Have Journal Will Travel: Interview with Fiona Zedde

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I have written before about writing while traveling and keeping a journal while traveling as a way to infuse your writing with sensual energy and filling your creative well. Today’s post features one of my favorite authors, Fiona Zedde. Ms. Zedde recently celebrated the tenth anniversary of her first novel Bliss. I talk about my favorites of her novels in this post .

From her speculative fiction to her contemporary romance, Ms. Zedde never disappoints. Her novels are rich, sensuous and decadent. I live vicariously by following her travel adventures. As she prepares for the release of To Italy with Love and Other Stories, she very graciously took time out of her busy travel schedule to answer some questions about traveling as a writer.

  1. Have you always had the desire to travel?

Since I was twelve! I got on my first airplane when emigrating from Jamaica, and that’s when I fell in love with traveling. The entire experience captured my imagination and my interest – leaving one culture to immerse myself in another; hovering over the world and looking at it through strange little windows; even the food. I remember they served callaloo on that first Air Jamaica flight. I love food.

  1. Which comes first, the idea for a story in a certain setting, or choosing a setting and seeing what stories come from the experience?

Usually being in a particular setting will spawn ideas. Either through the things I experience in that place or because the setting itself is very evocative. Like the afternoon when I ended up riding on the back of an ancient motorbike through the medina in Marrakesh.

  1. Do you typically travel alone, or with other creatives/ writers/friends?

Actually a combination of both. I’ll travel somewhere with a friend and we’ll bum around together for a while then, once they go back home after a week or three, I travel on my own.

  1. Do you see all travel as research for writing or do you plan trips that are just about visiting family/friends/ relaxing without an agenda?

My official statement for my tax guy is “it’s all research!”

To clarify though, I’m a wanderer. I love seeing new places and experiencing new things. There’s nothing like being plopped down in a completely foreign culture, being disoriented by its unique structures and language then slowly feeling my way to familiarity, swimming back from that deep end. I treasure ways of turning those experiences into fiction.

  1. What are your top five destinations you have traveled to?

Morocco. Greece. Naples. Paris. Antwerp.

  1. What one destination do you want to revisit the most?

I feel a little clichéd in saying this, but it’s Paris. Their bakeries are amazing.

What are your top three travel tips for creatives abroad?

  1. Be open to traveling alone. You tend to meet more people when you’re not cliqued up and sometimes (subconsciously) closed off.
  2. If possible, experience a place at least twice.
  3. Make notes in your journal and take photos, of course. But not so much that you aren’t fully experiencing the moment.

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Jamaican-born Fiona Zedde currently lives and writes in Atlanta, Georgia. She is the author of several novellas and novels of lesbian love and desire, including the Lambda Literary Award finalists Bliss and Every Dark Desire. Her novel, Dangerous Pleasures, was winner of the About.com Readers’ Choice Award for Best Lesbian Novel or Memoir of 2012. Find out more at www.FionaZedde.com 

 

Thirteen for Halloween

Dark Secrets BIG

Halloween is the ultimate holiday for those of us who relish having the bejesus scared out of us. For everyone who loves the creepy, the gory, the freak show, the weird, and just plain scary this is our time. We delight in the month of pumpkin spiced everything to the core of our adrenalin soaked souls. In celebration of my favorite time of year, I have a list of thirteen reads for Halloween. So take a break from visiting haunted houses and treat yourself to these thirteen dark reads.

  1. Dark Secrets: A Paranormal Noir Anthology,  Rachel Caine, Cynthia Eden, Megan Hart, Suzanne Johnson, Jeffe Kennedy, Mina Khan. This is a marvelous anthology of paranormal noir romance. It is all here, ghost stories, dark fey, vampires, tormented djinn, murder, mayhem, and death. Hell, the devil himself appears in these pages. This anthology is a Halloween bag full of all your favorite reading time treats. It is hard to resist the sexy bite sized story morsels that beg you to read just one more.
  2. White is for Witching, Helen Oyeyemi. A creepy house, and a history of unfulfilled hunger passed down through generations, this book will have you swearing off of bed and breakfast accommodations.
  3. Boy Snow Bird, Helen Oyeymi’s lyrical and viscerally terrifying novel that turns Snow White upside down and sideways. I enjoyed this book so much I immediately read every thing else that Helen Otoyemi has written, so be warned.
  4. Family Dinner: A Tale of the Undead, Mark C. Scioneaux.  A family love zombie story with the best twist ending I have read in years..
  5. The Resurrected Compendium, Megan Hart. A collection of terrifying, angry stories of the undead that dove tail into each other. These stories were originally released individually but are now collected into this gore fest of a compendium. The undead in these stories are not mindless slow walking killers. They are resurrected, pissed off, and they want what they want.
  6. Apparition, Michealbrent Collings. A novel that creeped me out so bad I had to read it in small bits. It does for cockroaches what Steven King did for clowns. Read it in a well-lit room in the company of others.
  7. Every Dark Desire and the sequel Desire before Dawn,  Fiona Zedde. Yes, I know this is two books and it messes up the count, but damn these feature fierce vampires done right. Bloody, violent, and sexy as hell, these vamps will have you on your knees, baring your throat, begging for a nip.
  8. The Vines, Christopher Rice. Settle in for some southern discomfort as Rice spins this scary tale featuring family secrets, killer vines, and a hell of a twisty ending.
  9. The Headmaster, Tiffany Reisz.  A fun, not so scary ghostly love story in the best tradition of weird tales. The banter and dialog make this a must read.
  10. American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis. Disturbing, darkly funny, and violent. What’s not to love about this book? If you are late to the party for this book, do yourself a favor and read it.
  11. Dawn- Book one Xenogenesis series, Octavia Butler. There are rumors that this will be coming to television and as a huge fan of the late Octavia Butler, I hope and pray that they do not screw it up. Dawn is a dark futuristic tale that reminds us that in the universe, survival has a price, and rescues can be expensive in more ways than one.
  12. Scary Stories to Read after Dark, Alvin Schwartz. Remember all those stories that you used to tell each other at over-nights to guarantee that no one slept, and that everyone was freaked out? This is a fantastic collection of all those tales, written down so that you don’t have to try to remember them. When your kids bug you to tell them a scary story, start them off right and read them one of these. This is best for older (9+) kids. Use your discretion. You know your kids better than anyone else, but be advised if you read this around the bonfire while camping be prepared to have your kids in your tent!
  13. Books of Blood, Clive Barker. No discussion of horror can leave him out. If you have not read this collection of short stories by the master you need to experience these wonderfully horrific tales.

There you have it. So go ahead light the fireplace, grab an adult beverage of your choice and settle in with any one of these books to enjoy the mayhem.

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An Eclectic Summer Reading List

 

I love to sit on my porch and read in the summer. As a kid I could not wait for school to be out for the summer, so I could read what I wanted to read instead of what was required. I would spend every rainy day curled up with a book. I spent most summer nights reading until I fell asleep with the book in my hands.
I still fall asleep with my book in my hands sometimes, and I don’t get to curl up and read as much as I would like to anymore, but summer is still made for reading. I put together a list of some of my favorite books. Some have been featured in my Year of Women’s Voices Series, some were published a while ago, and some are new. It is a pretty eclectic list, and if you are looking for something to read I hope you find something here.

Intense and Sexy Reads

By Fiona Zedde
Bliss
Broken in Soft Places
Dangerous Pleasures
Every Dark Desire
Desire at Dawn
For more about Fiona here is the link to my review of  Fiona’s books .

By Megan Hart
Tear You Apart
Vanilla
Switch
Everything Changes
Ride with the Devil
Out of the Dark
Lovely Wild
Precious Fragile Things
All Fall Down
For more about Megan here is the link to my interview with Megan .

By Tiffany Reisz
The Siren, and the rest of the series. Beware, this book is the beginning of an eight book series, don’t say I did not warn you.

The Headmaster
Seven Day Loan
The Mistress Files
Submit to Desire
The Last Good Knight (Serial Novel)

 

Memoir: if you only read one memoir this summer, make it one of these two:

Just Kids by Patti Smith. Here is the link to my review .
Let’s Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. Here is the link to my review .

Science Fiction/ Fantasy/Urban Fantasy



Everything ever written by Octavia Butler, no seriously, and here is a link to my list to get you started .

By Helen Oyeyemi
Boy Snow Bird
White is For Witching
The Icarus Girl

By N. K. Jemisin
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms Here is the link to my review .
The Broken Kingdoms
The Awakened Kingdom  

By Jacqueline Carey
This is another long series (collectively Kushiel’s Legacy) but it is so worth your time. “Love as thou wilt”.
Kushiel’s Dart
Kushiel’s Chosen
Kushiel’s Avatar

Kushiel’s Scion
Kushiel’s Justice
Kushiel’s Mercy

Naamah’s Kiss
Naamah’s Curse
Naamah’s Blessing


By Katherine Dunn
Geek Love  Not for the squeamish, here is the link to my review.

Here is to lazy summer days, reading and summer fun, and an adult beverage or two.


 

A Year of Woman’s Voices: Jam on the Vine by LaShonda Barnett

LaShonda Barnett’s Jam on the Vine is the first post in the 2015 A Year of Women’s Voices series. I have loved reading historical fiction for a long as I can remember and Jam on the Vine is one of the first I have read in a long time that made me me want to read it again as soon as I had finished it. This novel features a strong story with great character development, a believable weaving of fact and fiction, and romance. I am forever grateful to Fiona Zedde for recommending this book.

Barnett’s novel follows Ivoe Willams as she grows from a girl voraciously reading purloined newspapers to a woman pushed to risk her life publishing her own newspaper to address horrific abuses and racial injustices of the early 20th century. Interwoven in Ivoe’s story is the story of her family and her lover. Ivoe’s comfort with her sexuality is refreshing, and while a part of her story it is not the whole story. After an unfortunate encounter with an ex-lover, with doors slammed in her face because of her race and gender, Ivoe decides to make a way when there is no way.

Barnett’s writing is crisp, lyrical, and evocative. If someone were to ask me for a work that would help them to understand inhumanity of the Jim Crow south, the beginning of mass incarceration, horrors of the summer of 1919 and race riots in northern cities I would hand them this book. Although this is a work of fiction, it is built on actual events, and the experiences and emotions are true.

As a writer this is what I have learned reading LaShonda Barnett’s Jam on the Vine:

1. Setting is the crucible for character development.

2. The unsaid is as powerful as the blatant and more menacing.

3. Write it real, real emotions are compelling. Don’t gloss over the difficult ones. Jealousy, love, hate, revulsion, lust, and anger are essential for good storytelling.

4. Nothing is a terrifying as human beings behaving inhumanly.

5. Character growth is progressive but change can happen in an instant.

Be warned, this is not a comfortable read, but an anxiety promoting tense tale of one woman’s surviving and thriving during a very harsh and horrific time period of American history. Read this book with your eyes wide open, don’t look away, feel the fear, rejoice in Ivoe’s triumphs, celebrate her victories and passion.

Check out LaShonda Barnett’s website for more information and details about her other works.

 

A Year of Women’s Voice’s Retrospective

 

I started my Year of Women’s Voices project about this time last year. As an obsessive reader, book reviews are one of my favorite posts to write.  Each review features my thoughts on the craft of writing and observations about story telling learned from each writer. I have arranged my 2014 posts in chronological order, most recent first.  If there are writers here that you have not read, challenge yourself to read one new author this year.

 

Zoe Kessler: ADHD According to Zoe

 

 

 

Patti Smith: Just Kids

 

 

Jenny Lawson: Let’s Pretend this Never Happened

 

 

Fiona Zedde: Delicious Desire_ A Year of Women’s Voices

I met Fiona Zedde  in 2011 when she came to speak at the College of Wooster. We hosted her in our home.  She was lovely, engaging, and totally forgave my goofy dog for destroying an intimate article of her clothing. She gifted us a copy of Dangerous Pleasures (2011).

Being the voracious reader that I am, I finished it in a day, and just like one of her characters, I was hungry for more. More women secure in their sexuality, secure in their desires, and more of Fiona’s luscious writing. Her word choice, and character development are exceptional. Her writing is sultry, seductive, and tantalizing. Fiona’s stories feature lead characters that are smart, introspective and passionate.  Her novels achingly explore the intersections of love, hate and desire.

In addition to her contemporary novels and stories of lesbian love and desire, Ms. Zedde also has written two urban fantasy novels, Every Dark Desire (2007) and the sequel Desire at Dawn (2014). Her vampires do not sparkle, and would rip your throat out for even suggesting it.

Urban fantasy is one of my favorite genres.  I devoured Every Dark Desire (2007) and had to wait, not so patiently for Desire at Dawn (2014). Be warned!  Her writing is so engaging that I neglected to notice a bat flying around my house while absorbed in Broken in Soft Places (2013).  If you start reading one of Ms. Zedde’s novels you may not stop, even for a bat!

My favorite Fiona Zedde books/stories:

Dangerous Pleasures (2011) Risk, longing, denial, death, surrender, and love. What more could you ask?
Every Dark Desire (2007) and Desire at Dawn ( 2014) Hot, sexy, lesbian vampires, no sparkling. Did I say hot?
Bliss (2005) Edgy sexual exploration that leads a woman to her true self. A coming out story that captures the initial confusion and ultimate delight of becoming who you are.
Nightshade( 2012) An assassin makes her way through this collection of stories, kicking ass and taking hearts.
When She Says Yes (2014) A collection of provocative short stories, perfect for (adult) bedtime.

As a writer this is what I have learned reading Fiona Zedde:

1. Word choice is key in provoking emotions and driving narrative.
2. Don’t back away from the hard scenes, show them, warts and all.
3. Character growth is story.
4. Complex relationships create a compelling read.
5. Present the reality that is racism, homophobia, and class conflict in your stories.
6. Make your characters, even the vile characters, live on the page.

Here is the link to Fiona’s website: http://fionazedde.weebly.com and a short biography:

Jamaican-born Fiona Zedde is the author of several novels, including the Lambda Literary Award finalists Bliss and Every Dark Desire. Her novel, Dangerous Pleasures, was winner of the About.com Readers’ Choice Award for Best Lesbian Novel or Memoir of 2012. Her new vampire novel, Desire at Dawn, is available now.