[Interview #7] Pesha - "I already have 1 million words in copyright"
**Today I am joined by Pesha, who has more than 20 years of professional writing experience and has already written 1 million words in copyright. She writes on many platforms and on GoodNovel, she writes Accidentally Married Aliens .Her experience and knowledge can hopefully allow authors such as yourself to improve on your writing skills and gain new ideas and insight.
By Alex N.
October 12, 2020
Interviewer: So when did you decide to become a writer?
Pesha: I’ve had an interest in writing from a young age because I was a devoted reader. I had issues with a lot of the books I read because they didn't properly represent anyone who felt like "me" as a character. I grew up knowing I was queer. Gender identity was a strange concept to me as I didn't fit the mold of a traditional "girl" yet I never felt like a "boy" either. I was only myself. I had traits which were masculine and traits which were feminine, but no books I read showcased people with both traits. I felt very alone. I chose to write my own stories to fill a void in my life. I wanted stories I could relate to and writing them myself was honestly the easiest option for me.
Even my first job involved writing for a local newspaper when I was sixteen-years-old. I wrote the entertainment column and did movie reviews. Hilariously enough, I was hired after a phone interview and the editor even asked who hired me? He had no idea I was a teenager in high school.
Interviewer: Do you feel that job helped you with your writing? As you were writing movie reviews i.e maybe it helped you with ideas for your own book?
Pesha: Journalism allowed me to experience life as a technical writer. I learned a great deal about the value of words as there's a limited space in your copy for text so every word matters in journalism. You don't have unlimited space to write as much as you want; every article has to cut straight to the point with very direct statements. I learned I'm much more suited to writing fiction. I did get a lot of ideas for my own work. I focused on short stories because I really enjoyed genre fiction at the time. I loved thrillers and horror novels as those didn't focus on a romantic subplot, often featured a less than ideal protagonist, and were heavily plot-driven. I thought for years I would pursue writing horror only it's a very limited genre. I never met the right people to fit into their world.
Interviewer: Yeah, on Goodnovel most of the web fictions are romance. Horror genre books are less common.
Pesha: For many years I read romance only because it was the easiest fiction to get my hands on. I come from a military background and I was only allowed to have a limited number of belongings growing up. Books were extremely valuable commodities to me. I would trade chores for the ability to borrow from other people -I'll do your dishes for a week if you'll let me borrow your books!- and romance was what most wives read.
Interviewer: Is LGBT a recurring theme in your books? If you wrote horror would the main characters also be LGBT i.e The Last of Us. (BELOW: Ellie from The Last of Us)
Pesha: In terms of writing a gay character versus a straight character, I do tend to write queer characters almost exclusively.
I would "re-write" the books in my head a lot of the time. I would change the lead hero to a female protagonist and then it would be two women falling in love instead of a man-woman traditional heterosexual dynamic. I changed the lead female to a male protagonist sometimes too. It was just whichever character I felt was easier to gender swap. I wound up being really interested in interpersonal relationships which led me to writing my first full-length novel work which was a gay romance. I discovered fanfiction very early. There was a huge push for male/male romances which is called "slash" after the punctuation between the names. I wrote Star Trek: The Original Series fanfiction of Captain Kirk/Commander Spock and traded it with other fanfiction writers via mail exchange. The first experiences I had on the internet were visiting chat rooms to talk about fanfiction. Back then, the idea a traditional publishing house would put out a gay romance was completely foreign and ridiculous. I felt safe with other fans. No one judged me or thought I was "weird" since we were all fans of the same relationships and pairings.
Interviewer: Yeah, from what I learnt when I was writing articles regarding LGBT; a lot of LGBT people read fan fiction as there is not enough relevant media in the mainstream. Though I am not LGBT, it was very interesting to learn about a new community.
Pesha: There's this old adage "write what you know" and I'm a queer woman. I write queer people. They're my people. I believe being able to represent the community is very important because teens and adults who have alternative sexual identities or who are exploring their sexuality should have fiction they can readily access which shows a normalized view of LGBT+ relationships. It's the healthiest way to tell someone "You aren't alone. Other people feel the way you do. There's nothing wrong with you."
I even believe that having accurate representation in fiction can save lives. I've lost friends to suicide. It isn't easy to grow up "different."
Interviewer: I have read that back in the 90s and 80s, mainstream media portrayed LGBT as “weirdos and stereotypical”. Though nowadays it starting to get slightly better with shows having one or two LGBT characters i.e The Walking Dead.
Pesha: Yeah, these days there are so many resources. I actually submitted to GoodNovel because of the LGBT+ competition. I wasn't concerned with winning or placing in the challenge. I was determined to do my part to help further representation for the community as a whole. I love how GoodNovel embraced LGBT+ stories with the same enthusiasm as any other fiction. It was very inspiring for me.
Interviewer: Both Maria Warren and Jane Knight has mentioned you in their interviews and describe you as a good friend and an experienced author. How long have you known each other for?
Pesha: I've known Jane Knight and Maria Warren for around a year now. They're wonderful authors who are very accepting of me for who I am and very supportive of my work.
I love Jane and Maria for representing strong modern family values, strong women, and modern mothers. They both have young children who they homeschool. They split their time between being mothers and being authors. I am very grateful to have met them through app writing.
I’ve also met Mel Dixon is an Australian writer whose LGBT+ story The CEO'S Wife's Mate is phenomenal. She has an intersex character, shifters for a paranormal element, and a polyamorous main pairing which is fascinating. I love her perspective on open relationships and polyamory. We’re all in our 30s as well and get along with each other really well.
Interviewer: And how do you and author friends help each other out? i.e storyboard, workshop, Jane Knight said that you helped her with formatting.
Pesha: In terms of my writer's circle, we help each other with resources, cheerleading during emotionally draining times, motivation by doing sprints together, and we share our progress daily to encourage one another. It is important to have a community for support as a writer because writing is a very isolating endeavor and we need that back-up support whenever we are at our toughest.
It's easy to feel alone when writing as the whole job is to stay locked inside your own head to get the story out. I love having a community of writers who can tell me how they've gotten their words in for the day, where they are in their process, discuss edits with or compare notes on storyboarding.
Interviewer: Maria Warren mentions that you even published traditionally. What was that process like?
Pesha: I've been a professional writer for twenty years now. The process is considerably more involved than applying to write for an application. I have done traditional writing both as an invitation-only author and as a cold call submission. I have an agent who is also my professional editor. She gets invitations for anthologies or for writing "specs" -this is when someone sends out a call for writers to fill a specific need with a specification request which can be as detailed as a full outline or as simple as a few sentences- and she forwards the ones she thinks I would do best at or be most interested in to me. I will take a spec if it fits with my style or it's lucrative enough. I'm a writer professionally so yes, sometimes I do it for the money. Lol.
I've written quite a few "novels" based on the word counts required to classify as a novel-length work. I have more experience in screenwriting however and have done around six hundred screenplays, blocking, film treatments, and scenes. In 2016, I even celebrated 1 million words in copyright, and during all this time, I had to continue my cancer treatment as well.
Interviewer: What advice would you give to authors who are considering publishing?
Pesha: In terms of advice for aspiring writers, I would say to always be kind to yourself. Accept you're never going to perfect anything. There's always room for improvement. Learn. Be open to learning as much as you can from anyone you can because everyone can teach you something. You're never going to know "everything" there is to know about writing. This isn't the kind of industry where a person can learn "everything."
Writing is a lonely experience for most people. It's important to find people who uplift you, inspire you, and encourage you to keep going. So; find your “tribe”.
Interviewer: Last question, what author would you like to meet in real life?
Pesha: If I could meet any writer, I'd want to meet Neil Gaiman. He can worldbuild better than anyone I've ever read. His work includes everyone. His characters are three-dimensional. His worlds are wholly his own. I can read a few sentences he's written and know: Neil Gaiman wrote this. Having such a distinct voice is amazing to me. I couldn’t say enough good things about him. He's also very open about his process and he does workshops, articles, and interviews to encourage other writers. He's truly an inspiration to me.(BELOW: Pesha is from Tennessee, USA).