Happy Independence Day!
Hope you have a good day planned.
If not - it's not too late!
Today I get to sit down with B. Pigeon.
B Pigeon (they/them) is a PNW-based indie author of LGBTQ+ speculative fiction and one half of the writing collective EHLS. Their works include Mirrored in Evergreen, Worm in a Jar, and Poised in Either Eye, as well as the serial A Hollow Contract.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve been writing (and reading voraciously) for as long as I can remember, and being an author has always been my dream job!
\When did you write your first book and how old were you?
The first book I started was about a tragic bisexual teenage vampire boy, a character I’d co-created with (or maybe stole from) one of my Livejournal friends. I was around twelve and created extensive plans and character bios, but only wrote fragments. The first book I finished was for Nanowrimo 2016, which I won just before my 23rd birthday, and it was about a bunch of punks and queers trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic, dystopian city.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
I take inspiration from so many random sources! Sometimes my ideas come from fantasy fiction, sometimes I’m doing hours of research into traditional herbal medicine and historical beliefs about curses for inspiration. The types of books I write (usually contemporary/urban fantasy) don’t necessarily require a ton of research, but exploring history and cultures and different belief systems is a lot more interesting to me than reusing the same fantasy tropes.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I feel like I get a lot of strong reactions to my characters! People sometimes tell me how much they love the titular Worm of my novella Worm in a Jar, and Zephyr from Poised in Either Eye, a novel I co-wrote with my writing partner Fell A. Marsh. (Zephyr is actually their character, so they should get all the credit there!) Both of these characters are sort of quirky, mischievous, slightly naive non-humans who have taken human form and are trying to blend in on Earth, so maybe something in that resonates with my readers, somehow!
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I strive for originality, but sometimes that means taking familiar tropes and concepts and trying to combine and explore them in a new or interesting way. My books can be a little weird, but I’m not trying to be totally alienating!
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you building a body of work with connections between each book?
There aren’t a ton of clear, direct connections between my books, but I tend to be consistent with how magic works between books. I prefer soft and mysterious magic systems, and in most of my books, magic is a latent skill that can be practiced in a variety of different ways (generally determined by location and culture) but is kept secret from most of the population. There’s a lot to explore there—about who’s allowed to learn magic and what they’re allowed to learn, what forms of magic are prioritized or stigmatized (and who decides this), the ways location or culture or access to education influence your options—so I keep revisiting it.
How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?
This is a great question! I think the tension here for me is figuring out the correct balance of answering questions vs. leaving them unanswered—I like to leave some threads unresolved and up to interpretation, and I like for mysteries to unravel slowly, but I don’t want to leave the reader confused or dissatisfied. I make a point now of asking my beta readers if there are any frustrating unanswered questions!
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I’m a homebody and tend to do a lot of things by myself, especially in the Covid era. I consume a lot of fiction in the form of books, TV, movies, and games; try to stay active, especially by doing yoga and going on long walks or bike rides; and do some non-writing-related creative hobbies like painting, drawing, playing guitar/bass/keyboard, making candles, cooking, etc.
Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
Hurt! I’ve seen too many authors try to argue with random people on Goodreads or Twitter over the mildest criticism of their books, and that’s so embarrassing to witness. I think it’s important to stay humble and accept that your writing is not going to be for everyone—and to remember to be grateful to everyone who’s supported you along the way. Writing can be a very individual process at times, but I personally rely so much on others (from friends letting me talk out my plot issues to beta readers to editors to patrons, etc.) that I can’t help but see writing as a group effort. My stories are my stories… but if they are worth reading, it’s only because a lot of people have invested their time and effort into helping me make those stories the best possible versions of themselves.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Write what you want! I came up with all kinds of excuses for not writing fantasy, specifically; it was cooler or more relevant to write something else (conceptual poetry or something), I didn’t read enough of it to do it justice, I wanted to have complex characters and loose magic systems where I imagined that most readers demanded the opposite. Looking back, I feel like I would have written much more consistently if I had let myself write goofy stories about vampires instead of political poems or whatever.
What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters, if anything?
It’s only natural that writing pulls from observation and experience, but I would never intentionally base a fictional character off any specific person to the extent they would notice! Personally, I think if you’re going to take heavy inspiration from someone when writing a book (and they’re just someone you know in real life, not a public figure) you should at least ask their consent before publishing.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I’ve started countless books that will never be finished, but I have two works in progress on hiatus that I hope to someday complete and publish. They’re both very loosely based on specific time periods in specific countries and so I want to do enough research to reflect them accurately and avoid Orientalist stereotypes, which is a big time commitment. They’re both on the backburner until I’m not working on three projects at once, whenever that day might come.
What do you have coming next?
My writing partner Fell A. Marsh and I are going to start serializing a new fantasy book on our Patreon later this summer! It’s a fantasy story about a half-vampire demon hunter and a demon who team up to prevent the apocalypse. I’m also currently working on a weird queer urban fantasy novel, working title Heirloom, about psychic vampire hunters and curse-breakers working in Seattle, which deals a lot with the protagonists trying to figure out how to do the right thing—how to use psychic powers for good, how to decide whether vampire-slaying is justifiable, how to determine how far they’ll go to save someone who’s cursed. I’m trying to branch out a little and experiment with new types of stories, and I’m super excited to share them!