Author Interview With Cassandra Duffy

Posted: April 22, 2015 in Author Interview
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I read Cassandra Duffy’s novel The Gunfighter & The Gear-Head back in 2013 and found it to be a refreshingly unique and fun science fiction story, with a great cast of characters. I am a sucker for post-apocalyptic movies like Mad Max, The Postman, and Waterworld. I find the genre fascinating and exciting; survival tactics, ingenuity, and determination. In these settings, there is no place for the weak or timid, but being strong doesn’t have to mean total domination; enter the “reluctant hero”.

In The Gunfighter & The Gear-Head, Cassandra Duffy has skillfully blended lizard aliens, wild-west gun fights, steam-punk blimps, cults, and lesbian romance drama into an exciting adventure using wit and well developed persons and places. Provided glimpses into their lives pre-invasion, the reader is able to connect with the characters as real people and become invested in their survival post-invasion.

Cassandra has a sarcastic sense of humor that translates well to her characters. “If I get lynched for being a scientist, Buddhist, lesbian, witch, don’t blame me.” Being able to successfully capture so many aspects of humanity is a rare talent, especially in the lesbian genre.

I asked Cassandra a few questions about her writing career.

RS: Your early work came out–on Amazon–in 2011, but you must have been writing before then. How did you first get into writing? Did your stories center around lesbian characters from the get-go?

CD: All through high school I wanted to be a game designer or do something in the video game industry. I loved games with strong plots like Knights of the Old Republic and thought it was a really cool medium for telling a story. In college it became clear I didn’t have the computer aptitude or attention span for the tech side of game design. I still wanted to tell stories, so I tried creative writing classes and it stuck. Starting out I still mostly wrote fan fiction about video games until several of my professors told me to knock it off and come up with something of my own.

My stories have always focused on lesbian characters. I’m a gold star lesbian so my knowledge of boy/girl romance and sex is entirely theoretical. I was so unsure of my skill, especially early on, that I had to stick to things I thought I knew or could at least learn quickly and that meant writing lesbians and in my very first book, the Gunfighter and the Gear-head, lesbians from California.

RS: I read…a lot. But I admittedly don’t read a lot of lesfic because the genre is so saturated with plotless smut. When I discovered your series “The Raven Ladies,” however, I couldn’t resist giving it a try. I was pleasantly surprised when I found a great story, with strong female characters. What would you say to other readers that tend to avoid lesfic?

CD: I’d say the landscape of fiction as a whole is changing, and lesfic is one of the primary genres benefiting from the changes. It used to be that any fiction for the LGBT community had to fit a very small, very narrow scope to remain profitable enough for large publishers to even consider. For lesfic, that meant smut that would also appeal to straight male readers, and mysteries, lots and lots of mysteries for some reason. Don’t get me wrong, I like smut as much as the next girl, but I like smut for women by women, which is kinda rare. When the ereader market pretty much blew open the flood gates to allow a much wider range of options through to readers, a lot of really good fiction for traditionally under-served, under-represented groups hit the market. Before, you had to hope someone at Penguin or Harper thought it was a good idea to have a tiny run of books with a lesbian protagonist of color, and it was probably going to be a very safe offering. Now, if you want a lesbian protagonist, you can find them in almost any flavor you like doing things in stories that were formally deemed too risky for the big publishing houses to touch.

For readers, especially lesfic readers, this is a golden age of options that has never existed before. If you want lesbian pirates, knights, astronauts, cowgirls, space explorers, lawyers, doctors, artists, whatever, there is a book available somewhere. And, if you like some smut, but want it to be for lesbians by lesbians, there’s plenty of that now too.

RS: Most authors tend to stick to a certain sub-genre, typically what they themselves would want to read. But while your novels all contain lesbian themes, they vary greatly in genre: from wild west – steampunk – alien apocalypse,  to paranormal, to knights of old. When beginning a new story, do you already have a character fleshed out that determines the setting you place her in? Or does a setting develop first and the characters later?

CD: I was practically a kid in a candy store when I started getting my stories and books picked up. I felt the options in lesfic were so restricted and so narrow that I immediately wanted to expand the genre with every kind of book I enjoyed reading because I felt that a lot of people were like me–one genre might be a favorite, but it’s more fun to read all sorts of books. I kind of get narrowed down to steampunk, I think mostly because it’s popular now and there aren’t many authors in that genre yet, even fewer who are lesbians, but it’s just one of the many story types I enjoy writing. Aside from a few short stories, all my writing is character driven. Even if I start with a concept like I did with Divine Touched, I ultimately approach the story via the characters I want to tell the story through. Often the setting evolves to match what I want the character to be challenged by.

RS: When stepping into a new genre, the must be alot to understand before making a story work, like developing a sense of mechanics to speak intelligently about steampunk gadgets. What kind of research do you do before diving into a new story?

CD: I come from a scientifically minded family. My dad is an aerospace engineer and my sister is a chemist. For the most part, they tolerate a lot of my silly questions when I’m trying to get a better concept of what would and wouldn’t work for airships and fuels and what not. I’m pretty sure my dad has only a rudimentary concept of what I do for a living since it’s not a traditional job and it involves really strange research. My sister actually came up with the idea for the origin of Slark fuel for the Raven Ladies series, so she’s a far more willing participant in the process.

Aside from consulting with experts, inside and outside my family, I read up a lot on the areas I need to read up on and go out and try new things as needed. I’m not a huge fan of guns, but a lot of my characters are, so I’ve had to go to shooting ranges and gun stores and talk to military folks to make sure I was at least in the ballpark when it comes to weapons.

RS: Who are your favorite authors right now?

CD: I’m not sure if I can call Frank McCourt a favorite author right now, although that’s who I’m reading. I thought it was high time I read Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis even though bleak isn’t really my thing. Angela’s Ashes especially was a remarkable, powerful book that I felt I suffered through rather than enjoyed. It’s one of those books that I don’t think you’re supposed to enjoy it so much as you are supposed to be impacted by it. Impacted like a punch to the stomach in many instances. I love Frank McCourt’s writing but I’m pretty sure I won’t be re-reading either of his books.

To refresh and cleanse myself after the crushing emotional impact of McCourt’s autobiographies, I’ll be reading so many Batwoman comics this summer.

  1. Reblogged this on Cogpunk Steamscribe and commented:
    Are you like me, always on the hunt for new book recommendations?

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