AL Brooks - Dare to Love

For our December 2020 meeting of the Lesfic Book Club, we discussed Dare to Love by AL Brooks. If you weren't able to make it, check out the transcript below.

A couple of notes on the transcript:

If you want to join us live, we discuss lesfic novels every month at (sign up or follow me on Twitter to find out what we're reading next). Some chat participants requested that their names be obscured, so below you'll see that everyone has been anonymized as Reader 1, Reader 2, etc.

A. L. Brooks (she/her) 4:02 PM

Heyyy, I'm here!

Reader 1 4:02 PM

Hello hello, thanks for joining us!

Normally what happens is Q&A format, and AL you can either respond right in the chat or you can hit the little ‘reply in thread’ button that looks like a speech bubble to thread your responses - either way works.

What did everyone think of Dare to Love?

Reader 2 4:04 PM

A MA ZING!! It was my first book and after that I just felt for the rest!

Reader 3 4:05 PM

I love it, it was really interesting the way Ash and Carmen blend in together being so so different

Reader 4 4:05 PM

I thought it was wonderful

Reader 6 4:05 PM

I really loved it, after foolishly thinking I wouldn’t enjoy it (based solely on the blurb and foolish ideas of my own)

Reader 2 4:05 PM

But I must confess my favorite so far is A Heart To Trust! :heart_eyes::heart_eyes: @A. L. Brooks (she/her)

Reader 4 4:06 PM

any tattooist has my heart

Reader 7 4:06 PM

I enjoyed it, even as I wanted to strangle Ash lol

Reader 8 4:06 PM

I obviously loved the main characters and overall plot lines but I also loved the depth the supporting characters brought and insight into the main characters.

Reader 5 4:06 PM

Is this the second or maybe more in a series. I feel like the actress and Maggie have a story somewhere??

Reader 9 4:06 PM

I realized there was a book before this one so I just had to buy it so I can read all about Tamsyn and Maggie and find out how they got together. Dare to Love was great by the way.

Reader 5 4:07 PM

That’s her name, Tamsyn!

Reader 3 4:07 PM

I loved the Sophie side story part of the book

A. L. Brooks (she/her) 4:08 PM

I love that you all are so positive about the book - thanks! And yes, in response to a couple of comments so far, secondary characters are really important to me in all my books. My MCs usually have that one great friend, or family member, who's vital to their story. Sophie's story was a given from the minute I started plotting, for example

Reader 9 4:09 PM

I'm curious, did the name Ash come first and then the idea of the phoenix rising from the ashes, or was it the other way around?

A. L. Brooks (she/her) 4:09 PM

The name came first, yes! Then the idea for the tattoo and back story followed about 30 seconds later :joy:

Reader 5 4:10 PM

How many tattoos have you got?

A. L. Brooks (she/her) 4:11 PM

I have 8

Reader 9 4:11 PM

Did you have to do a lot of research for this book?

A. L. Brooks (she/her) 4:12 PM

The main focus of my research was finding stories of women who, like Carmen, suddenly had an attraction for a woman fairly late in their lives. It was very interesting reading!

I also needed to update my tattoo knowledge - it's been a few years since I had my last one, so I just needed to make sure I was up to date with the hygiene rules etc

Reader 8 4:13 PM

Not being a writer but being an avid googler what does one google when that is what you are researching? I imagine you would find a lot you need to weed through to find the good stories.

A. L. Brooks (she/her) 29 minutes ago

Yeah, that does make it hard, or maybe frustrating is more the correct word. The kinds of crap you are faced with when you're trying to get to the nitty-gritty of an issue is maddening sometimes

I have to gear myself up for research days, where I know I'm just going to have to keep on pushing through, trying all sorts of variations on a theme to get the articles/posts I want

Reader 8 27 minutes ago

Wow, such a process but such a wonderful result, we benefited for sure! I imagine your filing cabinet of sorts is bursting and you have stories for days of the things you have found. Not at all what I think people imagine when thinking about writing.

A. L. Brooks (she/her) 22 minutes ago

Oh yeah, I have so many ideas for future books!

Reader 3 4:13 PM

What about the pastry they were obssesed? I was craving it the entire book lol

Reader 5 4:13 PM

You should have just got another one to aid your research!

What’s the difference between those ones and a normal one?

A. L. Brooks (she/her) 4:15 PM

Yeah, the pastries came from a trip my g/f and I took to Portugal in 2017. I mean, I'd had them before, but not direct from the source, so to speak. I LOVED them, so I had to build them into a book sometime

Reader 1 4:16 PM

Ash and Carmen complemented each other so perfectly - which character came first, or were you initially inspired by some other element of the story?

Reader 9 4:18 PM

If Ash's symbol is the phoenix, what would Carmen's symbol be, if she were given one?

Reader 5 4:19 PM

Have you ever really loved a certain part of your story, only to have your editor get a red pen and rule thru it saying oh this bits not needed or something similar?

A. L. Brooks (she/her) 4:20 PM

In answer to Reader 1's question, Carmen came first, as she was a side character in Write Your Own Script, but literally the minute I started thinking about her having her own story, the idea of Ash popped into my head. Like, what is the 'worst' scenario Carmen could face if she's attracted to a woman (and an out lesbian at that) for the first time. Oh yeah, a woman who's sworn off 'curious' women. Mean, I know, but...

Reader 9, I think Carmen would be a lioness. Quietly strong, very protective of her friends/family

Reader 5 - all the time!!! It happens with every book. But I always make a point of keeping the chunks the editor is adamant should go, because you never know when the opportunity might come up to make a short story out of it

Reader 8 21 minutes ago

Novice non writer question here be warned...are you allowed to release anything, short stories, novellas, etc... not published by your publisher? So if your editor or people said no I hate this bit could you take it and release that piece on your own bc you loved it?

I feel saddened for all the bits of stories in dark corners across the globe.

A. L. Brooks (she/her) 20 minutes ago

We definitely have freedom to release other stuff, especially short stories. I have a couple of free short stories up on my website, and I'm sure I'll add more, and probably from bits I've left out of previous books

I have a question for the readers - favourite character, Carmen or Ash? Or someone else?!

Reader 4 4:27 PM


Reader 5 4:27 PM


Reader 2 4:27 PM


Reader 3 4:27 PM


Reader 7 4:27 PM

Depends on the situation

Reader 10 4:27 PM


Reader 6 4:28 PM

For me, Carmen… especially as somebody who came out (trans, in my case) later in life, so I could identify in some ways with her

Reader 9 4:28 PM

Hmmm... I'd have to think on it a bit I think.

I like each one, but for different reasons.

Reader 1 4:28 PM

I think I’m going Ash for somebody I’d want to hang out with or date, and Carmen whose struggles I relate to more

Reader 9 4:29 PM

I like them both, but I guess I like them both together better.

If you could throw your characters into another world, for whatever reason, what kind of world would it be? Something general like sci-fi, fantasy, superhero or other? Or something more specific like the Ghostbusters, Lord of the Rings or some other world?

A. L. Brooks (she/her) 4:32 PM

Reader 9, that's an awesome question! I'm already imagining Ash as some kind of butch superhero. Maybe with Carmen as the mysterious woman she has to rescue, only to discover Carmen is quite capable of rescuing herself, thank you very much

Reader 5 4:33 PM

Are you a panster or the other one?

A. L. Brooks (she/her) 4:34 PM

Haha, I'm an in-between! I have a vague, sort of overall plot, but I don't flesh out too much detail beforehand. I have kind of 3 or 4 key scenes/situations I know I want to put my characters into, and then I start writing and see how we get there. Sometimes it works really well and quickly, other times it takes a little longer

Reader 5 4:34 PM

Thanks for understanding my question! :joy:

Do you read your reviews?

Reader 8 4:36 PM

Wait! So there are only 3 or 4 key scenarios and all the rest were building blocks to the key ones? I feel like so much more was key. I think I passed more key in the first 20%.

A. L. Brooks (she/her) 4:37 PM

Sometimes... I do find it hard to take some of the negative ones, when they're not that constructive, e.g. "I hate this book, she's not a good writer." Those make me wince. So I'm selective. When a book first comes out, I don't read any of them - my g/f does and lets me know in very general terms if the new book is being received well or not. If it is, then I might start reading reviews as they come in

Reader 5 4:37 PM

Who is your favourite lesfic author?

A. L. Brooks (she/her) 4:38 PM

Reader 8, yeah, it sounds crazy but that's just how my brain works. And yes, it does mean I end up with more 'key' moments than I first 'planned', but the inspiration just hits me as I write the characters and their story together develops

Reader 8 8 minutes ago

Got it! So you start with less and end with more. I thought you didn’t consider the rest key.

A. L. Brooks (she/her) 7 minutes ago

No, that's the joy of being a pantser - key stuff kind of miraculously appears as you go along, haha!

Reader 5, it's hard to answer that one! I have so many :joy:. But to name a few: Jae, Clare Ashton, KJ - they're currently the authors whose books I would read as soon as they publish them, probably without even reading the blurb

Reader 7 4:41 PM

Definitely good ones

It's always interesting to see what style of books writers enjoy, especially compared to what they write.

A. L. Brooks (she/her) 4:42 PM

It is! Like, I love Fletcher Delancey's books, and many other sci fi/fantasy writers, but could never write that genre myself

Or at least I don't think so

Reader 7 4:43 PM

What do you have in your writing queue?

Reader 5 4:44 PM

Do you have set working hours? Or do you just try and do ‘some’ writing everyday? Also how do you keep motivated with the shit British weather?

Reader 4 4:45 PM

And the shit pandemic

A. L. Brooks (she/her) 4:45 PM

Reader 7, I just finished writing my next novel, titled Chasing Dreams, and that's now with my editor, and will be out next October. Next up (and this is a world exclusive, folks!) I'm working on a sequel to my debut, The Club, which my publisher is keen to take a look at, so let's see if that makes it out to the world sometime...

Reader 5 4:45 PM

Next October :scream::scream: why so long if it’s written?

A. L. Brooks (she/her) < 1 minute ago

Because we go through lots of editing and proof-reading before it's published, and that all takes time and scheduling around the editors' own deadlines... sorry!

Reader 5, I'm no longer in the UK, I've lived in Germany since the start of 2019 so I don't have to worry about the British weather any more, just the German weather, haha! And no, I don't have set writing hours - I work full time at a day job, so I have to just fit my writing around that. So mostly at weekends really

Reader 5 4:47 PM

Is that why it’s October for publishing? To give you time to do the edits etc?

A. L. Brooks (she/her) 4:48 PM

Reader 4, yeah the pandemic has been hard for the creativity, that's for sure :unamused:

Reader 1 4:48 PM

Just kind of a general trad pub question… do you just keep going back and forth with your editor until you both feel it’s done, or do you know how the revision process is going to go in advance?

Reader 7 4:49 PM

And do you use the same editor with each book?

A. L. Brooks (she/her) 4:49 PM

Reader 1, we have a set timeframe for edits, i.e. a date by which it has to be done, but during that timeframe we might do 3 or maybe 4 'passes' of her and me working through it to fine tune it to a point where we're both happy

Reader 7, not necessarily - Ylva has a pool of editors on hand, so sometimes I get someone I've worked with before, sometimes it's someone new

Reader 6 4:51 PM

If you were sitting at a table with your favorite actress and your favorite author, who would you be sitting with?

A. L. Brooks (she/her) 4:52 PM

Reader 6, I'd be dining with Gillian Anderson and probably Jae if you made me really, really, really pick one favourite author

Reader 5 4:53 PM

It’d be ice cream then. I heard Jae eats nothing but :joy:

Reader 1 4:53 PM

You’re in Germany so this could be a reality… do you and Jae hang out?

Reader 8 4:53 PM

I’ve noticed that at least a handful of writers have a pen name that they write under for books of a different style or genre subtype. Is that ever something you would consider to try out mixing genres like sci/fi in to test yourself out? What would your sci/fi fantasy pen name be?

A. L. Brooks (she/her) 4:54 PM

I've actually had lunch with Jae since I've lived here, so I can confirm she does eat more than ice cream - I believe it was spetzle with cheese followed by cake :joy:

Reader 8, it's definitely something I would consider if I had more time to write, i.e. no day job so I could write in more than one genre

@Reader 5 No, this is my real name, just with initials instead of my first name :grimacing:

Reader 8 4:56 PM

Copy. So win lottery. Come up with pen name for second genre. Write.

Reader 2 4:58 PM

What is your day job if you don’t mind me asking?

A. L. Brooks (she/her) 4:59 PM

I don't mind at all! I work in corporate financial systems. So, I'm part of a support team for my company for one of their budgeting systems. We help people when the system doesn't quite do what they want, or if they're new to the company and need to know how to use it

Reader 8 5:01 PM

So do you view writing as work or as an escape?

A. L. Brooks (she/her) 5:01 PM

Oh definitely escape!

Reader 8 5:03 PM

If it ever started feeling like a chore what would you do? Reevaluate the topics you were writing? Step away? I’m sure the two things together can get to be consuming.

A. L. Brooks (she/her) 5:04 PM

I would step away. In that respect I'm lucky I have a day job, so writing isn't my main income and therefore I would have the luxury of being able to take a break. Luckily, that feeling hasn't happened yet though!

Reader 5 5:05 PM

Do you speak good German now? This question is so eloquently phrased it’s obvious I can’t even speak good English

Reader 1 5:05 PM

Elizabeth Gilbert said something along the lines of “never ask your passion to pay your bills” in Big Magic. Setting aside the fact that a lot of authors disregard that, I think it’s good advice

Reader 4 5:06 PM

Do you ever think it could become your main income?

A. L. Brooks (she/her) 5:07 PM

Reader 4, I'd love it to be so, but I think it will only happen once I retire from the day job, when I have a pension and can supplement it with the writing

Reader 5 Today at 5:05 PM

Do you speak good German now? This question is so eloquently phrased it’s obvious I can’t even speak good English

A. L. Brooks (she/her) 1 minute ago

Unfortunately not yet! I can do everyday stuff, but proper conversation with a group of people about all sorts of topics, no

Reader 1 5:08 PM

We’re a little past the top of the hour… any more questions for AL, everybody?

Reader 8 5:08 PM

Not from me. Thank you so much!

Reader 5 5:09 PM

Thank you for your time tonight

A. L. Brooks (she/her) 5:09 PM

It was my pleasure! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, and I'm glad Carmen and Ash's story was so loved