Jeff & Will recommend everyone check out the new podcast Gay Mystery Authors. They also congratulate Top To BOTM Podcast on their two year anniversary and 50th episode.
The guys talk about what they’ll be doing at GRL, from lounge sessions to hosting Q&As and a Facebook Live show they’ll be doing with special guest Charlie David.
Will reviews the historical paranormal The Harvest Moon by Joshua Ian.
Jeff interviews Ginn Hale about the just released Master of Restless Shadows, which is the final duology in the Cadeleonian series. Ginn talks about the origin of the series and the inspirations behind it. Ginn also discusses her process for world building, her love of plotting and what started her journey as a writer.
Remember, you can listen and subscribe to the podcast anytime on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, PlayerFM, YouTube and audio file download.
Here are the things we talk about in this episode. Please note, these links includes affiliate links for which we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase.
- Gay Mystery Authors Podcast website
- Top To BOTM Podcast website
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Facebook
- The Harvest Moon by Joshua Ian on Amazon
- Ginn Hale Interview
- Ginn Hale: website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Amazon
- Masters of Restless Shadows Book One (The Cadeleonian Series 5) by Ginn Hale on Amazon
- Lord of the White Hell duology (The Cadeleonian Series 1 & 2) by Ginn Hale on Amazon
- Champion of the Scarlet Wolf duology (The Cadeleonian Series 3 & 4) by Ginn Hale on Amazon
- The Rifter series by Ginn Hale on Amazon
- Maze-Born Trouble by Ginn Hale on Amazon
- The Northern Girl by Elizabeth A. Lynn on Amazon
- The Woman Who Loved the Moon by Elizabeth A. Lynn on Amazon
- The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall on Amazon
- The Charioteer by Mary Renault on Amazon
- Devil Take Me Anthology on Amazon
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Patreon.com
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast patrons on BGFP website
Interview Transcript – Ginn Hale
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Jeff: Welcome, Ginn Hale to the podcast. It is so good to have you here.
Ginn: Thank you. It’s great to be here. Hello!
Jeff: You have just released a new book that happens to be the beginning of the end to the “Cadeleon” series, for those who might be new to that series, tell us all about it.
Ginn: It is a trilogy of duologies. The first set are “Lord of the White Hell.” The second set is “Champion of the Scarlet Wolf.” Then the third set is this “Master of Restless Shadows.” It’s an epic fantasy. On the surface, it’s all about battles over national rulership, demon invasions and spells and curses. But really the core of it is a group of school friends who are almost all Queer and how they go from being, you know, young teenagers and very enclosed, and then steadily build their own communities and societies and change the world around them.
While it’s like epic adventure, the core of it is really their relationships as friends and when they come into conflict, how they resolve that. That’s sort of what it’s about without giving away too much.
Jeff: Yeah, no spoilers here.
What’s this new book about the “Master of Restless Shadows?” What can you say without getting into that spoiler territory?
Ginn: It’s specifically about the rulership of Cadeleon. The previous books were about another nation that was under their protectorate, breaking away and getting their own self control and rulership and that nation. Several of the school friends went and helped the other side basically and brought about like an awakening of old gods and magical forces that the Cadeleonian church had suppressed.
This is sort of a crisis between the group of friends. There’s also a fight going on within the Cadeleonian nation between people who are much more diverse and liberal and open and people who really want to return to a hyper conservative, very racist past.
A number of characters are of mixed race. Quite a few of them…all of them I think, are LGBTQIA, so there’s like a huge diversity of characters who all have their own political agendas and reasons for supporting whoever they do. The core characters are Atreau, who is a spymaster but he’s also a playwright. He’s kind of loosely based on Christopher Marlowe, the contemporary of Shakespeare’s who was an incredible playwright, but because he came from such poverty and hardship he had to take jobs for the privy council working as a spy. There’s a lot of that in Atreau.
Then there’s his school friend who is you know, much, much more wealthy. Fedeles who is actually now inherited a dukedom and he is, in a way, almost disabled because his sensitivity to magic makes him see things that just aren’t there for anyone else. So he’s constantly having these visions, you know, like there are these ghosts looming up over things that are just terrifying for him. But no one else, or very few other people, can see them and so he’s always going through things that other people aren’t aware of. A lot of times he seems like he’s the Mad Duke. But he’s also a favorite of the king and a major supporter of the heir to the crown.
Then there’s Narsi who is the new character who’s come up from the very liberal capital of Anacleto in the South. He’s been brought in to this circle, this King Circle and the Duke Circle, because he’s a physician and he’s connected with other members of the family. I don’t want to spoil it but he’s an important character. He is super clever and a problem solver which I love.
Then the last character is a character Ariz, who I slipped in in the very first books just as this tiny, tiny sixteen-year-old character you barely see. He’s just boring as a lump of dirt. He’s worked very hard on maintaining this incredibly nondescript, uninteresting kind of appearance, which it makes it really hard as an author to describe people noticing him. You noticed the really unnoticeable guy.
So it’s sort of the conflict and the alliances that these characters all have and make that eventually decides the rulership of a Nation.
Jeff: And when does the second book of this particular duology come out?
Ginn: It will be out next year. Yeah. Hopefully it’ll just take people a really long time to read the first book.
I write the duologies, I actually write them as one whole book so they’re written entirely and then they’re cut .
Jeff: When you write like that, do you know where the cut point will be, or is it truly like oh here’s half and so we’re just going to cut it there.
Ginn: No, the first time it was just it was a huge story and I didn’t have any intention of cutting it and there just happened to be this point.
Because it was set up around a school year – because it’s introducing these school friends where it just happened to cut very nicely, and so because the printing constraints required it to be two shorter books, to basically not at the spine crack in half, and then the second book I actually did build the plot so that it had this midpoint conflict and then kind of went down and then had another much higher point conflict to be the final resolution. So there’s a smaller battle that makes a turning point for the characters that puts them on the road to the really big final epic battle. I love plotting.
Jeff: I would imagine for a book like this, in a series like this, you’ve really kind of got to get the plot sorted so, you know, what each book is doing what the entire series is doing?
Ginn: Yeah, I really would feel terrible if I was just like, well now I need to figure out what to happen. Like I, at one point, I have and this very big outline like you fold it out. It’s not as big as the one for “The Rifter. “The Rifter” books had a 24 by 36 sheet of newsprint that I used to write out because it had two timelines.
But for the “Cadeleonians,” I have like these big kind of roll out – I guess they’re architectural papers to write those out. But at one point I thought I’d lost one and I was just like…*gasp*, but fortunately I had taken photos of the outline and I was able to put it back together. Yeah, but there was just this one moment where I was just like, oh no, just because there are so many little details that I’ve tried to put in to build up everything that’s going to come to a climax in the very last book.
So just having to go back through and read all them to try and find those details again would have been a nightmare.
Jeff: How much did things change from when you started this series to getting through the final book? Did the plot stay or did it end up and kind of morph as you went along?
Ginn: Most of the plot stayed completely. The only thing that changed is I have my editor, they really, really liked the character of Atreau and originally he was always going to be a character throughout all the books because he’s the person who’s writing down the histories that you know, there are the stories of the books that makes sense.
Like he’s writing his memoirs which are the books I’m writing. But his version is way sexier.
So she just really loved this character Atreau and she was like, why don’t you tell the story from his point of view, at least one segment of it, use him as a character and I was like, well, I don’t know. I don’t know about doing it. He’s kind of a weird character try and pin down, like I love giving him little sidelines that are clever and things like that but to actually maintain that…
His sort of poetic speech and things like that. All the time is a little tough, but then I started thinking about it more and more and I really loved the idea of sort of his dual character and exploring that, where he outwardly pretends to be this complete degenerate who doesn’t care about anything, you know, and he’s just a playwright and whatever, but he’s actually very central to a lot of politics and he’s actually an incredibly good actor and an uncanny kind of political judge. And so I was like, well, you know, he’s a really interesting character and he has so much insight into everyone else that he’s really kind of cool to write about and he’s very flawed as well which kind of offsets the character of Narsi is a bit younger and more naive and idealistic.
So the two of them once I started writing them together. They just had this really nice witty repartee where Atreau is, you know, intelligent and experienced and sometimes underestimates just how smart Narsi is because Narsi while he hasn’t had a ton of world experience, is very clever and thoughtful and has also read all of Atreau’s books and memorized them.
He’s a really huge fan and they’ve actually known each other for a really long time. It’s just Atreau doesn’t really remember because you know, he had a lot going on, what was being, you know hunted by the Bishop’s men and having to ride through the city for his life, he didn’t notice that Narsi was actually working in the household he was in.
And you know they met and that’s part of the mystery of the story is how they knew each other and what interactions they had and why Narsi has all these insights into Atreau but no one else guesses at – that was sort of a fun thing to be able to bring back in.
Jeff: Some of this, from what you described of the first part of “Master of Restless Shadows”, really sounds pulled from headlines that we’re seeing right now with society the way it is and trying to pull back towards the past. Was that deliberate as you wrote your outline?
Ginn: Yeah, it just kind of turned out that way. It actually threw me. Originally I was planning to write these books much much faster, much sooner, but when Trump was elected – that threw me entirely, you know, and really I spent quite a bit of time being active politically and putting the book on the back burner and, in part, I had a really hard time writing it because there was so much that was actively going on, but it was really hard because part of what I always want to bring to readers, especially queer readers, is this feeling of triumph. That we will win. Just it’s been my personal experience, you know being out as a teenager in the 80s was not good.
Things are so much better now that I want to keep that positive energy, but it was very very hard to write with a positive energy right then, you know, like a lot of that was just like it’s very hard to address the sort of intense bigotry and hatred that was coming from our real government and then you know, try and write a story where “but it’s fine in this fantasy world,” you know, I was just like oh God.
What I ended up doing is actually taking a break – putting it away – writing a number of other short stories and things like that, publishing them and then coming back to it with a greater feeling of resolve that I really felt this was necessary to address and you know, there are conflicts that don’t go away necessarily like throughout human history.
We always come up against, you know, our tendency to be very closed off and protective and to sort of demonize the other. What we perceive as not ourselves, and so that’s really an important thing to address and to fight basically, even if it’s in a fantasy fiction, with just a lot of love stories.
It’s important to show that that can be conquered in ourselves and in our society and so I felt really revitalized once I found that was what I was doing. But yeah,when I first was like, you know, this is a fantastical old timey story of bad people and then I was like, oh, no, they’re coming back. We’ve elected them. Nooooo.
Jeff: What was your overall inspiration for this series?
Ginn: It was back in 2006/ 2005 and I was in my writers group. I have a writers group and one of my friends had just started really getting into horses and she was like, I would love it if you would write one of your stories set with a bunch of horses. And the other one was like, what if you put it in a boys school and I was like, okay boys school with horses and that was kind of the inspiration.
That’s kind of how a lot of these stories happen is, you know, one of my friends will be like, I really am missing having a story with you know noodles, like say all kinds of just odd things, or a story that has aliens that are cockroaches and I’m like, oh, okay, and it should be a Noir story on a space station where the character can’t see. And all of a sudden I’ve written like “Maze-Born Trouble” and stories like that. I don’t know quite where it became an epic fantasy except when I started plotting.
I always feel when I’m trying to build a world that it can’t just be like any other fantasy world. That’s just, the tropes of the fantasy world there needs to be an integration between the world, kind of its history and the characters need to feel like they grew up in that world and that there is like a history for them to address and to redress.
And there’s their conflicts that are inherent to the world that aren’t just, based on conflict put in character whose 20th Century Modern character who’s all like that’s bad. You know, that’s good, you know, so I tend to end up having much more expansive stories for that reason
but ponies that’s how it started
Jeff: ponies are never a bad place to start really
Ginn: No and I had as a young person. I had gotten a job when I was really quite young working as a groom. So I had a lot of experience of ponies in a way that maybe other people don’t have which is Ponies as cleaning their stalls.
It’s a different kind of point of view.
Jeff: Talking about world building a little bit. What is your process for it, because as somebody who doesn’t write fantasy because it kind of overwhelms me and thinking about it. You know, I think about plotting a story – it’s like I start with my characters and know kind of what their flaws are and what their things are and what that arc is for them, but I write it in the current world, but you’ve got your characters and your plot but then you’ve got to build this world around it.
How does all that kind of piece itself together in your process?
Ginn: For me really the world is built to amplify the conflicts I want to talk about, so the characters and the world kind of grow together. If say, I want to talk about racial diversity, then you can build a world with different ideas of race and explore it that way.
But also a lot of it comes from a lot of nonfiction reading. I really love nonfiction and often times I’m just inspired by, you know different time periods. For example, the Cadeleonian series took a lot of the inspiration, I don’t lift directly because some of it seems a little bit you don’t want to just be like and these are the Moors, you know, or these are Jews in Spain.
Because I don’t want to misrepresent my understanding of people’s actual lived experiences, but sort of an inspiration of how people have lived together in different ways. How they’ve been tolerant of one another or intolerant and how it’s been overcome or you know what the effects of these things are.
And so a lot of times the inspiration is sort of nonfiction and then sort of through a lens of what conflicts the characters need to have to have the plot work. Does that make sense? Like if you need the characters fight a dragon, I’m gonna have to have a world with dragons and if you’re going to have dragons you got to have a world where you know, the ecology of dragons occurs.
So it’s sort of like that, where there’s a lot of reverse engineering and the same thing with my plots. I start with a premise and then the ending. And then I reverse engineer from the ending to get the whole plot.
Jeff: How much research goes into your world or, because you’re building it, can you just kind of like, I am going to have this world with dragons and this is their ecology and there you go?
Ginn: Well, I think I could do that. I feel like I ought to be able to do that. But a lot of times I have the problem like, I really remember this distinctly at one point. I have Atreau being followed by a group of men and I want him to notice something very distinct about them all and I was like, okay, you can’t just be they’re all wearing uniforms because that would just be so obvious as to who they’re working for, like he needs to work out who they’re working for of like all this huge number of different allies and enemies of his.
I ended up doing a bunch of research on different shoes that butchers and sailors had to wear and the notching in the type of shoe to make them slip proof earlier in history before you know, rubber was really a thing. And so it was interesting. I could have just made something up, you know, just and they all wear sackcloth shoes or whatever, but I just really, really wanted to know.
So sometimes I don’t have to do the research, but I just love knowing things. So I’ll do it anyway, and sometimes I don’t even know if I’ll be using it because you know, you write a whole bunch and then it gets edited out by the editors. Like yeah, don’t need five paragraphs on how this ink was made, really don’t. It’s like awww, but I did all the research. But it’s just such a pleasure to know sometimes.
Jeff: Does all this build itself onto that giant piece of paper you’ve got that has the plot or do you have a separate world bible sort of thing?
Ginn: I have millions and millions of things. They’re like notes just like scribbles that are push pinned all over.
In fact, I think, this is one of the notebooks that has like…. You can see I don’t know if you can or not but there will be millions of notes that are taped on. Unfold. They’ll just be a little notes. It’s wildly disorganized.
Jeff: But as long as you can find it, that’s all that matters.
Ginn: Right. At the end ,when I’m done with the book, while I’m writing it, the notes all makes sense to me in there. They’re perfect. And I love it. Then if I finish a project and I go back, like a year later or so, I’ll be like what are these crazy woman’s scrawlings because they make no sense.
Jeff: That’s awesome.
Ginn: Yeah, they do look pretty insane once they’re taken out of context. So yeah, I do take millions of notes, just not organized notes.
Jeff: Someday down the line when it’s time for the Ginn Hale archive somebody else can sort all that out.
Ginn: Oh, I hope not. I feel really sorry for anyone trying to sort out the Ginn Hale archive, its just tons of things about plantings and stuff and my work, you know at the farmers market will be written right in the middle of it.
Jeff: So you’ve been publishing for over a decade now and your first book “Wicked Gentleman” won the Spectrum award and was a Lambda Literary finalists. For those who might be new to you, tell us a little bit about that book that started you off on this path.
Ginn: That one was a request from two gay friends who wanted a different kind of Victoriana story and another one who wanted a bunch of devils. It is set in a kind of quasi-London like world where 300 years in the past the demons and Devils of hell have ascended and converted – so they become this literal underclass of people living there kind of imprisoned within the city.
They’re not allowed to just run free. So they’re very controlled. Most of them don’t have really wild magical powers or anything like that, but they’re still looked upon as though they’re really dangerous. So it’s how one of them, who’s a little bit of a drug addict, gets involved with a rather corrupt police officer to solve a series of crimes.
it was two novellas that are linked, one from the point of view of Belimai, the demon, and one from the point of view of Harper, the police officer, and it kind of explores how they’re both damaged people. They’ve both been through terrible things, but they grow and become stronger and eventually, you know, are capable of loving each other and supporting each other and being part of a community and surviving. It was a really fun book to write. I wrote it a really long time ago is the other thing because with publishing, especially before there was a lot of self-publishing, you’d write a story and send it off and get a rejection and then write another one and I wasn’t even, at that time when I wrote it, thinking that I was going to be an author.
I just wrote it for my friends. So it was a story that got passed around among friends. And then eventually someone was like, you should actually publish this. I was like, really? You think? Okay. We’ll try it. So that’s kind of how that came about.
Jeff: That’s kind of cool. I mean that it goes from being something that just passed around amongst friends to getting published and then getting that acclaim as well.
Ginn: I was shocked when I was at the awards, there’s a funny story that I was at the award of the Gaylactic, you know ceremony, and I was just kind of sitting there at the table and there was also a little book fair going on of gay fantasy and fiction right beside it.
And so I kept getting up and sneaking out to the book fair and I was like trying to buy books and then for some reason I couldn’t figure out why these other people who are part of, you know, the Gaylactic society and you know, we’re really integrated, really nice people, but they kept coming back and getting me.
Making me come back to the table and I was just like, well, you know, I just don’t want to miss out on buying a really good book, and they’re like, no you really need to sit down here now. It was right over my head as to why I was like, I do not understand why you people are so concerned about me being here.
But then they announced that I had won and I was just like I still get like just shocked over it. Like it was so amazing and wonderful and the same time, you know, the other people who were also nominated just had such great books that I just don’t know how anyone even picks a winner.
It’s the same thing with the Lambda Literary Awards when you’re there and, you know, you’ve read the books that are awarded, you know that are in running against you and you’re just like these books are awesome.
Jeff: How would you say that your storytelling has evolved since “Wicked Gentlemen? ”
Ginn: Well, hopefully it’s gotten better. I think I have Incorporated more complex characters. Originally in “Wicked Gentleman” it was just a novella ,half of which is told from the first person point of view and the world is developed.
But it’s one point of view. Like it’s very much Belimai’s point of view and that Harper’s Point of View and the other characters in the world are not as nuanced. They don’t get as much time to interact or to have as much of a impact on those characters as they do on each other and the “Cadeleonian” series, for example, or the “Rifter” series have much bigger casts with more varied characters where they can address more things and bring in new ideas that can spark ideas and resolutions for the characters.
So the communities that I write about have grown just as my own personal communities grow.
Jeff: And what do you think the trademark of a Ginn Hale book is?
Ginn: My many, many trademarks probably it’s a combination of I always make sure that the story is going to have a triumphant conclusion. No matter how much hardship the characters go through, I’m not going to write a misery tale. They’re not going to struggle and then fail because that isn’t a story that any queer person needs to hear. We have enough of that in our history of other people telling it to us. It’s not something we need to tell each other in my opinion.
There are other authors who write tragedy very well and do it redemptively and powerfully, but it’s not something I could do. So I think that’s the first thing that I always approach any story idea I have with the consideration of whether or not I can make it a triumphant story. There are a lot of ideas where you’re like, oh there will be this great twist where the lovers murder each other and then I’m like no. No, that’s just nope. Not my thing.
The other thing is I really do care a lot about the world building and a lot about ecology and how people integrate with their world and the histories of the world. So that usually plays a huge role, especially in my novellas and short stories. There’s a huge, usually, ecological aspect to the story. And the “Rifter” series is almost entirely about people healing a world that’s been devastated by what they’ve done to it. So ecology plays a big part, but it might be because I do a lot of work on farms and a lot of organic farming, and I work at a farmers market, so I see a lot of what happens with ecology and land that just gets really abused and how that affects other people’s livelihoods and well-being.
Jeff: Is there a genre or trope that you really want to write and you just haven’t found the right story or the right characters for yet?
Ginn: Yeah, I would love to be able to write those really wickedly clever mysteries, or even like kind of funny mysteries. The 1920s or something, you know, I would really love to be able to pull off like a gay Poirot or something. I would love to be able to write one of those, but I don’t know that I’m the kind of person who can do that.
And I worry sometimes about writing a genre that I really loved, that in understanding how to write it I would take out a lot of my ability to enjoy it. No, it’s like you can admire something ,but if you dissect it, it loses something of its holistic beauty to you. You start just seeing it as parts that function together in a really mechanical way. But that’s kind of where I’m always hesitant about trying to write the thing that I really love to read. So, I just read a lot of mysteries instead – sort of jealous but in a happy way, you know, oh I could never write that. So cool.
Jeff: But the more you read maybe eventually it’ll you’ll give that a go one day.
Ginn: I might not be able to stop myself because I write just as a fun thing. I write plots all the time. Like I constantly fill up notebooks with plot. And kind of story shapes and that’s actually one of the things I do with my writer’s group is, if someone doesn’t have a plot and they’re like, I want a story where this and this happened, I’ll write out plots. I’ll plot story for them and give it to them. So I have actually written out mystery plots, a number of them. It’s the actual writing it that I worried would kind of ruin my my pleasure of mystery. I’m always like a little bit afraid to do it.
Jeff: I’m fascinated by the writing out of plot. Are these just ideas that you have that you might turn them into books or is it just kind of a fun thing just to write out the plot points?
Ginn: Yeah. It’s just a it’s just a kind of fun little mental exercise. It’s like doing algebra. You know what the ending is. You want this ending. What can be a surprising turn here? And how do you start here from an unusual direction? And so I just really like the almost math of it. I really like to build plots that look interesting. The three dimensional quality of plotting. It’s just a pleasurable thing for me to figure out how to shape elements of a story.
I do think of it a lot like, you know algebra or chemistry equations where you have two elements and you know that they’re going to interact in a certain way and they’ll throw off this other element that will recombine with this to create a new formula or something. It’s just fun, so I’ll just write them out and many of them I would never write as stories because they’re not the kind of story I would write. But they’re really a fun little mental exercise.
Jeff: You must be fun to be in a writers group with.
Ginn: Well. I have been told I’m very useful.
I have on a number of occasions had people call me up. Like I need a plot right now.
But you know, that’s the part that I love – contribute to a writer’s group. In turn, the writers that are in my group also, you know, they give me so much good feedback on character development and word choices. I’m not a master of word use, she says pausing a number of times. So it really helps to have that kind of feedback and interaction and I think a lot of times people imagine that authors are just geniuses who sit alone and no one interacts with them or anything, and they just have their idea and it comes out pure fabulousness and for some authors maybe that is how it works. But for me, it’s always a very communal, interactive, creative process, even from the very beginning where I’ll just take prompts and people’s ideas and things they would love to read a story about.
My writers group usually reads chapters as I write them and they give me feedback on what they like or what they don’t. And then, you know, the editorial process also is really what I really love to be engaged in. I know that I’m delivering this story and it has a really good plot, but a lot of times I don’t know that my scenes I’ve chosen or the way I worded things serves that plot perfectly. Having an editor just to be like, this needs to move here or this needs to be clarified, is so helpful like it just brightens everything up and just makes it beautiful, sort of like matting and framing a painting. I would think you know, it looks really good and you see it and has a lot of potentia,l but then you see it really polished and just as it should be and you’re like, wow that is good that is done, its professional and it’s just a different feeling. I love being in a writers group.
Jeff: What got you started as a writer?
Ginn: Probably just telling stories to friends. I didn’t start out wanting to be an author. I started out studying biology and being much more interested in biology, chemistry and botany. But I had a group of friends who are all gay and lesbian, bisexual – but mostly gay friends and we would just get together. We’d signed up, this is my first year of college, for a poetry class. Which I just signed up for it to hang out with my friends, kind of lazy. It was a night class. We had this fabulous professor who almost everyone mistook him for a hobo. He had no front teeth and his name was Doyle, and he was just great.
He was so inspirational and he would just encourage everyone. He was so uninhibited. It was fabulous. So we started meeting after the poetry classes, a bunch of us would hang out, you know late night, Denny’s, back when you could smoke indoors, back when I was a smoker, and we would tell each other ideas or things we’d love to see you know, things that never you we never saw as you know queer young people. We would never see stories that had dynamic heroes who were gay and then didn’t suffer for it or you know, it was one of those things, and we’d try and find things for each other at the time, you know, there wasn’t any internet.
So it wasn’t like you could just type up gay story, you know, happy ending – there wasn’t anything. We would have to go to gay book stores, which meant we’d have to find a car and we’d all jam into it and drive to the one gay bookstore in Denver, Colorado, and get in there and like everyone would be furtively sneaking in because we didn’t want to be bashed or beaten up.
We’d find one book and everyone pass it around and be like, oh this one’s pretty good. I really like this one, you know, but you couldn’t find more and so we just started writing stories for each other and that’s kind of how it all began. I didn’t mean to be a writer, but once I started writing and making income, it just worked out that way.
Jeff: Any particular books or authors who were among your early influences?
Ginn: Well, I really love the encyclopedia. I really honestly did. I loved encyclopedias and dictionaries so much. I adored dictionaries. Like they were magic books the first time I encountered one. You can look up any word. You can discover all kinds of new things you never knew existed. Just picking a few pages I would come across things that I didn’t know about at all and there’d be this little definition telling me about something was used for something else. The same thing with encyclopedias. It expanded the world so much.
There were all these things I had no idea about I’d never experienced, but they existed. That was probably one of the first things that just sparked a love of the written word itself of books and the magic of them that you can just have words that are just little marks on a piece of paper that mean could mean nothing. But if you read them, they suddenly build whole new worlds in your mind. So that was that was incredible.
And then from there, I remember reading Elizabeth Lynn. A friend gave it to me “The Northern Girl” and it had a lesbian character who didn’t die and I was super, super stoked and then I read a book of short stories that had “The Woman Who Loved the Moon” in it, and it also had a lesbian character who didn’t die.
And I was super stoked she didn’t die. She wasn’t a vampire and killing her lover, you know it was really exciting. It wasn’t “The Well of Loneliness.” I cannot tell you how many times people gave me that book. Here, you’ll really enjoy this. It’s really sad.
Jeff: Just the title alone implies a lot of sad.
Ginn: Well it is. It’s deeply, deeply, deeply depressing.
So it started with Science Fiction and Fantasy, I think because those were genres where I guess society allowed, in some kind of wild fantastic flight of imagination, for gay characters, and lesbian characters, bisexual characters, to exist and to thrive at least to some degree.
Yep, for some representation to start showing up right when I was starting to hand books around, find books as a young person. And so I think that’s what really pulled me into Science Fiction and Fantasy is that I had for the first time I had a chance of finding queer characters, who would have a happy ending.
Obviously there were terrible things like “Dune” where I was just like, ahh! You know, but it’s the genre that has grown and continues to grow. I remember there was a press called Naiad Press, I don’t know if you ever encountered it. It was like a little lesbian publishing house and a group of us found their catalog, which was like this mimeographed catalog. You could smell the mimeograph. We would go through and circle the books and then we’d get together and pool our money and then we’d order them and finally get them to come in and we’d hand them out to each other.
They were illustrated, like someone just drew figure drawings, like little line drawings. Not not good illustrations by any stretch of the imagination, but there was something really wonderful about those stories that I think is something that I still really harken back to, which is that they really felt like stories that were written by the community for other members of the community to be handed around to each other. Those were probably the earliest books I really remember sparking something in me.
Jeff: That’s awesome. I love the community aspect around these books that you found and then passed around.
Ginn: It was a big deal at the time. I love the fact that now we can get ebooks and people can just have any book and you know, I love technology and where we’ve gone, but there is that small feeling of community where you know, someone is like, “Have you read “The Charioteer?”
And I’ll be like, “No. What is it?”
“Here’s my copy.”
You can see just how much like the back has been broken and it’s been re-taped together, you know, someone’s copy of “The Charioteer,” and you’re like “Wow, this is a cool story.”
It was it was a different time.
Jeff: So we know the “Master of Restless Shadows,” that second book is going to come out sometime next year. What else is coming up for you that you can give some hints to?
Ginn: I have a contract for another novella set in the world of “Wicked Gentleman.” The previous one was in the collection “Devil Take Me,” that you covered at last GRL. And so there’ll be a partner to it coming out that is about Archie and Nimble and some mysteries that they solve. And then I really, really, really want to write a story that has a magical world based around symbiosis and the kind of relationship that lichen play and bacterium play in different animals lives.
This is just going to sound really weird. The way that we define species, is you know a specific body, but if you think about things like the way that plants reproduce, they can’t reproduce by themselves – many of them. They require a bee or some other actor to basically play the role of their reproductive organs.
And so what does that mean for an alien species that is actually, like its wholeness is actually divided between other beings. And so that’s sort of an idea I would really like to build into a story… with the murders.
I’ve been writing parts of it steadily and I’m hoping it’ll be the next story I finish, if not, there’s another one that’s kind of set in an aquatic world. That is a really interesting world of ecological dynamics that are really like of ocean worlds.
So those are the two things I’m really kind of excited about working on.
Jeff: Awesome. Now, what’s the best way for people to keep up with you online? So they can keep track of all this all this work and no one new stuff is coming.
Ginn: Okay. Well, I’m on Twitter. I’m @GinnHale. I’m on Facebook also and I have a website I don’t update as often as I should, but the easiest way is just to write to me. People can write to me anytime they want. I love getting letters.
And I will write back. Always. I’m firstname.lastname@example.org. So that’s very easy. I do warn people if they go to my Instagram. I do have an Instagram account. It’s almost nothing but plants
Jeff: everybody’s got their thing.
Ginn: Right? Well, I really love fungi. Because it’s a huge part of my livelihood in my life. So. A lot of times it can probably seem like a crazy like it’s like “have I got the right Ginn Hale?” There’s just nothing but like “this is another variation of concord grape.”
Jeff: Despite the website perhaps not being updated as much I do love your homepage that is a delightful drawing that people if nothing else need to go see that.
Ginn: Oh, thank you. Yeah, I that is one of the favorite… someone drew me and I asked him if I could use it and they were like yes, of course and so like I love that little caricature. It’s so cute.
Jeff: Yeah, it’s super adorable. So yeah, people should go check that out. If nothing else.
Ginn: Also on the site I do when I can I upload free stories. So that is one of the reasons there’s little extras page if people go there they can find like three stories that I just put up and would love to share.
Jeff: Fantastic, well Jen, thank you so much for hanging out with it. It has been awesome talking to you.
Ginn: Oh, thank you. Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity. This is awesome.
Here’s the text of this week’s book reviews:
The Harvest Moon by Joshua Ian. Reviewed by Will.
Harvest Moon by Joshua Ian is a historical romance with an intriguing touch of magic. The beginning of this novella opens with our hero Malcolm, who has stopped to rest in a small village. That night, outside the tavern, he meets a handsome and intruging young man, a weaver named Daniel. They make polite small talk, the conversation eventually going deeper.
Malcolm is drawn to him, convinced that his new acquittance shares his same “interests”. Daniel invites him to his cottage in the forest. It might be 1834, but Malcolm recognizes a booty-call when the opportunity presents itself.
They make their way through the woods which are alive with a special kind of magic, the bright harvest moon showing the way. At the cottage, Daniel is a perfect host, they chat, share a drink… and a bed.
Malcolm has never experienced anything like what he feels when he’s with Daniel. He awakes in the middle of the night, but the bed is empty. There’s a menacing knife on the table, and Daniel is on the floor in front of the fire, seemingly in pain. He tells Malcolm to leave before his grandfather returns home.
Daniel seems angry, but remorseful, in need of care, but coldly antagonistic. Malcolm wants to help, but eventually agrees to leave.
The next morning, at the inn, Malcolm hears several locals talking of the elderly weaver in the woods. He mentions that he knows Daniel but is warned away with long told tales of evil and witchcraft.
Malcolm is worried and decides, before continuing on his journey, to go see Daniel and offer any help he can. When he arrives at the cottage, he finds the old man, who tells him that Daniel isn’t there and won’t ever be coming back. Malcolm pressed him further and realizes that the old man is Daniel.
He tells Malcolm the sad tale of how he, long ago, met and fell in love with a man named Thomas, a weaver and practitioner of magic. They were inseparable until villagers, whipped into a witch-hunting frenzy, killed Thomas – cursing Daniel to a life of endlessly searching for his long-ago love.
The night before, Malcolm was to be sacrificed to the harvest moon for another year of Daniel’s life. But, sharing the same strong feelings as Malcolm, Daniel couldn’t go through with it. Malcolm kisses Daniel, their love finally freeing him from the curse.
Malcolm takes Daniel back home to his ancestral estate where they can love and live happily ever after.
I really enjoyed this story from a new to me author. While the narrative is firmly rooted in the historical aspects of the story, the magical elements give it an intriguing fairy tale vibe.
Something else that I found interesting was the use of language, which is very rich and evocative, but not dense and confusing like the literature of the time in which the story is set. The dialog especially has a certain ring of authenticity. It comes across as period appropriate without being burdened with “thee’s” and “thou arts”.
If you’re looking for something a little bit different, but still very romantic and satisfying from a genre perspective, I’d definitely say give Joshua Ian’s Harvest Moon a try.
I enjoyed that interview. Ms. Hale’s mind works in interesting ways. 🙂 I agreed about liking botany, but algebra and the aspects of chemistry that involve math are not my thing.
Even as an adult who’s been free of a curse for a long time, Fedeles still would rather associate with horses than most people, it seems. I guess that was just a constant for him all along. I liked Narsi a lot. He’s sweet, and bright, and definitely not a pushover. He’ll make up his own mind about things, to Atreau’s surprise. I loved that he sometimes remembers more of what happened in Atreau’s books than Atreau does. (lol)
I wished there had been more resolution of some issues in this volume. There was a lot of set-up, but it seems that solutions to the troubles and dangers in the protagonists’ lives will come in book 2. *waiting, trying for patience*
I liked that for Ms. Hale, writing is a communal thing, and not a solitary venture. I remember in the 1990s looking for GLBT fiction with positive endings, and not finding as much as I would want. Sadly, my GLB friends in college were not especially interested in reading for fun, but sometimes I’d find someone to share books with.
I read “The Charioteer” within the last few years and thought it was very good. Mary Renault wrote it relatively soon after World War II, so it was pretty nearly contemporaneous. Characters in her historical fiction set in ancient history had very different cultural ideas.
Writing plots for fun and reverse engineering a book sound rather different from how I’ve heard that other authors do things. Whatever works for each author, I guess. 🙂 To the extent I can understand it, I can appreciate the scientific thought in Ms. Hale’s book. I did *not* have the same fondness for giant alien cockroaches that one of the protagonists in “Maze-Born Trouble” did, but there were lots of interesting ideas in that novella, for sure. “Noir, but set on a spaceship” as the other prompt there explains a lot. (lol)
Have a good week!
So glad you enjoyed the interview, Emilie. I loved interviewing her because she had so many great stories, especially around her writing processes.