LGBT Friday Interview: Suzanne van Rooyen (Obscura Burning)
I’m happy to introduce to you author Suzanne van Rooyen. She is a YA LGBT author, whose book Obscura Burning I will review in a few weeks. We’re talking about writing in general, the state of LGBT fiction and more! If you’d like to know more about Suzanne and her writing, visit her website.
Nyx Book Reviews: Hi Suzanne, welcome to Nyx Book Reviews! Could you tell us a bit more about yourself?
Suzanne van Rooyen: Delighted to be here – thank you for having me. In a nutshell: I’m an author and freelance writer who never dreamed I’d call myself a writer much less an author. I grew up in South Africa and dedicated twenty years of my life to studying music. I even have a Masters degree in the subject. At the moment I live in Finland where I write, teach dancing and entertain my shiba inu, Lego. I’m a peanut-butter addict and have an affinity for stripey socks.
Could you describe your book, Obscura Burning, in one sentence?
This has got to be the most difficult question! Let’s see…
After a mysterious planet pops into the sky, Kyle’s left shifting between realities, between those he’s loved and lost, while the world spins out of control, towards the apocalypse only Kyle can stop.
What draws you to writing LGBT books?
To be honest, nothing. I’m not ‘drawn’ to writing LGBT books in that I specifically set out to write an LGBT story. It just happens. My characters come together and as they develop in my mind, or on the page, they end up being blond haired or brown eyed, gay or straight, sporty or geeky. That said, I do believe in diversity in YA fiction. I do believe there needs to be greater representation of minorities be that ethnicity or sexual preference. Fiction is a reflection of the real world. It’s sad that we don’t celebrate more of that diversity in fiction, particularly in YA, by including more diverse characters in stories that aren’t specifically about how different, marginalized or ostracized that character is by mainstream society.
The number of YA books featuring LGBT characters are very little compared to mainstream heterosexual couples, especially in the bestseller lists. Do you think publishing is too traditional, or is the problem the readership?
I’ve been having this conversation a lot recently. I think the fault lies in the writers, readers and publishers. Some writers are afraid of including an LGBT character for fear of how they represent them. This was brought up by a blog reader at YAtopia recently – if a writer has a gay character be a jerk in their book, are they creating a perception that all gays are jerks? Personally, I don’t think so, but some writers are afraid of doing that. While many LGBT readers will read stories about straight characters without batting an eye, too many straight readers won’t pick up a book featuring an LGBT character and this becomes problematic for publishers. With limited resources, publishers have to decide on what will sell and make the most money. If they’ve got two similar YA books, one with gay protagonists, the other with straight, the money dictates they should go with the straight book since that’s what’s proven to be best-selling. It’s a vicious circle really. Until the writers get past their fear and just write the stories they want to, they won’t create a readership. Until there’s a readership, there won’t be a large enough market to make the big names in publishing change their approach. This is where indie and self-publishing is so wonderful, flouting convention and allowing a good story to see the light of day even if it never lands on the New York Times best-sellers list.
What has been the hardest thing about writing so far?
The self-doubt. Every time I pick up a book, I can’t help but compare, to think of every YA book in my genre as the competition – which it is. While it may be ridiculous to compare my first draft to the super polished and edited print book in my hands, I still do it and self-deprecation inevitably follows. It’s hard, but I try to turn this self-doubt into motivation to strive harder, to learn more and improve my craft so that I write better books.
Do you still have time to read yourself? If so, which books have you lately enjoyed?
Oh yes! I make time to read. I’m never without a book. I really enjoyed the YA fantasy novel City of a Thousand Dolls. The book which has lingered with me since I read last December though, is Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion. I haven’t seen the movie yet but I loved the book, its profound philosophy and subtle humour. I don’t usually enjoy zombie stories but that I loved.
Thank you for answering my questions! (:
Suzanne is a freelance writer and author from South Africa. She currently lives in Finland and finds the cold, dark forests nothing if not inspiring. Suzanne is the author of the cyberpunk novel Dragon’s Teeth (Divertir), the YA science fiction novel Obscura Burning (Etopia) and has had several short stories published by Golden Visions Magazine, Space and Time and Niteblade. Her non-fiction articles on travel, music and other topics can be found scattered throughout the Internet. Although she has a Master’s degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. When not writing you can find her teaching dance to ninth graders or playing in the snow with her shiba inu.
Suzanne is represented by Jordy Albert of the Booker Albert Agency.
Suzanne is also a publicist for Entranced Publishing.