So let’s start with some warm up questions:
Coffee or tea?
What puts you in a bad mood?
Negative and rude people who hurt others in the process.
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
I would like to be able to instill compassion and kindness in people globally.
Where is your favorite place you’ve ever traveled to?
Green & Blacks.
What would you do if you won the lottery?
I would give money to various animal shelters, and with the money left I’d buy us a couple of acres of land to grow our own food and to build a modest eco home in the mountains or by the sea, far removed from the hustle and bustle of people.
And now on to the writing-related stuff:
For how many years have you been writing now, and how did you come to it?
I’ve always loved the fantasy genre but could not find many lesbian fantasy books when growing up, or at least books with strong female protagonists. What I did find was very little in my corner of the world, so I started writing mainly for myself at age sixteen: to fill a need, if you like! My own imagination soon blossomed and stories started to form inside of me. I started to pen them down and, at eighteen, produced my first novel. I wasn’t ready to publish it, as the ideas were all right, but it needed a lot more polishing. Instead, I continued to read a lot—the best thing a writer can do—and picked up loads. I was also finding my own voice and style in those early years.
As a young lesbian, I favoured having female protagonists and lesbians for heroes in my reading and writing. I was never interested in “coming-out stories” in particular, but preferred those stories where being gay isn’t so much of an issue. Thus, growing older I continued to write in fantasy and slowly translated my first novel to English, my second language. My new stories were written only in English, the language I read in, so it made sense.
In my favourite genre, I could create worlds and societies with a different approach to things than our own. That in itself can make people think. It certainly makes things easier for me—not to stick to rules or history—and I can let my imagination go wild, which appeals to me. I could never write in the contemporary fiction genre, as it wouldn’t work for me…I can’t even do urban fantasy . I’m writing some historic and mythology short stories with a twist at the moment and find it difficult, as I still have to stick to certain facts! In fantasy, I can at least make up my own.
Why do you write? What does it mean to you?
I write because I have been given a voice, a fair amount of imagination, and intelligence. I write to be able to make a change. We all have a responsibility, especially as writers, to reach people’s minds, to reach those who are less fortunate and can’t or don’t have that voice.
I am aware of animal cruelty and LGBT issues in today’s society; gay hatred and prejudice is still very much alive. In some countries being gay is still illegal and punishable, sometimes even with the death penalty. That all made me think: what if I used that theme in an imaginary world and society in some way or another, as a reminder and wink to our own approach to homosexuality, using today’s laws and justice system?
That was the birth of The Queen’s Curse. I do, however, write about more than just LGBT issues. I also write a lot about freedom or the loss of it, justice and injustice, right and wrong, the grey areas—morals, power, and control—and environmental and animal rights issues. That is woven into all my books as well without being too preachy.
How long does it take you to write a novel?
It depends. As I said before, my debut novel took me twenty years, but my latest work luckily took a lot less time: usually about three months for a first draft, but all in all, including the proofreading, editing, and beta reading, approximately six months.
How much time per week do you spend writing?
I can only write on the days that my two young children are at nursery or playgroup, which is a minimum of three days a week. They are not full days as I also have two dogs to walk and a household to run, and I have to do my own marketing for my books, which takes time; so in reality, I write four to five hours during those three days.
How would you describe yourself?
I’m a very independent, strong-minded person who appreciates her own space and needs her quiet time to stay healthy and sane. I’m also sensitive, emotional, compassionate and caring, and passionate about certain things such as the environment, equal rights, prejudice, and animal cruelty.
How much of yourself is in your characters?
I would say a lot! They are all parts of me; otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to connect with them so well. I have taken the expression “write about what you know” quite literally. I’m not saying I know myself inside out, but on the contrary, by writing about these characters, I feel I get to know myself!
What do you find the most challenging part of writing?
The intimacy scenes for sure, they make me feel a little uncomfortable to write it all down for everyone to see. Also, to get certain things right: what the characters say or do. I’m always thinking how it will be perceived by the reader, how I intended for it to be said, or how I heard or saw it in my own head. Will I, by describing it, be able to get it right? I’ve got beta readers, but still it’s hard to know for sure. That’s the hardest job I think, as an author: to get it right as you intended it. I’ve written a novella, City of Dreams, which is all about that idea. The artist dreams up the idea after visiting the Well of Art, and upon wakening will have to materialize it from this vision. The artist will always be limited by language, by skills, by materials, etc. It will somehow always be a copy of the original. The more skilled the artist, the better the art.
What do you think makes a good romance novel?
A natural connection and chemistry between two people, which would be a realistic mimic of real life; a slow buildup; good dialogue; and well-fleshed-out, endearing characters who we can feel for and like. Nothing is worse than creating characters no one likes or believes in, and when they fall in love…no one cares. Even though I am a writer in speculative fiction set in different worlds, I want people to feel connected to my characters—who have the same emotions as we all do—and to be able to connect to their story. If I have accomplished that, I’m happy.
What advice would you give new authors?
Never stop writing! But do polish your story until it is right and get a couple of good editors and beta readers before you put it out there, whether you self-publish or go through a publisher. Nothing damages an author’s image and potential fan base, not to mention sales, as bad spelling or formatting. Also get a good, eye-catching cover and short description that doesn’t give away too much of the story but entices the reader.
What are you working on right now?
I’m currently working on a YA dystopian lesbian fantasy called Sky Whisperers.
I’m pretty excited about it as it’s coming along nicely. It will have all the elements in it I’m known for and a couple of new things I’m experimenting with to challenge myself as a writer. I’m writing it in the first person, which I enjoy doing, but through the eyes of the two main characters; so there are POV switches throughout the book, which is something new for me. Also, the main character is an unlikely hero with some disabilities and is not very strong like my usual heroes. My characters always have their flaws; sometimes they are hidden and come out later in the story, but this one, Nemsa, has many! Will she make it? Will she be able to become what she is intended to be despite everything?
What future writing projects can we look forward to?
I’ve written two short LGBT history/mythology twist stories for two separate submissions, I hope they will be accepted in an anthology. If not, I’ll self-publish them.
I will also start writing Book 3 in The Comyenti Series (Call Off The Search is Book 1, Children Of The Sun is Book 2). I hope to get that out by the end of 2015 at the latest.
Thanks for answering our questions.