Chris Paynter

I became acquainted with Chris Paynter when she acted as moderator for my spotlight interview on the Virtual Living Room. For anyone who doesn’t know, the VLR is a Yahoo group that features different authors or different genre themed weekends. Anyway, because she did such a great job there I thought it would be fun to continue our discussion here on my website. Welcome, Chris!

I like to start off with some easy questions first.

AJ: Hot dogs or hamburgers?

Oh definitely hamburgers. A hamburger sandwich is a comfort food for me and is second only to peanut butter and jelly as my favorite sandwich. ☺

AJ:  Would you rather own a private jet or a private island?

Hmm… can I have a tie? LOL. A private jet so I could fly to my private island? I really am not a flyer these days. If I have to, of course I’ll do it. It’s not the fear of flying, but rather everything that goes into it. There’s the stricter security, which, believe me, I understand completely. And then there are the connecting flights that I absolutely hate. Plus, there’s the limited room on a plane. Okay, if I have to choose between the two, I’d say own a private jet. That way, I’d have plenty of room to get up and walk around, Phyllis would enjoy it, and we could go wherever we damn well pleased. 

AJ: Would you rather be on vacation in the mountains or by the beach?

Definitely the mountains, preferably in Colorado. I based And a Time to Dance in a place that’s like paradise—Grand Lake Colorado. Grand Lake is at the western entrance to the Rocky Mountain National Park. Gorgeous. Thundershowers each day, followed by a rainbow that dips down into Grand Lake from the clouds.

AJ: And on to the more meatier questions. Tell me about the books you’ve written. Do you have a favorite?

I’ve released six novels so far. Playing for First was my debut, the first in the series about a woman playing professional baseball. Come Back to Me, my second release, is closest to my heart, I think. I enjoyed continuing the PFF series with Two for the Show. Survived by Her Longtime Companion has been the best received by readers and critics. It was shortlisted for a Lambda Literary Award and won the Ann Bannon Popular Choice Award from the GCLS. I still miss one of the main characters in that book, Eleanor Burnett. I’ve never had a character take over a book like she did. As I said earlier, And a Time to Dance’s locale was in Grand Lake, Colorado, so I enjoyed writing about the Rockies. My latest release is the most personal I’ve written, To Love Free, since it deals with cancer. But it also focuses on hope. So, I guess in answer to your question, I’m not sure there is a favorite. They all are special to me for different reasons. 

AJ: I know! That's a rotten question, isn't it? It's sort of like Sophie's choice. What do you think makes your characters unique or interesting?

I think they’re real, or at least I hope they are to the readers. I write from my heart, and I think it comes out in my writing and in the depth of the characters. I think writing dialogue is one of my biggest strengths and I think because the dialogue “sounds like how people talk,” it brings more depth to the characters.

AJ: What made you want to become a writer?
I’ve always enjoyed reading, so I think it started there. Then I had teachers who read to us in classes. I think that helped spark my imagination. I’ve been writing since I was in third grade. I also worked as a reporter after obtaining a journalism degree. Like most authors, I can say “it’s in my blood.”

AJ: In the ‘old’ days, I remember waiting for Naiad to release the few books they were able to put out every month and reading them whether they were my taste or not, just because they were stories about lesbians. Today, as readers, we are blessed to have so many choices. However, as authors, it makes it more difficult to get our work found or recognized. 

What have you found is the most effective way to reach readers and to market your work?

It is much harder than it was when I started out in 2009. I think the most effective way is to keep them up-to-date on what you’re doing, how your writing is coming along, when you anticipate the release date. If you have an author page, check in there as much as you can. I was on a marketing panel at the Dallas GCLS Con. We talked about the fine line between “too much” and “just enough.” More than anything, I try to be myself with all the readers. I love talking to them, talking about what books they like. It’s not forced at all.

AJ: I love hearing from my readers, too. I love when they tell me what the book meant to them and how it affected them. Where do you get your ideas for your books?

They come to me at different times. It could be a song, like And a Time to Dance which I loosely based on Bob Seger’s “Roll Me Away.” Survived by Her Longtime Companion came out of a discussion with Phyllis about obituaries and how that’s sometimes “code” for a gay or lesbian lover. I thought, “what a great idea for a story!” The idea for To Love Free came to me when Phyllis was in cancer treatment. I started thinking about a dolphin who’d represent hope to a grieving woman and to another woman going through treatment. I think like all authors, story ideas just pop into my head.

AJ: Do you work with an outline, or just write allowing your characters to lead you through the story?

I let the characters lead me. I usually have the opening scene ready to go, then after a few chapters, I can see the ending. Then, the closest I come to outlining is maybe jotting down ideas for scenes. After that, I write from scene to scene, sometimes coming up with more scenes that way. So, like I said, it’s definitely not outlining.

What about you, AJ? Pantser or outliner and why?

AJ: I tend to do a lot of mental planning before anything goes onto paper. Once I know what I want to write about, I figure out how the characters will meet/get together and how I want it to end. Then I make notes about each character (eye color, hair color, etc. as well as any personal traits they have.) After that, it's me, the characters, and my Mac…start to finish. 

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, then his Lord of the Rings Trilogy. My sixth grade English teacher read The Hobbit to us. I still remember sitting there and getting lost in the imagery Tolkien created. That definitely sparked my imagination.

AJ: I started to read the Lord of the Rings Trilogy a week before final exams of my junior year of college. It's amazing I didn't flunk out that year, because I got little if any studying done for the exams.

There was a period of my life when I was younger when I’d reread the trilogy every year.

AJ: I’d love to go back to it again.I promised myself I wouldn't go back to it until I'd read the Harry Potter series.

Speaking of going back, (how's that for a segue?) if you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novels or getting them published that you’d change?

No, I don’t think so. I’m very happy I started out with Blue Feather Books. I learned a lot about writing from my editor, Jane Vollbrecht, and later, Nann Dunne. And I learned about publishing. So, moving on to self-publishing was something I wanted to try.  

What gave you the idea of using a dolphin to bring your characters together in your most recent book To Love Free?

When I envisioned the dolphin, I immediately thought about him having higher intelligence and his “quest.” 

In this case, his quest was bringing Madison hope after years of grieving her wife. He gave hope to Gabrielle to live her life to the fullest after battling cancer. And, yes, I definitely wanted him to be there to bring Madison and Gabrielle together. Besides…I’ve always loved dolphins. ☺

AJ: I loved the beginning of your book where Mo wakes up her mom. It seemed so true to life…I could really see it. Do you have children of your own/is this written from experience?

Well, unless you count Buddy our beagle, no, we don’t have children. But we do have godchildren. I’ve been around the younger ones as they’ve gotten older. I’ve always been good with kids. I’m not sure why, other than I relate to them and talk to them like I’m a kid myself.

AJ: How did you come to relocate to the states from the UK?

My dad was stationed in England in the 60s. Once his tour was up there, we moved back home. I still want to return to see where I was born in Banbury, Oxfordshire. I had fun writing about Eleanor Burnett being from Banbury. When Daphne is in the hospital for pneumonia, I researched it and saw that Horton General Hospital was where she’d go for inpatient care. Later, I happened to be looking at my British birth certificate and noticed that I was born there. That was kind of cool because I didn’t know it as I wrote Survived by Her Longtime Companion.

AJ: My current release, It’s Complicated, and your book, To Love Free, both deal with serious issues. My main character in It's Complicated has a partner who is in the hospital, and your main character has cancer. Were you concerned at all that a romance with such a serious backdrop would not appeal to readers?

Because of Phyllis’s cancer diagnosis, surgery, and treatment, I felt compelled to write To Love Free. I wrote Gabrielle as having the same cancer as Phyllis and undergoing the same treatment, suffering through the same side effects because, obviously, I was familiar with it. I wrote this book for my dad, my aunt, our cousins, and a dear friend of ours—for everyone we lost to cancer. And I wrote it for Phyllis and for me. I didn’t really think about the impact to readers until after the book was released. I struggled with the blurb because, yes, it’s about cancer, but it’s also about hope and survival. About love and moving on in life to love again. I worried readers would see “cancer” and immediately move past it when thinking about which book to purchase and read. But it has sold well and I think word-of-mouth with the reviews has helped, where some of the reviewers have said, “this had many lighthearted moments. I was surprised.” I had a lot of fun with Madison and her interaction and banter with her sister, Cyndra. Cyndra was one of those characters who I hadn’t intended to be such an important part of the book. But she was such a support to Madison, who needed it.

AJ: Yes, I agree with you. The dialogue between the sisters was fun. I also think Mo lightened the story as well. It's Complicated, really isn't a sad story either, despite the topic. There are some very funny scenes and it is, overall, just a love story. Many of my reader's comments mention the humor in it, too.

How about you? Was it a concern for you that you wrote about a woman in a longtime coma? Or did you plug ahead and not worry about what the reader’s reaction might be?

AJ: I didn't think about it. I thought it was an intersting dilemma. Also, I was at the beach when I started the story, so wanted to write something set near the ocean. The story just came to me. I mean, I don't know anyone in this situation specifically, although as I am getting older, the topic of alzheimers and hospitalization of one partner is often a topic of conversation among my friends. It was just one of those stories that almost wrote itself.

One similarity our stories have (To Love Free and It's Complicated) is that neither of them is a sad story. Yes, there might be a tear or two, but the stories are, overall, good love stories and not depressing.

What was your reasoning in choosing the profession of top model for your character?

I’m not sure. Maybe it was subconscious. She’s, as you said, a supermodel and supermodels are beautiful, gorgeous, and almost unattainable. But cancer has a way of making everyone equal. Yes, she’s beautiful, but it really didn’t matter in the long run. She had to fight the battle just as any other cancer patient had to. She lost her hair, she lost weight, and she suffered all the side effects that go along with this treatment. 

AJ: Have you received more reader feedback than normal regarding To Love Free than your other books?

I’ve received emails from readers who either had cancer or had a partner or loved one who did. Mainly I’ve heard, “you nailed it” or “it was spot-on.” Hearing that means so much to me. I don’t know about you, but with a book like this, if I touch one reader’s life, it makes it all worth it as an author.

AJ: Yes, I agree. It's the feedback I receive from readers who tell me how I've touched their lives in some way that really is so meaningful. I'm grateful for the reviews and the notes people send me personally.

Thank you Chris for the interview. I appreciate your thoughtful and thorough answers.

More information about Chris Paynter may be found here:


Twitter: @ckpaynter

You can find her books here:


Bella Books 





© JEN 2014