Author Conversation: Talking Inspiration With Lesbian Novel Authors Robin Summers and Karis Walsh
BY Clea Kim
March 28 2013 2:00 AM ET
It was such a powerful book and such a powerful situation that these characters were in. And the reader really felt that with the way you wrote Taylor in the first person and the present tense. But we were given brief breaks with the slight distance from Duncan, and the perspective on what was happening – it was very easy to read that way because it flowed so well and didn’t keep you at such a high intensity level without giving you any relief.
I appreciate that. I think for some readers, it’s just too jarring for them to jump back and forth like that, and I totally respect and understand that it’s not to everyone’s taste. But I tried to use the voice and the narrative to fit the story and to help tell the story, rather than feel like I needed to fit in some specific box. So, I’m glad to hear that, at least for you, it paid off. I think if the entire book had been in Taylor’s head, that would have been a very dark place to be for a lot of that book, and I didn’t really want to depress the readers completely. It’s bleak enough.
But that leads to the message of optimism and hope that comes through this book. There’s a plague, it’s post-apocalyptic, she’s been through some very terrible things and is struggling to connect and trust again… But there’s a sense of hope in the human spirit and what you can accomplish, and what you can join together and do – and it’s just a beautiful thing. And you need that darkness to give you that kind of hope.
If our lives were all perfect all of the time, we would never appreciate anything because there’d be nothing to compare it against. I questioned myself a number of times. Am I being truthful? Am I really getting to the heart of this, and am I going deep enough? Because I felt that if this book was going to have any kind of resonance it had to feel honest, and that meant writing some things that were really hard to write. But the point was really to get to that hope. I was interested in the character’s journey from this horrible, bleak place to a place where she felt like not only was she just surviving, but she could figure out a way to actually live again. And take that risk, which funny enough was the title of your book second book, Worth the Risk. That optimism and hope is definitely a big part of what you write.
I do believe that normal, everyday people are capable of transcendent love. And whether that love is romantic or platonic, I think it has the ability to transform us, and we can use it to transform the world around us and become heroes. Just normal people. We can be someone’s hero by vanquishing loneliness, or we can be heroes in a more general sense by fighting for people or animals that need our help. Even if I move into other genres – I have my romantic intrigue coming soon, and I’ve done some paranormal stories and I loved writing those – romance will, for the foreseeable future, be first and foremost what I’m writing about. Those little details of falling in love, not just the big conflicts that keep people apart until the very end. The steps along the way are just so beautiful to see, getting to know people and learning about them. I really love writing those moments.
For me, I think there’s a sort of similarity and difference. I’m going to probably be a genre-hopper. Season of the Wolf is a suspense novel, with a fascinatingly creepy serial killer, but it’s also more of a contemporary romance. But I’m continually intrigued by the idea of people who are very damaged and broken but somehow find the courage within themselves to overcome those things. And most often that is with the help of someone else. They’re able to find that courage within themselves through the eyes of someone else. I think that’s one of the pervading themes throughout my books.
So healing love is going to be a common thread?
Yeah, I think so. And like you said, it could be romantic, it could be platonic, it could be a lot of things, but - I definitely have experienced this in my life – love and family and relationships are what sustain us, and what I think will move us forward. They help us see those parts of ourselves that maybe we either wouldn’t otherwise see or have the courage to find.
So without going into detail, both you and I have been through a tough few years. Does that add depth to your writing, or does it make it more challenging?
I think pain always adds depth. I lost my mom at a very young age, and that has definitely influenced my writing over the years. But when my dad passed away last May, I couldn’t write at all. He’d been sick for about 6 months, and it had just been one gut-wrenching turn after another for all of us, but most of all for him. He was so brave, and he deserved so much better. After he died, I just didn’t have it in me to write for a long time, which made the grief that much harder because I generally deal with things by writing about them. But finally I did start writing, if for no other reason than I wanted to write for him, and it has helped. I have to say I am very grateful to have an understanding publisher and editor who have bent over backwards to give me the time and space I’ve needed.
That’s one of the many benefits of working with a company like Bold Strokes. The publishers and editors know you personally and they understand when you’re unable to write because you’re grieving or ill or moving through life transitions. They support you as a person, not just as an author.
So true. So what’s the advice you’d give to aspiring writers?
Finish your book. Sit down and finish it and send it out. That’s the only way you’re going to get published. You never know what can happen until you try.
And write. Write all the time. I know when I was writing After the Fall, there were periods when I would stop writing and I would hate it and think it was the biggest piece of drivel ever written. And my partner kept saying to me, “It doesn’t matter if you ever get published. If you finish your book, you’ll have written a book. How many people can say that?” And that was the thing that kept me going. Even if no one ever read it besides her, having written it would be an accomplishment in and of itself. You don’t have to be published to be a writer, but you do have to write.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Karis Walsh is the author of Sea Glass Inn, Worth the Risk,and Rainbow Award-winning Harmony, published by Bold Strokes Books. Her fourth book, Improvisation, will be released in May 2013. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies from Bold Strokes and Cleis Press. She is a horseback riding instructor in Washington State. Visit her at kariswalsh.com.
Robin Summers is an Illinois native who works in public policy in Washington, D.C. Her debut novel, After the Fall, is the winner of two 2012 Golden Crown Literary Society Awards, two 2011 Rainbow Awards for LGBT Fiction and Non-fiction, and a 2011 Lesbian Fiction Readers Choice Award. She is currently working on her second novel. Find her on facebook.com/RobinSummersWritingor visit her website at robinsummerswriting.com.
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