Thursday, January 16, 2014

Writing Song of the Spring Moon Waning

I think for the first time ever there is a cute story behind how I ended up writing Song of the Spring Moon Waning. 

About a year ago I was between jobs, apply for work but not having any luck finding anything I could do. I had my rent covered but not a great way of getting enough money for things like books and food. So the plan became write for as many anthology calls has humanly possible and the first anthology call on my list that January and February was If You're Reading This … over at Less than Three.

The thing was I kept getting blocked on ideas. I'd come up with something, starting writing it and discover I really didn't have enough there for an entire story, or I had too much and wasn't going to make the deadline.

As it got closer and closer to the deadline for the anthology I got more and more sure I wasn't going to make it anyway. With only a few weeks to go I had pretty much given up on writing anything for If You're Reading This …

Then one day I was over at my sister's apartment taking care of my nephew who was at this point about six months old. He'd been fussy all day, suffering from cramping, gas pain, and really just wanted to spend quality time with his mama who was at work.

I would lock my arms together in the classic baby holding pose but instead of facing him up in the crook of my arm I would face him down so my forearms pressed against his little chest and belly. He loved this pose, it was the only thing that would quiet him when he was having really painful cramps. I would walk him back and form across the dining room and living room for hours in that pose until my arms went numb.

While I walked him I would talk to him in a low, soothing voice, usually tell him stories. Sometimes I would tell him folk tales and fairy tales as I'd learned them verbatim, but most often I would reinvent them, coming up with retellings on the spot.

I love story telling, I did it long before I started writing and it was nice to get back into it. If I faltered or tried to think about any aspect of the story for too long he would get fussy so I would just let the story flow.
That was went it hit me, I would do a fairy tale retelling. It all fell together, the plot, the setting, the characters. I had done another fairy tale styled short story "Zi Yong and the Collector of Secrets" and was really looking for a reason to write more about that world.

That evening when my sister got home I sat on her sofa with a glass of tequila and lime soda and started writing. It was one of those great times when the story just fell into place. The setting was vivid, the plot simple, charming and fairy tale like, I knew exactly who Liu Yi was without even trying.

The only thing that made me hesitate was Wen Yu. Wen Yu is a young but brilliant scholar preparing to take the Imperial Examination. The story follows him as he meets a beautiful palace eunuch and an collection of talking animals which in turn leads him to becoming embroiled in the story of centuries old celestial romance. 

Wen Yu is the main character of Song of the Spring Moon Waning. The story is told through his point of view, one of the main story arcs is about him coming to terms with the idea that he wants something new for his life and leaving aside older ways of being.

Wen Yu is also a transgender man.

I'd never written a transgender character before. I'd wanted to, thought a lot about doing it, but I hadn't worked up the courage until that point.

The spring of 2013 there was a lot of controversy flying around the m/m romance cyberspace about trans men in m/m romance. A lot of readers were saying trans men didn't belong in the genre, a lot of writers and publishers were agreeing with them.

I thought long and hard about making Wen Yu cisgender. It would be easier for some readers to swallow and easier for me to write.

In the end though I couldn't do it. I couldn't ethically take a character who was supposed to be trans* and make him cis to make him fit better into our cultural perception of what a gay man should be. Even if I was the only one who would have ever known I'd done it.

Once I had made that decision one of the things that became really important to me was not having the entire story be about Wen Yu's trans* identity. I still wanted to write a fairy tale and in some ways a coming of age story, or at least a coming to make one's own life choices even if that's scary story. I wanted to do justice to a period of time and culture that I loved, as much as I was able to do so. I wanted to write a cute and sweet romance. I wanted Wen Yu's trans* identity to be part of this but not overshadow it.

Wen Yu is a dutiful son, a brilliant scholar, a poet, a brother, a friend, and an enthusiast of good food. He is also trans man but that isn't more important than many of the other aspects of what makes him Wen Yu.

Similarly when I sat down to write the sex scenes I wanted to make it clear that Wen Yu's trans* identity informed Wen Yu's sexuality but did not define it. Liu Yi's sexuality was also a part of those scenes, his own issues with is body and sexual desires just as important to their relationship as Wen Yu's.

I got the story written and edited just in the nick of time and send it off to Less Than Three for If You're Reading This … feeling very pleased with myself.

Then I got the email that Less Than Three liked the story so much that they wanted to publish it as a standalone volume. Which of course meant I could have written and edited it at my leisure instead of trying to make the anthology deadline ::facepalm::

That is how I came to write Song of the Spring Moon Waning.

I hope you enjoy it. 


  1. I'm reading it right now, and it's lovely so far! Congratulations!

    1. Thank you! I just saw the cover for Ink and Flowers and it's gorgeous.