Today our featured author is Shane Blackheart. We chat about their newest release and their favourite snippet of Everything is Wonderful Now, and also their experience of writing a book that is based on their own life as a trans trauma survivor.
Would you like to win an ebook? Make sure to take a look at our Instagram and join our giveaway. There are three copies for three lucky winners!
Tell us about your newest book, Everything is Wonderful Now, and what inspired you to write it.
Everything Is Wonderful Now is a paranormal urban fantasy about a child, Sera, who has been through a lot of trauma, and she experiences some pretty dark thoughts one night which results in the fallen angel Byleth appearing in her bedroom. He notices Sera has a pretty dark aura — Hellish, even — and he’s intrigued enough to stick around. An old grudge of his, the angel Umabel, happens to seek out Sera too, and with God missing, Umabel takes power into his own hands to not only attempt to eliminate a child of darkness, but to also get back at Byleth. The book flips the Light vs. Dark narrative, and it follows a trans man from childhood to adulthood as he confronts his own inner challenges with the help of demonic spirit guides.
I’d always wanted to write a memoir, but I could never figure out how to go about it. My real spirit guides and alters make an appearance in the book, Byleth being one of them, so the idea came about when I thought, ‘What would my life have been like if I’d met him when I was a child?’ It was like an epiphany that hit me. It felt like a much better way to talk about things I’d been struggling to find words for, and it was a chance to find healing in giving all the dark stuff a grander purpose.
The story is based on your own life as a trans trauma survivor. Was it difficult to put those struggles into another character, or perhaps therapeutic? We’d love to know about this experience!
It was definitely both difficult and therapeutic. In order to write something like this into fiction, I had to detach a bit to figure out who Sean/Sera was as a character so I didn’t just get caught up in writing it like you’d write a memoir, so a lot of difficult emotions arose. I had to write the truth in a way that read like fiction and still remained true to what inspired it, so that was also difficult. As I got farther into the book though, I think it really helped me heal to give a reason for all of the bad things that happened (Umabel, for one) instead of, ‘bad things just happen sometimes.’
The book includes fantasy elements such as angels. What drew you to the genre and how did it help you to tell such a personal story?
I’ve always had a big interest in religious studies and occult stuff, and I’m a really spiritual person myself as a Pagan, so my interest is in the historical and more ‘real’ stuff rather than fiction. What got me writing paranormal fantasy for the first time, though, was Supernatural. I was obsessed, and I wrote so much fanfiction for it.
Those same themes were perfect for Everything Is Wonderful Now because it was the best way to explore the overarching theme of religious trauma, which is also in the book. Having the main character be caught up in the typical quarrels between Heaven and Hell, and making a lot of that the cause of his struggles, gave all the suffering meaning. It was definitely a therapeutic way to shape the story.
Do you have a favourite snippet from your book? Feel free to share it here along with why it’s important to you!
There’s a scene with Sean and his spirit guides near the end:
‘The tingling he felt every time Byleth sang, and the warmth from Zagan's kisses. The mystery that intrigued him when Darokin spoke philosophy, and when the demon prince touched him in ways he was not familiar with. When any of them came close enough for Sean to feel their breath on his skin. The words he crafted to portray those moments on paper, and the reality that he existed alongside such fantastical beings.
That was what it felt like to be alive. He could do this.’
This snippet is from a scene that was actually inspired by an old blog/journal entry. I was really struggling with severe depression when I initially wrote it. When I need support the most, my spirit guides are always there, and I just need little reminders sometimes. This was one of those.
Your MC transitions to Sean, a disabled trans man with C-PTSD. Why is disability rep important to you and is there any other representation you wish you saw more of in media?
I remember how alone I felt for a lot of my teen years and young adult life with these kinds of mental illnesses, which I didn’t think could be considered disabilities. If I’d stumbled across a book or two with a main character who’d had similar diagnoses, and to see that they were disabled by them, it would have helped me survive some pretty difficult years. It’s so important for ‘invisible’ disabilities like mental illnesses to be talked about more, as often when people think of disability representation, they think of visible diagnoses, which honestly don’t get enough representation either.
I want to see more characters with complex and serious mental illnesses get good rep, like dissociative identity disorder and borderline personality disorder. All too often these diagnoses are stigmatized and used for evil characters, but those of us with these diagnoses aren’t evil at all, we deserve to be heroes too. I’d like more characters with conditions like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and other things like that, too, which I never see. Even with severe fatigue and the limitations that come with these conditions, characters can still explore dream worlds, astral project, and go on adventures even while homebound in a fantasy setting.
Knowing what you know now, do you have any advice for other trans people who may be either at the beginning of or in the middle of their journey?
Don’t ever give up, even if it feels like the worst-case scenario has happened. I had a lot of challenges on my journey, including getting kicked out for coming out, being disabled and homeless with no money for a year, and then later having an allergic reaction to the hormones I tried first. I fought for three years to get approved for top surgery with a transphobic and ableist insurance company. At every step of my journey, I thought it would be impossible to find a solution or get what I needed, but because I didn’t give up, it all worked out. Never stop searching, and please don’t stop trying to find an accepting therapist or doctor, even if you’ve gone through a few. They’re out there, and many will be willing to help you figure it all out.
If you’re a minor, the same applies. Hang in there, don’t lose hope, and if you’re not living in an accepting environment, just focus on staying safe and doing what’s safe until you can get out of there. You’ve got a future, it’ll just take a little time.
Tell us a little bit about your writing process! Are you a plotter or pantser? Did you overcome any challenges and how?
I can’t plot to save my life. My stories usually take on a life of their own even if I keep loose notes, so I just consider myself a discovery writer. I discover the story with the characters, and I’m as surprised and emotionally compromised over the twists and turns as they are. I just like to go on a journey.
Besides loose notes, I don’t really plan to write any specific story. As soon as the inspiration hits, it’s usually out of nowhere while I’m doing something like playing a game, listening to music, or watching a movie that inspires me. I’ll immediately grab the first thing near me that I can type on and start writing before the initial spark dies. The main challenge I had to overcome was keeping that spark going while having ADHD. What helped was to keep the Google Doc I was writing in as a tab in my browser that was saved, so every time I opened my browser, the story popped back into view again and put it back in my mind. It’s been the perfect solution.
What made you decide to self-publish rather than follow more traditional routes?
I tried the traditional route at first, and after a lot of rejections and seeing the lack of diversity in traditional publishing, I didn’t want to waste too much time since a lot was stacked against me already. I’ve seen authors query for many years just hoping for something to finally happen, which gave me more anxiety than just taking matters into my own hands. I also take chances with creative expression, which means I don’t write to market nor do I try to write something that fits easily into the market. Money isn’t really the goal for me, I just want to write what I’m passionate about, so self-publishing gave me the freedom I needed.
If you could give any advice to authors set to make their debut, what would it be?
If you’re self-publishing, don’t rush into things like I did! Although I did my due diligence and made sure the book was in top shape before hitting the publish button, I planned my release at the last minute which caused a ton of stress. Be sure to have promotional graphics ready well beforehand. Start hyping your book as soon as you can. Start gathering a ‘street team’ online early, just reach out on Twitter or your preferred social media and ask if anyone would like to help on release day. The writing community can be really generous, and you might be surprised at how many may want to help.
Also, ARCs. Advanced reader copies are the key to getting early reviews.
We’d love a hint about any of your current projects! Are you working on anything that might please or even surprise your readers?
I’m actually preparing to release my second book later this year, which is the sequel to Everything Is Wonderful Now. It’s called Open Wound, and it follows the first book’s progression to more of a horror theme. I think readers will definitely be surprised at the darker and more sexual themes, but it’s how Sean’s journey ends up. It delves more into the PTSD symptoms Sean didn’t really get to focus on in the first book, since his goal was survival, and it features the nightmare entity, his dark alter, he confronted. I’m really nervous, but it’s been my favorite story I’ve written so far.
Have any other shows, movies, books, or games influenced your own work at all?
Supernatural, definitely. That’s one of my biggest inspirations. The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain is probably another one, when it comes to philosophy and darker themes with angels and demons. The weirdness of V. C. Andrews’ books have also influenced me a bit, My Sweet Audrina specifically, and Anne Rice’s books, like Memnoch the Devil.
Our podcast focuses on media we’re currently loving. Are there any books, shows, movies, games, or podcasts you’re enjoying this Pride month? Any recommendations for our audience?
Author Daniel Aegan just released a pretty wild new book, called Bad News. I’m starting it soon, but it’s a novel about supervillains taking over a major news network to hold superheroes to the same standards as they are. It’s chaotic, but that’s the best kind of story. He also sent me a sticker with the book that says ‘This calls for some Queer Wrath,’ which I love.
Shane is a disabled nonbinary author and artist from Ohio. They live with their two cat sons.
They started writing stories at the age of seven and haven't stopped since. Having grown up with depression and a panic disorder, writing was often the best way to cope with early symptoms of trauma and agoraphobia.
Later having been diagnosed with PTSD, Borderline Personality Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, DPDR, as well as finding out they were plural, they made it their goal to raise awareness for these diagnoses, as they are often misunderstood.