by Connie Ward
**What made you decide to become a fiction writer?**
Would it be wrong to say that it just sort of happened? I never planned on becoming a writer. I always find it to be such a pretentious statement, but I’m actually an artist. Since I was able to hold a crayon I’ve been making a constant mess of myself and my surroundings in the name of art. I always figured that’s what I’d be when I grew up in some shape or form. I just never imagined that it would be this form. Years ago, in second or third grade, I tried my hand at storytelling—-a tragic teddy-bear love triangle entitled “The Beauty Bear” and a poem about “grub in a tub.” Needless to say neither won me any awards, and I was much better at my illustrations than the actual wordsmithing. It was an easy choice.
Fast forward through adolescence, early adulthood, college, and career, and it turns out I’m actually not that bad at writing and incredibly long-winded when it comes to telling tales (May I submit Exhibit A: this answer). Up until now they’ve been mostly retellings of situations I’ve gotten myself into and how I got myself, not always easily, out of them. I asked myself how easy it would be to turn all of those experiences and stories into something more believable. (Because it’s actually easier to believe that a fictional person accidentally rammed jalapeno pepper juice up her nose instead a relatively sane real one, right?)
To make this long answer even longer, twenty years after the teddy tragedy I decided to try again. This time I got it right, and without a single illustration. So, why did I become a fiction writer? I don’t honestly know. I guess it’s simply just another canvas for me to express myself on.
**What type of stories do you write? And why?**
I write about art, passion, and love. I’m a daydreamer, an escapist, and a hopeless romantic, and they say to write what you know. I want the reader to take away several things after they turn that last page. I want them to not only have that happy-ending feeling we all wish for, along with a few steamy moments, but I also want them to learn a little along the way. I reference a lot of artwork in my writings—-real pieces from all over the world—-masterpieces that not many have seen, let alone heard of. I love that I have an opportunity to open someone’s eyes to something new and beautiful, things they may never otherwise get to see. This is why the research part is half the fun of writing. I easily get lost looking through a world of beautiful art. You should, too!
**What do your friends/family think about your writing?**
They are ecstatic, and that’s putting it mildly. My father will tell anyone who’ll listen that his daughter writes lesbian romance novels. My mother would too, except that she cries with joy every time she tries and can’t get any words out. My stepmother, big sis, and aunt are a few of my beta readers, so I guess they’re fans. Ha!
My little sister and my friends are surprisingly supportive and charismatic about my accomplishment. I’m not surprised that they’re supportive, after all that’s what friends do, but I’m surprised by how supportive they are. It’s incredibly motivating and humbling when I think about how much love and positive energy they give me. I still haven’t wrapped my head around it all yet, and their pride makes it that much more overwhelming. And they haven’t even read my novel yet!
**Where do you get your ideas?**
I love art, it is my passion. Museums, galleries, art-supply shops, the paint department of Home Depot, I’m at home in any number of them. Venus in Love was born out of a lazy afternoon on my couch as I stared up at my print of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. My other writings were imagined from a handful of experiences and one interesting art magazine article. Art is everywhere and so are my ideas. Sometimes the ideas just hit me; the good ones stick like an al dente noodle, and the others fall back behind the stove, never to be seen again.
**How do you write? Do you plan everything out or just write?**
My plotting is a whirlwind of handwriting. Page after page of scribbles on any paper product I can get my hands on–notebooks, Post-its, index cards, napkins, and copy paper. I once wrote an entire scene on the back of the unused two-foot strip of CVS coupons that the machine spit out at me. Once I gather all of my spinning thoughts onto paper, in their various forms, I create an outline. I keep it with me in print, as well as on my cloud drive. Since I write a majority of my work on my phone (yes, my phone, and thumb cramps are no joke) it makes it easy to access when I need to add a line or two. I find that even a loose outline helps me when I struggle between staying on the path and chasing fluffy bunnies into the underbrush.
**What makes Venus in Love special to you?**
She is my baby so I love her, but this book is my savior. I began writing Venus during a very uncertain point in my life. When things fell apart it was writing that kept my head above water. I didn’t write Venus in Love with the intention of having it published. I wrote it simply because I wanted to see if I could. Did I have the determination and dedication to follow something through to the end? Turns out, for once I did. That’s all I had wanted. Was it perfect? No. Was it good? Well, it was no “Beauty Bear.” Was it mine? Most definitely.
Then I thought, after a couple persistent shoves from my sister, what’s cake without a little icing? Maybe I’ll submit it for publication. The worst they could say was no, but even then it wouldn’t change the fact that I wrote a book. And that was just the beginning! Venus in Love began as a dream, turned into an escape, evolved into a shelter, and bloomed into a wonderful being all its own.
**How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?**
Oh, good question. And I’m almost afraid to answer it honestly. Would anyone believe me if I said all of the good qualities of my characters are 100% factual representations of me? Nah, I didn’t think so either. There are many different traits of my characters that resemble me, and while I’d like to claim otherwise, the two most obvious would probably be sarcasm and clumsiness (the jalapeño joke is a painfully true story).
As for my friends, and enemies of course, they are most definitely sprinkled in. No one is safe from my imagination, especially my enemies. Insert evil laugh here. In Venus in Love, Rita is a perfect example of that, but my friends have gotten much bigger parts in my current works.
**Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most? Do you have a favorite of this author?**
I’ll just say this, when I decided to submit Venus in Love there was only one shot and one publisher, Bold Strokes. And at a risk of sounding like an uber fan-girl, Radclyffe was the reason. I won’t lie. I’ve not read every last one of her books. But Love’s Melody Lost stands out on top of anything else. Sarah Water’s Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith, Kim Baldwin’s Whitewater Rendezvous, Gerri Hill’s Behind the Pine Curtain… Now look what you’ve started. This may officially be the hardest question to answer.
**Do you have any suggestions for new writers?**
For me, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with everything that is involved with publishing a book. I never in a million years thought I’d be here, and I certainly had no earthly idea what it would take to get from there to here. But I’ve learned so much about the process, the passion, the technique, and the patience it takes to produce something so great! Enjoy it! Put everything you have into it, because what you get out of it is infinitely greater. It seems like a lot, and when it rains it pours, but the payoff when you see all of your hard work combined with everyone else’s is priceless.
**When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?**
I work, since I’ve not yet figured out how to fund my existence on snarky comments or homemade carrot cake. I spend too much time using my annual Disney pass and not enough time kayaking. When I say I love shoes, I’m not kidding, and yes, sometimes I wear them around my house for fun. I like zip-lining, roller coasters, and being scared out of my mind during Halloween. I’d travel more, but they frown on stuffing your pets in the overhead bins. But mostly I daydream. It’s my favorite thing.