We welcome Shira Glassman for our second author interview today on the blog! Shira writes Fantasy and Contemporary LGBT+ stories with Jewish characters, all of them with happy endings and wonderful storytelling. I love the answers she’s bringing for these questions and I hope everyone else enjoys them and go take a look at her work!
Q1: You recently released Knit One, Girl Two, an absolutely adorable novelette. And I wanted to ask, what was your inspiration for that story?
My good friend Caitlin Cieslewska dyes yarn for a living, in her magical garage studio her husband calls “Yarnia.” I was staying with her one weekend when my life was in shambles and I guess I just found her job really inspiring. “What,” I thought to myself, “if I wrote fluffy lesbian romance about an indie dyer?” The rest of it fell into place pretty quickly from there. I mean, her colorways (a yarn word for ‘color combination’) are just so gorgeous that they make you want to write stories about yarn. Take a peek; they stripe on their own.
Q2: I also read the first book in your Mangoverse series and fell in love with it easily. Did you always plan to turn this into a long book series?
Nope! Every single book in the series was a complete surprise. In fact, even finishing Mango at all shocked me — even in my fandom days I was never able to write full novels. I look back and see losing my father as the transformative event that grew me as a writer, for better or for worse.
After I finished it, I realized I’d fallen in love with my characters too much to leave them be, so I wrote another. And then it happened again, and again — which is only natural when you consider how close to my own experiences I’d made them. I mean, one of the characters is literally my childhood dragon. So I’d say writing so many stories with the same folks is the result of getting attached, but getting attached was predictable because of how personal they were from the beginning.
Q3: What are the differences that you found writing contemporary and fantasy? Any challenges?
With my few contemporary releases I’m always sort of caught off guard by how much easier it is to sell. I mean, I love fantasy; I love fairy tales and queens and dragons and magic, and everyone around me seems to as well, but both Fearless and Knit One Girl Two had these really strong openings that just sort of dwarfed the Mangoverse numerically.
A challenge with contemporary is that accuracy matters more — the museum in the date scene at the end of Knit One no longer calls their grouper a Jewfish like they did when I was a little girl, a source of several snarky comments from my leading ladies. I’m actually not sure how accurate my Ft. Lauderdale is, since I’ve spent such limited time there since moving in 1999. At one point, I included a deliberate inaccuracy — the Deli Den has been closed for several years, but this way I can visit it again and sigh over the complimentary onion rolls.
Q4: Can you tell us about some of your favorite F/F books?
CAN I?? Haha. Okay, so I grew up watching a lot of opera. I also love Jane Austen movies and basically anything else where people are roaming around in pretty dresses and pretty clothing. Imagine how lonely it is to be in that space and love that space and never have the ladies love each other romantically.
Well! Heather Rose Jones’s Alpennia series fixes all that. There are three books so far but more are coming, and by the end of the third book:
-there are two devoted-for-life lesbian couples, one of which includes a demisexual lady and the other of which includes a woman who swordfights
-one of them has founded a women’s college
-there are also several bi lady characters
-lesbians or bi women literally save the country in every single book
-tons of political intrigue
-a trans guy (and he gets to kill someone who was transphobic to him, Because Swordfights)
-there’s Jewish representation in historical fiction in which we don’t end up fried to a crisp! whee
It’s set in the early 1800’s in a teeny tiny imaginary country somewhere around France/Italy/Switzerland. Anyway they are great and I wish they were miniseries.
Another f/f book that really means a lot to me is Clare Ashton’s Poppy Jenkins, a contemporary Welsh village romance that carries all the sweetness of Anne of Green Gables and the old-fashioned dignity of Pride and Prejudice without sacrificing women’s physical desires for each other. So validating and healing.
I want to give a shout-out to RoAnna Sylver’s Chameleon Moon, a hopeful dystopian starring Evelyn Calliope, a trans woman with supersonic powers. She’s in a triad marriage with two other superwomen — one with powers over plants and the other with powers over machinery — and she’s just such a beacon of hope and affirmation. The whole book is centered on a queer ensemble cast that also includes nonbinary rep and ace rep.
Q5: What’s your favorite thing about being an author?
Imagine your entire life you NEVER get to eat your favorite part of the chicken. Mom always says you have to give the drumsticks to your little brother because he’s picky, or you can’t eat the breasts because they’re being saved for chicken salad for tomorrow’s picnic, or Dad gets first dibs because he’s the one who cooked, and eats both thighs because they’re the best. ALWAYS.
Then you grow up and go to college and you’re on your own and you walk into Publix and there, in the meat department…
….a whole package of just thighs.
That’s it, all for you.
So you take them home and stick them in the oven (after drying with paper towels and applying all your salt and spices, of course!) and in 90 minutes… they’re yours. And you don’t have to share. But then you want to share. You have your friends over, and you all eat dinner together and EVERYONE has enough thighs (or drumsticks, or whatever) and it’s like, why did we even have scarcity to begin with?
That’s my representation metaphor for the day.
It’s not just about marginalization, though. I wanted princesses to kiss. (Although in my case, I seem to be way more fixated on princesses finding working class women to kiss.) But I also wanted to find hetero romance that didn’t bore me silly. It’s pretty alienating being a bi woman when even the guys you like never get the girl!
So that’s where Isaac came from. In my books, girls kiss girls, and when they want to kiss guys, those guys are finally the guys I like — they’re older, beefier/fatter, beardier, and have the general aesthetic usually reserved for villains.
My favorite part about writing is I always get my chicken thighs — and I can share as many of them as I want.
Q6: Any plans for future works? If you can tell us about it, what are you going to publish next?
I’m pleased to announce that I have a short story accepted into Queer Pack’s Queerly Loving anthology. “Gifts of Spring” is a Baroque fantasy romance set in Bavaria, between a young trans woman mage and an older man, a Jewish street acrobat she rescues from an angry mob. As for WIP’s, I have several f/f ideas cooking as usual, but no idea which of them will end up finished!
Q7: Many F/F authors feel discouraged to publish or even write in this category, do you have any advice for them?
My advice to you depends on your reasons for getting discouraged. If you’re worried that it won’t sell and for you that’s an unavoidable factor, I can tell you that just from my limited experience contemporary has sold better and more quickly than fantasy. In other words, if you must sell books to feed your face and you’re equally in love with both genres — you just want to see girls kissing — then you might have a better chance with contemporary than fantasy.
HOWEVER: if there’s no chance you can actually make a living off this anyway — and I’m not — really, follow your heart, even if it takes you into subgenres and demographics that may not be as lucrative as others. Actually liking what you’re doing creates its own quality, and yes, f/f does have an audience — they’re just often hard to find.
So, you’ll have to get good at social media and interacting with review blogs and stuff. Make sure the Lesbrary and other f/f bloggers get an advance copy, and don’t forget to read what the rest of us are creating so that you become a member of an f/f community instead of just someone who pops in to talk about her own books and disappears again.
For every post I see on Tumblr that says there are “no” wlw books in this or that genre there are probably several books like it — this is not universally true, of course, especially when it comes to wlw with multiple marginalizations — but because of marginalization and the invisibility of small press it’s often very hard to hook the right books up with the right readers. This is the world you’d be heading into, so grab a bullhorn and strap on your marketing shoes. That’s the good news — look how many readers there are?? 😀
Also, there’s a conventional wisdom — and this is true for many people — that m/m and m/f sell better than f/f. My top seller for May was f/f. My lowest seller was m/m. I don’t think I’ve ever had it the other way around. So it’s definitely not universally true.
About the Author:
Shira Glassman is a bisexual Jewish violinist passionately inspired by German and French opera and Agatha Christie novels.
She lives in north central Florida, where the alligators are mostly harmless because they’re too lazy to be bothered.
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