Author Interview: KJ Charles00:00
KJ Charles talks about her writing and gives sneak peaks in her upcoming books
ER: Hi, KJ and welcome! I want to start this interview with some questions on your writing process and then dive in more detail about your upcoming books (and I know you have a few of those up your sleeve)
So, let’s kick this off with the question how you became a romance writer. Was this your childhood dream?
KJ: I always told stories in my head but it never occurred to me that I’d be a writer; I never really wrote them down at all. And when I did start writing I didn’t actually intend to write romance--I was supposed to be doing fantasy. None of this was planned, basically. I’m just making it up as I go along.
ER: What is the best and the worst thing about being a writer?
KJ: Best is the reader response. When people say that a book meant something to them, or are inspired to create art or Tumblr jokes or reference your work or just talk about it. Writing is very solitary and then the book comes out and strangers are suddenly talking to you about the people in your head, and sharing in your mental creations. It’s really astonishing.
Worst is how easy it is to screw up. Especially writing romance, which is a genre people come to in search of something that is in the end going to make them feel better. I don’t ever want to think that someone read a stupid throwaway remark of mine that made them feel attacked or belittled; I don’t want to expose my blind spots and unconscious bigotries, both for my own shame and for the sake of readers who might read something hurtful. Unfortunately, writing is a great way to give people a CAT scan of your psyche, for good or ill. If I’ve learned anything it’s that we all have a lot more blind spots—at best—than we’d like to think.
ER: Which part of the writing process is the easiest and the most difficult for you?
KJ: I love the self edit. When you have the first draft down, you’ve found out what the book is actually about, and you’re just tweaking and refining and oiling the bits to work together. That’s pure fun.
Most difficult: Copy edits. As an editor and an opinionated person who dislikes being wrong, I have difficulty taking them with grace.
ER: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
KJ: I’m now a plotter. It’s been a hard learning curve, though. I had to dump 30K on a book where I’d been winging it and it hadn’t worked; I vowed to plot thoroughly in the future; I then plotted out an entire book in detail, the first of a trilogy, and had to dump 30K of that because I’d forgotten to make the characters interesting or likeable. /side eyes everything/
ER: You write mostly queer historical romance. Is this your favourite subgenre to write? Do you want to try other subgenres?
KJ: I vastly prefer historical. If I do contemporary it would be urban fantasy probably, maybe horror. To be honest I don’t think I have anything to say in realistic queer contemporary that wouldn’t be better said by #ownvoices writers. Which is not to dictate what anyone else should write, but it’s how I feel about me.
ER: You have written only m/m couples so far, if I’m not mistaken. Are you interested in writing other types of relationships - m/f or f/f or poly relationships?
KJ: My December novella features a f/f central relationship and I’m aiming to write more of that. I have a forthcoming nonbinary main character also (Sins of the Cities book 3), and I’d love to write more nonbinary leads. I’ve never had an idea for a poly romance, but if I do I will!
ER: Speaking of writing dreams and future plans - what is the most outrageous/crazy story you want to write (Please, ignore the practical aspects of who would publish and who would want to read it)?
KJ: I don’t really see anything I want to write as outrageous, in that if it makes a coherent story, why not just do it? There is an amazing world of readers out there. (Except for my Twitter-running-joke contemporary Brexit romance, Hard Brexit, which involves a constitutional lawyer and a hot Brexiteer, with wigs-and-robes kink. That’s probably a step too far for anyone, ever.)
ER: Same question but about what kind of story you want to read and haven’t found it yet?
KJ: It’s not remotely outrageous, I just want more diverse historicals--diverse in terms of class and race and gender and sexuality and setting and period. Also I really want queer Restoration romance please. Someone do that or I may have to.
ER: Now, it’s time to focus more on your upcoming books. I believe Wanted, a Gentleman is your next release, right? Can you tell us more about it?
KJ: In fact I have two! Bear with me...
‘The Price of Meat’ is a short story (15K) in the queer horror anthology All in Fear, out now. It’s set in a Victorian AU, inspired by one of my favourite Victorian pulp stories (I won’t spoil it by saying which but Sondheim fans will probably work it out from the title!) and based on a real historical curiosity: the liberty of Alsatia, which was an area of London where laws officially didn’t apply. It’s penny dreadful rather than romance, with a f/f relationship at the centre.
Wanted, a Gentleman, publishing January, is a shortish novel/long novella set in 1805, a road trip story in which our heroes are on a chase to Gretna Green in pursuit of a runaway heiress. Theo is a Lonely Hearts magazine publisher and jobbing weasel; Martin is a merchant who’s a sort-of friend of the heiress’s family, and the story is about them solving their immediate problem of catching the heiress, tackling the larger problems they both have, and coping with the utter ghastliness of a 14-mile-an-hour high speed chase on miserable roads through nowhere...all the while falling in love. :)
ER: I know you are also working on another series of historical romances. When can we expect them and what will they be about?
KJ: The trilogy is called Sins of the Cities, and it’s a Victorian series set in 1873. I love Victorian sensation fiction, which is all about lost heirs and family secrets and murder and shenanigans, so I decided to write one. It’s three separate romances involving a set of friends, with an ongoing family-secret/murder plot that works its way through all three books. I also wanted to write some lower/middle class characters, not just the aristocracy, and to generally make my Victorian London a bit more reflective of the real place’s diversity.
The first is An Unseen Attraction, publishing February, about Clem Talleyfer, a lodging-house keeper, and Rowley Green, a taxidermist. Two gentle, quiet, mild-mannered men who deserve a lot better than to get mixed up in someone else’s murderous family secrets...
ER: This is a bit of unfair question but who is your favourite character/book you have written?
KJ: Probably A Seditious Affair. It’s a very political book, which I like; I loved putting the history together; the romance absolutely flew for me in the writing; plus these were the most star-crossed lovers I could possibly imagine, which is hugely pleasing to the sadistic writer brain.
ER: Oh, that is my favourite of your books too. I hesitate between Dom and Silas for a most favourite character and can’t really choose but as a couple (and the story of their coming together and staying together) they are just out this world amazing!
ER: Which book of all you have written so far was the easiest to write and which the most difficult?
KJ: Jackdaw was absurdly easy. Writing it was like taking dictation. The most difficult was Unseen Attraction draft 1, which as noted above started with a different plot and two different main characters. I’d already sold the trilogy, including audio rights, so I couldn’t simply not write the damn thing, and I had two linked subsequent books depending on this one so I had to find a way to keep the trilogy structure in place while redoing everything else including recasting the leads completely and oh my God I’m going to have to go for a lie down just thinking about it. Once I had the proper characters, it was a joy to write.
ER: And my final question is what advice would you give to aspiring authors?
KJ: You will get more criticism from more sources than you can imagine. All of it will hurt; some of it will be unfair; plenty of it will be important. You need to learn to listen to it, assess it, and be very ready to accept you screwed up. That’s how you do better as a writer and a person. (And don’t ever throw a tantrum about it in public.)
ER: Thank you very much KJ for doing this interview!
KJ: Thank you for having me!
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KJ Charles next release is Wanted, A Gentleman, coming out on January 9 from Riptide publishing.
By the good offices of Riptide Publishing
KJ Charles’s new Entertainment
WANTED, A GENTLEMAN
Or, Virtue Over-Rated
the grand romance of
Mr. Martin St. Vincent . . . a Merchant with a Mission, also a Problem
Mr. Theodore Swann . . . a humble Scribbler and Advertiser for Love
Act the First:
the offices of the Matrimonial Advertiser, London
where Lonely Hearts may seek one another for the cost of a shilling
Act the Second:
a Pursuit to Gretna Green (or thereabouts)
a speedy Carriage
sundry rustic Inns
a private Bed-chamber
In the course of which are presented
Romance, Revenge, and Redemption
Deceptions, Discoveries, and Desires
the particulars of which are too numerous to impart