Interview with KD Williamson, fellow author of lesbian romance novels

Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing fellow Ylva author KD Williamson. KD and I go way back, since we both started our publishing career at L-Book ePublisher. Her two first novels with Ylva Publishing, Blurred Lines and Crossing Lines, have been bestsellers, so read on to find out more about the series!

 

Crossing-Lines-800 Cover reveal and PromotionalWelcome, KD. Please tell us about your journey in becoming a published writer. How did you come to publish with Ylva Publishing?

I was published before a few years back and won a Goldie for my book Forever Mine. After that, I got wrapped up into the world of fanfic for a few years. I finished a novel-length work and was taking a well-earned break when Astrid from Ylva messaged me on Facebook about Blurred Lines. I thought it was a joke, and I almost didn’t respond to her. I’m glad I did. It’s been a wild ride ever since.

 

Can you tell us a little about your newest book, Crossing Lines?

It is a direct continuation of Blurred Lines. Kelli and Nora are still in the honeymoon stage of their relationship. They are tentative around each other one minute, and the next everything works perfectly. Nora continues her journey of personal growth by letting other people in. Kelli is blindsided by continuing family drama that completely pulls her under and away from everyone important in her life.

 

Do you have a favorite line (or paragraph) from Crossing Lines that you’d like to share with us?

Kelli deepened her caress. They had been at this since sunrise, each touch seamless, leading directly to the next. Kelli didn’t want this…these moments…to end. This need for Nora wasn’t a product of avoidance or loss. It was a celebration of everything Kelli had gained—a woman who understood her and loved her, regardless.

What do you think makes novels about doctors and detectives so irresistible? Is it just the women-in-uniform phenomena?  

I think it’s the fact that women in those professions are educated, strong-willed, take-charge, and independent. They’ve learned to work hard and sometimes play hard too. So, when they clash, sparks usually fly in some way. Also, yeah the uniforms don’t hurt at all whether its scrubs and a lab coat, a pant suit, or a typical police officer uniform.

 

What attracts you to writing a series?

Honestly, I fell into it and started loving the idea of exploring the cop/doctor dynamic in different stories. I wanted to challenge myself with different characters with vastly different personalities.

 

Did yoBlurred-Lines-800 Cover reveal and Promotionalu even plan to make it a series when you started Blurred Lines, the first book in your “Cops and Docs” series? 

No…not really. The original work was about 600 pages long and had two separate stories in it so Blurred Lines concentrated more on Nora while Crossing Lines was more about Kelli.

How long did it take you to write Crossing Lines?

Nowhere near as long as it did Blurred Lines. That one took tremendous rewrites since it was originally fanfic. I had a chance to go beyond the fanfic and make the characters my own.  I finished Crossing Lines in a couple of months because I had pretty much perfected Kelli’s and Nora’s individual voices and knew where I wanted the story to go.

 

Let’s say Kelli and Nora, the main characters in your series, would decide to pay Starbucks a visit. What sort of coffee (or other beverage) would each order?

Kelli would want some bite to her coffee, so she’d want it extra hot and definitely a French Roast with just a smidge of cream and real sugar. She’d hate iced coffee. Nora likes things a little more decadent. I’d say she would order an espresso macchiato if she was getting something hot.  If she was in the mood for something cold, it would be a caramel espresso granita.

 

Do you have time to read? If yes, what were the top three lesbian fiction novels you have read this year?  

No, I don’t have very much time to read, but I will one day. I have a very long list that includes novels by KL Hughes, Lee Winters, Jae, Fletcher DeLancey, and a whole bunch of others.

 

What projects are you working on right now? Any upcoming releases?

I am currently working on Book 3 in the Cops and Docs Series. It’s called Between the Lines and will contain all new characters. I think, after everything Kelli and Nora have been through, they need a break. The new book will be out in December.

 

How can your readers get in touch with you?

I’m on Facebook as KD Williamson-Author. I am also on Twitter. You can e-mail me at Williamson_kd@yahoo.com or reach me via my and also my blog.

 

And where can they find your books?

Blurred Lines and Crossing Lines are available in the Ylva Shop, Amazon and a variety of other websites.

Both books are available at a discount right now, so head on over  to the Ylva Publishing webstore to get your e-book copy!

 

 

Book 1 — Blurred Lines:

https://www.ylva-publishing.com/product/blurred-lines-by-kd-williamson/

 

 

Book 1 — Crossing Lines:

https://www.ylva-publishing.com/product/crossing-lines-cops-and-docs-book-2-by-kd-williamson/

Interview with Catherine Lane, author of lesbian romance “Heartwood”

Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Catherine Lane, whose second lesbian romance novel, Heartwood, has been published today.

Since I was Catherine’s editor for Heartwood, I’m already familiar with her fascinating cast of characters and the great way she’s interweaving present and past. I think many of you will enjoy the novel too, so read on to find out more about it.

 

cover of Heartwood by Catherine LaneCan you tell us a little about your newest book, Heartwood?

Heartwood is about four very different women who find themselves in The Springs, a women’s resort town up the coast from San Francisco.

Beth, a famous lesbian author who has retired behind shut doors in order to block out her mysterious past with a gorgeous movie star.

Nikka, an ambitious lawyer who is asked to close her eyes to what is really going on to advance her career

Maggie, a free spirit who takes the right path, no matter what the cost

Josie, a mysterious stranger who just may hold the key to everyone’s secrets

Their stories collide one wild summer on the banks of the Tall Tree River when all of them are forced into unthinkable decisions that will change their lives and forever.

 

What was your favorite part about writing Heartwood? And what was most difficult?

I love how the different timelines and stories collide at the climax of the book—both at Fern House. I love the way actions in the past parallel those in the present.

The most difficult part was right after that climactic moment. Before I started writing, I had only charted the plot out to the climax. So after I was done with Chapter 11, I was in the exact same boat as the characters. We were all thinking: What have I gotten myself into? And what on earth is going to happen next? Luckily, as it turned out, it was a happily-ever-after for all of us.

 

One of your main characters, Beth, is a writer. Do you identify most with her? How much of you is in your other characters?

I wish I could identify with Beth. She writes a national best-seller that is read in college courses as a seminal work of the LGBTQ movement. Actually, I took inspiration for Beth from Patricia Hightower and her book, The Price of Salt.

As for me, I made it into the novel in much less glamorous ways. Like Nikka, I’m a little obsessed with to-do lists. My wife and I just bought a brand-new Subaru Outback—yes, it’s white with tinted windows, like Nikka’s in Heartwood. And Nikka and I both like granola and yogurt for breakfast as well. She, however, has much nicer hair than I do.

 

How long did it take you to write Heartwood?

From rolling the idea around in my head to sending the last draft back to my editor, all in, it was around ten months. This timeline was pretty short for me. As some of you might know, I work full-time and have a son, a wife, and a nutty dog, so my time often isn’t my own. I want to thank my family since they gave up all their vacations this year to pretty much watch me disappear into my office. We’re saving up for a big trip next summer, so it wasn’t a total loss.

 

cover_The-Set-Piece_500x800Heartwood is the second novel you published. Many authors struggle with the second book because they feel the pressure of having to live up to readers’ expectations. How was writing your second book compared to your first for you?

I knew from the beginning I was tackling more with Heartwood than I had with The Set Piece, and that was, without a doubt, very scary. But I also knew that I had learned a lot while writing and editing my first book, and so I was excited to see if I could put that knowledge back onto the page. I often joke that I am getting my MFA at Ylva University. I’ll be sure to send out announcements if I ever graduate.

 

Do you have a favorite line (or paragraph) from Heartwood that you’d like to share with us?

This is about Nikka, soon after we first meet her.

“For now at least, she had sworn off love. There would be plenty of time for that when she made junior partner. Besides, a drawer full of anatomically correct toys thankfully had no opinions on penalties against a defenseless receiver on the football field.”

Just a throw-away really, but for some reason, I always chuckle when I reread this as if the sex toys would actually start talking about football strategy. Hey! Wait a sec. Talking sex toys – there’s a story in there somewhere!

 

Let’s say Nikka and Maggie, the main characters of Heartwood, would decide to pay Starbucks a visit. What sort of coffee (or other beverage) would each order?

I’m going to have to bring in my wife on this one. She frequents Starbucks much more often than I do…

“Nikka is all about the caffeine and the efficiency,” she says. “She’d order an espresso and be done with it. Maggie, well…” She purses her lips while she thinks. “Maggie would bike down the street to Blue Bottle Coffee and get a Hayes Valley latte with the steamed milk design on top.”

As usual she’s right. My wife and I spend a happy moment talking about how smooth Blue Bottle coffee is and how we want a latte now. We’re both highly suggestible.

 

What projects are you working on right now? Any upcoming releases?

I am working on an urban fantasy called Tread Lightly which I think is scheduled for release in early spring 2017. It’s part of the Ylva Window Shopping series, where authors are given the same first paragraph, and then we get to take the story wherever we want. Mine strays into demon territory and the two magical women who get to save the world. Big, big departure for me…I’m a little scared… once again.

 

How can your readers get in touch with you? 

Facebook

My website

E-mail: claneauthor01@gmail.com

I would love to hear from readers, so if you have the inclination, drop me a line!

 

And where can readers find your new book?

Heartwood is available at the Ylva webstore and you can also pre-order it at Amazon and other major online bookstores. 

 

Heartwood by Catherine Lane

All Nikka thinks about is making partner in the law firm she works for. So, when the firm sends her to the Springs, a women’s resort town and home of famous lesbian author Beth Walker, Nikka jumps at the chance to prove herself to her sexy boss, Lea.

But nothing in the Springs is as it seems. Beth is hiding secrets about her mysterious past with movie star Dawn Montgomery. Lea may only be out for her own gain and keeping Beth a prisoner in her own home. And the only person who might see the truth of the situation is adorably impulsive Maggie.

Will Nikka stay true to her life’s ambition, or will she dare look into the mystery—and into her own heart?

Interview with fellow author Eve Francis

cover_Fragile_500x800The new Ylva Publishing releases have just been published, and one of them is Fragile by fellow lesbian fiction author Eve Francis. It’s a romance about families, new beginnings…and a book club!

But I think I’ll let Eve tell you more about her novel, so here she is:

How would you describe Fragile? What is it about?

Big question! When I’ve talked about this book to people in the past, I’ve gone right to the characters. Carly is a quiet, introvert who—if she had a choice—would do nothing but read books in her room. Her sister, Cynthia, is a fifteen-year-old kid obsessed with the film Whip It and Riot Grrrl music, constantly going rollerblading so she can one day try out and emulate her heroes from the film. Carly’s great aunt Dorothy is an old woman who has never had kids, always lived alone, and still remained true to herself while she got many science degrees and wrote poetry (which, she often co-writes with Carly). Then there’s Carly best friend, Landon, a female-to-male trans guy who is sensitive and kind, and also helps Cynthia by smuggling her Riot Grrrl zines from the queer library. All these people eventually lead to Ashley, the main love interest; she’s a fast-talking butch woman always cracking jokes who had to start her life all over again after an illness put a stop to her original career trajectory as a contractor. These five characters all interact, grow, and fall in love with one another as the story goes on, and I really liked writing this book because of their dynamic.

What sparked the idea for your book?

A few things. One of the main plots of the story revolves around the grand opening of a department discount store where the two main characters (Carly and Ashley) meet. I worked in one like that and often found myself day dreaming about characters while I was on cash and during my breaks. After I quit that job (because I was going back to school) it made me wonder what would have happened if I kept a character in that environment. What would happen to them? Would they be happy there? Everyone always told me I would never be happy in a job like that—and that I should, of course, quit and go back to school. While I’m glad I did (because I do like my teaching job now), I still wonder ‘what if?’ a lot of the time.

Often times with romance novels, we want a fantasy to be delivered. It’s why we focus on amazing jobs, good cars, and sexy people. But what if everything was ordinary—could we still derive a romantic fantasy out of it? Could a character still find a happy ending there? I think so, and I wanted to explore how that would come around. Not everyone can leave minimum wage jobs like that. But who’s to say that their lives aren’t the stuff of romance novels?

How did you come up with the title?

Fragile is fairly straightforward as far as titles go, but I really liked the tagline that Gill McKnight, my editor, came up with (sometimes you’re stronger than you think) because that summarizes the basic idea behind calling the story Fragile. The main characters—Carly, Ashley, Cynthia, Landon, and Dorothy—are all perceived as fragile beings who will break under the slightest touch. But they’re all strong characters, so when they do chose to be fragile with one another, it has so much more meaning.

Did you plot out the entire book before you started writing, or did you explore where the story would take you?

I have to have a majority of a book plotted before I dive in. Usually, that means writing out the basic chapter by chapter summaries, character sketches, and the final ending. Sometimes, as I write, I’ll realize that something in the planning stages no longer pans out and rewrite the plan as I’m going along. But for the most part, because of how many projects I often have going on at once, I need to have a plan in front of me before I can really do any kind of work.

What do you like about your main characters?

I’ve answered some of this already, so I’ll just focus on Carly. I really like her because in spite of being a “creative type” who writes poetry, she doesn’t long for fame or publicity. I’ve read so many novels where any writer characters often want to conquer everything and be #1—and screw anyone else who gets in their way. I don’t like that mentality. I think there’s room to strive for your goals, but I also think we need to stop putting so much emphasis on deriving our self-worth from the type of work we do, and how much we work (or overwork) ourselves. Carly writes poetry, but she doesn’t want to be the next Adrienne Rich, Elizabeth Bishop, or even Andrea Gibson. She just wants to have a simple life with someone she loves.

What are you currently reading?

I’m about to start the novel Trilby by George Du Maurier for one of my graduate classes. It’s about life in bohemian Paris in the 1850s, so I’m pretty excited to start—and even more excited to finish. This is one of the last classes I’ll have to take as a student and after that, I’ll focus on more work completing my PhD.

Before Trilby, I was reading a bunch of short fiction from Daily Science Fiction in between essay marking for students in the English class I’m teaching.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

It varies! This past week, I’ve been catching up on Orange Is The New Black since some of my graduate work derailed me from watching it all when it first came out. I’m in my first year of my PhD, and after my course work is done, I’ll be prepping for my area exams which involve reading a lot of different books. In some form or another, I suppose I’m either reading or writing! Always on a computer, or attached to my phone in some way, until my partner finally drags me away from screens!

Where do you write, and what is your writing process like?

I live in a two bedroom apartment with my partner, and we had an agreement when we got the place that I’d get the second bedroom as an office if we moved in. So I’ve taken over this small room, filling it up with books and comics and action figures, and put up a bunch of old band posters and art prints. I also have a couple stacks of milk crates by my desk, filled with contributor copies, article drafts, and other things. My computer is a fairly simple laptop, but I use it a lot (and currently, I have to use an attached keyboard because I’ve actually broken the keys on the one it came with from writing so much!).

My writing process is simple: I plot, write the draft as soon as I can and with as few distractions as possible, then it takes me at least three times as long to actually edit. I have to move much slower in editing, because that’s where I’ll catch typos, errors, or plot holes.

What was your favourite part about writing Fragile?

The characters! I think I’ve gushed enough about them, though, so I’ll also add: the music. Because Cynthia is so into the Riot Grrrl scene, I spent a lot of time in the editing stages of the manuscript going back and relistening to Bikini Kill, Sleater Kinney, Excuse 17, and The Sand Witches, among many others. There is a fantastic mix someone made on the platform 8tracks.com and I would listen to it nonstop while editing: https://8tracks.com/dannygirl22/riot4roy

Are you working on a new novel? What can your readers expect next?

Yes! I’m in the editing stages of a novel about two young women living in Brooklyn. One is a comic artist who is trying to get over her mother’s death, while the other one is a bass player in a band and attempting to connect to people again while still being on tour. It’s tentatively called The Open Window and I wrote it when I had time off during the spring semester.

How can your readers stay in touch with you?

I’m online a lot, and the best/easiest place to find me is my tumblr here: http://paintitback.tumblr.com/

This is a personal space, so I spend a lot of time discussing TV, reblogging things I like, and add occasional commentary about writing, school, or just random life stuff. If you just want info on books and only the occasional fandom post, then my website is probably better and can be found here: evefrancis.wordpress.com

I’ve never been good at any other social media outlet, so I’ll leave it at that.

Thanks for taking the time to talk about your new book, Eve! 

Readers, you can now get Fragile via the Ylva webstore or pre-order it on Amazon or other major online bookstores. If you’d like to read an excerpt, click here

Interview with fellow author Caren J. Werlinger

Caren Werlinger & HermioneThose of you who follow my blog know that I regularly invite other writers to talk about their writing and their books on my blog. Today, I’m honored to interview Caren J. Werlinger, author of award-winning novels such as In This Small Spot and Looking Through Windows

I was the lucky person who got to edit two of Caren’s books, Turning for Home and Cast Me Gently. They are very different books, but I loved both; Turning for Home for its main character, Jules, and Cast Me Gently for the sweet love story that developed between Teresa and Ellie. 

But let’s see what Caren herself can tell us about her newest novel, Cast Me Gently

 

cast-me-gently-ylva-2560x1600-300dpi

How would you describe Cast Me Gently? What is it about?

Cast Me Gently is a romance at heart. It’s the story of Teresa Benedetto, a thirty-four-year-old woman, still living at home with her family. She’s never allowed herself to think that she could fall in love, and she’s totally unprepared for just that when she meets Ellie Ryan. Ellie is all alone and longs for family and love more than anything. As Teresa and Ellie fall in love, Teresa has to figure out how to choose between her family and Ellie.

 

How is Cast Me Gently different from your previously published novels?

It’s not all that different, actually. The relationship between Teresa and Ellie is the heart of the story, but it weaves in themes of loyalty, friendship, duty to family—things I’ve explored in some of my other novels. All of those things that tug at us and pull us in different directions.

 

What made you decide to set your novel in Pittsburgh in 1980? Do you have a personal connection to that city or that era?

I lived in Pittsburgh in the early ’80s. I guess it made more of an impression on me than I had realized. Pittsburgh was facing a unique set of social issues during that era, with the closure of the steel mills. It made for an explosive mix of class conflict, crime, and homelessness. Those things serve as the background for this story.

 

How did you come up with the title for the book?

It’s from the Sarah McLachlan song “Answer.” There’s a line that says, “Cast me gently into morning, for the night has been unkind.” That line seemed written for Teresa and Ellie—each struggling with her own hardships, her own need to find love, yet doubting that she ever will.

 

What kind of research did you do for Cast Me Gently? Do you enjoy research, or is it a necessary evil?

I love doing research! I remembered a good bit from when I lived there, but I have pages and pages of details about Pittsburgh neighborhoods and the inclines and all kinds of things. I found old newspaper articles talking about Pittsburgh’s recession, which was roughly double the rest of the nation in terms of unemployment figures. Remember the TV show Hill Street Blues? That show was based on the Hill District of Pittsburgh.

 

What was the hardest thing about writing Cast Me Gently?

Remembering what it was like to fall in love for the first time. All the fear and uncertainty of wondering whether she feels the same, gathering the courage to do something about it, trying to learn how to be intimate with another woman when you’ve never done it before. I think I gave myself flashbacks to the trauma of those early experiences!

 

What was your favorite part about writing Cast Me Gently?

Remembering what it was like to fall in love for the first time! There is a wonder to that first time that’s never there again. I felt very much as if I were reliving that first time with Teresa and Ellie.

 

One of the things that sets your novels apart from other works of lesbian fiction is the use of flashbacks. In what ways do you think flashbacks can enrich a story?

It’s funny that my writing style has gravitated so much toward the use of flashbacks, but it has occurred to me that most stories start in the middle. If you think about it, the characters’ pasts—their growing up, their successes and failures, their fears—all of those things influence how they handle conflict, how they relate to the other characters they meet. You can’t really understand what they’re going through now if you don’t gain some insight into what came before. I hope readers feel as if the flashbacks are seamless glimpses into the characters’ pasts.

 

risingftashesfinalAre you working on a new novel? What can your readers expect next from you?

I’m working on a fantasy that I hope will turn into a trilogy. Set in Ireland about 700-800 A.D., about the time of the Viking invasions, it’s about a young girl whose village is pillaged, leaving her injured and orphaned. She is rescued and raised by a family of badgers, not realizing her ability to communicate with them is part of her magical power. When her power comes to the attention of others with magic, she is brought to a mystical forest. It’s not Hogwarts, but for her, she has to learn how to deal with humans as much as she has to learn how to channel and control her power.

 

How can your readers get in touch with you?

I can be found in several places:

Blog: https://cjwerlinger.wordpress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CarenWerlingerAuthor

E-mail: cjwerlingerbooks@yahoo.com

 

Readers, has anyone read Cast Me Gently or one of Caren’s other books? What did you think? Please leave a comment.

P.S. Caren’s fantasy novel, Rising from the Ashes, has been published by now! Reviewers have called it a “first-rate literary fantasy with unique characters, a masterful plot, and beautiful writing.” Personally, I think it will appeal to both adults and young readers, so if you’re interested in fantasy novels at all, check it out. 

Interview with fellow author Lois Cloarec Hart

lois_boat-smAbout fifteen years ago, one of the first lesbian romances I read online was Coming Home by Lois Cloarec Hart. It’s still one of my all-time favorites. Now, years later, I am fortunate enough to not only have Lois as a fellow author publishing with Ylva Publishing, but also to have edited several of her books. 

Lois recently had a new book out, and it stars a main character that is just as fascinating as the characters in Lois’ previous novels, so I invited Lois over to answer a few question about her new novel, Stone Gardens

How would you describe Stone Gardens? What is it about?

At its essence, Stone Gardens is a story of redemption. It partly evolved from some questions I’d long mused over: Do people mired in such things as addictions, petty crime, and antisocial behaviour have the self-awareness to know how seriously they are impacting their lives? Do they regret the damage, and long for a healthier path? Can they successfully change course? Why do so many fail to do so? I have my own theories, but consolidated those questions into my lead character, Grae’s remark to her therapist, “I want to stop being bad.” Bad, of course, is subjective, but when the story opens, Grae has, for eight years, completely rejected the conventional markers of a solid, upstanding life, though there are poignant reasons behind her doing so.

I know when you started working on the book, it was tentatively titled Paper Mansions. Why did you change the title to Stone Gardens?

I actually went through a couple of title changes before I settled on Stone Gardens. I chose that as the final title because part of the inspiration for the book came from the rambles my wife and I enjoy taking in historical cemeteries. I love the peaceful setting, the artistry of the monuments, the stories they tell, and the gardens that surround the stones. Stone Gardens draws on the contrast of insensate stone with living gardens, which suits Grae perfectly. She came from a loving, privileged background—a garden, if you will. But because of desperation and grief, she constructed a cold, impenetrable shell within which she hid for many years. She only starts to break free of her self-imposed solitary confinement when she begins to allow love back into her life, first in the person of a gay street kid, and then through reborn family ties and new friends. On a secondary level, Stone Gardens is the name of a monuments business, owned by a man whose life Grae inadvertently changes, and who then helps change hers in return.


Stone-Gardens-800 Cover reveal and PromotionalHow is Stone Gardens different from your other novels?

All of my novels have featured romance, in one form or another, though I have written in a diversity of genres from historical to thriller to metaphysical. There is romance in Stone Gardens, but that isn’t what drives most of the story. I deliberately told the story from a single POV – Grae’s, because this is her story of recovery and redemption. This is not to say that the secondary characters, including Grae’s eventual love interest, aren’t important and vibrant characters, but all are seen through Grae’s lens on life. It makes for a more intimate reading experience.

You did some fascinating research for this novel. Can you tell us a bit about it?

I’m an introvert, so interviewing people doesn’t come naturally. I far prefer to do research on-line and in libraries. But because it was important to me to get the details right, I summoned up the nerve to contact a monuments maker and ask if I could interview him and see his shop. I stumbled on a wonderful gentleman, Brook Bolton, who patiently let me ask as many questions as I wanted, and just as importantly, showed me around his shop and allowed me to take photos. It was utterly fascinating to see how monuments are made. Some of his work was even going overseas, as a local Catholic devotee was donating a couple of engraved stone benches to the gardens at the Vatican. As much as the technical aspects, though, I appreciated getting Brook’s insights on how it felt to deal with people who are often in the deepest throes of grief. Because Brook’s business is in Georgia and Stone Gardens is set in Canada, he referred me to a Canadian friend, John-Michael Weber, who is also in the monuments business. I did a phone interview with John-Michael in Kitchener, Ontario to find out if there are significant differences in the practices that Grae would encounter in Canada as opposed to Georgia. During our lengthy conversation he told me a story about creating a monument for a young hockey player, which was so utterly Canadian that I had to include it in my book.

Why do you think redemption stories such as Stone Gardens resonate with so many readers?

Who among us hasn’t had to look back on things we’ve done and wince? Meeting challenges, making mistakes, and recovering as best we can are life experiences we all have in common. Though few fall as far or as dramatically as Grae does, it’s easy for the reader to relate to her. She’s a kind and decent soul, and that shines through even in the depth of set-backs, so the reader roots for Grae to achieve the redemption that her loved ones dearly want for her too.

Your main character has an unusual first name—Grae. How did you come up with that name?

When Grae abandoned her life of privilege, she also rejected the name her friends and family knew her by and adopted a variant on her birth name, Grace. I liked the name Grae because the character is not a woman who experiences the world in black and white. She has so many shades of grey to her personality—she’s a hard-ass punk who takes in and shelters an abused street kid, and a serial law-breaker who exhibits compassion for a pariah few would even give the time of day. She is self-aware enough to know she’s screwing things up, but seems unwilling or unable for many years to do anything about it, so the name fit her well.

Grae not only has an unusual name, she also has an unusual profession for a woman. What gave you the idea to make her a stone mason?

As I mentioned, my wife and I frequently enjoy a walk through old graveyards. I find Victorian memorial symbology fascinating. A lamb, a sheaf of wheat, or a stack of logs instantly illustrates a life lived and lost. And just as I have taken many character names from headstones, so too have I had the idea of using a monuments maker in a story floating around in the back of my mind for many years. When I began last year to consider my next novel I had an ‘aha’ moment, as I knew such a trade would be perfect for my lead character.

What was the hardest scene for you to write in Stone Gardens?

The flashback scene that was the impetus for Grae’s fall from grace. By the time I wrote that chapter, I had been living for many chapters with a Grae who had endured so much, and come so far. I was writing her and cheering her on at the same time, so it was hard to go back to a young, self-centered Grace. I didn’t care much for that shallow young woman, and I was glad to finish that chapter and return to the much more sympathetic, complex, and psychologically riveting Grae.

Are you working on a new novel? What can your readers expect next from you?

I’m currently going through several years of accumulated research in preparation for writing a historical trilogy that starts in Atlanta during the fight for civil rights. The trilogy features a couple of characters, Hazel and Ruby, which I created for two short stories I wrote several years ago—Country Mouse and Coming Attractions. Their story will begin in the fifties, when they’re young women and the civil rights movement is gathering steam. By the third book, it will take a leap to the present, when even in the heart of the Bible Belt gay couples can finally have their marriages legally recognized, outliers notwithstanding. It sounds like a huge swath of time to cover, but I’m not trying to write a history text. I’m telling the story of two women and their circle of friends who evolve—or don’t—with the changes and challenges all around them. This project should keep me busy for a few years at least. That said, there is a story lightly touched on in Stone Gardens that is also calling my name, so I may take a time-out from the trilogy and write the story of Jo and Thea, as well. I’ll have to see what speaks to me the most insistently after I finish the first installment with Hazel and Ruby.

How can your readers stay in touch with you?

I have a personal website, http://www.loiscloarechart.com and I’m also involved in a website for Canadian authors of lesbian fiction, http://canadianlesfic.com where I post a blog every six weeks. I can be reached through either of those sites, or directly by e-mail at eljae1@shaw.ca.

I very much enjoy “talking” to readers one on one, but I already have to battle my tendency to get lost for hours in on-line news media, so I decided I’d best stay away from social media, or I’d never get anything done.

Thank you for answering my questions, Lois! I very much look forward to your historical trilogy.

Readers, have you read any of Lois’ books? If yes, which one and what did you think?

Interview with fellow author Jane Waterton

bio-pic_jane-watertonIf you are a reader of lesbian fiction, especially romances, you might have noticed that most main characters in those novels are in their twenties and thirties. Books about older lesbians are a rare find. So I’m pleased to say that I got to interview an author of one of these rare books. 

Jane Waterton is a fellow Ylva Publishing author. As the daughter of a bookseller, she grew up around books. She recently published her first novel, Times of Our Lives, which–as a reviewer said–is “a wonderful story that shows that love is not simply for the young.”

So let’s see what Jane can tell us about her book.

How would you describe Time of Our Lives? What is it about?

Set in OWL’s Haven, the first Australian lesbian retirement village on the south coast of NSW, Time of our Lives is the story of six residents. The book takes place over twelve months and charts the journey of these friends, as they deal with new relationships, old relationships and the possibility of second chances. Through everything, they retain their humor and sense of irreverence.  It’s a book about celebration and the fact that you are never too old to fall in love.

cover_times-of-our-lives_500x8001What inspired you to write a novel about love and being older?

The idea came from a very funny afternoon with friends, all of us talking about living together in a lesbian retirement village and the mischief we could get up to. On the way home I happened to mention to my partner that those stories would make a great book. “So write it,” she said.  Sixteen years later, after several stops and starts (mostly stops!), I did.  I had also reached my sixties and was looking for more books with characters I felt I could relate to “Women of a Certain Age,” as I like to call them!  Just because we get older, doesn’t mean we stop living, loving and raising hell! Our bodies may slow down, but our minds and hearts are still going strong and that needs to be remembered and celebrated.

What do you like about your main characters?

The characters all come from very different backgrounds and have lived very different lives.  They are independent and supportive, accept each other’s differences and celebrate their joys. They’re feisty, strong women, dealing with what life is throwing at them and despite their age, still learning lessons!

Did you plot out the entire book before you started writing, or did you explore where the story would take you?

When I started, I had the beginning, the end and a faint path through the rest of the novel.  I knew there were going to be 5 major characters but halfway through the book another character suddenly appeared on the page! I am still wondering where she came from, but she ended up changing the story.

What was your favorite part about writing Time of Our Lives?

After sixteen years, I could say finishing it! Seriously though, seeing where the characters were taking me, watching them grow. Sitting with my laptop, fur family and partner close by, experiencing the joy of just writing.

swamp-wallaby-1107174_640What prompted you to choose this setting as a backdrop for your novel?

As an Older Wiser Lesbian, myself and many of my friends are at the stage when we are considering our future. Growing older is inevitable, so let’s embrace it with laughter and joy.  I also wanted to acknowledge the incredibly difficult social and historical journey that many gays and lesbians of our age have made throughout the decades. While there are no lesbian retirement villages here and same sex marriage is STILL not legal in Australia, we never give up hope! If I write it’s legal, will that make it true?

Which scene was the hardest for you to write? What was the hardest thing about writing Time of Our Lives in general?

Many of the scenes and stories in this book are actually true. Some are funny and some not so much. The hardest thing about writing the book is that it was the first one, so I really had no idea what I was doing! At the time it seemed easy…and then came the editing!  I also wanted to make sure that it was a book that resonated with women of all ages, not just those who were older. That was a balancing trick and I hope I’ve succeeded.

What did you learn from writing this book?

That there are some incredibly generous authors out there, authors that will guide, encourage and nurture someone who is just starting out.  The editing process was a complete vertical learning curve and I have been so grateful to have such a wonderful team behind me. Oh yes, and I also learnt that I will NEVER again write a book with so many characters!

What draws you to writing lesbian romances?

I have to say, reading lesbian romances! There are so many great books out there. The authors and stories inspire and I am just a big romantic fool.

What are you currently reading?

I have just finished Laurie Salzler’s new book, In the Stillness of Dawn, which I really enjoyed.

Are you working on a new novel? What can your readers expect next from you?

My partner and I live on the edge of the desert in a mining town in Western Australia, so my next novel is going to be set here. There has been a large increase of older women working in this region, many of them looking for a new start.  It’s a story waiting to be told!

How can your readers stay in touch with you?

E-mail: janewaterton@westnet.com.au

Website: http://www.janewaterton.com.au/

Or catch me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jane.waterton

I’m always happy to hear from people, so drop me a line and say hello!

Thanks for patiently answering my questions, Jane.

Readers, if you’d like to give a novel about friendship, love, and life as an older lesbian a chance, check out Times of Our Lives

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Ylva Publishing

Happy reading!

Interview with fellow author Ari Bach

ValhallaFSmallI always enjoy talking to other writers, so when I recently “met” Ari Bach on Twitter, I invited him over to my blog so you could get to know him along with me.

Ari is the author of the Valhalla series, YA novels that are set in a dystopian, futuristic Scotland. I haven’t read Valhalla or its sequel, Ragnarok, yet, but all the stellar reviews they got make me wish I had a bit more time for reading.

Let’s start with some warm-up questions:

Chocolate or cookies?

Chocolate!

E-books or paperbacks?

Paperbacks.

Star Wars or Star Trek?

I grew up with Star Trek as the center of my entire life, attended the conventions, and watched every new episode over and over. I’m currently marathoning the entire universe, from TOS and the animated series to the last (10th) movie, and recently won the local Geeks Who Drink Star Trek Trivia Quiz. So uh, Star Trek probably.

Beach or mountains?

Mountains, my family has some land in the Rockies and it’s heaven.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What do you do when you’re not writing?

I’m generally building model kits or browsing funny cat pictures online. Or watching Star Trek, as seen above. Other than that I’m very happily married, and we live in a tiny dark cave of a house that we’ve filled with tons and tons of books and movies and cats, and we absolutely love it.

Please tell us about your RagnarokFSmalljourney in becoming a published writer. What challenges did you face when you published your first book? How did you come to publish with Harmony Ink Press? Is it your own imprint or a publishing house?

I wrote the first novel around 2008-2010 and self-published it on Lulu, and then on other eBook platforms in 2012. I sold about 50 copies total. I kept submitting it to any new agents and publishers I could find, though, and in 2013 Harmony Ink contracted it for a 2014 release. I think I found them mentioned on Tumblr originally. Harmony Ink is an LGBTQ+ publisher for YA books, and they’ve been exceptional. Their production style is much more favorable to the author and their creative decisions than most publishers, actually than any other publisher out there. If I were offered a contract with Putnam for my next book, I’d turn it down to work with Harmony Ink again. Before Valhalla was published, its few readers kept asking when I’d do a sequel. My reply was always that I’d do one if the book got published. So I had to get off my butt and finish the sequels pretty quick after that.

How did you come up with the idea for Valhalla?

It was originally intended to be a movie; I wanted to make an all-out fun action sci-fi film since 1997 when I saw The Fifth Element. Once it got ignored in Hollywood, I decided to turn it into a novel series, and it grew in the adaptation into something even cooler.

How did you come up with the title for your novels?

The original movie was called Gossamer, for no real reason. Once the central ravine in the story was named Valhalla, it became the most appropriate title, not least of all because of all the Norse mythology references and inspirations. Ragnarok goes further with the Norse myth and actually has plot events inspired by the Eddas. Those events more or less match the actual myth of Ragnarok, so the title fit. Book 3 is currently titled Gudsriki, which is Icelandic for “The Kingdom of God,” which has a couple meanings for the story.

What would you say are the main themes in Valhalla and Ragnarok? What personal meaning do those themes have for you?

The most tangible theme of Valhalla is that the outcasts and rejects of common society are actually the people who keep it running, who keep it from destroying itself. Personally speaking as one of those rejects, I think it might be true.

How long did it take you to write each book?

From the beginning idea, it took seventeen years before publication of the first book. All that time was spent developing the idea and story; it was always part of my creative life. Translating the story into a novel trilogy took around five years, seven counting the last novel yet to be edited. But given the actual production and time even before the project had its first name, it’s not inaccurate to round it up to a twenty-year project.

What’s your favorite scene in book 1?

Near the very end of the book, the heroine and villain meet face to face and the former comes to realize something about how she works, something she couldn’t admit before but is finally proud of.

Which scene in the series was hardest for you to write?

The first one. The opening scene took around 40 drafts to get it just right. Most other scenes only took a couple drafts but getting the first scene up and running stretched from inception to completion, going through a dozen different forms.

If Starbucks existed in 2230, what sort of coffee would Violet MacRae, the main character of Valhalla,  order? Black coffee? Soy-sugar-free-non-fat-vanilla latte? Double chocolate chip Frappuccino with whipped cream and chocolate sauce? Something else?

Coffee is a controlled substance in the future, so Starbucks is around, but you have to pass the adulthood tests to drink there. Violet would just be starting out on her coffee adventures. I imagine in time she’d like something along the lines of an iced vanilla spiced latte. To be honest, though, I’ve never had coffee myself. I have no idea what that really is.

What projects are you working on right now? I heard there’s going to be a book 3 in the Valhalla series. Is that true?

Book 3 begins editing today actually and will hopefully come out in October. With the big trilogy completed there’s a massive hole in my creative world. I can’t work on the thing I’ve been working on for most of my life anymore, at least not outside of the final editing process. Re-adapting the stories back into film format is on the to-do list, and I’m thinking about adapting other old scripts into novels. There’s no shortage of them; I have a work in every genre ready to go.

Ari, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions and for introducing us to the Valhalla series!

Readers, if you want to find out more about Ari Bach, visit him at The Walrus Squad.

Has anyone read one of Ari’s books? How about other dystopian fiction? Any recommendations?

Please leave a comment!

Interview with fellow writer Dillon Watson

keicha_lgToday’s guest on my blog is Dillon Watson, whose novels Keile’s Chance and Back to Blue I enjoyed very much. Her newest romance novel, Full Circle, has just been published, so I took the opportunity to find out more about it.

Let’s start with some warm-up questions:

Chocolate or cookies?

Chocolate cookies with chocolate chips.

 

E-books or paperbacks?

E-books. They’re easier to read on the bus and in meetings, and you can’t beat them for traveling. However I buy paper copies of the ones I know I’m going to want to reread.

 

Star Wars or Star Trek?

I have to confess I’m the only non-trekkie in my family and that I slept through the second Star Wars movie. I guess I should add I haven’t seen any of the newer Star Wars movies. But I am a huge fan of Fletcher DeLancey’s Star Trek Voyager fanfic series despite having never seen a single episode.

 

Beach or mountains?

Tough. I like the idea of lounging at the beach, but I think I love to look at mountains more. That’s look, not climb.

 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What do you do when you’re not writing?

I work at a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). My team ensures our regional transportation plans meet conformity standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). I’m also an avid reader. Because of a medical condition, I exercise regulary, usually in the morning before work. I also enjoy putting together Nanoblock building sets and watching reruns of Castle, NCIS, Law and Order: SVU and Bones. And playing many different versions of mahjongg on my iPad.

 

Please tell us about your journey in becoming a published writer. What challenges did you face when you published your first book? How did you come to publish with Bella Books?

I didn’t think about publishing until about seven or eight years ago.

I had a couple of stories (non-fanfic) posted on The Royal Academy of Bards and got some good feedback. Then I heard about the Golden Crown Literary Society (GCLS) conference. After attending a number of sessions dedicated to the writing craft and realizing that my favorite writers were humans just like me, I began to think I could be a published writer as well.

I participated in the GCLS’s mentoring program, received excellent feedback, rewrote my novel, and sent Keile’s Chance off to Bella Books. I mainly chose Bella because of the type of books they publish and who their editorial director was. Based on what I heard in some of those GCLS sessions and some of the things she posted, I had the utmost respect for Karin Kallmaker. Bella liked my novel but thought it needed some reworking. I reworked and sent it back, and they said yes. That was the easy part. The hard part was being edited, and by none other than Katherine Forrest! But I managed to survive and write another day.

 

BEL-FullCircle_2How did you come up with the idea for Full Circle?

A small kernel came from an episode of CSI: Miami that I saw years ago. The rest came to me organically. I knew I was going to write a romance. I even knew something about each character’s background and that I wanted them to work in the same building. So with that premise, I began writing and 80,000 or so words later, not including the 80,000 words I ditched on the way, a novel was born.

 

Full Circle is set in Atlanta, the city you live in. What role does that setting play in your novel?

The setting is strictly a backdrop.

 

What would you say is the most important theme in Full Circle, and what personal meaning does that theme have for you?

The theme is perseverance. The two main characters are working through separate issues, and at the same time, working through issues with having a relationship. That’s something every single person can relate to.

 

How long did it take you to write Full Circle?

It seems like forever. I’m a very slow writer. Mainly because I edit while I’m writing. I always say my first draft probably is not that much different than the last draft in terms of the story. It’s the words. I tweak, I tweak, I tweak and then I tweak some more. I can say I have gotten better over the years. And how is that for a non-answer?

 

How do you find enough time to write, even though you have a day job? Any tips for how to be productive as a writer who can’t write full time?

Who says I’m productive? LOL! National Novel Writing Month has done more for my productivity than anything else. For reasons unknown, once I decide I’m going for those 50,000 words, I feel like I have to succeed. That means I come out of November with a decent base to build on.

I’ve also found that exercise really helps with the creativity. While I’m walking, or running, or jumping around to some stupid exercise tape, some part of my brain is still thinking about my story. Then when I sit down to write, I sort of know what I’m going to write. I say “sort of” because thinking about what I’m going to write and what ends up getting written are two totally different things too much of the time.

Let me add that my job is not physically demanding, meaning I’m not totally wiped out at the end of the work day. Except Fridays. I never write on Friday nights.

 

Your novels Keile’s Chance and Back to Blue are linked by having the main characters of the first book make an appearance in the second novel. Is Full Circle also part of that world?

Full Circle is not part of that world. I’m hoping one of the stories I’m toying with can connect with Sara and Mikaela.

 

Which scene in Full Circle was hardest for you to write?

One of my main characters suffered a loss when she was young. Writing about her remembrance of that loss had me in tears.

 

What sort of coffee would Sara and Mikaela, your main characters, order at Starbucks? Black coffee? Soy-sugar-free-non-fat-vanilla latte? Double chocolate chip Frappuccino with whipped cream and chocolate sauce? Something else?

Sara wouldn’t go to Starbucks because she’s cheap. Now Mikaela loves coffee, but she’s also worried about putting on weight, so I’d go with the soy-sugar-free-non-fat-vanilla latte.

 

What projects are you working on right now?

I’m working on the 30th draft of The Secret Unknown. I would classify it as Romantic Intrigue. A woman has to uncover her past after someone tries to kill her. Ideally, I would like to have it come out next year, but no promises.

I also have the beginnings of a romance where two women meet because one of them discovers the dead sister of the other. It’s set in Atlanta and maybe I can work my way to connecting up with Sara and Mikaela. It’s tentatively titled – Trust Not.

 

Thank you, Dillon, for putting away the Nanoblocks and your writing to answer my questions. I’m looking forward to seeing you again in New Orleans later this year.

Readers, have you read one of Dillon’s novels? If yes, what did you think? Please leave a comment or contact Dillon via her website or Facebook.

Fellow authors, if you want to be interviewed on my blog, let me know.

Have a nice Sunday, everyone!

Jae

My one-year anniversary as a full-time writer

Today, it’s my one-year anniversary of going full time as a writer! Time sure does fly when you’re having fun. It’s been an amazing year, and I’m glad to say that I never regretted my decision even for a second.

So, after 365 days of being a bona fide full-time writer, I think I’m qualified to answer the questions that I asked other full-time writers on my blog last year.

How long have you been writing full-time?

One year exactly! December 21, 2013, was my last day of working as a psychologist, and I started writing full time the day after.

What was the process of moving into full-time writing for you?

I published my first book, Backwards to Oregon, with L-Book at the end of 2007. I published a total of five books with L-Book, but then started over and republished second editions of my “old” books when I switched publishers and joined Ylva Publishing in 2012. At that time, I never thought for a minute that I’d ever be able to write full time. It’s been a lifelong dream, but one I never thought would come true. But then my sales started to take off, so I handed in my letter of resignation in May 2013 and started counting the days…

tripDo you write every day? Do you give yourself weekends or days off or vacation time away from writing?

I work on my stories every day. Sometimes, that means writing; other days, it means researching, plotting, or revising my manuscripts. I rarely take weekends off. I know I should, but I haven’t gotten around to it. That’s one of the disadvantages of being a full-time writer—your place of work is your home, so it becomes harder to separate work from free time. But my job is the best in the world, so I’m not complaining.

I did take some time off to go on a 5-week trip, visiting L.A., Cambria, San Francisco, and Portland in July, and I only got a little writing in every now and then.

What does a typical work day look like for you?

I’m usually at the computer by eight and start working on my stories right away. That’s one thing that I learned early on this year—if I start by checking e-mails, I’ll be sucked into the big trap that’s called the Internet. I write or rewrite in the mornings and leave the marketing, social media, and e-mails for the afternoons.

I also work as an editor for Ylva Publishing, so I reserve a couple of hours in the afternoons and early evenings for editing manuscripts, supervising other editors, and communicating with our authors.

I usually try to wrap up work around eight—TRY being the operative word. If there’s any proofreading to do on one of my manuscripts, I mostly do that in the evening.

Do you have a daily word-count goal or a set number of hours you spend writing?

I do have a word-count goal when I’m working on a first draft. I’m aiming for 2,000 words a day or at least 12,000 words a week. Since I’m a slow writer, I don’t always make it, but writing is a marathon, not a sprint, so in the end, persistence wins.

If I’m not working on first drafts, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. are my office hours.

officeWhere do you write?

Most of the time, I write in my office. I moved to a new apartment in March and for the first time in my life have a separate office with enough space for a nice, big desk and bookcases.

How did family and friends react to you giving up your day job to become a full-time writer?

You’d think they would discourage me from giving up my job to become a starving artist, but my friends and my sister were incredibly encouraging and supportive. I doubt I would have taken that big, scary step when I did if not for their encouragement.

How much time do you spend promoting your books, including blogging, social media, etc.?

Since I keep track of my working hours, I can tell you that I spent 338 hours in the first eleven months of 2014 on marketing—so about one hour a day. Usually, most of that is spent answering reader e-mails, blogging, or posting on Facebook. I enjoy all of that, actually. To me, it’s more keeping in touch with my readers than doing promotion.

What’s the best thing about being a full-time writer?

Getting up every morning and knowing that I will be able to spend the day doing what I’m meant to be doing.

What’s the most difficult thing about being a full-time writer?

At times, I have so many different projects going that it’s hard to juggle all the deadlines as well as my responsibilities as an editor. Right now, for example, one of my novels is in the production stage, two novels, one nonfiction book, and one short story are being edited; I’m plotting my next novel and doing research for another one.

It might sound funny, but despite being a full-time writer, I still don’t have enough time to write all the stories I want to write. But that’s a good thing, since it means I won’t run out of ideas anytime soon.

Is there anything you wish you would have known before becoming a full-time writer?

If I could travel through time and tell my past self two things, it would be:

1. Do your writing first thing in the morning (I used to think I’m a night-owl writer, but found out that it was just out of necessity).

2. Don’t be scared to take that leap—actually, take it sooner!

What advice would you give a fellow author who wants to write full time?

Build a quality backlist first—no one I know can live off just one book. Take the time to learn everything you can about the writing craft and the writing business. Build a writing habit that will make sure that you can publish new works regularly. Maybe do a trial run to see if writing full time is really what you want to do with your life. Since writing is a solitary job, make sure to build a network of friends and fellow writers that will support you with advice and encouragement.

Can you tell us a bit about your latest novel?

Under a Falling Star is a story that starts shortly before Christmas, when Austen—who has just started a new job as a secretary—takes over decorating the company Christmas tree. Dee, the company’s COO and a bit of a control freak, doesn’t like the way the lights are positioned, so she tries to rearrange them, and the star-shaped tree topper comes crashing down on her. Not knowing who Dee is, Austen takes her to the ER and promptly falls in love with her. A relationship between them is pretty much impossible, especially since Austen is not amused when she finds out that Dee is practically her boss…

What books can we look forward to from you in the future?

Good Enough to Eat, the vampire romance I co-wrote with Alison Grey, will be out at the beginning of February. I will also publish a nonfiction book—Goal Setting for Writers—under my real name in March, and a new contemporary romance set in Hollywood—Damage Control—will come out next summer.

Happy holidays to everyone and thanks for accompanying me through my first year as a full-time writer!

Jae

Interview with Ann Aptaker, author of Criminal Gold

Ann AptakerToday’s interviewee is Ann Aptaker, who just had her debut novel, Criminal Gold, published with Bold Strokes Books. Criminal Gold is a crime/mystery adventure novel set in 1949.

Let’s start with some warm-up questions:

Chocolate or cookies?

Well, I love chocolate passionately, but I’ll have to go with cookies, since chocolate doesn’t love me, which is a serious romantic disappointment, yes? I cheat sometimes, have a little chocolate, but if I have one bite too much, I pay for it the next day. Drat!

E-books or paperbacks?

I don’t own a reader or tablet yet, still out of my financial league I’m afraid, but I’ve recently downloaded the Kindle app on my laptop, so I’m just now getting ready to try e-books. If I had a reader or tablet, I could be seriously addicted; the efficiency is undeniable. But I have to fess up and admit that I’m one of those who’d miss the feel and smell of real books. Plus, I do a lot of my reading-for-pleasure as bedtime reading, and after a day of working at the computer, the last thing in the in the world I want to do is to look at yet another screen. The bedside lamplight illuminating the words on the paper is much more soothing at bedtime.

Star Wars or Star Trek?

No way I’ll choose one over the other! Love ’em both! Take us out, Mr. Sulu…Engage…and may The Force be with us. Wink

Beach or mountains?

Seashore, definitely seashore. And all the seafood I can stuff into my mouth. Second to living here in my much loved hometown of New York, a little shanty by the sea would be heaven.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What do you do when you’re not writing?

A little about myself: well, I’m a native New Yorker who’s also lived briefly in Florida and San Francisco. And though each has its wonderful qualities (great weather in both, good food, wonderful seashores, and, in SF, much LGBTQ cultural and political power), they just can’t compare to my extraordinary hometown. So I came running home to New York, where life is a financial struggle but the cultural and creative riches are boundless.

So, what does that say about me? I guess it says that I’m a city-slicker to the core; that the presence of so much writing and other top-notch cultural talent in this city helps keep me sharp; that living in walking distance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art matters to me so that I can swoon over their Greek art collections and early 20th Century stuff (can’t get enough of John Singer Sargent:  is “Madame X” delicious or what?); that I love great theater on or off Broadway and go whenever budget allows, which isn’t often enough; I love movies, so I’m addicted to Netflix (and also addicted to Orange is the New Black); also addicted to Downton Abbey (can’t wait ‘til it starts again here in the States in January!); and last (and probably least) I’m currently single. I guess that’s about it.

When I’m not writing, I -

-work on getting my lectures ready for the classes I teach at New York Institute of Technology (Art History, Exhibition Design);

-write art related materials for various clients (galleries, artists, etc.);

-write other freelance stuff (was hired to edit/re-write a treatment for a proposed TV show).

So I guess I’m always writing! Even when I take my deliciously long walks through the city, I’m writing in my head, especially the book I’m currently working on, the second in the Criminal Gold series.

CRIMINAL GOLD-coverPlease tell us about your journey in becoming a published writer. What challenges did you face when you published your first book? How did you come to publish with Bold Strokes Books?

Getting my early short stories published wasn’t particularly difficult. In fact, the first story I ever submitted for publication, a hard boiled tale called “The Sweetness at the Crummy End of Town,” was accepted right way by Michael Bracken, who was the editor of the “Fedora” crime anthology series (which has since met a much lamented demise…sigh…such are the financial vicissitudes of the publishing game.   Michael was/is a true gentleman of literary crime). It wasn’t a lesfic story, but the two main characters in next story he accepted for the Fedora series, “Her Game,” were lesbians, very much out. The early success of these stories spoiled me for all the rejection that came later, when I submitted my novel. It seems I didn’t have a golden aura around my head after all! It took forever, two agents (the first, retired; the second, come and gone, though it wasn’t a bitter breakup), glowing rejections from publishers (but no sale is no sale, even when it comes with ultimately useless praise) and an abiding faith in my work (call it arrogance, call it chutzpah) to stay with it. Needless to say, I’m glad I did. Criminal Gold found a home at Bold Strokes Books, where it (and its author) are treated with respect, and benefits from the wisdom of the highly professional staff, especially my extraordinary editor, Ruth Sternglantz. Ruth definitely “gets” what I’m trying to do with this book and its protagonist, the criminal Cantor Gold.

How did you come up with the idea for Criminal Gold?

Y’know, I’m not really sure “how” I came up with this book. The character of Cantor Gold has been running around in my head for a long time. I’d written a previous story about her while I was living in San Francisco and taking a Mystery Writing course taught by Shelley Singer, author of Blackjack, featuring the fabulous Rica Marin (now there’s a dyke to be reckoned with!) In addition to being a marvelous writer, Shelley is a wonderful teacher, and she unlocked everything for me on the very first day of class! From that day on, Cantor became alive on the page, and her story evolved. Eventually, I made the move back to New York, where Criminal Gold came to fruition. It really had to be written here. The city is part of Cantor.

How much and what kind of research did you do for Criminal Gold?

Since the story takes place in 1949, I had to do a considerable amount of research. Much of my time was spent in the microfilm room of the New York Public Library (reading 1949 newspapers—New York had 7 daily papers then!), the New York City Archives, whose collection of New York City photographs is unsurpassed, and the New York Historical Society Library for general information. I also read (and still do) lots of books on general New York history, crime history, and even entertainment history, all of them elements of Cantor’s world. But I also spoke to a lot of people. The World War Two generation is still around (but leaving us day by day, sadly), and they remember the post-war years in New York rather well. So I got a lot of information, especially the more colorful sort, from personal reminiscences. Listening to them speak, and remembering how my own family spoke, their accents, expressions, slang, etc., gave me a sense of how New York sounded then.

What would you say is the most important theme in Criminal Gold, and what personal meaning does that theme have for you? 

As with any good yarn, there’s more than one theme woven through it, but for me (and Cantor), the most important theme of the book and her life is the idea of Freedom. In 1949, and really only until very recently, it was quite dangerous to live openly as a gay or lesbian person, especially if you were a butch dyke or a femme male. Cantor insists on living openly, thus taking her Freedom, which is a very different idea than simply winning her “Rights.” Rights are things given; Freedom is something lived. To me, Freedom and Rights, though they have much on common, are not the same thing.

How long did it take you to write Criminal Gold?

While I was employed full time, I worked on the book on-and-off for about two years. But when I left my full time curatorial job to work only part time (teaching) and freelance gigs, I wrote more consistently and with deeper focus, and finished it in about a year.

How do you find enough time to write, even though you have a day job? Any tips for how to be productive as a writer who can’t write full time?

As an Adjunct faculty member, I’m only in the classroom two days a week, though there’s prep-time for each class. Still, other than classroom days, my working schedule is mine to set, and as long as I meet my obligations to school and my freelance clients, I am then free to devote whole chunks of time to writing.

Now, having said all that, there’s the issue of financial stability, which I definitely do not have. There are some very scary days/weeks/months in my life. But my full-time career as a curator meant long days, often seven days a week when preparing an exhibition, and generally left me too exhausted to write when I got home, which was often late and after a long commute. So I had to make a decision: do I want to write, or do I want to curate? A management and policy change at the museum where I worked provided the trigger: I didn’t go along with the new policy and management, and I decided it was time to get out and follow my own dream, not facilitate someone else’s. I’ve never regretted it. Though my life is financially tough, it is creatively alive, which I value more than anything.

So I’m not sure what tips I can give about being a productive writer; everyone’s situation and needs are different. But writing takes commitment, so I guess to be a productive writer, you have to commit to it, each in their own way.

What’s your favorite scene in Criminal Gold?

Wow, a favorite scene. Well, I don’t think I can pick a single favorite, but I suppose three could qualify. Since the book just launched, I don’t want to give the game away before people have a chance to read it, but I’ll say that in one of the scenes, Cantor becomes aware of the true feelings of someone important in her life. It’s a very subtly revealed moment, but it has deep emotional implications for Cantor, turns everything she thought was true inside out. Another scene, a bit earlier, is a meeting between Cantor and the city’s major Crime Lord on the terrace of his penthouse. It’s a seesaw act between the two of them.  And the third is the very last one of the book, which I won’t give away at all! The reason that last scene is among my favorites, is because it actually wrote itself. I had another ending in mind, but as the words came, I felt like I had no control over it, the story had completely taken over. The book had to end the way it did. The story essentially told me to get the hell out of its way.

Which scene in Criminal Gold was hardest for you to write?

That first, subtle one, was the hardest. The relationship between Cantor and this other character is highly complex, and becomes even more complex as a result of that subtle moment when Cantor learns the truth, when her whole history turns upside down.

If there would have been Starbucks in 1949, what sort of coffee would Cantor Gold, the main character in Criminal Gold, order? Black coffee? Soy-sugar-free-non-fat-vanilla latte? Double chocolate chip Frappuccino with whipped cream and chocolate sauce? Something else?

Strong black coffee, no milk, no sugar, no nonsense.

What projects are you working on right now?

Most of my creative time is spent writing the next book in the series, which I’m proud to say Bold Strokes has accepted for publication (yay!) But I’m also partnering with the wonderful composer Jody Gray on what we hope will be a Broadway musical in the not tooooooooo distant future. He’s writing the music, I’m writing the script, an adaption of an Oscar Wilde short story.

Yeah, I’m a writer. Finally.

Thank you for that great interview, Ann, and best of luck with Criminal Gold and your future writing endeavors!

Readers, if you have questions or feedback for Ann, please leave a comment. You can also reach Ann via Twitter or Facebook. For now, Criminal Gold is available at Bold Strokes, but starting on November 18, it will also be available at several other online bookstores.

Have a nice weekend, everyone!

Jae

Created by Krystel Contreras & Jorge Courbis