The 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!