By Connie Ward
What made you decide to become a fiction writer?
LOL. I desperately want to say I have always wanted to be a writer, but that’s not true. Growing up, I also wanted to be a mechanic, an actor, a vet, a helicopter-rescue paramedic, a famous singer/song writer…In the end, I stumbled onto the idea of writing, with my writing motivator turning out to be two rather boring, innocuous things: surgery and insomnia.
I needed some surgery that would require me to lead a physically quiet couple of months recovering. My partner will tell you that I can’t sit still long enough to watch a whole movie, so a couple of months’ layoff was always going to be a challenge. Knowing I had this ahead of me, I set about looking for a hobby that would keep me busy and limit my pain-in–the-arse super powers affecting those within a five-kilometer radius. Watching Cari Hunter’s journey with her debut novel Snowbound gave me an idea, so I started to write a story that had been blowing around like a dust bunny in the corners of my mind for what felt like forever.
Over the years, studying, nursing shifts, work, and being an on-call firefighter has scrambled my sleep patterns, to the point where, basically, I am pretty crappy at it. With writing, I finally found a day job for my insomnia and a new hobby, all rolled into one. I sent my manuscript off on a dare, assuming that it would be rejected, and promptly forgot all about it. For me, writing was about having fun and learning to sit still. The day an acceptance came back, with the offer of a contract, I nearly wet my pants with disbelief, shock, and happiness.
What type of stories do you write? And why?
While I have a soft spot for the underdog, I predominantly find myself identifying with heroic characters, who range from saving the day to overcoming significant personal hurdles. Some of the most inspiring heroes in the world are just ordinary people, doing extraordinary things, with no cape or spandex body-hugging suit in sight.
My growing-up years were okay but contained windows of hardship. I guess a secret part of me was always drawn to a heroic figure. Maybe, unconsciously, it gave me a sense of empowerment and, from that, a confidence with which to muddle on through the years. Over time, what I discovered is that inside everyone lives a hero, as well as flaws and weaknesses. So that’s what I set out to create in my stories, characters that have that mix of a little bit of everything, minus the nylon tights.
What do your family/friends think about your writing?
My partner and my friends have been excited, bemused, and thrilled with my publishing contract. Their enthusiasm and support help propel me through the unknown waters and adventures. They are outstandingly awesome.
My mum would have preferred me to have written a straight romance novel or, better yet, a murder mystery requiring various police and forensic specialists to help solve the crime. In all honesty, she is quite pleased, and as long as I throw in a dead body now and then, I think she will forgive me.
Where do you get your ideas?
To date, most of my current story concepts have been bumping around in my head for ages in various forms. Australians on the whole are colorful characters and have wonderful rhythms of speech, with enough sayings to melt your average international dictionaries.
I am very excited about giving life to small essences of Australia to a largely international audience. I play a mental game with myself now, wondering how many slang phrases and descriptions I can add to a story. I want to make it fun for me to write as well as fun for the reader to experience. My good editor Ruth keeps me in line, but I’m always up for challenging the boundary to see what I can get away with. I know the day when I can slip in “Fair suck of the sav mate” to a story line that I can put my pen down, as you will all be completely versed in how to speak ’Straylian.
How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?
I have a basic plan in my head of the characters and where I want the story to go. As I get down to the business of putting words on paper, my mind digs deeper into the small details of character elements, sprinkled with bucket loads of research. Adrenaline and excitement are a wonderful by-product of this research, and fueled with this enthusiasm, I get to work and build the story.
The interesting thing for me is that sometimes, despite the overall plan in my head, an arc may grow seemingly of its own accord and take a character or the plot off the main drag of the story highway, down an interesting side road, before coming back to hit the main intersection of the story again. I love those moments when the fingers flow, the story unfolds, and I sit back and say, “Whoa! Wasn’t expecting that. Cool.”
What makes Twice Lucky special to you?
So, so many things. First and foremost, it’s my first, ever story—a virgin manuscript in every sense of the word. It represents some big achievements—commitment to the story, to the adventure, to learning, and to laying myself open to a whole new world.
To standing up and embracing who I am and for writing a story about someone I would have loved to have read about when I was growing up. It was an opportunity to feel comfortable in my own skin, to be proud of who I am, my lifestyle, my choices…and that all of this can be so accepted, so normal. To become a lesbian writer, writing lesbian romance stories, has unintentionally been the icing on my cake of self-realization.
As an added bonus, I get to share my debut with another Aussie also making her BSB debut, Michelle Grubb-Moore with Getting Lost. Life doesn’t get much sweeter than that!
How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?
That’s always the million-dollar question, isn’t it? “You’re a firefighter, the book is about a firefighter, it’s about you, isn’t it?” or “Am I in your book?” The answer to both of those questions is “No.”
I have taken elements of what I know and applied them to the story. For example, I work with wood, but I am not a sculptor; I have cats and dogs, but I don’t own a refuge; I have worked in hospitals, but I am not a doctor; I am a firefighter and a firefighting instructor, and while I can draw on these experiences, I have still created a fictional character and settings.
I take concepts, understandings, sayings, rhythms of speech and apply them to characters or situations, but no one I know appears in any of my books to date.
I am certainly not in any of my stories—my characters are all far too tall to be me. 😉
Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most? Do you have a favorite
of this author(s)?
This is a tricky question to answer. I have to admit, I have not read very many books and my awareness of authors is limited. I live in a country town. We don’t get a lot of LGBT material here, and postage costs a bomb. But now that I’m on this bandwagon of fun, I am attempting to “taste” wherever I can in between doing a million other things. I love the excitement of it all—it’s like Christmas. Of the ones I have read, my brain swirls, and I struggle to select. Being relatively new to the genre, in all honesty, often my most favorite author belongs to whatever was the last book I’ve just finished reading, such as Lynn Ames.
Flying the flag for Australia, I can’t go past Lindy Cameron, who, for me, is a trailblazer in Australia. I can’t speak highly enough of this woman. Her drive, determination, passion, intelligence, and sense of humor are awe-inspiring.
I love Laurie Salzler’s depictions of nature and animals, and I can’t wait to read her future stories set in Australia; Manda Scott opened my eyes to lesbian characters and settings; Marion Zimmer Bradley, Lori L. Lake, Melissa Good are favorites. And of course “the boss,” Radclyffe, is such a mover and shaker in the industry, standing head and shoulders above the crowd. To be picked up by Rad and the BSB family is a truly great honor that fills me with great joy.
But it is another Bold Strokes Books author that I salute with my pen and trusty dictionary as being my inspiration to try my hand at writing. I stumbled onto Bold Strokes Books via a brand-new author and watched, enthralled, as Cari Hunter shared the exciting journey of her first book, Snowbound. It was she who unwittingly gave me the kernel of inspiration to have a crack at writing.
It’s a great privilege to be in the same publishing house with so many talented writers, and an even greater gift that I can cheerfully call people, such as Cari, colleague and friend.
Do you have any suggestions for new writers?
There’s a bucket load more people, far more skilled and experienced than I am and better able to offer advice or suggestions on writing, but I have a theory that can be applied across any new skill set or interests—wrap yourself in it, absorb all you can, talk to other people, read heaps, put your head down and your bum up, and go for it. Write because you want to. Be prepared to learn loads and listen to advice, but never lose sight of the inner voice that nurtures the stories within you.
Don’t forget about life balance. Part of my learning curve has included balancing my need to write and the need to turn it off and rejoin the world. After all, life is the greatest inspiration.
But most of all, enjoy the journey and have fun.
When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?
Oh, heaps! Sometimes I simply don’t have enough time in the day. Any time with my partner, my animals, and the farm are riches beyond compare. I love tinkering in my shed, restoring old things, hanging out, and playing (field) hockey with the best bunch of girls around, looking after native wildlife, or working hard, shoulder to shoulder, with my firefighting brothers and sisters.
But perhaps best of all is sitting back, looking up at the night sky as a storm rolls in over the fields, sipping a nice Irish or Scottish whisky, marveling at how wonderful Mother Nature is and how lucky I am…”Twice Lucky”!