Welcome to the second stop on the blog tour for the release of contemporary queer novella Learning Curves by Ceillie Simkiss! (That’s an Amazon affiliate link. The first stop is over at May Contain Spoilers.)
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.
Learning Curves is absolutely the sweetest thing I’ve read in a long time. It’s f/f, Cora’s asexual, both leads are neurodivergent, and the degree to which they pay attention to and care about each other’s wants and needs is positively delightful to read.
This stop on the blog tour is an interview with Ceillie about neurodivergence and literary influences in the context of Learning Curves:
1) Almost the first thing we learn about Cora in Learning Curves is that she has ADHD, including hyperfocus at inconvenient moments. Almost the first thing we learn about Elena is that she overthinks things: a classic symptom of anxiety, which we later learn Elena has. Clearly neurodivergent representation is important to you as an author: why?
I was diagnosed with ADHD, anxiety and depression at age 12. I was told at the time that I would grow out of the ADHD and that everything else would “resolve itself” with therapy and medication. I didn’t learn that I was autistic until a decade later when I read Neurotribes by Steve Silberman. I don’t think before then I’d read anything that had any neurodivergent women in it. I wanted to write a romance that I could see myself in, and that is what I wrote in Learning Curves, literally.
2) In what ways did Learning Curves shape up differently because Elena and Cora are explicitly neurodivergent than it might have if they were merely coded neurodivergent, or were actually neurotypical?
I honestly could not tell you. Cora and Elena were always neurodivergent. It wouldn’t be their story if they weren’t. I wanted to make their diagnoses explicit for those of us who need to see that representation in our fiction. I don’t even know if I could write someone that’s neurotypical. I haven’t managed it so far.
3) What authors, and/or what stories, influence you the most, either generally or for Learning Curves specifically?
See, the fun thing about questions like this is that you immediately forget every single author and story you’ve ever read. I think one of the biggest influences on my work in general would be Tamora Pierce’s Protector of the Small and Circle of Magic series. They’re both so full of love for the other characters in the story and build a world that always brings me back to it. I hope that someday I’ll write something that’ll stick with people the way her work does for me.
4) Cora describes her pleasure-reading tastes as “fun – magic, dragons, queer people”. Can you recommend a few of Cora’s favorite stories?
I think that Cora would love Tamora Pierce as much as I do, but some newer, less problematic stories she would love include Minerva Cerridwen’s The Dragon of Ynys, all of Cindy Pon’s work, and S.A. Chakraborty’s The City of Brass. I also think that she would enjoy Alyssa Cole’s A Duke by Default, which is a stunning romance featuring an ADHD heroine who I think Cora would get along with famously.
While Elena isn’t as much of a fiction reader, I think she’d love Ijeoma Oluo, Morgan Jenkins, and Lydia Kang’s nonfiction work. When it comes to poetry, I mentioned Sarah Kay in Learning Curves, but she’d also love Rose Lemberg and Eve Ewing’s work.
5) Tell us something exciting about your next project.
I added a list of Works In Progress to my author site, which I think is exciting. I think that readers who loved Learning Curves will love how absolutely queer my next-to-be-finished project, A Knight to Remember, will be. It’s inspired by Zendaya’s Met Gala 2018 dress, and I think you’ll all find it delightful.
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 has bylines at sites like Culturess, Global Comment, and Let’s Fox About It, in addition to her self-published novella Learning Curves.
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.