In this episode, we spoke with Arizona Tape, author of dozens of books across multiple series, and collaborative writer on many more! Some of her many ongoing series include Queens of Olympus (inspired by Greek mythology!), Crescent Lake Shifters (dragon-shifter romance!), and Crescent Lake Bears (lumberjack bear-shifter romance!) – these are only a few of Arizona’s amazing works. We learned about Arizona’s journey to becoming a full-time writer, heard more about her solo and her collaborative writing processes, asked after her favourite manga and anime series, and got some great advice for emerging writers.
We also chatted about LGBTQ+ representation, readers seeing themselves represented in Arizona’s books, and why Arizona wanted to write books that her younger self was never able to find. We have a wonderful conversation with Arizona and can’t wait to see what she writes next!
In this episode:
- Arizona tells us about her journey to becoming a full-time writer, and how her writing career emerged organically
- We hear more about her writing process, including how she goes about world-building her detailed settings
- Arizona talks about her inspirations, and how myths and legends inspire her writing – and how she incorporates mythology and mythological creations into her work
- We ask Arizona about writing the books that she wishes she had when she was younger, particularly regarding LGBTQ+ romances and romance between women, and why this drives her to write
- We ask about her marketing her LGBTQ+ content, and finding a balance in her marketing efforts, and we also ask about what positive representation for LGBTQ+ readers, writers, and characters means to her
- Arizona talks about why being wide is important to her, especially when it comes to affordability and accessibility of her content
- We ask her about her favourite anime and manga series, and how her interest in different manga and anime have influenced her writing
- Arizona chats about writing collaboratively, and how that process plays out for her and her co-authors, and offers some great advice about co-writing
- She also tells us some heartwarming stories about readers who have had great response to her work, and what that means to her
- And much more!
Mentioned in this episode:
Sigil Fire by Erzabet Bishop
Buddha by Osamu Tezuka
Arizona Tape is a European author who enjoys nothing more than creating new worlds with nuanced characters and twists on mythology from around the world.
Her stories often contain a fantasy element with the focus on inclusivity, diversity, and representation. Whether it’s dragon shifters looking for their fated mates or demons hiding in the human world, there’s always an element of romance and discovery from a modern angle.
Growing up, she could be found making multiple trips to the library on the same day or sneakily reading under the covers past bedtime. She still writes most of her books at night.
She lives in the UK with her girlfriend and adorable dog, Fudgestick, who is the star of her newsletter.
Transcription by www.speechpad.com
Laura: Hey, writers. You are listening to the “Kobo Writing Life Podcast,” where we bring you insights and inspiration for growing your self-publishing business. We’re your hosts. I’m Laura, Kobo Writing Life’s Author Engagement Manager.
Rachel: And I’m Rachel, the Promotions Specialist at Kobo Writing Life.
Laura: On today’s episode, we spoke to author Arizona Tape. Arizona is a European author who enjoys nothing more than creating new worlds with nuanced characters and twists on mythology from around the world. Her stories often include a fantasy element with a focus on inclusivity, diversity, and representation. Whether it’s dragon shifters looking for their faded mates or demons hiding in the human world, there’s always an element of romance and discovery from a modern angle.
Rachel: We had a delightful conversation with Arizona. We spoke to her about her career as an indie author, what her writing process looks like and how that differs when she’s co-writing, as she has several series she has co-written with different authors, and we talked to her about writing the books that she wishes she had when she was younger and what positive representation means to her. Like I said, it was a delightful conversation, and we hope you enjoy.
We are joined today by author Arizona Tape. Arizona, thank you so much for joining us.
Arizona: Hi. So lovely to be here.
Rachel: And this episode will be airing in June, so let me just be probably the first person to wish you a Happy Pride in 2023.
Arizona: Thank you so much.
Rachel: Now, can you kinda kick our podcast off today with telling our listeners a little bit about yourself and the books you write?
Arizona: Of course. So, hi, everyone, I’m Arizona Tape. I’m currently living in the United Kingdom with my partner and my dog. And most of the books I’m currently writing are urban fantasy romances and paranormal romances, but with queer characters as the main leads.
Rachel: Now, have you always wanted to be a writer? Is this kind of the dream come true career for you?
Arizona: Yeah, it actually is. As a child, I used to make, like, these really silly drawings like potato heads, and they’d have little speech bubbles, and I remember writing out a long-winded manuscript on a really old computer when I was younger. And recently my mom told me that she found in one of her diaries that I’d said, “Oh, when I grow up, I want to be a writer.” So yeah, it is a dream come true for me. I’ve always loved storytelling.
Rachel: That’s amazing. I hope one day you release your little potato head drawing as a comic.
Arizona: I should definitely see if I can find them still.
Rachel: And what was your journey to becoming an author like? How did you go from those little drawings to publishing your first book?
Arizona: Well, for me it was quite a gradual process. So, as a child I used to do a lot of reading and writing, and then that kinda just progressed in mostly reading. And then I ended up writing online just mostly for myself, and I discovered that there were actually quite a few people who were reading it. And then after a few months… Well, I say a few months, like almost a year, I had a full book, and I was like, “Oh, my God, look at this.” And then I was like, “I can do something with this. Let’s publish it.” And it just kinda snowballed from there from one book to going, “This is awesome. I wanna do this more and more.” Writing another and another, and now I’m here.
Rachel: Now, when you say writing online, are we talking writing your own fiction online? Were you writing fanfic? Where was this online writing falling?
Arizona: It was always my own original stuff. I think fanfic for me, I always loved reading it and seeing it and hearing about it, but for me it was always original characters, people that were just developing in my head, stories of, yeah, complete strangers that I wanted to see how it would play out.
Laura: And did you always know that you wanted to publish independently, or did you ever consider going the traditional route?
Arizona: I think most writers probably had that dream of being discovered, getting picked up by a massive publisher. And I think when I was, like, just dreaming about writing, that was certainly one of those things that I thought, “Oh, maybe one day that’ll happen for me.” But the rejection of it, I found really hard. I didn’t really want to go down that route and I just, like I said, I kinda just fell into publishing things online, and then moving independently was actually a really natural step for me. And by the time that I was doing it I decided I actually, I don’t really wanna change this. I love having the control. I love getting to make all the decisions. And I love just, yeah, doing it by myself. Well, I don’t just do it by myself. I’ve got a lot of people that always help me out, but I like getting to be the one that makes the decisions and just see where it takes me. Yeah.
Laura: Yeah, that’s one of the great parts of being indie, that you can kind of be the one in charge of all of those decisions and really make the product that’s most true to you and your writing. So, that’s awesome to hear that it worked out for you.
And can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Does it kind of change depending on genre because you write in a variety of different genres because you have YA, romance, fantasies, some mysteries?
Arizona: Yeah, I would say that my writing process is always changing. It’s definitely not the same as in the beginning. I used to be a hardcore pantser, just sit down, close my eyes, I’d write whatever was coming. Recently I’ve been trying to do a bit of plotting. Some books for me are easier to plot or easier to structure in my head like when I’m writing some urban fantasies because there’s a lot of story that’s happened in the past and threads that I’ve left open from the previous books. Those often tend to benefit from a bit more thinking and sitting and looking. Whereas when I’m writing a standalone paranormal romance where the characters are contained to this one book, it’s more of I can feel the beats and I just let the characters guide me and the flow is just a bit more natural because yeah, there is nothing to…no loose ends to tie up and no long foreshadowing for the future. So, yeah, there’s definitely a bit of different process for me.
Rachel: And when it comes to writing a series, because you write quite long series as well, do you have kind of an idea of the overarching story before you begin the first book? Or do you just kinda go in and that is kind of a pantsing process as well?
Arizona: I would say in the past I would often start from, like, more, like, just an idea of, “Oh my God, how awesome would it be if there was, let’s say someone who could train to become a Valkyrie?” Which is a series that I’ve written. And then I had like vague ideas of where I wanted the character to go, where I wanted the story to end up. But a lot of it ended up being a surprise even for myself and things I’d discover while I was writing, I’d go like, “Oh, that’s so cool. I wanna incorporate that in the next book.” Or, “Ooh, look at this loose end, let’s see where that brings me.” Whereas nowadays I try to do a little bit more thinking about what do I want this whole series to be.
I don’t try to like lock myself into an ending because I think for me that takes a bit of the fun out of it. Like, I like knowing, like, a general direction, where I’m going. And I like having that typical kinda, like, full circle situation where the beginning reflects… Or well, the ending reflects the beginning but just, like, in a new way, because I like that I do try and tend to think of what the ending might be or whether this beginning is a good place to re-end again.
Rachel: That’s really cool. And kind of a question from like…
Arizona: Thank you.
Rachel: …the opposite perspective, when you’re tackling say, like, book eight in a series, do you have, like, a huge document of everything important that has happened before, so you don’t forget, or do you find yourself having to go back and reading your previous books?
Arizona: I wish I was that organized. I often end up rereading my books before I go into the next book, and I try to make notes but then I forget where I’ve put the notes. So, I do often have to go back to the documents, go like, “What did I say there? Who’s got what hair color? Who made this tiny, tiny comment offhand about something that is now important and relevant?” So, yeah, there’s often a lot of that but it just helps me get back into the universe and everything.
Rachel: That makes sense. And kind of speaking of the universe, because you do write a lot of fantasy, especially urban fantasy, what is your world building process like?
Arizona: I would say overly extensive usually. Luckily, I keep that just for myself. I try not to bore my readers with all the unnecessary information and research and little things that I make up for the world that are just not necessary or relevant to the story. But I often again, like, find this one small thing that I would like to be different from the real world. And then based on that, it just kind of spirals and goes, “Okay, so if there are afterlife assistants, say, that know how to become Valkyries, then there would probably be afterlife assistants for other cultures.” And then I end up building a lot of lore that’s mostly for myself. Or when I’m, like, writing in another series of mine about mythical animals, I try to think of how big is the world, if they have a mythical zoo here, how many are there in total? Would they work together? Like, all that kinda stuff, I try to build that for myself and then I try not to bore my readers with it.
Rachel: And how do you find that balance of, like, introducing the world building in your books with like you said, not boring your readers with a bunch of exposition?
Arizona: I think that’s something that I’m still learning. I think in the past I used to do a lot more info dumping because I was just really excited about all these fun ideas that I’d come up with and I wanted to show them off. I think nowadays I’m a bit more restrained. I can show a bit more restraint on that. I try to think of what is relevant right now. Is this something the main character would notice? Is this something the main character would know and why is she thinking about it in this particular moment? And then if there’s something that I specifically want to show off, I think about why would the main character be thinking about it in that particular point in the chapter? Is this something that’s relevant right now not just to me but to the main character, really?
Rachel: I think that’s phenomenal advice is putting it through the eyes of your main character because as somebody who reads a lot of sci-fi and fantasy, it is always a balancing act of you want to immerse your readers in this world, but you don’t wanna just tell them about it, if that makes sense. Like, that’s a really cool way to look at it.
Arizona: Yeah, for sure. Thank you.
Laura: Yeah, it’s great to kind of as a reader learn the details about the world as the main character is learning about them as well and kind of go on that journey with them. You mentioned kind of thinking in your head like where things are located. Do you ever, like, draw a map for yourself to actually, like, figure out where everything is in relation to each other?
Arizona: Yeah, sometimes I do. Sometimes series end up being set just in the contemporary modern world and then it’s really easy to just go, “Prick, this is where it is on the map.” But I do often end up drawing myself little fantasy maps of how I think, like, the cities or countries or just the place where they are located to potentially other places in the world. And it’s just really fun for me to kind of visualize these kinda things that are in my head, and they’re probably just completely unnecessary, but they’re part of the writing process so I pretend it’s working.
Laura: No, it definitely counts as part of the writing process. You’re setting up…
Arizona: Thank you.
Laura: …the world and immersing yourself in it. It definitely counts. You also have a lot of myths and legends in some of your stories. So, for example, the “Queens Of Olympus” series. Are you a huge fan of that kind of thing already or did you have to do a lot of research when you incorporated those into your work?
Arizona: I was already a huge fan of mythology. I think it’s something that’s always fascinated me. I would say most of my books are written about things that I was already fascinated by because I think that’s just where I’m naturally thinking of. And then it’s the characters that often have different fascinations from myself that I’m not necessarily familiar with. For instance, in the “Queens Of Olympus” series, I’ve always had some knowledge of the Greek gods and goddesses, but for one of them that I wrote “Harvest Of Dionysus,” I did have to do specific research into wine making, wine tasting, and all the things that well, the goddess of wine would know, which isn’t a particular interest of mine. So, it kinda goes hand in hand to choose an overall thing that interests me and then kinda to find little new aspects in it that I can lose myself in and do lots of research because I just love learning things as I’m writing them as well.
Rachel: Do you have a favorite Greek myth or one that was the most fun to reinterpret?
Arizona: Ooh, that’s a really good question.
Laura: Is it like asking you to kind of pick a child or something?
Arizona: Yeah. It is a little bit like my favorite child. Ooh. Well, I did really like writing Hades and Persephone and having Hades as a woman, and just in general have quite a business-like way of seeing the underworld with factories and check-ins and large commercial ships with little gates. And I thought like re-imagining what the underworld would be like as a modern structure and not just a wishy-washy everyone can come up in the boat, “La-la-la here’s your golden coin.” Like, that wouldn’t work. So, I thought that was really, really fun and I’ve just always found, like, the afterlife and the idea of the afterlife really fascinating.
Rachel: I love that. I love Hades and Persephone as well. I also love Eurydice and Orpheus. So, like, I love living in that realm. I’m also gonna ask you to choose your favorite child again. You mentioned that one thing you love to do with world building is kind of, like, change one thing to make it more of a fantastical world. Is there one thing that you have changed in your world building that you would love to actually have implemented in the real world?
Arizona: Ooh, that is a good question. I think…
Laura: I just want everyone listening to know Rachel has, like, an evil grin on her face right now as she asks this question. It’s like a Mr. Burns kind of smile.
Arizona: I think if I would have to pick, I would go for mythical creatures. Some of my worlds tend to be where there’s, like, paranormals that exist outside of humans. And while I think that would be really exciting, well, I’m still human, so that would suck for me if there were suddenly all these cool shifters and vampires around and I’m just myself still. But in one of my series that I’m writing, the element that’s different is that there are mythical creatures still around. Well, still. That makes it sound like there were real creatures around, but in this world, dragons and unicorns and all that still exist. So, I think that would be really cool and I would still benefit from having those cool animals around.
Rachel: I love the logic of well this would still… Like, this would benefit me, and my life wouldn’t change, just the world. Not like I would like to be a vampire, but, like, if your life was the same. Mythical creatures. And who’s to say unicorns didn’t exist at one point?
Arizona: See? Exactly. That’s the logic. That’s the logic.
Rachel: I’m with you. Now, one thing I really wanted to talk to you about is in your bio you mentioned that you write the books that you wish you had when you were younger. I was wondering if you could just kind of expand on that a little bit?
Arizona: So, like I said, I’ve always done a lot of reading and for me that’s just…it has always been M/F couples, always straight romances. And I’ve never really thought about that until I started thinking, “Well, hey, actually I might also be into women.” And then I started looking for media and books and movies and stuff that would reflect that, and it was actually really hard to find. And it wasn’t until I would say when I was like, yeah, 18 or something, that I actually found some of that content mostly online, mostly written on casual websites, not really books that I would find in the library or in stores.
And it was when I was reading those that I was discovering that, “Hey, like, this is really, really cool to have a romance that feels more similar to what I personally experience.” And it made me feel really validated to have that. So, when I started writing, I wanted to write things that weren’t really around that were hard to find, that were for people like me who were looking for these romances for…yeah, that they could relate to. So, that is what I’m doing right now because I still love all the fantasy, I love all the drama, I love all the angst, I love all the adventures, but I’m just writing it with characters that are a bit more relatable to my personal experiences with romance.
Rachel: I feel that struggle deeply. I don’t remember, like, seeing myself represented in, like, a book until I was in university. Do you remember the first time… Like, other than the online content, do you remember the first time you actually, like, saw yourself represented in a book?
Arizona: No, not really. And maybe I wasn’t just looking in the right places at the time and I wasn’t really going to libraries anymore, but when I was reading, when I was a ferocious reader as a teen, I never saw any LGBT content in my library. And granted, I did live in a small town, but that just wasn’t something that was really around. So, for me, my first real experiences were, like, watching movies and TV series and stuff online. And then from there on I did discover that there were people writing these books, and then I just kinda went with where they were. And I mean, there are lots of people doing it nowadays and I’m sure that they were doing it back then, it just wasn’t easy to find for me.
Rachel: And I was gonna ask you, do you think that the amount of content for, like, LGBTQ+ readers has improved over the past little while?
Arizona: I think it has boomed massively. I think there is so much more out there this year than there was last year. I think more and more authors are feeling comfortable introducing LGBTQ characters in their books, not necessarily always as main characters, but also as really important side characters. I think we’re also seeing here in general media outside of books a lot more, which I think is really exciting because those two kinda feed each other. What you see is what you read and what you read is what you start seeing. So, I think there’s been a massive, massive influx of it. Yeah.
Rachel: And as somebody who, like you’ve mentioned, writes primarily books with LGBTQ+ characters, do you run into any difficulties marketing your books?
Arizona: In the past a bit more because I wasn’t completely always sure how to word it. For me, I’ve always found that’s a really hard balance to strike. I want to be able to tell LGBTQ readers and people who like these kind of romances that, “Hey, my book is in fact LGBTQ.” But I also don’t want to make my marketing too much about it so that people who aren’t LGBTQ+ readers aren’t going like, “Oh, this isn’t really aimed at me,” because it is. My books are for anyone who wants an adventure and anyone who wants a good romance. It doesn’t have to be for someone that always relates to it on a personal level. I have actually a lot of readers who just think it’s nice and sweet to see it. They don’t necessarily want to live it themselves, but I mean that’s the point of fiction, I think. So, yeah, I’m always trying to strike that balance between making it clear enough but not waving too many rainbow flags that I’m putting people off who think it’s just LGBT+ content.
Rachel: No. And I imagine that’s a very hard balance to strike.
Arizona: Yeah, I’m still working on it.
Rachel: And I’m gonna ask you, I don’t know if esoteric is the right word, but I’m gonna ask you like a very broad question. There’s always a lot of talk about, like, positive representation for LGBTQ+ readers and LGBTQ+ characters. What does that mean to you? And I know that is a very broad question, but when it comes to the idea of positive representation.
Arizona: I think for me positive representation means authentic representation. It means hearing from more than just one voice. It means hearing from all kinds of people because everyone has their own experiences. Some people have really hard experiences with coming out, some people have no problem coming out. Some people really struggle with being LGBTQ, and other people don’t at all. So, I think the positive representation is showing all the colors of the rainbow to say it really dumbly, but, like, to show off that everyone has their own experience, and the more people are writing it, the less we fall into a stereotype of, “Oh, I know this one sapphic character in this book or this one show and this is how they act, therefore everyone has to act like it.”
So, yeah, I think everyone who’s being able to bring authentic experiences to the table is just adding to a positive overall. And I think the more it comes in as well, the more people just get used to seeing it in a casual way. Like, I don’t feel the need to shove it in people’s faces. It doesn’t have to be a front and center thing for me. I just would like if someone says, “Oh yeah, I am in love with a woman or I’m in love with a man and it’s the same sex,” that people are, “Cool,” and that’s that. Like, it doesn’t have to be a spectacle. I just would love it to be an integrated thing in life.
Rachel: I love that. That was such a good answer for me putting you on the spot like that. Thank you.
Arizona: Thank you.
Rachel: And just I have to ask, because we’re talking about representation, do you have any favorite reads in the queer literature genre?
Arizona: That’s hard to say. Like I said, I find it really hard to find a lot of books. I do have a couple of authors that I think are doing a good job, if that’s okay as well.
Rachel: Absolutely. Any recommendations. We love them.
Arizona: Well, I’ve got a friend called Elsie Morson [SP]. She does actually quite a similar thing to me. She’s writing, like, the urban fantasy…kind of mostly urban fantasy with queer characters, which I really like. There’s someone I know called Erzabet Bishop, she has “Sigil Fire,” and that’s a sapphic book as well that I would recommend. And then I have a new someone that I’m recently getting to know who describes his book as hella gay and his name is C. Thomas Lafayette. So, they are a couple of people that I can recommend if you’re, like, looking into this atmosphere for both fantasy but also queer characters.
And the last person to recommend would obviously be Laura Greenwood, who full disclosure is my partner, but I think she does a really, really fantastic job at what I would call low-key casual representation. She mostly has, like, bi and pan characters who sometimes or more often than not are in regular M/F romances but the characters themselves are still queer, and I think that is an underrepresented niche as well.
Rachel: I agree. And I think that more marketing needs to just be hella gay.
Laura: Yeah, I love that description too.
Arizona: Yeah, we all loved it. We were like, “Yeah, that’s good.”
Laura: Thanks for sharing those recommendations. We’ll make sure we link to them in the show notes as well.
Arizona: Awesome. They are all widely available and on Kobo, so I didn’t pick random people. I thought like, “Who can I really, really recommend here?”
Laura: We appreciate the thought behind that. While you’re talking about wide, I wanted to ask you why being wide is an important part of your publishing strategy? What drives that?
Arizona: For me, partially it is having the access to all these retailers in so many different countries. And for me a big part of it is actually being able to be in libraries because that is where I used to do a lot of my reading as a teen. I think especially when you don’t have a lot of money, that is a really, really great place to find books and I wouldn’t want someone to not be able to read my books because they don’t have any money because I think it’s just as important for them to have access to these kind of books, like the books that I’m writing. So, therefore, being wide allows me to be in libraries.
Laura: I think that’s such a good point that people forget when you talk about going wide, but libraries are such a great way for people to access your books through overdrive. So, that’s a great point. As someone who grew up, like, living in the library, I think that’s really great for younger people to have access to all of your books.
Arizona: Yeah, me too. I used to go, like, daily to the library and there was, like, a seven-book limit. So, I’d bring my seven books home and I’d read them all and I’d go back the next day for my next seven books. So, yeah, I used to just be a customer at the library as well, and I would love if that can be possible for other young adults as well that they can find my books in the libraries and places that I wasn’t able to yet.
Laura: Yeah, especially for young adults where they’re at, like, such a pivotal point in their life where books really can mean so much, especially finding someone or an author that, like, really represents a struggle that you’re going through, that’s a really big part of it as well. I also wanted to talk to you a little bit about manga and anime because we’ve read that you like that as well. So, can you tell us a little bit about how you got into that world? Do you think it inspires your writing at all?
Arizona: Ooh, that’s a good question. I do think, and don’t quote me on this, but I do think a lot of trends from anime and manga end up coming to the West. They often get adapted because as much as I love manga and anime, their romance can be a bit toxic. They end up often really convoluted storylines and I don’t watch them usually for the romance, but I think the mangas and animes that always have really drawn me are the ones that are, like, with a fantasy element, regular people falling into a fantasy world. And I think just a bit like writing in an anime, the creator has full control over what they are putting right in front of the consumer. What you see is exactly what they want you to see, and I think the same is true with writing. What you read on the page is exactly like it’s being put there all on purpose. Even if it’s subconsciously, it’s all put there, and you can do whatever you want with it. You can ask your manga characters to do ridiculous, outrageous things that you just can’t ask of an actor because there is, yeah, I think there’s just a lot of freedom and that’s always really inspired me.
Rachel: Do you have any recommendations for people who have not ventured into the world of both manga and anime? Because they are huge worlds and wildly intimidating.
Arizona: They are. For manga, one series that stands out to me and now I can’t remember the name but it’s a series funnily enough about the Buddha’s life, but I can’t remember who wrote it. But they are beautifully illustrated and they’re really beautiful and gentle, but I’ll have to think or see if I can find the name for that series. And for anime, one that has really always stood out to me is “Psycho-Pass.” I don’t know if any of you is familiar with that.
It’s not quite fantasy but it’s a dystopian futuristic world where emotions are seen as unstable things that you have to control. And it’s a very psychological series where people kinda get scanned to measure how out of control are you, like how are your emotions at the moment and if they think you’re about to commit a crime then off to jail you go already, like you get the punishment before the crime, and the main character then kind of tries to figure out how moral is this, how human is this, how can we keep going in a society like this? And I think because there’re so many psychological human things about it, that’s always something that I’ve really, really loved because I like to think about those things myself.
Rachel: That sounds really cool. What was it called again? I’m just gonna quickly look this up.
Rachel: “Psycho-Pass.” Okay. I am gonna look into this. Because sometimes, like, I have a lot of friends who are very much into the world of manga and anime, and they’ll recommend a series and then it’s like 800 episodes long. Is this one of those just so I know what I’m getting myself into?
Arizona: It’s not 800, it’s not “Naruto.” I think it’ll be like maybe 50 or 80 or something, I think.
Rachel: It’s so reasonable. I have friends watching “One Piece.”
Arizona: Perfect to like…yeah, you can binge it in like a few days if you ignore everything else in life.
Rachel: To my boss who is probably listening to this, I won’t, I promise. Now, just to kinda take, like, another turn back into your writing process, you have co-written several series both with other authors but now as you have revealed, also your partner, and I am so curious about how this process has been for you and how these collabs have kind of come about.
Arizona: The first one of them started very much on a whim. Both my co-authors… Well, one of my co-author is a really good friend. My other co-author is my partner, but when we started writing we were also just friends. And we used to do a lot of chatting about our books, about ideas and we ended up sparking an idea, we go, “How cool would it be to write this? And then you could write this part and I’ll write this part.” And they just kinda, yeah, sparked from just talking to them. They ended up working out really well luckily for me because I’m still friends with both of them. So, I would say as co-workers goes, that’s a win.
But I really, really enjoy co-writing. I wouldn’t be able to do it only. I wouldn’t be able to do sole co-writes and not do my individual stuff. But I think it’s a great way to get familiar with someone else’s process really intimately, something that you can’t really do even just through writing or even through just talking with this person. Even with Laura who I’ve obviously got a really front seat to her creation process, it isn’t until we are co-writing that I can sometimes really understand how she manages to do things, how she manages to set up scenes and have the flow or build characters. So, for me it’s a really enriching experience where I get to very directly benefit from my co-authors’ experiences and kind of borrow some things, test them out, and then see if I can take them back to my own writing afterwards.
Rachel: I really like that. And I have two follow-ups. One, have you and Laura considered writing a friends, to co-authors, to partners romance?
Laura: I was just wondering the same thing because I love that, like, you guys started writing together and then ended up together. That’s kind of every book lover’s dream.
Arizona: It’s not on our list, but I will put it on the list. We shall think about it. People do find that really cute. I would say that, yeah, we were really good friends and then when we started co-writing, which ended up being a romantic paranormal romance series, they did sometimes feel a bit like love lessons to each other. So, yeah, that’s that.
Rachel: I cannot wait to read this book that I will be bothering you to write until it happens. And my other follow-up question.
Arizona: I will inform Laura.
Rachel: Thank you so much. Do you have any advice for anybody who wants to co-write with a friend? Any dos and don’ts that they should be aware of?
Arizona: Ooh, how much time do you have? I have a lot of opinions on co-writing. I would say if you’re going to consider co-writing, the first thing you’d consider is if it actually is right for yourself. If you are capable of giving this creative process out of your own hands. And generally, fairly, equally work with someone because you’re creating something together. It’s not like a ghost writer kind of author that just kinda does what you want and then you have final say on it. In a co-author partnership usually, it really is 50-50. So, you have to ask yourself, is that something that you’re genuinely capable of and is the person that you’re considering someone you genuinely trust?
I think friends can make wonderful co-authors and like I said, I’m really lucky with mine. But I would always say to people if they consider co-writing with friends, sometimes our friends aren’t always people that we completely agree with on certain aspects like politically, or morally, or religiously. You know, they’re good friends and you love them, but those kind of issues can come up when you’re co-writing. You can discover that you have non-negotiables that they don’t share and the opposite way around as well. So, those are good things to discuss with this friend.
Like for instance, with Laura she likes to write really healthy relationships. For me, I like to write queer content or have that representation, and I wouldn’t want to write with someone who isn’t comfortable with that or who isn’t respectful of having those situations or characters around. So, you’re kinda like, yeah, you have to really work this out. You can also wing it and hope that you get lucky. And I have been really lucky, like I say, but I do also know a lot of people who have had more sour experiences where co-writing sometimes ends a friendship as well.
Rachel: Yeah, we have talked to co-writers before and trust is always at the top of the list of things because writing is such a personal experience and I feel like you really need to trust somebody to let them in.
Arizona: Yeah. Like, I don’t wanna equate it to a romantic relationship because obviously it’s not romantic, it just happens to be for one of my co-authors. But I do think it’s good to ask yourself like, would you be in a relationship with this person on practical levels because you’re not just tying yourself to them for the book creation process? Afterwards, when the book is there, the copyright of it, you are tied together for life and 75 years after, so your children will also have to deal with the children of this person. So, yeah, it’s something to think about when you start the process.
Laura: That’s such a good point. You really have to think about it far in the future when you’re making decisions like that, especially because it’s a financial decision as well and you’re kind of trusting that person in that way. While we’re stealing advice from you, do you have any advice for, because you’ve written so many of these, writing a longer series and how do you kind of keep the readers interested in the series and continuing to purchase your books?
Arizona: That’s a really good question. I think I like to write about main characters who do a lot of growing during the series. So, I like to start them off somewhere where they’re still relatable, but they’ve got some things to work out. Definitely made this mistake of starting too early and my characters were too unlikeable, and people were like, “Can’t deal with this person for more than one book.” So, I try to find a really good starting point and then I try to think of this person, this main character is carrying the reader through.
If like for in real people, I’m invested in my friends’ life, I’m invested in my family’s life because this person means something to me. So, I try to have the main character form a connection with the reader and then it’s the main character who carries the story through to if it’s a continuous series, and it’s the main character who carries the reader’s interest through because you want to see what happens in their life, you wanna see what happens next, you want to see what happens.
And I think also mistakes are a really, really good way to keep people invested because the mistake involves a solution and then those solutions often have consequences and then before you know it, you’re invested. You’re like, “Well now I need to know what happens after this.” And then I’ve got them.
Rachel: I love that. Keeping people invested through mistakes is great. And we’ve kind of touched on your marketing already, but do you change how you market a book, whether it’s like a later book in a series versus launching a new series?
Arizona: Yeah, for sure. I think in a continuous series I would almost always try to promote that book one because that’s where I want people to start. When I’m writing a series that has standalone books in it, but they are connected like in the universe into setting and perhaps through similar like crossover characters, then it doesn’t matter. Then I treat every book like a book one.
Laura: That’s a great point. I definitely try and tell authors to try and line up a promotion of either the first book in the series or the most recent book that’s just come out, or both, right before a new release because I think it’s a good time to remind people that the series exists before you send out another book into the universe. One of the other things that I wanted to talk to you about was how you keep in touch with your readers, and do you have any memorable reader interactions?
Arizona: I’ve got many. I keep in touch with my readers mostly through my newsletter, which I send out I think three times a month. And I do have like the social media where if someone messages me, I will usually try to reply. But yeah, over the years I’ve had some really lovely interactions. I’ve had readers email me to say that they’ve been waiting their whole life for stories like this with main characters that are represented and that are representing them in a way. And those always really like, they make me really emotional.
I’ve had people just like in in-person events as well who come up to me and who were just so happy that my books included main characters, or people who just really loved the world building that I’ve done. There was a character that I’ve written… Well, it’s not really a character, but it was a really cute animal familiar that a lot of people really loved, so they were really excited to see it. But yeah, in general it’s the ones where they’re just really, really excited to see themselves represented in a way because it makes me feel like I’m doing something right.
Laura: And you’re kind of coming full circle to you not having that representation when you were younger and actually getting to give that to someone. So, that’s so great to be part of.
Arizona: Yeah, I think so as well. I think sometimes it’s like those moments that really remind me that I’m not just writing for myself. Like, I would write if it was just for myself. I would write if nobody was reading it. But to know that there are people who are really, really loving it, that they are benefiting from it, that these books are brightening their day, or just making them feel something just does mean the well to me.
Laura: I also wanted to ask if you have any advice for anyone who’s an aspiring author?
Arizona: I’m not sure if they would like the advice, but my advice would be to write, and then to keep writing, and then to write some more. I think there is so much you can learn, and I know when I wrote my first book, I wanted it to be perfect. I wanted it to be awesome, I wanted it to be that standout breakout book, but I think there’s only so much polishing you can do in your first book. Writing more, publishing more, or not even publishing, but writing more stories allows you to really, really up your skills and then the next project you write is going to be better because of what you’ve learned. And that experience is just something you can’t gain when you’re constantly re-polishing your first book. And that doesn’t mean, you know, write and throw it all away, and it doesn’t matter if it’s good or not. It does matter, obviously. It matters. But the next project is probably going to be better in some way because you have more experience, and especially if you want to make a career as an indie author, you will have to have volume.
Arizona: It is certainly a game about volume. You will have to be able to write quite a lot of books to make it into a living unless you, like, really hit it massively big, then you don’t even have to write more than five books or something. But for most people, you will have to write quite a few books, so therefore, always writing more is I think really, really good advice.
Laura: It is good advice. I think it’s the advice that everyone needs to hear, but that no one wants to hear.
Arizona: Yeah, I think everyone would love if that first book, that first hot book, is the one that gets you all the publicity and the attention. And for some authors it is, that is amazing, but for a lot of us it’s not.
Rachel: And what are you working on now? Like, what can listeners expect next from you?
Arizona: Well, I’m working on a few things to follow my own advice. I’ve got quite a few series open. The next thing I’m… Well, the thing I’m currently working on is actually a multi-author project. It’s again in the “Queens Of Olympus” series. I’m writing a shorter story for it for a free BookFunnel anthology to kinda just spread out and so that everyone can read it if they want, and it’ll be about Pandora.
Then I’ve also got some paranormal romances in the work with my new dragon shifter series and my bear shifter series. So, if you’re, like, into paranormal romance and you like fated mates, I’m working on actually a few projects in that series. And then I’ve got my continuous stuff. I’ve got a series about mythical animals, and I’ve got a series about demons who cook with sin that I’m also working on. There are some more projects, but I’m not gonna list them all because then we’ll be here until tomorrow.
Rachel: So, you’re just like a little bit busy is the vibe I’m getting.
Arizona: Just a little bit.
Rachel: Just a touch.
Arizona: Just a little bit. Yeah, just a touch.
Laura: Story of an indie author’s life.
Arizona: For sure. I think because it’s something that I just love, why wouldn’t I keep myself busy with it? Like, I have so much fun creating, not always so much fun writing. Sometimes during the writing I do ask myself, “What am I doing? I hate this and I hate my life.” But that usually quickly goes away.
Rachel: I feel like that’s normal. I feel like I’d be concerned if you weren’t having those moments.
Arizona: Yeah, it’s a continuous spiral of, “Oh my God, I have the best life in the world. This is fantastic. This is my dream life,” to, “Why do I do this to myself? I really, really hate myself to put myself through this,” to, “This is the best job in my life.”
Rachel: The indie author circle of life.
Rachel: I love it.
Laura: Yeah, exactly.
Arizona: Yeah, for sure.
Rachel: And before we let you go, where can our listeners find you online?
Arizona: Everywhere. I am everywhere. I would always direct people to my website, arizonatape.com because that’s where everything…you can find everything about me, about all my upcoming series. You can find all my social media handles there as well if I’ve put them on correctly. My newsletter is a good place as well. If you don’t really love social media, again, you can find that on my website or you can go to arizonatape.com/subscribe. But yeah, I’m on Facebook, Twitter, everywhere, but best place is through my newsletter.
Rachel: We will include links to especially your newsletter, but also your website and your socials…
Rachel: …in our show notes. Arizona, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today. This was absolutely lovely.
Laura: Yeah, thank you. This was awesome.
Arizona: It was lovely to be here. It was lovely to meet you both.
Laura: Thank you for listening to the “Kobo Writing Life Podcast.” If you’re interested in picking up Arizona’s books, we will include links in our show notes. If you’re enjoying this podcast, please be sure to rate, review, and subscribe. And if you’re looking for more tips on growing your self-publishing business, you can find us at kobowritinglife.com. Be sure to follow us on social media. We are @KoboWritingLife on Facebook and Twitter and @kobo.writing.life on Instagram.
Rachel: This episode was hosted by Laura Granger and Rachel Wharton, with production by Terrence Abrahams. Editing is provided by Kelly Robotham. Our theme music is composed by Tear Jerker. And a huge thanks to Arizona Tape for being our guest today. If you’re ready to start your publishing journey, sign up today at kobo.com/writinglife. Until next time, happy writing.