TNA: Hi, K.A., thanks so much for being here with us today. Why don’t we start out by having you tell us a little bit about yourself: hobbies, interests, things we might not know about you but should?
K.A.: Hi. Thanks so much for inviting me. I’m not so sure you want to get me talking about myself. My characters are far more interesting. If I came across me in a book, I’d call m e a flat character. A writer who reads! And loves books!
Hmm. I love tea (um see above, boring), knitting and crocheting (not exactly knocking people’s socks off with that, but hey, I could make you new ones) and rollercoasters (that’s a little exciting, right?).
Oh, and I love horror, action and science fiction movies (even those of high cheese quality) but rarely find a romance movie I like, though I read them by the bushel when I can.
TNA: Have you always written M/M Romance, or is that something that came along later in your writing career? What is it that drew you into wanting to explore gay relationships in your writing?
K.A.: I have always written gay or lesbian characters, even when not writing specifically gay romance. Going back to second grade, I can remember when a peer introduced me to the concept of two guys getting married. After some confusion over who would wear the dress (a bridal gown being the whole point of a wedding to my eight-year-old self) the idea of two boys kissing seemed the pinnacle of cuteness and romance to me. That never changed. It was always what I wanted to read. I was surprised to find that I could write it and people would pay me to do it. And happy. Oh so happy. Let’s not forget that part.
TNA: What was your first published M/M title? Do you remember the moment you came up with the story idea and knew you wouldn’t rest until it was told? Did you tell anyone about it, or keep it pretty close to the vest?
K.A.: My first published story was Custom Ride. I had been writing straight romance with an eye to publication (with gay characters sometimes demanding their own stories that would occupy me with so much more interest) when someone in my critique group said, “Hey, publishers are buying that now.” She sent me a link to Samhain’s call for submissions. I had this idea of a guy recognizing another guy only by the tattoo on the arm/hand that had jerked him off and that was my hook.
My favorite thing about that was when I was working on it was this conversation with my mom.
Mom: What are you working on now?
Me: A submission for a short story call.
Mom: Oh, I’d like to read it. (She’s very supportive. Has read all my stuff. Still does. *winces*)
Me: Well, it’s really kind of steamy.
Mom: That’s okay.
Me: No, I mean, it’s really, really erotic.
Mom: I don’t mind.
Me: It’s really, really, really explicit.
Mom: I’m fine with that.
Me: Mom, it’s two guys.
Mom: Oh. *lengthy pause* I still want to read it.
TNA: If you could go back in time, to the moment you sat down and began writing that first book, what’s the one piece of advice you’d give yourself now that you have the benefit of experience?
K.A.: “Hi. K.A. It’s me, um, you. Yeah. I know we look older. Every time we hit a round number we start to look a lot older. Moisturize. So hey, I wanted to tell you : being a writer is way better and way harder than you can imagine. Yeah, I know we can imagine a lot. Sock money away. Don’t go crazy with it while you have the two jobs. Most importantly, don’t learn too much about writing. It makes you crazy to try to overthink if you’re doing it right. Remember to write because you can’t not write the story. That’s where the good stuff is. Oh, and for crying out loud, pick a set of initials people can pronounce as a name. You should have gone with K.C.”
Oops. You said one thing. Give me an unlimited word count and I exceed it immediately. Ask my editors.
K.A.: I don’t know about M/M because it wasn’t really around as a genre when I got my first taste of gay romance. Gay and lesbian subplots popped up in some science fiction and fantasy when I was in high school and as a budding queer I had a desperate need to find and read them while pretending to know nothing about them or be blasé about them depending on the peer group. The first exposure to a positive outcome with characters that weren’t completely self-loathing was in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover series which is both fantasy and science fiction. After I came out, I found gay bookstores. There was still very little romance about two men that I could find. It was there, but I had to read mystery or science fiction or fantasy to get my romance fix as a subplot.
TNA: How would you describe your books to someone who hasn’t read them yet? Do your characters share common qualities? What’s your idea of a great protagonist?
K.A.: I like to think of them as snarky and sexy. I hope people laugh and find them hot. I like writing about flawed people, people who have some stuff to work on. When they find the right person, they have a reason to work on their stuff. I like reading stories with external save-the-ranch plots, but I’m always much more interested in who the people are and why they do what they do. I like when why can’t they be together on page one is because of who they are as people.
To me the kind of protagonist I most like to read and write is someone above all with a sense of humor, who might be blind to a lot of his flaws, but is aware enough of some of them to understand that the joke is sometimes on him. I like being in the heads of people who like to look at the world and see not only what’s wrong with it but how it can be better—though sometimes they have to meet the right guy to see how it can be better.
TNA: I was in the audience during one of your panels at GRL last year, so this question has to do with a portion of that conversation. How much of your real life experiences do you put into your work, and how ironic is it for you to have a reader say they couldn’t buy into a story because those events couldn’t/wouldn’t happen in real life, when they, in fact, did happen?
K.A.: Thank you for being there. That was so much fun. I hope you weren’t a victim of my disgraceful gross motor skills!
That’s funny because the few times anyone has ever questioned a plot point or sex position, it’s a less-exaggerated version of something I heard about in someone else’s life or saw online. Yes, readers of Not Knowing Jack, there is a guy who can suck while he’s fucking. Alas. I don’t have that link anymore. I might draw on a situation for inspiration, but the characters’ personalities are all figments of my imagination. Mostly because I find fiction far more fascinating that reality. Real people do things we never would let a fictional character get away with.
TNA: Let’s talk a little bit about the Bad in Baltimore series. For readers who haven’t read any of the books in the series yet (assuming they exist), tell us why you chose to set the books in Baltimore, and do they all have a common thread other than the setting? Can they be read as standalones, or should they be read in order?
K.A.: I never intended it to be a series. The first book needed a good-sized city on the East Coast where a company like the one where Kellan’s and Nate’s dads had worked. When I threw the question on Twitter, a reader suggested Baltimore. I loved the idea. Five books later…
Certainly the books can stand alone or be read out of order, I know it’s not spoiling anything in a romance to say “Oh, by the way, they end up together.” I think they’re more fun in order because you get to meet the characters gradually, so that when there are five or six of them together as there are sometimes in books four and five you get to enjoy some of the inside jokes. I’ve always been attracted to those that’s-how-we-roll bits in sequels and series as a reader.
TNA: Do you have a favorite book in the series? If so, which one and what makes it your favorite?
K.A.: My favorite is almost always the one I’m writing and as I’m just finishing book five, Bad Behavior, that’s the favorite right now. It’s funny, I hesitate to say even what is the favorite for readers because just when I think everyone likes Bad Boyfriend, someone will tell me Bad Company or Bad Attitude is his or her favorite. My editor told me while she was editing Bad Influence that it is her favorite of the series so far.
TNA: Bad Influence is the fourth and most recent book. Tell us a little bit about your MCs, Silver and Zebediah. What makes them tick, and what makes them work as a couple?
K.A.: Silver and Zeb are people who were great for each other when they met, but very wrong time, wrong place. And that made them hurt each other in such serious ways that I wasn’t sure I could fix them. I had to tell the story, but I wasn’t sure until I wrote Chapter 12, that the happy ending would work. They worked hard for it.
While it’s totally a romance, it’s also new adult in the sense that in having Zeb come back around, Silver has to decide where he’s going in his own life and what he wants out of it. He has to choose things instead of reacting to them. I loved being in his head. I absolutely loved his view of the other series characters, and the anger and hurt and love he felt around Zeb. It felt natural to tell the story all from Silver’s point of view, even if it’s not a first person narrative.
And though there are an average amount of explicit sex scenes in the book, they don’t happen until the break in Silver and Zeb’s trust in each other has been partly mended. It was what felt right for them.
K.A.: Silver: First thing I noticed was his looks, horny teenager, sue me. But five seconds in he let me see something real. Something good. And not full of faking it to be good, but the real deal, with that dry sense of humor that seemed to come out of nowhere and a dimple.
Zeb: I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He was singing in church and he’s good, but there was this light. I’m not surprised he has such good friends now. He draws people to him. I thought love was supposed to be different. That you were supposed to get to know people. But no guy I was with before or after made me feel like that. Made me feel like everything in my chest was too tight to breathe from wanting to kiss him. That’s the worst part of it. It was wrong and I knew it and I did it. And God help me, I think I’d do it again.
TNA: Do you have the series planned out to a set number of books, or is it more fluid—you’ll keep writing until there are no more stories left to tell there?
K.A.: Absolutely fluid. When I make plans, my characters laugh at me and sometimes go into hiding. They don’t like being told what to do. I would love to know what kind of guy is right for Marco and for another new character I met in Bad Behavior. I have a story I want to tell in the Florida series. And tons of other characters all poking at me with scenes and wants and ideas.
TNA: Would you care to share an excerpt from Bad Influence with us?
K.A.: First, I’d like to share my dedication. Because it comes from my heart.
For my readers.
Thank you for making it possible to keep coming back to the characters I love.
And this is from Chapter 12, the moment when I knew it was all going to work.
Silver crossed the reception room and pushed open the door that took him out onto a wraparound balcony overlooking the harbor. He wasn’t alone there—other people had snuck out to enjoy a cigarette in the heavy air. As he moved along the railing and rounded a corner, he half-expected to trip over Jamie and Gavin interlocking some body parts, but eventually he found a spot to be alone. Mostly because the view was blocked by some other building. It was almost a perfect hideaway, except for the glass wall behind him. Thunder rumbled, first only a vibration, then loud enough to get people’s attention.
Good. The rain should drive everyone else inside, though Silver hoped people stuck around long enough to drink and buy more of Eli’s pictures.
The storm blew up fast. From partly cloudy to early sunset in minutes. The wind lifted his hair, sweeping cocktail napkins off the balcony to spin away into the street four stories down. It was a great place to watch people from, see them hurry into buildings or cars, though the trash was more interesting. The wind kept picking up plastic bags and sending them up like kites.
He didn’t have to worry about where he’d sleep or if the roof on Tyson Street had a new leak. And for a few minutes, he didn’t have to worry about whether he was living up or down to people’s expectations. When lightning backlit a cloud to the south, he glanced down at the metal railing and decided not to worry about that either.
He leaned forward against it as the first hard drops of rain fell, letting them sting against his sore right cheek.
“Hey.” Zeb’s voice.
With almost anyone else, Silver would have turned and put his back against the railing, feeling safer facing a person head-on. But if Zeb was going to hurt him some more, Silver would just as soon not let Zeb see his face.
“Hey,” Silver offered in answer.
Zeb put his hands on the railing to Silver’s right. Lightning flashed, and Zeb’s fingers tapped off the seconds till the thunder. He raised his hands for a second then settled them again. Maybe his righteousness exempted him from lightning strikes.
The hands flexed and gripped the railing. That scar hadn’t been there before, the ragged one extending from the webbing next to his pinky, over the next knuckle and then over the back of his hand. And his left index finger was missing a little piece. On his right hand, two of the fingers had swollen knuckles, and the tips leaned, like they’d been broken and taped together.
Silver remembered the skin smooth and straight, the tips and nails teasing the inside of his thighs, palm sliding across his belly, a grip on his hips to hold him flat as he tried to buck up into a hot, wet mouth. The way those hands had trembled, half pushing him away on the first thrust inside Zeb’s body.
Maybe it wasn’t his eyes but Zeb’s hands that showed what he was feeling. Right now they were hesitant, stalling, opening and closing on the top rail, tapping lightly.
“I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions,” Zeb said at last. “It’s been a long day. A lot of emotions raked over.” He gave a rueful laugh. “I’m not perfect.”
Silver leaned sideways to face him. “Surprised you can admit it.”
“You know that better than anyone.” Zeb’s hand made it halfway to Silver’s face and fell away, but his eyes stayed focused on Silver’s. “I thank God I got this chance to see you again. To apologize. And I thank you for hearing me out. I guess anything else is a little too much to expect.”
Zeb glanced away.
The rain sliced sideways, and Silver wiped it away from his cheek and ear and eye. “What does that mean?”
“If you want, I’m gone. I’ll find a job somewhere else. Let you get on with your life in peace. You won’t ever have to see me again.”
“Did I say I wanted that?”
“Not in words. Specifically.”
“You expected a nice-to-see-you-again blow job?”
“Of course not.” Zeb’s eyes were dark, but there was very little light coming from behind the glass at this end of the balcony. Only the flicker of a fake candle on a table barely as wide as one of the mini quiches the waiters had handed out. Maybe the dim light was what made the lines around his mouth so stern. “Though was there some other message I was supposed to be receiving based on the way you acted when being tutored?”
The heat in Silver’s cheeks should have turned the rain to steam. He shifted back to face the street. “Must be losing my touch.”
“I wouldn’t say that.”
Silver didn’t need to look to see Zeb’s wry smile.
No smile in Zeb’s voice now. It was the voice that had sent him away.
Silver watched the tiny river in the gutter and waited him out.
“Do you want me out of your life?” Zeb said flatly.
Silver spun to face him. “No. I don’t want that.”
“What do you want?”
He had to decide now? What if it was the same thing he’d wanted at sixteen? Zeb. Zeb and a house and a dog. To be able to touch Zeb in public and not have to worry. To know when he had a nightmare, he could roll over into Zeb’s warm body. What if Silver spilled his guts with everything he wanted and Zeb laughed? Or worse, shook his head patiently and explained that he might have loved Jordan then, but he could never love who Jordan was now?
He couldn’t say any of it out loud.
“I don’t know.”
Zeb nodded, then leaned in for a kiss, but Silver could tell it was headed for his cheek. He tipped his head so their mouths connected instead.
At first Zeb froze, and then kissed him, steady pressure, gentle movement. The electricity tingling under Silver’s skin should have been enough to call a lightning bolt right to them.
Zeb’s hand cupped Silver’s cheek carefully, and their heads tilted in unison. Like the memory of how they did this couldn’t be erased in years and distance and scars. Silver pulled Zeb’s lip between his own, tasted rain, and then Zeb. Felt the hint of his tongue as the kiss got hotter, wetter. Zeb’s thumb moved, pressing and then jolting away from his bruise.
His lip. It could start bleeding again. Silver stayed in that kiss for another second, a few more moments to imprint that memory, and then backed away.
Zeb let out a long breath. When he spoke, his voice was rough. “When you figure it out, you know where I am.”
Then he was gone.
TNA: If you could bring one of your characters off the page and into the real world, whom would you most like to spend time with, and what makes him/her someone you think you could be friends with?
K.A.: The first characters I thought I might like to hang out with were Cade and Elliot from Hot Ticket. I thought they’d make good neighbors.: the boys next door. When I met Kim, I wanted to take him to my day job to snark about the hellacious conditions. I think Shane might temper Kim’s venom enough to make them fun neighbors. I know I couldn’t live with any of them, but I think having Shane and Kim around to borrow a cup of sugar from would be fun. I think they’d always have something interesting to say. And interesting makes for fun friends.
TNA: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
K.A.: I am desperate for instantaneous transport. Like to be Jeannie and blink and be somewhere. (I Dream of Jeannie? I so dated myself there.) Mostly because I am always late. I forget to factor in the time needed to get somewhere. Appointment at 11? Great. If I leave at 10:55 I’ll be early! But also, I’d love to be able to pop anywhere for a quick change of scene and then back home without dealing with airports and cars and oh, money.
TNA: If time travel were possible, to what time period would you most like to travel and why?
K.A.: I’ve always been fascinated by history. I love learning about how people lived in other times. But I’d need a lot of money and help with the smells if I went backward. Though I have to say I think I’d look awesome in Edwardian clothes.
Considering that I currently have access to almost the entire sum of human knowledge and creative works on a device that fits in my pocket, I’ve got to say now is a pretty cool time. Maybe a flash forward would be interesting.
TNA: Would you care to share a little bit of information on any of your current WIPs with us?
K.A.: I am so in love with Bad Behavior. I’m really excited about the way it’s turning out. I had no idea that Beach, who caused so much trouble for Gavin in Bad Attitude, would end up getting his own book—or that he could deserve one. But when I ran into him in Bad Influence, he was so perfectly on the line of charming and smarmy, I had to know what was up with him. Since he is so much a color outside the lines kind of guy, I thought up a hero for him who is all about making his lines the only ones that matter. They turned the heat up to eleven from there. I think they’re doing it on page 4. I didn’t know it was going to go this way but I’m so glad it did.
TNA: And finally, would you kindly share with us all the places we can find you on the internet?
K.A.: I’m most likely hanging out on Twitter @ka_mitchell | My website is http://www.kamitchell.com | My Tumblr is http://www.tumblr.com/blog/kamitchellplotbunnyfarm | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorkamitchell | And of course, email firstname.lastname@example.org
TNA: Thank you so much for being here with us today, K.A., let’s tell everyone about your giveaway!
K.A.: Thank you so much for having me. I love sharing my books with people, so I’m giving away a $10 digital gift card to one of the commenters so you can go grab some books for yourself.
To enter, just leave a comment right here by Midnight Pacific time on Tuesday, April 22, 2014. One winner will be selected at random on Wednesday, the 23rd, and notified via email for prize delivery.