Interview with Bi Book award winner Erin Judge

Erin Judge is a bisexual author and stand-up comic from Los Angels. As the excitement of bisexual Visibility Month wears off, Lois Shearing caught up with her to discuss winning a Bi Book Award for her first novel, Vowel of Celibacy.


TQ:Tell us a little about what it was like to win a Bi Book Award!

Erin: It’s so great! I wasn’t able to attend the ceremony in New York City. It’s really exciting to have an award-winning first novel, and I’m grateful that the Bi Writers Association and the Bisexual Book Awards honor works with bi characters and content. It’s definitely helped more people learn about Vow of Celibacy, which is so helpful for books from indie publishers like mine.

What inspired you to write Vow of Celibacy?

I wanted to write something fun and sexy. I wanted to feature a bisexual, plus-sized protagonist. I wanted to deal with the theme of coming out, but not about your sexual orientation. As queer people, we have this sort of right of passage of coming out. It’s this moment when we tell our communities of origin and our families who we are, and we present something true about our authentic, genuine selves. They are so powerful, and they’re also the cause of so much heartache and anxiety. So self-acceptance and showing the world your true self are major themes in this book.

Is any of the story based on your experiences?

I’m a plus-sized bisexual, just like the protagonist of Vow of Celibacy (Natalie), but our common experiences are pretty limited beyond that. She grows up in a pretty progressive suburb with a nuclear family, she comes out in high school, she goes to a really different type of college than I did, and she pursues her passion for fashion design as a career. My personal history and trajectory are pretty different from that.

Bi characters don’t have to be idealized, but they should be fully human and not based on lazy tropes.

Why do you think bi representation in fiction is important?

Reading increases empathy, and seeing realistic representations of bi characters is important for bi readers, non-bi (straight AND gay) readers, and also people exploring their sexuality.

What advice would you give writers about writing bi characters?

If you’re bi, just remember that you’re free to write an authentic character that doesn’t have to be based on yourself. Also, lots of people will assume you’re writing a veiled autobiography, even if you’re not, so be prepared for that. If you’re not bi and you want to create bi characters, go for it, but keep in mind that assigning a bi character attributes like compulsive sexuality and closeted monosexuality (the character turns out to be “actually” gay) might be based on biased stereotypes and not ring true. Bi characters don’t have to be idealized, but they should be fully human and not based on lazy tropes.

How did you realize you were bi and what have some of your coming out experiences been like?

I knew I liked girls from a young age, like around middle school, but I didn’t realize a person could be bi until a little later, in high school. I remember an episode of Sex in the 90s on MTV introducing me to the concept. After that point, I was pretty sure that’s what I was, but I didn’t come out to many people until college. I grew up with my mom and her female partner, so coming out to my mother was never a big deal. Most of the people in my life now are friends I met in college or since then, so they’ve all always known, and they’ve seen me have relationships with women and with men. And also, between my stand-up and Vow of Celibacy’s publication and the publicity around it, I’d imagine pretty much my whole extended family knows now, as well as old friends from elementary school and high school, whether or not I’ve explicitly come out to them. It’s kind of convenient, actually!

Reading increases empathy, and seeing realistic representations of bi characters is important for bi readers, non-bi (straight AND gay) readers, and also people exploring their sexuality.

You are also a bi stand-up comic. How do you find people react to your comedy?

As I mentioned before, Vow of Celibacy is fiction, but my stand-up is entirely autobiographical. I’ve been telling jokes about bisexuality all over the US for years now. People are really receptive to what might be new ideas for them when you’re telling jokes and making stuff relatable. Earlier this year, in April and May, I did shows in 10 cities across 7 states, including Georgia and North Carolina, and audiences were great. Comedy opens people up, which is why I love it so much.

What advice would you give writers about writing bi characters?

If you’re bi, just remember that you’re free to write an authentic character that doesn’t have to be based on yourself. If you’re not bi and you want to create bi characters, go for it, but keep in mind that assigning a bi character attributes like compulsive sexuality and closeted monosexuality (the character turns out to be “actually” gay) might be based on biased stereotypes and not ring true. Bi characters don’t have to be idealized, but they should be fully human and not based on lazy tropes.

What projects are you working on next?

I’m currently working on a couple of TV pilot scripts, including one based on Vow of Celibacy. I also co-host and co-produce a monthly stand-up show here in LA. It’s called Romantic Comedy and it happens at the Ripped Bodice, a fabulous romance bookstore. More details about the show and all my projects can be found at erinjudge.com.

You can follow Lois on twitter at @LoiShearing . 

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