T.E. Ridener writes from what she knows, and what she wants to know. She is best known for Chartreuse and her Blood Betrayal series, which she hopes will go far. Knowing how to write emotion is hard for most writers, and T.E. does her best to drag the readers in!
What got you interested in writing m/m fiction?
It just happened one day. I was working on my third novel for NaNoWriMo and I decided it needed to be about two men in a small narrow-minded town who were trying to be together. I come from a pretty small town myself and Chartreuse is based off of things I’ve seen here. Writing M/M comes pretty naturally for me. I got about 80% through Chartreuse and stepped back. I was afraid of what people in my town (family, friends, etc) would say about a gay romance novel, and it was a cowardly thing to do, but then I was posting excerpts from incomplete stories for my street team to read and we decided it was something that needed to be finished. The message interlaced with the characters and plotline is very important to me, and I guess my biggest interest with M/M is that love is love is love.
How did you begin your career and how did you grow your fan base to be so humongous?
I began back in 2011 when I discovered Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. I couldn’t believe that such a program existed in which a person could publish their story if they wanted to. I had often considered sending manuscripts in to big publishing houses, but I always had that fear of rejection so I didn’t. However, when I read about Kindle Direct Publishing, I just had to take a leap of faith. Growing my fan base hasn’t been easy. As they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. I went for nearly a year with only 300 or so fans and that didn’t change until other authors took me beneath their wings and helped me out. Through sharing, participating in events, and handing out free copies of my books is how I’ve gotten to where I am now, but trust me when I say I never forget where I came from. It takes patience, persistence, and faith.
You write under a pseudonym. Why?
To be honest I’ve always thought my name was pretty lame. I wanted it to sound cooler so I decided to go by my initials. The T is for Tonya and the E is for Elizabeth, but Ridener is a pretty unique name so it isn’t hard to trace it back to me.
What was it like to help create Random Acts of Christmas, and remain a participant in the charity?
I was an avid Redditor when an idea came to me one night. There’s a subreddit called Random Acts of Pizza and someone was offering up a $100 Thanksgiving meal to a family in need. I was so inspired by that act of kindness that I asked myself, “What can I do to make a difference?” I didn’t have any money to give, but I did know how to work social media. My friend Jenna and I created Random Acts of Christmas to help children have a good Christmas, and let me tell you..seeing those smiling faces on Christmas morning made it all worth it for me. It gets hectic between November and December because it basically becomes a full time job, but at the end of the day it’s so worth it to know we helped brighten someone’s holiday. I love giving when I can. I’m by no means rich, but giving just a couple of toys to children who otherwise wouldn’t have them really makes my entire year. I should also mention that I grew up in poverty, so I know what it’s like to need a Santa. When my dad broke his back my grandmothers became me and my brother’s Random Acts of Christmas. I’ll never forget that. I also started Giftapalooza last year, in which authors offer up copies of their books (ebooks and paperbacks) to people who purchase gifts off wish lists for children through RAoC. It was pretty successful and I’ll definitely be doing it again this year.
Who is the LAST person you’d want to discover you write m/m fiction and how do you think they’d respond?
Honestly? It was my dad. I was terrified for him to discover I wrote about men loving men, but after the book was complete and available to the public, he quickly became aware of my success and how many people actually LOVED the book. He said he was proud of me and that meant so much. I don’t care what anyone thinks about my writing anymore. I have learned that if we can’t write what we want to, what’s the point of writing?
Did growing up in Kentucky have an effect on the way that you write, or how you develop your stories?
I’ll admit that most of my stories have a tendency to center around Southern folk and that country twang manages to get in there A LOT, but I don’t think it’s really had much of an effect aside from that. There are a lot of places I haven’t had the opportunity to visit so I heavily rely on Google and fans who live in particular places. I once called a town in Kentucky called Rochester just so I’d have an idea of what it was like to live there for my first novel The Rochester Reaping. I’ll never forget that phone call.
Why do you think so many women love to read m/m?
There’s just something really passionate about two men in love. I couldn’t give you an exact answer because I think it varies from reader to reader. Some love it for the sex, but others love it for the romance. I’ve had a lot of people complain about Chartreuse because the sex scenes aren’t very graphic and there are so little, but that was never the main intent for that particular story. I wanted people to grasp on to the message I was trying to put out there and for the most part it’s been successful. In my humble opinion though, male on male love is the steamiest equation in the world of literature.
What was it like to create your version of a shifter series through Presley Goult?
Presley Goult is me in a lot of ways. I’ve had several people tell me that when they read about her they are reminded of me. Creating the shifters through her was incredibly easy. It all came to me so naturally and I rarely struggle with their scenes. She’s from a small southern town, she’s been hurt, she’s experienced heartbreaking events in her time, but she’s still willing to give love a chance and she’ll fight for what she believes in. The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree with Kadenburg.
What are you currently working on?
I’m always writing on multiple books. I usually go with the voice that’s speaking the loudest. I’m trying to finish book 3 in my Descendants Series, book 3 in my Blood Betrayal Series, book 5 in Kadenburg, book 2 in Divine Sacrifice, and now I’ve got a dragon shifter novel stuck in my head. There’s never a moment of rest over here.
Tell me about your writing process from idea to finished draft? Do you rewrite to death? Do you outline?
I am known as a panster. The only outlining I do involves character names, locations, and ages. From there on out whatever happens in the book is just as surprising for me as it is for the reader. I never know what to expect. I have to start from the beginning and write to the end. I can’t write a scene here or there and work my way in between…I just can’t operate like that. I don’t rewrite to death, but there are usually a few scenes I remove or extend, and my betas are fantastic at helping me with the editing process. They are seriously my lifeline most of the time.
How long does it typically take you to write a novel?
It depends on the story and how eager my characters are. I’ve written a few within 3 weeks and I’ve had some that take 3 years to write. Chartreuse took 3 years and The Water King’s Bride only took around 22 days. I’ve been working on book 3 of Blood Betrayal for almost a year.
Was writing the relationship between Kasen Reed and Rowan Kelly in Chartreuse different from the other novels you have written?
Only in the aspect of the hate they had to endure to be together. I have written a lot of relationships in my stories and I don’t see a gender. I just see hearts. I had someone tell me that I may be the first author to ever include MF/MM/MFM in a novel the other day and I was surprised. I hadn’t thought about it. All I see is love when I’m writing. I have a lesbian couple in the Descendants Series, as well as a hetero couple and two men who surprised me by revealing they are together too. In Blood Betrayal, Jude is bisexual. In Kadenburg, I have gay, bisexual, and hetero all rolled up in the story. I just don’t pay attention and I don’t think anyone else should either. Love is love is love.
What advice do you have for those thinking about writing gay romance and what advice do you have for those who are trying to build an audience from scratch?
Don’t be afraid to follow your heart. Don’t be afraid of what others will think. You have to write what you want to write if you want to be happy. If you’re trying to build an audience, don’t be afraid to reach out to fellow indie authors or book blogs. You’d be amazed how many of them are eager to help. I can help too. I WILL help. I remember where I started and I didn’t have anyone back then as far as social media goes. I can hook you up with a great list of people who love pimping out indies. Just remember, you won’t be everyone’s cup of tea and that’s okay, but to someone out there you’re the best brand around.