Inky Inspiration – Georgia Beers
As an author, inspiration can come from all things. It could be the line in a song on the radio, a snippet of conversation on the bus, a dream at night but one of the most important sources of inspiration are other authors.
Just like a budding sports star in the academy has that legend they look up to, I think it’s equally relevant to anyone who writes that they have heroes to look up to and learn from.
In this segment, I am going to interview fellow authors who have inspired me, those I have learned from and those who have helped me on my writing journey so far.
Not that she needs an awful lot of introduction but Georgia Beers is one of the main reasons I have the privilege of being where I am today. Listening to her Keynote speech for the GCLS inspired me.
and the funny video that she supplied to go with it.
made me want to get in touch with her. An email or two later and I had been thoroughly convinced to join the GCLS and, for that, I will always be very grateful! So, for those of you who are not aware of Georgia and her work, here’s a short bio of the woman herself.
Georgia Beers is the author of ten novels of lesbian romance, one novella, and several short stories. Her work has won the Lambda Literary Award, six Golden Crown Literary Awards, and the Foreword Book of the Year Award. Born and raised in upstate New York, she has been writing since she learned to hold a pen. She currently lives in Rochester with her partner of 20 years, their two adorable dogs, and one bossy cat, and is working hard on her next novel.
I have written for as long as I can remember. Books have always been my escape, starting as soon as I could read.
Hi there, Georgia, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions on your work. I always start at the beginning so if you could tell us a little bit about what inspired you to start writing and your journey to being published.
It’s a story many people have heard, but it’s the truth and it always starts here. I have written for as long as I can remember. Books have always been my escape, starting as soon as I could read. One day about 15 years ago, I was reading a lesbian fiction novel, and it was awful. Just horrendous. While today, I would have stopped halfway through, back then, there wasn’t a lot to choose from, so I forced myself to finish and was just so disgusted by how bad it was. I threw it down and said to my wife Bonnie, “I could have written that so much better.” Bonnie is very wise; this is something to know about her. She looked at me and said, “Okay. Well, what’s the difference between that author and you?” And I said, of course because it was very clear what her point was, “Um…she sat down and wrote a book and I haven’t?” Bingo! So that’s what I did. And that book was “Turning the Page.”
How do you think your experiences of that first publication have impacted on your choices and writing since?
I think, more than anything, those experiences gave me confidence. They allowed me to think that maybe I was actually good at this, that it was something I should pursue. I’d never really thought before about writing as a career, at least not as a novelist, but Regal Crest gave me that option, really, and I will always be eternally grateful.
You’ve mentioned that Ann Patchett The Magician’s Assistant is one of your favourite books. What inspired you about her work and who are you enjoying reading at the moment?
Ann is one of those people who is mystical with words. She is one of the few authors whose work I will delve into, stop in the middle of, and read a sentence out loud to Bonnie, simply because the way she puts words together is too beautiful not to share. She is a true artist. I would classify her work as “drama,” or maybe simply “literature,” and that’s not usually my cup of tea. But I will go out of my way to read something she wrote simply because she wrote it.
Currently, I am reading an old Sandra Brown novel called “Best Kept Secrets.” She is a romance writer (mainstream) that I discovered last year or so. She’s got a huge backlist, so whenever I see something of hers I haven’t read, I grab it. She writes great romantic intrigue and is fantastic with sexual tension, so I read her (and other mainstream romance authors like Nora Roberts, Linda Howard, Karen Rose) to try and learn from them, to pick up pointers and such.
I’m going to pick out a few of your novels (as there’s been a few!) and the first one is Too Close To Touch where did the idea for Gretchen and Kylie?
Without going into too much detail, Gretchen and Kylie sprang from a TV show I was watching at the time. I thought the two leads had amazing chemistry and I decided to use them (their physical likenesses) in a book. They are a great couple; I’m really happy with that book. It’s one of my best sellers, even after nearly ten years!
The next I’m going to pick out is Finding Home. There’s a wonderful depiction of just how much canine companions can change lives. Was that something that you really enjoyed exploring in the book and was Bentley based on your experiences with your own dogs?
Bentley was a miniature Australian shepherd, which is what my Finley is. So along those lines, yes, he came from my own life. Other than that, the book was fiction. I tend to put dogs in my books often for a simple reason: I don’t have a lot of lesbian friends or acquaintances who don’t have a dog. Dogs are a big part of our culture, and even though they can be tough to have in a story, I use them often. For me, I can’t imagine my own life without one. Or two.
…it feels like you’re more in touch with the character when you write her in first person. At least, that’s how I felt. I’ll do it again, for sure.
Next up, I’m going for Starting From Scratch – you note at the beginning of the book that it was a long time coming, how much of a change and challenge was the switch to first person POV?
It really wasn’t a challenge at all. I found that I really, really enjoy first person. I did it again in “Snow Globe” and my short series, “Balance.” I like it so much. I do feel like it can get old for the reader, which is why I don’t write in first person all the time. But it feels like you’re more in touch with the character when you write her in first person. At least, that’s how I felt. I’ll do it again, for sure.
How much of an eye-opener was it to write Elena?
Oh, I love Elena. She’s amazing and beautiful and strong and smart and beautiful. One of my writer friends tells me all the time that Elena is the hottest character I’ve ever written. LOL! I think I agree.
How pleased were you when Starting From Scratch was a finalist for the Lambda award?
I was thrilled! I had been dealing with some publisher turmoil and was feeling downtrodden and depressed. I actually had the manuscript done for nearly a year before deciding on a path to take with it. It ended up being very successful, and I still get e-mail from readers telling me how much they love it. I’m ridiculously proud of that book.
My biggest worry was that I didn’t want people thinking I was making light of a tragedy by plopping a romance in the middle. But the people of Gander were so incredible, and I thought it was important to share that.
96 Hours you set yourself a challenge that saw you tackling a dark period of time and using it to show the good shining through. How important was it for you to write the book? Were you worried about the reception when you were writing it and how pleased were you that it has been so well received?
I was very worried about the reception. As soon as people see that it’s centered around 9/11, I lose a bunch right then. Many can’t handle reading anything to do with that time, and I completely understand that. My biggest worry was that I didn’t want people thinking I was making light of a tragedy by plopping a romance in the middle. But the people of Gander were so incredible, and I thought it was important to share that. And romances did happen during that time, so why not tell about it? I am ecstatic about the positive way it’s been received. I’ve gotten many, many e-mails from people telling me how happy they are that they read it, and many of them were hesitant at first.
There was also a pretty cool foreword in there… right?
There was! Actress Erin Cummings is so wonderful (look her up on IMDB.com!). I sent her a fan letter after watching her in the movie “Bitch Slap.” Much to my surprise, she wrote me back! It was a long letter thanking me for appreciating the work she did and asking if she could perhaps write a foreword for my next novel because she believes that “artists should support one another.” We have been friends ever since.
Okay, so I’ll go for Olive Oil and White Bread. This is your newest release and starts off where most other books finish. It’s a great premise! Is that something that you wanted to explore for a while? Do you think it’s important to show more long-term relationships in romance as well as the initial getting together?
The whole subject is very interesting. I took on this storyline because I’ve received many, many letters over the years from readers who enjoy my work and have asked me when I’m going to write a book about a long-term couple. I let that marinate for a long time—and those requests kept coming—before I decided to run with it. It’s done very well and I’ve gotten loads of positive feedback on it (whew!). And I do think it’s important to show long-term relationships in romance. It’s true that the romance goes beyond the initial hook-up. I should know; I’ve been with the same woman for twenty years.
Cooking seems to be a recurring theme in your work, do you bake and cook yourself? If so, do you have any good recipes! (especially for cake.)
I have found that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more interested in cooking and baking. I am half-Italian through my mother, so on that side of the family, food is hugely important. It’s a sign of celebration, of condolence, of love, and I tend to put that in a lot of my work. When I was younger, I wasn’t interested in cooking and I didn’t really enjoy it. Funny how things change. I would rather bake than cook (and I’m better at baking) because when you bake you have to follow directions pretty exactly. I am all about rules, a huge rule-follower! So I do this well. But over the past year or two, I’ve delved into cooking as well. I’m perfecting my sauce (though mine doesn’t come close to my mother’s yet), and I really enjoy using my crock pot. Fall is coming. That’s my favorite time of year to cook.
I’ll move from your novels to your novellas and short stories. As an author, do you think it’s a good idea to explore various length works to enhance your skill set?
I don’t know that it’s about skill set so much as it’s about curiosity. Some writers don’t write short stuff. They don’t enjoy it, don’t feel they’re any good at it, don’t want to do it. I get that. I happen to enjoy writing shorter fiction, so I’ve jumped into it and run with it simply to see if I can.
I thought it would be easy, but jumping in and out of eleven different stories was a giant pain. I’m happy with the result and I’m glad I did it, but I was kicking myself at the time.
What gave you the idea for Slices of Life? How much planning did it take you to link the various characters’ stories and how much of a challenge/fun was it?
I don’t remember the exact circumstances, but at some point, I started thinking about how many people we come across on any given day: the mail carrier, a cashier at a store, the guy who pumps your gas, the secretary at your doctor’s office. What if some of them were gay (they probably are)? Then I thought about writing a bunch of short stories and connecting the characters that way, have them all be just somebody who happens to pass through the day of another. And I took off with it. That being said, it was SO MUCH HARDER THAN I EXPECTED! LOL. I thought it would be easy, but jumping in and out of eleven different stories was a giant pain. I’m happy with the result and I’m glad I did it, but I was kicking myself at the time.
You also do an online series on Smashwords, what inspired you to do that? Is that something that you will continue to do/expand on in the future?
I actually have two series on Smashwords and Amazon right now, “Balance” and “Working Girls.” I will definitely continue them both. I like that they’re just mine. I have no deadlines or expectations except for the ones I set for myself, and people seem to really be enjoying them. So, yes, I will continue with them.
What is your current project? Do you have any particular challenges/experiences that you can share?
My current project is a romance novel called “Zero Visibility.” It’s set in the Adirondack Mountains and features an ex-skier passing through and a local woman. I’m about halfway through it, and the biggest challenge I’m having is writing a story that takes place in the winter while I sit in front of my warm and sunny window in August wearing shorts and a T-shirt! Anyway, it’s due for release in early February of 2015.
And finally, you drew me to the GCLS, what would you like to tell the us about the society and how it has enhanced your career?
I would say the best thing to do is go watch my Keynote Address from last year (I think you linked it at the beginning of this interview?). In it, I talk all about the GCLS, what it means to me, why we should all join, and how it’s helped my career. It’s an amazing organization, and I’m so honored and thrilled to be a part of it.
Quick fire round
- What is your strength as a writer? I write really good dialogue.
- What is your ‘typical’ writing day? I get up with Bonnie, we walk the dogs and have breakfast together. I shower after she does (I want to feel like I’m going to work), and once she leaves for her job, I sit down in my studio and get to work. Some days, I write a lot on my current novel. Some days, I write very little. Other times, I try to focus on marketing and publicity.
- When readers pick up your books, what would you most like to hear them say? “This could happen to me.”
- What would you least like them to do/say? “Well, that was disappointing.”
- Who is your literary idol? why? I’m going to go with two here: first, Ann Patchett, for all the reasons I listed earlier in this interview. The other would be Sue Grafton, who writes the Kinsey Millhone alphabet series. I admire so much her ability to write one character for more than twenty years and still keep her fresh. I would love to have that kind of talent and tenacity.
- If you could have written any book, which one would it have been? Hmm…that’s a tough one. Maybe “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn. I loved that book. Or possibly “Tipping the Velvet” by Sarah Waters. I am not a fan of historical fiction, but I devoured that book, which says a lot.
- What is your ‘tic’ (Repeated) word when writing? Gah! I have two: nod and smile. I use both of them WAY too much. And I know it and I still do it.
- Favourite word? Oooo, I like this question. I love the word “amnesia.” I have no idea why. I also like “catastrophe” and “convoluted.” And I just said to Bonnie the other night, “Oh, I love that word!” and now I can’t remember what it was. Damn you, middle age!
- Least favourite word? There aren’t many. I am a fan of words in general. That being said, I do not enjoy the word “moist.” *grimace*
10. What would you most like to develop in your writing? All of it. I would like to steadily improve. I don’t think writing is a career where you ever say, “Okay, there! I’m as good as I can be.” It’s constant improvement.
Thank you very much for joining me to chat, Georgia! Thank you so much for having me! Your questions were terrific!
Below are listed four of Georgia’s recommendations of her work and you can find Georgia here:
Facebook: Georgia Beers
Click on the links or the cover to head over and pick up your copy!
WINNER – GCLS – Ann Bannon Popular Choice Award + FINALIST – Lambda Literary Awards – Best Lesbian Romance.
My name is Avery King and I’m probably a lot like you. I’m a 34-year-old single lesbian and my heart belongs to my rescued mutt, Steve. I work as a graphic designer and my life is quiet and comfortable. I have a handful of very close friends who mean the world to me, and my beloved Grandma King is my only family. Her apartment is a hop, skip, and jump from my place and we spend a lot of time together baking and drinking tea and talking about life. All in all, I’m a pretty regular girl and for the most part, I lead a pretty regular life. Things I look forward to: baking goodies and then sharing them; spending time with my grand- mother; reading anything I can get my hands on; enjoying dinner with my friends; a quiet evening and a glass of wine; hiking new trails and exploring nature with Steve. Things I’d like to avoid at all costs: in-depth discussions with my ex; dealing with children; online dating; babysitting; falling for somebody’s mom; taking my perception of myself all the way back to square one. See that list of I’d like to avoid? Yeah, guess who’s going to hit every single one of them this year…
WINNER – Golden Crown Literary Society – Best Contemporary Romance + Foreword Reviews – Gold Medal, LGBT Book of the Year
9/11. Numbers carved on the hearts of every American. Numbers that transformed millions of lives. Numbers that threw two women together. Erica Ryan is flying home from London after a disastrous business trip. Free spirit Abby Hayes is flying into New York City to visit her mother before jetting off again when their flight is diverted to Gander, Newfoundland.The people of Gander are generous, and Erica and Abby are invited into a stranger’s home. It’s a simple act of kindness, and it draws the unlikely pair together. For 96 hours Erica and Abby share a rollercoaster of emotions and eventually find themselves drawn to one another.Will their nascent connection survive everyday life when they return home?
Mackenzie Campbell has no idea her life is about to fall apart. She’s bright and attractive with a good job, a comfortable home and an impending Christmas wedding she’s been planning for months. So when her girlfriend bails less than two weeks before the nuptials, Kenzie’s picture perfect Christmas world begins to crumble around her.
Determined to hold on to at least some shred of her dignity, Kenzie snags her best friend, Allison, and flees the cold of the Northeast to take the honeymoon anyway. The Rainbow’s Edge is an enormous LGBT resort in Southern Florida, and its atmosphere of sun and fun seems to be just what Kenzie needs to help take her mind off of her lost relationship. But can a few hot dances, a mysterious suitor, and a handful of rum runners help her figure out what it is she really wants?
What happens to lovers after the happy-ever-after moment? What goes on behind the closed doors of a relationship once the commitment is made? What does romance turn into when the hands of time keep turning? Olive Oil and White Bread is a novel that dares to answer those questions.
Angie Righetti is the daughter of a sprawling but close-knit Italian-American family. She’s out and they’re proud. Jillian Clark’s family is the white bread to Angie’s olive oil. Stoic and emotionally buttoned up, they don’t want to think about Jillian’s sexuality. It’s 1988 when they move in together, on the brink of starting their careers. Like every couple at the start of their life together, they expect to live happily ever after. And for 23 years life happens: they change jobs, buy a house, get a dog, deal with money issues and the death of a parent. They fight, love, cry, play, make mistakes, have regrets, and try to be good to each other and to everybody else. Like most of us they tumble into a routine that turns into a rut that leads to distraction and danger.
In 96 Hours Georgia Beers gave herself the challenge of writing a romance set in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. And she succeeded, coming up with a book that garnered awards and great reviews. She returns with a new challenge—writing a romance that starts, rather than ends, with the happy-ever-after.