Welcome, one and all, to another MDM Projects author interview! Today, we have Charli Coty stopping by.
Charli, welcome to the site. Can you give a quick introduction for those that may not be familiar with your work?
Hi Matt, thanks for having me! I’m an old bisexual gal who’s been writing forever and this year I’ve been published for 20 years! Most of that is het (no, most is queers on the downlow), but also out of print.
Your latest novel Speedbump was released earlier this month. The story follows nonbinary Ezra Cook and disgraced musician Ellred Long. First of all, what inspired you to write about a nonbinary character?
My daughter came out as trans in 2004 and since then I’ve been a vocal trans advocate and very interested in stories about people whose gender identities don’t fit social norms. It seemed natural to me to write them too.
The use of hormone injections is something that it sometimes seems like people are only really beginning to understand is part of life for many Trans people. How important was it for you to provide an authentic look at this?
Actually, Ezra doesn’t inject their T, for more than one reason. Ezra isn’t looking to fully medically transition, only to find a place between “woman” and “man” and live there, so they use cream. It’s not the most popular delivery system, but it works for what Ezra wants. While I was researching Speedbump I followed several blogs of folx doing exactly what Ezra does and learned a lot.
It’s been wonderful seeing more nonbinary characters appearing in fiction. Is this something that you think should have happened sooner?
Yes! I don’t see why we don’t have books featuring everyone under the rainbow. Sure, some are out there, but you have to dig to find them—and be very lucky. Hopefully that will change someday. It makes me happy to think I might be part of that change.
The blurb makes it clear that both Ezra and Ellred start out the book in less than ideal situations; Ezra is not only living on a small income but caring for a sibling with Alzheimer’s and Ellred has returned to his home town after unexpectedly being dumped by his band. Did you find it difficult to write characters in these sorts of situations? In particular, did you need to do much research as to the effects of Alzheimer’s?
I don’t have any trouble writing characters in dire straits, because I live there myself. My real trouble comes when they have to be prosperous and happy.
Over the years I’ve had a couple of friends who cared for people with Alzheimer’s so part of Tray’s character came from them—especially the amazing CJane Elliott. She’s a social worker and helped me with the terminology and also did a read for me to make sure I didn’t go too far off-course. She saved me from making a mistake and made the book so much better! I also read articles from the Alzheimer’s Association and the blogs of caregivers. Personal blogs are amazing for research—some of those folks are excellent writers as well.
Did you have a favourite non POV character to write?
I love all of the characters in Speedbump, but if I had to choose a favorite from the supporting cast it would be Brett Corona. She’s sort of modeled after a woman I…knew…a long time ago. That gal didn’t have a bike, though, so I gave Brett the same one I was responsible for the care and feeding of in the early 80s. I love Brett because she takes no shit and only suffers fools when they’re family. She’s also fiercely loyal and runs her own business. Who wouldn’t love a gal like that?
You also released The Visionary this year, which is a paranormal M/M romance about a community college student and a PI. What can you tell us about this book?
The Visionary is an Urban Fantasy with romantic elements and has been compared to Twin Peaks, which made me ridiculously happy. I’ve always loved stories that take place adjacent to real life, stories that make me feel like magic could be happening right down the street but we just don’t know about it yet. The original idea was inspired by a friend with synesthesia; it sounded cool to have a private detective who could solve crimes using different perception and it was. I ended up with a very dark story that was fun to write.
How different was it to work on The Visionary compared Speedbump?
Very different! It took me four years to write The Visionary because I’m not much for plotting. Urban Fantasy relies on plot more than Contemporary (at least more than my contemps 😊) and some of the twists and turns took me a while to figure out.
Speedbump, though, fought its way into the front of my brain and demanded to be written. When I started it looked very different than the book that’s on sale now. Red is the only character who looks the way they did in the beginning. mainly because I’ve known him the longest. He had a bit part in a story I wrote in the late 1990s and I deliberately brought him forward into Speedbump to give him an HEA, since I tortured him so badly back then.
Both of these books are available now from NineStar Press. How did you find this publisher, and how have you found working with them so far?
I first heard of NineStar Press on the Absolute Write forum, and then they favorited my Tweet about Speedbump in #DVPit. An agent also favorited that Tweet, though, so I spent some time querying agents before sending the manuscript to NineStar.
Everyone at NineStar is wonderful, from the publisher to editors and the cover artist. I’ve loved working with them and plan to do so again soon. In fact, I’ve signed a contract to publish an MM Romance novella with NineStar!
You have several books available from your own label, CeeTwo Publishing. What made you decide to open up CeeTwo Publishing?
I thought it might be fun to try my hand at self-publishing. It’s been an eye-opening experience, to say the least! I’m not really cut out for the Indie life but like having the outlet for 2nd Editions of some of my work
Do you have a favourite book available from this imprint?
Torque is hands-down my favorite, and the reason I went Indie in the first place. This is my gritty bi/ace/trans poly love story, and was originally published by Samhain—the same week they announced they were closing. It sort of got lost in that shuffle but is slowly getting out to readers. It’s the book I’m most proud of so far—it and Speedbump are the best work I’ve done to date.
You have also seen several novels release through Dreamspinner Press under the name Charley Descoteaux. What made you decide to publish under two different names, and can readers expect any difference in the nature or tone of stories from each name?
That’s a funny story, really. When I got laid off in 2012 I started writing Romances to cheer myself up but never thought they would be accepted. I’d been writing mainstream fiction since the late 1990s and publishing some of it, but had never written a Romance even though I’d read them since I had to steal them from my mom when she wasn’t looking. I chose the name Descoteaux because I truly am French (French Canadian 😊) and thought it sounded like a pen name one of Woodiwiss’ contemporaries would have used.
I created the Coty name because Descoteaux is just too hard to spell and I wanted to be kinder to readers. My Descoteaux stories tried to be Traditional Romances, but I don’t think they hit that mark. As Charli Coty, I’m telling the love stories I want to tell—if Romance readers enjoy them, everybody wins! Since I have no plans to tell any Dead Queer stories, readers are safe to read anything under either of those names.
I am of the view that there’s always more to learn, especially when it comes to creative ventures. That being the case, is there any advice that you’d give to upcoming authors trying to get a footing in the industry?
Well, I’m still working on getting a footing in the industry myself, but I will say this: find your voice and write it. A writer’s voice is their most important asset (besides actually getting the words out)—it’s what sets you apart from everyone else.
Moving away from writing for a moment, you spent a great deal of your youth on the back of a Harley. How did this happen, and what are your favourite memories of this period of your life?
Bikes are a great way to mis-spend a youth! I grew up in an area with a lot of bikers and when I was invited to ride I never said no. I’ve ridden between snowbanks higher than my head, and through the desert in Cali where the only other living things we saw were turkey vultures, but I think my favorite memories are just riding through the Oakland Hills all day. Oh, and wrenching. For some reason motorcycle maintenance was something I enjoyed. In a way it’s a lot like writing: there’s always a project if you want one, and sometimes the end results match what you’d intended.
You’ve also come through multiple natural disasters, including earthquakes, flood and tornadoes. Was there ever a time that you looked around during moments like this and felt scared for your life?
Oh yeah! I was stuck in a makeshift shelter for a few days during a “100 year flood” with about 125 other people. That was pretty stressful! We had no running water, limited resources, and some short-tempered folks with concealed-carry permits. But we all lived to tell the tale.
Finally, I wanted to thank you for stopping by today. Did you have any final message for readers, and where can they go to find out more? Feel free to link to anything that you want.
Thank you for having me! I’d like to encourage everyone out there to raise the voices of marginalized writers and creators. I’m a low-income queer woman with an invisible disability, but recognize my white privilege and try to boost the voices of PoC authors and creators. I’m happiest when promoting anyone but myself, and try to do so widely.
I have a blog but am more active on Facebook and Twitter. In fact, I have a Facebook group, Rainbow Snippets, where a bunch of authors get together every weekend to share from our work—WIPs, new or old releases, or book recommendations across the rainbow. Everyone is welcome to come and check us out!
Rainbow Snippets: https://www.facebook.com/groups/RainbowSnippets/