by Connie Ward
What made you decide to become a fiction writer?
When I was first coming out as a lesbian in my teens I searched the library for books, any books about lesbians. I struggled to find something that I could relate to but found nothing. The lack of access to LGBTQ literature only furthered the feeling that this was something hidden. Well, I didn’t really buy that, but it was all I had. My first year in college a friend introduced me to the books she had found. I devoured those books, desperate to find some link to the world that showed me I was not alone. I read Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness, which broke my heart. I also discovered Rita Mae Brown, of course, with Rubyfruit Jungle and Sudden Death, but at the time that was pretty much the end of the list. As I got older, I guess I gave up. I believed there just weren’t any more LGBTQ books out there. Then one day about five years ago I was playing online and found Bold Strokes Books. I was overwhelmed with joy when I saw all the wonderful LGBTQ titles. I began to read everything I could afford to get my hands on, the first of which happened to be Radclyffe’s Provincetown Tales. I think I have read Safe Harbor now at least ten times, and I have it on audio book. As I was reading I became compelled to write. I wanted to contribute to this wonderful new world I had discovered. I wanted to be a part of the telling of our stories. Within days I woke up with the beginning scene of Healing Hearts playing through my mind. I started to write, and I haven’t stopped.
What type of stories do you write? And why?
My stories tend to blend romance and intrigue. I’ve worked in the field of mental health since I was twenty years old. Through my work I’ve seen too much of what people can do to each other. I think my stories are strongly influenced by those experiences, and I like to write stories that show the strength of women and the power of love to heal us from our deepest hurts. I think over the years I became a little jaded by all the pain I witnessed. Writing gives me a way to hold on to the hope that there is still good in the world and there can be a happily ever after. Being able to express those things and write about the love between women is a dream come true.
What do your family/friends think about your writing?
My mother and father have been absolutely wonderful. They live in a very rural town that isn’t exactly accepting of any differences, but they have proudly told everyone about my book. They were surprised at first, then just proud. My friends have been great too. At first they were almost as excited as I was. Now that I have written the second book I think they have just accepted this as a part of who I am. They act as if it’s normal, while I’m still a little freaked out.
Where do you get your ideas?
I usually can’t put my finger on where my ideas come from. It’s as if the stories tell themselves and I’m just the one putting them on paper. But sometimes I’ll have an experience that touches me and I find myself wanting to write a story around it. The story isn’t necessarily about the event, but it somehow nudges a character into being. Then I have to let that character tell her story. I know that sounds weird, but that’s how it happens. I’m not much into watching news stories and picking up ideas from current events. I think I already have too much stored in my head that is begging to get out. Maybe that’s what my life has been about. I’ve been collecting experiences and stories all these years, and now I get to weave them into books.
How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?
I’m a pen-and-paper kind of girl. I like to start my books by writing longhand and really get the basis of the story down before I start to type and do the cleanup. So far I haven’t done planning. I just sit down and start to write and wait to see what happens next. But I have a story in my head now that has been growing for months. I think this is the first time I’ve really thought of characters and plot before ever writing the first word. I just hope I get it on paper.
What makes Healing Hearts special to you?
I think Healing Hearts is special because it taught me so much about myself. I never would have believed I could be a writer until this book. It has given me confidence and fed my desire to do more. It has opened up a new world to me through the readers I’ve met. I never grow tired of hearing someone’s impression of the characters and their hunger to know more about what happens to them. I love knowing I created characters someone would want to know as real people.
Healing Hearts is also special because I was able to share my love for the mountains in this story. It was important to me that Willow Springs feel like a real place where women could gather and be themselves and put aside the defensiveness and fear I think we all carry everyday, whether we realize it or not. Let’s face it. The world isn’t very kind to women, especially not lesbians.
How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?
I think a writer puts a little of herself into every character. Even a villain is often the things we hate most in the evil of others. The characters in Healing Hearts were totally fictional. But some of the support characters in my new book, No Boundaries, tend to be compilations of people I’ve observed or vaguely know. I have blended multiple people to create one character. Other support characters are shadows of people I have observed around my small town. But none of my main characters are based on actual people, because I do have to put so much of myself and my world view into them.
Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most? Do you have a favorite
of this author(s)?
First and foremost of course is Radclyffe, as I mentioned earlier. I think she sets the standard and keeps raising the bar. My favorite will always be Safe Harbor.
And don’t tell her I said so, but I am also a huge fan of D. Jackson Leigh. I love her Southern flavor and her humor.
When I am in the mood for some serious adventure and intrigue I absolutely adore Cari Hunter. Her book Desolation Point kept me up nights. I couldn’t stop reading it. I can say the same about AJ Quinn.
Really, I could go on and on about the authors and the books that I just can’t get enough of. I’m just happy that there are so many wonderful authors and works out there now that tell our stories so well.
Do you have any suggestions for new writers?
Don’t overthink it. Just sit down and write. Get acquainted with the style guide available on the Bold Strokes Web site. It will make life a lot easier. Even if you never let another soul read your story, there is something magical about writing it. So go for it; you never know what could happen.
When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?
Sunshine and water seem to be the source of happiness for me. As long as I can be warm and surrounded by water, I’m happy. Whether I’m on a boat, in a kayak, or sitting on the beach, it doesn’t matter. I’m content. Of course those beautiful mountains aren’t just to look at, so I love my share of hiking as well. I spend a great deal of time by myself, but I really enjoy conversation and laughing with friends, sharing a good meal, and listening to live music.