Today we talk to author Frances Pauli about what furry fiction means to her, and how she comes up with her stories.
Tell us a little bit about your most recent project (written or published). Was there a particular inspiration for it?
My most recently written work (finished just this morning) is the third Serpentia novel. That world and its characters were inspired by my own snakes, and many years of keeping and admiring reptiles in all their variations. My most recently published book is the Pocket Shot from Goal, called Of Birds and Branches. That one came from one of the weirdest dreams I’ve ever had, and the idea just wouldn’t let me go until I sat down and wrote it out in its entirety.
What is your favourite thing about the furry fandom? Why write furry fiction?
My favourite thing about the fandom is its kindness. I am relatively new to the furry experience, having found it only a few years back, but I have been struck from day one by how inclusive, helpful, and fun the furries I meet are. I like a place that lets everyone play, and where everyone is welcome and can find a corner to snuggle up in. I have lived with social anxiety my entire life, and it is often hard for me to feel comfortable or welcome in groups, even virtual ones, but I’ve found that the fandom, of all my communities, puts me at ease the most.
I write furry fiction because I love to read it. All of my favourite books contain animal characters of some kind. Given a choice between a book about people and one with animals in it, the animal story wins every time. I think there is something deeply rooted in our literary history which makes animal stories both comforting and powerful. There’s a rich symbolism and a nostalgic pleasure in reading about characters that could easily have stepped out of our childhood fantasies, our myths and our fables.
What is your writing process like? Do you outline and plot, or are you a “pantser”?
I call myself a reformed pantser because I’ve learned to structure and plan a great deal more than when I first began writing. In truth, though, I rarely outline. My normal process is to create a world and characters and then make note of their pivotal scenes. I line out the major plot points like road signs to keep me heading in the right direction, but in between those goals, I still do quite a bit of “on the fly” plotting.
What do you consider your biggest strength as a writer?
Oh, that is a tough question. I mentioned the social anxiety, right? Since I have to answer it, I’ll go with my ability to empathize with the character, to put myself into the skin of the snake, or the spider, or bear (Okay, bear is a little easier) and really imagine what it means to crawl around and experience that life. I like to think (hope?) that that transfers to a believable character on the page.
What is your favourite kind of story to write? Does it align well with what you like to read?
I like to write love stories. It’s cheesy, and I’ve fought with the urge off and on, but a little happily ever after makes me, well, happy. I don’t read much of the romance genre, but most of my favourite books have a strong central love story. Outside of the romance, I like to write about underdogs, and outsiders, lost children and found family. I’m a sucker for a story about justice and revolution, too. But as a reader, please give me a heartfelt romance along with it.
Which character of yours do you most identify with, and why?
Stella from Queen of Arts. She’s a mama bear like me, and we both have a history of domestic violence and recovery. Stella is a fighter, but mostly on behalf of other people. She’s a little co-dependent, a little too involved in her friends’ business, but she has a lot of love to give, and beneath her shields and boundaries, she’s a hopeless romantic.
Which authors or specific books have most influenced your work?
I read a lot of Andre Norton. A lot. I have a shelf devoted to her books, and I tend to pick up one as comfort reading from time to time. I think she’s had the biggest influence on me. I also love Tanith Lee, Patricia McKillip, Christopher Moore, Shakespeare, and I read Mitchener from time to time as a guilty pleasure. He’s terribly dated, but I inherited my mother’s collection, and I think those stories are a way to feel connected to her still.
What is the last book you read that you really love?
I adored Ape House by Sara Gruen. She wrote Water for Elephants which I haven’t read, but which received far more press than Ape House. I loved it so much. It’s about a family of bonobos who are abducted from their language lab and put on TV as a reality show. The apes ‘talk’ in a variety of ways and spend the book trying to contact the scientist who worked with them and is desperately trying to save them. The book was heartbreaking and heart-warming at the same time. Whimsical and tense and just a fantastic read. Also, I’m a sucker for talking apes.
Besides writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
If I were dead honest, I’d say talking about writing and thinking about writing, but that really focuses on my obsessive nature. So I’ll stick with the hobbies. I have a lot of pets and houseplants, I am currently breeding my rosy boas and collecting model horses, crocheting, drawing again after many years, and learning how to cook excellent vegan food. I also build fursuit heads and love suiting so much it’s ridiculous. In addition to that I have two amazing children that I try to spend as much time with as possible, playing games, watching shows, and just enjoying them before they go and grow up on me.
Do you have any advice to give other writers?
So much advice, but really, the best thing I could tell other writers is to trust themselves. There are a lot of things in this business that can wear down your sense of self, make you question and feel about as big as a flea. So come at it from a place that is completely selfish. Do it for you, how you want to, and while I recommend listening to those who have come before, I also recommend filtering their advice and focusing on what works for you. Find your own process. If whatever you’re being told to do doesn’t result in you writing and finishing books you are happy with, then toss that advice aside and do what you need to to get there.
Is there anything you would like to see more of within furry fiction?
Sweet romance. Love stories. Stories with females that are strong, individual characters and not props or prizes. (To be fair I want that in all fiction) But what I want to see most in furry fiction is more of it. I want to see furry books landing and sticking with mainstream readers. I want to flood the shelves of Barnes and Nobel with Fox in Starbucks stories and put a Slice of Life furry romance in the Amazon top 100. I don’t even care who writes it. I love this genre, and I want the world to love it too.
Where can readers find your work?
All of my work can be found from my website at: francespauli.com. Many of my furry works are over at Goal Publications, my amazing and supportive publisher. I have books on Amazon and at most e-tailers and free stories on FA and SF under Mammabear. There’s a lot, so if you can’t find something you want, you’re also welcome to email me and just ask.
Tomorrow, we have an interview from an author and publisher who is pushing forward into the fully professional markets. We hope you’ll come and check out what she has to say then.