Y’all, it has been a HOT MINUTE since I’ve interviewed an author. Yet, each time I do it, I realize how much I enjoy it. Without fail, we get such interesting responses. And today, I have the absolutely honor to host an interview with Ladz. Not only are they the author debut novella, ICE UPON A PIER, which comes out TODAY. (You can buy it here.)
But they’re also a dear writer friend. We met via the hellsite that is Twitter years ago. So, to see them published just warms my goth little heart. 🖤
So, please give a warm welcome to Ladz!
- Thank you so much for agreeing to stop by my corner of the internet, Ladz! Warmest welcomes! We’ve been internet friends for so long (!!). I am so beyond thrilled to have a chance to interview YOU about your upcoming debut novella, Ice Upon a Pier.
- But first, for those who don’t know: introduce yourself!
- Writing Questions
- Personally, I love seeing the non-creative day job not prevent you from telling stories (as sometimes, I feel that disconnect in my own life makes my imposter syndrome flair. But that’s a discussion for another time!).
- As someone who is also a writer and has a lot of fellow writers who follow this blog, I love the chance to pick an author’s brain. So, if you don’t mind, I’d love to ask a few writing/craft questions first, before we dive into books and hyping up your latest release.
- Would you mind telling us about your publication journey and any tips for unpublished writers?
- I absolutely LOVE your tips, especially about luck. I could have been saved a lot of heartache had I realized how big a factor that played ten years ago.
- What is your favorite thing about writing? What is your least favorite?
- Since we met on Twitter and have beta read for each other before, I feel like this question is particularly apt. How did you initially find your writing support group and what advice would you give for writers who feel a little more alone in their own writing journeys?
- I feel like so much of this advice could be tattooed, by gosh, by how important it is. Thank you for sharing it.
- What informed your decision to self-publish? What are you most excited about?
- I think many of the aspects you detailed are apt—being in control, the freedom with the finances in some cases, etc. But what resonated with me the most, in my own writing journey, was sitting down and having a self heart-to-heart about why we are writing and then matching our publication journeys with that vision.
- Thank you, truly, for sharing that with me, and all the readers here!
- If people were to say, “This feels like a Ladz novel,” what do you hope they associate with you? What do you want readers to take away?
- I genuinely love these, ohmygosh.
- Book Hype
- Alright, we’ve talked a lot about writing. Now, let’s talk about your novella, ICE UPON A PIER. What’s it about? What are you most excited for readers to discover?
- You had me sold on amoral lesbians, to be honest.
- What has the self-marketing experience felt like? Do you enjoy it? For others who might want to self-publish, what would you recommend?
- That’s some great advice. And some I need to take to heart (especially related to marketing, which I always feel like I’m “annoying” people with).
- What projects are you currently working on? Any hints you can give readers on what we can expect to buy from you next?
- My gods, let me preorder IMMEDIATELY. That pitch is speaking to my soul in so many ways.
Thank you so much for agreeing to stop by my corner of the internet, Ladz! Warmest welcomes! We’ve been internet friends for so long (!!). I am so beyond thrilled to have a chance to interview YOU. Both about writing and your upcoming debut novella, Ice Upon a Pier.
But first, for those who don’t know: introduce yourself!
Hi! Thanks for having me – I’m publishing as Ladz, and I’m an agender writer currently living in Texas. My day job is working for a major digital publisher in data analytics, which gives my mind plenty of time to wander into more fantastical realms.
As someone who is also a writer and has a lot of fellow writers who follow this blog, I love the chance to pick an author’s brain. So, if you don’t mind, I’d love to ask a few writing/craft questions first, before we dive into books and hyping up your latest release.
Would you mind telling us about your publication journey and any tips for unpublished writers?
The publication journey for this one is its own niche. ICE UPON A PIER had been written with the intention of submitting to a specific novella “market,” a publishing term here meaning “a place that receives work for consideration.” Unfortunately, it hadn’t been selected, and with the novella ecosystem being as small as it is, there weren’t too many other places to submit. I think I had about four to five other venues to submit to, none of which wanted it either. And while I didn’t spend the same amount of time crafting and submitting this piece as I did for something like a full-length novel, I decided that it was too cool a story to let languish on my hard drive.
With all this in mind, the biggest tip I’d give for unpublished writers is this: recognize that traditional publishing is
- Not the only path to publication
- An ecosystem where luck factors in way more than anyone ever wants to admit
- Not the only way to share a story
I absolutely LOVE your tips, especially about luck.
What is your favorite thing about writing? What is your least favorite?
I’m a gremlin who legitimately despises drafting. The blank page and the infinite possibilities are way too overwhelming for me, so I absolutely love the revision process, where the book is very high in concept and the weeds of line-editing have not hit yet. It’s where you can take this thing you created out of nothing and finesse it into the tale you truly want to tell. That’s where the joy comes from for me.
We met on Twitter and have beta read for each other before. So, I feel like this question is particularly apt. How did you initially find your writing support group? What advice would you give for writers who feel a little more alone in their own writing journeys?
Oh my God, it’s definitely been over half a decade that we’ve known each other.
To be honest, for me both creatively and professionally, a lot of networking comes down to building genuine connections. I made a conscious decision around 2016 to only talk about things that genuinely excite me. Though, I’ll admit, I get too angry about systemic problems in publishing and let those loose as long as I’m not condemning individuals for partaking. These different paths exist for a reason!
To give some concrete direction, if you’re someone looking to write fantasy, start reading your future peers and contemporaries, and start talking about the things you’re reading. There is guaranteed to be someone who is into the same thing and wanting to talk about it–sometimes even the author themself. It’s in that entry point that you can start talking about your own original content. At least, this is what has worked for me.
The biggest piece of advice I can offer, however, is don’t be a jealous jerk. Politeness and kindness can take you very far. That’s not to say you can’t experience envy, but if you do, absolutely try not to make it anyone else’s problem but your own.
What informed your decision to self-publish?
To be honest, I have had a uniquely rough time trying to get into traditional publishing. Yes, everyone is burnt out, but I have been in this game since 2015. And I wish I could have a super neat, interview-exclusive piece of good news to share, but unfortunately, that’s not the story or experience I have. I’m not sure I’ll ever get into it on a public platform, to be perfectly honest.
But what I can get into is why I chose self-publishing for myself. One of the questions I think no one asks writers is, “what do you want out of writing?” If you sit down, take away the industry, even take away the words on your own page, really ask yourself, “what do I want?” And for me, what matters is putting out work I’m proud of that feels authentic to me. It also helps to think about the authors you admire, and for me, it turned out that many of the authors whose work resonated with me most were indie creators or people whose works are considered classics (e.g. the current obsession with Mervyn Peake).
Another factor for me was the entire payment aspect and the longevity side of career-building. Advances aren’t large and are getting increasingly fragmented. If you want to keep writing, say, fantasy, you often have to branch out into other age groups to avoid violating non-competes in order to have some kind of income year over year. And since I never wanted to pursue writing as my sole work venture and I exclusively want to write cross-genre work for an adult audience, leaving the traditional publishing ecosystem made the most sense to me. I really just want to financially break even with all my projects, and I want those works to be read, so for me, being able to have insight on those things is really what tipped the scales for me.
Plus, there’s so much you can just do in self-publishing without asking permission or hoping you’re blessed with a team who shares that vision. Want to work with a specific artist for cover art? Check if they are open to commercial work. Want to write something at a non-standard book length? Go for it. If you’re marginalized and don’t want to work with an editor who might not get the work you’re trying to do? There are many freelance editors who might also share your experiences.
Yes, it’s a lot of work, but so is going traditional once you’re through the gate. In self-publishing, also, the work is, for the most part, fully within your control.
I think many of the aspects you detailed are apt. Being in control, the freedom with the finances in some cases, etc. But what resonated with me the most was sitting down and having a self heart-to-heart. Looking at why we are writing and then matching our publication journeys with that vision.
Thank you, truly, for sharing that with me, and all the readers here!
If people were to say, “This feels like a Ladz novel,” what do you hope they associate with you? What do you want readers to take away?
Is there a weirdly specific hyperfixation that seems to have spawned the whole thing? That’s a Ladz book (see the Richard Kuklinski/70’s & 80’s New York City obsession in ICE UPON A PIER).
Can it not seem to commit to one genre? That’s a Ladz book (ICE UPON A PIER is a true crime fantasy noir fictional memoir in equal measure).
“Fun” feels like an incorrect term to describe my stories because of how violent and bleak they can get in places, but I do want there to be a sense of indulgence and extravagance, rather than grimdark.
If you could pitch your novella as only three vibes or only three GIFs, what would you choose?
- I’m just here to get paid
- I’ve been gay, I’ve done crimes, what of it?
- Please leave me alone, I’m reading
I genuinely love these, ohmygosh.
Alright, we’ve talked a lot about writing. Now, let’s talk about your novella, ICE UPON A PIER. What’s it about? What are you most excited for readers to discover?
ICE UPON A PIER is a novella told in past and present about notorious serial killer, Ruta Pawlak, whose life is heavily inspired by that of Richard Kuklinski, a mafia hitman whose kill count ranged from 15 to 200. If you watched AMC’s Interview with the Vampire and loved the dichotomy between the interviews and the depiction of past events, this will be a treat for you. I kind of wished I watched Better Call Saul when I was drafting because the dark humor there also resonates here.
I’m excited for readers to experience the really mean, bordering on amoral lesbians in a work that leans into its historical sources and origins but is very aware of where it diverges. I hope that hype comes off the page.
You had me sold on amoral lesbians, to be honest.
What has the self-marketing experience felt like? Do you enjoy it? For others who might want to self-publish, what would you recommend?
Self-marketing has been interesting, especially in the context of spending years observing traditional publishing and seeing authors be entrenched in a marketing environment that’s kind of left to its own devices. But there are a bunch of people who are brilliant at it in self-publishing, like Freydis Moon and Kellen Graves, so I’ve tried to model the work they do. It’s definitely a lot of trial and error, but most importantly: find what works for you. For example, I’m keeping my TikTok mostly dedicated to painting (which I haven’t done in weeks, admittedly). On Twitter, however, I do like memes and reacting to the unhinged AO3 bot.
A tip from someone with a literal Master’s Degree in Marketing: people need to see something 7 times for it to become salient. Make a bunch of graphics, and post them minimum once a day with an action item (preorder, add to goodreads, etc. etc.). Even if you think you’re being annoying, I guarantee you there’s probably someone who follows you who hasn’t seen it yet. Make it as easy and repetitive for yourself as you need to. And, for the love of calendars, remind everyone the release date as often as you can. The number of times I’ve seen books floating around and assumed they were out already is embarrassing to me personally.
Also, there are some really awesome book sellers out and about on Twitter, like Alice Scott and Kel @/Panediting. I recommend forming relationships with folks like them whose literal job it is to hype and move books in their indie bookstores.
That’s some great advice. And some I need to take to heart (especially related to marketing, which I always feel like I’m “annoying” people with).
What projects are you currently working on? Any hints you can give readers on what we can expect to buy from you next?
I have a project that I’ve code-named AquaShame with its true title to be revealed the week of my birthday on June 1st. It’s going to be gothic and unhinged, with a lot of other exciting treats. It’s basically a response to publishing’s obsession with the Anastasia mythos, and it’s about a genderfucked vampire helping a nonbinary emperor prevent a forever war. There’s a cult. There’s some even nastier lesbians and a very good trans knight.
My gods, let me preorder IMMEDIATELY. That pitch is speaking to my soul in so many ways.
My favorite question to ask: what question did I not ask that you wanted me to? Answer it here!
Wow, this is where I dig into my own blog content, ha! I think the thing that I really wanted to share is the thing I wish I knew now that I could share with past!Jo and that’s: not all books are meant to be published. Some things are fine to write just to teach yourself how to write a story.
Also, get into reading and engaging with self-published and indie work. All the things you wish could be published tend to exist there, and yes, it takes some digging, but the same goes for going through traditional publisher catalogs. It is, however, totally valid to write things because you want them to be out in the world.
Finally, in what ways can readers connect with you and how can we support you?
Honestly, the JoWritesFantasy blog is the best place, as that’s where announcements and the books that excite me live. I’m also really active on Twitter at @LadzWriting and stream occasionally on Twitch. The carrd has all these links.
Thank you so much for taking the time, Ladz!!
Thank you so much for having me and for your continued support, Nicole!!