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An Interview With Author Shannon Rohrer! 🏳️‍🌈

Tell us a little about you! Where are you from, and what's something fun about your hometown?

I was born in North York (Toronto) Ontario, where I lived until I was eight-years-old. I’d say one of the best things about Toronto is that it’s a veritable melting pot of people that come from all sorts of backgrounds. It had it’s darker, more dangerous side too, of course, but the thing I remember most is how alive it felt there; so many different people, so much noise, so many different smells (usually the kind of cooking that would get a person’s mouth to watering) and the architecture and infrastructure are incredibly eclectic. Moving away felt like culture shock, but whenever I go back to visit now, I can’t imagine ever living there again. I guess I got used to the quieter life.

You have a new anthology out, OF CURSES & KINGDOMS: A FAIRY-TALE ANTHOLOGY. Tell us about it!

I’d love to! Originally, I hadn’t intended on turning the short stories into an anthology; my original plan was to shop them around to some magazines and see if anything stuck. Eventually though, I realized that many of the stories were thematic, especially in that I took the usual fairy-tale tropes and subverted them in some way. Each story is heavily inspired by my feelings towards my own bisexuality, touching on some experiences that I’ve had (or wished I’d had) through a fictional/fantasy lens. But I also wanted to leave the nature of each characters’ orientation ambiguous, so that other people could relate as well. As to the stories themselves, there are two original stories and three fairy-tale inspired ones touching on The Pied Piper, Rapunzel, and Rumpelstiltskin. While many fairy-tales have had an impact on me, I found these ones appealed to me the most, and when writing my own take on these tales, they came to me the easiest.

What is it about writing fantasy that appeals to you so much?

I think it’s the escapism aspect. Not that the real world is always awful, but that fantasy was oftentimes my escape from unpleasant things that were going on when I was a child. I could easily imagine myself visiting different worlds, being someone else, or at least a better, stronger version of myself. When I started (seriously) writing fantasy, it was about reconnecting with the part of me that still believed in magic.

Is queer representation important to you in the stories you write and read?

Sometimes, yes. In the Whispers of Nowhere trilogy, it wasn’t something I really concerned myself with at the time; partly because I still hadn’t fully realized my own orientation, but also because romance on the whole wasn’t a big theme (and the only established couple happened to be the villains, funny enough). I can read pretty much anything in my preferred genres, but I do find that there are times when I gravitate towards queer rep, and I think it is at these times that I’m looking for that connection the most. It’s also nice to live vicariously through these characters, as well.

I've always noticed that queer authors tend to gravitate towards the fantasy, sci-fi and horror genre. Why do you think that is, and can you relate?

I definitely can! I think it’s because these genres are only limited by the author’s and the readers’ imaginations. It’s sort of what I touched on before: you can be anything, see yourself as one of these characters or alongside them, experience the environments and peoples that they interact with, live in a world free from the prejudices and obstacles we have in our own, or tackle ones that parallel them. Overall, I think it’s the sense of being other than the status quo, in which characters in these genres–even when they are human–are usually extraordinary in some way; perhaps in a way we ourselves wish to emulate.

The publishing industry has changed so much over the years, trends and expectations. Have these changes affected how you write and publish now?

I think they have, yeah. I’m not a write-to-market sort of person; there’s nothing wrong with doing that, but I find I’ve always let my heart and my mind lead me on what I write. It has to be something that I myself want to read, and I have to trust that whether it’s ten people or ten thousand, I’ll find like-minded readers who are looking for the same thing that I am. I also find there’s more freedom in the industry than there used to be, which has in turn emboldened me to write about things that I otherwise would have been too timid to. I think it’s given a lot of writers that same freedom, allowing for more opportunities across the board.

I think as writers most of us have done self-inserts with our characters at some point. Have any of your characters ever been self-inserts?

In my published works, no. Most (if not all) of my characters of course have something of me in them–I think it’s only natural, because who they are, for better or worse, had to come from somewhere. For creatives, sometimes that’s from other people we’ve known, sometimes from ourselves; if only subconsciously on both counts. I will say I did a lot of self-inserting when I used to write fanfiction, though. I have stories that have never even made it into a word processor for that reason. Despite finding my earlier writing embarrassing though, I think it was an important step towards who I am today–and even if I can never share those self-inserts with others, they still hold some sentimentality for me (which is why I’ll never throw them away).

What else do you enjoy doing with your free time besides writing books?

I love reading, gaming, cuddling up to a show/movie with my husband, family game/movie nights with our daughter, taking my dog for long walks where I can just let my thoughts wander, and in the last few years, I’ve fallen right in love with gardening; something about getting my hands in the soil has such a calming effect on my anxiety, and being able to grow (at least some of) my own food is a pretty nice bonus. I also really enjoy intimate gatherings with friends–be it bonfires, having coffee/few drinks, or having a board-game night. Other than that, I like the occasional, spontaneous outing, or going to museums with my family. I’m honestly not the most exciting person, to be honest, but I’m pretty content with that.

Do you have any upcoming projects or events?

I’ve been buckling down on a story I started quite some time ago; a sci-fi cyberpunk that I’m hoping to finish before the year is over. Other than that, I have a few other finished drafts that need a bit more tweaking before I’m ready to share them with the world. As for events? Nothing yet, but I’ve been giving serious consideration to setting up a table locally to get my books out there a bit more.

You can find Shannon's new anthology here!

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