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  • Writer's pictureTelênia Albuquerque

March 2024 and Lee Winter's Interview

Hello everyone! After a bit of a limbo where I couldn't share much of what I was doing, I bring news! I'm excited to present the main characters of my next indie project, meet Alix and Theo!



Their story is a mystery of sorts, involving beings of supernatural power with a dab of mythological inspiration, but that's all I'll share for now... Let me know your first thoughts!

 

Interview


This month I'm also very happy to have as guest,  Lee Winter, author of some of the most popular ice queens in sapphic fiction. Her newest novel Vengeance Planning for Amateurs was just reviewed here last month.



Now, starting with one of our recurring questions. Was there something or someone queer you felt pulled to before you even understood why?

Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music. Oh, I loved watching her as a child of about nine. I could see what Captain Von Trapp saw in her! I was besotted. I also was very passionate, for some reason, about Miss Honey in Matilda. 😊

 

You have shared that you only started writing fiction through fanfic when you already were working as a journalist, but what were you reading growing up?

I was an avid reader of absolutely everything (all the usual kids’ books from Enid Blyton and Anne of Green Gables etc). I tickled around the edges of sci-fi in my teens but was disappointed not to find any with women characters as captains or leaders, kicking butt and taking names. (They probably existed somewhere but this was pre-internet.) I then gave up on that genre.


At age nineteen, I briefly found lesbian fiction books, mainly crime titles back then, but I was so depressed by their content. Everyone was closeted and there was so much homophobia to be dealt with. I went off lesfic for years after and started reading biographies. I only returned to lesfic (to find it completely transformed!), when I began writing it myself.

 

You used to cover tech as a journalist, but your fictional journalists go from politics to entertainment to fashion. Despite not knowing how many other areas you had experience in, it still probably added a lot more research to your writing. Is that a needed degree of separation or just a natural creative development?

Tech writing was a very small part of my journalism career. I spent a lot of time as a TV writer (celebrity profiles), and have also done courts, police rounds, been a humor columnist (four years), and spent a whole lot of time writing and sub-editing feature articles (eleven years). There probably wasn’t a topic I didn’t research and write about for work at least once. Any topic I write about in books, though, generally needs a lot of research regardless of whether I worked in that area or not. For example, The Brutal Truth is about a journalist from Australia – so right in my ballpark, yes? Except no. The character is writing in the US for an American publisher and they do things quite differently. Everyone in journalism in the US has a different title and a different way of newspaper/magazine production. I had to research extensively. So while I don’t need the separation from known information to write, that separation is there whether I want it or not. I prefer not…but that’s life!

  

I think by now we all know how reading a novel, then hearing the audiobook, can bring a whole new layer to a story. But I still can’t think of anyone else who wrote a whole duology to redeem a villain because of a narrated short story. It can’t have been an easy task. At what point in writing The Villains Series you knew Michelle Hastings could really cross that divide?

Yes, it’s very true my short story First Class Villains (Sliced Ice anthology) sparked The Villains Series when I heard Angela Dawe’s narration of Michelle Hastings in it. I was just fascinated by Michelle all of a sudden. I did not like her at all in Under Your Skin, which was her first extended appearance as a villain. But once I heard Angela’s voicing of her, all the repressed pain and feelings, I thought, I have to unpick that.

 

I always knew I could redeem her because I’m an author with godlike powers over my characters (LOL), so that wasn’t the issue. The question was not if but how. And I realised if she truly had regrets for what she’d done, if she was absolutely sorry, she’d be someone who could be redeemed.

 

I’d already heard the regret in her voice (thank you, Angela Dawe), so it was just about developing a story to explain her actions and how she fell so far to be the mess she was in at the start of The Villains Series (ie CEO of a terrible organization).

 

Vengeance Planning for Amateurs was your first romcom, but you managed to seamlessly balance serious issues in the most absurd plot. I don’t know if my question should be: was that because it was hard to completely leave drama behind or what’s this sorcery? (btw I cackled when I saw who you cast as Thieving Tina in your Pinterest…)

I think at the heart of all good humour there must be truth. Otherwise it’s complete absurdism, and if there’s no grounding at all in reality it’s not really relatable, is it? It’s then just characters doing zany things for a laugh, but it doesn’t feel real.

 

But, if the characters are doing zany things but are motivated by real things, hard things, or even painful things, well that’s something we all relate to. We can feel Margaret’s grief for her late wife and being lost and a bit adrift with life. We can see why she might apply to become a henchperson when she’s bored out of her brain and tired of wallowing and the applications for henchperson are literally happening under nose.

 

That makes more sense than just “Oh look! Mysterious book store owner now wants to be a henchperson! Crazy times! Cue laughs!” Nah, it’s cheating to make characters so two-dimensional. Everyone, even the smaller characters, deserve to be fully fleshed out with believable motivations.

 

Margaret is a very unusual ice queen, not just for her comical vein, but she has a masc presentation (don’t know if you’d classify her as butch?) coupled with some Anne Lister’s flair that I had never seen in such a character. Where did Dr. Blackwood rose from?

She’s got a super Anne Lister vibe, with Lyne Renée’s face to me. I loved Lyne on TV’s Motherland Fort Salem; the whole larger-than-life striding into rooms and owning them.


I love women who fill a room with sheer presence of personality – not because they’re beautiful but because they’re commanding. So they’re too tall or too angular or have wicked cheekbones that could cut glass and scare lesser mortals – or so says society as it dismisses them. But that’s a lie because they’re fascinating. Who wouldn’t want to write about someone interesting like that?!


My take on Dr. Margaret Blackwood~

In the era of burn out, rising anxiety and social media, we have been forced to rethink routines and our relationships to working on our previous hobbies. A long trial and error process. How have you been navigating that? Do you keep any specific habits?

It’s a good question but not really applicable to me. When things get too much, I bury myself into a good book or fanfic. It’s fabulous escapism.

 

What’s next in your line of sharp ice queens? Or the next step is daring to not add an ice queen?

I’ve been tinkering with an unusual book involving Ottilie Zimmerman, the grey-hatted character from The Villains Series, and Monique Carson, the CEO-sex-fantasies expert from Hotel Queens. Her main claim to fame is having perfected the art of blending into backgrounds; not being noticed. Being underestimated.


The idea is Ottilie is in Vegas, tying up some loose ends before she officially retires after so long working at The Fixers, and Monique bumps into her and is absolutely intrigued by her. After all, Ottilie is without category: Not ice, not fire, incredibly smart, incredibly perceptive, but also incredibly walled off and secretive. Monique is brilliant at reading people and she cannot get any read on Ottilie at all. Nothing!


I find them an interesting pair, because they’re both equals in their own way and both like getting to the bottom of a mystery/mysterious person. (Ottilie because she hates unexplained mysteries and Monique because she loves them).


It’s actually a hard book to write and I keep putting it aside and playing around with a gritty thriller/revenge book…and then putting that aside and returning to Vegas. I suspect my Vegas book and Ottilie will win.


I also have a Portuguese translation of The Brutal Truth coming out later in the year – a first for Ylva Publishing – so I’m very excited about that. (leitores brasileiros fiquem de olho!)

 

What’s the queer story (in any medium) that has your attention right now?

I thoroughly enjoyed Virginia Black’s scifi lesfic No Shelter but the Stars. Two enemies find themselves stranded on a hostile moon together. It’s so good.

I am always down for a rewatch (Amazon Prime) of Deadloch, a quirky, amusing smalltown murder mystery TV series set in Australia, with half the cast and half the characters queer. Get past episode four and it just soars.

 

What would you like to see more in sapphic/queer stories?

I’m addicted to competence porn. That is, women who are brilliant (not just good) at whatever their job is and buries anyone who doubts or criticises them unfairly. I could read it all day. Also, older women. I still find it hard to enjoy a CEO book when the lead is, say, 25. I know it happens in reality at times, but it’s not common. To my mind they cannot be as experienced and legendary at their career as someone in their mid forties and I find it less believable.

 

Please, share where people can find more of your work.

www.leewinterauthor.com has all my books. All my social media and newsletter info is here: https://t.co/1VIWX3eqTN


 

Stuff I read


Tempting Olivia (Oxford Romance 2) by Clare Ashton



I guess there are plenty of actress/fan romances, but this one is certainly on the upper level. You can get immersed in a story by its intricate plot, sometimes by the rich worldbuilding or it can be the narrative skills etc, but I’ve always thought Ashton is a pro in getting you immersed by involving you with the character's inner life and emotions. Besides, I laughed out loud the whole read, which is no less important. I was also glad to see the neurodivergence talk included and I can't wait, I repeat, I can't wait, for the moms (yes, 50+) book that will follow!

 

Stuff I watched


23.5 (Netflix)



Since Heartstopper I've been begging for a similar series but sapphic. And Thailand is here yet again providing for the whole world while others find excuses. This series has not one, but two sapphic couples and a potential aquilian too. 23.5 is extremely sweet and trope heavy, which means it’s perfect for its core audience, so please don't be the adult in the room complaining about how you don't have patience for teen content while watching teen content. I, for one, am really glad it exists, with Ongsa gay panics and euphoric squealing when getting a message from her crush.

It's released weekly with 3 episodes out so far, great place to catch up.

 

Fun Fact


So, there are these Art Nouveau Tiffany's lamps most of you have probably seen. At least, most people who have studied anything Art History have, and we learned they were created by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Now, thanks to the discovery of extensive correspondence, we know the creator of most designs was a woman called Clara Driscoll, head of the women’s glass-cutting department. Are we still surprised? I guess not, but it especially caught my attention as I once had to study this stuff as a design major.

 

See you next month!

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