Monday, September 18, 2017

#BiWeek - Bi Characters in my Books


It's Bisexual Awareness Week, so what better time to give you all a bit more info on the bisexual characters in my books?

Before I go any further, I'll warn you this is an obscenely long post. At the end, I've listed the books that can be bought this week at discount price (50% – two of them are free) as part of Beaten Track Publishing's #biweek celebration.

On we go...

In case clarification is needed, the definition of 'bisexual' at work here is this:

an identity marker that refers to the capacity to be attracted to people of more than one gender. It doesn't require someone to have had relationships with more than one gender, and if someone identifies as bisexual, it is not up for question or discussion.

On a day-to-day basis, this causes lots of difficulties for bisexual people because their current relationship status is used as snapshot evidence to argue that they're really gay (if it's a same-gender relationship) or really straight (in an other-gender relationship).

They're really bisexual, and the greatest form of awareness we can show is to simply accept that fact when it is given to us. We are far less likely question a person's gayness or straightness, but in all cases, we don't have that right. It's none of our business.

Bi Characters in my Books
All of this means that bisexual people are a very diverse bunch, and there is absolutely no way to perfectly represent bisexuality in fiction.

What I try to do in my writing is reflect as much of that diversity as I can. This is very different from, for instance, the portrayal of bisexual men in M/M romance, who – by the nature of the genre and a fairly hefty dose of misogyny that makes 'girls' bits' an absolute no-no – end up in a (usually exclusive) sexual relationship with another man (or men if it's M/M/M).

My bisexual characters are, so far, all cisgender, but some are women, and some are men. Some are in same-gender relationships; some are in other-gender relationships; some experience both of those within a series (or even within a novel). All bi characters experience varying degrees of intimate (not necessarily romantic or sexual) attraction to other characters.

Hiding Behind The Couch series
Within 'The Circle' – these are the nine(ish) characters who are present throughout the series and appear in all of the 'seasons' but not necessarily in the character specials (novellas and novels).

Andy Jeffries (pan rather than bi)
This is a fun one to start with, by which I mean really complicated to explain without spoilers. But I'm working in alphabetical order, so Andy goes first.

Andy is mainly attracted to women – first Jess and later Shaunna, with a few others along the way. However, he is open about his attraction (and more) to non-females, and the ascription of 'straight' is not his own. He doesn't dispute it, but he does make very clear that he is open to all possibilities – not just in relation to his interpersonal relationships, but to life in general. He's mostly an adventure sports nut who never quite left behind his grungy youth, with a serious soft spot for a certain redhead.

Kris Johansson
Kris is out as bi from the beginning of the series, or at least from the point in the series where he realises his sexuality. He's an actor, which puts him in the spotlight and leads to activism on a large scale, but he is consistently outspoken against bi erasure from the moment he identifies as bi.

One of the first (and enduring) battles he has is with George, who was his first boyfriend. George is gay, and a genuinely nice guy, but he does hold some of the common misconceptions about bisexuality (i.e. that Kris is 'trying to blend in', that he was really 'always gay' but confused). Kris also has to deal with this with Shaunna (his future wife):

Shaunna started off with the usual ribbing about turning Kris straight, and wondered how they had arrived at this situation, not that she was regretting it. Kris confessed he was still attracted to men, probably bisexual, but hadn’t wanted anyone else since they first got together, whenever that had been.

From Hiding Behind The Couch (Season One)

In short, Kris is monogamous and still bisexual, regardless of the gender of his partner.

The other challenge Kris faces is that, as a child, he was sexually abused by his great uncle, and this affects his relationships (with friends, family and intimate partners) as an adult.

This is also quite a challenge for me as an author. There's an out-of-date, incorrect (but still rears its ugly head) argument that anything non-heterosexual/non-sexual is a consequence of childhood abuse (or other trauma). This is what happens when the relationship between two factors (in this case being LBGT+ and being abused) is misinterpreted as cause and effect. It may well be cause and effect, but if it is, it works in the opposite direction – LGBT+ people are abused because of their sexuality.

The challenge for me, therefore, is to write Kris's history whilst tackling these assumptions and all the bi erasure and biphobia that goes with them without getting preachy, made all the more difficult by the fact that Kris is...preachy.

Crying in the Rain is a novel that focuses entirely on Kris (and Ade).
Red Hot Christmas is a novella that focuses on Shaunna and the men in her life, including Kris.

Other Central Characters (not in The Circle)
Charlie Davenport
Charlie – or Charlotte – appears in the prequel (Beginnings) as a baby and then doesn't make another appearance until season three (The Harder They Fall). She's Eleanor's younger sister, a (soccer) football coach and former player for the women's national team. That's partly why she's not around for a long time; the other reason is her mother, who is actually a lovely woman, but kids, you know...

Charlie gets quite a bit of on-page time in:
In The Stars Part I and Part II (Seasons Four and Five)
Two By Two (Season Six)
Those Jeffries Boys (Character Special)

I also have the start of a Charlie character special titled Not My Coach.

Saorla Tierney
Saorla briefly appears in the second prequel (Ruminations) and Season Seven (Reunions). She is also the main character of the novella To Be Sure, which releases later this year.

Saorla is Sean's mum, and she never uses the word 'bisexual' to describe herself, which has a great deal to do with her age (seventy), upbringing (Roman Catholic) and where she lives (Derry, The North of Ireland).

Inevitably, the rumours their dad spread had reached them, and Sean could still remember lying on his belly in front of Aunty Aileen’s TV when his brother had asked, “Are you one of them lesbians, Mum?” Finn had meant nothing by it, just a fourteen-year-old boy’s curiosity, and their mum’s answer had been honest and reflective of the time and culture. Because even nuns had to get their affection somewhere, didn’t they? She’d assumed then, and possibly still assumed now, that women, universally, had feelings for other women. Those friendships were distinct from the marriage of a man and a woman, or—latterly, because she hadn’t always supported marriage equality—two men or two women, but it wasn’t the same as what she and Aileen had.

From Reunions (Season Seven)

Taz
Taz is mentioned in Ruminations, but his only on-page time is in the short story Class-A (which runs concurrently with Ruminations). Pretty much anything I say here will be a spoiler, so I'll just say he's bi and gives in-the-closet Simon Henderson a lot to think about.

Will Richards
Will first appears in the novella Breaking Waves and the first chapter of Season Five (In The Stars Part II). He's a surfer some of the other guys meet at the beach. However, he is a major secondary character (Gray's love interest) in the Gray Fisher series (The WAG and The Scoundrel, 2016; Tabula Rasa, WIP).

Checking Him Out series
Jesse Thomas (The Making Of Us CHO#4)
Jesse first appears in book two (Taking Him On CHO#2). In terms of character genealogy, he's the best friend of Noah, who is Adam's younger brother.

So, what happened here was this: I wrote an M/M romance (Checking Him Out #1) about Sol and Adam, in which Noah and Matty make an appearance, and readers asked for more Noah and Matty.

So, I wrote another M/M romance (Taking Him On CHO#2) about Noah and Matty, in which Jesse and Leigh make an appearance, and readers asked for more Jesse and Leigh.

So, I wrote...a non M/M romance! Jesse's attraction to Leigh (who is intersex and queer) is how he becomes aware of his bisexuality, which sounds like a spoiler, but it's not. The Making Of Us isn't a coming-out story; Jesse isn't conflicted by his sexuality at all. He has (pun intended) bigger issues to deal with.

Stereotypes, man. But at times, I was as bad as the next person, I’d admit that. Like my assumption that Noah’s dad wouldn’t be any good at surfing, just because he was a big guy, when I knew firsthand the cruelty of those judgements. I didn’t choose to be this way.

I don’t know; maybe it was like being gay or queer, because nothing I did made any difference in the long term. Maybe dieting was conversion therapy for fatties and we needed to take a stand.

From The Making Of Us

Elise Brooks (may well get her own book at some point)
In a way, this is a supreme spoiler because nowhere in the Checking Him Out series is Elise identified as bi, and there's a very good reason for that. The series is written in first-person, and anything related to Elise is from Sol's point of view, which is flawed. Elise never comes out to Sol, and, being Sol, he assumes.

So there you have it. A little new light shed on book one. ;)

Seeds of Tyrone series (co-written with Raine O'Tierney)
Chancey Bo Clearwater (Where the Grass is Greener, SOT#2)
Chancey is a cowboy. A hot cowboy (I get to say this because we each focused on developing a character, and Chancey is Raine's work, so this ain't bragging). Chancey has a...delightful ex-wife. No, really, she's a peach! He also has a teenaged daughter who is just brilliant (again, I ain't bragging, well, about my co-author, but that's allowed).

And then there's his lil ole tussle with a certain Irishman...

Seamus Williams (Where the Grass is Greener SOT#2)
Seamus is the older brother of Patrick (Leaving Flowers, SOT#1) and briefly appears (a couple of chapters) in Leaving Flowers. When we join him in book two, he's been back in Ireland a good while, where he fled, trying to escape from a certain hot cowboy with a peachy ex-wife and teenaged daughter.

I'm sure you get the general idea.

Both Chancey and Seamus (along with Aidan and Patrick) also make an extended appearance in book three, along with...

Tom Donnan (Christmas Craic and Mistletoe, SOT#3)
Tom briefly appears in SOT#2 – he's the sexy guy with muscular thighs that gets young Michael hot under the collar whilst both are working on Seamus's crop-picking crew.

Christmas Craic and Mistletoe (story 2) is, I suppose, a coming-out story, although it's Michael's coming out that's important here. For Tom, it's more about self-discovery than the social act of telling others. Tom is 24, an intelligent guy who's wasted opportunities on being 'one of the lads'. Through a series pretty awful events, Tom finally does something about realising his potential.

Stand-Alone (ish) Stories
Chris (Champagne)
Chris is NOT a nice guy. Not in the least. Which has nothing to do with him being bisexual, but if I'd written Champagne (stage play or novel) after I went to university and learnt about the blaming of bisexuals for the spread of HIV to the heterosexual population (BS), I wouldn't have written Chris as bisexual. Even though nasty people come in all shapes and sizes, as an author, I have to be aware of and, ideally, avoid perpetuating negative stereotypes. So, I screwed up. It was my first novel. Live and learn.

Kieran O'Sullivan (Of The Bauble)
Kieran is an openly bi uni student tasked with collecting the Christmas decorations from the loft, whereby he makes an...interesting discovery that is shaped by his orientation. That's as much as I can say without spoiling the story. It's a Christmas novella, and it's free this week on Smashwords!

Jack Davies (And The Walls Came Tumbling Down)
Jack is one of those non-heroic types who get thrown into a situation that requires them to play the hero whilst making amends with the girl who (he perceived) stalked him in high school. This isn't a romance, and there is nothing in the story that overtly identifies Jack as bi (there are hints) because it's not relevant to the plot, and the only way I could add it in there would've been contrived, so...you'll have to take my word for it. ;)

Buy via Smashwords (discount is only on books with a bi MC)

The Making of Us - EW85Q
Of The Bauble (FREE) - UX98B
Class-A (FREE) - PJ59U
The WAG and The Scoundrel - HW55C
Christmas Craic and Mistletoe - EX77W
Where the Grass is Greener - PQ84Y
Crying in the Rain - YA69F

Full list of stories mentioned + genre

Rather than linking them all individually, here's my page on Beaten Track:
beatentrackpublishing.com/debbiemcgowan

I've included other stories in the series (in grey) so you have an idea of where the stories fit into the whole picture.

STAND-ALONE STORIES:
And The Walls Came Tumbling Down – Sci-fi/fantasy (new adult)
Champagne – LGBT historical fiction (1980s)
Of The Bauble – biromantic romance / fantasy (young adult)

SEEDS OF TYRONE:
Leaving Flowers (#1) – M/M romance (explicit)
Where the Grass is Greener (#2) – M/M romance (explicit)
Christmas Craic and Mistletoe (#3) – 2x M/M romance (intimate but not explicit)

CHECKING HIM OUT:
Checking Him Out (#1) – M/M romance (explicit)
Checking Him Out For The Holidays (novella) – M/M romance (explicit)
Hiding Out (novella) – Contemporary fiction
Taking Him On (#2) –  M/M romance (new adult – explicit)
Checking In (#3) – M/M romance (explicit)
The Making Of Us (#4) – Bi/intersex romance (new adult – intimate but not explicit)

HIDING BEHIND THE COUCH:
All stories are contemporary fiction/slice of life and cover the full array of relationships, romantic and otherwise.
Beginnings (Novella)
Ruminations (Novel)
Class-A (Short Story)
Hiding Behind The Couch (Season One)
No Time Like The Present (Season Two)
The Harder They Fall (Season Three)
Crying in the Rain (Novel)
First Christmas (Novella)
In The Stars Part I: Capricorn–Gemini (Season Four)
Breaking Waves (Novella)
In The Stars Part II: Cancer–Sagittarius (Season Five)
A Midnight Clear (Novella)
Red Hot Christmas (Novella)
Two By Two (Season Six)
Hiding Out (Novella – CHO Crossover)
Breakfast at Cordelia’s Aquarium (Short Story)
Chain of Secrets (Novella)
Those Jeffries Boys (Novel)
The WAG and The Scoundrel (Gray Fisher #1)
Reunions (Season Seven)
To Be Sure (Novella – expected 2017)
Tabula Rasa (Gray Fisher #2 – expected 2017)

2 comments:

  1. I still say that moment between Will and Gray (that I'm not sure is spoilers, so I won't say) is one of my all-time favorites. It's just GORGEOUS and perfect and...sigh. All the yeses.

    And of course, I probably don't really need to gush about the rest because you already know how I feel. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's a tricky one, isn't it? I really wanted to quote it in this blog post, but it does feel too special to just cast out there without context.

    And thank you. <3

    ReplyDelete