Today’s interview is special for a number of reasons. Partly because I’ve been friends with Gabriela for some time now, so being able to interview her officially? Incredible. And I’m so happy it happened so soon!
But first of all, we’re here to celebrate Keep Faith – an anthology of LGBT stories about faith & all the ways one can connect with it. Gabriela is one of the authors who contributed to it, but more importantly: she edited the whole thing & it’s safe to say this project wouldn’t exist without her.
So read on to see what marvelous things she had to say about her experiences as a bisexual Brazilian writer!
Thank so much for talking with us, first of all! I’m really excited about this!
Thank YOU so much for having me!!! & supporting us!!! :’) tytytyty!!!
Especially since we are here mostly because we’re celebrating the soon to be published LGBT anthology that you edited! Let’s start at the beginning, then! How did you first get into writing?
Riiiight, this is only mildly embarrassing… lol So when I was around 9 maybe, I read the first HP book, and was deeply disappointed that Hermione wasn’t the star? So like. I wrote my own version of HP. In which Harry had a sister and her heart was made of crystal (shhh don’t question it) and she was suspiciously like me. A few years later I found out what fanfiction was through a devastatingly graphic smutty Draco/Hermione fanfic that I clicked on like, the tenth chapter, and I genuinely had no idea what I was doing, and then their clothes were off???? I was like. Wow. Ok. Ok okokok. Better not tell Mom about this??? I started writing fanfiction then, and wrote about just every imaginable thing until I turned 18, and then I started writing original stuff. My first novel had zombies. And vampires. And werewolves. And was dystopian.
Honestly, turning HP into a story about a girl sounds exactly like something you would write. Cool to know some things never change! So then, would you say fantasy is your favourite genre to write or not really?
LOL I’m nothing if not consistent. We’re going to go with that instead of predictable lol. Not really! Contemporary is the love of my life!!!!! I do like writing fantasy, mostly light fantasy/magical realism, but most of my ideas are contemporary, and I see myself writing a lot more contemp than fantasy. (Though I like it too!!!! Second favorite genre!!!)
And how about reading? Are those the same choices?
Yes! Though I usually like to read books that are a little darker than what I write. Also I really love thrillers and crime books, but I could never write anything like that.
Anything else you could never write?
So much :p I love writing romcoms, but I’d suck at proper comedy, for example. Still kind of want to write a truly terrifying alien book one day, but I’m… a baby… who’s scared of aliens… lol
Oh I get it, I can’t handle horrors at all.
I love reading about it!!!! But writing it!!! Being in my own head and expanding all my own worst fears!!!!!
So since you’ve moved to original stuff after the fic writing, how do you get inspiration for your books?
Honestly, all of my fics were “AU”, so creating universes/expanding on concepts is what I love the most. I typically come up with the concept/the world for something before I come up with the characters/story.
That makes sense, yeah.
So I guess… is “everywhere” a cheat answer??? Because truly. I don’t know. I consume A LOT of media (books, shows, movies), and then sometimes those ideas just mix in my head. A lot of ideas also come from dreams, which is kind of the same well.
Oh, I wouldn’t say it’s a cheat answer at all. More like a very logical one, honestly. And if you say “everything”, does that mean music, as well? Do you have a writing playlist? And if you do, does it focus more on the lyrics or melodies, vibe of the songs?
OH YESSSSS!!!!!!!!! Like, yes and no!!! No to writing playlists; I write better with no sound at all, but music as an inspiration? YES. That’s how I used to write fic also! When I was bored and wanted to write a new short story, I’d press play on random and just use that song’s lyrics as inspiration. Sometimes I still like to take that metaphorical rolling of dice to decide on what I’m doing with my stories. If I have a concept but I don’t have characters yet, what I do sometimes is go to Pinterest, and before I hit refresh I tell myself that the first three images are going to make my main character, the next three the LI, etc., and then develop from there. Music is huge on giving me that random inspiration that may not be super obvious. I wrote a novella once based on “Machine” by Imagine Dragons that was about a girl fighting depression, which had a physical form as a monster, and who’d taken her sister. That song was 1000% my source of inspiration for that story, even if you wouldn’t necessarily see it by reading the lyrics.
That’s so cool? Like, I would never be able to tell by your writing that you ever do anything at random?
THANK YOU!!!!! I guess like. I just have a lot of ideas, and sometimes throwing a few of them at the wall and seeing what sticks is the best way to decide what route to take next, you know? I recently put together a spreadsheet (I LOVE SPREADSHEETS EVERYTHING IN MY LIFE IS ORGANIZED IN SPREADSHEETS) with all the ideas that I want to write and already have a decent plot/concept for. And it’s like… it’s around 30 items. For 30 novels I genuinely do want to write.
Right now I’m writing one that took a bit of an already-existent idea, and a bit of a dream. Smashed the two together, put it in the blender, and dealt with what came of it lol
I honestly don’t think I ever talked with someone who shares this approach to writing, it’s incredible. I love this.
Oh that’s exciting!!!! You know, it’s kind of like having synesthesia. You just figure that everyone has the same process and sees everything the same way??? I remember one day tweeting like DOESN’T IT JUST SUCK WHEN YOU’RE ALREADY A LITTLE NAUSEOUS AND SEE SOMETHING LIME GREEN LMAO GROSS AM I RITE and then a friend was like ….. Gabhi…… do you have….. synesthesia??? … lmao I just figured everyone tasted colors. So it’s like that with writing as well. I’m always low key shocked when I hear someone has a very different writing method to mine, because you just figure everyone does it the same.
You really do, which just makes sense, no one wants to think they’re different, right. So what’s the rest of your writing process? At what point do you let other people read your drafts and who are they?
Cool, so I’m in the process of finishing my 10th manuscript. Until the 8th (DON’T JUDGE), I didn’t revise at all. I write very clean first drafts, which means that there’s no bizarre discrepancy, and I think I have an okay sense of pace. So I’d just sent it around to like WHOEVER WOULD LIKE TO READ IT. Which is sort of a terrible thing to do. I queried… four manuscripts I think? And the feedback was always “love this concept, love the writing, not ready though”. I was like HUH. I GUESS I’M NOT A SUPERHUMAN. I DO HAVE TO REVISE. And then I started structuring revision in a way that worked for me, and I’m still finding out what that process is, because I’ve been drafting for way longer than I’ve been revising. With fics, for example, and I’d written +800 of them, I wouldn’t even read them twice before posting???? Now I have three CPs that I trust a lot, and I’m a little cautious with letting other people read my work. Conflicting feedback can be a pain, and most of all, people not getting your story.
Would you say sending it to so many people for feedback helps you get better?
No, I think that actually slowed me down. Because what happens when you send your story to 20 people. Is that 10 people are never going to get it back to you. They’ll forget. They’ll ghost you. Or something. And then you’ll feel it’s YOU or YOUR STORY and that’ll affect your confidence a lot. And then 5 will give you completely useless feedback. Like. “I loved everything!” “What did you like? What worked for you? What didn’t?” “Everything was cool!” Or even “I didn’t really like it”. And the process is the same. And then out of that remaining five, chances are maybe one or two will give you feedback that you can act on, and then at least one will completely not get your story, and one will give you “feedback” that is just them pointing out all the ways they hate things that are part of your writing style.
Sure, there are always going to be people who don’t like your style, but that doesn’t mean you have to change it, right? And giving proper feedback is actually hard, it’s definitely a skill that people got to work hard on to be able to help others.
I think the worst thing is when someone just doesn’t like the genre/type of story you’re writing, but they want to help so they ask to read it, and their feedback is just… that they’re not your audience? lol I had it happen with a friend once, who’s really into romance and historic stuff. She read my dark contemp about teens doing highly questionable things, like intrigue and even murder…. She was so desperate to find a redeeming quality to those characters so they could have a happy ending that she completely missed the point. That they were the bad guys. They thrived because in their world (in our world, often), evil prevails. It happens. So having someone root for them and try to find qualities in them that weren’t there was… weird.
It’s like people saying they hated The Secret History because the characters are such assholes!
Oh my God, EXACTLY. I love asshole characters. I love stories about “bad” people. I’ve been writing a lot of romantic comedy lately, but out of the 10 novels I’ve written, only 2 don’t have assholes as the main characters. I think it’s a way to stay positive in the world, you know? Explore the ugliest there is to explore in people through fiction. Live that reality in a safe space. Then bring some joy to the real world. Everyone has a dark, ugly side. I’ve always explored it through my fiction so I could focus on the good in my real life. Then recently I was hit with paralyzing depression. Everything in my life turned ugly and dark. I couldn’t finish a chapter of anything I started! Then I had this idea for a romcom. And it was a great way to have some of that kindness and joy back when I couldn’t have that in real life. (And I’m not saying that if I’m writing a “happy” book I’m sad and the other way around, but that in this moment of my life, I’ve discovered that this is true for me. Right now.)
It just helps, whatever your needs are at the time.
Okay, so you mentioned your romcom a few times already and it is your most recent work, right? Summarise it in five words and a meme.
Pop-star fake-dates her way to the top. (I TRIED)
Incredible?? Which three authors would you say influenced your writing the most?
MEGAN ABBOTT. She’s a queen and I adore everything she writes. She revolutionized writing for me because she writes about the dark and ugly and makes it charming. She’s the #1 I adore her and her characters are the most lived-in mysterious rounded beautiful beasts the world has seen. Clarice Lispector, the Brazilian writer, is who I wanted to be when I grew up. I think she’s influenced my writing in the sense that I read and reread it so much that it must’ve bled into what I write in a way or another. But her prose is way more beautiful than mine ever will — I don’t really focus much on “pretty prose”. But whenever I’m inside a character’s mind, I remember her insightful way of doing it, and I suppose I try to do the same, but in my way. And then most recently, as I’ve started writing romcoms, Maurene Goo has been someone whose writing I’ve been admiring and flailing over, and definitely has affected the way I write. I especially like how Goo keeps unapologetically writing about her own background(s). It’s what I’ve always wanted to do as well.
I guess the three of them have each brought something to the table for me that is important for me. Abbott with her characters, Lispector with her way of describing the self and the doubt and the feelings, and Goo with being unapologetically herself.
That part about being unapologetically yourself with your writing, I haven’t read that much by you, but I always felt it. Even in short stories.
GOSH THANK YOU. My first few novels were all about things I’m not, and getting to the point where I’m writing Brazilian characters, queer characters… It’s really important for me. Especially because we still haven’t had #ownvoices Brazilian rep in YA yet, so I can’t wait to start publishing novels. (Actually, I say #OV, but we haven’t had it period. In traditionally published books, we’ve had Brazilian-American with Wonder, and a few Really Bad Takes in Adult. That’s it.)
The other day I read a mainstream novel with a Polish lesbian as a secondary character and that was… The feeling of seeing yourself out there, represented like that? It doesn’t compare to anything.
Truly!!!!! This is why DEBS is one of my favorite movies ever (it’s a lot of fun, but it’s an old movie, and there’s a scene with the R-slur). Because they had a queer character played by a Brazilian. Her Latinidade isn’t even acknowledged, but that was the closest I got. It makes me very happy.
We deserve more.
We deserve so much more. And you know what, I know that it’s slow, but I do believe things are changing! We see now POC, queer folks, and GASP! QPOC on the NYT best-selling list. We’re still deeply underrepresented, and I won’t pretend that’s not the case. There’s so much work to be done. But I’m an optimist. I do think things are changing. And I believe that there’s a lot of room for all of our diverse stories. There’s definitely a public, so it’ll just take for the industry to believe in us too.
It is so much better than it use to be even ten years ago. To think what we could accomplish in the next ten!
RIGHT. When I was a teen, I couldn’t think of having access to any queer books. And the only queer characters I had were from L World. lol
And speaking of movies, if (when!) your book(s) were to be adapted, who would you like to direct them?
OH GOD. Wildest dream right?? I’d LOVE for one of my scifis to be adapted by the Wachowskis sisters. I would– Seriously, that’s the wildest dream. I don’t even think it’s ever going to happen lol BUT DREAM SCENARIO, I’d win at life. I’d just be like ok cool I don’t even need anything else to happen, I could just die right there and then, happiest person alive.
Oh, they would definitely do justice to them! We keep circling around this, so let me actually ask the question. And that is also very important to us & what we put a lot of emphasis on when blogging. What does ownvoices LGBT representation mean to you?
The world. I was a very unhappy teenager, and part of that was because I couldn’t find my place in the world because I thought I was too different. I’m a bisexual woman. I couldn’t wrap my head around that logic because I’d never seen anyone else like me. I knew I liked girls, and I punished myself for it to the point of hurting myself physically. But I also was in love with the same boy for a good part of my adolescence. I knew I loved him romantically. I knew I was sexually attracted to him. But there was also this deep, dirty secret I had. The first person I fell in love with was my female best friend, a year before I met that boy. She was still in life as I dated him. It was confusing for me. I was constantly confronted with knowing I wasn’t one thing (straight) and I wasn’t the other (gay). And then wondering if I was wrong about myself, and really was one thing or the other. Coming to terms with my bisexuality is something that only came when I was well into my adult years. Kissing a girl for the first time as a teenager was a deeply traumatic experience for me, especially because I liked her and she liked me, but I couldn’t look her in the eye anymore, and I couldn’t live with myself knowing that I was so “wrong”. I thought my existence was wrong. It’s a very dark and sad feeling to have filling you for so many years.
In my view, representation of any kind erases that feeling of being the only one you know. It’s important to queer folks to see themselves represented, and the way I see it, ownvoices gives the unique perspective that others couldn’t possibly mimic. Now I’m not against straight people writing queer folks, or queer folks writing outside their specific identity. But it has to be something very present in your life. You’re going to need sensitivity readers. You’re going to have to put in the world, because people deserve that. They deserve to see themselves so they don’t feel like they were born wrong.
This is why it matters to me as a queer person — if I could help it, no other queer kid would think they were alone, that they were wrong, that they were abnormal. But it also matters to me as a teacher of teenagers, that straight people read OV queer stories. Had my mom ever read about a bi character or seen a movie or a show that featured them living their normal life, she wouldn’t have been so perplexed and opposed when I first came out to her. She kept telling me, “but you dated Boy X for so many years! Was that all a lie?”. I told her, “Mom, I’m not gay. I’m bi. I did love him.”, but she couldn’t process it, because she’d never seen it before. She also thought I’d somehow turn into a different person because I was “now” bi. I was the same. But now she knew something about my identity that she hadn’t before.
I think the focus of any diverse literature should be to give visibility to that diverse group. It should be to make them feel seen. It should be telling their stories. They should always be the focus, rather than educating other folks. But I also think that when queer lit is normalized, other folks start seeing things they maybe had had no access to before (not because they were evil, but because we live in a heteronormative and racist world), and that will slowly change the world.
I like how you mentioned what ov LGBT stories can do for readers outside of the community as well. Because no, they aren’t just for us, though of course we would be the first audience. But normalising our experience in the eyes of others makes it so much easier for people to come out. To live. And in that spirit, rec us some great LGBT books you’ve read recently! One can never have enough recommendations!
The best I’ve read recently: Um Milhão de Finais Felizes, by Brazilian author Vitor Martins (we share a last name but sadly we’re not related) and Laura Dean Keeps Breaking up with Me by Mariko Tamaki. And then, of course, my absolute sapphic fave of right now, that will be released only next year: The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar.
Related: we interviewed Adiba the other week!
What’s one piece of advice you would like to give your younger self?
One piece of advice to my younger self: Hang in there. You’ll go stronger and brighter than you’d ever dreamed.
If you could have dinner with one member of the LGBT community, dead or alive, who would it be?
Is it okay to be totally unoriginal and say Hayley Kiyoko? I have a crush on that woman that’s unparalleled. Hayley, if somehow you’re reading this: let me take you out on a date! It won’t necessarily be relevant at all to the LGBT movement, but we’d be hella cute together.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gabriela Martins is a Brazilian author with a terrifying obsession with witches, fictional wars, and superheroes. Her main hobbies include plotting murders to happen within made-up worlds, long walks to the couch to binge-watch TV shows on Netflix, and, surprisingly, Yoga.
We hope this was as great & wonderful for you guys to read as it was for us to bring to life!