Glad to have you back!
I hope you enjoyed the earlier interview with Hannah Willow. What's that? You didn't see it? Well, go find it - after this one!
I have a rapidly rising star in sapphic speculative fiction with me now. Molly J. Bragg has taken this corner of fiction by storm, and she's showing no signs of slowing down!
Molly J. Bragg is a 47-year-old trans woman with a degree in Astro-physics and a love of storytelling. She loves science fiction, superheroes, and giant robots. Her hobbies include collecting transformers, watching way too many crafting videos on YouTube, and complaining bitterly about the way a certain comic book company treats her favorite superhero.
Purchase links for my books
Star Trek or Star Wars?
· Star Wars. Don’t get me wrong. I’m definitely bi-fictional, I love Star Trek with all my heart, but I still remember sitting in the theater as a very, very young child watching Star Wars on the big screen. I loved it. I had so many Star Wars toys growing up. Piles of action figures, the Millennium Falcon, an X-Wing, the Twin-Pod Cloud Car, light sabers. To this day, I still love Star Wars.
DCU or MCU?
· DC. Supergirl is my favorite Superhero of all time. She has been since I saw the Helen Slater movie back in the 80’s. Before that, it was Superman. I did spend a long time as a Marvel fan when I was a teenager and going through my edgy phase, but then I rediscovered the DC characters as a low point in my life, and realized something. The difference between Marvel and DC is that Marvel characters are different in a particular way that makes me love DC in a way that Marvel can never touch. Marvel characters are very much designed to be grounded and relatable. Tony Stark is a narcissistic, self-destructive alcoholic who tries to do the right thing, but often screws up because his moral compass isn’t quite right. Peter Parker is a good guy who makes himself miserable because he’s never able to find the right balance in his life. Daredevil is someone who suffers from faith, rather than being uplifted by it. Their very real characters, and can be fun to read, but they don’t quite connect with me the way DC characters do. DC characters are aspirational. They are Paragons. They remind us of what we should try to be. Superman’s moral compass is always pointed to true north. Supergirl is the embodiment of hope and endurance. Wonder Woman is a symbol of kindness, compassion, and empathy. Marvel comics are relatable, but DC comics are inspiring.
Firefly – gone too soon or overrated?
· I’ll probably get drawn and quarters for this, but overrated. I loved Firefly the first time I watched it, I really did, but when I went back and rewatched it a few years later saw a lot of stuff that doesn’t sit well with me. For one thing, there’s the very obvious Civil War parallels in the story, which makes the show end up framing the Confederacy as heroes. There’s the orientalism that runs through the show. South East Asian culture is adopted as a major aesthetic without any actual Asian characters in the show. Then there’s the subtle misogyny, the way insane cannibals are used as an analog for Native Americans, and the anti-sex worker prejudice which is a huge part of Mal’s personality. I don’t know if the creators did any of that intentionally, I don’t want to believe they did, but it all makes me deeply uncomfortable.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
· I was probably around twelve years old. I don’t remember exactly. But it would have been late 1988, or early 1998. I was deeply in love with Star Trek The Next Generation, and I walked into my friendly local gaming store looking for a new set of dice because teenage me was a total dice goblin, and I saw the first Star Trek The Next Generation tie-in novel on display. I was instantly hooked. Here was new Star Trek I’d never seen. Over the next few months, I devoured not only every TNG novel that came out, but a huge chunk of the TOS tie-in novels back catalog, and somewhere along the way, I started wanting to write my own Star Trek novels. I don’t really remember what the plot was, but I do remember being really eager to write Data for some reason, and I remember really wanting to explore the impact Tasha Yar’s death had on him, because it was something I felt like never really got the weight it deserved.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
· I steal them. There’s a very old saying. Good artists borrow. Great artists steal. I definitely aspire to be a great artist. A lot of my stories are born from a place of, “That’s a neat story, now let me show you all the ways you wrote it wrong.”
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
· I’m kind of boom or bust. I suffer from clinical depression and have a lot of issues with writing when I’m depressed. When I’m in a good head space, I’ll spend every free moment writing and turn out four novels in five months. When I’m in a bad head space, I sometimes go months without writing a word. It’s not a good way to work, honestly. My medication helps even out the workflow, but even with the meds, I have rough patches. It’s something I really struggle with.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
· I have a really hard time writing incompetent characters. I think part of that is because I’m autistic. Seeing people do something in a way I know is wrong literally makes my skin itch. As a result, I tend towards characters who are hypercompetent. It’s fun, but it’s oddly challenging when you’ve got heroes and villains who are both bringing their A-game. You have to find ways for both sides to make mistakes without being stupid about it, because if they're stupid, it breaks their character. On the other hand, I do think it makes for more satisfying stories.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
· I didn’t really start out writing novels. My first finished writing project was a stage play. I was a huge theater geek in high school, and I wrote my first play when I was 17. I finished my first novel when I was twenty-nine, and it was terrible. I hadn’t really found my voice as a writer yet, and I spent a hundred and fifty thousand words aping someone else’s writing style. I still have that book tucked away somewhere, but it’s an unsalvageable mess that I will never show anyone.
Is there a trope you find yourself going back to in multiple works? Or one you avoid?
· There are a lot of tropes I go back to for multiple works, so that’s an answer that could run on for hours, but there is one trope I usually avoid. I hate it when there is a problem that could be solved if characters just talk to each other. I’m not saying it’s never a valid trope. In fact, there is a sub-plot which runs through Hearts of Heroes 2, 3 and 4 which is an example of that trope. The thing is, it’s almost always done incredibly poorly. The characters usually don’t talk for completely ridiculous reasons. When I used the trope in Hearts of Heroes, the issue is that you have two women who are in love, but one of them refuses to approach the other about her feelings because she’s afraid the other woman will reject her if she finds out she’s trans. She knows it’s an issue, and she’s trying to work through her fear, but part of the issue she’s having is that she can’t get past her own internalized shame. It’s something that’s a very real and I think valid fear a lot of trans women who pass deal with, which is why I chose to include it, but I do worry about how it will come across to my readers because I normally hate the “all their problems come from a lack of communication” trope.
What does your family think of your writing?
· The members of my family that have read my books all seem to really enjoy them. I do have some family members who are definitely not in the target audience for my books, but most of my family has been really supportive of my writing. I do worry just a bit about my mom. Mostly because I think she might hire someone to break my kneecaps if I don’t get a sequel to Blood of the Basilisk out soon. She really liked that one.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
· Oh, that’s a tough question. I have seven novels under contract with an eighth on the way, and a handshake agreement with my publisher for at least nine more that haven’t been written yet. I have two novels on my hard drive that will never see the light of day. I also have a bunch of fanfiction novels and novellas up on my AO3 account. More than a million words of fanfiction in total. As for which is my favorite, I don’t know. It’s hard to say. I think Transistor, the second book in my Hearts of Heroes series is easily my most personal work. Blood of the Basilisk has a special place in my heart because it turned out so much better than I ever imagined it would. I also have a project that is turned in and edited, which may or may not be announced by the time this interview goes live that I am tremendously proud, but picking a favorite is hard. I think if I had to choose, I’d probably say Transistor, just because of how raw everything on the page is.
What do you think makes a good story?
· Authenticity. I don’t mean you have to get every little technical detail right. God knows, I’ve handwaved enough things in my day. But in order to tell a good story, you have to focus on emotional authenticity. How do your characters feel? How do their feelings affect their actions and their choices? If you can get that right, you can make almost anything work.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
· I wanted to build things. I went through a phase where I really wanted to be an architect. I loved building things so much as a kid, I thought that would be my dream job. Sadly, math defeated me. Don’t get me wrong, I love math. I think math is beautiful. Unfortunately, math doesn’t love me back.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
· Both. Writing is hugely fulfilling, and when I get on a roll, it’s electric, but there are times when you finish a scene or a chapter, and you feel like you’ve been through the wringer. Transistor was particularly bad about that. I mentioned in an earlier answer that it was the most personal thing I’ve ever written, and honestly, that entire book left me raw and bleeding. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as exposed as I did during the time I was working on that book.
Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
· Both. It takes a good bit of ego to decide that your daydreams are good enough that people will pay money for them. A big ego can help carry you when writing is hard, or the words just don’t want to come. On the other hand, a big ego can destroy you professionally. I’ve seen aspiring writers destroy their career before it even starts because of ego. I’ve lost count of the number of want-to-be authors who have made themselves radioactive by posting things they shouldn’t on social media after getting rejected by an agent or publisher. I’ve seen authors destroy their own fan base because of a bad review on Amazon or Goodreads. You have to have ego to go into this line or work, but you have to learn to control it, or it will destroy you.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
· YouTube and Wikipedia. I’ll go to both for research and get lost in a rabbit hole for hours.
Who shot first, Han or Greedo?
· Han shot first, and George Lucas is a filthy liar who lies.
What do you have coming next?
· My next book is Aether: Hearts of Heroes 3. It’s due out on June 13th.