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My name is Katie Mettner and I’ve been part of the own voices movement since before it was even a movement.
In 2011, the world met Sugar DuBois, an amputee ballroom dancer and the protagonist of my first novel, Sugar’s Dance. Sugar was me, but she was also your sister, mother, friend, or wife. However, Sugar was not easily categorized for readers looking for books about disabled characters written by disabled authors. It was four more years before the #ownvoices hashtag caught fire in the literary world.
Corinne Duyvis suggested using #ownvoices to recommend "diverse characters written by authors from that same diverse group.” Which she followed with, “…It’s to lift up those who are often ignored.” Yes! Finally, there was a place in the industry to call home and it was a defining moment for all of us who are own voices authors, or so we thought.
Fast forward nine years and I’ve written fifty romance novels featuring disabled characters. Despite many, many submissions and participation in #ownvoices pitch wars with publishers over the last five years, they didn’t seem to completely understand what the #ownvoices hashtag was meant for. Every rejection letter I received contained the same elements: “You can’t write romance like this. No one will want to read it.” OR “We love the story and would consider it if you made X character without X disability.”
Was this discouraging? Yes, so many times yes, but I also knew change wouldn’t happen overnight, so I kept on writing. This past summer, though, I got a rejection letter that was not only disheartening as a disabled author writing own voices stories, but as a human being. Having just gone through major surgery to place a feeding tube that would keep me alive, I was finally ready to write down my thoughts on the matter of #ownvoices within the big publishing houses. The moment I knew I would let that blog post out into the world was when I wrote:
They want to say they have diverse writers publishing stories on their platforms, but they want the stories to remain THEIR story."
Enter Breaking Night Press. The very essence of this press is to shine a light on remarkable novels overlooked for not being "the same but different." The press was looking to build their #ownvoices platform with authors writing their own stories. I agreed to submit a manuscript to them for consideration and that was the beginning of a new chapter in my career. As the first own voices author for Breaking Night Press, I am proudly representing the future own voices and diverse authors that will one day write for Breaking Night Press.