For pride month, we invited several LGBTQ+ authors in Hollywood News Source. Today, we have RoAnna Sylver who penned Stake Sauce and Chameleon Moon. We had the chance to talk to her about writing, representation, ranking her own books (cruel!), and more.
You recently published Stake Sauce which is the first part of a serial novel, mostly Patreon-based. How would you recommend it to readers who are over vampires?
No, seriously. I think most readers aren’t over vampires themselves so much as the super-popular mainstream version of them. We have a pretty singular concept of what vampires are, and it tends to be upscale, rich/powerful/elegant Victorian Goth-styled, pale/thin/white allo cis hetero people being graceful and sinister/brooding, with a distinct lack of down-to-earth, everyday characterization, and just… very serious. Very not-relatable. (A wonderful exception from which I absolutely drew Stake Sauce influence is the movie What We Do In The Shadows. If you haven’t seen this mock-u-mentary of vampires trying to fit into the modern world and being huge dorks, highly recommend.)
Also, by nature, vampires in other fiction are often predatory. In more than one way.
I really wanted to try something different here, because there are as many different ways to write vampires are there are to write humans. (Vampires are people too?) Especially the predatory nature – vampires/their bites are usually really sexually-charged in fiction, and just as often, non-consensual and never addressed. And that’s something I want no part of, ever. So, maybe uniquely, a huge, HUGE emphasis in Stake Sauce is on consent. If we’re taking vampires and their bites as a sexual allegory (which I also will deconstruct; why does it need to be one?), we’re going to address that head-on, take apart the dysfunction and fear, and rebuild that story into something better.
So, Pixie is kind of the opposite of your expected vampire. He’s sweet and likes energetic punk rock, with the neon hair and piercings, and he gets excited easily and cares very deeply about the people around him, and basically he’s just very alive. He’s also basically the opposite of threatening and routinely gets messed with by bigger, badder vampires. Please love and protect this soft boy. (I mean, his name is, unironically, Pixie. This says something.) About the only way Pixie is remotely similar to classic vampire archetypes is that he knows how gorgeous he is, and is super comfortable with himself – which I thought was important for a chubby, queer, alternative-style, often gender-nonconforming millennial vampire. He’s us, he’s our friends, and I want to write him/us being heroic and loved.
Also, Stake Sauce is all really gay/bi/ace/polyam and, like Chameleon Moon, about everybody trying their best in really tough situations, and being there for one another and loving each other in a variety of ways.
(Stake Sauce and its companion series Death Masquerade release one chapter a month on this Patreon, until October, when Book 1 drops! The first chapters of Stake Sauce and Death Masquerade are both up on Amazon now!)
In SparkNotes’s version, what is Chameleon Moon all about? I also noticed it’s a series with full length novels and short stories. How did you decide that this universe isn’t just a standalone kind of book?
In short, Chameleon Moon is about not just surviving, but living. I first wanted to write it because I loved science fiction, fantasy, and superheroes growing up (and CM is kind of all those things combined) – but people like me and those I love never got to be in these stories. If we did, we either died to propel able-bodied, allosexual cisgender hetero, often white/thin/conventionally attractive heroes’ journeys, or served as ‘inspiration’ to the same.
Enough of that. Let us be the heroes. We are already.
Also, Parole – the quarantined, perma-burning city – is a visual/physical representation of what living with chronic illness, pain, and anxiety/depression/PTSD/dissociation/other neurodivergence feels. It’s isolating and terrifying, and at any minute it feels like the ground is about to crumble beneath you and drop you into an inferno.
But the heart of the story isn’t the fire. It’s making connections and holding onto one another in the fire. Making a home and a life in the isolation, until we can emerge into the sun. Facing terrifying circumstances together, and realizing that we never have to face them alone.
The name Chameleon Moon, essentially, means “change.” Lunar cycles, shifting balances of power, transforming lives. Something I think we know very deeply, in our own selves, in this reality. The world is about to turn. It needs to. When it does, nothing will be the same.
I honestly wasn’t sure there would be more than one Chameleon Moon book until I was finished with the first one, and it was already published in 2014. The story probably could have stood on its own, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized there was so much more to explore and discover in this strange, exciting world – and each character was only at the beginning of their development, not the end. I think that’s what it is: there are so many ways for these people to grow and change, and I want to show you all of them, as they live on, and become who they were meant to be, who they really are.
Now I have a tentative seven books planned for the main Chameleon Moon series, as well as just a crapton of short stories…and a possible prequel. Writing comes easier now than it ever has, and I can’t wait.
I think it’s going to be fun.
Let’s play a game which is ranking your own books. Among all your works which one has made you swoon the most, laugh the most, cry the most, and has surprised you the most?
Hoo boy, that’s a really great question!
Swoon-worthy, I have to say it’s Always Be You, a short story I released for Valentine’s Day, and is still free online over here. It centers Regan and Rowan 8 years ago, when these two cute ace nerds were just getting together and comfortable with each other, and themselves. This is a really intimate moment where they have to navigate their asexuality – and how that’s different for both of them. It involves a lot of trust, communication, and warm fuzzy kisses and cuddles.
For funny, However much of a Drama/Fail Fountain Liam is in Book 1, I just really like giving him a hard time and ridiculous(ly gay) interactions, especially with Ash. You wouldn’t think something with Ash would be that hilarious but… Their entire scene in short story The Library Ghost in the story collection Life Within Parole, involving Liam trying really obviously to sneak into (what he calls) Parole’s Rebel Base in the library basement, and Ash foiling him by being the world’s worst librarian and just totally effortlessly working Liam into a frustrated, flustered (crushing) frenzy. That was one of my favorite scenes to write so far in anything. Liam and his “Nemesis.”
…Speaking of Ash, I absolutely did cry writing the end of the story that directly precedes Book 2, You’re Not Going That Way. I am still sorry about that. Fun fact: we were never originally supposed to meet Ash at all, only hear about him! But then I needed someone for the above story, and liked him so much… I’m really glad we get to see him more, even if it makes YNGTW and really all of The Lifeline Signal more painful.
And so MUCH about these books has surprised me. So much in Book 1’s Second Edition came in the rewriting and wasn’t planned, but made it so much better. One huge thing that stands out is that Regan/Zilch/Rowan weren’t originally all together, even after I made Regan/Zilch more clear. It took writing them in The Library Ghost before I saw “wow… they are all really super romo and care incredibly intensely for each other” and now I can’t imagine this story without them. (They’re a very stable foundational poly ship, a lot like Evelyn/Rose/Danae. So important.)
As a reader and writer, what would you’d like to see more in the LGBTQIAP genre? We are taking strides, but there’s still a lot of gaps to fill.
More good polyamory rep, asexual and aromantic rep, more disabled and ill (physical and mental), more neurodiverse rep. There are a lot of gaps in marginalized representation, but these are the big ones for me. Because they all apply to me, and at least one, to virtually everyone I love.
And I don’t want sensationalism, or tragedy/suffering porn, or ‘inspirational’ stories. I want us to be rock stars and ride on dragons’ backs and fly starships like it’s no big deal, like we belong here, because we do – I want us to be valued and loved and seen – I want all of the above to be so common and integral to stories that anything without us is seen as an… outlier and not to be counted, is the first thing that comes to mind.
I want Good Polyam/Ace/Aro/Disabled/Neurodiverse Rep Georg, basically. I want us to live in caves and write/read 10,000 books with good representation a day. And not be outliers. (And we WILL be counted!)
Lastly, what are the current books that you love that you would recommend in a heartbeat?
The entire MANGOVERSE (Starting with THE SECOND MANGO) by Shira Glassman is wonderfully warm and fun ownvoice F/F Jewish fantasy – I particularly love it for the chronic illness rep, and it was the first time I saw the importance of being believed and supported represented in a book. Great comfort reads.
VIRAL AIRWAVES and CITY OF STRIFE by Claudie Arseneault are two of my favorites this year. Even if VA is technically sci-fi/solarpunk and COS is fantasy, they have similar feels: stories about oppression and liberation, surviving crushing societal systems through united resistance. Also they both have great ensemble casts full of diversity on many fronts, with a special emphasis on asexual and aromantic characters and their bonds, absolutely as important as the traditional romance. Love them so much.
ARIAH by B. B. Sanders is one of the most beautiful, elegant and deep stories I’ve read in a long time. Something my words kind of fail at. Basically, if you like deep cultural worldbuilding and queer/polyamorous elves that’s “Tolkien”-esque But Really A Lot Better (And Inclusive)… so recommended.
DAYBREAK RISING by Kiran Oliver, if you want F/F fire and ice mages (with demisexual and trans rep) overthrowing an oppressive government. What caught my interest first was how it deconstructs the Chosen One trope – it’s “Daybreak’s” second try after failing. I love the examination of fallible heroes and human recovery.
FOURTH WORLD by Lyssa Chiavari and HELLO WORLD by Tiffany Rose are both great examples of ownvoice asexual sci-fi – awesome adventures with ace and other marginalized characters just existing and being heroic. FOURTH WORLD has Atlantis elements and feels like space fantasy, and HELLO WORLD has sign language and heists, and I love all these things.
PHAETHON by Rachel Sharp is a super fun, lively blend of sci-fi and fantasy about faeries being imprisoned in smartphones, which quickly brings in so much folklore and mythology my nerd-heart sings. (Also, trickster-fae raccoon-boy Calthine deserves his own mention. So great.)
PETER DARLING by Austin Chant is a beautiful revisit of the classic Peter Pan tale, with a trans Peter, and (unexpectedly sweet) Hook romance that you just… really need to read and appreciate. The prose is so lyrical and lovely I highlighted around half the entire book, too.
FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE by Kaia Sonderby is one of my recent reads and it’s nowhere near as well-known as the others, or as much as it deserves! I will yell about this one to anyone who will listen – it’s about talking with really cool aliens (Giant Bord People!) and preventing intergalactic war, and extraterrestrial politics/intrigue, and it has a wonderful blossoming bi polyam ship – and it’s the best autistic/ND POV I have ever read. Ever. Ownvoice, which is not surprising – but my gosh. I have never felt so seen, heard, and well-reflected as here. It also has synesthesia (seeing/interpreting sound as color/shapes, in this form), which is something I have and I have never seen so well and clearly in another book. This one is so, so important.
SHADOWS OF OURSELVES by Apollo Blake is another recent favorite – urban fantasy M/M about a “liesmith” who can sense lies, falling in with a crowd of magic-wielding humans and creature-shifters, accidentally bonding with one, and… This one’s just exciting, quick fun, with a super-powerful emotional center (amazing abuse-survival and PTSD rep), that I really hope you pick up.
And right now I’m reading ASCENSION by Jacqueline Koyanagi, and THE ABYSS SURROUNDS US by Emily Skrutskie, and absolutely loving them. My heart belongs to queer SFF, and reading pretty much exclusively ownvoice books was the best decision I’ve made in years.
What can we expect next from RoAnna Sylver?
So much. I don’t really know how to rest.
Coming up, we’ll have a lot more Stake Sauce – Book 1 launches October 31st (Happy Halloween!) – and until then, you can grab a chapter a month on this Patreon, along with a ton of bonus stories, more all the time.
Death Masquerade starts in July, and will also be on that Patreon! The first part, Major Arcana, is on Amazon over here.
In the near-ish future I’ll also be starting on Chameleon Moon Book 3, and an eventual second story collection, which I’ll release when I have 5 or 6 done.
Lots more art too. MerMay kind of reminded me how much I love it, and really need to do more. (Doing my own covers is super fun too!)
And, hopefully, more reading and yelling about really good books on Goodreads! So excited for more.
About the Author
RoAnna Sylver is passionate about stories that give hope, healing and even fun for LGBT, disabled and other marginalized people, and thinks we need a lot more. Aside from writing oddly optimistic dystopia books, RoAnna is a blogger, artist, singer, voice actor, and Verified Creator on Moviepilot.com.
RoAnna lives with family and a small snorking dog near Portland, OR, and probably spends too much time playing videogames. The next adventure RoAnna would like is a nap in a pile of bunnies.