Interview With ELLCon (European Lesfic Literary Conference)

E3468D49-EA5E-404C-A6DB-D24E6A1C2BC0

4BAA05F6-7661-4471-99B7-95C2AF2E8E1A

We spoke to Anna Larner about her books and her writing plans for the future.

(A) TELL US SOMETHING INTERESTING ABOUT YOUR LAST PUBLISHED BOOK. 

My debut lesbian romance Highland Fling had the working title How Does The Sun Know How To Shine?

Without giving too much of the plot away, early on in the book, Moira Burns (one of the main characters) is worried about her lack of sexual experience and she seeks reassurance from her first love. Her lover responds by saying “How does the sun know how to shine, Moira?” “How does the wind know how to blow?” “How does the rain know how to fall?” helping Moira to understand that her sexuality is as natural as nature itself and is something to be cherished and enjoyed.

It is one of the key messages that I hope readers will take from Highland Fling, along with living your life for today, looking forward, free from regret.

(B) WHAT GOT YOU INTO WRITING? 

I attended the ‘States of Independence’ Book Festival held in Leicester’s De Montfort University, back in 2012. Bold Strokes Books hosted a panel on that day, encouraging people to consider writing for an LGBT press. It was a proper lightbulb moment for someone like me with an overactive imagination and a passion for all things LGBT.

(C)  CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR WRITING STYLE? HOW DO YOU DECIDE ON PLOTS AND CHARACTERS? ARE YOU A PLANNER OR A PANTSER?

I’m a writer with a lyrical, descriptive style who cares about the detail of things. Bringing to life a setting is important to me, evoking a sense of place and the particular mood of the moment. I’m also keen to portray the uniqueness of each character, what makes them laugh, what makes them cry, and sharing this with the reader.

I’m not sure I decide upon plot and character, it’s more that a place, a person or an event sparks a creative response from which a story begins to form. For example, the idea for my latest work Love’s Portrait came from a creative writing workshop focusing on forgotten female abolitionists. Their passion and courage in the face of opposition was so inspiring that I began to wonder ‘what if’…and how to weave that ‘what if’ into a contemporary love story.

As to whether I’m a planner or a panster…I’m a bit of both. I work to an outline which gives me direction but ultimately the details, the heart of the story emerges from the act of writing, which for me is where the magic lies.

(D) IF YOU HAD TO DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN, WOULD YOU DO ANYTHING DIFFERENTLY? 

No, I wouldn’t change a thing. Going back and seeking to change the path of your life feels a bit like flattening out the mountains – with the breathtaking ride of the highs and lows lost in favour of a more plain and certain view.

(E) WHAT IS NEXT FOR YOU? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT PROJECT?

I’m currently working on my second novel Love’s Portrait, a contemporary romance infused with a tragic love story from the past. At the heart of the plot is the mystery of a watercolour of a beautiful woman painted in the 1830’s.

Again not trying to give too much of the plot away, it is a love story between Molly Goode (a sweet, quirky, and passionate museum curator) and Georgina Wright (a confident, stylish, but somewhat closed off investment banker) who has inherited the painting through the death of her father.

The theme of the book is about the strength, compassion, and ballsy-ness of women whether it be during the fight for the abolition of slavery or in the fight for LGBT voices to be heard in mainstream society.


Why not check out the ELLCon website for more interviews with authors who are attending the conference. Also you can sign up to their newsletter for book giveaways and get all the latest conference news.

Not long to go now…

 

 

 

 

 

© 2016 All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

My Heart Will Surely Burst

BSBbookcovers

Honestly, I’m not sure when I was last this excited as I am so looking forward to the upcoming BSB festival in Nottingham 5th & 6th May that I worry that my heart will surely burst.

These three words perhaps best explain why I am so excited: kinship, inspiration, and joy.

I’m thrilled by the thought that I will be spending time with people who might just say “Yeah you’re not the only one I feel that way too,” about writing, about reading, about life. The consolation I might feel when realising my writerly quirks are not quirky at all, and that I might not carry alone those worries I feel on dispirited days. The opportunity I might have to share an understanding of those moments of joy that keep us going, as we chat and laugh over a coffee or maybe a pint or I don’t know a bottle (or two) of wine.

I’m in awe with the thought that I will be spending time with people who are properly inspiring; those with the talent to combine blue sky thinking with a care and attention to the detail of things. To have the company of people who dare to dream and who have the courage to be open and to write from their hearts.  To hang out with those who support writers to write, who understand that writing is a shared endeavour, a magical union of publisher, editor, author, and reader.

But most of all perhaps, I can’t wait to say a heartfelt thank you, to my colleagues, to readers, and for the opportunity to make history together as we participate in such a landmark event.

So see you in a couple of weeks and if you see me bursting with wonder and delight you’ll know why.

2017 – What a year!!!

My debut year has been a blast, here are some of the highlights…

AfterEllen recommended Highland Fling on their Official Summer 2017 Reading List.

DIVA Magazine reviewed Highland Fling in their June Pride Issue.

 

“Take a day off, curl up and lose yourself in this lovely lesbian romance.” – Sita Balani

 


Bold Strokes Books authors rocking it at Gay’s The Word – what a magical evening that was. Thanks Uli and Robin for being such great hosts.


Author panel at Lfest 2017 – what a magical weekend. Thanks Cindy and the LFest Crew for putting on such a fantastic festival of arts, music and entertainment.

Click here to read my interview with Velvet Lounger from the Lesbian Reading Room.


Radio DIVA interview – Thanks Rosie Wilby and Heather Peace for being such great hosts.

Listen here to me chatting about my debut novel Highland Fling, my publisher Bold Strokes Books and my excitement about the upcoming DIVA Literary Festival. (from 42mins).

Radio DIVA Interview


Look out for my new lesbian romance Love’s Portrait to be released in 2019. In the meantime why not check out my short story Hooper Street which is available now on amazon.


© 2016 All rights reserved. No reproduction without written permission.

DIVA Literary Festival

DIVA Literary FestivalI’m thrilled to be taking part in the inaugural DIVA Literary Festival and Awards which are taking place at the Hilton Metropole, NEC Birmingham on 3rd/4th/5th November 2017.

The weekend will begin on the Friday evening with the DIVA Literary Awards and continue with two days full of book readings, writing workshops, panel discussions, poetry readings and much more.

Come and perhaps discover your new favourite writers!

Radio DIVA Interview

To tempt your appetite for the weekend listen here to me chatting with Rosie Wilby and Heather Peace on Radio DIVA.

I chat about my debut novel Highland Fling, my publisher Bold Strokes Books and my excitement about the upcoming DIVA Literary Festival. (from 42mins)

I look forward to seeing you there …

 

Saturday Nov 4th 10:30 – 11:15 
LEADING LADIES
Iconic literary characters live on in readers’ memories for all time. Bold Strokes Books authors explore the challenges involved in creating memorable characters and discuss strategies for making characters unique, non-traditional, and unforgettable.

Sunday Nov 5th 12:45 – 13:30
GENRE BENDING
From Fantasy to Adventure to Romance, Bold Strokes Books authors discuss what drew them to write in their particular genre(s). What are the similarities between genres? Where is there overlap? Do genre conventions matter?

 

Thoughts From The Bold Strokes Books Festival June 2017

Talk To Me - Writing Good Dialogue
Writing Good Dialogue Panel

 

“Writing good dialogue”

Here are some of the ways I think good dialogue contributes to a story:-

 

 

  • It can entertain – enlivening the prose and engaging the reader.
  • It can move an aspect of the plot or narrative forward in a way which, because it is absorbed within the ‘chat’, feels light and digestible – meeting the wise adage of show not tell.
  • It can impart information about a character, allowing the reader to: ‘hear’ the character’s unique voice; ‘see’ their mannerisms; and ‘understand’ their emotions/reactions.
  • It can reveal how a character can change depending on who they’re talking to, illuminating the distinct relationship between characters. For example, a character chatting with their best mate might have ‘banter’, but the same character with their lover may have much more intense dialogue.
  • It can heighten the potency and the impact of a character’s internal thoughts, at times playing with the unspoken monologues. For example, when a character thinks one thing but says the opposite.
  • Particularly if the piece is written in third person, where you have a silent narrator if you like, it can cleverly allow the writer to say things the narrator can’t. Dialogue lends a character a dangerous independence.

So here’s a checklist of some of the things I think about when I’m writing dialogue:-

  1. Does the style of the dialogue I’m writing match the personality of my character? Is the ‘voice’ authentic to them?
  2. Does the tone and content of the dialogue fit the moment in the narrative? Are the characters saying the right thing, in the right manner, at the right time?
  3. Is the content of the dialogue engaging and informative, and will it help my reader better understand either the character and/or the plot?
  4. Is the dialogue easy to read – does it flow?
  5. Will the reader know at all times who is speaking and what is going on?
  6. Have I been careful not to overuse dialogue tags – those speech tags attributing dialogue, actions, and emotions to a particular character?
  7. Have I remembered that the pauses or pregnant silences can be as important as what is actually being said – the natural rhythm of speech if you like.

Top tip:-

Try sitting in public spaces and listen to people chatting. Hear how they interrupt each other, how they might begin on one subject and end on another, how passionate or flat their tone is.

Can you (without looking of course) imagine what they look like, what their life might be like?  What is distinctive about them – is it their accent, the pace of their speech, is their language – informal or formal?

And finally – listen to your characters chatting in your head (and they do!), let your writing be their voice.

 


 

“Thoughts about ‘Conflict’ in fiction writing”

 

Moderating the Conflict Panel
Danger, Conflict, Uh-Oh Panel

In works of narrative, ‘Conflict’ is the opposition main characters must face to achieve their goals.1

A writer might employ two forms of conflict to create the tension which drives the narrative. Conflict may be ‘internal’ or ‘external’ – it may occur within a character’s mind, most commonly revealed in their internal debates or monologues or between a character and exterior forces, for example in conflict with another person or the world around them.

Writers will often employ both forms at once, as a combined tool, for the development of plot and character.

To avoid the conflict feeling forced or unbelievable a writer will embed the conflict at the heart of the novel, so that it is an integral element and arises organically and effortlessly.

Conflict creates drama and interest in a novel by setting seeds of doubt, it keeps the reader guessing, it invests the reader in the outcome, and keeps them turning the pages again and again…

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conflict_(narrative)

 

© 2016 All rights reserved. No reproduction without written permission.

Writing the narrative of our lives

At this time of such political uncertainty I am so thankful for those organisations who tirelessly work to protect our LGBT lives. Last week we celebrated IDAHOBIT day (17th May, International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, & Transphobia). IDAHOBIT day was created in 2004 to draw the attention of policymakers, opinion leaders, social movements, the public and the media to the violence and discrimination experienced by LGBTI people internationally.1 Here in the UK, ahead of the election, Stonewall2 has been working to challenge parliamentary candidates to commit to protecting LGBT rights in the UK and abroad.

I think of this vital work, however, as the visible tip of the iceberg. Because, as with many things in life, the force behind change can often be found in the relatively small things we do on a regular basis.

For example, when as writers and readers we gather together each year at the Bold Strokes Books Festival to celebrate LGBT fiction, whilst our purpose may not be to debate politics or mastermind campaigns, it nonetheless cannot be underestimated what we are achieving.

We are creating for ourselves a precious, safe space where we can openly and joyfully connect with each other as we share in our love of LGBT literature. As we passionately talk about why these stories mean so much to us, and what we want our stories of the future to look like, we are actively writing the narrative of our lives. We are claiming our voice and asserting our individual identities.

I am so grateful to be participating in the 8th Annual Bold Stokes Books Festival, and empowered by the fact that in a small but significant way, as writers and readers, we are contributing to the wider work to challenge ignorance, discrimination, and injustice.

  1. http://dayagainsthomophobia.org/
  2. http://www.stonewall.org.uk/

Literary Crush – Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown

rita-mae-brown
1.  Rita Mae Brown

“The most revolutionary thing you can do is to be yourself.”2

These are the words of Rita Mae Brown, the 2015 Winner of the Lambda Literary Pioneer Award, and winner of the Lee Lynch Classic Book Award, and author of the seminal novel Rubyfruit Jungle.

Written in 1971, and published in 1973, Rubyfruit Jungle tells the story of the feisty, resolute and unapologetic heroine Molly Bolt. It was an immediate hit, outselling the capacity of its small press Daughters Inc. 3

Told in the first person through the voice of Molly, the reader intimately follows her development from childhood to her early twenties. Molly is determined not to be told who she is, or who she should be or what she can’t do or think. Her unapologetic attitude to sex in particular is liberating to read. She is her own person and that is her strength and allure. Her confidence glows out to the reader.

“I don’t care whether they [people] like me or not. Everybody’s stupid that’s what I think. I care if I like me that’s what I truly care about.”4

The story of Rubyfruit Jungle is one of a battle, bravely fought, against the casual horrors of Molly’s life. She fights hard to not be limited or defined by her illegitimacy, poverty, homelessness, sexuality, class, societal expectations, racism or by sexism.

However, as with true heroism, she does not escape scar free. When she is expelled from college for causing a scandal by sleeping with her female college roommate, it shapes Molly for good.

“I closed the door forever on idealism and the essential goodness of human nature.”5

And yet she is not a cynical character. She swallows her bitterness and refuses to give in on her ambition to be a film maker, despite the evidence to suggest her dreams are futile. This is inspiring.

Molly becomes a symbolic figure of defiance, a character of contrast to those around her who aren’t as smart or as bravely determined not to be limited by circumstance. Molly’s childhood friends and lovers succumb to their seemingly inevitable fates of marriage and jobs which fit society rather than them. The individual is seen to be lost if it is not claimed, created and fought for, particularly if your start in life presumes against this.

And that for me is the essence of the book – fight to find and be yourself.

Observers are often dismayed when Rita Mae Brown distances herself from seeing Rubyfruit Jungle as a lesbian novel.6 But if you step back from reading Molly purely as a lesbian role model to see Molly also as a campaigner for individual freedom, then you hit upon why Rubyfruit Jungle is so meaningful to so many.

Ultimately Rubyfruit Jungle is about the championing of free will, without which we have nothing other than that imposed on us by others.

“If Rubyfruit Jungle helped to push you on your path to freedom, I’ve done something right.”7   Rita Mae Brown.

  1. The Lavender Menace was an informal group of lesbian radical feminists formed to protest the exclusion of lesbians and lesbian issues from the feminist movement at the Second Congress to Unite Women in New York City on May 1, 1970. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavender_Menace
  2. https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/find-your-next-read/extracts/2016/jun/rita-mae-brown-introduces-a-new-edition-of-rubyfruit-jungle/
  3. https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/rita-mae-brown-rubyfruit-jungle-interview
  4. p. 36, Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown. Penguin Books, 1994.
  5. p. 131, Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown. Penguin Books, 1994.
  6. https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/rita-mae-brown-awarded-as-pioneer-of-lesbian-literature-scoffs-at-the-term/2015/05/30/60169a62-00a5-11e5-833c-a2de05b6b2a4_story.html
  7. https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/find-your-next-read/extracts/2016/jun/rita-mae-brown-introduces-a-new-edition-of-rubyfruit-jungle/

 

© 2016 All rights reserved. No reproduction without written permission.