café wednesday: frances gonzalez

It is sometimes said that every person has at least one book in them, but until we learn to read in the dark, that book inside them is absolutely useless. This series of posts is about the authors who’ve transcribed those words out on to a screen for our reading pleasure.

Last week we had a chat with Isa, author of Split-Self and supreme overlord of the website fluffy-seme.

This week it’s the turn of Frances Gonzalez, author of not one but two serials: The Lighthouse Chronicles and Tales of Pneuma (read my review).

Tea? Yes. Cookies? Yes. It’s interview time!


AMH: You have two stories online: The Lighthouse Chronicles and Tales of Pneuma. I know it’s like asking a mother to pick one of her children, but do you have a favourite out of the two?

FG: I love Tales of Pneuma for the storytelling freedom and the creative muscle I get to exercise, but Lighthouse has an easygoing touch that stresses me out a lot less. Lighthouse helped me relearn to write after I’d given it up for a time; Tales of Pneuma is a challenge to improve my writing. Tales also taps into a wider audience, so it’s planned to (hopefully) be a much different project than Lighthouse‘s traditional 3 book structure. That’s as much as I’m willing to admit, favorite-wise!

AMH: Fair enough! So tell me a little more about Lighthouse. You say it helped you relearn how to write: how so?

FG: I studied writing and worked in television for a short time; those are two settings where my creative output became a bit tortured. Writing became less fun and more nerve-wrecking; I wanted to be successful so badly I stopped writing things I believed in and started trying to write what other people might want. Eventually I stopped writing altogether.

Lighthouse is written in the vein of the stories I read when I was growing up, the stories that made me love books and want to write in the first place. It reminded me that I started writing because it was a joy, rather than as a gauge of worth. More pragmatically: my skills deteriorated pathetically after I stopped writing, so having weekly Lighthouse deadlines (and now monthly Pneuma deadlines) forced me to improve when I might otherwise have given up. You can see bits of that shakiness in the first book, I think.

AMH: What about Pneuma? The style is quite different to that of Lighthouse: while there is an overarching plot in Pneuma, the stories are also self-contained. Why did you choose to write it this way?

FG: Most of my writing experience is in the short story format, it’s what I feel most comfortable writing. Keeping each story episodic in Pneuma allows me to explore different points of view and different stories without sacrificing the drama of escalating events. This way I can’t get bored or overwhelmed, and the readers can jump in wherever they like.

AMH: Running two ongoing stories simultaneously must be quite difficult to juggle. How do you manage your time? Any tips to share?

FG: I’m always working on a story, though not necessarily writing one. I’ll be working out details in my head while I’m doing menial things like laundry. When I do write I don’t necessarily stop when I’ve completed the next update, I just stop when I’m out of steam. The tip: Don’t force yourself to write if you’re stuck. Take a break, a day or two away from it, and you’ll likely work out what you were struggling with. You waste less time/effort taking a break than you would sitting at your computer, getting frustrated trying to force the words.

AMH: Time for a reader-submitted question. Janoda asks: “Have you ever taken revenge on someone by basing a character on them and making horrible stuff happen to them?”

FG: My characters and stories are sometimes inspired by real people, usually people I like or know well. It never lasts; the characters turn into different people entirely by the end of the first draft. They change partly for the story’s sake and partly because writing too much with real people in mind creeps me out. Liam Wheelwright definitely is a mishmash of people I know, more so than other characters, but nothing is done with any malicious intent or a sense of settling a real-life score. Not judging anyone who has done that, it’s just not for me.

AMH: On to your website itself. You’ve started posting in depth webfiction reviews on your own website. Why did you make this choice, instead of using an already existing directory?

FG: I don’t work for or am affiliated with any directory, though I may be listed on them. I crosspost my reviews to existing directories, but writing them on my own site lets me write reviews in my own way, without worrying about meeting other people’s rating criteria. It’s a mental thing. I’m not knocking other directories, I enjoy your reviews on the Web Fiction Guide in particular, I just like the independence of it.

AMH: Thanks! I’m glad you like them. I also noticed on your website that you’ve made both your stories available for download via Smashwords. Would you recommend that other authors follow in your footsteps?

FG: I actually got the idea from Naomi Kramer, author of Deadish, among many other things. She recommended Smashwords to me, a very intuitive ebook-creation site. People asked specifically for downloadable copies that they could keep rather than something they can only read online, and the more options readers have the better.

I’m not swimming in a bank vault of cash a la Scrooge McDuck, but the revenue from downloads helps to keep both sites afloat. (Very subtle hint, eh.)

AMH: Last question: what do you love most about being a webfiction author?

FG: There’s a great sense of community in webfiction, a community with a lot of encouragement, generosity and ambition. Writing can be such a solitary thing, but everyone looks out for each other and helps out when they can. That’s the power of the internet!

AMH: That’s it from me. Anything else you’d like to say?

FG: Thanks for asking me to be a part of your interview series, it was fun and I got to pretend I was important! For anyone reading this, feel free to check out my work or drop me a line just to say hi — I’m a fan of How I Met Your Mother, puns, penguins, and long walks on the beach.


You’ve got this far. Why don’t you check out The Lighthouse Chronicles and Tales of Pneuma, and follow Frances on twitter?

And if you’d like to ask Frances a question, just leave a comment.

Don’t forget to come back next Wednesday for another interview!


About A.M. Harte

A.M. Harte writes twisted speculative fiction, such as the post-apocalyptic Above Ground and the zombie love anthology Hungry For You. She is excellent at missing deadlines, has long forgotten what ‘free time’ means, and is utterly addicted to chocolate.
This entry was posted in Author Interviews, Webfiction and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to café wednesday: frances gonzalez

  1. Sora says:

    Cool interview.

    Frances: I was wondering where did you get the ideas for both of your stories? What sorts of things do you do when inspiration doesn’t strike you right away?

    • Frances says:

      This is going to sound crazy, but both serials were spawned from dreams. I have crazy dreams, in color and recurring, and these two stuck out enough to make me sit down and outline how this could work. The first was of a girl searching for a stone, the second was the interior of the Pneuma Chocolatier Shop. The description of the shop in the story is exactly the shop in my dream.

      I get a lot of influence from television, films and other books. When inspiration doesn’t strike… I panic. :) Music helps, as does reading books outside of my purview — like medical texts or math theorems. I hate math, so it forces my brain to come up with something — anything! — just to get away from it. That’s my theory anyway. :)

      • My serial was triggered by a dream, too! As are most of my stories.

        I have bizarre dreams, too; there was one where I was using a mirror to convince this Frankensteinian monster that I was its conscience, so that I could then tell it which direction to go so that it wouldn’t find and hurt other people.

        I find a good source of inspiration for me is travelling, especially on public transport. You have nothing to do, waiting around, and the boredom ultimately converts itself to creativity.

        Films & other books work, too.

      • Sora says:

        That’s cool. For years I was struggling with writing a coherent plot, but then I went to go see Pirates of the Caribbean 3 and had that ah-ha!moment and figured out the plot for all 3 books.

        I don’t really remember my dreams too much because they always get interrupted somehow and I forget.

        I’m going to try that math theorems thing. I really like your tip about not forcing yourself to write. Every time I do that, I end up deleting what I wrote.

        • Frances says:

          Whenever I force myself to write it comes out horrible and I end up deleting it anyway. It ends up being a waste of time, and then I’m mad at myself to boot.

  2. Miladysa says:

    Great interview – well done :)

    Spooky about the dreams… me too! *gulp*

  3. Great interview.

    Frances, what’s the hardest thing you’ve found about being a webfiction author?

  4. Frances says:

    The lack of respect for the medium is a hurdle all webfiction authors have to challenge and overcome. Most people equate webfiction with fanfiction, and while a lot of authors have their roots in fanfic, the innovations in webfiction are original. I think this can only be overcome by creating excellent work that is judged by a rigorous standard, similar to dead tree works.

    Promotion is also a rough deal…. the internet is a big place, and sometimes I think I spend more time trying to gain traffic than I do actually writing. It gets very frustrating.

    • Sora says:

      How do you promote your story and where?

      • Frances says:

        Twitter, Facebook, every directory I can find… I’m starting to run out of ideas. What about you?

        • Do you use Project Wonderful?

          • Frances says:

            Project Wonderful is good stuff, but a bit of a moneysink for inconsistent results… I have adboxes on Lighthouse but not on Pneuma yet.

            • I’ve had a good experience with PW so far.. my only problem is I can’t put ad boxes on my own site as it’s wordpress hosted and I’m not tech-savvy enough to know how to download/install it. :(

        • Sora says:

          Same here. I haven’t tried to use facebook yet since I don’t have anything posted.

          I used project wonderful several times, but it really only works if you can get ads on your site to make for the amount paid to put ads on other sites.

          • Or is someone donates money. :) That’s happened to me! And I’ve found PW to be pretty consistent in giving me hits, too, but then I do research my sites carefully and immediately remove the bid if it’s not working.

            Also, changing your ads (the art, not necessarily the website) works well too.

            • Sora says:

              When I first started, I went a little crazy and paid money just to see page views. People would read, but there would never be enough posted for people to want to give money.

              How do you get people to donate money? lol.

              • Wish I knew! It’s only been 3 people so far – 2 quite significant, 1 pretty measly (not that I’m complaining!). I end up spending it quickly on hosting etc. so I don’t see it for long!

    • This is bizarre: I just had a dream where someone called Above Ground a work of fanfiction, and then I had a rant at them saying, “a fanfiction of what?!”

      • Frances says:

        Exactly! It’s like this fear of legitimacy, I guess.

      • Sora says:

        I don’t think people realize that most of the stuff you read online is sometimes better than the stuff you can get in stores. I guess there is so much badly written stuff out there that it’s hard to find the hidden gems. People seem to assume that if it’s in a bookstore, it must be good.

        I feel your fears, Frances.

        • Frances says:

          Bookstores are easier to navigate as well…. want fantasy? Go, physically, to the fantasy section. Webfiction needs a bit of web-savvy that some people just don’t have.

  5. Pingback: An Interview with Me, by A.M. Harte | Tales of Pneuma

  6. Pingback: café wednesday: end of year round-up « quillsandzebras

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