Okay guys, this one is personal for me. When I became a member of the MM Romance group, it was Kaje Harper who welcomed me with open arms, listened with an open ear, when I had no one to talk to about some stuff and slowly and carefully fostered the embers of my interest in the genre into a burning flame. And that was before I had ever read a single book she wrote! She is such a generous, talented and good hearted person and I feel so lucky to be able to count her among my friends. Her “The Rebuilding Year” was actually the first M/M paperback I possessed. I thought I had won it in a giveaway, but the prize vault hadn’t been updated and I was told it was already gone. Kaje had seen how excited I had been and sent the book TO GERMANY, on top of the paperback she sent to AUSTRALIA to the actual winner. I mean seriously, SHE IS AWESOME! And In all honesty, hers is some of the best, most realistic writing I’ve encountered in the genre! So I know this is LONG (but that was inevitable with the two of us :P), but It’s really worth it, so please read it. She has a lot of interesting stuff to say and will GIVEAWAY not only a backlist title of hers as ebook, BUT ALSO a $20 donation to the Eric Arvin fund in the winner’s name. Did I mention how awesome and generous she is??? 😉
Thank you for agreeing to this interview, Kaje 😉 As you know, the first book of yours I ever read was your debut “Lies and Consequences”. Where did you get the inspiration to write it, what made you decide to self-publish it for free and how did you ever stumble into M/M writing in the first place?
“Lies and Consequences” started when the debate over Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell in the US military was ongoing, and it looked like the repeal might fail. I wanted to write a story that showed some of the craziness and human impact of that policy. But in a fun story and not too angsty. So the secondary characters became the ones most deeply impacted by it. I also wanted to write an M/M where the strong hero was rescued by a woman 🙂
Before it released, DADT was repealed, so the story became more of an action romp. I did offer it to MLR, but at that time I was an unknown quantity (they had just accepted my first book “Life Lessons”, and it was still in editing). And what they saw was the synopsis, of my everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink-and-a-plane-crash plot. (Even as I wrote the synopsis for them I knew it would sound crazy.) So they said they wouldn’t take it without substantial revisions.
Well, I just wanted to get it out there while DADT was still in the collective consciousness. So I self-pubbed it for free on Smashwords. A really amateur solo effort. No beta reader, no editor, did my own cover – I didn’t even realize I might pay other people to do that. But it was fun, and probably worked to make people look at “Life Lessons” when it came out a month later.
As for how I got started, I read “The Persian Boy” when I was fourteen, and I’ve been writing M/M ever since, almost forty years, long before M/M was a genre.
I hope it did, because your Life Lessons series is still my favorite of yours. I love the way the relationship between the characters feels so real. They have flaws and not everything is always perfect. You released the final book in the series last year. “Learning Curve” was book four in a series that you planned to be a two book series. How did Tony and Mac bully you into writing more of their story?
Well, partly it was Tony wanting to know more about Mac’s family (which finally happens in Book 4) and partly it was me knowing that the hard part in a relationship is often not the first “honeymoon” year of dating, but the time when you have to mesh your day-to-day lives. Especially if there are kids involved. Mac would have to learn about becoming a full-time parent. And I wanted to write a really romantic scene for them. Plus Mac coming out was a work in progress. I guess it just all nagged at me. And it helped that readers seemed to want to know more too.
So although they had the hint of a HEA at then end of Breaking Cover, there was so much life work left to do, I had to go on. I have a really hard time leaving characters behind. Everything I write seems to invite a sequel. Maybe because I try to stay real, and that means even my HEAs have a hint of HFN in them. Because life happens, and keeps on happening, and the story is never really over until you’re dead.
I’m very glad, because after reading book three I so hoped we would find out more about Mac’s family, as well. It was great to hear that you were working on book 4 back then 🙂 Sometimes when sequels are released, it feels like the characters are ripped from their HEAs, just to be thrown into a contrived plot device that solely exists to stretch out a story that is already finished and feels unnatural. It never felt like that with any of your books, so I’m always happy to hear about an upcoming book in one of your series. Like when I heard that your brilliant “The Rebuilding Year” would get a second book. I remember really loving the characters and being sad that it ended before we got to see the new family dynamic. Can you share something about the the book with our readers?
I had planned The Rebuilding Year to stand alone. But I did end it on a somewhat unfinished note, as Ryan takes the first tiny step to come out to his family. So every once in a while, the loose ends would nag at me.
This one is about Ryan dealing with coming out openly in a gay relationship, to his father and brothers, his classmates and the world. It’s also about Torey, John’s daughter, and her place in their lives, and how John can make the people he loves fit together. It’s about the conflicts that arise for Ryan, who is in love with a man living a settled life with kids, when he’s just starting down an educational path that includes med school, internship, residency, and may not all easily happen in one small town.
I’ve always been interested in what happens after the classic I-love-you-happy-together moment. I’m only about a third of the way into this second book, and since I never know how things will work out before I write them, I’m also curious about where this story is going…
Hehe. I first saw that one in a best M/M standalone list, but I’m glad it moved beyond that. I think your going further than the easy HEAs is one of the things I admire most about your writing. But then again, “The Persian Boy”, the book that you said started it all for you, wasn’t a simple HEA story, either. Though I haven’t read it yet, I was told that like many other classic gay fiction stories that were published before the M/M genre took off, this one doesn’t provide an easy happy end. Does the book still influence your writing after all these years and did finding and reading it at a young age make you want to provide teenagers and young adults access to GLBTQ themed books through your Goodreads group?
The Persian Boy is gay lit, definitely, despite the romance element. But his love for Alexander shines through, despite the difficulties of his slavery, of being a eunuch, and not being the only (or perhaps even most important) man in Alexander’s life. It felt more intense than any other romance I’d read, and caught my heart.
I’ve always loved romance in my reading. My mother liked turn-of-the-century things like Elizabeth Goudge, my straight brothers read Georgette Heyer historical romance, as well as Mercedes Lackey and Diane Duane and other M/M fantasy. Our house was full of books, and I enjoyed every genre there is, but I loved the emotional resonance of having romance in there, and M/M appealed for that reason.
My parents also were very conscious of social justice, and gave me an early awareness of how unfairly some people were treated, just for who they were. I didn’t directly know any LGBT people then (at least, not who were out of the closet – I later found out some family members were). But when I went to write stories in my teens, the emotional pull and complexity of making the romances in them gay appealed to me. And I’ve always been a big believer that fiction can change hearts and minds. I wanted mine to have that potential.
As a teenager, reading and writing books saved me from a lonely existence. (I was very shy, unattractive, prone to saying the wrong thing at the wrong moment.) So I think, more than any one book, it was that gratitude for how writing could be a haven, a teacher and a friend, that pushed me to do more with YA fiction. My own and others. And of course, watching my own kids read and love books contributed too.
That is the reason why I love your GLBTQ YA group and the free YA anthology you have created. When I was struggling with my own sexuality, I was too scared to buy a gay book, but I was looking for free gay stories online and one of those stories gave me the courage to come out to my close family and friends. I think the effort to provide teenagers with inspirational stories that can help them understand their feelings is really important. Which YA titles would you recommend our readers to give to young people who need some inspiration and how can they find your YA titles and your group?
For YA titles, it depends a bit on the teenager, what they like to read and what their sexuality is. We have a bunch of lists. There are good fantasy books with gay main characters – like Magic’s Pawn or Luck in the Shadows or Ash. These are great for low-angst-LGBT-is-normal reading. Stories like Thinking Straight or The God Box address Christian religious bigotry in a positive way, for kids who have to deal with that aspect. Luna and Parrotfish are good trans* books. Rainbow Boys is just one of now several good gay-in-high-school books that isn’t too dark.
The YA LGBT Books group is on Goodreads. Everyone is welcome – we have members from age 13 to seniors. We share recommendations and discussions, read books and write stories. There is a whole folder of the monthly YA LGBT short stories on the group. I pulled together 15 of mine, M/M, F/F, bi and trans, in a free book Rainbow Briefs which can be downloaded from Smashwords (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/…) and many other sites (including B&N) (and is also for sale in paper on Amazon.) The group has many more wonderful stories by other people. And we encourage everyone to do whatever feels comfortable, from just lurking silently to writing with us. We have a list of helplines, and resources, and try to provide a warm, accepting place for everyone.
Thank you for the list and everything you are doing for the GLBTQ community. I do very much appreciate it! On a personal note, being in a gay relationship where both partners classify as bottoms, I also loved your stories like the freebie “Show me yours” that show that one can be in a happy relationship, even if not all common sexual practices appeal to both partners.
You do have a lot free stories available. What made you decide to offer so many of your stories for free to readers and which would you recommend to someone, who would love to get a taste of your writing style 😉
Part of writing so many free stories is impatience – I love to write. When I finish a pro book and send it to a publisher, there may be eight months or more of revisions and formatting and work to be done before it gets released. I want to share my stories faster, while I’m still excited about them and haven’t moved on, and a freebie is one way to do that.
I could, of course, self-publish for money. But that requires more effort (to make sure the book is up to standards for formatting, especially.) It also would take more confidence that I’ve edited the story to the level which is worth having people pay good money for it. I enjoy the early writing of a new story much more than the rest of the process, so the freebies let me write, polish a bit, hand it out to my readers, and go on to write the next thing. It’s fun all the way around (although with two kids in college it’s maybe not popular with my husband…)
Freebies are also good publicity. Since I hate doing other publicity (as most writers do) I can justify the free stuff as pulling in new fans. Some of my pro-published stories are on the more pricey end of the ebook range, and a free story balances that and assures readers that the pro book is worth the money.
As for which taste of my writing to start off with:
Like the Taste of Summer is only 15,000 words, a fast read set in the 1980s with a simple romance arc and happy ending.
If someone prefers novels, either the fantasy, Nor Iron Bars a Cage, which has some dark elements but ends well,
or my own personal favorite, the WWII-to-present-day story Into Deep Waters.
They are all available on Smashwords, and other online vendors.
You have another free novella that has just come out as part of the free Scavenger Hunt anthology “Hunting Under Cover”. Can you tell us about your first published menage story and how the novella came to be?
Heh. That one was your fault. You tempted me. Challenged me even. How could I resist?
Basically, a group was putting together a thank-you-congrats-on-the-baby gift for a wonderful lady named Katie, who runs the book-reading games on the Goodreads M/M Romance group. These people (including Marc) played her Scavenger Hunt – teams of readers tracking down books that contained elevators, twin beds, cowboys, flavored lube, drinks on the cover, and other things that scored points for their team. The game ran six months, and ended at the new year.
They wanted to write her a book, the holy grail of scavenger hunt books, the one with all the possible points in it. They decided to make it an anthology because trying to fit everything – 10 items (like the lube), 10 locations (like the elevator), 10 themes (like cowboys), and 10 cover items – into one story was a bit crazy. So they envisioned a collection of stories that between them would cover all the SH points.
The problem was that time was tight, less than two months, and they wanted genuine M/M stories completed over the whole array of points, not just spoofs. So they went looking for suckers authors to donate a story.
And Marc found me. Not a surprise, right? I mean… “Write an M/M story with three major themes, four items, two locations and finish in three weeks…” – that sounds like my kind of challenge, doesn’t it?
At that time, it wasn’t clear if anyone else was going to manage to do a story with the remaining three of the major themes – Law Enforcement, Cowboys or Sports. So when I started, I envisioned a story with one MC for each of those. My first attempt at M/M/M.
I began with an established threesome, thinking it might cut my writing down to short story length. But then the opening scene turned out to be a gateway to both a minor mystery and some major upheaval in the main characters’ lives. And it grew. And grew. So my story, Changes Coming Down, is now a 64,000 word mini-novel in the middle of the book. It follows Casey, Will, and Scott as they deal with job loss, promotion, coming out, staying in the closet, money issues, long-distance relationships… oops, so not a short story.
I had fun with this. To me, M/M/M is just one more of the lovely variations that human relationships can have. But it has to make sense. There has to be something that each of the three gives to the trio, a reason why no pair can make it alone better. Because two people in a couple is simpler, more accepted, more familiar than three in a menage. And that’s the challenge – to have the reader believe in the relationship.
In my story, Scott travels a lot playing hockey. Will is a ranch foreman and Casey is a small-town sheriff. Both have co-workers they have to count on and are reluctant to be out publicly, so all three are in the closet. Casey is prone to overwork and depression, and Will lives pretty isolated and alone. The three of them support each other, and they mesh into a working, loving relationship. But when Casey’s job and Will’s ranch are both threatened by events, they have to figure out a new way to be together.
I hope readers will like this story. It was engaging to write, and although I didn’t have a lot of time to edit and tweak it, I’m pleased with the result. There are six other stories from talented authors in the anthology. Plus one round-robin story where we took turns trying to cram all the forty point-items into one short. (That one is kind of a spoof. But fun.)
So, we are getting close to the end of the interview, but I wonder if there are any other subgenres or tropes that could tempt you for a story someday. Any crazy plot bunnies trying to get your attention? Like… I don’t know? A sci-fi story, BDSM, vampires or *cough* dinosaur shifters? *smiles innocently*
I do think I might do a BDSM story someday – more on the Dom-sub end of the spectrum than SM with real pain, because I understand D/s better emotionally and psychologically. I sometimes wonder about the side characters Dominick and Will, and their failed relationship in “Home Work”.
I have a SciFi book about 10K along, sitting on the “maybe” shelf. I’d love to do more fantasy, and a real historical further back in time than WWII. Vampires… maybe. Although they’re a bit overdone. When I wrote my werewolves at first, I thought it would be more unique, that there weren’t likely to be a lot of M/M werewolves written. (hah! I should have checked, but at that time I wasn’t going online.) I don’t really want to get into another overworked niche.
And you’ll have to work on your innocent smile a bit. Because as a scientist, I can’t make dinosaur shifters work. Humans and dinos are too far separated. (Unless someone was a multi-species shifter and went back in time, and wanted to fit in… but then there’s conservations of mass… it would have to be a spell… maybe pull the mass of a nearby tree into the construct…) Damn it, Marc. No dinosaurs!
Looks like there are a lot of potentially interesting stories we might get to see in the near future 😉 I don’t read a lot of BDSM, but if I do it’s more for those reasons as well. That spin-off is a really cool idea and I’m sure a lot of people would appreciate a realistic take on the subject, as some popular main stream books have inspired many books that call themselves BDSM, but don’t necessarily represent it.
What kind of research would you do for a book like this and what are the most interesting things you got to do or discovered during research?
Sci-Fi stories give you the opportunity to be very creative and play around with different ideas as setting for characters that are still relatable, even though they live in a very different world. What idea did you want to contribute to the genre and why did you put the project on ice?
What kind of fantasy would intrigue you? I know you have written a fae short story and some fantasy elements in your “Nor Iron Bars a Cage”. Would you like to go in a similar direction or create a whole new fantasy world?
My fellow blog reviewer Beverly will do a monthly “Prism Past” series starting in February honoring classic historicals like “The Song of Achilles”. Would you like to write a book that far back in the past or rather a period a bit further back than WW2 like the regency period?
I must shamefully admit that I still haven’t read your werewolf series, though the books are waiting on my kindle. There are a lot of people who are regularly asking for good shifter stories and it’s mostly a smaller number of stories, including yours, that keep getting recommended. Even if a sub genre has inspired many stories, I believe a different approach and quality writing are always appreciated. I thought your vampire short was very intriguing and love a more dangerous, bad-ass vampire much more than one that sparkles in the sun. I do hope you find a way to let your vampire out of his coffin in a unique way that wouldn’t feel like anything else that is out. There is so much potential in a main character who lived through all major historical periods and events, I’m sure your spin on the sub genre would be worth reading 🙂
As for the dinosaurs. You know me 😉 I for one am easily pleased. Even a time travel story into the Jurassic Past, a sci-fi story with dinosaur like aliens, a fantasy with a dino aspect or genetic dinosaur experiments would totally work for me. Though I’m never opposed to some magical Deus Ex Machina if it serves a purpose! I guess I can always hope *sigh* (And point out that in same way or other all the genres your tempted by – well, perhaps exempting BDSM 😛 could use a little dinosaur-ization *angelic smile*
I always aim for my stories to feel real. Research would be important before doing the BDSM book – how much would partly depend on how experienced I make the characters. If I used Dominick, then I’d have to really dig into it. The Society of Janus might be my first stop for that.
The Sci Fi is a lost-colonies, long-year-cycle world where a new ambassador is trying to figure things out. I tabled it because it was going to be a short story for Christmas, and by 10K I knew it was another freaking novel. So it may be resumed.
The best thing about fantasy is the opportunity to play with situations without having to follow the real-world rules. I have a paranormal with magic users, and a high fantasy story, both a chapter in, waiting in the plot-bunny cage for attention. I find fantasy very relaxing to write. I also played with the idea of a sequel to Gift of the Goddess…
I’m not sure I want to write a really-ancient historical where I know nothing of the background, and other than the era of Alexander and Helenistic Greece, I haven’t studied the ancient world. I’m more interested in the medieval period. But it may be more research time than I want to dedicate to a book right now.
I’m glad you liked my little vampire short. Who knows, I hope to continue to write for decades yet. But the ancient knows-history vampire I did that little scrap about on your Title-to-Tales game would be another research-effort-sucking project.
I do wish you a very long and successful career, even if part of that wish is my selfish need to read more of your stories J We’ve already talked about some of your upcoming stories, but could you give us a rundown about what you are working on right now. If I’m correct, there should be about 5 WIPs right now including a sequel to your free holiday short. It would be great if you could give us an update on everything you are working on right now! 😉
Current WIPs that are active (as opposed to the tabled drafts, and the lurking first chapters):
“The Family We Make” – this is the sequel to my holiday short story, “The Family We’re Born With” and my current really-active project this week. It will be a novel about Rick, his brother Sam, the guy Rick meets and their developing relationship and family. With some obstacles. It wasn’t in my original plans, but then planning isn’t my forte.
The Rebuilding Year #2 – this one is about a third done. I set it aside because it was a little unfocused. I hope to restart it once The Family We Make is done in first draft.
Hidden Wolves #3 – the first draft is done. (And it has the cross-dressing werewolf I promised someone I would write.) It’s waiting for an edit and beta reading, before being submitted.
Full Circle #2 – I still really want to write this one, but the hook hasn’t come to me yet. Jamie needs his HEA too though.
I’m contemplating a bunch more, including a full novel for the F2M character in my YA story, “Designing Sam“, but which story will happen when I’m not sure.
Kaje Harper grew up in Montreal, and spent her teen years writing, filling binders with stories. But as life got busy, the stories began to just live in her head. The characters grew up, met, endured, and loved, in any quiet moment she had, but the stories rarely made it to paper. Her time was taken up by work in psychology, teaching, and a biomedical career, and the fun of raising children.
Eventually the kids became more independent and her husband gave her a computer she didn’t have to share. She started putting words down in print again, just for fun. Hours of fun. Lots of hours of fun. The stories began piling up, and her husband suggested if she was going to spend that much time on the keyboard she ought to try to publish one. MLR Press accepted her first submission, Life Lessons, which was released in May 2011. Kaje now has several novels and short stories published, including Amazon bestseller The Rebuilding Year, and a selection of free short stories and novels available on Smashwords and elsewhere. She currently lives in Minnesota with a creative teenager, a crazy little omnivorous white dog, and a remarkably patient spouse.
Goodreads Author page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4769304.Kaje_Harper
For my other books (and selecting from my backlist for the winner), readers can visit the Books page on my blog (http://kajeharper.wordpress.com/books/ ) which has lists and links for all my stories.
Kaje Harper has graciously agreed to give 1 commenter an e book copy of a winner’s choice backlist title and to give 1 commenter a $20 donation in their name to the Eric Arvin Support Fund <3
Contest ends 29 Jan 2014 at 11:59 pm, must be 18 or older to win, void where prohibited, etc.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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