After a short break, In the Spotlight is back this week with author R.J (Rachel) Eliason. I’ve heard Rachel’s name for a couple years as I have attended ICON. Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to obtain one of her novels when I featured Travelers, Shifters & Fey, Oh My! here on Second Run Review. Last week, i was lucky enough to sit on a panel with Rachel at ICON and have breakfast with her on Sunday morning.
In the Spotlight: R.J. Eliason
Welcome to Second Run Reviews, R.J.! Thank you for being In the Spotlight. I appreciate you stopping by and answering a few questions. So let’s get things started.
In a tweet (140 characters or less), tell us a bit about yourself.
R. J. Eliason is a lover of lush world building, immersive storytelling and diverse characters. She loves reading and writing books with these elements.
Speaking of diversity, your writing often focuses on LGBT issues. What’s the most difficult thing incorporating these issues into your works and what’s the most rewarding? What do you hope your readers gain from reading your novels that bring this type of diversity to the forefront?
There are two things that I really struggle with when writing LGBT characters. The first is that I don’t want any of works to become “issue” pieces, novels that exist only to inform audiences about a certain issue or to pitch some political agenda. I want every story I write to have a solid story behind it, and I want all my LGBT characters to be heroes or heroines in their own right.
The LGBT community is phenomenally diverse. There are so many unique and wonderful people that I have met in it. When I was writing my first YA novel, Run, Clarissa, Run, I really struggled with how to write a character that could capture the richness and diversity of the trans community. In the end I decided I couldn’t. Instead I hope someday to write enough different characters to start to show the true diversity in the community.
I wrote Clarissa as herself. She has her own voice and her own views on being transgender. In the Bear Naked series, Jay is another person entirely. Clarissa just knew she should have been a woman from the time she was a girl. Jay thinks of himself as feminine but struggles with whether this makes him female. I can almost imagine if the two of them found themselves together, they’d fight about what it meant to be transgender.
I hope to achieve three things in writing LGBT characters. I hope to give LGBT youths role models by creating LGBT characters that go out and do heroic stuff. I hope to show the wide diversity of the community by writing about a diversity of people. Finally, I hope to give non-LGBT people a glimpse into our lives and ourselves, so they can understand.
Wow! It’s amazing that one story or several stories can share so much with the world, R.J. I hope others will discover your novels. I’ve listened to several panels at different conventions over the last year and everyone is screaming for diversity in books. Your books definitely are making strides in that direction.
Please tell a bit about your journey to becoming a published author. What’s been the best things about it and the worst?
I self-published my first collection of short stories back in 2011. I did it primarily because I was tired of telling people I wanted to be an author some day only to have them roll their eyes. I wanted something to shove in their hands to prove my ambition. On that front, the book did its job. But it barely sold beyond a few friends and family.
The thing I love about being an indie author today is, everything. I am one of the rare writers that loves every step in the journey, from coming up with the idea, writing, editing (yes, even editing), publishing and marketing.
The worst thing about being an author? It’s a lot of work upfront with few guarantees down the road. It’s no small task to write a book. Some people, perhaps, have an instinct for what will sell to a publisher or to the general market, but those people are few and far between. Most us just hope that the months of labor that go into writing a book will someday pay off.
Patience has never been my strongest suit. Most of my books are selling well enough, getting enough positive reviews, that I believe they will eventually pay back the editing and cover costs, maybe even the time I spent writing them. Eventually. It’s really hard for me personally not to get frustrated with how long it takes to build a writing career.
Patience is not my strong suit either. I can often be heard muttering…”God, grant me patience, but please hurry!”
As I mentioned at the top of the post, I had the opportunity to meet you at ICON this year. And I know, you have been an honorable guest at ICON many times. So what’s the best thing about attending conventions and author events? What advice do you have for fans who might be shy about attending or meeting you for the first time?
I’ve been a dishonorable guest a few times as well. 😉 I’ve been going to cons for many years; ICON and Demicon have been favorites of mine. I’ve met so many wonderful people through cons and the science fiction community over the years. I’ve found so much friendship and acceptance. I’ve been in on some amazing conversations, heard about things I would have never known if I hadn’t participated in these events. It’s really a remarkable subculture we have.
As an author, I am thrilled to be contributing, in some small way, to the community that has nourished me for years. I love being part of it. For me, going to cons and author events aren’t marketing chores, they’re perks of writing in the genre.
For fans shy about meeting me for the first time, I’m not that big of a name! Be nervous about meeting Joe Haldeman for the first time. I was. Don’t be shy about meeting me. I love talking. I love meeting people. I don’t bite.
By the way, Joe’s an easy guy to talk to. I met Octavia Butler years ago at a Demicon and she was easy to talk to as well. Many years ago I was at a con with Terry Pratchett and he was up at four in the morning, talking to fans in the hotel’s lobby. Why? Because writers are also fans and we love talking about science fiction and fantasy as much as you do. Honest.
I’ve attended ICON three years in a row now and still have not said a word to Joe Haldeman. I nearly died when is lovely wife, Gay, commented on my TARDIS cosplay last year!
What types of books do you enjoy reading the most? What three books to you find yourself recommending to your fans over and over?
I love reading. I read a ton, in almost every genre. If I had to pick a favorite genre it’s probably fantasy, with science fiction at a close second. My all time favorite book has to be The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury. “The Concrete Mixer” is my favorite story out of that collection.
What three books do I recommend the most? Actually, I can rarely stick to three, I start talking about my favorite books and end up rambling about a dozen or more great authors. Ray Bradbury is my favorite author. I recommend The Illustrated Man, The October Country or The Martian Chronicles to those who haven’t read him.
I cut my teeth, reading-wise, on the Lord of the Rings and it remains one of my favorite series as well. Dune by Frank Herbert was my first introduction to hard science fiction. I recently re-read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and I can’t recommend it highly enough. And…wait you said three books. You see how it goes?
Oh, I get it! I was lamenting the other day that Amazon keeps asking for reviews of books I bought, but haven’t read it. They are stressing me out! I want to read all the books at once!
What is your current obsession? Any secret obsessions you would like to share?
Lately I have been reading a lot of dystopian novels. I keep alternating on them. The success of the Hunger Games series and movies have spawned a huge number of YA dystopias. A lot of newer readers mistakenly believe that the genre is new, but science fiction writers have been telling dystopian stories for years. I’ll read two or three of the newer YA dystopians and then develop a craving for older, more adult dystopias. So for example I read Divergent and then immediately followed it up with Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven. I read a couple of forgettable titles and then re-read The Handmaid’s Tale. I just recently finished the Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler and will be picking up the second book of the Earthseed series soon. I highly recommend it.
I don’t know that it’s really either a secret or an obsession but I made an interesting discovery recently. There is such a thing as Amish Romance. In fact, it’s a booming category. Certain readers are apparently fascinated with young Amish women (mostly) meeting handsome “Englischers” on “Rumspringa” when they are allowed to explore the outside world. Curiosity led me to download a few to my kindle and I have to say, they aren’t bad.
I had NO idea that was a genre. It reminds of the episode of The Big Bang Theory where Bernadette and Penny discover Amy’s Little House on the Prairie fan fiction.
Any last thoughts or wise words you want to pass along?
Whatever your dream is, go for it. Work hard. Don’t be one of those people that nurse regrets in their final years. Today is the best day to start. Start small and keep working a little bit every day.
What great advice, Rachel. Thank you for dropping by today and sharing your journey as an author. I look forward to cracking open my copy of Bear Naked soon. The goal is to have it read by ICON next year!
Please come back soon and update us on your journey as an author. Good luck in all your future endeavours!
author interview rj eliason