It is 10:19 am here in New Zealand, and I am on my second pot of tea. I’ve been meaning to write this post for almost a month now, and it is not going to get any easier.
On March 9th, I did something that for me was a really big deal. I’ve been out as a writer of LGBTQ fiction online since 2015, but it was only last year, after writing Morgen Prince, that I was comfortable to be out as myself with my writing friends and family. On March 9th, as part of Christchurch’s Pride Week, a Rainbow Market was organised. I signed up for a stall. After a week of pure panic as I ran around getting ready, I was there, standing next to my books–me.
I was welcomed. The crowd was fantastic, but it was my fellow stall holders that really made the event for me–there was an energy in the hall (and outside too) that made the place hum, even before anyone showed up. And that energy was amazing. I don’t know how to describe except that it is that feeling when you meet someone and you know you’re going to be friends. It was pure magic, and I came away from the market with an exhaustion headache and a feeling of belong, acceptance and positivity that lasted for days.
That was Saturday. On Friday, March 15th, just six days after I had such an amazingly positive experience at Pride, a gunman walked into two mosques in Christchurch. Fifty people who were in a place that should have been safe, in the warmth of their community, were killed, many others injured, and an entire community made to feel unsafe.
I’ve been struggling to reconcile the two events. Following the attacks, New Zealanders, especially pakeha (NZers of European descent, of which I am one) especially, have had to take a hard look at our beliefs, our assumptions and our actions, and ask ourselves how our fear, our ignorance, our laziness, our indifference has contributed to rise of islamophobia and other forms of racism in our country. It’s not been an easy process, but the strength and resilience of the muslim community in New Zealand has been incredible and inspiring, and the outpouring of love we’ve seen here has been like nothing else.
During this time of grieving, of searching for answers, for trying to find a way forward, I’ve leaned heavily on my writing friends. As current editor of the Romance Writers of New Zealand magazine, I had the opportunity to write an editorial detailing my feelings and thoughts on what romance writers can do. In this, I was inspired by two excellent articles, Elizabeth Kingston’s Romanticizing White Supremacy and K J Charles’ Just How Things Were, both articles I highly recommend reading.
While working on the April issue of Heart to Heart, the announcement of the 2019 RITA finalists led to the RWA also doing some serious self-examination. Racism is everywhere in publishing, and the sheer scale of it seems overwhelming. Our courageous authors of colour have been battling incredible hurdles for far too long, and quite honestly it is appalling that they’ve been doing so, and doing so mostly alone.
As a writer, I’ve renewed my commitment to writing stories that reflect the richness of the many and varied cultures I’ve experienced in my life. I’ve also been thinking about practical ways I can support authors of colour (inspired by an incredible Facebook post by Kaje Harper). I encourage everyone to do the same. These things may feel small and you may doubt you’re making a difference, but the incredible wall of flowers on Rolleston Ave and outside the Linwood mosque that came to symbolise the love of New Zealanders for our muslim whanau (family), was formed by individuals each with a single bunch of flowers.
Given the seriousness of the above topic, I’ve been struggling to blog about my writing here. My latest series is pure, ridiculous escapist fun, and not particularly representative. I released The Secretary and the Ghost March 8th, the day before the Rainbow Market, and went on to have my best ever month on Amazon. On the one hand, I have extremely mixed feelings about the fact that my biggest ever self-published month should happen at a time when so many people are hurt and grieving. On the other, it is moments like these that you really need some escapism. While I think that I can do (and will do) a lot better with Read by Candlelight in future books, I’m going to let the first three be what they are and focus on my future stories.
Hopefully, you’ll see more regular updates from me again soon. Sorry for the length and randomness of this, but it–like my pot of tea–has been brewing awhile.