An Interview with Tiana Warner

Congratulations on releasing your latest book, The Road Trip Agreement! What did your writing process look like for this story compared to your other series’?

Thank you! This story was inspired by a road trip I took along the Oregon coast, so the process kicked off with some real-life setting research—which is obviously quite different from writing fantasy books. I began the draft while on the trip and finished it fairly quickly while the setting was fresh in my mind. Compared to writing fantasy, I find contemporary romances to be quicker because you don’t have to spend time creating or researching the fictional world(s) and magic rules.

As a bisexual woman writing and publishing much needed sapphic stories, what are the struggles that you’ve faced within the industry?

When I first started publishing, there weren’t a lot of LGBTQ+ publishers or even that many LGBTQ+ novels, so I remember being unsure whether there would be space for my trilogy about a girl who falls in love with a mermaid. Now, there are more options than ever for sapphic literature, which is amazing! It’s lovely to see the genre grow and become more mainstream. I’m lucky in that I haven’t had serious struggles within the industry, other than the occasional bigoted one-star review. But those people don’t deserve my mental energy. Overall, the book community is a wonderful and accepting place, and I’ve definitely felt the love.

Do you think there are differences between writing adult sapphic romances and YA sapphic stories?

The only real difference is in the age of the protagonist. YA protagonists are teenagers, and adult books have adult protagonists—simple as that. For my stories, there is also a difference in the heat level of the romantic scenes, but that’s not necessarily a rule. There are lots of adult stories with closed-door romantic scenes and YA stories with more graphic scenes. Same with violence levels and the intensity of the subject matter.

Staying on the topic of genres, do you have a preference between writing adult sapphic novels or fantastical mermaid and valkyrie stories? Is there a new genre you’d like to try out?

I alternate between writing contemporary adult romance novels and YA Fantasy novels, and I love being able to do both. Fantasy novels are so fun to write but take a lot longer and are more mentally draining because of all the worldbuilding involved, so it’s nice to break those up with something that takes place here and now. Both genres are equally fun to write and have their unique challenges! As for trying out a new genre, I’ve always wanted to write a psychological thriller (à la Gone Girl, my favorite book), but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. One day!

Are there any books coming out in 2024 that you’re looking forward to, and why?

Oh, Ylva Publishing has a lot of sapphic romances launching next year that I can’t wait to read. I’m also always excited for whatever Kate Quinn’s next book is—she’s one of my favorite authors. She has a new one coming out in February that I can’t wait to get my hands on.

I noticed that you’ve had books optioned for film—that’s amazing. Which of your stories would you like to see on the big screen?

I’m still trying to pitch my Mermaids of Eriana Kwai trilogy to Hollywood! The world needs this story in cinematic form, and I know the audience is there—I just need to convince the studios. Really, as a writer, seeing any of your work on the big screen would be a dream come true.

If you could give one, general piece of advice to aspiring authors out there, something that they should follow to the ends of the earth, what would it be?

Being an author is super tough and a solitary career, so connect with other writers! I have a critique group that I owe my sanity to. I met them through a local writing group on Meetup.com, and we’ve been friends ever since. We meet in person once in a while to read excerpts and get feedback, and generally are just there for each other in a group chat. It’s nice to have people who are going through the same struggles, who you can go to conferences with, exchange drafts with, talk about the industry, and celebrate your successes together. Try checking out local writer conferences or joining various online spaces.

What can we look forward to from you in the future? Do you have any other stories you’re working on right now? Any other projects?

2024 will see the launch of my next adult sapphic romance, Snowed in with Summer, which is inspired by a dog-sledding trip I took in the Yukon. There’s also the third and final book in my Sigrid and the Valkyries trilogy, a young adult sapphic fantasy that takes place in the nine Norse realms. I’m also drafting several other stories in the meantime! I invite readers to sign up for my newsletter and/or follow me on Instagram to stay up to date with all of my new releases.

An Interview with V. Castro

What inspired you to write your latest novel, The Haunting of Alejandra, and what do you hope readers take away from it?

I want this book to terrify you, but also leave you with an immense sense of hope and love. This book was inspired by my own struggle with mental health after I had my last child. Being a parent can be terrifying, as is losing your sense of self. This book explores what it feels like to have the floor dissolve beneath your feet and all you see is darkness.

You often weave elements of Mexican folklore and culture into your horror stories, as seen in The Haunting of Alejandra. How important was it for you to reimagine the La Llorona legend, and how did you approach the task of putting your own unique twist to this well-known story?

I didn’t set off to write her story; it just happened as I began the tale of a woman experiencing immense pain from losing her sense of self. It occurred to me that La Llorona has always had her story told for her. No one knows how the story originated. Women should have the ability to tell their own stories in their own voices. It is very important for me to write about my culture and our history because there are so few books that do this. There should be more stories with Women of Color as leads, written by Women of Color.

Generational trauma is a major theme in your novel. How did switching between time periods and the perspectives of women in Alejandra’s ancestry aid in your exploration of generational trauma? Did you face any challenges or make notable discoveries in this narrative structure?

It was important to show how different women viewed themselves and interacted with others at different periods of time while also grappling with their demons. This evolution shows how trauma passes on through the generations if not addressed. In some cases, it couldn’t be addressed. It felt very natural as I wrote it because I have seen it in my own family and personal experience.

In addition to your novels, your most recent short story collections, Out of Aztlan and Mestiza Blood, showcase your skill in shorter forms of storytelling. How does your approach to short stories differ from full-length novels, and do you prefer one format over the other?

I get an idea in my head and write. The story determines the length. It’s something I don’t overthink. Sometimes, I see the narrative start to finish.

In The Haunting of Alejandra, Melanie’s character bridges the gap between science and spirituality, embodying both a therapist and a curandera. Can you elaborate on the opportunities this duality presented in your storytelling? What insights might aspiring authors draw from your experience in crafting such a character?

I wrote this character because I want people to feel comfortable returning to their indigenous beliefs for healing and comfort. Since this is a supernatural book, I want the magic that I truly believe in to shine through. As a Woman of Color and someone who practices brujería, this felt true to me.

We all experience pain and sometimes terror in life. Fear is universal, but how it manifests is different for everyone. Narratives that do not conform to the dominant culture are valid.

Image credit: V. Castro

You’ve skillfully incorporated historical fiction into select chapters of The Haunting of Alejandra. Could you share more about the creative decisions behind integrating specific historical figures and events? Were these historical elements present in every draft or did they come as you edited the book?

The historical aspects were included in the original manuscript. I wanted to show generations of women from different time periods to show what had and hadn’t changed. Identity is also a large part of Alejandra’s journey. Self-discovery and change are painful, but they can open so many roads toward a better future.

The Haunting of Alejandra delves into the topic of postnatal depression. How did you balance the need for emotional depth and accuracy while still taking care of your own well-being?

It was something I experienced, which is why I felt compelled to write the book. There was a lot of pain I had to express. Writing about this and hopefully helping others was a big part of my own healing process. Some things in life are hard to share. Picking up a book and feeling seen can give comfort. I want to give others hope with this story, even though it is horror!

Are there any books or authors that have helped guide your journey in crafting your unique writing style and voice as an author?

I never thought this would be what I ended up doing. It was a vivid dream that led to one story in 2017. All my life, I have been an avid reader, but I didn’t know this was inside of me. It has been a beautiful gift of tears and joy. We all have a voice; it’s just a matter of finding it.

The publishing process can often feel more challenging than writing a book. What has that process been like for you throughout your career and what advice would you give to aspiring authors who are just starting or currently navigating this stage?

It has been a journey of highs and lows, and I am still reaching for certain milestones. It takes a lot of grit and perseverance. I think if you can take rejection and have patience, then go for it. But always be true to your voice. Find your voice and follow it. There is only one of you, and the story you want to tell can only be told by you.