Virtual Tour: LGBT, transgender, intersex, M/M, F/F ~ Ari by Cheryl Headford ~ (ARC Review, Author Interview, Excerpt, Book Trailer + Giveaway)
Author: Cheryl Headford
Genre: LGBT, romance, transgender, intersex, M/M, F/F
Publisher: Wayward Ink Publishing
Author: Cheryl Headford
Genre: LGBT, romance, transgender, intersex, M/M, F/F
Publisher: Wayward Ink Publishing
SynopsisAfter having known each other online for some time, writers, Benji and Ari meet at a convention.
Their attraction is both immediate and mutual.
But all is not straightforward—Ari is intersex and Benji transgender.
Together they embark on a journey.
A journey that unites families, and heals old wounds.
But not everyone is happy with the blossoming love between these two unique and special individuals.
Will an act of aggression crush the flower before it can bloom?
Isis and Osiris came bounding out of the house, followed by two women carrying trays. The similarities and differences between Nancy and Skye were even more obvious in person. It was like looking at two halves of a personality, one severe and the other timid. Ari, it seemed, had inherited all the fun.
The trays contained a delicious selection of cakes and biscuits, and Skye immediately scuttled back indoors, presumably to collect more, or perhaps drinks. Marc was on the plates like a locust.
“Marc! At least say thank you.”
“Thank you,” he mumbled with a mouth full of cake.
“Don’t worry,” Nancy said with a smile that transformed her sour expression, “he’s not doing anything Ari doesn’t. I’m surprised he hasn’t got his face in the chocolate cake already. He must be on his best behaviour.”
Ari shrugged. “Don’t get too complacent. I already ate the—”
“Ari Fischer.” Skye’s voice was outraged as she strode down the path, holding a large jug and a tin. “Look at this.” She shook the tin at Nancy, who smirked.
“Don’t tell me, half of the gingerbread snaps have mysteriously vanished.”
“Half? There are four left. Four!”
Ari uncurled and danced over to his mother. He hugged her; then he grabbed the tin. “Oh well then, might as well finish them.”
“Ari.” Skye scolded as he dipped his hand into the tin and stuffed his mouth with something that crunched.
“Ari, will you please—?”
“Do you think there’s a point in scolding him?” Nancy broke in, cutting Skye dead. “He never listens, and besides, the boy’s too thin. There’s nothing there of him. He could do with feeding up.”
“Feeding up? You see how much he eats.”
“He burns it off with all that energy. Here, have some of these.” Not missing a stride, Nancy took up a plate of biscuits and handed them to me. When Ari would have intercepted the plate, she batted his hand away. “Visitors first, dear,” she said, and Ari gazed at me with an expectant expression. I don’t know whether he was waiting to see if I liked the biscuits or for me to relinquish the plate.
The biscuits tasted like heaven. They were sweet and light and crunchy, and tasted of butter and something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. “What’s in the biscuits?”
“Cinnamon,” Ari said instantly. “Nancy makes the best cinnamon cookies ever.”
Nancy beamed. “Thank you, dear, but those are your mother’s. She’s a serious challenger these days. Which is just as well as I’m getting older and no one knows how much longer I’ll be able to cook.”
“Mother. Don’t say things like that,” Skye exclaimed, almost dropping the second mug and stack of glasses she was carrying. “You’ll be around for many years yet.”
“I intend to,” Nancy said with a grin, “but no one knows what’s coming ’round the corner.”
A sharp breeze whipped around the corner of the house and made me shiver for a moment. It was gone as fast as it came, but I noticed Ari, Nancy and Skye all raised their heads and glanced around. I shivered again. Did they think it was a premonition? Was it? Hadn’t Ari said Nancy and Skye were witches? I hadn’t believed him, but maybe they were. If so, some of their stuff would have rubbed off on Ari maybe. He was very perceptive, did that count?
Benji and Ari's story is like nothing I have ever read before. This can be a confusing subject matter, but I think I came away with a much better understanding and insight of Transgender and Intersex people.
Benji and Ari are two very insecure people, who have never been comfortable in their bodies. They are very insecure of how others will see them, and both scared of rejection.
When they come face to face at an authors convention, their relationship takes a different road, and they fall almost instantly for one another. This book was an emotional rollercoaster. It was sweet, happy, funny and also heartbreaking.
The author seems to have done her homework and I applaud her for taking on, not just one, but two very complex young people. This story was a joy to read. It pulled me in and kept me hanging on to every word until the very last page!
We are excited to have Author Cheryl Headford with us here at Bayou Book Junkie today. Let's get to know a little about her and what inspired this book!
This book sounds really good, but intersex and transgender have to be really hard and sensitive subject matters to tackle.
Can you first explain to our readers a bit about what the terms intersex and transgender mean?
I'm no expert and can only explain as it applies to my own characters, as every person is highly unique.
In my understanding a transgender person is someone who is a different gender to that they were assigned at birth. In Benji's case, he was born a girl, but never felt that he was. The difference grew more pronounced as he got older, and he tried to find a label that fit, a place where he belonged.
For a long time, Benji had no idea what transgender was, so he tried other labels, but none fit. He tried straight but he hated straight sex. He tried lesbian, but making love to a woman as a woman wasn't his thing. Then he thought he was bisexual and was just looking for the right person. Finally, he found transgender and the label fit better than any other, but still wasn't right as he likes to wear women's clothes sometimes. Ari helped him realize that even when he was wearing women's clothes he still felt like a man, and finally Benji came home.
Intersex is more difficult as there are different definitions. For example
The Council of Europe defines it as
The term "intersex" refers to atypical and internal and/or external anatomical sexual characteristics, where features usually regarded as male or female may be mixed to some degree. This is a naturally occurring variation in humans and not a medical condition. It is to be distinguished from transsexuality, a phenomenon where someone has an evident sex, but feels as if he or she belongs to the other sex and is therefore ready to undergo a medical intervention altering his or her natural sex
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Defined it as
An intersex person is born with sexual anatomy, reproductive organs, and/or chromosome patterns that do not fit the typical definition of male or female. This may be apparent at birth or become so later in life. An intersex person may identify as male or female or as neither. Intersex status is not about sexual orientation or gender identity: intersex people experience the same range of sexual orientations and gender identities as non-intersex people.
As far as Ari is concerned an intersex person is entirely unique. He was born with ambiguous genitalia, which meant he had no recognizable vagina, or penis and no internal sex organs. As far as his gender identity is concerned, it's both male and female, depending on how he feels at the time. Always a creature of impulse and emotion he allows himself to identify as male when he feels he is male and female when he feels feminine. He usually identifies as male in everyday life, and female during rituals and magical work.
What inspired you to write this story?
The Wayward Ink Publishing anthology Stranded. I wanted to take a different interpretation of the word and, casting around for ideas, I came upon the issue of gender and I intended to write about transgender, but then Ari burst on the scene and I couldn't ignore him. At the time, I knew nothing about intersex and had to do a lot of research.
What are your favorite qualities about each of these main characters?
Benji is young, only nineteen, but for the past three years he's been taking care of his younger brother after the death of his mother. He's young and free an funny, but he's very responsible and cares for Ari deeply, giving him a security he badly needs.
Ari is so free it's untrue. He acts on every whim, says exactly what comes into his head and loves everyone. He is, in effect, a human puppy and who doesn't love a puppy?
Is there a message in this book you would like readers to grasp?
There are a number. First of all that everyone is absolutely unique and it's dangerous to make assumptions and cram people into boxes of your making.
Second, that labels are useful, but are also dangerous. They can help people find a home and feel part of something, or they can be used to exclude and condemn. I think that 'communities' are the same. They can do so much to help people find their place and their happiness but they can be exclusive and that can be dangerous.
I belong to a number of communities where people identify as various things. Some of them things that are difficult to understand or even believe. On all the forums and sites I have any control over there is a strict rule that no one can be challenged on the labels they put on themselves - the people, gender, beings, gods and goddesses they believe themselves to be.
If I believe myself to be transgender, I have every right to be, and no one has the right to tell me I'm not, not even someone who believes they know what transgender is or ought to be and I don't fit their description.
We are who we believe ourselves to be, even if that changes over time and with deeper understanding - an everyone is wholly unique.
Now just a couple of off-topic questions.
Besides writing what else do you enjoy doing?
I love to create. I cross stitch, scrapbook and paint with acrylics.
If you could have dinner with any person in history, dead or alive, who would it be, and what would you want to talk about?
Jesus. I would want to talk to him about what he thought of the way people have - let's be generous and say interpreted - his teachings, and to ask him what he would say to modern Christians.
Thanks again for being here today!! ~ Tracy
Buy LinksDon’t miss Wayward Ink Publishing’s Tickle Me Pink Sale! 25% off all list prices.
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00YUT48QE/
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00YUT48QE/
Amazon AU: http://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B00YUT48QE/
Amazon DE: http://www.amazon.de/dp/B00YUT48QE/
GiveawayPrizes: 3 UK Swag Packs (Ari mug, notebook, rainbow pen) and 3 International Swag Packs (6.99 WIP gift card, bookmark, key chain)
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About the authorCHERYL HEADFORD was born into a poor mining family in the South Wales Valleys. Until she was 16, the toilet was at the bottom of the garden and the bath hung on the wall. Her refrigerator was a stone slab in the pantry and there was a black lead fireplace in the kitchen. They look lovely in a museum but aren’t so much fun to clean.
Cheryl has always been a storyteller. As a child, she’d make up stories for her nieces, nephews and cousin and they’d explore the imaginary worlds she created, in play.
Later in life, Cheryl became the storyteller for a re-enactment group who traveled widely, giving a taste of life in the Iron Age. As well as having an opportunity to run around hitting people with a sword, she had an opportunity to tell stories of all kinds, sometimes of her own making, to all kinds of people. The criticism was sometimes harsh, especially from the children, but the reward enormous.
It was here she began to appreciate the power of stories and the primal need to hear them. In ancient times, the wandering bard was the only source of news, and the storyteller the heart of the village, keeping the lore and the magic alive. Although much of the magic has been lost, the stories still provide a link to the part of us that still wants to believe that it’s still there, somewhere.
In present times, Cheryl lives in a terraced house in the valleys with her son and her two cats. Her daughter has deserted her for the big city, but they’re still close. The part of her that needs to earn money is a lawyer, but the deepest, and most important part of her is a storyteller and artist, and always will be.