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BioB: KJ, welcome back! We so love having you on the blog!
KJ: Thanks for having me! I’m a big fan of this blog. And also of the BIOB mug, which is my new go-to tea provider…
BioB: We’ve had the chance to talk to you about Magpies and also collaborations for Simon Feximal. Let’s touch on your last 2 releases: “Not Stop Till Tokyo” and the new one “Think of England”…very very different books! How do you get your ideas for stories, and more specifically, these 2?
KJ: I tend to get my ideas from a single concept – one little image or line that sets up the shape of the story. The Magpie Lord came from reciting the magpie counting rhyme to my daughter (‘one for sorrow, two for joy’) and then wondering what would happen if the magpies were right. Non-Stop Till Tokyo came from a casual remark by my husband about his time working in Japan: he’d been in an office with just two Western women, who were named Kelly and Kerry (basically the same sound in Japanese). He commented what bad luck it was for them to have indistinguishable names, I realized there was fuel for mistaken identity, or even deliberate deception, and the story of one hostess in a sleazy bar framed by another for the murder of a yakuza boss came together.
Think of England sprang from the phrase ‘lie back and think of England’, ie just grit your teeth and endure it. My boss told me to ‘think of England’ at work, which set me daydreaming about how I could use that line in a romance, and the plot was fully formed in about half an hour.
BioB: Did you always want to write both m/f and m/m? Or were it just the ‘voices in your head’ that made the characters?
KJ: Voices in my head. I’m tending more to m/m now because I’m in that head space so those voices are loudest, but I have m/f and maybe f/f stories bubbling under.
BioB: More and more m/f authors are doing the crossover into m/m. But few have started with m/m and gone to m/f. Why do you suppose that is?
KJ: Hard to say. In some cases I imagine that it has to do with m/f being so much the larger market. I wonder if it’s also that because m/m is a smaller genre, a lot of people who wanted to read it had to write their own, so they’re much more inclined to keep their focus there.
BioB: Let’s talk “Think of England”…let me put on my ‘stiff upper lip’ face. What do you want the readers to know about this book?
KJ: Apart from ‘available for purchase now’? Ahem. Well, it’s a standalone novel (though I’m brewing a sequel), set in 1904, the Downton Abbey-type era. It was an age of massive privilege, for a few: house parties, luxury and technological advance. It was also a time of dramatic social change, and international tensions. So Think of England is basically a spy/adventure type story, as our straightforward conservative British hero hero Archie Curtis tries to track down a traitor. However, on the way he meets possibly the most dislikeable man he’s ever encountered: effete, decadent, modern, intellectual foreign-type poet Daniel da Silva. Archie is about to get most of his ideas thoroughly shaken up…
BioB: What kind of research did you do?
KJ: Oh Lord, the research. It’s in the tradition of Edwardian pulp – where the writers tended to make things up wholesale and just not worry about it – so I really didn’t want it to be overburdened by detail. So that meant a metric ton of research going into things that were mentioned maybe twice. I spent a lot of time finding out how phones work, and I found a wonderful friendly gun forum to check my plotting. It’s incredible how happy gun people are to tell you about guns. Incredible, and just a little alarming.
BioB: The characters of Archie Curtis and Daniel da Silva are deceptively complex. What you see isn’t exactly what you get. I wasn’t sure if I liked either of them in the beginning, and ended up loving them both by the end. How would you describe these two? And which is your favorite? :)
KJ: Archie is a very straightforward sort of man in a complicated life. He is, at the start, painfully lonely, unhappy and isolated, but he would tell you he’s fine, and he’d believe it.
Daniel is a seething mass of pride, aspiration, and self-loathing. He’s an advanced intellectual who embraces the idea of himself as gay (as we’d now say – there was another huge area of research, attitudes to sexuality and gay identity) whereas Archie starts off unashamedly old-fashioned in his views, and has never allowed his sexual encounters with men to affect his self-image as a perfectly normal chap.
They are both desperately in need of understanding. Daniel needs someone to accept him – not just as the very intelligent and capable man he is underneath, but the whole of his socially unacceptable (queer, Jewish, foreign, flamboyant) nature. Archie needs someone to help him take a clear look at himself and learn who he is.
Favourite: Probably Daniel, because I love complicated intellectuals, but I did enjoy doing Archie’s voice. J
BioB: You’ve always got a great mystery element to your books? Do you know ‘whodunnit’ from the first word? Or does come to you later?
KJ: Oh, I have to know that from early on. I’ve read Lawrence Block saying he writes these complicated multi-character murder mysteries and only decides who the killer is right at the end, and I can’t even imagine it. I’d be in a cold sweat throughout.
BioB: The story kinda ends with a HFN (though, you’ve mentioned that all books are a HFN, rather than a HEA!). I think you mentioned this may become a series. If so, what’s next for these guys?
KJ: Professionally speaking, there’s a traitor to unearth, and a spy ring to deal with. Personally speaking, Archie has a lot to work through in terms of what being with Daniel means, and Daniel doesn’t find it terribly easy to trust people, and they are an epically ill-assorted couple, so it’ll be very far from plain sailing for them.
BioB: You recently mentioned on your FB page that you’re going to start writing fulltime (yay!). How did you make this decision, what will be different for you, and what does that mean for …more books?
KJ: I want more time to write, and more family time. I’ve been trying to do two jobs as well as parenting two small kids, and that’s just unsatisfactory for everyone and became unsustainable. Luckily my husband is very supportive. So I’ll be stepping up the writing, working on bigger projects, developing, and also editing freelance. (Years of experience, reasonable rates!)
BioB: What’s next in the pipeline for you as far as releases go?
KJ: The third in the Charm of Magpies trilogy, Flight of Magpies, is out in October. That introduced a reprehensible young villain who caught my imagination so much that he has his own side of the story, Jackdaw, coming out in February 2015. I am hugely excited about that, in part because it lets us see Stephen and Crane of the Magpie books from the outside. That was epic fun.
Other things: I have a Regency short, ‘The Ruin of Gabriel Ashleigh’, coming out in a very exciting historical anthology in October. There will be a free Charm of Magpies short from me in September, and Samhain are releasing official Magpie 2.5 freebie A Case of Spirits in January 15.
And I’m planning a Christmas story, which will be from the Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal. I want to do the full sentimental Victorian Christmas thing – snow, carols, occult plots, holly, vengeance from beyond the grave, plum pudding, hot sex, and goodwill to all men. Deck those halls, baby.
BioB: Thanks so much for coming by. You KNOW you’re welcome back as OFTEN as you like! We love having you!
KJ: Thank you, I’ll be back! And drop by to visit me any time.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
I’m a commissioning editor in my daily life and I blog about writing and editing at kjcharleswriter.wordpress.com.
I live in London, UK, with two kids, a tolerant husband and an even more tolerant cat.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Lie back and think of England…
England, 1904. Two years ago, Captain Archie Curtis lost his friends, fingers, and future to a terrible military accident. Alone, purposeless and angry, Curtis is determined to discover if he and his comrades were the victims of fate, or of sabotage.
Curtis’s search takes him to an isolated, ultra-modern country house, where he meets and instantly clashes with fellow guest Daniel da Silva. Effete, decadent, foreign, and all-too-obviously queer, the sophisticated poet is everything the straightforward British officer fears and distrusts.
As events unfold, Curtis realizes that Daniel has his own secret intentions. And there’s something else they share—a mounting sexual tension that leaves Curtis reeling.
As the house party’s elegant facade cracks to reveal treachery, blackmail and murder, Curtis finds himself needing clever, dark-eyed Daniel as he has never needed a man before…