Tell us a bit about yourself and what you’re currently working on or promoting.
I’m a buxom (okay, chunky, even) redhead just past the half-century mark and still sexy as hell (at least my sweet spouse and domestic partner of over 20 years still thinks so, LOL). In the past, I was a social studies teacher who wound up working with very diverse populations. Today, I’m a bit of a recluse 😉
My current novel, now available on Amazon.com and from Club Lighthouse Publishing, is The Loves of Natalie Greenbaum, Book 1. The title character is a big band and saloon singer during the late 1920s up through the 1970s who is also a lesbian. Book 1 covers her life from the end of the Jazz Age and her first love at nineteen, through the 1930s and various love affairs that follow, up to the eve of World War II.
What genre is your book? Do you write in other genres as well?
I think the publisher – which had never taken on a work like this before – invented (or at least identified) a new genre, which they call “LGBT Historical Romance.” I have a couple of more contemporary lesbian romances on the back burner as well, but mostly, I’m fascinated by history and the unique struggles of LGBT people in the past – when it was considered criminal behavior as well as a form of mental illness.
Who or what inspires you?
Characters in my favorite TV shows, which include Michaela Quinn (Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman), Eleanor Bramwell (Bramwell), Julia Ogden (Murdoch Mysteries), Margaret Schroeder (Boardwalk Empire) and Phrynie Fisher (Miss Fisher’s Mysteries). The common denominator is that these characters are modern women placed in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, having to deal with those less-enlightened times, limited by the available technology and forced to confront and even defy the social mores of the period. It’s a formula I find fascinating.
For me, that’s who Natalie is – a 21st Century lesbian trying to live a “normal” life in very challenging times.
Do you use test readers? If so, how many?
Funny you should mention that. Parts of this novel and related stories – some in graphic (comic-book style) format – were posted on various websites over the past few years, and got quite a bit of positive response. It was what motivated me to put all the bits and pieces into a coherent narrative and seek publication of the completed work. When the book came out in September, I actually had an email list of fifty fans or so…not sure where they’ve gone now, though (LOL)
What advice do you have for writer’s just starting out?
First, write what you know about. Your own unique interests, passions and experiences are what will make your writing come alive, whether it’s a steamy erotic novel or a chemistry lab manual.
Secondly, if you are thinking about writing a story set in a historical period or an exotic locale, be prepared to do a LOT of research. You may not use all of it (I confess to fudging on a few minor aspects of history in my narrative – the specifics of which I acknowledge in the Afterword of my novel). You may even wind up rewriting history and reshaping geography a bit (Samuel Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, certainly did). But, as someone once said, it’s important to learn the “rules” in order to break them properly. Likewise, it is (IMHO) important to understand actual historical events as well as what was going on in people’s everyday lives in a particular time and place in order to “fictionalize” it in a convincing manner.
Finally, keep in mind that there are no good writers. Only good rewriters. Even Steven King (whom I greatly admire since Misery) winds up doing a lot of revisions, one suspects…
Do you outline your stories or just go with the flow?
Natalie’s story – in fact, the whole saga of her family over a 160 year period – came to me almost fully formed, at least in a general sense. The characters took on lives of their own a long time ago. It’s as if they’re telling the story, and I’m just filling in the day-to-day details of their lives as I write it down.
What are your three favorite books including the authors?
That’s a tough one. I adored Beloved Exile by Parke Godwin (a story about Queen Guinevere after the death of Arthur, placed in a quasi-historical context). Two others would be Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Grania by Morgan Llywelyn. I seem to gravitate toward novels set during historical periods that feature strong female characters.
What project are you currently working on?
At the moment, I’m working on two projects concurrently. One is the first sequel to the current novel, which covers Natalie’s life during World War II from 1940 until 1945. Ultimately, the series will follow Natalie up to her passing in 2004 as a 95-year-old great-grandmother. The series will eventually include novels and stories about her ancestors and descendants, covering seven generations of her family from 1857 up to the present (several of whom are referenced in Book 1).
The other is a relatively short novella entitled The Missionary’s Wife. It’s about Helena Munro, the woman who eventually becomes Natalie’s long-term domestic partner (introduced in the Prologue of Book 1 at the end of her life). Helena will be a significant character in Book 3 (1946-1952) and later installments.
What challenges have you faced in your writing career?
Marketing and promotion! (LOL)
Is there a message in your book(s) that you want readers to grasp?
If there is, it would be that there is enough love to go around – ugly emotions such as jealousy are destructive and serve no real purpose, and that while eros love is a marvelous thing, it is often transitory – whereas filios and agape love endure (which doesn’t mean that non-romantic love can’t occasionally take erotic form under the right circumstances).
There are numerous places in the story in which Natalie realizes that lovers come and go, but her family – who is her refuge in the darkest moments of her life – is a constant.
Perhaps another theme is the idea that sometimes, love is best expressed by letting go of someone.
Is there a character that you enjoyed writing more than any of the others?
Thom Ivarsen is definitely one of the more complex and interesting characters. He is the gay man who marries Natalie, becoming her “beard” (in other words, they cover for each other in a gay and lesbian-hostile time and culture – not uncommon in the “bad old days”). He’s a career Navy man, rugged, masculine – definitely not someone that anyone (especially back then) would suspect of being homosexual. Yet, he has his tender and vulnerable side. Despite his inner demons (to be explored in a future novel), he is very protective of Natalie, treating her with great tenderness. When they have a child together (you’ll have to read the book to find out how THAT happens, LOL), he becomes a loving, indulgent parent. His erotic relationship with Michael, a handsome younger officer, has also been very interesting to write about.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
Most criticism has been about mechanics, such as my bad habit of writing really long, run-on sentences that continue for hundreds of words in some cases, my penchant and propensity for repetition and redundancy (LOL) and – besides overuse of dashes – a number of minor stylistic issues – so, I guess that’s why we have editors, eh? (Note that sentence, at 58 words, was relatively short – for me writing a first draft, at least. )
As far as compliments go, I think the highest one came from my editor, Terrie Balmer, when she told me she was so caught up in the narrative that she would forget to edit (!)
Has reading a book ever changed your life? Which one and why, if yes?
I would have to say Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown. I first encountered it in my twenties. It was the first “real” lesbian story I had ever read, and encouraged me to finally come out and acknowledge myself for who I am.
I, Blakely, have found the writer’s community to be very supportive and welcoming. Jeanne, please share three writers that you recommend.
- K’Anne Meinel (pronounced “Kay-Ann”) – writes some very steamy, yet authentic lesbian-themed erotica
- Mercedes Keyes – specializes in interracial romances set in historical periods (another wonderfully controversial theme, given the history of miscegenation laws)
- Ryter Rong – she has an upcoming novel entitled The Immoral Injustice of Talisyn O’Reilly: Ireland Still Calls My Name, a tale of a girl in the 1600s who is taken into indentured servitude and forced to become breeding stock with an African slave for a cruel plantation owner
To buy her book, click on the links or cover: