In Conversation with – Kiki Archer, Clare Ashton and Jade Winters. LFEST 2017

Jade, Kiki and ClareAt the Romance Writers session at LFest last weekend Clare Ashton read from her award winning latest novel, Poppy Jenkins, Jade Winters, author of an amazing 17 books, read from her recent release, Lost in You, and Kiki Archer amused us all with an excerpt from her no1 best seller a fairytale of possibilities. Afterwards I got the chance to interview them, a challenging bunch who need a firm hand.

If you don’t know these writers – well Claire comes across as quite “proper” but has a wicked sense of humour and her books, which range from rather dark and challenging to light-hearted romance and hysterical slap stick, have a high number of references to bottoms and breasts. As she points out, the Brits aren’t quite as proper as people assume.

Jade Winters is painfully shy in front of a crowd. This was her first reading and she claims it will be her last, although she clearly isn’t quite as shy when dragged out by Kiki and there were off the record tales of disco divas and definitely brazen fan girl behaviours.

And Kiki Archer… what’s to say? Great writer of chick lit for lesbians, funny, sarcastic and highly amusing, Kiki is a great entertainer. “Always on Archer” knows just where the camera is and her model good looks certainly don’t hurt her PR.

I started off asking them their past involvement in LFest. Kiki and Claire have both been on readings, panels and even run a workshop in previous years, as well as being part of the LFest Polari event a few years ago. Jade has been before but this was her first reading. She commented that if it wasn’t for Kiki she wouldn’t know about LFest, she hadnt picked up on it, only Kiki’s involvement really got her interested in coming along.

Kiki and Clare both have 2 children and I asked about them staying to see more of the festival. Clare said her two were exhausted with the end of school year activities so she had left them at home but Kiki said she would be bringing hers over to LFest on the Sunday as there seemed to be so much going on they would enjoy like the face painting and circus skills.

They all enjoyed their panel although “enjoyed” is a word Jade probably wouldn’t use about any public appearance. They thought the audience was great, really interactive and welcoming. There were lots of questions and audience participation which they loved. I think all three were shocked just how many of the audience had read their books and the level of knowledge they showed about these authors’ works. It certainly came across that all three were delighted with the reception they got from the LFest crowd.

It became clear during the Q&A that several of the audience were writers and wanted to learn from these authors. I asked whether they thought writers workshops would fit into the LFest format and they thought there would definitely be takers. Clare and Kiki did a workshop style panel a few years ago and got a good turnout.

All three authors agreed that LFest was really important for promoting British lesbian writers. Since regional events such as the York Lesbian Arts Festival (YLAF) folded, the only national events have been LFest and the BSB festival in Nottingham. This year we have the inaugural DIVA awards in November, but unlike in the US, we have very few regional and local events that authors can attend in the UK, and very few places for readers to meet their favourite authors. The demise of the small independent bookshops has also caused a decline in readings, which makes it so much harder for authors to reach out. They all agree that LFest was a brilliant opportunity to interact and in their experience the ‘literary’ segment of the festival is just getting stronger each year with more authors and more sessions.

Moving on to their own writing I asked them what they were working on; in my experience authors are ALWAYS working on something. Surprisingly Kiki has taken the summer off and Clare’s daughter starts full time school this autumn so she is also spending the summer with the kids although she did admit to jotting down story ideas. Jade didn’t disappoint though, she is working on her 18th novel “Starting Over Again” which will be out August 2017.

I asked Jade how she had managed to write 17 books in 7 years to which she replied – “I’m a full time writer” and when we all raised her eyebrows she grinned at the other two and added “No kids”. Kiki says she will literally start the day she drops the kids back at school in September, back to her 9.30-2.30pm routine. Claire is contemplating how to ensure she has less references to breasts and bottoms in her next work, when she goes back in the autumn it will be as a full-time writer.

We ended with some “Have you ever…” questions:

Have you ever written poetry?
Jade – “Yes”
Claire – “ummm not since I was about six”
Kiki – “Yes, even had it published although I don’t advertise that. To be fair they were songs but hey, I was asked or a poem and sent them in. So yes you can buy my songs.. I’ll send you the link. “

At which point we agreed they should form a new girl group – based on Kiki’s promo video Jade has the beat, Kiki has the rap and Clare has the ‘flick’. In reality Clare would be at the back, probably behind the drums with a screen in front of her. Jade wouldn’t have a mic but would be making some moves. Kiki would be front and centre, right in the spotlight.

Have you ever regretted publishing something?
Claire – “No, not yet, I’m sure I will at some point”
Jade – nods in agreement
Kiki – “No, you can’t regret anything – that’s one of the things about being an independent self-published author, every book is this huge journey and a huge amount of learning.”

Have you ever had a crush on another author?
Clare giggles
Jade sidles up to Kiki
Kiki  -“These two obviously – I mean really Clare Ashton and Jade Winters!” She carries on, “Well there was that boozy pizza night with Melissa Brayden…”
Clare – “Oh my, I was under the table and you two were singing show tunes!”

Have you ever had a fan/stalker?
Clare – “No I get these really lovely fans who write me lovely emails saying how much they like my books”
Kiki – “No.. not really, but I have got this weird thing that happened with a foot fetish about my feet. I sat one year at LFest and was flicking my foot, somebody recorded it and it became a gif. It’s still out there somewhere – I’ll send you the link.”

On that note it seemed like a good idea to wrap it up. The LFest press officer had been watching and was highly amused, seems like the perfect place to stop. Kiki says they will be back next year, twisting Jade’s arm quietly off camera.

a fairytale of possibilities a fairytale of possibilities – Kiki Archer
Paperback: 267 pages
First published 2017
Publisher: K.A Books (June 13, 2017)
To buy from Amazon click HERE
Poppy Jenkins - Clare Ashton
Poppy Jenkins – Clare Ashton
Paperback: 378 pages
First published 2016
Publisher: Breezy Tree Press (June 19, 2016)
To buy from Amazon click HERE
Lost in You - Jade Winters Lost in You – Jade Winters
Paperback: 292 pages
First published 2017
Publisher: Wicked Winters Books (March 24, 2017)
To buy from Amazon click HERE