Spoonie Authors Podcast Episode 11: Writing People Different from You with Laitie Montai

Don’t like the podcast format? You can also view the podcast on YouTube. (Closed captions are available for the YouTube video; transcript can be found below video.)

Transcript coming soon

Transcripts done by CJ Clougherty, @PadfootPGH

Dianna: Hello and welcome to the Spoonie Author’s Podcast: a podcast where we explore a different disabled author’s stories each week. I’m your host, Dianna Gunn, and joining us today is Laitie Montai. Born and raised in Rochester, New York, Laitie Montai had a pretty average life, but a look inside her imagination would make you think otherwise. She can usually be found daydreaming, or writing, or writing her daydreams down in a word document or journal. Today she still lives in Rochester, New York with two birds, two cats, and fourteen fish. Hello, Laitie!

Laitie: Hello! Thank you for having me.

Dianna: Thank you for joining us. It is wonderful to have you. I have to ask before we start talking about the story: how do you stop your two cats from eating your birds and your fish? *laughs* 

Laitie: So, the birds are in a cage high up off the thing. Um – so, the cat can see the birds, might jump at the birds (luckily in the new house they haven’t jumped at the birds *laughs*) and the fish they don’t seem to notice oddly enough.

Dianna: Really? That’s fascinating. Um – I’ve had a couple friends here and there with both fish and cats (which always seemed like asking for trouble to me) and usually the – the fish end up being cat TV right? Because they’re closed off. So usually, like most fish they have to have the top closed anyway because aquariums are really hard to maintain. But usually the cats at least watch. Yours don’t even notice?

Laitie: Yeah, not really. *laughs*

Dianna: That is crazy. All right, let’s move into the story. And your story is also named Birdie, you have a birdie thing happening here. So tell us about Birdie and why this story came into being.

Laite: So Birdie – um- she’s just a special character I have. She means a lot to me and she’s just – she feels like my, toe dipping into the water. She has a lot of drama going on in her life, and that’s really what the story is about. Birdie’s just her nickname.   she has a really high pitched voice, like, like a bird so that’s how I got that. 

Dianna: That makes sense. Sounds like Tweetie Bird? 

Laitie:  Kind of. *laughs* So, yeah, so she’s just my attempt at trying to get into publishing and self publishing and writing and getting myself out there.

Dianna: That’s awesome! So why have you decided to take this path? Is this something you’ve been thinking about for a long time or?

Laitie: The self publishing path? 

Dianna: Yeah, like, why are you pursuing things in the way that you are pursuing them?

Laitie: Mostly because I know when you do like traditional publishing, you don’t own your own characters, the publisher does. And I’m like “But these are my characters. These are my babies!” *laughs* So that’s really the only reason that’s pushed me to self publishing, you know, I don’t want the publisher to have power over my career. I want to have power over my own career.

Dianna: That’s completely fair. And so you tend to reach short stories, correct? That’s sort of where your focus is. 

Laitie: That’s actually a really funny part about it though, I intend to write full length books, but I am so short and to the point, and direct that by the time I’m done with the story, I’m about 10,000 words short of an actual book.

 Dianna: See I have the opposite problem: every time I sit down to write a short story I end up with at least one novel. *laughs* Maybe if we could meet somewhere halfway somewhere in the middle that might be good. *laughs* So it’s sort of an accident, that you end up writing short stories, it’s not something you’re drawn to?

Laitie: Right, it is really a lot of an accident. You know, short stories are not popular, they’re not common. I don’t even read short stories because they’re not popular, so I don’t really know where to find them. So yeah, it really is just a happy accident, they’re short stories. 

Dianna: Fair enough. There are actually lots of great places to find flash fiction too, but I know that like short stories that are like in the middle range now (anywhere between like 2000 words and actually being a nove)l are harder to find. But I would really recommend Daily Science Fiction for flash fiction. They do every once in a while publish a longer short story, and they send one out every day as one might expect for their name.  They’re really great if that is something that you want to look into more, or if listeners are interested in  reading more short stories.

Laitie: Yeah, that’s good to know, thanks! 

Dianna: I try to be helpful! For a while also, like, I thought that I was going to write short stories and sell them because it seemed like a practical way to get into the habit of writing. And then every time I wrote a short story, it ended up being – all of the feedback I got was, “This is actually a novel.What are you doing trying to sell me this? ” But so I do know of these magazines, and unfortunately a lot of them are closed, it’s really hard out there for short story magazines. But there are still some really great ones.

Laitie: I know an online one called Books and Quills Magazine.

Dianna: I feel like they’ve been r for a while, I didn’t realize they were still running.

Laitie: I like, live on their discord, they’re, they’re my friends. *Laughs*

Dianna: Discord is phenomenal. Especially for us disabled writers because it can be so hard to actually, you know, get out and have a social life in the world, rather than – it’s so easy when it’s all on our computers.

Laitie: Yeah. Yeah, I have anxiety and depression, and driving in the roads today, and like, I’m super proud of myself that I did it because, my anxiety was going wild with all the snow. 

Dianna: Where abouts are you?

Laitie: I’m in Rochester, New York.

Dianna: Right, so how snowy is it there? I mean it’s been going since I woke up here, but I can’t –  I live in a basement, so it’s really hard to tell how much has actually stuck to the ground. I just know that it’s been snowing all morning.

Laitie: It’s snowing so fast that the plows can’t keep up. 

Dianna: Oh wow

Laitie: I think there was like half an inch or an inch on the road when I was driving around. 

Dianna: And I guess you know that’s completely not normal stateside. I’m Canadian so we’re like “half an inch of snow? Whatever” but it’s not normal in most of the US, and so I see a lot of people freaking out right now.

Laitie: Yeah, It’s mostly normal but the fact that the plows can’t keep up is what made it really bad. 

Dianna: Yeah. That’s always a challenge and makes driving scary. I think snow is much better if you don’t have to drive in it, like it’s gorgeous, snow makes the world beautiful,  but as soon as you have to drive in it, or take a bus in it, it’s just bad. All right, so I was going to ask you if there were any short stories you had that had an impact on you, but I guess since you don’t read short stories, I’ll just open it up to: what are some stories that you have really loved that have made an impact on you as a person and as a writer? Oh and bonus points for disability  representation.

Laitie: Exactly Unfortunately I don’t have any disability because, of course, growing up there wasn’t much of anything. But a lot of stories like stories by Tamra Pierce, obviously Harry Potter too, and a lot of fantasy have really impacted me. I’ve always been attracted to people who are different from me. So I grew up in a good house with happiness, whatever I needed. So I was always interested in like the poorer class, the people who struggled, the street rats, things like that. Those tropes, uh – those kind of really taught me how to be a writer, how to treat people  – even – even, whether they have disabilities or not, how to treat people. How to – how to be a decent person.

Dianna: Absolutely. I think, you know, ironically enough with all of the things that have come out over the last couple of years, Harry Potter did teach that to a lot of people. Especially like, you know, JK Rowling might be whatever JK Rowling is, but the Harry Potter fandom, the community at least, you know, of the people that were obsessed with Harry Potter as it was coming out like, you know, our age: They’re phenomenal people and they fight for equality and they believe in treating people equally, and they will say you know they got it from fantasy. And there have been a lot of actually interesting studies about emotional intelligence and reading so I think that’s a really cool thing to talk about. God I could, I could do a whole solo podcast just talking about that. It’s great.

Laitie: No, I agree. I’m, you know, I think I have Asperger’s. So with ADD and Asperger’s I’ve always struggled with social stuff. And when I don’t understand how to be something, how to do something. I turned to books, I looked at the – I read books to kind of learn how to navigate the social world.

Dianna: Absolutely. Are there any recent books that you’ve really enjoyed?

Laitie: Recently I’ve actually been into historical fiction. So, yeah, really, really like medieval times, especially the princesses. Absolutely females. Males are great, I live with my beloved boyfriend. Um – but I’m kind of tired of reading about boys saving the world. I want to hear about the girls. So, lots of  females in the stories I’m reading. Like Elizabeth the First and Mary, Queen of Scots.

Dianna: Awesome. That sounds fantastic. I definitely do at this point, much prefer reading stories about women with women at the forefront. But, I mean, you inevitably will read something with the dude as the main character. There’s –  unless you’re very very particular about it, you’re gonna end up reading stuff with men. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just there’s a lot of fantasy with women in it now that there didn’t used to be. And a lot of historical fiction with women at the forefront is starting to become more of a thing. And I feel it’s kind of just acknowledging that women have been the ones reading historical fiction this whole time. *laughs* So now we’re actually becoming the main characters as well.

Laitie: Mm hmm. A little sneak peek: my work in progress has been, we’re tired of reading about guys, I’m tired of writing about guys, so I was writing a girl. And then I was like, but, but she’s not a girl. So – she – I have a transgender character coming up.

Dianna: Awesome! I love that.

Laitie: *laughs* It’s not really like a political stance or a political dialogue. It’s just like, well, he happens to be this way, and I’m gonna roll with it. 

Dianna: Yeah, and that’s honestly, how it should be. And I think that that’s part of our duty as authors to leave space for that. When I was first writing there was always just this assumption that my characters were cis and straight and it wasn’t something I ever analyzed until a couple of years ago. And you know even character profiles so often they’ll have, you know, they might have a spot for gender but they won’t have a spot for sexuality because it’s just assumed that your characters are straight. And so that’s been a really huge thing for me to, you know, actually add that to my character profiles and deliberately think about it when I’m creating the characters. And I don’t think that should be a political decision at all, it should just be like, leaving room for characters to authentically be themselves and to be real people. Because that is what we’re trying to do, right? We’re trying to create people that feel like real people.

Laitie: Exactly.

Dianna: Um – Do you have any disability rep in your stories? Do you think that’s in the pipeline, or?

Laitie: There is some. I have to actively think of it most of the time, because I feel like all my characters have a touch of depression, Asperger’s, ADD, because that’s all I’ve known my entire life. But uh – definitely, like the transgender character has PTSD. So there’s definitely room for me to write more disability characters, but it’s definitely in the plan too.

Dianna: Awesome! And on that note, how would you like to see representation in the media as a whole change in the next five years?

Laitie: Just treating disability as like a normal thing, not like “oh my gosh this disabled person did this thing that’s hard for them!” No, just more like “this person did this,” and don’t even mention the disability. Then when they realize that person’s in a wheelchair it’s no big deal. Just keeping it, not as important as everything else, because it’s not. It is, but it isn’t, you know?

Dianna: Yeah, it’s – and I mean, I think it really depends on the disability too like – 

Laitie: True. 

Dianna: Something I’ve noticed as I’ve been stepping more into disabled communities is that there are a lot of people who feel like they are not defined by their disability and like they, you know, they are defined by everything else. Um –  But there are some people, and it’s usually the people who have, you know, severe chronic pain that is debilitating on a daily basis, who do feel like they’re deeply defined by that disability. And I think that’s something to be aware of and to consider if you’re going to have a disabled character. For a lot of disabled people it’s just sort of tangential. Once they figure out how to operate as disabled people it’s not a big deal. 

Laitie: Mhmm. Right. Yeah. No, I mean probably depends on the person too.

I think you’re right with that.

Dianna: And I guess that’s the thing is not treating people like a monolith. 

Laitie: Yeah, exactly. I actually work a lot with people with disabilities nowadays. So I definitely get to see how it affects people’s lives besides the mental disabilities that are, that I only know about. So it’s really nice to get those other perspectives from the other people all the time.

Dianna: Absolutely. I think that’s the most important thing we can do as writers really is to try to understand what life is like for other people.

Laitie: Right. That’s what I’ve always loved doing as a writer anyway, so.

Dianna: So can I ask a bit about this other work that you’re doing out there working with disabled people? Because that sounds awesome.

Laitie: It’s not like a lot of work. I work with a gentleman named Alec Frazier, who is a disability rights activist. 

Dianna: Awesome.

Laitie: Yeah, and he does a lot of reviews of things and he does a lot of political stuff to get disability rights going and rolling. And I got to go to a seminar for people with disabilities trying to get jobs. And so I learned  – that’s where I learned most of what it’s like to be hard of seeing or things like that. And then we go to cons, we go to like New York Comic Con I almost went, I couldn’t afford it, I was really sad. And we speak on being writers,  with Asperger’s actually specifically. And that’s really fun too, because you get to go to a convention.

Dianna: That sounds like a really phenomenal experience. How did you luck your way into that?

Laitie: Yooo that was, that was luck. *laughs* I was seeing this guy who definitely was diagnosed with Asperger’s, and Alec had a thing at a convention that  my boyfriend at the time and I went. It was a panel for Asperger’s, all comic writers with Asperger’s, or something like that. And we went to it, and Alec just liked me. He really – not like romantically or anything, very platonic, he just like texted me and I texted him, and we became really good friends and I  after that discovered I might have Asperger’s. He started inviting me to talk on panels and it was amazing. It’s great Alec has, has changed my life  and means a lot to me.

Dianna: That’s amazing! What, what is it like doing panels with your anxiety? How do you keep your anxiety under control while you’re doing that in front of all of those people?

Laitie: Um – That’s not really too much of the hard part. I like the spotlight. I like talking. But if anxiety does show up, just breathing, if I need to (I don’t know if I can say this on the podcast?) but I use CBD, in a vape. That helps when like I’m having a full on attack, and I need something quick. 

Dianna: Yeah!

Laitie: Yeah. But most of the time just – just breathing, getting excited, it’s gonna be fun people are going to be listening to my words, and they’re interested in what I have to say, and that excites me rather than gives me anxiety.

Dianna: That’s awesome. I’m so glad to hear that you are out there doing such great work. That comes to the end of my questions so I guess we will wrap up. Before you go, how can readers find out more about you and your work?

Laitie: I have a lot of – well – 2 or 3 social presences online. I am on Twitter: laitie315, I am on Facebook: Laitie Montai, I am brokencrayoncoloring.wordpress.com . I don’t have my own domain yet, I have to pay for that. *laughs* I don’t have money. 

Dianna; Awesome Well, thank you, and for anyone who’s wondering how that is spelled it is L-A-I-T-I-E  so that will help you find her. Thank you so much for joining us Laitie, it’s been wonderful chatting with you. I know we had some scheduling hiccups. And thank you for accommodating me and my craziness that I call a life, and have a wonderful weekend, and a wonderful life.

Laitie: Thank you, you too, thank you for putting up with me too! *laughs* 

Dianna: Thanks for listening to this week’s episode of The Spoonie Author’s Podcast. The Spoonie Authors Podcast is part of the Spoonie Authors Network: a community initiative devoted to sharing the stories of disabled authors and educating abled people about what life is like for disabled creatives. Transcripts of this podcast are also available on the Spoonie Author’s Network. To learn more or become a contributor visit spoonieauthorsnetwork.blog And of course, if you enjoyed this podcast make sure to leave a five star review on your favorite podcast streaming platform.

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