Those who are eagle-eyed may have noticed that I altered my Twitter profile this past week. I changed both my header and my little avatar picture. I felt it was something I should do in light of the issues going on in the #WritingCommunity with a series of revelations regarding male writers using a female pen name to write lesbian erotica and prey on the opposite sex. Something utterly abhorrent that I am vehemently against.

(If you missed it, then I wrote a little about it in this post LINKY, and also my Twitter chum Nikki wrote about it here on her website LINKY HERE and LINKY HERE – hers is soooo much better than mine!)

I’ve NEVER pretended to be anything other than who I am.

Jon Ford.

Writer of SciFi Fantasy. But I’d often worried that my avatar, being a snippet of the commission art my wife bought for me of Lana and Gayle (two of the MCs from my book series), might lead the casual observer to believe that I was a female writer.

So, I changed it to the logo you find here on my website. I also went and changed my Facebook profile and my Instagram, too. Indulging in a little brand synergy.

The overriding point I’m making here is that I’m NOT female.

Nor am I lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer. But I do wholeheartedly support those who are. And I am aware that they are often under-served or misrepresented in fiction.

Now, I may get some heat for being a straight-white-male saying this, but when I started writing ‘The Ballad of the Songbird’, I had a list of things I wanted to achieve. Things that were important to me.

One of those things was that I wanted the books in the series to be INCLUSIVE.

If this is the book I want to leave behind as a legacy to my life on this little ball of blue and green, then I want it to mean something more than being simply a good yarn – though I do hope that is also the case.

I class my book, when asked, as a Science Fiction Fantasy novel.

The story is set in the near distant future – 2045 to be exact. I can get away with it being not too far in the future because I used 2016 as a branching point, so my future is not our future. It enabled me to make a world that is ours…but also very different in that it has fantasy elements. You want Vampires, Werewolves and Dragons, then you got ‘em.

Science Fiction especially has always been a useful lens for throwing a sneaky eye over the issues faced by society.

I’ve mentioned in other blog posts how Star Trek was a HUGE influence on my formative years. As a show, it was renowned for being a progressive series. 

It introduced me to a cast that was black, white and Asian. It had characters from the US, Scotland, Russia, and altogether alien worlds. All working together, accepting each other. 

And let’s face it… Kirk would basically shag anything with a pulse. Color and race meant nothing to space’s ultimate Casanova. Black, green, white, robot… it didn’t matter. Kirk would be shirtless and lip-locked with them within seconds!

Now, I’m not saying Star Trek was perfect…this was the 1960s and it was early days for this stuff. But I do credit being a Trekkie with making me more accepting as a human being.

I was keen to carry this over into my books. Something I was very enthusiastic to touch upon, but in an understated way.

Let me explain.

There were some things that I really wanted to avoid. These consisted mainly of the typical tropes we see in many Vampire and Werewolf stories in pop culture.

For starters, I wanted to get away from the gothic nature of these stories. I was keen to include a little mythology that could keep the reader intrigued, but I also wanted my supernatural creatures based in reality.

That means that they do real things, like real people. Deal with the same real problems.

Take Lyssa, for example. She’s my main Vampyrii character.

Lyssa is the head of House Balthazaar, an ancient and revered Vampyrii family. But Lyssa is, in most respects, also a very normal person.

Lyssa loves her car and drives it herself into New York City to attend her office and do her job. She loves old rock music. She feels the same stresses and strains on her life as you or I do, due to her responsibilities and her position.

She also happens to be a bi-sexual woman with a female bias. The complication for her is that she is living in a society (the Vampyrii country of New Victus) that is run by a man called Sebastian StormHall, and is patriarchal in nature. Sebastian is racist, sexist and just about any other ‘ist you can mention. Under his regime, Vampyrii society frowns upon her chosen sexuality. So, Lyssa struggles with dating, partly because of the stresses of her position, but also because of societal influences and a vastly reduced dating pool.

For ‘Hunters,‘ I took a steer from one of my guilty pleasure TV shows which – as you may have figured out if you’ve been paying attention to my Casting Call pages – is Wynona Earp.

It has a HUGE following in the LGBTQ+ community because of its portrayal of the gay relationship between Waverley and Nicole. This is a couple that isn’t treated as ‘hot lesbians.’ They’re portrayed as an ordinary relationship with the same witty banter and romantic overtones that any relationship should have.

Wynona Earp is a supernatural fantasy show with relatable characters…some of which happen to be gay. Waverly and Nicole flirt, love, argue, fight and do everything a normal couple would do regardless of sexuality. 

Plus, they fight demons…

This is what I wanted to do. To normalize everything.

So, this is what I have striven for.

That’s just one example of what I’m working toward.

My series flits around the world. I visit different countries all over the globe, which gives me the chance to bring in characters of any variety I like.

I will have everything from gay Dragons to trans Vampires, and anything in between that I feel like throwing in. But the rule of thumb for every character is to treat them like they’re just every day normal people with every day normal problems. Their sexuality, their race, or the color of their skin makes no difference.

I very much want the ‘Songbird’ saga to be enjoyed by everyone. I feel it has a little something for everyone.

You want a little horror with your SciFi?

You want a little romance?

A mystery or two to dig your teeth into?

Most of all, though, I had a desire for the books to be inclusive.

I see a lot of myself in the characters of Michael and Gayle. The issues that those two have, especially Gayle, mirror some of my own experiences. My own insecurities. But they are just two in a huge cast of characters. There are something like 15 or so primary characters so far over the first two books. The chapters are written from THEIR point of view, from inside their minds. Each has their own story arc, all of which will eventually start to intertwine as the saga reaches its conclusion in book 7.

This past week, I commissioned my cover art, and spent a good deal of time talking to the artist about my vision for the covers. I can’t wait to share it with you when I get it.  I’m so excited!

But my vision is to have each book color-coded.

If you read my post about the ‘Spreadsheet of Doom™’, then you may have noticed my list of the book names…

Book 1 – ‘Hunters’ is color coded RED

Book 2 – ‘Blood to Earth’ is color coded ORANGE

And so on.

7 books – 7 colors of the rainbow.

It’s not by fluke that my books will form a kind of rainbow flag when they are put together on your book shelf.

I’m NOT writing erotica – though my books will have adult content. The fact that I have characters who are gay, or trans, or whatever I choose to write them as is NOT the point of the story.

My characters are people.

Just people.

Ordinary, every day people with their own opinions and preferences.

Who also just happen to be Human, Fae, Vampyrii, Werewolf, Dragon, Harimau Jadian, Troll, Ice Giant…

Because isn’t that kind of how the world should be?

Love & Books

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14 Comments

  1. Ty Barton

    Reply

    I really think changing things up is an overreaction and unnecessary. The huge difference is intent. If a fan interacted with you and you realized that fan mistakenly believed you to be a woman, or African American, or gay, or disabled, you would correct them. You’re writing fiction, but you haven’t created a fictional life for yourself. You could keep using Gayle’s avatar and I would still easily discern that you’re a married man with a lovely wife. You have no intent to mislead anyone for your own gain. That’s what matters.

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      Honestly, Ty… I’d been meaning to change my profile for a while anyway. 🙂

      My Twitter etc was originally set up many many years ago (February 2009) and was a personal profile. Now as I push it to be a more professional profile, I’ve been meaning to sort of bring all my different accounts into line under one common ‘brand’ so to speak.

  2. Clarke

    Reply

    Bring on the inclusivity, it’s very much needed. Then maybe in 2045 youngsters won’t have to worry about being bullied for being different. I wish it was a given really. My best mate will totally relate to Lyssa. I just sent her a text with a link to your blog page.

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      Aw, that’s awesome, thanks, Clarke!
      In Hunters, I start the ball rolling with Lyssa (bisexual), but as the other books come out I’m keen to explore other things too. It occurre or sd to me, that I’m painting on a canvas in a future where a new dynamic has come into play and in some regards has levelled the playing field for people of all types.
      I’m not just playing with gender, colour, and nationality… I’m now playing with ‘breed’ (for want of a better word!), in that I have Human, Vampyrii, Werewolf etc.
      On one hand, this means that Humanity has somewhat united against a newer, common threat. Why are they worrying about gender or skin colour when they are ALL being hunted and killed by creatures VASTLY different to them?
      At the same time…are Vamps and Were’s REALLY that different? What happens if Vamps and Were’s are different gender preferences and colours too?
      Where is the line on prejudice drawn?
      Plus, in my books, Fae are essentially shape changers. They can pretty much appear to be any way they want to. Appearance and gender is a choice for them. They could be black and male one day, white and female the next… or whatever they chose to be.
      In a world where beings like that exists, again, where is the line on prejudice drawn?
      I’m hoping my books may provoke thoughts on how despite diversity we are all essentially the same.
      How we look, how we identify is not the issue when at our core, our soul, we are all the same.

  3. Marie

    Reply

    I love the color scheme of your books! I do agree that it was your choice to change everything. If someone thought something about you that wasn’t true, you would be up and honest with them. At least I think you would, that’s the feeling I get from reading your blogs.

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      Thanks Marie.
      In actual fact, the concept of the covers had been in my head for a while now. (Read my upcoming NEWS UPDATE post for more information on my book cover concept!) The rainbow theme had always been in the plan, because of the Spreadsheet of Doom™.
      I had different tabs for each book, and those tabs were different colours, just for ease of use. Seven books, seven colours… Rainbow theme.
      Later on when I started writing, I started to realise the diversity of my cast of characters, and how I wanted the books to be very inclusive.

      As for my representing myself… I am who I am. 🙂

  4. KTReed

    Reply

    Jon, do you have a lower end in mind when it comes to the appropriate age to read Songbird? I have an 11-year-old niece who is a voracious reader of fantasy books and rather brilliant for her age. Is your book appropriate for someone that young? Do you believe you’ll have it published in time for Christmas?

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      Oh, Hunters is an adult read without any uncertainty I’m afraid.

      There are adult themes abound. Gayle has never met a swear word she didn’t fall in love with. The ‘Hunt’ that is central to the story in book 1 (it is called ‘Hunters’ after all!) has more than a touch of horror and a few gruesome moments. And there is a little sexual content too (only a little and it’s not explicit!). So, no… it’s probably not age appropriate for your niece…sorry 🙁

      However… here’s where things get interesting.

      The early books are set around a place called the Human/Fae Academy. It’s where Gayle learnt to control her powers when she was young, and it’s where she returns after her injury (prior to book 1) to teach a new generation of kids. Now, where the ‘Songbird’ saga doesn’t concentrate on these kids, I do have plans to do a tie in series about them. And that WILL be age appropriate. The kids in the Academy will be 11+ and I plan to do a series that follows their adventures, which will weave into the main ‘Songbird’ saga.

      The plan is, to grab the YA audience with them, and graduate them into the main ‘Songbird’ series when they’re old enough.

      I also have plans for a Prequel series about Gayle’s time prior to the series, another Prequel series that will detail how the world became what it did, AND possibly a follow on series…because book 7 of the ‘Songbird’ saga leaves things in a VERY interesting place.

      Last thing… We’re looking at a March date for book 1. 🙂

      Sorry KT!

  5. Jack Davies

    Reply

    I enjoy reading your posts about the writing community. It’s brilliant that you all support one another so much, especially when we’re living in such an individualistic and competitive society.

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      It’s a good community to be a part of, there are some VERY helpful people on there.
      It’s also really good to be able to talk to people who have gone through or are going through the same process that you are. 🙂

  6. CMorrison

    Reply

    Enjoying your blog! I loved that Gene Roddenberry wrote in characters with diverse backgrounds at a time hardly anyone did. Thanks for carrying forward what he and others have started.

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      Trying my bestest! 😀
      Star Trek was such a massive influence on me, I can’t help but tread in those rather large footsteps!

  7. Simon

    Reply

    Jon,
    I admire your desire and hard work to make gay, lesbian, and trans characters regular everyday people. These populations do struggle with unique issues, though. Do you touch on these unique issues as well? How do you effectively write from a character’s point of view when you have not experienced it yourself? Do you talk to others who have experiences in these areas?

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      Yeah, this is a challenge because I am none of those things.
      I do have friends that represent that kind of diversity though, so I’m keen to tap into their knowledge, experience and expertise. Even so, it is a touch thing to do.
      It’s difficult because I want to be representative, but I don’t want to try and hamfistedly write about things I can’t understand because I’m not in that demographic. So, while I’ll strive to represent them, I’ll leave the deeper exploratory books on those topics to the people that truly understand them.
      Does that makes sense?

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