Hello all! Happiest of Novembers to everyone. This month we wanted to welcome Jude Sierra for two exciting reasons: first for a very first look at her upcoming novel and second, for a four part series she wrote for Binge On Books. Jude will be spending the month of November discussing the intersections between some of her favorite things: fanfiction, romance novels, and authors you know who play in both sandboxes! Jude will be talking with some of your favorite romance authors throughout the month about their fanfiction to original fiction publication stories and just how important fan communities have been to them.
Before we get down to the nitty gritty, there’s one more order of business. It’s been a little while since we’ve seen a new novel by Jude, and we’re excited to announce the details of her upcoming novel, A Tiny Piece of Something Greater.
Blurb: Reid Watsford has struggled with his cyclothemia his whole life. When his grandmother offers him a place to stay at her condo in Key Largo, he decides to leave Wisconsin, his ex, and his family to try to make a fresh start. There he meets Joaquim, a Brazilian wanderer who came to the US looking for adventure, and ended up an intern at the Key Largo Dive Shop. When Reid signs up for his introductory dive classes, it seems an adventure has come to Joaquim—but Reid has a lot of secrets, and a past he can’t quite escape. As their relationship deepens, so do Reid’s complications, something they both must learn to navigate—on their own and with each other.
Coming from Interlude Press on May 17th, 2018.
The Romance of Fanfiction, part 2 by Jude Sierra
Whether it is lore, or underground knowledge; a passing references those of us who have been there and done that will get – many of us recognize our own. When it comes to the ties between fanfiction authors and romance novelists, truthfully, I just thought everyone knew. The whole thing was rather normalized by dialogue within fan communities. I come from an independent publisher (Interlude Press) whose roots were in fandom and who branched out from there. I mention this because Interlude, like many others, recognized the quality and depth of writing and artistry in fan works.
It’s that artistry I really want to focus on here. Whether it’s in the community feedback or in sheer opportunity to write (a lot!) there’s a level skill building for authors that creates transitional opportunities and maturity when moving from one space (fanfiction) to another (published fiction). Every author I spoke to for this article touched on this. For example, Avon Gale (Scoring Chances) described the ways in which fandom taught her to write characters: “When you’re constrained by someone else’s character you really put a lot of thought into every little thing your character does, from actions to voice…inner dialogue, you name it.” Much like Avon, I found that the practice of trying to fit my own stories to existing characters was an instrumental piece of learning how craft.
Fanfiction allows writers to stretch given information in unique new directions. How can we take a high school kid and put him in a world where people have wings? How can we make that a story about how the divisions between those with wings and those without represents class hierarchy, restricts or allows for access to resources, speaks to how social constructs affect our everyday lives…and want readers to care? (Yes, this is a thing I tried to do, thanks Glee!) Fanfiction authors ask devoted fans to take their internal concept and love for a character, plot or story into a voyage that amounts to an incredible leap of faith. To do so, authors have to be able to ground this crazy voyage in something fundamental. I particularly enjoyed fanfiction crafting when the stories that we are given create contradictory moments – how can we stitch together pieces that make no sense or actively contradict each other and make the reader believe them? (I’m looking at you Marvel)
When I spoke with Suzey Ingold (Speakeasy), something that jumped out at me was this – the idea that having characters given to you doesn’t provide a “shortcut”; similarly, having a plot already provided won’t either. Like some of the authors I spoke to (E.M. Ben Shaul, Amy Stilgenbauer, Racheline Maltese), Ingold had experience writing prior to coming to fandom – in her case, in theater and for the screen – but didn’t believe in her ability to write descriptive prose or narrative. Writing fanfiction not only helped her realize she could, but gave her the space to practice and hone those skills. When E.M. Ben Shaul (Flying Without a Net) described her journey from a day job as a technical writer at a software company to published author, fanfiction also came before original fiction: “I started writing fan fiction because…I realized at one point that I had forgotten how to write anything other than short, declarative, action-verb sentences; bulleted lists, and numbered steps. I had forgotten how to write dialogue that sounds like how real people talk.” Importantly, it was in writing fanfiction and skill building – and passion for writing and character – that the main characters for her novel came to her.
For many authors of both fan and published works, the genesis of an original character can be traced to initial interest in writing something in fanfiction. Often, the thing we want to write just doesn’t fit. Loving a story or a unique take on a character enough to see it through – outside of what often becomes a lovey comfort zone with existing readership – is a testament, in my opinion, to craft. Knowing when you’ve stretched something as far as it can go; recognizing when a character demands a unique world and voice; believing in a story enough to take a risk – these are skills we’ve learn through careful attention to character as well as story and world building.
Jude Sierra is a Latinx poet, author, academic and mother who began her writing career at the age of eight when she immortalized her summer vacation with ten entries in a row that read “pool+tv”. Jude began writing long-form fiction by tackling her first National Novel Writing Month project in 2007. In 2011Jude was introduced to the Glee fan community began writing fanfiction, where her stories garnered thousands of readers.
Jude is currently working toward her PhD in Writing and Rhetoric, looking at the intersections of Queer, Feminist and Pop Culture Studies. She also works as an LGBTQAI+ book reviewer for From Top to Bottom Reviews. Her novels include Hush, What it Takes, and Idlewild, a contemporary LGBT romance set in Detroit’s renaissance, which was named a Best Book of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews. Her upcoming novel, A Tiny Piece of Something Greater will be available in May of 2018.
Avon Gale is the author of the Scoring Chances series as well as numerous published novels and novellas. She is also co-writing the Hat Trick series with Piper Vaughn and co-wrote Heart of the Steal with Roan Parrish.