Provided you’re following me (or half the Sapphic fiction community) on social media, you’ll probably have noticed a vast amount of rainbow-coloured graphics like this one sprinkled across your feeds in the last month. That’s thanks to my month-long (well, thirty-two-day-long) blog event known as Sapphic Fiction February.
You probably know exactly what it is having seen the posts every day for the last month, but for those who don’t: in a nutshell, it was an interview with a Sapphic fiction author for every day of February, on my blog. It was a lot of work, and a certain wonderful author friend of mine (cough-cough Chloe Keto) thought I was nuts at first, but I was determined. It was my first time ever organising something like this, and I have to say I was inspired by Jae’s calm, organised approach to her author events. (Actually I’m inspired by her a lot – hence why I gave her the headline slot on February 1st!) The authors involved are probably sick of me appearing in their email inboxes – or they will be when they get this blog post landing in there in a few minutes – but… oh well. I had such fun doing it, so here and now I want to say thank you to everyone who was involved. You are the best! Thank you for taking a chance on my new venture.
And… you know, I was kind of jealous after a while. I felt a bit left-out with the questions. So I thought, why not do a recap post, picking out some of my favourite answers to the questions, and add a few of my own in there? I hope you will indulge me one last Sapphic Fiction February post before I retire it for the year.
The first question, post author introduction, was ‘What made you want to sit down and write your first book?’ and I was surprised by the number of people who got into writing as a release for the stresses of life. Roslyn Sinclair used the negative energy of a breakup as a catalyst for her first book, while for Melissa Tereze it was the death of her grandparents that had her turning to writing as an escape. Teresa Purkis channelled her frustration at Section 28, a series of laws that prohibited the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ in Britain in 1988, into her first book Deliverance, which stayed hidden for twenty-five years until she published it in 2015. For Carolyn Elizabeth, it could be said that it was fate that got her writing, when a leaky dishwasher collapsed the ceiling in her office. In her new remote office, she ‘misappropriated’ her time (her words) by writing her first book Gallows Humor. But for others, like Clare Lydon, Nikki Markham and Rien Gray amongst others, it was to fill a hole in the market, or in the genre. They wrote what they wanted to read – exactly the same as me.
In terms of ‘How do you develop your plots and characters?’ – I was overjoyed to find some fellow pantsers, like Marianne Ratcliffe, E. J. Noyes and Abigail Taylor. Pantsing – writing by the seat of your pants, as Jae helpfully defined it in her interview – can be a wild and bumpy journey at times, but now I feel a little less lonely. I’m in awe of writers like Elle Armstrong, Jenn Matthews and Rien Gray who can plot meticulously and stick to it. My characters have a habit of taking themselves off to do other stuff while I’m writing – and, as Melissa Tereze said, ‘I’m just the minion who does as they say’. Provided they don’t do anything too drastic and uncalled for, I go along with it.
I found that when it came to the question ‘Has your own writing ever made you cry?’ that I was quite different to most of the other writers. My writing has only ever made me cry once, and that was when I wrote the epilogue to The Silent Chapter. Well, when I rewrote it anyway – the final twist wasn’t there, in the first draft. Whether it was the twist itself, the fact that I’d worked out the missing piece of the puzzle, or the fact that I was saying farewell to the characters who’d been with me for three years at that point… I don’t know. I still think that that epilogue is one of the best things I’ve ever written. So far.
That’s not to judge those who do of course! A couple of writers said things that gave me food for thought. S-Jay Hart said ‘you have to feel it in order to write it’, while Melissa Tereze said ‘If I don't feel the emotion, the reader won't feel it either.’ But that just shows that we’re all different, I guess!
In response to the film question (‘Imagine your book, or one of your books, was made into a film. Who would play the lead roles?’), I noticed that when the beautiful day comes when Sapphism takes over the cinemas, there will be… some conflict. Amongst the authors. As to who gets to play the main characters in the film adaptations of their books. Hayden Quinn, Clare Lydon and Emily Hayes will all be fighting over Kate Winslet – although Emily Hayes will be at a disadvantage as she’ll also be fighting with Ami Spencer over Gillian Anderson! Meanwhile, Dr Suzanne Moss and Emily Banting will be at loggerheads over Cate Blanchett (if Emily hasn’t turned her into a sandwich by then… I’ll explain later), Carolyn Elizabeth and Victoria Hawthorne will be scrapping over Florence Pugh, and Jourdyn Kelly will be at war with TJ O’Shea over Blake Lively. And I’ll be in the middle trying to keep a lid on them all, while praying that Anya Taylor-Joy and Alexa Davies will soon turn up to play Cass and Felicia from The Summer We’ve Had.
On second thoughts, maybe they’ll all be okay. They are a wise bunch, after all! I asked them ‘What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given with regards to being an author? And how about in general life? And what’s a motto you live by?’ and quite honestly, I could have a whole other book just from compiling the various snippets of wisdom they shared! I’d be here until next February if I talked about them all so I’m just going to pick out some highlights:
‘There's probably less reason to stress than you think.’ ~ Barbara Winkes
‘No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.’ ~ Violet Morley
‘Live life for you.’ ~ TJ Dallas
‘Be yourself. What's meant for you won't pass you by.’ ~ Claire Highton-Stevenson
‘Don't wait for the perfect moment, don't wait for something magical to bring your laptop to life and plunk itself down in front of you. Just write.’ ~ Elena Abbott
‘Run your own race.’ ~ Ana Clements
‘It’s okay to have needs.’ ~ Jacqueline Ramsden
‘Not everyone is going to like your book.’ ~ Clare Ashton
And my personal two favourites:
‘Eat more ice cream.’ ~ Lily Seabrooke
‘Never lick a steak knife.’ ~ Clare Lydon
What can I say? I like food!!
Which brought me onto the sandwich question! ‘If you were a sandwich, what sandwich would you be?’ I think I puzzled more than a few authors with such a random question at the end of the interview, but they all went along with it! And the answers were impressively varied. From the classics (like a ham and cheese toastie for Marianne Ratcliffe and a grilled cheese for Abigail Taylor) to the definitely-not-classics (I mean, what IS Adrian J. Smith’s mayo, peanut butter and banana abomination?!) – the last question definitely spiced things up. Literally, if you go by S-Jay Hart’s vegan chick’n and bakon mayo with extra jalapeños.
Actually, funny story with regards to the sandwich question. Emily Hayes’ answer was a fish finger sandwich, which struck a chord with me as they’re one of the few sandwiches I do actually like! Feverish with sandwich solidarity, I excitedly shot off an email to her. My problem? I’d mixed up the Emilys. I’d sent an email about fish finger sandwiches to Emily Banting. Whose answer to the sandwich question was exceedingly different, and involved Cate Blanchett and Gillian Anderson (although how she’ll get them between two pieces of bread is beyond me). She was more than a little confused.
And on that note, I think we’re done! Congratulations if you’ve made it this far, and thank you for supporting Sapphic Fiction February! (Oh, and please go check out my book The Summer We’ve Had. I might as well plug it here. This whole thing was about promoting each other, after all.)