Free To Be LGBT is Harmony’s way of shining a spotlight on creators and business people in the LGBT community.
Please note: We use “LGBT” as an umbrella term, but do not wish to alienate any people in the QQ2SIAAPetcetc aka the potentially newfangled GSD ( http://www.queerty.com/therapists-argue-to-replace-lgbt-with-more-inclusive-gsd-20130223/ for more info about GSD).
If you feel you are forging a place for yourself in the artistic and/or business world and would like us to interview you, please get in touch!
For our very first spotlight, we’re talking with Colorado-based author Andi Marquette.
H: Hello, and thanks so much for being part of our new project! When did you first know you wanted to create? Did you ever expect it would become more than a hobby?
AM: Huh. I don’t really have an answer for that, because I’ve always made up stories in my head and play-acted various scenarios, even as a little kid. I liked being a pirate, a space explorer, an adventurer. Once I entered school, I continued making up stories and writing a few down. I also got involved in drama clubs. I read (and still do) voraciously, and figured that some day, I’d write my own stories and they’d be published. But I wasn’t entirely sure what that would mean, and how it would happen. And ta-da! It did! Part of that is because I worked in publishing during graduate school, so I learned a lot about the business end of things. I still needed to learn how to write better, so I focused on that and just kept trying to get my stuff out there and picked up somewhere. It’s a lot of work, but I love writing, so it doesn’t really feel like a chore. I am really humbled at the response to my work (criticism too), and I continue to hammer away at the craft of writing. It’s never something you ever perfect. That’s not the point of creating. The point is the journey and the experiences it brings, and the continued quest to become more comfortable in the milieu and to improve in your craft.
H: What is it like being your own ‘boss’?
AM: I’m actually not really my own boss. I don’t write full-time. I have a day job (99 percent of all writers have day jobs because writing does not pay the bills for most of us and certainly doesn’t offer healthcare). I am also published at traditional publishing houses in the lesfic* community, and I am beholden to the houses and their contract terms. I am, however, able to self-publish some of my work (and some I make available for free on my website), and in that regard, I am “my own boss.” And it’s a hell of a lot of work doing the self-publishing because I want to put out a good product for consumers (readers). I don’t want to half-ass anything, so I spend money to arrange professional editing, professional typesetting when necessary, professional covers on my novels and novellas, and some PR work. So there’s a chunk of the money that I make from publishing that goes right back into other projects. All that said, I really do enjoy the freedom of being able to make my own decisions regarding my self-published work. The flipside, of course, is that if something gets screwed up, it’s on me. It’s a live-and-learn situation. So I actually enjoy being a hybrid author – someone who publishes through traditional channels AND self-publishing channels. Especially because I have a day job. I simply do not have the time or energy to self-publish full-time. Hopefully that’ll change in the future.
H: If there were one word you could use to describe your writing, what would it be?
AM: FUN! (at least it is for me) For readers, maybe that word would be NEATO (as in mysteries, science fiction, and romance that feature lesbian characters).
H: Have you ever faced adversity because your stories were unabashedly queer? If so, how did you – or do you continue to – get past it?
AM: Not really. But then, I publish through lesbian publishing houses and I self-publish. Having said that, I write LGBT genre fiction, and it probably would not find too warm a reception at what we term a “mainstream” house because it is OMG so GAY! So QUEER! And often, my fiction features romantic relationships between women (and sometimes sex). Having said THAT, there are LGBTQ writers who do genre fiction for mainstream houses and who write LGBTQ characters. However, they don’t often portray sex between the characters (though it might be implied). To be fair, heterosexual genre fiction that isn’t expressly romance or erotica (and sold as such) doesn’t often do a lot of full-blown sex scenes between characters (though it’s implied). So I think maybe the mainstream publishing industry might be a little weirded out about sex in general. Although it is annoying that LGBT characters and writers are almost always automatically associated with sex, as if we don’t have anything else going on in our lives or stories. So I’m sure that stereotype is at play in mainstream publishing – the one where being gay means just the sexual relationships you have. Anyway, I write what I want to write. And I try to educate people about LGBTQ fiction and lives.
H: Name two milestones in your creative career.
AM: The publication of my first novel in 2008 and that novel winning an award. That was super-cool. But every recognition my work gets is super-cool. I love it when people write to me and tell me how much they enjoy reading what I write. I’m honored that they take the time to do that, and it’s up there with getting an award or being nominated for an award. Messages from readers are like “people’s awards.” I dig that, and I so appreciate that people are reading and enjoying the characters and stories as much as I do.
H: What do you hope your stories bring to their audience?
AM: A good read! 🙂 Oh, and characters and life events they can relate to and hopefully bring them back for more
H: Name something that makes your heart swell; makes you proud.
AM: All the work that my LGBTQ predecessors have been doing coming to fruition in my lifetime, and seeing the generations after me living their truths in a world that we’ve all been working so hard to create. It’s not easy, yet. We’re not safe, yet. But holy crap, I never thought in my lifetime I’d see marriage equality in any state, let alone the 16 we have now (plus DC). That blows my mind. I cry at Pride parades when I see groups like PFLAG and I see my elders marching holding hands. These people – living quietly, working quietly, setting examples. I cried when Edie Windsor marched in Pride. I cried when the Supreme Court ruled against DOMA and kicked Prop 8 back to California which paved the way for marriage equality there. I cry every time a state passes marriage equality. And I am so grateful for everything my predecessors have done and everything that LGBTQ people and straight allies are doing now to keep pushing that arc for justice. THAT makes my heart swell, even on the difficult days, when I grieve those who are lost to violence and ignorance. We are not done, friends. There are many, many disparities we need to address in terms of healthcare, education – everything. It’s not just about LGBTQ people, but I’ll tell you what, I love crying at Pride parades.
And all of my elders who pushed to get lesbian fiction out there, to help us find communities through that shared medium. My heart swells knowing that there was a Radclyffe Hall, a Sarah Dreher, that there is a Lee Lynch, a Katherine Forrest, a Barbara Grier, an Ann Bannon and so many others. Things have changed so much in lesbian fiction and lesbian publishing. It’s amazing. And yes, it makes me cry. 🙂
H: Name something that brings you to tears.
AM: See above. I also cry for all the LGBTQ people around the world who have to deal with the criminalization of who they are, who are routinely brutalized by police and regimes who have branded them “other.” There is MUCH work to be done, friends. MUCH. So yes, let us celebrate our victories, but let us not forget that we cannot rest on our laurels.
H: What are your current projects? If none, what have you most recently completed work on?
AM: Oh, lordie. This year was a “clear out the backlog” year for me. I had a rough 18 months prior to 2013 that involved some crappy health issues and took away from my writing. So THIS year I published two novels and a novella and it feels really good to be back in the saddle. The novella is a romance, available on Kindle called From the Boots Up. I published the fourth mystery in my New Mexico mystery series, Day of the Dead in November and in June the third in my sci fi series was released, The Edge of Rebellion. I’m working on the novel-length follow-up to Boots and it’s tentatively slated for a spring release. I’m also working on the fourth in my sci fi series and planning a fifth in my NM mystery series. I also have another romance I’m finishing that I hope to release next fall.
Other stuff I do – I’m a co-admin with fellow author Jove Belle at the blogsite Women and Words, where we post lots of stuff relevant to lesfic and feminist publishing, including new releases, what’s new in the publishing industry, writing tips, and guest blogs by tons of different lesfic and feminist writers who often give away copies of their work. And I’m an assistant editor at Luna Station Quarterly, an ezine dedicated to speculative fiction by women writers. I also blog regularly at my website (my blog is called “The Situation Room”). There you’ll find writing tips, publishing info, discussions about various genres, zombies, apocalyptic fiction and movies, TV shows, music. And whatever else I feel in the mood to discuss. Heh.
So, yeah. I keep busy.
H: If you could impact the LGBT community in one positive way, what would it be?
AM: I would like younger LGBTQ people to know that if they want to write, if they want to express themselves in that medium, there is an audience out there and there are lots of us who are willing to mentor you and educate you about the craft of writing and publishing. Creative pursuits can heal, and every single one of us who is LGBTQ carries wounds from homophobia and marginalization, along with whatever wounds we have depending on our backgrounds. Find a creative path, because that will help you with those wounds. I hope that my stories, in some way, have provided comfort to someone, or that I’ve been able to help someone find his or her path through my blogs on writing or the appearances I make at conferences and panel discussions. All that said, I wish I had a lot of money, because I’d like to start a foundation to educate younger people (LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ) about LGBTQ history and writing. Barring that, I do what I can 🙂
H: Similarly, if you could positively impact the way non-LGBT people view us, what would it be?
AM: I do it every day I go to work, every day I travel, and with every statement I make when I discuss my partner and/or my family and/or what I write about. I can’t force somebody to change his or her mind. All I can do is be who I am, and continue to point out disparities (I tend to be sort of gentle about it) and write/call companies about policies. I understand that some people live in fear of discovery, that they can’t be out for whatever reasons. So I try to be out for them, and chip away at the ice block of institutionalized homophobia. Building roads is long, hard, tedious work and a road is not going to be built in an hour or even a day. But every stretch in this road adds to what’s come before. I hope that in whatever way I can, I’ve helped somehow.
H: Do you have any advice for those hoping to have a meaningful career in the literary arts?
AM: It’s hard work. Do not expect sparkleponies and unicorns or dancing leprechauns and pots of gold. Do not expect giant paychecks. Do not do this work for money only. Do it because you HAVE to. Because it feeds your soul, and makes you passionate about yourself, the lives of others, and the journey you make in this life. Work at it. Do not assume that after a certain number of days or years that you can stop and oh, you’re the expert, now, and there’s nothing more to learn. There is ALWAYS something to learn, and there is always room for improvement. A creative path is like a sport. You can choose to do it recreationally or professionally. But either way requires involvement, dedication, and practice. To do it professionally requires more of all of that. If you’re fortunate enough to land a career in the literary arts that you enjoy, do not lose sight of your own learning and your own work outside of that. Any career is about balance. Make sure you find time for the pursuits that bring you joy.
Pragmatically, be willing to volunteer at the venues that interest you. I volunteer multiple hours every week, every month to mentoring, answering questions, and editing. I also volunteer at offline venues like community theater. I love it. I’ve met lots of great people, and you never know where a connection could take you. No work is beneath you. Be willing to give of your time and yourself to find your passion. And don’t ever, ever assume that the world owes you anything. You are responsible for your own journey and you will get out of it what you put into it.
H: If you’re open to it, would you share a coming out story? Big or small, funny or sad…
AM: LOL I assume you mean mine? Heh. Sure. First, I always knew I was “different.” I just wasn’t sure exactly what that meant. So. Here we go:
1986, the Hard Rock Café in San Francisco. I was a second-year college student in Colorado and over Christmas break I ended up at that restaurant in San Francisco (back then, the Hard Rock was, like, really cool). I sat down with my group (the place was packed) and looked around. I’d had this weird feeling all the way out to California that there was something I had to do, something I had to come to terms with. So I was sitting there in the restaurant and this really cute busgirl came up to the table. She looked right at me, kind of smiled, and said, “Can I help you with something?”
Whoa. I stammered something inane about a glass of iced tea or some crap and got up to go to the restroom. I don’t know why I had to do that. I didn’t have to pee or anything. I just had to get away from the table. Remember, the restaurant was PACKED. We had to wait a half-hour to get in. But I went to the bathroom and there was nobody else in it. I looked in the mirror and it was like my reflection said to me, “Girl, you’re a big ol’ lesbian.” I said it aloud: “Oh, my God. That’s it. I’m gay. Wow.” And it was like the sky opened up and a hallelujah chorus was going on all the way back to the table. I sat down, after this huge earth-shattering moment – what I like to call a “cosmic click” – and I felt like I couldn’t tell a soul. Remember, it was 1986. Things were a lot different then. But this revelation was so amazing, so COMFORTABLE and exciting that I left that restaurant with this new knowledge and I stopped berating myself for thinking about women as potential dating partners. It was like that revelation gave me permission to be who I was. Oh, and as an aside, that cute busgirl was VERY attentive to me the whole meal. I wish I had gotten her name. I’d thank her now if I could. As another aside, I had my first date with a woman the week after I got back to school. But that’s a whole OTHER story. LOL
And no, it hasn’t been easy. There are days where it’s still not easy. But hey, this is me. And I want to live my truth, so I’m willing to take on the struggles to do that. And for any of you out there who feel ashamed of who you are, or who feel less than, please know there are many of us out here who are willing to offer support to you. You are NOT less-than. You are an amazing human being, and there is only ONE you. There will only ever be ONE you. Please take that to heart and reach out for support.
H: Could you give us a roundup of where to find your work and be in the loop about your projects?
AM: Here you’ll see my blog, updates, lists of books and excerpts, and freebie stories so you can see if you’ll like my stuff. And there are links to buy my work at all the usual suspects: http://www.andimarquette.com
I’m also on Facebook under the mysterious label “Andi Marquette.”
And I’m under the equally enigmatic “andimarquette” at Twitter.
You can find me, too, at Women and Words: http://www.lesbianuathors.wordpress.com
Go there for all kinds of goodies about lesfic and feminist writing and publishing. Not just to find me.
H: Thank you for your time, Andi!
AM: All right. Thanks, y’all, for taking the time with me. May The Force be with you!
* lesfic: lesbian fiction