Writing a Male Perspective

When I was fifteen, I decided to challenge myself as a writer. I wrote mostly fantasy, so I wanted to write something set in the “real world.” I wrote all girl protagonists, so I decided to write a boy. My main characters were straight, so I decided to make him gay.

The result? The very bad, very first draft that would become I Knew Him.

There was freedom in writing this story back then. I don’t think I fully understood it, but I think that was the reason I kept coming back to try and fix the story so it could actually be published. 

For many LGBTQ writers, writing a protagonist who isn’t straight is often the lightbulb moment for them. It’s the moment they realize what this character feels is what they feel as well. It certainly was for me writing Julian. While he started out in a way that I felt was totally different to me, over the years he shifted to reflect my experience more and more. I didn’t even realize I was doing it. Julian was gay in earlier drafts, but as I grew older and learned more about bisexuality, I felt it was more fitting for him to also be bisexual based on how he spoke about his ex-girlfriend in previous drafts. I became so wrapped up in learning about bisexual representation in media, and felt true despair when TV shows and movies failed to acknowledge it as a valid identity. It was only after several years of writing this book and caring so much about the bi representation that I began to ask myself why.

But that wasn’t the only place that I found joy and freedom in writing I Knew Him.

As a young writer, I found freedom in expressing Julian’s anger. In earlier drafts, this was more apparent, but as I grew up writing the story, this aspect of his character softened. I felt anger as a teenager towards friends and school situations I couldn’t control, but I had no way of fully expressing it. In school, boys who got upset hit walls or each other and it was seen as somewhat acceptable. But what could a girl do to feel the same release? I had nowhere to put the feelings I had. Even so much as speaking firm to a friend was seen as hostile or aggressive. So I wrote a character with whom it was acceptable to express this anger, and channelled mine into him. 

As I got older, and I learned better to deal with negative emotions, Julian’s character also shifted. He still felt a lot of anger and despair about his current situation, but there was a softer edge in his suffering. Instead of seeking to tear things apart, he sought to put them back together. He sought to find balance in his very imbalanced life by building a safe support system in friends like Sky and Kelsey.

I also wrote Julian to be more caring of the people around him, more “soft” as some might call him. The more I grew up as a young woman in this world, the more I saw the poison of toxic masculinity in everything and everyone. I wanted to write a boy who did not exactly abide by the rules, who had tried to fit into them in traditional ways by playing sports and picking fights, but ultimately felt deep hurt within that structure. I wanted to write a boy who respected the girls around him, who valued them as close friends. A boy who valued gentleness and felt great sadness to experience it, after so long going without it.

I might not have achieved all those goals a hundred percent, but that was my motivation in writing the version of Julian that now exists in the published novel. Writing Julian, there was so much I wanted to say, and I felt best saying it through him.

After writing I Knew Him, I decided to return to my “roots” so to speak and write another girl protagonist. This would later become Kat of We Go Together. Her story, her pain, hit so close to my heart. Among many things, We Go Together is about how the world is unkind to young girls, and how many queer women fall into toxic relationships with men for fear of being different. While writing Kat’s story was in many ways fulfilling and constructive, it was also incredibly painful. It felt so real, like a situation myself or a friend of mine could go through if fate was unkind.

I’ve since drafted ideas for other stories with young bisexual girls, and they are equally painful. The constant presence of the patriarchy and toxic masculinity weaves its way into all these narratives, whether I like it or not. It is ever-present, it is everywhere, much like in my daily life. It is so difficult to write about.

So, I turned to a new project. Another male narrator. And while he also experienced many painful realities of the patriarchy and toxic masculinity, it wasn’t quite so suffocating. I felt freedom again. And, like all my protagonists, he wasn’t straight either. I don’t think I can ever write about straight people again.

In some ways, writing a male protagonist is like imagining a world with slightly less danger. It’s like going for a walk at 2am without constantly checking behind you. It’s moving through certain spaces without the same concerns. Obviously, queer men also face dangerous situations. It’s not like they’re free from fear themselves. But it’s different worries, different fears. And it doesn’t hit so close to my heart to write about them. There’s a certain distance between me and their realities that makes it easier to explore in my writing.

I am currently striving to push myself into writing an uplifting story featuring a group of girls. I long to feel the freedom in them that I have writing Julian or my other newer boy protagonist, but I have a feeling it will be a challenge every step of the way. I must try to build a world, however unrealistic it may actually be, where girls run through their neighbourhoods at 2am, where they wander around town without restriction, where they rage and love with the same fire as the boys I’ve written about. We’ll see if I succeed. But until I do, my readers have these boys to read about, and love with all their hearts, as I have.

Out Now: Kat’s Song!

If you’ve read We Go Together, you know Kat tries to write a song for the majority of the book. I realized as I was writing the book, I’d have to write the song to write Kat’s mindset as she’s trying to piece together the verses. Much like her, I began with the chorus, and had to figure out where the verses would go. When I finally finished the song, and incorporated the lyrics in the book, I mused about how fun it would be to release the song, so that readers could listen to the song and read the scene at the same time.

I’d always loved songwriting, and when I was younger I’d make rough demos for friends as birthday gifts. I had once had dreams of being a recording artist, but I put those away for more “realistic” pursuits. After going through a graduate degree in music, and feeling very burnt-out and discouraged, I put aside most dreams of music, instead deciding that my writing would be my sole pursuit. However, music still sang in the back of my mind, and writing Kat’s song re-ignited that love. So, when I signed my contract to publish the novel, I decided I owed it to myself to record the song. I don’t have dreams of being a big star, but I still want to make music, and this particular form of making music is what makes me happiest.

Originally, we had plans to record the song in July. I was nervous about doing it. I’d always felt a bit self-conscious about my singing voice and my piano playing, but I figured I’d have enough time to practice with the group to get comfortable. Of course, COVID had other plans. In the end, we never met to practice the song together. We all ended up recording our parts individually from our homes, and mixing them together. I recorded my vocals in my bedroom.

The end result is now out for the world to enjoy. I have ideas on how to continue writing music that I like, and how to weave that music into my novels, like I did with We Go Together. For the first time in a long time, I’m really excited about the future in my music.

Special thanks to all the performers who helped make this possible. It was really special working with friends. My sister also makes an appearance! Hopefully we can do it again all together sometime.

Song Credits

Vocals and piano: Abigail de Niverville 
Violin: Sarah de Niverville 
Cello: Benjamin Louwersheimer 
Guitar: Riley MacKinnon 
Bass: Matthew Fasullo 

Mixing and mastering: Matthew Fasullo 
Recorded from home

Listen Here: Bandcamp | Spotify | Apple | YouTube

What Am I Trying to Prove?

I’ve been asking myself this question a lot recently, as I prepare a manuscript for querying. Or, at least I thought I was preparing it for queries. Now, I’m not sure what I’ll be doing.

Going into writing this book, I knew I wanted to try something new and seek other options for publication. While I’ve had a really great experience with NineStar Press and really love the editors I work with, I wanted to switch things up and see what else is out there.

For a while, I was convinced I would be querying the manuscript and finding an agent. Doing so would open up so many doors for my career, and it had always been a dream of mine to walk into a major bookstore and see my book among authors I respected.

I’ve been on author Twitter since 2018 when I signed my contract with NineStar Press. I followed a bunch of other debut authors and agents. The more I stayed on there, the more I learned about the world of traditional publishing. It isn’t always sunshine and roses, and there’s a lot of issues within the industry. The more I learn, the more I begin to ask myself if this is what I really want.

I have begun to ask myself, “Why do I want an agent to begin with?” Is it for better opportunities? For a chance at a bigger publisher and an advance? To be famous? What was I looking for, anyway?

The short answer? Legitimacy.

Let me be very frank for a moment. I have gotten the impression from various places in my life that small press books are “lesser than,” “not legitimate,” or “one small step above self-publishing.” I’m not sure who has made me felt this way. It’s not like anyone has said these kinds of things to my face. It’s in subtle ways. Like friends asking if I am self-published (which is a whole other discussion: self-published doesn’t mean low quality!) or fellow writers participating in pitch contests and being annoyed that small presses liked their pitch instead of agents. Small ways that pointed to me that what I was doing was not legitimate in some capacity.

I’ve realized I was seeking representation not to improve my career or take it to the next step, but for the approval of my peers and readers. Was this really the right motivation?

All of these thoughts already circulating around my head came to the forefront when author Adam Sass posted a statement on his Twitter regarding his upcoming novel a couple weeks back. Essentially, he had been in contact with a blogger who had reached out and offered their service to promote his debut book Surrender Your Sons. The blogger withdrew their involvement upon receiving his book details–because the book was being published by a small press.

I was astounded. I had no idea his novel was from a small press, for one thing. It had been featured in anticipated release lists on Teen Vogue, Buzzfeed, and other big sites. It had lots of activity on its Goodreads page. It had so many readers on Twitter and Instagram excited for its release, doing makeup looks and photos inspired by the book. It had huge buzz surrounding it!

And yet, that was not enough for this one person

Something, in that moment, clicked for me. It doesn’t matter where your book comes from, how much you put into it, the quality of your writing. People are going to judge it regardless. So what’s the point in trying to impress others?

The more I learn about publishing, the more I see the value in small presses, especially in LGBTQ fiction. They are willing to take risks, to publish books that aren’t necessarily “for the market.” They are producing some of the most creative and innovative books at this moment. Why wouldn’t I be proud to be part of that?

I’ve also been researching more about the literary scene in Canada too, and I’m learning that many authors in Canada do not have agents. And yet, they are still being uplifted and recognized by Canadian institutions. Why am I seeking validation through an agent when so many of my fellow Canadians don’t have one? Maybe I’ve been approaching this all wrong.

I’m not sure what I’ll be doing with this manuscript. I have a long way to go before it is ready for submission, but I’m starting to think that submitting to small presses isn’t a bad thing. It’s a valid route to take. It might not be the route I decide upon, but I know I really need to re-evaluate why I want to take whichever path Idecide. I shouldn’t take one just to be seen as a “real” author, that’s for sure.

The truth is, I’m currently a real author. I have real books that real people can buy and read. Many readers don’t care where a book comes from. They just want a story that speaks to them.

I don’t have to prove anything.

Patreon Update

Hey everyone! I hope you are having a pleasant start of the new week.

This week was release week, and it was a lot of fun but also tiring! There’s always lots of stress surrounding a new release. Will all the blog posts go up on time? Will there be issues with my links? So many worries pop into my head as I wait. But now that it’s finally here, I’m much more relaxed.

I’ve decided to start a Patreon in September. It will largely be to help offset some costs that come with writing novels and music. On the writing end of things, this will be for sensitivity reader services, freelance editors, and other services I may need before submitting the manuscript to a publisher or agent. On the music end of things, this will be to pay for recording spaces, sound mixers, cover artists, and other costs that come with releasing music.

My first tier is only 1$ and will feature lots of poetry. There are four tiers, each with lots of fun features and benefits. It would mean the world to me if you would become a Patron! You can subscribe now, and won’t be charged until the 1st of the month.

If you are unable to support me monthly, I also have a Ko-Fi page. Any contribution is greatly appreciated.

I thank you so much for your continued support of my work. It really means a lot.

My Patreon is here!

Editing a Novel in the Middle of a Pandemic

It’s been a while since you all got an update from me. What have I been doing?

In the grand scheme of things—not much. The lockdown is still in place in Toronto, though recently things have begun to open up again. Life is still full of face masks and hunkering down at home.

Two things that I have done out of the ordinary were editing my second novel, and taking an online course.

First, the course. When the lockdown first began, I was full of hope. My workplace went remote, so I had extra hours in the day I’d normally spend going to and from work. I could get so much done!! I decided to take a class while I was at it. I was meaning to take it anyway, so why not do it during the lockdown period?

That was not a good idea.

While I’m very grateful for what I learned in the course, and I think it’ll be infinitely useful, I don’t think taking it during a pandemic was the best idea. My attention span towards the last half of the course was abysmal, and I made so many small errors on assignments that I’m pretty sure I would’ve noticed in regular circumstances. Not to mention technical difficulties would often interrupt lectures. It was overall not the best way to receive the information.

I won’t beat myself up for it, though. This period has been tough for everyone, and the longer we stay in this uncertainty, the more worn down we’re all feeling.

As for editing the novel, that wasn’t a mistake. I’m really proud of the work I did on We Go Together, and I think it reflects in the finished text wonderfully. I think it helped that I had already gone through edits once before, and with the same editor. The process, while sometimes mind-numbing and frustrating, was not overly painful. I had a better idea of what to watch out for, and how to accomplish the tasks under the deadline.

Now, We Go Together will be published in ten days. I’m so happy with the work everyone put on it, from myself to all the editors to the cover artist. It’s a really special book to me, and I’m so happy the wait is almost over.

Pre-Order We Go Together here!

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