Happy Wednesday! Today, we have a wonderful article by The Flourishing author, Merlina Garance, who tells us about their journey of becoming a sapphic romance author while also coming to terms with her own gender and sexuality.
Merlina's work will be featured in the Indie Author Summer Extravaganza hosted by Hayley Anderton this weekend, so keep your eyes peeled for some discounts and freebies by a range of authors!
I started writing proper stories – as opposed to scribbling the ones my father invented for us – when I was 13. And yet, I wasn’t able to write female characters until last year.
Why did it take me 15 years to unlock that ability? The point of this story could be ‘denial goes a long way’.
I do remember trying, and failing terribly. I would add female characters to be the friend of my main, male characters but could only come up with irritating, cliché women that I hated instantly. And no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t bring myself to nuance them and come to appreciate those characters. For a long time, I thought sexism had the most to do with it. I had grown up reading about irritating, stereotypical female characters in books, seeing the same on screen, and that probably wasn’t a great inspiration for me to come up with better ones.
Learning about the ins and outs of patriarchy still didn’t help me write women.
Realising I wasn’t the straight, cis woman I presented as did.
I grew up in the French countryside. Suffice to say that there was no queer community there. The one lesbian girl in secondary school was just that: ‘The Lesbian Girl’ that everyone looked at during recess. Even before that, I was bullied for things as menial as my height or being interested in literature. There wasn’t any incentive to be out and proud of who you were, quite the contrary.
But I never longed to be part of the cool kids’ group, or have many friends. What I do remember is that from the day I discovered queer people were a thing, I wanted in. I craved anything queer and inhaled any TV shows, mangas, fics… anything I could find online about that world that seemed so magical and yet so inaccessible.
I met a few friends in secondary school and in the privacy of our little gatherings, we trusted each other enough to open up about certain things we had before kept to ourselves: some of us didn’t feel exactly straight. That was the time in my life when I thought of myself as bi. It wasn’t so scary if it was only theoretical. In our last year, two of these friends dated each other for about a month, while I always skirted around things. An old friend dared me to kiss her, and I did. I held hands with another but would deny anything in public.
I couldn’t begin to explain why I went back to identifying as heterosexual as soon as I graduated. Was it the loss of that safe group of friends, and being thrown with new people at university? Was it the ‘it’s only a phase’ rhetoric that finally caught up to me?
Why am I telling you all this? Because last year, I finally made peace with my identity – pansexual, female-presenting but not-sure-to-be-a-woman – and it finally showed me how those years of repressing who I was have influenced my writing.
Up until last year, I was never able to write from a female perspective. Just the thought of it made my skin crawl. Writing about being attracted to women was impossible as well, which is how I ended up writing romance exclusively about men for about fifteen years.
The moment I finally admitted that, yes, I may be also attracted to women it all clicked into place. Let me tell you, I never thought I would write two sapphic romance novels in one year, but here we are. Not only am I writing from a woman’s perspective I’m also waxing poetic about falling in love with a woman. And I couldn’t be happier.
If you’d read what I wrote throughout in my teens, there was probably one more clue there, that I wasn’t the cis, heterosexual girl I presented as. No character even had to come out in those stories. When a man suddenly fell in love with another, despite having only been with women before, nobody batted an eye. Coming out just wasn’t a thing, because it didn’t matter who you loved.
I long for such a world. I’m still in the closet in a way, just not to myself anymore. My husband knows, because it was important for me to be open about who I am with my partner. My two best friends know, as well a bunch of online friends who are part of the queer community. I have found my people, at last.
Even though I’ll probably never be fully out and proud – for many personal reasons – I still have those loved ones, I can still go to the local drag show every once in a while and be as queer as I like through my writing.
Whoever you are, wherever you are in your journey to being yourself, I hope you can be kind to the person you are right now. We are only doing our best.
I’ve always heard my mother say that as soon as I could hold a pen, I started writing stories. First, transcribing and illustrating the ones that my father had invented for us. Then elaborate back stories for my toys. Then one day, at the end of an exam in secondary school, with too much time on my hands and only paper available, that’s when it really started.
For a long time I wrote romance stories (in French, my mother tongue) and published them on a blog. I started writing in English in 2020, first fanfiction for videogames or tv shows that were dear to my heart and now, novels.
I worked for some years as a social worker, and quit at the end of 2022 to take care of my health and focus on writing.
I still write mostly romance, about characters who are always queer, often neurodivergent – and some poetry on the side. When I’m not writing, I like to spend time in nature, gardening or hiking, or play video-games.