One of the great things about social media is the way it has brought authors and readers together like never before. I experienced this first hand on Saturday when I got the chance to participate in an online author interview hosted by K’Anne Meinel of the lesfic reading group on Facebook. You can find the group here at:
As this is a closed group only members were able to participate, but K’Anne very kindly agreed to my posting some of the questions and my responses on my blog.
I should point out that this was not a typical interview. Over a two hour period, other members of the group asked me questions about my books, writing and related subjects. My responses were therefore sometimes a bit rushed and there may be a few typos here and there. I have slightly altered one or two responses for purposes of clarification.
The experience was great – in spite of being anxious to begin with, it became a really fun Q&A session. The group is a friendly, safe space to discuss lesfic and I really recommend it.
How did the genesis for The Duelist Trilogy come about?
Aw I knew this question was going to come up…so you’re all probably going to think I’m a bit freaky – which is true – but I seemed to have been carrying the idea for the main character, Hal, around in my head for ever. And I had no idea that she was going to turn into a book. But one day, just to almost exorcise her, I sat down and started writing her story and an entire book came out of it. The problem with Hal is that the more I write, the more she seems to come back. I keep thinking, that’s it. I’ve reached peak Hal, but no…another story pops out at me
No outline? Just sat in front of your computer and wrote the book?
Kind of. It surprised me to be honest! It is a bit of a patchy way to write because you forget things as you’re going and then you’re like damn! I need to go back and change things now. But for some reason it just worked and I can’t explain it to this day.
After working with Hal and your Duelist Trilogy, how weird was it to go to The Firefarer and start another? Will this too be a trilogy?
Yeah really weird. I decided that I had to do something different because I didn’t want to be a kind of one trick pony. I felt that I wanted to challenge myself by writing something that was more complicated in terms of narrative structure, world building, characterisation etc. So I forced myself and this time I had to do some real planning and…it hurt! But I’m glad I went for it and yes, this will be another trilogy. I’m writing part two – The Fresco and the Fountain at the moment.
What made you decide to go with Firebound instead of self-publishing or a bigger publisher?
So I knew this one would come up too, and it’s quite a long story. But basically, I wrote Hal or most of it and then stuffed it in a drawer and tried to forget about it. I wasn’t that bothered about publishing it – I just wanted it out of my system and I really didn’t want to go down the route of trad publishing because…well you know. All the rejection letters etc. But then I decided that I might as well share it online, so I posted it on the online writing platform Wattpad and it got quite a lot of views and was eventually featured. That was when fellow Wattpad author Rob May stepped in – we were critiquing each other’s work and he already had the idea of starting the imprint Firebound on Amazon so he asked me if I’d like to try publishing too. I thought, what the hell. Might as well. Now I’m pretty glad I did.
Why lesbian fiction? Mainstream fiction makes a lot more money…
that is a surprisingly difficult question to answer. The story was just…lesfic. I never thought about money. I just had a story to tell and I wanted to get it out there. Really, writing lesfic gives me the opportunity to think about my own sexuality. To explore it. It’s perhaps self-indulgent but I can’t imagine writing anything else.
Who is your favorite lesfic author? Who do you read? Who is your favorite ‘mainstream’ author? What do you read? What’s in YOUR Kindle/e-reader?
So I got into lesfic by reading Sarah Waters who is both mainstream and a fantastic writer of lesbian historical fiction – and I think that, having read a lot of comments from group members in the past, Waters was also one of many people’s first encounters with lesfic. I mean she is amazing – in terms of the complexity of her work, the twists she throws in, the compassion she has for her characters. Absolutely love it.
I’ve discovered loads of new authors from this group and the lesbian review website, however – people like Jae and Heather Rose Jones who I might not have come across otherwise. Love their work, also Jen Silver and Riley LaShea. There is so much out there and so little time!
As for general reading – I’m very into contemporary British lit. So people like Hilary Mantel, Jessie Burton, David Mitchell, Ian McEwan. Love that. And I love all writers who push at the boundaries of their genre – I just read Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. This is so what science fiction should be – a young, African female protagonist. We need more of those kinds of characters in speculative fiction
What is your greatest fear as an author?
hard disk crash lol – I really am bad at backing up my files. But apart from that – I don’t have any real fears. If people didn’t buy my books, I’d still write because I can’t not write. Which might be a weird thing to say, but it’s how I feel. For a while I thought it must be normal to write – that everyone was up to it, until a close friend disabused me of that idea. So I honestly can’t say where it comes from but I’m never going to stop.
How do you choose the names for your characters?
So I’m a bit of a Shakespeare fan – which is where Hal came from. But what I tried to do with the Duellist trilogy was to mix up various languages – some old English sounding names with more French styles. My fear however, is that I’m inadvertently going to name a character after a cleaning product or something like that. Hal’s lover is called Meracad, for example, and I’m convinced one day I’ll find out that’s actually a brand of toothpaste.
Where in the world are you?
Well it might surprise you to hear that I’m in sunny Poland. I say sunny because I understand you’ve been having a little trouble with your weather in the mid west recently and I thought I’d just rub that in 😉
I’ve been here in Poland for about 15 years now. I came for a few months to teach English…and just somehow kind of stayed. And for all the country’s problems – and it has more than its fair share – I love it here, and I absolutely love teaching English. I applied for a teaching position – a short term contract and got it. The accommodation was thrown in so I didn’t have to worry about it. Poland is a great country, really. I felt at home here straight away.
As a teacher, how old are the students are you teaching English to?
That’s the great thing – they’re every age! I mostly teach undergradates, who are fun – really. But I have a lot of private students who range from tiny kids to lawyers and doctors. It’s just the best way of meeting so many different people .
Do you plan to ever move back to England or are you staying in Poland?
Really can’t see it happening. For various reasons, I decided to put a bit of distance between myself and England. And while I love the country – especially north Derbyshire which is where I’m from, I have everything I want here in Poland. I started writing properly here, I’ve got a job I love and a partner. The only thing that makes me anxious is bloody Brexit. But let’s not go there…
How supportive was your family when you started writing? Do they know? Have they read you?
So my family know that I do it but they just think it contributes to my general weirdness. But anyway, as I may have observed elsewhere, I believe you should never write stuff safe enough for your parents to read. The thought of my mum reading Hal…
Pseudonym or not, what was your rationale?
I’m going to come across as a real coward now. Pseudonym yes. While I love Poland it’s not the most forgiving of places so I write under a pen name. I really don’t want my students reading my work. Having said that, one of them cunningly tracked me down and said she enjoyed it so I guess perhaps I’m worrying unnecessarily. But paranoia has always been my default position 😉
What are you working on right now?
So I’m working on part Two of The Artist Enchanters series ‘The Fresco and the Fountain.’ It’s proving to be a bit of a hard write though, which is why I got distracted by a short story which I’m planning to post on my blog and on Wattpad. This will be a kind of prequel to Hal. (First Chapter of this will be on my blog on Thursday)
How much of your book is written in long-hand until you start typing it out?
Loads. I have like reams and reams of notebooks and I can’t bring myself to throw them away. The only problem is that my handwriting is appalling so it takes me a while to decipher it myself before I can actually type stuff up 😉
What is your story? Are you a lesbian? Have you ever come out?
So this is a complex one. I define as bisexual. I fell in love for the first time with another girl, and that was hard. Unrequited, you know? So rather than contemplating my sexuality at the time, all I could do was obsess about the fact that she didn’t love me back (story of my life). Anyway, after I left home I had relationships with men and women and I figured that sexuality kind of works along a spectrum. And that’s why – as I noted elsewhere – one of the best ways for me to think about my sexuality is through writing.
What is your biggest distraction when you write?
I am so easily distracted. Obviously the internet. That is the main thing, which is why I try to write by hand first so that I focus. But once I’m typing up, if I see amusing cat photos, I’m out for the rest of the day 😉
What would you like to see happen with your writing in say five years?
I would really like to be a better writer in terms of the way I deal with structure, with just being generally better at handling twists. I’ve also got plans for writing a work of historical fiction which would require a lot of serious research so that’s where I’m headed.