Representation Matters

Spring 18 DigitalLOVE AT THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN
A YA Romance Anthology
From Stars and Stone Books

It’s never easy to go through the fraught transition into adulthood, but the teens in this anthology have more to deal with than most: super powers, magic, illness, prejudice against sexual orientation and gender identity, and even death. Fortunately, they all find love at the edge of seventeen.

Featuring: M.T. DeSantis, A.E. Hayes, Serena Jayne, Cara McKinnon, Mary Rogers, and Kylie Weisenborn.

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This blog post is basically just a repost of my Author’s Note from “Three Jagged Pieces,” available today in this lovely YA romance anthology. I edited out one tiny spoiler, and otherwise the only spoiler is that everyone gets together in the end (duh, it’s a romance).

I think it’s important to talk about what kinds of characters we’re writing about in fiction, particularly romance. But another part of this discussion is how we should also be carving out space for #ownvoices authors. I absolutely am an advocate for authors who share their authentic voices and their own experiences. To that end, I will direct readers to one of my favorite romance authors, Anna Zabo, who is nonbinary. They have written some amazing books, but my favorite is Just Business. Eli and Justin stole my heart and never gave it back.

OK, on to the Author’s Note!

Most of the people I know who are trans or non-binary took a long time on their own personal journeys to get to where Noah is in this story. I deliberately gave Noah a supportive—and more importantly, observant—family who asked the right questions at an early age, never forced him to be anything other than what he is, and gave him access to the tools and information he needed to make informed choices as a young man. I did this for a few reasons. The first is because I wish that everyone, no matter their gender, sexual orientation, size, shape, or life choices, could be surrounded by acceptance and love—and accessible medical treatment if needed. The second reason is because I didn’t want this to be a story that’s only about Noah being trans. There is more to transgender people than their gender! So, while that’s an important part of him, and though he’s only eighteen, an age at which many of my transgender friends were—for many valid and tangible reasons—unable to come out, I wanted Noah to be out and feel pretty confident about himself as, well, himself. At the same time, though, I don’t want anyone to think that I’m making any sort of statement about when—or even if—someone should transition, or that someone needs to know they’re trans as a child. That’s a deeply personal process, and there are no right or wrong answers, choices, or timings.

On the other hand, there does need to be some conflict in a story, so I gave Sam some truly terrible parents. A year ago, I wouldn’t have written his parents the way I did. They feel over-the-top and cartoonish to me, even now—even knowing that many, many of these people exist, and are out in the open thanks to the changes in the US since 2016. I grew up in the evangelical Christian faith. I was baptized Southern Baptist and after that my parents went around to a number of different independent (non-denominational) churches. The one thing the churches all had in common was fundamentalism: The Bible is the sacrosanct word of God, and Jesus is the only way for salvation. There was a lot of “family values” nonsense and purity culture in there, too, although my parents are definitely on the liberal end of that particular religious cesspool. I got away from it in high school and never looked back. But Sam’s parents could be people I knew from church—maybe even the parents of kids in my youth group. And that’s scary and tragic. I wanted to give Sam a way to escape that many teens don’t have in reality. [Edited to add: As of 5/16/18, my state just enacted legislation to ban conversion therapy.]

Finally, we come to Ava. Ava is the girl I could have been. Some of her story mirrors mine: short, chubby girl who gained a lot of weight because of birth control pills to control PCOS symptoms. We both suffer from body-image issues, although I’m twenty years older than her now and I’ve come a long way toward loving myself no matter my size. But unlike Ava, I didn’t let any of that hold me back when I was in school. I loved to perform, and I was very confident in my voice. I didn’t get the cutest guy in school in high school, but I did get the cutest guy in college (who also happens to be a former wrestler), and we’re married with two kids. Ava gets to have two hot guys. Isn’t she lucky?


Go get your copy of Love at the Edge of Seventeen to find out how Noah, Sam, and Ava overcome prejudice, bigotry, and hate to find a deep and abiding love. #lovewins

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