Victoria Villasenor Tells Us All About Her Latest Novel ‘Medea: Priestess, Princess, Witch'

Interview: Andrew Tucker
Wednesday 07 February 2024
reading time: min, words

Relocating from Los Angeles to the UK back in 2007, Victoria Villasenor started Global Wordsmiths in Nottingham over a decade ago, and has since published books under various pseudonyms including Brey Willows and Ally McGuire. She made the time to chat to us all about her thirteenth book Medea: Priestess, Princess, Witch, which has been released under the name JJ Taylor, writing LGBTQ+ fiction, and her advice to emerging queer authors…

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Lovely to chat, Victoria. You started your organisation Global Wordsmiths in Nottingham over a decade ago… is this, we take it, the best place in the globe to be a wordsmith?
I moved to the UK in 2007 - I went from LA to Cumbria. I'd never seen sheep or taken a bus, and got a rather quick and bemusing education (these two old women used to sit behind me on the bus and stroke my hair, without actually talking to me. I thought maybe that's just what British people did).

Moving to Nottingham was much better for my mental health! I've loved it ever since. The creative community here is incredible, and having been co-chair of the Nottingham Writer's Studio was a wonderful experience. I attended NTU to do my doctorate, which is where the idea for Medea took shape. That makes Medea my passion project, and I'm pathetically desperate for it to do well out in the world! It will be my thirteenth published book and it will be published under the pseudonym JJ Taylor. The others have been published under Brey Willows and Ally McGuire.

Now that passion project is about to hit the shelves. Go on, pitch the story to us…
You've heard of Jason and the Argonauts. But what about the woman who made it all possible? The only woman in Greek mythology to get away with murder… repeatedly. This is the story of a woman determined to live her life free from the constraints of both mortals and gods...even when she has no choice but to be their plaything. 

Sacrifices. Politics wrapped in layers of deceit, blood, and ego. Gods with their own agendas not meant for mortal flesh. Magic. Monsters. Love. Who will Medea become in her desperate search for freedom?

Blimey, we’re sold. It’s a mythological story that’s timeless and timely - Medea’s often portrayed as a witch, an immigrant, a female political player in a deeply misogynist society. Do you think of your Medea as an outsider?
Medea is unquestionably an outsider (and I felt a particular affinity for her, having moved countries and lived in many places where, as a Latina lesbian, I wasn't part of the cultural fabric). That said, she's an outsider who continues to fight for what she wants: freedom and respect, which are two fundamental human desires that make her so relatable, I think. She was a witch, an immigrant, and a politician. She was also a mother, a lover, a friend, and deeply spiritual. She's all the aspects women continue to juggle today. And it nearly destroys her, as it does so many of us. But she never gives up, and I think that's the key to her story: she survives on her own terms. 

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As you say, you’ve written a lot about the LGBT community - you have a book subtitled, rather wonderfully, Lesbian Travel Erotica. Do you think you’ve seen the industry change with regards to queer issues while you've been part of it?
We did an amazing book with the Justice Museum: ‘Desire, Love, Identity’. We brought together a fabulous LGBTQ group from Nottingham to write their stories - our youngest participant was thirteen and our eldest was 73.

As part of the LGBTQ community, I know how important it is to find books with representation - and not just representation, but books where the queer character isn't killed or put in an asylum. Books where the focus isn't just being queer, but also on being an astronaut, a stunt car driver, a vampire, an influencer, a woman looking for love… anything and everything. When I came out, we had Stone Butch Blues and Radclyffe Hall, both of which are intense and to some degree, sad. Now, we attend pride events with other queer authors and sell out every single time.

I worked for an LGBTQ publishing house in New York for nearly twenty years as a development editor before starting Global Wordsmiths here in the city, and watching the industry grow and change is fabulous - there are so many independent authors out there adding to the LGBTQ reading options. Some great, some good, some not amazing, but all voices out there saying, "We're here and we see you too." 

And what would you like to say to any new voices, to those LGBTQ writers just starting out?
Write. Write the story you wish was out there. Write with passion. Write with all the bottled up stuff that you can throw on the page. Reach out to local queer authors and get advice. Start your own writing community to support each other and share information. Your story matters.

It's been a pleasure, Victoria! Before you go… it's a tough world out there at times… which Greek god or goddess would you most like to have fighting your corner?
Goodness… that's a loaded question! Medea scoffed at the goddess of love and… well. That didn't go well. So I think I'll refrain from choosing one and annoying the others! 

Medea: Priestess, Princess, Witch by JJ Taylor is out now

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