It’s time for another interview with a fellow author of WLW books. Today’s interviewee is Rae D. Magdon, who writes diverse queer romances and speculative fiction.
Rae is offering her science fiction adventure Lucky 7 at a discount this weekend, and she also has another surprise for you, so don’t forget to check out the links at the end of this post!
Welcome, Rae. Please tell us a little about your latest release, Lucky 7.
Lucky 7 is a cyberpunk novel about a ragtag group of misfits from the future, fighting back against an oppressive system. Each member of the crew has a specialized skill: the hacker, the muscle, the inventor, the master of disguise. But at its heart, the book is about love and found family.
One of the main characters, Elena Nevares, isn’t part of the group at first, but when an evil corporation puts a hit on her, she has no choice but to join up with Sasha Young, the leader of the Lucky 7 crew. They don’t get along at first, but eventually, Elena carves out a place for herself on Sasha’s crew, and becomes part of the family. There’s lots of action, adventure, and romance too.
Although there are what I consider to be some really interesting scientific and philosophical ideas in the book, I would honestly and wholeheartedly recommend it, even to people who don’t typically read sci-fi. It’s a very character-driven narrative, which is what I believe most of us look for in a good book.
Most of your novels fall into the categories science fiction—like Lucky 7—and fantasy, like Tengoku. How do you approach world-building? Do you do a lot of research and planning before you start writing each book?
Yes! Tengoku especially, because I wanted to portray Japanese culture accurately, even in a fantasy setting. I won’t say I did a perfect job, even though I interviewed Japanese people, read Japanese writers, and employed Japanese beta and sensitivity readers. I am proud of Tengoku, especially for the plot and characters, but I am aware that as a white writer, I can always do better. Tengoku inspired me to be even more respectful next time, and also consider where my voice would be most welcome and useful. Sometimes, things are best left to people of color and #ownvoices.
As for Sci-fi, I do employ some research, although I don’t let it interfere with the story I want to tell. In my space opera series, Dark Horizons, the spaceships in use aren’t aerodynamically designed. There isn’t any atmosphere or air in space, so I researched how gyroscopic spaceship designs might work instead. (Hint: future spaceships might very well look like giant orbs with a gyroscope inside instead of advanced fighter planes.)
I love your first name (Side note: The main character in my next book, The Roommate Arrangement, is named Rae). Is Rae D. Magdon a pen name, and if it is, how did you pick it?
That’s a funny story! When I was a teenager, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. Although I’m from New York, it was all over the news at the time. I saw a preacher on TV say that New Orleans was being ‘punished’ for promoting a ‘sinful lifestyle’, and further sin would bring about “Armageddon” for America.
I thought that was hilarious, in a very bitter, painful sort of way. So I figured: “If we, The Gays, are bringing about Armageddon, why don’t I help it along with my novels promoting lesbian, bi, trans, and gender-nonconforming women? Screw you.” Rae D. Magdon is an anagram for Armageddon. Very tongue-in-cheek.
We met at the GCLS conference and had a couple of great conversations about trying to make our fiction diverse and inclusive. I know your work includes characters who are very diverse when it comes to their ethnicities, gender, sexual orientation, and many other aspects of their identity. How do you as a cis white woman approach writing characters who are different from yourself?
With open ears, and a thick skin. I try very hard to write diverse, inclusive characters for my stories, because that’s the kind of world we live in, and the kind I want to see represented more. But there are always pitfalls, and I’ve made more than my fair share of mistakes. As I said, even though I am very proud of Tengoku’s characters and story, and it has a special place in my heart, if I were to rewrite it, I might put a little less emphasis on certain portions of Japanese culture, because not all of it is necessarily my story to tell.
That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop writing diversely, though! It just means I have to work harder, listen more, and take everything I can from reasonable criticism that doesn’t include slurs or name-calling, even if it bruises my tender feelings.
As for practical tips, I employ sensitivity readers from the race, ethnicity, and/or gender identity of the characters I am writing about. For Lucky 7, this included several Black beta readers, several Mexican beta readers (who helped with the Spanish translations!), and several trans and gender-nonconforming beta readers as well. I paid almost all of them for their time and expertise, unless they refused payment. I should also note that my amazing editor, Cal Faolan, is nonbinary and gender-nonconforming. They worked on Lucky 7, which has several gnc characters, and also Fur & Fangs, which has a nonbinary lead. I don’t think the book would have felt as authentic as it is without their knowledge and skill.
If I remember correctly, you started out writing fanfiction. Can you tell us a bit about your journey as a writer, from the first story you wrote to becoming a published author?
It’s been well over 10 years since I started writing fanfiction, and I haven’t stopped since! Fanfiction is a great way to build a fanbase, develop name recognition, and establish your brand. The best way to find new readers is to offer them something for free. That way, if they love it, they’ll come back for more, and feel more confident paying for your work.
I started writing fanfiction seriously in 2007, primarily for Law & Order: SVU. Then, I moved onto Mass Effect, where I really started to build a following. (For those who don’t know, Mass Effect is a sci-fi role playing video game where you get to make impactful story choices.) From there, I went to Legend of Korra and Clexa, and lately I’ve been really into She-Ra and World of Warcraft.
Writing fanfiction really helped me establish who I was as an author. Not only did it develop my writing style, it clarified some key elements that I include in all my novels: diversity and inclusivity, fighting back against injustice, and that all people—especially queer people, who don’t hear this enough—deserve love and respect.
You posted a total of 315 fanfics on Archive of Our Own! How on earth do you manage to be so prolific? Do you write full-time, and if yes, how do you structure your workday?
I write full time, which is really good for my mental health. I deal with major depression and a severe generalized anxiety disorder, so really, the reason I’m so prolific is because I give myself the freedom to have “bad” days.
When I have a bad mental health day, I don’t do any work. However, this also gives me time to recuperate and practice self-care. On the days I feel good, I’m capable of writing non-stop for the entire day. This schedule is really helpful, because I never have to work when I’m seriously struggling, and I can work extra hard when I’m feeling well. I’m very fortunate to be able to set my own schedule. I’m not sure I’d be able to cope with a 9-5 job, although I’ve had them in the past.
I also adhere to the philosophy that any writing is good writing. A poor or flawed first draft can still become useable if you wait a day (or longer) and go over it again. 200 words is better than no words, even if my goal for that project was 500 or 1000. The hard part is getting started. Once you do that, you’re golden.
What are the best TV shows with female queer characters you have watched in the past two years?
Wynonna Earp is a great TV show with a funny, campy story full of queer people, although it has its flaws (and Emily Andras, the showrunner, likes to put her foot in her mouth on Twitter). I enjoy it because it employs one of my favorite themes: fighting back against nearly impossible odds through the power of love and family.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is my current favorite right now! It’s a remake of the 80s cartoon, and even though it’s technically a children’s TV show, it has very heavy themes. I love it, because it treats the medium seriously, and has enough substance for adults — but the queerness in it isn’t treated as ‘adult’ at all. The show makes it clear that same-gender relationships are perfectly acceptable content for children and teenagers.
This is undoubtedly because the show is written and directed by a lesbian, Noelle Stevenson. Crushes and relationships between female characters and (and gay male characters, too — one of the main characters has two dads) are treated as normal and par for the course. It’s another show about adventure, fighting impossible odds, creating your own family, and trying to improve the world. It also has Catra, one of the best sympathetic villains on television since Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender. I can’t wait for her inevitable redemption arc!
What technology from any science fiction novel or movie do you wish actually existed?
Anyone who’s read my books probably knows that I really like writing sex scenes. They’re great for character growth and development in addition to being sexy and entertaining! Some of the books I’ve written, like Lucky 7 and Dark Horizons, feature gender-nonconforming lesbians using futuristic strap-ons that transmit sensation. I wish they were a real thing for lesbians, gnc and nonbinary folks, and trans men — or heck, even cis straight women who want to try something new!
I think it’s safe to say that you are a bit of a geeky person—and I mean that in the most positive sense possible. What are your favorite queer books with geeky female main characters?
Can I recommend a video game instead? Because I have to talk about Mass Effect. Liara T’Soni, one of the main love interests for a female Shepard, is an alien archaeologist, and the biggest nerd in the galaxy. I relate to her so much, it’s crazy.
I also read a really good Young Adult book by Rachel Gold recently, called In The Silences. The two main characters are a white nonbinary person, named Kaz, and their Black bisexual girlfriend, Aisha. They’re both huge nerds. Comics, video games, the works.
When’s your next book coming out, and what are you working on right now?
I’m currently half-way through Lucky 8, which I’m hoping to have finished by the end of the year. My next book to come out, though, is Eclipsing The Sun, the third in my Dark Horizons series. It follows six characters from the previous two books, human and alien, as they attempt to stop the vast ikthian empire from developing a biological weapon that could destroy entire worlds.
(For those of you who have read the series, and have been waiting almost three years for Taylor to get out of prison, I’m sorry! I promise you’ll get to read all about her escape soon… with her girlfriend’s mom.)
Where can your readers find out more about you and your books?
My website: http://raedmagdon.com
Those are the best ways to reach me. Thank you so much for interviewing me!
Free book & discounted book
Rae’s science fiction adventure Lucky 7 is available at a 50% discount this weekend.
You can also get The Second Sister, the first book in her fantasy series, free on Amazon right now.