Posts Tagged 'LGBTQ Publishing'

A BOLD STROKES BOOKS AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH RACHEL BAILEY

BY CONNIE WARD

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What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

 

Well, I’ve always wanted to tell stories. Weird stories, fantastic stories, stories that posited an answer to the question “What if. . .?”

 

From the time I was little, really little, like toddler age, I used to draw and paint and color. And I eventually went to an arts college to pursue my dream of being an artist. But I didn’t realize until well after I graduated from that arts college that my talent for art wasn’t necessarily just that. It was a need to tell a story. Every person I drew from my imagination had a backstory, an adventure they’d gone on or were about to go on, and even a future. And I rarely drew the same people twice.

 

Anyway, I’d thought my calling in life was to be an artist, an illustrator, and eventually a graphic designer. But my brush with graphic design in college led me to advertising, in the pursuit of which I discovered I was a writer. It was driven home to me that my real talent was in saying things convincingly. All those years in art school to discover I was a writer. . .what irony! I mean, I had begun writing original fiction when I was fourteen, to tell the stories my drawings and paintings couldn’t, but it took almost another ten years and three different majors to discover my true calling.

 

After I earned my BFA in advertising, I couldn’t get a job. I slowly gave up the fading dream of being a copywriter, but around this time a friend of mine introduced me to fan fiction and told me about slash, another thing I’d never heard about.

 

BSB-DyreByMoonsLightI started writing slash fan fiction and still do, to this day, alongside original fiction. Through writing fan fiction, my writing has improved tremendously. Writing it taught me about characterization, pacing, prose, plot, and detail. Penning those first novels at fourteen and fifteen, and then novel-length fan fiction pieces in my twenties, prepared me for writing Dyre: By Moon’s Light and my other novels.

 

I wanted to be a fiction writer to tell the stories that pictures—with their thousand-word worth—simply could not. Every picture is worth a million possibilities, and when I see people, or get a picture in my mind, I choose one to explore, then do so. Rather it chooses me and speaks through me. I mostly sit at my computer and try to stay out of the story’s way.

 

 

What type of stories do you write?  And why?

 

When I have my druthers, I tend to write LGBTQIA stories featuring people of color, often with a magical-realism bent. The fantastic has always, well, fascinated me, especially when paired with the life and times of someone who was basically an ordinary person—in the case of Ruby Knudsen, from Dyre: By Moon’s Light, an HR person for a small college. I like taking the unsuspecting “regular Jo” and dropping her in a situation where she has to adapt to the strange and possibly magical to survive. Perhaps it’s wishful thinking, the hope that someday this would happen to me. Or the wish that it had happened when I was a bit more adventure-ready. I’ve been wanting to be plucked out of my ordinary life and dropped into a magical adventure since I was old enough to know the difference between those two lives. When I was seven, I convinced myself that I was a werewolf and that, on one full moon or another, I would change. It was more than a year before I finally admitted to myself the unlikelihood of that being true.

 

But even now, every full moon, I still gaze upward and hope.

 

What do your family/friends think about your writing?

 

They’re one hundred percent behind me! The ones who’ve read Dyre: By Moon’s Light seem to have enjoyed it, though my mom thought the beginning was creepy—which was exactly what it was supposed to be. They’ve provided me with feedback, advice, suggestions, praise, cheerleading, and more. I couldn’t have asked for better friends and family during this process. They keep using phrases like “When you’re rich and famous. . .remember how supportive I was.”

 

So, they at least have faith that I’ll be successful, ha ha. And not a single one of them has, even after reading my stories, discouraged me from pursuing writing as a career. That’s extremely encouraging.

 

Where do you get your ideas?

 

I get ideas from everything. Everyone. Everywhere. From prompts, which my first three (completed) novels were: prompt-fic. But I’ve gotten ideas from words, phrases, sounds, colors, feelings, thoughts (“what if. . . ?”), characters I see in movies, read about in books, hear about in songs, poetry, quotes, and real people I know or pretend that I might know, etc.

 

Though, as I’ve said, I believe the story chooses the writer, and I think that when I see a prompt of some kind that really catches me, and makes me sit down and write, that’s because a story that wants to be told just walked up to me and introduced itself through that prompt, whatever the prompt might be. Just came up to me, introduced itself, shook my hand, and sized me up. And when we’ve both decided we suit each other, I sit down and start writing.

 

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

 

Oh, I’m definitely a pantser. I fly by the seat of my pants. I’m not a story architect. I have writer friends who are amazing, who plan every bit of their story, down to the last punctuation mark. I am not one of those people. I’ve tried being an architect, but for me, it never works. I don’t really plan my stories, especially short stories. Novels are different, slightly, in that there has to be some planning, like I have to be at least five steps ahead of what I’m actually writing, or else I’ll write myself into a corner I can’t get out of (basically I get in my own way and lose touch with what the story demands of me), which actually happened with Dyre: By Moon’s Light. So even as I was completing my first non-fan fiction, grown-up novel, I was learning important lessons. And I probably will for as long as I’m writing, something that fills me with joy and anticipation.

 

So, yeah, I just write. I’m a strong believer and practitioner of write hot, edit cold. Although I’ve been known to edit while hot, too. Sometimes, that’s the only way for me to have the impetus and cajones to go back and do what needs to be done, in terms of killing off a character or making a bad guy do something really bad.

 

What makes Dyre: By Moon’s Light  special to you?

 

Wow, so many things. It was the first novel I ever completed that was—in my humble opinion—a real contender, publishable. It was the first in the Dyre series. Probably the first piece of work I gave my friends and family to read, in part and in whole. It’s my first novel to actually be published. It was novel-writing boot camp for me. It taught me so much about not only writing, but about perseverance and stick-to-it-iveness. I learned how to follow through with a project on Dyre: By Moon’s Light, even though at times I gave up on it as unsalvageable because I was blocked, because I was trying to impose my own will on the story, because I didn’t know where to end it or how, etc. But Dyre: By Moon’s Light was also one of my first loves, as far as my writing went. I was too attached to it to let it go forever, and when the time came to finish it, I came through.

 

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

 

Soooooo much, ha ha. The characters Ruby Knudsen and Jennifer “Des” Desiderio are based on two of my closest friends, after a fashion. Ruby has the sweetness, humility, and generosity of spirit of the woman on whom she’s loosely based. And Des has the wise-ass, kick-ass, heart-of-gold qualities of the woman on whom she’s loosely based.

 

As for me, I try not to Mary Sue myself. On the occasions I do, it’s always a very conscious addition, a small part, tongue-in-cheek observer or deus ex machina. Or just some random person in the story with something interesting or funny to say.

 

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

of this author(s)?

 

I can name some authors I’ve enjoyed who’ve tackled LGBTQIA themes in their writing, though I don’t know for sure about their sexuality, in some cases.

 

 

  • Robin Wayne Bailey (Shadowdance blew my mind)
  • Octavia E. Butler (everything she touched was golden, loved the Oankali in her Xenogenesis series)
  • Clive Barker (visceral and powerful writing, loved Imajica)
  • Mercedes Lackey (pretty sure she’s straight, but she definitely adds LGBTQIA themes to her novels)
  • Judith Tarr
  • Delia Sherman
  • Nicola Griffith
  • Kelley Eskridge
  • Tanya Huff
  • Nalo Hopkinson
  • Sarah Monette
  • Sheri S. Tepper (The True Game series is phenomenal)
  • Rosa Guy
  • Rita Mae Brown
  • Mary Renault
  • Anne Rice (of course)

 

Of these authors, it’d be nearly impossible for me to name a favorite. Though Mercedes Lackey was my first experience, as I recall, with a gay main character in her Magic’s Promise. Mary Renault and Robin Wayne Bailey were the second writers of gay fiction, historical and speculative, respectively, that I can remember reading after Ms. Lackey.

 

 

Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

 

Sure. READ. A LOT. Read what you like, read what you don’t like, read what you want to write. If only so you know what the conventions of the genre are. Get used to using the tools of the trade, then throw them away, if you dare. Invent new tools, if you can.

 

Don’t be afraid to copy other authors’ style and technique. When it comes to artistic endeavors, it’s “When you know better, you’ll do better.” Or “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Which isn’t to say you should plagiarize. That would be wrong and, even worse than wrong, unhelpful to you as a developing writer. What I’m suggesting is, do you like Edgar Allan Poe? Don’t copy his work with a thin veneer of modernism. Instead, make a note of what he does well. Details and descriptions? Strong. Characterization? Solid. Prose? Rapturous. Take what you like about what Poe wrote and try to write like that. Keep doing it till you have a set of skills, and then find your own technique. Experiment.

 

So, you can write like Poe, now, eh? Big whoop. What would happen if you threw some Hemingway up in that piece? Poe’s descriptiveness meets Hemingway’s starkness. Play around, mix and match, jump between styles in the same story, the same paragraph, the same sentence, even. Have fun. Style, technique, and mode of expression are, really, the only things you have a choice about when it comes to writing. All else is, for lack of a better term, divine intervention. Concept is the cake. Execution is the icing.

 

If you’re a pantser, like me, remember: it’s not about you or what you want. All you can do is tell the story that wants to be told. You’re a conduit. Maybe you want your protagonist to live, when they’re supposed to die, or an antagonist to die when they’re supposed to live. But you don’t get that choice. The story will tell itself. Chances are, if you’re blocked, it’s because you won’t be quiet and still, and listen for the story to tell itself to you. When you do that, you can never be blocked on a story. Try to stay open, and you’ll always have inspiration and the words will always be waiting for you. (Which isn’t to say you won’t have periods when the words aren’t coming because you’ve temporarily exhausted them. But you’ll find that given a break of a few hours or a day, you’ll have them clamoring to spill out of your fingertips once again.)

 

To the architects. . .I don’t know how you do what you do, with outlines and whatnot. I suspect that you’re the true visionaries, who really do make up stories, as opposed to being a conduit for a story that already exists and just needs to be written. I wouldn’t presume to know how to tell you to do what you do. Just keep at it, and maybe some of the same advice I’d give to pantsers applies to you, too. Get out of your own way and stay there, and let the story tell itself. If the words aren’t coming, it may be time to revise or overhaul your outline/script/whatever. Or it may be time to call it a day and try again tomorrow. The trick is knowing which of those it actually is. I wish you luck.

 

But to all writers, new and old, pantser or architect, I say: Keep trying. Never give up. Write the story you want to read, even if no one else seems to want to read it. I guarantee you, once you’ve polished it, there’ll be plenty who do.

 

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

 

Ha ha, read, of course! Novels, short stories, fan fiction—lots of fan fiction—and I watch movies, listen to music, and absorb cartoons. I’m a kid at heart. But mostly, I write, when I’m awake. With occasional pit stops for other, less important things, like eating. Sometimes I hang out with my mother, my friends, my girlfriend, all of whom are very understanding when it comes to my need for solitude and GET-OUT-I’M-WRITING! alone time. Writing is pretty much my be-all/end-all. I do it for fun, for catharsis, for my sanity and health. Except for the need to socialize, writing and getting feedback for my writing fulfill most of my emotional/mental needs. I’m basically a one-trick pony, a one-note song. I write. With breaks for reading, eating, sleeping, and attempts at extroversion, I write. And when that happens, “I” cease to exist. There’s just writing. It’s the best, most addictive state ever. When I write, I am writing, in every sense of the phrase. That’s my fun.

Castle in the Clouds

By Sheri Lewis Wohl

Pacific Ocean

Pacific Ocean

 

I would like to say I’m your average, normal person. Lord knows I’ve tried. I’ve raised a family, worked in the same job for over two decades, volunteered in my community, and tried to be good and kind. For the most part, I think I succeeded. It’s just the normal part I keep tripping up on. If you’ve read any of my books, you’ve probably got an idea of what I mean. Few, if any, who know me well would use Sheri and normal in the same sentence!

Take writing, for example, I’ve tried to write straight-forward books filled with danger and intrigue. Oh, I get the danger and intrigue all right but something else always creeps in: the paranormal. It doesn’t matter how I start out. It doesn’t matter what my intentions are. Each and every time here comes a ghost, a vampire, a werewolf, and many others of preternatural ilk. I can try not to write paranormal and I fail miserably. Perhaps it’s a little like Carl Sagan once said: “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.” Take away my preternatural characters and suddenly, I’m nowhere.

Becoming yourself. Finding your voice. Embracing what and who you are is a difficult thing. It’s taken me a very long time to look in the mirror and like who I see. It’s taken me just as long to find peace with my artistic endeavors. Fear is a terrible thing and I lived it for so very long. Not a single day more. Though I know it was a process years in the making it seems as though I simply woke up one day and was comfortable in my own skin. I didn’t have to compete with anyone. Didn’t have to be younger, prettier, more talented. I didn’t have to be normal! Some people will like me. Some people will not. Some people will like my work. Some people will not. And, it’s all okay. I have found my place and though it’s miles away from what many consider normal, it is my space to imagine the impossible, dance like no one’s looking, and stand on center stage to perform.

As Gilbert K. Chesterton said, “There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds.” In Twisted EchoesTwisted_Echoes_300_DPI it’s more a castle on the ocean shores but the sentiment is still the same. On a road trip a few years back I stood alongside the highway staring out at the mighty Pacific Ocean and I could see it all in my head: The house, the ghosts, the psychic. Did anyone else with me see those images? Nope, not a single one. It didn’t matter a bit for I was building my castle in the clouds that blustery day and you can count on me to keep doing just that.

In It For the Long Haul: How One Writer Forges a Career

by Lesléa Newman

1. QUIT YOUR DAY JOB: If you have something to fall back on, you will fall back on it. If you have to be successful at your writing in order to eat, believe me, you will find a way to make that happen. Barbra Streisand never learned to type, because she figured if she did, she would wind up typing instead of singing. Dump Plan B and stick to Plan A!

2. B.I.C. (Butt In Chair): This is the only cure for writer’s block. You have to put in your time. You never know what’s going to happen when you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. But you do know what will happen if you don’t put in your time: nothing!

3. SHOW UP: If you are going to live a literary life, live a literary life. Go to readings, workshops, conferences, seminars. Join –or start—a writers group. Become a member of a writers organization (Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, etc.) Create your own network of people who will support your literary career.

4. READ, READ, READ. Read everything and anything you can get your hands on. Every book you read will teach you something, even the terrible ones. Especially the terrible ones. Study how other writers handle dialogue, description, character development, action, setting, plot. Every once in a while, read something you don’t ordinarily read (if you always read fiction, try nonfiction; if you always read poetry, try some prose). Think of all the people who said, “I never read fantasy” and then picked up Harry Potter.

5. BE DIVERSE: Just as you read many different forms (see above) write in many different forms. I started out my literary life as a poet, then wrote my first novel, GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT, then my first collection of short stories A LETTER TO HARVEY MILK, then returned to poetry, SWEET DARK PLACES, and then wrote my first children’s book, HEATHER HAS TWO MOMMIES. Perhaps it’s because I get bored easily, but nevertheless, I learn something from every form in which I write. Writing poetry has helped me add sensory detail to my prose; writing fiction has helped me write poetry with a narrative arc. And being versed in different forms has helped me create something new: my most recent book, OCTOBER MOURNING: A SONG FOR MATTHEW SHEPARD explores the impact of Matthew Shepard’s murder in a cycle of 68 poems which add up to a historical novel written in verse.

6. REVISE, REVISE, REVISE: Writing is rewriting. Someone famous said, there are two ways to do something, the quick way and the right way. Take your time to get it right, whether that’s writing seven drafts or twenty-seven drafts. Show your work to people you trust and listen to what they have to say. Consider their suggestions and try them. When I do this, very often something else entirely appears on the page that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been willing to at least consider someone else’s suggestions. Don’t get too attached to what you’ve created. I find that the sentence/paragraph/chapter I’m most attached to is usually the one that has to go. I recently wrote a chapter book for young readers which consisted of 10 short chapters (30 pages). My editor thought it would make a better picture book, so I shortened it to 5 pages. Ouch! So much of my brilliant writing landing on the cutting room floor! But in the end, I had to admit that my editor (who ultimately bought the book) was right.

7. KNOW THE MARKET: Writing is a creative act; publishing is a business. Do your homework and research publishing houses to find the best home for your work. Sometimes it’s obvious (sending my novelTHE RELUCTANT DAUGHTER to Bold Strokes Books was a no-brainer). Sometimes it takes a while for a book to find its home. In the words of Winston Churchill, “Never give up.” As a friend of mine likes to say, sometimes the editor who will fall in love with your manuscript hasn’t even been born yet. She was kidding (sort of) but the point is, be persistent. Another friend of mine says, “Never co-habitate with a manuscript.” If you offer (not submit) your manuscript to a publisher and it is declined (not rejected) turn it around and offer it to someone else.

8. SUPPORT OTHER WRITERS: I firmly believe that when one of us succeeds, all of us succeed. Go to readings. Tell friends about books you love. Use your social networks to sing the praises of your writing friends and colleagues. Share their success stories. Plug their books. Cheer them on. This is a tough business. We writers need to stick together!

9. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF: If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will believe in you. Which isn’t to say that everything you put on paper (or screen) is brilliant. (See #6). It means that you know your work is important and you will make a commitment to give it the time, energy, and effort it deserves. Find others who believe in you, too. And I can’t stress this enough: make sure you choose wisely when it comes to love. Your beloved has to understand how important your writing is to you. If you wind up with someone who doesn’t take you seriously as a writer, there’s going to be trouble.

10. BE KIND TO YOURSELF: This, above all, is the most important gift you can give yourself. Writers seem to be good at beating ourselves up (myself included). My writing isn’t good enough, I don’t do it often enough, I’m not writing in the right form, my work isn’t important, I’m a hack, etc etc. Sound familiar? Try to get the critic in your head to shut up. See if you can find a nurturing voice (the Goddess? your best friend? your mother?) to replace the critic and praise you daily. Write yourself a pep talk, a love letter, a positive review. Tuck it in an envelope and give it to a friend to mail to you at some point in the future as a surprise. Look in the mirror every morning and say, “I am a writer” to your gorgeous reflection. Pat yourself on the back for being brave enough to create something out of nothing. It’s your letter to the world, as Emily Dickinson said. And those of us lucky enough to read your work are all the richer for it.

What Are Your Priorities?

by Greg Herren

I don’t know how many times people have said the following to me, but if I  w as given a quarter each and every time, I’d be living on an island sipping a cocktail right now: “I would write if I only had the time.”

Ah, time. I personally am frequently amused by the excuses I will think up not to sit in front of the computer and do my work. “I can’t write with dirty dishes in the sink. I can’t write when I have all this laundry to do. I can’t write with the house a mess. I can’t write when I have all these errands to run. I can’t write because I am just fried from everything I did today. I can’t write with Hezbollah bombing Israel. I can’t write while George Bush is in the White House.”

Pretty much any excuse will work, really. That’s the beauty of writing; we do it usually in the privacy of our home where no one is watching, no one is standing over our shoulder with whip in hand forcing us to do it. And if we don’t have the pressure of a deadline looming—and sometimes even then—all bets are off. (In fact, right now I am trying to think of a reason—any reason— not to write this column.)

But in order to publish, you have to write. Even if its crap. Even if it’s something that no one else will ever see. (Trust me, I have written a lot of stuff that no one will ever see. Ever. Under any circumstance.) Even when you don’t want to do it, you have to sit your ass down at the computer and open a new document and do the goddamned work.

If you want to be a writer, you have to look at it as a job. Whether it’s a part time job or a full time job, if you want to make it, if you want to get published, you need to view it that way. There are so many times you really have to force yourself to do it. Skip Desperate Housewives or whatever the big hit TV show of the moment is and turn on your computer and just do it. How many hours a week do you waste in front of your television set? Cancel two of your TV nights and spend the evening writing instead. There are any number of things you can probably give up to write.

The question is, do you want to?

How badly do you want to be published?

If you don’t want it bad enough to give something up in order to make it happen, then it’s very likely that you won’t. I wanted to be a writer for many years, but was too busy thinking up excuses not to take it seriously rather than coming up with reasons to write. And finally, one day I decided, “this is never going to happen unless I change the way I look at it.”

It stopped being a fantasy and became a reality.

Within a year I published my first story.

Take your writing seriously, and take yourself seriously as a writer.

It’s amazing what a difference that can make.

Earthquakes, Hurricanes and Anniversaries

Earthquakes and hurricanes be damned! The Bold Strokes Books Authors’ Blog is celebrating its first anniversary on Monday. We will kick off the week with Lee Lynch’s Amazon Trails. We may also hear from a few other BSB authors- even some we haven’t heard from yet.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this past year of blogging. In appreciation for all of your support, BSB will be giving away a book a day beginning Monday  August 29 and ending Friday September 2. All you have to do to enter is comment. Please stop by and tell us what you’ve enjoyed this past year and also let us know what you want the authors to blog about in the coming year.

Writing Outside the Ring

Accomplished Bold Strokes Books author and editor Greg Herren shows me some moves. Some literary. Some not.


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