Author Interview: Meg Radiant

a woman in a leather jacket and grey jumper holding an open book, text says 'author interview: indie book spotlight'

Follow Meg Radiant on Twitter!

1.      Paperback, hardback, audiobook?

Paperback!  For reading anyway. I do love my special edition hardcovers! I read faster than people talk, so audiobooks lose my attention quickly.

2.      Pick a genre, any genre!

Bit of a cop-out, but Sci-Fi/Fantasy. I couldn’t decide between them!

3.      What is the first book you remember reading?

Remember? That’s a hard one. I think Gone with the Wind. I was in fourth grade – a bit out of my depth, but I was an ambitious reader even as a kid!

4.      What book shaped your childhood most?

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I love the imagination and humour of it!

5.      When did you first start writing?

When I was a kid. I stopped for a while after grade school, then picked it up again in early 2020.  And now here I am!

6.      What made you want to write? Does it still hold true?

I just love telling stories.  I also hope to spark people’s imagination!

7.      What book/poem are you most proud of creating?

I think every book I work on becomes my favourite.  I can see myself getting better.

8.      Did you publish your first book or is it for your eyes only?

Nope.  It was another novella – I may return to it for fun, but I have too many ideas I want to work on right now.

9.      How many books/collections have you published so far?

One published, with the sequel coming soon, and a short novel following shortly after!

10.   What genres do you write in (or hope to)?

Keeping in the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genres!  My true loves!

11.   Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head?

Only a little. Most of my stories are fantastical, but I research when I need to. I have a science background, so I love to research anyways!

12.   To plan, or not to plan your plot?

I plan super lightly. The largest outline I wrote was about 1000 words! 

13.   What route of publishing have you chosen? Do you plan to stick with it?

Self-publishing! I feel it’s the best route for me. I plan on staying that route.

14.   If you could live inside another author’s universe, which one would you pick? (Ex: Middle Earth, Narnia, etc.)

 Middle Earth. Tolkien’s universe is so close to my heart.

15.   Do you currently have a WIP?

Oh yeah. It’s a more high fantasy style story, super excited to write about elves and dwarves and tree people and magic.

16.   Tell me about the character you’ve created who is dearest to your heart.

The main character of my WIP. She’s a lot of fun to write!

17.   What do you consider your *current* magnum opus?

My WIP. For now. I plan to always aim higher!

18.   Do you have a favourite romance in your books? Or, if yours features no romance, tell us about your favourite character friendship!

Yup, once again, my WIP. It’s a crush at first sight enemies to lovers type thing. 

19.   Do you listen to music as you write? Recommend a favourite writing song.

Always! I always love music. Right now a great one for writing magical scenes is by Faun – Tamlin. I want to write a story that has the feel of that song!

20.   Do you have any character art for your books, whether by you or another artist? (Be sure to credit/link if you can!)

Not yet!  Hopefully soon!

21.   If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

Just write. Get started. Get excited! Once you get that first draft of your first story done, it means you finished a story! That’s huge.

22.   Have you entered any writer contests? Tell us about your experience!

Just a flash fiction one. It was pretty easy to enter, and even though I didn’t win, still enjoyed getting that short piece ready for submission.

23.   Who are your top 5-10 favourite writers?

J.R.R. Tolkien, Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Saladin Ahmed, Kat Howard (I’ve only read an Unkindness of Magicians, but I loved it SO MUCH). I also recently read The Black Tides of Heaven by Neon Yang, which I also loved! I have memory issues (thanks brain!), so these are what I can think of now.  There are definitely more!

24.   Link us your book/twitter/goodreads or wherever we can best connect with you!

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#IndiePride: K.B. Davenport – Magic in Autumn Springs

 KB Davenport. From the author of Game the Show and Home for Halloween by KB Davenport. #IndiePride.

THIS #INDIEPRIDE SPOTLIGHT POST FOCUSES ON KB DAVENPORT’S MAGIC IN AUTUMN SPRINGS

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Author Interview | Website

Magic in Autumn Springs by KB Davenport.  From the author of Game the Show and Home for Halloween. Cozy fall vibes, small town community, witches and spells, spooky hayrides, moonlit magic, talking familiars, found family, tortured villain, bookish mc, mm romance.

Blurb:
A picturesque small town. A budding romance. A mysterious grimoire.

Welcome to Autumn Springs, a woodsy southern hamlet full of charming folks and scenic beauty. Meet Damian Baxter, a self-professed homebody who works diligently as a librarian at Autumn Springs College. He spends his evenings in his cozy Victorian home on Starry Night Way reading and curling up with his cat, Marble.

After he unlocks his grandmother’s grimoire, Damian begins a magical journey he never could have imagined. With his trusty feline friend by his side, he trains for an incoming threat from a reclusive neighbor and the most powerful dark witch in town, Elias Robicheaux.

Will Damian be able to protect his uprooted life while managing his busy job and a new romance with Bartley O’Dowd, a handsome Irish transplant with a secret of his own?

Come along for a moonlit hayride and discover the mystery and magic in Autumn Springs.

Magic in Autumn Springs by KB Davenport. From the author of Game the Show and Home for Halloween.

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.

Author Interview: KB Davenport

text says author interview; picture shows candles, flowers, a jar with leaves, a dish with plants, and letters and books.

Followed KB Davenport on Twitter!

  1. Paperback, hardback, audiobook?

    I love all the formats. I have a few collectible hardbacks that I adore. I like audiobooks when I’m exercising or doing housework. I have lots of paperbacks and ebooks, too.

  2. Pick a genre, any genre!

    Fantasy! Cozy, witchy mysteries, paranormal comedies, fantasy romance. So many good sub-genres.

  3. What is the first book you remember reading?

    My mom read to me a lot when I was little. Owl at Home was a regular favorite.

  4. What book shaped your childhood most?

    I was obsessed with The Phantom Tollbooth. Still am.

  5. When did you first start writing?

    I started writing songs when I was around twelve or thirteen. In high school, I wrote so much poetry and some short stories.

  6. What made you want to write? Does it still hold true?

    Storytelling and expression. With poetry, it’s such a raw, distilled experience. It feels so cathartic sometimes. With fiction, I’ve always been interested in creating worlds and have had ideas that I’ve wanted to share. I also have a background in filmmaking and theory, so I love writing with lots of visual emphasis. I’d say I still write for the same reasons.

  7. What book/poem are you most proud of creating?

    I’m definitely proud of my debut book Magic in Autumn Springs. It’s very personal for me as it’s a tribute to family and the places I grew up.

  8. Did you publish your first book or is it for your eyes only?

    I have a lot of older stories and beginnings of books, but MIAS was my first full-length published work.

  9. How many books/collections have you published so far?

    I have one book as well as two Kindle Vella series I’ve published so far.

  10. What genres do you write in (or hope to)?

    Currently, mostly fantasy, poetry, humor, and a little mystery, but I dabbled in satire, suspense, and drama with my Vella series Game the Show. I love the idea of writing historical fiction, too. And speculative fiction. And thrillers. I’d love to do it all!

  11. Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head?

    It depends on the project. For poetry, it’s usually from a subconscious space unless something in the world inspires me. With fiction, most of my stories are set in the real world with fantasy elements, so I research quite a bit. I was also in school for an eternity, so I’m used to researching.

  12. To plan, or not to plan your plot?

    I plan most of it, but I’m also open to seeing where the story takes me.

  13. What route of publishing have you chosen? Do you plan to stick with it?

    Right now, I’m all self-published. I’m not opposed to traditional publishing in the future, but I felt like self-publishing was the right choice for me at the moment.

  14. If you could live inside another author’s universe, which one would you pick? (Ex: Middle Earth, Narnia, etc.)

    I would love to live inside the world of Howl’s Moving Castle, either the book or the film.

  15. Do you currently have a WIP?

    Yes! I’m working on a few: a sequel to MIAS, a book of poetry, a collection of short stories about Autumn Springs, a new drama/contemporary fiction project that I’m considering writing as either a novella or a play (or maybe a hybrid of both). I have a hard time focusing on one thing at a time.

  16. Tell me about the character you’ve created who is dearest to your heart.

    Marble! The queen of the night! She’s my MC’s familiar and best friend in MIAS. She’s a black cat with a brown sugary swirl on her back (hence the name). She’s a great teacher with a lot of wisdom and a little bit of sass. Spiritually, she’s a less selfish Salem Saberhagen. I want to write a spin-off series for her at some point as well.

  17. What do you consider your *current* magnum opus?

    My drama/contemporary fiction/play thing I’m working on. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever written, but at the same time it feels like it’s inspired by everything I’ve done. I’m really excited about it, but I think this will be a looooong project, so I’m probably hyping it too soon.

  18. Do you have a favourite romance in your books? Or, if yours features no romance, tell us about your favourite character friendship!

    MIAS features a romance between MC Damian and his new boyfriend Bartley that is very close to my heart. It’s inspired by my relationship with my partner.

  19. Do you listen to music as you write? Recommend a favourite writing song.

    Most of the time! Usually something instrumental or with few lyrics so I don’t get distracted. Joe Hisaishi is one of my go-tos. He composes Hayao Miyazaki’s films and has the right amount of energy and whimsy to inspire a lot of my writing. His song “A Road to Somewhere” is one of my favorites.

  20. Do you have any character art for your books, whether by you or another artist? (Be sure to credit/link if you can!)

    I don’t yet! I have a few art styles in mind. For my Kindle Vella series Home for Halloween, a cozy paranormal comedy/mystery, I hope to commission artist Lex Hunter (@AlexisAHunter) in the future when I can. Their art style is so cute and spooky and I love it.

  21. If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

    If you’re going the self-publishing route, you have to be (or at least pretend to be) a bit of an extrovert. When I published and joined social media, I had to put myself and my book out there in a way that I hadn’t anticipated and wasn’t totally uncomfortable with at first. It was really hard and still is sometimes, but I’ve met some great new writing friends, become a part of groups and projects I wouldn’t have without reaching out to others, and even seen some benefits in my personal life. Get ready to learn a lot of marketing skills, too, if you haven’t already!

  22. Have you entered any writer contests? Tell us about your experience!

    Not really. I entered several poems in contests as a teenager, but nothing in recent years.

  23. Who are your top 5-10 favourite writers?

    Tennessee Williams, Maya Angelou, Jane Austen, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Shakespeare, Kate Chopin, Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty, Agatha Christie.

  24. Link us your book/twitter/goodreads or wherever we can best connect with you!

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#IndiePride: J. E. Glass – Undergrounder

Jae E Glass. Undergrounder by J.E. Glass. #IndiePride

THIS #INDIEPRIDE SPOTLIGHT POST FOCUSES ON Jae E Glass’ Undergrounder

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Author Interview | Website

Undergrounder by J.E. Glass surrounded by arrows: all female case, healthy relationships, mutual pining, friends to lovers, that sweet hurt/comfort, fangs, claws and set oh my, scream into your pillow angst, soft, nerdy butch, bed-sharing trope, beauty and the beauty to the max, hidden worlds.
Undergrounder by J.E. Glass

Blurb:
Drowned by men. Saved by a monster.

The last place Alexandra Bailey expects her routine life of domestic journalism to lead is being sucked into icy floodwaters below New York City with a knife in her ribs. Headlines like this happen to other people, but it’s real, and she knows she’s dead. Which makes the circumstances of her survival as impossible as the woman who drags her from the water.

Saved but hardly safe, Alex wakes in the Underground, a world of misfits and monsters thriving below the streets. It’s a journalism goldmine. One Alex can’t resist digging into after learning her beastly savior is Leanna Farrow, adopted daughter of an infamous and “presumed dead” scientist. But Alex’s curiosity, coupled with her rapidly developing feelings for Leanna, put both women in danger when Alex’s inquiries pique the interest of a powerful family with bloody connections to the Underground.

If Alex wants to unravel the secrets of the world below she’ll have to walk the razor’s edge, but some mysteries are better left buried.

'An instant favorite and damn near perfect.' 
'I could not put it down. Once I started it was an addiction.' 
'A lovely and fresh addition to one of my favorite genres.' 
Available at Amazon. Pride Sale 99c. 
Undergrounder by J.E. Glass.

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.

#IndiePride: E.E. Snead – The Empress of Fay

E.E. Snead. The Empress of Fay: Mask of Shadows by E.E. Snead; The Empress of Fay: Bloodlines of Elements by E.E. Snead. #IndiePride

THIS #INDIEPRIDE SPOTLIGHT POST FOCUSES ON E.E. SNEAD’S THE EMPRESS OF FAY SERIES

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Author Interview | Carrd | Bookbub | Kobo

moodboard: tarot cards, a woman wearing a mask, a crystal ball on a board, a hand holding a flame, butterfly wings, hand holding electricity, hand holding water, hand holding vial, hands painted like starlight
The Empress of Fay: Mask of Shadows by EE Snead; an asexual MC, a bi fay society, found family, academy mystery, friends to lovers, elemental abilities, amazon & kobo.

Blurb for The Empress of Fay: Mask of Shadows:
Ruby Rivers, a fire elemental fairy, gets accepted to the most prominent fighting academy in all the land while holding a deep secret that she must not share. Her plans of wanting to live a normal fay life go erratic when two students go missing and Ruby’s true identity is in peril. Ruby and her friends take it upon themselves to go through whatever means to find the missing students all while learning the terrifying and life-threatening secrets of which the academy and the world holds. Not everyone is what he or she seems to be at this school. The past haunts even the bravest of heroes.

WARNING: This book contains explicit content. Depictions of realization of sexual assault (non-descriptive), murder, and death are present.

Blurb for Bloodlines of Elements:
Ruby Rivers has assimilated into her role as the Empress of Fay with best friend Sapphire Phire by her side. However, the horror of what happened at Starry Sprites still haunts their minds and while they’re trying their best to rule over the three empires, a coup of rogue fays are plotting to overthrow them. The siege of betrayal runs thicker than blood.

WARNING: This book contains depictions of murder, death, abuse, and PTSD.

photo of the author E.E. Snead
E.E. Snead

Bio: E. E. Snead was born in Philadelphia but considers herself a nomad of the lands of Pennsylvania due to her having to move every few years or so. She studied Creative Writing at Bucks County Community College and then English with Film Studies at Indiana University of PA. Her debut was when she started writing interactive fiction for various storytelling apps that generate millions of reads.

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.

#IndiePride: Bryony Rosehurst – Love, Anon, Cursed in Love & Meet Me On St. Patrick’s Day

Bryony Rosehurst. Covers for Love, Anon by Bryony Rosehurst; Cursed in Love: An adventure romance novella by Bryony Rosehurst; Meet Me On St. Patrick's Day: A Hayes Family Novel by Bryony Rosehurst. #IndiePride

THIS #INDIEPRIDE SPOTLIGHT POST FOCUSES ON BRYONY ROSEHURST’S LOVE, ANON, MEET ME ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY AND CURSED IN LOVE

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Love, Anon by Bryony Rosehurst.

Blurb for Love, Anon:
Christmas is approaching and Arden Hayes is in dire need of a date if only to convince her concerned family that she’s moved on from her failed marriage.

Rosie Gladwell is lonely in a city that isn’t hers, an ocean away from home, and every date that she’s been on ends in disaster. When she comes across an advertisement for someone willing to act as a Christmas date on new social media and dating app, Don’t Be a Stranger, she responds in the hopes that she won’t have to spend Christmas alone — even if it means spending the night pretending to be in a relationship with a stranger. However, as Rosie and Arden get to know one another, they seem to find an instant, undeniable connection. Is it as real as it feels, or just another act? 

Meet Me On St. Patrick's Day: A Hayes Family Novel by Bryony Rosehurst.

Blurb for Meet Me on St. Patrick’s Day:
Is it just the (bad) luck of the Irish that keeps pushing Brennan and Quinn together, or something more?

Quinn Hayes and Brennan O’Keeffe are nothing more than perfect strangers, but when their paths cross often over the years, always on St. Patrick’s Day, they realise that they seem to share a connection they’ve never been able to find with anyone else. Their personal lives are messy and chaotic and ever-changing in so many ways, but their link always remains the same — until a struggling, troubled Quinn makes a misguided mistake, and as a result, believes she has lost Brennan for good.

Years later, she unknowingly walks into his bar, and their lives become entangled once again, with Quinn landing a bartending job as Brennan’s co-worker at Irish pub, O’Keeffe’s. Will they finally get it right this time, or will Brennan’s secrets and Quinn’s shadowy past ruin everything once and for all?

Cursed in Love: An adventure romance novella by Bryony Rosehurst.

Blurb for Cursed in Love:
Ophelia is cursed. Ever since finding an old relic known as Eilidh’s ring in the Scottish Highlands three years ago, Ophelia’s love life has taken a downward spiral. When the opportunity comes to return the ring back to its resting place with its namesake, she seizes it with both hands in the hopes the curse will be lifted. However, when nervy, short-tempered, workaholic Luce is accidentally dragged into her antics (as well as down a couple of waterfalls), lifting the curse proves more difficult than planned — particularly with two con men trailing them in the hopes of getting their hands on a precious rare stone embedded within the relic.

Luce and Ophelia find themselves reluctant allies in their separate attempts to find peace. But hiking through the Hebrides in the middle of winter causes plenty of problems, and with the thieves closing in on Ophelia, tensions run high and feelings begin to develop. Will Luce and Ophelia find common ground and reveal themselves to one another as they work to get the ring back, or will Ophelia be bound to the same tragic fate as Eilidh for the rest of her life? 

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.

#IndiePride: Duane Simolke – Sons of Taldra

Sons of Taldra by Duane Simolke. A science fiction adventure. #IndiePride.

THIS #INDIEPRIDE SPOTLIGHT POST FOCUSES ON DUANE SIMOLKE’S SONS OF TALDRA

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Website | Barnes & Nobel | Author Interview

The Journey to Sons of Taldra by Duane Simolke

Sons of Taldra represents and reflects my growth as a writer and a gay man. I took an unplanned journey through my books. Though they weren’t published in the order in which I first began writing them, their release reflects my progression.

The Acorn Stories included gay characters and showed the prejudice they faced in a small town. They struggled against the bigotry and tried to find their voice. New Readings of Winesburg, Ohio was obviously about someone else’s book, but I looked at Sherwood Anderson’s unapologetic exploration of gender issues, including hints at an acceptance of gay or gender-nonconforming individuals.

Holding Me Together: Essays and Poems includes my long essay “Reactions to Homophobia.” I wrote “Reactions” to help me explore the internal and external bigotry I had feared for so much of my life. It suggested ways to react to anti-gay statements, but also provided a template for people who wanted to stop letting those words limit or imprison them. Many of the poems reflected those same ideas, while some got more into gay love. I later released a short eBook with just some of the poems, simply titled Selected Poems.

Degranon: A Science Fiction Adventure took me twenty years to finish, overlapping with college and other writing projects. The version that eventually saw print included the radical notion of people seeing same-gender love as an ideal. I later revised Degranon with the same-gender characters in much larger roles. (“Same gendered” is the term they use within the world of that novel.)

I collaborated on The Acorn Gathering and on The Return of Innocence. In both books, the queer characters simply exist, but they get less page time than the other characters. It’s no longer a big deal or a struggle.

Sons of Taldra uses characters and settings from Degranon, but it’s a completely separate novel that doesn’t require reading anything else first. Between all the action, that novel focuses on relationships: M/M, F/F, and M/F. Two of the male characters plan to marry. Of course, they need to defeat the alien shapeshifters first. Women hold most of the leadership positions, without anyone commenting on that fact. No one seems surprised or offended if two men kiss; it’s just two men kissing.

Sons of Taldra is easily my favorite of my books, and the one that I prefer people to read first. After that novel, I tried going back to writing short stories. I abandoned most of those, finding that I missed my space gays and longer narratives. Now I’m writing a new novel with one of the male couples from Sons of Taldra.

I think reading and writing queer literature helps many people explore what it means to be different and helps them find a commonality in that queerness. It helped me. We could hide queer content, suppress it, or apologize for it. Then again, we could polish it, put it out there, and tell others about it, because someone else wants or needs to find it.

Sons of Taldra by Duane Simolke. A science fiction adventure.

Blurb:
Alien shapeshifters have found the human world. Leader and her sons must stop the invasion. Maintainer Admiral Nil blames Leader for a series of tragedies and might pose an even greater threat than the changelings that want to feed on humanity.

One of Leader’s twin sons, Telius, simply wants to marry the man he loves. The other, Argen, struggles with the residual effects of a deadly drug addiction. The young men rally to Leader’s side as she faces humanity’s greatest threats.

Bio: Duane Simolke was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and now lives in Lubbock, Texas.

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.

#IndiePride: Bjørn Larssen – Children

Children by Bjørn Larssen. Book one of the Ten Worlds Cycle. #IndiePride
This #IndiePride Spotlight post focuses on BJØRN LARSSEN’S CHILDREN.

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Author Interview | WebsiteBooks

Photo of the author.

My Pride by Bjørn Larssen

My books have been nominated for various awards and submitted to contests. Sometimes I won. Mostly I didn’t. It didn’t matter a lot – although the gold medal awarded to Storytellers hangs where my imposter syndrome can always see it when I look up from the screen. When I saw my name on the list of Queer Indie Lit nominations, though, something changed. After a minute of stunned silence – how did this happen? is this definitely my name? – my skin began to itch with desire. I wanted this one because I was scared.

*

I was born in communist Poland, where everyone was normal, unlike the morally corrupt Americans and me. I was eight when I realised I wasn’t like other boys. Was I a girl? I tried on my Mum’s dress and I couldn’t take it off quickly enough. That wasn’t it. I was some other sort of abnormality.

When communism unexpectedly imploded, people woke up poor, confused, and too free to know what to do. The Catholic Church was the only institution they trusted and clergy knew nothing united people better than a shared enemy. And so, in 1990, they announced that The Homosexuals have infiltrated Poland. The only way to prevent them from destroying the society and making Baby Jesus cry was to follow and finance the Church.

In a totalitarian regime invisibility meant safety. Queer people knew that better than anyone else. After decades of hiding they weren’t trained to speak out, and even if they were, they’d need to find an institution stronger than the Church and its indentured servants – sorry, the government – to back them. There was again one narrative for one nation, only previously the nation was enslaved and now it was completely free, which made things very different.

I learned that gay men existed from my stepfather’s porn magazine. My initial reaction was a massive wave of relief – so this was what I was, and I wasn’t the only one (even if they all lived in America). I had no other resources, though. There was no internet. I couldn’t buy gay magazines – I was thirteen and had no idea they existed. I didn’t know about underground organisations like Lambda either, due to them being underground. I found out a gay café briefly functioned when I read it was shut down due to repeated acts of vandalism. My education, like everyone else’s, came from the Church.

I was evil. Disgusting. Sick. A pedophile. I caused AIDS. The only insult worse than “queer” and “Jew” was “faggot.” People like me did unspeakable things in clubs with no signs on their doors. I didn’t need to attend the church (I never have) to learn all this. Newspapers, radio, TV, neighbours, schoolmates, teachers, politicians ensured I wouldn’t forget what I was.

*

In 1993, a happening took place. A few gay people with masks on their faces appeared in a public space, existing. It was neither a parade, nor an expression of pride. It was suicidal courage. Those people made themselves seen. They asserted space in public. Everyone knew gay men were always naked except rainbow feathers sticking out of their bums, and since no such people were seen prowling the streets, it meant Our Children were reasonably safe. But the sneaky gays misled everyone by putting on clothes! The backlash was monumental. Clothed or not, gays had no business existing outdoors.

I was sixteen and still hadn’t actually met anyone who wasn’t either straight or closeted. I thought those people were incredibly stupid. They put all of us in danger of being seen! Now everyone knew the Church was right! The only silver lining was that they didn’t say anything, as far as I knew. That would just be the end, even if I couldn’t tell of what.

A year later Neil Tennant, the Pet Shop Boys vocalist, came out as gay. I loved Pet Shop Boys. I loved the music, the lyrics, the… the everything. And there was my idol, as famous as famous got, coming out. Telling people the truth when he didn’t have to. Now they would know, they would… would…

Inside my mind a little click-buzz marked a neuron path rewiring itself.

Maybe…

Maybe existing where people could see me wasn’t so unthinkable if Neil Tennant could do it.

*

I was twenty when I met my first boyfriend in 1997. He went to church every weekend to confess that he was sinning, i.e. seeing me, and switched off the lights when we had sex, so that Jesus wouldn’t see. I didn’t love him, but I didn’t know that, nor did I know that the sex was awful. What I knew was that telling Mum might mean ending up on the street, told that she no longer had a son. Those stories were amplified, warnings: don’t you dare.

I was also raised not to lie, though.

While telling Mum every time I went out, which I had never done before, that I was “seeing a friend” technically wasn’t a lie, it wasn’t truth either. I’ll tell her when the right time comes, I thought, but unfortunately the dumb brain had more to say. There was no such thing as “the right time.”

Mum cried and asked me if I would get AIDS. I told her the truth – I didn’t know. We used protection, though. As she sobbed wordlessly I realised I had known I was gay for seven years. She had learned a minute ago and her knowledge was limited to the narrative that made me an AIDS-spreader. The question could have as well been “do you have sex with children?” and it wouldn’t have been my Mum’s fault.

I was extremely lucky. I didn’t end up on the street. My brothers were surprised, but not disgusted. Mum said a few stupid things. So did I. I split up with the boyfriend, got a better job, moved out, met someone else, discovered what love felt like and, soon afterwards, what heartbreak felt like. I also discovered antidepressants and that when you hold your boyfriend’s hand in public people will throw rocks at you. I introduced him to Mum, we all had ice cream, and went for a walk in the park. When drunken cadets began to throw beer cans at us – yup, we were holding hands again – it was Mum who hissed “walk slowly and ignore them.” In a twisted way, it all went really well.

Over family dinner, I told everyone why I’ve been so happy in the last few months. They loved me exactly as I was and wanted nothing but my happiness, they all said. Encouraged, I brought my boyfriend over for xmas and it was lovely. I couldn’t believe my luck for whole two weeks, which was how long it took my aunt to tell me that if I wanted to attend Grandma’s birthday, I had to come on my own.

I didn’t think of it as “pride” when Mum begged me to come alone “just once” for Grandma’s birthday and I said I wouldn’t do it, because once I’ve done it once, things would stay that way forever. I was on confused autopilot. Why…? They said… they were… surely…?

Invisibility meant family, too.

I discovered I didn’t know how to kill myself.

*

In 2001, the first “proper” Pride parade took place in Warsaw. The TV showed close-ups of drag queens when reporting on the gathering of homosexuals. In 2003, the news showed close-ups of drag queens interspersed with shots of screaming skinheads as the speaker reported how many got injured and/or detained. There was no Pride parade to be watched in 2004 and/or 2005, because the president of Warsaw forbade “promotion of homosexual lifestyle.” The discussion on the radio mostly focused on the suffering of a caller complaining that he couldn’t beat homosexuals up, because the consequences were the same as for beating up people. The host commiserated. I switched off the radio and continued searching for a job. In Amsterdam.

I believed that twenty years later Poland would become a place where everyone could be free. (I was spectacularly wrong.) I just didn’t want to wait that long. Mum was neither upset nor surprised when I told her I intended to emigrate. “There’s nothing for you here,” she just said.

Running away wasn’t a display of pride. I didn’t care. The captain should be the last to leave a sinking ship, but the ship was doing perfectly fine and the captain was drowning.

*

Gays didn’t infiltrate Poland, but Poland infiltrated me.

After years of therapy I almost internalised that Amsterdam wasn’t Warsaw. There was no “coming out” here. I gradually learned that I could say “this is my boyfriend” without having to follow this with “…and if you have a problem…” since literally nobody had one. I no longer had to filter myself, watch my words, wonder what people think, scan my surroundings before kissing the man I loved.

I still did, though.

The day I married Husby was, cliché or not, the happiest day of my life. Hand in hand, dressed in our weirdest best, we walked home, our photographer friend documenting my seemingly permanent grin. 99% of me buzzed with joy and happiness. 1% was on guard, waiting for someone to yell at us.

And then someone leaned out of the window and yelled at us.

“You look great, guys!”

I have never felt more proud in my life. This was my day, my place, my husband, the most incredible man that had ever been born was MINE. I had it in writing now. And yes, we looked great.

In Amsterdam, that is. When we went to visit my Mum in Warsaw, Husby’s transparent shirt and my kilt stayed behind.

Don’t kiss me, don’t hold my hand, watch your words even in Dutch. Don’t walk too close to me. Before you put your hand on my leg in the bus, check who sees you. Never forget that our wedding bands don’t matter here. Legally we’re strangers, both of us unmarried. If you land in a hospital, I won’t be allowed to make any decisions on your behalf, possibly won’t be able to see you at all. Invisibility is safety. Only for a week. Then we can be proud again.

*

When I was working on Children I was…nervous. In the book I re-tell selected Norse myths from the point of view of Magni, son of ultra-masculine Thor, and Maya, ward of Freya – the Goddess of love. Magni is gay; Maya – asexual and aromantic. Certain people like their Norse Gods served blonde, heterosexual, and hateful towards everything that isn’t. I met some of those people in Poland. Their swastika tattoos did not symbolise divinity and spirituality. Those are not nice people willing to peacefully discuss differing opinions. I was sent a death threat once, and while I laughed it off – I found it a year late in Facebook’s “Other Messages” inbox I never realised existed – I haven’t quite forgotten.

I thought of changing the book to make it – safer. Maybe it didn’t need to have two queer MCs. Perhaps Magni could only be gay in his heart, off-page. Was it necessary to make Loki genderfluid? I shared those worries with another author, who responded with a question. “Do you want to write a safe book, or do you want to write the book you want to write?”

Safety meant invisibility and I had spent way too much time being invisible.

I permitted 1% of me to worry while the other 99% worked on a book I would be proud of. No compromises were made. Magni and Maya are exactly who they wanted to be. I pushed the fears – the internal Poland – aside. I mentioned Magni loving a man in the blurb, then took that part out, because it was there as an indirect content warning. It wouldn’t be there if Magni loved a woman. No more hiding in the closet – and no more hiding in plain sight. They’re here, they’re queer, and they are not sorry in the slightest about the inconvenience.

*

I had tears in my eyes when I won that Queer Indie Lit award. When I had promised to myself to never defile my covers with stickers or badges I hadn’t expected to be moved so deeply. I did not travel from Warsaw to Amsterdam. I went from being afraid to… still being afraid, but where you can see me.

It’s not the sticker I am proud of, it’s knowing I deserved it.

Children by Bjørn Larssen. Book one of the Ten Worlds Cycle.

Blurb:
Gods make lousy parents.

All Magni wants is peace and quiet, but when your father is the God of thunder, you don’t get to live the life you want. When Thor destroys all his son knows and loves, Magni vows to bring prosperity and end the violence… forever. But can you escape cruelty in a universe built on it, or the shadow of your father when everyone calls you by his name?

Maya, her rage more powerful than she knows, wants freedom to pursue her own destiny. Neither torture nor blackmail can make her obedient or pretty enough for Freya, her foster-mother and Goddess of love. Fighting for independence and revenge, can a mere human win a game where Gods dictate the rules?

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.

Author Interview: Duane Simolke

text says author interview; picture shows candles, flowers, a jar with leaves, a dish with plants, and letters and books.

Follow Duane on Twitter!

1. Paperback, hardback, audiobook?

As a reader, I prefer paperback, but my readers seem to prefer eBooks.

2. Pick a genre, any genre!

Science fiction.

3. What is the first book you remember reading?

I forget the name but can picture the cover! That should tell book marketers something.

4. What book shaped your childhood most?

Tarzan of the Apes or War of the Worlds. I loved both of those quick, exciting reads.

5. When did you first start writing?

Near my teens.

6. What made you want to write?

I loved books and storytelling.

Does it still hold true?

Absolutely.

7. What book/poem are you most proud of creating?

The Acorn Gathering: Writers Uniting Against Cancer, as editor and contributing author. Out of all my books, I like Sons of Taldra the most, though.

8. Did you publish your first book or is it for your eyes only?

I published it, but it wasn’t my first book to see publication.

9. How many books/collections have you published so far?

Ten.

10. What genres do you write in (or hope to)?

Fiction, scifi, fantasy, poetry, and nonfiction.

11. Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head?

It’s a lot of both. The research actually gives me more ideas for changing reality.

12. To plan, or not to plan your plot?

I planned my previous novels, but I’m not doing so for my WIP.

13. What route of publishing have you chosen?

Self-publishing.

Do you plan to stick with it?

If I can’t find a traditional publisher.

14. If you could live inside another author’s universe, which one would you pick? (Ex: Middle Earth, Narnia, etc.)

Middle Earth is the most elaborate and exciting, but it’s scary, too. Maybe Pern.

15. Do you currently have a WIP?

Yes, I’m writing a spinoff from Sons of Taldra.

16. Tell me about the character you’ve created who is dearest to your heart.

I can only narrow it down to two: Becky Blake (an artist in The Acorn Stories) and Taldra (a scientist, leader, and mother in Sons of Taldra) are both complicated and fascinating women. I loved writing them and getting to know them as their stories unfolded. The book blog FeedMyReads features interviews with both women: Becky Blake and Taldra.

17. What do you consider your *current* magnum opus?

Sons of Taldra.

18. Do you have a favourite romance in your books?

Telius and his boyfriend Jase-Dawn in Sons of Taldra.

19. Do you listen to music as you write?

No. I love music but want quiet while I’m writing.

20. Do you have any character art for your books, whether by you or another artist? (Be sure to credit/link if you can!)

I’ve had some incredible artwork created for Sons of Taldra. The links follow, and the pictures there include artist credits: General Sydra, Taldra and Argen, Telius and Jase-Dawn, Telius and Argen.

21. If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

Read more and edit more.

22. Have you entered any writer contests? Tell us about your experience!

Some, mostly in college. I haven’t won higher than second place, but appreciated the challenge and exposure.

23. Who are your top 5-10 favourite writers?

I can’t narrow it down that much and always regret trying. I read a wide range of scifi, fantasy, history, classics, humor, LGBTQ, and more.

24. Link us your book/twitter/goodreads or wherever we can best connect with you!

My blog includes links to my books and social media.

#IndiePride: Sarah Bell – The Murder Next Door

The Murder Next Door by Sarah Bell, #IndiePride

Twitter | Amazon | Goodreads | Storygraph | Book Links
Website | Author Interview | Book review of The Murder Next Door

THIS #INDIEPRIDE SPOTLIGHT POST FOCUSES ON SARAH BELL’S THE MURDER NEXT DOOR

Moodboard showing blood, wine, book pages, ink writing, smoke, a vial, an umbrella and a silhouette of a woman beyond a window
The Murder Next Door by Sarah Bell. Ace rep!, currently 99p/99c, murder mystery! Amateur sleuths! On KU! 1912! Yorkshire! Sapphics! Opposites attract! Established couple!
The Murder Next Door by Sarah Bell

Blurb:
A man is found dead on his study floor and his now-missing wife is the obvious suspect. To their neighbour, Louisa Knight, it’s a shocking piece of news but nothing more. However, when she tells her ‘companion’ over breakfast, Ada Chapman nearly breaks their teapot and looks ready to run out the door.

For Ada watched Mrs Pearce leave from the window of her painting studio. A moment’s glance of a fearful face brings back old memories and gives her doubts.

As far as the more pragmatic Louisa is concerned, Ada’s determination to investigate is bound to lead them into trouble. Again. Yet Louisa’s curiosity cannot be denied, and as the pair delve deeper into their neighbour’s life what they uncover only clouds the issue further. The question soon becomes not just ‘Who killed Mr Pearce?’ but also ‘Does that person deserve to hang for it?’

Even if the couple can find the guilty party, will they be able to agree what should become of them?

Author photo of Sarah Bell.

Author bio:
Sarah Bell is a queer indie author. She has enjoyed reading and writing since she was a child, and loves the chance to lose herself in other worlds and times.

Outside of fiction, her interests include history and language. Not too surprisingly then, she has a degree in History & English from the University of Huddersfield.

Her debut novel, The Murder Next Door, was released in June 2021.

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.