Today’s awesome interview is with the lovely and highly decorated m/m Bestselling author Gina X Grant a.k.a Storm Grant. She’s been on the top 10 on the Amazon best Gay & Lesbian Action Adventure List and has garnered a 5-STAR review from USA TODAY as well as a winner of the prestigious Bookie Award for Best YA of 2013; you’d be crazy not to read her works!
What about m/m fiction attracted you to write it?
Like many others, I first came across m/m fiction while reading fanfic. The fandom was Highlander, as I recall. Yes, Dundan/Methos. Baby’s first pairing. I loved the m/m dynamic and still do. In many (not all, of course) m/f romance novels, the author really has to work to find reasons to keep the couple apart. Some of those internal conflicts are
tenuous at best.
But to me it seems the areas for conflict between two men are greater. They resonate as more real. I’ve written conflicts that include:
–Denial (GYM DANDY),
–Working together and not wanting to get distracted (LOST BOYS 2.0),
–Wrongful arrest (ASSUME THE POSITION), and
–Being two different species (SHIFT HAPPENS)!
How did you begin your career writing? How did you grow your fan base to be so humongous?
My fan base is hardly humongous. I was shocked and delighted when I attended RainbowCon for the first time in April 2014 after two years away from publishing m/m fiction and people remembered me!
My background is marketing, which comes in really handy after the book is written, but I had to learn the craft of writing from scratch. I even took two semesters of grammar at night school a few years back. I’m learning every day.
One thing about learning your craft by writing fanfiction is you may not get a lot of experience creating original characters. So I had to learn how to create great characters once I began writing pro fic. You can have a great character with little plot, but if you’ve got a great plot with weak characters, you’re in trouble.
What is it like to live so close to where you grew up?
Every time I walk around the neighborhood, I’m reminded of things I did decades ago. The neighborhood delinquents (including me) used to climb the nearby cemetery wall at night to smoke dope and make out. Now I go there for exercise and to visit my parents’ grave. Ah, life. It brings many changes.
Is there anyone who you never want to find out you write m/m? How do you think they’d react?
Nope. Even my devoted Catholic mother-in-law reads my stuff. I don’t think there’s anyone I wouldn’t want reading it because it’s m/m. I did meet some Southern Baptists once who were concerned for my mortal soul because the Reaper books are set in Hell. (And ironically, m/f.) One woman kept saying, “I hope you don’t mention The Man. The Man.” Apparently, you don’t want to say any of the devil’s names aloud (or in print) because it might draw his attention. Once I realized what she meant, I assured her that in my books, I had The Woman: Lucy Phurr. A very unimposing Queen of Hell who needed a good makeover. Oddly, my new Southern friends remained dubious of my books.
What is it like to write m/m under your pen name, Storm Grant?
I wrote fanfiction as Stormy Stormheller, so I thought to access some of those readers when I started writing pro fiction. Also, at the time, many female writers of m/m fiction were using initials, male or non-gender specific names in case people wouldn’t read m/m stories written by women. As it turned out, it has not been an issue.
I wrote the Reaper books (m/f humor) under my real name: Gina Grant. I added the “X” to make it “googlable” (There’s a far more interesting Gina Grant who was kicked out of Harvard because she murdered her parents and now she’s a dominatrix. I was worried that if someone was googling and came across her, they’d forget they were originally looking for me.) Now I wish I’d stuck to a single name. It’s too much to handle two social media presences, and just confuses the issue. I usually go by Gina Storm Grant now. But I’m still publishing as Storm Grant.
Why do you think so many women love to read m/m?
A change is as good as a rest? This is an ongoing discussion and I think the answer is as varied as the women who read it. A different power dynamic, more realistic reasons for conflict between the couple, a chance to put the fruit in forbidden fruit… One friend used to say “two penises are better than one.”
What inspired your The Reluctant Reaper series? Is it fun to write?
I wanted to write a book with Death as the main character until someone pointed to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. Since no other Death is needed now that Sir Terry had written the definitive Death, I wrote about an ordinary gal who becomes a grim reaper instead. It’s wacky, over-the-top, filled with puns. People who like that sort of thing really liked it. Just FYI, the publisher decided to divide the first book in two because it had a lot going on, so the first book ends on a cliffhanger. You’ll want to read Book 2, but Book 3 stands alone. Book 4 is coming soon.
Are you currently working on a new project?
In September (2014) I self-published my backlist a book a week for a month. Yikes! That was a lot of work. Then just this past week, I debuted my first new book, LOST BOYS 2.0. It’s book 2 in the Tales of B.O.O. series, but you don’t need to read SHIFT HAPPENS to enjoy LOST BOYS 2.0. SHIFT HAPPENS was originally published as a standalone, but so many people asked for more books in the B.O.O. universe that I decided to carry on with the series.
B.O.O. stands for Borderless Observers Org. which is an internationally sanctioned group of paranormal investigators. They show up wherever they’re needed to solve problems of the supernatural sort. LOST BOYS 2.0 has only been available a week and already it’s been in the top 10 on the Amazon best Gay & Lesbian Action Adventure List. And it’s garnered a 5-STAR review from USA TODAY. “I loved the way Ms. Grant developed the nuances of this story. Lost Boys 2.0 is a character-driven book wrapped in an intricate plot that runs smoothly.”
(Read it here: http://bit.ly/5starsforLostBoys2pt0)
How would you describe your writing process? Do you outline? Do you write like crazy?
Yes, I outline. I use GMC and Save the Cat and then create a narrative outline that tells “the story of the story” in about 1500 words. Then I get input from my brainstorming group. I much prefer to get the story squared away right from the beginning. That way, I rarely end up writing myself into a corner or having to cut great chunks. And it’s much easier to ask someone for conceptual input on a 1500-word outline than for feedback on a 75,000-word novel! (Although in the end, I need both.) One handy tool for coming up with story ideas is to use what I call “The Donald Maass Two-Parter”. As you probably know, mega-agent Donald Maass has an excellent workbook to help you plan or fix a novel. But I just like to use these two questions:
1. What’s the one thing your character would never do?
2. Under what circumstances would they do it?”
Works every time.
Brainstorming as a group is one of the great pleasures of writing. It’s such a positive, upbeat experience: “What if he can’t change back?” “What if she’s his long-lost sister?” What if…What if… What if…” Obtaining feedback on a novel, on the other hand, is a more negative experience. You go to your friend and ask for them to tell you what isn’t working with your brand new baby. Then yes, I write like crazy. I used to need tons of editing, but now I get just one or two big-picture edits, and hire a copy-editor / proofreader.
I also have second new book written, an m/m paranormal historical set in Toronto, Canada in 1910 tentatively titled RE-INVENTING LOVE. I’m shopping it around to publishers. I like to think of myself as a “tri-bred author.” I have published with e-publishers, a Big Five traditional publisher (Simon & Schuster published my Reaper trilogy) and now I’m self-published. Guess I’ve been busy these last few years.
How long does it typically take you to write a novel?
I spent a few weeks thinking about and plotting a new book while doing other things, then I dash out a first draft in a matter of weeks. I write about 1500 words a day which isn’t stellar, but because I don’t have a day job, I’m writing 7 days a week. That’s 50,000 words in a month, which is generally where my first draft ends up. I’ll add another 10,000 words with each editing pass. Both the historical, RE-INVENTING LOVE, and LOST BOYS 2.0 have rounded out between 75,000 and 80,000 words.
What is it like to write m/m and YA respectively? Is it difficult to balance the two?
Although some of my characters from my earlier books are in their late thirties, these days, most of my adult characters are in their twenties, so it’s not a huge leap. I’m alternating between Young Adult and New Adult. High school was a long time ago for me, but I pull out the old John Hughes movies and get back in the mindset. The next book in the B.O.O. series, MYSTERICAL, is a YA. Both boys are 16 so there will be only a little groping, as there was in FEW ARE CHOSEN. (Which won the Bookie Award for Best YA of 2013.)
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?
The gay romance community is a kinder, gentler corner of the world. Oh, sure, some reviewers can be scathing and your books are bound to be pirated, but compared to just shoving books anonymously out into the world, m/m is the best place to be. I know many of the authors, some of the readers, and quite a few of the reviewers. If you can, get to RainbowCon or GRL. It’s good to be among your peeps. And join the RWA, specifically the Rainbow Chapter. With regard to marketing, well, I wish I had the magic answer. Some books sell and some don’t. I just try to be myself, be sincere, be a good friend. My platform is that I’m funny, so I re-post a lot of jokes on Facebook: “I surf Facebook so you won’t have to” is an audience-building strategy that works for me. If you write serious plotlines, it might not be for you. If your audience is younger, you probably want to be on Tumblr. If you’re writing non-fiction, then LinkedIn is the place to be. In fact, if you set up a free WordPress site, you can arrange all your posts to go to all the postable places with a single click. I need to spend more time on Goodreads. Heck, I just need more time!
Thank you, Jamie, for having me on your blog. And thanks to anyone who got this far, for reading!
Storm Grant / Gina X Grant
Quirky fiction that’s pretty, witty and gritty