Author Spotlight – Brey Willows
Meet UK Lesbian Fiction and Bold Strokes Books Author Brey Willows
Our reviewer Valden had this to say about Brey Willow’s books:
Brey Willows has ‘been hiding her light under a bushel’ (as the saying goes). She has a masterful knowledge of the English (or should I say American!) language, and how words work together. She can create dark suspense and intrigue, and conversations that are on one level, and have meaning at another level. She knows how to ensure love, emotions and passion slide out of her pages with apparent ease.
Whatever she is writing about, two things will always shine through – her imagination and her humour. It can be said that all authors need to use their imagination to create stories, but Brey’s writing demonstrates that her thought processes work at a higher than average level. In addition, her humour, like her dialogue is multi-layered and on second reading a book you will find yourself smiling at a completely different set of circumstances or conversation.
We spoke to Brey Willows about her books and her writing plans for the year.
(a) Tell us something interesting about your last published book.
Fury’s Death is the third book in the Afterlife, Inc trilogy. It was amazingly fun to write; Meg is so unlike me in every way, it was fun to play with the kind of person who has pretty much no boundaries. Unlike Meg, I was always the kid who avoided making eye contact so the teacher didn’t pick on me. I’m still like that, really.
One thing readers may or may not spot is about a character who comes in toward the end. Madison Ford is a character out of my partner, Robyn Nyx’s, first book Never Enough. We play like that sometimes, putting in a character or concept from each other’s book just to see if anyone will notice. I’m not sure anyone has yet.
Something else I found interesting while researching the book were the attitudes toward death in religions around the world. Visualizing a space where people go before they reach their afterlife (Dani’s realm) meant I had to have some understanding of what those worlds looked like. It was challenging, but I loved it.
(b) What got you into writing?
Reading! I was a voracious reader as a child. I spent a lot of time in the California high desert, and without many neighbours or friends, I would turn to books. I’d take them out into the desert, find a rock to perch on, and I’d spend the day reading. When I took breaks I’d wander around poking at rocks and following animal tracks, and stories would be running through my head the whole time. I loved everything from Nancy Drew mysteries to Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series.
I’ve always loved to write, but when I got my degree I got side tracked by thinking of the kind of degree that might get me a job, as you do. I was doing a composition theory and literature degree when I got to take a creative writing class, the first in many, many years. All of a sudden I found my passion again, and began writing with absolute abandon. Mostly rubbish, really, but my heart was in it. After I published my first erotica story in 2008 I was hooked. I stuck with short stories and erotica until I met my partner, and I finished my first novel in 2015. Now I can’t get enough.
I believe stories are powerful mirrors. They can show us our fears as well as how to overcome them. They can show us the ugly side of humanity as well as the hope contained in all of us. They can help us escape the lonely desert heat and take us to a place of lush green trees and laughter.
(c) Can you tell us about your writing style? How do you decide on plots and characters? Are you a planner or a pantser?
I’m a plantster. I never plan my short stories or erotica. I just start with an idea and see where it takes me. But I wrote my first book, Fury’s Bridge, without a plan, and ended up writing myself into a corner. That’s a mistake you don’t make twice. The time and sweat it takes to fix something like that makes you wonder if you should take up a pastime, like hobby horse competitions.
So now I’m a plantster, a weird combination of planning and winging it; I have a basic arc, which I actually draw out in my lovely book bible, making a note of major events and conflicts so I can look at my timing and make sure I’ve got enough pulse points to keep the tension high. Once I’ve got that done, I start writing and simply see what things take me toward each plot point. When I’m teaching, I say it’s a hell of a lot easier to get to a destination if you have some kind of map, even if you take the occasional detour. It can keep you from getting the dreaded saggy middle, and can show you if you have way too many subplots going on.
Radclyffe once said that writers often circle a particular theme or concept; they’re drawn to it subconsciously, but when you know what that theme or concept is, you can then play to the strength of it in your writing. For instance, Love Heals. Or the concept of going home and finding redemption/self. When I’m coming up with a new story, I want to know why it matters; in the Afterlife series, although I handled it with a (hopefully) light and tongue-in-cheek touch, I wanted to explore the nature of religion and philosophy, in a world where religion is often used as a weapon. In Chosen, I wanted to explore the ethical issues surrounding the people who get to decide who is ‘worthy’ of survival.
They say you should write what you like to read, and I like to read stories that make me think when I’ve put the book down. So that’s what I hope to do in my own writing. And a good romance and hot sex never hurt either.
(d) If you had to do it all over again, would you do anything differently?
I’d have started long ago. It’s so incredibly rewarding. But then, maybe I wouldn’t have had the discipline to sit down and get the work done if I’d tried to make a go of it when I was younger.
I’d have planned more, too, I think. I ran into trouble in my fourth book and realized it was because I hadn’t considered the depth of conflict properly. But I think that’s the great thing about being a writer; you’re always learning and working on getting better. No book is perfect and hopefully the one you write next is better than the last.
So…actually, no. I don’t think I’d do anything differently. It’s an amazing rollercoaster and I’m so privileged to be able to do it.
(e) What is next for you? What is your next project?
My next book, Chosen, comes out in September. It’s an environmental apocalypse story where scientists are being kidnapped by the government, but they don’t know why until they arrive at the super secret facility. It was so different from my Afterlife series, but it still meant imagining a kind of alien landscape, and it’s the first book I’ve written where a scene made me cry when I’d written it. The climate research I did left me pretty sleepless, but the romance and hope in it left me feeling like things will be okay.
The book I’m writing now is called Spinning Tales (out early 2019), and it goes back to the urban fantasy genre I love. It’s all about evil fairy tale characters making a living in New York, and the Tale Spinner who has to get them back where they belong. With her are a grumpy, gassy cat and a drunken ex-knight.
Also contracted, and the one I’ll begin writing in August, is Changing Course (out autumn 2019). That’s a sci-fi novel (more spec-fic than sci-fi, meaning there’s not a lot of information about the actual science of things) about a ship’s captain who crash lands on a planet outside the normal trade routes. There she meets up with a dare-devil hot mechanic type who is willing to help; for a price.
VALDEN’s TOP PICKS
The Furies is brilliant and imaginative storytelling of Gods on earth, with humour and romance on the side.
The myth encyclopedia (2018) states that “the Furies were female spirits of justice and vengeance. They were also called the Erinyes (angry ones). Known especially for pursuing people who had murdered family members, the Furies punished their victims by driving them mad”.
Each of the books deals with one of the Furies from Greek mythology in an up-dated and ingeniously designed world. In these stories, they are three sisters Alec, Tisera and Meg, and even if, like me, you know absolutely nothing about myths and legends, don’t let it put you off. These books are really entertaining, and clever, putting a modern and imaginary perspective on myths and gods, using religion in the modern world as a counterpoint to the behaviour of the gods. (If you are a bit of a nerd like me, you will end up looking a lot of things up on the Internet to satisfy your curiosity! Research is not necessary for you to enjoy these books!) That said, each book is a tale of romance against a backdrop of evil in a variety of guises and some very hot sex in places.
You need to start with the first book. However, Brey’s writing gets better and better, so that by the time you get to the end of the second book, you wonder how she can top it off. Then Book 3 (just out) Fury’s Death appears, and when you read it, you realise just how it’s possible. I mean who would believe that one of the main characters is Death, that she is female and that she has had a crush on someone for years! It will be good to see what kind of book Brey writes next.