by Connie Ward
What made you decide to become a fiction writer?
There was never a defining moment when I made that decision, but I guess like most other authors, I had a story to tell. Writing was the only hobby I ever took up and stuck with. I think to be a writer you have to be excited by the prospect of writing that very first word, followed enthusiastically by thousands of others. You have to be willing to begin something today that may not be finished for months or, in some cases, years. I think most people would find that prospect daunting or at least a ridiculous waste of time. For me it’s an incredible buzz; I love creating a world for my characters and a place for my readers to escape to.
What type of stories do you write? And why?
My main focus is to try to write stories about ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary situations. I’m motivated to write these stories because I enjoy reading them.
I like my characters to be real, and all real people are flawed. I struggle to identify with the perfect characters others perhaps adore.
I like to watch my characters struggle with conflict, mostly internal, because for most people, that’s reality.
What do your family/friends think about your writing?
I was rarely enthusiastic about English at school, so initially I think my friends and family were shocked that I could be bothered to write anything at all, let alone full-length novels. Everyone is super supportive, and in the early days, their encouragement made sitting in front of my computer more bearable. First novels are more often than not written with a pie-in-the-sky notion that one day you might secure a publishing deal. There’s no deadline and no guarantee of any reward at the conclusion of the process. Sometimes that encouragement, coupled with your own stubborn will to finish, is all that keeps you going.
Where do you get your ideas?
Ideas form in the most peculiar ways. Sometimes people I know inspire me, and other times it might be television, film, or literature. However it happens, I’m glad it does. And often it’s just a feeling. You can’t manufacture that; you just have to go with your gut and decide that if something moves you, it might move others.
How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?
I used to “just write,” but now I’m a planner through and through. Having said that, I won’t deny the planning stage is painful for me. I’m easily distracted and quite pathetic at this stage also—lots of sighing, lots of swinging on my chair, and lots of coffee because that’s a good excuse to leave the computer. In these moments I’m usually ready to “just” start, but my wife has an uncanny knack of reining this tendency in. (Might have something to do with the lock on the study door).
What makes Getting Lost special to you?
Besides the obvious (first novel and all that) I love traveling. Getting Lost is special because in my twenties I embarked, as a young Australian eager to see the world, on a tour around Europe. All of the countries Phoebe and Stella visit hold a special memory for me, and now my book will hopefully sit on bookshelves all over the world.
It’s also special because of the rather normal things that happened in order for my story to have come so far. I look at the work of other authors and artists with a greater appreciation now. And I can count myself as one of them. The process in itself is special to me (now that I’ve survived it!).
How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?
I can’t deny the characters have “me” in them, but it’s often the “me” I wish I were. You know, the cooler me, the trendier me, the more linguistically accomplished me, the levelheaded me. I could go on, but you get the idea.
As for the bad traits of my characters, well, upon reflection, those traits are probably all mine. Okay, that’s not strictly true, but it’s alarmingly easy to randomly select someone you know and come up with a few things that annoy you about them. By the time you embellish that characteristic, you’ve got yourself a character with flaws that everyone can relate to.
Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most? Do you have a favorite
of this author(s)?
I think Sarah Waters is brilliant. Fingersmith, Tipping the Velvet, and The Paying Guests are my favorites. I saw her speak at the Cheltenham Literature Festival last year and was suitably inspired. So much so, I spent the next few days locked in the study typing like a writer possessed.
Like most people, I’m drawn to books with great story lines and interesting characters, but the icing on top for me is natural and witty dialogue. Snowbound by Cari Hunter is also one of my favorites, along with Timeless by Rachel Spangler.
Do you have any suggestions for new writers?
Read as much as you can and not just in the genre you intend to write. And read out loud. It’s a great way to test dialogue and to help with flow and pace. Oh, and if you’re really young and you’re reading this, pay attention in English class. You don’t want to have to learn what a verb is again beyond your thirties! Okay, I know what a verb is, but dangling participles, now they get me every time.
When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?
I moved to England last year so besides visiting London, nearly everywhere I go is new and exciting. I brought my dog over with me, so the four of us (my wife has a dog also) trek about the place together on little adventures. I’m writing this wearing an unmentionable quantity of clothing, so I’m looking forward to the weather warming up.
I’m a fair-weather golfer, a happy snapper, and I love cafes and bookshops. In the warmer months there’s nothing better than a cycle in the country with my mate Bill. Not surprisingly, we have coffee afterward.