Claudie Arseneault was actually the first person to introduce me to the term solarpunk (a genre I've been rambling non-stop about ever since), through the call for submissions to her solarpunk dragons anthology Wings of Renewal. I've been following her career ever since, and it turns out she's just an all-around good person and awesome writer whom I'm glad to have encountered.
Today, I've invited Claudie onto my blog to talk about her new fantasy novel Baker Thief.
Here's what the book is about:
Adèle has only one goal: catch the purple-haired thief who broke into her home and stole her exocore, thus proving herself to her new police team. Little does she know, her thief is also the local baker.
In a nutshell, what was the path from idea to publication for BAKER THIEF?
I started Baker Thief as a project that would be as fun and tropy as I wanted it to be, a story in which I’d allow myself to write Whatever I Wanted. The first glimpse of the project involved an investigator looking for a thief at a masked ball and a f/f romance—that changed quite a bit, but I was already aiming for The Good Tropes.
I hadn’t even put the first word down before I knew one of the MCs would be bigender and aromantic, and that I didn’t want romance, but a queerplatonic relationship. These stories were near impossible to find (they still are hard, but it got better), and I felt drawn to them. Turns out that was because I was aromantic myself, but I didn’t know at the time. I also… jumped in with as much French as I wanted to, and to have my language in there quickly became incredibly meaningful and important to me.
It took me quite a few drafts to get the ending right, then it made the typical rounds of dev editing through writer friends, sensitivity readers, beta readers, and copyediting. I started the first draft in February 2016, and here we are, about a year and a half later.
What’s your typical writing routine? Do you write at a certain time of day, have word count goals, a particular playlist you listen to, etc.?
It really depends on what part of the process I’m at. If I’m creating new words, typically for first drafts, I will write nearly every day and set word count goals (usually around 700-1,000 for weekdays, and 1,500-2,000 for weekends). As a writer, I do a lot better if my progress is constant. My full-time job makes this rather difficult, however, which means that I will write whenever I can. At least half of Baker Thief has been written on my cellphone during transit, and a good chunk of the other half was over my lunch break.
I don’t have playlists as much as I have artists I’ll put on and listen on loop. And I don’t mean many of them. Most of my previous novels were written and edited on a background of Mumford and Sons. For Baker Thief, though, I stuck to artists from Québec, either Karkwa or Dumas. It felt right to listen to local music for a WIP that drew so intensely from my roots.
What advice do you have for young writers who are struggling through the first draft of a fantasy novel?
The first and most important for me is… don’t give up. Get to the end. Writing the end will teach you so much about the craft, about your story. Even if you end up trashing the story, it will be worthwhile (and you will have finished a draft!). That doesn’t mean you have to power through unquestioningly, though. Different writers need different things to get to the end. I handle unclear drafts very well, so I write start to finish without ever revising what’s behind, even if I decided halfway through I need to make a major change. I just take a note, act like the change is done, and move on. I know writers who couldn’t do that—no chance in hell—so they revise as they go, and their first drafts take longer but are a lot cleaner.
So I guess my biggest piece of advice is experiment. Try things out! See what works for you, what allows you to progress and what just makes you hyper-anxious and unproductive. We all work differently, and sometimes our process even changes from one story to another. But if you find yourself never finishing anything? Find a way to get to that end; you’re limiting your growth otherwise.
You’re very invested in the topic of asexual/aromantic representation. Do you remember the first time you saw this type of character represented well in fiction? What are some other published books that get it right?
My first time was for a sex-repulsed asexual character, Nadin from Fourth World by Lyssa Chiavari. Nadin struggles a lot with her sex-repulsion and there are scenes throughout the novel that felt like someone had spied on my life. One in particular made me set the book down, because I needed time to take it all in.
That was my first time, but by actively seeking representation over the course of the last 2-3 years, I’ve found so many more. I couldn’t even begin to list them all here. I recommend picking up the Chameleon Moon series, as it has an alloromantic asexual MC in the first book, and an aromantic asexual one in the second (and a whole lot more queer disabled diversity). If you’re more a contemporary person, then Let’s Talk About Love is about a biromantic asexual black girl. For aromantic characters, Darcie Little Badger has a wonderful short story, “Nkásht íí”, that is online for free and is all about friendship. I also thoroughly enjoyed A Promise Broken, from Lynn E. O’Connacht—a low-stakes fantasy of manners about a girl grieving and her aroace uncle.
As I said, there are many more out there! You can check out Penny Stirling’s list of aromantic or asexual fiction that’s free online, Queer Books for Teens recommendations for aromantic and asexual, or even access my database which has a record of all the aro or ace fiction I could find, with tags and filters to make it easier to narrow down on what you really want.
How have your own baking adventures informed the development of BAKER THIEF?
Not in major ways. I was already well into the novel by the time I got really into baking, and I’d done my fair share of research before. It did change the way I described it—the details, basically. It’s just not the same until you have both of your hands in the dough and your lower back kinda hurts from all the kneading and you got flour over your clothes again because you keep forgetting an apron.
Do you have any readings or signings coming up? Where can readers find you, online or off?
I don’t have a lot of in-person stuff coming up, but I attend Can*Con every year, and I expect to be at Sirens Con this year, too! October is my convention month, haha. I am much easier to find online, however. I tweet at ClH2OArs and my website is at claudiearseneault.com. You can also support me more directly on Patreon.
Claudie Arseneault is an asexual and aromantic spectrum writer hailfing from Quebec City. Her love for sprawling casts invariably turns her novels into multi-storylined wonders centered on aromantic and asexual characters. Her high fantasy series, City of Spires, started in February 2017. Her next book, Baker Thief, features a bigender aromantic baker and is full of delicious bread, French puns, and magic.
Claudie is a founding member of The Kraken Collective and is well-known for her involvement in solarpunk, her database of aro and ace characters in speculative fiction, and her unending love of squids. Find out more on her website!