to rule the desert
by Monica Robinson
Released: May 18, 2023
Genre: Speculative Fiction
Why this book and why now?
This book is largely inspired by my own experiences as a queer woman, and it felt right that something so deeply personal would be my fiction debut! As writers often do, I have a plethora of backlogged projects to focus on, but I concentrated on this one first in part because it is so personal, and in part because writing this work in particular helped push me through some heavier parts of the past few years. Focusing on a tale of queer resilience set in essentially a playground of the abandoned and forgotten was a much-needed project for me, and I think it healed me as much as I created it.
What is a significant way your book has changed since either the first draft or the way you thought it would turn out when you first had the inspiration?
“to rule the desert” actually started out as a short story! I submit a lot of Gothic short fiction to lit mags and the like, and that was the original intent for this piece as well, but once I’d written it, I realized there was so much more to the story, and so I really was able to expand on the initial story which was a fun exercise.
Aside from the obvious food and shelter, what 3 things would your main character want with them if they got stranded away from civilization, and why?
I might be cheating just a little bit, because I consider Quinn and Ava to be fairly isolated from civilization anyhow, and the few things they own are very important to them! I think Quinn would chose to have a map to mark their travels, a jar to collect the strange things they find along the way, and a treasured photo album to flip through in the evenings. Ava would, of course, go nowhere without her leather jacket and her switchblade, and would also want to have her favorite battered paperback handy.
One of your main characters is planning a romantic night. Tell us about it.
Quinn and Ava both like to roam, & so I love to envision a drive-in movie night somewhere out beyond civilization. They’d probably be watching a spooky double-feature, something classic in black and white, and Ava would probably fall asleep halfway through the second movie, leaning against Quinn’s shoulder in the front seat. They’ll be eating popcorn with extra butter, no salt, and maybe sneaking some drinks from a stash of hard cider hidden beneath the passenger seat. After the movies end, I imagine they’ll drive away until they can drive no further, pull off into a hidden corner, and curl up in the backseat together beneath the ever-present patchwork blanket, ready to wake up again with the sunrise, ready to move forward again.
Publishing a book is a huge accomplishment and it’s time to party! What song does your character put on to start your book launch party?
I almost took this out of the final version of the book, actually, because I was worried it would be too cheesy. But Ava and Quinn canonically love the Indigo Girls, and the book starts with a reference to “Closer to Fine”, which I imagine kicking off said release party with! The song originally helped me figure out when, chronologically, this would all take place, but it’s also on a playlist I fondly call “90s lesbian summer”, which is a compilation of songs that bring me joy on those bright, exciting summer days where anything feels possible, and I tried to channel some of that into the conclusion of “to rule the desert” as well.