#Ownvoices Author Interview: Ria Fritz

rfts coverrToday I would like to introduce you all to Ria Fritz, author of the Quicksand series, a series of science fiction adventures featuring queer and mentally ill protagonists. As someone who struggles with mental illness on a daily basis, I am thrilled to have Ria here to tell you all about Quicksand and its heroes–but first, check out this blurb for the first novel, Rising from the Sand:

Tioria, the most crime-ridden city on the planet Krygilis, has always been full of trouble for Wynette Brown to get into. Between late-night adventures at lesbian bars and her job as a Protectorate Escort Specialist, she knows the planet, its people and its sources of mischief too well.

But her latest assignment gets her in way over her head, even with her rookie colleague Laris, mechanical genius Plutonia, and flirty detective Kirin at her side. Spontaneous cases of amnesia have flooded the city, and when the clues aren’t adding up, the team has to throw the rulebook out the window. Trusting a Tiorian cop like Kirin is the start of a wild ride in itself, but tracking down the cause of the missing memories will force Wynette to go far above and beyond what she ever dreamed of signing up for.

A story of troubled, imperfect good versus self-righteous evil; of infatuation and love; and of a planet struggling to find itself in a new era.

Recommended for ages 16 and up due to violence.

Can you tell us a bit about your novel, Rising From The Sand?

At its core, Rising From the Sand is a big ol’ soft sci-fi adventure with a protagonist, Wynette, who doesn’t really know what she wants – other than to always do the right thing. It’s new adult with sprinklings of an awkward budding romance, camaraderie, betrayal, mystery, and even fun. I drew a lot of those themes from my day job, which is unique enough that I can’t really tell you about it without risking nosy readers figuring out my true identity. (I can say, though, that my job at times involves a lot of crying, hence why I wrote Wynette as a bit of a crybaby.) Every single main character is LGBTQ, though that stems less from the sci-fi setting and more from the situations that bring the characters together in the first place.

What part of the story came to you first?

I had a general idea of wanting to write a brash main character and her sidekick running around with guns on a desert planet, but the rest of the plot didn’t come to me until I wrote the first scene. Wynette’s blunt and unprofessional encounter with her boss and new colleague was inspired by the types of things that tend to happen at my day job.

Do you actively work to write diverse books or is this simply how your stories evolve?

It’s a little bit of both. Several main characters in my works are based on people I know, and when they’re based on people of color, I’m sure as hell not about to whitewash them. Laris, one of the main characters in Rising From the Sand, is based on a colleague and friend of mine who’s bisexual. Maywitch, my current web serial, features a main character who I initially drafted as white – but then I stopped and went “wait, but… her backstory might make more sense if I did THIS!” and I rewrote her as the daughter of an immigrant from El Salvador.

Why did you choose to self publish Rising From The Sand?

When I refer to my current source of income as my “day job,” it’s a bit of a misnomer – it’s really more of a “days, nights and weekends job.” I knew that with the sudden travel and absurd hours my job sometimes requires, I was setting myself and my publisher up for failure if I tried to go the traditional route. I’m working on moving into a more stable job, but the shorter timelines and greater flexibility afforded to self-publishers has really started to grow on me, so maybe I’ll never traditionally publish.

As a fun example: About two weeks after I announced a release date for Chasing Falling Stars, I was informed that I would have to travel for work for the next eight weeks… which would take up all my time until just two weeks before the release date! Fortunately, I made time to finish everything and send out ARCs as planned, but I was cutting it a little too close for comfort!

As an #ownvoices author, how would you like to see representation change in the next five years?

For starters, I want everyone to work to combat this idea that LGBTQ equals “adult” – because that idea doesn’t just come from the Christian right. Cishet folks of all political stripes (and sometimes even LGBTQ folks!) often carry that assumption. Hell, none of my works (so far) even allude to the characters having sex – although that’s changing soon in Maywitch. The fact that I’ve managed to put 170,000 words of non-sexual and only occasionally romantic LGBTQ representation into the universe shows that you can tell and read our stories without having to know the nuts and bolts of same-gender lovin’. This assumption seems to occur with both authors and readers, to be honest, so it’ll be an uphill battle on all sides. I have a ton of respect for the young adult and middle-grades authors who have fought so hard to get us as much representation as we have; now let’s fight this assumption that anything LGBTQ above that age range is erotica.

I’d also like to see more racially diverse casts – and yes, I say that as a white author! I grew up in a town that was 95% white. I want #ownvoices narratives from people of color; I want white authors to step outside their comfort zone and use research and sensitivity readers to craft more diverse stories; I want sci-fi stories to actually reflect the world we live in, and the worlds we’ll be living in, as people move and societies change.

If you could give an aspiring writer only one piece of advice, what would it be?

Make some writer friends. Seriously, their advice, feedback, funny stories and anecdotes will keep you going when you look at your Amazon sales page or your latest royalty check and just want to go “shit, I should quit.”

What are you working on now that readers can look forward to?

Three big things at once, because believe it or not, my job has a decent amount of down-time for now! Shattering the Skies, the final book of the Quicksand trilogy, features Wynette and her crew in a more perilous situation than ever before. That won’t be out until late 2017, but I’m sure it’ll go smoothly once I actually figure out what the hell I’m going with it! Maywitch is wrapping up in mid-March, and I’ll take a short hiatus before debuting a short spinoff/sequel that won’t be nearly as dark and scary.

Finally, I’m debuting a Patreon-exclusive sci-fi web serial set in the same universe as the Quicksand series. Cannon Code is set two years before the start of Rising From the Sand and gets a little bit into the origins of one of the characters introduced in Chasing Falling Stars. I’m super excited about it because it’ll give me a chance to flesh out some of the worldbuilding I never really accomplished in the rest of the Quicksand series, but it’s still a standalone story I know I’ll have a lot of fun with.

Sounds like there are some pretty awesome things coming up in the land of Ria Fritz! Thank you so much for doing this interview and for being awesome.

cfs coverrRia Fritz is a queer cat lady who loves science fiction, fantasy and action stories. She currently lives outside Chicago with her two cats, though she’s working on moving overseas for a bit while she’s still young. Her works include the Quicksand science fiction series and the web serials Maywitch and Cannon Code.
You can keep up with Ria on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. You can also purchase Rising From the Sand here.
*All Amazon links are affiliate links and I will receive a small commission.