Author Interview with Z Egloff

9 03 2013

Hello readers!

This week we interviewed Z Egloff about her novels: Verge and Leap. Her debut novel, Verge, was awarded the Bywater Prize for Fiction in May of 2008. Her newest novel, Leap. will be published March 15th by Bywater Books.

What makes a good story?

Ultimately, I can only speak for what works for me as a reader. Bottom line, I like a story that draws me in. If I learn something in the process – either about myself or the world in general – that’s a bonus.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

My three big passions in life are writing, music and speaking. I do a fair amount of all three. I play piano with a choir and also with my wife, Melissa, who is a singer/songwriter. I give regular talks about spiritual practice at the Center for Spiritual Living in Santa Rosa. My three passions feed each other, keeping everything interesting.

What inspired you to start writing?

I was first inspired to write by television! The TV show “ER” had a storyline with a couple of lesbian characters back in 2000. I was drawn into the fanfic universe online, and soon progressed to original fiction.

Claire Minn is a loveable but frustrating character to read about; what was she like to write?

It’s funny, because I know a lot of people have been frustrated by Claire, but I never was. Perhaps it’s like an actor who agrees to play a less-than-perfect character. She just led me into her world and I recorded what happened. In spite of her numerous flaws, I always had great affection for Claire, which helped me to stick with her and her story.

Were you worried about a religious backlash from Catholic groups because Sister Hilary is a lesbian?

I was a little worried about backlash. But more than that, I was worried about being true to the character of a modern-day woman religious. I did lots of research on the topic, including interviewing former nuns who had later come out as lesbian.

Many characters in Verge and Leap are recovering from various types of addictions or destructive behaviors. Are these situations and characters based off of real people and events?

The characters in my stories are only vaguely based on real people. In general, they are an amalgamation of people I’ve known and places I’ve been in my own life. I know that some writers take people in their lives and turn them into fiction, but that’s not the case for me. It’s a much more indirect process.

What sort of research about filmmaking did you have to do to write Verge?

I was a film minor in college, so I had that as a base. I did lots of reading about film and video for Verge, as things had changed a lot since I was in college. I also talked with people who knew a lot about video in order to understand some of the mechanics. I’m still in love with film and movies, so that was one reason it was easy to research and write about the topic.

What are your favorite films?

Oh, there are so many. Two very important films for me are “Cousin Cousine” and Truffaut’s “Small Change.” I saw these two movies as a teenager during a period when I had been depressed for months. The combination of these two films brought me out of my depression. They’re both French, which is interesting, because my depression had been brought about by studying French existentialists. I guess I needed a different perspective.

Was writing and publishing your second novel, Leap, easier than writing and publishing Verge?

Leap was the first novel I wrote, so it was actually harder to write than Verge. After finishing an early draft of Leap, I put it aside. Verge  was the first book I sent out to agents and publishers. When Bywater picked up Verge, I sent them Leap and they decided to publish it as well. When I was writing Leap, I was still on a huge learning curve. It went through countless drafts, with long periods between some of them. There were several points along the way when I just figured that Leap would stay on the shelf. I was wrong.

Leap explores falling in and out of love. Are any of these experiences based on your life?

Like the previous question, the experiences of my characters only hint at things I’ve experienced. The commonality is the emotions evoked by what happens. I’ve had my heart broken, and it happened when I was young. More than once. So in that sense, there’s a link there.

What advice do you wish you could give Rowan as she starts to understand her sexuality?

I would tell her that time is amazing. Things that are so hard in one period of your life can completely turn around and become easy. Challenges can become strengths. And understanding and celebrating your sexuality is one of those strengths.

Finding a place within your family and your community are strong themes in your books. Would you like to expand on those themes?

Honestly, I’m not sure. Each book seems to emerge on its own, without me deliberately deciding what it’s going to be about. I suspect that the themes of family and community will always be there somewhere, though.

Which character from your novels would you like to go to dinner with and why?

Great question! Probably Claire. She’s such a hot mess, I’d love to see what she’s like in person.

Tell us about your upcoming projects.

I’ve got several projects in the works. There’s a novel about a woman whose love interest disappears into another dimension. And then there’s a book about a woman who falls in love with her spiritual teacher. And then another one that’s just starting to form.

Where can we buy your books?

Books are available through Bywater’s website at  Copies are also available through and many bookstores. If your bookstore doesn’t have it, they can order a copy through Bywater.

If you want to learn more about Z Egloff visit her website:; follow her on twitter; or go to her Facebook Page:


Author Interview: Jilll Malone

25 01 2013

Hello, Readers!

This week we have interview Jill Malone about her upcoming title Giraffe People which will be out in May, 2013 by Bywater Books. It is a fantastic read about adolescence, rock and roll, love and army life.

1.  What makes a good story?

I prefer character-driven stories with tension and subtlety. Jack Gilbert called it the engine. Is the engine big enough for this story? What kind of engine does this story have? I’m a sucker for grace – for stories that redeem the character(s) in some way. I don’t mean spiritually, but I am talking about soul. Why is this story told with these characters? The story needs to feel surprising, and inevitable. I have to want things with them, and for them. I have to buy in to their conflict in some way. It’s not important to me to like the characters; I’d rather they be recognizable than likeable. I read to be compelled.

2. What inspired you to become a writer?

I’ve been writing stories since I remember holding a pencil. I grew up with Bible stories and Shakespeare. My mother read Jane Austen, and bought me piles of mythology stories – Greek, Roman, South Pacific, Norse. My parents read me an odd mix of Southern American writers and English writers, and when I listened to my father’s sermons, I realized they were stories, too. In elementary school I wrote plays for all my friends, and printed newspaper sheets to entertain them. It was more fun to invent news than report actual happenings.

3. How did you come up with the title Giraffe People?

For a while, I wasn’t sure what to call it, but Cole describes her family as Giraffe People early in the manuscript, and it seemed so perfect. They are these strange lumbering creatures — familial and foreign, wandering and tribal. And it allowed for the beautiful awkwardness of Cole herself.

4.  How much of the military life presented in Giraffe People is based off of personal experience?

My father was an Army chaplain for twenty years – he retired when I graduated from high school. The military details are true to my experience as a military brat. I combined the bases at Fort Monmouth and Oahu to allow for richer details and to help camouflage real people. I read this amazing story, Dog Heaven, by Stephanie Vaughn, and it seemed to me that the experience of military dependents was this trove that had rarely been explored.

5. Does Cole’s band, Doggy Life, survive her move to Hawaii?

Probably not, but I imagine something else will find her. The islands are filled with alluring music, and she has learned that new sounds are out there and it’s important to seek them.

6.  Where did the idea for the word lists come from? 

My family did sponsor cadets when I was in school at Fort Monmouth, and the cadets had these awful vocabulary lists they’d bring over to the house. It seemed like the ideal way to allow for a private conversation between Cole and Meghan as well as Cole and the reader. And you get to see how Cole’s mind works in ways that the narrative doesn’t necessarily allow.

7.  Sex and the loss of innocence is a recurring theme in Giraffe People– is there a message you want the reader to grasp about sex?

Sex is a recurring theme in everything I write. I think I’m trying to take sex and shame apart — to separate them so that I can see each clearly. Initially, for Cole, sex seems almost an empirical experience, but that changes as the story progresses, and that’s the part I love. I love that sex unfurls. That it seems, at first, to be one shape, but is, in fact, many.

8. Music is such an important influence in Cole’s life- what is your ultimate play list?

Oh! I love this question. I’ve just been listening to a lot of Jazz because Dave Brubeck died, and so there’d be horns and piano and drums. Duets with Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. There’d be Ramones, and CCR, and Fiona Apple. There’d be Spanish guitar, and Florence and the Machine. The National, Gillian Welch, Arcade Fire, Metric, Santigold, Jack White, Loretta Lynn. There’d be old country and punk and club-kid music from the 80s and Bikini Kill and Warpaint and djembe and all sorts of weird stuff.  If we could dance to it, we’d play it.

9.  Which of your characters would you like to have dinner with and why?

I’d like to have dinner with Jane from Red Audrey and the Roping, and Cole from Giraffe People. I feel like those two would have a lot to talk about and I could just sit and observe them. We’d eat Island food and watch the tide and drink beer from green bottles.

10.  When will Giraffe People be published?

Giraffe People is due out in May, 2013.

11.  Can you tell the readers about your other books?

Red Audrey and the Roping is a story about self. About self-injury and self-forgiveness.

A Field Guide to Deception is a story about family. About the kind of honesty it takes to live in a family and function.

In different ways, I think my first two novels are love stories. It just takes time to get there. Sometimes lifetimes.

12.  Where can my readers buy your books?

My books are available through my publisher’s site:, on and at your local, independent retailer. They’re available in print and e-books.

Check out Jill Malone and her awesome book, Giraffe People at the following links:

Author Interview with Georgia Beers

18 01 2013

Hello, Readers!

This week I interviewed Georgia Beers about her book 96 Hours. 96 Hours is a romance set against the tragedy of September 11th, 2001. It is a beautiful and heart wrenching story about love, grief, and community.

What makes a good story?

For me as a reader, I think it depends on my mood that day. Sometimes, I want to be able to relate to the main character; I want to read about somebody that could be me. Other times, I want escapism. I want a character who is nothing like me (but I might want to be like her) working through a crazy situation. I tend to read suspense and thrillers more than anything else.

For me as a writer, I feel a good story is made by writing characters my readers can relate to. I write romance for the most part, and I think people who read romance want to read about either somebody who could be them or somebody they could run into. They want to escape their lives for a while, yes, but they also want to be able to insert themselves into the story, thinking, “That could be me,” or “I know somebody like that.” I do my best to write real, relatable characters that my readers could run into any time during the course of their day…at the grocery store, the gym, the office, wherever.

When you are not writing what do you like to do?

I am quiet and I am a homebody, so I tend to stick near my house and do introvert things. I read. A lot. I love to spend time with my dogs; they’re my kids. I love movies; I enjoy going to the theater as well as searching my Netflix account for movies I may have missed and then watching them on my laptop cuddled in bed. I lift weights (at home), which has become something much more fun than I expected.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I have several. For general fiction, I am in love with Ann Patchett and have been for years. The Magician’s Assistant is one of my all-time favorite books. She is the author I’d most like to emulate when it comes to the magic of stringing words together. There isn’t a novel of hers that hasn’t made me stop mid-chapter to read a sentence or paragraph out loud to my partner, just to share the awe. The woman is magical. I’ve had the honor of meeting her several times and corresponding with her through letters, and she’s incredibly witty and intelligent, which is just icing on the cake.

As I’ve said, the majority of what I read is suspense/thrillers. In that genre, I have my Lisa Trifecta:  I love Lisa Gardner. She writes mystery with a gentle coating of humor that I envy. Lisa Unger is a recent favorite. She’s a bit more literary in her suspense, and her plots are complex. Lisa Scottoline is somebody I’ve read for years. She is very funny, but writes an amazing mystery. She also crosses genre lines slightly by veering a bit more into drama territory rather than suspense. Beyond the Lisas, I am a huge fan of Tami Hoag, Sue Grafton, Laura Lippman, Kristin Hannah (who writes drama rather than suspense and makes me cry every time), and many, many others.

The idea for the 96 Hours began after watching a documentary. Could you tell us a bit more about the documentary you saw?

My partner, Bonnie, and I were watching the 2010 Winter Olympics when, in between sports, NBC showed a documentary about the town of Gander, Newfoundland. It’s an amazing piece (I think you can find it online if you Google it), and we were both riveted by the stories of the residents and how they took care of the stranded passengers on 9/11. Admittedly, I am not one of those who believe in the inherent goodness of people, but this documentary really left me wondering if I’m not mistaken. I was totally touched by the examples I saw. Then they showed a couple—a man from England who was on his way to Texas for business, and a woman who was a native Texan. They were on the same plane and got stranded together. They ended up falling in love and marrying. Bonnie looked at me and said, “Oh, my god, wouldn’t that be a great setting for you to write a romance?” And so I did.

What challenges did you have to face to bring a story about September 11th, 2001 to life?

I think the biggest issue was the fact that I was writing a romance. And wrapping a romance—something that’s supposed to be “feel good”—around  an event so horrifically tragic was dicey. I had to step very carefully. I did not want anybody to think I was making light of 9/11. At the same time, people in the documentary were proof to me that a single event can change a person in a big way, and I wanted to explore that.

The other difficult part was the research. In order to accurately convey the horror of what the Plane People felt watching the planes hit the Towers for the first time, I knew I had to watch it again. It was ten years after the fact, but I was no less horrified when I watched the news reports online. I made myself watch a few times, just to be sure I got all the detail, but it was awful. If I never see that coverage again for as long as I live, it will be too soon. Heartwrenching.

Erica is often criticized for being cold and unfeeling by the other character do you think this is a fair assessment of her?

Of course not. But to Abby, who is the epitome of a free spirit, that’s exactly what Erica is. And in any other circumstances, Abby wouldn’t think twice about Erica beyond the fact that she’s hot. But because they’re stuck together, Abby’s almost forced to dig deeper, to understand that there’s much more to Erica than a haughty exterior and a need for routine.

What do you think of Abby’s carefree life? Is she lazy like Erica suggests?

Abby wasn’t as easy for me to write as Erica was because I tended to lean towards exactly what you said: Abby’s a little lazy. Ultimately, I think I thought that way because I am much more like Erica than I am like Abby. I like routine. I am a big fan of manners and etiquette. But I know people like Abby, and they are not lazy, so I had to grab onto that and get past my own hang-ups and judgments. It was interesting for me.

Did you travel to Gander, Newfoundland to write 96 Hours?

I did not, though I thought about it more than once. It ended up not being in the cards for me financially at the time, but I did as much research as I could, right down to printing out a map and placing all my locations on real streets in Gander. I would still like to go there at some point. It’s not terribly far from where I live, and I adore Canada.

What sort of research did you have to do for the book?

In addition to watching the coverage of the planes hitting the Towers and printing out maps of Gander; I read books about that time in Gander during 9/11; I read conversations from chat rooms (many of the Plane People have chat groups with the friends they made, both on their planes and in Gander); I read accounts of people on the planes during the diversion of their flight when they were still in the air; I spoke to a couple people from Gander. It’s the most research. I’ve done for any of my books.

Are there messages about grief and love you would like the reader feel after reading 96 Hours?

Well, I guess what I learned is the same thing I’d hope my readers come away with: that even in the midst of terrible grief, there can be a glimmer of hope…that love and kindness do tend to prevail, even in the most tragic of circumstances. Somewhere in the book, Erica says that it took the most heinous act of cruelty to introduce her to the most wonderful humans in the world. That’s the strangest, most interesting twist of fate to me, and I have no idea how to reconcile it in my mind. I think about it often.

What are your upcoming projects?

I am currently working on a new romance, one my friend Rachel lovingly calls “the epic.” It follows the same couple through 25 years of romance, heartache, heartbreak, recovery, etc. In addition, I have several short stories in the works, and a fun novel in which I collaborated with the four members of a writers group I taught. Busy, busy, busy!

Where can my readers buy 96 Hours?

It’s available directly from my publisher at and at most booksellers (Barnes & Noble,

Do you want to get to know Georgia Beers a little better? Go to her website, or follow her on facebook: Facebook: Georgia Beers or twitter@GeorgiaLBeers.

Author Interview: Mari SanGiovanni

4 01 2013

Hello, Readers!

Today we have a real treat for you all.  Do you want to read some books that will actually make you laugh out loud? Mari SanGiovanni has stopped by to discuss her books Greetings from Jamaica, Wishing You Were Queer and Camptown Ladies which will make you laugh, and remember how deliciously horrible family vacations can be.

What do you think makes a good story? 

For me, it’s always been an entertaining journey.  It’s OK that I may know that the characters will likely end up together in the end, but there had better be an interesting trip along the way!  I also like a witty writer.  Even in a serious story, I like there to be witty observations that keep the reader from sinking too deeply into the mud.  I also need a character-based book to hold my interest.  It’s the same with movies and TV.  I will take a show like Northern Exposure (the Alaska based show with quirky characters) over a crime drama any day.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

 I collect jokes, like a comedy writer.  I keep them on index cards and then when I am writing, I pull from them.  This way I always have fresh bits of stuff to use.  I even have a “boob light” in my car when it’s dark.  It fits between my boobs and shines on my index cards so I can jot down notes while I drive, so watch out on 95 north.  When I say “jokes” I mean event type jokes, situational things that would be funny with maybe a one-liner that would be a great way to end the idea or just the perfect thing for a character to say—I want to be clear that I don’t collect other people’s jokes! I have however heard many wacky family stories from my friends and asked to use them in my books, and credited them in the back of my book.  Truth is funnier than fiction and I can tell when a writer has stretched too far and made something entirely up.  It is better to have a seed of truth in your comedy.  In other words, steal something…change it…then ask for permission to use it and thank them in the back of your book.

What inspired you to write your first book?

To be brutally honest, back in the late 80’s and early 90’s I was reading a fair amount of very average (and some pretty bad) lesbian fiction and it all seemed so “formula” to me, and I kept thinking—how did this stuff get published?  That was what truly inspired me to write, it was my silly ego of thinking that I could at least write something that bad or average!  I went to Rhode Island School of Design, so I was not a trained writer, I graduated college a designer, and was much more confident about designing the covers of the books than writing them!

Are the Santora’s anything like your real family?

Um….yes.  But I changed my sister’s name from Nisa to Lisa so she would not sue me. Heh, heh.  The stories are definitely fiction, but anyone who knows my family knows that the characters are definitely inspired by the people I love.  My family is a bunch of fun, crazy Italian people that speak their mind and have a lot of love under it all.  It makes for good inspiration.  My brothers, sister and father are some of the funniest people I know, and my mother plays such a good straight lady to all the chaos.  Some of the childhood flashback stories are real, too, just changed a bit to fit the storyline, but the main story is all fiction.  I am not a millionaire!

Which character would you like to go on vacation with and why?

Certainly my brother Vince and my sister Lisa are the two that I would have the most fun with…of course, if we are talking about a vacation with sex—well…..that is a totally different answer.  I would have to go with Lorn Elaine.  She is modeled after an actress I loved, Piper Laurie, and after my partner of 14 years, Kim, who passed away last year.  Of course I turned Lorn into a bit of a villain for Camptown Ladies…but all is fair if you call it fiction, and Kim loved it.

Have you travel to any of the places in your books?

I wrote Greetings From Jamaica, Wish You Were Queer… right after I got back from a trip to Jamaica, so yes, I have.  I have also been everywhere I traveled in Camptown Ladies and the camp itself is modeled after a campground I have stayed at a ton of times right in my home state of Rhode Island.

If you inherited the amount of money Marie did what would you do with it?

I would write full time.  Right now, writing is a luxury and unfortunately, it often takes a back seat to everything else. Contrary to what people might think, writing does not pay the bills!

Are you feel sympathetic to Lorn’s fears of coming out as a lesbian?

I absolutely do feel sympathetic to Lorn.  Despite her advanced years and the fact that the story is set in current time, Lorn makes her living as a successful actress in Hollywood and being out in that industry is still not really acceptable.  Same with the music industry, especially the country music industry.  Sidebar: I really admire the courage of Chely Wright for coming out.  She risked everything in her career and truthfully, she probably will never have a shot at the huge career she was heading for now that she is out.  Sad, but true, but you pay a price as a public figure when you expose yourself.  On a smaller scale, other people have to face this too—teachers, politicians, and people being worried about acceptance with their very own families and sometimes their own children.  So, I guess the point of this whole rant is, Chely Wright should star in the screenplay I have written for her and become an actress!  She is out anyway, so, call me, Chely.

Did you plan for Marie to end up with Erica all along?

 I would like to say I was that crafty, but Greetings From Jamaica was supposed to be a stand-alone book.  It was never supposed to be a series, then, one day I could not stop thinking about how funny it would be if that crazy family ran a campground, or, more specifically, turned it into a gay campground.  Good times!  I have an idea that this would make a fun cable series, but that is a real stretch for TV…  But I started thinking that this could really be a unique thing, to start a series starring a family that is not a mystery or cop series.  I don’t like mysteries.  I don’t care who did it–I didn’t do it!  I have never been able to get through a mystery or crime novel in my life, yet those are really the only successful series of books out there.  So I wondered if there were other people like me who get attached to regular family type characters and wish that they would continue, yet they are not cops or part of some murder, rape or vampire thing?  So, I started thinking… because all good stories have to start with a problem, how could I mess up Marie’s life?  And I had Lorn dump her, AGAIN.  It was totally in character that Lorn would freak out and run away again, and there was Erica, who would create all sorts of other problems—and where there are problems, there is an opportunity for good comedy.

Does Lisa find true love?

Oh, that will definitely happen, but maybe not in the very next book.  I am writing book 3 now, and it is going slowly, but it will definitely go there!  How can I not?  Lisa is a fun character to write and everyone wants to see a player like that fall in love.

Will your next book also feature the Santora Family?

Certainly.  The whole family will be back, and a few others you may not expect.  This book is tough to write because of the death of my partner.  This is going to sound crazy but I deal with this in the book, yet the book is a comedy.  I guess you could say I like a challenge.  I wanted to see if I could deal with death and still make it funny…we will see!

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

I think I would have delayed the release date (on purpose) of the book.  It has taken me much longer to write the tough stuff than I thought.  I needed the year to heal and I thought writing would help me do that.  The truth is, after her death, I was a bit paralyzed and found my brain not functioning as it did before.  This past October I was let go of my job of 10 years—and I now wonder if that was a product of my not functioning properly at work as well.  The good news is, after the loss of your partner, losing your job seems a minor thing my comparison, if that makes any sense.  I am happy to report that I believe my brain is coming back now and I am writing again, however, the need to secure a paying job is my top priority, so the book is on a back burner to that.

Tell us about your upcoming projects.

I do have another book that is mostly completed but lingering in editing and is not part of the Santora family series.  It is called Liddy-Jean, Marketing Queen and I can’t wait for that book to be released.  I just received some extra editing help from the fabulous writer Catherine Friend, and now I just have to do the final edits on it before it can be released.  The story is about a young woman with down syndrome who works at a large corporation where she notices what is wrong with the way corporate America works and decides to write a book about it.  She also decides that her best friend Rose at work should be with a woman named Jenny and decides to make this happen.  I hope the readers will find it to be a really unique character and find her journey to be a sweet and funny one.  At this point I am not sure if this book will come out before the next Santora book or not.  The next Santora book is titled: 80% Done With Straight Girls

Where can my readers buy your books? or, if they can find a large bookstore left in America anymore (which still has a decent gay and lesbian section) they can buy it there, and also on Amazon.

Find out more about Mari SanGiovanni:

Website/author page:

Facebook page:

Twitter handle: @MariSanGiovanni

Author Interview: Marianne K. Martin

28 12 2012

Hello, Readers!

This week we are interviewing Marianne K. Martin about her books  Love in the Balance and The Indelible Heart. Ms. Martin is co-owner of Bywater Books and currently splits her time between writing and publishing.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

It seems as though I was always writing something – little stories, poems. All through school, whenever there was a choice between a written or oral assignment, I always chose the written. Later, writing became affordable therapy. I taught in the public school system for 25 years, as closeted a profession as there is, except possibly the religious sector. Expressing and exploring who I was as an individual, as a whole person, had to be done secretly and during those times when I wasn’t teaching, coaching, or losing my mind. It is the need to express beliefs and thoughts and feelings that had been suppressed for so long.

What do you think makes a good story?

For me, a story must be relatable and believable. As a writer, I want to immerse the reader in the lives of my characters, in hopes and dreams that may be lofty but reachable, and in struggles that are realistic and frustrating, and even frightening. If I can do that, the reader will be able to live the story with my characters.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I have a great amount of respect and admiration for a number of authors. It’s difficult to single out one as a favorite. Each offers me something special, unique to their style and presentation. Alice Walker offers introspection and a raw, yet palatable honesty. Harper Lee gave us an unrivaled one-time shot to the gut challenge to our humanity. Sarah Waters masterfully weaves her fictitious characters through places and time in history. And, I have yet to find an author whose craft is more impeccable, or plotting more effective, than Val McDermid.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I have written 9 books. Each has something that makes it special to me. The first, Legacy of Love, for the obvious reason. Love in the Balance has an emotional connection to my mother, and to a hate crime that was committed near where I live. Mirrors emerged from my teaching experiences, and losing a student on my watch. Losses in my personal life, and an unexpected connection with the daughter of the hate crimes victims, made The Indelible Heart a difficult and unforgettable effort.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

Most surprising, I think, was the depth of my sense of injustice. At times it bordered on anger, and it was such a cleansing, therapeutic experience to be able to express and explore that through my characters.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

My biggest writing challenge is embracing the freedom that I have now from page and word restrictions. My first few books were published by Naiad Press, and were subject to restrictions. I learned to make every word count, minimalize description, and move quickly from scene to scene, all of which improved my craft. But, now I can expand the scope of my story lines without fear of drastic cuts.

Which character do you relate most to?

The character created most closely from my personal experiences is Jean Carson, the teacher in Mirrors. Her struggles were mine, her hopes and fears were mine. She struggled to protect her job, while trying to help a bullied student. I kept my job, but lost a student to suicide.

Were the hate crimes which were described in Love in the Balance based on an actual crime?

The hate crimes described in Love in the Balance are based on the hate crime murders of Susan Pittmann and Christine Puckett, committed in Huron Township in Michigan. I was honored to have their daughter, Cynthia Pittmann, write the poignant Foreword for the sequel, The Indelible Heart.

What are the challenges of publishing a lesbian romance such as Love in the Balance?

One of the reoccurring challenges I incur is that my stories don’t fit neatly into one category – there is too much social commentary for the romance genre and too much romance for general fiction. It makes marketing a challenge, as well as award nominations.

Do Connie and Kasey live ‘happily ever after’?

Within the circle of friends, Kasey and Connie have the most stable relationship. My hope is to leave the reader with the sense that this couple has the tools to work through the challenges that long term relationships face.

You explore the connection between love and grief poignantly through Sharon, have you ever struggled with grief as she does?

As have so many LGBT people, I formed a family of choice throughout the years – people who accepted and nurtured and loved me for who I am. During the writing of The Indelible Heart, I lost three of those people. There wasn’t enough time for me to recover from the grief of one loss before I was faced with another. The once solid ground beneath me was gone. And, at the same time that I was trying to get through my own grief, I was having to take Sharon back to hers. It has made this the most difficult book for me to write.

Is the release of Mr. Crawford merciful? Do you think he paid the debt for his crimes?

That’s the dilemma the group of friends in The Indelible Heart had to face. And, as in our larger society, their opinions ran the gamut from indifference to merciful release to let him rot in hell. As I wrote, I found myself weighing and evaluating my own belief. As it turns out, I find myself leaning closer to Sharon’s ‘let him rot’ opinion, with a gentle nudge to force justice to take the hand of forgiveness.

The Indelible Heart explores the struggle between balancing a personal life while striving for political justice- where do you strike the balance?

That balance has been a real struggle for me. And, balance truly is the key, I believe. It’s a fluid thing, something that changes as our lives change. There were times when I could expend time and energy on marches and rallies and petitions, and there were times when I needed to secure my personal place in the world. The truth, I’ve realized, is that it takes a community, recognizing its fluidity and maintaining its focus. It takes leaders. It takes everyone doing what they can. For me, for now, it means writing stories of palatable consciousness.

Do you think the LGBT struggle for civil rights is akin to the fight for racial equality?

I believe there are a number of similarities, common struggles to change social attitude. But, unlike the racial struggle, the LGBT community, for the most part, has had the option of the closet – to stay hidden, to live the lie. And, I think in the long run, that has lengthened our struggle. Without that option, we would have had to fight harder and sooner.

Will your next book also feature Kasey Hollander, Connie Bradford, and Sharon Davis?

My next book will be a prequel to Under the Witness Tree. I never say never, but I don’t foresee featuring these three characters again.

Do you expect to explore the same themes again?

What is unfortunate is that our community is still embattled, facing ongoing challenges to our rights and security. I would think that as long as those exist, there will be a need and opportunity for me to write stories of how those struggles effect our lives.

What other themes do you plan to explore?

I have a couple of things niggling my mind. One, partly fueled by the importance of the women’s vote in the recent election, is to explore the history of our fight for the vote. Another is the problem of animal neglect and overwhelmed animal shelters. Of course, these issues will have to explored by characters in a storyline that balances love, hope, and social consciousness. I just can’t seem to help it.

Tell us about your upcoming projects.

As I said, my next project is a prequel to Under the Witness Tree. I fell in love with Nessie Tinker. Nessie was a 90+ year old black supporting character who challenged me to know more about her and where she came from. I wanted to know what her life would have been like growing up in Georgia in the 1900’s. What were her dreams and hopes, her disappointments? And, what of love, between two young women, one black and one white? This next book is the result of that curiosity and search.

Where can my readers buy your books?

All my books can be found at, Amazon and B&, Barnes & Noble, Joseph Beth, and all independent bookstores.


You can learn more about Marianne K. Martin and the books she publishes at

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