Author Interview by A.J. Llewellyn
1. Hi Josh, welcome to the Dark Divas’ den. My first question to you would be about your Killian Kendall series. So far there are three books in the series and Killian is a very intriguing, original and compelling protagonist. I think he is possibly the first gay teen sleuth I’ve ever come across. Please tell me, what was your inspiration for him?
Thanks so much. I'm excited to be in the Dark Diva's den! Actually, there are two books out now, but the third will be out this summer. According to Drewey Wayne Gunn, who wrote The Gay Male Sleuth in Print and Film, Killian is the first and only gay teen sleuth, so you're right there. When I first started writing Bleeding Hearts back in 1999, there really weren't many gay books for a YA audience at all. Really, there were none as far as I knew.
The only thing I could find to read with young gay characters was online, and those stories focused almost entirely on sex. I wanted something story- or character-driven, like the books I loved reading. I was complaining about it one day, and a friend said, "So why don't you write something yourself?" So I did. I didn't start out to write a mystery, it just sort of evolved into one, probably because of my love of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys growing up, and my continued love of Marcia Muller.
Of course, after BH was published in 2001, there was an explosion of YA gay books, starting with Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez the same year. I like to feel like I was a small part of that, at least. [laughs]
2. Actually, I might be wrong in my assumptions here. Did you ever get the feeling the Hardy Boys were gay?
[laughs] You know, I really didn't, but then, when I was reading the Hardy Boys books, I was pretty young and naïve. I think the original books are just from a more innocent time. I read a lot of the later series, from the 80s and early 90s, and the boys were pretty aggressively hetero in that incarnation. You know who I always thought was gay? George from the Nancy Drew series. She just screamed lesbian to me, even then.
3. I can see that! Interesting…I must go back and read those stories. Now back to Killian. he enjoyed quite a bit of character growth in Bleeding Hearts and Reap the Whirlwind. I know the third book, All Lost Things is coming out August/September. What can we expect for Killian in this one?
A lot more character growth. [laughs] Killian was sixteen in the first book, 17 in RTW, and 18 in All Lost Things. That's a time when we're just starting to figure out who we are and what we want from life, so I try to reflect that in the series. In this next book, Killian breaks up with his first boyfriend, starts a new job working for a private investigator, and meets someone new. That's a lot going on for anyone, let alone an eighteen-year-old.
4. Every successful mystery author has what I call a special quirk. Sue Grafton for example keeps her character Kinsey Millhone in the 1980s, living in a guest house and pretty much desperate and dateless. Janet Evanovich has publicly stated her bounty hunter character Stephanie Plum will never get married, her hamster will never die and neither will her grandma. Faye Kellerman on the other hand has put her orthodox Jewish detective Peter Decker through the proverbial wringer. Where do you stand on Killian? Is there anything that is an absolute must for you?
Killian will age and develop throughout the series. Unlike, Kinsey or some of the other mystery characters, I don't want him to remain static. There's not a lot of room for character growth if your character never changes. I'm much more in the Kellerman vein, or Marcia Muller is actually more my inspiration. The first book in her Sharon McCone series was published in 1977, and she's still writing it today. The series is just as fresh and entertaining as it ever was. That's my goal — long-term relevancy and quality.
5. You don’t have a lot – well no overt sex actually in your stories, but a lot of kissing. Will there be a lot kissing come up for Killian?
Not only will there be a lot more kissing, you will eventually see more sex in the stories. Romance and personal relationships are really important subplots in the series, so Killian will always have a love interest. I'll never be writing really erotic scenes that read like an instruction manual (part A inserts into part B), that's just not who I am as a writer, but there will be more sex.
6. I read your interview with Survivor’s Spencer Duhm and you asked him some very direct questions. I was specifically interested in his comment that "In the culture that we live in, there's not much to gain from people finding out you're gay." Do you personally find this to be true?
No, and I had issues with it at the time, but doing an interview for AfterElton.com isn't exactly the best time to get into all that. I do think, in context, he was just talking about the show, the culture of living together on Survivor. He was not a seasoned interviewee, so he wasn't very good at choosing his words, as evidenced by the minor scandal that followed his pre-show interview when he made some disparaging remarks about former gay contestants.
In life, I believe that the more people who are out and open about who they are, they better. Studies have proven that people who have gay friends and family members are more tolerant and accepting. And just in terms of for yourself, it's so hard to always be lying and hiding who you are. Being honest and out is so much healthier emotionally. I'm not saying you have to march at the front of the Pride parade, but just be honest.
7. You live in Baltimore. Is the gay community strong there? What is your every day life like? Are you a party guy or do you hunch over the computer mostly?
Baltimore has a pretty interesting gay community. Baltimore itself is pretty quirky, I mean, it is the home of John Waters, and at heart it's a blue collar city. The gay scene reflects that. It's very laid back, very friendly. Like any community, it has its queen bees with their cliques, but I've found it very welcoming. I like to go out and have drinks with friends, maybe dance a little. I try to get out a few nights a week, just so I'm not always stuck at my computer. Since I started dating again, my weekends have been pretty full. [laughs]
8. Since you write mysteries, who are your favorite mystery authors and what is it about their work you enjoy?
Well, I've already mentioned Marcia Muller a couple times, so needless to say, she's one of my favorites. I've also always enjoyed Faye Kellerman. As a kid, I read a lot of Nancy Drew books, and later Agatha Christie. I like Muller and Kellerman because their books are very character driven, their protagonists grow and evolve. I think it keeps the series fresh and exciting.
9. Do you watch cop shows of any kind? Which ones do you like?
I really don't. I don't watch much TV at all anymore, to be honest, and cop procedurals just don't capture my attention. There's just not enough story to hold my interest. I watch more competition-style reality shows than anything. I'm very excited about the return of So You Think You Can Dance. [laughs]
10. Do you write full time or do you have a dreaded day job? How do you balance these and what is your writing schedule like?
I was able to write full time for several years when I was in a relationship, but after we broke up last year, I had to more or less start over from scratch, so now I have to balance a job with my writing. It's been really tough, but you gotta do what you gotta do. I try to make time every day to write or edit, even if it's just an hour or so.
11. I know you have a writing gig with www.Afterelton.com a site for gay and bisexual men. Are you enjoying your work there and how much freedom do you have to write the things you want to write?
I love working for AfterElton.com. Michael Jensen is the best editor anyone could ever hope for. It's just a great environment, and I get to talk to celebrities on the phone. It's just fun. I get assignments, mostly. I can pitch story ideas, but it all depends on if they think there would be enough interest, or if there's enough budget for it.
12. What else is coming up for you? You have so many stories and articles published…what else apart from Killian can we expect? How many books do you anticipate in his series?
Well, I'm already working on the second draft of the fourth Killian Kendall book, The Truth of Yesterday, which is scheduled to come out in Spring of 2010. The fifth book, A Change of Worlds, is scheduled for Fall of 2010, and a spin-off romantic comedy, Breaking Masks, I wrote with my friend Dave Schreiber will be coming out in Spring of 2011. I also recently started a new relationship column for Baltimore OUTloud. It's called Single Black Sheep. My friends keep telling me I'm the gay Carrie Bradshaw, to which I say, "Isn't that redundant?"
I'll keep writing the Killian books as long as people want to read them. With Killian starting so young, he should have a lot of stories in him. I hope to continue the series for a long time.
On behalf of Dark Diva Reviews, I'd like to thank Josh Aterovis for stopping by today. To learn more about this amazing and talented author, please check out his links: