They say the best writing comes from what you know and from your own experiences.
And if the world of publishing is any indication, you might think it’s all straight dudes writing about guns and murder while straight women are penning ill-researched BDSM Twilight fantasies (We wish straight dudes were writing out their BDSM fantasies).
But that’s not the case and it certainly doesn’t have to be. Penguin Random House, the second biggest publishing house in the world, has recognized they need to do better for representation. And they are looking for new writers and different perspectives.
Oscar De Muriel, author of books like Fever of the Blood and The Strings of Murder, is a thriller novelist. He’s also from Mexico, living in Manchester, and gay.
‘I was writing stories since I was six or seven years old,’ he told Gay Star News.
‘I read Jurassic Park when I was 10, and I was obsessed. It was when I first realised books could be scary and that’s when I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to write stories that would grip people.’
While De Muriel read Dracula and Frankenstein and other Victorian gothic over and over, he also thought he would pursue a career. He traveled to the UK, to Manchester, to study for his PHD in chemical engineering.
And when he got out of university, and in his first job in 2008, the company was struck by redundancies. Being forced to work only three days a week, De Muriel picked up his pen again and started to think about what inspired him.
It turned out to be crime, intrigue and thrilling the reader.
Raised in a Catholic family, De Muriel was surprised how understanding his family was when he came out.
‘We went through an odd period, an awkward period, but I think in the end we are closer together now,’ De Muriel added. ‘There is now barrier now. Now we can talk about everything. The relationship is a lot more natural’.
While there are LGBTI people in his books, the investigation into Dracula author Bram Stoker’s obsession with the male leader of a theatre company being the topic of his next novel, De Muriel isn’t interested in writing about coming out or other typical LGBTI narratives.
‘I didn’t want my books to be labeled as such,’ he said. ‘I like it in TV and movies when people just happen to be LGBTI but it’s not about that. It’s more normalized that way.’
He was confident in his writing, so much so he didn’t perceive any barriers to entry on the basis of his nationality or sexual orientation.
‘Woody Allen said “Confidence is what you feel before you understand the situation”,’ De Muriel said, when he speaks about first looked to get his books published.
‘I can only speak from my experience as a Mexican and gay man living in Manchester and I got published by the second biggest publisher in the world,’ he said.
‘I don’t feel anyone ever said to me as a Mexican, or as a gay man, we’re not going to publish you. I do believe it’s tough because people don’t believe they can achieve it.’
There is a new nationwide campaign to find, mentor and publish new writers from communities under-represented in the UK bookshelves.
With WriteNow, 150 writers from marginalized communities will have one-to-one time with editors and access to literary agents, booksellers and published authors at regional events in Birmingham, Manchester and London. De Muriel will be speaking at Manchester.
Ten writers will go on to receive a year of mentoring with Penguin Random House, with the goal of having their book published. The campaign is being supported by JK Rowling.
Any advice from De Muriel?
‘Be honest with yourself to what you want to achieve from your writing,’ he said. ‘If you want a career from it, treat it as a career. There will be a lot of boring things to do like cover letters, sending emails and networking. If you want to write because you like it and you never get published, that has to be ok.
‘Have confidence in yourself. Set out and learn as much as you can and do as much writing as you can.’
Applications are open until midnight on 28 October. Any writers should go to the WriteNow website to apply.