Rising Wattpad author Madeleine Wrangell tells Chloe Ranford about the importance of LGBT books and her drive to empower the LGBT reading communities.
At 15, Madeleine Wrangell started to read LGBT books in secret.
Books about two girls falling in love or about a guy moving in with his boyfriend.
Not the usual boy meets girl stuff.
She has always been an avid reader, she tells me during a Skype call. “Looking back, I think I spent my entire childhood with a book in hand,” she says.
Even with her laptop’s low-resolution face camera, I can make out the black shelving behind her that’s lined with books.
She pulls her black rescue cat, Kayne, off the book shelf (where she also hides his treats) and onto her lap.
He paws at her green, buttoned nurse’s shirt and she laughs.
Her uniform is the only indicator that she has just arrived home from another 10-hour shift at The Prince Charles Hospital.
There, she works to further her nursing and paramedic studies, having long since discovered her drive to help others.
It’s that same drive that now motivates her to empower LGBT youths through her own novels.
Her motivation came after being introduced to the e-community writing and reading website Wattpad through a school friend when she was 15-years-old.
Two years after discovering the site, she began publishing her works on Wattpad.
“I got to a stage where I had read hundreds of LGBT novels and I found that I was creating my own storylines in my head that I just had to write down and share,” she says.
She decided to write under the pseudonym “beautiful_and_damned”.
It was a nod to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book of the same name which the 20-year-old still adores.
“I decided to post some chapters of the story I had been working on and it took about a month to get twenty reads. I was amazed that I achieved that,” she laughs.
“The story was about twins with supernatural powers. It was riddled with spelling errors and the plot was full of holes, but then people started commenting and I realised that people were connecting, emotionally, with my work.
“At that point it was hardly any people at all, but their comments and kind words were what pushed me to keep posting and sharing my stories.”
Three years and seven books later, her online e-novels have garnered her over 3.2 thousand followers and 1.6 million reads.
“I never thought my words would reach that many people; it was more about my passion for writing and bringing awareness to the LGBT community through writing,” she says.
Each of the novels explores teenage societal issues, including homosexual relationships, feminism and relationship abuse.
In Hollywood Politics, A-listers Max Stark, an actor, and Ryan Connors, a singer, have been dating in secret for year, when their cover stories start to unravel.
Camp Alpha, in contrast, follows the unexpected romance between werewolves Nate King and Brody Lewis.
“I love LGBT books because they explore things that can often be forgotten about in mainstream media,” she says.
“Like, the feelings associated with realizing your sexuality, and falling in love for the first time with someone of the same gender, and the troubles that come with that in some families and societal groups.
“The genre as a whole empowers the LGBT community – especially the youth. There’s so much hate in the world, and this genre contains stories of hope for young people.”
Though Wrangell doesn’t aim her stories at a specific audience, online feedback suggests her novels are most popular among teenage girls.
“I think that people can feel left out and invisible when all the media around them are so focused on straight relationships,” she says.
“I love that young people can now look in the media, especially online, and see these types of books. These teenagers can relate to the characters who might be struggling with the same things they are.
“It’s so important for LGBT people to be represented… to be able to know that there’s a place for them in this world and there’s more people out there struggling with the same things, and even thriving after those situations.”
Outside of fanfictions, where celebrity male-on-male romances are a teenager’s guilty pleasure, books featuring homosexual relationships are often neglected.
“There’s no LGBT genre on Wattpad at the moment, which makes it harder for works like mine to be found by readers,” she says.
But despite the current lack of a LGBT genre, Wattpad has an official LGBTQ+ profile, which promotes LGBT stories.
Wrangell believes the Wattpad community is “very welcoming of LGBT novels” and she has “received great feedback”.
Each week she receives hundreds of comments and messages from readers who declare their love for her stories and characters.
“I think the most memorable ones were from the people who said that my books have made them happy when they were in a dark time or that my books gave them an escape when they were upset. Those ones, they touch my heart even more than I can say.”
Inspired by her readers, she decided to self-publish her first novel, He’s A Jealous Wolf, in 2014.
She self-published the book after an opportunity to publish it for free presented itself. “I decided that I was going to take a risk and see how it went,” she says.
Next year, she aims to get a fifth book published.
“Self-publishing does not allow for much exposure and so I haven’t gotten many sales, but money isn’t a driving factor for me,” she says.
“It’s all about working together to create a society where the LGBT community knows that they can assess books that they can relate to and that aspiring LBGT authors out there know that there’s a future in the writing world for them.”