Welcome, one and all, to another author itnerview. Today, I’m welcoming J. Scott Coatsworth to the site. Not only is he the author of multiple books, he also runs some pretty awesome sites that have helped many authors get some much needed recognition. So, let’s get to the nitty-gritty stuff …
It’s a pleasure to have you aboard today. Can you give readers who may not be familiar with your work a quick introduction?
Sure. J I write sci fi, fantasy, and magical realism. I started writing in fourth grade, and sent off my first novel in my early twenties, but after a spate of rejections, I didn’t come back to writing until my mid forties. Now I’m making up for lost time.
We’re going to start by looking at your series The Oberon Cycle, and in particular your latest release, Lander. When I was browsing through the various listing for the book, I noticed that the series was tagged as being ‘wingfic’. This wasn’t a term that I was familiar with, so I looked it up, and it turns that it seems to be exactly what it sounds like: fiction wherein characters sprout wings. Is that correct? What attracted you to this as a subgenre?
I don’t know, exactly? There’s just something about guys with wings. I’ve been fascinated with the idea for a long time. Maybe it’s the idea of flight itself. I dream of flying – sometimes flapping my arms, sometimes Superman style. Maybe it’s the angelic undertones – the idea of the REALLY GOOD GUY, you know? Then there’s Icarus, and the tragedy of flying too close to the sun. There’s just something compelling about it.
The blurb for Lander confirms that our lead heroes have brought together the worlds of Titania and Oberon, and the excerpt on your site shows that the new unified world is called Erro. While I’m sure that most will recognise Titania and Oberon as characters from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, both Oberon and a nameless fairy queen do appear in a lot of classic literature. Meanwhile, Erro put me in mind of Eros from the Greek pantheon. Would you consider yourself as being heavily influenced by classical literature?
LOL… no, actually. The Shakespearian connection came about by accident. I wrote the initial three scenes around 1995, and named the world Oberon. I don’t even know why. When I came back to it in 2014, I did some research and came across the whole Midsummer Night’s Dream connection, and that inspired the idea of Pith, and it all kinda snowballed from there. J
Lander – and indeed Skythane before it – blend the science fiction, fantasy and romance genres. I think that most people tend to view these as three separate styles of story, though there are certainly examples of them being blended before. Where the book really stands out though is that the romance is between two male characters. Historically, most M/M romance has been contemporary in nature, so seeing the rise in LGBT genre fiction has been quite heartening. How important do you think it is to see more LGBT genre fiction popping up?
It’s kind of my cause de celebre – damn, I hope I’m using that right. French is not my strong suit. I run the QueerSciFi.com site and group, and I have been pushing for more and more queer representation both in romantic speculative fiction and in the mainstream. I’m heartened by all of the energy in this area, and I think a number of writers are poised to break out in this market over the next five years.
Despite the fantasy setting of the books, are any of the characters or moments in The Oberon Cycle based on real people and events?
Not specifically, no? All of my stories rely on my life experience, so in that way, generally, yes, but nothing was ripped from the headlines of my life. For that, you’ll have to read the River City Chronicles. 😛
The first book in the series, Skythane, was very well received by readers. Did this create a sense of pressure at all when it came to writing the sequel?
Kinda? But all I can do is put my head down and do what I do – spin worlds from the stuff in my head. I am a bit nervous about “Lander” – I don’t know if I’ll hit the magic formula again, you know? But I’ve put together the best story I can manage, and I just have to trust to my talent and hope my readers enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
In particular, you have been praised for your world building. How do you approach this in your work? Do you keep files with key points ready to slot into the right place in the story, does it come on the fly, or is it a mix of both?
I keep a pretty extensive glossary and world notes. For each book, I generally know where it’s going when I start, but it usually twists and turns a bit. I keep a copy of the previous book(s) handy so I can refer back when I need to. And it just kind of builds. The key for me is to build it in small pieces – slipped in during conversation, during the action – not in a big data dump.
While the MCs are the obviously the main focus of any book, there is often much joy to be had with side characters, both for readers and authors. Do you have a favourite side character in the series?
Yes. Morgan is an enigma, and when I kinda killed him off in book one, many folks were upset. Spoiler alert – he’s not really dead. I’m having fun with him, and plan some interesting things for him in “Ithani,” the third and final book.
The series is set to be a trilogy. With around a year between publication dates for Skythane and Lander, readers haven’t had long to wait to continue the story so far. Is book three already in the works, and can we expect a similar sort of gap between books to and three?
Yes. I am writing “Ithani” now, with a planned release date of Feb. 2019. I know some folks write and release trilogies now Netflix style, all at once or in the space of a few weeks, but I’m a bit old school. Plus I just can’t write that fast, especially when I’m juggling both the “Oberon Cycle” (Skythane) and the “Liminal Sky” trilogy (Across the Stark Divide).
Looking outside The Oberon Cycle, you also have also released The Stark Divide, which is book one is your Liminal Sky series. The mention of a living ship in the blurb brought Farscape to mind for me. What can you tell us about this series and its influences?
Damn. It’s like you’re reading my mind. Remember how I mentioned my first book, that was roundly rejected by publishers? It took place on a generation ship called Forever. When I came back to writing a few years ago, I was determined to resurrect that world, and so I decided to go back to the beginning and figure out where the world came from. Seedling, the first part of the first book, was the result of that exercise, and it just grew from there. It’s heavily influenced by Peter Hamilton’s Commonwealth series, and by Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series – the latter’s “thread” having given me ideas for creating worlds that are truly different. Forever with its glowing plants and Oberon’s half world.
By the same token, you also recently released a post-apocalyptic novel titled The Great North. How does this novel differ to the others mentioned above?
It shares a combined sci fi-fantasy DNA with the other two, but this one takes place entirely on Earth. I’m a little cagey about the time frame at first, wanting to let the reader guess. It’s also different in that it flows from a legend – St. Dwynwyn, whose “day” is the Valentine’s Day of Wales. So it was a whole different experience to take an existing legend and make it queer, as well as putting my own stamp on it. And Mael is super hot. LOL
The full-length genre fiction titles that you have written all form parts of series, rather than being stand alone books. Was this intentional in each case, or did the stories expand too much for one book as you went along?
It was intentional. I’m not sure how wise it was LOL. Many folks won’t start a series until all the books are out, which can be a real drag on sci fi series writers. But all my favorite sci fi writers wrote series, and I loved being able to get lost in the same worlds book after book. So both trilogies were planned that way. That said, I’m not averse to doing some stand-alones. I have done some, actually, as novellas – “Homecoming,” “The Great North,” “The Autumn Lands,” and “Through the Veil.” Some of those might be expanded into novels at some point.
You have also made multiple appearances in anthologies, covering a multitude of genres. Do you find it easier to write full-length stories or shorter pieces?
I used to only be able to write novels. All my stories wanted to become them. But when I came back to writing, I was really rusty. So I decided to start small. I scoured Dreamspinner’s Call for Submissions page and wrote a story for every anthology they were doing, and one of them sold – “The Bear at the Bar.” From there, I worked up to novellas, and then eventually back to novels. Now I feel comfortable writing at all lengths.
Moving away from your own writing, you also run two quite prolific sites, both of which have been great for giving coverage to authors, myself included. The first of these is Queer Sci-Fi. Here, you and your fellow admins Angel Martinez and Ben Brock cover LGBT sci-fi, fantasy, horror and paranormal fiction. What inspired you to start this site, and how did you, Angel and Ben come together in its creation?
When I started writing again, I looked for groups that supported writers like me. I found a few, but none of them were as wide-ranging and inclusive as I wanted. So I started QSF. Angel was admin on another group again. I really wanted her – she’s all kinds of awesome. But I had to wait until her commitment there was at an end, and then she joined me. She has a great way of defusing things when they get tense, and is the steady, calm influence on the group. Ben came a little later, and was already reviewing books when I asked him to become the QSF reviewer. He recently expanded the program, and I’m thrilled to have him. We’ve been friends for a few years now, and the three of us work well together.
For those that don’t know, what kind of postings can people expect from the site?
QSF specializes in getting the word out about writers and books that fall in the queer spectrum and the speculative fiction genres – sci fi, fantasy, paranormal and horror. We also regularly post reviews, interesting articles, and discussion topics. The discussions on the FB group are the heart of what makes QSF special – where we run a safe space to talk about all kinds of things related to writing and reading in these genres. We’ve had folks who have joined Facebook just to be a part of the group, and we’re just about to hit 3,000 members.
Next up is Queeromance Ink. This was formed by yourself, your husband Mark Guzman, and author Kaje Harper, and is a directory of LGBT romance and related books. What sparked the creation of the site?
When ARe (All Romance eBooks) collapsed unexpectedly over the course of a week just after Christmas 2016, Mark and I were just about to head to Ecuador for three weeks. Then he got sick, and we had to cancel the trip.
All of a sudden we were super caught up with work, and we had this opportunity in front of us. I’d just run across a cool books plugin for WordPress, and I contacted the developer to see if she would be interested in creating an ARe replacement – a queer replacement. And guess what? She turned out to be a former MM romance writer.
You seriously can’t make this shit up.
I was still mulling it over when Kage posted in an ARe discussion group that we should build our own site as authors.
It was fate.
So I wrote her, and over the course of about a week, I convinced her to work with us in an advisory role. And we were off.
The site launched after just about three weeks, and it now has almost 550 authors and close to 2,500 books. We also just added new TBR list and author favoriting capabilities to the site for readers, and we’re planning a lot more going forward.
If you could say anything to authors with regards to how the sites can help them, what would they be?
QSF is all about community. It’s a great way to find support – great friends and so much help as authors to get your work out there and as readers to get recommendations for books you’ll love.
QRI is a crazy-cool book directory. We ask for tons of information on each book, but it lets us filter searches like no one else. Want a lesbian space vampire book? We got you covered. How about a gay historical sports novel? Slice and dice our database at will. We serve up books by genre, by identity, by pairing, and by author. And when you add a book or sale, anyone who has favorited you or TBR’d your book gets an email. It’s taken a while to build, but as it matures, it’s becoming a more and more powerful way to sell books. And you send the sales where you want them.
In terms of writing, I am of the belief that there is always more to learn. That being the case, what advice would you give to aspiring authors still trying to get a foothold in the industry?
Read the thing you want to write. Get beta readers. Listen to what they tell you. If you self publish, get a good editor. And write what you are passionate about, not what you think will be popular.
Moving away from writing briefly, you and your husband Mark have been together for more than 25 years now. That is something that I think many aspire to. What’s your secret?
Never go to bed angry. Always apologize, even when you aren’t sure you did anything wrong. Say you love him every day. And snuggle at night.
Finally, I wanted to thank you for stopping by. Did you have any final messages for readers? Where can they go to find out more about you and your work? Feel free to link to anything you want.
LOL… thank you so much for the opportunity. I loved your questions – you really dug in deep. You can find more about me at https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com – and sign up for my email list to get a free eBook – “A New Year.” And look me up on Facebook and friend me!
PURCHASE LINKS FOR LANDER
Dreamspinner eBook: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/lander-by-j-scott-coatsworth-9317-b
Dreamspinner paperback: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/lander-by-j-scott-coatsworth-9318-b
QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/book/lander/
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38088645-lander