I’d like to thank Brooklynne for inviting me to do a guest post for Lost in Literature. I love this blog for so many reasons, but I’m always especially thrilled to find a queer blogger who reads and reviews queer books. This is so amazing and important to the community!
When she indicated she’d like to see a post about asexual romance, I was delighted. Asexual identity varies quite a bit—some enjoy sex while others don’t, some experience some level of attraction while others don’t, etc—and how I’ve written Nara and her asexuality might not hold true for other asexuals. In other words, I don’t want anyone to think that how I’ve written Nara is some type of roadmap or prototype of an asexual; rather, she’s an example. So, to whoever is reading this: how you identify is valid. <3
I did write Nara in a way that reflects how I perceive my own sexuality. That’s not to say she’s a self-insert—I’m nowhere near as kind, patient, or badass as Nara, unfortunately. She’s simply a character I wrote represents how I identify on the asexual spectrum. I hope other asexuals connect with her and her story!
Friendship as the Central Narrative
As an aromantic/asexual author, I want to write and read more fiction where friendships are as important as romantic relationships; these stories speak the most to my heart and stick with me long after I’ve read them. Therefore, when I began plotting The Soulstealers, I made the decision to give most of the story’s important plot points to Nara’s and Arnie’s growing friendship and not to a traditional romance.
I did, however, play upon one of my favorite love story tropes: enemies to lovers or, in this case, enemies to friends. I’ve always wanted to attempt a version of this trope for an asexual pairing but never quite worked up the courage until The Soulstealers!
Like most enemies-to-lovers arcs, the story starts at a moment when the anger and resentment between the two characters is raw. Arnie has just been forced to kill her best friend and lashes out as a result, and Nara, who is forced to serve Arnie’s family, shoulders the brunt of the emotional meltdown. The dynamic between the two is understandably strained in these moments.
As the story progresses, the two learn who they really are, what they’re truly capable of, and what it means to depend on each other. Slowly, their trust builds until they are no longer enemies but something much more.
In traditional enemies-to-lovers narratives, this is when the two characters realize they have romantic feelings for each other. The Soulstealers mostly follows this pattern; however, Nara’s love—while deep and meaningful—is not romantic. She loves Arnie as a friend. So, to those who shipped Arnie and Nara: they did end up together.
Writing the Soulstealers was a first for me on many levels—my first young adult novel, my first pure fantasy novel, my first full-length f/f novel. But, most importantly to me, it was my first story where an asexual/aromantic character’s love story took center stage, even overshadowing the traditionally accepted “romantic” relationship. As such, The Soulstealers became a book about how friendships can change people for the better and the magic in women lifting each other up to shine.
Validating Asexual Love
I struggled with whether or not to have a moment in The Soulstealers where someone challenges Nara’s sexuality, forcing her to define what asexuality meant to her. This, I thought, would help readers to understand how Nara viewed love and friendship and would perhaps help them connect with her on a deeper level.
But then I thought to myself: well, there’s a reason these people are her friends and that’s because they accept her and understand that her sexuality isn’t open for debate. In the end, I decided the message of the story was better served by simply allowing Nara to be who she was and experience love on her own terms without a lengthy defense. Once Nara tells Arnie that she doesn’t want romantic love, just friendship, she’s understood and supported. To me, this was important in terms of validating asexuality in Nara’s story.
Thank you so much to Jacqueline for taking the time to speak about this really interesting topic. I was so happy when she agreed to post, because I know this is a topic that is important but often overlooked in the queer community. Please take the time to find her at her social media or check out her books. The Soulstealers is one of my favourite books this year.