I am a cis white man.
Corey/Kori Ellison, the star of Why We Fight, is biracial and bigender.
I will never know what it means to be transgender. I will never know the struggles people of color face. I can have empathy and appreciation, but to say I have a complete understanding would not only be false, but also ignorant.
Which is why it’s taken so long for Corey/Kori’s book to see the light of day.
I’ve written characters of color before: Sam of Wilds, across four books. Olive Juice is built around a black woman and the idea of “missing white woman” syndrome. In the upcoming Heartsong, a new character of color is introduced who will make a mark on the pack through Brothersong. In my big Tor debut, The House in the Cerulean Sea, there are quite a few side characters of color. In my most recently finished book, The Tremendous Death of Wallace Price, the love interest, Hugo, is a black man, and his best friend is a Chinese-American woman who is in most of the book.
I write this not to list off my bona fides, but to show that these books, while important, don’t cover my entire back catalogue. And out of all the books I’ve written, these add up to less than a quarter of that total. Most of my characters have been white or white-passing. I’m striving to do better with inclusivity because I think it’s important while still wanting to make sure I avoid any sort of white-savior trope.
And even though I have written characters of color before, Corey/Kori is someone different. The At First Sight series is not known for it’s political correctness or subtlety. When I introduced the character by way of the BOATK series in The Art of Breathing, I didn’t do so because I wanted to tick some boxes. I was genuinely interested in who Corey could become. I will admit, however, that I didn’t give much thought (at least at first) into the idea of writing a book for them. It wasn’t until The Queen & the Homo Jock King that I realized just how much I wanted to write their book. I think it was one of the big reasons I had the character cross over from the BOATK series to the Tucson Crew: Seafare is angst and drama and blah, blah, blah. Tucson isn’t, and I thought if I could tell their story, I’d want them to be in a happier series where angst isn’t the main focus.
But Queen was three years ago (!!!). I kept pushing it off because I wondered if I would do the book justice. I worried I’d end up fucking it up somehow which could not only leave a sour taste in the mouths of my readers, but potentially cast a shadow on the entire series. I think the Paul/Vince wedding novella, Until You, came about because I was frustrated with myself for not diving in like I should have.
When I finally decided to buckle down and start writing, I knew I would have to do as much (if not more) research than on any other book I’ve written. I had an obligation to get this right. No beta reader or sensitivity reader could take the blame if I got something wrong. My name is on the cover. These are my words. I am completely and 100% responsible.
And I did get things wrong in the initial drafts. I had a trans reader go over it, showing me where I’d fucked up. I had a person of color read through it and school me on black/Hispanic hair. I had a sensitivity reader (who also happens to be one of my editors) ask why, given the climate between people of color and police, would Corey/Kori make a joke about calling the cops at something Nana had said?
The best intentions can still lead to mistakes, and those mistakes could be impactful if I don’t correct them.
This abundance of caution may sound like overkill (trust me, it’s not), but Corey/Kori deserves to have their story done right. Trans authors are the best at telling trans stories. I am not trans, and yet here I am telling a story about a trans character. The onus is on me to get it right. Beginning next month in the lead up to the May 14 release, I’ll talk more about my due-diligence of wanting to get things correct while still maintaining the ridiculousness that is Paul and Sandy, Darren and Vince, Daddy Charlie, Nana, Mattie, Larry, Wheels, and the homophobic parrot Johnny Depp.
And, of course, Corey/Kori and Professor Jeremy Olsen.
Now for the real reason you’re here.
First, Why We Fight comes out May 14th, and it’s up for pre-order.
Add on Goodreads: Goodreads
And now, the cover, created by Reese Dante:
Do you believe in love at first sight?
Corey Ellis sure doesn’t. Oh, everyone around him seems to have found their happy ending, but he’s far too busy to worry about such things. He’ll have plenty of time for romance after he survives his last summer before graduation. So what if he can’t get his former professor, Jeremy Olsen, out of his head? It’s just hero worship. And that’s the way it should stay.
Except that this summer, bigender Corey—aka Kori—is interning at Phoenix House, a LGBTQI youth center that recently hired an interim director. And because life is extraordinarily unfair, the director just so happens to be a certain former professor, now current boss.
Desperate to keep things professional as he and Jeremy grow closer, Corey makes a major mistake: he turns to his friends, Paul Auster and Sanford Stewart, for help.
But Paul and Sandy have some ideas of their own.
Set in the summer of 2016, Why We Fight is a celebration of queer life and being true to oneself… no matter the cost.