We all are drawn to characters and conflicts we recognize from our own lives. And some of us… well, some of us write a story about a girl who falls in love with a mermaid, and in doing so, we come to the realization that we might be a little bit gay. Author Tiana Warner tells us about the power of books and how they can help us learn more about ourselves.
Books are among the best tools for discovering who we are. Works of fiction are propelled by real emotions, thoughts, and experiences, and this is what makes them so interesting. Ask any author, and they’ll tell you they’ve been surprised by what comes out in their writing. Sometimes, they notice a trend that their protagonists always seem to have a bad relationship with their sibling. Sometimes, they notice that they’ve laced in a theme about jealousy at a time when they were plagued by jealousy in their own life.
And for some of us… well, some of us write a story about a girl who falls in love with a mermaid, and in doing so, we come to the realization that we might be a little bit gay.
The same can be said for the stories we choose to read—we all gravitate toward certain characters and conflicts.
Let’s talk about the power of books, and how they can help us discover who we are.
Sapphic YA Fantasy: A Coming-Out Process
Writing is a cathartic experience—we draw from whatever is in our brain, pry into our deepest feelings, and explore different ways for our characters to deal with conflict. If an author is willing to embrace whatever comes up, then writing a book is an opportunity for self-exploration that can be its own form of therapy.
What is attractive to you? How does having a crush on someone affect you? What thoughts come up when you follow your heart? What conflicts and characters grab your attention? These sorts of questions come up when you’re writing a romance novel, and they’re enlightening when you start to answer them!
When I started writing Ice Massacre (Mermaids of Eriana Kwai #1), I knew I wanted to create a story about warrior girls fighting killer mermaids. I didn’t realize until I was drafting it that the best thing for the story would be if the main character falls in love with one of the mermaids she was sent to kill. It wasn’t until I finished writing the book that I realized it helped me discover my sexuality! I wanted to write about the protagonist’s feelings for a mermaid because it was a chance to explore a sapphic romance in a fantasy setting.
Finding My Niche in wlw
When Mermaids of Eriana Kwai resonated with readers and found success within the LGBTQ+ community, I knew I was onto something. I found a space among wlw (women-loving-women) books, and there, I could make an impact. I’m so excited to write more stories with queer representation. Seeing lesbian romances on TV was so important to my coming out—Clexa, Wayhaught, Gail and Holly from Rookie Blue, and Orange Is the New Black, to name a few—so in launching my author career, I wanted to create more stories like these. I wanted to connect with readers who are looking for the kind of representation that was so critical for me.
YA books are a great way to explore what it was like to discover yourself as a teenager—crushes, friendships, responsibilities, everything involved in a coming-of-age story. These books let us experience those fluttery “first crush” feelings all over again. This is why the next book I wrote, The Valkyrie’s Daughter, was another sapphic YA fantasy. I wanted to create another story that resonates with young readers, and shows them that they’re not alone in what they’re going through.
Getting Spicier, and More Self-Exploration
What about adult romance novels? With Ylva Publishing, I’m now diving into stories about women who have already come out and are past their teenage years. These stories feature protagonists in their early twenties and are set in the Pacific Northwest. My self-exploration has turned to relationships, sex, and falling in love “here and now” compared to in a fantasy setting. While writing From Fan to Forever, it was cathartic to pour some real emotions into the characters—for example, when writing about a character’s ex. It was also interesting to discover more romance tropes that I gravitate to, and to explore what I think connects two people as they fall head-over-heels. Writing more detailed, spicy sex scenes was fun too! The opportunities for self-discovery are endless when you read and write romance.
For both readers and writers, it’s an exciting process to figure out what makes us tick in romance novels. Fiction or not, all of us experience a range of emotions when we’re lost in a book, and you never know what kind of story will resonate with you.
About the Author Tiana Warner
Tiana Warner is a writer and outdoor enthusiast from British Columbia, Canada. She is best known for her critically acclaimed “Mermaids of Eriana Kwai” trilogy and its comic adaptation. Tiana is a lifelong horseback rider, a former programmer with a Computer Science degree, and a dog mom to a hyperactive rescue mutt named Joey.
Check out her first contemporary romance at Ylva: