Good morning, all!
Joining us today is one of my favourite (and most prolific) authors of transgender fiction, the lovely Tanya Allan, author of Behind The Enemy (her latest), The Hard Way (her most popular), Monique (her best reviewed), and many others.
♥ Thanks so much for stopping by, Tanya! For those who may be new to you and your work, can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in the 1950s as an only child. I was brought up and privately educated in Scotland to a middle class family of military background. After leaving school, I embarked on a career that took in the military and law enforcement (which answers a question further on). I retired from that a number of years ago.
♥ For the past several years you have proven to be an extremely prolific (and well-reviewed) author. When did you first begin to write professionally?
I suppose I started getting paid for my writing in April 2011 when I uploaded my first titles to Amazon Kindle. I have been writing and posting my work on various sites for the last eight years, but decided to try to sell some, just to see if they would sell.
♥ What was it that first attracted you to the genre of transgender/intersex fiction?
I don't just write trans/intersex fiction, but I suppose it was what started me off. For many people the realities of believing that perhaps nature played an unpleasant trick on one by placing one's brain in the wrong body is not something one deals with easily. Life is tough enough without carrying such a burden.
I carried that burden and for too many reasons to go into here, I was unable to do anything about it. Having taken a decision early on to live with what cards nature had dealt me, I just got on and made the best of things... and didn't do such a bad job, even if I say so myself. A loving and understanding partner was a must, and I was very fortunate. We talked through my inner feelings early on, and at that point I decided, sorry, we decided, to keep things as they were. However, there had to be an avenue of escape for she who was within, and the writing became just that.
I was able to live another life through my writing, and it proved to be exactly what I needed.
I also write with my REAL LIFE hat on, and they are /spy/crime/thrillers in the main. But, to be honest, Tanya is far more successful.
♥ To what extent have your own life experiences influenced your writing? Do you think you write a bit more of yourself into the characters, living vicariously through them, than a so-called mainstream author might?
Absolutely! Most of my characters contain a good deal of what I would have liked to have been. I do live out my other life through them, but as I have had a very varied and eventful career and life so far, I am able to bring a lot of what I have experienced into the plots and sub plots. They say that one's characters have to be sympathetic, but I like to actually display empathy to my characters - they are each a little bit of me and react to things in a way that I relate to.
♥ Do you have a schedule or a routine to your writing, with a pre-planned outline in place, or do you let the words flow as they demand?
The latter. I am wholly at the mercy of my muse, who will sit me down and start me writing. My problem is not enough hours in the day, with everything else that is going on. The other problem I have is that I will get an idea that may not fit into a story that I am writing, so I start another one, and so on. I have around 43 unfinished novels at different stages of completion.
♥ Really? Nice to know I'm not alone in dealing with a scatterbrained muse! For some authors, it's coming up with a title, and for others it's writing that first paragraph - what do you find is the most difficult aspect of writing?
Ha ha... finishing them. Seriously, it's getting sufficient time to focus and get a substantial amount done at each sitting. RL is so bloody hectic for me at the moment, I find it hard juggling work, (yes I do have to do some occasionally) grandchildren, and elderly and infirm parents. The main reason I have not produced anything recently is the above.
♥ Many of your main protagonists first present as male, only to have circumstances beyond their control cause a sometimes overnight shifting to female gender roles. How did that particular theme originate, and why do you feel it's so attractive to readers?
THE DREAMER when I was fourteen. It was my daydream of the moment. I think they are as popular as they are because the feelings they invoke are universal amongst those who carry the same or similar burdens.
♥ Sometimes, characters can take on a life of their own, pulling the story in directions you hadn't originally anticipated. Has a twist or turn in your writing ever surprised you, or really challenged your original plans?
I have never had an original plan or plot sketched out beforehand. The characters always surprise me and do the strangest things. It is weird, but I often feel as if the story writes itself, and all I do is bash away at the keyboard.
♥ I love it! You’ve published your work online (most notably at sites such as Big Closet and Sapphire's Place), for the e-book market, and more recently in paperback. Does one give you a greater sense of accomplishment than the other?
I'm still a sucker to see my name in print, on paper, but the trend is away from paper, so I'm not going to buck the trend. Certainly, having sold over 8,000 books on Amazon Kindle alone, I can't complain. The paperbacks have sold in tens rather than thousands.
♥ When writing, do you ever consider how a reader or reviewer will react, or do you write primarily for your own satisfaction?
As I said earlier, I never intended my work to be read by anyone else, so I never used to think about the readers, but now I do a little. If I like it then I think that those who like my work will like it. As for reviewers, I'm not really sure how one could write for them, as they seem to have a different agenda. I've had some great reviews and pretty awful ones from the same book, so I've learned that you can never hope to please all the people all the time. I'm just thrilled that I can please some of the people some of the time.
♥ Good thing I've always considered myself a reader first, and a reviewer second! What is the strangest or most surprising reaction to your work that you've ever encountered?
That anyone likes it enough to want to buy more! Actually, a few people have bought my work believing it to be more on the lines of fetish erotica and were pleasantly surprised to find it wasn't.
♥ I couldn't have asked for a better segue! While your work does sometimes have explicit scenes, it's more grounded in fiction/plot than mere fantasy sex. Do you feel the sexual/fetish emphasis on transgender identities in fiction has had a negative impact on the community, or do you feel those fantasies can lead to a positive means of self-exploration/expression?
Sexually explicit and fetish sex has a place, but as I neither read nor write it, I feel I am not qualified to comment. However, as in all things, there is a market for it, so I suppose as long as what it is is clear to the buyer, then I don't have a personal problem with it. As I mentioned above, I have noticed that a few people have bought my books believing they were of this variety, and were surprised enough to give me a good review when they discovered something quite different. The one thing about fantasies is that everyone has them and many people share common threads. My stories are fantasies dressed up as books, but written so that the reader can escape into a different world for a short while and become in tune with the heroine.
♥ Your novels display an obvious knowledge about war, weaponry, police tactics, and political history. How did you come by such awareness?
I have always had an interest in history, and over 30 years in the military and law enforcement did the rest.
♥ That explains it! Is there a favourite quote or scene from one of your stories that you feel particularly fond of? Something that reminds you of why writing is important to you?
Gosh, that is a tough one. I adore all my heroines and they all possess what I'd like to be. As for a favourite quote or scene, I have to say it depends on my mood. I rather like the scene in the train toilet in FLIGHT OR FIGHT when Katrina helps an escaping British officer. I also like the way what started as a sort of prank became a serious subterfuge in THE HARD WAY.
♥ 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?
Robert Heinlein and Georgette Heyer. I adored I WILL FEAR NO EVIL and The MASQUERADERS. The contrasting settings and styles couldn't be more different.
♥ Hmm, I own several copies of Heinlein's classic, but it seems I need to get my hands on Heyer. Based on your stories, happy endings are important for you. Do you think Tanya will ever see a happy ending in real-life, or is she someone who will continue to thrive strictly through your writing?
Tanya is receiving a happy ending every time someone buys one of her books. I'm satisfied that my life has been about as happy as it could get, under the circumstances. I'm never one to complain about something that is largely outside possibilities, so happiness is a highly illusive quality. I learned early on that if one strives for goodness, then happiness will follow. Seek happiness and you may never find it.
♥ In the past few months you seem to have taken a little break from publishing new books so, I must ask, what can we look forward to from you next? Is there a project on the horizon that you're really excited about?
Oh yes . . . lots and lots and lots . . .
CANDY CANE 2 - DEAD END is not far away, as is WHISPERS IN THE SOUL, and one I've been slugging away at recently, A CHANCE WOULD BE A FINE THING. The latter one is a new venture for me - World War One and a dip into reincarnation. I wanted to create a realistic character who lived as a male through both world wars and died as he was born, but not quite ready to meet his maker. Knowing early on that he was one of nature's hiccups, he (perhaps like me) made the best of what he'd been given but was not ready to cash in and accept an eternity as something he never wanted to be in the first place.
I also have BEGINNINGS END, the sequel to Behind the Enemy nearing completion, and EXTRA SPECIAL AGENT in the latter throws of being finished. The second book in the MARINE series is slowing me down with a lot of research into Roman history required. In fact MARINE 3 is almost finished, but it will have to wait for 2 to be completed.
Another new venture is TAMSYN. This is a story about a crossover from reality, fantasy and RPG, where a middle-aged and out of shape male gets the opportunity of a lifetime. Does he take it? You bet!
And there are more... 40 of them....
All I need now is peace and quiet to finish them, and at least and extra 10 hours a day, two extra days a week and a year clear of grandchildren and elderly parents.
A huge thanks to Tanya for finding the time in her frantic life to stop by. For her fans, I apologize for so selfishly taking away from her writing, but I think you'll agree it's worth it if we can drive a few new readers her way to help repay her efforts!
For those of you who haven't given Tanya a read, I also suggest checking out Every Little Girl's Dream, The Other Side of Dreams, The Queen of Hearts, and Ring the Change.