Brooke Radley is a fiction writer with a focus on lesbian protagonists. Her new release Nightshade—available to order pre-release here—follows a young mage who’s tasked with infiltrating a criminal organisation to help stamp out a new drug that’s rampaging through her city.
In advance of the book’s release, Brooke discusses Nightshade, writing fiction, and her experiences with brand-new LGBTQA publisher, NineStar Press.
Only a very special book could be chosen to help launch a brand new press. But when it came to launching LGBTQA-focused NineStar Press, its directors knew that Brooke Radley’s novel Nightshade would be one of its earliest and brightest stars.
“When I started reading Brooke’s book, I was enraptured,” executive director Erica Mills says. “From the moment the female protagonist, Eleanor, was introduced on the first page, I knew this was a book we needed to have as part of our opening line-up.”
Nightshade, a fantasy novel that centres on a lesbian central character, is a page-turner from start to finish. So what made Brooke want to tell this story?
“I got my start in fanfiction when I was twelve,” she says, “but I’ve always thought about writing fantasy. I started reading Female/Female (F/F) fiction in college, and I noticed there were very few F/F fantasy novels. It’s gotten better in recent years, but I never could shake the desire to write one for myself. So I thought, why not?”
Her desire resulted in a breathless, mystery-soaked fantasy novel that rivals any written with a straight protagonist.
As a keen reader, Brooke took inspiration from books—experiencing a moment of revelation while reading.
“I had just finished reading The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch and was halfway through Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige when I realized that my favorite stories always involve a character pretending to be something they aren’t. The next thing I knew, I wanted to write about a woman going undercover into an evil organization and attempting to bring it down from the inside.”
So that’s exactly what she did. The story of Nightshade centers around a young mage named Eleanor who infiltrates the criminal guild, the Nightshade Brotherhood. She’s tasked by her city’s council with proving they’re the ones responsible for the distribution of a hallucinogenic drug called tangleweed.
But once she starts her mission, Eleanor learns quickly that an attractive distraction could sway her from her purpose.
While on a trial mission for the thieves’ guild, she meets the elusive Cassandra. From there, things get complicated for Eleanor. “There’s an instant spark between them,” Brooke explains. “Eleanor makes it her objective to learn more about Cassandra—for her mission and her own curiosity.”
After crafting such a labor of love, Brooke knew she had to find just the right home for Nightshade. Finding a publishing house that would appreciate her book proved harder than she thought.
“I did a lot of research before submitting, and I saw that while a lot of publishers were interested in LGBTQA fiction, many of them were more focused on other genres,” she says. “Very few were interested in a fantasy novel featuring LGBTQA characters.
“I stumbled upon NineStar Press. When I saw how passionate they were about LGBTQA fiction, I knew I wanted to submit to them.”
The experience proved to be a very positive one for the nascent author.
“I enjoyed working with my editor. From the beginning, she was open with me about what worked and what didn’t. Her feedback really helped improve my writing. I’m also really pleased with how the cover of Nightshade turned out.”
Though she’s earned a break, the author isn’t resting on her laurels when it comes to writing. She’s already completed another book and has another in the pipeline.
“My next book that’s coming out with NineStar is called But First Must Come the Storm. It’s about a student and her relationship with her professor.”
She’s also working on a sequel to Nightshade with the working title of Sunstalker.
About the author: Brooke Radley is an office manager who lives in Chesapeake, Virginia. She has a degree in English from Virginia Tech. When she’s not writing, she’s either reading or spending time with her dogs, Rio and Gabby.