Welcome to another Furry Writers’ Guild spotlight for Pride Month! We’ve been so excited to share the viewpoints and stories of several of our guild members this month. Today we have an interview Hugo Jackson! Their pronouns are he/him or they/them. They are a non-binary author and has written three books so far in The Resonance Tetrology. But why say more when they can tell you about themself? Let’s get right to the interview!
FWG: Tell the guild and our readers a bit about yourself.
Hugo: Well, in furry circles I’m Archantael, a big and fluffy/scaly pangolin-fox hybrid, but in writing I go my professional name Hugo Jackson where I’m distinctly more fleshy. I’m 34, and probably the most distinct thing about me (from the point of view of me living in the US, anyway) is that I grew up in Britain, so my accent is British even though I’ve been here for over eight years now. I have been a published author since 2010 but have been an avid writer and slave to my overactive imagination since I was very very young. It’s been a great journey being able to embrace that, and it’s something I’m grateful for daily, not least of all because it brought me to the furry community and all of its amazing, sincere, colourful creatures and members.
FWG: What is your favourite work that you have written?
Hugo: Well, Legacy (my first novel) will always be the biggest milestone for me, not least of all because it’s the one I usually throw at people when I conjure up the bravery to actually sell my books to people, but Ruin’s Dawn, which is the third in the fantasy series, I feel had a real step up in my writing style and strength of voice, so that’s what I’m most proud of currently. It’s also the one I’ve been able to incorporate more of my personal views and experiences in the community, and myself, into, which makes it more personal through its unfolding.
FWG: What do you think makes a good story?
Hugo: I think anything sincere, written in your authentic voice, will make a good story. Obviously form and structure play a big part in making it readable and exciting in terms of pacing and suspense, but the best stories are the ones told without fear of condemnation for their sense of self-expression. Being bullied when I was younger, for a considerable amount of time, it became very easy for me to think ideas of fantasy or sci-fi were too much, and now I’m railing against that in my own work and in what I see in others’ stories. Make those superpowers and have your characters love whomever they feel most at ease with. Make a story completely yours, and you’re already well on the way to something good.
FWG: How long have you been in the guild, and what changes have you seen with regards to how writing is handled since joining?
Hugo: I think I joined back in 2013, just after Legacy was picked up by Inspired Quill. The membership requirements were fairly stringent back then, but given how much the self-publishing, indie, and Patreon markets have exploded in that time, the criteria for becoming a member have loosened a fair bit, and the availability for prospective writers to join via Telegram or Discord has made it more accessible for more people too. Writing and imagination aren’t things to be rationed to the elite- everyone deserves a fair chance at expressing themselves and achieving an ambition for the worlds that have grown within them, and I’ve loved seeing more people join in and take the chance to talk openly to other members about anything writing related, from story concepts to the actual publication process.
FWG: You are nonbinary correct? Can you explain what that means to you to the folks reading this interview?
Hugo: To me, being nonbinary is a multi-faceted identity. I mean, any identity is, gender or not, but particularly to me is the idea of breaking the barriers between gender conformity and expression. The idea that actually, we have always been more than we’re told we are, and that we can take hold of something more unique than we were promised.
Being nonbinary means so much to me because it describes the emotional parts of me I had trouble reconciling, the way I didn’t fit in when I was younger, the ways I wanted to embrace my identity and creativity when I was younger but wasn’t able to, especially where bullying led to self-consciousness or anxiety that made me hold myself back from so much of it until I met the furry community and I discovered more than I ever knew I didn’t know about what I could be.
FWG: You’re also pansexual! What does being pansexual mean to you?
Hugo: Essentially, and I know this varies from person to person, to me it’s the idea that anyone is attractive, no matter their gender. Some people claim this means you don’t acknowledge gender but to me it’s the exact opposite- I am aware of and embrace all identities I have the opportunity to meet and I can love and find them attractive all the same. The only things that will turn me off someone are aspects like bigotry, ignorance, hate, or mean-spirited nastiness. The TL;DR of it is, if you’re kind, you’re beautiful.
FWG: What does Pride mean to you?
Hugo: Oh wow, it’s so all-encompassing. It’s a celebration, an affirmation, a chance to connect with both a history and a future of gender identity and sexuality, the chance to try and come together to fight against oppressive conditioned behaviours from both outside and within ourselves and learn to love each other and ourselves more wholly, even if just a bit at a time. It’s a chance to find out who to protect, who to love, who to support and empower, and find those same things in others for ourselves.
FWG: Was there a bit of a journey or story to you uncovering your identity? If so, would you be comfortable sharing with us?
Hugo: I feel kind of boring, it was a fairly slow process for me. I had… well, I suppose there were many tell-tale signs as I was growing up and a few distinct experiences that should, had I been given the knowledge at the time, have told me that I was more than just ‘a straight boy’. Times when I embraced roleplaying a girl more readily than a male character, or when I had no issue whatsoever in my first stage role in high school wearing a big pink poofy dress. Or just… many other moments like that, getting a massive crush in a big way on a guy in my acting class (because holy crap he was beautiful). It wasn’t until after I found and really engaged with the furry community that the seeds of my identity began to propagate much more quickly, seeing the freedom of others’ self-expression, people who had fought for years to be who they are now, and finding kindredness and inspiration in them. They have inspired me in so many ways, and it’s something I’ll be eternally grateful for.
FWG: How do you think being nonbinary and pansexual has inspired or affected your stories? Have you written nonbinary or pansexual characters into your works?
Hugo: It has, if for no other reason than I want to represent something I don’t see in much media but I feel should desperately be shown more authentically. I see far more scope for a greater range of characters to interact with each other in different ways, and love more authentically. I wish I had known more about myself and the world even sooner, that I could have introduced more LGBTQIA+ characters into my Resonance books from the very beginning. As it is, I have a nonbinary character in Ruin’s Dawn, and a few characters in the series overall who I now know definitively are pansexual, and many other sexualities besides. Being as my books are young adult fiction, adult relationships don’t come into it that much, but sexuality and gender identity are still relevant to teenagers, so having nonbinary representation is super important.
FWG: Do you have favourite queer authors and has their literature affected your writing in the fandom?
Hugo: I actually read criminally little for being a novelist, I mostly devour graphic novels. Having said that, almost all of the graphic novels I read are by queer authors and artists- Noelle Stevenson, Rebecca Sugar, Molly Ostertag. Any queer author writing genuine rep and creating fantastical worlds is going to light the fires of my imagination, and encourage me to go even further in my own work.
FWG: If you could convince everyone to read a single book, what would it be?
Goodness, the one that comes to mind most for me (aside from knowing I’d love everyone to read mine someday), would be The Dark Portal by Robin Jarvis. It’s a younger teens book, but has incredible suspense, magic-wielding mice and demon cats in the sewers of London, so I feel there’s not much to go wrong with that.
FWG: Any last words for our readers and guild members?
Hugo: Your voice is unique in all the world. Don’t lose the chance to use it for good, for yourself or those around you, whether in fiction or in reality.
We would like to thank Hugo once more for participating in this interview! You can keep up with them by following them on Twitter and checking out their blog. Their books are available through Inspired Quill and the first chapter of Legacy, Book One, is available for free at https://www.inspired-quill.com/product/legacy If you want to hear them read that and a few other things, they also have a YouTube channel.
We hope you all enjoyed reading, be sure to stay tuned for another Pride Month spotlight next week!