Writing Lesbian Fiction from the Grave with Paige Braddock

This week, Tara goes all over the map with Paige Braddock. Paige is possibly best known as the creator of  Jane’s World, the first gay-themed comic work to receive online distribution by a national syndicate. Or you might know her by another name: Missouri Vaun. After working at comics for many years, Paige turned to novels to get all the other stories inside of her out, the latest being Chasing Sunset.

Listen to this episode here:

Tara and Paige cover a lot of ground, including how self-publishing and fan fiction have led the way to the lesfic we all know and love of today. If you stay till the end, you’ll even find out how a woman can write lesbian fiction from the grave.

Transcript for Today’s Show

Please note this transcript has not been edited and is automatically generated meaning certain words will be incorrect.

hi I’m Tara and welcome to Les Do Books this week I’m excited because I’m joined today by Paige Braddock she was a cartoonist who’s best known for 20 year running comic strip shanesworld which is also the first LGBTQ strip to receive national online syndication some of you may also know her as the novelist Missouri Bond which is how I first came into contact with her work she has 13 less fit books out with bold strokes books the latest of which is chasing sunset and it’s available everywhere welcome page thank you thanks for having me so you have had a really interesting career but before diving into your career I wanted to actually ask first how did you discover lesbian fiction and what did it mean to you when you did discover it well I I think I was kind of late to the party because I didn’t start reading lesbian fiction until probably 2013 which is not that long ago it started because I as you said I did comics for a lot of years and I had all these graphic novel ideas that I never got a chance to pursue because graphic novels take forever and I was already doing general so I thought so I had to stop my head I was like I wonder if I cuz this was one self-publishing on Amazon was starting to sort of pick up right and I was like I wonder if I could just write this as a prose novel and not draw it but I’ve never done it so I got online I started exploring and I came across some less Vic books one from like Kim Baldwin which was kind of an adventure story which is what I was doing and then I read another Kim Baldwin story and I was like wait a minute these are kind of cool I didn’t really know that those stories existed right and then I discovered Radcliffe’s Provincetown series which has kind of a hero component to it and I was like okay I’m gonna try this so I really got into it because I was trying to find a place for stories that I wanted to tell but didn’t know if they had a place right and then I just sort of discovered this whole world it’s awesome and amazing well that’s pretty cool so like when you were growing up you didn’t like stumble across any of the no I was a little sheltered youth I was raised Southern Baptist so you know evangelical I basically had access to my church library and from the church library as a kid I discovered The Chronicles of Narnia that was my first big book discovery that I fell in love with and but that really sent me in the direction of science fiction I didn’t read all through high school I didn’t really read any other kind of fiction I really liked dune you know that kind of stuff Doc Savage if you know Doc Savage that’s an oldie but goodie no I I had a cousin and he gave me like a whole box of like Doc Savage paperbacks you know he was like this superhero kind of dude but not really a superheroes more like an Indiana Jones kind of character anyway but as you can see you’re not seeing lesbian characters in any stories right no yeah so eventually I was like alright this is boring you know so I started reading I mostly read nonfiction then from then on like once I sort of outgrew non-red and McCaffrey’s dragons Dragon Rider series but beyond that I just sort of got bored with the fictions offerings and so I started reading a lot of nonfiction yeah so I didn’t come back it’s like an all Sun while I wasn’t paying attention there was a lesbian fiction like I mean I think I read in college I read ruby free jungle and her read fry bring tomatoes but beyond that not much hmm a sad really is it but I mean think about it you’re like a little kid in rural Mississippi how are you gonna find it like nobody’s telling you hey there’s just cool lesbian book you could read I totally understand I was not in Mississippi obviously I grew up in small-town southern Ontario she kind of like just across the river from Detroit which a lot of people don’t realize is actually one of Canada’s Bible Belt so I also grew up in a very similar Baptist Church that’s right and it wasn’t until I was pregnant with my oldest daughter that I found out the lesbian romance was a thing at all I mean obviously I knew that like women so they’re women but like as a job where is it like for some books right and I was it like that was revelatory I’m trying to think it was only a couple of years before we would have only been a few years before you found it yeah because you think you know I mean I remember when like Ellen’s series was on TV right and you’re like Annie and suddenly you realize that you’ve never seen yourself in popular culture reflected back at you right that show was so meaningful for so many people because you saw yourself in her sort of representation or whatever and then you’re like oh so this is what it’s like to be straight where everything you see in popular culture reflects back your experience you’re like wow I never that’s like that feels kind of amazing because you always sort of feel this other nests but you don’t know that there’s a place for you right or a place for your stories that’s what life’s lesbian fiction offers that it’s so true I wish I I wish I discovered it sooner I really think that self-publishing and like fan fiction and all that stuff it made the it it paved the way for what we now have is a more mature less vaq publishing world right absolutely I so one of the other sites that I review at a smart bitches trashy book since Sarah Wendell who runs that also has a podcast that goes with it she’s asking what were the best books that I read last year and so I talked about an bannon’s Bebo Brinker series and I was saying how you can River read that oh man it’s so good and it’s available in eBook you can get the omnibus for like $20 on Amazon and get all five bucks oh wow I’m in well okay the fifth book is a really really really rough ride like a really life ride oh yeah there’s like domestic violence and alcoholism corrective rail comes up a dog gets murdered oh no no no I don’t know if I can handle it you don’t you don’t even have to read that one even if you only read odd girl out and then read the book called bebo bring her it doesn’t there’s no kind of connection between the two there’s no overlap in the character okay but they’re both wonderful and you will not need a cuddle when you suggest okay that’s good to know thanks for the heads up yeah no that’s hoof yeah women and I think his women in shadows is that one and like that’s a yeah you gotta be ready you gotta like gird your stuff for that one but it’s still like they’re all they’re so good and I was talking to her about how you can trace the fiction that we’re at now from there because you can see like she directly influenced Katharine V Forrest and among others I’m just gonna pick one example of a through-line she influenced Kathryn V forest who influenced oh my god how many people was curious why in the coming out book even just our lives yeah right like Georgia beers talks about Karen calm anchors remarks about it like a lot of people and then from there yeah I and I believe that if you take that and then if you take Xena fan fiction yeah there you go like you don’t get to where we are today without fan fiction and then this through line of courageous women who were writing when it was illegal to be gay and it’s pretty incredible right so I’d like to talk about Jane’s world now how did that how did that come about well it’s funny you know because mainstream comics bears a strong resemblance to mainstream publishing in that there are very few lesbian cartoonists and I for three years since college had been trying to submit comic strip ideas to syndicates for newspapers because I really wanted to do a comic strip and I’d always get the same kind of stuff from editors that the work I was doing the the characters weren’t gender specific enough you know I mean if you think about every newspaper in the country almost every editor was male and he was you know probably his 50s and he had an idea about what women readers wanted what women were like and that’s what he wanted in a comic and that I just couldn’t write that right I mean I didn’t even that wasn’t my experience I think at the time it was like Cathy and lens on Stan doing for better or worse and I don’t know who else would have been you know back in the day they were there were women like the woman who did Brenda Starr actually wrote under a pen name because there were no women doing Congress I was just that kind of environment right so at some point I was like well screw it I’m just gonna do what I’m gonna do right I was working at a newspaper as an illustrator and so I would go home at night and I would eat like sugary cereal and sitting for the TV and just write and just draw comics that made me laugh and then I just started publishing them online I had a nerdy friend who was an IT guy and he helped me build a website this was 1995 so this is like before anybody had web comics right there yeah when there was no web comic sort of category yeah but in the same way that fan fiction opened up spaces for Less Vic I think web you know these early web comics opened up spaces for all this other storytelling now that that’s in books right stuff you see in books now in comics you would have never seen in 1995 mmm so anyway I just started kind of doing it like I started I think like three days a week and then four days a week and then five days a week and then by the time I moved to California I was doing it daily and then it got the notice of one of the syndicates and they were like you know we’d like to help you spread the love you know put you know this bigger platform you know online syndication you can actually make some money off of it so and then I started collecting it into books though because I realized that in the comic book world there was a lot more space for diversity than there was in the comic strip world those are like two totally different genres kind of mm-hm and so then eventually I don’t know if this is too much background but a middle-aged eight days what sort of transitioned away from a traditional comic strip sort of you know gag a day sort of format to more long-form stories they were just a silly mm-hmm but you know they were longer because I was feeling because I had I could fill up a comic book instead of just worrying about posting every day but that’s that’s how Jane happened and then you know you look up and it’s like dude I’ve been doing it for 20 years I can’t believe it and then I decided at some point I wanted to like do other things like the Missouri Bond stuff and I all these other stories I want to tell and when you’re doing a story every single day it’s in your head all the time those characters are living inside your head and you I had to like let them go to like do other things it was a super hard decision what was that like well I I was like I would really like to do a best-of collection this is why I said to myself a best-of collection for Jane and kind of go out like be able to curate the things that I thought were the best from the 20-year run and do a book and I worked with an editor Andrew Colvin headline Forge help me do that which was great and then I said what’s the one thing how do you end a 20-year strip and I said okay what’s the thing that you couldn’t do 20 years ago that you can do now and it was Jane and Dorothy got married at the end of the strip yeah and it actually got written up in the New York Times so here’s a stirrup that when it started couldn’t get a foothold in mainstream papers who got like the biggest send-off ever because the last strip you know got published in the New York Times I was like okay that just tied you right yeah with little hearts everywhere and what kind of what kind of feedback were you getting about Jane’s room because you were doing something so different well I got a lot of I I had so much positive feedback because people were sort of the same with less effect people were hungry to see themselves represented in comics right and there wasn’t a lot there I mean Alison Bechdel’s doing amazing stuff and there were other people doing you know great work but mine was sort of silly and mine also had a fair like an equal number of straight cast members so it was more like this is what it’s like to be a straight person living I mean a gay person living in a straight world right your whole world isn’t gay you know you have day jobs you have co-workers and so I would also I had a ton of readers who weren’t gay guys especially who would write and say wow this is so amazing to sort of get a glimpse into what this is like or get a glimpse into this world and I had no idea in it’s sort of a safe space for people who were curious but you know maybe felt like they couldn’t read gay comics I don’t know yeah do you do you find you still think about them and what they might be doing oh yeah I actually we had a super hilarious inappropriate visit from an electrician last week and I thought oh my god if I was still doing general this was so be in there I might actually have to draw it it’s like a it would be like a four-part like four or five comic strips to capture what went on with this dude who was mansplaining about being you know about electricity about you know outlets and it was really funny yeah I didn’t think about him all the time do you hope they make special appearances back so I was going to ask you how Missouri Missouri bond came about but I feel like you kind of answered that part already when you said that you were looking to like put other stories out but you actually write across genres too so yeah is that and how and what’s that like for you well it’s funny because I guess because my personal I like science fiction the first few books I did were science fiction and I published your both strokes you know they’re like yeah nobody nobody reads sci-fi those are our audiences so they were encouraging me they’re like you know write what you want to write write what you enjoy I mean those are the best stories right but they said you know at some point you might want to try some contemporary romance because then people will read that and they’ll go back and check out your science fiction stories and I was like oh that’s that’s actually good advice because I mean my science fiction stories are very I would say there’s science fiction the light if you’re looking for extreme world building and stuff and like you know foreign planets and different species you’re not gonna get any of that it’s more dystopian future yeah my stories are more about like where we’re all going to end up you know and we’re still us right yeah I haven’t read ah I think I read I read all things rise I read the time before now I read like two or three books kind of in that series and I haven’t read them any of them and probably five years or more and I still think about your interpretation about how we’re going to be after Big Oil like oh I hope we don’t go back to homesteading so they’re great I definitely like I totally recommend them to people who are listening who haven’t read any of them yet please go read them but yeah like that’s I think about that and I think about Anna Burke’s interpretation of what’s gonna happen to us and compass rose and just like oh no matter what it’s not good we’re just gonna have to adapt I feel like there’s I feel like there’s a path that maybe we just can’t see because we’re too close to it like the book I’m working on right now it’s called the sea within and it also I mean Peak Oil is sort of a back story element it’s really about the state of the oceans you know and what happens to our planet when the biggest engine we have for our survival is the ocean and the ocean begins to die and so it takes some like real world science it’s really fun to do research for these stories but then my characters have actually found a solution so it’s a hopeful story I don’t want to give it away but all right I’ll keep an eye hope for it when it finally comes out is supposed to be on October well that’s good okay there was an article that I read recently from the Atlantic about how mining companies want to mine the ocean floor oh god right no I just need to say no but I know they want because we’re so greedy and selfish and short-sighted it’s really sad it’s like I was telling somebody of the day I feel like I mean I don’t know everything about Canada but I feel like the u.s. is like an adolescent who hasn’t figured out how to be a grown up yet and right maybe they stay up late they use junk food they don’t take responsibility for themselves I mean it just thought like I feel like we’re so embarrassing right now mm-hmm Canada it’s a it’s a province by province thing and unfortunately my province is exactly what you just described yeah so we all have them we all have yes thank you for being an awesome listen and supporting to the channel that brings you all the podcasts you want to hear journalist need to talk find more podcasts on the Lisbon talk show calm so you’ve been so you’ve been like reading in a part of less Vic for about seven years now you were saying how do you think we’re doing now compared to wherever you’re out when you first step in is there anything that has you particularly excited is there anything I just trauma off there but yeah yeah I don’t know I mean I don’t get to read as much as I it was so funny when I first discovered it I was voracious and I was just like reading book after book after book right and I would take a chance on all kind of books just like self-published books you know books from publishers both mainstream and small pressing mm-hmm but then you start writing but you sort of see okay this is the breadth of what I can write right this is like there’s almost no story you can’t tell and then you sort of figure out the kind of stories you like best usually mine or have a hero component to them even if it’s small town hero but just somebody who steps outside themselves and does something for the greater good like that inspires me so those are the kind of stories I want to write but when you’re writing actively you it’s really hard for me to read other people’s stuff because I don’t want to accidentally ingest that and then have it come out like you know what I mean like you don’t it’s like you’re taking all this stuff in you’ve already got your own characters living in there and so I unfortunately have a million books queued up on my Kindle I’m not reading right this minute but um but yeah I started doing in spurts I read a lot and then I take a break and then I read and I take a break and so for this book that I’m writing I was needed to read a bunch of nonfiction stuff so just for research mm-hmm do you feel we talked we talked we talked a little bit about this before we started recording about how like less fake seems to be starting to to meet up with mainstream publishing yeah it’s definitely feels like it’s gaining traction right and I think maybe that’s because not just in book form but in you know movies in series on Netflix and Amazon like those stories are more diverse – right it’s all starting to sort of cross pollinate because when you get rid of some of the barriers that mainstream publishing and like linear broadcasting had it makes it opens things up for all this different storytelling it’s pretty exciting yes it’s almost there’s almost too much content though that’s that’s the problem I run into right now there’s almost too much yes it’s true there’s so much like we’re we’re blessed with choice right now yeah like when you go to Netflix it doesn’t curate anything for you right you have to look for stuff you have to know it’s there it’s just all there right so yeah a little bit hard to navigate sometimes so do you find you have to work a little harder to to make your book stand out and have audiences with so much choice there or desert yeah probably I mean probably and I’m lately have been doing sort of a terrible job on social media I have somebody I work with on social media just because I have a day job that’s pretty taxing and so I can’t like do everything and so I work with somebody selena de leon she’s out of Philadelphia she helps with a lot of my book promotion and stuff like like we’ll start working together a month or two before a book comes out and she helps me promote it and she’s really good at making connections with people with you know influencers I guess you would call it and sort of connecting with other publishers and other authors and most readers yeah yeah she’s really super smart I’ve learned a ton of stuff from working with her I highly recommend her if anybody needs any help on social media yeah her wife’s an editor she comes from a book background you know oh cool mark yeah really smart see you done comics and novels you self-published and you work with publishers are there any other types of media that you want to conquer well it’s funny so I had a kid series come out a few years ago called stinky Cecil that was for young readers and I had toyed with the idea of maybe trying to see what that would be like an animation but I feel like it might just be one thing too many I don’t think I can deal with I don’t think I could deal with it they sort of lend themselves to sort of cheap and cheerful animation you see on YouTube those characters do so it would have been kind of fun to see that play out but I haven’t really pursued that yeah I think we were talking before you start recording and I when I woke up this morning I was I was thinking about the podcast and I was thinking wow I really want to stop and really think about it I have like almost tried out every avenue right like you said self-publishing indie publishers midsize publishers and I just started working with penguin Random House on a new kids trilogy that hopefully can start showing stuff showing samples of it in February it’s been kind of on lockdown for a year but and that’s been a different experience too and the thing I was thinking about about all those different all those different experiences it’s really about the people you work with almost more than the publisher right in every case I’ve had I just worked with some really great editors like Andrea Colvin helped worked with me on the stinky Cecil and then later on the James Rowe book and then my ball strokes editor is Cindy kress up she’s I feel like I’ve gotten almost a grad school degree and creative working with her as an editor I’ve learned so much because the storytelling for a prose novel is completely different from a comic mm-hmm and a comic everybody gets a point of view and the entire story is sort of driven forward through dialogue and you know action that you’re drawing and prose you know you have to pick your point of view you have to be very judicious and then you have to figure how to tell your whole story from that point of view it’s it’s a totally different no no it’s just a different art form and then my editor in this new series Sheila Kenan is she’s great so I mean I really think it’s you know the editor and the team you work with regardless of sort of publishing sighs I don’t know I’ll let you know how it goes with the big publisher this is my first time yeah yeah okay so my next question I’m asking as a mom not as the host of Les Deux yeah because I have two young kids who one is 8 and the other one is turning five next month when is this new kids series coming out so they are my demographic for this book it’s a younger readers book so 5 to 8 year olds and it’s called peanut butter and crackers it’s about two dogs and a cat and yeah it’s gonna be out in October and there’s a trilogy so I mean the great thing about this bigger publisher I think it’s a it’s an imprint of pinger Random House with Viking so I think it’s actually technically a Viking book but they haven’t queued up to come out with you know within six months of each other which is great so basically he front load all the all the time doing all the books now and then they will come out one right after the other which is what you want with kids because you don’t want to lose your right you capture kid you wanted them to be able to get the next book within six months you know yeah so yes there so the first ones out in October and then spring in summer after that or the next – oh that’s great okay well I know some kids that are gonna be reading these so the last thing I want to ask is you mentioned you have a bunch of books ready for you on your Kindle what are you excited to read next well I know I was like I was thinking of myself always get this like I described his book blindness cuz I somebody asked me what are you reading it was like and I can’t remember anything nothing yeah you know what’s funny is since I came to the party late I keep going back and reading books that are recommended – so like I only recently read backwards – Oregon which was written by Jay that’s a good one that’s a really good one right and luckily I didn’t want to read it while I was writing crossing the white forever because there’s a similar kind of premise not not at all we did not we not all wrote the same story but it’s you know there’s a kinship there so want to read it that was a great book and then I read casting Lacey by L Spencer and she’s now now she’s with both strokes which is fun and um let’s see what else did I write down on my list of oh I have a bunch of I have a couple of books by ear and Zack cued up beautiful accidents and falling into her have you read those so I haven’t read beautiful accidents I did read falling into her actually I listened to that one if you know they’ve audiobooks the audio for that one is fabulous and in alright I’m going to make a note of that cuz then I might actually get to I might actually get to read it sooner if I can listen to to it right oh yeah listen to it yeah the the big crisis seemed that acting and the big crisis scene is fantastic oh that’s great yeah I’m I’m good friends with VK Powell and Ali Valley and I have two of their new books cued up to read which I haven’t got to read it yet which is so sad BK’s book incognito and Ali’s new book is called the inheritance which people have been saying is really good but I haven’t gotten to read that one yet either oh yeah this you might like this book which is not less Vic but related because it’s about women have you read ornament and silence know essays on women’s lives from Edith Wharton to Germaine Greer it’s by Kennedy Fraser that’s a book I’m currently reading because you can just pick it up and read a little at a time ornament and silenced yeah it’s about women through history very good very good thank you for that tip I just typed it into my browser so I can come back to it later I’m gonna see if my library has it I got a Kobo for Christmas so I can start taking books out of the library oh good very exciting that’s really good yeah so that’s my that’s my short list on my Kindle I guess not as long as I thought it was but um I know that I’m missing some good books cuz I keep I you know I tend to read reviews on on your guys on the lesbian review site and then I like make myself oh I gotta go read that read that you know it’s yeah it’s a risk of falling yeah like the book two degrees I really want to read that one I haven’t read that one yet but it’s similar probably to what I’m writing now so I didn’t want to read it while I was writing this story cuz it’s about you know the warming planet and stuff I think I did read a sample of that and I think she’s coming out from a different angle and yeah you know it’s not about the ocean but because I live on the Pacific coast I think about the sea a lot uh-huh did you read thorn by Anna Burke no I’ll write that down too she it’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast ah but it’s quite dark in a really kind of harsh setting and just oh oh it’s so beautifully done that was my favorite book last year hands – oh it sounds like that sounds like I would like it to be quite honest I’ve realized as I’ve read more and more books that I guess what would be considered the traditional contemporary romance like is not necessarily my go-to like I like something that’s a little bit different like what you’re talking about like a retelling of you envious would be interesting or like an extreme context for a romance you know like I don’t know foreign locales you know yeah okay I have one more recommendation for you I cannot remember the author’s names it’s two authors but it’s called this is how you lose the time war because though are a sci-fi fan it is a it’s a lesbian spy versus spy epistolary novel that takes place in the future there are two factions that are kind of jumping across time to try to get to the kind of ends that they want to have and one spy from each side they start corresponding and leaving letters on each other oh that sounds cool it’s really really cleverly written because we also see the context in which they receive each letter and we get to see what they tell each other versus what they don’t and that sounds like a really smart book yes so my the book I’m working on out and see within there is actually a time travel element to it because it didn’t start out to be that way but if you think about sort of the so so part of the problem with climate change right is that it’s too big you sort of can’t get your head around it right but if you look at you look at it in the context of geological time it starts to make sense it’s like almost the only way to understand it and so one of the characters in this book is a paleobotanist and she discovers that the solutions for the future in the past Oh and so yeah that’s the premise of the book to see within yeah okay so there’s a time travel element to it so I’m love that this is how you lose the time but I have to read it after I do mine yes page where can people find you online if they want to connect with you if they just type in page braddock they’ll get all my comic stuff and and I’m in the process of sort of separating the kid lit from the James World stuff because the kidlets stuffs for really young readers and I want to keep those universes separate so you could type in sticky seats still calm and get the kid lit site or you can just type in page Braddock and that’ll give you a links over or for the Missouri Vaughn stuff just Missouri bond comm and Vaughn is spelled VA UN which is a little bit different and can I just say that if you if people don’t know this and it sounds like a made-up name I like to share that that was actually my great grandmother’s name so Missouri Vaughn is writing lesbian fiction from the grave and doesn’t know it oddly I have her typewriter which is from you know the early 1900’s or whatever in my house so she’s kind of all fitting it’s weird I have her her glasses or a little eyeglasses and it’s got wrote her name in the top of the glass case and I have a typewriter and now I’m using her name as a pen name it’s kind of a cool thing I love it that is all for this episode thank you so much for joining me thank you for having me I’m Tara and you’ve been listening to Les Deux books you can email me at Tara at the lesbian recom with your questions or comments if you’re an author who’s interested in joining me on the show to talk about the last week you love are the trends that have you interested please let me know if you’ve enjoyed this episode please check out the show notes where you’ll find a patreon link for tilt or visit patreon.com slash the lesbian talk show where patrons get exclusive content with bonus podcasts that no one else gets access to to find this and many other great shows all you need to do is search for tilt spelled TLT on iTunes