Author Interview, world building

Queer Monster Hour with Johannes T. Evans

The June bonus episode is an hour-long chat with author and stand-up comedian Johannes T. Evans on queerness, monsters, monstrous bodies, and exploring power dynamics in relationships.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JohannesTEvans

Medium:  http://johannestevans.medium.com

Website: johannestevans.com

His novel, Heart of Stone, can be found on Amazon.

AUDIO: Listen on Spotify, Apple, Google Podcasts and other platforms – see my Podcast Page.


Introduction

CMR: Hello, welcome to the next episode of Eldritch Girl. This is a new bonus episode with Johannes T. Evans. Would you like to introduce yourself.

JTE: Oh, my name is Johannes T. Evans, pronouns him/his, I am a transmasc author from South Wales living on the west coast of Ireland and I write a lot. I write a big mix of fantasy primarily within the same universe, which is a magical parallel to earth called Magic Beholden.

CMR: And you’re going to read an extract from that world?

JTE: Yes. So my business model is a little bit different where I publish a mix of short stories novels and serials, all within the same universe, one of the things I do is I post serials chapter by chapter, as I go. And then later on, I push them up and republish them as eBook even after completion, the serials will remain online and that previously edited form.

But this one is one of the series is currently ongoing. It’s nearly at the end, we’re nearly finished, the end is in sight. So this is Powder and Feathers, it’s a dark romance between a fallen angel and an incredibly depressed and cynical art student.

The extract is from Chapter 20 so it’s a fair ways into the book I’m very, very excited about this. They’re horrible beastly men. Powder and Feathers is about Jean-Pierre Delacroix, who is a fallen angel. he is definitive he’s terrible he has undiagnosed BPD.

He is trans and very, very sexy and Aimé Deverell his now-partner is a depressed alcoholic artist when he meets Jean Pierre and then he goes through certain character development, though the context for this passage is that Aimé was a smoker when he and Jean-Pierre met, and in the past few weeks he’s developed a sudden… what Jean-Pierre tells him is likely an allergy to cigarettes where whenever he tries to smoke you like sort of immediately throw up, and this extract is off the back of Aimé meeting with his father, and his father basically asking what have you done to your mouth, and pointing out that Jean-Pierre has laid an enchantment on the inside of the roof of his mouth, but he did it while they were sleeping some weeks ago to basically make him stop smoking because Jean doesn’t like it.

So you know terrible. Before I read from this, Jean-Pierre has a really, really strong Parisian accent that I’m not going to do. And Aimé is a posh Dubliner which is a less strong accent, and I’m also not going to do that.

Extract from Powder and Feathers

“I wouldn’t harm you,” Jean-Pierre said softly. “I love you.”

“You love me?” Aimé repeated.

“This surprises you?” Jean-Pierre asked.

“A little bit,” Aimé said.

“And why is that?”

“Because my dad came over before I came around here,” Aimé said lowly, staring in the vicinity of Jean-Pierre’s naked chest instead of meeting his gaze. His voice was hoarse and thick. “Asked what the fuck my new boyfriend had done to my mouth.”

“Kissed it, no? Or—”

“The enchantment,” Aimé said.

Jean-Pierre leaned back. “Ah,” he said softly.

*     *     *

AIMÉ

He’d seen Jean-Pierre do this before, but it didn’t make it any less frightening.

Jean-Pierre’s small, prim smile became keener, sharper, turning into something more like a smirk; his eyes became clearer, the colour colder; he raised his chin, and all of a sudden, Jean-Pierre seemed that much taller, that much bigger than Aimé was.

The sound of Aimé’s gulp rang in his own ears.

“Well?” Aimé asked.

“Well,” Jean-Pierre replied, giving a neat little shrug of his shoulders, sitting up straight where he straddled Aimé’s belly. He was smiling, showing his teeth, and he was looking down at Aimé as though Aimé were something newly fascinating, newly delightful, his fingers tracing a vague pattern over Aimé’s chest that made Aimé at once quake with fear and want to spread his legs wider. “You’re so calm. I thought perhaps you would be angry – like the first time.”

“I’m angry,” Aimé said, trying to keep his breathing in check. “I’m fucking angry, Jean – I’m pissed. You can’t just, you can’t just do that to someone—”

“Why not?” Jean-Pierre asked, and he tilted his head to the side in a way that was so entirely inhuman that it actually made Aimé shiver, and based on the way Jean-Pierre pressed his lips together, stifling a giggle, he’d done it on purpose. “You let me.”

“I didn’t let you,” Aimé said, shoving Jean-Pierre off him and standing to his feet: Jean-Pierre was stood right in front of him in a heartbeat, leaning over him. “I didn’t know you’d done anything.”

Jean-Pierre’s smile softened, and he looked down at Aimé for a moment, arching one perfect blond eyebrow. “Didn’t you?” he asked softly.

~ Johannes T. Evans, Powder and Feathers, Chapter 20 extract

Queer Monster Hour Chat

CMR: Okay.

JTE: Bastards.

CMR: I really love that. It’s – yeah I love the power dynamics between non humans and that exploration of that kind of boundary crossing or the toxicity of it or the unhealthy nature of it, and how you overcome that, or do you or can you, and how does that work with the personalities, and how do the characters develop, and all of that kind of stuff. I love reading stories like that.

So I was wondering then, for you – you write this a lot.

JTE: I write this a lot, yes.

Power Dynamics

CMR: For you then, what makes a relationship between a human and a non human, especially with that kind of a power imbalance, so interesting or compelling to write?

JTE: It’s… okay, I think one of the things that most appeals to me about immortals and something that I don’t see explored in fiction enough, but also like in a specific way that I like, is that immortals, by definition, have this power over the world around them mortals don’t in that, like – Jean-Pierre walks into a room and he and Aimé both look at a desk, right, Aimé sees a desk and all he’s ever known is a desk. For him, a desk is a really, really simple thing.

Jean-Pierre, who… he fell in like the early 1700s, and he fell to a small peasant village, and before he was later… it was later paid for him to go into Paris and become trained to be a doctor. For him, a desk was not conceivable at the time when he fell. He didn’t conceive of a desk until years later when he went into Paris for the first time.

And it seems like such a simple thing: a desk, you know, it’s, it is a table, but it’s a special table for reading and writing. It’s a special table for a specific purpose. It’s shaped in a particular way. All the desks that Jean-Pierre has seen. The category of “desk” in his mind is different to anything else.

And it’s not the same as knowing people and historical events, because that is one thing when you look at like those tiny mundane things, they sculpt so much of how you respond to the most basic of situations, whether it’s your exposure to a skill, whether it’s your exposure to an idea, and it’s in those mundane things that you gain a lot of power over situations where like you don’t know those things you don’t even conceive that power [as a] factor.

And being from like small like the desk is just an example, the desk represents other things like when you go from like those small details and look at them in a wider scale. You have immortals who have experienced and who perceive the world in a way that mortals never can, because like you know have limited time even the most worldly of mortals don’t have that length of experiences and broadness of experiences and diversity of experiences.

Then you have Aimé and Jean-Pierre and such things as… you know Jean-Pierre is a French revolutionary, and he’s fought in other revolutions as well. He understands liberty, he’s obsessed with liberty, he is obsessed with freedom. And yet, something as simple as consent for something like an enchantment, especially like as it is noted this is a dangerous enchantment, it could have gone wrong, and it could have gone really, really badly, even if Aimé had known it was being done.

And it’s so it’s such a simple and obvious override of Aimé’s personal boundaries. And then Jean-Pierre says well, if you didn’t like it you’d leave. Aimé doesn’t leave, and when he does leave he comes back. And that’s the whole basis of their relationship where Aimé is saying you can’t treat me like this, you can’t do things that I don’t consent to, and Jean who says, you are consenting because I keep telling you to run, my brothers have both advised you to run, you can run, you can leave, I won’t come after you, I’ve told you this, but you stay. In staying, you’re consenting.

CMR: Oooh. [uncomfortable noise]

JTE: And, later on, that dynamic shifts and changes and like it’s noted that Jean-Pierre and Aimé both have a lot of like quite significant traumas and it’s explored later on that part of the reason that Jean-Pierre has such a fractured idea of his own self and ideas like consent and bodily autonomy is because, like his own boundaries have been crossed in different ways. Not just via victimization but also like like in different selves like as a soldier as a revolutionary as a doctor as an angel etc, the thing is that it’s noted that for Jean-Pierre part of the way he shows affection is in trying to control other people, because he’s like basically like well if I didn’t care about you, I wouldn’t try and control you. If you actually cared about me, you’d have a vested interest in wanting to make sure that I do what you want.

It’s a really, really horrible, twisted way of looking at it, especially because he’s had other boyfriends from other places and this dynamic has changed and is being tempered over time. Aimé stays and basically learns to play Jean-Pierre’s game with him. Jean-Pierre loves it because he’s you know. [laughs] They are made for each other and it’s it’s really, really fun to write this dynamic where it looks from the beginning, more clearly like one person being victimized by another, which is the initial starting point.

As you go on and as Aimé becomes more comfortable, not just with Jean-Pierre, but with his brothers, with the family, and he’s adopted sort of into it, Aimé learns to hold his own in Powder and Feathers and in later books as well. It’s going to become even more significant and more important as we go on in plot lines within Magic Beholden, and Aimé isn’t just being victimized and he’s very much choosing to match Jean-Pierre blow for blow on some things and, if not go further and it’s really, really interesting to explore that and negative character development. I hesitate to call it corruption, because Jean-Pierre is leaning on instincts that Aimé already has. And instead just encouraging him to embrace them. Yeah it’s it’s really, really exciting and fun to play with those dynamics.

CMR: Yeah I think it’s interesting when you have like two characters who are equally – not equally traumatised, but both have things that they bring to that relationship so like, for example, if you don’t if you have somebody who doesn’t have or is not historically had a lot of agency, and suddenly they find themselves in a position where they are capable of having some element of power over another person and that person ostensibly does have more power than they do, and yet they can push back, that becomes addictive in a way, I think, doesn’t it, like, because it’s a way of…. you know that they can do whatever they want to you, but what they will do is within some sort of twisted bounds of reason.

JTE: Yeah. And, especially because these are like two different people who are making up the rules, and like within the context is very… so there’s stuff that Jean-Pierre and Aimé will do with each other, later on, which will create a lot of conflict with other characters, where the characters will go where the fuck are either of you at and they’ll go, it’s none of your fucking business.

There are there are things that Jean-Pierre does to Aimé and things that Aimé does to Jean-Pierre, which are totally unthinkable and unfathomable in their their cruelty, in their callousness, in their sadism, in their disrespect to the laws of nature, in some cases, and the characters will obviously respond then go, stop doing this, and they’ll go, make me.

Then they stand together and and that’s the thing, where you have these characters who are engaging in something which is so far outside the bounds of… like beyond risk-aware consensual kink. They’re not risk-aware, they’re risk-creators, they are risk. And it’s so much…. really is so much fun to play with those dynamics, especially because of the way that immortality particularly affects that.

Also Jean-Pierre’s inhumanity, not just that he’s immortal but that his body isn’t human and even though it like might appear human from the outside, people don’t treat him as human, he doesn’t act human, and not just outside the bounds of morality, but like you know, Jean-Pierre has loads of bones that Aimé doesn’t, and he’s got wings and he’s got different muscles. He’s got another set of eyelids that he has to close when he’s flying to make sure his brains don’t go out of his skull and whatever else, like his body is different.

CMR: Yeah.

JTE: Yeah in many ways it’s more fragile, in many ways it’s stronger, but like part of their relationship as they grow closer in Powder and Feathers is in Jean-Pierre basically making Aimé fight him. First like, playing like, boxing and wrestling, then as Jean’s brother Colm was more into it, learning to do things like throw knives, and for a while in Aimé’s case, refusing to learn how to use a gun.

But as their dynamic improves initially like Jean-Pierre can throw Aimé on the ground easily every single time, but the more Aimé trains with them, and the more Aimé is made, not just to use the strength but to use like his cunning, and is able to overpower him. So you have this dynamic where Jean-Pierre has basically tailored Aimé to be able to dominate him.

Because in the initial stages, he can’t. He learns how. Then it becomes a fair match if that makes sense, like physically and mentally where they know each other very, very well.

And they love each other and they you know they these aren’t like two nemeses at different ends of a battlefield, they live together, they’re going to live together for the foreseeable, they’re probably not going to break up.

You have… you’re going to have all these different people meeting these, you know, devoted husbands fucking torture each other, you just go what is wrong with you.

You know, like Oh, we love each other, you know, it’s just, you know, it’s just love.

Like no. It’s not.

CM Rosens: yeah.

Johannes Evans (he/him): Especially because Jean-Pierre is infamous for various crimes and Aimé is going to be associated with that and that will impact the dynamic as well, the way in which they’re responded to, not just as like an angel and human, but that angel, this human.

Yeah and that’s really, really exciting in terms of potential as well because it’s mortality is so so important as a power dynamic, as is the monstrous meeting the human.

There’s other power dynamics too that the both of them can learn to take advantage of, it’s like this net of wires that they’re crossing over to the to basically get the advantage and the upper hand… to have fun.

CMR: End game. [laughs]

Johannes Evans (he/him): It makes me so happy. Because I write other relations like this. It’s a big theme. My editor was going through one of my King Arthur pieces, the last day, and was just all like, you’re obsessed with liberty and freedom, and I was like, yeah.

I like what that means within a relationship and within a position of power like Jean-Pierre and Aimé are really something else, compared to like a lot of these other dynamics, which are like very, very… you know. Arthur and Myrddin Wyllt and Gwenhwyfar, they have like a threesome thing going on and then Lucien Pike and Gellert Osgodby in Lashton, they have their own power dynamic going on, and I’ve got these different relationships like this, but none of them are as bad as Aimé and Jean-Pierre.


Duty & Responsibility, Trauma & Recovery

CMR: Yeah, ok, so we’ve talked a lot about like consent and liberty and freedom within relationships. What other questions or themes or issues do you think characterize your work and how do you go about interrogating or exploring other kinds of dynamics?

JTE: Like I, I think that [laughs] I really like trauma, writing about trauma.

CMR: Same.

JTE: I know, right? It’s not just about trauma that I think and recovery from trauma and the fact that, like you know, trauma is such a, um. Regardless of its nature you have these these fractious means not just of the original injury, but then the recovery. You don’t feel the same after because you have these ingrained responses to things whether they’re rational or irrational, and whether they’re subtle or explosive.

I think that that meets [sic] into the way that I… There’s like three main things that I would say that I delve into, and they’re liberty and freedom, the concept of and like a – devotion to duty and responsibility, and trauma and recovery from trauma. And all those three things go together. Because your… many people’s ideas of duty and responsibility, are impacted by their previous relationships with trauma and abuse.

And then that way that duty is held by them often impacts their sense of personal freedom or how they act within that personal freedom, how they allow freedom and liberty to others and sort of those three things were sort of trifecta of themes and I guess like potential characteristics that impact one another.

When we think about what we’re responsible for it’s so easy for us to get caught up in like the little things like being responsible for our own property if we own property, or our own family if we have family and get on with our family. Responsibility to ourselves or responsibility to work or to a crown or to a country, a sense of duty and loyalty.

The thing about that duty is that it can be in a wider sphere, especially talking from a standpoint of marginalization, like you know as as a trans man as a gay man and someone who’s disabled or someone who’s chronically ill or someone who’s neurodivergent, somebody who’s Welsh, as somebody who’s… I don’t know. No, it’s just that layers of intersection, but then also as someone who’s White, I have a responsibility that I have to uplift voices of colour also, and ensure that while I think through my work that it’s not just made for white people.

And that I’m not including people of colour for the purposes of like showing to other white people that I can like write with colour instead that I’m like, I’m treating my characters of colour with the same level of respect, but also complexity that I’m doing with my white characters, like characters that like you know, aren’t indigenous or, in some way a minority.

Especially because I think writing in a fantasy world it’s um. Many authors fall into the trap of being like, Oh well, I have fantasy races and therefore I don’t have to think about like real world racism.

Look, I write on earth and all of that shit doesn’t go away because there’s now angels and vampires and fairies and they all live like secretly. Those are still like real dynamic so even though within the universe there’s like fantasy speciesism, or there’s like lots of different complex conflict between fae and demons and whatever else, but that isn’t – that doesn’t get away from like racialist ideas from human ideologies like historically and how things have changed through history.

And, especially from an immortal standpoint as well, writing things like that, like writing characters who like fell in – I have one character in Powder and Feathers whose name is Pádraic Mac Giolla Chríost, and he fell in like the 12th century or something like just before the Black Death hit. And he fell to a monastery and abbey in Dublin and to look at him, you think oh he’s North Indian. And so, like throughout his you know, like he’s never left Ireland he won’t leave Ireland. He lives in Ireland is very, very Irish. And to look at him, he’s Desi to look at, and the thing is that, then, once he once he becomes a nurse in like the the 20th century, 21st century, suddenly he’s around loads and loads of other people who are from Asia, and he speaks all these different languages, because all the angels speak of variety of languages.

You know he’s speaking to people who are Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan and he builds a community with other North Indians who think he’s a North Indian too, then… he is. But it’s not because he doesn’t have like a relationship, because then he raises his daughter Bedelia within that community and that massively impacts the way she thinks about her identity, and the way that impacts his identity too. For him, that identity was mutable until it wasn’t anymore, and now he wouldn’t go away from what he has.

It’s really complicated… you know, it’s really, really, I think, important to explore and to be aware of. Not just because it’s fun and interesting but because, like these ideas that we have about race, gender sexuality, many of them are new and many of them are constructed within like a white western hegemony, which is by its nature, white supremacist, which, like you know, most homophobia and most transphobia most anti-disability thought within like eugenicist movements comes from white supremacy, it’s the same thing.

So because it’s the same ideology that sort of like creates a need to explore other things… so within like Powder and Feathers, talking about power with Jean-Pierre, for example: Jean-Pierre is trans. All angels are trans but but Jean-Pierre like typically is trans because he looks like a trans man and people don’t necessarily know until they see him undressed, but he is trans and he owns it, but he’s got a complicated feeling with his own gender because, like he probably would have kept using ‘it/its’ pronouns. If somebody hadn’t told him, Well, no, you have to use him as you can’t be an it, and he was like whyyyy.

You know that’s you know that’s thing. So you have this man who is so beautiful, blue-eyed, blond, handsome, strong, built like a dancer, really, really good at speaking French, an orator, a fighter a dancer, and you have him, you know. And he’s trans and he’s gay, benefiting from a system that very, very much looks at him because he’s very well spoken and because he’s educated and it was a privilege for him to get that education, he resisted getting that education, then being in a position as a man and particularly as a white man, how he relates to his brothers and sisters, and how he then talks about how he weaponized his whiteness, because it’s another weapon in his arsenal and he’s going to use it, if he has it.

It’s a – it’s a complex feeling of power, because it means he has power over others, but it’s a difference between the power he wants to have over others, a power that’s very personal in nature and comes from a place of like, fractured self and trauma, versus a power he is allotted based off of a white supremacist system which isn’t personal in nature and it’s instead… not just something he can benefit from, but is designed to subjugate his brothers and sisters.

CMR: Right.

JTE: Right and that’s a big part of it as well. I’m sorry I really went off there, I’ve been thinking about this a lot.


Monstrosity, Queerness and Intersectional Identities

CMR: Yes, it’s the systemic power systems versus the … yeah. There’s just so much in it. There’s just so much. And I’m wondering how you explore that identity as well, the intersection of queerness and transness with a non-human identity, or a ‘monstrous’ identity in inverted commas, and how that works for you in your writing, when you’re writing these dynamics and characters?

JTE: I think that with gender and sexuality, it’s so interesting, because, like gender and sexuality are such human things, but the idea that we have of them is human, like we speak from a place that’s informed by our culture and the way that we were raised and the way the society that we were raised into regardless of whether it matched with how we were raised or not.

And the idea of personhood or identity in itself being transgressive before you actually action anything is something that I think about constantly. The idea that someone, merely by existing, is in some way committing a crime or some way doing something wrong – by a definition that can’t be true, it can’t be a crime against nature for somebody to exist because they already exist, nature is already allowed it.

And so you have these ideas of original sin, which I don’t explore that much in Powder and Feathers even though Jean-Pierre is a stout Catholic, but also at any one time he’s like we should burn the Catholic Church to the ground and also, if you ever touch the Catholic Church I will burn you.

[laughs]

CMR: Yep.

JTE: Which I think a lot of Catholics do feel. Like they say it’s that complicated thing of like you know that thing of like this is mine and I belong to this, and now I have a duty. Also it’s betrayed me in betrayed others, and there’s no easy answer to that because, like it’s a huge institution that’s done unforgivable things to unforgivable amounts of people. But also there’s faith and there’s the… not ideology, but the… meter behind that faith, and the strength of faith, especially within a congregation and within a community.

And the ways in which that community can then betray one another in line of greater power or prestige, but um but with like the the intersection between like transness and queerness and a monstrosity it’s that idea of like of something that is without an outside of expectation, if it is without an outside of expectation, it is dangerous to us.

The idea that is I think more recent in its fervour, that, in order to accept something you have to understand it, and especially like this is like very much related to recent… I hesitate to call it discourse… recent complaints about Pride, about identity, whether it’s stuff like being very, very focused on very, very prescriptive terms for identity like lesbian, trans man, asexual, queer… having very having very, very strict things of these as if they’re taxonomic definitions, a species, as immutable, unchangeable, as opposed to something that, like, many of us use labels interchangeably, we layer them, they mean different things at different times.

But because people are so focused on this idea that in order to accept something I have to understand it, and in order to understand it, I have to understand everything about it it’s like well no that’s a very, very entitled and quite self obsessed way of looking at these things. You know, it’s a very white view, it’s a very cis view, it’s a very heterosexual view, but like more than that it’s a very, very privileged view because what you’re doing is you’re saying that other things don’t have the right to exist unless I learn everything about them and then decide whether I approve.

CMR: Yes. Yes. It’s this idea of also having to have a working vocabulary to apply to things.

JTE: EVERYTHING.

CMR: Everything.

JTE: It’s not possible.

CMR: Yeah but if somebody uses a word in a different way, the way that you think that meaning, you know, the way that you inscribe that meaning on to that word, then it kind of… You get a sort of invalidation of that term. It’s like, that’s not quite how it works. Because the way I use a term to describe my identity might be completely different to the way that somebody else understands the way that I use that term. But I don’t have any other… I don’t generally have vocabulary to explain myself to somebody so I kind of I carry labels in my back pocket that I can go, you know what, I don’t care if this is what you think. And that’s about as close as we get. [laughs] But yeah.


Monstrous Bodies and Identity

I’m thinking like – your talk on the Minotaur that you did, which I sadly missed but I’m catching up on YouTube so if anyone wants to see that that’s on RomGothSam’s YouTube Channel, which is available, I think, for people to to view at this time, so if you want to hear about transness and disability and the minotaur, that’s a whole talk.

So yes, I’m just thinking about the way that you play with different – I guess, monstrous motifs and use those to explore different character identities and dynamics.

JTE: I thing I really, really enjoy about exploring like monstrous. um, especially monstrous bodies, especially like from the position of queerness and transness, it’s really interesting talking to people about different ideas of gender and sexuality. I’ve said for the longest time I think in the 21st century way that a lot of us use subcultures online heavily influences our, not merely our gender presentation, but also ideas of gender.

So, for example, when I put on my Twitter profile that I’m a dandy, that’s a very gendered term. It’s a gender that comes with a specific performance and a particular idea of masculinity – it is masculine. But I would associate it with trans men and butch lesbians, and masc lesbians. I would associate it with more feminine gay men, not because it’s actually a feminine masculinity, but because when I say dandy and when I say like associated terms like ‘rake’ or something similar it’s a masculinity that, by definition, is rooted in the past. It’s a masculinity of the 19th and 18th century, so we associated with florid shirts and dainty wrists, and handsome hands and maybe like long hair maybe you know other ideas outside of what we think of as masculinity in the 21st century, but are nonetheless masculine, just of a different era.

And it’s my philosophy that like a lot of subcultures do the same thing, like the idea of masculinity and femininity within a Gothic subculture or with Emos is very, very different to like the mainstream, so with punks – punks have a hugely different idea of gender performance and gendered ideas like not just like it in terms of masculinity and femininity, but when you explore people’s nonbinary interpretations of gender within a subculture they’re very, very different and this is just a tiny, tiny fraction of what happens in an actual real world – ‘real world’ – as in as in multicultural not real world, as in like punks don’t exist.

I mean, like, when you look at how people’s Blackness might intersect with their experience of punk subculture, and therefore their experience of punk gender, how Blackness or people’s race or people’s status or their religion or their gender or their sexuality, sure, might impact gender presentation and how these things are all interconnected, and how they change subtly based on how the mainstream sees gender and therefore how that impacts us because, like, many of us are mirrors and whether we’re… intentionally copying things, or whether we’re mirroring stuff using the reflection as a weapon to take people’s eyes out, these are things that we do.

So then when you bring monstrosity in and you look at species alongside these ideas of cultures, whether they are manufactured subcultures or whether they are built over time and handed down, then you have something completely different. How do you gender someone that doesn’t have anything even remotely similar to the human genitalia or a human[oid] who has tentacles or who has multiple limbs? Whose body shape and face shape follow similar planes but who feeds in a different way, who lays eggs, for example, or carries eggs, especially in these like ‘new’ species that have like different ideas of reproduction, where they might have multiple partners involved and that’s part of the species norm, let alone as part of a cultural norm?

And so once again, you explore this idea of transgression by existing and the idea that your existence itself is outside of what is the bound to the appropriate or polite or correct.

Then you also have gender expectation. So for example, when I have minotaurs, or I have vampires or I have fairies or I have demons or in human society, specifically in a human white Western society within the UK – or it’s not the UK, in Magic Beholden, but you get my meaning – when they’re in this this society, which you know, is still dominated by a white gaze, specifically by an imperial white gaze, although it’s not quite the same within the magical universe those additions apart, you still then have people whose whose gender and sexuality is policed almost by those lines.

You have these cultural clashes because other people have power it’s not as simple as some people in power might like it to be. But you have different ideas of gender and sexuality clashing and causing like not just interpersonal but intercommunal disputes.

But also then you have some cultures that are born of that, though, like when you look at like you know, like a minotaur’s presentation when they’re walking around, they’re seen as this, like, you know, very, very hyper masculine people, regardless of their actual gender.

And there’s that whole thing going on, and then, when you look at them, like, for example, like drider, like spider people, they are de-gendered, because they are too foreign. And therefore they’re made into something Other and outside of gender, which is a way that we dehumanize others, even if they don’t identify with our ideas of gender way that we would hold [sic] gender is often a way to say you are uncivilized or you are ugly or you’re inhuman and therefore you are outside of our gender, you are outside of our personhood, because gender is such a part of how we view someone as a person.

CMR: Yeah, and when you add in the human/non-human relationships to a dynamic like that, it’s very interesting to see where the human is at a big disadvantage physically, and then in terms of that sort of power dynamic or the terms of that power dynamic without that kind of agency that the human has to come from somewhere slightly different or they have to interact in a in a particular way.

JTE: Learn to get power in a way that’s different but alongside.


Character Dynamics and Disability

CMR: And I’m thinking about like some of your porn writing, your erotic stuff as well, and like how kink works as that… how that kink dynamic works in a way to create that sort of almost equal partnership (I don’t know if you get what I’m trying to [say]…) So I talked about this a little bit with Stef Simpson who writes and disabled femdomme characters and that kind of [thing], or the sub as having agency, which is a thing we discussed, and because of that nature of consent, that’s a way of getting power back is by consenting to what is done to you, and and I just wondered if you play with that a lot or is that something that you’re – you know, how do you frame that in your stories?

JTE: It’s interesting because I think that one of the things that like, I haven’t written lots of stuff that’s like… there’s a lot of stuff there. I’ve got a Peter Pan sequel that’s Hook and Smee, The Boatswain’s Hook, which is kind of on the back burner because I’ve been finishing up Powder and Feathers, and that is obviously like, is a story about disability and about chronic illness, because you start with Hook, who canonically within the book of Peter Pan is very, very happy to be disabled. He still says frequently that his hook is better than his arm was and that if he was a mother and he says mother, he always says mother, he never talks about himself as a father, he always talks about himself as a mother because he’s gay. But he talks about if he was a mother he’d wish his children had a hook instead of a hand like him.

And, and then obviously the plot of that story is that he developed pneumonia which leads to asthma, and Hook and Smee basically have to retire. And you have Hook who has previously been really, really pleased and thrilled with his disability, because you think he’s, you know, he’s hot shit, which he is, and suddenly he’s dealing with a chronic illness, which is also very disabling – that isn’t cool, and isn’t fun.

Yeah so – yeah so, you have like this… and it’s not that, like, the amputation and being an amputee never came with pain, because it does and Smee in fact frequently has to remind him to put lotion on the residual limb to make sure that the skin doesn’t crack and to make sure he doesn’t get infections and Smee is the one that helps Hook put his harness on and to put the prosthetic on. But then also you have Smee, as always, who’s frequently been in this caretaker role, now trying to get Hook to take his atomiser, and Hook being like no. And then he has an asthma attack. Because he’s stupid. But he’s also angry, because it’s that idea of… your body is betraying you and your body is taking away freedom that you previously had.

Or – a freedom that you never had that you felt entitled to, because you should have it, everybody else has it, why don’t you. Which I think is a really, really complicated thing when we’re talking about disability in chronic illness, because there’s that idea of like it feels wrong to call the entitlement because, like everybody has it, it’s the norm, or whatever, like a healthy body. People talk about a healthy body, many of us don’t have healthy bodies, most of us by the end don’t have healthy bodies, most of us are in some way ill or disabled or, or otherwise struggling with something else, you know, chronic or occurring. And it’s infuriating.

And then another serial that I’m probably going to go … it’s probably going to be my main one after I finish Powder and Feathers is An Uncommon Betrothal, which is about a rich young gentleman whose family gets a new butler. And he’s very, very, very repressed, and the butler is just sort of like – I’m gonna fuck him.

But, like the in the butler’s… the butler was appointed by his uncle who was previously the butler of the household and he – in his mind it’s almost an arranged marriage. He’s sort of like oh well, I’m here, he’s gay, he’s never going to marry. It’s added to, because Alexos (who’s the gentleman) had polio as a child and now had to – he wore braces for a very, very long time to help his legs, but he walks with a cane, he’s constantly in pain he’s constantly struggling with with cold chills and he’s, you know he’s he’s fragile. He can’t do a lot of things that other young men his age can.

So you have these layers of things, and also the fact that, like Henry (the butler) who’s just sort of like well, yeah, he’s you know somewhat fragile but he’s not fragile where I care, and so you have those power dynamics of abled characters with disabled ones, whether it’s like a physical disability or whether it’s like just something as simple as chronic pain, which can make such a difference.

Also, from a neurodivergent standpoint, [there’s] sensory processing issues. I’ve got one character called Beau Horvasse who has experienced a great deal of trauma, but even when he fell – he’s an angel – they thought he was dead they didn’t know he was an angel and they tried to magically resuscitate him with a magical defibrillator which was still in its like, it’s relatively early stages of being developed, this is a few years before the mundane defibrillator was invented, or maybe it was after… either way, they tried to, and they basically fried his nervous system and now he almost any touch on him is so over stimulating that he can’t handle it. It’s not pain per se just so much sensation that he can’t cope with it, and then he’s experienced a lot of medical trauma alongside that.

Then also my vampires – my ancient vampires Marcellus and Genesius, who appear in Heart of Stone. In the 21st century, they actually they locked themselves away toward the end of Heart of Stone and in the 21st century they’re living as hermits in a cabin out of the way of absolutely everything. Genesius never leaves the house and Marcellus leaves the house twice a week in fucking like plague doctor’s gear to keep himself protected from the sun, to make sure that the petrol and diesel fumes aren’t irritating his nose and making him sick. He’s light sensitive, all of the colours and bright lights in supermarkets are overwhelming to him, he can’t cope with it, he can’t cope with the the smells that he gets from everything constantly. The frequency of wires, of pipes, of phone signals all around them, he can hear it. It hurts, because there’s so much of it.

So you have these characters who have been around for 3000 years and suddenly they live in a world that’s hostile to them. They can keep running but they can’t outrun this, there’s too much of it, and you know you have Genesius who previously loved people, who would throw big soirees of hundreds of people, loves people to death, he’s like – ‘hope there’s a cultural extinction event’, because he just can’t deal with it.

Yeah and it’s so when we think about how disability affects character so often as simple as like you know disability mood somebody evil because they were rejected by society and it’s boring. Whereas you know, Hook, who is just sort of like – he was already evil, then he was disabled, and he’s like, I’m now evil and hot.

And you have some of that, then you have characters who don’t become evil who are still kind, but they just tired, they are just in pain, they just want to be isolated, where previously they wanted to be around people. But they can’t be around people, and then people ask why they can’t, and it’s just like: don’t you see??

And yeah and also the intellectual culture as well, too, because, like, I think, it’s not a disability, but I think what intersects with disability is a – is a cultural illiteracy, I want to say. Coming as a foreigner into a culture that you don’t understand, that you don’t understand the rules for, it’s something I play a lot with, um – with humans going into fae culture, and vice versa.

CMR: Yeah.

JTE: That’ll be a lot more important later on. but also like how they live in human worlds, because the fae – their own lands are quite libertarian and have like really, really complex law, then they come [where] humans were like suddenly you know, cops exist, and they find their presence disgusting and incomprehensible. They have to liaise to a certain extent with law enforcement, who already harass them really. But it’s a cultural clash, but it’s more… it’s not something that you can overcome by like a conversation, because that’s what these things are.

Some things aren’t possible to solve. They’re not mutable and they’re not things that you can just balance out by just chatting about it, some cultures, some people’s needs, are antithetical to others. And that’s not to say that somebody is evil. It isn’t to say that someone is trying to dominate or have power over others. It’s a fact of life. And it’s a fact that we have to acknowledge if we ever want to live in anything like a fair society or even a fair community, and that’s something I love as a theme, that I’m obsessed with.

Future Themes

CMR: Is there anything you’re going to tackle in the future, or that you want to tackle in the future, that you haven’t done so much of?

JTE: Related to relationships between immortals and mortals and the relationship between mortality and divinity. There is a lot of god lore that I’m going to be getting into with demigods and spirits and the ideas of of worship. I did Esben who’s a Norse priest of Freyr. He’s in the medieval period. he’s probably one of my earliest characters because I haven’t written anything earlier yet.

But there’s a lot of relationships between ideas of divinity, what divinity is, how someone can achieve divinity, why someone would want to, the idea of overlapping identities of divinity, ideas of divinity containing multiple facets, which simultaneously exist all at once in the same person and also can be explored face by face by face, the different face that you give to other people, not just from an identity standpoint, but even from terms of an actual power to command.

To use Loki as an example because he’s, you know, everyone knows who he is. When you go to Loki and you ask him what he remembers of his childhood, he remembers multiple things.

CMR: Yeah.

JTE: He remembers growing up alongside Baldur, and Tyr, and Thor, depending on which story he’s remembering about himself.

CMR: Yep.

JTE: He also remembers something else, that’s older now and not so easy to remember.

Then you have the gods who contain [multiplicities] within themselves, who for example serve on different pantheons, and they do so with different names and they do so with different faces. All of these things happened, because they’re gods. The way that magic and belief culminates or is channelled through them and gives them the power they have means that everything happened at once, it all happened. They remember it separately. It changes. Then, also, because they have destiny also, if you look at Loki he already has scars around his eyes from the acid at Ragnarok, he already has the band marks on his wrists. It hasn’t happened yet. It might not happen, depending on what happens first, except that it will happen because it’s Ragnarok. It will come. Therefore, he has the scars. It is as definitive – his future – as his past is. Even though his past has happened in multiplicity also. So. That’s a really really fun idea. [laughs]

CMR: Yes! I love this so much. I love fate and playing with multiple ideas of fate, and multiple levels of what’s happened when, and linear time being Not a Thing. [laughs] Or, being a thing, but linear time as being a layer rather than being a direct path you travel on. Yeah, I love it.

JTE: But it’s the same with the angels as well, because like, with the angels, the host, the dimension they fell from, is outside of linear time. Although the angels have fallen, it’s happened before all this happened, the angels have been falling for thousands of years and will continue to fall for thousands more, because they’re falling into linear time. They’re coming into something they’ve never experienced before, not just having a physical, corporeal body. Not just being expected to suddenly have an identity, where they never had an identity before, and different ones of them remember different things, and remember different sensations and different feelings: time. Time is new to them. It didn’t ever happen before. Not to them.

CMR: Yes.

JTE: So you know that the way that they relate to gods and spirits, indeed, and even when they ascend to to godhood or divinity, is different in definition. And it’s really, really, really fun to play with that because it’s just sort of like, so much depth that you can go into, especially because, like one of the – I think the cornerstone or the keystone of my universe, and my world building there’s no such thing as truth. Not objective truth, no truth is definitive, but people’s experiences and interpretations of the situation and that’s all. And that’s it’s going to be so frustrating for people later on when they realize the points at which they – even with Powder and Feathers.

Firstly, everybody lies. Everybody is lying constantly. Jean-Pierre constantly lies, Colm constantly lies, but because nobody says Colm lies like Jean-Pierre lies, you don’t realize that Colm lies until you actually start adding things up and then you go wait a second. Asmodeus says, “I don’t lie”, and then he lies. Constantly. Because he’s a big liar.

CMR: I love it.

JTE: And then when you go outside Powder and Feathers, and you hear people talk about Jean-Pierre, or about Asmodeus, the things that they say are so different from what these people say about themselves, and when you when you then go from story to story later on, when you have all the angels in one place, and when you have Lashton, that’s a place where you have Gellert and Pike, and that’s a crime setting, that’s a smuggling town, and there’ll be a lot of crime stories, there’s a lot of gang warfare. Then you have Camelot which is the seat of the king who’s still in his coma, but then you have the king regent, Myrddin Wyllt. You have magical university there. If you go North you’ll be going into Llallwg National Forest which has a huge amount of things going on between fairies between humans between the demons, between the actual inhabitants… Then, if you go to Bristol, you have the Bayett Inn, which is going to be the subject of many, many, many things, complicated with fairies and demons. And then you have clinic and the hospital, and then you have all these other settings and all these other characters and everybody’s going to interact, that’s the point, that’s why there’s hundreds of characters.

They’ll interact, they’ll intersect, they’re all existing in the same world and, even if they interact in very, very small and mundane ways, you can see the crossover because it’s not that big of a world and that’s – the truth can’t exist, because all these different people have different experiences and different ideas and ideologies that affect how they interpret those experiences and then relate to other people, and the truth doesn’t exist, just like real life.

What you have is sources, and you can decide how much you trust those sources, then you might change your mind later on when you’re introduced to new information that kind of says that everything you were told before was a lie.

CMR: I love it. [laughs] So excited. I love that ‘what is truth’, yeah. Love it.

JTE: Yes, especially as I’ve only been at this year and I’m expecting be at this for like, you know, until I die so. Hopefully another 30 or 40 more. Yeah um but I, you know there’s a lot to do.

CMR: There’s enough! No, I love that. I love playing with that, but in a really – micro, family setting, because I really love the idea of very micro point of view, and one childhood memory as experienced by three different people. And like how what actually happened – you never actually know what actually happened in that moment, because they all remember it slightly differently, and they all have their own perspective on it.

And it’s something – it’s such a minor thing, and they’re in their 30s bickering about what happened when they were 9, but it’s, you know… something that was so minor to somebody else had a real impact on [someone else], you know, and I love how that shapes people and actually, that event that you’re remembering may not have happened at all or not at all the way that you think it did. I just love that. And you’ll never get to the truth of it because you’ll never know now. It’s gone. It’s happened, it’s gone and you’ll never get back that that moment, and you can never look at it objectively. You know, and your memory does such interesting things and [adds] layers of experiences, so when you’re thinking about something retrospectively you’re not thinking about it as something that happened when you were 10, you’re thinking about it as you an adult with layers of experiences applying that back to a half-remembered thing that may have happened or may not have happened to you. [laughs]

JTE: And then if you did go back in time and look at it you’d still be looking at it from your biased lens. Or, if you would be looking at the memory like the, the pensive in Harry Potter, how much of that is influenced by what you think, and how much is that influenced by what the other person thinks? [shrugs, expressive noise] Yeah it’s really really fun.

What To Look Out For

CMR: Yeah, I love it. On that note, do you have anything coming out or anything that you want to promote right now?

JTE: You can read Powder and Feathers right now if you want, we’re about 5 chapters from the end, I think. About 5 chapters away. The thing is, when we come to it, it’s the beginning of something far greater, which is intimidating. Even though I’m like, ‘well, I’ll be working in this world for years’, I’m also – like this is actually like a big thing, though.

Because Heart of Stone – I love Heart of Stone, [it’s] my first book that came out, July 2020, is very micro, very self-contained, and is about two people who learn to love each other and love themselves through the lens of loving each other. Whereas, you know, Jean-Pierre is an international war criminal. It’s a bit different.

[Laughs] Little bit different.

But you can read [P&F] on WorldAnvil, you can read it there for free. And if you have a Medium subscription or you’re thinking of getting a Medium subscription, you can read all my short stories now. There’s like… 60? There’s a lot. I normally post 5-6 pieces a week on my Patreon and my Medium, which can be new serial updates, such as a Powder and Feathers, it might be short stories and might be tweet-fic, it might be essays, it might be might be articles.

CMR: Fabulous. So much stuff. So much! Thank you ever so much for coming on it’s been really lovely.

JTE: Thank you so much for having me.

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