Today I welcome Dawn R. Schuldenfrei to Queering Up Your Bookshelf to talk about how fellow queer romance writers KJ Charles and Jordan L. Hawk inspired her to keep writing, favorite tropes, and her upcoming release, LIMINAL HEARTS.
Dawn R. Schuldenfrei (she/her) writes primarily fantasy. She happily fulfills the role of “the quiet one everyone used to think was normal,” surprising family and innocent bystanders with her dark and twisted sense of humor at the perfectly inopportune moment.
She hopes to one day meet all her characters, and those of her favorite authors, since she knows they're out there somewhere. Until then, she'll continue to have conversations with them in her head, and occasionally out loud (but she'll pretend she's talking to the dog).
Find Dawn online:
.1. What is your writing origin story?
I’ve enjoyed writing for almost as long as I can remember. It was a hobby at first; I planned to be a microbiologist at the time! Then I realized I didn’t like living in the lab, and I’d rather live in my head.
I had a little luck early on with publishing some poetry and nonfiction pieces. Then I got distracted by kids and marriage problems, and took a break for about a dozen years. I wasn’t reading fiction during that time either. But a couple years ago I was in a really rough relationship patch, and looked for an outlet via books. I stumbled onto Jordan L. Hawk and KJ Charles, and it was like the whole world opened up again. They really motivated me to get back into my own writing.
2. What inspires your writing and how do you keep that inspiration alive?
I love excitement and adventure, and I can’t find that in the real world, so I want to create it, for myself and for other people. I get inspiration from reading good books (fiction and nonfiction). Everything goes into my brain and crashes around until fun things pop out.
3. What does representation mean to you and how does it feature in your writing?
I think it’s important to show as many different people living their unique lives as possible. I’m panromantic ace, but I didn’t even know asexuality was a thing until I was in my mid-30’s. It would have been immensely helpful to understand that part of myself when I was younger.
Also, seeing depictions of queer people bonding and loving each other, platonically as well as romantically, can give a better sense that there’s community out there for everyone, and if you don’t have that community in your life yet, there’s still hope of finding it someday.
4. How do you balance your writing life with everything else life throws at you?
My balancing act is more like teetering violently from one side to the other while desperately hanging on by my toes. I’m ADD, so my brain likes to leap all over the place and jump on whatever catches its attention at the moment. Plus, I have kids that need me to varying degrees, so my schedule can be erratic. I’ve found putting deadlines on myself and then using other people to enforce them (scheduling with my editor so I know I have to send her my WIP by a certain date, telling everyone what my publication date will be, etc.) helps me get things done, even if it means pulling some late nights.
5. What has your publishing journey been like?
I attended the Odyssey Fantasy Writers Workshop in the late 90’s, and started submitting stories for publication after that. I got a lot of nice rejection letters: “I really like this story, but we don’t have a place for it at this time.” I had some small successes, but when I came back to writing recently, I realized I didn’t want to deal with the gatekeeping and turnaround times of the mainstream publishing world. I want to follow my own schedule, find my own cover art, all of that. So this time around I’m going independent.
6. What are some of your favorite tropes and how do you subvert them?
I really like chosen one and hidden heir type stories. Sometimes I mix things up by adding some weird humor to it (one of my planned series involves a farmer-turned-detective and his psychic chicken). Sometimes by just changing up where the story goes versus where readers expect it to: the chosen one fails, the rediscovered heir walks away, those kinds of things.
7. What advice do you have for new authors?
Write what you like; there are readers for it out there somewhere. Don’t listen to people who tell you there’s only one way to do something, or even worse, that thing can’t/shouldn’t be done. Usually that just means they don’t know as much as they think they do. Over the years they’ve declared horror dead, fantasy done, and so on. And they’re always wrong.
8. What is one thing that surprised you about your current project?
When I started LIMINAL HEARTS, I wanted to write a unicorn story for adults. Where the unicorn was there to rescue a middle-aged woman, instead of some virginal kid. Then it turned out my unicorn needed more rescuing than the human woman did. Maybe now it’s a human story for unicorns?
9. What is one of your favorite scenes or characters that you have written recently?
I have a critter based on a hellbender salamander in my current book. His name is Sal, and he’s pretty adorable. One of my favorite scenes is when the main characters realize the hard way that he likes to get wet whenever he can. Even if he’s inside the house, and the only water around is in the toilet
10. What are you currently working on? What’s next for you?
My current work is called LIMINAL HEARTS, and it’s book one in my RULES OF CHAOS series. I have a prequel short story out already, and five books total planned. LIMINAL HEARTS follows Anaya, a unicorn who can take human form, and Tara, a panromantic asexual human, as they try to save the Lake Champlain monster from an evil unicorn. It’ll be out at the end of June.
Next will be book two, which doesn’t have a title yet. It’ll follow half-fae/half-gnome Elsee, the protagonist from STRINGS ATTACHED, the prequel short. She’ll have to figure out what has the Appalachian Fae Court all stirred up and how to stop her aunt, the queen, from ruining Elsee’s life, and possibly the whole area.
Battle musical chairs!
Half-fae/half-gnome Elsee has avoided the games and power plays of the Appalachian Faerie Court so far. She prefers hanging out with her grandfather in the stony caverns around Lookout Mountain, Georgia, and making music with the local humans.
But then her aunt, Queen Aoife, comes to claim Elsee’s most prized possession. When she can no longer avoid fae rules, Elsee must find her own way around them.
Because even family needs boundaries, and nobody touches this girl’s banjo.
Magic is moving. Things are stirring. Let the games begin…
Book 0 of the Rules of Chaos series.
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COMING SOON: LIMINAL HEARTS (Rules of Chaos, Book 1 )
Fall in Vermont is lovely: beautiful leaves, cool days, slimy lake monsters, an evil unicorn…
Tara wasn’t expecting to meet the woman of her dreams at her little library in Starksburgh, Vermont. She’s asexual for starters, which makes finding someone compatible a bit hard. She’s okay with that: she has friends and a decent life.
But this woman really stands out. Tara knows she’s found a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and she’s not about to let that get away. Even if it means following a human-looking unicorn into the stranger depths of the backwoods.
Anaya came to Vermont tracking a supernatural killer, one who’s a little too familiar. The human she meets is a pleasant distraction, but could she be more than that? How much can Anaya trust herself? Does she have the strength to save herself, let alone everyone else?
The Loch Ness Monster has been devoured…can Anaya and Tara keep the Lake Champlain Monster from being next?