It's the third week of Tonia Brown's Blog challenge this week and this week the theme is the letter C and so, as I promised I would tell you all about how I first encountered Christina Engela, that's how I'm going to begin...
I'm not sure now how I first encountered her writing, but I do know that as soon as I read the first of her many sci-fi books ( I believe there are around 8 so far written in her series) I was smitten and wanted to read more. I soon discovered I had read them mostly out of order, but you know what? I was having so much fun, I didn't even care. True, the covers were a bit amateurish and bit of a put off, but the stories inside were all fab and what's more, they didn't take themselves too seriously either.
I sent Miss Engela a message on one of the social sites I found her on, asking if she intended to write any more as many of the stories had been out a while back then, but got no reply. I kept the files on my old kindle anyway, and brushed her aside as one of those authors who just came and went. You know the ones - those who have a good run of books and then burn out, never to be heard of again.
Fast forward a couple of years later and I found Christina on Facebook. I became her friend and followed her posts with interest. Turned out not only was she transgender (which I already knew but which I hadn't let put me off because her books were so good) but also she was very outspoken and a social activist not just for LGBT rights, but HUMAN rights. If there was an issue she believed in, she thought nothing of quite openly discussing it on her page - something I admired and respected her for.
There is a point made here that I want to go back to. "(She was) transgender but I didn't let it put me off because her books were so good." I am not proud of this statement, but it's how I felt. Why should her being transgender make any difference? It didn't - but society is taking a long while to catch up and even now, when people are more accepting of gays and lesbians and their rights than they once were, issues of transgender are still largely misunderstood or ignored by society as a whole.
I come from the eighties, and I still remember using terms such as gay, queer, even spastic, in a derogatory manner and it being socially acceptable amongst my friends. Then, no one really knew
what transgender was. It never got mentioned except rarely and pretty much got classified as 'gay' if we ever did think about it, which we didn't.
I am older now, and wiser, we all are, and now we all know ( or should) that this sort of behaviour ISN'T acceptable but back then, it was a very different ball game.
Christina's books had a couple of trans characters, one of them a main character, and explored some trans themes that highlighted certain issues in a couple of the stories but I thought she handled it
subtly and well.
No, it shouldn't have made any difference to what I thought of her writing but you know what, a part of me WAS a bit embarrassed about reading a book written by someone trans.
That would've been my loss if I hadn't read them however, because like I say, her books were amazing.
Anyway, back to last year. Christina posted her books weren't selling so well, and that she was disillusioned by her writing and tempted to just give up. I wasn't going to allow that - so I sent her a message declaring myself a fan. By then Catt had me working for J.Ellington Ashton as an editor and we were talking about setting
up a sci fi imprint. I asked Christina if she had ever considered
going with a Press, rather than self publish - it would give her more respect as a writer and possibly help get her work to a wider influence.
Her response was that the only people interested so far had been vanity presses.
Once again, I stepped in and with Catt's go ahead, asked her to consider coming to our Press. She checked us out, signed the contract and hey presto- Blachart was released in the latter part of last year with the second book, Demonspawn due out soon.
I will review Demonspawn for my D post, but needless to say as a fanboy I couldn't be happier to see her going mainstream. All our authors and fellow editors at JEA love her and think she's fab, and as well as having the privilege of having introduced her to our Press, I have also been given the dream opportunity of being able to help edit her books and help fine tune them so that a wider audience can appeciate them as much as I did the first time I read them.
I'm really enjoying reading them again, and it's been so long now
since I first picked them up, its like discovering her work all over again.
Christina truly is a real gem to work with, one of my favourite authors amongst all those we have, and in a time when I see so many authors - indie, self-pub and traditional - behaving badly, slagging their peers off or just making their fellow authors' lives a misery, it makes a refreshing change to come across someone who not only stands up for what she believes in, is not afraid to stand up and show the world what she is made of, but is also kind, helpful and humble towards her fellow authors.
She'll get a big head after this probably, and this post will probably embarrass her but you know what?
I am proud to have helped her find mainstream traditional publishing and I have a strong feeling that when her writing really starts to takes off, this woman is going to be one to watch.
I have a good feeling shout Christina Engela and if any one deserves to make it big, it is her!