This feature, we get the opportunity to talk with Frances Pauli a bit about her writing and process.
Tell us about your most recent project (written or published). What inspired it?
I just finished a novel in a new series called Serpentia. The first book, Disbanded, is about a snake architect who believes he’s destined for great things but who is held back by his society’s caste system. The book features snakes and their rodent companions, and the series will explore a lot of issues surrounding the concepts of destiny, free will, social equality and personal rights.
I suppose it was inspired by my own interest in reptiles as well as some personal choices and lifestyle changes I’ve made recently. A lot of my stories have explored the idea of diet ever since I’ve stopped eating animal products, but even before that the idea of an all animal society trying to work out who is food and who is friend has been something that fascinates me. In Serpentia, mice and snakes have a somewhat symbiotic relationship that is peaceful on the exterior, but very problematic at its core.
What’s your writing process like? Are you a “pantser,” an outliner, or something in between? How do you find that this helps and/or hurts your writing style?
I love this question. When it comes up I usually call myself a “reformed pantser”, and then have to explain, of course.
I’m definitely not a heavy outliner, and I began writing as a total seat-of-the-pants, no idea where this is going to take me, exploratory writer. However, a few years and a few books into the process I got very interested in plot structure and dramatic pacing, did a lot of research on plot points and audience expectations, and figured out that I’d be wise to incorporate all of the above into my process.
So nowadays I do a bare bones bit of planning that usually involves sorting out where my major plot points will be, but also leaving a lot of room to move about freely in between. That way I have guide posts along the way, and I always know what big scene I’m writing toward, but it doesn’t feel suffocating either.
I admire in-depth outliners a great deal, but if I try that (and I have), my process usually shuts down pretty fast.
What’s your favorite kind of story to write?
Animal stories! Oh, wait. I suppose that’s too general in this company. But of course I had a lot of books written before I worked out that furry literature was a thing, so between those stories and my fuzzy books, I definitely prefer writing animal-centric.
Within furry writing my favorite stories to write are about justice or equality, stories that might explore some of our shadows as a society and then bring those things into the light or remedy them, at least on the page. I like heroic underdogs and quirky sidekicks and a little humor in the mix. And even though I can wander into the dark end of things from time to time, my background in the romance genre has made me pretty attached to that happy ending.
I want to feel good at the end of a book, even if I cried a little along the way.
Which character from your work do you most identify with, and why?
Stella Rose from Queen of Arts is probably the closest I’ve ever coming to writing an autobiographical character. I wish I could claim someone more exciting or heroic, but writing Stella was more than a little therapeutic. She’s the quintessential “mama bear,” maybe a little too concerned with her friends’ lives and very protective of them, but also creative, insecure, and a domestic violence survivor. And she’s feeling her age. All very much like her greymuzzle author.
What has most influenced your work? Is an author, a title, or something else?
I think the things I’ve read over the years, primarily classic sci-fi and fantasy, but also humor and romance, classics, non-fiction…all the variety of input consumed sort of rolls together to influence a writer. Combine that with life experience, trials, things we survive and things we endure and the end result is what pours out onto the page.
Individual authors I hope influenced me are Andre Norton, who will always be my favorite, Tanith Lee, Patricia McKillip, and more recently, Christopher Moore.
It’s no surprise that my earliest reading was all animal related. Jack London, The Black Stallion, Wind in the Willows. We circle back to our beginnings eventually.
What’s the last book you read that you really loved?
I adored Signal by Renee Carter Hall. I’m currently reading Daniel Potter’s Marking Territory and I love most everything about his writing and that universe.
Besides writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
I like to spend as much time as I can with my kiddos, who are getting old enough to want mom to back off and let them get back to their video games. I also crochet, play around with visual art, build fursuits and their assorted parts, and keep way too many pets, including a new rosy boa breeding project that has my house filling up with snake terrariums.
Advice for other writers?
So many things. Never give up. Take all advice seriously but only use what works for you, keep writing even if it’s not good yet or you can’t see how good it is yet. But mostly, I say, don’t forget that this is supposed to be fun. Write because you enjoy it, and then remember to keep enjoying it.
Where can readers find your work?
My website can get you to almost everything I have available. I also post some furry things on SF and FA as Mamma Bear. I’ve been honored to have some stories published in furry anthologies from various publishers, and I try to post those as they go live on my Facebook page or in my newsletter.
What’s your favorite thing about the furry fandom? Why write furry?
Can I say everything? I love this fandom. I love how open-minded we are and how accepting and most of all how much we embrace fun and joyful play. I’ve met people from all walks who have found support, encouragement and family in the furry world.
But why write furry? Well, I think furry literature has a glorious history of great stories that goes back longer than most people realize. I want to contribute to that magnificent body of works called “animal stories” and I want to help spread awareness of the genre and enthusiasm for furry books in the wider world of genre fiction. All of that sounds great, but in truth, I write furry stories because it makes me smile, and it keeps me coming back to the keyboard without dragging my feet. It brings me joy.