Who or what inspired your latest novel Not for Sale?
I honestly don’t remember. I think I was contemplating the fact that my apartment complex was now on their third manager in as many years and, wondered what it was like being a property manager. Everything kind of built from there. All I know is that Kimberly was always Korean-American from the beginning, and that I wanted to set it in a small, middle-class condominium complex on the Oregon coast.
Who or what inspired you to start writing?
I’ve been writing since I was old enough to mimic words out of picture books. So, it’s hard to say where the urge to write began. One of my earliest memories is writing and making up stories about my grandmother as a teenager. I was about four years old. I was also encouraged to write stories in first grade. I think I wrote a picture book about a turtle. It was always a constant presence in my life – I wrote my first full-length novel, complete with three acts and character developments, when I was in fifth grade. (Of course, it’s not terribly good, and no, nobody is allowed to see it!)
Which of your books was your favorite to write and why?
I’ve had a couple books I would describe as “fever dreams.” The ones where I sat down and day in, day out wrote about five to ten thousand words a day until the behemoths were complete. Where my brain refused to let me work on anything else until this thing was finished. Under Hildred, that book is definitely “Love, Yumi.” Being written in first person definitely helps. It’s a lot more stream of conscious that way.
Who is your favorite character from your books and why?
I think out of my lesbian romances, the character I get most excited about is Eva Warren. If she’s appearing somewhere, you know some trouble is about to begin. It tends to follow her like the scent of her made-to-order French perfume. And we authors LOVE troublemaking characters!
How do you approach writing a new storyline?
I consider what kind of tropes it will have, who the characters are, and what is the main thing keeping them apart. (Assuming we are talking about romance here.) As a publisher, I also consider the marketability. I schedule the books I write and their release dates to ensure that at least every other book is one I can market to an awaiting audience.
Where do your inspirations for characters and their lives come from?
The easy answer is “well, some of them are spin-offs of books I’ve written before, where I followed a side character and realized they would make an amazing lead character for their own novel!” The harder, more boring answer is, “literally whenever my brain thinks it’s a good time to deliver a new story.” I could be watching a commercial, have a random thought about something the voiceover said, and ten minutes later I have the next novel I’m going to write ready to go. I think I naturally create stories out of mundane things.
Where is your favorite place to write?
The well-lit room of my favorite teashop in Portland. I’ve written thousands of words there over the years, and I’m still not sure the baristas know what the hell I’m doing in that corner.
What is your writing process?
Sit down, shut up, and write until it’s finished for the day. Then I get to play video games!
(I’m afraid there is nothing interesting or glamorous about my writing life. It simply exists like a typical office job. I even dress like I’m going to the office.)
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I don’t think anything changed, especially for the first book. I had already written a ton of books before I published my first one (a lot of real duds, let me tell you.) But the main thing that’s changed over the years is becoming more familiar with the world of “what readers want” and trying to deliver. Having to set aside my own tastes and sometimes, even what might make the book “better” in an artistic sense… well, I’ve never put out a book I wasn’t happy with. But there are some that I would have ended differently or made a character more realistically unpleasant (like I imagined them,) or set somewhere else if the fact I need to make a living wasn’t an issue. It’s what happens when you do art for a living. You just find a way to make it work with your creative vision.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Bookbub, c. 2015 I’ll be paying the taxes on it for years!
What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?
I have a defunct (she’s dead, y’all) lesbian erotica pen name that used to get some straaaange fanmail back in the day. But I think the sweetest one, which I think about a lot, came from a man who said he and his wife really loved my work and they used to read it to each other before they went to sleep. Sometimes, I feel like I failed them when that pen name died… but let’s be real, they either split up or moved on!
What book that you have read has most influenced your life?
I don’t know what one book overall has. But this year I have been really influenced by Keven Kwan. Not just him setting the bar on how over the top I can make my rich-asshole characters, but his omniscient style of writing helped me out of a huge bind when I was writing my fantasy novel and trying to figure out how to make the point of view work. Thanks, Kevin, or showing me I could get away with it!
How do you take your coffee?