Geonn Cannon is a prolific writer of queer fiction covering multiple genres. He graciously agreed to take the time for a Q&A with us.
TRH: Why don’t we kick the pink elephant out of the room at the start? You’re a dude writing fiction largely about queer women.
A) What made you want to write for this “niche”? I remember reading you enjoyed Stargate: SG-1?
B) Perhaps the least striking, yet most striking (in a way) takeaway I have is that I don’t know that I’m reading a man writing about women. In the most complimentary way possible, you manage to avoid writing your characters from a “male gaze”. Is there an approach you have in mind when you start writing?
GC: I always expect this question to come up, and yet I don’t have a really good prepared response for it! I did enjoy Stargate SG-1, and I really enjoyed the female characters on it (Sam Carter and Janet Fraiser). I loved the guys too, of course, but I’m a big fan of stories that include strong female characters in the lead role. So I started writing fanfic about the characters and that grew into “Okay, one way to make them have lots of stories together is to make them a romantic couple.” It was an interesting twist, given that they’re both in the military, so it gave me a lot of room to stretch. And that’s basically the same reason I stuck with female characters when I started writing my own stories. I get inspired for characters who are women. One reason I wrote the first Underdogs story was because there was such a surge of paranormal novels in the industry, and a lot of werewolves, but it seemed like they were always sexy male Alpha dogs. I thought it was time a woman got to be a werewolf, and her sole purpose wasn’t to get with the hunky male werewolf and have puppies.
As for the second part of your question, I get so many comments from people who refer to me as a woman. I saw a review on Amazon that referred to “Ms. Cannon’s writing.” I always correct these people because I don’t want to let them linger under false pretenses, but it’s such a huge compliment to me that my gender isn’t glaringly obvious. I’m not sure what I do right that others do wrong, but I do know that first and foremost I’m just writing about a person who is trying to achieve a goal. I will admit to the occasional prurient tangent in some of my stories, but for the most part I focus on the fact that they’re not “heh heh chicks makin’ out” and they’re just people who are falling in love with each other. And I think coming from that angle makes it a little more pure in the end product.
TRH: You don’t tend to stick to any genre in particular. You’ve written steam punk, old westerns, supernatural/science fiction, thrillers, to your very slice-of-life Squire’s Isle series. Is there something that draws you to a genre when a story idea starts to formulate?
GC: I think having a wide field is what helps make me so prolific. Ideas come, and maybe they won’t fit in Squire’s Isle but they would be perfect for Underdogs. So I set that aside and when I’m in the mood to write Underdogs it’s waiting. And part of my eclectic genre-jumping is due to the fact I don’t want to get too comfortable with any one thing. I love writing about the ladies on Squire’s Isle, and I also love writing about the angels-versus-demons action sequences in the Riley Parra series. It all comes down to mood most of the time. Sometimes you feel like a cozy romance, sometimes you just want to write about people punching other people in the face.
TRH: Something in particular that I’ve noticed, you’ve shown no fear in letting your characters grow in ways that many other fictions authors seem to shy away from. In your Squire’s Isle series, you have a polyfidelitous triad with Amy, Kate, and Nicole, and recently your characters Molly and Shane re-united with the understanding of having an open relationship. It’s not just in your Squire’s Isle series either, Railroad Spine is very casual and open with its relationships, between men and men, women and women, and men and women.
To be perfectly honest, there’s not exactly a lot of fiction floating around featuring poly groupings, much less presented as being so open and having a “this is normal, what’s the big deal?” about it. Was there a conscious decision to include these relationships?
GC: There wasn’t! To be honest, Amy, Kate, and Nicole was one of the prurient tangents I mentioned earlier. I thought it would be fun to write a threesome that happened not casually, but realistically. Amy and Nicole were exes, Nicole and Kate bonded, and under the influence of drugs they decided “why not?” But in the course of continuing the stories about Kate and Amy, I realized that there could be something deeper with Nicole. I’d laid the groundwork and I thought I could turn it into something that, like you said, doesn’t have much of a presence in fiction. So I brought her back and tried to see if I could show that monogamy isn’t for everyone and that it’s okay to step outside the traditional boundaries. I think with a polyamorous relationship you run the risk of people seeing it purely as a “porny threesome.” I think that if the time is taken, and if the characters are allowed to be adult about their feelings, wants, desires, etc, that a poly relationship could definitely step outside the confines of just overtly kinky sex.
TRH: A great many of your books are lighter in tone, at least, in the sense that there might be a very real conflict and emotional or physical turmoil, but you’ve structured your stories to naturally be able have the characters work their way to a resolution.
And then there’s Gemini.
I might still be mildly traumatized by the way you gleefully tore my poor heart to pieces in that book. Was there a reason for such a tonal shift compared to some of your other work?
GC: Well, you have to remember that Gemini was only my second novel (technically third, since I wrote World on Fire well before it was published, but still, early days). Gemini is an absolute mystery to me. I was so unprepared going into it that the day I started, I randomly chose Molly’s job from a list of careers. It may be hard to believe since being a chef is such an integral part of who the character became, but it’s true! I needed to set the first scene at her place of work, I looked at a list, and thought, “Oh, a kitchen might be interesting.” All I wanted to do was write a story about “the twin left behind.” Everything else that came with it was as surprising to me as it was to the reader. I even thought about eliminating the Robin character altogether because it was so hard to write some of her parts. But I left her in, and I’m glad I did.
I think the reason it resonated with people so much is because I left everything up to the story. I set the pieces in place and let them fall where they would. Molly and April’s strained relationship, the mistakes Robin and Molly make, the heartache and sadness… it was all there in the story and it was the characters pulling the strings. I was just along for the ride. (and sorry ::g::)
TRH: We know you’re perfectly capable of writing tragedy, yet there are surprises where you often choose not to go that route. As I mentioned in the review of Radiation Canary, I was initially apprehensive of reading that story because so many of those Rise and Fall genre stories progress to the fall being the group or persons generally crashing in a fiery cloud of DOOM.
Yet you completely resisted that route in Radiation Canary, and not only did you resist it, the Canaries had probably one of the healthiest, most fulfilling “farewells” I can remember reading. What made you want to let them fall so gracefully?
GC: For one, thank you so much for that review! It’s definitely a career highlight!
When I started the novel, I had two potential titles: Rise and Fall of…, or Life and Times of… I thought Rise and Fall fit the canary theme better so I went with that. I also went in (like with Gemini) without a solid plan as to where the story was going. I had a discography and a few things that I knew had to happen during their career, but other than that I just let the characters show me where they were going. That said, I approached the story like a series of vignettes, which allowed me to adjust my plan as I went. About halfway through I realized that the band members were some of my favorite characters that I’d ever created. I knew that if I followed the “fall” in a Behind the Music sense, I would be closing the door on any potential sequel I might write. And if I had them implode, if I set Karen and Lana against each other for song rights or some other nonsense like that, it would sully the closeness they had at the beginning. When I decided that their fall would be gentle, the whole novel felt more “right.” They were four girls who grew to really love each other, despite/because of their flaws, and that helped reveal why the audience responded to them so strongly. The decision to keep them together privately, if not professionally, helped me write them as the sort of band the crowd would cheer for even when the lights went down. I wanted them to have an ending that left people satisfied and smiling. I don’t know if my heart could have taken it if they ended up splitting apart!
TRH: So that means we’ll see a return of Radiation Canary?
GC: You’ll definitely see a revisiting, at the very least! I have the majority of a short-story collection already written called Radiation Canary: Bonus Tracks. It would take place during the events of the novel and feature side-characters and scenes with the band that didn’t fit in with the rest of the novel. There’s a nice little holiday piece starring Nick Young and Codie Renton, and a Naomi-focused story that features – believe it or not – Ariadne Willow! It will also have stories that feature the fans and how they were touched by the band’s music. As for a straight-sequel that picks up where the first book left off… don’t rule it out! I’d love to revisit this band and bring them back for Phase Two of their career.
TRH: You’ve recently completed your Riley Parra series, and the Claire Lance series is winding to a close. Are you looking to start another series to keep Underdogs company? If so, any hints on what genre you’re dabbling in this time?
GC: One of the pleasures of being so prolific is that your readers can have the best of both worlds. You get the return fans with a continuing series, and you get the new fans with your standalones. So the plan there is working out nicely, I think! Right now I have no plans to start a series, but Claire Lance was the only planned series I’ve ever written. Riley Parra was a 40,000-word novella that I originally sent to my editor without a title and said, “I have no idea where I’m going with this, but I want to go somewhere.” And Underdogs was supposed to be a single 10,000-word story that expanded into something out of control. So right now I’m just waiting to see which character tells me they need to be serialized.
As for next, I have two. One is a partially written historical novel that plays with the idea that “Every character is the hero of their own story” (I think Joss Whedon said that). It tells the entire story from a thief’s point-of-view, and then it goes back to the beginning and retells the same series of events from the point-of-view of the detective hunting for the thief. Both are presented as heroic in their own eyes, but both are seen as the villain in the other version. It’s an interesting balancing act, and right now I’m trying to figure out how to structure it so the readers won’t be too confused (it’s two, two, TWO books in one!). I also have a potential novel that floats in the direction of science-fiction (actual outer space and aliens, which is a genre I’ve surprisingly stayed away from) that’s still in the planning stages.
TRH: With your talk of “actual outer space an aliens”, does this mean we might be treated to another of your “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameos?
GC: No comment! ::g::
Geonn Cannon’s website can be found HERE. Our review for The Rise and Fall of Radiation Canary can be found HERE.