Talking Queer Vancouver Writers, Bisexuality, and Community with Vancouver Author Leigh Matthews

By Casey Stepaniuk

Recently I sat down with local queer author Leigh Matthews. I asked her about her modern-day lesbian pulp series All Out Vancouver, bisexual and polyamorous characters, and more!

What’s it like being in Vancouver’s queer writing community?

I feel like I am part of the queer writing community, but I’m sort of on the periphery a little because I’m an introvert. There are a lot of amazing writers out in Vancouver.

Who are some of those amazing queer Vancouver writers?

Obviously, I adore Amber Dawn.

Who doesn’t?

I enjoy her work, but I also think she’s doing this phenomenal job of supporting writers from different communities, like the Thursday writing collective in the Downtown Eastside.

Aside from Amber, I think Leah Horlick’s last poetry collection For Your Own Good should be required reading for everybody. And again, she is someone working in the community, organizing [the queer reading series] Reverb.

And Jillian Christmas, who is such a joy to watch. She’s the Amber Dawn of the poetry slam scene. I’m also really excited to read Jane Eaton Hamilton’s latest novel Weekend. We’re Facebook friends, so seeing her process of writing that draft on social media was really cool.

Another book is Monica Meneghetti’s memoir What the Mouth Wants. She’s also a bisexual polyamorous person who adores food.

Your All Out Vancouver series has two novels so far, Don’t Bang the Barista and Go Deep. Where did the idea come from?

Initially, it was a bit of a joke. I wanted to do something fun and frivolous. Then I realized there was a good opportunity to create something that actually reflected the community I live in. I don’t feel like there’s any other Vancouver author who’s doing that in quite the same way. Like Zoe Whittall’s book Staying Still For As Long As Possible, which really paints Toronto.

I also wanted to throw the whole lesbian pulp fiction thing on its head and not have any of the awful heteronormativity or the “retreats back to a man” or dies.

I thought Don’t Bang the Barista was even better than Holding Still For As Long As Possible because it was all the queer people I know in a place I also know.  

That’s why I wanted to write it. I wanted to be reading this exact thing, and it wasn’t there. I wanted to create not only a representation of the world I inhabit but the sort of world that is possible through creating characters that are familiar and having them go on a journey that is not traditional.

I wanted to ask about my favourite bisexual character in the series, Em. Could you talk about what went into creating her?

I know as a writer you’re not supposed to be like, this is my favourite character just like parents aren’t supposed to pick a favourite child, but Em is kind of the best. She is a real amalgamation of wonderful people who are my friends who face trials but who exude this incredible warmth, joy, enthusiasm, and positivity. I definitely did have some considerations around creating a character who is bisexual and polyamorous because there is a trope that bisexual equals slut. But out of all the people in the series she is the one who is able to represent polyamory in a positive way. And how fluidity in those relationships is a requirement for it to work. I almost feel it’s a requirement of authors who self-publish to clear all the boundaries. Let’s just fuck around with the boundaries: that’s what I like to do.

Casey Stepaniuk is a writer and librarian-in-training who runs the website Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, where you can find LGBTQ+ Canadian book reviews and a queer book advice column. She also writes for Book Riot. Find her on Twitter: @canlesbrarian

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