Mallory Lass Interviews Elle Spencer

Elle Spencer is finally living her dream job as a romance novelist. She is the author of the best-selling, Goldie-nominated Casting Lacey. Her next release is Unforgettable (Nov 2018) – a collection of two novellas that each start with one-night standsElle and her wife love to travel and split their time between Utah and California. When I caught up with Elle she was enjoying some quality time with her in-laws.

Q: What is something people would never guess about you?

I don’t swear nearly as much as my characters do. According to my sister, I’m not as funny as my characters are either. But she talks with her mouth full, and we all know you can’t trust someone who talks with her mouth full.

Q: You often post hilarious outtakes from your life on twitter. What is the funniest thing to happen to you recently?

When my wife puts her clothes on inside out. It happens more often than you would think, and it absolutely makes my day. One day, I’ll get a picture of it and post it on twitter.

Q: What was the last thing you watched on TV/What TV shows are you into?

We’re finally caught up on The 100 and Handmaid’s Tale, and we just started watching The Americans.

Casting Lacey by Elle Spencer coverQ: Who and/or what has influenced your writing?

My writing is influenced by every book I read and every movie I watch. Did it stir my emotions? Did it keep me spellbound? Great storytelling is what influences me. It doesn’t matter if it’s a movie, song, book or someone’s grandma. If it’s 1 a.m. and I fall asleep mid-story, is it the first thing I think of when I wake up? I love stories that stay with me, and I want to give other people that experience too. 

Q: Your characters always have really cool jobs: high end art dealer, cancer researcher, actresses (who play nurses and lawyers). What kind of research goes into making these characters feel so authentic?

Sometimes I know people who have some knowledge of the world I’m writing about. I had some help on the details around Casting Lacey’s TV shoots and the way actresses think about things. Mostly, though, Google is a wonderful thing. I choose something that interests me and then research it as much as I can and hope I get it right.

Q: Casting Lacey is about to be republished by Bold Stokes Books (August 2018) after you self-published it earlier this year to rave reviews. How has the experience been moving from self-publishing to one of the biggest publishing houses in lesfic?

It’s been an amazing experience. I went to the 2018 GCLS conference as a BSB author and the welcome I received from other BSB authors was incredible. It’s a very supportive group of people, all rooting for each other’s success.

Q: What is your biggest challenge in writing your next book?

Finishing it!

Q: What is your favorite romance trope?

Well, I do love the fake girlfriend trope, which is why I wrote Casting Lacey. I’m also a sucker for second chance romances, which is what my next book is about. I can’t think of a trope I don’t enjoy. As long as there’s a compelling story, interesting characters and a bit of happily ever after, I’m happy.

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Q: Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?

It’s so important that we LGBTQ people tell our stories, because for so long, no one did. If you have a story inside of you, write it, because odds are someone out there will want to read it. Maybe it will give them a few hours of entertainment or maybe, it will change their lives forever. Don’t assume your words don’t have power. The only time they’re powerless is when you don’t use them.

Q: What is something you enjoy doing other than writing?

One thing? Ha!

I love travelling. Eating great food. Listening to music. Building things. Also, I’m learning about baseball because my wife loves it so much. In fact, I often write about beautiful women while watching baseball players do gross stuff like spit and adjust themselves. It just reinforces my gayness.

Q: What is something sweet or funny or both you have heard from your readers/fans?

I have the best fans in the world. It’s such a huge compliment when a reader takes the time to write a review or send an email or a tweet expressing their appreciation. I recently got a review for Casting Lacey where the woman said she felt like “a wrung out dish rag.” I loved that because to me it meant she was highly invested, and that’s everything.

Q: If you could replicate one meal or dining experience from your past, what would it be?

We went to New York for my birthday a few years ago, and my wife (she wasn’t my wife at the time) took me to this very fancy restaurant called Le Bernardin. The whole experience was special from start to finish. The food was incredible. The service was outstanding. And the company… well, I ended up marrying the company 16 months later, so it must have been pretty good!

Hannah interviews Ke Payne

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British author Ke Payne has kindly agreed to answer some questions for this blog.

Ke Payne, can you introduce yourself in a few words/lines?

I’m a British YA lesbian author with Bold Strokes Books. I was born and grew up in Bath, in South West England, but now I live in chaotic bliss in the Cotswolds with my partner, one scruffy Jack Russell terrier and two not-so-scruffy guinea pigs.

As a child and teenager what were the books that made an impression on you?

I remember reading Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol at school, and it making quite an impression on me. While I had a sneaky feeling that I wouldn’t be visited by ghosts clad in clanking chains in the night if I was mean to someone, I was certainly struck by how important it is to treat everyone equally and with kindness. A book suggesting that one person can be shown the error of his ways, make him stop and think about which way his life is heading, then have a rethink and emerge a better person is as important today as when it was written 160 years ago.

Who are your favorite authors today and do you think their writings influence your own?

I’m a fan of Kate Morton, and love both the intricacies and Englishness of her novels. I like that her stories sway from the past to the present and back again, so that you can see how everything that happened in a character’s past influences everything about their present and, possibly, their future.

I wouldn’t say her writing influences me though. I’d love to be able to write something as complex as she does, but I can’t ever see that happening!

Who are your favorite lesbian authors?

Sarah Waters is a firm favourite. Her descriptions of London – whether Victorian or Second World War – are so evocative I can almost imagine the smog and noise. I love the way she weaves a story, with its various twists and turns too. Even though I’ve read Fingersmith lots of times, I still really enjoy the twist in it.

I also love a good Gerri Hill novel which, on a long summer afternoon lazing in the garden, can be hard to put down.

How many books have you written so far?

I’ve been lucky enough to have four novels published so far with Bold Strokes Books: 365 Daysme@you.comAnother 365 Days and The Road to Her. I’ve just had my fifth, Because of Her, accepted too. That’s scheduled for some time in 2014, I believe.

Why do you write YA fiction?

I write YA because I can remember just how much a book written specifically for a teenager/young person affected me at that age, both positively and sometimes negatively. After I wrote 365 Days, I had lots of emails and letters from teenage readers telling me just how true to life it was, and how much it had helped them personally. I also got lots of correspondence from people in their twenties, thirties and forties telling me they wished they’d been able to read a book like it when they were a teenager and going through the same anxieties that Clemmie, the main character, was going through. As a writer, it’s immensely gratifying to know that something you’ve written might have helped someone, in whatever small way, realise that they’re not alone, and that there are others out there sharing the same worries and confusion.

What other YA authors do you enjoy reading?

Michael Morpurgo who wrote, amongst others, War Horse. I think it’s important not to patronise YA readers and not to write more simply just because your target audience happens to be teenagers and young adults. Michael Morpurgo does that perfectly.

What inspired you to write your first novel?

About five years ago I found an old diary of mine on a visit home. It was one from when I was struggling to work out who I was, and every day’s entry was more anxiety-ridden than the last. Even though it made me a bit sad reading it, remembering a time when I was confused about my sexuality and in love with a girl at school who didn’t even know I existed, it still made me laugh as I’d peppered it with humour as, presumably, that was the only way I could cope with things back then.

After reading my diary I knew I wanted to write something that showed that, although being a teenager can be fraught with angst and unrequited love, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, and that it’s important to find the funny in the most unfunny of situations. 365 Days was borne out of that, written as a diary, about a girl who, to all intents and purposes, is probably me…

Would you say that you write lesbian fiction or novels where lesbians are the main characters?

That’s a tricky question. I classify lesbian fiction as being fiction written exclusively for lesbians, so I would say I write novels where lesbians are the main characters. The plot should be more than just the fact they are lesbians – the fact that they are is secondary (and a bonus!) The main point is that each character is just trying to go about their lives, but inevitably a girl catches their eye and confuses things.

Did you know right from the start that you wanted to write this kind of novel?

No. I started life as a short story writer for UK women’s magazines but when a friend leant me some Gerri Hill books, I immediately realised that I wanted to write the kind of books that I would rather read myself.

I still write short stories (under a pseudonym) as they help pay the bills, but it’s writing YA novels that I enjoy the most.

Does it make a difference to be a British and/or a European author?

Definitely. 365 Days and its sequel, Another 365 Days are as British as afternoon tea and biscuits. My humour, too, is very British, and not everyone gets it. As I’m published by a US publisher, they do sometimes ask me to write things that are more universally understood, especially when it comes to brand names which could be exclusively British. Of course, I’m always more than happy to do that. However, I do still read comments from reviewers who complain that they can’t understand my English “slang”, and that, for them, it ruins the book.

Whilst that’s disappointing, it’s still slightly better than the comments I receive complaining about my “English mistakes”, when what they mean is “non-American English”. I guess you can’t please all the people all the time, can you?

How did you conceive the plot for The Road to Her?

My favourite British soap recently had a lesbian storyline, which was a first for that particular soap. It got me thinking: how would the two actresses playing these characters react if their on-screen chemistry spilled over into real life?

So I wrote The Road to Her, where my two main characters are well-known soap actresses who fall in love on screen, only to start to fall for each other off screen too. I wanted to know what they would do. Would they just see it as blurring fiction with real life, and ignore it, or would they act on those feelings? Maybe their careers would be more important to them? Or maybe they’re both just confused. So many questions needing so many answers…

Do you draw your inspiration for your main characters from real life? Or do you totally invent them?

They’re mostly figments of my imagination. However, there is a lovely character in me@you.com called Joey who might just be a little bit like my partner.

Do you have a favourite character? Which one and why?

I’ll always be very fond of Clemmie Atkins from 365 Days and Another 365 Days, possibly because she was my first ever character but more probably because she’s a total klutz and I love her for it.

Are you currently working on a new book? Would you mind telling us a little about it?

As I mentioned earlier, I recently found out that I’ve had another novel accepted for publication in 2014, so I’m really excited about that. It’s calledBecause of Her and features a main character called Tabby Morton whose life is turned upside down when she has to move to London when her father is headhunted by a major finance company. She’s enrolled in an exclusive school in the hope that it’ll finally make a lady of her, but she hates it. It’s only when the kind and lovely Eden Palmer walks into her classroom one day and catches her eye, that Tabby begins to think that life in London’s not so bad after all.

I’m also currently halfway through writing a sixth novel, provisionally titled Once The Clouds Have Gone, about a girl who has to return home after many years when father dies and she inherits his business. It’s another YA romance, so of course there’s a stunning girl waiting in the wings to stir things up a bit…

Thank you Ke for your availability and your time!

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Hannah intereviews Cari Hunter

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Cari Hunter, author of Snowbound, has kindly agreed to answer some questions for this blog.

Cari Hunter, can you introduce yourself in a few words/lines?

I live near Manchester in north-west England with my partner and two cats. I’ve been a paramedic for eleven years and, more recently, an author with Bold Strokes Books. I like hiking, baking, running, writing, catching up on sleep, and frogs – though not necessarily in that order and certainly not at the same time.

As a child and teenager what were the books that made an impression on you?

Growing up, I read voraciously. Sending me to my room as a punishment never worked, as that was where all my books were. Ian Serraillier’s The Silver Sword shaped a lot of my summer holiday playtime, then later I developed a big crush on Nancy Drew. And if anyone knows the twist at the end of The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tyler you’ll understand why that was another one of my favourites.

Who are your favorite authors today and do you think their writings influence your own?

I’m a fan of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel series, the first three of which are my regular comfort rereads. More recently, I’ve raced my way through all of Karin Slaughter’s novels. Occasionally her plots are a little shaky, but her character development and story arcs just keep you coming back. She’s also very funny, which is unexpected given the gruesome nature of her themes. Last year, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein stopped me in my tracks and then broke my heart. It’s a long time since a book has done that to me and I’ll recommend it to anyone and everyone till I’m blue in the face. I’m not sure about these authors influencing me, but I’d love to be half as good as them.

Who are your favorite lesbian authors?

I’ve only recently got back into reading ‘LesFic’ – the local lesbian book shop closed its doors a few years ago and I fell out of the habit of keeping up with new releases. Sarah Dreher was my first LesFic experience and remains one of my favourite authors. I love her snappy dialogue, her sense of humour and her supporting characters. There’s a real nostalgia to picking up her books these days, which also adds to their charm.

How many books have you written so far? Have you written anything else?

I’ve had two novels published with BSB – Snowbound and Desolation Point – and my third, Tumbledown, is due out in 2014. I’m currently working on a new story; it’s not contracted at the moment, but I live in hope.

I wrote a whole series of fan fiction for the Terminator TV show (Sarah Connor and I have a long-abiding love affair) plus some shorter pieces for Rizzoli & Isles, which is a crappy show but very fun to fic. I haven’t written any fanfic for a while, but it makes for a nice change of pace so I’ll almost certainly get back to it at some point.

What inspired you to write your first novel?

It’s more “who” than “what”: my partner. She wanted a story for Christmas, so I set about writing Snowbound for her. I never imagined it would turn out to be a novel; it was certainly never conceived as such, which explains its rather unconventional structure. Unfortunately for my partner, once I got the writing bug I went off on a tangent and ended up writing a couple of novels’ worth of Sarah Connor fic while she waited for her Christmas present. I did buy her something in the meantime though – I’m not a total cheapskate.

Would you say that you write lesbian fiction or novels where lesbians are the main characters?

I would say I write lesbian fiction. There are tropes and conventions in the genre that I think Snowbound and Desolation Point make use of. Even though Snowbound wasn’t written for publication, I knew of BSB and LesFic in general and I’d read a lot of online fic, so their influence was there in the background.

Did you know right from the start that you wanted to write this kind of novel?

With Snowbound, I knew what kind of story I wanted to write, but I genuinely wrote it for an audience of one, hence setting it close to home (no research necessary!) and focussing on a medical scenario (not much research necessary). It was only after BSB contracted it that I thought, “Bugger, better go and check some of this stuff out.”

Does it make a difference to be a British and/or a European author?

It definitely makes a difference. Snowbound wears its Englishness on its sleeve. It’s set just down the road from me and it’s chockfull of northern colloquialisms, cups of tea and local foodstuffs. Its police are armed with nothing but batons and a sense of humour, and the plot revolves around that good old-fashioned British obsession: a spell of terrible weather. When I sent it to an American publisher, I was sure it would be rejected for being too damn English, but they wanted it and they kept it exactly as it was, and I love them very much for that.

Desolation Point is a different kettle of fish in that it takes place in the USA, but I knew I wanted to play with the UK/US cultural divide and I had already chosen a mixed pairing for my central characters. While Alex is from Boston, Sarah’s from up here near Manchester, so I could still write a story where someone got to say “bloody hell-fire” and “bollocks”, which suits me just fine.

How did you conceive the plot for Desolation Point?

To be honest, I pinched its main premise from one of my own fics. In my fic, someone runs the lead characters off the road and then spends the night hunting them down. At its most basic level, Desolation Point grew out of that. I had the initial parallel scenes – Alex’s assault and Sarah’s car crash – buzzing around in my head when I was finishing the edits on Snowbound, so I had a good idea of what was going to shape the characters. At first I thought about having a flood trap Sarah and Alex in the park, but I couldn’t make that work, so I sent Sarah up a mountain instead, set the storm against her and then had her stumbling across the main villain, which established the chase element. I had the main beats of the plot sketched out from the beginning, but I’m useless at sticking to a plan, so things remained very fluid throughout.

Did you draw your inspiration for the main characters in Desolation Point from real life? Or did you totally invent them?

I invented them from scratch, but there are odds and sods in the dialogue or descriptions that have come from walks my partner and I have done. We play the “I love my love with an A…” game when we’re knackered and trying to get back home. Sarah talks a lot like me and I too have to drink my tea while it’s hot enough to burn my throat, but otherwise she’s her own character.

In both Snowbound and Desolation Point the setting seems to be an integral part of the story. Could they have been set in another environment? Why did you choose the US as the setting for your second novel?

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I regularly walk in the Peak District, which meant I could describe it with confidence in Snowbound. Also, I doubt there are many LesFics set there, so the story has the advantage of novelty in its location as well as in its vernacular dialogue and general Englishness. It was staunchly northern English as well – I’m a proud northerner – and setting it elsewhere would necessarily have diminished that, which would have been a shame.

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I have no personal attachment to the North Cascades but, having spent a year working on Desolation Point, I couldn’t envision that being relocated either. The title would have to be changed, for a start, and I’m rubbish with titles. I’ve never been to that particular part of the States, but I did so much research trying to get everything right that I think I could find my way up Desolation Peak blindfolded!

I agonised about Desolation Point’s location before starting it. I didn’t want people to assume I’d chosen America just to broaden my audience (BSB’s readership is primarily American); in fact, I wondered whether I was shooting myself in the foot by not sticking to the English setting from which a lot of Snowbound’s appeal stemmed. Ultimately, though, I needed a couple of things to make the plot in Desolation Point work: one of my lead characters had to be proficient with a gun, and the location had to be expansive enough to get my central pair well and truly lost. I considered the Scottish Highlands and the Peak and Lake Districts over here but they just weren’t remote enough, so I decided to move things across the pond. That also solved the gun problem – as an American ex-police officer, Alex would know her way around a firearm.

Some readers might be a bit put off by the violence displayed in both books. Why did you think it was necessary to include details and descriptions?

Both stories have involved some genuinely nasty characters and I really do believe that if you’re going to have violence in your plot then it should hurt and it should have consequences. I suspect a lot of that stems from my day job, where I see the effects of brutality and trauma on an all-too regular basis. I’ve always tried to write realistically; the women in my novels are not super-humans, just normal people who get caught up in horrific circumstances, and they do things to survive that they’d never imagined themselves doing. If they get hurt, it takes them a while to get up again; and – because I don’t want to write cartoonish, toothless villains either – they do tend to get hurt. I never want to make the violence gratuitous, but nor do I want to shy away from the details or the after-effects. I hate books where a character gets assaulted in one scene and shows no sign of it in the next; anyone who writes like that has never sat opposite an assault victim and listened to them cry or tried to stop them bleeding.

I hope there’s enough humour and lighter moments scattered through the books to counteract their more brutal aspects, though I appreciate that the violence may be too strong for some people’s taste.

Between Snowbound and Desolation Point do you have a favourite character? Which one and why?

Oh, that’s a difficult one! I do have a bit of a soft spot for Sarah. She comes into her own in the latter stages of Desolation Point and she was a real darling to write. Having said that, most of the fun came from having her bounce off Alex, so they sort of come in a pair. Can I have them both? I’m having them both.

How has Desolation Point been welcomed so far?

So far, so good. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback and a fair few people telling me they’re looking forward to the sequel, which is a relief! It’s still early days and I know it’s inevitable that there are folks who won’t like it, possibly for some of the reasons I’ve already mentioned, but the majority of people I’ve heard from seem to have enjoyed the heck out of it.

Are you currently working on a new book? Would you mind telling us a little about it?

I finished Tumbledown, the follow-up to Desolation Point, in the year between Snowbound and Desolation Point’s publication dates. It’s my first shot at an all-out twisty thriller and is earmarked for release in 2014. Until the edits for that come back, I’m working on a new story set in England (in the Peak District, again) which is a sort of thriller-mystery in which the two main characters are long-time friends and occasional lovers. I thought it’d be interesting to explore an established friendship rather than the stereotypical two strangers falling rapidly in love. At the moment, its working title (courtesy of my partner) is Aye Up: It’s a New Story! and I have no idea whether it’ll ever reach publication. I’ve got about another 60,000 words before I start worrying about that!

Thank you Cari for your availability and your time!

NB: Both novels have e-book Kindle editions

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Isabelle interviews author Clare Ashton

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I had never heard about Clare Ashton until I read the following review of her novel After Mrs Hamilton at C-Spot Reviews. I added the book to my Amazon wishlist and downloaded it to my iPad a few weeks later. I was hooked right from the beginning and couldn’t put it down. After Mrs Hamilton has also been nominated for a Goldie award!

Because I had really enjoyed it, I thought I’d contact Clare Ashton about an interview for my blog. She accepted immediately and emailed her answers back within a couple of days. She was also most patient with me when I asked further questions. I hope you will enjoy the interview and that it will encourage you to read her books.

Clare Ashton, can you introduce yourself in a few words?

I’m a UK writer who writes stories with suspense, romance, intrigue and humour and an awful lot of lesbians. I also add (not always intentionally) a dash of something darker that can make readers feel uncomfortable. I grew up in mid-Wales where sheep outnumber humans, so a significant countryside setting is never far away in my writing.

As a child and teenager what were the books that made an impression on you?

I read very widely as a kid from The Hobbit and Lord of RingsDune and other sci-fi to (later in my teens) Jane Austen classics and Anna Karenina. I think I had a higher standard of reading back then than I do now! Nothing better than curling up with a good trashy romance these days. I also stole books from my parents’ bookshelves by Tennessee Williams (The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone) and Françoise Sagan (Bonjour Tristesse) – wonderfully different tales of love that have stayed with me over the years.

Who are your favorite authors today and do you think their writings influence your own?

As an adult, I think the books that made their greatest impression were The Secret History (Donna Tartt), Fingersmith (Sarah Waters), The Blind Assassin (Margaret Atwood) and the Tales of the City series (Armistead Maupin) – all books with a great twisting story and that has definitely influenced the kind of story I like to write.

I always seem to add a surprise or two and sometimes have a little bit of an edge and darkness too. On the other hand I still re-read Jane Austen. A review of After Mrs Hamilton has some very un-Austen like elements), I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.

Who are your favorite lesbian authors?

Sarah Waters must come top. I usually find books that revel in their descriptive passages a bore, but she just does it sublimely and her writing makes me drool. She also has real, vivid and compelling characters and my favourite novels of hers have a brilliant twisting tale too. It’s wonderful that someone of her calibre writes lesbian novels.

I’m a sucker for a good romance too. And of the books I’ve read recently Chris Paynter’s Survived by Her Longtime Companion definitely had that kick to the gut, choke-you-up element in the Eleanor and Daphne storyline. I also love Diana Simmonds’ light romances written in her expert and witty style. She makes writing look like it’s the easiest thing in the world.

Is After Mrs Hamilton your first novel?

It’s the first novel for which I completed a first draft. It’s a complex tale and that draft had several problems with it that I didn’t know how to fix back then.

I moved on to a shorter tale (Pennance) to improve my writing skills. Pennance has a much simpler plot although still with a twist and turn. It’s more dominated by the atmosphere of its wintery setting in Cornwall and it’s been described as a modern gothic romance.

After I’d published Pennance I went back to rewrite After Mrs Hamilton. I was also very lucky to work with an editor (Diana Simmonds) and that was crucial for me sorting out that early draft and making it the story that I always wanted it to be.

What inspired you to write your first book?

After Mrs Hamilton was the kind of book that I wanted to read: a page-tuner, with twists and turns, fascinating lesbian characters and a great dollop of romance and sex. All tastefully done of course!

Would you say that you write lesbian fiction or novels where lesbians are the main characters?

After Mrs Hamilton is unapologetically a lesbian book, just by the sheer number of lesbian characters in there. Pennance I think is more a mainstream book, set in a remote rural setting with a broad range of heterosexual as well as lesbian characters.

Did you know right from the start that you wanted to write this sort of novels?

No, I didn’t. It’s only been recently that someone told me that I was writing intrigue-romances. I only set out to write an interesting story.

Does it make a difference to be a British and/or a European author?

I love the fantastic differences in regional flavour that you get between continents and indeed between regions in a country. One thing I think UK writers are particularly good at is literary works which appeal to the mainstream and have lesbian main characters (novels by Sarah Waters, Jeannette Winterson, Charlotte Mendelson, etc.).

It’s a pity that there is less lesbian genre publishing in the UK though. Most lesbian writers that I know of tend to be published by US publishers, and although I love their work (Cari Hunter’s excellent and gripping – Snowbound for example), I wonder if there would be more esoteric works available if there were more lesbian publishers here. It’s great to see other indie writers doing well in the UK, such as Kiki Archer and Rachel Dax, and I hope that indie writers extend the range of work available.

(I edit the uklesfic blog with Cari Hunter and you can find a list of all current UK lesbian authors here)

How did you conceive the plot forAfter Mrs Hamilton?

It started with a character, Clo, who works as a highly paid and sympathetic escort for older women. She was a character who had been kicking around my head for a while, and I’m very fond of her, and I wanted to give her the greatest romance and love.

She had an interesting background, but then I weaved in her best friend Laura’s background too. Laura was adopted and doesn’t know who her parents are and she is also on the cusp of a life-changing relationship. Combining those really made the story very interesting. It evolved from there over several weeks of outlining and living through scenes in my imagination – my favourite part of writing (daydreaming I suppose!)

Did you draw your inspiration for the main characters (i.e.Clo, Fran, Susan) from real life? Or did you totally invent them?

Clo was initially based on a couple of people I know very well, but as with all characters, the more I outlined and wrote the more she changed into a distinct character with her own voice, mannerisms and personality, so much so that I hope the original inspirations do not recognise her.

Fran, a fantasy older love interest, was based on gorgeous French actresses like Catherine Deneuve and Fanny Ardant with a bit of Kristin Scott-Thomas thrown in. But again, to me, she is unrecognisable now and is just Fran

Do you have a favourite character in this novel? Which one?

One of Clo or Fran. They are both real, damaged, attractive and fascinating. I love those two and they have the most deeply romantic history and relationship (albeit a little unconventional).

How has the novel been welcomed so far?

People have really liked the twisting tale, and like me, have found the complex characters of Clo and Fran intriguing. Some loved Fran, as an attractive but real older (mid-fifties) heroine, others liked the damaged, quirky and loving Clo.

Readers have also found the tale of Laura very thought-provoking and made them react very emotionally to her and Susan. After Mrs Hamilton is a very charged tale. It’s a collision of several people who didn’t know they were previously connected and the outcome is emotionally explosive and dramatic.

Most importantly someone said it was just “a bloody good read”. So I’m pretty pleased with that!

I noticed that food is mentioned in both novels and plays an important role in the bonding process between the characters. Is this how you see food?

Yes, I do see food, its preparation and eating together as important for bonding in various social situations. In the books I meant it to reflect the low emotional state of the characters when they eat poorly and then to show the support and love that is introduced into their lives by the character preparing the more nourishing food. Clo in After Mrs Hamilton is a giving and loving character and her expertise with patisserie and other cuisine reflects this. Her ability to choose perfect food for people reflects her versatility as an escort – she satisfies people’s very basic needs in a rich way.

Are you currently working on a new book? Would you mind telling us a little about it?

When I was writing After Mrs Hamilton, I kept having ideas for short stories, which was very distracting. There are a couple of those ideas that are still demanding to be written. No doubt I’ll start having ideas for novels as soon as I try to write them!

Thank you Clare for your availability and your time.

NB: Both novels have Kindle editions

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Hannah interviews Yolanda Wallace about her book Month of Sundays

Being somewhat of a foodie myself, a review of Month of Sundays by Yolanda Wallace on Goodreads caught my attention as it mentioned ‘the delicious dishes that Yolanda described’. I soon read the book and sure enough enjoyed the description of the numerous meals the two main characters delight in throughout the novel.

When she realises that her best friends have set her up for a blind date, Rachel is appalled. She certainly does not feel ready for another involvement after an eight-year relationship which ended in a disaster. Besides she finds that famous chef Griffin is totally out of her league.

In fact both women are attracted to each other but neither wants to get involved in a solid relationship, albeit for different reasons. Griffin suggests a Month of Sundays so that they might get to know each other better without rushing things.

‘One date each Sunday for the next…’ She paused while she did the math in her head. Seven and a half months. I get to know you while I peel the onion one layer at a time. I woo you not with my body but with my mind. Something, I have to say, would be a first for me.’

Yolanda Wallace’s book is a yummy and feel good novel and, rather than offer spoilers, I have chosen to interview the author. Thank you Yolanda for your time and availability; it has been a pleasure to interview you.

Yolanda Wallace, can you introduce yourself in a few words?

As I say in my bio, I am not a professional writer, but I play one in my spare time. I am a banker by day and a writer by night. The night shift is much more fun!

As a child and teenager what were the books that made an impression on you?

As a child, my favorite book was Pippi Longstocking. I loved her feistiness and independent spirit. As a teenager, I borrowed my teacher’s copy of Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle, which introduced me to a world I had only just begun to imagine.

What are your favorite authors today and do you think their writings influence your own?

I don’t have any favorite authors, per se. I read anything that strikes my fancy. When I was younger, I adored Stephen King and I think his style rubbed off on me a bit, but I think (I hope) I have developed my own over the years.

Who are your favorite lesbian authors?

I love the work of all my lesbian contemporaries, especially Radclyffe, Kim Baldwin and Xenia Alexiou! Nothing’s hotter than a sexy lesbian super spy.

Is Month of Sundays your first novel?  

Month of Sundays is my fourth published novel with Bold Strokes Books, following In Medias Res, Rum Spring, and Lucky Loser.

What inspired you to write your first book?

I was inspired to write my first novel In Medias Res by a news article I read while in vacation in Key West, Florida. The article detailed the travails of a man who claimed he had been mugged and had lost his memory. He said he couldn’t remember anything about himself, but he knew he was gay. I wanted to explore what makes a person who they are–how they feel or what they learn.

Would you say that you write lesbian fiction or novels where lesbians are the main characters?


I would say I write novels where lesbians are the main characters. I make sure my characters interact with society as a whole instead of segregating them to one insular community. My way, I suppose, of letting straight readers know our “worlds” aren’t separate and frequently intersect.

Did you know right from the start that you wanted to write this sort of novels?

I have dabbled in writing since I was eight years old and always dreamed of writing my version of the Great American Novel one day. I didn’t know lesbian fiction novels existed until I was 17. When I got to college, I wrote my first short story that featured two female characters. I liked it, but I didn’t think I had enough life experience at that point to tackle my first full-fledged Sapphic novel. That came many years later. Now the ideas won’t stop coming!

How did you conceive the plot for Month of Sundays?

Month of Sundays actually began as a short story that featured an early version of the first chapter and ended at the chapter that takes place on New Year’s Eve. When I finished, the characters wouldn’t stop talking to me and I decided to expand the short story into a novel. I am a major foodie, so the premise of a culinary trip around the world came from one of my personal wish lists.

Did you draw your inspiration for the main characters (i.e. Rachel and Griffin, and to a lesser extent their friends) from real life? Or did you totally invent them?

I drew my inspiration for their surroundings from real life. Rachel’s apartment, for example was owned by friends of mine named Jane and Colleen, who my secondary characters are named after. The characters themselves, however, are products of my imagination. I wanted to feature a character who was a bundle of insecurities as most of us are, so I thought of a character struggling with issues of weight and self-esteem who meets a sexy, confident chef.

Do you have a favourite character in this novel? Which one?

My partner adores Jane because she says Jane is the quintessential best friend who pushes you to do all the things you say you don’t want to do but really do.
I’m partial to Griffin because her musical tastes are my own and she’s probably the most well-rounded character I’ve written so far.

How has the novel been welcomed so far?


I have received more positive feedback from this novel than any other. Its themes are universal and appear to have struck a chord with readers.

Interview with Emma Donoghue

I just finished reading Inseparable by Emma Donoghue (review to be posted tomorrow), and I had the opportunity to interview the author herself about it!

Q: I was coming into Inseparable expecting ambiguous relationships that we could project romantic or sexual feelings on, but I was surprised at the explicit female/female desire stories in literature stretching back to Ovid! I’ve been searching out lesbian literature for years and hadn’t heard about the vast majority of these stories. Why do you think our conception of lesbian (or female/female) literature tends to skip straight from Sappho to Radclyffe Hall?

A: I agree, it’s very odd. Partly the fault, I suspect, of modern academics who actually prefer to have to dig out hints and ambiguities, rather than tackling a right-there-in-your-face same sex plot! But mostly the fault of consistent homophobia (or, more precisely, a willful blindness to the lesbian theme) on the part of pre-twentieth-century guardians of literary tradition.

You discuss how lesbians in the past have been left unnamed in literature and law. Why do you think this is? 

Often those discussing desire between women (either in reality or in fiction) have not been deeply troubled by such desire as such; what bothered them was the notion that it might set such women apart, give them an identity, make them unavailable to men. So if they were left unnamed, they weren’t so troubling.

You covered a huge amount of material in Inseparable, but it a slim book and organized pretty strictly. Did you find it difficult to keep it so short? Is there anything you would like to have gone into more depth with?

Oh yes, I wrestled with the material for a long time; my cross-dressing chapters, in particular, could have been a book on their own. (I had a science-fiction/fantasy chapter which I was actually quite relieved to cut, because it turned out that so much lesbian sci-fi sets my teeth on edge.) I wasn’t sure whether the book would suit academic or trade publication. When INSEPARABLE finally found a publisher at Knopf, my editor Vicky Wilson was wonderfully ruthless: she made me reshape it to the general reader, cutting multiple examples, debate with other literary critics, and anything that sounded too academic. On the plus side, she encouraged me to add lots more pictures! I think she was quite right, given that lesbian literary history/criticism has got so much more specialised and theoretical in the last ten years; the way I write is much more suited to a non-academic readership. (But I was determined to give the book full notes at the back so it could be useful to scholars too.)

I have heard that this book took you a long time to write. Was it the writing, or the gathering of the material? How did you root out the more obscure texts?

It was partly the editorial process I’ve described – the endless cutting, boiling it down to the gist. But it was mostly the research, done a couple of months year for many years, very much as a side-project to my fictional work. There’s no quick way to read so many (often vastly long) primary texts. I had to read dozens of Renaissance plays just to be able to compose a single paragraph that summarised their variations on the female-bridegroom plot. Trying to skim the seventeeenth-century epic of AMADIS DE GAULE in French, in particular, nearly killed me.

Lesbian pulp fiction gets a brief overview in Inseparable. Are there any laugh-out-loud bad ones you’d recommend?

I decided to devote more attention to pre-twentieth-century works because they get so much less attention in other books on lesbian literature (which tend to start with Radclyffe Hall). But I’m glad I at least got to mention pulp. My favourites are the Beebo Brinker ones – laugh-out-loud-bad and great, too, in their peculiar way.

What was the most surprising thing you found in your research?

Hm. Actually, I think it was the centrality of lesbian themes to the tradition of detective fiction, from its beginnings.

Do you plan on writing more lesbian nonfiction?

No specific plans, but I’m very open to it. My fiction and plays are more an expression of myself, I suppose, but I treasure the quieter, more humble-monkish contributions I can make to ‘finding the lesbians’ in our cultural history.

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I am honored to be able to interview Emma Donoghue, one of my absolute favourite authors! I highly recommend Inseparable, and I’ll post a review tomorrow.