BY Connie Ward
What made you decide to become a fiction writer?
I’ve loved reading all my life, so I suppose it was inevitable that my head would become so full of story ideas that I simply wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t at least try my hand at actually writing them. And when I’ve got an idea that I’m really passionate about, it tends to play over and over again in my mind until I actually write it down. So if I ever want to be able to concentrate on real life, I’ve got to get those words onto the page. It’s the only way I’ll be able to function as a human being. There are things I need to accomplish daily, and my boss really hates it when I sit in a corner and stare into space thinking about fictional characters. Any fictional characters, even if they aren’t mine. (Boy, is he going to be upset today!)
What type of stories do you write? And why?
I don’t know that I have a specific type of story that I write, necessarily. I just write about situations or settings that interest me. The series that Actual Stop is a part of sort of attempts to find a balance between intrigue and romance. The other books I’m working on that aren’t part of this series explore some real-life circumstances that I find fascinating. There’s quite a bit of social commentary woven into the narratives there because there are aspects to how we relate to people as a society that I find captivating. And those stories may never see the light of day. Who knows? But I’m writing them just the same.
What do your family/friends think about your writing?
They’ve all been extremely supportive. I force my friends to read my stuff as I’m working on it, and they’ve been pretty good about not complaining too much. They’re also great at telling me if something isn’t coming across the way I’d intended. They phrase it much more colorfully, of course. But their feedback has been invaluable. My family hasn’t had the chance to read anything I’ve written yet, so their support thus far has only required encouragement and vague-yet-positive statements about chasing the dream. I’m interested to see what they’ll say when they’ve finally had a chance to read my novel. I’m especially curious to learn which ones will try to get away with telling me they’ve read it when they actually haven’t. I’ll keep you posted on that.
Where do you get your ideas?
A lot of them—especially the other books I’m working on that aren’t part of this series—
are just twists on things that have occurred in real life. I’ll see a news report or hear someone telling some crazy story about what happened to them that weekend and think, “Wow. That could’ve gone a lot differently. What if….” And my imagination just sort of takes over from there and holds me hostage until I write down exactly how badly it could’ve gone. And in my head, it’s always the worst-case scenario. I’m kind of sick that way.
How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?
It really depends on the story. I’ve done both. My first couple books sort of evolved around several key scenes that kept playing over and over in my head, and I had to write around them. But I’ve got a few other books I’m working on that I’ve outlined. Of course, sometimes I follow the markers I’ve established up to a point, and then I suddenly take a sharp detour from what I’ve planned. So really, it varies.
What makes Actual Stop special to you?
Actual Stop is special to me because it’s the first significant thing I’ve ever managed to finish. I’d jotted down a couple short blurbs that couldn’t really even be called stories here and there just for fun—and because I couldn’t get the scenes out of my head until I wrote them down—but I’d always figured I’d never be able to produce an actual book with a fully formed plot. So, when I finally managed it (it took six years), I was ecstatic.
How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?
It depends on who you ask. I don’t think there’s much of me or anyone I know in any of my characters. But my friends who’ve read it have all told me that the main character in Actual Stop sounds just like me, so maybe I’m too close to the situation to really be objective about it. I had a very similar career path to the one she’s on. And I did think it’d be funny to have her engage in conversations that I’ve actually had with people, but that was more for my friends’ amusement than anything else. She has this whole dialogue with a suspect in chapter two about the consequences of lying to a federal agent and the statute that backs that up. I lost count of how many times I’ve mentioned that to people during an interview. And there’s also a conversation later about the Marshall Islands that was my go-to for getting people to leave me alone when I was on a protection assignment. So I guess there’s a bit of me in Ryan. And Ryan’s dad uses a lot of the same parental pieces of advice that my dad uses. But that’s about it. Several of my friends have asked me to put them into a book at some point, so if I ever figure out how to do that, the answer to this question will change to, “Everyone is a caricature of someone I know, but I can’t tell you who’s who because I don’t want anyone to be mad at me.”
Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most? Do you have a favorite
of this author(s)?
That’s a great question, but it’s a tough one to answer. I first discovered that people wrote gay and lesbian novels pretty late in life. I’d only read mainstream fiction before that, and while I had no complaints, it was definitely exciting to realize that there were actually gay and lesbian authors out there. It had never even occurred to me to look until someone pointed it out to me. So for a long time after that great discovery, I read every story I could get my hands on. I steeped myself in lesbian romance. I didn’t read anything else. Whenever I had free time, my attention was on devouring whatever story (or stories) I was in the middle of at that moment. I devoted every waking moment to cramming words into my helpless little brain as quickly as possible, and my apartment was just shelves and shelves of books by lesbian authors as far as the eye could see. And I read really, really fast (not quite as fast as I run down a flight of stairs, but close), so by now all the stories I’ve read are kind of one big blur of happy to me. I can’t think of one off the top of my head that was any more inspiring than any other. There are so many amazingly talented gay and lesbian authors out there that I’d be hard pressed to name any among my favorites for fear of leaving anyone out. And I just know that if I force myself to try, the second I’m finished with answering this question, I’m going to think of six more authors I’d forgotten to mention, and I’m going to feel terrible, even though they have no idea who I am and couldn’t care less that I didn’t sing their praises because they know how awesome they are and they don’t need my validation to confirm it. Still, I’m going to totally cop out and say that I take something away from each and every author I’ve ever read.
Do you have any suggestions for new writers?
Nothing they haven’t already heard a million times before. Write. Write. Also, write. Definitely don’t take after me. I’m the prime example of what not to do in pretty much every situation. I’m the queen of procrastination, and there are times when I’m lying on the floor playing with my dog thinking, “I should really be writing right now.” But then I don’t because some days playing with my dog is more fun. It’s definitely almost always easier. And that’s why it took me so long to finish this first book. Well, that and Netflix.
When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?
You mean, not counting smothering my dog with love? Well, as I’m sure you’ve realized by now, I read a lot. Among mainstream authors, Vicki Pettersson is one of my absolute favorites. If you haven’t read Swerve or her Signs of the Zodiac series, stop reading this and pick them up immediately. The woman is a genius. A sick, scary genius. Anne Rice, Darynda Jones, and Terry Goodkind are a few more of my go-tos. I also watch a lot of TV. Person of Interest is my favorite show ever—as evidenced by the line I snuck into Actual Stop as a shout out—and it’s pretty much on at my house on a continuous loop. (Especially last night’s ep, 6,741. I don’t think I’m ever going to recover from that one.) On the rare occasion I’m not watching POI, I usually have on Arrested Development or some IDTV program, which has some of the best show names ever. (If anyone knows how I can get a job naming the shows on that channel, please contact me immediately, because I have some good ideas. Maybe not Southern Fried Homicide or Sinister Ministers good, but I think they’ll impress just the same.) A couple months ago I started taking Krav Maga, so I try to make it to classes as often as possible. And one of my friends and I have been talking about doing a mud run together, so I’m s-l-o-w-l-y easing myself into getting ready for that. If I’m never heard from again, you all know what happened. The mud run did me in. And someone will need to call my hetero-soul mate and tell her it’s time. She’s already been instructed on what incriminating items need to be disposed of and where they’re located. She’ll take it from there.