We call them “blog tours,” “blog hops” and “blog tag,” and they go around the lesbian writing community like STDs, but without the blisters. I was tagged by that Scion of Sci-Fy, Fletcher DeLancey, and if you make it to the end of this, I’ll be tagging someone else. So here we go, four questions, set to your favorite music.
What are you working on?
I’m in the home stretch of my 20th book, Life After Love, a romance set in Seattle that’s due out from Bella Books in October. Just yesterday, I turned in the revised manuscript, which required a lot of scene shifting and new material, the goal being to sustain the romantic tension and conflict long enough to hold the reader’s interest, but not so long that she tosses the book aside to find something more satisfying. I have two more rounds of line and copy edits, then at least three proofs, before I finally kiss it goodbye and send it off to the printer.
The other thing that keeps me very busy is my work on the board of directors for Lambda Literary. Our main purpose is to raise money for LL’s programs: Writers in the Schools, the Emerging Writers Retreat, the Lammy Awards and our website, the Lambda Literary Review. The more visible aspect of my fundraising efforts are when I plead for donations here on this blog or on Facebook, but most of my work happens behind the scenes where I’m working on programs to raise our profile and expand our mission. And raise money. If you’re thinking about making a contribution to LL, watch my blog for an opportunity in late September to receive an autographed advance copy of Life After Love.
How does your work differ from others in the same genre?
I feel that my work is mostly representative of the romance genre, but I sometimes tend to step over the lines. Several years ago, I gave the keynote speech at the Golden Crown Literary Society annual conference and urged my fellow writers to take chances, to tell bold stories that took readers out of their comfort zones. It’s true that many romance readers are looking for fantasy and escape, and they want their happy endings tied up in neat little bows. Some of those are great books, and I’ve certainly written my fair share, but I like to mix it up sometimes. I can eat the same thing for breakfast every day, and maybe even lunch, but I want something special for dinner, something different. It’s the same way with books. It doesn’t mean you won’t get a happy ending — the very definition of a romance requires it — but sometimes that happy ending is one the character wants, not necessarily the reader. As a writer, it’s a difficult choice to knowingly put out a book that doesn’t follow the usual conventions, but the payoff is tremendous when it speaks to a certain type of reader who’s never seen herself in a book before.
Another thing I feel differentiates me from a lot of romance writers is the fact that my books are all over the place. Many writers focus on one sub-genre, like beach reads, historical romance, romantic suspense or adventure. Some write about certain professions — law enforcement, attorneys, the medical world — and others share with us the local flavor of the city they live in or a small fictional town they’ve created. Those books lend themselves easily to a particular tone or recurring characters whom readers have come to know. I’m more like Forrest Gump’s mother, and my books are like a box of chocolates: You never know what you’re going to get. Admittedly, it’s hard to keep a following when your stories are so varied because readers have expectations. It isn’t necessarily that they want to read the same book again, but they want the same experience, and sometimes that isn’t satisfied when an author jumps from a traditional romance filled with angst or humor to a page-turner that has the romantic leads running for their lives. Chalk that up to my short attention span. I’d be bored to death if I had to write the same anything over and over. I think a book should be like a present (that you buy yourself, of course), and when you unwrap it, you ought to be surprised. It’s hubris to expect everyone to like everything, but I’m comfortable that I can hit the sweet spot more than I miss.
Why do you write what you do?
When I first began writing about twelve years ago, I was reading scads of Xena fanfiction. The stories I liked were called über — original stories with characters who looked like Xena and Gabrielle meeting up again in modern times. They were soldiers, doctors, coaches, writers and cops, and most of us who read them had a special collection we kept in a file folder to read over and over when nothing else struck our fancy. Like most others who began writing during the time these stories exploded, I wrote the sort of story I wanted to read, and that’s true to this day. It’s a good thing too, because I end up reading mine at least a dozen times before you do.
I love the romance genre because it’s so relatable. Our emotions, relationships and sexuality are integral to who we are as lesbians, but those aren’t the only things that define us. We’re also professionals, mothers and daughters, heroes and victims, and because we’re lesbians, we face our challenges in different ways, often with a sisterhood of friends.
Work is such a large part of what we all do, and going to work every day with a community of lesbians makes this the Best. Job. Ever.
How does your writing process work?
I’ve already talked a little about what happens when a book nears the end stage. There’s a whole lot that has to happen before it gets that far.
Already, my next story is percolating. I have character names and sketches, and the basic plot outline. No title yet, though. I expect to start writing sometime in the next couple of weeks. Look for that one Spring/Summer of 2015. I’m sure to have a Fall 2015 release too, but I haven’t yet decided which idea to pursue. My laptop holds several manuscripts already in progress, but there’s a reason they weren’t finished. If I can overcome that reason, one of them might see the light of day.
I’m neither an organic writer nor a meticulous planner, but I need a fairly detailed idea of where I want a story to go, and somewhere, there’s a rough summary of that written down. I’ve been struggling these last few years with back pain that bothers me most when I sit, so I’ve been forced to adapt my writing process. My favorite way to work is to outline a couple of scenes in the morning and then head off on a long walk with my Sony digital recorder. I can knock off a thousand words over five miles, and then I come back to my desk for a couple of hours of transcribing and making it pretty. In about three months, I have a manuscript, and the sordid process of editing begins again.
That’s it for me. The fun part is that I get to tag some other
poor, unsuspecting soul writer to tackle these four questions. She’s an old friend, a good friend, and we both cut our teeth on Xena fanfiction years ago. Her book, Freya’s Tears, was released just a few days ago. Watch her blog soon for a new entry: D Jordan Redhawk.