Okay, maybe this interview wasn’t exactly filled with super juicy information, but there still might be a few things to learn about me. Although I am generally very candid whenever asked a question….maybe too candid since my wife often thinks I land squarely in the Too Much Information category. Since I am traveling to Austin today for the Lonestar 10th Anniversary Lesfic Conference, I thought it was good timing to use this interview as my weekly blog. Back to regular programming next week!
Where did you grow up? What made you want to become a writer?
I grew up in the Midwest, Illinois to be exact. We moved to Elgin, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago when I was 9 years old. Remaining in the state, I attended Illinois State University for both my Bachelors and Masters degrees.
I’ve always been a book nerd AKA voracious reader.When I moved to Moses Lake, WA for a new job and was separated from my wife during the week, I was bored and started writing. She had to commute in the opposite direction of my new job and the commute for me would have been too far. We kept our house in Cle Elum and only had the weekends together. I was fortunate enough that Affinity Rainbow publications saw something in my first attempt at writing. Erin O’Reilly worked with me for several months to improve the manuscript and re-submit for consideration. The rest, they say, is history!
Name one book that had a big influence on you growing up.
My favorite author when I was growing up was John Steinbeck. I appreciated how he tackled social issues and used his power as a writer to influence societal views on a variety of topics. Yet, one of my favorite books of all time is Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Dorris. This book, told from the perspective of three generations is in my humble opinion the best representation of empathy I have ever encountered. Each time the reader dives into the next story they begin to walk in that person’s shoes and have a greater understanding of where the person is coming from. We should all aspire to do that.
What cultural value do you see in reading and storytelling? What are some ways in which your life has been impacted or changed by literature?
Stories have a way of illustrating important beliefs or concepts and they stay with a person. In my job that pays the bills, I do orientation for new employees and often use stories to underline the points I make. People remember those stories. Those concepts are then cemented in their brain in a way that is not possible by simply lecturing about positive attitude and customer service.
What characterises your writing and how do you think it is different from other things being offered on the book market?
I’ve been described as quirky. One reviewer remarked that the reader never knows what to expect from one of my books. Some readers mention my humor and I often scratch my head on that one. I guess I consider myself like one of those bumbling detectives, I sort of stumble into humor…a bumbling humorist. I’ve been asked to sit on a panel at the Lonestar Lesfic Festival on humor in lesfic. I have to admit I’m terrified because I am so not funny. They will undoubtedly toss tomatoes at me and call me a poser, poser, humor loser. I’ve often joked about being an “acquired taste”. I vacillate between light, fun, stories, and those that tackle controversial topics. Not wishing to be pigeonholed into one subgenre, the only constant in my books is an element of romance. I’ve chosen to combine many of those romances with sci-fi, fantasy, dystopian, paranormal, historical, urban fantasy, action-adventure, intrigue and mystery. I enjoy setting up twists and turns and sneaking in messages that deal with various social issues. I suppose my identity is best described in my blog called: Identity Crisis.
Why did you start writing LGBT romance? In what ways have your own experiences shaped your writing and your books?
Early on when I found lesbian fiction, there weren’t a lot of choices. I would treasure the books I bought at the local bookstore and eagerly await the new arrivals. When lesfic began to explode with more choice, I stopped reading other genres. There was plenty to choose from and I enjoyed reading about lesbians who finally got their happily ever after. I wanted to get lost in those stories and to add to the variety available for people to read. I had a silly notion that I could contribute to the explosion of lesfic now available. I talk about this in my blog: But I AM a Lesbian
What were some ideas you played around with in “Out Of This World”? What are its similarities with the book “The Ultimate Betrayal”? Which one took more time to write?
Out of This World was intended as a light hearted book. I hoped to portray one consistent theme I tend to come back to: the notion of beauty and a person’s value in society. Using an alien who can look at love and beauty in a very different manner allowed me to challenge the concept that only the “beautiful people” have value. There are absolutely no similarities with The Ultimate Betrayal. That book was a completely different story with very different themes. I learned a lot about compassion and empathy from my readers after receiving feedback on The Ultimate Betrayal. I had assumed that everyone would hate the character Lara. After all, I portrayed her as a horrible cheating spouse. Readers wanted to see Lara get her happily ever after and looked for ways to understand her more fully. It is hard to think back on how long each took, but I believe they both took about the same amount of time.
Of all your books, which one was the most labor intensive to write and why?
Hands down, Free to Love was the most labor intensive (if you take into consideration the smaller word count) because of all the research I did for that novella. Historical fiction is very hard and labor intensive to write. The next one that was almost as labor intensive was Unconventional Lovers because of the research and my constant re-working of the story. The book meant a great deal to me and I wanted to get it right.
What was your experience collaborating and publishing the book “Free To Love” with Ali Spooner? What are some important issues you tackle in this book?
I loved working with Ali Spooner. She shared her Novella with me and I loved it. When she suggested I add on to the story after I said I wanted more, off I went. The notion of a missionary woman falling in love with a freed slave popped into my head because of all the layers I could explore. Conflict with her religious teachings, the morality of slavery, etc.
How did working with Ali Spooner in “Free to Love” and other authors in “It’s in Her Kiss” help you as a writer? Are there any disadvantages to collaborating with another author?
Since both Free to Love and It’s in Her Kiss are collaborations where each author tells their own story, to me that is the easiest collaboration. The collaboration was more challenging with Free to Love because Ali and I needed to connect the two separate stories together and make sure there were not plot holes that would create inconsistencies. The blending was relatively easy to do and Ali is such a joy to work with. Collaborating on The Organization, the sequel to Asset Management was a bit harder. Erin and I would Skype and write scenes together and then go off on our own to draft other scenes. We divided up the characters and that made it easier to write together as we could organically create dialogue based on the characters we each were responsible for.
What was the inspiration behind the story “Locked Inside”? What kind of message do you hope your readers will take away from this book?
I was listening to a story on NPR one day about a man who went to college, married, etc. who had Locked Inside syndrome. I got the bright idea that would be a great lesbian romance. The story evolved to help people see through the eyes of someone with physical and medical challenges and how those normal every day activities are quite different for persons with disabilities. However subtle it may be, there is still a fair amount of discrimination against persons with disabilities and I hoped to change some of those views.
How do you build your characters? Name one character that’s most like you and another that’s the stark opposite.
I am a total panster (fly by the seat of my pants) as opposed to a plotter. I don’t outline my characters. The writing sort of evolves naturally. I suppose I hear the voices of the characters at all times of the day and night and then scramble to write the dialogue and essence of their character down before I forget it. Mabel Butt, from Out of This World is most like me and Lara from The Ultimate Betrayal is my stark opposite. Mabel is a bit of a nerd and somewhat unsure of herself and her worth. Lara is very confident and honestly very slimy. Lara does not believe monogamy is possible or natural and that couldn’t be further from my views. I am very loyal and it would not cross my mind to cheat on my spouse or partner. I also tend to be very naïve and trusting of others.
Have you ever thought about writing a series? What do you like about writing standalone novels that writing a series doesn’t bring?
Now that is an interesting question. I suppose you could say I’ve sort of already written a series and what I call a semash. Yes I make up words all the time. I wrote about my semash which is a combination of two sequels or maybe outright series (the jury is still out on that). For more information on that topic, see my blog about the semash: Squeamish about the Semash. After numerous calls for a follow-up to Asset Management, I finally capitulated and agreed to write another book. I decided I would only write the sequel if Erin joined with me on the project. Since then, I’ve written a short story follow-up called The Thanksgiving Baby Caper and recently completed another book that sneaks in the characters from Asset Management and The Organization in a way that is very unusual. This book is called The Book Witch and the anticipated release date is sometime in 2019. I’ve also decided to give a character in these books her own happily ever after. Dani was a beloved character and did not seem to achieve that ultimate closure as much as the other characters. So…long story…it has evolved into a series, albeit an unusual and unconventional spin to what readers might normally consider a series. The Book Witch is also a sequel to The Book Addict, so I guess I’ve written two now despite my protestations that I am not a series writer. I am a weak woman!
What are some of your goals as an author and do you think you have accomplished them?
My biggest goals are to entertain and touch someone with my stories in a way they may not have been touched before. I also like to challenge people to think of social issues in a different way. From the feedback I’ve received from readers, I think, for the most part, I’ve succeeded.
And….abeeea….abeeea….abeeea….That’s All folks!
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