When the Magic Happens

By Amy Dunne


With my upcoming September release, The Renegade, soon due for release I was privileged to be invited to write this blog. For weeks I pondered what topic I should write about. Last year, I wrote about a huge personal revelation that I discovered on reflection of my two previous novels, Secret Lies and Season’s Meetings. Both dealt subconsciously with the passing of my incredible grandmother, Mama Bridie. Both stories voiced my grief and helped me come to terms with losing her. Still at a loss as to what topic I should broach, my wonderful wife suggested I should write about my writing process, as I’ve been asked a lot of questions recently about how I go about writing by readers. Knowing that my wife is almost always right, I’ve decided to stick with that topic.The Renegade Cover

What is the first thing that happens? There’s a spark. And this spark can happen at anytime and in any place. It’s happened on a bus journey, in the shower, when I’m on the verge of falling to sleep, and when I’m in the middle of a conversation. I have a thought, perhaps ask myself a question, or see a mental image of a setting or scene, or sometimes even think from a brand new character’s point of view. From that inital spark comes a snowball affect. The story, characters, and settings quickly all fall into place. It becomes a new obsession. My head is filled with the story and characters and they are all I think about. Sometimes I even dream about them. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing in body, because my mind is constantly working out any plot holes and how to fix them. I live, eat, sleep, and breathe the story, setting, and characters. And I think this is why all three of my books are different genres; Young Adult, Traditional Contemporary Romance, and Speculative Fiction. I don’t choose one specific story or genre to write. I have to go with whatever characters or story is making the most noise at that time.

seasons-meetingsMost writers tend to fit into one of two categories of writer: the plotter or the pantser. The plotter likes to plot everything out and know exactly how each chapter and character is going to develop. The panster just goes with the flow and flies by the seat of their pants. Both types have positives and negatives. I consider myself to be somewhere in the middle, perhaps I’m a planster. I plot the general outline and story arc by initially writing a proposal and in-depth character and story arc outlines before I even start writing the manuscript. There are always parts that I don’t know and they tend to be the parts that occur between the main plot points.

Scenes play in my head like a movie clip. While I’m typing away on the keyboard and words appear on the screen, I’m actually writing what I’m seeing in my mind’s eye. Almost like I’m experiencing everything with the characters. I’ve always had an overactive imagination and I enjoy daydreaming these scenes. I can vividly imagine seeing, smelling, hearing, and touching things in each scene. The smell of rain or smoke from a camp fire. The sound of paws and boots on cold marble floor. The sound of crickets and birds and the eerie silence of a deserted street or block. The cold numbness that accompanies snow, the irritation of damp socks, the aggravation of a trickle of sweat on a blisteringly hot day. Taste is probably the only thing I can’t do accurately, but in all three book there are plenty of descriptions of various food / meals. The inspiration usually comes from something I’ve eaten recently or something that I’m really craving at the time.

It’s during the writing process when the characters take on a life of their own. This is for me, where the magic happens. The character’s ambitions, likes, dislikes, history, psychology, physiology, and dreams all contribute to a feeling of authenticity. The characters become real in their own right. It’s during these unknown parts of the story that little quirky gems occur and everything seems to fall into place. Humour is something that happens naturally during these stages and can come from out of nowhere. For me, this is the exciting and most enjoyable part of the process. Like the reader, I get to know the characters as they want to be known. I appreciate that this probably sounds a little absurd, but this is how my writing process works. It’s almost like the characters are in charge and call most of the shots. For instance, in Season’s Meetings I’d planned on only one intimate romantic scene, however Catherine and Holly both had other ideas. Begrudgingly, I ended up having to write the scene because they wouldn’t let the Book coversubject drop. With Nicola and Jenny in Secret Lies, I felt incredibly maternal towards them. When it came to poor decisions and big mistakes I wanted to protect them and intervene, but they wouldn’t let me. It’s their story and I have to go along with it. I become as emotionally invested as the readers do if not more. I feel frustrated, upset, and happy as I embark on their journey with them. The characters also insist on changing things such as a certain phrase or an item of clothing. If something I write doesn’t ring true, they don’t hesitate in hounding me until I fix it.

I read somewhere that writing a story and publishing it, is like putting a little bit of your soul out into the world. BiRpwXpIYAAzuv1It can make you feel vulnerable. For me, it’s not just the time, effort, and sacrifices that went into the book, that make me nervous and perhaps sometimes overly-sensitive about the release. I truly do appreciate constructive criticism as it helps me develop my writing skills. It comes down to the fact I don’t want to let the characters down. They feel like family and friends. I’ve spent months, sometimes even years getting to know them and I feel protective of them. I want to do their stories justice. I want readers to like them and enjoy reading the books, as much as I enjoyed writing them.

“Home in the Clouds”

By Tina Michele


Oh, North Carolina, how I love thee.
I can still remember the sights and sounds of the first time I visited this beautiful and magical place. I was eight years old and my big sister had moved away to go to college in Asheville. I had no idea how far away it was from the warm beaches of Florida, but I just knew it she was too far away.
The distance confirmed by the memory of the long, hot, family roadtrip to bring her a compact washing machine for her dorm room. It was the strangest little thing that connected to the tap on the sink, or maybe it was the tub. Like I said, I was eight. I just knew it was me-sized, and I wanted one.  I also recall my incessant begging to stay with her at least one night like a cool grown-up college kid.
T_J_NC_CabinsAshevilleIt’s all a little fuzzy now except for the few vivid memories I have of the rustic cabins at the Log Cabin Motor Court. I had the pleasure of recollecting and describing this wonderful place in my novel, In Every Cloud. There was the rickety swingset under the crabapple tree where I learned not to eat fruit from random bushes unless your parents tell you it’s okay. Gah! To this day apples and I have a very apprehensive relationship. I love them, but I don’t trust them. :-) Oh, and of course the visit to the Cherokee Reserve where I picked up a beaded tie, bought a mini-loom, and got my first pair of leather moccasin loafers (in an eye-complementing shade of gray-blue might I add). They looked GREAT with socks… right? I mean come on now, what else could possibly complete such a fashion forward ensemble?
I’ll never forget my first experience with the crisp cool air, enormous trees like I had never seen, and mountains! Not Florida mountains- which to us is anything higher than 10 feet above sea level, and includes landfills. It burned a love for North Carolina deep inside me, fueled my wanderlust, and filled my dreams. I knew I’d be back one day even if it would be seventeen years later. NC2_CopyrightCPEInc.
My in-laws had sold their dairy in Florida and decided to relocate to North Carolina to raise llamas.  The farm, the family, and the surrounding beauty quickly became my refuge. For many years, it’s where I ran for both solace and adventure more times than I can count. The eight hour drive was easy because I knew the joy of what awaited me when I would arrive. To this day I could do it with my eyes closed.
Waterfalls and mountains, hidden ruins and history, and the pure pleasure of being there with the one I loved and her family. So many of the experiences I write about in In Every Cloud are not simply moments for my characters but actual memories from my own life. They are based on real personal events that I had the fortunate opportunity to live. This book is not only a fictional story but a glimpse into some of my most precious days. NC1_CopyrightCPEInc.
One of the many moments that rings with truth and humor is the one which leads to Bree Whitely’s first unfortunate encounter with Carson Harper. It’s a slightly exaggerated, but mostly true, tale of my sister’s experience at the Biltmore Estate. It’s a story I’ve heard a hundred times and it never gets old in real life or in fiction.  I knew if I ever wrote a book about Biltmore and North Carolina this would have to play a part.
I have so many wonderful memories of this place that it was difficult to decide which to include or exclude from In Every Cloud. It’s always a question of how much to give and what to hold back when you write from the heart. How much do I share with you, my beloved readers, and how much do I keep for myself? In the end I decided that these things were worth sharing.
Many things have changed since these happy and carefree days of horseback riding, hiking, and standing in the clouds. In Every Cloud is my way of remembering parts of my life that I hold dear, but it’s also a way to let them go. To offer myself and my memories up to the clouds and release them, but not without the reverence they deserve.
In Every Cloud is a story of starting over and letting go of everything you once held on to. It’s about realizing that there is something better ahead of you than where you’ve been if you can only take that one scary step forward. Hearts get broken, but we can’t allow the memories of what was good, or even bad, keep us from healing. As Joseph Campbell says, “We must be willing to let go of the life we had planned to live the life that is waiting for us.”
Change is downright terrifying, but at some point we have to decide what is best for us and how much the struggles are worth in order to get what we deserve. Take a chance, it may be the best thing you ever do.
NC3_CopyrightCPEInc.I love Asheville. It will always be that place where I want to run away to. It’s been too long since I’ve been back, but I don’t plan on letting another seventeen years pass before I return. There are too many things I love there, and this book is dedicated to them.

Much love XOXO,
Tina Michele

The Amazon Trail

Teased To Death

By Lee Lynch




I never put this in words until recently: I’m afraid of children. Crazy, right? Unnatural. Just plain dumb.

About a month ago, while still digesting that news flash from my brain, I had a related revelation which was brought on by all the recent talk about bullying. Here goes: I’m afraid of children because of the incessant bullying I got as a kid. So obvious. I kinda understood it, but kinda didn’t want to look at it.

Growing up in my neighborhood, kids got teased, not bullied. Bullying happened, it was just called teasing. Often, it was called harmless teasing. I don’t know if the adults were being polite or they believed themselves and thought I was over sensitive. They sure didn’t stop it. My mother basically told me to stand up for myself, something I never figured out how to do. Instead, I cried.

I cried in classrooms, I cried in the backyard of my apartment building, I cried on the street. Children, from toddlers to teens, mocked me for looking like a boy, for being smart, for building roads in the mud, for wanting to be the father when we played house, for wearing hand-me-down boys’ clothes and homemade girls’ clothes, for my name, for not having a religion, for my skinny body. For being different.

Walking with my mother, well into adulthood, I cringed when children came toward us, terrified they’d call me names or ask if I was a boy or a girl. I even feared my niece and nephew, especially during their teen years when I knew I’d be the weird aunt. They weren’t mean kids, though, and now that they’re grown, I couldn’t ask for stronger supporters.

But kids are unpredictable and bullying takes its toll. Especially when it’s not called by its right name. That’s a negation of a child’s experience: “Oh, they’re just teasing you.” I don’t know what the right way would be for a parent to help a child who is bullied. I do know that ignoring the issue isn’t. My sweetheart tells me she stood up for her little sister. I’m in awe of her for that. Protecting another child is a heroic act for any little peewee.

I’m not alone in this experience. A lot has been written about the cycle of bullying and how adults who have been bullied perpetuate the behavior. I haven’t read anything about adults who’ve learned compassion from the experience, or about adults who go into the helping professions or otherwise devote their lives to lessening the pain of others, human or four-legged. That’s what I took from my little ordeal.

I know I got off easy: no one disowned me, beat me up, or tried to kill me. I didn’t have to live on the streets, go hungry, or be violated. The damage was more subtle. Before age five or six I was an outgoing friendly kid, never a bit of trouble, according to my mother. She claimed that I would talk to every stranger on the street. Then I changed. I became shy, withdrawn, silent. I was reluctant to eat. The crying started. My affect​ ​became flat. Kids and adults and my mother teased me for never smiling. And that’s how I stayed most of the time for many years.

No therapist picked up on this. I would have been embarrassed to bring up teasing. After all, I was taught to ignore it, a mere childhood discomfort.  I never dealt with the bullying issue, never thought it was an issue, even as it went on right into college.

By high school, though, I’d come out. All of a sudden I knew who I was, understood my difference. Shaming me was not as effective as it had been, partly because I had a group identity. I didn’t know many gays, but those I knew accepted me as I was. Being bullied was an unspoken bond. We played at being tough dykes on the city streets and seldom were hassled.

Yet the damage had been done. ​I wasn’t going to let anyone see the little girl I’d been ever again.

I live in an adult community now. Little by little I’ve found myself relaxing, becoming more outgoing, talking to strangers in the ‘hood. It’s a small miracle for me, though I don’t know that I’ll ever trust the neighbors not to turn against me. Holidays, demon grandchildren visit, and I find myself getting all gimlet-eyed with suspicion, hyper-vigilant like in the old days.

I never learned how to protect myself from them. Now that I know the truth, that I was badly bullied, my fears don’t seem so crazy or unnatural and certainly not dumb. Raising awareness about bullying is a real smart move.

Somehow my natural resilience prevailed and formed who I am today.  Unlike others who were teased to death.

Copyright 2015 Lee Lynch

Gays in Science

By Joel Gomez-Dossi



When did math and science become cool? It certainly wasn’t when I was going to school. Back then the only role models for kids who enjoyed science were nerds like the two high school protagonists in the movie, “Weird Science”. They couldn’t get dates, so they conjured up the perfect woman to satisfy their perfectly straight libidos. At least they had a goal. Other movies portrayed scientists as half-crazed eccentrics, like the character of Doc Brown, played by Christopher Lloyd in “Back to the Future”.

The modern image of mathematicians and scientists has changed and it’s now cool to be a science geek. Last year’s Oscar race even included two nods to actors playing scientists. Eddie Redmayne, who portrayed physicist Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything” and Benedict Cumberbatch, who played the gay mathematician, Alan Turing, in “The Imitation Game”.

As a teenager, I was labeled a queer. And while I enjoyed the sciences, I wasn’t about to risk being labeled a nerd and un-cool, too. So I decided to be one of the artistic kids, someone who discovered the world through the arts.

I willingly stayed away from the sciences, playing into the prejudice that science and math was for the privileged, white, and straight male population.

Then, in the late eighties (seemingly by popular demand) it was decided that society’s prejudice was a problem. That it hurt society to deny some of the world’s brightest and most productive minds from doing what they did best, simply because they weren’t the right race, creed, or sex.

The National Science Foundation picked up this cause by funding children’s educational television shows that emphasized multiculturalism, and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights even produced a hundred-page study on how to encourage minorities to pursue scientific careers. Unfortunately, sexual orientation or gender expression didn’t enter into the progressive’s thinking back then.

But slowly science and math shows on television, particularly PBS, became multicultural and even included women and girls. Miraculously, the list of minority scientists started to grow.

Today, the person who is perhaps making science most accessible to minority Americans is a black man, Neil deGrasse Tyson. He’s the Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History. He’s quoted as saying, that as a child he’d never seen an interview with a black person whose expertise was anything other than being black. “And at that point,” he said, “I realized that one of the last stereotypes that prevailed among people who carry stereotypes is that…black people are somehow dumb.” In order to counter these stereotypes, he decided he had to be visible.

LEcoverIn “Lethal Elements”, I wanted to portray a strong, intelligent gay male who was also a scientist. The story centers on geologist Tom Burrell’s relationship with his husband, Roman. It’s on rocky ground, so when a mysterious company asks Tom to perform mineral studies in the Adirondack Mountains, he jumps at the chance. But before he can finish his tests, he finds himself lost in the wilderness and chased by a hired gun. Now it’s up to his husband, Roman, to rescue him.

But in order to succeed, Roman must first piece together the missing elements of Tom’s disappearance and discover the secret goals of the company that hired him. If Roman fails, Tom will die and one of the nation’s most unique ecosystems, the Adirondack Mountains, will be in danger.

I hope the characters of Tom and Roman defy stereotypes. Not because they’re gay and heroes, but because they both rely on their natural talents to make a difference in the world.

If you’re interested, you can peruse a growing list of real-life gay and lesbian scientists at http://www.noglstp.org/publications-documents/queer-scientists-of-historical-note/


Joel Gomez-Dossi started his career as a theatrical stage manager, but he spent most of his working on the Emmy-award winning PBS series, “Newton’s Apple”. In the late nineties, he turned to freelance writing, working for regional publications across the country. He is the author of three novels published by Bold Strokes Books, Pursued, Deadly Cult, and Lethal Elements. You can reach Joel on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/JoelGomezDossi or on the web at http://www.JoelGomez-Dossi.com.

The Parameters of Experience


Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment

-Rita Mae Brown


We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.

-Teilhard de Chardin


Warm November 300 DPIIn my latest novel, Warm November, “experience” is a central theme. The two protagonists, Hayley and Merle are ‘women of a certain age’, i.e. they’re both fifty somethings so each can lay claim to a having a learned a certain number of life lessons but that’s where their similarity ends.


As a newly out lesbian, Hayley finds her lack of experience with women problematical in several ways. She doesn’t think she knows how to be a lesbian. She thinks lesbians tend to shun her because she used to be heterosexual. Even her avowal of ‘been there, done that’ in regards to heterosexual marriage doesn’t help much.

Merle’s long-time partner has just left her and she’s predictably devastated and not eager to start up with someone new especially, someone like Hayley who was married to a man for over twenty years and just newly out, i.e. inexperienced. She is however drawn to helping Hayley because that’s her nature.


Like me, Merle’s been clean and sober and in AA for a long time. In fiction, AA usually takes the form of the protagonist’s journey from active alcoholism to becoming sober. I wanted to do something different and look at sobriety from the point of view of someone who’s been living the sober life for a relatively long time. As Merle discovers, she may think life has become stable and predictable but it hasn’t. No way.


In AA, the idea of experience plays a very large role.

Merle’s AA friend Clea says, “Everyone has opinions. Tell me your experience and I might listen.” This speaks to our all too human inclination to mouth off about our opinions instead of sticking to what we know, i.e., our experience. AAs share their ‘experience, strength, and hope’ with other alcoholics. The experience of AA members with longer sobriety is helpful for the nervous and newly sober. The accumulation of ‘sober’ experiences of life grounds and strengthens a person’s sobriety. The oft-related experience in AA meetings of the transition between alcoholic drinking to sobriety ,called sharing one’s story, serves to remind everyone of ‘what it was like’. Hearing it again and again reinforces our commitment to staying sober.


So experience in AA or in life is generally considered to be a good thing. The common wisdom has it that experience is the great teacher. It’s true that it’s enormously helpful   and tends to keeps us from repeating past mistakes. It can take the anxious edge off things like public speaking or flying where the more you do something, the less scary it seems.

But what’s the downside of experience if there is one?


How about the human tendency to assume all our all future experiences of a specific nature will be the same as a previous experience? One of the big examples of this is, of course, falling in love and being hurt and then being reluctant to fall in love again. This trope is the basis of much of romance fiction. Why are we convinced that falling in love with a new woman is going to end up the same way as falling in love with the previous ten or twenty or however many women there were? What do we learn from those experiences? Only that we’re the common denominator. Hello? What’s that tell us?


Then there’s the creeping know- it-all- ism that affects those who’ve been on the planet longer than others. I think another term for it is ‘jaded’. Or we become cynical and dismissive.

Approaching new things in life with a certain amount of caution is probably a good idea. Doing research is an excellent place to start before undertaking something new. Hayley’s good at this. She’s methodical about her search for love. Nothing is going to substitute for actual experience though, no matter how much you think you know. She still has to go through what she goes through. We all still have to do that.

I think it’s harder to be open minded as we get older.   You think you’ve seen it all, but likely you haven’t. You think you can predict with accuracy how you’re going to feel, how you’re going to think. I don’t want to be that way, I want to be surprised and I want to be teachable. Maybe I do know a little something about a lot of stuff. Maybe I’ve seen and done and thing or two. Good for me. But I think there’s a lot more out there waiting for me and a whole lot more to learn. That’s one of the big reason’s I’m a writer.Warm November 300 DPI
















What made you decide to be a fiction writer?

From about the age of eleven, I have always loved to be “safely scared.” I consider it to be “safe” because I can leave the scariness at any point I choose—close the book, turn off the screen, leave the movie theater. This option makes the fear palatable but also exhilarating, which is what keeps me coming back for more. One of my favorite memories of being “safely scared” was reading Stephen King’s It at the age of fourteen. I was completely engrossed in the characters and their plight to kill It in its natural form. I had never before connected so strongly with a character or book. It was also very significant for me because it was the first time I ever considered writing as a career option for me. The more I read about the character Bill Denbrough, the more I thought I might be able to do that job one day, too.

Since my teens, I have always written journals, poems, and short stories, but I didn’t decide to pursue writing seriously until I was in college. I took a number of creative-writing classes, and those only confirmed for me that I wanted to write. When I was a teenager, I used to call writing my hobby. I’ve found that as an adult I cannot live without the outlet of writing. It’s the constant in my life that keeps me balanced. I cannot imagine living a day without the promise of falling into that rabbit hole of a story, whether in my mind or on paper.

While fiction is my first love, I also write creative nonfiction and screenplays. It all depends on the story that comes to me and the medium that best fits it.


What types of stories do you write and why?

When I first began writing seriously in college, I wanted to be a horror writer. The longer I wrote, though, the more I began to see a shift in my fiction writing that was based more on justice, which led me to the thriller genre. Like many of my characters, I am concerned about the concept of justice: who receives it and why. I suppose this is why I write thrillers and spend so much time with characters who work in law enforcement. I love to read thrillers, mysteries, and horror books. When I choose a book to read, 90 percent of the time it will come from one of these genres. I write what I love to read.

Many of my longer works—novels and screenplays—are generally thrillers. I need the length of a novel to fully develop a thriller, and it doesn’t always work for me to write them in the short-story format. My short stories, however, tend to focus more on characters with an emphasis on gender and sexuality.


What do your family/friends think of your writing?

I’m speaking for my family here, so I hope I get it right! I don’t think many of my relatives are surprised that I write, and they all support me. My father’s family has quite a few members who are in the arts, and, in that regard, I have inherited that gene. My grandfather was a musician who traveled the country performing jazz concerts, and my great-grandmother painted everything she could. I was lucky to grow up in a family where the arts were revered. It only seemed natural for me to also follow as a writer. In terms of my friends, nearly all of them are artists in some way—many write or paint. We all support each other’s artistic endeavors.

Where do you get your ideas?

I have noticed a fascinating reaction from many people when I tell them I have an interest in crime and write thrillers; it has become one of my favorite parts of being a writer. Many people tell me about strange cases they have heard about, bizarre occurrences with crime in their family lineage and close encounters with criminals or strange situations that they or their friends have encountered. Not only are these stories really interesting to me, but sometimes parts of these conversations wind themselves into my writing as well.

I follow crime in the media, and I take some of my ideas from real cases. I have found that the old adage “truth is stranger than fiction” can be very true for someone who writes thrillers. Sometimes I mix elements from different cases to create crimes for my stories. I teach a course on prison literature and culture, and I love to read/hear the firsthand accounts from inmates about their crimes. This resource gives me many ideas as to how to develop strong and believable characters for my stories and novels.


How do you write? Do you plan everything out or just write?

This is an interesting question because it changes for me based on what I am writing. If I’m working on a short story or essay, I basically just write. I plan a very loose outline of what will happen in my mind, but I generally find that changes as I write. As for novels, I draft out the plot and keep it near me as I work. I might use five to eight plot markers (significant events and changes I want to occur in the work). Sometimes those plot markers change and I might write some segments about a character or a scene that isn’t outlined, but the basic storyline is. When I start a novel or a longer work, I know the beginning, the middle, and the end. What comes in between those plot markers is negotiable and given the space to grow and change.

I am also a writer who believes in the importance of drafting. It’s necessary for me to write at least two drafts—the first, in which I try to get all my ideas down on paper, and the second, which involves shaping the storyline and the characters.


What makes Crossed special to you?

CrossedBecause Crossed is my first published novel, it will always hold a significant place in my heart. Crossed is also very special to me because it was part of my graduate-degree program. A much earlier draft of Crossed was my dissertation.

One of my favorite parts of creative writing is the research I do for my work. I am a history buff of sorts. The research for this novel interested me because I learned so much about ex-gay ministries and conversion therapy. While these topics appalled me at times, reading about them really helped me understand the history of the LGBT community and its past relations to religion and psychology.

Writing Crossed also introduced me to Detective Luce Hansen, someone whose story needed to be told and a character I have spent a significant amount of time with in the last few years. I have learned so much about justice and the law from her. Most importantly, Luce has taught me a great deal about the power of hope and forgiveness.


How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?

I tend to write characters based on two things: what I know and what I am interested in. Many of my characters have some aspect of me in them, some more than others, but I see all of them as independent and separate from me, my family, and my friends. That’s not to say I won’t use a specific character trait from a friend for a character or an experience someone in my family may have had, but the character has not been created as a replica of me or someone I know.

I also develop characters who struggle with a problem or situation that I find interesting and want to know more about. It could be that I have never known a person who has struggled with a particular issue presented in a character, but my interest and research into that topic helps me to create her/him. For example, in my novel Crossed, the character Chaz Jameson has no connection to anyone I know. This particular character is the only child of a devout, self-proclaimed minister who leads the One True Path organization (an ex-gay ministry). Chaz has also been exposed to many sessions of conversion therapy. He is very important to the exploration of that topic in the story, and I relied on case studies of teenagers who faced conversion therapy as well as firsthand accounts of those experiences. All of that documentation helped, but I also had to spend a good deal of time imagining what it must be like to be Chaz and how it might have felt to go through conversion therapy under his father’s orders. In the end, Chaz is one of my favorite characters in the book.


Which gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender authors inspired you most? Do you have a favorite?

Many writers have inspired me, but I would have to say that Virginia Woolf, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Jeanette Winterson, Leslie Feinberg, and Lidia Yuknavitch have influenced me in different ways and at different points in my life. Woolf, Gilman, and Feinberg were earlier influences on my writing, and I first read them in college. I admire the way these works depict the lives and struggles of women as well as the relationships that develop between them. I particularly go back to my Winterson books to reread the way she develops the relationships between her characters. I’m also fascinated by the way Winterson depicts time in some of her writings. She does amazing work with stories that are not always linear. Written on the Body is my favorite Winterson book, and every time I read it, I get lost in its beauty. I have been reading A LOT of Yuknavitch in the last few months and am so inspired by her courage and honesty. She comes to the page like a warrior for women! I hope to someday show as much courage in my own writing.


Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

READ! Read everything you can get your hands on. Read books and stories from many different genres and ones that cover a variety of topics. I love what Stephen King has to say on this topic and remind myself of this advice frequently: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. It’s as simple as that.”

Writing also takes a tremendous amount of practice and a tremendous amount of drafting. You have to be willing to devote the hours to study the craft. I have found that at times writing can be very challenging. It takes a good deal of dedication and hard work. It can also be a lot of fun, and I have met so many terrific and creative people along the way. Neil Gaiman said it best in his description of what it takes to be a writer: “This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard.”


When you aren’t writing, what do you do for fun?

When I’m not writing, I spend a good deal of my time reading. I also watch a lot of movies and detective/mystery series—some of my favorites are The X-Files and The Fall. I enjoy painting and visiting art houses/museums. Most days after work I enjoy nothing more than taking my dog to the park for a good game of fetch. I have always been a fan of water sports, and when I was younger, I swam competitively. I still love to swim and be near the water—pool, lake, river, or ocean, I love them all.

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