In November and Dezember, I interviewed 10 full-time writers of lesbian fiction. In 2014, I would like to interview writers of lesbian fiction who don’t write full-time.
My first guest is Caren Werlinger, who up until last year was a fellow L-Book author and is now publishing under her own imprint. Caren is the author of the award-winning novel Looking Through Windows and the critically acclaimed Misere as well as In This Small Spot and Neither Present Time. Her newest book, Year of the Monsoon, was published just a few days ago.
Welcome to my blog, Caren. Let’s start with some warm-up questions:
Chocolate or cookies?
It depends on the chocolate or the cookies! I love dark chocolate, and molasses cookies are at the top of the list, too.
E-books or paperbacks?
I have a few e-books, and I understand the appeal of being able to take hundreds of books anywhere on an e-reader, but I prefer real books. I tend to buy paperbacks and have an extensive library of my favorite older books which aren’t available as e-books anyhow.
Star Wars or Star Trek?
Star Trek – especially The Next Generation. When Star Wars came out, my brother loved it, and I just couldn’t get into anything he liked that much. Since then, I’ve come to appreciate what George Lucas did with that story arc, but it still takes a back seat to Star Trek for me.
Beach or mountains?
I love both, and they both call to me at different times. I’m red-headed and freckly, so I burn very easily in the sun. Beach time for me is walking on the beach early and late in the day, not frying myself. I enjoy fishing and biking and hiking, so mountains call to me a lot as well. Luckily, I live in the Shenandoah Valley, so I have easy access to all of those things.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What do you do when you’re not writing?
I have a wide variety of interests – not that I’m great at any of them, but they give me enjoyment. I play guitar, I draw, I make furniture and carve wood. I like exercising, so I have a weight room and treadmill in the basement.
Please tell us about your journey in becoming a published writer. How did you come to establish Corgyn Publishing, your own publishing company?
I’m laughing at this one – it’s a very long story, but I’ll synopsize here. Probably like many authors, my first book, Looking Through Windows, was a work in progress for about ten years before it was accepted by a publisher. I had many rejections in the years prior to that acceptance as I tried to do the agent/traditional publisher route. Unfortunately, just as LTW was published, the economy tanked and we began losing bookstores. My publisher wasn’t taking on any new projects at that time. I began submitting to other lesbian fiction publishers and had three other books accepted by two publishers, including L-Book, your original publisher. As you know, Roxanne Jones passed away unexpectedly late in 2012, and the company closed as a result. All of L-Book’s authors were suddenly faced with the prospect of finding other publishers or going indie. I had been in business for myself before, so I knew what was involved. I was also smart enough to ask for help from people who are way smarter than I am! Several other indie authors were very supportive, freely offering advice and tutorials in the process of indie publishing. I can never express enough thanks to them, and hopefully have been able to pay that debt forward in helping other fledgling authors. I wanted my books to be published as professionally as possible and decided to establish an imprint. Having had corgyn in the house since 1994 made the name a no-brainer.
Your website says “literary fiction with a twist,” and indeed your novels don’t seem to be the typical lesbian romance novels. What would you say makes your books stand out?
I do enjoy romances, and I’m a sucker for a good love story, but meeting someone and falling in love is only the beginning of being in love. In the meantime, life is filled with no many things that can make staying in love a challenge: health issues, work stress, family drama. I love writing stories that explore those dynamics, with characters who happen to be lesbians. In most of my books, being lesbian is not an issue for the characters. It’s as natural a part of them as their eye color, so the story can focus on the other issues.
How did you come up with the idea for Year of the Monsoon?
Like Leisa in Year of the Monsoon, I am adopted. Some parts of Leisa’s story are my story – but with much more drama! See a bit more about this in the next answer.
How did you come up with the title for Year of the Monsoon?
The title came to me early in this story, which is unusual for me. I had this couple, two women whose life together had progressed happily through ten years together, when suddenly, their world is slammed by a storm of epic proportions that just keeps battering them over and over again. I wanted to explore how they would work through the storm and find each other again.
It seems that family and identity are strong themes in Year of the Monsoon. What personal meaning do those themes have for you?
This question made me realize that these themes keep popping up in my books. I know your psychologist brain is already analyzing that, Jae! My family growing up was a family of choice, as we three oldest were all adopted before my parents were “blessed” with my youngest sister (I’m sure she’s yelling as she reads this!). Even though I know we were loved and cherished by our parents, just the fact that we were adopted brings the possibility of a different identity into the equation. Many LGBT people have to make families of choice as well – whether because biological families have ostracized them, or by choosing to have or adopt children, or simply by putting together a circle of friends who become family.
How long did it take you to write Year of the Monsoon?
It took a couple of years on and off as I was working on other books. I got stuck on this story for a while – probably because it was so personal to me. I finished it in 2010. It was one of the books under contract with L-Book.
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?
I keep a notebook and/or laptop with me at work. I write during my lunch break and can jot plot ideas down as they occur to me. On weekends, I rise early and use that quiet time in the house to get a lot of my writing done. I know a lot of other writers wait until late in the evening after the house is quiet to get their writing done, but my brain is fried at night. I think about my books then, but can’t write. My best advice is to know when your most creative time is, and try to make that time for yourself.
What’s your favorite scene in Year of the Monsoon?
Oh gosh, that’s hard. I guess one of my favorites was when Todd comes to visit. I loved writing his character.
Which scene in Year of the Monsoon was hardest for you to write?
This I can’t answer without a huge spoiler, so I’ll just say that readers will have no trouble picking out which scene was the hardest to write. I sobbed as I wrote it and I still can’t read it without crying.
What sort of Starbuck’s coffee would Leisa Yeats, the main character in Year of the Monsoon, order? Black coffee? Soy-sugar-free-non-fat-vanilla latte? Double chocolate chip Frappuccino with whipped cream and chocolate sauce? Something else?
Hmmm, Leisa would probably order a skim-milk mocha – wait, add whipped cream!
What projects are you working on right now? Any upcoming releases?
I am working on my eighth book now – no working title yet. My next release will be a book titled She Sings of Old, Unhappy, Far-off Things (it’s happier than the title suggests!), tentatively scheduled for May/June 2014.
Thank you so much for this interesting interview, Caren. And just for the record, my psychologist brain was quite happy with the themes in your books. In fact, family and identity are themes that pop up in most of my books too. I think these themes are universal and important to most of us for one reason or another.