Documenting Light by EE Ottoman
Publisher: Brain Mill Press
Release Date: August 31, 2016
I am so excited for today’s interview and can’t wait to share it with you all.
Please welcome EE with me on our blog today and lets jump right into it!
Mel: EE, I am so thrilled to ask one of my favourite authors (that’s you!) all the questions. Let’s begin with your new book Documenting Light: How did it come to life – also considering that you usually do not write contemporary romance?
EE: Hey Mel thank you so much for inviting me to do this, I am really thrilled to be here too. As for how Documenting Light came about, I had wanted to explore trans and queer narratives in a contemporary setting for a while. I was a little anxious over whether people would be interested in reading about characters who weren’t particularly rich or attractive and lived very ordinary lives. Late in 2014 though I decided to try and write what eventually became Documenting Light. I think it helped that I convinced myself that no one but me was going to read it. I actually think it’s the only book I’ve ever written where I didn’t talk about it at all on social media or even admit I was working on anything until after the first draft was completely written.
Alexis Hall and me ended up having a conversation while I was rewriting it and he asked what I was working on. I said I had this contemporary and told him a little bit about it and he was super excited and thought it sounded awesome. He was the editor for Brain Mill Press’ LGBTQA line at the time and we talked about how it would be a good fit for Brain Mill Press. I did end up submitting it there where it was thankfully accepted.
Mel: Heh… No chance I wasn’t reading your next book. You were awfully quiet about it, though, even when directly asked 😉 Thank God for Alexis 😀
So what is it that you personally like most about Documenting Light? And what do you wish readers take away from it?
EE: This is a really hard question. I love a lot of things about Documenting Light. Most of the themes the book explores are really important to me. Since I have a background in history, exploring the messiness and complexity of doing queer history in the context of a novel was a lot of fun. I also got to write about the geographic area I grew up in, which was a really interesting experience for me. I really loved writing Grayson and Wyatt’s relationship with each other but also with themselves and their own identities. I think there’s a lot in this book about learning to be vulnerable and tender not just with another person but with yourself.
I don’t think there’s any right thing for an individual reader to take away from any book. I do hope that trans or queer readers find something that they can connect with in the book though. I hope that in some way it speaks to some of their lived experiences and validates that those experiences are good and worth writing books about.
Mel: It really shows that the book is close to your heart…
One of the things I love most about your books is that you challenge all kinds of norms and expectations. There is, of course, gender as a huge topic, but also sexuality, body image, disability, class, and, something I especially liked in Documenting Light, the typical romance narrative.
I don’t think this is a question but well… Your turn ;-P
EE: I do really enjoy writing about characters or themes I don’t see explored a lot in romance. Anytime I find myself wondering why isn’t there a romance novel about this? is, to me, an opportunity to write that book. I also think that if those of us in the romance genre say love is for everyone than we should really be representing everyone in our romance novels.
Mel: How did you become an author and what motivates you to write?
EE: I kind of became an author accidentally. I’ve been writing pretty much daily since I was a teenager but when it came to publishing all I’d ever heard where horror stories about how difficult and soul crushing it was to get published. Frankly, it sounded far too stressful and depressing for me. So I just assumed I’d never be published and really didn’t pursue it.
Then I ended up having a summer where all my housemates were out of town and I had a lot of free time on my hands. I saw a submission call looking for short stories about queer detectives. I thought it could be a fun challenge to try and write a queer detective story over the summer. When I was finished I ended up submitting it without no expectation that it would actually be accepted. It was completely taken by surprise when it did get accepted and I ended up becoming a published author.
I guess that really ties into what motivates me to write because first and foremost I need to feel challenged by what I’m working on. I’m most happy and most likely to keep working on books that push me outside my comfort zone in some way, or challenge me to stretch creatively. On a more practical level I try to do something related to writing or publishing everyday. Some days that means writing 1,000+ words and some days that means working on a blog post or answering work emails.
Mel: Wait… There is a queer detective short story? Why haven’t I read this?
EE: Yes, it’s called Regarding the Detective’s Companion and was published in Private Dicks: Undercovers anthology from Less Than Three Press
Mel: Please tell us a bit about your other books. What are your favourites? Do you have a favourite character? How do they differ from Documenting Light and how are they alike?
EE: I think my favorite books outside of Documenting Light are the Mechanical Universe books. They are a trilogy of loosely related novellas that can also stand on their own. The books take place in a fantasy world loosely based on 18th century Europe that combines magic and science. The first book A Matter of Disagreement involves two rival academics, and the second Duende is about a ballet dancer an opera singer. While the third, Winter’s Bees is about an arranged marriage between a prince who just wants to be left alone to study insects and his socialite best friend. All three books were incredibly fun to write and have a really diverse cast of characters who are trans, non-white, disabled, fat, and non-normatively attractive. Of that series probably Andrea was my favorite character to write, he’s just so prickly on the outside and squashy on the inside.
Mel: These were the first books I read by you and they totally won me over.
What do you read for pleasure? Which are your favourite books and why? Do you have any recommendations for us?
EE: I read a lot of nonfiction in my spare time, but also fiction, most science fiction and romance. I’m really bad with coming up with favorites so I’ll talk about some books I’ve recently read that I liked. As far as nonfiction goes I’m reading Tango: The Art History of Love by Robert Farris Thompson, which has someone with no prior knowledge about the history of tango I really enjoyed. It also has some really tantalizing stuff about early twentieth century (1900s-1920s) same-sex tango partners, including photographs, I’d love to read more about. I just read The Belle vs. the BDOC by Amy Jo Cousins, which I really liked a lot. It’s a lesbian, college romance involving rival trivia teams and lots of pretty clothes and talk about fashion. I definitely recommend it. I also listened to Waiting for the Flood by Alexis Hall on audio. The audio version of this book is really amazing, and the book itself is one of my favorites (there I came up with a favorite for you all 🙂 ) It’s a queer romance about loss and moving on but also how quiet, even ordinary moments can be really meaningful and romantic. I highly recommend both the book and also the audio version of the book.
Mel: Um… You will write us the Tango historical, right? RIGHT? This sounds absolutely AMAZING and since you just told us that you love a challenge… This. This. You can do some clothes porn, too, I am sure. Pleeeeeeaaase? What can I bribe you with?
EE: 🙂 Not making any promises given how many other projects I’m working on but I would also love to read a queer romance about the history of tango. I’ve actually been thinking since I started Thompson’s book about how great that would be and a lot of fun to write as well. I think someone who knew more about tango and maybe even danced could do it more justice than me though.
Mel: I’ll take that as a YES. You all heard them, right?
What else can we expect from you in the future? What are your plans for your writing career and which books are coming out next?
EE: I’m not sure right now what books will be coming out next. I can say that I am working on several more contemporary, trans romances so hopefully I’ll be publishing those at some point.
Mel: Yes, hopefully. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me!
If you look for yourself in the past and see nothing, how do you know who you are? How do you know that you are supposed to be here?
When Wyatt brings an unidentified photograph to the local historical society, he hopes staff historian Grayson will tell him more about the people in the picture. The subjects in the mysterious photograph sit side by side, their hands close but not touching. One is dark, the other fair. Both wear men’s suits.
Were they friends? Lovers? Business partners? Curiosity drives Grayson and Wyatt to dig deep for information, and the more they learn, the more they begin to wonder — about the photograph, and about themselves.
Grayson has lost his way. He misses the family and friends who anchored him before his transition and the confidence that drove him as a high-achieving graduate student. Wyatt lives in a similar limbo, caring for an ill mother, worrying about money, unsure how and when he might be able to express his nonbinary gender publicly. The growing attraction between Wyatt and Grayson is terrifying — and incredibly exciting.
As Grayson and Wyatt discover the power of love to provide them with safety and comfort in the present, they find new ways to write the unwritten history of their own lives and the lives of people like them. With sympathy and cutting insight, Ottoman offers a tour de force exploration of contemporary trans identity.
EE Ottoman grew up surrounded by the farmlands and forests of Upstate New York. They started writing as soon as they learned how and have yet to stop. Ottoman attended Earlham College and graduated with a degree in history before going on to receive a graduate degree in history as well. These days they divide their time between history, writing, and book preservation.
Ottoman is also a disabled, queer, trans dude whose correct pronouns are: they/them/their or he/him/his. Mostly, though, they are a person who is passionate about history, stories, and the spaces between the two.