Diverse Author Spotlight #3: Cit Callahan

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Diverse Author Spotlight is a post series here on Book Deviant where I’ll introduce and interview a marginalized author! You can read the first one with Richard Ford Burley here, and the second with Taylor Brooke here!

Cit Callahan is the author of young adult fantasy, sci-fi, and C.T. Callahana weird assortment of short stories. Hailing from a mixed-racial background, they’ve pledged their writing to contribute to the spread of diversity in fiction and the fight for equality. When away from reading and writing, you’ll most likely find them engaged in art or snuggling cute dogs.

Cit Callahan uses he/him, they/them/ and e/em pronouns.

I am so glad to have gotten this post series back up. As some of you might have noticed, I started it back in late 2017, and just never got back to it. School and work got in the way, and I just couldn’t put in the time to interview authors. But it’s back, and I’m so happy I get to bring it back with such an amazing author.

Below you’ll find my conversation with the wonderful Cit Callahan, who will be CC for now, and I’ll be AC (as usual) with my questions bolded. Enjoy!!!

AC: Hi Cit!! I’m so glad to have you here, especially as the author to bring back my Diverse Author Spotlight. As our first question, can you tell us about yourself and your books?

CC: Thanks for having me! I write mostly YA and some adult fiction, all diverse. Its really important to me to see books that reflect my own experiences and show people like me existing since I never really had those growing up.

AC: I agree that diverse stories are important to write. Would you say that writing that representation is what started you writing? What were some other inspirations/reasons?

CC: To be honest, I’ve been writing since I was kid. I think I was 8 when I started writing my first book! It all started with a story I really didn’t want to end, and making my own version of it to keep it alive for me. It wasn’t quite fan fiction because I made my own characters based on a similar story world, but I’d never post it for people to read. It was all for fun back then. I just wrote to have somewhere to escape to, and as I got older, I realized it was something that could be made into a career path.

AC: So, you say you write to reflect your experiences since you didn’t have those growing up. Can you explain that more? How it felt to not have that representation, and when it was you realized it was a problem?

CC: I first really noticed the issue when I was working on my first novel, Plastic Wings. Originally, all of the characters were allocishet white people. I remember people talking about reading books with diverse characters, and I looked at my book and thought, “Why is it that my own book doesn’t have anyone who looks like me in it?” We get so used to books not representing us that we just feel like that’s how things go. It becomes our default. I realized I didn’t want new writers to think that this was the default.

I wanted young PoC to see themselves as naturally in protagonist roles as white people have. If you’d asked me at twelve why I wrote my protagonists as white, I would have said because it just fit the character, but really, it was because white fit the standard I wanted for my characters. White people were allowed to be beautiful and clever and funny in ways PoC never were. Even as a PoC, I didn’t believe we had the same versatility as characters that white people have. This prejudice gets ingrained in us so young from the media we consume, and I knew I couldn’t contribute to that.

AC: I’m aware that you have Are We Human? coming out fairly soon! Are you working on anything else, such as Plastic Wings 2 or another project you can tell us about? 

CC: Yeah, so Plastic Wings 2 is in the works. The book is written, and it’s really just waiting for feedback before it goes into final revisions and then production. I’m also working on a web comic that’ll premiere in October called James Wolfson and a YA novel that I’ll be querying later in the year!

AC: What’s your writing process like, and has it changed at all since you published your first book?

CC: When I was working on my first book, I basically wrote when I felt like it. It was very much a “for fun” project. After Plastic Wings, I realized I needed a more disciplined schedule if I was going to get anything done. Now, I write just about every day. I bounce around between projects, but I basically make sure I’m working in some way. Sometimes it’s just brainstorming since I don’t really plot and sometimes I’ll just read over work I’ve already done and see what inspiration comes from it. As long as I’m working towards completing a story, I consider it a success.

AC: How long does it normally take you to write a story (one draft)? Are you more of a pantser or a plotter?

CC: On average, a first draft takes me about 2-3 months. When I’m doing NaNo, I get it done in about three weeks. Depending on how hard the story is, it can take over a year. I’m definitely more of a pantser. Around NaNo season, I do the most plotting, and it’s still usually confined to several big picture ideas. I find that if I delve too much into the story during the plotting phase, I slow down dramatically because I lose interest in the story. The more I have left to discover in the story, the harder it is for me to stop writing!

AC: I’ve always been an aspiring author, so how do you push yourself through a draft? Do you have any advice for aspiring authors, for the writing part or the actual publishing? (Also, I’ve always wondered if NaNoWriMo actually helped people get through drafts–I always panic within the first week and bail!!)

CC: NaNo’s a great tool for me because I’m a competitive writer. Having a goal to beat is the perfect way to get me to actually start working!

Honestly, the best advice I can give to someone looking to get through a draft is to give yourself deadlines and set achievable goals. It’s okay to give yourself wiggle room, and don’t feel obligated to work at a pace you can’t sustain, but make sure you’re working toward *something*. If you just write when inspiration strikes, you’ll likely never get to the end. There’s just too many things that’ll take your focus. Having concrete goals like “Finish writing chapter one by Friday” makes it a lot easier to hold yourself accountable and really keep track of your progress.

As for publishing, I’ve only self pubbed so far, but I think the best advice I have is just to remember that what works for someone else won’t always work for you. People think self publishing is easy, but it’s not. People think traditional publishing is the only way to make money, but again, it’s not. Do your research, know your strengths and weaknesses, and choose the method that lets you play to your strengths. It’s a versatile industry, so there’s really a place for everyone. The hardest part is just figuring out where your place is.

AC: Wow, Cit, thank you so much! To close this out, what are three (or more!) books or authors you’d recommend to readers? 

CC: You’re welcome! Thanks for having me! I always recommend Adam Silvera and Daniel Jose Older because they’re so important to me, but I’d also say Anna Marie McLemore and Linsey Miller! Their writing is so compelling and their stories are great!

AC: I love some of those authors too! Thanks again for being on the blog Cit!!

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Thanks for stopping by!

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