Friday, December 4, 2015

Twinja Book Reviews 3rd Annual Diversity Month Day Four: Interview with @navrodravi

We're four days strong in our 3rd Annual Diversity Month, and we can't wait to introduce our next guest. We've got to connect with this author through some awesome diversity in SFF chats over the past few weeks, so it's great to finally find a way to get them to come by, so everybody who's not familiar can get to know zir can poke zir and grace us with that NaNoWriMo project we've been hearing great thing about! Without further delay...

Twinja Book Reviews Annual Diversity Month Day Four:
Author/Writer Ren/Neo

We know who you are from our awesome exchanges on Twitter, but for those meeting you for the first time, introduce yourself!

Hello! I'm Ren, a nonbinary Brazilian writer. Fantasy is my favorite genre, and I love everything with elves, dragons or angels. I'm aroace too, and a fan of stories with strong friendships and slow burn romance.

What can you tell us about your journey becoming a writer?

My journey to become a writer started early, mainly because of my grandfather. He used to tell me and my brother stories before we went to bed (I was 7, my brother was 6), and one day he just said, "well, I don't have any stories to tell anymore. Why don't you two tell one then?"

I haven't stopped since then, but being a published writer of SFF in Brazil is hard. For years, I didn't even consider it; writers came from the USA or England, not from Brazil, so my main goal was to post my stories online and being published was a dream I didn't really believe in. My first "serious" story did really well in a now dead Brazilian forum for writers; I made great friends (who still my friends today ana also my beta-readers), got lots of feedback, and wrote more than I had ever done, but eventually I decided to stop posting so I could rewrite the story. Problem being: I never finished any of the drafts I had started. After eight years trying (since I was 11!) I put that story aside this year to work on something new. One day I'll write it though; it's the story I like the most.

So, I started writing in English in the past few months and thanks to NaNoWriMo I have almost 60k words of the first draft of a new story. I plan to finish it the next two months and then I'll rewrite it - and maybe publish it one day, who knows? 

What can you tell us about your experience growing up?

It wasn't that good when it comes to diversity. Few SFF books (the genres I read the most) were being published in Brazil while I grew up, and it was only with the Harry Potter/Twilight boom! that YA novels started arriving here, and adult fantasy novels only came when ASOIAF exploded. Needless to say, only the more popular books are translated to Portuguese and unfortunately they (usually) are the ones that lack diversity. Before I started reading in English (which happened maybe four years ago) everything I got my hands on was extremely white, cis, straight and male.

Even today very few women writers of SFF are published here, let alone women of color or trans/nb authors. I started writing my first "serious" story because of that; I was tired of fantasy novels with male protagonists. There was no Tamora Pierce and similars for me, and every single fantasy book seemed to be about a boy. And of course all those boys were white, straight, cis, able-bodied and so on.

The first (fantasy) book with a girl as the MC I read was Nihal of the Land of the Wind by Italian author Licia Troisi, and I loved it. That was, of course, before I found out about non binary genders/realized I wasn't a girl. Because of all this, I only started reading diverse books in the past 3 years or so. I have a lot to catch up.
Why do you write the types of stories you write, and do you plan diversifying genres in the future?

I like to write about siblings, strong friendships and survival, all of this usually in a fantasy world, of course. I think I write about these things because they are important to me in a way or another; I'm really, really close to my younger brother, for example, and as aroace person friendship is something I treasure a lot. And survival is a theme I like because everyone (or almost everyone) has a survival instinct, and I think it is strong than things like greed or even revenge. And nope, I don't.

How can we make the conversation about diversity where it needs to be?

Diversity conversations usually tend to focus on America, which I can understand because most people talking are american, but sometimes it feels like the rest of the world doesn't exist. If we are talking about latinx characters, for example, we're actually talking about latinx-americans, and even them are so few already...

But what about latinx characters that weren't born/don't live in the U.S.? They are almost unheard of, as far as I know, and the thing is, even though latinx-americans are latinx, their lives are (usually) nothing like mine and they are the characters I'm supposed to identify with.

I prefer to read about latinx-americans if the other option is more white people, of course, but our experiences are different. We're different. I wish we had more trans/nb characters in books in which the fact they are trans/nb doesn't matter much too, and I wish they were more common in fantasyland. Not that these books aren't important (they are), but I think we need to normalize the existence of trans/nb characters in "non-issue" books. As long as we are only a niche somewhere in the deeps of the library, cis people will continue to be able to ignore and dehumanize us.

What is the book(or books) that have the biggest impact on you?

Harry Potter when I was 9 or 10 because it made start reading a lot more than I used to, The Lord of the Rings when I was 11 because it made me love high fantasy and Nihal of the Land of the Wind when I was 12 because girls can be dragon riders too.
What has been your favorite character to create and why?

This is hard, but maybe Lysander from my current WIP. He isn't my first nonbinary character, but he is the first one that I know is nonbinary while writing the first draft. He was created nonbinary, since I first thought about the story, and my other nonbinary characters "became" nonbinary after I realized I wasn't cis and decided to write about people like me. So I didn't get to write about what it means to be nonbinary/trans with them; I will, of course, when I rewrite their stories, but in everything I've written so far they are still cis. I'm having a lot of fun writing Lysander. It's great to be able to see myself in a character I created, even if sometimes it feels a little terrifying.
Since we're talking about speculative fiction, if you can have any superpower or supernatural ability, what would it be?

I would like to read minds or maybe teleportation!

Do you feel well represented in books and/or media?

No. Latinx characters are rare (and Brazilian characters are almost nonexistent, and when they do exist they usually speak Spanish, so...) and so are aroace and nonbinary characters. In fantasy it only gets worse, and 95% of what I read/watch is fantasy, so, nope. I really don't feel well represented in books/media.

Are there any books(or form of media) that you thinks gets representation right?

I really like Claudie Arseneault's Viral Airwaves and its prequel, The White Renegade, has the first agender character I read in SFF (I'm agender/apogender myself, so it meant a lot).

Finally, where can folks go for updates, and to learn more about your projects going on?

My writing blog ( or and my twitter, @navrodravi. I'm always posting about what I'm writing on these places ;)

Ren is 19 year old Brazilian nonbinary fantasy writer who loves ancient gods, lost civilizations and powerful magic. Ze is currently majoring in psychology and lives with zir family in Salvador, Bahia.


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