Author Q&A – Lise MacTague

Introduce yourself to the rest of the class. Who are you and what makes you tick?

Hi everyone! <waves vigorourly> I’m Lise MacTague, and I’m a writer! I mean of course I am, or I wouldn’t be here. Great, I’ve already muffed my suave entrance.

So I’m a writer… I write lesbian sci-fi. This is the part where when I tell straight people this, they get all wide-eyed and make interested sounding noises or say “I didn’t know that was a thing!” Of course it’s a thing. If we had to rely on straight people to tell our stories, we’d all be dead and/or desperately unhappy at the end of them, which is where we lesfic authors come in.

I say I write sci-fi, but my definition of sci-fi is extremely broad. It includes fantasy, dystopian, paranormal, even horror and other thing I’m probably forgetting. That’s what I love to read, and it’s what I love to write. I also love writing my people into the story and giving them happy endings, or at least the potential for one.

What does it mean to you to be an author? What makes a writer a writer?

My debut novel was a trilogy. What can I say? I have problems writing short stories. It’s called On Deception’s Edge, and the first of the series is Depths of Blue. I’m very proud of it. I never thought I’d get published. I only started writing because I had this story floating around my head for two years, and I decided I wanted to get it written down before I lost it all.

Getting it onto the page was a hell of a lot more work than noodling on it when I couldn’t sleep! For me, being a writer is about persistence. As I tell my stepkids: ideas are easy, doing something about it is hard. The first step is to persist, to get that story going and to keep going with it, even when it’s hard. I have a tendency to get bogged down by the story about halfway through, so it can be a real slog to get through to the end. But it’s so worth it to get there.

The second part is trusting my initial instincts. By the time I finish writing a novel, I’m usually convinced it’s the worst crap I’ve ever written, no matter how excited I was by the original premise. When I finish a manuscript, I have to put it away for at least a couple weeks before I look at it again. I’m almost always surprised by how much less crappy it is than I remembered when I was grinding on it. The premise shines through, the characters aren’t as annoying as I thought, heck, some of the prose is even decent. If it’s the first draft, I know it’s going to need a lot of polishing yet, but it’s still so much better than I recall. Those are good days, and they more than make up for the days when I feel like nothing is going right in the story.

Are you promoting a specific book? Tell us about it. Include the book blurb if you’d like.

I’m so glad you asked! I mentioned my debut trilogy earlier. Vortex of Crimson, the final novel in the trilogy came out in October. It wraps together the story of Jak, a sniper masquerading as a man in the middle of an all-male army, and Torrin, an interstellar smuggler who falls for her.

Vortex takes us back to Jak’s planet, something Torrin is none-too-pleased about, but they need to go to fix something in Jak’s cybernetic implants. When they get there, they discover Jak’s issues are the least of their problems. The man who has been hunting her for years now has bait in the form of Torrin’s sister.  They need to get her back, but things are complicated by local politics and the presence of a mole in the highest military offices.

The whole book is a high-stakes gambit where enemies abound and friends are few and far between. Worst of all, the line between friends and enemies starts to blur until Jak and Torrin don’t know who to trust, except each other. But with everything arrayed against them, will that be enough?

Tell us about your biggest guilty pleasure. For example, to you sit naked in your pantry in the middle of the night and eat Nutella with your fingers?

My biggest guilty pleasure is romantic comedies. I’m not actually a big fan of them, for all that all of my novels so far have a romantic storyline to them. I don’t feel like I should have anything to do with them, they sort of take the wind out of the “big bad butch” image I’m (poorly) cultivating. But! When I’m sick, all I want to do is lie around and watch them. They’re so soothing! The best part is, I can doze off in the middle of one of them, and pick up the story wherever I wake up, even if it’s one I haven’t seen before.

Tell us one thing that you’re passionate about. For example, would you strap yourself to an oil rigging a la Lucy Lawless with a Greenpeace sign in your hands?

Beyond the obvious, that I’m passionate about gay rights, I’m also very passionate about healthcare. I grew up in Canada, so to me access to healthcare should be a matter of course. The biggest disconnect I feel to the United States, despite now having lived here longer than I did in Canada, is that access to healthcare isn’t a given. I thought we were making steps in the right direction with the ACA, but given recent political upheaval, I’m not sure that’s the case any longer. Everyone deserves to be able to be treated for accident or illness without having to declare bankruptcy. People should be able to bury their loved ones without having to worry about the hospital bill that’s on its way. There shouldn’t have to be a choice made between going to the doctor, or putting a meal on the table. To me, these are no-brainers, and I’m constantly disheartened by the number of people who disagree.

What’s your writing process? That is, do you have a particular place you write and/or time of day? Do you have any particular things you do before you write? (e.g. do you listen to music, drink coffee, take dance breaks…)

My process varies. At the moment I’m unemployed, so I have a surfeit of time to devote to writing, which actually makes things a little hard for me. When I don’t have a lot of free time, I tend to cram the writing in whenever I can get an hour or so to devote. When I was first unemployed, my productivity suffered terribly since I had too many options for when I could write, and I ended up doing very little.

These days, I write after my wife has taken the kids to school. I take a shower, the length of which varies depending on how thorny the scene I want to done is. If there’s a lot that needs to be figured out, I can be quite pruny by the time I get out. Then I write for at least two hours. If I’m really feeling it, and things are flowing, I’ll do four hours. Anything more than that, and I start spinning my wheels and second-guessing myself.

However, if things aren’t flowing in the morning, I will write in the afternoon, after I’ve had the chance to work out the knotty bits.

I do almost all my writing at my desk. I find it helps to have a writing place, so my brain can get in that mode as soon as I sit down. I also listen to music while I write. I’m a big metal-head, so the music helps drive me. I’m usually my most prolific when the music is angriest. When I’m editing, I still listen to music, but I switch to instrumental metal.

Tell us something that most people don’t know about you (unless you’d have to kill us, in which case tell us something that some people don’t know).

Most people don’t know that I build and sell video game props in my spare time. At the moment, I’m confining myself to prop guns from a game called Fallout 4. I have a store on Etsy (https://www.etsy.com/shop/TheWeaponsWorkbench) where I sell them. Having something to build with my hands is important to me. It lets me blow off steam, and gives me problems to solve. My wife told me she didn’t want the corner of our bedroom to become an arsenal for them, so I started selling them. It gets me a little extra cash between royalty cheques, and it’s fun, so it’s a win-win. I’m thinking of expanding into some other video game areas, so anyone who has ideas should let me know!

Is there a book by another author that you wish you had written?

There are a few, but to choose only one… I’d have to say Shell Game by Benny Lawrence. That book tells a great story, one that’s real and affecting, while also managing to make me laugh my butt off every other page. I wish I had Lawrence’s wit and turn of phrase. I don’t feel like my books are very funny, and I’d like to be able to add more humor to them.

If time and money were no problem, where would you most like to go in the world?

There are some huge caves in Vietnam. One of them, called Hang Son Doong, is so large it has a jungle in it. You could put up a skyscraper in the middle of it and have room left over. I would dearly love to visit that cave with my wife. We’ve been visiting caves in the US for the past few years, and this would be the crown jewel of all of those.

And finally, what sorts of writing projects are next for you?

Like many authors, I have lots of ideas! I’m also beset by plot bunnies who try to steal my attention from whatever I’m currently working on. I have a little black book where I write down new ideas, or where I noodle through things when I’m away from my computer. There are many more stories yet to come, but I have two books I’m at different stages with.

The first is Five Moons Rising, which should be out in June, and I’m currently working with my editor on it. It’s my first foray into paranormal lesfic. It features a supersoldier who has been genetically-modified to fight the things that haunt our nightmares. It turns out monsters are real and have been hidden from the public by the government. Malice is one of those tasked with making sure the monsters don’t expose their existence to humanity. Everything is going just fine until her sister is attacked by werewolves in retaliation for Malice’s work. With her sister in real danger of dying from the transformation, Malice does the only thing she can think of: kidnap another werewolf and force her to help her sister through the change. For her part, Ruri was minding her own business and enjoying her life with her pack when a lone wolf murders her Alpha during a challenge for dominance. She escapes, though not unscathed. She’s working on getting her life back on track when Malice commandeers her to help her sister. By all rights they should hate each other, but the more time they spend together, the closer they become. Opposites may attract, but there’s more than enough to keep these two at each other’s throats.

The second is called Demon in the Machine. It’s steampunk, with historic fantasy elements. I’m working through the draft on this one, based on comments I’m getting from my beta-readers. This one involves Briar, a half-demon archivist, and Isabella, a high society debutante who is also a cat burglar. They’re brought together to investigate the strangeness around a new variety of steam-carriage, which is definitely more dangerous than it appears. There’s also a lot of investigation of each other as the story progresses. I’ve been having a lot of fun with Demon. It’s more light-hearted than any of my previous stories, which is good because Five Moons is quite dark. I’m getting to be much sillier than I normally allow myself to be, and I’m loving it.

Aside from those, I have a couple stories that are churning away at the back of my brain. I’m writing down the details in my little book so I’ll be ready to hit the ground running when I’m done with the next project.

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