Antisocial on Ice
Today is the release day of my twenty-fifth novel, a hallmark of a day if ever there was one. It’s taken me eight years to achieve this milestone, and a number of people have helped me get to this moment. This novel, however, is especially precious to me for more than its number in my lineup. This novel is one for many reasons I wasn’t sure I would be able to write. The past ten months of my life have, in many ways, been extraordinarily trying in both the personal and professional arenas. Despite the love of my family and friends, there were times I couldn’t write at all, one time last fall in particular.
There was something that got me through, however, and if you’ve followed me on social media you already know how this story is going to go. It’s important to me to tell it again on this day, however, for this book. Because what got me through all that sludge was a beautiful anime called Yuri on Ice, and because I could not have written Antisocial without it, I dedicated the novel to the creators of the anime, Sayo Yamamoto and Mitsurō Kubo. And now in this post, I’d like to tell you a little more about why I did that.
I can still remember the first moment I encountered Yuri on Ice—it was on Facebook, and someone had posted stills from episode six. I’ve been watching anime with my daughter for years, but something about these images grabbed me in a way nothing else had—and of course the fact that the images conveyed to me that I was looking at a gay romance hurt nothing. Little did I know what I was about to get into—at that moment, all I thought was, I want to watch this show with Anna and escape the things that were making me feel so heavy.
We swept through the episodes already aired, and so when episode seven and The Kiss aired, we saw it in real time. I think it was shortly after that when we roped in her friend and she began watching too, coming over on Wednesdays after school so we could all watch together. Over Thanksgiving I began blogging obsessively about every episode, having almost no idea of what I was talking about, making some new online friends in the process as they educated and gently corrected me when I stepped in things. I joined Tumblr too—I’d been there, badly, but now I was in the thick of it with a new handle and mission: I just wanted to see and share everything Yuri on Ice.
I made one particularly dear friend in particular, one who would end up being a cornerstone of Antisocial—you have no idea how much of Sara’s blood is in this book, but it is, like a stream flowing through it. I feel like I gave more than I ever have to this novel beyond blood and bone marrow to straight up DNA, but Sara gave plenty to this as well. This hefty beast was combed over by her hand at least three times, maybe more, I lost count—I kept telling her she could stop, but she kept going. I cannot tell you what that meant to me, that she would do that for my novel. The help she gave me on so many levels, and the emotional support she gave me—priceless. And this is a friend I could never have made without Yuri on Ice.
Watching the show broadcast was a milestone in my life I will never forget: my life was crumbling around me, but this show remained a beautiful, shining light, reminding me not to give up. I ordered the BluRays and had them shipped from Japan—I ordered posters and magazines I couldn’t read, so many Yuri on Ice things, anything I could touch and see and plaster in front of me, and above all I kept rewatching, listening to the soundtrack, blasting “History Maker” as I drove around town.
I knew some people thought I was nuts, but I didn’t care. It was keeping me sane and keeping me from descending into a terrible pit. Things kept getting worse in my life as spring wore on, but Yuri on Ice endured. They kept putting out merchandise and posters and by the gods I kept buying it, and I kept watching. I’d been learning Japanese, not enough to understand my Japanese-only BluRays, but I knew the shows enough that I could watch and know what part was what. I watched with readers online, hosting parties where we met on Discord and chatted as we synchronized our viewing parties. I cosplayed Victor at a convention with another author who played Yuri.
And so this spring as I began writing this novel, knowing I had to write it in a hurry, knowing all the milestones it represented, knowing how much Yuri on Ice informed it, there was no choice but to begin knowing it was for Sayo Yamamoto-sensei and Mitsurō Kubo-sensei. I’d been working on this story for two years, but it didn’t take off until this spring when I sat down with all this insanity churning, with my sense of hope so fragile, with so many things stacked against it.
It was always going to be the story of a grouchy artist who didn’t want to come out of his shell and a charmer who didn’t want the world to know he was hiding too. I thought I would add a little touch of Japan as a nod to those I was dedicating the story to and it went wild as kudzu in the American South, adding layers and elements I never dreamed of, taking me down unexpected and wonderful paths I cannot regret. I thought, in honor of Xander being a manga artist and because of the Yuri on Ice connection, I would hire an artist to do a manga cover for the novel, and so I commissioned one of my favorite Yuri on Ice fan artists, Natsuko. I never dreamed in a million years to not only get such a beautiful cover but to see my favorite scene from the novel rendered so perfectly.
But Yuri on Ice affected Antisocial on deeper levels as well. One of the reasons I struggled to finish this story, that I say I’ve been writing it for two years, is that I knew what I needed to do to write it, could understand the type of story it needed to be, but for whatever reason I felt like I couldn’t do it. I don’t know why, but I kept reaching for that pure, unbounded romance I knew this story needed, that intense and powerful sweetness that still had heat and flame but without the usual trappings, and I would panic, feeling like I didn’t have the skills do go there. Watching Yuri on Ice, experiencing the subtlety and power they used, the way they packed sensuality and love and meaning into glances, into each scene and moment—something about this made things click for me, and I finally saw the way into Antisocial in a way I couldn’t before. It also helped me, I feel, treat the asexual aspect of this story with more dignity and care than I would have otherwise.
And so here we are: I was able to access those spaces in Antisocial. I did finish the novel, and here it is. Thank you so much, Yuri on Ice, for helping me get here today.
I have a blog tour going for Antisocial with lots of guest posts and behind the scenes information, including a Rafflecopter ongoing with each post, each stop with a chance for entry. As a thanks to Yuri on Ice, I’m starting a second Rafflecopter today, however, one which will only run here on this blog, on my Patreon, and on Tumblr.
This Rafflecopter includes the following:
- a signed paperback of Antisocial
- an 11 x 17 poster of Antisocial’s cover art
- Natsuko’s Yuri!!! fanbook (it’s gorgeous–I have a copy for myself)
- An Eros Yuri Katsuki Nendoroid
I feel like you need to understand how hard the last giveaway element is for me because my Yuri nendoroid hasn’t arrived yet and won’t before this giveaway is over because of where I preordered it from, so I’m going to sit with the winner’s Yuri on my desk, taunting me, for the whole giveaway. But I’m going to do it. From now until Labor Day, I’m going to do a post a day, either reviewing an episode or an element of Yuri on Ice or another anime or manga I’ve been enjoying lately, and at the end I’ll include the Rafflecopter link, which you can use to enter in several different ways. The contest is open worldwide, and remember, you can enter as many times as you want. The first entry is here: click this link to enter. Come back every day for another blog post entry. I’ll be cross-posting these on my WordPress blog, Patreon, and Tumblr.
On August 17, my daughter, her friend, and I will travel to Dallas to Animefest, where we will (hopefully) meet Sayo Yamamoto-sensei and Mitsurō Kubo-sensei and I will give them copies of Antisocial in person. If I can’t meet them because there’s a lottery for signings, I’ll give someone the gifts to present to them. Either way, though, I’ll get to see them speak, and that will be enough for me, to close the circle and be in the same space as the people who helped me get to this moment, to sharing this novel with you.
I hope you enjoy it.
A single stroke can change your world.
Xander Fairchild can’t stand people in general and frat boys in particular, so when he’s forced to spend his summer working on his senior project with Skylar Stone, a silver-tongued Delta Sig with a trust fund who wants to make Xander over into a shiny new image, Xander is determined to resist. He came to idyllic, Japanese culture-soaked Benten College to hide and make manga, not to be transformed into a corporate clone in the eleventh hour.
Skylar’s life has been laid out for him since before he was born, but all it takes is one look at Xander’s artwork, and the veneer around him begins to crack. Xander himself does plenty of damage too. There’s something about the antisocial artist’s refusal to yield that forces Skylar to acknowledge how much his own orchestrated future is killing him slowly…as is the truth about his gray-spectrum sexuality, which he hasn’t dared to speak aloud, even to himself.
Through a summer of art and friendship, Xander and Skylar learn more about each other, themselves, and their feelings for one another. But as their senior year begins, they must decide if they will part ways and return to the dull futures they had planned, or if they will take a risk and leap into a brightly colored future—together.
Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys playing with new recipes, reading romance and manga, playing with her cats, and watching too much anime. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.