Interview with debut author Tammy Bird

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Who or what inspired Sandman?

Sandman was inspired by a trip to the outer banks (OBX) in October. The majority of tourists were gone, and we had much of the beach and sound to ourselves. One afternoon, my wife and I stepped into one of the few local businesses that were still open: an ice cream shop. The owner was playing on his phone. I think we startled him when we entered. As we ate our ice cream cones (sprinkles for me, chocolate and peanut butter for my wife) we chatted with the owner about the end of tourist season and the quiet that settles over the sand.

He said, “Yep. Quiet enough around here in the off-season to bury a body in the dunes and never get caught.”

Just like that, Sandman was born.

Who or what inspired you to start writing?

As a kid, I worshipped my dad. He loved words. He often challenged me to look things up in the encyclopedias that were housed on my shelf in my room. Then we would talk about it over dinner. He would ask me questions like, “What do you think the children in Chile are having for dinner? Are they quiet or loud? What are their parents like?” We would build an entire story around their meal. I suspect this was the catalyst.

I also am a high school dropout who fell in love with a local community college instructor who used to come into my restaurant and ask me to read and discuss things to keep her company. At first it was weird, but I found myself looking forward to being challenged in that way. She eventually talked me into getting my GED and going back to school to earn an English degree. So, she took up the challenge where my dad left off, and I am forever thankful.

Who is your favorite character from your books and why?

This is a tough one. I am going to go with Paige. She trains cadaver dogs and gives them names like Derrida and Nietzsche. It is her and one of her “little nose artists,” as she calls them, that uncovers the secret burial ground of Buxton. If that isn’t cool enough, she is the character who tells the main character, Katia, like it is. No BS. Throughout the novel we witness a growing respect and friendship between the two women.

How do you approach writing a new storyline?

I am somewhere between a planner and a pantser. I like to have a rough outline of where a storyline is going, and I typically have the ending in mind when I start, but I also allow the characters to take me on a new journey if what I have planned doesn’t suit them. At the end of the process, I always compare what I intended to what happened. In the editing process I often have to rein a character or two in a little.

Where do your inspirations for characters and their lives come from?

Everywhere. I am sure you hear this a lot from writers. I can be sitting in a meeting at my day job, and someone will say something in a particular way, and I think, “Oh man. That is the voice of a character.” Or, I will see a mom in a bookstore trying to read, and a small child crawling all over her. The mom keeps reading like the child isn’t even there. I think, “What if the child really wasn’t there? What is she is a child lost to another world who wants to be seen. What if whoever actually feels the child will be deemed the mother?” It goes on and on. LOL

Where is your favorite place to write?

A coffee shop. I don’t listen to music. I know, weird. I prefer words whistling by, settling on my table, rattling in the air. I don’t want to interact with them. I just want to know they are there. The people are just the vehicle for the words. It is this introverts way of being with others.

And there is coffee. Lots of coffee.

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What is your writing process?

I have a calendar reminder set for everyday at the same time. When it reminds me, I treat it like any other meeting. Sometimes I write new words. Sometimes I edit words that are already there. Sometimes I journal new ideas or write character sketches. The idea is to treat writing like a job. To be successful, you have to show up. If my boss puts something over the time-slot, I honor that, of course, and sometimes a grandkid wants to play, and I honor that, too. Otherwise, I show up and I write.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

I don’t know that it changed my process. I taught me a ton. That’s for sure. Writing the first draft of a book, writing “THE END,” for the first time, is an amazing experience. It is also where the real work begins. I had no idea the work that goes into editing, negotiations, marketing, readings, etc. Going into book two I am better equipped to know what works and what doesn’t. I know the word “had” is a word I overuse and I need to search for it in my document and revise. I know that adverbs are often a weak tool and that I use them too often in my first draft. Stuff like that.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Two things come to mind. (1) Money spent on other books. Stephen King said something to the effect of, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the tools to write.” I totally agree. Not only do I read, but I study books by the masters. (2) The GCLS writing academy. I’m not sure if you want to include plugs for awesome writing academies, but this one was phenomenal. It is a year-long program where new writers learn the trade from well-established writers in the lesbian community. I actually finished the first draft of Sandman in this program.

What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?

I am dedicated to inclusion in my writing. As such, when someone writes a review like the one below, I am blown away:

“One of my favorite things about the characters is how three-dimensional they are. Even fairly minor characters are so realistic and believable. The amount of detail used in descriptions of the Katia’s brother, who is on the autism spectrum, is incredible. It is clear that the author is either familiar with autistic children or did a great deal of research on the subject.”

What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

I was a literature major in college, so I am in love with American literature. It influenced me as a whole. Words have to taste good on my tongue for me to turn the page. Reading and dissecting the works of greats, including, but not limited to, Burroughs, Faulkner, Perkins-Gilman, Morrison, Walker, Hawthorne, Hurston, and Frost taught me that there is always a message. Regardless of what I write, I want a well-crafted message.

Do you have any new books coming out? If so, what are they about?

I am nearing completion on my second novel, tentatively titled, “Book of Promises.” It is a coming out story with a twist. Best friends, Katie and Tess, held hands in fourth grade and promised one another that they would never be apart. Now in high school, one of them will stop at nothing to make sure this promise is kept.

I also have an outline for the sequel to Sandman. Stay tuned for more on that.

How do you take your coffee?

Sweet and light. Iced or hot.

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Interview with Amanda Kayhart

Amanda

Who or what inspired Shipped?

My wife and our honeymoon in the Caribbean. There’s lots of little Easter eggs in the story about her and our trip together. We celebrated our 13thwedding anniversary this month, so it was fun to reminisce about that time in our lives as I wrote it.

 

 

Who or what inspired you to start writing?

My high school English teacher, Mrs. Bahrenburg. She had a contagious passion and energy about writing and books and poetry. She read Mary Oliver’s Wild Geesein class (I can still hear her steady, soothing voice in my head to this day), and hypnotized me with those revered lines. Words were never just words after that. They felt supernatural, almost. And I wanted to be a part of the magic.

 

Who is your favorite character from your books and why?

I can only pick one?? But I don’t want the others to be mad at me LOL I think I’ll have to go with Avery from my first book, Running the Tides. She was the first fictional character I ever wrote, and because of that, she’ll always have a special place in my heart.

 

How do you approach writing a new storyline?

Obsession and curiosity. I enjoy picking a setting or profession or topic that I’ll need to research. Something that fascinates me to the point I know I’ll get nerdy obsessed with, and get excited about to learn more and write about.

 

Where do your inspirations for characters and their lives come from?

I pull a lot from real life acquaintances, or people I’ve encountered in life, maybe even for a very brief period of time, who really left an impression on me.

 

Where is your favorite place to write?

My answer will be probably odd, but it’s in the woods. I live in Vermont and there’s an abundance of hiking and nature trails here, and I find my best writing and plotting is done, not sitting in front of my computer, but outside where my mind can wander as freely as my feet.

 

What is your writing process?

I’m a pantser, so it’s messy and disorganized. I start with a real crappy and careless first draft, followed by several rounds of meticulous edits I obsess over until I break down and cry into bowls of ice cream. *shrugs* It seems to be working fine LOL

 

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

I learned to relax. I was very nervous and uptight my first time around, freaking out over minor details. Now, I let the mistakes happen and not let the imperfections in a story take away from the fun of writing.

 

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Taking writing classes. Being a part of a small writing community, and learning, not only the craft and mechanics of fiction, but also how to take and use criticism productively.

 

What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?

Olivia, one of my MCs in Running the Tides, is bisexual, and a reader thanked me for having positive bisexual rep in my story. I want my books to be, not only inclusive to all identities within the queer community, but done so in a welcoming and affirming way. Their message to me really meant a lot.

 

What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

Winter Jacket by Eliza Lentzski. It was the first lesfic book I ever read and inspired me to start writing my own stories and start my author journey.

 

Do you have any new books coming out? If so, what are they about?

Fire and Water. It’s an age-gap romance set in Vermont, between a college professor and a glass blower. There’s a nice sprinkling of ice queen thrown in there too.

 

How do you take your coffee?

Preferably iced

 

Interview with Magnolia Robbins

Maggie

Who or what inspired Starbound?

My best friend Amanda. After I released Forbidden Melody last year, I kind of had a bit of a frustrating breakdown. It was a lot of work, it took a lot out of me mentally, and I wasn’t sure what to do next. In October, Amanda suggested I write a “nerd book” as she so lovingly put it. This book is really based a lot on our friendship, and is kind of an ode to her. A lot of our inside jokes are in the book, little things that have happened to us. She likes to call me a “nerd” because of all of my hobbies and interests (they’re pretty nerdy, I mean I love playing Dungeons and Dragons, I’m not going to lie…) So, really this book was for her. I went through a lot last year, and finishing this book meant a lot. I’m just happy it’s out there for people to read now.

 

Who or what inspired you to start writing?

In 4thgrade, I wrote a book called “Freddie the Falcon” that got published by my school. I drew the pictures that went with it, and wrote the story. I’ve always had a passion for storytelling ever since I was little. It wasn’t until early college I started really picking it up. I have a mostly-finished draft of a science fiction story that I want to publish at some point as queer fiction. In 2017, my mother-in-law was dying of ovarian cancer and we had a talk in the hospital one day. I’d just quit graduate school after discovering it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. I was pretty depressed, for a variety of reasons. She asked me what I wanted to do with my life, and then told me I should write, because she believed so much in my writing. The day after she passed away, I self-published my first book on Amazon.

 

Who is your favorite character from your books and why?

Wow! This is a doozy! Haha. Hm, I think if I’d have to pick my favorite, it would have to be Shiloh Pierce from Wildsky. The character was kind of based off of a variety of different people and kind of all melded together. I loved her rugged outdoorsy personality, how passionately she loved Grace, and how dedicated she was to helping her through her mental health struggles. My significant other and I went through a very similar experience when I was going through graduate school as Grace/Shiloh did, so she really mattered a lot to me.

 

I also would have to say Reese, just because I based her a lot off of Amanda, and I love Amanda to pieces.

 

And, I can’t go without saying Juliette Hamilton from Forbidden Melody, because… well, obviously.

 

I totally didn’t give you one person—sorry about that haha.

 

 

 

How do you approach writing a new storyline?

This is a good question! It’s a very crazy process, sometimes there’s no semblance of order. An idea will come to me and it will start brewing and festering in my head. I try to make an outline. Most of the time I don’t get through it all the way, but I’m happy to say I’m getting better about it. I will try to build as good of an image of characters in my head before I start, so I can picture what might happen to them. Then I throw out a bunch of scene ideas, just as many as I can think of. Once that happens, I try to puzzle piece them together to figure out a good plot.

 

Really though, it’s kind of a magical experience. Somehow things just start coming together once I start going. Definitely not a pantser though, as much as I envy them.

 

Where do your inspirations for characters and their lives come from?

As I mentioned in a previous question, I get a lot of inspiration from people in my life. Sometimes characters from other books will inspire ideas for me. Like I said, my significant other, Amanda, some of my lesfic friends have all inspired me. My parents, other friends. For Forbidden Melody, Emma was inspired by an America’s Got Talentcontestant named Mandy Harvey, who had the same disorder that Emma did in the book. I get my inspiration from random places.

 

Where is your favorite place to write?

Okay. I have two places. It’s hard to choose.

First, is the Salt Lake City Library. Look how gorgeous this place is! It’s 4 stories, they have really nice desks to work at that face the mountains and you can look out at them while you write. There’s windows EVERYWHERE. And a coffee shop inside, so I can get all the coffee I want! The barista’s there love me haha.

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Second, is my home office. I like it a lot because I pimped it out a little this year and got nice big framed photos of my book covers. I also have a giant sloth from Amanda that keeps me company.

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What is your writing process?

I have a daily routine, which usually consists of getting up about 5:30-6am in the morning, even on the weekends. I make a big pot of coffee, take a walk for about 10 minutes, stretch, meditate most days that I can remember to do it, and then I sit down at the computer with my coffee and make a deal with myself—I need to write x amount today and then I can do something I want to do with my life. My goal is usually 2,500 words.

 

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

I don’t think my first book was what really changed my writing process. I’ve written 11 books now, 5 novels and 6 novella. I started out writing novellas because I was nervous publishing novels. It was really good practice. I got a review on one of my novellas after I’d been publishing a while saying that they felt like the story could be fleshed out more and have more detail. After that, I decided to write my first official novel. I tried really hard to pay attention and add more details, and work on my craftsmanship. Every book since has been really focusing on one area I can improve each book. It helps a lot. I really thank that reviewer for calling me out, because I might have still been stuck in novella writing mode and not gotten the courage to try something new, if it wasn’t for them.

 

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Hiring a copy editor. 100%

 

What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?

The reviews for Wildsky and for Forbidden Melody just exploded my heart. I think the best review/thing I heard was from someone who read Wildsky, who was going through the same experience with graduate school as I did. They said because of the book, and then talking with me after they’d read it, they got the courage to call it quits. I wrote that book specifically for those people who are struggling, because I’ve been there. I know what it’s like. And that was a really cool moment to be able to support someone else going through the same thing.

 

What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

“Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown. If you haven’t ever read that book, you should read it.

 

Do you have any new books coming out? If so, what are they about?

So, I just released Starbound a few days ago, which is a geeky friends-to-lovers romance about a science-fiction television star and a game store manager (who are BFFs) who fall in love. It’s definitely a very cute and light read, a lot different that Forbidden Melody. I hope my readers won’t be too disappointed that it’s a lot different, but I still think it’s a really cute read!
Early February I’ll be releasing the first novella of a 3 part series called “Essence” that is about a baker and an accountant that have a nice falling-for-each-other kind of story. It’s light and sweet like Starbound, but it’s some of my best writing, in my opinion. All three of the books take place in Vermont, which I had the pleasure of visiting last year. It’s a beautiful state that is underrepresented in literature. The series will be the “Green Mountain Novellas” and they’ll release in February, April, and June (tentatively).

 

How do you take your coffee?

Black or with a little cream! And about 20 cups. Ha!

Interview with T.B Markinson

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Who or what inspired The Hidden One?

 Many who have read my A Woman Lost series know I’m a history nerd. I’m also an American political news junkie. I listen to way too many political podcasts, just like Ainsley in The Hidden One, hardly ever miss The Rachel Maddow Show, subscribe to several newspapers in the US and UK, in addition to reading articles on Politico, Axios, and others including right-leaning sites in a woeful attempt to stay impartial. The Chosen One series allows me to bring out the political animal inside me without actually having to run for office. Because that would be my definition of hell.

 

Who or what inspired you to start writing? 

Two reasons immediately pop into my mind.

First: My love of reading.

When I was a kid, I spent many blissful hours reading in my favorite rocking chair. This passion never vanished. Unfortunately, the rocking chair did. That hasn’t stopped me. I read everywhere. If you were at the post office today and saw a woman reading in line, that may have been me. I always have a book with me. If I don’t, I feel naked and incomplete. By the way, if you know where my rocking chair is, please let me know. I miss my old friend.

Second: Being diagnosed with Graves’ Disease may have been the best thing that’s ever happened to me. If it wasn’t for that, I may still be a person who has dreams but doesn’t chase them.

 

Who is your favorite character from your books and why?

 Oh gosh, this is a hard one. I’m quite fond of so many, even the ones who are a complete pain in the arse. If I had to choose one right now, I’d say Fiona Carmichael. She’s a supporting character in The Chosen One series and she’s a riot. Always saying what she thinks and the woman doesn’t have a filter at all. If you asked me this question again tomorrow, my answer would probably be different.

 

How do you approach writing a new storyline?

 Before I start a novel, the idea has to sit with me for weeks. I spend a lot of time going for walks, letting ideas percolate. I’ll jot down notes, but I won’t actually write until I feel confident I can finish it. When I finally start, I have a decent idea where the story will go. But then, the characters hijack it and even I’m surprised by what happens.

 

Where do your inspirations for characters and their lives come from?

From everywhere. There have been countless times I’ve been in a store, restaurant, or park and I see interactions with people and my brain immediately starts to concoct a backstory to what I’m hearing or witnessing.

 

Where is your favorite place to write?

 I write in my “office” in my flat. There’s nothing fancy about it. Just a desk, chair, and laptop. I’m easily distracted. Sometimes I listen to music. Other times I need absolute quiet.

 

What is your writing process?

 I write full time, so it’s not so much a process, but a job. Every day when I wake, I know that’s what I’ll be doing until quitting time. I’m a slow starter, though. I can’t wake up and jump right into writing like many authors. I have to make a cup of tea and clear some admin tasks off my plate, or I can’t concentrate on the story I’m working on.

 

 

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

 I think each published book has impacted my process. I’m always finetuning my approach. Like any job, it can become repetitive and I have to find new ways to tap into the creative process. Sometimes, I just have to give myself a stern lecture that can be summarized this way: sit your arse in the chair and write.

 

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

 On books. In my humble opinion, if someone doesn’t love to read, they shouldn’t write. I read just about everything, ranging from nonfiction to fiction. Usually, I have three books going at once, plus an audiobook for when I exercise.

 

What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?

 I’ve been receiving quite a few emails lately from people thanking me for helping them through difficult times. It’s nice to know my stories help readers disappear from harsh realities and give them some escapism. Life can be so very hard.

 

What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

 Back when I was a kid I had the flu and was home for school for several days. I was so bored and I started to read The Hobbit and fell in love with reading. It was the first book that wasn’t a picture book that I remember reading on my own and it introduced me to the wonderful world of storytelling. Over the years, I’ve reread The Hobbit and every time I can recapture that magical moment.

 

Do you have any new books coming out? If so, what are they about?

 A Woman Undone, the sixth book in theA Woman Lost series, will be out soon (fingers crossed). The previous book, A Woman Loved, ended with quite a cliffhanger. Lizzie has a unique family (read crazy), and while she’s doing her best to live a happy life with her wife and twins, her family causes so many problems. And the clueless Lizzie does her best to navigate the issues in Lizzie style, which means she makes many comical blunders.

 

How do you take your coffee?

 I actually hate coffee, but drink way too much tea. My preferences change frequently. Lately I’ve been drinking it with honey.

 

Links and bio:

Readers can find me at I Heart Lesfic, on Twitter, and on my author website. And, if they want a free copy of A Woman Lostplus bonus scenes, they can sign up for my author newsletter here.

 

T.B. Markinson

T.B. Markinson is an American writer, living in England. When she isn’t writing, she’s traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs, or reading. Not necessarily in that order.

Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. For a full listing of TB’s novels, please visit her Amazon page.

Interview with author Kate Genet

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Who or what inspired Saving Rose?

I read a lot of crime novels, and I’ve always loved writing suspense, so one day I had the brilliant idea of putting those things together and writing one. It was a great deal of fun, and I expect I’ll do it again. But it really did come about simply because I decided I wanted to write a crime novel. Once I did that, my imagination came up with Claire and Rose. Valerie (my partner) and I had a great time talking about the story all through the writing process, and Claire is a sailor thanks exclusively to Valerie’s extensive experience with yachts. I love writing children, and am very protective of them, so it all just came together nicely.

 

Who or what inspired you to start writing?

I don’t really remember a time when I didn’t want to write. At the age of nine or ten, I was stitching together tiny books out of paper, just the way the Bronte sisters did, and waking up early in the morning to write poems in them. That habit didn’t last long, but the desire to write has never gone away. Kate and writer are synonymous, these days.

 

Who is your favorite character from your books and why?

This is an awfully tough question, considering I have a whole bunch of books I’ve written now. Every character is a favourite while I’m writing them, because I strive to make them feel as real as possible, and I tend to fall in love with all my main characters.

 

How do you approach writing a new storyline?

I’m ready to write when I can see the first scene in my head, and when I know what sort of feeling or atmosphere I want the book to have. I don’t outline at all; I simply start at chapter one and see where the story takes me, right up until the end. I don’t even know how to write any other way than that!

 

Where do your inspirations for characters and their lives come from?

Everything is inspiration. I think when you’re a writer, every experience, everything you see, feel and do, falls through into the well of inspiration and then becomes part of a story, even if it’s one you never end up telling. I do most of my character invention during the actual writing, so they tend to grow very organically, and I meet them and get to know them at the same time I am writing them.

 

Where is your favorite place to write?

I’m a big fan of routine. It makes my days look very dull, but I have a space – a room – set aside to write in, and that’s where I go to write. Usually at the same time every day, for the same length of time. The discipline and routine help my brain make the switch to that flow state where language and structure and story and inspiration come together on the page. I’m not a coffee shop writer, or anything of the sort – I prefer to sit on my own when I’m working.

 

What is your writing process?

It’s very dull, from the outside, at least! While it varies slightly from book to book, it pretty much always starts simply with the picture in my head of someone doing something. And I write that picture down and follow where it leads me. I start at the beginning, at chapter one, and I write until the story is done. Valerie (my partner) reads along while I write, and we will talk about the story and she usually does whatever research I need. When I’ve reached the end, I read through it, making sure it all works, and then it gets proofed.

 

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

It made me realize that finishing writing projects is a great idea!

 

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

My whole writing career has been run on a shoestring budget. There just hasn’t been the money for anything, so of the few things I’ve spent money on, I’d probably say my very recent purchase of Vellum, which is a miracle programme which will finally allow me to bring my books out in paper.

 

What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?

I think it is always gratifying to get feedback from readers letting you know that they’ve enjoyed your work. It’s a difficult thing to work for a couple months on a story – something that didn’t exist at all until the writer made it up (literally!) – and then put it out in public for scrutiny, and enjoyment or otherwise. Which also makes it one of the most amazing, humbling things when someone says it made them feel all the things you were hoping it would when you wrote it.

 

What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

I don’t think there’s been just one book. Instead there have been many. I’m a great fan of the modernists – E M Forster, D H Lawrence, Virginia Woolfe, Katherine Mansfield, and too many others to mention. Then to those, add a great dollop of Stephen King. An odd mix, perhaps, but then, I’ve never been particularly conventional.

 

Do you have any new books coming out? If so, what are they about?

I have a few planned for this year. Two historical romances under the name Lily Hammond, two contemporary romances as Ana McKenzie, and after that I should be able to fit another two in, if life leaves me enough space. I’ll play with those ones and see what I come up with – most likely some sort of suspense novel like Saving Rose. I like not knowing yet!

 

How do you take your coffee?

With coconut milk and no sugar. If I’m out, I’ll have a cappuccino, again with no sugar.

Interview with Miranda Macleod

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Who or what inspired Holme for the Holidays?

There were two things that inspired this book. One was a trip I took through the real village of Holme in Yorkshire, and the other was the movie “The Holiday” with Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz. This story is nothing like the movie, but I loved the idea of a house swap that leads to romance.

Who or what inspired you to start writing?

I’ve always enjoyed writing, ever since I was a kid. I used to make up plays during recess and make my friends take roles in them. But it was as my 40thbirthday was approaching a few years back that I realized that if I didn’t do something to turn “I want to write a book someday” into an actual book soon, I never would.

Who is your favorite character from your books and why?

My very favorite character is Amanda, the office temp turned international spy, from Stockholm Syndrome. I think I like her because she reminds me of all the years I spent as an office temp while I was in graduate school. Often, when you’re in that type of setting, you don’t really know anyone and you can feel a little invisible and underappreciated, so it’s a great environment for letting your imagination run wild. Amanda daydreams about being a spy, only unlike most of us, she gets the chance one night to make her dream come true!

How do you approach writing a new storyline?

I write down ideas whenever they come to me, often along the lines of “wouldn’t it be funny if…” Most of the time, the initial thing that draws me to a story is something funny, like a celebrity chef on a gluten-free diet who gets stuck in a tiny Italian village where the only things to do are eat pasta and flirt with the local chocolate maker. After the initial idea, I always write an outline, even if some of the scenes are a little vague at first. I have to have a plan before I can write, even if sometimes I change the plan halfway through.

Where do your inspirations for characters and their lives come from?

Sometimes I base my characters and their occupations either on things I know myself, or on people I have encountered. For example, my Love’s Encoretrilogy is set in the theater, where I worked for several years. Other times, I ask myself what type of extraordinary life an ordinary person might like to drop in on for a few hours—perhaps a celebrity singer or spy. But it’s important to me that even the characters with the most unusual and exciting occupations need to be real and relatable.

Where is your favorite place to write?

During the warmer weather, I have a desk on my three-season porch, but when the New England winter gets too cold, there’s a local coffee shop I like, and the library is also a good choice. I find it helpful to get away from home, where there’s always a load of laundry to distract me from writing.

What is your writing process?

Ideally, I spend a week or so creating an outline and then launch into my first draft, which usually takes a few months. When that’s done I get editorial input, revise, and send for final editing and proofreading.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

Getting through the whole process, from idea to final product, for the first time helped me to start building a series of steps that I refine with each new work. I found, for example, that I tend to get tired in the middle of the book, where it seems like the end will never arrive, and so it can help me to send it at that stage to a beta reader to get some feedback. Even if all the reader says is “Finish this so I can read the rest,” it helps to rekindle my energy to push through to the end.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

For me, it was buying a Mac and loading it up with the Scrivener and Vellum programs. That gives me everything I need to go from outline to published e-book and paperback.

What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?

The comments that stick with me the most are when a reader reaches out to say that my story gave them hope in a dark time. My books are romantic comedies on the surface, but I try to deal with the emotions and challenges that real people face, and intfuse them with hope and humor. When I know that’s brightened someone’s day and made something difficult easier, that’s the best feeling in the world.

What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

In 4thgrade, my friend Jenny gave me a copy of Emily of New Moonby L.M. Montgomery. That series is not as well-known as her Anne of Green Gables series, but it’s all about a little girl who dreams of being a writer, and who has great adventures along the way to achieving her dream, with a lot of embarrassing challenges thrown in for good measure. Even as an adult, I still go back and read it sometimes, and love it every time.

Do you have any new books coming out? If so, what are they about?

Yes! 2018 proved to be a difficult year for writing because of various things that came up in my family and personal life, but I’m pleased to say that I will be publishing London Holiday, the 5thbook in the Americans Abroad series, this coming spring. It’s a modern retelling of the 1950s classic Roman Holiday, which is probably my favorite movie of all time. In my version, a struggling journalist meets a runaway princess in London and has to choose between the tabloid story of a lifetime, or the possibility that she’s found true love.

How do you take your coffee?

Whole milk, and no flavored creamers or heaven forbid, anything sweet in it.

 

Interview with debut author Jax Meyer

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Who or what inspired your latest novel Dal Segno?

It all started as a dream, which is a rare experience since having my daughter almost four years ago. In it I was visiting a college and ran into my old music teacher and had this sense of home at seeing her. The dream wasn’t romantic, but that idea of finding home in a person unexpectedly stuck with me for days. I played around with ideas to create a backstory and before long I had the beginning of the book.

Once I had the basic backstory, I focused on building Cam as a character. I knew I was too new at writing to get too adventurous, so I based a lot of her on myself. Her butchness and autism are based very closely on my experiences, but I did this purposely because there’s so little autistic representation in lesfic. And the butch representation is often something I don’t relate to. Ultimately, I wrote a character I wanted to read about.

The rest, including Sharon and Laura’s characters came to life as I wrote, which was the most fascinating experience for me to look back on.

Who or what inspired you to start writing?

This is my first novel. It’s the first book I’ve written, with the exception of a story I wrote when I was 12 or 13 about my friends and I being rock stars. I never knew I could be a writer until this book because of the way my autistic brain works. I’ve never been so happy to be wrong about myself!

What ultimately got me writing was a subconscious need to, and a lot of support from the other authors I’ve connected with this year over in Slack. This book would not be what it is without the Lesfic Love group, which is why they get a shoutout in the acknowledgments.

Who is your favorite character from your books and why?

I love Cam, but writing Laura was so much fun! I fell in love with her as she developed as a person on the page. I’ve spent the last few months writing the prequel, which means writing Sharon into existence, and I couldn’t begin to choose between them. Both provide Cam just what she needs at that point in her life, but what she needs at 20 is very different from what she needs at 40.

How do you approach writing a new storyline?

Since I’m still new to writing, I’m don’t have a lot of experience with this. So far, I get a tiny snippet of an idea, then I start brainstorming. I really love Lisa Cron’s Story Genius book to help me get to know the characters, but I don’t actually know that much about them when I start writing. I find my starting point and just write. Their voice begins to develop, the story develops based on their interactions, and I’m just along for the ride.

One thing I think I do well is knowing when something isn’t working. It just feels off to me. Sometimes that means going back and changing a character’s reaction or choice. Sometimes it means scrapping the whole thing like I did with the upcoming A Marine Awakening. That started as a short story, to help build Cam’s backstory. I completely scrapped that when I went to write the actual book though because it just didn’t work. Thankfully I don’t refer to her life with Sharon much, so I didn’t have to worry about consistency very often. Also, thankfully, I’m using the same editor for both books so she’s well aware of Cam’s character and what occurs in Dal Segno.

Where do your inspirations for characters and their lives come from?

I always start with real people for at least one personality quirk so I have something to work with. My autism presents itself in a way that makes understanding people very difficult, which is the exact opposite of my wife. So I will start with a character, in a moment, and often discuss them with her to get a deeper understanding. Once I have that understanding it helps me guide the characters’ development. I also have friends that are great to brainstorm with. Their questions help the character come into focus.

I have noticed that by the middle of the book, the original person the character is based on is hard to find, as the character has come into their own. I’m learning to separate the inspiration for the character from the character more quickly, which allows the character to develop more easily. It truly is a fascinating experience for me.

Where is your favorite place to write?

I prefer to write in a quiet room, with lots of natural light. However, I wrote about 75% of Dal Segno on my iPhone, many times while working one of my part time jobs. I’m so often on the run that being at home to write is a luxury. Then again, writing with an almost four year old means it’s often not quiet either. It would be a dream to go on a writing retreat in the mountains.

What is your writing process?

Just write. When I get stuck, I reach out for help brainstorming so I can keep writing. I don’t outline, unless I have some key beats I’m aiming for, because I discover so much as I write. I do occasionally write a scene out of order, just to get the words out of my head, but it almost always gets significantly rewritten by the time I reach.

For example, the weekend Cam and Laura first have sex, Laura plays Warm Valley for Cam. That was originally going to be their first kiss earlier in the book. But as I wrote and talked to people about Cam, I realized that she needed to fall into that first kiss. The scene as originally wrote was so much fun to write, but it didn’t work in the story, so it was repurposed.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

When I published, I had no clue whether people would like it or not. As the good reviews came in, I gained confidence. Now I’m committed to being a writer instead of a person who wrote a book. I’m still surprised that it happened, but I love it. This year has been a very difficult year for me personally, but writing has kept me sane and given me an outlet.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

First, I was lucky to be referred to a great, affordable editor by other lesbian romance authors. She turned my draft from something that would have been ok to a book that I’m proud to call mine. She also gave me frequent confidence boosts which made it much easier to hit the publish button. There are a lot of editors out there, but I wanted someone who knew lesbian romance, specifically. She was able to provide a lot of beneficial guidance not just on the story, but the cover design and blurb.

Second, getting a quality cover designer. I found Amanda Walker in a Facebook group and loved her pre-made covers. She worked with me to find the right stock photos, title fonts and colors, and my cover looks really nice. Cover art really makes a difference! She’s rather affordable as well. She can be found at https://www.amandawalkerpa.com/

What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?

I was really insecure about Cam’s autism. Even though it’s based on mine, I worried I didn’t show it well enough. But I received an email from a reader who said they really appreciated that aspect and it was spot on. I’m pretty sure I cried a little.

Recently, Anna at The Lesbian Review covered my book and I couldn’t stop smiling when she said this about my characters. “Meyer’s characters are subtle in their depictions, yet they deliver a powerful impact. It is pure genius.” I can’t describe how it felt to read those words!

I’m still in shock at how much people loved my book. For readers, know that your kind words really do make a difference. I don’t respond to reviews, but know you have my deepest gratitude for reading and enjoying my book.

What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

There are too many. However, in my upcoming book I do reference Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg as a critical book in my young adulthood. It gave me a reference point for my own butch identity at a time when I really needed terminology. For those who are younger, who always had the internet and gay characters on tv, it’s hard to describe what it’s like growing up in rural Wisconsin, not knowing anyone who was queer, and not having the language for your own identity. I’m not going to say kids have it easier today, because they have pressures I never had to deal with, but I love that they have the language to find themselves earlier.

Do you have any new books coming out? If so, what are they about?

A Marine Awakening is being edited now, to release by the end of January if all goes well. The book goes back in time almost exactly 20 years where Cam meets Sharon. We follow their journey as young Marines from meeting, falling for each other, meeting the parents, getting that first tattoo, and ultimately ending at their one year anniversary. We also learn why Sarah gets a free pass to be a loveable pain in Cam’s ass. This book is a lot steamier, so for those wishing Dal Segno had more sex, I think you’ll be satisfied with A Marine Awakening.

Afterwards I have two books on deck, though I’m not sure which will get written first. One will be a co-writing project with my wife, who’s had this story brewing for a year and a half at least, but her neurological issues prevented her from physically writing it. It’s the story of a dancer/choreographer and a writer who are both frustrated with their lives and have a lot of issues to overcome to be together.

The second book is mine, based at the South Pole, which I visited as a young physics student in college. Phoenix decides to run as far away from her life as possible when she realizes she might have fallen for her best friend. So she talks to her aunt who works for a company that employs people at the South Pole. There she meets Ashley, a serious astrophysicist who has no interest in relationships because she’s determined to help colonize Mars someday. This story has naturally come together so I can’t wait to write it.

How do you take your coffee?

Strangely enough, I never was much of a coffee drinker until well into my 30s. I still don’t drink it daily because I develop a tolerance for it quickly. I recently learned I prefer espresso drinks with enough sugar to balance the coffee, and tons of almond milk. Right now, my favorite is the juniper latte at Starbucks.