Welcome back to another author interview, friends! Today I’d like to introduce you to Taylor Brooke, author of Fortitude Smash, which is out on September 21, a mere three days before your favorite blogger’s birthday!
Taylor Brooke is a traveling story-teller, believer in magic, and a science fiction junkie.
Probably a tea snob. Definitely a beer snob. Bisexual, but pansexual, but bisexual – one of the two. Can have lengthy, in-depth conversations about an atomic lizard and his radioactive moth friend. Yearns for a life in the city, but dreams of founding an animal sanctuary. Future tiny house owner. Future tiny library owner, because her book collection won’t fit in one tiny house.
She proudly writes inclusive Queer novels for teens and adults.
What disabilities/neurodivergences do you share with your characters? Why did you choose to write your characters with those?
I’ve struggled with dissociative dysthymia for most of my life. It’s a form of chronic depression that tends to last for years. It’s different for everyone, but mine is mostly seasonal with oddly-timed mood swings and general anxiety.
I wrote Aiden Maar, one of the main characters from Fortitude Smashed, as someone who struggles with dissociative dysthymia mainly because I’ve rarely seen depression or mental illness portrayed in a realistic way. It was also important for me to introduce a mentally ill character who isn’t miraculously healed by a love interest. So many times, we’re presented with this upside-down look at mental health, usually through the lens of a neurotypical writer, who sees depression/anxiety/disassociation as a dirty problem that needs to be fixed – usually with a taped together relationship. Realistically, depression doesn’t mean un-loving or un-deserving of love, and it doesn’t go away because someone engages in a happy, secure partnership with someone/others.
Your relationship adapts to your mental health, not the other way around. Writing Fortitude Smashed gave me an outlet to open and explore that.
What is one of your biggest strengths in writing?
I’m big on characterization. It’s something I’ve had to work on – my voice, the development of my skill set – and I think after six books, I’ve finally got it. After I wrote my first trilogy I sat back and tried to figure out what I wanted to change about my style. Really, I just didn’t have a “style” back then. I wrote how I wanted and, yes, there were gems in my writing, but it didn’t shine like I wanted it to. I narrowed my focus to sweeping emotional arcs rather than gigantic, complicated fight scenes. Once I dug deep and started playing with third-person and first-person close, I realized how much I loved building a character, making them relatable and complex. Realism with a touch of magic is definitely my specialty, but accomplishing that took a lot of trial and error with character/identity construction.
What authors are auto-buys for you?
Maggie Stiefvater and Anna-Marie McLemore are two of my favorite authors and are on my auto-buy list. I’ll read anything they write and probably love it.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?
You know, this is a controversial piece of advice and I know it doesn’t work for everyone, but when I started fleshing out my first novel, I read an article about why it’s important to write every day. It said things like: real writers write every single day and career writers treat writing like a job. It made me look at my craft in a different way. Obviously, this advice is flexible. If you can’t write every day, that’s fine. Most people can’t. I can’t. But I did take away some important habits because of the “Write Everyday” motto.
I stopped treating my books like they were only creative outlets. They most certainly are that, but they’re more than that, too. Writing is my job. I want to make a career out of story-telling, so why wouldn’t I treat it that way? I started looking at my plot, characters and general idea as a vessel for my creativity and as a complex, working novel. Creative genius is great, but it takes discipline to write a good story.
Word count goals work for some people and they don’t work for others. I change mine up depending on the project. I was writing 2000+ words a day for Fortitude Smashed, right now I’m putting in 1000+ for my new secret project. I take one weekend day off and sometimes I don’t make my daily goal. It happens. The structure helps, though. And it keeps me on track for project completion, beta turn-arounds, revisions and so on.
Maybe not “Write Everyday” but treat writing like it’s your dream job, because isn’t it? It’s definitely mine!
What other projects are you working on?
I’m about to start editing the sequel to Fortitude Smashed which is a f/f story I’m really excited about. It’s got the same fun, emotional feel as Fortitude Smashed, but features two dynamic, complicated ladies who I absolutely adore. The boys are there, too. I didn’t have the heart to leave them out.
I’m also working on a secret project. I’m about halfway done with the first draft and it’s written in first-person present tense, which is a pretty huge risk for me. I’ve written in third-person past my whole life and this is the first time I’m stepping outside my comfort zone. It’s about teenagers and secrets and magic. It’s got a lot of heart and a lot of heat, and I really hope people enjoy reading it as much as I’m enjoying writing it.
What are your top 3 go-to book recommendations?
The Raven Cycle is always my first go-to series. I adore it.
The Song of Achilles (Be still my heart, this book is magnificent)
Interview With A Vampire.
What’s one thing that would surprise people to know about you?
I went to a Catholic high school. Yep, you heard me. Uniforms and everything. The unsurprising part is that I was expelled twice (yes, twice). The first time they politely asked me to never come back, I wrote an essay to woo my way back in (my mom cried, I had to) and the English department went to bat for me. The second time, I walked away with both middle fingers in the air and completed my senior year at a “continuation” school. I went to class twice a week, was one-on-one with teachers, did my homework at the beach and graduated high school with a 4.0.
College was the same sort of hell high school was. Too much structure. Too much money. Too much everything. I went to school to be a Special Effects Makeup Artist instead.
What would your advice be to a fellow writer with your disabilities/neurodivergences?
Life’s too short not to do the things that scare you.
I say that a lot. It’s something I tell myself daily. When I started writing Fortitude Smashed, I never, ever thought it would be published. It’s a selfish book. I wrote it for me – a bisexual, mentally ill person who had never seen a bisexual, mentally ill person represented accurately on page from start to finish. Granted, we’re not clones of each other. I know that a lot of folks managing their mental health might not find themselves in Aiden or Shannon or Daisy or Chelsea, but I hope they do. That hope is what makes the coming release (wow, September is right there) such an exciting, nerve-wracking, wonderful thing for me.
It may seem like the industry caters to those that stick to a certain lens, but I promise you there are people out there who want your point of view. There are readers who are hungry for new, fresh, authentic takes on things like dysthymia, depression, anxiety and mental health. So, yeah. Do what scares you. I shook like a damn leaf while I was on the phone with my editor, explaining how dear Aiden is to me, how autobiographical he is, how I’d broken every typical rule in the publishing world and let my heart write a book. But it’s worth it. It’s been so worth it.
People need your words. Not just mine, or someone else’s, but yours. You, in-particular, have a unique take on a unique part of life. If you want to show it to people, do it. Because I assure you, there’s a reader out there waiting for it.
Is your writing process the same for each book? What differences did you notice in each book?
No, I change it up depending on what I’m writing. The strangest process for me was Fortitude Smashed. I wrote a scene and bounced it off my beta-reader. He liked it, so I kept going. I wasn’t writing it for publication; I was writing it because it was the dead of winter in Central Oregon and I missed Laguna Beach, but as I wrote I started to unpack some heavy things within myself that I hadn’t faced. The scenes just kept coming.
Anyway, I wrote the book scene by scene. Usually they were 1000-1500 word segments that I kept in a folder, and once I had about ten of them, I put them in a word document, created some chapter space, and started filling in. Once I was done, the book was 120,000 words. I took the story through beta-revisions and it was picked up by Interlude Press. Then I made some important cuts with my lovely editor, and it became the story it is today.
I wrote the sequel the same way (without the giant word count) and another secret project scene by scene, too. The book I’m working on now, I’ve written chronologically. It’s a totally different feel than my last three manuscripts, which makes the process seem fresh and keeps the idea centered in my mind. Being almost 50 chapters into it is so weird after writing three books scene by scene. I keep wanting to jump into a chapter that’s way ahead and I’m not letting myself. It’s kind of a test in discipline and creative integrity. I want to see if the scene I’m itching to write will fit where it’s supposed to once the time comes.
I was at a seminar lately – 7 Sentences – where this new book idea was born. The main note I took away from it was to challenge myself, so that’s what I’m doing. Fingers crossed for good results!
If you had a burger named after you, what kind of burger would it be, and what would you want to be on it?
Oh! This is going to make me hungry. Okay, so I love spicy food. It would be named something like “THE XTREME” and there would be pictures on the wall of the people who successfully finished it. Like one of those eating challenges, you know? So, bun wise – gluten free bun, because I have some chronic illnesses that make it hard for me to process gluten. A delicious veggie patty, because I’m a vegetarian, smothered in Thai chilies, Sriracha, maybe habanero cheddar, some fresh jalapeno slices, grilled onions and some ghost pepper aioli to top it off. With a side of fries. And ranch. Lots of ranch.
For those of you who think Taylor is awesome (like I do!), check out this awesome preorder deal for Fortitude Smashed! You can preorder a copy for yourself on Amazon!
After scientists stumbled across an anomalous human hormone present during moments of emotional intimacy, further research created the ability to harness the direction of living energy and pinpoint when two lines will merge. Personalized chips are now implanted beneath the thumbnails of every infant, where glowing numbers count down to the moment they will meet their soul mate.
Fate is now a calculation.
But loving someone isn’t.
When Shannon Wurther, the youngest detective in Southern California, finds himself face-to-face with Aiden Maar, the reckless art thief Shannon’s precinct has been chasing for months, they are both stunned. Their Camellia Clocks have timed out, and the men are left with a choice—love one another or defy fate. (via Goodreads)
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