Today I’m interviewing Ceillie Simkiss about her debut novella, Learning Curves, a sweet sapphic contemporary romance that comes out August 16th, 2018. Learning Curves is a delightful and diverse novella. I reviewed it earlier this week too, if you’d like my thoughts on it.
Disclaimer: I read an early draft of this novella and Ceillie is a friend. I’m super-excited for everyone to meet Cora and Elena. They’re just so lovely together and we need so much more f/f romance out there. <3
Without further ado, let me give you the book’s description and we’ll hop straight to the interview!
Elena Mendez has always been career-first; with only two semesters of law school to go, her dream of working as a family lawyer for children is finally within reach. She can’t afford distractions. She doesn’t have time for love.
And she has no idea how much her life will change, the day she lends her notes to Cora McLaughlin.
A freelance writer and MBA student, Cora is just as career-driven as Elena. But over weeks in the library together, they discover that as strong as they are apart, they’re stronger together. Through snowstorms and stolen moments, through loneliness and companionship, the two learn they can weather anything as long as they have each other–even a surprise visit from Elena’s family.
From solitude to sweetness, there’s nothing like falling in love. College may be strict…but when it comes to love, Cora and Elena are ahead of the learning curve.
LEO: I know that one of the things people will likely want to talk about most is the ace rep in the book, but if I recall the ADHD representation is also important to you personally. What is your favourite aspect of the ADHD rep in the novella?
CS: One of my favorite things about the ownvoices ADHD rep is that it’s medication-positive. Cora mentions medication in the very first page, as well as later on in the story.
I was diagnosed at age 12, and got put on a couple of different medicines that really, really helped me.
I’m not currently taking any medicine for my ADHD. Somewhere along my many moves, my diagnosis paperwork got lost, and the doctor’s office that it came from originally is no longer in existence. I’ve learned to manage the symptoms of my ADHD a little bit better now, but for all of college and until a month ago, I was self-medicating with sodas.
So much of the fiction we read that has to do with neurodivergent characters is focused on white boys who can’t sit still, and whose parents think that medicating them is the worst thing that could happen. And for some people, that representation is accurate.
However, for a lot of people like me, meditation is a lifesaver. If I had not been on antidepressants and stimulants throughout middle school and high school, I’m not sure I’d be here today. I want to help normalize a character that isn’t a white boy being happy with themselves and with their medication, and I hope that LEARNING CURVES helps to do that.
LEO: How important was it for you to reference the gatekeeping that happens in some parts of the queer community in the novella?
CS: Gatekeeping is a huge reality for so many queer folks, and something we always see when it comes to Pride events. So many of us who aren’t the L or the G in the acronym do not feel welcome, because we’re told we aren’t enough – we aren’t queer enough, we aren’t oppressed enough.
I’ve been told not to show up at queer events with my fiance because we’re straight passing. I’ve been told I’m “basically straight” because my fiance is an allocishet man. Even some queer people I’ve met have said that being ace doesn’t count as queer unless you’re also trans or queer in another way.
If you’re reading this and you’ve heard this directed at you, I have news for you. You are enough. We are enough. Fuck gatekeepers. Live the way you were meant to, the way you dream of living, as much as you can because you are enough.
LEO: I wholeheartedly agree with you on this. If you’re reading this: you are definitely enough. I know how rough it is to believe that under the barrage of gatekeepers, but you are. And I’m so so happy to know that Learning Curves addresses that. On a somewhat related note, when I read an early draft of Learning Curves, I was delighted by how adorable the romance was. Even though I read a fair amount of queer rep, it still feels like there are so few happy stories for queer readers. What made you decide to write a fluffy sapphic romance specifically?
CS: I love fluffy romances. I get uncomfortable reading sex scenes, so I wanted to write something that I wanted to read. Cora and Elena first existed in my brain as the main characters of a novel that I started for NaNoWriMo in 2016. Given the events of that November, I failed that NaNo miserably and had to focus on my work as a daily journalist. Small town journalism is, frankly, exhausting, and I couldn’t stand to give any of my children any more heartache than I could personally handle. It bled into my reading as well – I didn’t want to write something that I couldn’t bring myself to read, and thus, this fluffy romance was brought into the world.
LEO: Will this be the only story we get to read following Elena and Cora’s relationship or are you planning to return to the setting following other characters with Elena and Cora maybe having a secondary role or a cameo appearance?
CS: This is the only one I have written right now, but I’d still like to get back to that novel with these two. I have 15k of that on its own, and it might need some revisions, but the bones of it are still something I’d like to write!
LEO: EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! A novel! 😀 So exciting! I hope you get to write it and share it with us all!
Shifting gears rather spectacularly, let’s talk about consent in Learning Curves because consent is a big factor in the story and it is something that, sadly, people often think aces are incapable of giving. Was it difficult for you to address that within the narrative?
CS: Honestly, not at all. That was the easiest thing to do in the narrative. Consent is so, so important in any relationship, romantic or platonic, and it’s simple to add. I thought it added just a little bit more sweetness to this romance.
LEO: What are your plans for the future? Do you have any other adorable stories in mind for us to enjoy?
CS: I’m as ADHD in my writing as I am in my real life. I have three different novellas on various burners right now – one medieval fantasy one that I’m actively writing and two contemporary ones that are plotted but not written. I also have…. two different novels that are on the back burners right now.
However, I do also have adorable stories on my Patreon for anyone who subscribes $1/mo or more! You can get sneak peeks at what I’m working on whenever I remember to post them!
Ceillie Simkiss is a queer writer of all stripes based in southern Virginia. She is also a blogger, public relations professional, and freelance writer. She started writing fiction as an escape from her day job as a small town journalist, and has been at it ever since, with the support of her partner, her dog and her cats.
And that concludes the interview. Just a reminder to everyone: Learning Curves releases August 16th, 2018 and you can preorder it now!