Today in the Loveseat of Loquaciousness, I have the honor to host Taylor Brooke, author of the awesome new book, Fortitude Smashed, which comes out today. Welcome!
Please tell us a little about Fortitude Smashed. I've had the pleasure of reading it (Goodreads review) and I loved that it’s kind of a futuristic take on the soulmate idea.
You know, I wanted something that respected the original trope. It’s classic, and I really didn’t want to mess it up by making it too complicated. When I created the Camellia Clock, I managed to keep the concept true and set my story apart at the same time. The soulmate trope is nothing new for literature and especially fanfiction, but I set a goal for myself to write an introspective, slow-burn book, and accomplishing that while writing in the “soulmate” world was a challenge. It isn’t paranormal, it isn’t super high-conflict or high-stakes, but it’s stuffed full of very raw, complicated emotions. That was my goal with Fortitude Smashed, to make readers feel something, get attached to the characters, hope for them and resonate with them. It unpacks heavy issues – mental illness, trust, sexual assault. Finding the balance between an enemies-to-lovers soulmate book with these real-life, jarring issues was complicated and personal, but I’m proud of it. To put it simply the book is about an art thief, Aiden Maar, and a detective, Shannon Wurther, who find out their soulmates. Aiden is dealing with dissociative dysthymia and trying to move on from his days as a burglar, and Shannon is a straight-laced good guy desperate for something different. As you can imagine, these two have a rough and tumble relationship.
I’ve read several of your books now, and your characters are always so alive to me, it’s as if I could walk down the street and meet them. How do you develop them prior to writing, or do they just tell you who they are as you write?
I go about my characters as a creator. My characters present themselves to me, but they don’t define themselves. They look to me for that. Sometimes a character will deviate from the path I originally set for them, but usually I know their desires and intricacies before I put them on the page. Aiden was always sort of brash and barbed, and Shannon was always a bit on the quieter, stoic side. When I’m drafting, I take those big personality traits and explore them from a reader’s perspective. Bad habits? What happened in their past? What’s their favorite color? How would they respond to this or that? Even though Aiden is a thief, he’s trying not to be. He’s interested in photography and loves animals, is lonely and wants to be loved. Despite these softer qualities, he’s still barbed. Shannon is straight-laced but he’s hungry for recklessness and even though he’s a typical good guy, he has a temper and very little patience. Layering these traits into the text in a way that presents them to reader seamlessly is quite difficult, but it’s worth it. I’m glad you feel like you could meet them on the street, that means I’ve done my job.
We met through a mutual publisher who specializes in LGBTQ literature, and I’m personally so happy that queer lit is much more accessible than it was even ten or fifteen years ago. Can you articulate your feelings about seeing ourselves represented in the books we read (and write)?
I love that we’re seeing more LGBTQ literature! It’s amazing! And these smaller presses are being really brave, doing the hard work, taking the risks, because larger publishers won’t. However, there’s still work to do. We need more asexual books, more demi books, more books written about trans characters from trans authors, we need NB stories, bisexual stories that don’t end in a same-sex pairing, poly books and aromantic stories. There’s so much work, and I know there are amazing authors out there writing these books. They just need to be given a chance. The more we lift each other up in this industry, the more we lift up diverse book bloggers and ownvoices creators/reviewers, the more the market will pay attention. Seeing Adam Silvera’s THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END hit the NYT list, a book written by a queer man of color about queer boys of color was absolutely heart-warming, but we need to keep putting in the work to make this the norm.
Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
I don’t know if I would use the world spiritual. Sometimes it is, but most of the time I write for fun. Fortitude Smashed is a selfish book. I wrote it for me and no one else, though the responses from readers resonating with Aiden and Shannon are incredible. The book is ownvoices in almost every aspect. It’s based off my experiences, obviously not the soulmate bit, but the mental illness, the sexual assault, the ripple effect tragedy can have within a group of friends, the setting, it was all built out of things I’ve been through. Writing it wasn’t spiritual, it was therapeutic. I guess that’s a good word. Therapeutic.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Self doubt. At the beginning of every new manuscript I’m reminded that these words will be out in the world for people to read someday. It’s scary. Bad reviews suck, but they aren’t the worst of it. No one is ever going to like everything you put out, but bad reviews about ownvoices books are particularly ouch. I have to constantly remind myself that I write for me. I write these books because they’re mine, because they’re sitting inside of me waiting to be written. If people don’t like it, so be it.
I know you have some pretty awesome projects coming up. Can you give us a hint what’s coming next?
There’s a sequel to Fortitude Smashed coming in 2018. I can’t release the title or date yet, but I can say it might be about a certain couple of girls we meet in Fortitude Smashed, a doctor and a graphic designer maybe…
Thank you so much for stopping by the blog today! Where can readers interact with you on the web?