Last week, I reviewed the wonderful YA fantasy Of Fire and Stars, and this week I am honored to interview the author Audrey Coulthurst. Residing in Oregon, Coulthurst enjoys playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Final Fantasy VII Remake. She also enjoys going for walks in the woods. Coulthurst works for an investment company by day. By night and weekends, she is an author. Fun fact, Coulthurst never intended to become an author. After getting her Master’s in book publishing, she hoped to become a book designer! Read our full interview below to learn more about Coulthurst and her writing!
Q) How long have you been writing?
A) I’ve been writing for a long time but started seriously pursuing publication around 2013.
Q) Why do you write?
A) Ideas come easily to me but I have a brain like a sieve, so part of the reason I write is to make sure I don’t forget things. My young adult books are always stories I wished I’d had when I was younger.
Q) What is your favorite genre to read? To write?
A) Most of the books I’ve been reading lately are adult SF/F, historical fiction, or contemporary f/f romance. In spite of writing a lot of fantasy, I actually really enjoy writing contemporary novels.
Q) What is your favorite book and why?
A) My favorite book is The Lost Garden by Helen Humphreys, though I don’t know that it would appeal to people who love my books. The writing is astonishingly beautiful and it’s a total gut-punch of a read. For books that would appeal to fans of my books, I’d recommend The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski or Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust, both of which are among my favorite f/f YA fantasy books published in the last few years.
Q) Who is your favorite author and why?
A) This is an impossible question now that I’m friends with so many authors! The people a writer meets on their publication journey will become some of their best friends. I’d be lost without my author friends and they all bring different important things to my life.
Q) Who is someone that inspires you?
A) My readers, especially the teen ones. Today’s teens give me hope that our world will be in better hands someday.
Q) What inspired Of Fire and Stars and the sequel Of Ice and Shadows? What was your purpose for writing each book?
A) Of Fire and Stars was the book I wished had existed when I was a teenager. I wanted to write a fantasy world that felt very classic but wasn’t homophobic and to fill that world with all my favorite things to read about: horses, music, magic, and sapphic romance. In Of Ice and Shadows I wanted to show the next steps of Mare and Denna’s journey–that living happily ever after can be complicated and require work from both people in a romantic relationship.
Q) I really enjoyed Mare’s love of horses and how important horses were in Mynaria. What inspired that?
A) My main hobby from my tween years to adulthood was horseback riding. I rode and trained my own horses for over 20 years. I’ve read a lot of fantasy books in which it quickly becomes clear that the writer doesn’t know anything about horses, so I wanted to write a book in which the horse stuff was done right and horses were a cornerstone of the fantasy world’s culture.
Q) Can you tell us about your other book Inkmistress?
A) Inkmistress came about because my publisher wasn’t ready to commit to a sequel to Of Fire and Stars right away. It gave me a great opportunity to give some backstory about how the rival kingdom in Of Fire and Stars came to be. I also knew I wanted to tell a different kind of bisexual story and to write a heroine who struggled with epic challenges to her belief in fundamental human goodness.
Q) Which of your current books is your favorite and why?
A) That’s like asking an author to choose favorite children! They all have different meanings and importance to me. I’ll just say that the one closest to my heart, myself, and my own experiences is Starworld, the book I co-wrote with Paula Garner.
Q) Can you tell us about your current WIP?
A) Right now I’m working on a book about Irish-American witches that is set in Oregon. I can’t say much more than that yet, though you may see me tweet about it from time to time.
Q) Can you tell us about your hope and vision for your writing?
A) Mostly I hope that with each book I’ll learn something new or improve my craft in some way.
Q) What advice do you have for other authors?
A) Keep writing, keep reading, and remember that other authors are your support system. Celebrate other authors’ successes with your whole heart and they will be there to celebrate yours, too. Also, make sure to zoom out on your career once in a while. You may feel like your writing career is a never-ending uphill journey, but it wasn’t that long ago you were at the bottom of the mountain thinking that where you are now was an impossible dream.
Q) What advice do you have for readers struggling with their sexual identity?
A) Know that it is okay to wonder, and it’s okay to change your mind or be unsure. You don’t have to figure out everything in one day or have a label for every facet of your identity. For some people, labels can be extremely helpful in figuring out who they are. For other people, they can feel too restrictive. There isn’t one right way to be queer, and it doesn’t have to be your defining characteristic.
Q) What advice do you have for readers who have accepted their sexual identity but are struggling with sharing that part of themselves with their friends and family?
A) First and foremost: stay safe. It’s okay not to come out until you know that doing so will not impact your living situation or your personal safety. If you’re in a safe place and still struggling, know that it is hard to come out and it’s okay to acknowledge any fear you have. It might help to find a support network of people who are in a similar place with telling their friends and families. Be kind to yourself. The coming out process can be lifelong (I still end up having to come out to new people I meet when they ask what my husband does!) but the first part is the hardest. You know the people in your life best, so take the time to figure out what will work for you and make sure you have supportive friends to lean on if people have a hard time accepting the news.