Stina Leicht talks the strong representation in Persephone Station

Author Stina Leicht discusses her new release, Persephone Station, as well as the impetus behind writing a strong female-led story with tons of representation.

Starting 2021 off with a bang, author Stina Leicht releases Persephone Station, a stunning science-fiction novel with tons of representation across the board. From people of color, to strong women, to characters who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community, the only thing this book is lacking is cishet men. Which, for many, is a breath of fresh air.

If a reader is given this book with no context, they would likely still find immense joy in this space drama. Even with such strong and valid representation, it doesn’t come off a just a checklist for diversity. It’s genuine, raw, and very real when it comes to the core of who these characters are.

Culturess got the opportunity to discuss what went into making this book with the author. (The interview below has been edited for clarity and length.)

Writing during 2020

Culturess: What has the process been like for releasing Persephone Station during the pandemic?

Stina Leicht: I wrapped up the book in 2019 before the pandemic. So the only thing I have been working on has been short stories and waiting to get feedback on those and the cover art and things like that. For Persephone Station, I had already turned it in the final time before the pandemic hit so it hasn’t affected me on this book. Now, let’s talk about Loki’s Ring!

Culturess: Keeping your dedication page in mind, 2020 has been so draining. What has inspired you to keep fighting the patriarchy this year?

Leicht: Oh man. Well, I have a group of friends, some amazing writers, and they really help keep me inspired. I was raised by a pack of wild misogynists, so my brain is constantly feeding internalized bullsh*t. That tends to keep me in a constant bit of rage, so I need an outlet for that sometimes. I also really believe in positivity. I want to be a positive person and not just an angry one all the time, so the rage is constantly on a backburner.

Representation

Culturess: Persephone Station overall lacks male energy. It feels like, for once, cishet men are the footnote and not women, people of color, and the LGBTQIA+ community. Was this intentional?

Leicht: Absolutely! It totally was! I’ve seen so many conversations about the whole “diversity checklist,” and I wanted to prove that if you are a good writer you can write this way and have the reader not even notice it. I mostly wanted to prove it can be done because people like that do kind of make me angry.

Also, growing up, I didn’t have any books I could look to with characters like I wanted to see. I mean, there is a lot of fiction that was centered on men and boys. Just cishet guys constantly. Not a woman in sight, or any other gender, you know?

Culturess: Well, unless they are a comfort character, highly romanticized, and coupled with the lead male character of course.

Leicht: Exactly! Even today, when you watch a television series with strong iconic female characters, if they share the screen in a small way with a straight man, they always inevitably fall into bed with them. I don’t know about you, but in my personal experience, that does not happen very often. TV certainly makes it appear that way though.

Culturess: That’s my experience in real life as well, and I really hate seeing it in the content I immerse myself in because it’s unrealistic.

Leicht: Yes, I really wanted to go against that. There isn’t anything wrong with romance and couples — I actually love romcoms — but we need variety. It’s so important people have options, and I wanted to present some options.

I wanted to show women working as a team because again that’s another thing you almost never see, more than one woman working on a team, let alone an entire team made out of women. I wanted to show a team of women going out, working together, supporting each other, being friends with one another without sleeping with each other, and having adventures together. Straight men do this all the time in stories! There is Magnificent Seven and Star Trek. I mean, think of how close Spock and Kirk are. I mean, I’m okay if people read the book and, in their mind, they think of a relationship between Angel and Sukyi. I’m perfectly fine if that’s how you want to read it. In my head though, Angel is Ace and Sukyi is Pansexual. It’s really what you make it, and that’s fine with me.

The characters in Persephone Station

Culturess: Who was your favorite character to write story for in the novel?

Leicht: I really enjoyed writing Rosie. They were a hoot. Rosie was genuinely just really fun to write because I like so many aspects of that character. I also really enjoyed writing Sukyi as well, but I also just love trickster characters quite a bit. They tend to throw in the element of chaos and run away giggling, and I like that. Honestly, I love all the characters in different ways.

Culturess: Just for fun — please shoot for the stars here — if Persephone Station makes it to the big screen, tell me your dream casting for some of the characters.  

Leicht: I am a very visual person, so I have some names for you. For Angel, I was thinking Zoe Saldana and for Lou, I’d like Ruth Negga.

Culturess: I am totally on board with those!

Leicht: Now for Sukyi, I would love Rosario Dawson.

Culturess: I love that, but I think she is busy. We need her for Ahsoka.

Both: Laughter and agreement

Leicht: I imagine she is very busy. I’m just really going high in the sky here for casting.

Culturess: I’m only joking, keep aiming even higher!

Leicht: Let’s talk about aiming high! For Enid, definitely Angela Bassett.

Culturess: Now THAT is the one! Perfect!

Takeaways

Culturess: What would you like for readers to take away from your book?

Leicht: For one thing, that diversity doesn’t have to be some stupid checklist. I have a rule for myself and it’s based on Nichelle Nichols who played Uhura on Star Trek. As many know, the interactions between Martin Luther King Jr. and Nichelle Nichols really gave huge inspiration to many people. Meeting MLK Jr. at the time she did and everything that happened after, all happened for a reason, and because of who she was and her amazing talent. I take those principles and try and stay in my lane.

I mean, I’m going to make mistakes; everyone does. I’m not perfect at this by any means, and I’m absolutely dead certain I made errors in this book with representation. But I feel that writing characters is just writing people first and their gender, or sexuality, or whatever else is involved is just part of them. We are all a combination of many things. So, I wanted to prove you can write a great story about really interesting people who just so happen to come from diverse backgrounds and not have it look like a checklist. That was my challenge. I heard those people say, “Why does everything have to be a checklist?” And I wanted to prove them wrong.

I want people to come away from this feeling represented. Like they can have adventures too, not just cishet white men, and that it can also be interesting and fun. As a writer, I’ve had to battle this whole idea that I had internalized that stories about women and other genders are just not important you know? I want to give others a story and they come away from it feeling inspiration at a time when they need it because when I was younger I feel I could have used it myself.

When speaking with Leicht, it’s clear that she is a feminist icon. She is a person who is constantly reaching out and using the privilege that she has to lift up the people around her, and it runs deeper than women’s rights. She sees beauty in many communities, and writing Persephone Station was a way to have representation reach people who deserve it and unfortunately don’t commonly see it.

Growing up and not seeing characters that represented her lit a fire inside her. If she didn’t see it, she would create it. After a bleak 2020, speaking with Leicht, and reading the amazing story Persephone Station has to offer, was a breath of fresh air. Hopefully, the interview above is an inspiration for many to press forward confidently into the new year.

Persephone Station is a must-read to get 2021 started off right.  Its release day is January 5, and it can be picked up at many different retailers or be ordered online. This is a release that nobody will want to miss. This author is certainly one to watch for! Be sure to follow Stina Leicht on socials to stay involved in the release and all her future projects.

Have you ordered your copy of Persephone Station? Are you a fan of Stina Leicht? Tweet me your thoughts @Mamadeadhead on Twitter!