Interview at Lesbian.com - August 20, 2012

Liz Bradbury: Building a mystery and a legacy

Author Liz Bradbury
BY Lesbian.com
After decades of lesbian activism, Liz Bradbury found another outlet to express herself: lesbian mystery fiction. That’s how the Maggie Gale Mystery Series was born. Two novels in, it’s no mystery, Bradbury’s books are a hit. Out Smart Houston Magazine called “Angel Food and Devil Dogs” “Perfect” and it was a Golden Crown finalist.
Besides her fiction, Liz Bradbury has written and had published over 400 nonfiction articles and essays on LGBT issues. She wrote regular columns in several LGBT publications, founded the Medusa Literary Society, edited Sinister Wisdom Magazine and judged in the 2012 Kissed by Venus short story competition.
As an advocate for the LGBT community, Bradbury has worked to successfully pass pro-LGBT legislation. She speaks frequently on LGBT rights and is an expert on same-sex marriage equality (and the lack of it) in Pennsylvania.
You’re a lesbian activist by day, writer by night. You’ve been a professional lesbian for decades now. How does your civil rights work inform your writing?
Yes, I’ve been a professional lesbian for quite a while. I ran my grad school GSA committee in the 1970s. My wonderful spouse of 25 years, Patricia Sullivan, and I began Pennsylvania Diversity Network, a LGBT advocacy organization, in 2004. Before that we ran part of a LGBT political organization for 10 years. I’ve published a LGBT newspaper for 15 years and now I write Lesbian fiction. Being a lesbian informs and influences every part of my life, my family, my work, what I create, everything I do.
The second of your Maggie Gale Mystery Series, “Being the Steel Drummer,” is fresh off the presses, how did you get started writing lesbian fiction?
I love classic mysteries, but they never spoke to my life. So I began writing a mystery that I’d want to read. It took me a while to get into it until I realized I could include a love interest and write sexy erotic scenes into the plot, then it all became more fun.
Your first book in the series, “Angel Food and Devil Dogs,” got rave reviews. How do you top yourself?
It’s tricky because this is a romance series as well. Writing the second book in a romance series is tough because in the first, every glance and brush of a hand is exciting, but that changes as the relationship matures. It’s harder to make the love story tantalizing. But, readers also enjoy reading about characters they already know, in a world they recognize. So the task is to write a good story with enough variations and surprises to keep the reader interested.
“Being the Steel Drummer” features a dual mystery and romance with a second story about lesbians living just after the Civil War. Their relationship turns out to relate to the contemporary story. How did that come about?
In “Being the Steel Drummer,” Maggie and Kathryn find some journals that unfold an 1870s lesbian romance that took place right in their neighborhood. It all links up to a small sculpture Kathryn buys at a flea market. It turns out to be by one of the 19th century lovers who was a famous sculptor. The rest you’ll have to read for yourself.
And you’ve included real historic figures?
Yes! In the 1800s, there was a significant number of women artists, many of them Lesbians, who worked together in Rome and the United States. They figure in the story, as does Charlotte Cushman, who was a very famous Shakespearean actor of the day, and who often played men’s parts.
Charlotte Cushman was like a 19th century lesbian Hugh Hefner, right?
She was. In the 1860s, Charlotte Cushman had many passionate real life female lovers who were artists and poets. In “Being the Steel Drummer,” Cushman interacts with the fictitious characters and, of course, that part I made up, but it was interesting to research the lives of these lesbian artists and weave them into the story. I try to write books that leave you feeling as though you got your money’s worth. I like something that gives you a little brain exercise.
Is Maggie Gale based on anyone in particular? How do you develop your characters?
Maggie isn’t based on anyone, but I wanted her to be a strong, smart, creative, unabashedly out and proud lesbian who has some internal flaws, but is generally the kind of person you’d like as a friend. Too many lesbian characters in books I’ve read are such wrecks; they hate themselves, they’re estranged from family, they constantly make bad choices, they’re out of touch with their sexuality. I wanted a character whom readers would root for, not a depressing mess.
You created a publishing company to publish your books yourself. Why take that route? Is this something other lesbian writers should try?
Lesbian writers can create a career by self-publishing. E-books have made that possible. Amazon Kindle pays me a 70 percent royalty for any book priced over $2.99. Self-publishing does mean I have to do all my own PR, but most publishing companies require you to do most of your own promotion anyway, especially after the initial release. Established companies also press authors to produce books rapidly, sometimes expecting 2 or even 3 a year, which can sacrifice the quality of the writing. And many companies expect you to stick with a story formula, which you may not want to do. I didn’t.
On the other hand, the companies take care of the editing and do all the stuff you probably don’t want to do, like typesetting and cover design. But they don’t pay you nearly what you can make on your own.
To make a living by self-publishing lesbian genre fiction, you’ll have to start by writing a good mystery, romance, or thriller with some hot love scenes. Be honest about whether it’s well written and make real changes if it isn’t. Hire someone to edit it. Publish it in hard copy through Create Space or Lightning Source and also as an e-book. Ninety percent of your income comes from e-sales.
Seriously market your books on the Internet. Publish at least 5 or 6 good books. The more good books you publish the more money you’ll make.
I’m grateful that Catherine M. Wilson, the author of “When Women Were Warriors,” converted my book to the Kindle format. She and I created a group called Medusa Literary Society for Fiercely Independent Lesbian Publishers, which shares self-publishing information with other Lesbian writers.
You make it sound easy.
Well, it’s not, really. For one thing, it’s like having homework every night of your life. And you’re really putting yourself out there. But for writers, it’s a real possibility.
Do you read your reviews?
I pay attention to readers. If they have something legitimate to say, I want to hear it. All the professional reviews I’ve gotten have been quite good. In fact, I just got a wonderful one from Salem West at The Rainbow Reader.
What about LGBT cyber-bullying in reviews?
Everyone gets bad reviews now and then, it’s part of the job. People who don’t like my writing style certainly have a right to express their opinion. The problem is anonymous trolls. It’s what they call people who write flame reviews to harass, not to edify other readers. For example, I got a review of “Being the Steel” that intentionally misrepresented, misstated, and flat out made up phony things in the book and then harshly criticized them in a way that was seemingly aimed at trying to cut sales. It was clearly leveled at me because I’m a lesbian activist, which the reviewer mentioned several times.
There were a half dozen blatantly untrue statements in the review. It was like someone saying in a review of the Wizard of Oz, “I hated Dorothy because she shot the lion with a shotgun.”
How erotically graphic do readers want you to be?
I get a lot of mail from readers. A few would prefer to have no sex at all. They’d rather the couple “closed the door.” And a few want it to be porn or at least unbridled erotica. But, most readers tend to want intimate sweet scenes that build to hot and sexy, but are not cringingly clinical. The most important requirement for nearly all lesbian readers is that the physical love scene needs to be an integral component of the larger story.
What are some quirky inside things about your work that readers should know?
I named my publishing company Boudica Publishing because I firmly believe that the name of the heroic 6-foot-tall British woman warrior Queen of the Iceni, Boudica (Bo-dik-a), is where the term word “bull-dyke” comes from. Therefore, the word dyke pays homage to a hero.
I always capitalize “Lesbian” because the word is not just an adjective, it describes a culture, like Latino.
Maggie’s last name is Gale, after Dorothy Gale.
It’s an alphabetical series whose book covers will make a rainbow, the next book is called “C-Notes and Ski Nose” and will have a yellow cover.
What’s in the future for you and Maggie Gale?
Lots of sales, I hope. The first book in the series, “Angel Food and Devil Dogs,” is on sale now on Kindle for just 99 cents. I’m currently promoting “Being the Steel Drummer,” so if any book clubs, festivals, stores, community centers, lesbian retirement communities, etc., want me to come and do a reading of the book and talk about self-publishing and LGBT activism, I hope they’ll contact me. I’ll go anywhere on the east coast, and Skype anywhere else.

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Diversity Rules Magazine Features Author/Activist Liz Bradbury: See the interview below: (If you can’t quite read the pages, go right to the magazine by clicking here.) Or read it in text format below the pages.









Jim Koury Diversity Rules Magazine Interviews
Liz Bradbury
August 2012


1.JFK: Can you give Diversity Rules readers an idea of who Liz Bradbury is, your background and how it’s impacted the person you are today?

LB: I’m an out Lesbian full-time activist who’s been working for GLBT rights since the 1970s. I fell in love with my wonderful partner Patricia Sullivan 25 years ago. We were the 1
st couple from PA to get a civil union – (VT, 2000) and were legally married in CT. I’m the Executive Director of Pennsylvania Diversity Network a GLBT advocacy organization. I’m an author. Being Gay informs and influences every part of my life, my family, my work, what I create, and every thing I do. I can’t imagine how it couldn’t.

2. JFK: You have a new book out titled, “Being the Steel Drummer” that’s the second book in your Maggie Gale Mystery Series. Tell us about it.

LB: It took me a while to get into writing until I realized that I could include a love interest and write sexy erotic scenes into the plot. Then suddenly writing became more fun. The books are mystery/romances in the Lesbian fiction genre. I like real mysteries so “Being the Steel Drummer,” and “Angel Food and Devil Dogs,” the 1st in the series, are both figure-out-the-clues stories.
Maggie is a private investigator. She meets college professor Kathryn Anthony in the first book and they’re immediately attracted to each other. They work together to solve the complex mysteries and have romantic encounters along the way. In Being the Steel Drummer, Maggie and Kathryn find hidden passages that lead them to a set of journals that unfolds a fascinating 1870s Lesbian romance that took place right in their neighborhood. It holds the key to the present day mystery they’re trying to solve.


3. JFK: Is Maggie Gale based on anyone in particular or does she reflect a hidden persona within you?

LB: Maggie isn’t based on anyone, but I wanted her to be a strong, smart, creative, out and proud Lesbian who has some internal flaws but is generally the kind of person you’d like as a friend. I’d read about too many Lesbian characters that were such wrecks; they hated themselves, they were estranged from family, they constantly made bad choices, they were out of touch with their sexuality. I wanted a character whom readers would root for, not a depressing mess.
I write books I’d want to read. Good stories, interesting characters doing interesting things, hot romance, and a satisfying ending. But I don’t want the books to be so simple that you’re done in two hours and you feel like you didn’t get your money’s worth. These are stories that draw you in and give you a little brain exercise.

4. JFK: You have been successful at writing genre fiction, self-publishing, and marketing as well. What advice would you give to other queer writers seeking to do the same?

LB: GLBT writers can create a career by self-publishing. E-books have made that possible. Amazon Kindle pays me a 70% royalty for any book priced over $2.99. Self – publishing does mean I have to do all my own PR, but most publishing companies require you to do most of your own promotion anyway, especially after the initial release. Established companies also press authors to produce books rapidly, sometimes expecting 2 or even 3 books a year, which can sacrifice the quality of the writing. And many companies expect you to stick with a formula for the story, which you may not want to do...I didn’t. On the other hand, the companies take care of the editing and do all the stuff you probably don’t want to do, like typesetting and cover design.
My advice is: Write a good GLBT mystery, romance, or thriller with some hot romance scenes in it. Be honest about whether it’s well written and make real changes if it isn’t. Hire someone to edit it. Publish the hard copies through Create Space or Lightning Source and also as an e-book. 90% of your income comes from e-sales, not hard copies. Market it on the Internet. To make a full living you’ll need to publish 5 or 6 good books. The more good books you publish the more money you’ll make. Think Agatha Christie not Harper Lee. Market your first books at a low price to introduce yourself to readers. Right now you can buy Angel Food and Devil Dogs for just 99 cents on Kindle.
I’ve co-created a web site and Facebook Page for Lesbian authors who want to self-publish called the Medusa Literary Society, that shares information about self-publishing. Or, anyone can e-mail me through my company Boudica Publishing’s web site to ask me questions. I’m all for the GLBT community sharing information.

5. JFK: You were a recent victim of anonymous bullying; something you thought you were immune to for years. Can you tell us about the incident, how you dealt with it and what advice can you give to others that have experienced something similar or may be subject to experiencing given their activism?

LB: I’m a big strong activist, and I can’t be bullied...Except I just was and it did effect me. I know what it’s like to get a bad review, I got a few on Angel Food. People are entitled to their opinion, and may certainly comment on it. But I got a review on Being the Steel that intentionally misrepresented, miss-stated, and flat out made up phony things in the book and then harshly criticized them -- in a way that was seemingly aimed at trying to cut sales.
One glaring misrepresentation in this review is that it said “the sex scene” was creepy and boring and really is nothing more than “they get naked, have oral sex and an impossible number of orgasms.” Falsely stating there is no “romance” in a romance hurts sales. In reality there are at least 5 separate sex scenes in Being the Steel Drummer, each quite different from the others. Two are in the 19th century romance and one of the contemporary ones is 40 pages long and is in no way “just” oral sex...(and BTW it’s not an impossible number of orgasms!) And it would only be “creepy” to someone who doesn’t really understand how sex between two passionate people who love each other works.
The reviewer went on to state many things that are absolutely not in the story including that the loving relationship between the two main characters is non-consensual and “what rapists use as an excuse.” Anyone reading the book could see that was not only not true, but really absurd. Obviously the review doesn’t aim to edify a potential reader by offering an informed opinion, its aim is to turn readers away by using false information. This person also mentions what I do as an activist more than once, and ultimately makes it clear that he (or she) has never read a Lesbian genre book or even knows the genre exists. Apparently the reviewer created an Amazon account solely to use spurious arguments to run down my work. My first question was…why? The answer: Because this person is a bully.
These days, many media outlets distort facts - think Fox News. Yet even more insidious is the ability for homophobic bullies to anonymously access “comments” sections through the Internet and post bogus information as fact with no other aim than to hurt and harass. It happens to school kids all the time in social media.     
How do you fight anonymous attacks? It’s a hard thing to do. You can ignore them or counter balance them with positive accurate information. But we all have to remember that as long as the culture of bullying exists and the opportunity for cowards to comment anonymously exists, we can all be bullied.

6. JFK: I have admired and respected your efforts in PA working toward equality for all. You started the Pennsylvania Diversity Network and are the Executive Director. How did the Network come to fruition and what direction do you see the organization going in the future?

LB: Patricia and I helped to run a GLBT political organization for ten years, but we were also producing a GLBT newspaper out of our own pockets and we realized that we needed a 501c3 not-for-profit to help us produce it and to run other GLBT support programs in the Greater Lehigh Valley of PA. So we began Pennsylvania Diversity Network, and it’s been very successful. We run a huge web site, have an info line, run half a dozen GLBT support programs including the PDN Photo Project which now has 740 photos of local same-sex couples and serves to educate the public about marriage equality. PDN continues to grow and expand its outreach every day.

7. JFK: What are some of your most notable achievements during your tenure as the Executive Director?

LB: We’ve helped to pass 7 major pieces of GLBT equality legislation in PA. We advocate for people who have been discriminated against on a case by case basis year round. When someone calls us with an issue or they need a GLBT friendly referral, we’re here to help every day. And we run the whole organization on just $25k a year.

8. JFK: We activist types each have our own individual vision of equality and fair treatment for all in addition to the general goals which the broader movement is working toward. What is your vision and desire for America in terms of the queer rights movement?

LB: Full equality, no excuses, no delays.

9. JFK: Do you have any closing thoughts or words of wisdom to leave with Diversity Rules readers?

LB: We have to right to expect full equality without caveat. Were the Boy Scouts excluding racial minorities from programs, no one would support that and rightly so, even if the programs tutored every white kids for free and paid their full college tuition…That would actually make it worse. A program isn’t “good” if a minority is denied access to it. We, and every minority class, have the right to see anything less than full inclusion as discrimination that no one should tolerate.

(Pennsylvania Diversity Network web site: www.padiversity.org
Boudica Publishing web site:
www.boudicapublishing.com
and Liz’s author web site:
www.lizbradbury.boudicapublishing.com.)
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Check out this interview that appeared in the 2009 Summer Issue of Gaydar Magazine



--Gaydar Magazine
Angel Food and Devil Dogs featured in the Summer, 2008 issue of Gaydar Magazine:
It's both a classic who-done-it style mystery and a hot lesbian romance. Who could ask for anything more!?! - Gaydar Magazine

Gaydar Magazine Interview

Activist Liz Bradbury's new lesbian mystery/romance novel Angel Food and Devil Dogs has just been released by Boudica Publishing Inc.
Angel Food and Devil Dogs by Liz Bradbury

Gaydar caught up with Liz as she found a free moment between running the GLBT community organization Pennsylvania Diversity Network and working on her next novel.

GM: I've had the chance to read Angel Food and Devil Dogs, and I loved it! It's both a classic who-done-it style mystery and a hot lesbian romance. Who could ask for anything more?! What made you to write it?

LB: I love mysteries and have been reading them forever, but I've just never found one that had the kind of characters I could really relate to on a personal level. So I created a private detective who was a lesbian, and made the plot as much about her unraveling her current case, as about the sparks between her and a woman she meets while working on the case. The people that surround her are the kinds of friends a lesbian would have. I've tried to make her the type of person GLBT readers would want to have as a friend.

GM: Private Eye Maggie Gale seems very sure of herself. Did you do that on purpose?

LB: I've tried to make Maggie a character or even on some level a hero that lesbian readers might identify with or aspire to be. She's smart, she's in great shape, she's a good friend, she has interesting hobbies… but I don't think Maggie is sure of herself all the time, she's a skilled investigator and she knows it, but she has personal doubts just like all of us. I did consciously make her sure of her sexual orientation and her attraction to Kathryn, because I really hate it that so many contemporary writers feel they have to make lesbian characters so flawed and angst ridden.

GM: Too many books have weak lesbian characters?

LB: Way too many novels and movies cast the lesbian character as someone with crippling addictions, or horribly low self esteem that's based in internalized homophobia. Being a lesbian is an important part of Maggie Gale's life, but constantly questioning whether it's OK to be a lesbian is not a problem for her. She's way past that. She doesn't struggle with personal demons when she realizes she's attracted to Kathryn. Maggie just plans out what might be the best way to ask her for a date and get her...in the mood… (laughs)… and because the book is in first person, the reader gets to follow Maggie's train of thought, which can be pretty funny at times.

LB: With the exception of “Tipping the Velvet,” by Sarah Waters, which I loved, I just haven't found any lesbian novels that deal with sex and romance in the positive way mainstream novels do. Meaning that too often in lesbian novels the...um...
consummation of the encounter is skipped over. I read a lesbian mystery once where the entire first encounter sex scene consisted of the sentence, They made love. I wanted to create an interesting mystery where the lesbian romantic tension goes somewhere exciting and real.

GM: It sure does that! There were parts of this book that were so hot... I couldn't have quit reading if a fire truck had run into the house!

LB: Thanks, that's what I was aiming for! But I don't want anyone to misunderstand. It's not just erotica. It has two intricate mystery plots that weave together with some really interesting characters. The romantic situations are a tight part of the story.

GM: How did you get the ideas for the characters and the location?

LB: I like strong, funny characters. Maggie's friends and family are like that...supportive and caring but wisecracking and direct. I think that's a great part of the GLBT community, that we so often have friendships that fuel and sustain us. There are also the suspects and others in Maggie's community. Since this is the first book of the series, I fleshed out a lot of the people in her life.
For character ideas, I make them all up. I sometimes start with TV and movie characters as the very basic inspirations and then make up changes and embellishments that the plot requires. The location is a very modified version of Allentown with huge alterations of locations and additions of institutions and businesses. Irwin College of Art and Architecture is made up.

GM: So there are going to be more novels about these characters? It's part of a series?

LB: Yes, I'm working on the next books in the series right now. The titles of the books map out the series. This one is Angel Food and Devil Dogs, beginning with A, the next one is Being the Steel Drum Man. The third one is C-notes and Ski-nose. The titles progress alphabetically.

GM: Like the Kinsey Millhone or the Stephanie Plumb series?

LB: Yes, but my titles refer to the actual stories.

GM: Where can people buy this book?

LB: I'll be doing some book release parties around the area and people can buy the book at those. Twenty percent of the net profit from the sales of these books goes to local GLBT support and advocacy organizations. I'll be marketing this novel up and down the East Coast. Any GLBTA group that hosts a reading or a book signing will receive 20% of the sales revenue from that event.
Also people can buy it direct from the publisher at www.boudicapublishing.com or through Amazon - but buying it through Boudica Publishing brings more donated money to the GLBT community.

GM: Hey, thanks for talking to us…now, get back to work on your next book!

LB: I'm on it!




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