I love all forms of TG fiction ranging from Spells R Us and Bikini Beach to Robert Heinlein’s I Will Fear No Evil. However, I especially love TG fiction that has a great story at the center with rounded characters and dynamic relationships. Which brings me to Liam Slade and the new book, The Princess Awakening. This is a fun read with a lot of TG tropes and great characters. I enjoyed it so much I decided– I need to interview that author! So, without any additional ado, here are five questions with Liam Slade!
1. You have a new book out. The Princess Awakening. I was very struck by the relationships in the story. Can you talk some about your writing philosophy and the role relationships play in your storytelling?
Thank you! In my writing, there is often an interlocking relationship between the Tg/transformation themes and the relationship themes. Each one provides a window into examining the other, so the way I transform my characters is a way to look at how their relationships develop and change.
Plus — who doesn’t love a love story? Not everything I write is romantic or features a love interest but it recurs in my writing frequently, because it gives characters something to explore within themselves and with others, and to hopefully stir something in the readers.
2. I love a lot of the elements in your story– a guy becoming a princess, the fairytale setting. Can you talk about those motifs and why you find them fertile subjects for your writing?
I think the type of writing I do is very much indebted to fairy tales and mythology: transformations, revelations, things that make sense in a dreamlike imaginary way, so it was fun to look at our real world conceptions of that.
The main character of The Princess Awakening believes in a fairy tale version of love, and Prince Charming and all that, to the point where it affects her everyday life. Does that fairy tale — or anything like it — exist in reality? Maybe, but it’s a little messier. I think the message that I’m trying to convey with this story is to find the fairy tale that already exists in your life.
Some of the motifs you mention here are quite new toys for me — my writing has usually been grounded in everyday experiences, which usually do not involve putting on a tiara and an elegant gown, but the idea of dabbling in that world, particularly for bringing a person from “our” world to that one, appealed to me because of the chance to stretch myself. I think the key to approaching a new story idea is to look at where it intersects with the transformation you want to do. What is the difference between a prince and a princess? What is the difference between a California girl and European royalty? Once I realized all the ground this covers it became a very exciting thing to try to write.
Nearly every walk of life, every profession, every lifestyle, has gendered components to it, which is why I’ll never run out of things to write.
3. What is your approach to writing? Do you plan everything out, make it up as you go?
Well, it’s all made up at the end of the day, isn’t it? *laughs*
I think the best way to lay this out is in terms of a four step process I’ve recognized in my writing:
1: Inspiration. Inspiration can come from anywhere, whether it’s another work, an event in your life, or a thought you have while half-asleep. Sometimes you have to roll that initial inspiration around in your head like Katamari (do people remember Katamari?) and let it pick up other sources. In this case, I melded thoughts about royalty to ideas I’ve always had about reincarnation. In the case of my previous novel Kristi’s Mom, the inspiration was to do a TG story inspired by the Fountains of Wayne song “Stacy’s Mom.”
2: The Way In. Once you have the inspiration, then you tilt it around to see what is the most viable form. This is where I lock down the “big idea” of the writing, and how it is going to influence the rest of the story, because “reincarnation story about a princess” can have so many different forms. In this case, I wound up with a prince who was reincarnated as an average American girl, being brought back into his/her former world. When I sat down to write, I determined that this girl was awkward with boys, a dreamer who had something missing from her life, to offset the Prince who would be of course, charming, confident, and have it all. How could these two people be, essentially, the same person without knowing it? The contrast seemed more delicious than if the girl in question were more classically a Queen Bee or something.
In writing that out, I also found my way to her friend Lora, who as you know from reading the book is a very big part of the story. That helped form the shape of how the story was going to look and feel. Because of the main character’s fluctuating identity, I knew I couldn’t write the whole thing from her perspective, so Lora because our audience surrogate — a feature not often found in TG works!
3: Where It Goes. I almost always try to think of an ending early on in the writing process. My plot summaries usually feature a rundown of the setup (say, everything leading up to the titular “Awakening”) along with questions like “Can the new Princess adapt to her life? Will she find love and happiness in the old world?” along with an “In the end” statement that tells me just where I’m aiming. I’m not completely obligated to find myself there, and definitely locked into the particulars, but it helps guide the development of the story. I knew how our Princess would end up, and of course that it would involve a Royal Wedding, but I was not sure what gears would have to shift to get her there. In Kristi’s Mom, this is where I came up with the twist that shows up near the end of that story, and the end that followed it.
4: The Good Parts. This is where I fill in the middle, and admittedly, fly by the seat of my pants. I have to leave this long stretch of the story blank because that, to me, is the most exciting part of writing, as well as the most challenging. As you delve into a world, you may find that some idea you had isn’t working the way you envisioned, or that you came up with something that shifts the story abruptly, in the moment. Usually I have a loose agenda that I don’t even bother writing down: “I want there to be a moment like this, I want the characters to go here, and I want to explore this facet of the transformation at some point.” I have that flexibility built in to help stimulate my creative centre. In this particular story, there’s a key plot moment near the end that I didn’t know I was going to do, but when I came up with it, excited and frustrated me because I had given myself a real puzzle: “if this happens, I owe it to the reader to play out in a major way.” I’m still not sure I solved it correctly but part of the magic of writing is that the reader may not know I have doubts
4. Which artists have influenced you?
I don’t want to give him a big head, but Jason Seaver, who I first read at the Transplanted Life and later started the Trading Post where I wrote for many years, was the first writer I saw doing stuff that I wanted to see and do. He brought a real logic to his situations that made them feel like they were really happening and seemed to escape the bubble of “TG writing.” There are philosophies that he and I don’t share as writers, but having that contrast helped me define myself.
In the TG world, I read more bad than good. I am an incredibly tough audience to please and I have a very short attention span so it’s hard for me to find things that I like and want to emulate. Instead I read things that I don’t like and think to myself “Make sure not to do this.” That sounds shady and I’m certainly not going to name names, but I think we all have that to a degree.
I think the places where I find the most influence for my writing are in teen authors (such as David Levithan, who wrote Every Day) and romantic comedy authors like Jasmine Guillory (when I speak of romance, this is what I mean, not Harlequin bodice-rippers) — genres that are not really concerned with striving for purple prose, but where good straightforward storytelling helps serve winning characters and situations. These are stories that allow you to take their premises at face value and move forward instead of bogging down with details. That’s how I like to write my stories, so I look for good examples of that.
5. What’s next for Liam Slade?
Once I’ve made sure everyone has seen The Princess Awakening, I’m going to take a break and dial back. I’ve been working on one thing or another (or several things at once) for the last two years, including an intensive three-month power-writing session to realize this story. I need to relax a little bit for now. I have, however, promised an “Author’s Edition” of Kristi’s Mom (vanity project alert!” which would include alternate ending(s) and a sidestory set in between the pages. If you enjoyed that novel, please keep an eye out for that later this year.
On Twitter, I often make reference to an Excel spreadsheet where I have logged over 40 potential new projects, from free short fictions to novellas and novels to series of stories. I don’t expect to get all or even half of them done, but the top three or five are constantly rattling around my brain. I think in the next few months you’ll see some shorter works appear on my site, and then I may feel ready kick into gear for something big again. For my last two works — The Princess Awakening and Partsexchange — I think I stretched a little bit as far as what audiences hope to read. Whatever I choose to write next may be more in line with what I think people want, before going back to something more experimental that is “just for me.”
That said, you never know. The Princess Awakening jumped to the front of the line as the story that I had to write next, even as I had a few things already started. It could happen any day that the next must-write idea will pop into my head and get me back to my keyboard.
And I just want to say thanks to those who have read and enjoyed my workm encouraged me and given me positive notices as a writer! And also to the people who have given me one-star reviews, I’ll win you over next time
Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @LiamSladeTF and to subscribe to my blog at liamslade.com for future updates!