Why It Matters

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“I’m not homophic, but I just don’t get why people keep shoving LGBT characters in my face!”

“Does everyone have to be gay nowadays?”

“Why do I need to know a character’s sexuality? It doesn’t matter! This isn’t romance!”

 

The above statements are all things I have heard or seen in response to articles and blog posts about representation of LGBT+ characters in books, television and film. The number of people I have had lodge complaints to me about this very subject, especially concerning Hellbent Halo, has increased with the release of the third book.

As I sat down to start working on the 4th book in the series, it occurred to me that I could and should address the question. I’m in a unique position to do so as someone who is a part of the LGBT community, and as an author who does not write romance or reverse harem.

Why does genre fiction—horror, science fiction, and fantasy specifically—need one more LGBT character?

My gut response it to ask…Why do we need another cisgender straight hero? Going back, western literary tradition is chock full of straight white men falling in love with women. Every aspect of western storytelling has literally thousands of examples of cis hetero relationships, from film to books to oral traditions. As a friend of mine put it on Facebook, “Imagine if I stopped reading books about straight people. I’d never have anything to read.”

To be honest, it’s actually fairly easy to find lesbian or gay fiction outside of romance in 2019. There are lesbian and gay couples everywhere. I’ve been able to have same-sex romances in most of my video games for several years now. Gay themes and gay coming out stories are everywhere.

But what about the bisexuals?

The B in the LGBT is so often overlooked when it comes to representation in the media, but that’s especially true outside of romance. Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled to see more bisexuals being represented in niche genres like reverse harem, but something about that just makes me a little uncomfortable too. It’s as if bisexual characters are only allowed to be bisexual in a sexual setting. None of these stories—at least none of the ones I’ve picked up—have talked about the bisexual experience, coming out as bi, and the unique challenges and struggles of bisexuals in a world that’s sometimes very binary.

Sadly, this is particularly true in the indie urban fantasy market, which is painfully full of toxic masculinity tropes, and where I’ve put down far too many series for making fun of anyone who doesn’t conform to the gender and sexual norms.

When I started writing Hellbent Halo, there were other authors actively discouraging me from writing in what one reviewer called “the unnecessary gay element” of Josiah’s past relationship with a man. Even the reviewer got it wrong. It’s not a gay element. It’s a bisexual element. We are invisible even to our readers, even when we put characters like us right in front of them.

But I’m not offended. I didn’t write Josiah as a homoromantic bisexual for them. I wrote it for me and people like me who didn’t grow up knowing bisexuality existed, for readers who grew up without an open dialogue, or who felt like they had to hide their attractions because they didn’t fit in a prescribed binary. Growing up, I often felt like a rectangular peg trying to fit in either a circular or square socket. If I twisted just the right way, I could fit in with one side, but that still meant being squished, contorted. Unhappy.

We need more bisexual characters in non-sexualized roles. More bisexual stories. More representation. It’s not an unnecessary element, it’s stories that haven’t been told, voices that have yet to be heard. Voices that should not be silenced because they make others uncomfortable.

Why do we need more LGBT characters in genre fiction outside of romance? Because we exist and we have all sorts of stories yet to tell.

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Josiah Quinn is the lead character in the Hellbent Halo series. You can read the books for free with Kindle Unlimited by clicking below:

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On Signing with a Publisher

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I’m excited to announce I recently signed a 21-book deal with LMBPN Publishing! That means The Judah Black Novels, Hellbent Halo, and The Lazarus Codex all have a new home.

When I first started publishing in 2016, I decided to indie publish my books for a variety of reasons. Urban fantasy was a hard sell in traditional markets, partly because a few big names were dominating the playing field, and agents/publishers just weren’t taking on new books in that area. As an indie published author, I also got to keep a much larger chunk of my book royalties and have 100% control over my publishing schedule, brand, and advertising. After talking to several authors on both sides—traditionally published and indie published—I decided that’s what I wanted to do.

I learned very quickly that it was more involved than I expected. When book sales started picking up with the publication of Death Rites, I was quickly overwhelmed. I was putting in 16- and 18-hour days and frequently working myself sick. You see, aside from all the writing, production of a book also requires spending a lot of time talking to designers, formatters, other authors for promotion, learning ads and marketing, editors. It was being “on” all the time, which is genuinely difficult for me, even if I enjoyed it.

At the same time all that was going on, I was involved in a child custody case with one of my stepchildren. The case dredged up some repressed memories and I found myself sitting in a doctor’s office while she explained complex post-traumatic stress disorder to me. The legal battle and the c-ptsd diagnosis affected me deeply late last year and I buried myself further in my work.

The downward spiral eventually meant I hit burn-out in November of 2018. I was so sick, mentally and physically, I couldn’t get out of bed for a week. At that point, I knew something had to change.

As much as I wanted to be in total control of my publishing empire, I knew I wasn’t doing a good job. In addition to the slow down in my publishing schedule, I brought on a personal assistant who took over a lot of the background work, saving me a TON of time. Working with Grace, I discovered giving up some control wasn’t a bad thing.

When a friend introduced me virtually to Michael Anderle at LMBPN publishing, I was skeptical. I was making a decent income. Signing with a publisher meant reduced royalties for me and I had just broken into making a livable income.

But working with a publisher also means I don’t have to shoulder the burden of publishing alone. It also meant having the backing of a powerhouse like LMBPN. I won’t bore you with the details, but I’ve been able to invest very little in advertising on my own. I don’t come from means. I jokingly call myself the Cinderella of indie publishing since I literally started doing this with negatives in my bank account. I can’t always pay for the multiple passes of editing and proofreading that the books need to be their best, or get the covers I think my books really need. I’m operating on a shoestring budget that hinders my reach as an author. I hope signing with LMBPN will help change all that for the better.

I have promised my readers from the beginning that I won’t ever put my name on a book that isn’t my absolute best work. That means every book I publish must meet minimum quality standards. That will continue to be the case. I will continue to write and publish the best books I possibly can for my readers. I firmly believe that my new relationship with LMBPN publishing will further those goals, and allow me to create a better work-life balance for myself and my family.

Thank you for supporting me and my publishing journey so far!

 

If you have any questions about the changeover, feel free to post them below or email me at eacopen@eacopen.com. There will also be more posts coming on the subject. 😊

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