interview: Jess Faraday

Jess has subjected herself to my nosy questions today! Morning, Jess! Why have you put yourself at my mercy?

I’m promoting the wide release of my short story collection, Shadow of Justice on March 10. Shadow of Justice is the eight collected Simon Pearce stories, which had previously been available on KU only. Now they’re available in all formats and paperback, from all of your favorite e-tailers.

What started you writing?

My family has a philosophy that nothing is one hundred percent terrible if you can get a good story out of it. I remember so many evenings after dinner with my parents, brothers, cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents, where we took turns telling stories about funny things that had happened to us, getting up and acting out the stories with different voices and exaggerated movements, laughing until our sides hurt. It was only a matter of time before someone started writing things down. The science fiction author Julian May is a distant cousin, so she got there first. But I guess it’s my job, too.

My first story was a graphic novel about a lonely vampire who liked to pop through the bedroom windows of unsuspecting naked ladies. He was always sad because he would fall in love with them, but was a vampire, so, you know. I was about nine, and I think the naked part kind of startled my parents, but in my mind it was a tragic story of forbidden love more than anything else.

Where do you write?

I usually write at home, either at the standing desk in my office or at the kitchen counter. Sometimes, if it’s cold and dark and nasty in the morning, I will be very naughty and work in my jammies in bed well into midmorning. Sometimes I like to go to the National Museum to write. I was surprised once, last year, when the new Egyptian exhibit featured the mummies upon which I’d based one of the subplots in The Star-Crossed Lovers, Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep, who were interred together and believed to be one of the oldest gay couples in recorded history.

What do you like to read?

That really depends. Under normal circumstances, I love to read historical mysteries. I’m having a bit of a thing with some of the newer gothic romances right now, too. I’ve just burned through Amanda de Wees’s delightful Sybil Ingraham mysteries, and wish there were about 20 more. And I love monster mash-ups that are done half tongue in cheek. I’m currently reading Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula by Loren D. Estleman, and it’s very well done and quite entertaining. If I’m having a stressful time I enjoy a good, schlocky cozy mystery or a well-written romance — any sort of pairing. Love is love and all.

What are the three books you’d take to a desert island? Why would you choose them?

I HAVE TO CHOOSE?????

Writing is an intrinsically solo occupation. Do you belong to any groups or associations, either online or in the ‘real’ world? How does that work for you?

I belong to the Edinburgh Genre Writers, which meets fortnightly to crit members’ work. It’s quite a bit different from the American writing groups I’ve belonged to, where feedback was generally like “This is really, really great, but you might want to think about this little thing right here, but only if you want to, this is only my opinion, just saying.” My current group’s feedback is more like “Right. Here’s an itemized list of everything that’s wrong with this piece, your work in general, and that hideous tie you’re wearing. But don’t give up. We’ve seen worse, now let’s go to the pub.” It was a shock at first, but once I realized it was cultural, I learned to take up the valuable feedback and brush off the sting. We have a few more American members, now, and it’s always interesting to see the difference in how we present feedback, as opposed to our UK colleagues.

I’m also a member of the Crime Writers Association and International Thriller Writers, though I’m not particularly active with them. And I look forward, of course to UK Meet every two years.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing? (What’s your favourite food? Do you have any pets? Do you like to exercise? Netflix? Juggling? Are you learning anything new?)

I run and do taekwondo. I’ve been doing both for a long time, but I started running seriously about a year and a half ago, when I decided to train for a half marathon. I really enjoy those long distances, now, and I try to get out five days a week, weather permitting, which is Scotland, it often is not. I also like to knit and crochet for charity.

Tell me a little bit about your most recent release. What gave you the idea for it? How long did it take to write? What did you enjoy about writing it? What did you hate?

A few years ago, I wrote a novella for Blind Eye Books, The Kissing Gate, which appears in the anthology Blades of Justice. The publisher asked if I wanted to write a short story to give away as a promotional teaser. The Kissing Gate was f/f, but since many of my other books are m/m, the publisher floated the idea of writing a story about Constable Simon Pearce, who appears briefly in The Kissing Gate, with the very briefest of hints about his own personal life. Somehow, during the discussion of the story, it spun itself into eight novelettes with a personal arc that runs throughout them.

What did I like and hate about writing it? Interestingly, the same things. The editor/publisher, Nicole Kimberling, is very hands-on, and would often suggest structural or thematic changes to the stories that sent me back to the drawing board, sometimes more than once per story. I hated that, but at the same time, her suggestions were often really interesting, and took the stories to some really cool places.I can imagine it would be a frustrating way to work for someone who is very precious about their words and their art, but I’m not. I live and work on both sides of the red pen, and I’m most interested in putting out a kick-ass story, so if someone has a suggestion that’s objectively better than what I’ve done, I don’t have any ego about taking that suggestion.

It took literally three times longer to complete the cycle than I’d planned for, but ultimately, I’m really proud of how it all turned out.

Book blurb and buy links!

Buy Shadow of Justice

Constable Simon Pearce doesn’t believe in love. It’s a dangerous proposition for many people in 19th century London, but for an ambitious copper climbing Scotland Yard’s greasy career ladder, it’s out of the question.

He doesn’t believe in monsters, either, though there seem to be a lot of them about. Whether it’s a ghost haunting a London churchyard where men seek men’s companionship, a phantom hound in Edinburgh that’s hell-bent on revenge, or a murdered businessman on a cross-country train who just won’t stay dead — the mysterious has a way of finding Pearce, whether he wants it to or not.

But are these happenings truly supernatural? Or is something worse — something thoroughly human — to blame?

Pearce has his theories — about crime, about monsters, and about love. But life has a way of testing even the most carefully considered ideas. And as he chases mysteries from one end of Britain to the other, he may just have to reconsider his ideas about all three.

Find Jess!

Website : Facebook : Twitter : Goodreads : Instagram

The Assembly Rooms and Fashion Museum at Bath

The second scene in The Flowers of Time has Jones and Edie meeting for the first time at Lady Nailsbourne’s ball, at her house in London. Jones is pretty far out of her comfort zone, poured in to a smart dress and corseted within an inch of her life. It’s 1780 and neither of them wear wigs-they had gone out fashion for ladies a few decades before-but they would probably have had hair pieces to bulk out their own hair and have lightly powdered them an off-white colour.

I dragged my family to Bath one day last year and we visited the Assembly Rooms and the Fashion Museum tucked in the basement of the building. I was looking for inspiration. I found various dresses that were definitely worthy of Edie and one or two that I could see Jones wearing.

I had already written the scene and I was really cheered to see virtually the dress I’d described for Edie on display. It’s the fourth one along in this montage, with a light pink gown over a contrasting petticoat. I can also see her in dress numbers one and three, puttering around painting. I can picture Jones in two and five, extremely uncomfortable and feeling very out of place. If you want to find out more about the different kinds of fashionable gowns for ladies at the time I recommend this post by Costumeholic.

We then found this working man’s frock coat from about 1790. It’s a little later than the story, but working men’s fashions wouldn’t have changed that much and I can see Jones comfortable in something like this as she travels around exploring and later as she does her science experiments.

Ordinary work-a-day clothes tend not to survive because they were worn ‘til they wore out and/or were ‘made over’ for other people and purposes, so this is very unusual. Clothes were incredibly high value and very expensive before the advent of factory production, so your average working class adult would probably only have two sets at a time.

I had a bit of a to-and-fro with my lovely editor about the use of bodies to describe the stays that Edie wears on her travels and in the end we decide to keep it. Working women who dressed by themselves without the help of a maid to lace them still wore a kind of corset called a pair of bodies. This was for practical reasons to support the back and bosom as well as to give them a bit of help with their figure and they generally laced up the front as well as the back. There is a fascinating reconstruction of an ordinary person getting herself dressed in the morning here on YouTube from Crows Eye Productions and I based Edie’s morning routine on this.

On our visit I also took some pictures of the Assembly Room itself. It has a sprung floor and my minions were happy to demonstrate.

It was quite chilly the day we went and it was difficult to imagine the room packed and sweaty; but with hundreds of candles and people it would soon have become unpleasantly warm.

We only live an hour away from Bath and there is so much to see, I thoroughly recommend a visit if you are in the area. It was wonderful to be able to pop up there and gather some more fuel for my story-mine.

thanks all round

And that’s the end of The Flowers of Time blogtour! Thank you so much to everyone who has hosted me, it’s been a pleasure and a privilege to visit. Here’s a recap of the topics and where you can find me:

Plus! All these lovely people came and talked to me over the last few days on intersecting topics:

It’s been a lot of fun and an immense privilege to host such a wonderful set of people and I’m so grateful that they took time out of their busy lives. Thank you!

PS. If you’d like to buy The Flowers of Time that would quite frankly make me extremely chuffed.

Emily Carrington: Yew & Thorn

Emily is a long-time writer of m/m romance and is visiting today with an interview with Ashley from her upcoming release with Changeling Press, Heartwood 3: Yew and Thorn

Emily Carrington: Hi, Ashley.

A: Actually, it’s Ash, ma’am. That’s my nickname but I want everyone to know I’m using it instead of my legal name. At least until I have to switch back for something like getting a job.

EC: Okay, Ash. Tell me about your nickname.

A: Aidan accidentally gave it to me, but I liked it so much that I claimed it for my own. It seems to fit with my being nonbinary.

EC: Tell us about Aidan.

A: He and Mike are my foster parents. I’m thirteen and they’ve been taking care of me for about eight months now. It’s just turned January 1st here in Pennsylvania. Anyway, Mike and Aidan are great. They’re gay and Aidan knows almost everything about the LGBTQ community. [she giggles] Although he calls it QUILTBAG and hopes everyone will start using this more inclusive, if silly sounding term.

EC: What does it stand for?

A: Queer, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender, Bisexual, Asexual, and Gay.

EC: Neat. It does sound a little funny though. Do you mind if I ask about your white cane?

A: Sure. I’m visually impaired. Not like Aidan, who’s totally blind and can’t see anything, but I don’t’ see much. No movement, few colors, and basically straight ahead of me. I can read 72 point font but that’s about six times bigger than everyone else reads, so I read braille instead.

EC: I’d like to go back to you mentioning that you’re nonbinary. How and when did you realize this?

A: Over the summer with Aidan and Mike. I didn’t feel like a girl or a guy-thing, and I don’t have discomfort with my body being a girl’s, but I like to wear gender neutral clothing. Like T-shirts and jeans that aren’t specifically cut for a girl. If I really start enjoying the new, UU, church Mike and Aidan and I are going to, I might ask to wear a suit or something. But for now, I like it that Aidan says they’ll take me as I am.

EC: Thank you for visiting with us, Ash. Is there anything you’d like to share that I haven’t asked?

A: You didn’t ask why I had to be thirteen before someone would even talk about adopting me.

EC: Mike and Aidan are planning to adopt you?

A: If they can get all the right permissions.

EC: Okay, I’m asking. Why?

A: Aidan says it’s because fate wanted me to be with them. Mike says it’s God. But I think it’s because I just didn’t fit with the other families. I was too scared with them to be myself. Now I can be, and Mike, Aidan, and their adopted daughter, Candice, love me just as I am.

Find Emily online

Website : Facebook : Find Books

Look for Heartwood, Volume One in March 2020 from Changeling Press: , and for Heartwood 3: Yew and Thorn in April 2020.

Today I’m at Valerie Ullmer’s blog, talking about Jones and her trip to England and her thoughts on wearing petticoats!

Sarah Remy – writing gender diverse characters

Thank you so much to Sarah for this piece on writing gender diverse characters (and for being so kind about my own work!)

I love adventure stories (especially adventure stories including ferocious tigers). I love creepy paranormal mysteries. I love romance (especially queer romance). And I love, big, sloppy, loyal dogs.

A.L. Lester’s THE FLOWERS OF TIME has each of these things, which made me a Very Happy Reader. ™ But if you sat me down and said, “Sarah, tell us your most favorite thing about this, the third book in Lester’s LOST IN TIME series?” I would reply, without hesitation, “Jones.”

Jones. The non-binary, dog loving, code-breaking, magic-wielding, one-half of our romantic pair. (The other half being Edie, whom I adored as well, especially for her* stubbornness and petticoats). But. JONES. Jones made me laugh, and Jones made me cry. Because I am a non-binary person, and in Jones’ fear that she might somehow be broken, in Jones’ sometimes unrecognition of her face in a mirror, in Jones’ distress over her menstruation and lack of ‘male parts’—

Well. In Jones I saw myself. And for that I’m grateful.

Although publishing is finally beginning to catch up and catch on, finding well-written stories with well-written gender diverse characters can still be difficult. Many of my favorites I have discovered through word of mouth, rather than Big 5 marketing. This may be because I am super picky about how I connect with gender diverse characters, or it may be because there is still a tendency to rely on tropes when writing about a character whose gender identity lies outside the ‘cultural norm’.

I’m not saying that tropes can’t be fun. Nor am I implying that I haven’t fallen into the trope trap myself. As a fantasy author, I’ve written my share of non-binary faeries.

What I am saying is: let’s hold Jones up as an example and try to do better.

“But Sarah,” you may argue, “writing gender diversity can be hard, and frightening. Even as a gender diverse author. Everyone has a different experience. What if I do it wrong?”

We all get it wrong occasionally (see non-binary faeries) but if we’re too afraid to dip a toe then certainly we’ll never get it right. So, here are three helpful tips to keep in mind going forward:

  1. Your character’s gender diversity is 100 percent NOT their defining characteristic. Take Jones. She’s an extremely well-rounded and believable character with passions and fears that have absolutely nothing to do with being non-binary. Which is fantastic. Because so do I!
  2. Gender identity, gender expression, sexuality and physical sex are different things. I didn’t write Jones, so I don’t know all her secrets, so here I’ll use an example from my latest book, EARNEST INK. Hemingway, my MC, is trans masc. He thinks of himself as male (gender identity) he prefers to present himself as male (gender expression) and he’s sexually attracted to any gender (pansexual). He hasn’t yet opted for gender confirming surgery, he is on T, and if you asked him about his physical sex he’d probably punch you in the face because: rude. As a writer, knowing a character’s gender identity, gender expression, sexuality, and physical sex helps to make for more believable, well-rounded character motivation.
  3. Talk to gender diverse people. Educate yourself about experience. Lean on your gender diverse friends and your sensitivity readers. But do so politely. A good example: “Hey, Sarah, I’m writing a non-binary character, but as a gay cis male with zero non-binary experience, I have questions. You seem to be pretty open about discussing your gender. Would you mind weighing in?” Sure thing. Thanks for asking so nicely. Hit me up any time.

*In 1782 there were no they/them pronoun options, so I will refer to Jones as she does herself.

Sarah Remy/Alex Hall is a nonbinary, animal-loving, proud gamer Geek. Their work can be found in a variety of cool places, including HarperVoyager, EDGE and NineStar Press. 

Find Earnest Ink on Goodreads : Buy on Amazon : Sarah/Alex’s website

Today I am at Xtreme Delusions, talking about Jones and Edie’s trip over the mountains.