The Lesfic Book Club had its fourth monthly book discussion on Saturday, and Em Stevens joined us in “the hot seat” to talk about her novel, To Boldly Go. If you weren’t able to make it, check out the transcript below!

A couple of notes on the transcript:

  1. If you want to join us live, we discuss lesfic novels on the 3rd Sunday of every month at http://tinyurl.com/lesficlove (sign up or follow me on Twitter to find out what we’re reading each month).
  2. Some chat participants requested that their names be obscured, so below you’ll see the author’s name in bold, while everyone else has been anonymized as Reader 1, Reader 2, etc.

Reader 1
Book club!! So excited
The tearstains on my face are still drying

Em Stevens
that bad, eh?

Reader 1
That good!
Soon they’ll be joined by tears when I check my bank account and realize I can’t afford to go to Italy RIGHT NOW
need gelato, stat

Em Stevens
Yeah, the time I was there first the dollar was $.91 to the euro
it was glorious
I remember being able to eat luxurious meals for $5
and stay at almost swanky hotels for $35
not so much now
To be fair, I also slept in a lot of bus stations

Reader 1
Balance!

Em Stevens
(poor planning!)

Reader 3
It says a lot that you felt safe enough to sleep in a bus station (whether it says more about Italy, the time period, or your own sense of danger, I’m not sure)

Em Stevens
both? I tend to have a generous world view
I’d still feel safer doing that there than in America

Reader 2
Agreed
And I’ve done it in both europe and america.

Em Stevens
I am prepared for being in the hot seat.

Reader 3
Oh, we’re gonna grill ya.

Em Stevens
I am Em Stevens, AMA

Reader 4
I’m curious why you chose to go with Star Trek.

Reader 1
Who’s YOUR favourite captain??

Reader 5
Can I just say, what jumped out at me reading this book is how flawed they were in realistic ways. And they didn’t just drop that at a moments decision. It felt sooooo real

Reader 1
Yes! So real and grounded

Em Stevens
@Reader 4 I love Star Trek. It was my first fandom. I think a lot of people are at least a little aware of it, which makes it like…a universal stepping point for conversation.
@Reader 1 Sisko, hands down

Reader 6
@Em Stevens what was your inspiration for making taryn so damn annoying (personality wise) at first? that had to be hard
I wanted to throttle her before chapter 6

Reader 2
@Em Stevens you’re right; even those opposed to nerddom know about it.

Em Stevens
@Reader 5 Thanks! I’ve been working on learning to create more three dimensional characters.

Reader 7
Ha! Same. Wanted to smack Taryn around. xD

Reader 3
Yup! Also, she is way too me.

Reader 2
I didnt find her that annoying.

Reader 6
I think that is why I found her annoying I see too much of me in her

Reader 2
Seems I’m the only one.

Reader 1
Yeeaaah it was annoying but I felt for her – I’ve had those moments where I KNOW I’m being too stubborn but can’t get unstuck

Em Stevens
@Reader 6 the woman who I based it on was like that. Only I never stopped wanting to throttle her

Reader 6
HAHA! You mean the woman you accidentally helped in Italy

Reader 3
Is this the woman referenced in the author’s note?

Em Stevens
I find most of the people in my life are Taryn’s and I am very much a Holly
@Reader 3 yes!

Reader 6
I kept picturing holly with abnormally dyed hair…

Reader 4
I didn’t mind Taryn so much.

Em Stevens
So I used Taryn to see how people occasionally view me–my whimsy is an attribute and a very real frustration

Reader 3
I basically just pictured Erika Linder, @Reader 6

Em Stevens
I fall in love with a lot of Taryns

Reader 5
My challenge with taryn was her helplessness. Not the type A stuff

Em Stevens
Erika Linder was an inspiration!

Reader 5
Oh damn. Now i know her. so I totally saw holly with softer features.

Reader 6
I am writing a book with Italy involved and I had to stop myself from reading too far into it because I was afraid people would compare, ever get that feeling @Em Stevens?

Em Stevens
It was definitely extreme. Once off path, it was difficult for Taryn to get back on her feet
@Reader 6 ALL THE TIME
I’m friends with Miranda MacLeod and she was writing “Letters to Cupid” at the same time.

Reader 1
How do you work on characters when you write? What’s your process like?

Em Stevens
@Reader 1 I’m a heavy snowflaker

Reader 2
Expand on that, please.

Reader 3
lol yes, the author lingo

Em Stevens
So I’ll start with a basic idea–Taryn, this age, this type of personality. Then I’ll draw a line that says “Education”
And I’ll think about what kind of education gets her to be that way
and then I’ll do another spindle–“Family”
Who is her family? What is her relationship to them? How did it change her?
Then I do another spindle–past relationships
and another– financial
so on and so forth.

Reader 6
I could totally feel her financial struggles

Em Stevens
I rarely use all the information, but it helps me picture a whole person

Reader 6
I felt like Taryn was gonna bleed her dry at first but I’m glad you resolved it quickly

Reader 3
That’s a very rounded approach to character building – and it obviously paid off for Taryn and Holly. I was blown away by the depth and detail for both of them.

Em Stevens
And I find a lot of the story starts developing in the character diagrams

Reader 2
What makes a character unique is what causes conflict with others. Lol.

Reader 5
With the way money was setup I expected holly to say she was a surrogate.

Em Stevens
I still use a lot of tropes (controller versus flippant) but try to give them other qualities to make it different.

Reader 5
Your twist was heartbreakingly good

Reader 3
I was wondering for a while if it would go that way, too, Reader 5

Em Stevens
@Reader 5 ooooh, I didn’t think of that!

Reader 5
And they way you flipped their roles was wonderful

Reader 1
Yes! And I loved the shift in power dynamics
When they sleep together

Reader 5
And with her love of kids she would have been depressed doing that process and handing a baby over.

Reader 4
I liked how you set up the “ending” and then had the P.S. “that’s not how it really ended” at the end.

Reader 3
Yes! I was getting ready to throw my Kindle across the room but for that PS

Em Stevens
@Reader 7 read that and I was like “is this too much? Is changing POV crazy?”

Reader 6
I love the POV change–I find it’s hard nowadays to write a one character perspective on a romance that involves TWO people
what is the other character thinking? if they’re not thinking of the other

Reader 5
I thought it was the authors note at first and panicked

Reader 3
Same! I was like, oh no, Em did say this is a cryer of a book… this better not be what she meant

Em Stevens
I read an awesome story about a butch carrying her baby and the difficulties she had in the community, both with her masculine presenting while heavily pregnant and with motherhood in general
so I wanted to include how the desire to be a mother isn’t something femme or hertero normative

Reader 5
Thankfully that wasn’t my experience though it weighed heavily when I decided to get pregnant

Reader 4
Butch women are still women. I don’t see why some people don’t understand that. I don’t see why they can’t have kids or can’t want to have kids.
Women of all kinds want kids, and some don’t.

Reader 6
@Em Stevens what was your biggest problem writing this book
or your biggest struggle

Em Stevens
@Reader 6 in life, time. I am a very part time writer, and I got sucked into the narrative. It sucked having to go back to real life. My second largest problem was editing–I cut a lot. I wish I’d saved more for a professional.
But I also had to work to keep them both likeable. They had extreme personalities in an extreme location

Reader 2
When you plotted out the book, did you always have that twist in mind?

Reader 4
You have so many weird expectations from so many people when it comes to how women should look and how lesbians should look.

Em Stevens
@Reader 2 I didn’t!

Reader 4
There are all kinds of women though.

Reader 9
Yes, great spectrum for Holly

Em Stevens
I was just going to have her want kids. She’s 21. But then I thought that I was practicing ageism, and that Holly is super determined. If she knew she wanted something, her age wouldn’t have mattered

Reader 4
There are femme lesbians and butch straight girls. People seem to think that’s not a real thing.

Reader 3
I think they’re both likable and unlikable at various points, depending on the situation and the POV character. That’s what makes them feel like real people, especially since they’re thrown together on such a small timeframe.

Reader 9
Labels shouldn’t come with boundaries

Reader 6
@Em Stevens I’m sure that worked out best because in a way there was a lot of age factors between her and Taryn as it was

Reader 4
I was irked at first that Taryn was as concerned with the age difference as she was. She was giving up something incredible because of what she thought people might think. I’m glad she took the second chance Holly gave her.

Reader 3
I understood where she was coming from – there can be huge differences in maturity level between early 20s and mid-30s, especially when you don’t know each other yet

Reader 2
12 years is a long time, but it’s a silly reason.

Reader 9
Eh, it is and it isn’t.

Reader 1
The age gap felt smaller because Taryn was so lost at first

Reader 3
Agreed, @Reader 1! I read Taryn as the younger one for the first couple of chapters until she got her wits about her again

Reader 6
It was nice to see that sometimes the age didn’t matter with Taryn and Holly because in so many ways Holly was far more mature than her years and Taryn the exact opposite

Em Stevens
@Reader 3 yes. My thirties have given me my best life. I’m even more stoked about 40’s. But I was a TRAIN WRECK in my twenties

Reader 2
I’m a different person now than I was as 21 or 23.
Different life, wife, goals, etc

Reader 2
Question, how did taryn forgive so easily at the end?

Reader 2
Even with everything that happened, idk if i could forgive that easily. (Im an ass tho)

Em Stevens
@Reader 2 That…was a hard choice. Ultimately in the past I’ve been told by beta readers that I forgo happiness for the sake of realism, and I needed/wanted this to be a happy book.

Reader 5
I get it. She realized she created the mess too.
But she could only see that because of her experience with holly

Reader 2
She created it, but daphne took it to a whole other level. Taryn could have had really bad things happen. But (paranoid) aside, it’s awesome.

Reader 3
What did you all think of the short timespan of the book?

Reader 4
I’ve read books where the connection between the characters was made in a similar amount of time so it didn’t really throw me off.

Reader 1
The timeline was so short but the intensity of experiences made it feel more drawn out

Em Stevens
I also wanted it to be a happily for now.
It’s totally easy to be in love in Italy.

Reader 1
Like one awesome night can be more memorable than months of routine

Em Stevens
It’s way harder to find the same feelings with work, bills, and Bojangles.

Reader 2
1 night can change a life. 1 trip is perfectly reasonable.

Reader 6
@Em Stevens any chances of a future?

Em Stevens
@Reader 6 I like to think so, but I also think they both have a ton of growing left.

Reader 2
I smell a sequel.

Reader 5
They’ve shown the willingness to try though

Reader 3
It kind of reminded me of Titanic. They had an amazing experience and I want them to be happy and get their HEA, but it’s possible that the shortness of the experience made the romance all the more intense.
And at least no one straight-up died

Reader 2
They can grow together.

Em Stevens
I made out with a girl I met on the bus from Madrid to Barcelona and it was one of the most romantic nights of my life.
I think her name was Paola?
I don’t remember. I couldn’t say it correctly and apparently it was endearing enough for smooches

Reader 6
Do you speak Italian?
if not, what was your reference?

Em Stevens
I did. I spoke it in college (15 years ago)
I have two former Italian roommates who double checked for me
some of it was intentionally wrong, too. Holly was trying to learn on the fly, so she’d get words correct but not the order

Reader 9
I thought Daphne got off way too easy

Reader 2
Agreeed
But it was still gooooooooood

Em Stevens
She did! But let’s be real–good wine, food, and sex can make us generous in spirit

Reader 6
nope–I’d still be uber pissed

Reader 7
Honestly, I _did_ hope to see Daphne get bitch-slapped. But I’m a meanie-pants who doesn’t hold grudges, but instead confronts and whips out some burns when someone wrongs me. >:D

Reader 4
I’m curious why you chose The Birth of Venus to be the reason Taryn fell in love with Italy.

Em Stevens
That was based on me!

Reader 2
And did you feel the same way about the last supper?

Em Stevens
The art history class and that painting changed my life!
The Last Supper was interesting
it’s in super disrepair
and will probably disappear in our lifetime

Reader 2
I had the same reaction to the mona lisa.
It isnt in need, but it’s super overrated

Reader 6
I’m willing to go to Italy for that painting (Venus, not Supper)

Reader 9
I got to Milan too late to see it

Em Stevens
I liked seeing it for the scope of it (Last Supper) but it didn’t blow my mind

Reader 6
no Starry Night? or Van Gogh?

Em Stevens
Botecelli’s colors are so ethereal, and I feel lucky we get to see his myth-inspired paintings–he converted to Christianity later in life and burned most of his work

Reader 2
Starry night is flipping incredible.  I’ve seen it twice.

Reader 7
I love that you actually were able to put your experience into the story, Em. I think that why it feels so lovely and real.

Reader 3
Definitely – no one could get that level of realism without actually having walked in Holly and Taryn’s shoes

Em Stevens
Well, shucks

Reader 3
And the food! I don’t even like fish and it all sounded drool

Em Stevens
Food is my #1 focus when I travel

Reader 2
Mine too
Food and museums.
If you could rewrite it, would you change any of it?

Em Stevens
@Reader 2 Yes. Mostly I’d take more time.
But I don’t know that I’d change most of the core story.

Reader 2
How so?

Em Stevens
There were a lot of BIG emotions in a constrained amount of time, and I think I would have liked to give them each more room to feel them thoroughly

Reader 2
Do you think that would allow them to have an HEA?

Em Stevens
I think it would allow a solid foundation for one
They ended with sort of a Happily-so-long-as-we’re-happy

Reader 3
Did you consider separating them at the end so they could go off and apply the lessons they learned from each other?
I was biting my nails wondering if that’s where we were heading through the third act

Em Stevens
@Reader 3 yes

Reader 9
That would have sucked

Em Stevens
I really did think of having a mutual breakup, but like @Reader 9 said, it’s not satisfying

Reader 3
Yeah I think you would have had no choice but to write an epilogue-epilogue letting them get back together stateside or something, otherwise you’d have an angry mob on your hands

Reader 2
Would you consider a sequel?
How do you plot something like this?

Em Stevens
Probably not? I’m not completely opposed to it, but there’s a lot of financial reasons why I’m not tied to the idea.
I can see like, a novella
For just about everything, it starts with a single idea or experience. This one it was the scene with the phone–because that happened to me and I always thought it was a good start. For my current lesfic WIP, I pictured what it would be like at 40+to have your husband say he doesn’t love you anymore.
I picture the scene and sort of craft it like a movie. And then I ask myself what led those two people to that moment.
Then I do the character mapping, and start to piece it together like a puzzle
So Tangle started in my mind with the first scene–the break up haircut
Because almost all of us has been there

Reader 2
Been there.

Reader 9
Me too
Cut off 18 inches. LMAO

Reader 2
Dang. Nice. I cut off 11.

Reader 9
I kept shutting it in the truck door anyway…

Em Stevens
I think mine was 10. Went from long to “Sleepless in Seattle” Meg Ryan
That’s the most lesbian sentence of all time, @Reader 9
OF ALL TIME.
well, y’all, I’ve got to go meal prep/get ready for the week.
This was awesome.

Reader 9
Thanks for coming by

Reader 3
Thank you for being in the hot seat

Reader 2
Yay!  Thanks for coming. And answering our q’s. And writing the book in the first place.

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