‘Little LGBTQA+ Portrayal in Fantasy Books’

Indie author Jamie Sonnier, a trans male and a vehement advocate of LGBTQA+ rights, avers he is a plotter. As a matter of fact, before putting pen to paper, he has everything figured out. Speaking to the Literary Express in an exclusive interaction, the author says he is quite wont to take extensive notes before setting about writing a book. ‘Occasionally an idea might come to me while I am writing the story, but typically, if I sit down to begin writing, the entire story is already thought out,’ he tells us with a smile. 

Author J M Sonnier

Building Neverland, Word by Word

Mr Sonnier, who is currently residing in Texas Spring, the US, lets us know that he began writing fictional stories around the age of seven. ‘I was about thirteen or so when I came up with the beginning idea behind Building Neverland – Pan Rising, my debut novel,’ he shares. 

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Talking about the book, the American author, who tends to write for more than twelve hours while working on a novel, says he was always imaginative and that the original short story he had created for what would later become the series of Building Neverland was actually about a modern times unknown group of outcasts living in an unknown little old-world town in West Virginia. ‘Over the years, with the changes that ended up being made here and there, it inevitably evolved into a story about warring tribes there,’ he lets on. ‘I spent years conceptualising the story to the point where I have all the seven books in the series mapped out from beginning to end.’

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Inspirited by Barrie, Atwood, King, Coville 

On the question of whether or not he is inspired by any author, he tells us right away that Scottish novelist J M Barrie happens to be one of his favourites and by far an inspiration to him. ‘My book would not exist if not for his,’ he states and adds that he also likes Canadian poetess Margaret Atwood. ‘I have had the pleasure of reading her over the most recent years,’ Mr Sonnier, who has a high-school education besides a few different trade school qualifications, lets us know. 

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Going on to ask who would not love a good Stephen King novel, he tells us that it is Bruce Coville nonetheless who would remain his most favourite solely for his Unicorn Chronicles series. ‘He was the first author to get me into reading for pleasure, the first books that ever captivated me to the point of being unable to put the book down and an enormous inspiration to me who dreamed of one day being a writer,’ he says.

‘My Urge to Write Takes Over Everything’

Does he follow a schedule of any kind to ensure he is able to read, write, and also devote time for other essential activities? ‘I do not write on a schedule,’ pronounces Mr Sonnier. He then adds, ‘But my urge to write comes and goes, and when it comes on, it takes over everything. I would go days without sleeping or eating or speaking to anyone and just obsessively write.’ 

And upon being asked if becoming a published writer was a conscious decision, the author, who has a dark buddy-comedy ‘Best Frienemies’ coming up soon, says he does not know if he would say it was conscious or not. ‘I just always knew I had stories in my mind, and I would tell them to people around me who all seemed to really enjoy them. I would hear “You should write that as a book!” so many times over and over again.’ 

Be that as it may, with the advent of the internet, Mr Sonnier took his writing away from any potential biases of his surrounding population and began spreading some of his stories there. ‘It was almost always met positively,’ he tells us with a smile.

‘I Have a Memory Bank of Actors I’ve Seen’

Talking about his hobbies besides, of course, reading, Mr Sonnier says cooking is something that interests him. ‘Especially foreign recipes,’ he says. He also lets us know about one of his hobbies that many find strange. ‘I have a memory bank in my mind of every actor or actress I have ever seen in my life, so with nearly every movie I can point out what extras are being reused when a side-character child actor grows up to be the main character’s next-door neighbour, and so on,’ Mr Sonnier, who juggles studies, reading, and promoting his published works and those in progress, tells us. ‘It is a useless skill, but it seems to bring amusement to those around me,’ he quickly adds with a guffaw. 

Two Books In the Making As You Read

Shedding light on the books he is to publish, the author says the first one, about which we have already mentioned, is about a strange app appearing on every phone around the world overnight that promises to find one’s soulmate. Elaborating further, he says, ‘In Best Frienemies, a serial killer called Tobias takes interest in the app. While everyone around him gets great matches, he gets Ethan, a sloppy, fat, bearded joke of a man who lives at home with his alcoholic mother and has an obsession with weiner-dogs. In his disappointment, Tobias goes to murder Ethan only to find he has been drugged. What then happens will surely surprise the reader.’

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Besides Best Frienemies, the author also has a Comedic Western titled ‘Geminiah Wanted’ coming up. ‘This one is about twin half Native-American brothers, who, in trying to save their embittered father’s farm to prove to him that they are worth his affections whatsoever, bungle their way through a bank-robbery only for a rumour to spread out of control that it is not the two idiots who got lucky but one lone phantom gunman who can appear in two places at once,’ he explains, employing a long-winded sentence. He goes on, ‘It is them travelling to rob another bank not noticing that the wild bewildering rumours of the spectral gunman are about them while the wife of a Marshall hunts the “gunman”, hoping she will be able to bring him to justice so she might earn her badge and the right to call herself an officer of the law.

The Parting Message

As the conversation draws to a close, we ask the author if he has anything to tell budding authors who tend to lose motivation if their works do not do well, and he immediately responds by saying, ‘Don’t give up.’ He then pronounces, ‘If you do end up getting your book published, and that is as far as it gets, then hey, you have come farther than most dare to dream. You should always be proud of yourself for that. It may do great, and it may not. I have learnt for the majority of us, it is more often…not. But that doesn’t matter. Write for you, and never be ashamed of your experience. Don’t quit. Because never is an awfully long time.’

And on our final question of if he would want something to be changed on our planet, Mr Sonnier, who hopes his Peter Pan lovers out there would find his book-worthy, tells us he would want to change the fact that there is almost no LGBTQA+ and POC representation in fantasy books. ‘That is why I made it a point that within all of my books, there is a representation of such. In Building Neverland-Pan Rising, multiple characters are a part of LGBTQA+ and POC characters. In the book I am working on now, Tobias is a POC character. It may seem like a small issue to some, but to me I want everybody to be a part of the fun,’ he says, signing off with a smile. 

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PS: The author wrote  Building Neverland – Pan Rising with his adoptive mother who passed away a few weeks after he had finished writing it. It was the last thing he and his mother did together, and it would not exist if not for her. The author asserted that the book was published in her memory and that he did not need the fame or the praise or the money that came along with being considered successful. He also let us know that he would feel happy if people enjoyed it. ‘That is all I could ever hope to dream. Thank you to anyone out there who reads it. From the bottom of my heart,’ the author said during the interaction.  

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