Confession: I’ve written this introduction post countless times now. It feels necessary, to start this blog with a “proper” introduction, but it’s hard for me to decide exactly what you need to know — or, more specifically, what you’d want to know. So, with all that said:
Hi, I’m Jillian. I’m 24, turning 25 in April. I’m a Taurus. I’ve read more horror novels than any one person should probably read, and watched less horror movies than you might expect. I’m only 5 feet tall. My cat is named Sadie and she’s perfect. I plan on pursuing an author career alongside my current career in PR and content marketing, because I think I’m allowed to have more than one dream. I have ADHD. My favorite kind of tea is chai but earl grey is a close second, and I drink a lot of other kinds, too.
I am bisexual.
That last thing is definitely not the most important thing about me. But it is the thing that I feel compelled to focus on, here. Maybe because it was so difficult for me to figure out. I was born a Taurus, diagnosed with ADHD in second grade, accepted that I wasn’t going to grow much taller by eighteen. But discovering my sexuality doesn’t really have a definite timeline. Over the past few years, I’ve gone from “straight, definitely straight” to “everyone thinks about kissing girls sometimes, right???? RIGHT????” to “maybe I want to date girls and other genders sometimes but I still really like guys, like, for sure ” to “oh, maybe I like girls more than I think” to “do I actually prefer girls over other genders????”
And that brings me to today, where I’m sitting somewhere around a 4.7 on the Kinsey scale and wondering if I’m a traitor to my people if I still don’t want to wear flannel. (Sorry, guys, Catholic school soured me on plaid forever.)
All that said, I really didn’t start seriously questioning my basic heterosexuality until I was in my 20s. Part of that was certainly the aforementioned Catholic school, part of it was a bunch of other causal factors that I won’t get into here. But I can’t help thinking that things might have been a bit easier for me to figure out if, while I was as a teen, I had come across even one book with someone like me, written by someone like me.
This isn’t to say that books featuring LGBT+ characters didn’t exist when I was growing up. Just that I would have never read them.
Growing up, I devoured every book in the small YA horror, suspense, and thriller section of my local library. I’d take home several and come back within the week looking for more. I read every single one of the Fear Street novels by R. L. Stine by the time I hit high school. I read Neal Shusterman and Darren Shan. I read Christopher Pike and Lois Duncan.
And while I have a deep respect for all of these authors, I can’t help but look back on the girl who read them and wonder: what would she have done, if she encountered a book about a girl who liked girls? Because I never read a book like that, at least that I can remember. Most of the books I read were about straight men, occasionally straight women.
I feel like I need to mention that the women I read felt lacking in more than just sexuality. I’m not saying this to slam the writers I listed, but it seems like I remember the female characters that I read being much less developed than their male counterparts. I remember reading a lot of girls who were clearly written for the male gaze, or girls who were vapid and shallow and selfish, or girls whose entire personalities seemed to stem from not being like those vapid, shallow, “other girls.”
Which brings me to my writing. The Songbird’s Refrain, my soon-to-be debut novel, is the sort of book I would have loved as a teen. Girl gets kidnapped by an evil witch and locked in a bird cage! She sprouts grotesque feathers that are slowly sucking the life out of her! She hears a mysterious voice, and has dreams that seem to hold clues!
But Elizabeth (my main character) isn’t quite the same as the main female characters I read growing up. She’s awkward and scared, but compassionate and determined. She may not put much care into her appearance, but she still likes to look nice and doesn’t shame women who care more about make-up or fashion. She’s surrounded by women who all express their femininity in different ways, and no one is shamed for it.
(They are shamed for things like murder, but. You know.)
She’s also a lesbian. Her love interest is bisexual. There are plenty of characters who express interest in their own gender, even if the exact label isn’t stated.
Who would I be today, if I read more stories like this one growing up? How would I feel about myself?
I feel like I might be coming across as a bit self-righteous here. So let me get a few things out of the way: I don’t think I’m better than the authors that I just listed (I do, in fact, love the authors that I listed—feel free to ask me for recommendations). I don’t think I’m the first person to write a book like this. I don’t think The Songbird’s Refrain is going to change the world.
I just know that, when the time comes, I’m going to request it at the library that I grew up going to. I’m going to make my way to that small section I spent so much time in, and I’m going to find it on the shelf. And I’m going to hope that someone—just one person like the person I was—picks it up, and that self-discovery is a little less painful and confusing for them because of it.
Surely, my future works will divert from the genres I grew up reading. I’m already working on a NA Fantasy series, and a YA romance that I wouldn’t have looked twice at growing up. What can I say? I’ve since broadened my horizons. But I know that, no matter what I write, women who love women will continue to feature heavily in them (and I’ll try to get better about featuring other sexualities and genders, as well). Because those are the stories I want read, and the ones I want to tell.
Hopefully, they’re also the stories you want to hear.