Author Conversation: Talking Inspiration With Lesbian Novel Authors Robin Summers and Karis Walsh

Two award-winning authors of lesbian novels discuss the different inspirations and tribulations behind their writing.

BY Clea Kim

March 28 2013 2:00 AM ET

I’d have a hard time writing outside in Washington [state]. The paper would get soggy from all the rain.
I bet. Speaking of which…your books are all set in the Pacific Northwest. Do you think - besides familiarity - that there’s a reason you set your books there?

I have a very close connection to my home. I love this area and the general attitude of the people here and that helps define who my characters are and who I am. So yes, it’s very much a choice that this area is a strong presence in my books.
I also have a very strong connection to places where I have lived or places that I’m familiar with. I think they impact the characters, to some extent – certainly their values. I like the idea of writing about places that I grew up in, places that I care about. I think it adds something. So when you start a book, do you start first with an idea or a concept? Or do you start with the characters? Or does it depend?

It depends. My first book, Harmony, was sparked by the idea of a woman falling in love right before her wedding. My second book started with a strong concept of the character Jamie. For my third book, I could see the artwork and the ocean beach and the bed and breakfast. I could see images in my head and I just kind of turned them into a story. The fourth one, Improvisation, is a spin-off from Harmony, so that started with the characters as well.
I know when I wrote After the Fall there were some elements that were definitely from my life and my experience, things that I intrinsically felt and understood, even though so much of the book was nothing like my life – I’ve certainly never survived an apocalyptic plague. It’s interesting how little things creep in from your life. I think it’s different in everything you write, how much of you is going to come out, but they say that you write what you know for a reason. You do write what you know, whether it be little elements here and there or whether it be big pieces.

And you used the first person voice, so it seems more personal. I’ve been writing my romances in third so I can shift between the two characters. But you did some interesting things with point of view…
Especially given my insanity of changing point of view twice and having to go back and rewrite huge chunks of the book. Not a process I would recommend to anyone.

That’s not easy…
No. After the Fall is written from two points of view. The primary point of view - that of the main protagonist, Taylor - is in first person present. The other point of view – which has been subject of some controversy – is not the other protagonist, Kate, but of a third character, a boy by the name of Duncan. And that’s told in third person past, which was definitely a question that came up when I submitted the book to Bold Strokes, not only because I was using a non-primary character as one of the main points of view, but because of the switching back and forth between first and third person. I’d never written anything in present tense in my life, so that was sort of a strange choice. But it felt very necessary for that character. Taylor’s experience is very raw, I think, and to really get at the truth of her experience, I felt like it had to be like she was talking right to the reader.

The immediacy of the situation really hit home because of that.
Whereas with Duncan’s point of view, the third person, you didn’t need that immediacy. You needed more of his narrative take on what was happening, to get outside of Taylor’s head a little bit, which was why I felt like it was so necessary.

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