Today I’m pleased to introduce to you m/m romance author Heidi Belleau. Her latest title, Wallflower is out and available for purchase. Please welcome Heidi to That’s What I’m Talking About.
Hello hello! I’m Heidi Belleau, and all week I’m touring the interwebs promoting my new novel Wallflower, which is book two of my New Adult m/m series Rear Entrance Video, all about a group of roommates working at a seedy porn store. Every day this week I’ll be stopping by different blogs with new tidbits, behind-the-scenes info, and of course a contest! Read on!
Five Questions from Sam Schooler
Today on the tour, my friend and co-writer Sam Schooler, who was my genderqueer beta-reader on this book, sits me down for an interview!
1. Rob’s main challenge throughout Wallflower is his gender identity. In a binary world, he struggles to find a way to ride the line between genders. What made you decide to write a book about a non-binary trans* character?
Well, partially it was because I hadn’t done it before and wanted to try. Partially because having a genderqueer character in this setting allowed me to write stuff I wouldn’t have been able to do with a cis guy.
Namely, when I initially came up with REV, it was out of this desire to take my experiences working in a porn store and make a funny book out of them. And then I realized . . . shit, a lot of the funniest stuff that happened to me would never have happened if I wasn’t a woman. But more than just writing a story about a woman working in a porn store, I thought having Rob being genderqueer and going between both gender presentations (and passing) would really drive home the difference between how a man and a woman would experience the same job. So that’s a part of Rob’s journey: discovering that though presenting as a girl is deeply rewarding and fulfilling for him, it also comes with some weird, unexpected side effects.
2. While all the other REV employees are male, Rob presents as female when he’s working there. I know you worked in a porn store, so were any of the customer interactions he had with customers based on interactions of your own?
Oh, yes. Yes, yes, yes. I changed names, of course, but definitely I wrote from experience. We really did have a customer named Charlie VIP who frequented our store, who really did ask us to show him “the most erotic film [we’d] ever seen.” He wasn’t nearly so curious when it came to our one male co-workers. (Yes, Rear Entrance Video is the exact opposite of the store I worked in!)
3. Dylan is Inuit, and he is staunch about rebuffing stereotypes. What sort of research did you do to bring Dylan, a man of color from a race of people historically misrepresented to life as a realistic, nuanced character?
Well, like with anyone else, it’s about writing him as a person first. Really setting out, right from the start, to write a man who is Inuit as opposed to an Inuit Man™. Especially when it comes to our First Peoples, we have this very bad tendency to simplify and homogenize, to treat them as a fantasy race like elves, to pretend they’re all Dead and Gone, etc. So yeah, person first. I wrote a guy who draws comics, who’s very plain-spoken but incredibly kind. But I didn’t write him “colour-blind” either. His ethnicity and his background are very much a part of him, so I always kept that in mind.
As to specific research, well, I live in a city that’s around 30% First Nations, although people here are Cree and Beaver (Dane-Zaa), not Inuit, so I had to be careful not to leave the Inuit part out of the equation. I did, however, steal his dress sense and way of speaking and his self-image with regard to his race from the Native people I’ve known here. What I didn’t get from real life, I figured out from the internet. I did research regarding trans-racial adoption, and specifically of First Nations/Inuit children being adopted by white people in Canada. I did research regarding Inuit customs/body language. And then there was the part of my job where I had to find out the body hair situation. Because, you know, different ethnicities often have different amounts/textures of body hair and when you’re writing erotica that’s something to take into account . . . but it’s not exactly as common to find porn of Inuit guys as it would be to find white or East Asian or African American. So, you know, it’s a little bit of everything, isn’t it?
4. Dylan and Rob end up spending time together while they work on a group project for school. Have you had any ridiculous group project experiences?
My only really strong memory of a group project was in a third year English class, acting out a scene from the screenplay for Parade’s End by Ford Maddox Ford. Another girl and I wound up in a two-person group. I dressed in drag to play the male lead, and put on my best Stiff Upper Lip. Even though all of the performances were great, though, somehow we won the skit contest and got a prize of a bottle of whiskey and a box of truffles. We ended up sharing the bottle of whiskey with the entire class, and that’s the story of the time I drank whiskey in school.
5. Both Dylan and Rob have sisters who significantly influence them. Was this an intentional parallel? Did you draw on your own sibling relationships for inspiration?
Yes! It was definitely an intentional parallel. I think I even specifically mentioned how they’d both grown up in the shadow of a charismatic older sister, and how they both responded differently to that (Dylan becoming outspoken/supportive, Rob becoming withdrawn/jealous), but how neither of those relationships turned to bitterness. As for did I draw on my own sibling relationships? Yes and no, I suppose. I’m the oldest in my family, whereas Rob and Dylan are both the younger. I do think I am outshone by my siblings at times, though! Especially my younger brother, who is charismatic, very handsome, graduated at the top of his class, speaks French fluently, and graduated from school with a degree in Engineering.
And here I am writing dirty books. 😉
Art student and MMORPG addict Robert Ng has always been a loner, but he’s recently made it his goal to make more (IRL) friends. Which is how he winds up working nights at Rear Entrance Video, shilling sketchy porn and blowup dolls as a favor to his roommate. The longer he works there, though, the more he realizes he’ll never be truly happy until he becomes the person he is online: his female persona, Bobby.
Bobby is cuter and funnier than Rob is, and a thousand times more popular with boys. Becoming Bobby IRL presents its own set of challenges, though . . . especially when you’re sitting on the fence between two genders, only one of which has caught the attention of your seriously cute customer/classmate.
Dylan Ford is a six-foot Inuit comic book artist who always says what’s on his mind, and screw anyone who doesn’t like it. As rough as he appears, though, Dylan has a soft spot for Rob. But will out-and-proud Dylan still want Rob if he’s not all man?
About Heidi Belleau
Heidi Belleau was born and raised in small town New Brunswick, Canada, but now lives in the rugged oil-patch frontier of Northern BC with her husband and daughter. She has a degree in history from Simon Fraser University with a concentration in British and Irish studies. Her writing reflects everything she loves: diverse casts of characters, a sense of history and place, equal parts witty and filthy dialogue, the occasional mythological twist, and most of all, love—in all its weird and wonderful forms. Visit her online at www.HeidiBelleau.com, or chat with her on twitter: @HeidiBelleau
Win an e-copy of Rear Entrance Video #1: Apple Polisher! All you have to do is leave a comment on this or any of the other Wallflower tour posts. Each comment counts for another entry, so be sure to follow the entire tour. Just make sure your comment includes a way for me to contact you, be it email, twitter, or facebook. On October 27th, I’ll randomly draw a winner from all the entries who will receive a copy of Apple Polisher in their choice of format. Good luck!