Posts Tagged 'Bold Strokes Books'

Turning up the Heat

By D Jackson Leigh

Heat, cold, rain, drought – weather drives life on a very basic level in all parts of the world.

Aching bones predict a coming cold snap, a herd of cows lying down (not just a few napping) portend impending rain, thunder in winter forecasts snow will follow seven to ten days later, and so forth.

And, any culture born from agricultural roots, like the Midwest and the South, have learned to respond accordingly. If winter’s coming to the Midwest and granny says to go ahead and dig her hole next to grandpa in the family cemetery before the ground freezes, you better do it. Everybody knows the old and infirm seem to drop along with the outdoor temperature every year. Likewise, heat, the most basic measure of Southern weather, generally slows everything down in the sultry states because we’re familiar with the dangers of dehydration and heat stroke.

Writers, however, turn up the heat to bring our stories to a boil rather than slow them. Heat between two characters is the heartbeat of a romance. Heat brings tingle to a sex scene. Heat accelerates the pace of the plot to a breathless ending.

SwelterConsidering that heat was the theme, my timing was a little off when I found my rhythm while writing Swelter.

I had signed a contract with a deadline, then procrastinated getting started.

I always intend to write during the summer months but find it difficult with so many book events during the warm months. I still work a full-time job that pays my mortgage, so my writing time is mainly on weekends. This past summer, I had six weekends in a row booked with travel. So, no writing.

Autumn was rolling in when I whipped out the first chapters to introduce my two characters to the readers and to each other. Then I suddenly had writer’s block over what to do next. I struggled through those fall months, then went to visit a close friend, VK Powell, for one of our frequent brainstorming sessions. She’s a master plotter and lives in an awesome high rise condo where one wall is all glass and looks out over a downtown city park. So, as is our custom, we imbibed – I’m partial to whiskey and she likes vodka – and brainstormed while I paced and stared out at the city lights. She was left with empty liquor bottles, and I went home filled with inspiration.

Only now, it was the dead of winter.

So, I jacked up the furnace and turned on the gas logs in the fireplace until I was sweating and The Terrors, my three rescued terrier mixes, had their tongues hanging out.

The heat building in Swelter is three-pronged: chemistry between August and Teal; temperatures baking the Texas Panhandle; and plot tension as danger escalates.

In a nutshell: Congressional aide Teal Giovanni is fleeing the media and her shattered life after her affair with a married senator makes prime time news. Betrayed by her lover/law partner, August Reese is hiding out at a small cattle ranch to testify against a drug kingpin. Attraction sparks when Teal’s aging Honda blows its engine on a steamy stretch of Texas blacktop, and she’s rescued by August. But just as that spark bursts into flame, their worst nightmare comes calling. Will they survive or swelter as the heat becomes unbearable?

Why the Texas Panhandle? I’ve always been fascinated by places like Caprock Canyon State Park, red rock giants carved out and standing tall against the skyline. Besides, what’s sexier than cowgirls in boots and chaps?

The book’s title? Well, when temperatures become too hot to withstand, it’s not uncommon to hear a Southerner to proclaim: “I’m just about to swelter.”

Since Swelter was written in winter, it only seems appropriate to have it turn up the heat with December release to warm your holiday. Hope you enjoy the ride.

 

Parting note: Leave a comment on the Bold Strokes blog site by 10 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, and I’ll announce two winners on Sunday, Dec. 11, to receive autographed copies (ebook copies if you live outside the U.S.) of Swelter.

Portals of the Past

By Kathleen Knowles

Awake Unto Me 300 DPIIn his terrific book, Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco, Gary Kamiya had this to say about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake:
“The ruins looked like the bombed-out wastelands of Dresden, Tokyo or Hamburg in World war
II. It was the closest thing to an urban apocalypse this country has ever seen.”
As my readers, family and friends know, I love history, especially San Francisco history. It’s only natural I would write a story set during the 1906 earthquake, a seminal event in the history of San Francisco. When I was writing my first novel, Awake Unto Me, I took part in a ‘backstage’ tour of the botany collections of the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. Our tour was led by two veteran docents who told us a remarkable story about a woman named Alice Eastwood. The Cal Academy was then housed in a Market Street building in 1906 and was burned in the fire that began immediately after the earthquake. Most of its holdings were destroyed but the most precious parts of the plant collection, the type specimens, were saved by Alice Eastwood, CAS curator of botany. I saw some of the material in storage at the Academy during that tour. When I heard how she accomplished that feat, I thought, “That has to go into a novel.”
I was already planning to carry the characters in Awake Unto Me through the earthquake. Part of that planning including situating their home west of Van Ness where the post-earthquake fire was finally stopped. I knew I would need some new characters though. So there was one of my main characters, Alice Eastwood, fictionalized under the name Abigail Elliot. Her character and background were quite easy to put together since the Cal Academy archives house her papers. I spent happy hours reading them. There’s nothing in Alice Eastwood’s background to suggest she was a lesbian but she never married and claimed she had no idea how she would combine marriage and her career. So I used the lack of evidence about her personal relationships to draw my own conclusions.
The other main character is, of course, one of the many medical people I seem drawn to write about: Norah Stratton, a friend of one of Esther Strauss from A Spark of Heavenly Fire and a recent transplant from New York. Welcome to San Francisco, now here’s an earthquake for you! Needless to say, it’s a shock to poor Norah.
The problem with writing about the 1906 earthquake was exactly what aspects of that very complicated event to use. There’s much to choose from because the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire was a extremely well documented disaster. You could say it was the first globally known disaster and the media coverage at the time was overwhelming. Even the early movie technology of the time got into the act. I watched some silent films of the smoking ruins from the Library of Congress.
My recurring character Kerry is an employee of the Palace Hotel so there was the tragic story of the demise of that building. Her lover Beth is a doctor as are their friends Esther and Addison so that gives all of them a concrete role after the earthquake. In a disaster, doctors are going to be on the frontlines taking care of the victims. I got to find out a lot about the experiences of the San Franciscans after the earthquake and I was able to incorporate a lot into the story. One my favorite factoids: the downtown post office evaded the destruction and was able to conduct business almost normally in the chaotic weeks after the earthquake. I learned about which parts of the City got their water back and when thanks to a website called The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco which incorporates the records of the City water department from 1906.
As calamities have a way of doing, the 1906 earthquake throws my human characters’ lives into complete disarray. Some are left with their home intact but with serious injury. Some lose their homes but everyone’s life is upended one way or another. To write about being in an earthquake and then adjusting to life in its aftermath, I drew on my own experience going through the 1989 Loma Prieta quake. That was a surrealistic experience to say the least for those who were present. For the loved ones of San Franciscans who were anxiously trying to get news, it was terrifying.
My wife, Jeanette was my girlfriend of just four months in October 1989. She was on a jet flying to Germany when the earthquake hit. She and her friend Michael watched scenes of destruction on CNN with narration in German, while she frantically tried to call me and Michael tried to reach his dad who lived on Nob Hill. After an earthquake, the phone lines are jammed because everyone calls their friends and family to ask, “Did you feel that? Are you okay?” In Two Souls, my characters are not able to phone but they still try to check in with one another and tell their stories just as we twenty first century folks do.Two souls
After the earthquake, my friends and I had a cook out and listened to the radio and watched the helicopters fly over the dark City all night. I still have a copy of the San Francisco Chronicle “Earthquake Special” newspaper. The newspeople put it together using a generator and then handed out free copies on street corners the morning after the earthquake.
People who don’t live in California often express abject fear of earthquakes. Honestly, give me an earthquake that happens every 30 to 100 years over tornados and hurricanes which happen EVERY year.
The framing columns on the Two Souls book cover are a stylized rendering of a monument called the Portals of the Past. Amongst the many photographs and stories I came across during my research was the photo Arnold Genthe took of the ruins of the Townsend mansion on Nob Hill. In the book, I have Abigail and Norah actually come upon him engaged in this activity while they are out exploring the ruins. The only surviving structures on Nob Hill were this doorway and the outer masonry walls of the James Flood mansion on California Street. The 8 marble columns of the entryway were given to the City by Mrs, Townsend and in 1909 were relocated to the shore of Lloyd Lake in Golden Gate Park. They were named the Portals of Past and are thought of as the symbol of San Francisco’s rebirth after the earthquake. They are also serve as a reminder of what happened in 1906. I visit them every so often and wonder what it was like for San Franciscans back then. Two Souls is the concrete result of my musings.

Random Acts of Progress

By Aurora Rey

 

When I wrote stories as a child, I did so because it was a fun way to imagine experiences and adventures beyond my own. As I grew up, I came to understand how much more power stories had, both for the writer and those who read them. I spent a few years obsessed with the idea of being a writer, without writing much.

And then I went through a period of personal upheaval and soul searching and a divorce. As I came out the other side of that, I remembered how much writing meant to me. I started writing in earnest and somewhere along the way I found my voice.

It wasn’t for another couple of years that I began writing romance. Even now, with my third romance coming out in a few months, writing romance—lesbian romance, no less—feels like an act of defiance. A heady mix of hope and daring that says love matters. Queer voices matter. I matter.

This sentiment has felt especially important after the recent US election. Politics aside, the uptick in hate-fueled speech and actions demands a response. There has been a flurry of activity on my social media sites around the idea of doing something—attending a protest or calling congress or having hard conversations with family. There’s also been a lot of talk about loving more, of random acts of kindness. I like the philosophy of that, spreading love and joy to complete strangers. I don’t think we can have too much of that in the world.

I’m trying to do my part. On a recent trip to Louisiana, I left extra cash in my hotel room for the housekeeping staff and generous tips at restaurants and coffee shops. I made eye contact with strangers and smiled. I reached out to a few relatives I was inclined to avoid. I’ve called my senator. But there are days when it doesn’t feel like enough, when the impact feels too small.

I’ve decided to expand the idea slightly. I call it random acts of progress. Actions that have a concrete impact on issues I care about. Donations are part of it, because money matters. But it’s other things too—volunteering with the local refugee welcome organization or serving on the board of the center for survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault. It’s making a commitment to make things better for those least able to advocate for themselves. Even if those individual acts don’t feel like much. Just like random acts of kindness, they add up. That’s the whole point, right?

Crescent City ConfidentialAnd that brings me back to writing. I just sent off the final revisions for Crescent City Confidential and I’m nearing completion of my first draft of Summer’s Cove. As much as it feels sometimes like writing romances is the last thing I should be thinking about, I know that’s not true.

The simple act of writing is, in fact, doing something. Telling stories of love and hope, stories in which women, queers, and people of color save the day and live happily ever after, is progress. Until the day conversion therapy is a bad idea referenced in psychology textbooks, until no child fears coming out, until every family is treated with dignity, LGBTQ stories are an integral part of making the world a better place. And I’m proud to be part of it.

 

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.

Name That Tune

 

By Yolanda Wallace

 

I’ve always heard that life comes with a soundtrack, but I’m beginning to realize books do, too.

I don’t listen to music when I write. If the sun’s up, I’m serenaded by the sound of my dogs chasing each other around the house and the cat yowling for yet another snack (yes, she’s spoiled, but we love her). Once night falls, I have the TV on, but I usually leave the sound off so I can listen to Dita and the kids snoring while I type. I mean, so I can concentrate on crafting witty dialogue and a plausible plot. Yeah, that. Love you, honey.

Ahem. What was I saying?

Ah, yes. Music.

I have a full-time job so any writing I do during the week is done at night. During the day, I play tunes on my iPod while I’m sitting at my desk in my office. Just because I’m not writing during that time doesn’t mean I’m not communicating with my characters, however. Or, perhaps it would be more accurate to say I’m channeling them. I say that because my favorite songs tend to change depending on the book I’m writing at the moment.

Love's Bounty 300 DPIWhen I was writing Love’s Bounty, I think I listened to Gordon Lightfoot’s “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” every day for two months to help me stay in the mindset of my main characters, a lobster boat captain and the greenhorn she hires for the season. Now I can’t hear the song without thinking about Jake and Shy checking their traps off the coast of Maine while their friends and family anxiously await their safe return.

When I was writing The War Within, which is partially set during the Vietnam War, I turned to songs and artists that were popular during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. As a result, I had the Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, and Creedence Clearwater Revival in heavy rotation. Every time I hear the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” I picture Army nurses Meredith and Natalie dodging bullets while they try to patch up wounded soldiers.The War Within 300 DPI

Which brings me to my latest release.

Written under my Mason Dixon pen name, 21 Questions is set in Miami. I’ve always wanted to visit uber-hip South Beach, but I’ve only gotten close enough to wave at it as Dita and I skirted the heavier traffic on I-95 as we made our way to Key West. When I came up with the idea for the book, I did tons of research to get a feel for the area, but that wasn’t enough to help me capture the characters. Naturally, I turned to music to help me solve the dilemma.

21 Questions 300 DPICreating co-protagonist Kenya Davis was easy. I pictured her as a smooth, polished corporate professional with a hankering for old-fashioneds and classic soul. So I turned to my trusty iPod, found the Motown box set and allowed myself to be serenaded by Diana Ross and the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, the Temptations, and the like. The Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love” became Kenya’s theme song. In more ways than one.

Simone, the other main character in 21 Questions, was harder to pin down. I knew I wanted her to be younger—she’s 28 and Kenya’s 36—and I knew I wanted her to be a bartender because it’s such a sexy profession (duh), but that wasn’t enough to turn her from a character into a person. Once I decided to make give her Jamaican roots, everything started to come together. Bartending is what she does, but it isn’t who she is. She has dreams of becoming a music producer but doesn’t know how to make those dreams come true—or how to convince Kenya that she’s a better catch than her multimillionaire boss. To capture Simone’s energy, I turned to the reggae and Caribbean music on my iPod and put them on repeat. In fact, I played Rihanna’s songs so much I ended up writing one of them into a scene. “Don’t Stop the Music,” indeed.

I am currently working on Tailor Made, a New York-set love story featuring a woman who makes custom suits and a female bicycle messenger who moonlights as a male model. You know that means, don’t you? Yep, you guessed it. It’s time to break out the iPod.

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.


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