Breaking down fun by Anna Larner — Bold Strokes Books, UK

The theme for this year’s BSB book festival blog tour is ‘fun’, and what the word means to us. Well, to be frank, I always approach the word ‘fun’ with the appropriate amount of cynicism and measured caution that the word deserves. This is because how I interpret the word ‘fun’ entirely depends on the […]

via Breaking down fun by Anna Larner — Bold Strokes Books, UK

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Thoughts From The Bold Strokes Books Festival May 2018

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All You Need Is Love – Panel Discussion with Anna Larner, VK Powell, Renee Roman, Mickey Brent, Aurora Rey, Gun Brooke, Dena Blake and Barbara Ann Wright (L-R)

Why love stories as opposed to any other kind of story?

I write love stories because it’s simply in my heart to write stories about a woman falling in love with another woman.

I can still remember feeling very lonely and isolated by my sexuality, not seeing myself portrayed positively in literature, art or the media – so to now write stories about women falling in love means the world to me.

Also love is such a rich subject matter to write about. How a person reacts to love tells us so much about them. It draws out a person’s values, bringing out the best and the worst in all of us.

Why do you think romances get such flack from the other genre writers? Are they just jealous?

Some people argue that if a writer chooses to write lesbian romance, accepting that they are working within its formula, that their ambition as a writer is limited in both depth and scope by such a focus, and that the subject of romance is superficial.

I wholeheartedly disagree with this. There’s nothing superficial about attempting to capture the romantic essence of love. It is incredibly hard and takes tremendous skill.

A well-written lesbian romance which brings joy and consolation is a success and surely a book should be judged by the impact it has on its readers.

Like every other story romances can be boiled down to finding reasons why two attractive people cannot immediately have sex and ride off into the sunset together. What do you layer your stories with to make them unique while still hitting the must-have romance tropes?

I’ve been privileged to be part of a local Heritage Lottery funded project called ‘Untold Stories’ recording the oral histories of older LGBT people in the Leicestershire area. What I learnt from this experience is that our sexuality is so personal, our experiences are so varied, however there are certain common themes.

Lesbians throughout history and today have struggled with self-acceptance, family acceptance and society’s acceptance.

And I want to capture this on the page in an engaging and entertaining way.

So in Highland Fling I write an authentic representation for those lesbians who discovered their sexuality at a time when there was no such thing as ‘glad to be gay’ and how this defining experience colours their choices. But as with all hard subject matters there is great poignancy in the humour that can be found.

For my current work in progress Love’s Portrait, I write a contemporary love story highlighting the need for visibility of our LGBT history. This is set in the context of a museum when often the sexuality of the subject matter is omitted. I know we are not just our sexuality but it is a big part of how we experience life and it shouldn’t be airbrushed out or overlooked.

Have you ever tried to write a couple who just didn’t work? What did you end up doing with this story if so? If not, what is it that makes your couples always work in the end?

The main characters in Highland Fling, Moira and Eve, on paper shouldn’t work.  They are very different women – different ages, different geographical background, different lifestyle, and have made different life choices. Highland Fling hinges on this very tension.

But when you find ‘the one’ you fight for love, you compromise, you see the other person’s perspective, and you want to make things better.

So how I make them work is that Eve simply gets Moira, she fundamentally understands her. Eve is wise beyond her years and has a way of simplifying and unpicking the complex.

“All we have is right now, and I want to spend all of my right nows with you.”

It is Eve’s compassion that builds the bridge between them and it’s her dogged determination to fight for their love that wins the day.

If you have multiple sex scenes in your works, how do you keep them from being monotonous? If you have any couples who have been together for a long time, how do you keep their relationship fresh and exciting?

Each sex scene is fused into the emotional journey of the characters. When they give in to their innermost needs these scenes are the critical turning points in the story.

Sex is not just sex it is the story itself.

Have you ever written a couple who got along so beautifully, you were a little jealous? Has another writer’s work every made you feel this way?

In my current work in progress Love’s Portrait museum curator Molly Goode and benefactor Georgina Wright are really lovely together.

Molly’s passion and determination to uncover hidden histories and champion diversity within the museum sector wins the respect of her bosses and the heart of the woman she loves.

Yes, many authors work. Here’s three examples – Quinn & Honor in Radclyffe’s Fated love; Poppy & Rosalyn in Clare Ashton’s Poppy Jenkins, and Liza & Annie in Nancy Garden’s Annie on My Mind.

Photos from the Bold Strokes Books Festival, May 2018…

 

 

 

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

My Heart Will Surely Burst

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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.

Bold Strokes Books Festival – 5th/6th May 2018

As always I’m really looking forward to attending the annual Bold Strokes Books festival.

This year thirty three authors from around the world will be descending on Waterstones, Nottingham on the 5th/6th of May to celebrate all that is great in LGBTQ fiction.

Tickets are available now. £3 per day redeemable against any book purchase.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

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attending authors

*** Bold Strokes Books is a boutique imprint producing quality fiction that pushes the envelope to present immersive, unique, and unforgettable reading experiences. ***

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.

Thoughts From the Bold Strokes Books Festival June 2016

Book Festival Reading
Sweet Romance Panel

“So what makes a good romance?”

Writing Highland Fling has been a fantastic learning process for me. When I think of lesbian romance, I now have the following quick check list in my mind:-

A clear focus on the two characters falling in love. It’s all about them. With their story fully resolved.

“You want to fall in love with them” characters you can admire or can be attracted to. Characters you can invest emotionally in. Basically if they’re not fanciable in some way readers are not likely to care.

Conflict, both internal (what they’re thinking), and external (what they do) – the energy that drives the story.

A happy ending. Readers expect that despite all of the agonies or uncertainties on the characters’ road to love, there will be a happy ending, that their feelings are safe in the writer’s hands.

Sexual tension – the will they won’t they element, enticing, engaging cues to sexual attraction and longing.

And, as I have been asked to select my golden rule for a successful romance, it would be this – Writing from the heart, putting into the story what it feels like to long for someone, to fall for someone, the uncertainty, the self-doubt, the tortured agony of it all…

 

“What’s the difference when it comes to writing short stories versus novels?”

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Moderating The Sprint Vs The Marathon Panel

Let’s have a think for a moment about what we mean by a short story, and what we mean by a novel – the clue to everything is word limit.

If we use Bold Strokes Books guidelines – a recent call for submissions for a short story collection asked for stories between 2,000 – 5,000 words; and novels, well they start from 45,000 words upwards, depending on the genre.

So with a novel, averaging say 85,000 words, how do you keep your reader gripped for so long? How do you build in the depth that’s needed? How do you write a story that will stay with the reader forever from just the seed of an idea? And if you’ve only got 5,000 words, how do you tell your story fully? You’re going to need to grab the reader quickly –how do you do that? Does it mean you can only focus on one or two characters? And how do you manage without the space for a back story? How do you get depth without depth?

But is the joy of a short story, that it’s not a novel? You can experiment perhaps, try out a new genre, a different voice, explore a new character, work on impregnating a story with meaning in every word. Do the restrictions actually make you free?

And the novel, do you get to live another life through the expansive canvas offered to your characters? Do you have the room to say just what you want to say, no restrictions, another kind of freedom? As a novelist are you thrilled that you’ll keep your reader reading far too late, night after night, after night, after night..?

Bols Strokes Books Festival 2016 Attending Authors
Authors At The 2016 Bold Strokes Books UK Festival

 

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