A few weeks ago, I read an ARC of The Paths We Choose by M. Hollis and I absolutely loved it! Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing the author. It’s the very first time I’m doing this, so I hope my questions are okay 🙂
Lily, the protagonist in The Paths We Choose doesn’t label herself, and you have mentioned on your blog that you find it very hard to dig into your own sexuality and labels. Do you have any advice for readers who feel pressured to label themselves?
I think labeling yourself it’s a different experience for everyone. I have tried to use a few labels so far and there are some that I identify more with but I’m not ready to declare loud and proud my label just yet. Finding my attraction to women took me a long time and it was a hard process but now it’s definitely what most defines me as part of my queerness. I hope one day I can talk more openly about this. Right now, I’m only out for a few close friends and I’m choosing to protect my identity until the day I’m sure I can really talk about it without worrying if someone from real life will find out.
Using a label can also be limiting for people who aren’t completely sure where they fall on the spectrum. Heteronormativity is damaging for many of us and plays a big part on our process of figuring out our identities. I’m making this choice now but tomorrow everything can change.
My advice for people who are still unsure is not to pressure yourself or feel like you don’t belong just because you can’t claim a label. We have our right time to do things after all. Just try to figure out if a label is what you need or if you don’t want one at all, like Lily. For some people, a label is something concrete and for others, it can be fluid. There isn’t a right way to figure things out, do what makes your feel safe and happy.
Which character from the Lillac Town series was your favourite to write?
So far, I’ve enjoyed writing both Chris and Lily’s POV. I think since Lily and I have the same personality it was a bit easier to get into her head. But I’m excited to write about Karen and Hope since they have very interesting stories.
I don’t think I can choose just one favorite! I love all of them so much. When you write a book, you have to really love this story and these characters because you’re going to spend a long time with them. Some books take years to be finished and if you get tired of it, you won’t be able to get it done. So, I learn to love my characters as they are. If I don’t like something I’m writing I just stop and try to think what I’m doing wrong that is bothering me so much.
Which songs should be on a soundtrack of the Lillac Town series?
I made playlists for each one of the books, here are some of my favorite songs:
The Melody of You and Me
- Closer – Tegan and Sara
- She will be loved – Leah Louise
- Take me as I am – Au revoir Simone
The Paths We Choose:
- Don’t Wanna be Your Lover – Vanessa White
- Heart Won’t Forget – Matoma & Gia
- Ingrid Michaelson – Maybe
The Melody of You and Me and The Paths We Choose are both New Adult contemporary romances. Do you have any plans to write something entirely different, such as a fantasy novel?
This was actually my first time writing contemporary romance for New Adult! My favorite genre to write is paranormal but I also like to explore apocalyptic worlds and retellings. I’ve written a little bit of everything.
I don’t think I’d write a whole fantasy novel because it’s a genre I don’t read a lot. But I do have a few short stories in my drafts involving dragons. I just love writing about vampires, ghosts or about magic worlds.
There’s a YA that I’m working on for a few years now and I’m finally writing down about this society of girls in a boarding school that I really hope to get published. It’s an interesting story and probably my favorite so far.
Almost all the characters you write, including the side characters, are queer women. And I absolutely love that! Do you ever plan on writing e.g. a bisexual woman who’s in a relationship with a man? Or do you prefer to write F/F romances?
Again, finding out and accepting my attraction to women is all new to me. If you told me years ago that my first published stories would be Femslash I’d not believe you at all! So writing this is part of my healing process. I love writing about women falling in love with other women and I have no shame in that. I’ll keep doing it for a really long time, no doubts.
I may consider writing M/F with LBTQIA+ characters one day, but I don’t know when or if that’ll happen. My priority is to keep writing F/F and that’s what I’m comfortable writing right now.
What’s your biggest dream as a writer?
This may sound so little but I just hope to be able to support myself with my writing so that I can keep writing. It’s not easy to write and it’s not easy to make enough money in this area. But I’m going to keep writing and trying to bring stories that’ll make people happy.
Why did you want to become an author? Did you feel like there was a lack of F/F romances, and did you want to change that?
I have answered this a few times now, but I always loved creating stories and had my dreams of publishing them one day in the future. Writing F/F is something still new to me. Fanfic helped me a lot and it’s where I started to explore both my sexuality and my character’s experiences as LBPQ+ women. At some point last year, I just had this moment where I realized I couldn’t see myself or my friends sometimes in books being published with F/F content so I decided to add my voice to it.
I’m trying to publish stories in Portuguese here in Brazil because we don’t have many of these yet and it can be hard to find an audience. But my friends who don’t speak my language wanted to read my things and they told me I should just start publishing something that they could read. So, it was a surprise to have readers so interested in my stories in English. I’m still getting used to it.
I think there’s so much to explore and I hope more of us bring their own stories because many intersectionalities are still lacking. There is never enough of F/F. Maybe someday we can reach a point where every person will be able to open a book and find themselves in stories but for now, we need to keep working and making space for everyone.
You’re not only an author, but you also design book covers. What cover designs are you jealous of?
I love the cover of The Unforgettables by GL Tomas, it’s such a fun and original concept. Also, Not your Sidekick by C.B. Lee has a beautiful cover art!
How do you come up with the titles? Do you find it a difficult process?
Titles are literally the hardest part for me. I’m just not good at them and I’m jealous of everyone who can come up with a title right away. Everyone else seems to do it better than me. For The Melody, it was way easier because I knew I wanted the music to be the important part of the story for the two protagonists. The Paths took me a longer time. First, because the original titles I wanted were being used by other authors (including one of my friends!). I played around with a long list of titles, sending them to my many betas until we decided on this one.
Which author had the biggest impact on you?
Catherine M. Wilson wrote this trilogy called When Women Were Warriors that is mainly a story about a matriarch society. It’s such a beautiful love story full of wonderful and complex women. I remember reading these books recently and thinking I was dreaming because it was everything I ever wanted to read.
Has a reader ever reached out to you and told you that you changed their lives?
I think “changed their lives” may be too much, but I definitely received a few messages from readers telling me how much they love my stories and how much these characters mean to them. It’s always a nice surprise to get these.
Something that caught be my surprise was how many young people related to Chris dropping out of college. It’s one of the things people seem to like more about the story. I wasn’t expecting that it’d mean so much and I’m glad I included this now. No one should stay in a major they hate or get into a university just because other people are doing it. We should be able to follow our dreams and to live our lives in our own time. We are so young when we have to choose a career for the rest of our lives and it shouldn’t be like that. It’s okay to change your mind, it’s okay to take a little longer to figure things out.
The Paths We Choose will be released on April 6th. You can pre-order a copy here! The Melody of You and Me is available in paperback and Kindle, which you can find here. I absolutely recommend these novellas!
Thank you very much Maria for allowing me to interview you!