Queering the Craft: An Interview and Giveaway with Jude Sierra
Welcome to the second week of our Queering the Craft series, where some of our favorite writers talk about reading, storytelling, and publishing.
I'm super excited about author and fellow book reviewer Jude Sierra's interview! Her book A Tiny Piece of Something Greater, an summery New Adult romance about queer boys, mental illness, and scuba diving, was just released. You can read Robin's review here. -Hannah
R: Hello Jude! Thanks for stopping by Queerly Reads. I believe you started as a poet. How does writing poetry inform your long-form fiction?
J: I think that my roots show in my prose. I’m not even sure it’s conscious: my writing just falls into this lyrical and poetic kind of structure and style that’s inherent to the way that I write. In fact, when I was studying poetry with Diane Wakoswki, she once told me that my poetic style would lend itself well to fiction. Long form prose wasn’t something I tackled for years after that, but I can see that poetry has definitely influenced my writing.
R: Something I find interesting about your writing is that you use third-person present tense, which I primarily associate with screenplays. In my mind it lends your books a bit of a filmic effect. It's not the most widely used viewpoint and tense in literature, though, and especially not in the romance genre. Is there a reason behind this choice?
J: There’s not! I wish there were because perhaps it would make me seem cooler and more deliberate about these writing choices. I’ve been told that this point of view is commonly seen in people who come out of fanfiction, but the truth is that this is just always how I’ve written. I love the idea that this gives an almost filmic sense, because as a reader, I always appreciate when a writer helps me visualize a scene. I’m not always a great visualizer myself when I read so this sort of thing makes a book crazy enjoyable for me. F.T. Lukens is an author in this genre who excels at this, and whose work I read often to try to learn from.
R: Aspects of Reid's experience and attitude toward his mental illness resonated with my own. I was wondering if you ever worried about alienating readers who have no first- or even second-hand experience of it.
J: I didn’t really. One of the driving factors behind why I wanted to write this book so much was to do with the tensions and joys of falling and being in love with someone going through Reid’s struggles. This is informed in part by my own relationship, the ups and downs we’ve had and how much we’ve had to learn from each other and ourselves to make our marriage successful. Joaquim’s experiences are really important and inform the building of their relationship too. In fact, one of my hopes for this book isn’t just that it will resonate with those who have experienced some aspect of mental illness, but to help those who haven’t experienced it see or understand a little piece of what our experiences and lives are like. This can apply to loved ones or friends, but also just in general. I hope it can be a book anyone can learn something from.
R: A Tiny Piece of Something Greater will likely bring comfort to many readers who live with mental illness. What are some books that have brought you comfort?
J: Finding books with good mental illness representation has been a struggle for me. There were books I took comfort in when I was younger that, as I learned more about my mental illness and mental illness in general, I would not recommend. Recent books I have read and re-read include Avon Gale’s Empty Net. I really identified with parts of Laurant’s struggle. Gale’s experience with ED is clear in her depiction of him, and I really felt that. Also, Taylor Brooke’s Fortitude Smashed is a brilliant example of great mental illness representation. I love that Aiden’s mental illness is integral to his life and story, but that he isn’t onlyhis mental illness. I love that Shannon doesn’t try to fix him or fix it and that love isn’t represented as being any sort of cure.
R: Taking a cue from our interview series name, Queering the Craft: if you could queerify a classic story, which one would you choose? And why?
J: Frankenstein! I mean, in my opinion it’s already a story with a lot of queer potential and themes. It’s been sitting in my head for a while now, because this is a project I’d love to explore for many, many reasons, most of which are rattling around in my brain incoherently right now.
R: In addition to writing fiction, you also review at From Top to Bottom. As an author, do you read reviews of your own books? If you do: As someone who knows what goes into writing them, how do you experience reviews of your own work?
J: I do read reviews. I think that it’s really important to get a sense for what readers see in your books: what works for them and what doesn’t. I’ve had plenty of reviews that have made me cry (in good and bad ways), but I’ve always been able to shake it off, come back to them, and worked to grow from them. There’s a lot I’ve learned about myself as a writer from reading reviews, and I think a lot of growth in my work has come from critique. Learning to sift through what is helpful and what isn’t is always a work in progress, but I find it important. I think that the golden rule for me is always this: respect a reader’s opinion. Not everyone can like your work. That’s okay. Never interfere, never argue, never comment in defense if you receive a negative review, even if you think someone is wrong.
R: As a reader, why is writing reviews important to you? Do you think being a reviewer affects your writing?
J: I think that I bring a perspective on craft that bleeds into my reviews; as a writer I appreciate this in feedback of my work as well. Some writers don’t read a lot when they are writing for a variety of reasons—it’s a distraction, another author’s prose can influence yours, etc—but that’s never been my experience. I need to read, I’m always reading, and I love sharing love of books with others. Even in my negative reviews, I try to be as constructive as possible, which I think stems from my own desire to learn from reviews left of my work.
I don’t think that being a reviewer affects my writing. It is so easy to get lost in self-doubt while in the middle of a project. Anticipating reception (good or bad) gets in my head way too easily. If I had my reviewer hat on while writing I’m not sure I’d get anything done because all I would do is second guess myself. I’m my own harshest critic; it would be too hard to phase that out.
R: What can we expect next from you?
J: I have a co-written project with Taylor Brooke that we’re hoping to publish (fingers crossed) that I’m really excited for and proud of. Also, I’ve got that seed in my head for a book that draws on particular themes from Frankenstein, as well as a cute summer love short story. At the moment, most of what anyone can expect from me is moaning and groaning about all of the academic writing I’m doing!
R: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer questions, Jude! It’s much appreciated.
J: You are so welcome! Thank you.
About Jude Sierra: Jude Sierra is a Latinx poet, author, academic and mother working toward her PhD in Writing and Rhetoric, looking at the intersections of Queer, Feminist and Pop Culture Studies. She also works as an LGBTQAI+ book reviewer for From Top to Bottom Reviews. Her novels include Hush, What it Takes, and Idlewild, a contemporary LGBT romance set in Detroit’s renaissance, which was named a Best Book of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews.
Liked this interview? Join us for the others!
Queering the Craft schedule
May 15: K.J. Charles, in celebration of the release of The Henchmen of Zenda
May 22: Jude Sierra, in celebration of the release of A Piece of Something Greater
May 29: Roan Parrish, in celebration of the release of Riven
June 5: Lola Keeley, in celebration of her f/f debut The Music and the Mirror
You can sign up here for our newsletter and get Queerly Reads updates straight to your inbox.