Interview: Claire Kann

What is Let's Talk about Love about (in addition to talking about love, of course)?

LTAL takes place during the main character Alice's tumultuous summer between freshman and sophomore year of college as she redefines what different kinds of love means to her—platonic, familial, and romantic—and the ways they are present in her life. She's experiencing severe growing pains with her best friends, dealing with the fallout of a terrible breakup and the start of a new relationship she isn’t sure she's ready for, and arguing with her parents about law school because while she doesn't know what she wants to do, it's absolutely, 100% not that.

Who are some LGBTQ authors or books that have caught your attention in a positive manner?

Brandy Colbert's books are fabulous. I sing her praises every chance I can. Her most recent release Little and Lion features a bisexual protagonist. I've also recently read: Like Water by Rebecca Podos, Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore, and A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo

In the book, Alice identifies as biromantic asexual. What inspired you to write a character this way, and what kind of research did you do in order to flesh out her identity?

Alice herself was the inspiration. She came to me fully formed and confident in who she was. That being said, it required a lot of research to write the story that genuinely reflected Alice’s experience since asexuality is a spectrum. The Invisible Orientation by Julie Sondra Decker was very helpful, but by far, YouTube, Tumblr, and sensitivity readers had the greatest overall impact.

But then, another plot twist occurred: information overload. Crafting the story itself became another hurdle because I didn’t want it to become too didactic. I had to find the balance between storytelling and educating the reader because LTAL is Alice's story, not a textbook or a how-to-guide.

Speaking more broadly, can you describe your own personal journey towards becoming an author?

I never planned to be a writer. It was one of those cases where every sign and every person in my life pointed toward it being an inevitable outcome, and I was like, "No. No. I don't think so, no." I never wrote fiction. I didn't journal, every once again I would write a bad poem with lots of rhyming words/couplets because they’re cool.

During college, I took a creative writing course on a whim to fill an elective requirement. Everyone had to write a short story for the class to critique. I wrote a story about dead humans turned paranormal-entity type lawyers who granted miracles to desperate parents in exchange for the souls of their children. Yeah. I was going through some things. Anyway, after sweating and damn-near shaking through my first workshop where my class enthusiastically loved my story, I decided I wanted to be a professional storyteller. I changed my major to English the very next day.

Of course, a degree is not necessary to be a writer. Trapped in a major I didn’t like with no other prospects, I used this experience as my excuse to jump ship. Thank heavens it all worked out...

Fast forward a handful of years and manuscripts, instead of querying for a literary agent, I decided to take a chance on the unconventional route and submitted my full YA manuscript to a crowd-sourcing website called Swoon Reads. There, a community of readers vote and comment on the manuscripts they like, which then catches the editor’s attention, and in turn can lead to an offer of publication.

I was offered my first publishing contract for Let’s Talk About Love, which was the third manuscript I had submitted to the site. To all my Swooners reading this, current and future, don’t give up. Sometimes, it just takes some of us awhile to get noticed.

What advice would you give to writers with intersectional identities about pursuing their creative dreams?

Write your truth but don't do it in a bubble. Always be open to listening, learning, and growing because internalized biases will show up in your work. That aside, always strive to improve your craft. Let me say that again: Improve. Your. Craft. Study how to write a story—the rules, the beats, the structure, etc. And once you've got that down, break the shit out of the rules and make your own. I don't think I'm a particularly good writer (yet), but I worked hard to make sure I could tell a damn good story.

Also, study the publishing industry. Learn the market, keep an eye on what's selling to identify trends before they become trends two years from now, and get a feel for what you personally need from an agent relationship, if you so choose to query for one, by asking questions of your fellow writers. And most importantly, figure out what track will be best for you and study that too. Self-publishing? Traditional? Crowd-sourcing and online storytelling? There are so many options now—you don’t even have to pick just one.

Lastly, I think one thing I was never told was it’s okay if you don't want to incorporate your own identities, whatever they may be, into your work. It’s hard and it hurts and it can lead to rejection a lot faster because not everyone will understand or you've gotten the rep "wrong" or whatever other excuses people come up with to tear you down. It’s okay to take the easy way out sometimes. Also, publishing moves slower than a dead snail. When you're ready to tell the story of your heart, publishing will still be there.

Do you have any upcoming projects you can share with us?

On the traditional publishing front, I’m working with Swoon Reads on what my next book with them will be. On the online storytelling front, I use Wattpad (@ClaireKann) as the primary platform for my free stories. I post weekly updates on whatever story is ongoing at the moment and write everything from paranormal romance to contemporary college royalty books. Basically, I latch onto whatever amuses me at the moment and write a new story to keep me busy.