by CONNIE WARD
What made you decide to become a fiction writer?
It’s what I’ve always wanted to be. Briefly, when I was seven, I thought I might want to be a vet, but then I realized I’d be fine just writing a character who was a vet.
When I was little, my mom bought me one of those kits where you write and illustrate a story, then send it away and someone binds it and sends it back to you and it looks like a published book. Yeah, I tasted blood and wanted more.
What type of stories do you write? And why?
I’m willing to try anything. I love writing YA. The Silvers was my first sci fi, but a lot of my stuff has sort of fantastical elements in it. I like throwing the odd ghost into an otherwise realistic story. I also write erotic romance under another name. It’s not a genre I would have anticipated getting into, since growing up no one could even get me to watch a romantic movie. But I love it! It’s a chance to tell LGBTQ love stories that don’t end in tragedy and despair.
What do your family/friends think about your writing?
My mom is one of my biggest supporters. She reads everything I write, from the smut to The Silvers to my blog posts. She’s very honest, which I appreciate. She was the first person to read The Silvers, and her insight helped a lot. Her opinions on the erotic books are often hilarious—and valuable! You haven’t lived until you’ve had to explain to your mother what a butt plug is.
My dad has always, always insisted I do what I love instead of selecting a career for money or status. So he’s a big reason I’m doing this. I would have made a terrible neurosurgeon anyway. The thing is, I think he believes writing is prestigious and lucrative—like I’m on Clive Cussler’s salary. I don’t have the heart to tell him I still can’t afford to buy brand-name flour.
Where do you get your ideas?
Everywhere. It’s such a writer cliché, but it’s true—you see someone pick their nose on a subway or you hear about a friend’s workplace drama or you suddenly wonder who writes the fortunes that go in fortune cookies, and there’s a story there.
The Silvers came from a lot of places. I’m curious about the extent to which our emotions are unique or define us. I’m interested in how people in strange or terrible circumstances struggle to process and express what they feel. Our emotions might be innate, but I think there’s a learning curve in terms of what we do with them. So sometimes my ideas for books are just me exploring questions I have.
How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?
I’m the worst planner! No, I just write. I have to do it that way. I like being surprised.
What makes The Silvers special to you?
The Silvers was the first time I completed NaNoWriMo! I don’t have trouble with the word count, but I have a lot of trouble focusing on one project at a time. I may write 50k in a month, but chances are those words are divided up between several different books. I also have trouble letting a first draft be a first draft. I always stop writing to go back and nitpick.
So for The Silvers, what I had to do was not look back. I never shut the computer down completely, and I always kept the doc open, and I would NOT let myself read anything I’d written—not even for reference purposes. If I forgot a character’s hair color or profession, I’d just give them a new one. At the end of the month, I had an entire novel but very little idea of the content—which made for a fun read-through. I went back and smoothed it all out in subsequent drafts over the next three years. But that was one of the most enjoyable first drafts I’ve ever written. I think I’ll always be especially close to this novel for that reason.
How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?
A lot. I can’t go the autobiographical route in fiction—makes me feel too exposed. And I have trouble openly basing characters on specific people. But every character is a composite of people I know and things I’ve felt or believed or done.
I occasionally have to explain to someone I love who might read my work that I’ve appropriated their mental illness or sibling rivalry or story about the sales clerk with the glass eye for my writing. Most of them are cool with it. I have one friend who will preface the stories she tells me with, “And if you want to use this in a book, go ahead.”
Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most? Do you have a favorite of this author(s)?
I absolutely love Jim Grimsley, Steve Kluger, and Sarah Waters. Jim Grimsley’s writing is incredibly disturbing but so, so beautiful. Dream Boy is one of only a few books I can read over and over again. Steve Kluger is wicked fun—and was kind enough to write back to me when I e-mailed him a few years ago. We talked about the Cleveland Indians, and I harassed him for another book, and he didn’t even act like I was annoying. And Sarah Waters—the Victorian era and women in love?! I wish she’d go to lunch with me.
Do you have any suggestions for new writers?
Have fun. That’s about the only suggestion I feel qualified to give. Particularly with my erotic stuff, I think I wasted too much time worrying that I should be embarrassed about the content, or that it was somehow less legitimate than other kinds of writing. Write what you want to write. Chances are someone will want to read it. And the people who don’t want to don’t have to. Nobody else gets to tell you what you should and shouldn’t create. Let it come from your experiences, your passion, and your understanding of the world.
When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?
I hula hoop! Amazing stress relief. I also paint a lot. My painting obsession predates even my writing obsession. I’ve been trying to learn digital painting recently—it’s fun, but nothing compares to painting with actual paints on a real canvas. And of course I hang out with the d