By Connie Ward
What made you decide to become a fiction writer?
I guess I’ve always been a fiction writer, or something like it. I remember being as young as eight or nine and writing short stories I’d loosely base on things that happened to me (a childhood illness, a new pet, a crush), and then changing the names and places. For a long time, that was “fiction writing” to me. In college, I took a couple of great creative-writing courses, where I finally learned how to actually create characters and situations that weren’t necessarily true to my life. I loved the sense of escape I got from building these characters and these story lines. It’s addicting. I don’t think I’ll ever stop.
What type of stories do you write? And why?
Since coming out, I’ve found that most (okay, all) of my fiction pieces are lesbian romance. I started reading Rad’s books years ago and loved finding a place in the print world where I could go and see myself represented. It’s so important to me to both read and write stories that represent lesbian relationships, where those who don’t usually see themselves in mainstream culture can do so. I also have a soft spot for medical drama. Because I’m in school to become a physician assistant, and have been working in healthcare for a long time, a lot of what I know of the world is the ER and the hospital. I think a lot of people are really interested in the lives of doctors, first responders, etc. and it can add to the book’s appeal.
What do your family/friends think about your writing?
This one is tough. My mom is incredibly supportive. She’s been my biggest fan both in life and in my various careers for as long as I can remember. For just about a decade now she’s been pressuring me to try to get published, so she was obviously thrilled when I was taken in by the BSB family. She’s not a lesbian… But she reads all of my work and always offers encouragement and feedback. My partner is also incredibly supportive. She jokes that she’s my “hype man” because she’s always talking me up to strangers we meet—“This is Emily. She just wrote a book. It’s being published by Bold Strokes Books.” I honestly wasn’t sure how she would take it when she found out I was writing lesbian romance novels that aren’t without their steamy scenes in them. But she’s been amazing. Most of my friends and family are great about it, although I think my Evangelical father would have a difficult time if he knew the theme of Searching For Forever!
Where do you get your ideas?
It depends. The idea for Searching For Forever came years ago, when I was working in the ER and had a sort of ridiculous crush on a much-older, straight doctor I worked with. It was just enough to plant a seed in my head, and these fictional characters were born from it. Most of the medical scenes in the book are taken from real life—either things I lived personally or stories from my coworkers. I think this makes the medicine more authentic. The more I’ve continued writing (I’ve recently submitted my second book with BSB), the more my ideas are hatching out of sheer imagination. I do like to take situations and challenges I’ve faced and try to let them transform into something unique. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?
Searching For Forever came slowly. I was twenty-five when I started it and twenty-eight when it was finally submitted. I never intended for it to get published. It was just something fun to do that helped me escape from some difficult personal relationships I was dealing with. It took years, because I’d go six months at a time without touching it while I was taking all of my pre-med classes. Then, I’d pick it up again and work on it for a while. My second book, Same Time Next Week, took about two months to write. I didn’t know where it was going or how it was going to end. I just kept writing. I find it easier to just let the scenes and storyline move themselves along instead of outlining everything, although I always have a rough sketch in mind.
What makes Searching for Forever special to you?
For starters, it’s my first book. What’s not special about that? There’s no feeling that can compare to opening that box with your first advance copies in it and seeing your work printed! But aside from that, I’m really attached to these characters. Especially Charlie. They became extensions of me over time. I wrote Searching For Forever, at least in the beginning, as a way to lose myself in this fantasy world where I could have my dream job, my dream partner… It was intoxicating. And I wrote it at a very pivotal time in my life. Your early twenties are full of change and self-actualization, and this book sort of represents all of that to me.
How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?
I always say that Charlie is everything I wished I were at twenty-five. She’s brilliant, attractive, charming, tough, and, of course, able to win over every woman who comes her way. I certainly wouldn’t be bold enough to say I think of myself as Charlie! But I would say she was exactly who I wanted to be when I was younger—sort of an idealized version of myself. Charlie is a paramedic trying to go to medical school. I was an EMT trying to go to medical school. I also tend to use people I know as outlines for my characters, although over time, they definitely morph into something else.
Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most?
I swear I’m not saying this because she’s my “boss.” But when I first came out, one of my older lesbian friends suggested I read one of Radclyffe’s books that was based in Provincetown. Because I’d just been to P-Town for the first time, I figured why not. I actually bought the first book in Rad’s P-Town series at Womencrafts right on Commercial while I was there that summer. I read it the entire three-hour ride home. Since then, I’ve read dozens of Rad’s books. She is definitely the one who inspired me to write Searching For Forever. And I was pretty thrilled that I ended up published by BSB.
Do you have a favorite of this author(s)?
So much of the LGBT work published by BSB is incredible. I also really got into the Best Lesbian Romance series. However, most of what I read these days comes in the form of a heavy textbook or medical journal!
Do you have any suggestions for new writers?
Don’t sell yourself short. I never believed my mom when she told me I could get published one day. And submitting to BSB was a complete crapshoot. Write what you know, write what you love, and the story will unfold on its own. Also, don’t be afraid to put something away when you’re having writer’s block. I’ve been working on my third novel for months now and just can’t seem to get past a certain point. I find that when I force it, there’s a very obvious lack of both flow and quality. Come back to it at another time. It will still be there.
When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?
Well, “fun” might not be the right word! No, really. I spend most of my time these days studying medicine. To me, that is fun, but probably not what you mean in this context! Writing is my hobby. But when I’m done with school, I’d like to get a motorcycle again. I’ve also been known to dabble in guitar, and I play a (very) little hockey in the winter in an all-women’s league (where I’m the youngest by about ten years).