I’m delighted to welcome KJ Charles to my blog today. Since her first book came out just over a year ago KJ has become one of my autobuy authors (and is the same for many people.) Her first book, The Magpie Lord, was my favourite book of 2013 and it was great to meet KJ at the UK GLBTQ Meet in Bristol earlier this year. She does great blog posts too – they’re always showing up in my monthly Links posts.
1) It’s a little over a year since your first book came out – to great reviews and popular success. Tell us about the year you’ve had since then. Did you anticipate such an enthusiastic reaction to your books?
Good grief, no. I wrote Magpie Lord in part because it was a book I wanted to read (gay Victorian fantasy) but nobody else was writing it for me. So, it seemed unlikely that anyone else would want to read it either. I discovered Widdershins, the first of Jordan L Hawk’s 19th-century paranormal series,some time after Magpie Lord was accepted by Samhain (and then there were two…), but it still felt absurdly niche, right up to the point that people started getting enthusiastic.
Then things got interesting. Lots of people were excited about the sequel, A Case of Possession; Magpie Lord got into the DABWAHA romance tournament; Think of England did well; I got signed by Deidre Knight of the Knight Agency. I quit my job at that point, which was on the face of it a really dumb thing to do, but I had been getting increasingly tired and wary of trad publishing for a long time. I wanted to do what I love (editing, which I now do freelance) while leaving all the admin and meetings and databases and other vital but dull parts of publishing to someone else. And I wanted to see if I could make a living by writing. That was a huge punt to take, still is, but getting a trilogy signed with Loveswept within a month of quitting the job is reassuring. And almost comically unlikely. I was planning to lose some weight by starving in a garret.
2) You recently announced great news about a contract for a trilogy with the Penguin Random House imprint Loveswept. Congratulations! Your books will be their first same sex romances. Do you think same sex romance is moving into the mainstream? Is there more awareness of it among the reading community than there used to be?
I think it’s on the way. Captive Prince will be big, that’s probably a significant push factor behind the large publishers taking the plunge. And there are a lot more writers of primarily het romance trying their hand at queer romance these days, bringing their readers with them. All of that is helping broaden the readership, and where the readership goes, publishers follow, with marketing budgets. So yes, I feel very positive that we’re going to see a lot of growth, that publishers will realise that there’s a voracious readership they haven’t been tapping and hugely talented writers out there, and that more readers of het will be exposed to queer romance and give it a whirl.
3) You helped to organise Queer Romance Month in October. How did the idea for that come about? Do you think it’s gone well and do you see it becoming an annual event?
There are far more people reading and writing queer romance than is usually acknowledged in the wider (ie het) romance world. We just wanted an event where queer wasn’t sidelined or treated like a subsection of romance equivalent to erotic or historical. So we made one, basically. I’m blown away by how well it’s gone – the quality of the posts, the enthusiasm, the sharing, the massive response. It’s really felt to me at least like a community of readers and writers talking for the most part respectfully and always interestingly.
Annual event…don’t know, but we’re talking about it!
4) Your new book Flight of Magpies is the third in the Magpie Lord series and you’ve got a new series ongoing that started with Think of England. You obviously love to write series books. Do you prefer to write an open ended series, or have it planned out to last a fixed number of books?
I have no big plans, ever. I wrote Case of Possession while Magpie Lord was on submission because I didn’t expect it to get published, so it was very much for my own satisfaction because I liked hanging out with the characters. Then Flight was necessary to the story, to clear up the nagging loose threads and bring it to a resolution. But it’s important for me to bring each individual book to a satisfactory ending by itself. (You can do as Joanna Chambers did with her Enlightenment trilogy, or Josh Lanyon with Adrien English, and intend the whole series to lead to a climactic HEA after a number of books, some of which will not even have HFN endings. So far I have not planned anything that well.)
I have ideas for what happens next with the Think of England characters, but I didn’t plan it as a series as I wrote the first one (again, I was very unsure that anyone but me wanted to read queer Edwardian pulp fiction), and if I get run over by a bus I won’t feel as though I’ve left the story catastrophically untold. Which is good, because I’ll be able to concentrate on the life experience of being run over by a bus.
So no, I am not a series planner. What I love is developing a world and populating it. I adored doing Jackdaw, which is a spin-off of the Magpie books with different leads, because I knew the world and many of the characters but I wasn’t tied in to a big series arc, and there were completely different problems and issues to tackle. The trilogy with Loveswept will be the same thing: three sets of couples in the same world and time period, all knowing each other and closely linked, but each story brought to whatever resolution in one book.
5) What are your plans for 2015? When will the readers see those books from Loveswept? Do you anticipate the publishing process there as being different from how it’s been with an independent publisher like Samhain. Are you heading to any conventions? Can anything top the roller coaster of that first year as a published writer?
2015! Well… there’s a Magpie freebie, A Case of Spirits, in January. In February there’s Jackdaw, the novel closely linked to Flight of Magpies (featuring one of the villains from Flight giving his side of the story, and Stephen as his antagonist. God, that was fun.) Then there will be a novel-length collection of my Victorian occult detective Simon Feximal in summer, and then we’re into the ‘Society of Gentlemen’ Regency trilogy with Loveswept. The first book, A Fashionable Indulgence, will publish August 2015, then there’s A Seditious Affair in December and A Gentleman’s Position in April 2016.
I don’t expect there’ll be much difference on the editorial side between Loveswept and Samhain. I’ve worked in a variety of publishers for twenty years so I’m pretty relaxed about company differences as long as there’s robust editing. Bigger publishers have bigger marketing budgets, so I’m looking forward to seeing how that works!
Conventions: I’m going to the UK Meet. I don’t anticipate leaving the country for any conventions unless we sell movie rights. (If we sell movie rights, I’m putting my foot down for Michael Fassbender as Crane. /dreams/)
It is going to be hard to top my first year, definitely. From first book to ‘trilogy to Penguin Random House’ is…pleasing. I’ll just have to think of something dramatic to do.
Danger in the air. Lovers on the brink.
With the justiciary understaffed, a series of horrifying occult murders to be investigated, and a young student who is flying—literally—off the rails, magical law enforcer Stephen Day is under increasing stress. And his relationship with his aristocratic lover, Lord Crane, is beginning to feel the strain.
Crane chafes at the restrictions of England’s laws, and there’s a worrying development in the blood-and-sex bond he shares with Stephen. A development that makes a sensible man question if they should be together at all.
When a thief strikes at the heart of Crane’s home, a devastating loss brings his closest relationships into bitter conflict—especially his relationship with Stephen. And as old enemies, new enemies, and unexpected enemies paint the lovers into a corner, the pressure threatens to tear them apart.
Product Warnings: Contains hot-blooded sex, cold-blooded murder, sinister magical goings-on and a lot of swearing.
KJ Charles is a writer and freelance editor. She lives in London with her husband, two kids, an out-of-control garden and an increasingly murderous cat. She writes mostly romance, gay and straight, frequently historical, and usually with some fantasy or horror in there. She blogs about writing and editing, and you can find her on Twitter @kj_charles or on Facebook. KJ is proud to be an organiser and participating author in Queer Romance Month.