BY Connie Ward
What made you decide to become a fiction writer?
I’ve been writing since I was fourteen—short stories, essays, and a play—but strangely, and I don’t know why, I don’t think of myself as a “fiction writer” that much, if at all. As a teenager, I was always a literature nerd and a bookworm, but never did I think I’d be a writer one day. Back in those days, I would write only when I had a creative-writing homework assignment. As much as I’d enjoy those assignments and get really immersed in them, I never wrote outside of school, never did at home. I was a reader to the core, spending hours in a bookstore or library. All I did was read. Teachers often asked me, “Have you ever thought about publishing?” but I didn’t take writing seriously and didn’t take their encouragement to heart. But in 7th grade, I started thinking and wondering if writing was something I could take seriously, so I dared myself to send two of my creative-writing homework assignments to Scholastic Inc. They loved them and gave me a few Gold Key Awards.
During college, I went into writing/publishing erotic shorts only because it was fun, something to do. Maybe that was why I never took being a writer seriously, because I only ever see writing as fun. Writing is what I do; writing is not who I am. It’s still an escape, and it’s still all fun for me.
What type of stories do you write? And why?
It wasn’t ever part of my master plan or anything to write “gender bending” stories in historical and contemporary settings, but it seems like I can’t help but write them. Having transgender (especially non-binary/gender non-conforming) characters star in my works is second nature for me: they’re what I know, and they’re who I am. I’m intersex. I’m trans. I’m pansexual. Most of all, I’m human. I’m proud of these layers about me. I get a kick out of unraveling those complexities through my LGBTQI characters and with these transformative themes that embody what being LGBTQI is all about. My mission is always to portray my characters, no matter where they identify in the LGBTQI spectrum, as “normal.” Because I’m intersex and trans, I’m awfully bored with people choosing to only see a fantasy and not the reality of what it is like being me. My characters, like me, like us all, are not “otherworldly.” We aren’ aliens, fetishs, or objects. We are human, we are people deserving of love: not only to be loved by others, but most importantly, we deserve self-love, to love ourselves for just the way we are.
What do your family/friends think about your writing?
I might be the odd one out in saying this, but aside from the friends who’re also authors and enjoy my work (and vice versa of course!), I honestly have no idea, like I don’t know what most of my family/friends think of my work, if they love it or hate it, if they care or don’t care. I don’t talk about writing, or my writing, or share any of my writing to them unless I’m asked about it. I don’t have beta-readers. I prefer working alone. It’s all because I like to keep author-related stuff for my followers on my Twitter, blog, and Facebook, while with my friends/family, I prefer to be hush-hush about my writing life. Not out of shame, embarrassment, or hiding; it’s not for any negative reason. It’s my choice. Naturally, and always, I smile when some of my friends/family reach out to me asking about my work, or to say that they have bought/read/reviewed my work, but it’s not something I expect from any of them. It’s a bonus if they do, but it’s nothing personal if they don’t. I wouldn’t want this any other way, this separation of my private life and writing life, and the distance between friends/family and social media followers. It’s truly bliss for me.
Where do you get your ideas?
This is gonna sound daft, but I don’t know! Like, I have more than enough fuel in inspiration from movies, art, music, and drag to keep my creative flow going once I have my idea/concept for a story in my head, but where they come from exactly, it’s not from anyone, anything, or anywhere concrete really. I just write from the heart. I guess that’s where the ideas are, from my personal experiences of this storied life I’m living so far. And instinct. I write with my instinct.
How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?
I just write. I can’t mold, shape, and develop a story until it’s actually there on paper. When it is, that’s when I go back and start planning how I want my manuscript to be, chapter by chapter and scene by scene. I also hunker down tight and get very meticulous, taking my sweet time and enjoying the new project that has potential for publication and is deserving of my time, effort, and love. And it’s not about rushing. This isn’t a race. It’s about the journey, not the finish line.
What makes The Man on Top of the World special to you?
I believe in the glam rocker. I believe in him, in her, in them. I believe in rock and roll. I believe in love. And I believe in me. I believe in everyone. I believe that we can all make dreams and miracles happen. The Man on Top of the World is made up of this. It’s the stuff of my dreams. It’s my fantasy, but it’s a reality in that it’s my first novel. For that, it will always be “the one.”
How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?
I put all of myself in my characters. I base a lot of who they are on who I am, or who I’d like to be. No matter how similar or completely opposite they are from me, I have to be there in some way, shape, or form so that the authenticity of their perspectives/experiences can be as “real” as possible. It’s also for the betterment of the story and for the benefit of my writing: it has to come from places, feelings, emotions, and situations that I know personally, not from somebody else. I could never borrow from other people’s experiences; that doesn’t feel right to me. No matter how interesting, exciting, and crazy their stories might be, it’s not for me to tell it or rewrite it; hence I haven’t and still can’t see myself putting people I know into my characters.
Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most? Do you have a favorite
of this author(s)?
I’m shamelessly old school. Dead writers give me life. Oscar Wilde and James Baldwin. They were everything to me as a teenager, and they are still everything to me now. With Oscar, it’s not The Portrait of Dorian Gray that was a revelation to me, but it was De Profundis that really blew me away, that moved me. In Latin, it translates to “From the depths.” This work goes even deeper than deep, somehow. That’s how deep De Profundis is. With James, it’s not Go Tell It On the Mountain; it’s Just Above My Head. For me, that’s the novel supreme of all that he has written.
Do you have any suggestions for new writers?
Every writer says “read a lot” and “just write.”
Yes, one must read a lot and just write, but the most under-looked advice that should be stressed as much if not more is this: edit. Yes, EDIT. Edit a lot, not necessarily as you write, but after you’ve birthed the work, when it’s on paper. No matter how much that rough draft sucks or how pretty good it is for a rough draft, seriously, I can’t stress this enough: EDIT.
I know, we have professionals who edit for us, which is maybe why most writers don’t stress this part of the process. I’m by no means saying that you have to have the skills of a professional editor, because you won’t. Most writers rarely have that same “editor eye” as a professional editor does, which is pretty razor sharp (hence is why what they say can sting sometimes!), but think like one, pretend that you are a professional editor, the best that you can. Trust me, this mindset does wonders, and it actually works. The joy of crafting a story is in the writing, but the real magic is in the editing.
Think of any writing project as a movie: think of it as if you’re a director that’s going back over and over re-watching your movie that you know is good, but it needs to be better. And it can. Yet it’s up to you to be in control of shaping and molding it from a rock into a diamond. Watching that manuscript develop, grow, evolve, and sparkle—that’s the magic. Is self-editing work? Yes. But does it have to feel like a chore, does it have to be painful? Absolutely not. It’s what you make of it. It’s in the attitude. Be positive, have fun with it. Edit, edit, edit, revise and rewrite that manuscript as much as you instinctually feel is necessary. Do it for not only the benefit of the project, but for your growth and development as a writer. Chuck the ego. You don’t need it. Your manuscript deserves all the TLC in the editing, revising, and rewriting it needs. YOU are worth the long hours, lost sleep, and nagging headaches. Another piece of advice is this: it’s fine to have your beta-readers, critique partners, friends, and family look over your manuscript to give you advice, tips, constructive feedback, and praise to make your project better, but…this is your story. Don’t base your manuscript and your writing confidence on the opinions and approval of others. Your writing confidence should be validated by you, not your friends, family, and peers. Be a little selfish. Write a story that you want everyone to like, and nobody will like it. If you write what you want for yourself, you will more than likely please at least ten people. And chances are, even more people than that. Such as it is with life, with writing too: be yourself.
When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?
When I’m at home: my fun is connecting with my followers! You will see me every day on my Twitter and Facebook page sharing so much, at least five to ten posts a day, sometimes a few posts more, and connecting with as many people as I can who comment or message me privately. Luckily, I attract some of the most positive, open-minded, intelligent, and caring people that make every day on my social networks new and never, ever boring. They’re why I keep the pages going on a daily basis. I truly have a great time connecting and bonding with everyone.
When I’m not a homebody, New York City is my home away from home! You’d see me at the art museums from the Metropolitan to MoMA, Central Park, at the gay night clubs supporting my drag artist friends, going to a Björk concert, sometimes to a Broadway or off-Broadway show—
anywhere where there’s art, music, theater, and drag, it’s where I’ll be, and front row! I’m everywhere in NYC! It’s where I thrive best. Being social, that’s my great love, my ultimate fun.