#FreshStart - Em Ali

January 9, 2019

It’s the beginning of a whole new year; what time could possibly be better to become more motivated and inspired? You have a whole 365 days ahead of you, and now is the time to start making them count, so we're asking authors what they've got planned for the year ahead!

 

Em Ali talks about the authors who inspired them to write in 2018, and how they're going to carry that inspiration forward into 2019.

 

My name is Em Ali. It’s also the pen name I use to write what I feel deprived of in romance. But the cool thing about writing the representation that I want to see in the world is to draw inspiration from the little pieces of goodness I find in the authors I adore reading.

 

The last thing I thought I’d do in 2018 was write a book. In May, however, I had the idea of two fat girls who are into each other, just getting to know one another and falling in love. Ridiculously fluffy with zero to no conflict. Four months later, and that turned into Soft on Soft, a book I am so honored to say is my first. To this moment, I’m not sure I am capable of writing more, but I know there are stories in me.

 

My biggest goal for the year 2019 is to write another story featuring fat queer people. This is a step I want to take with my life and my writing: to provide others like me with stories they can see themselves in.

 

Soft on Soft could not have existed without already incredible stories with fat heroines. I devoured many of Talia Hibbert’s books in 2018 and she provided me with raw joy in the forms of her romances. If there is one author who I am thankful for who encouraged me to write Soft on Soft in such unconscious ways, it’s her.

 

What’s more, being an indie writer who depends entirely on their own skills in editing, formatting, and designing promotion graphics, having a voice like Talia’s cheering me on was incredibly motivating.

 

Another goal for myself in 2018 is to immerse myself in Romancelandia, not only as a writer but also as a reader of romance novels. For a person who devotes a lot of time to books, I am easily moved by words, and in romance I have found comfort and love. They don’t just make me cry, they make me cackle as well as sigh with happiness. Romance books, especially ones written in the point of view of women of color—who I personally identify with since I am a nonbinary woman—that provide such a raw view of what life is like for them.

 

My biggest hope for 2019 is more love for authors of color. The voices of black, Latina and Asian authors in Romancelandia can, and should, be boosted. I also want  more queer romances that are own-voices and celebrated by everyone. As a reader who prioritizes reading books written by authors of color, I have an ever-growing list of authors I adore. I want more publicity for them. I love the WocInRomance account on Twitter, and their uplifting of marginalized voice is so very important.

 

You see, it’s through those voices of Talia Hibbert, Alyssa Cole, Courtney Milan, Alisha Rai and Katrina Jackson that I myself found the heart to pour the words out about two fat queer women, one who is black and one who is like me, middle-eastern and Persian. I wrote not only for me, but for everyone who felt like they were too big to be loved, too anxious, or even too introverted. I wrote queerness as something casual and to be expected in a world full of diversity of race, abilities and attraction.

 

I wanted Soft on Soft to be something others can be inspired by, even though such a hope can be quite... Big. But I believe. Just as the door was opened to me by women who have honed their craft and put their heart into stories that included diversity so casually, I can do as much by writing people the way they are.

 

I am just a person who has never once finished anything in her life. But 2019 is for big dreams. By 2019’s end I hope to have written three more stories. Short or long, I want them to be true, colorful, full of love and sweetness and definitely inclusive of everyone.

 

Em's debut, Soft on Soft, is out now.  For more information about them and their writing, follow them on Goodreads and Twitter.

 

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