Archive for the 'BSB Author Interviews' Category

BSB Author Interview with Alexa Black

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What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

 

I’ve always told stories and always loved words. I’m told I learned to read very early in my life, and I’m pretty sure I started writing soon after that. I’ve always loved imagining other worlds and how the people in them live. So I’ve always been drawn to science fiction, fantasy, or stories with magical elements. If it’s a world different from our own, I’m talking about the people who live there.

 

Steel and PromiseI’d always wanted to write novels but struggled to do it. My mind would wander off to another world before it bothered to finish a story. But with Steel and Promise, I just kept wanting—needing, maybe—to tell the stories of these two characters. Before I knew it, that became an overarching plot. And I went like this: “This is a novel. I can do this. I am doing this.”

 

What type of stories do you write?  And why?

 

Almost everything I write is speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, or some blend of the two). I love stories that take me to new places, that engage me to imagine what life would be like if the things we take for granted about daily life don’t quite work the way we expect them to.

 

A lot of what I write has a dark tone. There’s a lot of intense stuff in Steel and Promise. That’s always been something I’ve wanted to play around with. We often love stories of monsters: vampires, werewolves, and the like. Love and lust that’s red in tooth and claw.

 

If you look at my character, Teran Nivrai, she has claws, and she likes to use them. She’s a little twist on a vampire story. How can I take a legendary creature, like a vampire, and bring her into a science-fiction story? What’s she like there? How’s she the same, and how’s she different?

 

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

 

My family and friends are proud that I write. My family sometimes wonders why I write the things I do, but everyone has been hugely supportive.

 

Where do you get your ideas?

 

Honestly, I often get ideas from things I’ve read. I love to reread my favorite books and stories and find some obscure character or plot point and ask: Is there a story here? What might a very different character make of a plot twist like this? What might a character like this one do and say if I plopped her into a very different setting or situation? Very often when I ponder things like that, a whole universe opens up in my head, one that ends up very different from the one that inspired me originally.

 

How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?

 

I start off just writing, definitely. Steel and Promise began as a handful of short stories about a courtesan attending a mysterious woman with claws. Before I knew it, the characters grew a history, and a plot connected them. They went from just seeing one another out of mutual attraction to having a whole political and personal connection.

 

What makes Steel and Promise special to you?

 

It’s the first novel I’ve ever finished writing! I’d say that makes it special.

 

I dreamed up Teran many years ago. I always had a strong sense of a character who retreated into herself because of a swirl of rumors about her cruelty and coldness. I felt a deep need to explore that situation: what happens when you really are a little iffy, a little sinister, but aren’t quite the monster everyone makes you out to be?

 

Cailyn was a little more difficult. I knew I needed a partner for Teran who was patient, kind, deeply connected to others–everything Lady Nivrai was not. I also knew I needed to tell the story in her voice, to show why her compassion extended to Ms. Vampire Recluse.

 

But I found that it was very healing to write. All the dark things I wanted to explore with Teran made it into the story, and all the kindness I wanted to show to people who’ve been cast out or rejected by others made it in, too. I was in a bad place when I started writing the stories that became Steel and Promise, and writing it soothed a few of those hurts.

 

How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?

 

I think there’s a lot of me in some of my characters. I’m not sure about other people I know. I think it goes back to the alternate-world thing. I know what it might be like to drop someone like me into a different world. Or at least I can guess, because I live in my own head. But I don’t know as much about how that would work for someone else.

 

I do notice that many of my characters end up with histories of trauma. That’s from my own life too, I think. I’ve had some rough experiences, and I know firsthand how they change you and the way you look at things. I don’t enjoy writing about horrible things happening to my characters, but I do enjoy writing about how they protect and support each other.

 

Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most?  Do you have a favorite of this author(s)?

 

Clive Barker, definitely! Not just because he writes otherworldly stuff, but because he has a gift for making dark stuff beautiful. He’ll be talking about something absolutely disturbing or violent or bizarre, and yet he’ll write about it using this rich, lavish prose that makes it sound attractive. Enthralling even.

 

That’s always fascinated me and inspired me in various ways. My character Teran is almost a vampire, pricking and cutting with her claws. That’s a little dark, a little sinister. What are sex and love like from the point of view of someone deemed a monster and for the woman who falls for her? For me, those kinds of questions make a story. They provoke us to ask what desire and love are, and how they look to people who don’t quite look like us.

 

For a recommendation, I’d have to say Cabal. It’s about an undead monster with mental illness. (He’s straight, but his romance is awesome.) The story focuses on a city of monsters—their culture, their identity, their art. Not only does that remind me of Teran, but I think it also speaks to many LGBT people’s experiences and support networks as well.

 

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

 

Write! Don’t let anyone tell you that the story you want to tell isn’t the story you should tell. I never imagined that Steel and Promise would be published. I worried it was too niche, too weird, too intense. But all of a sudden my book had a future, and an audience, and a place to live.

 

When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

 

Gaming! I play a lot of Magic: the Gathering with family and friends. Once again, it’s fantasy. But it’s also a tool to jog the mind. You can’t play well unless you think, and think a lot.

 

BSB Author Interview with Cameron MacElvee

by Connie Ward

cameron-macelvee-492

What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

I’d tried to write fiction in my twenties while enrolled in undergraduate creative-writing courses, but my classmates and teachers told me in so many words my writing wasn’t any good. So I gave up and focused on my college studies and allowed that part of me to be forgotten. Twenty-some years later, I began fooling around with my daydreams and personal fantasies (and sometimes my nightmares) and writing them out for my own enjoyment. I started wondering if anyone else might like them, and on the advice of a friend, I revised my personal stories into fan fiction and began submitting them online. When I started hearing from readers that they enjoyed them, I decided I’d see if I could get one of my stories published. And now, here I am with my first published novel, something I’m proud of. And to be honest, when I signed with Bold Strokes, I felt a bit vindicated from those disparaging remarks I’d received when I was younger.

What type of stories do you write?  And why?

Every story I’ve written, including By the Dark of Her Eyes, focuses on the themes of personal growth and healing as well as overcoming the demons of mental illness, addiction, guilt, and shame. I also incorporate the paranormal, even subtly, in every one. For me the paranormal doesn’t necessarily mean ghosts. It can mean any level of spirituality as well as those things that are not easily explained. My grandmother grew up on the Cherokee Reservation in Oklahoma, and she came from a great tradition of storytellers. She enjoyed entertaining me and my sister with spooky stories, and those were the ones I remember best of all. She firmly believed in the supernatural, so I think I’ve inherited that trait from her. And, just as her stories were a gift to me, I think of mine as little gifts for my readers with the hope my message and themes about compassion and courage will comfort and encourage them to never give up, never give in.

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

I don’t think they thought much of it at first. In fact, I’m certain they thought it was a phase, maybe something like a midlife crisis without the red sports car and mistress. Actually, my partner was probably thankful I focused my free time on writing and not on some other nefarious activity. However, once I shared the news that my first novel had been accepted for publication, my colleagues, friends, and family were super-excited and proud of me for sticking with it and not giving up like I had when I was younger. I can’t help but feel my grandmother is proud of me, too.

Where do you get your ideas?

Mostly from paying attention to life. Actually, I read a lot of nonfiction as well as fiction, and I also watch a lot of documentaries and movies. Sometimes I happen across an idea or concept or dynamic between people that captivates me, and it starts me asking “what if” questions like how a story might change or events transform if the main characters were female or if the love interest were between women. I don’t keep an idea file per se, but I do store lots of bits and pieces away in my mind. I’m not sure when or how these ideas actually take root and lead me toward a story. My muse is mysterious and a wee fickle; she’ll ignore me for weeks or months before she decides to have a chat. But when she does want to talk, she demands my attention. I’ve learned it’s best to listen and take notes.

How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?

I’m a huge planner. A germ of an idea will lurk around in my mind for ages before inspiration strikes and that idea begins to coalesce into a theme. From there I daydream and fantasize about some situation that would allow that theme to be realized. This process can take weeks or months and involves me playing out a movie in my head, particularly at night while I’m trying to get to sleep. I play the movie over and over, rewinding and editing, working out the characters, plot, setting, and point of view as I go. Once I have a good understanding of how I want the story to end, I write a draft of the last chapter. From there, I make a bulleted outline by working backward from the end to the beginning. Once I have this outline, I spend some time doing research and gathering facts. Then I set myself a schedule and start at the beginning of the outline with chapter one and usually write one chapter a week. That’s how I get a first draft written. The very first rough draft of By the Dark of Her Eyes took me about fourteen weeks to write. However, the process of imagining the movie in my head took much longer.

By the Dark of her EyesWhat makes By the Dark of Her Eyes special to you?

I began germinating the idea for this story over ten years ago, but when I learned my niece had been diagnosed with breast cancer, the idea took hold of me and I pursued it earnestly. As a mother myself, I didn’t know how my sister was going to face losing her daughter, who, even though an adult, was still her baby girl. My sister’s grief nearly consumed her, and I remember thinking that losing a child had to be the worst pain anyone could face no matter the age of the child. I wrote the initial draft of the novel not long after my niece passed in 2012. Then a month after completing the story, the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary occurred. I was at work when I saw the news feed, and even though I was on the other side of the country from where the shooting had taken place, I left right then to drive to my daughter’s school. I had to see her, to hold her, and know she was safe. When I arrived at her school, I found mothers and fathers who, like me, had left work early to get to their children. We were all shaken by the news, all struck by the utter horror of the act. I couldn’t stop thinking about the parents of those murdered children. I couldn’t stop putting myself in their shoes. How does a mother come back from that? How can she not help but replay the last morning she kissed her little boy or little girl, packed their lunch, hugged them, told them she loved them? From this nightmare, I shaped and forged the revision of my story that became By the Dark of Her Eyes. This is why the story is special to me. I wanted to pay tribute to my sister, to all the mothers of Sandy Hook, and to anyone who’s lost someone precious and managed to find the strength to live another day.

How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?

There are essences of real people in my characters. Sometimes from myself, from someone I’m close with, or from a mere acquaintance. Sometimes I anchor a character in an archetype from myth or memory. But I wouldn’t say any of my characters are solely based on me or anyone I know personally.

Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most?  Do you have a favorite of this author(s)?

Hands down, Cate Culpepper. River Walker is my favorite, the top of my list, and all her other titles are on that list as well. In some ways, I think of my first novel as an homage to her and her storytelling. I’m sad I never got to meet her in person and to thank her for her stories. She was a remarkable writer, and every one of her books a gift.

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

Read. Never go a day without reading. The link between reading and writing is momentous and is something I’ve experienced firsthand. When I was in the sixth grade, my teachers discovered I couldn’t read. It impacted me in many ways, one of which was that I wasn’t able to write. Even after remedial instruction, I still couldn’t read at grade level. When I went to college (something I wasn’t expected to do or encouraged to do), I started at a community college and found my poor reading ability was a huge disadvantage when it came to written assignments. However, I was fortunate enough to have a professor pinpoint my problem. He taught me how to read a text critically as well as for enjoyment and gave me a list of classics and told me to start reading. I still have that list, haven’t finished reading from it, but I discovered the more I read, the better reader I became. The better reader I became, the better writer I became, at least for college and academic work. However, I think because I’ve read so many imaginative works from all different eras and genres that I’ve become better at writing fiction as well. I would add, it’s important to take time to read poetry occasionally. Language is beautiful as well as functional. Appreciating its sound, its rhythm and cadence, its lyricism and figurative expressions can positively impact one’s style of writing.

When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

As I’ve said, I read a lot, all the time. I usually have three or four books (nonfiction and fiction) going at once, as well at one or two audio books for the treadmill and my drive to work. I also watch tons of movies. I’m the cliché of a Netflix addict and binge quite often. I also enjoy live performances and museums and consider myself a bit of a “foody” who likes to try new restaurants and attend food festivals. But mostly I spend my free time with my partner and our daughter and our dogs. We’re a foster family with a local animal-rescue group, and we work at training our foster dogs and getting them ready for their forever homes.

BSB Interview with Robyn Nyx

by Connie Ward

 robyn-nyx-496

What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

Ah, if only there were a lightbulb moment to tell you about! I’m afraid there was no conscious decision. I’ve just been writing almost as long as I’ve been speaking. It’s simply something I have to do, like breathing or hitting the gym. The stories and characters are in my head, and if I don’t get them out, I run the risk of being sectioned with a severe case of dissociative identity disorder! I’ve got great memories of my best buddy, Jules, and me spending many an uninteresting Geography class co-writing stories and passing unfinished sentences back and forth, trying to avoid the watchful gaze of the malodorous Mr. Brunt. It’s always felt like such a natural thing to do, but then we’re all storytellers in our own right. Some of us just get lucky and manage to be published.

 

What type of stories do you write?  And why?

I write fast-paced stories with characters that I hope the reader wants to get to know. I like to mix character and plot-driven tales because that’s what comes naturally to me. I want the reader to be not only invested in the story but also very much in the people who are taking part in that story. I love writing strong female characters with flaws and women who are so much better than they ever think they are, but finally realize that by the end of the novel. I guess that comes from my belief in the inherent value of all humans: so many people weren’t lucky enough to have the love and nurture I had as a child, which empowered me to believe I could become whatever the hell I wanted. Instead, they’ve been down-trodden, abused, belittled, and made to believe that they’re nothing. That inflames my anger, and it’s probably why I’ve worked in the volunteer sector all my life. I enjoy helping people realize and fulfill their potential. So I love that I now get to put lesbians into any occupation I want to—marine, journalist, dragon, detective—and that I can put them through whatever fantastical situations I fancy, but they still get the girl and most importantly, Don’t F***ing Die! It’s a privilege to write fiction for our community, and it’s vitally important for lesbians, young and old, to have it available. Positive role models saving the girl and/or the world. It doesn’t get any better than that.

 

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

I’m very lucky in that everyone around me has always been supportive of my writing. My parents have always encouraged me to chase my dreams, whatever they were, and that’s never changed. My lady love has been instrumental in making this particular dream my reality, and I couldn’t have done it without her. My best buddy, Jules, loves it too and always believed I’d get there someday. Again, I’m fortunate to be surrounded by loving, positive, supportive, and accepting people, whereas other writers might have to remain anonymous for fear of the reactions of those close to them.

 

Never EnoughWhere do you get your ideas?

I really had to work on the storyline for Never Enough because it was a rebuild from another manuscript (see later), so I wracked my brains for the human-trafficking plot to make it believable for Elodie, our heroine and movie star, to be involved. But the whole plot, characters, and story arc for The Extractor series came to me when I woke up one morning. Sometimes the idea for a novel will come from a short story I’ve penned. I’ve got a dragons-and-goddesses novel that’s currently vying for attention with a love-across-the-ages novel, even though I’m only 10,000 words into Change in Time, book two of the Extractor series. It’s like the London underground in my head—it’s little wonder that I often forget to lock the windows and doors of our house when we leave!

 

How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?

As much as possible, I sit down every night to write for a few hours. Sometimes I get more words down than others, but on less productive nights, I still persevere. I’m working on a trilogy right now, so I have to do a certain amount of planning: I needed an overarching story arc for the series and individual arcs for each novel. With Never Enough, I did less planning. I had it in my head what was going to happen (mostly), and how, but I still had many moments whilst typing, and I’d go “You didn’t just say/do that!” It’s amazing how you can surprise yourself even though the dialogue and action are coming from your own head. I love that about writing. I love how your brain can pull a fast one and keep you guessing.

 

What makes Never Enough special to you?

The obvious answer to that is that it’s the first novel I’ve managed to get published. It was hard work. I’d written a novel that I submitted to Bold Strokes in 2014—it had around ten main characters, around twenty plots and sub-plots, and I’d written it Dickensesque style with an omniscient narrator who liked to head-hop! Little did I know how wrong I was to do so. I was “gently encouraged” to knock down the house and build a new one with just a couple of those characters. One of the great things that came out of that process was Therese Hunt. In the original manuscript, she was the sadistic sidekick to a male drug lord, but she became so much more in Never Enough. I loved watching her develop on the screen through my fingertips, and the feminist in me was ecstatic to find her emerging from beneath a dominant male and be “top dog,” even though she is quite the horrific creation. But I think it’s important to show the darker, shadow side of the female psyche. I was concerned that Therese might be too much for Bold Strokes as one of the main points of view, but I was so glad when, not only did she get left alone, but they wanted to see more of her in the book! That gave me the opportunity to sit back down and explore her further after my final draft. It also drove home the fact that I’d chosen the right publisher for my work: one that would allow me to really write what I wanted to.

 

How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?

The answer to this could be quite scary, particularly with characters like Therese and Nat in Never Enough! I think my voice comes out in the dialogue I write, but I don’t consciously write myself into my characters. I love watching people, observing their tics and habits, and listening to the many different ways people speak. It’s fascinating, and I sometimes note down things of interest that I might be able to use in characters further down the line. Mostly though, the characters come to me fully formed, having resided with my Id for a while! I might have to add backstory and the odd habit, but I already know who they are, how they navigate their lives, and what they’re doing in my head. Like anyone my age, I’ve met a lot of people, and I expect that I’ve absorbed my experience of them for later use. In Never Enough, I have put one real-life person in, a bit of a cameo if you will. It was a thank you for being the first person to believe in my writing from a commercial perspective and publish my words. It’s probably impossible not to write the people you know, but I tend to add aspects of different characters, rather than the whole kit and caboodle of anyone I know. More often than not, I might use an experience or a journey and then retell it through different characters.

 

Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most?  Do you have a favorite of this author(s)?

I love to read all sorts of genres and authors, and so many authors over the centuries continue to inspire me. I loved the Tales of the City series by Armistead Maupin, and it was one of the main reasons for my first visit to San Francisco. I love authors who have the ability to transport me immediately into their worlds. I enjoyed Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters. It was marvelous to see a lesbian author gain such recognition and have her work adapted for TV. It’s a concern that her follow-up projects weren’t as popular, which maybe points to the titillation factors of TTV for a straight male audience. Still, it probably entertained an awful lot of lesbians too!

I will say that my favorite lesbian author is Brey Willows. Her first novel is out in March 2017 (Fury’s Bridge), and it’s a fantastic read: lots of humor, sharp dialogue, and a truly intriguing premise. And I’m not being biased just because Brey happens to be my fiancé!

 

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

Wow, where to start, and how long have I got? I had a fabulous English teacher at secondary school called Jack Crawford, and we’d have wonderful conversations about writing, authors, and the creative process. We had a particular lively debate about inspiration versus perspiration: I was convinced that anything worthwhile could only be written when I was inspired, whereas Mr. Crawford believed in sitting down and making it happen. We agreed to disagree, but I’d love to track him down, give him a copy of this book, and say “Bugger me, you were right!” That was a long-winded way of saying, “Sit your ass in the chair, and write.” Make time, because it won’t happen any other way than commitment, tears, and bloody fingers.

I’d also say, attend some writing classes. Discover the basics of point of view, deep third person, dialogue tags, and disembodied action. It’ll save you a whole heap of work in the editing process if you’re lucky enough that someone can see the value of your writing even if you’re not doing it quite right! I was co-delivering a writing retreat this month, and every single one of the writers (aside from the BSB insider!) was writing in first-person, present tense, and head-hopping the hell out of their characters. But they were great writers. The inspiration, creativity, and talent were there, but they were just lacking the right tools. Find out what they are and use them!

Make your manuscript the very best it can be. Edit, edit, and edit again. Maybe pay someone to do that for you. Don’t ever send off your first draft, replete with spelling mistakes and bad grammar!

Build your emotional resilience and don’t be precious about your words. Plenty of people know far more than you know about writing, editing, and publishing. Listen, and don’t be offended. You’ll learn how to improve your writing and your story-telling capabilities if you’re flexible and open. I hear Radclyffe still attends writing classes even with the considerable library of books she’s written. Writing is no different than life—you never stop learning, and you’re never the finished article. Strive to improve, and don’t ever rock back on your ass, thinking you’ve made it and that you can stop trying.

I guess my final suggestion would be, stay positive and persevere. Agatha Christie was rejected for five years, but her book sales are now worth over two billion dollars; twenty-eight agents passed on A Time Traveler’s Wife before a small publisher believed in Audrey Niffenegger (great name, by the way), which now has sales of over seven million and was adapted for the silver screen; and Margaret Mitchell received thirty-eight rejections before Gone with the Wind was finally accepted for publication. Stick it out, because if you give up, you’ll never know what might’ve happened.

 

When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

Tee hee…the clean version? I’ve got a super-busy work life, being a chief executive of a charity in addition to running a community-interest company with Brey. But when I do have non-writing time, I love to ride my motorbike, go for walks near water or in the countryside, or watch movies. I go to the gym regularly—it’s my safe place, where I can just concentrate on the physicality of working out. If I’m ever in turmoil or upset in any way, an hour in the gym pushes it all out of my body and mind.

BSB AUTHOR INTERVIEW with CHARLOTTE GREENE

by Connie Ward

 charlotte-greene-493

What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

 

I’ve been a voracious reader since childhood, and doesn’t every kid who likes to read want to be a writer? I became a literature professor, so books are a major part of both my professional and personal life. My PhD studies and early academic career put my creative writing on hold for about a decade, and now that I’m back to writing fiction, I’m thrilled to be doing it again.

 

 

 

What type of stories do you write?  And why?

 

I’ve published romance, primarily, but I also love mystery, horror, and science fiction, so I might explore these genres down the road. I love to read all of them, so it makes sense to try writing them.

 

 

 

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

 

They’re as thrilled as I am and, in some cases, if possible, more. I have a very strong support system, and I think my happiness means a lot to them.

 

 

Where do you get your ideas?

 

A Palette for LoveA Palette for Love is very, very vaguely based on Fifty Shades of Grey and came from a conversation with my wife after we both read E.L. James’s series. We asked each other what a lesbian Fifty Shades would look like. That question was the catalyst for the book and the sequel, Canvas for Love, though again, to even say that these books are “inspired by” the Grey series is probably a stretch.

 

My next novel, Love in Disaster, takes place during Hurricane Katrina, an event I lived through. At the time, it was, of course, an awful experience for those of us in the areas Katrina affected, but I remember wondering what was happening to the tourists that couldn’t get out of there on time. I took that kernel of an idea and wrote a novel about it.

 

 

How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?

 

Recently, I’ve had to work a little more with a plan because I’ve been writing a sequel, and the sequel needed to tie up a lot of loose ends in the first book. Usually, however, I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kinda woman. I tend start with one small idea and expand from that.Love in Disaster_final

 

What makes A Palette for Love special to you?

 

The idea that people will read something I’ve read and be entertained and possibly moved is a genuinely incredible feeling. Having my fiction published also fulfills a major bucket-list category, so that’s one more check mark.

 

 

How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?

 

I would say very little, except I’m sure that’s probably not true. I tend to have academic main characters, since that’s the world I live and work in, and some of their experiences are based on my own or those of the academics I know.

 

 

Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most?  Do you have a favorite

of this author(s)?

 

Asking a book-nut to name some favorite authors is like asking me to name my favorite heartbeat: I like them all and couldn’t do without any of them. That said, Radclyffe, Georgia Beers, and Emma Donoghue have certainly written some of my favorite contemporary lesbian novels.

 

I also study early twentieth-century literature and have read some great lesbian fiction from the twenties and thirties by authors like Virginia Woolf, Molly Keane, Radclyffe Hall, and Gale Wilhelm.

 

 

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

 

I tell my current students and used to tell my less-senior graduate students (when I was a graduate student) that half the battle is simply sitting down and writing almost every day. Half an hour a day, or an hour every other day—whatever—that’s how books, dissertations, and essays are written. Prioritize writing like you do anything else (taking a shower, going to the gym, watching MacGyver reruns), and you’ll find that it becomes a habit quickly.

 

Once you’ve won that battle and you’re actually sitting down most days of the week to write, don’t get hung up on outcome—just write whatever comes out of you. You can worry later about editing, about plot holes, about “audience,” and about everything else, but don’t let all of that get in the way on a first draft.

 

Just sit to write and you’re already a writer.

 

 

When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

 

I play and coach a local roller-derby team and like brewing hard cider. I also play a lot of computer games and tabletop games with some other nerds like me.

A BOLD STROKES BOOKS AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH SAM LOLLAR

 BY CONNIE WARD

Sam lollar

 

What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

I bet I’m typical of most fiction writers in that I never really decided to become one: I’ve always written fiction. As soon as I learned to write I began composing little stories that I would share with my school friends. The more important question for me is why I decided to try to get my fiction published. I have published numerous scholarly articles, but never fiction. A former therapist I saw for many years listened to me whine about how “I’ve always wanted to be a writer,” yet I never submitted anything for publication. He noted that when I felt that I had something to say, I would write for publication. I guess I finally feel like I have something to say.

 

What type of stories do you write?

My first novel is a coming-of-age tale. I’ve begun writing a second one that is also a coming-of-age story. I grew up in the 1960s—a turbulent time socially for the U.S. Homosexuality was still listed as a mental illness by both the American Psychological Assn and the American Psychiatric Assn; being homosexual would get one kicked out of the military with a dishonorable discharge. It was not a time to embrace one’s “otherness.” That struggle—the inward revulsion reflecting societal hatreds—scarred me for most of my life. Yet that struggle seems so distant today, as gay people celebrate the legal right to marry in the U.S. (and all the other ways being gay today is different from being gay in the 1960s). I feel that I have stories to tell that expose that grim reality that gay men and women endured in the 1960s.

 

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

My mom and dad used to think I was extremely creative and enjoyed showing my writing efforts (short stories and the like) to their friends and coworkers. If my parents were alive they would be delighted with my novel, but not surprised that I’ve finally gotten a novel published. Years ago I was a co-author of a textbook, my name prominently displayed on the cover. I gave my mom a copy of it. Imagine my (delighted) embarrassment when I picked her up at the doctor’s office one day, and she was carrying the book—the cover conspicuously in view. I asked her about it, and she said she just had to show it to everybody—in fact for several weeks, she carried it everywhere she went and showed it to anybody with a pulse! I wish she were here now to carry my novel around town! Most of my friends have died or scattered to the winds over the years, but I think they would enjoy seeing themselves reflected in my books (current and future).My surviving family is delighted that I have published my first novel.

 

Where do you get your ideas?

Where do any ideas come from? They come from my existence—from the difficulties I endured, the struggles of my friends (gay and straight), various news stories that caught my eye. I discovered that I can weave “real” events with fictional situations rather well. Much of the action that occurs in my first novel actually happened, just not quite in the way I have written it. When writing, it’s not uncommon for me to come to an impasse with my characters—they refuse to do what I want them to. hen I’ll think of something that happened to me (or that I read about) over the years, and I’ll try to put my recalcitrant characters into those situations. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

 

How do you write: do you plan everything out or just write?

With my first novel, I started out writing vignettes. Each little tale stood alone. I was in a faculty writing group at the university where I taught in California when the ideas for Tallulah first popped up. I wrote one vignette and got favorable feedback from the writers’ group and continued to write little “mini-short stories.” After I shared three or four of these efforts, the writing group suggested that it would make a good novel, so I began stringing them together. The original vignettes that I wrote were based on real events; later in my efforts, I began to pull in events that I had read about or just dreamed up. Tallulah was just a conglomeration of ideas, a bit of a muddle at first. In fact I thought I had finished the book in 2010 when I went to a writers’ workshop in New Orleans. I was asked to submit the first two chapters when I signed up for the workshop and realized that I didn’t know for sure which chapters were the first or second ones! The instructor (author CJ Lyons) advised me that I needed to figure out how I wanted the story to start before I could continue with a logical story arc. With the input from Lyons and the other group members, the “finished novel” that I had brought to the workshop began to take shape. The real finished novel bears little resemblance to that earlier effort. Whole chapters have been rearranged, new characters were introduced, chapters were deleted, and the entire story line was extensively modified. That is not the way to write a novel! The second novel I’ve begun writing is more structured from the outset. I know who my characters are, I know the setting(s) of the tale, and I know the story arc of the main character (not surprisingly, a young man coming of age in the late 1960s).

 

What makes Tallulah Bankhead Slept Here special to you?

tallulah-bankhead-slept-hereI actually worked as a bellboy at a motel in my hometown, and a faded movie star really did stay several weeks at the motel, although I had almost no interaction with her. Many years later, at the writers’ group in California, I began to think that having a naïve teen interacting with a world-weary movie star would make a fun premise for a novel. Over the years I would pick up the pages I had written while in the group and either tear them up and start over, or fawn over them, thinking them to be the best work written in English. Sadly for me, mental illness overtook my life, and I couldn’t focus on writing for many years. Finally, I entered a period of mental stability from the late 1990s onward and was able to revisit the book I had begun so many years before. At one point I had saved the first draft on a 3.5 inch floppy disc, then deleted it from an old computer I threw out. I then managed to lose the floppy disc. Years later, as I was about to be evicted from an apartment, I packed up my meager belongings and moved in with a cherished lesbian friend. Once on my feet, I relocated to southern Louisiana; during the unpacking I discovered that lost floppy. I don’t believe in the supernatural or any such things, but it did seem like this was a “sign” for me not to give up. I reworked Tallulah and attended the writers’ workshop in New Orleans, then reworked the novel yet again. I thought I had finished the book and had saved it to a flash drive when my computer crashed. I figured everything was okay because I had the flash drive, but no sooner did I plug the flash drive into my new computer than I bumped into it and broke the damn thing in half. There was no way I could recover the material saved on the drive. So, once again, I started over. Happily I had a hard copy of an earlier draft and didn’t actually have to start from scratch. After all this drama, I decided to give it my best shot to get it published. I am pleased to see the results of these efforts. Mental stability and a published novel make for a happy author!

 

How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?

Several of the characters in Tallulah are based on real people that I met while working at the motel. They would be virtually unrecognizable to anyone from that period, however, because I had to make them work together in ways they never did in real life for the novel to make sense. The main character is based on me (what a surprise!): the naïve teen working at a motel and interacting with the world-weary movie star. Most of the scandalous actions actually occurred to a friend of mine (Richard Luna, to whom the novel is dedicated). He was quite the little horn dog back then, and I was the somewhat envious, somewhat mortified observer. One of the characters is a television star with whom the main character has a sexual fling. Richard never told me who this TV star was that he cavorted with, just telling me that it was a gorgeous guy in a TV Western. So, it’s as much a mystery for me as it is for the readers—who was that star of TV Westerns who seduced a teenager in El Paso, Texas during the summer of 1967?

 

Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most? Do you have a favorite of this author(s)?

Actually three authors (two gay identified, one not) inspired me. I wanted to write a novel including a real, well-known (though deceased) movie star. I didn’t know how to do that without being sued by such an actor’s estate. Then I read Stewart Kaminsky’s detective series featuring Toby Peters. There is a string of about twenty books featuring all kinds of movie stars, from Joan Crawford to Mae West. I realized that I could have the movie star do anything as long as it was not indecent, illegal, or immoral .For instance, I learned that I couldn’t have Tallulah Bankhead sleeping with anybody—although I allude to her sadness at losing her sexual allure. So Tallulah is kind of the Yoda of my book: worldly, wise, “seen it all, done it all,” and acting as a stable rock around which the actions of the hapless protagonist revolves. I also wanted characters that were so real you just knew the author was writing verbatim about events that actually occurred. I don’t think anybody does this better than Felice Picano. When I read Like People in History I was convinced he was transcribing the events as they actually happened. I hope I have been able to get a bit of that “real-ness” into my book. The third element of the book that I wanted very much to include was a sort of breathless wonder that overcame the protagonist; the character is agog over all the events going on around him. And who better to capture that sense of amazing reality than Armistead Maupin? His Tales of the City series leaves me breathless as the characters engage in one amazing experience after another. I hope I’ve been able to achieve that wonderment to some extent.

 

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

Write! I have come across two ideas from authors whose names I have forgotten: if you want to be an author you have to write! And “what do you call an author who won’t quit sending his/her efforts to agents and publishers? You call him ‘published.'”

 

When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

I read extensively (and intensively, come to think of it). I get as focused on the structure of the book as I do on the plotline: what words were used and could another word or phrase have been used instead? I am a slow reader because I absorb the writer’s technique as much as I absorb the story line. I enjoy jogging and hiking (especially in desert country).I also play with my two Shih Tzu puppies. Over the years I have lost so many friends, family members, and pets that I thought I’d not want to have any more pets. Then these two little guys came into my life. It’s hard to be blue and morose playing with them. Thanks for the opportunity to reflect on the “why” of writing my novel.

Bold Strokes Books Author Interview with Jaycie Morrison

by Connie Ward

jaycie-morrison

What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

I’ve always wanted to write, but when I was younger all I could manage was bad poetry. Then, you know, life happened and I put all that aside. About five years ago I lucked into a combination of circumstances—a kind of perfect storm of opportunity and inspiration. I retired from the full-time job I’d had for thirty-plus years, so the time and energy were there. A few months later I attended a marvelous weekend at a women’s music camp, where I gave myself permission to open up that creative box in my head and see what came out. And when I had a (most uncommon) period of time alone in the mountains of Colorado, the story presented itself to me in that quiet solitude. Now since I’ve started writing, I haven’t been able to stop.

What type of stories do you write?  And why?

basic-training-of-the-heartMy debut novel, Basic Training of the Heart, is a historical romance. It is the first in a series, which seems appropriate to me, since I’ve always viewed history as a really long story. As to the why, I think it’s important for us in the LGBTQ community to be aware of the tremendous courage of those who came before us. In today’s connected world, it might be hard to imagine the isolation that many of these folks experienced, but if you read their stories, you hear over and over again, “I thought I was the only one who felt that way.” I chose World War II because the contrasts of the period are fascinating. Even though it was a time of death and destruction on an unimaginable scale, socially, it was also an unprecedented period of opportunity for women and, to a lesser extent, minorities. For the most part, the country was strongly unified in a way that we might find hard to believe, but civil rights were deeply curtailed, and individuals willingly sacrificed in ways hard to envision today. Maybe that’s why I ended up with such dissimilar characters.

I do have a murder mystery in my mind and would love to try my hand at sci-fi someday.

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

My wife has been incredibly patient as I played with my imaginary friends until the wee hours on more than one occasion. She’s always been willing to listen as I babble on about some plot issue and has started assuming that when I get really quiet I’m probably running dialogue in my head. Two of my long-time friends were my first beta readers, and without their encouragement I would never have submitted my book to Bold Strokes. One advantage of having stayed in the same place for so many years is that I am fortunate to have a really special, tight group of friends who have been absolutely wonderful. My mom is a former librarian, and she’s also been very supportive, although I think she secretly wishes I were a little more “mainstream” so she could brag to her friends. My only sibling is a younger sister who is much more conservative, but whatever we may disagree on, we know we love each other, and that’s the most important thing. I’m giving both of them a book this weekend, so we’ll see…

Where do you get your ideas?

I didn’t try to write fiction before because I wasn’t confident that I had a compelling story to tell. But one night in Colorado, the characters and a very broad arc of a long story, of which Basic Training of the Heart is the first part, came to me in a dream. I remember seeing something about the WACs on the Internet the previous evening, but beyond that, the plot and characters just came from my subconscious. Since then I’ve often found that I solve problems in my writing or come up with that perfect line of dialogue just before I actually wake up. The challenge is to remember all those great ideas.

How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?

When I start out each day, I have a vague destination in mind, but nothing I’d really call a plan. I mostly just try to get into the characters’ heads and let them tell me the story. I can recall at least once, though, that I had to back them out of someplace they’d gotten themselves into and re-direct. Later, when I edit, I try to be more sequential and make sure that when I said “the next day” it wasn’t actually two weeks later.

What makes Basic Training of the Heart special to you?

Besides the fact that it’s my first—and you always remember your first, right?—I so much admire women who have served and are serving in the military. The barrier-breakers bring us all along with them, don’t they? I also tremendously respect the Native American community and their attitudes toward the earth and their place on it. It’s hard to imagine a group of people treated worse by our government, yet they’ve survived and continue to lead in many ways. What’s happening right now at Standing Rock is absolutely inspirational.

How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?

Initially, I identified more with Rains—solid, steady, somewhat stoic—but my wife tells me that when we met, I flirted with her exactly the way Bett flirts. I definitely use parts of people’s personalities when I write other characters. This is especially therapeutic when you’re mad at someone and you write them as a villain. But I haven’t killed anyone…yet.

Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most?  Do you have a favorite of this author(s)?

The first lesbian fiction I remember reading was I am a Woman by Ann Bannon—one of the Beebo Brinker Chronicles. (I think I was in my mid-teens, as I recall being both shocked and delighted.) But Katherine V. Forrest’s An Emergence of Green really resonated with me and gave me a much more positive sense of self later in my coming-out process. Today there are so many remarkable lesbian writers, and they all inspire me.

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

When I first started writing what became Basic Training of the Heart, I had the luxury of working on it for several hours every day. During that time, I didn’t read much—especially anything that was close to my genre. I didn’t watch many movies or TV shows either, until I was sure I could recognize my characters’ voices above the daily clatter of the world and that I could reliably find my pacing as the author each day. I’m not saying that everyone needs to do that, but it certainly helped me. And just at the point where I was about to let someone else read my work for the first time, I went to a workshop where I came away thinking that I had done a great many things wrong. I was pretty depressed for a couple of days, but then my rebellious side took over, and I decided that the things I liked about my story were more important than someone else’s guidelines. So I’d advise new writers to strive to be authentic and let everything else fall into place on its own. Don’t give up and don’t force yourself into someone else’s mold. You will compromise down the line, but if you do the work with passion, you’ll please yourself.

When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

I like to play guitar and sing harmony. I have an ATV and get to appreciate the beautiful Colorado countryside when I ride. I enjoy cooking when I have the time to play with new recipes. And of course, I love to read.

 


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