One of the highlights of last year for me was discovering the writing of Stephanie Shea. She has quickly become one of my favorite authors. Her writing is simply beautiful. Stephanie was kind enough to chat with me.
Hi, Laura! Thank you for inviting me to chat with you.
Stephanie, tell us about your upcoming release, Missed Connection, the second book in the Gia, San Francisco series and what we can expect from Avery and Kyla?
Well, anyone who’s read Chef’s Kiss would’ve already gotten a glimpse into Avery’s character. I really enjoyed crafting her relationship with Jenn and I absolutely couldn’t let her go. One thing I’ll say is that Avery and Kyla’s love story doesn’t start at the beginning. Not really. They have a sort of meet cute in an airport lounge in Sydney, Australia, which is captured in the prologue. But then there’s a six-month jump forward—a period in which they hadn’t seen each other at all but spent half that time messaging.
The story really begins when Kyla shows up at Gia, and the readers learn that she and Avery had been seated next to each other on the 14-hour plane ride back to San Francisco. There was a lot of talking, probably some PG cuddling and a not-so-PG kiss at the end of it all. Safe to say Kyla hasn’t been able to stop thinking about Avery.
They both have quite a bit of family drama going on too, but figuring out their feelings for each other is their biggest obstacle, especially considering Avery has never dated women before and Kyla is just in the Mission on vacation before resuming her life as a travel influencer.
The first book in the Gia series, Chef’s Kiss was one of my favorite books of 2021. What was the inspiration for this story and how are your cooking skills?
Putting me on the spot here with cooking jab, Laura. But I guess my cooking skills are okay. I’m definitely no Jenn Coleman. The big kid that lives inside me will totally eat the same ten things if left to my own devices. But alas…adulthood (and my girlfriend) demands better, and there are moments I genuinely love cooking—I put on an audiobook and get stuck cleaning shrimp for an hour, and the whole process is weirdly soothing for me.
The inspiration for Chef’s Kiss came both from personal aspirations and experience. There’s a part of me that leans toward protagonists that have an art they love. I think there’s a lot of artistry in cooking, so when my girlfriend said, “You should write a book about a chef,” I immediately fell in love with the idea. Tie in my love for Italian food, my girlfriend being Mexican and the fact that I’ve always wanted to visit San Francisco and you have the whole inspiration for the backstory. I guess it’s a happy coincidence that San Francisco is one of the restaurant capitals of the US.
It’s also one of the first books I wrote with a trope in mind. I love a grumpy/sunshine pairing and Jenn and Val are about as close as it gets, but maneuvering their age gap and the workplace dynamic without pretending they didn’t exist was also something I wanted to explore.
Whispering Oaks is a mystery with a beautiful romance mixed in. Was this your first time writing a mystery and will you be doing more in the future?
Whispering Oaks is actually my second go at a mystery, but the first is an unpublished YA/NA manuscript that may be put out under a separate pen name.
I love romance, but I also have a debatably healthy obsession with crime dramas—Dick Wolf honestly gets way too much of my time. What I’m saying is, I do think I’ll be doing more mystery with a romantic subplot in the future. (I can’t help but write romance, really.) I already have a handful of people demanding a Whispering Oaks sequel. The ideas are rough, but I’m looking forward to building on them. So, keep an eye out?
When did you discovering your love for writing and what advice would you give to young writers?
I discovered my love for writing when I was in high school. There may be a tiny catalogue of broody poetry hidden away somewhere. (Maybe it was all the Paramore.) But it wasn’t until I was 17 that I made a go at writing novels. That story turned into a four-book series that’s still too rough for publishing, but someday, maybe.
My advice to young writers… This is a tough one for me, because I still feel like such a baby in the writing world, and some days, a lot of days, I have no idea what I’m even doing. So, I’m a bit hesitant to speak as any kind of authority on the subject. What I will say is write. If it’s the thing they love and want to do, if ideas come as daydreams in the middle of the afternoon and haunt them in the late hours, then my advice is to write as much as they can. It’s the only way to grow, I think. Write, read, refine, repeat. Read in their genre, and never submit a first or even a second draft to a publisher or publish it themselves. There’s a line between being so excited about what you’ve written you want the world to see it immediately and obsessing so much you think no one will ever possibly read this, but there is a middle ground. We just need to find it.
You are close friends with Bryce Oakley and Lucy Bexley and wrote the Flippin Fantastic series together. If the three of you were renovating a house together, what would be your jobs in the reno?
I may have cheated a little with this one by getting some input from Bryce and Lucy. But Lucy is great at organizing and building things and she finds really cool, sometimes weird stuff on her walks. We probably couldn’t work a galvanized box into the decor, but she also takes beautiful pictures that are totally picture frame worthy.
Bryce would deal with the realtor in cases of disagreements and handle any nosy neighbors, which might be difficult to juggle with running to the home improvement store 40 times a day because she’s decided the ceiling light she bought earlier isn’t exactly right and we need a different one.
I’d bring the playlist and make sure we stay on task, but I also have way too much practice painting rooms in my parents’ house. So, I guess I could take that job too.
You are a self described introvert. There seem to be a lot of us in the community who are. What does it mean to have such a supportive community who share something so many don’t understand?
There are a lot of us, aren’t there? But I guess writers and readers being introverted isn’t the wildest idea. It definitely makes it easier to communicate with people I’ve never even met. I feel like a part of this writing gig is so social, which I struggle with sometimes. But I find most of the people I’ve interacted with are really wonderful, supportive and friendly.
Sometimes, it helps to know I’m not the only one who struggles with it. A bit of extroversion feels necessary—there’s promotion and networking and readings, and it’s all a little scary sometimes. But at the end of the day, we’re all just people who love books, and even people who aren’t described as introverts usually are kind enough to make the anxiety just a little bit more manageable.
What tv shows have you binge watched recently?
I’ve binge watched three shows recently. The Gossip Girl reboot, which was a questionable decision brought on by nostalgia and being mostly stuck in a room due to covid. Sex/Life, which a friend suggested, and I eventually caved on because, well, Sarah Shahi. But I think the one I enjoyed the most was probably The Sex Lives of College Girls. It’s a comedy-drama. Very socially aware. The cast is racially diverse and one of the main characters is queer, which I look for in just about every show.
If you could invite two of your characters to a dinner party with two other couples from other lesfic books, which couples would you invite and why?
Wow. This is such a hard one. The two characters I’d probably invite are Jenn and Val, because they’re still a bit stuck on me and are the most stable in my mind right now—like, right on the marriage track. The hard part is the couples from other books. I recently read the Tangle Valley series by Brayden, and I liked all three pairings. I have a soft spot for Becca and Joey. But Gabriela shares Jenn and Val’s love of cooking, Italian food at that, and Jenn and Madison may understand each other’s practicality. So, I think any two couples from the series would work well.
I also really liked Jana and Brooke from Noyes’ If the Shoe Fits and Zoe and Pia from Midnight by Bryce Oakley.
You did say five other couples, right?
What are a few of your favorite lesfic books?
I’m pretty new to reading lesfic. Before 2020, I’d pretty much only read a handful of sapphic fanfic on Wattpad. So, my list of favorites isn’t nearly as long as I’d like, but a few of them include:
The Killing Room by Gerri Hill, Fiona Riley’s Bet the Farm, Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur and Alone by EJ Noyes.
I’m tempted to ask you to define a few, because I could just keep going and going. There are so many great books and writers in the community.
If the world wasn’t a Covid mess and you could travel anywhere, where would you most like to visit?
Greece. I’d probably want to start with Athens, but I’d also like to visit the islands—Santorini, maybe Naxos. It’s partly because I’m a little intrigued by Greek mythology, but also because the islands are so damn aesthetically striking.
I also want to go to Merida sometime soon. It’s very hot pretty much all the time but a friend of mine has been trying to get me to visit and go swimming in the cenotes for months. Not-so-fun-fact, I grew up on an island, but I never finished swimming lessons. Plus, I saw 47 Feet Down: Uncaged, so I’m not crazy about getting lost in some sunken Mayan city. But Merida is such a culturally rich city, and apparently the quality of life is the best in the country, so I’ll be taking the trip as soon as I can.
Lastly, I’d probably go to San Francisco. If Chef’s Kiss isn’t a giveaway, I’m a little fascinated by it. It’s beautiful, LGBTQ+ friendly, diverse and there’s so much good food to try. I have to go at least once.
Thanks so much, Stephanie, for taking the time to visit with me! I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you and look forward to reading many more stories!
Thank you for having me! Some of these questions definitely had me a little stumped, but this was fun 🙂