Storm Constantine is more than just the average writer – in creating her own publishing company alone sets her apart. She is best known for her Wraeththu series, and the many spin offs it produced. Her ability to create characters and a story that draws readers in is what keeps the pages turning!
What got you interested in writing m/m fiction?
I suppose it was seeing the original illustrations to The Jungle Book (by Rudyard Kipling) when I was very young. Mowgli was depicted as androgynous with long flowing hair, almost Dionysian in appearance. I was also really obsessed with Greek myths and Mary Renault novels, so I think it must’ve started then – some idealised depiction of homoerotica.
How did you begin your career and how did you grow your fan base to be so humongous?
I had a lot of luck in finding a publisher very quickly, once I decided I wanted to write seriously. Ever since I was a child I’d written stories, many of which were only half finished. ‘The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit’, the first of the original Wraeththu trilogy, was the first full length work I wrote to completion, when I was around 25.
I believe that when a writer puts their heart into a mythos, and loves it, then that can transfer to readers and they will love it too – because it’s written with heart. I think this is why certain authors attract fan bases who write fan fiction and immerse themselves in the mythos so much.
What was it like to create your own publishing company, Immanion Press?
At the time, I’d just sold the second Wraeththu trilogy, starting with ‘The Wraiths of Will and Pleasure’ to TOR in America. I wanted the first trilogy back in print in the UK, but had long since given up trying to sell work to British publishers. So, with the advent of print on demand publishing – which makes it much easier and cheaper to produce books – I formed Immanion Press to bring out the original trilogy myself. I also ended up publishing the second trilogy in the UK, and then started work on releasing my entire back catalogue that had been out of print for a while.
It felt great, to be honest, totally liberating! I can now bring out what I like regardless of the whims and fashions of the publishing industry or having to endure being treated badly by it.
Who is the LAST person you’d want to discover you write m/m fiction and how do you think they’d respond?
There isn’t anyone. Both my parents read my work and supported it, while they were alive. Grandparents and other older relatives were long gone by the time I got published. If any of my relations by marriage are/would be upset by it, they can simply be upset!
I think the only people writers worry about concerning certain content in their work is prudish relatives, or maybe work mates if they are unfortunate to work in environments where people are small-minded and petty. If they have friends who ‘disapprove’ of their work, they’re not really friends, are they?
Also, I don’t exclusively write m/m fiction, so even if there was some surviving family dinosaur twitchy about that subject matter, they could always read some of my other material they might feel more comfortable with – although as a practice I don’t try to make my work comfortable!
What was it like writing your Wraeththu series? Was there anything like it on the market at the time?
The Wraeththu books were the novels I always wanted to read but had never found. That’s a piece of advice I give to writers when I’m teaching creative writing. Your first book should always be that, so your heart is fully in it. I loved writing them, and still love revisiting their world, in between other projects.
There was nothing like those books on the market when they first got published, and because of that I got a lot of attention – some good, some bad. I was accused of being anti feminist by some critics, who simply saw the books as featuring gay men, when in actuality the Wraeththu are truly androgynous, both male and female. Generally, genre fiction steered clear of anything sexual or erotic, so I was among the first writers to bring these aspects into it.
Why do you think so many women love to read m/m?
Because in most cases, the characters are idealised, and in this way romantic – beautiful men making love to one another. Some gay friends of mine have laughed at that, and say such idealism rarely happens in reality, but I guess they too like the escapism of such fiction. Heterosexual love is also often idealised in novels and stories.
What was it like to create the world within the Sea Dragon Heir with the Palindrake family?
I enjoy world-building so had great fun with that. I’ve got quite a few short stories set in that world. If I’m asked to submit to a fantasy anthology, I generally use that setting as I invented so many countries for the Magravandias Chronicles.
What are you currently working?
I’m currently working on the final stages of a Wraeththu novel called ‘The Moonshawl’, which is the last volume in the Alba Sulh trilogy (the first two being ‘The Hienama’, and ‘Student of Kyme’). The first two were rather angst-ridden tragedies about the follies of desire, and I wanted the last book to be different. Essentially, it’s a supernatural mystery, featuring a recovering character –Ysobi – from the first books.
Tell me about your writing process from idea to finished draft? Do you rewrite to death? Do you outline?
I do rewrite an awful lot! I’ll try to get a first draft out – sometimes dashing forward in time to write some later scenes that come to me – then going back to fill in and expand. My first drafts really are a mess – all over the place, with random ideas and scenes, and pieces of dialogue put in as placeholders.
I do a rough outline, so I know where the story is heading, but with The Moonshawl, for example, I really didn’t know how it would end when I started writing it. Ysobi was uncovering clues and information, and I learned alongside him, so that the discovery of the end was as much of a surprise to me as to him. I also workshop a lot with writing friends as the book’s progressing.
How long does it typically take you to write a novel?
That’s really difficult to say because I get side-tracked now by other work – such as Immanion Press admin, short stories I’m asked for, and doing layout work for Newcon Press. I also do a lot of the graphical work for Immanion and Megalithica Books (our non fic imprint) covers. ‘The Moonshawl’ has taken me a good three years to write, and it’s still not quite finished, but that’s mainly because of all the other jobs I’ve had to do in between. If I didn’t have these distractions I’d probably still be bringing out one book a year.
What was it like to write spin offs for your Wraeththu series? Do you plan on continuing with more series, if not continuing the existing ones?
I’ll always continue to write Wraeththu stories, as well as publish Wraeththu Mythos novels by select other authors. I’ll also still do the Wraeththu short story collections, such as ‘Paragenesis, ‘Para Imminence, and the recently published ‘Para Kindred’.
If anyone reading this would like to contribute to the next anthology ‘Para Animalia’, please get in touch with me at editorial(at)Immanion-press(dot)com. I’m also still looking at Mythos novel ideas. We’ve currently got 3 in the pipeline from story collection contributors – E S. Wynn, Nerine Dorman, and my co-editor for the collections, Wendy Darling.
I’m not sure if or when I’ll go back to the original characters, except in short stories, because it interests me more to explore new vistas. I’ve an idea my next Wraeththu book might even be set on another world. Before I do that though, I want to write something completely different – still mulling over ideas for what that will be.
I have every intention of getting ‘The Moonshawl’ out this year! Hopefully, I’ll be able to wrap it up in August, then get it to my editor Wendy Darling to work on. If anyone reading this would like a review PDF of the book, or would care to interview me for their blogs, again please do get in touch.
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?
For anyone writing anything, I can only reiterate what I said above ‘write what you’ve always wanted to read but have never found’ and also write with heart and integrity. Write deeply – anyone can write porn! Give your work depth and insight into the human condition – or inhuman, if that’s appropriate, and you’re writing within the sf or fantasy genres.
I also think it’s vitally important to learn your craft – and that means educating yourself about grammar, syntax, punctuation, narrative structure, spelling and all the other tools of the trade. If you write with clarity and authority, because you know how to wield language, your writing will be pleasurable for others to read.