by Connie Ward
What made you decide to become a fiction writer?
When I was a kid my mother wrote poems, usually rhyming ones, and often about people she knew, as a tribute to her friends. Everyone loved them, and others would ask her to write one for them. She would happily oblige them. When I was ten I wanted to be like her, so I sat down to try to write poems too, but the words wouldn’t come. Finally, by high school, the words came. I wrote tons of poems. Then, eventually, I branched out into short stories. Given enough time, I moved onto plays, briefly finding a home as a playwright. But I came back to fiction after putting it aside for many years, and at this time in my life, writing fiction is what I need to do.
What type of stories do you write? And why?
No matter what genre or form I’m writing in, I definitely have strong female and, of course, lesbian characters. I try to include romance and humor, as well as relatable moments, as I want my readers to not just enjoy the story but connect with it, maybe even see themselves in it. Overall, I like happy endings, and I love a good romance. But that doesn’t mean that a bigger, more serious piece couldn’t be in my future.
What do your family/friends think about your writing?
They are all very supportive. So supportive, they’ve all asked for free copies. Sadly, both of my parents passed on before I got word that I was going to be published. But, I’m sure, had they been here, they would have bragged about my novel to everyone they knew.
Where do you get your ideas?
Sometimes the ideas spring from a casual encounter with a stranger. I don’t think I’m the only one who does this. You meet someone, say, at the grocery store or on public transportation, you’re attracted to them, and your mind starts working overtime imagining a whole scenario with that person. Sometimes ideas come from those moments. Other times an idea just pops up from nowhere. I think if all writers were honest, we would say we really have no idea where the stories come from; they’re just suddenly there and we have to write them.
How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?
Sometimes I have an idea for a character and then figure out from there a story I can build around them, but either way, once I know the story and at least two of the characters, I just start writing and let the story take me along for the ride. I hate planning and outlining a story. Even as the writer, I still like to be surprised, so I may not know how the story will end until I end it. Sometimes, unexpected things happen, and I like it that way. I think it makes for a better story.
What makes A Class Act special to you?
A Class Act is special to me because it is a story that sat in a box, unfinished, for about ten years. I was unhappy with it, doubting my ability to write fiction, so I put it away and forgot about it. When I finished my second master’s degree, I was unemployed and job hunting and needing to make money. I pulled out the box with all my writing projects in it and went through it to see what might be publishable. I submitted poems, academic papers, and this short story that, at the time, went by another name. When I received the email saying that Bold Strokes was going to publish it, it was quite a shock, but a happy one. After all the rejections, finally someone wanted to publish something I wrote. It was a wonderful feeling.
How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?
For this story, none of the characters are exactly based on anyone in particular, though I did steal the names of some of my friends for the characters, as well as the classroom building. That being said, some of Rory’s world views are also mine, but that is all we share. She isn’t meant to be my counterpart. Overall, the characters are all uniquely themselves.
Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most? Do you have a favorite
of this author(s)?
Some of the gay and lesbians writers I’ve always loved are Rita Mae Brown, Sarah Waters, Elena Dykwomon, Susan Smith, Ivan E. Coyote, S. Bear Bergman, and Armistead Maupin, to name a few. Their works I rather enjoy are Venus Envy, Fingersmith, Beyond the Pale, Of Drag Kings and the Wheel of Fate, Burning Dreams, Butch is a Noun, Gender Failure, and of course, the Tales from the City series.
Do you have any suggestions for new writers?
Don’t give up. Learn how to take constructive criticism. Learn new things so you can write about them. It’s great to find a routine that works for you and stick to it, but don’t beat yourself up if life gets in the way and you can’t write that day. Read for fun, in the genre you write in, as well as others. Write the story you want to write.
When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?
I read. I have coffee with friends and talk about writing. I get into emoji wars with friends who are far away. I listen to music really loud on my headphones so I don’t have to share my music with anyone. I color dirty words in my adult coloring books because mandalas are boring.