Wolves, Trolls, and Cyberland, a guest post by Penny Jessup
My career as a writer began online. Specifically on pages dedicated to fan fiction. A bookish and quiet teen, I would hurry home after school and dive into worlds that were familiar, that I loved, that weren’t necessarily mine, but in which my imagination flowed like nowhere else. I found myself in my writing, I learned about who I was, processed my adolescent experiences, and maybe most importantly of all, I found that I enjoyed writing. No one was paying me but that wasn’t the objective. There wasn’t an objective really. I simply knew that it was important for me to tell stories, that somewhere inside of me there was an urge to create and process through fiction.
I like to say I cut my teeth writing fan-fic (I won’t specify which pair of demon hunting brothers I was most infatuated with) but it wasn’t long until I graduated to original material. I would post my stories on Wattpad and Tumblr, make playlists and mood boards. I wasn’t playing with previously established worlds and characters any longer, I was building my own from scratch and learning valuable lessons about plot, character, and pace. Lessons that would serve me well down the line.
When I decided I wanted to make a career out of my writing I thought I had the experience and portfolio necessary to make it in the ‘real world.’ What I found was that my years of experience writing online, the thousands and thousands of words I’d written didn’t count for that much. In order to gain freelance work I needed professional experience, which took yet more years and more thousands of words to accrue. And when I began the search for a home for my novel, The Alpha’s Son, a queer werewolf shifter romance ripped from the pages of Wattpad, I found that my life as a self-publisher and fan-fic aficionado counted for even less.
But if it wasn’t for my time writing online I would never have built up the skills I needed to succeed as an author. I would never have felt supported by a community of readers who made what I had to say feel valid, and I would never have been inspired to write my novel.
Diving into the world of self-published fiction I discovered the world of werewolf shifter romance. A subgenre with a very strict, perhaps antiquated, patriarchal hierarchy in place. The male lead/romantic interest is usually strong, cold, and damaged. The female protagonist is a naïve ingenue. Yet despite some problematic overarching themes, the fan base of this subgenre is ravenous, chomping at the bit for content. They’re passionate, engaged, and most of all, in love with reading. It was hard not to be drawn into this world like Little Red Riding Hood being led astray by the big bad wolf. But within this heavily structured, outdated world some shifter authors are––excuse the pun––shifting the balance of power. And it was this movement that inspired my novel, which on the surface may appear to adhere to the hierarchical structure of shifter books but is intended to (and over the course of the planned series will) challenge these ideas. It’s also super gay.
There are other benefits to writing online. Honing one’s craft for instance. Malcolm Gladwell said it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in any given field. The internet is a great place to practice writing where you can get feedback, try things out with little pressure, and generally get a feeling for story telling. Online is where I found my voice as a writer, where I found the inspiration for the characters in my book, and learned about the world of wolf shifters.
I also found a sense of community that I as an introverted, oddball teen was missing. Out there in cyberland a welcoming and enthusiastic global community of writers and readers are hungry for content, open with their feedback, supportive and nurturing. These days I work entirely from home and I find myself longing for my days online and the virtual friends I had then. The people who were excited to read my work each week, who would encourage me to continue, point out faults in a constructive manner, and engage with me on a personal level. Who shared my interests and passions and loved books and stories as much as I did. Without the support of this online family I don’t think I would have persevered like I have and my book would still be just a glint in my mind.
There is, of course, a downside to self-publishing online. Trolls patrol the streets, and the grammar police lurk behind every corner. It can be a scary and vulnerable place out there. But it’s also hard being a ‘professional’ author too. You open your chest and pour your heart out onto the page, present it to an unknown public and wait for them to decide if you’re worthy. And no one gets away without a few negative comments. Having experienced negative feedback online, I found myself better prepared to enter the professional sphere, to face the one star reviews. “Some people don’t like Beyoncé,” I tell myself. I came up with this motto after receiving some scathing reviews for a piece of work I posted online and I tell it to myself every time I receive unconstructive negative feedback. If people can doubt the worthiness of the most talented performer of our time (I’m not even kidding) then it stands to reason some people won’t enjoy my writing either. Not that I’m some kind of literary Beyoncé, all I mean to say is everyone has an opinion, you can’t control that. What you can control is how you react, and that’s something I learnt from self-publishing online.
I think it’s fair to say that attitudes toward self-publishing in general are changing rapidly, and for the better. But it’s hard to ignore the stigma attached to online writing and fan-fiction, I’ve experienced it first hand. But without my time online I would never have written my book, I would never have learned how to write a book, I would never have felt as if there was a world of people out there who’d want to read about my little gay wolf pack, and I would never have been brave enough to pursue this career. I owe a lot to the online writing community and, in my opinion, so does the literary world at large.
Meet the author
Penny Jessup is a freelance writer and copy editor. She’s been writing from an early age and has a bachelors in creative writing. She lives in upstate New York with her partner and their dog, Taco (pictured). She loves anime, procedural crime dramas with a supernatural element, baking while listening to podcasts, and hiking in the woods near her house. The Alpha’s Son is her first novel (and hopefully the first in a long running series), and is published by Tiny Ghost Press, an indie press specializing in queer young adult novels. It will be released on February 12th, 2022. You can find Penny on twitter at: @PennyJessup, or check out Tiny Ghost Press on Twitter, Instagram and Tiktok at: @tinyghostpress. They’re also online at www.tinyghostpress.com.
About The Alpha’s Son
Max Remus couldn’t care less about finding his mate-unlike the rest of his fate-obsessed pack. He totally prefers hanging with his bestie, eating his dad’s steak sandwiches, and drawing in his trusty sketchbook.
But all that is about to change at the Blue Moon Festival-a summer camp where Elite Pack wolves go to find their mates. The festival is a right of passage for every teen werewolf, and this year’s festival will be one to howl home about. The alpha’s son, Jasper Apollo, is attending for the first time.
When Max finds himself inexplicably linked with the exceptionally handsome but totally jerk-faced heir, he’s forced to grapple with the unexpected feelings clawing at his soul.
If Max rejects his destiny, will fate’s bite be worse than its bark?
Netflix’s Young Royals meets Teen Wolf meets Twilight–the first instalment in a thrilling new series, The Alpha’s Son is a heart-wrenching Young Adult, Boys Love, wolf shifter romance; full of yearning, comedy, and adventure.
Start reading now! And may the Moon Gods light the path between souls.
Publisher: Tiny Ghost Press
Publication date: 02/12/2022
Age Range: 13 – 18 Years
Filed under: Uncategorized
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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