A teen writing phenomenon, Brynne Rebele-Henry has published numerous critically acclaimed works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry all during her adolescence. Born in 1999, Brynne is a lesbian feminist who has had work appear in publications like the Denver Review, the Adroit Journal, and PANK. In 2016, Brynne published Fleshgraphs, an experimental confessional novel exploring “queerness, girlhood, and illness” that earned praise from Publishers Weekly. Brynne also founded Fissure, a magazine for LGBTQIP+ teen writers.
In this interview, Brynne discusses her experiences with being a gay woman writer in a world shaped to fit people of more privileged identities.
When do you first remember starting to write? What was your inspiration/who was your muse?
The lack of representation of gay women and girls and their stories was a large part of what drove me to seriously pursue a career as a writer. Though I started writing when I was very young, I didn’t really have any particular plan for what to do with my work until I was around thirteen or fourteen. Initially, I actually wanted to paint large-scale nude portraits, and I primarily worked on a series of paintings for a few years, until I became a writer.
What was your personally story in building your writing skill and repertoire?
I just wrote as much as I could every day. I want to get each manuscript as close to perfection as that particular project can be. This can mean that I only write one draft of a manuscript, or that I go through about ten different versions of a novel or story before I’m satisfied. I try to write for at least six or eight hours every day. I’m homeschooled, so I’m very lucky to have been able to keep traditional office hours for the last several years, which has definitely helped me acquire a large body of work, and has given me the freedom to hone my writing.
How do you think your writing has changed from the beginning of your teen years up to now? What do you think helped shape that change?
When I first started writing fiction, I wrote in a really dense, almost code-like style. I love experimental prose, but I did diverge into more commercial fiction. I wanted to make queerness more mainstream, and eventually I decided that in my case, writing cipher-like stories wasn’t going to accomplish that, so I began to write more streamlined prose, though I do try to maintain a lyrical quality in my work.
What was your motivation to write The Glass House, a novel centering a queer protagonist that was also the 2016 Adroit Prize for Fiction winner?
I wrote the book so that it charts both the protagonists (a young lesbian, and a gay man) through the end of their teenage years and into their early adulthood. The book is a love letter to lesbian girlhood/gay boyhood, art, the feminine experience, and loss. At it’s heart the book is a story about grief and how it manifests, and also a love story. It was my first novel, and the plot lines and characters have been rewritten many times over the years (I was fourteen when I wrote it), but the core of the manuscript remains the same. I think what drove me to write it is that I wanted to write about the sadness and feeling of intense
misplacement in a heterosexual-oriented society that many young queer people experience.
A lot of your work, especially poetry, centers queer love and queer women. What made you, combined with your identities, choose to work with that narrative?
I’m a hopeless romantic, haha! I really want to change the narrative surrounding lesbian love, which I think is primarily portrayed tragically or negatively in media, films and books. I want to explore the experience of gay love as well as the lesbian experience. I identify as a femme lesbian and I want to explore the dichotomy of femme/femme love, or butch/femme love, as well as to shine light on what it’s like to be femme and queer. I primarily write about lesbians, something that more or less draws on my own identity, and trying to create positive lesbian representation for young gay women is something that really drives my work, though in general I think I’m mainly interested in writing about what it means to be feminine and queer.
in general I think I’m mainly interested in writing about what it means to be feminine and queer
Have you had any struggles in feminist or artistic spaces do to being non-
Oh, definitely! I have to deal with a lot of homophobia within the fiction publishing world in general, mainly because I refuse to write about or pander to straight people. I also just have to generally deal with run of the mill homophobic people who don’t like my work.
What is it like being a teenager with a critically acclaimed published book, Fleshgraphs, and multiple other published works of writing? Has your life changed at all due to this exposure?
I think that now I can reach more people and have more opportunities to talk about issues that LGBTQ+ individuals face, which is really important to me!
What currently motivates you to write?
I’m motivated by the lack of positive queer representation and lesbian writers in mainstream literature. I want to try to make queer women’s stories something that’s more universally read and accepted. I’m not interested in exploring the cause of homophobia, but rather in writing about the affects that it has on queer people.
How often do you write, and do you have any special routine when doing so?
I try to write every day and for at least four hours a day. My main routine is just drinking a lot of caffeine and trying to keep my neurotic little dog from eating my notebooks/chewing on my laptop.
How do you want your writing to impact your audience in the state that the
current world is in?
Given everything that is happening in the world right now, I want to offer young LGBTQ+ individuals an alternative representation of lesbians/queer women and a narrative that doesn’t involve the lesbian death trope or the various stereotypical ways that queer women are often vilified by homophobic stereotypes and media.
. Are there any major projects that you’re working on right now?
I just finished editing my first YA novel, which is a lesbian rewrite of the Orpheus myth! I also am writing an epic novel and a collection of political essays and working on a couple of short stories.
Where would you like to see yourself in the future, whether career-wise,
writing-wise, or just as a change of the current global state?
I really want to continue my publishing career and eventually branch into writing for television (my dream would be to write and direct an LGBTQ+ TV show). I also want to work in queer media, and potentially at some point branch into something involving femme clothing design. My ultimate dream is to be able to create actual, physical, safe spaces and shelters for LGBTQ+ people and kids who don’t have any.