Joining us today is the lovely and talented Prudence MacLeod, author of the transgender romance Shelly's Turn (her latest release). If you missed Samuel's review earlier this morning, I urge you to check it out after the interview.
♥ Thanks so much for stopping by, Prudence. First of all, for those who may be new to your writing, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Sally, thanks so much for having me here today. The official stuff and a lot more can be found on my website. One thing I can tell you is I love an audience. I’m a storyteller and always have been, but I’m a listener as well. I love to hear people’s stories. I have worked at some unusual jobs and the best part of them all was the interesting people they brought me into contact with. Give me a cup of coffee and someone to share it with and I’m in my happy place. I’m in my sixties and still loving life to the hilt.
♥ Okay, let's get right to the juicy bits. How did you first come to incorporate transgender characters and LGBT relationships into your fiction?
In the mid to late 1990s I became fairly outspoken about LGBT rights. I did some volunteer work with my local organization. Outreach sort of stuff, working the hot line and so on. During that time I made friends with a number of trans folk. One trans girl in particular became a friend. She didn’t talk much, but I managed to get most of her story out of her. Her eventual suicide was a real blow. That was the catalyst for featuring trans folk in some of my romances.
♥ What a nice way to honour her memory. What kind of readers do you envision being drawn to those relationships? Do you find you tend to write primarily for the LGBT community, or do you have a broader audience in mind?
Actually, there are two types of folks I hope will read these books. First, of course, transfolk themselves. They deserve to have their stories told and they deserve to find people like themselves, people they can identify with, in the books they read.
Secondly, I hope that other folk will read the stories and see parts of themselves in them, see that transfolk are just like everybody else, human beings with needs and dreams.
♥ I like that - such a lovely sentiment! I know you've already talked a bit about your outreach work, but are the relationships in your books more a product of your own experience, where you put something of yourself into the characters, or do you draw upon friends to explore those experiences?
Oh, both. I have bits and pieces of all sorts of people I have met blended into my characters and their relationships. Yes, I confess there are quite a few bits of me in there too. The relationships of the lovers contain many of the things I have learned, they also describe the way my partner and I live, interact with each other.
♥ Before we leave the characters for a moment, it's often said that great characters take on a life of their own, pulling the story in directions the author hadn't originally anticipated. Has a twist or turn in your writing ever surprised you, or really challenged your original plans?
Oh lord, yes, constantly. My style of writing is quite erratic and I have no real idea how the story will unfold. I get an idea of a situation then ask the Universe who could deal with that. A couple of characters always show up to tell me their story. Once it gets going I have no idea at all where it could end up. I think Shelly’s Turn may be the only one where I had a real plan. In Shelly I wanted to tell two stories, my friend’s story and the way it really should have been for her.
♥ Looking outward instead of inward for a moment, What is the strangest or most surprising reaction to your work that you've ever encountered, and how did you handle the commentary?
Wow, there have been some extreme reactions to my work alright. LOL I’ll give you two extremes. One young woman wrote a glowing review for me, and as a result of that I went after her story. Through our correspondence she actually dug out much of mine as well and we have become adopted sisters.
The second was a man who was almost violent in his outrage. He informed me in the strongest of terms that homosexuality is not a choice. I, of course, did not know that. I, who have been with the same woman for sixteen years; I, who have worked on a volunteer basis with LGBT folks for many years; I, whose home is a refuge for such folk on a regular basis; couldn’t possibly know that. However, I do know gay people who have lived straight lives and deeply loved their partners. I also know a straight woman who has lived as a lesbian for sixteen years just because she loves me and for no other reason. I tried to open a dialogue with this fearful fellow, but was threatened with a lawsuit, so I desisted. I guess, on the bright side, my writing didn’t put him to sleep. The book that brought that on is Deliberate Love. The book contains a number of coping strategies that these folk have used to lead long and happy lives. This was what the book was supposed to share. Obviously, the man missed the point.
♥ As an aspiring author myself, the mechanics of writing always fascinate me. Do you have a schedule or a routine to your writing? Is there a time and place that you must write, or do you satisfy the muse whenever and wherever she taps your shoulder?
Wow. My system; actually I don’t really have one. Hee hee. For years I agonized over the fact that I couldn’t write the proper way. I can’t sit for days working out plot points, building elaborate worlds, writing extensive character sketches, etc. I was convinced I was doomed to failure because of this. One day I picked up a copy of Stephen King’s On Writing. As I read his book I felt a great weight lifted from my shoulders. He also gets an idea for a situation, takes a couple of characters and tosses them into the mix to see what they will do with it. That is very much what I do.
I can, and do, write almost anywhere; in the car waiting for a boat, in my kitchen, at my desk, on the beach… doesn’t matter. I do write ever morning. A thousand words, that is the foundation of the day. Often much of that gets deleted, but I do it. After that, when she taps my shoulder to tell me a story, I’m ready to work. Sometimes I go well into the night and other days I sit and knit, but I write something every day.
♥ Hmm, sounds very much like my approach. If only I could achieve the same success you have! For some authors, it’s coming up with a title, and for others (myself included) it’s writing that first paragraph – what do you find is the most difficult aspect of writing?
The middle, always the middle. Sigh. As I said, I always let the characters tell me their story, but usually they consider it done at about forty or fifty thousand words. First draft done, easy stuff over, and so to work. I start rereading. It doesn’t take long to find a spot where I can ask, “My darling, why on Earth would you do that?” This is how I pull a lot of a character’s back story out of them, find out what really motivates them to do the things they do. I keep going until we have a more complete tale told.
♥ Total fantasy fun time here. If you could choose just one of your books to make into a movie, knowing you'd have total control over the production, who would you cast for the leading roles?
Oh dear, there are so many. Okay, let’s go with something new and completely different. The book is Immortal Tigress. My personal take on vampires with a lesbian romance worked into the story. It is the beginning of a new series.
Starring roles, Hmmm. Charlize Theron and Halle Berry would be my first choice.
♥ I love that casting! People often forget that authors are readers as well . Is there a particular author who has influenced or inspired your writing? Somebody who either made you want to write in the first place, or who refreshes your literary batteries when you're not writing?
These days I read a lot of Amanda Quick. If I get stalled, or just need to recharge my desire to write, I read something by Amanda Quick. She is an awesome storyteller.
♥ If we can talk specifically about your transgender romances for a moment, what is it you hope readers take away from the stories? Is there a key theme or message you're looking for them to embrace, or a favourite scene from the books that you hope they'll share with friends (and lovers)?
I want people to understand that transfolk are just people like themselves. Yes, there are a few visible differences, but ignore those and you will find gentle loving people just like everybody else. It doesn’t take long for the difference to disappear in your mind. These folk have a lot to give and truly enrich the lives of those who befriend them. I still have trans friends.
♥ Very well said! Before we let you go, what can we look forward to from you next? Is there a project or a work-in-progress on the horizon that you’re really excited about?
I usually have a number of projects in the works and right now there are at least three. However, the one holding my attention right now is a lesbian romance, action adventure, sci-fi, multiple Universe, world hopping, story with evil mind reading aliens being hunted by technologically advanced Neanderthals. Have I got you interested yet?
So, can I throw in a pitch now? Here’s where to find me on line.
Sally, thank you for inviting me here today; it has been a lot of fun.
A huge thanks to Prudence for so graciously agreeing to join us today. I don't know about you, but Immortal Tigress is definitely going into my TBR list, and I suspect I may have to add a little Amanda Quick into the mix as well.
Don't just take my word for it, though - check out Samuel's review of Prudence's transgender romances and see if it doesn't send you scrambling to pick up a few new reads!