Interview — Gabe Cole Novoa Discusses Trans Joy in ‘The Diablo’s Curse’

Gabe Cole Novoa author of Most Ardently

For the last few years, Gabe Cole Novoa has been known within queer circles for writing eloquent trans and queer narratives set in decades past. He has a way of integrating both his Latinx heritage and his experiences as a trans person into each novel.

In February 2023, his novel The Wicked Bargain was released, opening the door for more stories about queer, Latinx characters that take place within the universe of magic and demonic bargains. Making his latest release, The Diablo’s Curse, that much more exciting for those readers familiar with his work.

I recently spoke with Gabe Cole Novoa to discuss the release of The Diablo’s Curse and how his desire to represent trans joy and Latinx heritage is a throughline in all of his novels.

Trans and Queer People Have Always Existed
Cover of The Diablo's Curse by Gabe Cole Novoa. On the cover is the image of a young man, a gender fluid demon, and a transwoman.
The Diablo’s Curse Book Cover

One of the most exciting things about each of Novoa’s novels is that none of them take place during the current time period. And while having modern representation has its merits, showing that queer voices have always been around, just a bit more hidden, is much more captivating.

It shows that these identities have always existed and that love and joy are timeless aspirations.

“I really love writing queer historicals, specifically because it gives a sense of legacy. I think oftentimes it’s easy to forget that queer and trans people have always been here.”

“And so being able to write these stories and put these characters in, you know, a hundred, 200 years ago helps to add to that narrative to say that even though traditionally, in media, we haven’t seen queer characters in historicals as often. They were there. They existed, and we have always been here,” Novoa explained.

Novoa wants people to know that they matter, regardless of who they are.

“You can exist in a world where, you know, magic exists. You can exist in a world where I haven’t done this yet, but dragons exist. You can be there too. It doesn’t have to be just white characters all the time. It doesn’t have to be straight characters all the time.”

Reflecting Personal Experiences Through Fiction
Most Ardently book cover
Most Ardently Book Cover

As a queer, trans person, Novoa knows that he holds a unique perspective on the world, which he tries to convey through the stories he tells. He put quite a bit of his trans experiences into writing all his books but specifically called out two moments of note from both The Wicked Bargain and Most Ardently, respectively.

“[Mar’s] experience of getting a flat chest reflected my experience getting top surgery. So one thing that was kind of cool about [The Wicked Bargain] is when I first started writing it, I hadn’t gotten top surgery yet. So, a lot of that dysphoria that they’re experiencing, I was experiencing it as I was writing. And then, by the time the book was in revisions, I had gotten top surgery.”

For Most Ardently, instead of solely focusing on the euphoria they experienced, Novoa detailed what gender dysphoria can be like for trans individuals.

“A lot of the experiences that Oliver has, whether it’s comments people make to him or even conversations he has with his mother, were pulled pretty closely from my own life.”

“My experience with my own dysphoria and gender euphoria has kind of gone into all of my books that have trans characters,” Novoa concluded.

Why Heritage is Vital in The Stories Being Told
Cover of The Wicked Bargain by Gabe Cole Novoa square version
The Wicked Bargain Book Cover

Ultimately, one of the biggest takeaways from my conversation with Gabe Cole Novoa is his passion for putting Latinx characters front and center in the narrative. It’s a big part of why The Wicked Bargain and The Diablo’s Curse center on characters who are either in the Caribbean or are from there.

“When I was thinking about what I wanted to write, I was like, queer pirates. Yes. But the thing about so many pirate stories is that they center white people,” Novoa explained how he started writing his heritage into his novels.

He added, “And I always thought this was odd, especially for pirate stories that take place in the Caribbean, because I think you can’t tell me that Latine people weren’t involved. It’s the Caribbean.”

When it came to these two novels in particular, Novoa allows these characters to speak in their native tongues with only context clues to guide the reader along. It is a way for that Latinx heritage to come through without othering itself.

He told me that, ultimately, “if you’re going to not look it up, you’re not gonna miss anything earth-shattering.”

“The reason that I don’t include an English translation as well is, to me, it just feels unnecessary. I don’t need to be pandering necessarily to English, especially when this is a book that [features] Latine characters. [The Spanish] is not there to other the language. It’s there to celebrate it,” Novoa added.

To round out our discussion of heritage, Novoa added that he wanted to write characters that “looked like me” or “shared the same cultural heritage.”

Centering Dami in Their Own Book
The author Gabe Cole Novoa sits in front of a book shelf.
Gabe Cole Novoa (Image from his Website)

In Novoa’s first novel, there is a character introduced by the name of Dami. They are a gender-fluid demonio who is trying their best to survive under El Diablo.

Now, in The Diablo’s Curse, Dami is on the adventure of a lifetime, and they need Silas’ help to break free of their demonio life. Having the story center on Dami this time, instead of them being secondary to Mar, gave Novoa the opportunity to really dive into who this character is.

“[Dami] start[s] off as someone who believes that they’re completely unlovable, that they’re monstrous, that the things that they’ve done make them undeserving of good things, essentially. And that was something that can be incredibly painful. It’s something that some queer people struggle with, given the narratives that surround us and narratives that have become louder more of late. So I did pull a little bit of my own struggles with those kinds of societal messaging when I was writing Dami,” Novoa explained.

“Being able to have them start as this character who’s struggling with that, but then come to realize that they are a lovable person. They deserve love. They deserve to be seen for who they are. The things that they had to do to survive don’t discount them from having happiness and being able to be loved.”

“That entire development was just really meaningful for me, and it really made it all the more special when we do get to the end and get to see them happy and surrounded by people who love them,” Novoa concluded.

Final Thoughts on The Diablo’s Curse
Book Cover of The Diablo's Curse in square format.
The Diablo’s Curse Book Cover

If there is one thing readers have to look forward to with The Diablo’s Curse, it is the introduction of new characters to Dami’s world. Of course, there is Silas, the queer young man who holds Dami’s future in his hands.

But, most importantly, there is Marisol, who is a Latina transwoman who’s out there just fighting to survive. In fact, Novoa greatly enjoyed writing Marisol specifically.

“In the earlier draft, she had a smaller role, but she just really grew on me. And I [realized] they need this third character for certain aspects of the book and to kind of fill in certain gaps in their skill sets. Being able to dig in with Marisol and get to know her more and have her really be a problem solver for them was really fun.”

When asked what Novoa hopes the readers learn from this new novel, his answer was simple.

“We can be heroes regardless of our heritage or how much we’ve been either included in stories or not.”

The Diablo’s Curse is available wherever books are sold on February 20th, 2024.

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Mads is a part-time entertainment journalist and full-time marketing content creator. They love reading the latest in Queer novels -- especially romance ones and watching the latest dramas, sci-fi/fantasy, Star Wars, and romcom films/TV shows. You can join the conversation by following them on Twitter: @dorothynyc89.

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