I'm knocking on trad pub's door with an evil book?
My latest manuscript is probably a haunted object. Completely unsellable. Too problematic. Or...is it?
Quick: What's something that bleeds for seven days but does not die? If you guessed "woman" and/or "demon" you're sort of right, but it depends, because not all women, yes some men and maybe neither. Now you're looking at me like I'm crazy. Awesome.
Let's try again: Does time move in a straight line, or are branching paths possible? If you meddle with the past, does it mess with the future? What about temporal loops—
Not getting it yet? Shit. What about: Can a good person do bad things and be a hero anyways? What is a hero, exactly?
Eyes glazing over? OK, how about this: What's it like being stuffed into a red latex zentai filled with wasps, stabbed full of holes and then shot every time you try to wriggle free?
Hmm, let me see: What happens when an unkillable object meets unlivable odds?
Those questions aren't anywhere near each other? Well, they would be, if you read the demonic manuscript currently writhing in my Google Docs. These questions live in the bones of a character I've written for decades. A character readers might consider a horrible hero who always manages to survive. Or, maybe he's a virtuous villain who can't be killed without his consent.
Meet Alex Voss: A superhero (with powers and everything) who's nothing if not complex. But is he too complex? To be honest and vulnerable: Maybe.
Currently, I'm querying INDIGO VOSS: An Epic trans psychological thriller. It's truthfully the best art I've ever made, but how intricate it is makes me self-conscious. For starters, Alex Voss is a hard MC to make simple, which means describing him in tertiary query materials is difficult. In addition, his character archetype is very rare. Not only that, what tropes Alex fits he subverts curiously, complicates beautifully, and problematizes like a fractal.
Please don't misunderstand: It's not that I'm some unique, prose-blessed author. Hardly. It's that trans guy characters—especially ones like him—are rare and rarely written this raw and empathically. Furthermore, society is struggling with accepting real trans people at the moment, and publishing also has its own transphobia issues to contend with.
I think feeing like the work doesn't fit is real, but I also might just be scared.
The plot? I haven't read a plot like this since the ancient dead Russian guy days. There's a spiritual sibling TV show, but that's about it. Riveting stuff if you like TV-as-literature. Still, the plot is challenging. What prose I'm inspired by isn't trendy and lives centuries prior. Believe me, I checked.
Furthermore, I'm worried about readers. I'm worried that cishet readers aren't eager to pop Alex's literary cork. I'm worried they'll see the book as "trans trauma porn" when it's "empathy for wounded queers." It might even be "Beatrix Kiddo but trans guy." It might also be "trafficking victim is both problematic and has a very many lot of guns." Finally, it's probably "bad guys are sometimes made, not born" and "maybe all you need is love."
That's very heavy stuff, isn't it? But is it too heavy? I don't know.
Worst of all, I'm worried that wounded queer readers (for whom the work is for) won't be up for it, either. I mostly don't want to hurt them with my art. You see, Alex will never not be problematic His story draws from complex lived experiences. It's inspired by two very-real lives, made into art to force a hard-won path to health. For what reason? I'm trying to dig someone I love out of self-sabotage.
I'm serious! I wrote this work to show a beloved person that I both understand them and imbue the lesson that they can not just survive, but thrive :)
Moreover, I'm trying to give myself some representation. Myself: A blurry-gendered trauma survivor, once-villain, creative badass and autist who is routinely mistranslated. If I know I'm rarely relatable, then the character created from my guts might be the same. Which would be a shame, if true. He's brilliant, with all his contradictions, his authenticity and drive to love and be loved.
Finally, all other characters in the work are much the same. Heroic villains, villainous heroes, contradictory catastrophes, sympathetic stereotypes, queers with muddy labels, and messy relationship-havers. You know, the stuff of real life.
I love people and so I write characters-as-people. Messy, lovely art-objects. Never perfect, but always worthy of space and understanding.
Suffice to say, the manuscript is complex. It might even be a haunted object. Something I could've queried 15 years ago. Something that I might need to wait 15 more years for publishing—and society—to shift. Invoking the beast without cursing myself and the literary landscape feels impossible, at the moment.
I could be wrong about all of this. Maybe this work has a shot.
Maybe my manuscript isn't that haunted, publishing yearns to embrace it and readers are open to weird-wild-wonderful. In fact, this might just be the exact book to open up the field for other folx (I'd like that). It might even be the perfect gay-hell survival text for surviving modern gay-hell.
Maybe an artsy literary agent will show up and embrace my manuscript like the scared feral kitten it truly is. Or, perhaps a progressive publisher will roll into my inbox, demanding the not-so-cursed object.
I can't say for certain. All I know is that being an unkillable object facing unlivable odds can create miracles. Maybe when you infuse that journey—times two—into accessible art, further miracles happen.
Maybe readers who need to know that destiny can be defied, will defy it. Maybe they'll fight like hell for self-ownership, all because a murder-twink suffered, shot his enemies, warped time, and came out the other side truly loved despite being a ridiculous hot mess.
I'm not sure, but I'm willing to find out ❤️
K. Leigh is an ex-freelancer, full-time author, and weirdo artist. Read their lgbt+ sci-fi books, connect on Twitter, visit their site, or send them an email if you’d like to work together. 🌈 🏳️⚧️