Today, I welcome fellow NineStar Press author Dez Schwartz to Queering Up Your Bookshelf to talk about her next book in the ROAM series, HUNTER, out April 8 from NineStar Press, writing Dreampunk and Paranormal, and writing the beginning of the ROAM series totally without an outline!
Vampire apologist and lifelong enthusiast of classic gothic horror, cryptids, and the occult; Dez Schwartz writes Dreampunk & Paranormal LGBTQ Fiction with a spellbinding balance of darkness and humor. When she’s not busy writing, she can most likely be found with a latte in hand, perusing antique shops for oddities and peculiar vintage books or wrangling her demonic (but adorable) cats.
Find Dez online:
1. What is your writing origin story?
It's funny, considering the current pop culture climate. I actually got my start when I was in High School in 1999 and decided there was a desperate need for a female Ghostbuster. The first thing I ever wrote was a Ghostbusters fanfiction that introduced a woman to the team. People loved it which encouraged me to write more GB fanfics. I went on to write fanfiction for other fandoms such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and, more recently, BBC Sherlock and The Magicians. In 2015, I finally decided to make the leap to original fiction and sat down to write the first ROAM book. I've been consistently putting out work ever since.
2. What inspires your writing and how do you keep that inspiration alive?
In terms of thematic elements, I'm heavily inspired by existentialism, Victorian Gothic literature, and folklore. As for what sparks my imagination and gets me in the mood to write, I love listening to Southern Gothic Rock and 80s music, reading Oscar Wilde, and looking at historical fashion and art (primarily Rococo & Victorian). I think in order to keep your inspiration alive, you have to make it a point to seek out new information. You can easily do this online but I also love to visit museums, libraries, antique shops, and to travel when I can. Taking time to relax and refuel is essential.
3. What does representation mean to you and how does it feature in your writing?
Contrary to what industries seemed to believe several years ago, you can't just shove a minor character with little-to-no arc into your story and then pat yourself on the back. Thankfully, a lot of books, shows, and movies have improved on this over the past few years. My desire to write ROAM was greatly propelled by the lack of LGBTQ characters that I saw in leading roles. You know all those fanfics that I mentioned earlier? Every one of them had LGBTQ rep and I came to a point where I felt that what I really needed to be doing was putting original LGBTQ content out into the world. Fast forward to today and I have met so many talented writers that are all working hard toward the same goal—giving our community a catalouge of entertainment choices as vast as the choices that have always been available for everyone else. It'll take a while but we'll get there and I'm glad that the writing community has really come together to support one another in this.
4. What are some of your favorite tropes (or ways to subvert them)?
I'm a sucker for anti-heroes, enemies-to-lovers, relatable monsters, and reluctant heroes. I don't really subvert these (since I do love them so much) but I try to find ways to make them feel fresh by creating new monsters or pushing boundaries in ways that I haven't seen others do often already.
5. What is your writing process?
I wrote ROAM without an outline. I didn't know what I was doing. I got little sleep and would stay up all night on some weekends to work on it. It was my first full length novel and I just dove in with reckless abandon and you know what? I love that I did. I learned a lot. HUNTER (ROAM: Book Two) definitely had an outline and I just finished the rough draft for DREAM WEAVER (ROAM: Book Three) which not only had an outline but also word count goals and deadlines that I set for myself. It was a much more streamlined process. I have a few other books outside of the ROAM series and those were outlined as well. I'm still evolving my writing process as I learn new tricks that work for me. Currently, I begin with a general outline to allow for flexibility, follow up with research, set daily goals to try and make whatever deadline I've set for myself, and then strive to write for about two hours a day when possible. I tend to write at home, either in my small office (Writer's Nook) or at the dining room table. I always have coffee on hand and I usually light a candle. I try to write when I have time alone, aside from my cats that narrow their eyes at me and flatten their ears when I randomly laugh at my own jokes while typing them. Behind every successful writing process is a feline critic. I'm sure you know this.
6. What is your best piece of writing advice?
Make mistakes. Don't be afraid to write anything that sparks your interest or to try new techniques. You'll learn to keep what works best for you and then you can toss out the rest. There's not one magical right way to do this job. In fact, that is what makes it magical.
7. What is the hardest lesson you learned while writing?
Writing is a lonely craft. It becomes so easy to be impassioned about your work to the point where you obsess over it constantly, seclude yourself, and lose sleep in order to get all of the words down. Why do you write like you're running out of time? becomes a mantra. Be sure to schedule time in for friends and life adventures. Even if you have to physically do that by jotting it down in a planner to hold yourself accountable. Having coffee with Mary isn't going to hurt your writing. I promise.
8. What do you hope readers will take away from your work?
The underlying theme in the majority of my stories is that you don't have to live up to society's expectations of perfection in order to have value. Hell, you don't even have to be a good person one-hundred percent of the time. You inherently have value because your energy, like all of ours, is part of the universe. All you have to do is decide what you want to do with that energy while you have it. Other than that, I write with a lot of humor so I hope readers leave the story having had a good laugh at some point.
9. What is a great queer book you have read recently?
It's a short story but I really enjoyed ROMANCING THE WEREWOLF by Gail Carriger. I love paranormal characters and humor so it was a great match for me. Like most everyone else, I'm still a mess over the beauty of CALL ME BY YOUR NAME by Andre' Aciman. I've met a lot of new LGBTQ writers that have books that have just released or are releasing later this year so I'm looking forward to really bulking up my collection.
10. What are you currently working on? What’s next for you?
As mentioned, I just finished writing the rough draft for DREAM WEAVER (ROAM: Book Three) so I'll begin revisions and editing on that soon. After that, I have a YA M/M Paranormal series, THE DEAD OAKS, that I'm in the midst of so I'll begin writing the next book for that. While I'm known for Dreampunk & Paranormal stories, I've been toying with the idea of writing my first Contemporary Romantic Comedy. I'll just have to wait and see where my muse takes me when I get there.