Monday, September 19, 2011

INTERVIEW: Cassandra Duffy (author of The Gunfighter and The Gear-Head)

Good morning, and happy Monday, everyone! Here to help us kick off the week in style is Cassandra Duffy, romance author, sex/relationship advice columnist, and author of The Gunfighter and The Gear-Head - a lesbian steam punk romance with something of a western motif.

Cassandra spent most of her childhood being precocious, which stopped being entertaining or impressive when she grew into an adult, at which point she had to start being precious. She writes a freelance sex advice column found in various lesbian magazines, and has written a handful of short story collections and novels found on her website at She is a native southern Californian, an author of some truly naughty things, a dutiful partially-Asian daughter, a stereotypical younger sister, the aunt of a hilarious little boy, a modern techno-freak, gamer-girl, and gleefully monogamous girlfriend to an earthbound goddess. She lives and writes in Winter Park, Florida with her partner and soul mate Nichole and their two cats: Dragon and Josephine.

Before we get into Cassandra's interview, let's take a quick look at her first full length novel, The Gunfighter and The Gear-Head:

An apocalyptic alien invasion set humanity on the edge of extermination. Unable to match technology with the invaders, humanity bet their existence on their physical strength overcoming. In a desperate last stand by the world’s greatest scientists, the cataclysm electromagnetic pulse wiped out all technology on the planet, stranding the aliens on earth, effectively locking them in the cage with the beasts of humanity that remained. Using pre-industrial weapons of war, the surviving humans fought back…

Six years later, Gieo, the self-proclaimed last pilot on earth, was shot down yet again. She finds herself in the unwelcoming post apocalyptic old west town of Tombstone, the guest of the beautiful gunfighter Fiona with a turbulent history. Their budding romance hits an immediate snag when Fiona’s mysterious past finally catches up with her, bringing with it old flames, hot grudges, and a rekindling of the war with the aliens that had cooled to a stalemate.

Sky-captain Gieo and her fleet of steam-powered dirigibles are humanity’s best chance to turn the tide of the war against the alien invaders, but only if Fiona can protect her from blind cultists, jealous ex-girlfriends, and a town of apocalypse cowboys with suspect sanity.

If you think that sounds good, check out what Cassandra has to say below!


♥ Good morning, Cassandra, and thanks so much for stopping by! For those who may be new to your writing, and who haven't yet checked out your latest release, please tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a sex and relationship advice columnist for a lesbian magazine and an LGBT friendly dating site. I’m a native southern California now living in Florida. And I’ve had a few short story collections published over the last year or so through a small indie press with The Gunfighter and The Gear-Head being my first full length novel.

♥ The journey from 'aspiring' to 'accomplished' can be a long one, even in the era of small presses and digital publishing. When did you begin writing, and how did you feel when you first saw your work in print?

I actually wanted to be a video game designer all through high school, so most of my earliest writing was about the video games I’d make. Things changed for me when I got into college and I started thinking of political science and journalism. The first time I saw something of mine in print was in the college newspaper and I HATED it. I didn’t like the column I’d written, I didn’t like the headline my editor came up with for it, and I wanted to crawl out of my skin that my staff photo for that little floating head box looked like a middle school yearbook picture. I quit the newspaper staff that week. It took me a year to even get up the nerve to show anyone anything I’d written. When I finally did in a creative writing workshop class, I became addicted to the whole process and my goals completely shifted to writing.

♥ I can totally relate to that - I was a science geek in highschool, but an English major in University. How does your past influence your writing? Are you conscious of relating the story to your own experiences?

I’m such a hypocrite about this actually. I keep telling people that they should leave themselves out of their fiction as best they can. I mean, it’s fiction, not a diary entry, right? Then awhile back I had to write a blog entry where I fessed up to all the characters who were inexplicably similar to me. Gieo from Gunfigher is one of the biggest ones right down to the getting in trouble at an SAT prep summer class for writing obscene essays. I struggle to consciously keep myself out of my stories, but unconsciously I keep relating the stories to my own experiences in some really telling ways.

♥ Do you have a schedule or a routine to your writing? Is there a time and place that you must write, or do you let the words flow as they demand?

I’m terrible with schedules. I always have been. I’m routinely 5-10 minutes late for absolutely everything. I loathe alarm clocks, calendars, and planners. Still, as much as I would like to say I write when the inspiration strikes me, that’d be a lie; any writer out there will tell you that you’ll almost never write if you wait for inspiration to find you. I go on walks and think, all of the time. It used to be when I’d smoke too since my girlfriend is a health nut and didn’t like me smoking anywhere near the house, but since I’ve quit smoking a few months ago, my walks are just thinking time. After I’ve mentally mapped something to be written, I abscond to my home office/library with my writing cat Josephine and we lock ourselves in there amidst all my books and write what I’ve thought about, which almost always leads to more writing.

♥ Is there a favourite quote or scene from your work that you feel particularly fond of? Something that reminds you of why writing is important to you?

I am so oblivious to this sort of thing. Even if I take a real shine to a line when I’m writing it or editing later, it’s usually gone out of my head within the hour; I guess that’s part of why writing is so important to me—to create some sort of permanence to my fleeting thoughts. The line my girlfriend loved out of The Gunfighter and The Gear-Head was “Maybe you can explain to me what is so spectacular about her, because you gay girls can’t seem to keep your hands off that daffy redhead.” I don’t know why that particular line tickled her so much, but she lights up every time one of us mentions it. That’s what reminds me why writing is important for me: creating an enjoyable and lasting experience for readers.

♥ That is a cute line! Tell me, when you're not writing (or reading), what are some of the hobbies and passions that keep you happy?

I’m completely nuts for my girlfriend. I moved to Florida for her after all. But I’ve been told I can be kind of insufferable with how much I talk about how great she is, so I’ll try to think of something else. I love video games. I used to play intramural coed flag football. I was a linebacker if you can believe it, but that was probably because I can’t run very fast and I didn’t have to actually tackle anyone. I’m thinking of getting into roller derby, but I should probably learn to skate first.

♥ When writing, do you ever consider how a reader or reviewer will react, or do you write solely for your own satisfaction?

I’m almost entirely devoted to my readers in this. Writing for my own satisfaction would feel masturbatory, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I feel like if I’m writing for an audience who is paying good money for my work, I owe it to them to write with them in mind. There is an intimate relationship between author and reader that I take very seriously. This is especially true in romance and erotica because there is an added element of a sexual relationship in a strange way. I always joke on Twitter that I have literary sex with my readers via my work; this is obviously a joke since there’s no back and forth to it, but there is definitely an element of writing for certain reactions when I write.

Whenever I get a relationship advice question about stagnation in the bedroom on my advice columns, I always encourage the person to turn to porn and erotica for new material to expand their sexual horizons with new ideas. When I write romance and erotica, I hope my readers are taking those sex scenes and looking to recreate them in their own love life. I also pride myself on inserting a little humor into my romances as well, so I hope readers are laughing a little along the way as well.

♥ What is the strangest or most surprising reaction to your work that you've ever encountered?

My work in fiction tends to be accepted about as I intend it, which I’ve been really fortunate in—so far. The strangest reaction I’ve had was in response to a mini column I wrote for a women’s group seminar probably a year or so ago. This was the worst kind of reaction because it was face to face; after years of online gaming, Internet vitriol doesn’t faze me in the slightest, but I still get queasy when it comes to in person conflict. Anyway, I wrote a somewhat playful, but ultimately very personal and vulnerable article about my first experience with masturbation when I was 11 or 12, and how alienating it was to think it was a marvelous thing when all my peers thought it was a disgusting thing only lonely guys did. I wrote in the article something about my first vibrator being this Harry Potter broomstick toy, which was true and I thought kind of funny, but not tremendously pertinent to the point of the article.

Anyway, after the seminar a woman came up to me, livid about the whole thing, claiming I was sexualizing children somehow, that pre-teen girls didn’t have sexual identities yet so I must have been molested (I wasn’t by the way), and that lesbians weren’t only about masturbation; I think she also threw something in there about children’s toys not being sex toys even though the toy in question was pulled from the market for that very reason, so I wasn’t the only one. The surprising thing was, I had no idea anyone in that environment would react that way; I thought I was in a room full of fifty or so other women who had similarly confusing pasts where society told us things we knew to feel natural were unnatural.

♥ I have that same issue with face-to-face conflict - it's so much easier to shrug off an email or a chat. Just for fun, who would you single out as your number one celebrity crush, and what would you like most to do with/to them?

I don’t know if I have a number one celebrity crush, but I could tell you who my first celebrity crush was. I was eight or nine when I first watched “Labyrinth” and probably only because it was the rare children’s movie my mom could stomach. I must have watched it a hundred times; I was that in love with Jennifer Connelly. Aside from thoroughly freaking out my parents that my first crush was a woman, it completely ruined the movie for my older sister who still can’t watch it to this day without thinking of me marrying Jennifer Connelly at the end; I’d concocted a whole scenario at the end of the movie where we got married in front of all the weird puppets, and I would usually stand up and tell the whole story to my sister until she screamed at me to stop. It was cute for a nine year old, and was a great setup for a joke my incredibly serious father made when I came out at 14. He told me he’d be really popular around the office if Jennifer Connelly was his daughter in law.

♥ That is such a great story, I'll completely forgive you for the fact I'll be singing David Bowie's "You remind me of the babe" song all day! Getting back to your work, if your book were being made into a movie, and you had total control over the production, who would you cast for the leading roles?

I love these kinds of questions because it’s already how I think about things. Everything in my writing plays out in my head like a movie anyway, so it’s only natural for me to cast characters and explains scenes through the lens of my mental camera. When it comes to The Gunfighter and The Gear-Head I always envisioned Gieo as Brenda Song, which is bizarre considering how big of a departure that role would be from anything she’s ever done. Ever since watching “The Town” I’ve had a hard time seeing Fiona as anyone but Blake Lively, but with red hair obviously. For Veronica, I would probably pick Ari Graynor; she’s attractive in a fairly unconventional way until she gets dolled up and then she is a total knockout, which is exactly how I always pictured Veronica.

♥ Great choices! Is there a particular theme or message you're expecting readers to take away from your work?

There is definitely a pro-feminism, girl-power angle to all my writing, which I think finds its way in there fairly organically. Writing what I like just means writing strong women written from a feminist woman’s point of view; considering I write almost exclusively lesbian literature, this seems to resonate with my readership. The other message I’m purposefully putting into my writing is a sex-positive outlook. I want my books to create expansive thinking when it comes to sex and open new avenues of sexual fantasy for my readers.

♥ Finally, before we let you go, what can we look forward to from you next? Is there a project on the horizon that you're really excited about?

There are a few projects coming up that I’m excited about. I have another short story collection in the work—all vampire paranormal romance. It’s going to be titled “Fabled Fang Girls.” ‘Fang girls’ is a play on words of ‘fan boys.’ Right now women are so crazy about vampires they’re rivaling fan boys for their nerd lust, so I thought I’d come up with a cute term for it—fang girls. I’ll admit it, I’m a fang girl too. Speaking of vampire projects, my second novel is in the works already. It’s an urban fantasy vampire romance surrounding a modern day Los Angeles noire murder mystery. Of course, I’d eventually like to write the next book in the steampunk series.


Thanks so much to Cassandra Duffy for stopping by! I'll be reviewing The Gunfighter and The Gear-Head in the near future, so be sure to stop back for that. In the meantime, you can find out more about Cassandra and her works on Twitter, on her Blog, or on her Website.


1 comment:

  1. The woman who confronted you in real life has no idea what she's talking about. Young children seem to me to have a sexual identity, I certainly did, and younger than that. lol.

    Great interview. I haven't read your work, but now I really want to.