An interview with author Adrienne Lilley

You have a particular interest in non-fiction, including reading medical writing. What is it about these that interests you? Do you utilise the knowledge you gain in your own writing?
Oh, you know, when you find something you’re good at, you often tend to embrace it. I lost my amazing ability to multitask in a stressful environment that earned me my income, so nowadays, I have a near perfect memory for dates, doctors, diagnoses, and just about anything medical– once I’ve learned it, I rarely forget it. In fact, if I were well today, I would likely be a Pharmacologist. It’s a weird thing to admit, but we all have our talents! I do of course take many medicines but I can tell you what each one looks like, what writing it has on it, if any, and their color and purpose.

When I was a young child, I read every single ingredient from every single shampoo bottle, food product, anything with writing in the house– I devoured the written word. I repeatedly read the same products and words over, and over, until at last I could at least recognize their phonetic breakdown, spell them, YES even if I didn’t know what they meant. Certainly I was teased and called ‘wordy’, which is a nice compliment now. Ha!

I remember going to the public libraries and researching my kidney symptoms when I was only 14-16 years old. My mother and I spent many weekend days there, because the doctors didn’t believe my pain was serious, and because I kept insisting something was seriously wrong. I was six when it began, and seventeen when the kidney and gland were removed. It was in these old physician’s only medical texts that I first learned some medical jargon, and gained a rudimentary understanding of the urological system. It saved my life, just not my kidney nor my adrenal gland.

Once high school was over, I had no need for medical knowledge, and I tossed it all away. However, in just a few short years at the age of twenty-two or so, I got hit with the adrenal crapola from hell! Then, I was too sick to really go to the libraries, and the internet wasn’t even around for anything other than gaming. We’re talking 1993 here. I was working 80-90 hour weeks and had no time for research. Seriously.

Once I was back in the ‘system’ (the medical system) in my home state of S.California, it was a matter of picking up the lingo and information as I went along. I had so many tests, not just the normal x-rays, blood tests, but also MRI’s, IVPs, just nuclear medicine tests at the cost of thousands of dollars. Once I learned this adrenal failure happened because of corticosteroids I was given to help me breathe, I became nearly obsessed with not allowing my ignorance to ‘bite’ me in the ass again. Had I of known, been told, read the package leaflet… maybe, just maybe I wouldn’t have become so ill. So, essentially, I either understand everything they are DOING to MY BODY, and I make intelligent suggestions along the way thus becoming an active participant in my OWN healthcare, or— I die. It became as simple as that. I was close, there were mistakes in medication, diagnoses, and malpractice and an amazing amount of pure negligence along the road these past twenty-five years. There’s friends who have died. People younger than my nearly 47 years. BUT, it IS a choice: you either buck up and do THEIR job WITH them or FOR them, or you could easily die. And not peacefully usually!

By the way… I have no issues with dying really, but I’ll be damned if it’s going to be from neglecting myself. I do the best I can to be a compliant patient, but I am nobody’s fool. Now. So why DO I really write about it? Because I feel very alone in it. Nobody has all the circumstances and quirks and diagnoses that I do, I mean, my body’s its own Whata Wreck. But. . . surely there are others that can benefit from my experiences? There is no one protocol for much of this adrenal / endocrine system failure. And I am NOT afraid to give some pretty strong advice. Ha! But really, I write about it also because the physical act of typing it all out makes it clearer in my mind what needs to be done. I always have to have a plan or three, and I must constantly evaluate those to weave in the variables of my illness… nothing stays the same for too long. Writing usually makes me feel like I am SPEAKING to someone, for once. That illusive someone who may read my hypotheses for recovery, or may at least agree with me on how little value life can be. I need no sugar coating– I like my reality with a double shot of ‘just the facts, ma’am’. I can come to my own ‘hopeful’ or ‘bleak’ conclusions. I did not put myself back together with glue and tears and medications just to be taken apart by their lies and indifference again. No sirree.

Tell me about a piece of writing that stayed with you or was particularly memorable.
Oh, I’d have to say Mannequined allowed me to express a feeling of why I used to consider myself to be stupid, in an interesting way. I stayed pretty quiet in my relationships because I had no basis for anything resembling normal. I hadn’t had time to develop yet; like a Polaroid photograph that is still developing, but I was so impatient with myself. I figured it out though. Eventually.

My inner child was just too
indelibly written within.
A life spent in survival mode
was still just… too raw.
My spine was too weak,
my tongue too flayed…
to speak my truth, then.

So I mannequined instead with other men.
Gave away my bits, one page at a time.
Such self destructive behavior.
Mannequined by Adrienne Lilley

But really i hate carnations because my dad was a hard person to get to know really deeply, kinda like myself. He just showed the shallow stuff, mostly, and waited for a person to be interested in more before revealing anything vulnerable about himself. And because I feel him closer to me when I read the poem about the day of his farcical funeral. Rather a comedy of errors and incidents that weren’t too funny, but then my dad and I shared our weird sense of humor, so….

Some of your writing is very personal. How important is it that you share your own story, or is sharing your work merely a byproduct of your need to write your experiences for yourself?
I figured out a while ago that if I don’t post my more intimate poetry for public consumption, then I just won’t write it. Then it all gets stuffed inside, and people are not supposed to be olives, right? We aren’t cannon that will one day just implode! Well, we aren’t supposed to be, I’m sure. I just kind of start to lose it if I cannot express a time in my life that was painful. Writing about it sucks—it hurts. There’s such indecision, and second-guessing going on. But once it’s completed, there’s a sense of satisfaction at having turned something ugly into. . . I dunno, perhaps something another person can relate to. Maybe there’s truly a few people who read it and feel better just knowing they aren’t alone in their experiences and / or feelings. I think cancer finds its way in when we refuse or cannot release these negative, pent-up emotions. I mean, I’m going out a different way, not cancer. A great example of how personal is too personal would be: Transient Murderer. There are not many who could share something like that, and I envy them because they likely don’t NEED to share it– but I really did. What I am NOT doing is airing my dirty laundry in some half-cocked contest of who’s had it worse. Everyone has their shit in life– I’m saying, this is mine.

How has writing changed your life?
Tres bien, ah de trop Madame! So, so very much. Before I found Writing.com, it was just me and my illness. I had within one month been put on permanent disability from the job of my dreams; I’d had to give up my swanky little apartment and move back in with my mother; I had to quit college– my life just was put on hold. About a year later, my mother got a home computer and I began to research my ‘Cushing’s Syndrome’ and umm etc. I’ll spare you ha ha! But finding WdC was fun. I was WhataWriter and it was a total joke! Whata did I ever write? Some, not much.

I can’t really socialize with my illness—it stresses me out too much. I’m the worst kind of friend, unreliable due to something that really wasn’t ever my fault. I know that now, but I still must be vigilant. And the older I get the worse it all gets so hey, lots of material to write about eh! So separating my medical ‘crapola’ as I refer to it and my writing endeavors is pretty difficult—which came first, the chicken or the egg? Who knows. But writing helps me cope.

Do you listen to music when you’re writing? Do you have a favourite ‘soundtrack’ for writing?
Oh aye, of course, I simply must! Anything will do, but it goes with the theme of my writing. If it’s sad, then sad songs; if it’s angry or fun it could be heavy metal to Imagine Dragons to Scorps to… I do so love music. In fact, a phrase in a song might playback all manner of memories; it is often the beginning of some dark poem. If I’m really into something deep, something as yet intangible (or even a punctuation or structural nightmare) I’ll switch to instrumental only music. I love the ‘Lost Christmas Eve’ album from Trans-Siberian Orchestra. And Archangel, a newer one. I like Andrea Bocelli. My friend Bobby is always great for some music referrals if needed! This poem was like that, and I’m still contemplating a few edits on it: Archivist of. . .. I wrote it to mimic four movements, but the subject is how to fill the hours. My favorite movie as well, ‘The Hours’.

Do you have a favourite author?
Definitely. I hearken back to my first favorite author, because it’s kinda like a first love, even though I’ve quite a few more favorites since: Diana Gabaldon. She writes the voluminous ‘Outlander’ series which I think there’s nearly twenty of them now? Not slight, modest books are these—they’re like 800-1000 pages. Hardback. Anyways, I used to work (for years) in bookstores. I found ‘Outlander’ before it was an international bestseller. Yeah, I like to say I made her rich ha ha ha. But it’s just that great a series. The TV Show has been amazingly true to the books as well. She made me want to BE a writer. I just haven’t found the time away from my emotions to get serious about writing fiction! But I want to. I have a little something-something in the works….

Or perhaps an author you view as an inspiration?
My favorite fantasy series are on Amazon by Robert Anton. It’s an enchanting world, wonderfully written. Amazing talent. But he is also my favorite non-fiction author on Writing.com, I can get so engrossed in his philosophical and scientific articles! Yeah, I just love to learn new things… ancient civilizations are kewl too. Yup, Bobby is a huge inspiration– and one of my biggest fans. Not to mention my editor when he isn’t TOO busy and I have tough enough skin to take it. He’s a rare, excellent quality gem.

What’s your favourite piece of your own writing?
Well, it’s actually my epic 4600 or so word biography, Just Another Walk in the Rain. I began writing it when I first joined Writing.com, waaay back in 2002. When I came back as simply ‘whata’ two years ago, I thought what absolute shite! I had to rewrite it. It took months. It was most difficult because the medical events were mostly so long ago, I couldn’t get the timeline cohesive enough. I do so loathe structural issues. So when it was completed, I really did feel such a sense of accomplishment. It isn’t the easiest material to write about. However, in reading it over once again this morning, I vow to make a part II. What more could I possibly add? I was more optimistic when I rewrote it just two years ago; I’d like to infuse some of my dark charm into it. Because I’m neither happy-go-lucky-Whata, nor down-in-the-dumps-Adrie. I’m kinda stuck right now, somewhere in between. I mean, I am, after all, a realist. I used to be such a dreamer….

We are all born into this world as innocents, right? To me, life is not so easily defined. After years of obsessive research, I’ve concluded that we are sent to this earth as a lesson. This lesson teaches us to be kind, to persevere, to help our fellow man, to love and be loved in return. Most of all, life is a lesson to never, ever, give up. We must keep fighting, not merely to survive, but in order for us to thrive. I surmise these are the lessons we are meant to learn before our corporeal selves die, and we are released into the spirit world.

No, I am not a Shaman, nor am I a wiseass: I speak in earnest. I am a person who has seriously visited a kind of hell, one on this earth, and have learned many lessons from my unhappiness. Now, at the age of forty-four, I am quite set on my path of righteousness. Not that everyone will, or should, follow my path, as it is for me. I have earned it, you could say. However, I do stumble, but I’ll continue to drag myself up, dust my bum off, and try in earnest to learn from my life’s lessons. It is this knowledge, and my secret hope that propels me to seek a more fulfilling life.
Just Another Walk in the Rain by Adrienne Lilley

Yes, this is me. Longwinded. Irreverent. But hopefully always as truthful as I can be (according to how much denial I’m in at the time, of course).

You can read more of Adrienne’s work at her Writing.com portfolio.

An interview with author Phil Taylor

Do you think humour differs significantly between countries or cultural groups?
There are definitely differences. The Americans are much funnier than the Brits. No, I’m just kidding. I love my blogging friends from the U.K. and I laugh at their posts all the time. I don’t know if the differences between cultures or countries are significant, but I think there are some. I like the differences though because they teach me different ways to use humour in my writing.

Are there niche humour groups, and if so, which one do you belong to?
I’m sure there are niche humour groups, but I don’t pretend to know them all. I’m sure that if you Google some stuff that you don’t want in your search history you can find some very niche humour groups. If I do belong to a niche group, I think it’s deadpan sarcasm.

You’ve been blogging since 2005. How has your blog changed over time?
My blog has definitely changed over time. For instance, now sometimes people read it. I’m more structured now and I definitely put more time and effort into it as my audience has grown larger. When my blog was in its first few years, I definitely took more chances with my humour and what I posted more closely approximated my humour in real life. Now I try to write for a broader audience.

How much do you consider your audience when creating posts? Do you write for the audience, or for yourself?
First and foremost, I write for myself. I write what I enjoy. For my audience, I try to write to make people laugh. When there is a big headline tragedy in the world I try to write something funny completely unrelated, so that, if even for a few minutes, it takes people’s minds away.

Are there rules for blogging? Should there be?
Yes. Rule #1, if you’re reading this, you must subscribe to my blog. Other than that, I don’t believe there should be rules. In general, I don’t think that rules are necessary. The blogging world is a very Darwinism kind of place. If people don’t like your blog content, they won’t read it.

Other than those in the comedy genre, what kind of blogs and books do you enjoy reading?
I like horror and suspense. Stephen King and Dean Koontz are two of my favorites. I also like sociology based books like those written by Malcolm Gladwell.

What did you do to celebrate the release of your first book, White Picket Prisons?
White Picket Prisons by [Taylor, Phil]
I didn’t really do anything. To be honest, everyday felt like a celebration because people I knew and strangers from all over the world were contacting me by social media and telling me that they enjoyed my book. That’s the best part of any book for me, not the writing or creating, but just talking with people.

Has the writing process changed significantly between your first book and your most recent one?
Absolutely! When I wrote the first book I imagined it as a stand-alone and I didn’t know if I’d ever write another. Now, when I imagine a story, I think about all the possibilities going forward not only for the story I’m writing but for the characters after the current story.

Tell us about your latest work, Time to Lie.
Time to Lie (Landon Bridges' Story Book 1) by [Taylor, Phil]
Time to Lie is a new twist on the time travel genre, not only in how the time travel is accomplished but how Landon decides to use it. Also, the time travel isn’t the star of the story. Landon’s growth as a person is actually the story.

“Landon, c’mon! Hurry up!”
Idiots, I said to myself. I slammed the door behind me and ran. My footsteps pounding down the hallway echoed off the aged tile floors and painted cinder block. Without slowing down, I pushed open the swinging door at the end of the corridor with my outstretched hands. I didn’t worry about anyone’s safety – just barreled through the door, banging it against the wall. My feet skittered a little as I tried to turn on a dime. When I faced the elevator, my eyes met hers for just a split second before the doors closed, severing our all-too-brief gaze. Maybe it was my imagination, but I swear I saw her pupils begin to dilate and the corner of her mouth turn upward before the spell was broken. I stood there, breathing heavily. Somewhere – I think it was Twitter – I read, the first kiss is not with the lips, but with the eyes. If that was the case, I was pretty sure my eyes just tried to make out with her, with tongue.
Time to Lie by Phil Taylor

The new book is noted as ‘Landon Bridges’ Story Book 1′ – how many books do you envisage the series being?
I haven’t envisioned an end point to the story. The medium of time travel opens up a lot of possibilities. As long as people enjoy Landon and his friends, I’ll keep writing more stories.

What made you decide to mix horror with humour?
I flipped a coin and it came up heads for humour. No, just kidding. It wasn’t a decision to mix in humour. Humour is part of who I am and I don’t think I could write about anything without mixing in humour. I wrote Landon as a character I would be friends with if I knew him in real life.

Have you got a bottle of something special set aside for when you receive the call about the Thurber Prize?
Aaah! The Thurber Prize! That would be the ultimate. Forget the Pulitzer, I want the Thurber Prize for American Humor. I haven’t planned the celebration yet. I’ll do that when I get nominated. Trust me, it will be a big celebration involving a champagne, a ballroom in New York City, all my blog subscribers, The Rock, and a fair amount of exotic animals.

You can find out more about Phil at these sites:
The Phil Factor
Amazon
Facebook
Twitter

An interview with author S Jade Castleton

You describe yourself as ‘a novelist who is yet to finish a novel’. What’s stopping you?
Honestly, I’ve been trying to figure this out for YEARS. I think it comes down to three main things:

  1. I have this irrational fear that once I finish and/or publish something I’ll never be able to modify or add anything, and I hate that thought (generally because of point 2 below)
  2. I like writing my characters’ lives, so I just keep going. Generally each novel has a plot but I’m in no hurry to actually bring it to an end. And I can be found adding on short stories even while the novel itself is languishing.
  3. I write for myself. Means I’m not all hot and bothered about actually publishing anything and therefore I don’t have any pressure on me to finish.

Having said all that I’ve got one novel in the process of being finished so that it can be published. It’s been with a writing coach who is the only other person to have read it in its 21 years of life. Great feedback, and good tips. Does mean huge amounts of extra ‘life’ being cut, but I’ve almost come to terms with that. The published story is for the public, but I’ve still got the ‘real’ story for me.

A lot of authors publish extra chapters or short stories to accompany a novel, usually as freebies on their websites. This can be appreciated by fans. Have you considered doing this with your related short stories and/or cut content? It might help you accept that the story doesn’t really need to end with being published. Also, some authors publish novellas that are like extended epilogues, especially where there are multiple books set in the same world and the characters from multiple books can be featured in a single novella.
Ah yes, I’ve kind of done that. I have a piece from Watching Clouds and a piece from another novel linked under the Characters part of my website, and I’ve actually got Fire Red Leaf there too – under Snippets. I suspect I will put other things up there, almost like ‘cutting room floor’ pieces. I really should add a few more things but I have been entirely slack with the website (and even the blog).

Where do you get the ideas for your novels and short stories?
Dreams, mostly—for novels anyway. And, given some of the contents of my novels, that probably should worry me a bit. News items or even a single name have also inspired stories. Lately, I’ve been saving prompts on Pinterest but none yet has grown into something.

I generally only do short stories when I’m writing for a contest and, in that case, it’s the prompt that gives me the starting framework. But, I’ll only write if some sort of inspiration comes to me.

How much research do you do for your writing? 
Starting out? None. I need to get the story out before I figure out what might be wrong or right in terms of reality. However, for a story I’m serious about (as in publishing serious) then I’ll research – places, laws, food, weather facts. And in fact I love doing research; I’m a knowledge/trivia geek. I’m even learning Welsh via Duolingo.com because I’ve a story set in Wales! And I’ve been learning about famous Japanese swords lately because of a story that’s sort of set there but also isn’t. A lot of my novels are set in vague places and/or times so that lets me be lazy with regards to research. However, the novel I’m looking to publish is set in Chicago and talks a lot about the city. There’s no way that I can’t be serious about getting information right. I’m actually spending a month there early next year to write and research.

You’re a self-titled ‘pantser’, yet you do research. Do you store your information online or are you old school and have binders or notebooks filled with handwritten notes? How do you organise all the details and ideas?
Oh man, notebooks, notebooks, notebooks. One in every bag/handbag, one on my bedside table, one in drawers beside my couch etc. Can get a little messy when I’ve got sequential notes but in multiple notebooks! And the one in the bag I take to work is often filled out while on the train, so the handwriting can get tough to read. I also use little pieces of paper (often when at work when I daren’t bring out my notebook). I shove those in my glasses case so they can safely get home. Sometimes they get transferred to a notebook, sometimes they just get stuff in the notebook. Early on I used to use hardcover 1B5s to write my notes – though more for a particular novel than just general notes. I do like that way of keeping things together but I’ve not really kept it up. Sometimes notes are just on A4 and put into the binder that carries the rest of the story. For Watching Clouds I do actually have a research/notes binder that was split into notes, ideas, stuff for characters, dates etc. But no matter the notes these days, they’re pretty much always handwritten.

Of course, none of that means I plan. I don’t, though I love the idea of planning and I have tried several times but never really pulled it off.

Why did you choose to set your novel in Chicago? Why not a New Zealand city that would have been far easier and cheaper for you to research?
Because I fell in love with Chicago when I was there as an exchange student in 1993. And back then I probably also thought it would be a little more vague. You know, things can happen there that never make the news but which would here. I didn’t want to deal with all that. Also…. Owen’s age is a key factor in the story. 16 is the legal age here for sex whereas it’s 17 in Illinois. I could have made Owen even younger but thought that he’d be able to handle things at 16 (and get away with them) but not at 15. 15 was too young.

When I returned to Chicago in 2011 and then again in 2014 the city was so much more awesome, so I also didn’t have any trouble making my story leap forward from actually being set in the 90s.

Home will always be home, but Chicago has a big chunk of my heart.

As a New Zealander, what are the difficulties of writing for an international audience?
Well, when I read about the huge successes of New Zealand authors with international audiences (mostly the US, admittedly) I come to the conclusion there aren’t many difficulties. And definitely not with the rise of self-publishing.

However, language can be an issue. I know that my story set in Chicago will need to get the ‘u’ removed from ‘colour’ etc so as to be ‘truly’ set in the US, and of course the slang in that story is all very much Kiwi at the moment. My writing coach asked where my MC was from because he’s obviously not American, due to his speech/slang. Well, at that time he was only from Arizona but obviously that wasn’t going to wash. Fortunately, with a major plot black-hole now fixed I actually can get him to have lived in New Zealand much of his life and so I won’t have to change the slang. Kind of relieved about that, but I’ll still need to change the spelling.

Tell me about your passion for reading and writing gay characters.
I don’t consciously think of my characters as gay and I don’t write them as that. They’re just normal guys who happen to love other guys. Actually, I wonder why it’s even considered a genre.

My passion, though? When I look back over all the stories I’ve written with gay characters, it all seems to have started in about 1995. This was the year I met Antinous in Roman Art at university. Aside from the statue we were shown being so amazingly beautiful, the tragic tale of his life with the Emperor Hadrian really got my attention. I started looking for gay fiction (they were kept separate back then!) and read what I could. They tended to swap between being fantasy (female writers) and about the serious AIDS issues of the 80s and 90s (male writers). I don’t really remember any of them being simply about a guy who loved another guy. There was always something else.

Anyway, I just started writing gay characters (and my own version of Antinous’ life with Hadrian) and kept going. I do have some f/m stories but 90% now are with gay characters. It’s just what I write. But it wasn’t until I joined Writing.com a few years ago and found that people liked my stories and found others who wrote them that I really felt like I wasn’t doing something weird.

I like that gay fiction now (most of the time, in any case) treats the characters as normal, just going about their lives. If only some people didn’t think ‘porn’ when hearing I write gay fiction!

‘What caught your attention?’

Gale turned. ‘Huh?’

‘Josh,’ Eric clarified. ‘I guess he was cute but were the others ugly?’

‘You’re seriously asking?’ Gale got out. ‘Looks aren’t everything.’

‘Aren’t they, beauty queen?’

‘Shut up,’ Gale growled and glared out the passenger window.

Eric grinned and remained quiet.

‘His smile actually,’ Gale muttered at the glass.

‘Not the crap bowling?’

Gale turned his gaze on his friend. ‘If I was attracted by crap bowling I’d have gotten myself a harem.’

Eric snorted. ‘Well, worked in your favour, didn’t it? And the fact it was something you could correct… Though,’ he added in a drawl, ‘I didn’t notice you offering advice to anyone else.’

Gale simply kept up the glare.

Eric bit the inside of his cheek. ‘His smile, huh?’

Gale sighed, leaned his head back. ‘Yeah. I just happened to look up when he was smiling at something or someone.’ He closed his eyes. ‘Bugger, I’m screwed.’

He felt a hand touch his arm briefly. ‘Hardly the first or last, mate,’ Eric told him.

‘Great pep talk, cheers.’

Eric laughed. ‘And so the smile egged you on?’

‘No, it was the bowling that did that.’ Gale smiled briefly. ‘Like you said, worked in my favour.’

‘Helped by your own bowling.’

Gale snorted. ‘Made me legit, I guess.’

Eric cracked more laughter. ‘You made his legit.’

‘Well, as I told you, he listened to me,’ Gale said.

‘Ah so… a cute smile and a pair of ears.’

‘Do you know how dirty you just made that sound?’ Gale grinned as he saw the flush rise. ‘And look at this, home. We can stop the inquisition.’

‘Fucking A,’ Eric said with a grin. He applied the handbrake. ‘You know I’ve got your back.’

‘Jesus, Eric, I’m not gonna do anything stupid.’

‘Yeah well,’ Eric said. ‘That’s debatable but I meant the boyfriend. Now I know there is one, I really don’t think things are fully right there.’

Gale considered his friend, was pretty darn sure Eric wasn’t joking about this. Damn, had he really missed something? He swallowed. ‘I’m not going to steal anyone from anyone,’ he said. ‘That’s not my intention. If I contact him that’ll be clear.’

‘I hope so,’ Eric said. ‘But I meant what I said, you know.’

‘I know and I’m grateful.’ Gale got out of the car, then leaned back in. ‘You know you’re just like Morgan.’

‘Yeah, that thought crossed my mind too,’ Eric said wryly. ‘Wing man for the gay guy.’

Gale snorted and swung the door closed, but Eric saw him grin as he walked to the front door.

– Love is Complicated by S Jade Castleton

Many of your characters are male, yet you are female. What are the challenges of writing from a perspective you’re not familiar with?
I’ve never really thought of challenges, to be honest. I write my characters almost without specific thought to their gender, even though I know what it is. I do sometimes pick up where a response or action may be too ‘girly’ but it doesn’t happen much. If I need to check something then I go to my friend, the Internet, mostly to online manga. I’ve found that ‘seeing’ helps clarify things I might be struggling to write correctly. But, I’ve been writing male characters all my life so I don’t feel weird doing so. Even if I have a dream where the character is female, when the idea is fleshed out the character invariably becomes male.

Do you have a favourite author? Or perhaps an author you view as an inspiration?
Well, I collect series. Does that make those authors favourites? If so, I have a whole lot of them across many genres! I’m more likely to admit to favourite books, than authors, but I do consider S.E. Hinton as an inspiring author. I read The Outsiders back in about 1988 and ever since I’ve been addicted to first person narrators. But I also loved the way she told that tale, both serious and funny. There’s one particular section of the book that can still make me instantly tear up.

What is your purpose in writing?
My purpose is selfish: I write to keep calm and sane. I write only when inspired but if I haven’t written anything fresh in a fortnight or so I get anxious.

I do aspire to be published, despite what I’ve said. But I’m not really sure why. It’s definitely not to make money and it’s not even really to have others read my things. I guess it’s more so I can say ‘I’ve published a book. See, writing isn’t a waste of time.’ I want to feel vindicated for all those years people’s eyes have glazed over when I’ve told them that I write.

You mention in your blog that none of your family have read your work. Do you think you’ll ever break that barrier between real life and your pseudonym? If so, when? What about friends and other people in real life?
Eek, I need to update that particular bit obviously as my parents and brother/sister know at least know I write gay fiction. My brother’s read a (non gay fiction) short story and my mum has in fact read a couple of my gay fiction short stories. No one’s batted an eye lid about it, and mum’s been good on editing too. Has never read my novels though and may not until they’re published. Could be because they’re darker, they have sex etc. It’s probably just me. I do have one friend who has read short stories and with whom I’ve talked about Watching Clouds. Was great to chat to but she has just retired so that link has been cut just a little. However, I’m writing a YA paranormal novel (parts thereof are actually on WDC) which she is keen to read the entirety of and so eggs me to finish.

As for breaking the barrier between real-life and pseudonym. No, not really. As daft as it is, all my gay fiction will be under the pseudonym. I don’t want it linked with ‘me’ and my friends who may just all freak out. Silly fear, I guess, but I also want to publish non gay fiction and I don’t want the two mixed up.

You can read more of Jade’s work, and her blog, at her website: www.sjadecastleton.com