(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Erin was written by E.M McGowen.)
It was a quiet evening in Moore, Oklahoma, and the quiet was not entirely unpleasant. Erin sat alone in the small cafe, quietly writing and sipping on the smoothie she had prepared moments before. It had been a long few months with little inspiration coming to her, and she was going to take advantage of any moment she had to be able to write freely. The ideas were beginning to come back, and Erin was beyond grateful they were appearing once again. She missed her characters, like old friends she had not seen for a while.
She wouldn’t be alone for long, however – she was expecting a guest, a fellow author and friend, who would be conducting an interview with her. Erin tapped her pen against the page and looked around the cafe, staring at the decorations – scenes of travel and far-off places she had both been to and desperately wished to go in the future. Already she was planning for her next adventure, and could hardly wait until the time came.
She checked the time. Any moment now.
Kelly stepped into the cafe and looked around. She locked eyes with Erin and approached her with a smile. “Hi, I hope I haven’t kept you waiting long. I’m Kelly. I’m assuming you’re E. M. McGowen, right? Kelly reached out her hand. “Nice to meet you. How are you doing today?”
Erin shook it, smiling in return and gestured toward the table she was occupying, inviting the other woman to sit down. “Call me Erin, and you haven’t kept me waiting long at all. I’ve been writing a little to keep busy. Would you like anything? A drink, or a pastry?”
“I’m fine. Thanks.” Kelly smiled as she took a sat across from Erin. “So, tell me a bit about yourself. What is it that you do? Obviously you’re a writer, but is it a full-time job?”
“Not exactly, although I would love for it to be someday. I don’t have a profession exactly, more of a jack-of-all-trades. I currently work customer service, but I’ve done everything from reception work to veterinary technician.”
“Then you’ve encountered a lot of people!” Kelly nodded as she eased back in her chair. “When did you first become interested in writing?”
“Lots of people—most of them good, some of them not so good.” She gave a small shrug. “I’ve been writing since I was a young child. I believe I wrote my first story around the age of five or six. It wasn’t very long, but it was about my cat, Midnight. I’m not entirely certain what the plot was, but I know I had him going on some epic adventures. Before that, I would tell stories aloud. My mother used to tell me she’d hear me in my room, playing out and telling all kinds of stories to my stuffed animals.”
Kelly smiled when she heard this. It was a common tale that writers were story-lovers since a young age. “So did you always write? Or was there a moment in your life that really encouraged you to get serious about writing?”
“A little of both. I’ve always written and loved my stories. I could read books by the time I was four—small children’s stories of course, but actually read them by myself—and it just went from reading and telling them to putting them on paper.” Erin tilted her head a little, thinking as she took a sip of the smoothie, idly tapping bouncing her foot. “I suppose what really got me to writing was the discovery of fan-fiction. I was about eleven and had just finished the first two Harry Potter books. I remember finding a website with a lot of artwork, and it had some stories on there written by the artist. It wasn’t anything new to me—I’d been creating my own versions of fandoms since I was a little girl – but it fascinated me.” She let out a laugh, remembering her excitement at the discovery. “About a week later, I had a plot and had written my first real “chapter” to a story. I admit, it was pretty terrible and embarrassing!”
Kelly grinned when she heard this. “I started off with Star Wars fan fic, so yay fan fiction!” She then tilted her head to a side. “But you transitioned from writing fan fic to writing your own work, right? How did that come about?”
“I always love meeting fellow fan fic writers! It used to be something people didn’t like admitting, and it’s actually become a lot more acceptable now. I actually had an interview with one of our local news papers here in Oklahoma about writing fan fiction. The journalist was trying to discover what it was, and why people would do it! As for moving to my own stories …” She thought a moment, trying to remember when she made the jump from preset worlds to creating her own. “I have a character, Osamu, who I have had since I was about twelve. He started off as a fan fiction character, but was one that was in the background. I attached myself to him and gave him a story. Eventually, I rewrote that story . . . and then rewrote it again. Finally, there was nothing that even tied it to the original fandom he came from, and I dropped it all together. He’s the reason for the jump. Although, if I admit, I still write fan fiction more than I do original, still.”
“Don’t you love it when there’s a character that helps you make that jump?” Kelly grinned at Erin. “I know exactly what that’s like. So, you’re working on your own work (while still writing fan fiction, of course!), so which story of yours would you like to discuss?” Kelly leaned forward. “I’d love to hear it!”
“I really do! He’s probably one of my very favorite characters ever.” Erin grinned and leaned forward, obviously excited to share a little about her story with Kelly, and those who read her work. “The current original story I’m working on right now is called “Le Cœur a Ses Raisons. Funnily enough, the main character is actually Osamu’s uncle.”
“Interesting.” Kelly tried to keep that title in mind because it was little unusual but asked. “What’s it about?” She smiled at Erin.
“It’s about a middle-aged man who uproots his life from being a well known and respected psychiatrist and professor in Tokyo to Norman, Oklahoma to work as a Japanese professor. While there, he meets a fellow teacher, Jaime, and ends up developing feelings for him. Problem is, Jaime is straight and much younger than him. It’s mostly just a story about life, and culture shock.”
“Culture shock is definitely something we don’t think about much but is an intriguing element to include.” Kelly nodded as she eased back in her chair and still smiled at Erin. “So what inspired this idea for a story?”
“I’ve been using Tenshi—that’s my character’s name, and yes, I know it is in no way a name the Japanese actually use. That comes up in the story! – in role plays with my friends for a number of years now. Tenshi was actually the second character I created for Osamu’s story, and he’s been around almost as long. I’ve always known Tenshi was gay, and I’ve always known he’s had a bit of trouble with love. He was married to a woman in his late twenties and early thirties, had a child, finally came out and got together with his second partner. That didn’t end too well for him. The actual story came to me while riding on a bus through the Czech Republic.” Erin took a breath, realizing she was talking very fast and probably not making a ton of sense. “I’m sorry, I tend to overshare when I get excited. I’d been calling Jaime “Tenshi’s Idiot”, because I didn’t have a name for him. But I had a long bus trip from Berlin, Germany to Prague, Czech Republic and it just all hit. It worked, and I’ve spent the last several years piecing it all together.”
“Don’t you just love it when things fall into place for a story?” Kelly grinned at Erin. “Now, obviously there’s lots of personal and internal conflict for the characters. What is it you’d like your readers to take from the story? Something you’d like them to remember?”
“I do love it, so much, especially when it comes so easily. I got back home and pretty much bombarded my friend with all the ideas I had for it.” Erin nodded, looking down at the paper she had been writing on, and back up to Kelly, taking a deep breath. “I think what I want people to take away most is that there’s always more to a person than meets the eye, and I touch on a number of social issues as well. Obviously the topic of homosexuality, but both of my main characters have HIV, as well. For Tenshi, he was infected when his partner of ten years cheated on him. For Jaime, he is a former heroin addict, and shared needles. There are so many stereotypes and so, so much information about HIV positive people that I want to shed light on that.”
Kelly paused to take all this in, and she regarded Erin for a moment then smiled at her. “Sounds like quite a lot to accomplish, and I admire your willingness to touch on their issues to try and help others understand. It’s interesting. Keep it up!” Kelly glimpsed at a clock on the wall and frowned. “Our time is almost up, but we still have a few more minutes.” She smiled at Erin. “What would you say is your favorite thing about writing in general? I know that can be a difficult question, but still…I’m curious.”
“My favorite thing about writing would be seeing my characters actually come to life.” Erin focused her eyes behind Kelly, something she did when thinking hard. It allowed her mind to drift, and not feel like she had to keep eye contact the full time. “I’m not an artist, I can’t draw anything more than a stick figure. But I can paint a picture with my words. I’m still a baby writer, and I have a long way to go. Still, I want to share these characters with the world, and have them love my babies as much as I love them. I get very, very attached to my characters. Every one of them mean something special to me.”
“And if I may, what about you? What is your favorite thing about writing?”
Kelly chuckled at this and wagged her head. It was hard to narrow down, but she tried. “I’d have to say creating new worlds and exploring the stories. Always fun.” She smiled. “But what’s the most difficult thing you’ve found about writing so far?”
That question made Erin laugh aloud, rolling her eyes at herself as she leaned the chair back on two legs. “Everything! As I said, I’m a baby writer, and things I’ve written even two months ago make me cringe. I struggle with insecurity, I struggle with getting what I want out of my head an onto paper…it’s all difficult for me.”
“It gets a bit easier as you go.” Kelly reassured her with a smile but then sighed. “unfortunately though, I must bring this conversation to a close. It’s been lovely chatting with you though. You’ll keep me posted on the progress of your story and such, yes?” She raised her brows.
Erin nodded, extending her hand once again for Kelly to shake. “Of course I will. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you as well!”
Kelly rose to her feet and shook Erin’s hand. “You keep writing, and never give up. Take care!” With a farewell wave and a smile, Kelly headed out.
E. M. McGowen’s story, ‘Les Cœur a Ses Raisons’ is not yet published but is due to be released sometime in 2017. Follow her on social media for more updates!