Interview- Eliza Lentzski

Two of my favorite book series are written by the same wonderful writer. Eliza Lentzski, thank you so much for chatting with me!

Thank you for asking me, Laura!

Eliza, tell us about your upcoming release and what we can expect from June and Lucia?

First, let me say, I am so excited about this book and this couple. I think folks are really going to enjoy this one. The plot has been with me since my wife and I took a trip to Napa Valley for our 15th anniversary, back in 2019. We stayed at an Airbnb on a vineyard in St. Helena—which sounds fancy, but believe me, I am not fancy—and we spent most evenings just wandering around the property and marveling over the views. I thought to myself, ‘I should really write a book about a vineyard.’ Sour Grapes, which will be ready this May, features June St. Clare, a 40-something woman from the Bay Area who’s looking for a new start, and Lucia Santiago, a grumpy assistant wine maker who is definitely not interested in any of that.

It’s not quite the grumpy/sunshine trope because June’s anxiety tends to get in the way of her being an upbeat, all out, bundle-of-sunshine, but Lucia is definitely one of the more surly love interests I’ve ever written. I didn’t intend for it to go that way though. In fact, I originally wanted her to be a female Lothario who doesn’t want to settle down with only one woman until June’s arrival, but Lucia had other plans for her character.

I don’t want to give away too much, but you know you can expect a happily-ever-after from me, a good amount of angst as the characters get in their own way, a whole lot of background research on winemaking, and a dash of social justice.

I am not ashamed to admit that Julia Desjardin is one of my book crushes. I absolutely love how strong she is but how vulnerable she allows herself to be with Cassidy. I need more Julia in my life. Will there be more books in the Don’t Call me a Hero series?

Yes! I have so many more stories for Julia & Cassidy bouncing around in my brain. I just need to find time to write them down! The plan is to wrap up Sour Grapes in May and then jump back into the Don’t Call Me Hero world. Cassidy has a big birthday coming up that you won’t want to miss. *blushes furiously*

I will continue to write about Julia & Cassidy until I think their story has run its course. That’s the tricky thing with writing a series; you don’t want to overstay your welcome with readers. You don’t want to jump the shark. But, luckily, these two still have so much more to do and experience, so I don’t foresee ending anytime soon. We all need more vulnerable Julia Desjardin in our lives.

In Winter Jacket, Hunter is younger but has so much more maturity than Elle. What was the thinking behind making Hunter the “adult” in the series and will you be writing another story featuring these two?

To be honest, I was really nervous about the age gap. I painstakingly did the math to determine the youngest age Elle could be with a Ph.D. and a tenure-track job to make their age difference as small as possible. I know age-gap is one of the more popular tropes within sapphic fiction, but I was worried folks wouldn’t embrace these two as a couple unless I did something to put them on more even footing. I originally set out to write a student/teacher romance that didn’t end with the professor losing her job because I was so angry about films like Bloomington or Loving Annabelle. Why couldn’t we get a happily-ever-after in the 21st century? Hunter is an old soul at the age of twenty while Elle, in her late twenties, has behaved recklessly and selfishly in past relationships until she meets Hunter.

To your second question, I am really happy with how the final book—Winter Jacket: All In—ended, even though I know readers want a wedding and chubby babies and to know where they are now. I would never say never to another Elle & Hunter novel, but I imagine it would be a time jump and then that would become its own series, or a spinoff that features Dean Jessica Merlot with Elle and Hunter as secondary characters. The challenge is I really have to work hard to carve out time to write fiction. I have a full-time job that’s very cerebral so my brain is always getting a workout, and I have a wife who really likes spending time together (poor me, right?). I have so many new standalone stories in my To Be Written queue, plus the Don’t Call Me Hero series. If only there were more hours in the day!

Of your current standalone books, do you plan to write any sequels do those stories and if so, which ones?

I’d never say never to a sequel to any of the standalones, with the exception of Fragmented. I only want to write Happily Ever After stories because we in the queer community get so few in real life. If I continued with Harper and Raleigh’s storyline from Fragmented, it would become an artificial or unrealistic happy storyline as Harper’s mental health deteriorates. The novel actually has two different final chapters because I struggled with that so badly. On one hand, I wanted to be realistic with what their future might entail, and on the other, I wanted Harper and Raleigh to get their HEA.

I get a lot of requests to extend Alice & Anissa’s story from The Woman in 3B, so that could be a possibility someday. The storyline(s) I would most like to revisit, however, is probably a tie between Apophis: A Love Story For the End of the World or The Final Rose. What happens to Sam and Nora when the apocalyptic temperatures being to change? Or, what happens when Lee moves in with Nokomis and her mom on the reservation in northern Michigan? Those are stories I would be excited to explore. 

If you had to be stuck in an elevator for three hours with only one of your characters, which one would you choose and why?

I mean, who wouldn’t want to stare at Julia Desjardin for three hours, right? But, I’m too practical for my own good, so I would say Sam from Apophis. I feel like she would do a nice job of keeping me calm and not escalating the situation (Are we going to ever get out of this elevator? Or are we going to plummet to our deaths?). And if things got really hairy, I’m pretty sure she could find a way to MacGyver us out of there. It’s not a very sexy answer, I’m afraid, but the left side of my brain tends to dominate the right. 

You live in Boston but are originally from the Midwest. What do you miss about the Midwest and what do you love about Boston?

Oh, I love this question. My wife and I wax poetic about this topic all the time.

What I miss about the Midwest: how easy it is to find a parking spot. No joke. Sometimes my wife and I will make decisions about where to go locally based on the parking situation. I mostly miss the people though. Boston isn’t as grumpy or aggressive as it’s portrayed in the movies, but there’s something to be said about chatting up the people in the grocery store line or becoming fast friends with the couple sitting next to you at the bar with the Brewers game playing in the background.

Boston, however, is a fantastic city. I love how walkable it is (I’m apparently really fixated on getting from point A to point B). As a historian, I obviously love its history. Around every corner is a place where something famous once happened (Did you know about the Great Molasses Flood of 1919? Look it up!). I love the food & craft beer scene, although Boston definitely needs more outdoor beer gardens. And I love that it’s a sports city. I’m obsessed with sports. My wife and I go to as many games as we can. Every Patriots’ Day, we go to the Red Sox game in the morning and then spill out to Boylston Street for the final mile of the Boston Marathon. It’s one of my favorite traditions we’ve adopted since living here.

You spend your days as a historian. Who are the three women in history you would like to spend a day chatting with and what would you like to ask them?

If only you could see the Sophie’s Choice drama happening in my head!

I’m going to start with Nina Simone. Please immediately go listen to her version of “Strange Fruit” and “Mississippi, Goddam.” Go ahead. I’ll wait. Nina Simone is my all-time favorite musician, not only because of her talents, but also because of her heart. Rather than sit back and be content with her celebrity, Simone used her platform and her lyrics to advocate for racial justice during the Civil Rights Movement. She basically forfeited her mainstream appeal because of it, and after 1973 she left the country and never returned. I would love to pick her brain about that decision and ask her what she thought of our country’s current situation. Has anything improved? Is there hope for us at all?

Next up, Jane Austen. To say I was obsessed with Jane Austen when I was in junior high is an understatement. I devoured everything she’d ever written when I was in seventh and eighth grade, and I’m probably the raging feminist you see today because of her novels. I watched the Gwyneth Paltrow version of Emma every day after school on VHS (do your readers know what a VHS is?) … although now that I think about it, that’s probably because I was super gay and didn’t know it yet. In my sit-down with Jane Austen, I’m imagining us having high tea and finger sandwiches and talking about the inspiration for her characters, especially Lizzie Bennet.

And lastly, let’s go with Eleanor Roosevelt. It’s a bit of a softball response, but she was the most influential First Lady for a reason. I would most want to talk about her badassery of snubbing the Daughters of the American Revolution when they wouldn’t allow Marian Anderson to perform at their venue in Washington, D.C. and her role in getting Anderson to sing in front of the Lincoln Memorial in 1939. And, to be real, don’t we all want to know more about her relationship with Lorena Hickok?   

You are a connoisseur of craft beer. What are a few of your favorites?

Oh, no. This is almost as challenging as if you’d asked me to pick my favorite novel or character. Deep breath. You can do it, E. Okay: these days I am very into New England IPAs, especially Double NEIPAs. IPAs tend to be very hoppy, almost bitter or piney. Those, traditionally, are West Coast IPAs. New England IPAs are juicy. That’s the best way to describe them. They practically look like orange juice in your glass and they can have a dank or a tropical mouthfeel. Hops like Mosaic, Citra, and Galaxy are my favorites. God, I sound so pretentious. I swear I’m not fancy; I’m just really into good beer. I blame it on having lived in Milwaukee during my formative drinking years.

But back to my favorites … Before the pandemic you could find me trying new juicy IPAs at local tap rooms like Night Shift Brewing or Trillium Brewing in Boston. Off the shelf, however, I’ve been really into anything by Lone Pine lately, which is out of Portland, ME, Ten Bends Beer in Vermont, or Exhibit A Brewing in Framingham, Mass.

How did you meet your wife and if you wrote a book about how you met and fell in love what would the title be?

My wife and I met in the most lesbian way ever. We were dating the same woman at the same time.

It’s a very long story for another time where (aging myself here) AOL Instant Messenger played an important role. The short of it is we didn’t realize we were both the side chick, we found each other, kicked that monster to the curb, and – seventeen years later—are still very much together. We kind of marvel at the fact that we’re not sick of each other yet.

I think an appropriate title for our meet cute and subsequent adventures would be A Very Long Engagement. That also happens to be the title of the movie we saw on our first official date.  

Which lesfic writers books do you enjoy reading the most?

*frets* I always feel so guilty when I’m asked this question. I read a lot, but it’s nearly always non-fiction for my job as a historian. My TBR pile is keeping up on the latest scholarship in my field, and these days it’s a lot of history of slavery in New England. Pretty heavy stuff. I really should take time to read more fiction, because I know it would be good for me, but then I feel guilty that I should be working on my current WIP. It’s a rare moment that my brain allows me to get lost in a good novel.

I have so much respect and admiration for some of the OGs who generously split their time between publishing consistently excellent love stories and who are doing the thankless work of promoting the lesfic community. Jae with her massive Sapphic Bingo Challenge, TB and Miranda with I Love Lesfic, and KC Luck’s recent brainchild, iReadIndies, to support and promote self-published lesfic authors are just a few names that immediately come to mind.

Thank you so much for chatting with me Eliza. It has been an honor and I hope we can do it again!

Thank YOU so much, Laura! It’s always a thrill to chat about lesfic and IPAs and Julia Desjardin. Let’s do this again soon <3