By Connie Ward
What made you decide to become a fiction writer?
I don’t know if I’ve ever consciously made the decision. I started writing as soon as I realized it was possible, and I haven’t stopped. I wrote my first “novel” when I was eight, a story of war between unicorns and dragons and a chosen girl destined to save the world. Over a decade later, my stories have improved (I hope!), but the same spark from those early novels is still here.
What type of stories do you write? And why?
I write fantasy and science-fiction stories. I believe that speculative fiction answers questions that realistic fiction can’t ask, not to the same degree. It creates a space that is both safe and dangerous, often dealing with the very edge of what humanity is capable of, the good and the terrible. That’s what has drawn me to it, both as a reader and a writer. I began writing LGBT speculative fiction because I so rarely saw people like me populating fantasy realms and alien worlds, and I wanted to fix that.
What do your family/friends think about your writing?
They have been nothing but supportive, for which I am extremely grateful. I was lucky enough to be part of a wonderful writing community as an undergrad, which continually challenged me to become a better writer.
Where do you get your ideas?
No single place. The Iron Phoenix came about because I wanted to see a superhero story set in a fantasy world and to explore how the genres would fit together. I took what I loved about both kinds of stories, discarded what I didn’t, and built something new. Ideas for characters and descriptions and all the small details came in bits and pieces, sometimes from the background of other stories and sometimes from the shower.
How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?
I am a compulsive outliner, spending quite a bit of time with an idea, shaping and developing it, before ever writing the first line. The ending of a story is one of the first things that I figure out. Instead of being stifled by knowing the story, I find it incredibly freeing, and I’m still surprised by my characters and my world every time I sit down to write.
What makes The Iron Phoenix special to you?
Many things. It began as a challenge to outline and write an entire book over spring break during my first year of college. In order to do that, I poured everything that I loved into one story: a strong heroine, superheroes, fantasy worlds, and romance. I did write a draft, but it had to be torn to the ground and built up again several times until I found the story’s core. It was the first time I threw out all the rules, everything about what I thought I should be writing, and let the story take over.
How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?
Not very much, actually. My characters are entirely made up, built from scraps that I have floating around in my head and refined by the story they’re in. Most of the time, they don’t become fully formed until later drafts.
Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most? Do you have a favorite of this author(s)?
Malinda Lo, a lesbian YA fantasy writer, has been one of my biggest inspirations. Reading her lesbian retelling of Cinderella, Ash, was the first time I saw myself in a fantasy novel and the first time I realized that it was something I could write.
Do you have any suggestions for new writers?
Be passionate about what you’re writing. Process changes, but I think passion is key in order to stay in love with a manuscript as you revise it for the fifth time. I also believe it’s vital to get feedback on your work. I’ve been fortunate to have a wonderful critique partner who pushes me to write better and dig deeper on revisions, and I think that has made a huge difference.
When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?
I’m currently in grad school, so there’s not a whole lot of time for anything but studying and writing. I do enjoy reading and playing video games as well as hanging out with my rabbit, Elphie.