By Connie Ward
What made you decide to become a fiction writer?
I’ve kept a journal since I was fourteen years old and have always enjoyed writing in it. A couple years ago, I had the idea to write a story loosely based on of my senior year of high school. The first chapter that I wrote came surprisingly easily, and then it took off from there. As the story unfolded, it became much more fictional, yet the way in which I’ve written is reminiscent of my journaling. Fiction is especially exciting because it allows me to have a creative outlet, which is a welcomed break from my corporate job!
What type of stories do you write? And why?
I feel very connected to my teenage years, and many of my favorite memories reside during that time of my life. It’s so important for teenagers to have visual representations of LGBT individuals who are out and comfortable with who they are. I write Young Adult novels so I can not only reflect back on a wonderful time of my life, but so I can show readers the journeys that LGBT individuals take on their way to self-discovery and how rewarding it is when they come out on the other side. For those readers struggling with self-acceptance, I hope my book will help them live an authentic, out life.
What do your family/friends think about your writing?
My friends and most of my family are very excited for me, especially because it’s my debut novel. They remind me how proud I should be of my accomplishment. Up until now, I have not shared much of my writing with them, as it has mostly been very personal journaling. I’m eager to have my friends and family read Bottled Up Secret, as they will finally be able to see a cohesive, full-length story that I have written. Some of my family members don’t even know about my novel, but someday maybe they will read it and find that its themes of love and friendship are the same as the ones they experience in their own lives.
Where do you get your ideas?
I use events from my life as inspiration but then let them play out in a somewhat alternate world where I can inject fiction. I didn’t want to write a memoir, so as I write, I frequently ask myself, “What if?” This then leads me down a fictional path. The Young Adult genre lends itself to so many great situations as characters transition from adolescence to adulthood. I use these to show how the characters are growing and learning about themselves and about life.
How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?
I plan out a high-level storyline with major events and character arcs, but the most exciting thing about writing for me is discovering how the story unfolds as I write. In some instances, I expected the plot of Bottled Up Secret to go one way, but as I was writing, it became clear to me that a character would choose a different path instead. Because the characters in my novel are clearly defined in my head, they become independent entities, somewhat out of my control. Instead of asking myself, “What do I want this character to do?” I ask, “What would this character do? How would he or she react to this situation?”
What makes Bottled Up Secret special to you?
My high-school years were an amazing time for me, so as I was writing this novel, which is about a group of high-school seniors, I was able to reflect on my own experiences during that time. It also became therapeutic as I wrote about the characters’ struggles, which were similar to some of mine. It’s special to me because I think it’s a great story that combines humor, sadness, excitement, and confusion, just like real life does.
How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?
Based on my bio, readers will quickly realize that the main character of Brendan is very much like me. He is the narrator of the book, so it was fun to snap back into my mindset as a seventeen-year-old as I was writing. I had a very close, diverse group of friends in high school, and they were perfect inspirations to use for the other characters in this novel. As for the main love interest in the book, my high-school crush was a big inspiration for him, but after a few chapters, the character quickly took on a life of his own.
Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most? Do you have a favorite
of this author(s)?
As a gay man, I often think about my community in the context of our larger society. Alan Downs’s The Velvet Rage is a novel that I found fascinating. It offers good commentary on what it’s like to grow up as gay, especially when a society deems you unequal. Fortunately, I can read that book and be hopeful for the future, as the tide of acceptance is moving very quickly.
Do you have any suggestions for new writers?
Write about something in which you have a strong interest. That way, the writing process will be fun and exciting. It won’t feel like work. Also, don’t get discouraged if you have a not-so-productive day of writing. There are days when I sit at my computer, waiting for inspiration to come, but end up throwing in the towel after an hour. Then a few days later, I have a flood of ideas and immediately dash for the nearest pen. That’s what makes the writing process challenging but also incredibly rewarding.
When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?
I’m very much into low-key nights with my friends. We go out to dinner, play board games, and go see movies and Broadway shows. As long as there is good conversation and laughter, I don’t care what we’re doing. I grew up doing performing arts, so I also love singing and acting, and have been able to have some experiences with these while living in New York. I also spend a good amount of time at the gym to keep up an active lifestyle, although I wouldn’t call it fun!