stuck on the “main characters are a male/female duo who have something going between them” trope, but Silmavalien and Noren’s relationship is platonic as well as romantic, and they most definitely do not experience what I now understand to be ‘normal sexual attraction’ – so, acespec – and Keya is asexual: she wants a close lifelong connection with someone, and since she has very limited exposure, she thinks that means marriage, but she and Silmavalien are platonic lovers, and gradually Keya realizes she has what she wanted (or as much of it as a person can expect to have anyway) between her friendship with Silmavalien and her dragon. And when I started writing the Kaarathlon Novels, this was a lot more deliberate! I deliberately intended to write a “Christian Fiction” (though this isn’t the only way it differs from most Christian Fiction) that featured characters who did not need sex or romance, and even characters who did not particularly want sex or romance, alongside ones who at least sort of did.

I understand a lot of people have found that, in their experience, most books tend to represent only asexuals who have absolutely no interest in any kind of sexual or sex-involving relationship. I want you all to understand: I am not saying that the books you want should not exist! I am not saying I don’t like and enjoy the books you want. I am not even saying that I don’t write them: I actually have a good number of ace-spec characters who end up in relationships. But what I, personally, have found is that there tend to be two kinds of asexual representation, more or less: asexuals who fall in love with someone more sexual than themselves, and end up participating in that element of the relationship, and asexuals who can be very loving, loyal, caring people, yes, but they don’t seem to be affectionate – they somehow seem emotionally distant, even when their emotions are fierce. And I am not saying either is bad! Both are good things, and it would be a bad thing if none of either existed.

I’ve always wanted stories about people who are affectionate, tender, intimate, and emotionally close – but without sexuality, or even romance, being a part of their relationship. I think it’s good for both asexual people and non-asexual people to see that (just like I can and do read books about people who are pretty interested in sex and romance – and I enjoy them, what I just don’t like are two things: books that seem to make the assumption that everyone needs that and seem to force relationships between characters just to wrap things up and have a nice romantic ending, and, secondly, the fact there are so few books (that I’ve found anyway) that do what I want). Friendship can be close, fulfilling, satisfactory, and affectionate. Friendship can be intimate. Intimacy isn’t all about sex. Friendship can be tender and loyal.

That’s the main thing Kindred of the Sea is about, if I can make such a claim as that there is one main thing! But Kindred of the Sea is probably one of the only books I’ve ever written that I’m half-willing to make such a claim about. It’s a book that says: asexuals aren’t broken, and we’re not missing out on life if we never find a sexual relationship. It’s possible for a relationship that has nothing to do with sex to be fulfilling and affectionate – and even to have qualities many sexual relationships don’t have!

The main relationship in Kindred of the Sea is the one between Corostomir and Aderan, two young men who circumstances and choices brought together as boys some ten years ago, and who discovered that they had some things in common – such as a love of the sea most other people thought was insane – and that they loved doing things together. Over the decade since then, they’ve grown to trust each other absolutely and be vulnerable with each other, and that their relationship is what makes life for them. It may have acquired a dash of romance somewhere along the way (it’s hard to know for sure), but the essence of it is and always will be platonic love. Platonic love as enduring, as committed, as affectionate, as tender, and as intimate as any romance, that gives them the freedom in the trust and vulnerability they have with each other to challenge their religious prejudices.

But there are other important friendships in their lives, too, a Valor Knight named Clindan, Corostomir’s bond to the dragon Aglarath, and the dolphins, Arlas and Adris, and Kindred of the Sea is about those friendships, too, and how they interact with the ‘main friendship’. A lot of times when we say ‘platonic love’ or even ‘platonic soul-mates’, I feel like a certain distance is assumed. Kindred of the Sea is a story that challenges that assumption, and it needs to be challenged. To give people the freedom to find who they are. To know that there are other ways to be life-mates, soul-mates, than romantic attraction. To respect that we’re not broken, and we’re not missing out on the most fulfilling, satisfying experience of human life because we haven’t had sex or don’t experience sexual attraction. I hope Kindred of the Sea provides a glimpse of a fulfilling, satisfying, affectionate relationship that isn’t based on sexual or romantic attraction to both asexuals and others.

(Yes: I know. We need male/female stories like this, too. I’m working on one, or at least I will, as soon as I finish one of my far-too-many Works-In-Progress. Well, ‘like this’ is an overstatement. I don’t expect their relationship to be like that of Corostomir and Aderan, but it will certainly be a very close friendship with no sexual or romantic attraction. I think books like that are desperately needed, but there were reasons that this one had to be male/male.)

Author Bio:
Raina Nightingale has been writing high fantasy since she could read well enough to write her stories with the words she knew (the same time that she started devouring any fiction she could touch). She especially loves dragons, storms, mountains, stars, forests, volcanoes, a whole lot of other things, and characters who can make you feel what they do (up to a point). When she’s not learning and exploring either her fantasy worlds or this one, she enjoys playing with visual art, among other things. She will always believe that kindness is stronger than hatred and that we will never be aware of all the magic in the world. She calls her fiction Dawndark.

Check out the rest of the books and authors being spotlighted for #IndiePride, go here. For the book reviews of the ones I’ve already read and reviewed, go here. For the Goodreads list of the books, go here.

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