Why do you write primarily transgender and queer characters?
Well, first off, because I write what I know. I’m a transgender man. Secondly, I think it’s important that other trans people see themselves reflected in media. I’d especially like to see more books and movies about transgender people that are written by transgender people. In this novel, like my others, the trans protagonist is very flawed. Why do I do this? Why don’t I portray ideal versions of trans people for good publicity? After all, there are enough negative stereotypes out there, why add to it? Simply put, perfect characters are not what literature is about. Especially in The Stars Below, I want readers to watch the journey of Damien, as he grows into a better person. I want them to see his humanity: that he’s struggling just like the rest of us. I think there’s a place for trans superheroes and antiheroes in media. I’m better at creating the latter.
Tell your readers about your book.
The Stars Below is about a man named Damien. He is transgender, female-to-male, and in his early 30’s. He has a drinking problem. He’s a writer, and he’s moved from living with his parents and working at a library to a farmhouse in the country to have solitude to work on his novel. When he gets there, he meets the various boarders: a woman named Michelle who is very sexually charged and seems to be constantly coming on to him. An androgynous goth named Alex. A friendly cowboy named Jesse with whom he starts a would-be-romance. A little girl named Ruby. And one starry night, a mysterious, handsome, cloaked man named Alexander. Damien gets hooked on a drug, ketamine, which is a psychedelic. He discovers eventually that all these people are actually one: a shapeshifter with multiple personalities. He begins a passionate Dom/sub relationship with Alexander, a demon who makes the shapeshifting possible. Damien’s drug use gets worse and worse, and eventually he has to decide between his new family and home with the shapeshifter or continuing to use ketamine and other harmful substances.
Tell your readers a little about yourself.
I live on a farm with my partner and family. We have goats, chickens, ducks, rabbits, and soon we will have horses. I’ve lived here for 3 years since the pandemic. I was born in Syracuse, NY, and grew up in the suburbs. I’m 34 years old. I’m the author of several books of fiction, memoir, and poetry including Refuse, Show Trans., and I Know Very Well How I Got My Name, and My essays have been published in The New York Times, The Advocate, Original Plumbing Magazine, and The Body is Not an Apology. My short story Dean and Teddy was published in The Collection: Short Fiction From the Transgender Vanguard, which won the Lambda Literary Award. I attended SUNY Purchase and Syracuse University and have a Bachelor’s degree in Literature.
Besides writing, my passions include photography, animal care, nature, music, snowboarding, and art. I am introverted but also thrive in communities.
What inspired you to author this book?
Mainly, I wanted to show how hellish addiction can be inspired by my own experiences. I portray a very flawed character and show how he recovers and becomes a better person. It would be great if the story gave people hope.
You’re an established author, with award-winning books including Refuse, I Know Very Well How I Got My Name, and Show Trans. Why did you go with Wattpad for this novel?
I prefer self-publishing. It allows me to have control over the process: the timeline, the cover art, the promotion….in short, everything. I chose Wattpad this time because I wanted to release this novel in installments, like a television series. Over the next few months, readers will be getting “Season One.” I also like Wattpad because it’s a community of people storytelling. I thought this would be a productive place to reach everyday readers in this modern age, where they can read on their phone or laptop. In the future, I will be publishing paperback versions of the book.