Author Spotlight: Ennis Rook Bashe (A SCHEME OF SORCERY)
Ennis Rook Bashe is a nonbinary graduate student from New York who loves their rescue cat, making cosplay TikToks, and watching horror game streamers. Find them on Twitter at @RookTheBird. Follow their newsletter at https://tinyletter.com/RookTheBird
Welcome to the Hive, Ennis. Congratulations on your release of A Scheme of Sorcery. Could you please tell us a little about it? What can readers expect?
A Scheme of Sorcery is about two young women who show up for work at the same place and absolutely hate each other at first sight. Sariva Al-Beroth is a lady-in-waiting who’s sick of outsiders appropriating her culture and just wants to fit in; Edwynne Dovecote is a squire who just found out she was adopted and secretly wants to reconnect with her birth culture. After their first meeting is a disaster, they try to sabotage each other, and it escalates until they’re getting kicked out of parties. However, when the Queen is cursed, Sariva needs to venture into some haunted ruins to discover a cure. And it’s just her luck that Edwynne has been assigned to patrol those ruins and keep everyone out…
There’s drama, banter, kissing, and punching fascists, so basically this book has everything.
Can you tell us a bit more about your characters? Do you have a favourite type of character you enjoy writing? And how do you explore queer identity with these characters?
It’s really important to me to write characters who aren’t perfect- who don’t always make the right choice, who aren’t sure what to do or say the wrong thing and hurt someone’s feelings. I want to reflect real, imperfect people who are trying to figure out their priorities in life and how they identify, and make them feel seen, flaws and all. My viewpoint is that queer characters should get to be real people, not just role models.
How important do you feel representation for disability and invisible illnesses is in books?
A lot of my work has disabled characters, even if A Scheme of Sorcery doesn’t. Something like 1 in 4 adults have a disability, but according to GLAAD only 3.5% of characters onscreen are disabled, and only a tiny percent of projects including disabled characters utilize or even acknowledge disabled talent. It’s the same thing with being transgender- a book about how hard it is for a cis person to have a transgender sibling will get a much bigger publishing push than anything by or for transgender people. I know telling stories the dominant culture doesn’t want to hear will make my path to publication harder, but as someone who first won NaNoWriMo in middle school, I’ve never backed down from a challenge.
In A Scheme of Sorcery, Edwynne’s older brother Stellan is trans, and no one makes a big deal about it. Edwynne is pissed off that he’s getting married to someone she doesn’t like, and that he collaborated in keeping her adoption a secret, but she’s not out here like “It’s so hard that I don’t have a big sister.” I’m not here to explain what it’s like to be queer, Jewish, or queer and Jewish. If people want an educational experience, they can go read some zines, like the Understanding Antisemitism zine from the multi-racial team at Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. I’m just here trying to tell some stories about resilient, brave people whose experiences and intersectionalities happen to look a little like mine.
Tell us a little something about your writing process – do you have a certain method? Do you find music helps? Give us a glimpse into your world!
I love background noise, whether that means writing in the park during a festival or in bed with a concert blaring from the speakers. My favorite place to write is on the subway. There’s no distractions (since the Wi-Fi is so bad) and I can’t get bored because of the opportunities to people-watch, so it’s the perfect combination.
Speaking of worlds, what inspires your worldbuilding? Do you have a magic system/s? If so, can you tell us a bit about it?
In writing A Scheme of Sorcery, I thought it would be fun to challenge myself and have the protagonists live in a magical world, but use non-magical methods to solve problems whenever possible. I think magic only needs rules when you need to limit what the protagonist can do, but when you’re throwing obstacles in the main characters’ paths, it kind of provides license to go wild. Mob of evil ghosts? Mind-controlled city? Sure, why not?
What it was like to tackle a full-length novel compared to poetry composition?
Long-form fiction is so different from poetry- in poetry, you can get publishable material just based on vibes and word sounds, but novels actually need to have a plot. That part always takes me a few revisions to be satisfied. The positive side of this is how poetry influences the way I approach prose as a craft. Anyone can say something in the fewest possible words, but poetry teaches a writer how to pick the best ones.
What (or who) are your most significant fantasy/sci-fi influences? Are there any creators whom you dream of working with someday?
I follow a lot of authors on social media who are doing amazing work in the genre, such as Jeannette Ng, Merc Fenn Wolfmoor, Kai Cheng Thom, Ada Hoffman, Rivers Solomon, and Seanan McGuire. They make me rethink not only how I write, but also how I discuss and analyze writing. And I adore Tamsyn Muir, whose protagonists lowkey invented being a mean goth lesbian.
We see such varying opinions from authors when it comes to the time of editing their books. How have you found the editing process? Enjoyable, stressful or satisfying?
Normally, I love editing. It’s a chance to pull up a chair in my favorite café, order a big mug of tea with honey, and really get to grips with the heart of my project. I’m not as wild about editing at my desk during a pandemic, but I still love having the chance to take something I’m passionate about and make it even better.
We always appreciate a beautiful book cover! How involved in the process were you? Was there a particular aesthetic you hoped they’d portray?
There was a bit of a hiccup in the process where, due to miscommunication on my part, a heavily tattooed cover model was chosen. I was raised to believe that tattoos weren’t consistent with Judaism, so I was really upset about the concept of my heroines- who are more observant than I am, and advocate for the right to practice their religion- being portrayed with tattoos. After that, I was invited to have more input on the process. I’m so happy with my classic “girl in a fancy dress” cover- it reminds me of a lot of the books I grew up with.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write. How do you choose to spend the day?
Video games are one of my favorite forms of storytelling. The adrenaline makes me feel like I’m really there with the heroes. You can decide what choices your characters should make or even how you want them to look. I especially love playing games with friends, because it becomes less about completing the quest and more about choosing silly outfits and hanging out on the beach, or even just trash-talking each other on voice chat. Plus, consuming more stories in different genres and formats gives me ideas for what I want to write about. That’s why gaming is one of my favorite ways to take a break from writing.
One of our favourite questions here on the Fantasy Hive: which fantastical creature would you ride into battle and why?
While they might not be classic fantasy creatures, I’m obsessed with chocobos from the Final Fantasy video game series, birds big enough to ride with soft yellow feathers and intelligent blue eyes. I love their intelligence, their loyalty, and how huggable they are. No matter what kind of enemy we were facing, I’d feel safe with a chocobo!
Tell us about a book you love. Any hidden gems?
Right now, I’m obsessed with Reese Morrison and Eli Wray, two authors who are writing the sweetest contemporary LGBT+ romance. I don’t usually read contemporary, but the tenderness and intimacy in their work really draws me in.
Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress? Have you any upcoming projects which you can share?
I’m about 50 thousand words into a book about young adults at a magic college who team up with special talking cats to fight demons. Hopefully by the time I finish this draft I’ll have figured out a title. I’m also working on another novella set in the world of my romance Rescued by the Married Monster Hunters, because the world interests me and I think there are more stories waiting to be told there.
Finally, what is the one thing you hope readers take away from your writing?
I want to validate the struggles that people who share my marginalizations go through. To say “Hey, you deserve to be seen for who you are and live free from stereotypes.” And like any writer, I want to tell a damn good story and make people forget their problems, even if it’s just for an hour or so, with a happily ever after.
Thank you so much for joining us today!