Jumping From Cliffs and Surviving: On Courage in Fiction


I played it safe for many years in my writing. Kept the deepest and most important parts of my work and my self under wraps. Some of that was due to youth, some of it was due to fear.

But then I reached a point where I couldn’t anymore. My struggles with mental illness, my navigation of my own complicated queer sexuality: all weighed on my mind and my heart in ways I didn’t realize until I started writing about them. 

I could have written personal essays, of course, but fiction is not only my preferred genre, but also my way of processing and advocating in the world. I consider it a gift and a privilege to channel (and yes, it really does feel like channeling) a character’s voice.

Especially that of Lesley, the protagonist of Etched On Me. Who knew a mouthy, 21-year-old girl from North London would become my delightful, heart-wrenching conduit into transparency and honesty? Unabashedly queer, uncompromising in her fight for her rights, Lesley pushed me to the outer limits of my courage.

Many of her scenes were so intense to write I actually shook while typing. Sometimes I would have to leave my laptop at the table of my favorite coffee shop and go lock myself in the bathroom and deep-breathe. But I pushed through my discomfort. Because in the end the process really wasn’t about me at all; it was about Lesley and all the girls like her, rich with harrowing and healing stories.

Writing Etched On Me felt like jumping off a cliff: dizzying, risky, terrifying. But what a triumph it was to land.

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