by Connie Ward
What made you decide to become a fiction writer?
If one can actually make a major life decision in the third grade, then that’s when I decided to become a writer. I was a terribly shy, quiet kid and discovered early on that it was so much easier to express my feelings and thoughts in the written word than verbally.
The first story I wrote that garnered attention―other than from my mom―was in the third grade. We’d just moved to a new town, and switching schools in the middle of the year was pretty scary. One of the first assignments in English class was to write a story, and I wrote one about the hardships of being a new fish in an aquarium. Even after all these years, I remember the story well. It was witty, suspenseful, and overly dramatic…and a bit morose, since it ended with the new fish coming eye-to-eye with a very hungry-looking tiger fish. Despite the gruesome ending, the teacher loved it. I don’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday, but I do remember my third-grade teacher’s name. Thanks to Mrs. Foster, who encouraged me to write more, which I did, and haven’t stopped since―but I do have happier story endings these days.
What type of stories do you write? And why?
I write romance, which to my friends is hysterical considering my dating history. Let’s just say I’ve been unlucky in love. All right, to be completely honest, it’s been disastrous. I’m an ultimate romantic who has yet to have a happy ending, which is exactly why I love writing romance. Oftentimes, I take experiences from past relationships and rewrite the story so that my characters live happily ever after. It’s a cathartic, healing experience, and in a way it’s like rewriting my history.
What do your family/friends think about your writing?
My friends are ecstatic and can’t wait to read my first novel, Love on the Red Rocks. Both my parents are deceased, and I really have no idea what they’d think about having a daughter who is a lesbian romance author, especially my dad, since the book is dedicated to him. I come from a strict Roman Catholic family, so I was pleasantly surprised when so many aunts, uncles, and cousins were excited and proud about the upcoming publication. My sister and niece are my biggest supporters, both of my sexual orientation and writing. Some family members, though, are judgmental, but I ignore them. That’s the beauty of the “unfollow” feature on Facebook.
Where do you get your ideas?
I get a lot of my story ideas from my own life, my experiences, fears, insecurities, challenges. Most times an inspiration starts with the location, which acts as a character in my stories. With Love On The Red Rocks, I wanted it set in Sedona, Arizona, which is one of my favorite places and the perfect backdrop for the book. The idea for the manuscript I’m writing now also started with the location.
For me, it’s best not to force anything but instead rely on instinct. Most brainstorms pop into my mind from the ethers or in dreams. If I purposefully look for story ideas, I usually come up empty-handed. With that said, I do remain consciously open throughout the day. An idea might spring from an overheard conversation in the supermarket, a news story, or something said by a friend.
How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?
My personality is a balance of creative and analytical, so I do both. If I didn’t outline first, I’d feel lost and the story would become disjointed very quickly, but that doesn’t mean I necessarily stick to the outline once I start writing. Before I ever begin the book, I spend quite a bit of time getting to know the characters and plotting. I devise the traditional three-act outline in which I brainstorm scenes and main events for each act. Once I feel like I know the characters well enough and the direction of the story, I start writing…and that’s where the fun begins.
Love On The Red Rocks is a symbol that dreams come true if you have the courage to try, not give up, and release your attachment to the outcome.
I’d always wanted to write a novel but kept putting it off. It seemed like such a huge task, so I always stuck to shorter pieces. When my dad died unexpectedly, I was reminded of how short life can be. I began writing the book one month after his death. When I started, I wasn’t even thinking publication. I just wanted to prove to myself that I could actually write an entire book. Once I began, though, I thought, “Hey, this is really good. I should submit it for publication.” If I could make one of my dreams come true by writing a book, maybe I could achieve an even greater dream by having it published.
After submitting the manuscript, I literally forgot about it. The woman I was dating at the time would ask every few weeks if I’d heard anything. If it weren’t for her, I don’t think I’d have thought about it. Don’t take my nonchalant attitude to mean it wasn’t important to me. It’s just that I trusted the universe to deliver what was meant to be. So, imagine my surprise and excitement when it was actually accepted. And, of course, the dedication belonged entirely to my father. He was the catalyst as well as the inspiration. An interesting bit of trivia not many people know: the date of his death is used in the book as the date of the main character’s father’s death. It was just another way of acknowledging his presence and importance in my first published novel.
How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?
Quite a bit, but I do write fiction and have a pretty wild imagination, so some of my characters are totally from my head. The two main characters, though, in Love On The Red Rocks are a pretty good combination of who I am. Malley for her fears and insecurities, and Jessie for her new-age and romantic side.
Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most? Do you have a favorite of this author(s)?
I’ve always been a huge Radclyffe fan. In fact, she’s the reason I submitted my manuscript to Bold Strokes Books. Not only do I love her writing, but she’s also an excellent role model of a strong, successful businesswoman. Some of my other favorite authors, in no particular order, are Melissa Brayden, Gerri Hill, Lynn Ames, Georgia Beers, and Lynn Galli.
Do you have any suggestions for new writers?
Read, read, read. Write, write, write. When reading, don’t just do so for pleasure. Pay attention to the mechanics and technique, such as hooks, plot, theme, characters, conflict, enticing incidents, beginnings, endings, etc. Pick out a novel you love and dissect it, study it front cover to back. Also, read books about writing. Some of my favorites are Editor-Proof Your Writing by Don McNair, Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell, and Writing With Emotion, Tension, & Conflict by Cheryl St. John. Also, take as many writing classes and workshops as you can. The learning never stops. And most important, write. Every day. We all lead busy lives and it’s not always easy to carve out even thirty minutes in a day, but it’s essential to make time to write. We can’t call ourselves writers unless we actually do it.
When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?
I love living in Southern California, where I’m close to the ocean and mountains. A perfect Saturday afternoon is lounging on the beach reading a book and then wandering down the shoreline. I enjoy taking trips to Santa Barbara, Cambria, and Big Sur along the Central California coast. Aside from Hawaii, Sedona, Arizona is my favorite place to visit, so I go there as often as possible. I like hanging out with friends, perusing used bookstores, and reading. In addition to fiction, I read a lot of nonfiction metaphysical books. I’m a big Hay House fan, which is a publishing company founded by Louise Hay and publishes new-age/spiritual books. I attend their conferences and author workshops. I also meditate every day, which helps keep me centered. All of this, of course, is when I’m not working my eight-to-five corporate job or writing. Life is sweet but busy!