Ennis Bashe, the author of acclaimed Queer speculative fiction novellas, discusses their upcoming book A Scheme of Sorcery (NineStar Press), their self-published novella Rescued by The Married Monster Hunters, and guidance for Queer writers.
I first discovered Ennis’s work sometime during the early 2010s. At the time, traditionally published Queer books were few and far between, especially in speculative fiction. Most Queer writers had a hard time querying literary agents and editors. More and more Queer books (for YA and adults) are being acquired and published by traditional houses today, but some Queer authors have turned (and are still turning) to self-publishing and small houses for their work. Ennis Bashe shares their creative process and publishing experiences.
Note: Ennis Bashe formerly wrote under the name Kayla Bashe. Please use their current name when commenting or sharing.
The Geekiary: It’s great having you here! Let’s start by introducing yourself!
Ennis Bashe: I’m a gay nerd who spends a lot of time on the Internet. Writing has always been a hobby of mine- I released my first novella, Bluebell Hall, when I was in high school- but I started getting serious about it when I became disabled in college and couldn’t participate in other hobbies. I love books that make me cry, make me want to write fanfiction, or make me want to kiss a stranger, or especially all of the above at once.
TG: Congrats on your forthcoming release A Scheme of Sorcery (NineStar Press)! You’ve been a trailblazer for Queer stories back when they were scarce in traditional publishing. Of course, things are gradually changing, but there’s still work to do (i.e., intersectional narratives). What have you been up to these days? Anything about A Scheme of Sorcery that you want to share? Hints about future projects?
Ennis: Releasing A Scheme of Sorcery is the culmination of so much work for me. I’ve literally been working on it since I was an undergraduate in the Obama era, and telling this story of resistance and hope has gotten me through multiple election cycles. The main characters are both activists in different ways. Edwynne, a young squire, is fighting to be taken seriously as the only woman in her cohort, and to reclaim her heritage after a secret adoption cut her off from her people. Sariva, a lady-in-waiting, came to the palace because she wants to help the progressive new ruler, but as an expatriate from the same minority group as Edwynne, everyone thinks she’s only loyal to her homeland. They have the same values, but they end up absolutely hating each other. Which makes it really inconvenient when they have to work together to stop a plot to take over the country.
I’m so excited for everyone to meet Edwynne and Sariva. Sariva just wants to help her family and community, but she can also be incredibly mean if someone makes the wrong first impression, and Edwynne’s personality is mostly just repressed rage, but she’s also brave, selfless, and a classic chivalrous butch. I love these petty lesbian interns, and I truly hope the readers will too.
Currently, I’m 30 thousand words into a WIP that I’ve been pitching as “Heralds of Valdemar, but with rescue cats,” and making progress on a sci-fi sports romance inspired by Transformers fanart and the aesthetic of the musical Starlight Express. (Google Electra as played by Mykal Rand if you want to see how I’m picturing the love interest!) I also have a novel-length collection of short stories, Lyric of the Crystal Planet, that follows the coming-of-age of a disabled teenager who joins an order of interplanetary psychics. That got a revise and resubmit from NineStar Press, so it’s on the to-do list… somewhere.
TG: Your recent novella Rescued By The Married Monster Hunters remains one of my most recommended reads ever. I find myself revisiting passages every now and then. Vessel’s narrative arc touches me. The portrayal of his eventual relationship with Rhys and Sera is beautifully written. The disability representation is amazing. There’s so much to say about this book. It’s sex positive and uplifting, the kind of story I never knew I needed before. I want you to talk about Rescued By The Married Monster Hunters because it deserves all the praise and recognition.
Ennis: AHH, thank you so much (keysmash, flail, et cetera)
It’s funny- I think of all my books, that’s the one I was most nervous to release. It’s a lot darker than most of my other work, especially considering how Queer writers are often shoved into a YA box even if they’re writing about cannibalism, sexual assault, and giant sentient murder hornets. Seeing a lot of the reviews and knowing how much this book resonates with people has really blown me away, especially since I lowkey expected to be canceled for fetishizing/romanticizing/normalizing/portraying something or other, or at least to be interrogated about my own background with trauma. But sometimes, as writers, we’re our own harshest censors.
My mentor Cat Rambo, in a class about replying to other stories, recently talked about something called the Great Conversation; how, as writers, we’re in conversation with all the creators that have come before us and inspired us. I see Rescued by the Married Monster Hunters as very much a part of that dialogue. It was conceived during a time period when Castlevania Season 3 and the Witcher Season 1 had both recently dropped. I was seeing a lot of thoughts from the community about what people wanted to change, and a lot of those explorations seemed to overlap. Plus, I’ve always loved writing about sexy, conflicted monsters who yearn for humanity.
What really gave me the idea was an in-character party at a roleplaying game, before the pandemic. Another player had made pastry “intestines” for everyone in the monster faction to eat. My dryad character had a soft spot for humans. However, he didn’t mind going along with the crowd or hurting a stranger, so he joined in with everyone else. As I sat in the faction’s dimly lit lair eating pie with my hands, I couldn’t help thinking: boy, wouldn’t it be fucked up if someone made a guy eat another guy for real? If, instead of my friend group wearing latex masks and fake fangs and carrying foam swords, there were actual violent monsters eating people? That thought became the inciting incident of Rescued by the Married Monster Hunters.
Although I have a lot of WIPs going- and an August release to promote- I’d love to get back to this world someday. I’m thinking I might write something featuring Clarien’s spider friend Chitterl, or something following the lives of hunters-in-training. I’d love to further develop the idea of a community of disabled people who have special magic powers, maybe even explore how some chronically ill people are better served by the medical model of disability than the social model. And, of course, hot monsters.
TG: Do you have any advice or pointers for Queer and multiply marginalized writers working on their stories (regardless of their publishing path)?
Ennis: Sometimes you’ll receive negative feedback from gatekeepers because of an aspect of your writing technique that could be improved, but sometimes they might turn you down due to being uncomfortable with how you identify. It’s so important to figure out when there’s something you need to work on versus when people are reacting to something outside your control based on your own biases. If you believe that your success is only controlled by the quality of your work, it’s easy to get discouraged. But it’s also important to be able to take constructive criticism and improve your craft.
Also, even if your work doesn’t get traditionally published, there might be readers out there who need your light and your message. Never forget about them. I once had someone write a blog post about how one of my self-published novellas made them cry because they’d never seen a character with ADHD portrayed positively before, and another reader once reached out to me on Tumblr about how a different novella, My Lady King, helped them decide to go no-contact with their abuser. Those moments will keep you going, but you won’t have moments like those unless your work is out in the world.
A Scheme of Sorcery is forthcoming from NineStar Press. Rescued by the Married Monster Hunters is available to buy on Amazon.
Media that Ennis Recommends:
Gideon the Ninth, Gideon the Ninth, GIDEON THE NINTH. If you are in the alphabet mafia, or if you are or have ever been a goth, you need this book in your life. Especially if you were a mentally ill goth teenager. Just buy it and feel seen.
Have you watched Castlevania? If not, please be aware that there are evil pretty women who step on people, like a girl gang of short Lady Dimitrescus. It also features my favorite archetype for male characters, which is “pretty man who’s sad a lot.”
It’s not out yet, but Silk Fire by Zabé Ellor is going to be *the* book for fans of pretty male characters who are sad a lot. Silk Fire is set in a sci-fantasy world where matriarchy is just as oppressive as toxic masculinity and patriarchy in our world, inspired by the author’s experiences as a trans man who’s dealt with bigotry from cis women. The main character can turn into a dragon when he’s genuinely happy- but he doesn’t believe he deserves to be happy, and the government is trying to hunt him down. It was so cool seeing another author exploring intersections of desire and monstrousness and physical transformation in a way similar to Rescued by the Married Monster Hunters, but in such a different subgenre.
Currently, my favorite work by another indie author is the Broken Academy series by Serena Lindhal. It’s about this young woman who’s an ambulatory wheelchair user and can see ghosts, who finds out that she’s the guardian of a secret magic library. Her love interests are also disabled or outside of the norm in some way, and they believe in her even when she doesn’t believe in herself. Only the first book is out right now, but I’m so excited for the second one.
I’ve also been into the Pure/Dark Ones series by Aja James. Think Ice Planet Barbarians meets Black Dagger Brotherhood. There’s a hidden society of sex-powered immortals who die if they have sex with anyone except their soulmate, and they have a tentative alliance with the vampires, who can have sex but are really angsty about it. All the heroes are beautiful disasters, and their backstories are Winter Soldier levels of sad. Even though they’re badasses, they’re gentle and giving in ways that set them apart from other takes on the same archetypes. The heroines are generally the ones who have common sense and save the day, like by using stem cell research to unlock the secrets of immortality or defeating the hero’s abuser. They’ve been a fabulous late-quarantine binge read.
Author: Brahidaliz Martinez
Brahidaliz (pronounced Bra-da-leez) is a 2019 graduate of American University’s MFA in creative writing program. Their cross-genre chapbook, Coquí’s Song, is forthcoming (2023) from Mason Jar Press.
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