Interview with Steph Shangraw

Published 2016-01-09.
Why do you price your books so low? Do you think that's all they're worth?
I have all my books priced at $0.99 retail, or Reader Sets Price on Smashwords itself, for other reasons, several of them. None of them mean that I'm not taking it seriously, that I'm willing to release novels that are sloppy or amateurish, or that I'm devaluing my skills as an author.

1) I'm deeply sympathetic to having a limited income and looking for quality books to read, and the current economy means many people have trouble paying the bills. Libraries are useful, but may not always offer what someone wants, especially LGBT content - and the world badly needs more high-quality positive LGBT content.

2) I'm strongly in favour of the "Pay What You Want" philosophy, which has worked very well for software and music and is spreading to a variety of other commodities. It's based on the idea that if you give people the choice, they'll be honest and pay what they feel it's worth and what they can afford. I'm unsure whether, in the current ebook market, the same philosophy will be as successful, but I'm willing to give it a try, because...

3) I'm not trying to make a living from writing. I know myself well enough to know that if I do, I will no longer enjoy doing it, and there are easier ways to make a better living. It would unquestionably be nice to make enough to cover expenses, since my actual income is low, but that's secondary. I'd rather have a review or an email, really, something that tells me that you read it and what you thought.

4) I'm an unknown to most readers. If you choose to read my work, you're gambling on whether your time will be well-used or not. There are plenty of other authors out there, many of them well-known, that you could be reading. I can't refund your time if you decide you don't care for my work, but I can take the financial risk out of it. If you liked it, well, there's a PayPal donation button on my website, or you could buy a copy for a friend and pay for that. Better still, leave me a review. It will, however, be your choice, based on how you felt about it.

If I were to put a fixed price on them, I would be quite confident pricing them at $2.99 or $3.99.
What do you mean, "alternative sexuality/gender themes"?
Specifically, I mean that my work frequently includes characters who are not heterosexual (pansexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian, asexual) and/or transgender (in any flavour and to any degree). Sometimes there's a fantasy twist to it, sometimes not. Similarly, I frequently play with themes of power, dominance, consent and trust. Often, situations and relationships are non-monogamous, including poly relationships in many variations - although you aren't going to find any positive portrayals of cheating.

Basically, if it seems appropriate for the character(s) and/or situation, I include it without trying to censor it out. I don't try to gratuitously force it into the story if it doesn't fit, nor do I include any of this as a way of trying to be PC or get attention. I write it the way that feels right. Explicit sex scenes are few and far between, however.

Why do I do this?

Basically because trying to pretend that everyone, or the overwhelming majority of the reading public, is heterosexual and cisgender and vanilla and monogamous excludes and marginalizes a LOT of people who need, at least as badly as those who are heterosexual and cisgender and vanilla and monogamous, to see characters they can identify with. A very famous fantasy author states on her website that she will never include a trans main character because, apparently, transition could be the only issue of importance to that character and in a fantasy world that would be impossible. I find this kind of attitude generally appalling but, sadly, not all that surprising. I feel that those of us who know better need to do better.

I feel that the world badly needs more high-quality fiction in all genres that is genuinely positive about alternative sexuality and gender. We need more heroes and support characters who are not, by default, hetero-cis-vanilla-monogamous. We need characters who are something more than their sexuality and gender, and they badly need to have stories told about them that do not revolve around their sexuality and gender, stories that are the equivalent of those told about our traditional-by-default heroes. A hero or group of heroes can change the world regardless of who they're attracted to, whether their gender identity matches their anatomy, whether they're into traditional monogamy, or whether they enjoy consensual kink, and acting as though that's not the case belittles everyone.

And so, in keeping with the old wisdom - if you can't find (enough of) it, write it for yourself - I do.
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Books by This Author

You set the price! Words: 96,700. Language: English. Published: June 4, 2018 . Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » General
A human shaman and healer returns from several years with the mysterious shyani, accompanied by her shapeshifting puma best friend. A valued friend, from her previous identity as a male student physician, has acquired an old shyani book, and extremists will not tolerate its presence in human hands. But back in human lands, the question arises: which world does she belong in?
You set the price! Words: 107,820. Language: English. Published: June 4, 2015 . Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » General
For ten years, since she fled from the College where the magically gifted are taught, Kisea has been living on the run, concealing her unusual and frightening telepathic gift. Only her sorcerer ex-lover Matt knows, and has been looking for her. When his cousin is kidnapped, matters quickly grow even more complex.
Black Wolf
You set the price! Words: 153,380. Language: English. Published: October 31, 2014 . Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Urban
So what happens if you feel like you belong nowhere… then find out you do belong somewhere… and that place should be impossible? There's no such thing as magic or werewolves, especially only a few hundred miles north of Toronto, right? And what could be in Jesse's missing past that would make him fit in there?
You set the price! Words: 154,490. Language: English. Published: May 9, 2014 . Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Urban, Fiction » LGBTQ+ » General
(4.83 from 6 reviews)
Sensitives live, terrified, on the edge of survival in North America: mages want sensitives, but no one ever comes back to explain why. Mage society is based around owning a sensitive, who provides more power to use, as well as doing the housework and being available for transformation. But not all mages agree with the system, and not all sensitives are willing to just give up...