D. Jackson Leigh interviews Angie Williams:
I was in Palm Springs for a Bold Strokes event held poolside in the courtyard of the host hotel the first time I met Angie Williams. Our publisher, Radclyffe, tapped me on the arm and pointed to a couple sitting on a lounger. “That’s Meghan. Go say hi.” I nodded. “Okay.” True to my Southern upbringing, I’d been circulating and introducing myself to anyone I didn’t know. I loved meeting and talking to lesfic readers. Rad hadn’t elaborated, so I figured they were loyal readers she knew, and I headed over. Meghan was tucked up against the backrest of the lounger looking nervous, and Angie perched near Meg’s knees, smiling and expression open as she looked over the crowd. I introduced myself, and Angie immediately stuck out her hand, introducing herself and Meg, who gave a quiet “hi” with a little smile. We chatted until I had to excuse myself to be on a panel that was starting. I was shocked to learn the truth about twenty minutes later. Shy Meghan was Meghan O’Brien, who writes some of the boldest erotica in lesfic, but her wife, Angie, was the gregarious, engaging buffer for her introverted wife. A shield maiden of sorts. So when the announcement came that Bold Strokes was publishing a book Angie had written, I immediately asked to be the one to do her author interview.
I always find it interesting to read an author’s bio because, clearly, they supply the information for it and sometimes reveal unconsciously some moment in their life that felt important to them. Your bio on your publisher’s website mentions winning a third-grade competition. Why do you think that was important to you?
I was mostly just being silly, but I think it was one of the first times I remember feeling like I had accomplished something special. There are several authors and artists in my family, going back several generations, so when I won the essay contest, I remember my dad and my grandparents being very proud of me. I was just a little kid, so it made me feel like I was part of something big.
Your bio also says you are a “proud geek” and still love all the things you were teased about in school. In what ways do you feel that you are a “geek”?
I’ve never been overly worried about being cool. I’ve always enjoyed things that weren’t exactly what the cool kids were doing, but I’ve been very fortunate in that I was also the class clown so I wasn’t subjected to as much bullying as I might have been otherwise. I remember when I was in middle school my dad, stepmom, and I were really into building wooden model ships. One day one of the most popular boys in school came over because we were doing a school project together and my dad was going to take us out to get a cast of a dinosaur footprint. Side note, I grew up in the Permian Basin of West Texas that is not only rich in oil and natural gas, but also cool dinosaur stuff. So this kid came over, and I was nervous because he was cool and I wasn’t. I stepped away for just a minute and came back into the room to hear my dad explaining to him that he was building a wooden replica of a Viking Longship, so when he dies I can put his ashes into it, set it on fire, and push it out to sea to give him a Viking burial because our ancestors were Vikings. Yeah, that was as embarrassing as it sounds, but building wooden model ships is super cool so whatever. lol
You grew up in conservative West Texas, so what drew you to liberal California? Woman, job, politics, something else?
Like so many lesbians, especially ones raised in the South, I was attracted to girls as far back as I can remember but scared to death to admit it to myself or anyone else. I was still in denial after graduating high school but knew I wanted out of conservative West Texas as fast as possible, so I joined the Coast Guard. I scored high enough on my exam that I was allowed to choose where I wanted to be stationed when I left boot camp. Alaska was the farthest I could get, so off I went to Kodiak, Alaska, on a ship that patrolled the Bering Sea. That’s what got me out of West Texas, but of course a woman is pretty much what brought me to Northern California.
After a year in Alaska I went to Quartermaster (Navigator) school in Yorktown, Virginia, and one of my duty station options when I graduated was a ship in Alameda, California (that spent most of the time in in Alaska in the Bering Sea lol). I’d started dated a woman in Kodiak before I left. It was during Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, so we were constantly looking over our shoulders, but she’d heard there was a chance she could get transferred to Petaluma, California, which is about forty-five minutes north of Alameda. Just on that chance, I chose California, Hawaii, New York, and Seattle. It was the best decision I ever made. We are no longer together, but we were for many years and share custody of our teenage son. Plus, I somehow stumbled upon living in one of the most beautiful, not to mention most progressive, areas in the country. I’m extremely fortunate.
What triggered the need or inspiration to write your first book?
I wrote Mending Fences as a thank-you gift for my wife, Meghan O’Brien. She wrote Her Best Friend’s Sister as a birthday gift for me. Just like she did with me, I asked her to give me a general idea and she said, “Sexy butch rancher finds a pup caught in a barbed wire fence and rushes it to the vet. Of course, they fall in love.” I figured I'd write a few paragraphs and call it a day, but the more I thought about the story, the more excited I was to see those characters through their journey. It was a blast, and before I realized what was happening, I had an entire novel plotted out. It was a lot more work, rewrites, and tears between that first day and the published version than I anticipated, but it was an incredible experience.
I think every author draws on their own experiences when they write. What parts of Mending Fences do you think are taken from your real life experiences?
There are all sorts of little things that are personal in the book, not only because I wrote it as a gift for Meghan, but also because Riley is our real cattle dog/poodle/Muppet mix. For example, Riley’s addiction to Goldfish crackers is for real. She has a problem. I think the banter between Grace and Amy especially really reminds me of how Meg and I talk to each other. We crack each other up all the time. All the food is very personal, too. In fact, the pasta dish Bobbie makes Grace is one of Meg’s favorite dishes, and it’s the same one Carly makes for Ray in Battle Scars by Meghan O’Brien.
I grew up in the country in Texas around horses, so the feel of Bobbie's life is very familiar to me. I didn't break ribs but I did get complacent one time as a kid and was kicked by a horse while cleaning its hooves to remove any little rocks or things that can get caught in there and irritate them. One minute I was picking out the hoof, thinking about whatever things kids think about, and the next minute I’d been thrown against the barn wall, gasping to catch my breath. Scared the crap out of me. I had tiny little red circles on my neck for a few minutes after it happened. No idea what that was about, but again, scared me to death. I went to school with a kid who was kicked in the head, and he had to wear a helmet 100% of the time after that. So scary.
Also, my stepmom had birds when I was a kid, and they're super messy. She's nothing like Grace's mom, but when I wrote the controlling mom, I thought it would be interesting to give her this hobby where even though they could be contained in cages, they're still messy and chaotic in a way.
Bobbie's urge to remove herself from the situation and expend energy when things are emotionally intense is totally me. Meg has really helped me learn to sit still and talk about feelings, but on the inside I'm still stripping down to my boxers and jumping in a lake.
Without giving too much of Mending Fences away, the families of your main characters figure into the emotional baggage they each carry, and I happen to know your own family is very important to you. But when you were a young dyke, did you ever envision yourself having the family you have today?
I absolutely never dreamed of the family I have. Not to sound sappy, but I really hit the jackpot as far as family goes, and I hoped but never imagined that could one day be my life. For one thing, I’ve always wanted kids, and I remember when I was very little thinking that I would grow up and have a huge family with a bunch of kids. I’m an only child from divorced parents, so I’ve always had what I know now were mostly unrealistic ideas of what having a sibling would be like. One day when I was probably five years old or so my mom was in the other room while Days of Our Lives was playing on the TV. I remember seeing Hope having a baby and being shocked at the obvious pain she was in. I remember that, but the part I don’t remember is that my mom told me I stormed into the room where she was folding clothes and said, “Why didn’t you tell me it hurt to have a baby?!” She said I was so betrayed, and since that’s the last time I remember wanting to have kids, I think it was a pretty formative experience. I just assumed I’d either have to adopt a child or not have a kid. Then I realized this whole lesbian racket meant I could be a parent and not have to go through that whole pregnancy/childbirth thing. I would have been just as happy to have adopted, but it was a special experience to go through the whole pregnancy/childbirth experience with my ex.
Also, I’ve married the love of my life. Not that our marriage is perfect, but it is honestly close enough that I can say I never imagined I would be this happy. I know that sounds like I’m just trying to kiss Meghan’s ass because I know she’ll read this, but it’s from my heart. I’m truly, honestly, overwhelmingly in love with my wife. We’re the dream team and I’m so thankful for everything I have.
Since you’ve already brought up your wife, Meghan O’Brien, who is widely known as the author of some of the sexiest stories in lesfic, I will too. I’m a big fan, as you both know, and have read all of Meg’s books. Mending Fences—sexy rancher and veterinarian romance—falls right at the top of my reading preferences, and I really enjoyed your book, but I don’t see Meg’s style in it at all. Did you know you were going to submit it for publication when you were writing it? If you did, how did you both resist her coaching you?
Submitting it for publication was the last thing on my mind. Like I said earlier, I only intended it to be a few paragraphs. Meghan was in the process of writing The Sex Therapist Next Door at the time, which was consuming a huge portion of her bandwidth. I bounced ideas off of her, but not only did I not want to bug her while she was struggling to get her own novel written, but I also wanted it to be something that I did on my own. If she helped me too much, it not only wouldn’t be a surprise, but it wouldn’t be mine. She’s a great sounding board, and she was great about giving me honest opinions when I struggled but other than that, she was pretty hands off.
Be honest with the first answer that pops into your head:
Star Trek or Star Wars? Duh, Star Wars. LOL I was asked this question in my final interview for my current job. I answered correctly. ;)
Scifi or Fantasy? Both. I come from a family of big scifi and fantasy fans. I’m told The Hobbit was the first book ever read to me.
Camelot or the Jetsons? Probably Camelot because it’s more romantic.
Video game marathon or camping trip? I would love a video game marathon but camping trip for sure.
Beach or mountains? Beach makes me think of Florida or Southern California, so I’d say Mountains, but if you asked coast or mountains, coast. Northern California up through the Washington coast is magnificent.
Dog or Cat? Dog for sure.
Steak or Tofu? Come on…I’m a Texan. What do you think? ;)
Your boss tells you there has been a mistake made by payroll and you have a month of paid vacation that must be taken immediately. Where would you go for the next month?
Let’s pretend Meghan’s boss also made the same mistake so we’re traveling together. I’ll also mention, this is a nightmare scenario for her because she’s such an introvert and not a big fan of travel, but for the sake of argument, let’s pretend we’re both off and we’re going to travel. I would love to travel around Europe. I’m a huge history buff, and as Eddie Izzard, one of my favorite comedians, said, “I grew up in Europe, where the history comes from.” I’m pretty sure Meghan wouldn’t survive a month long journey through Europe without our dogs, so my official answer is that I would want to travel across the country with a travel trailer so we can have our pups with us. We’ve discussed this scenario before and joke that it would be like the old Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz movie The Long, Long Trailer. It’s one of our favorite movies, and I’m sure in our version there would be lots of hijinks that would keep us laughing.
Is there going to be a second novel? If so, can you give us an idea what it might be about?
There is! My second novel, Last Resort, hits shelves in September. Here’s the blurb:
Katie Fausch is content with her single life in San Francisco. When her lovingly pushy family surprises her with a weeklong trip to a singles getaway humorously named Last Resort, Katie only agrees to go if they promise not to nag her about her love life for a year.
Rhys Morgan is a true romantic at heart. She knows there’s more to life than work and wants to find someone to spend hers with. When she discovers that a local resort for singles is having a lesbian week, she has to give it a try.
I’m excited about this one because there were a lot of moving parts. The main characters meet while they’re at a resort where they have to go on a date each day with a different woman but spend their evenings getting to know each other. I’m a romantic and tend to just jump in with both feet, so for me it would be so difficult to feel like I’m really into someone and want to spend my time with them but then have to put on a happy face and go on dates with other women. Especially if the woman I was into had made it clear that she wasn’t interested in anything romantic. I’d totally screw it up. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and there would be no doubt that I was into her. One more note, Rhys and Fausch are both family names so it’s neat to have them in my book.
Mending Fences is now available in ebook, paperback and audiobook.
Last Resort is available now in ebook and paperback exclusively in the BSB webstore, and you can buy it everywhere in about two weeks.