#MondayBlogs: the difference between a pen name and a false identity. Kathryn Perez, a case study #amwriting #LGBT

#MondayBlogs: the difference between a pen name and a false identity. Kathryn Perez, a case study #amwriting #LGBT

When authors take their “pen name” to criminal lengths…

Dear Kathryn!

Can I call you Kathryn? I know you prefer to be addressed as Byron Rider these days, but for now I’ll just call you Kathryn, Kathryn Perez. I know you’ve written some het books under the pen name Cait Perez, there’s even a website (for now) with all your personal pictures, including your full name and address. You don’t have to take the site down. We have screen shots of it all. So far so good. You then decided to write M/M books. That is fine. You’re NOT the only one, far from it.

But you couldn’t just take a pen name and run with it, like so many of my friends. You couldn’t just settle for a pen name that was gender ambiguous, no, you went all out, for a male pseudonym. That’s fine, too, some of my female author friends did that, too. But you took it several steps further:

You “stole” images and pretended for them to be you (from the BBC, including in the one video that is still on YouTube), from Kevin Spacey until you finally, a couple of days ago, went all out, painted a beard on your face and recorded a video with a distorted male voice. That video has since been removed. But many of us have screen captures.

This face isn’t yours. It’s what a man from Dundee, Scotland would look like if he was made up from all men there. Source: BBC

Why would anyone photoshop a picture of actor Kevin Spacey and pretend to be that person? Why? Kathryn, only you know why! I doubt Kevin would be pleased, if he knew…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, the real you, with those glasses we know so well from the “real” you, Kathryn:

Rule #1 in deception & impersonation: take off your glasses, Kathryn!

To paint a beard on your face (in case you forgot, the inset picture is from your deleted YouTube video), hide your bangs and your long hair under a baseball cap and wearing your husband Hector’s shirt won’t cut it.

Now, you may wonder why I’m so invested in your case. Allow me to explain. I have no qualms with authors using pen names, quite the contrary. I understand, as a real gay man, what discrimination means. I know the price of being gay, of your books not being sold in mainstream stores, of readers not picking up your books because “but I’m not gay…” (I can only imagine what my teachers would’ve said if I’d refused to read Shakespeare with the words “but I’m not straight!”) Not that I’m as good as Shakespeare, just saying.

I understand that many of the men & women writing in the LGBT space are not out to their families, places of work or their congregations, and they know what would happen if they did. I also understand that there are many other reasons to have a pen name, the simplest one being: because I want to. That is fine, too.

As an author, I am also intimately aware that we want to distance ourselves from our books, our characters. And I understand that readers, reviewers and literary researchers try to look for “us”, our essence, in our work. I understand that, too. Not that I think it’s right, or even necessary, but it is what it is. I’ve written about both pen names, and our right to be anonymous.

No, you’re not a MAN, No, you’re not a GAY MAN, no, it was not a rumor, and by Jove I hope you have more respect for your husband Hector than you showed him by making him look like an imbecile who doesn’t speak English…

But what you do, dear Kathryn, is different. You pretend to be a man, not just by name, you also chose the male pronoun on your (once again deleted Facebook profiles), unlike the honest authors. You posted this (image to the right) on Facebook when people realized you were fake, a fraud:

But no Kathryn, you’re clearly not a man. You’re clearly not gay. You are married to Hector Perez and you have a lovely daughter. Now, I can’t be sure that you’re not a trans person deep inside, but that is an entirely different animal. If you were, you probably wouldn’t go to such lengths to lie about who you are and basically paint what amounts to a trans “blackface” on you. I have trans friends, and I know of their pain, their suffering, and I can tell you that the trans friends who’ve learned about you are as appalled and disturbed by your behavior as your straight (former) fans/readers, and the authors in the LGBT space.

Byron Rider is dead, or not? Like Jesus “he”‘s risen from the grave.

Sadly, your deception goes further. In a hissy fit after my original post a couple of months ago, you faked your death. Yes, you died, online, for everyone to see, and you posted an obituary, complete with fake ID’s and stolen images. Do you understand that this constitutes identity theft? Do you realize this is illegal?

From what I understand, you are a teacher at a small community college in Houston, you live in Pasadena, TX. This information is publicly available on your website and your LinkedIn profile.

Although, do you really hold a PhD like you claim on LinkedIn? Your employer seems to disagree on their official page on you. A master’s degree is no PhD Kathryn. Seems you pathological lying extends into your profession, too? If I had a doctorate in philosophy, I’d want that to be reflected on my school’s website… Just saying.

The image you stole if that of a fellow teaching colleague of yours. Does he know? What does he say about this? What does the college think that you manipulate their staff ID’s? That you abuse their name to further your sick plotting and to fake your death?

To fake your death the way you did is probably not a breach of the law itself, but boy is it stupid. And to die and resurrect? Yes, there are many deaths (another one of your amazing lies), but you are no Jesus my friend. Quite the contrary. Thou shalt not lie!

But that’s not it, is is? In my original post about you, I asked about your books. I have never read a Byron Rider or Cait Perez book. But you published more than ten books in less than a month, more than twenty in eleven months, and I think the question is valid: when and how did you write this much? Aren’t you a teacher?

More than that: most authors can’t wait to publish their books ASAP. Nothing is more painful than having to wait for months and years to see them out. Besides, you lose income, which I understand from a now deleted blog post, is very important to you. I don’t know if you plagiarized those books, but given that everything else about you is fake? The question must be asked. Your covers, not the most artistic ones I’ve seen, are easier to check. I don’t have the time to go through all your books, but someone at Amazon should, because I’ve found this cover of yours:

This is one of your covers, right? And the image is taken straight from a screen shot of a room used in the movie Fifty Shades of Gray.

You do understand that this picture is taken from a movie? All I had to do was do an image search to find the results. Anybody can do that. Do you have the rights to use it? Do you pay royalties to the rights owners of Fifty Shades of Gray?

Having been in the publishing industry for many years, I find it difficult to believe. Given how tacky and amateurish your covers generally are, I doubt you’ll pay potentially thousands of dollars to use such a picture. Provided the makers of a straight BDSM movie would even want to be associated with the author of gay writing… As a gay man, my real-life experience is that they probably wouldn’t. Who wants “a million moms” boycotting their picture?

You do understand that “downloading” images from Google to use in your artwork is illegal? What about your other covers?

Unfortunately, only the people at the studio who hold the copyright can ask Amazon to take action, but someone should look at all your book covers, and double check the actual stories, to see where those images and the texts came from. Maybe someone who reads this knows someone at Amazon?

I’m sure you think this is unfair, you probably feel persecuted. Welcome to the life of being LGBT, a world you don’t seem to understand, at all. Your political views, legitimate of course, as a fervent Trump supporter, puts you at odds with the LGBT community and our allies, a community you try to make money from; therefore you have to accept to be questioned. Just like Milo Yiannopoulos. You remember what happened to him…

On your website you titled yourself “gay lifestyle author”. Dear Kathryn, being gay is not a lifestyle. It’s not a choice, like choosing a criminal lifestyle, but I understand that you don’t understand that. I cannot not be gay, as little as an ostrich can take flight. I’m still human, the ostrich still a bird, but we have no choice. The one person who has a choice, is you.

If you wish to continue to write M/M books, you’re welcome to do so. But here are a couple of tips:

  • apologize. You’ve hurt so many people, from readers to authors!
  • stay away from stolen imagery, for yourself or your covers
  • ask a proper cover designer to help you, get editors and proof readers to polish your work
  • don’t fake being a man, heart attacks and deaths. It’s illegal and you hurt the feelings of many in the trans community, not to mention you insult the intelligence of  the people you expect to read your books.
  • don’t fake IDs (you’re faculty, not a student, and at 55, old enough to buy booze)
  • don’t threaten authors and readers. That’s generally a bad idea. We are a small community, and most of us know each other, or we certainly know someone who does knows. You can’t hide.

Are you a joke? Given how amateurish you act (your real name and residential address online for everyone to see, the idiotic parody with the painted beard and slow-play video to “fix” the voice), I’ve asked myself the question if this is all a big hoax, you know like the documentary with a loony Joaquin Phoenix. Yet I wonder, given your many mistakes, are you smart enough? Are you ill?

You know, and as a psychologist you should know this, sometimes people do bad things so badly, because they secretly are crying for help, they want to be found out. Is that you Kathryn? If so, I hope that someone contacts your employer, the San Jacinto College in Houston, where you teach – how ironic – psychology… As a father I am concerned that someone who clearly isn’t well, is teaching our children. They may be adults, but yeah, they’re still vulnerable at that tender age of eighteen, nineteen… Do they know about all the sick things you’ve done? Does your college support your views? Does Dr. Brenda Hellyer know? Maybe she should? I’m sure there is a policy of honesty and integrity as a faculty member there.

Personally, I have nothing to gain from exposing you. Quite the contrary. This is taking up far too much of my time, and the time of countless others. But I have no choice. You are hurting my friends, and my community, and you are a blemish, a shame for LGBT literature, and all those authors who work their asses off to get published, combining day jobs and writing at night. You’re hurting readers who’ve purchased your books in the honest belief you were who you said you were, Byron Rider.

I don’t sell a single extra book because of this, quite the contrary. All of us authors are risking to sell less, because how do people know who’s genuine and who’s fake? You’re not the first catphishing author, Kathryn, and most likely not the last fraud either. I love my industry, and the amazing stories we produce, stories that empower young LGBT youths to see that there is real hope for them, hope of happiness later in life, stories that empower men, women, trans, gender fluid and agender persons around the world to be the best human beings they can be. I am proud of what we do! Finally, a big thank you to all those who’ve contributed to this post, through research etc. No one mentioned, no one forgotten. I know who you are. Thanks!

So please, Kathryn, go get help! If not for my sake, or the sake of the tight-knit LGBT writing/reading community, get help for the sake of your husband Hector, and your daughter Angela. They deserve a healthy, happy spouse and mother, don’t you think?

Have a wonderful week,

Hans M Hirschi, gay man & author of gay fiction

PS: If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers, I really do, so feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

 

A hectic week comes to an end: aspects of an author’s life… #amwriting (not) #asmsg

A hectic week comes to an end: aspects of an author’s life… #amwriting (not) #asmsg

This hectic week has one lesson for us, but you better read it to learn what it is!

My week started great! I’ve begun work on a secret project (so no info about it) and I met with some awesome people who really energized me. But you know what it’s like when you work hard: come evening you feel like an empty sponge! By nine p.m. I felt like a body bag with a beating heart, that’s how exhausted I was.

Birthdays are special days, and for once he got to use his “screen” during dinner… Sscha’s 4th birthday.

After that meeting, I had to buy us a new fridge, as our old one was on its last leg. And if you read my customer service post from that day, you’ll know just how difficult that proved to be. Tuesday was my son’s fourth birthday and it turned out to be a mentally hectic day. I have been proof-reading Last Winter’s Snow one more time and passed on my comments to the publisher. My editor also worked through things one more time, and I’m really pleased with the final product. We’ve both worked hard on it, along with a bunch of others.

At this stage in the publication cycle I’m always exhausted, mentally, and I’m almost at the point where I’m like “can’t this just be bloody over soon?” There are two more weeks to release day needed to print the books and get the e-book files to retailers in time so I’ll have plenty of time to recoup. Come release day, I’ll naturally be very nervous again. As befits a book release.

My husband came back early from work and we finally got a chance to sit down, have cake, sing for our big boy and watch as he tore through his presents. He seemed pleased with the outcome. I can’t believe it’s been four years already. Time goes by so quickly, and no, I don’t need any parentsplaining about making the most of every minute. I, if anyone, is fully aware just how quickly he’s growing… LOL

The new fridge is in place. I hope it’ll last as long as the last one, fifteen years.

Wednesday was fridge delivery day, and yeah, that went really well! NOT. So rather than driving it out here by ferry as I had ordered (and paid for), I had to organize for a local company to help me out. Luckily they were able to take on his last minute job and after I had gone to town for a lunch with friends, I had to rush home to help them get the new fridge into the house and the old one out. By the time Alex and Sascha were home, I was in that bodybag zone again. Exhausted. Oh, yeah, I also recorded this week’s segment from the author cave, edited and uploaded that. It’s all about sex and nudity and the age old question: “why?” Do authors really have to get undressed to sell books? Check it out. It’s quite funny and you might even get to see my tits!

Yesterday saw me work some more on my secret project and work some more on the proofs from my editor. She’s so meticulous. Unbelievable. I’ve been to town every day except Tuesday and even though it’s a beautiful journey, it takes time. Twenty-five minutes to the mainland and then another twenty minutes to a half hour into the city. Twice a day (four times today), that adds up. I also got to spend hours on the phone, with our city’s environmental agency and the police, as my moronic & criminal convict of a neighbor decided to once again illegally burn trash on his property, and since the garden stuff was too moist he helped it along with gasoline. 30 ft from a preschool and kids! I was livid.

It’s finally spring in Gothenburg and I took this picture just an hour ago, on the way home from the mainland. I have another trip to do today. No matter how hectic a day, this will calm you down.

Add a couple of calls with regards to my MIL and the sale of her house and the day was gone. Today we had to get up early. Alex had to catch a train to Stockholm for meetings and we took the kid so he could watch the trains come and go at the station. He’s that age… Afterwards to took him to school before I went grocery shopping, had breakfast and had meetings. I just got home a half hour ago. I already feel like bodybag, but alas, at 4 pm, I go to town again, to pick up the kid from school and bring him home. Then dinner and a movie before it’s bedtime for the little one (and me, I’m convinced!)

This has been a crazy hectic week and I haven’t written anything. The final proofing of Last Winter’s Snow, getting

Don’t miss to download The Fallen Angels of Karnataka for free, to get you in the spirit for Last Winter’s Snow and it’s April 6 release.

some marketing in place for it (including this GREAT Instafreebie of The Fallen Angels of Karnataka to remind people of my writing), checking on progress of the Family Ties audiobook, currently headed to retail, but I haven’t seen it there yet, so I guess the release post is due Monday. It’s difficult to write when you’re so absorbed in something else and I haven’t really had the mental time to focus on my current WIP. But I’ll get there. I better. Odd, come April 5th, we need to submit our blog posts for GRL in late October, and I don’t even know yet what my fall release will be called or ultimately be about. Hard to blog about it for a blog tour… Alas, it’s part of the process, and it needs to be followed.

Now, let me ask you a question: does this hectic week look familiar to you? I have a hunch that if you replaced the “author” aspect with customer rep or teacher or mechanic, most people’s weeks look pretty much the same. I often get these starry eyed looks from readers, looking at me as if I’m some demigod constantly bogged down in my writing cave. Alas, I’m no different than any other professional, juggling family life, work and what little free time we have left. Biggest difference is that I often work from home.

With that, at the end of another hectic week, I wish you a great weekend. Hope to see you again Monday!

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers, I really do, so feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans

#MondayBlogs: What I really tried to say, or how words failed me… #asmsg #amwriting #amreading

#MondayBlogs: What I really tried to say, or how words failed me… #asmsg #amwriting #amreading

When I wrote about my frustrations last week, nothing was further from my mind than reviews, yet it’s all people talk about

When the first comments began rolling in last week, I thought people were joking. I was talking about my frustration last week, the fact that I spend months as author to craft the words of a book, only to see it reduced to a couple of hours of entertainment for my readers. My need to talk about the book, or to at least gain an understanding of how readers receive it was almost unanimously (you can read the comments that were left here, on the blog) interpreted as requests for reviews. My words failed me.

I was surprised, because when I wrote the post, I didn’t think about reviews, honestly. I think my position on reviews is pretty clear: I don’t like them much. I’m frustrated by reviews who give away the book in what many reviewers feel is a great summary, I am hurt by reviews that try to find “me” in the book, attack me personally or completely miss the point of a story. Yes, like any author, I understand the need for, the value of reviews. No argument, and when we send out ARCs, we are very much aware that there will be reviews, good ones, bad ones. It’s a fact of life, that not every book is for everyone. That is reflected in the reviews. Duh! I still don’t read them, unless someone sends it to me specifically, and those are never bad ones (unless said reviewer is particularly vicious. LOL) My words failed me.

Sometimes a reader will contact me (okay, it’s happened quite a few times) to talk about their experience reading the book, how the story affected them. That is how I feel, too. Just because I put down the pen doesn’t mean I’m done. I feel the need to talk about how painful certain aspects of a book can me, how a character’s suffering or growth has affected me. It’s no different than reading a book myself, how the characters affect me. I remember reading Erin Finnegan’s Luchador several months ago. I still have that book lurking in the back of my mind, how she takes the concepts of “manliness”, “gay” and throws them into a dryer and tumbles them until they come out all warped and twisted. Her discussion of masculinity and the concepts of gay vs straight is some of the best writing ever, and I still think about that, almost daily, our preconceptions as gay men, as much as the preconceptions in the straight world.

I had a short takeover of a Facebook group last night, by invitation of SA Collins. And he and I discussed LGBT (he prefers the term ‘queer’) fiction and how our stories often deal with things from our own existence. Mind you, this doesn’t mean you have to understand who we are as human beings to understand the book (quite the contrary), but just as some people deal with their demons by running around the forest, or punch a bag in a gym, authors deal with their demons through writing. And just because I write “the end” doesn’t mean that I’m done. I may need more time to reflect upon it, understand what happened, because just because the book is over doesn’t mean I’m done. There is, after all, a difference between the author and the human. Yet last Friday, my words failed me.

This isn’t easy to put in writing, as my failure to express my emotion last week clearly shows. And the frustration comes from that fact, in part. But it’s also funny when you talk to someone about a story for months and months, and when they’ve read it, knowing just how important it is to you, all you get back is a “it’s great. Loved it.” Inside me, I’m screaming “what else? what did you take away from it? What do you think was his/her driving force? Why did they act the way they did? etc.” But no, no review… Although, I’ll grant you that a good review might answer at least some of those questions. But still, it wasn’t reviews I long for, but human conversations, debate. But I guess my words failed me.

So, here’s another post that probably makes no sense to anyone but me… Have a wonderful week!

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers, I really do, so feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans

The most frustrating aspect of being an author, imho #amwriting #amreading #asmsg

The most frustrating aspect of being an author, imho #amwriting #amreading #asmsg

A great many things are frustrating when you’re an author, but this one frustration rules them all…

Call it an epiphany, a revelation, finally seeing straight (which is really, really hard if you know me!) Doesn’t matter, but this post isn’t about how frustrating it is to work so hard and not to earn any money. It’s not about how frustrating it is to see stupid people read your books, thinking they know it all, and it’s not about how frustrating it is having to battle an increasing monopoly in book sales. No. There is this one frustration to rule them all, and I finally understood, yesterday.

The cover for my new novel Last Winter’s Snow. The book releases April 6. We’re in the final stages of proofing the text.

My most recent fiction publication happened in mid-September, with the release of the final book in the Jonathan Trilogy. That’s six months ago. But it’s been almost eleven months since I began writing Last Winter’s Snow, the next book up for release in April. So much work! I’ve been talking to readers, my editors, proof readers, and publisher about it, we’ve been discussing the book’s title, theme, content, research, and I’m still at it, having just completed a final read-through before the galley is off to print, in time for the release.

You build up this anticipation for a new release, you tease, release morsels of information, create a trailer, reveal (not release, Hans) the cover, panic over the edits, and slave hard to get the ARCs (Advance Review Copies, in case you’re unfamiliar with this particular publishing acronym) out in time to give reviewers time to read the book and review it in good time for the release. If you’re an author, you’ve undoubtedly been there, done that, and you have countless t-shirts hanging in your closet to commemorate every release.

Then comes the big day, you send out the ARCs, and the waiting begins… 24 hours later, I had the first verdicts, and so far, they’re all very good. Do NOT misunderstand this. It’s not frustrating to get feedback, particularly not the positive kind I’ve seen. But it’s bloody frustrating when the feedback is encapsulated in a couple of sentences, a paragraph. Eleven months of hard labor, pouring your life’s blood into a story, investing a significant amount of money into research, covers, lots of people involved in getting things right, and all you get in return is a paragraph.

Frustrating!

Now, I am fully aware that I have no right to expect more. And yes, it could be so much worse. The paragraph could be a single short sentence: “I hated it!” This isn’t what this post is about. I do not, would not, ever expect more. And I have no clue how this feels for other authors out there. But I have little inhibitions to talk about this, and what I want more than anything else is to sit down with readers, to hear how they interact with the text, the characters, if they walk away with anything from the plot, if they like the characters, if they found any moral morsels to enrich their life. I want to talk about the book, the story. Eleven months of work. I love my characters, they are a part of me. And like a parent, I’m never really ready to let them go. They’re family, they all include a bit of my DNA, a bit of me (and no, don’t go looking for it).

I love my characters, I am the father of each and every one of my characters. Letting go is the hardest thing, and I wish I’d get to spend more time with my literary “kids”.

And all I get back is a sentence, a paragraph. I know I do not get to expect more, but it’s just bloody frustrating that eleven months are turned into five hours of reading and then it’s done, “I loved it!” and they move on to the next book, the next story, the next author’s life blood. Such are the rules of publishing, the plight of being an author. I have no right to complain. Doesn’t make it any easier, does it. There have been a few instances when a reader took a story to heart, made it their own, literally. They never shut up about it. Those are the few instances where I bask in the warmth of finally being able to share my feelings, my emotions around a book with someone else.
Those instances are few though, and they’re far in between. I have no right to complain, but I can’t help the way I feel. Authors, tell me, do you feel this frustration? Is there a bigger frustration in your penmanship? Feel free to comment. I hate being the “only gay” in the village… 🙂

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers, I really do, so feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Hans

Why I spent the week debating toilets with narrow-minded folk! #LGBT #amwriting #SAGA

Why I spent the week debating toilets with narrow-minded folk! #LGBT #amwriting #SAGA

Of toilets, bigots and writing inclusive characters

It’s been a busy week. I’ve had some very interesting discussions online, mainly about the American regime’s move against trans people and their access to toilets. The ones to pay the biggest price are – for lack of a better word – the weakest, children and youths. I know that most of you who will read this are Americans, and your bathrooms are – how to put this politely – interesting? Privacy? No sir. Ten inches at the bottom aren’t closed, and between the door to the stalls (if doors are present in the first place), there’s a spring wide enough to get a great view of the inside. I’ve always wondered if that visual access was because Americans are particularly voyeuristic or if this is a result of the Anglo-Saxon double-morale around sex, because after all, people have been known to do it there. I don’t know.

The rainbow flag heralds love and inclusion. It’s the main reason I love it so much. Yet as humans representing the rainbow, we’re not always as loving… We are, in effect, merely human.

I’m an extremely private person, at least when it comes to going to the bathroom. I can’t pee standing, not when I risk onlookers. But in America, even inside the stall I feel exposed, vulnerable. I don’t know why Americans opted for such stalls, but what I do know is that school kids here, in Sweden, often try to avoid going to the school bathrooms. Usually, research shows, because those toilets are dirty. Instead, they avoid drinking, try to hold it, and go to the bathroom when they come home. The result: constipation, urinary infections etc.

Now imagine if you are trans, on top of all that. Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, before most can even dream of hormonal treatment or corrective surgery. We are vulnerable enough as it is at that age, without having to deal with the added stress of having to go to a bathroom that isn’t ours. Imagine a boy forced to “intrude” on the girl’s lavatory or locker room, to face the ridicule and potential fear from other girls being there, or picture the girl, being forced to go to the boys room, even though she may wear make-up and a dress. The bullying will be guaranteed. Why? This isn’t about cis boys or girls being “evil” or “mean”. It’s because they don’t understand (yet). It’s because their parents are people like white supremacist Jeff Sessions, the driving force between this week’s transphobic action. Not to mention that children that age are the most confused, caught in the storm of raging hormones, their bodies changing, navigating sexuality and romantic attraction to others (or the lack thereof). And most people that age are curious, they will experiment, but they’re also highly aware of their surroundings, the judgements, expectations, and what is exciting and titillating one minute can be lashed out against the next.

I’m still amazed, from those discussions, just how many people do not understand what it means to be trans. What it means to be intersex. What it means to be gender queer/fluid. Not that it is easy. I read a great post yesterday about the importance of labels. Yes, labels are restricting. We don’t want to be labeled. We don’t want others to tell us “what” we are. However, when we are young and try to understand ourselves, get to know ourselves, labels can help. They help us identify with others, people who are like us, whether it’s “red head”, “visually impaired” or “jock”. Whatever the label, it creates a sense of “us”, of group, and as humans we are, after all, a highly social animal.

The cover for my new novel Last Winter’s Snow. The book releases April 6.

There is a huge difference between knowing who we are, and understanding what we are. Yes, at the core, we are humans, of course. But since we are a social animal, we fear nothing more than loneliness, to be “the only gay in the village” as the saying goes. No, we want to have a friend, let there be at least two of us! That’s where labels come in handy. They can serve a purpose.

It’s been an interesting week online. It’s also been an intensive writing week. My publisher recently asked for submissions for a SAGA (Sexuality And Gender Acceptance, a term more inclusive and simpler than LGBTQIA+) anthology. I’ve written two short stories that I worked on this week. One is about an older gender queer/fluid, asexual person, the other about a middle aged aromantic, asexual woman. I’ve met a number of people in the past couple of years who identify as asexual, and it’s been a topic I wanted to delve into. A very rewarding experience, and I thank both characters for allowing me a glimpse into their reality. We’ll see if any of the stories will fit the anthology’s requirements…

I’ve also, oddly, begun writing on a new novel. Or story anyway. There has been something on my mind for some time, and it sort of burst out of me the other day. I can tell how desperately I want to write about it. However, I’m also weeks away from launching my new novel and I’ve yet to receive the edits from my publisher. I expect them any day really. I’m also waiting for some Sami words that still need to be worked into the text. I don’t speak Sami myself, and particularly the Ume Sami language, with less than one hundred native speakers is an elusive one. I need to make sure to get things right. I expect those this weekend.

In order to prepare for the launch, I’ve worked on a trailer for the book. I’ve done a short trailer for every book since the launch of Jonathan’s Hope. That was an amateurish work, but it did the trick. I hope that the trailer for Last Winter’s Snow feels a tad more professional. I just upgraded my tools to a more professional version, giving me a lot more flexibility to do things “my” way. But that also means a lot more complexity. Have a look, leave a comment:

 

Anyway, I’m rambling. You all have a great weekend, and remember, no matter who you are, what you are (labeled or not), you are a wonderful and complex, valuable human being, worthy to be loved and cherished.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers, I really do, so feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans

PS: Have you noticed the “Donate” button on my website? I’ve been contemplating creating a Patreon account, to help finance my every day life. But I’ve decided against it. I may write about that on Monday, why I feel it’s not the right tool for me. However, since I do not accept commercials on my website or my YouTube account, I don’t make any money on my blogging or vlogging. If someone likes my work, this is a way to show appreciation. No strings attached on either side. Thank you.

Writing about minorities is mined territory, an encore #amwriting #asmsg #lgbt

Writing about minorities is mined territory, an encore #amwriting #asmsg #lgbt

As painful as the discussion is at times, we must persevere

I knew when I wrote last week’s post that not everybody would agree. However, what I had not anticipated was the level of antipathy, hatred even, that I faced. Within an hour of publishing the post I was facing my very first “shit storm” on Twitter. Not just for the unfortunate mix-up of two words in the heading (for which I am still awfully sorry and horrified) but for the views expressed in my post. It got so bad that for a couple of days, I was afraid to check my Twitter feed. I’m not used to so much hatred.

I had no idea that the concept of writing about humanity was so controversial, and that some people feel so strongly about who should be allowed to write about whom. To avoid further controversy and having people put words in my mouth, let me try and be as careful as I can be. Naturally, I respect everybody’s conviction and views. Given. And I listened, and I gather (feel free to add more arguments at the end of this post) that most of those who feel that only members of any minority should be allowed to write about said minority argue mainly according to these lines:

  • Publishing space is limited, and “our” (this could be any minority) voices are drowned out by the voices of the “others”, the majority. We need to make sure that more of our own voices are heard, not more “other” voices.
  • “We” are different, and “you” have no idea what it means to be “us”. Only “we” could ever write our own stories accurately.

Let me look at both arguments, one by one.

Publishing of minority voices

I have the utmost respect for the publishing argument. As an author who has never been published by the “big five” in any country, I know how difficult it is to get a publishing deal. And I understand that it is more difficult for minority voices to be interesting to a publisher. Even if we discount racism, misogyny, trans- or homophobia. Merely from an economic point of view, it must be more interesting to publish a book that reaches a wider audience. Sadly, today the large publishers are not in the business of the arts. They’re in the business of shareholder value, and that means to maximize the return on investment with the publishing budgets they have. No excuse (and please don’t shoot the messenger, again), just an explanation.

However, and this is where this argument becomes flawed in my opinion: publishing today is not what it was even ten years ago, much less three years ago. It changes all the time and the entire publishing industry is in a state of flux. To claim that the publishing space is limited though is simply not true. With the tools of self- & indie publishing available to almost anyone, minority voices have more and better opportunities to be heard than ever before. And a look at the number of books published shows just how much the industry has changed in recent years.

Are there no more hinders? No, of course not. I am fully aware that literacy, access to the Internet etc. are still big hurdles for many. Even more importantly, “finding” great literature that tells “our” stories is very difficult. As a writer and reader of gay fiction, I know how hard it is to find great books in the sea of M/M romance. I also acknowledge that it is challenging for many readers to find paperbacks that are self-published, and that most book stores specialize in selling books along the same lines as the big publishers publish, i.e. to make money, not to serve a minority.

While some book stores do an amazing job, I could mention a queer bookstore in New York, which does a great job servicing the LGBTQIA+ community. But again, only one city, in one country, and even they face the tough demands of the economy. While I was welcome to a reading there once, I was never welcomed back, on account that my books didn’t sell. Such is life.

I feel that the Internet provides amazing opportunities to help out on this front, to create portals for minority fiction, places where enthusiasts can gather information and resources about great fiction, focusing specifically on a specific topic and or group of people.

Only “we” understand what it means to be “us”

This second argument is much more difficult to argue about. Because, in my humble opinion, it’s a question of faith to a degree, but also a question of how we view ourselves, our human siblings and humanity as a species. I was once on the side of the argument that only gay people could really write about gay people. I no longer believe that. Why? Because I, as a gay man feel competent enough to write about non-gay people. If I can, why shouldn’t they?

Now before you get all heated and start calling me names again, please allow me to explain why I feel like I do. Being a minority is never “all” that we are. Being gay isn’t an all-encompassing part of my life. Neither is being gypsy (I use the word intentionally, as we were never able to ascertain the exact heritage of my grandmother. Roma or Sinti, we don’t know, hence I’m a quarter gypsy, something I have to live with, and I do so proudly), or atheist. I also wear glasses, have green eyes and mousey hair. All minority traits, viewed separately.

Racism, misogyny, trans- & homophobia are awful things, and it’s a given that we must all fight them. Authors must fight them using their tools, words. Now, if I, being who I am, privileged as I am to be able to write, use that power to help my own and other minorities, I think and I strongly believe that is a good thing. I add a voice to the choir. I add a story to the collection of stories about that minority. Because even writing about a wheel-chair bound white boy, I write about a minority.

This is where my empathy argument comes to bear. I am convinced, and nothing will ever convince me otherwise (so if you disagree, let’s politely agree to disagree here, and not resort to name calling), that being human is paramount, and that we all, no matter who (or what) we are, share so much more, than separates us. Even within a minority, stories differ, and a black man’s experiences are very different from a black woman’s experiences, and a rich black man’s experiences will be very different from a poor black man’s experiences. We are individuals, and there are almost ten billion individual stories out there.

Again, that doesn’t mean that being black doesn’t mean that most blacks suffer discrimination. Yet, being black in Nigeria is different from being black in America or say the Caribbean. So this is my strongest argument. Diversity means that I as an author look at the individual, and their plight in life. Some may suffer from the fact that the color of their skin makes them stand out, to some it may be a disability, or their gender or sexuality, or their age. As an empathic author, doing research, understanding the human aspect of it all, seeing what we share, and highlighting what troubles us, is what I do. I have no interest in writing clichés or stereotypes. That is bad literature, and I think we can all agree across the isles that bad literature is bad, period.

One argument I faced these past days was all about not being able (being “you” rather than “we” or “us”) to tell “our” story. This speaks to the very essence of literature, or, as we also call it, fiction. Yes, it’s fiction. It is not real life. The character an author brings to life must not ever be real life people, or else we write a biography, which is non-fiction. I write fiction. And the people I write about, as real and as alive as they may be in the depths of my mind, they are not living, breathing members of the species homo sapiens sapiens. They are derived from bits and pieces of people I’ve met through my life, but please, never ask me who and to what percentage. I couldn’t tell.

It’s fiction.

Therefore, how can anyone say that the character does not represent “what I am”? It’s not you. Now I understand that there are philosophical, political differences at play here, like I said Friday. I see us from an individual point of view, not from a group perspective, because while group membership explains some aspects of our lives, it will never explain it all. And the debate between socialism and liberalism has been fought fiercely since the 1700s, and we still have no definitive answer. We may never see one.

Like any good story, it has to be credible and plausible. Not real. We love Harry Potter because it’s credible and plausible. Yet the boy wizard was written by a woman, a muggle even. The anguish and despair of Italian Julia was written by a man, an English one at that, yet still, centuries later, we understand perfectly well, people of all ages, creeds, color, genders and sexualities, just how much in love and how desperate Julia is to drink the potion to join Romeo in death. Great literature captures the human essence, it transcends all that which is on the surface, not by making us all straight white Anglo-Saxon protestants, but highlighting that which brings us together as humans, not insisting on that which separates us.

Because I fear, that a consequence of the argument that we should only write about our own, we, as a human species are doomed to fail. If I can’t ever assume to understand what it is like to grow up poor, or blind, or Kenyan, or asexual, or gender queer, or, or or… Then neither will anyone else, and we are destined to remain all these separate groups, where whites discriminate against blacks, where Hispanics discriminate against the Indio, where men discriminate women, straight the LGBTQ community, etc. That is a view of humanity I refuse to subscribe to. While true today, are we really doomed to remain this way forever? And is it worth alienating our allies over it? All we achieve is further hardening the divide, rather than crossing it.

In closing, I understand fully that the discussion will continue, and that we most likely will not arrive at much common ground across the aisle. But let us do so without the name calling, because that, if anything, will only serve those who wish to preserve the status quo.

I look forward to hearing from you, preferably here, because Twitter is such an inadequate tool to debate, or Facebook, where last week’s post led to a very enlightening discussion with over eighty comments. Thanks everyone for weighing in. Who knows, we might even find a constructive way forward. I would also like to recommend you read my friend Amy Leibowitz’s very well crafted contributions to this topic, here.

Have a wonderful week. Greetings from my home town of St. Moritz where I spend a week with my dad.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please share it with others. I love to connect with my readers, I really do, so feel free to interact with me on TwitterFacebookYouTube, and/or Instagram.

Hans

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