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Thank you for hosting me on Boys in our Books!
It may be old news to most of you by now (or no news, if you’ve never heard of me before!) but Katinka wanted me say why I disappeared for six years, after Abduction, Hurt, and After came out. With a question like that, I feel like I should have a really exciting story about going to Africa with the Peace Corps, or following Che Guevara’s route through South America on my motorcycle. But the dull truth is, I was just busy working and doing other ordinary life things. I did move to Europe a couple years ago, though, so that part’s exciting!
I have been writing, though, off and on, and I have three novels-in-progress which I hope will get finished in the next year or two. They don’t form a series in the strict sense of the word, but they are all interconnected and pertain to the same world, and I’m quite excited to have such a grand project in the works. But somehow, this other novel took shape suddenly and unexpectedly, and in a strange, delusional frenzy, I wrote the whole thing in less than a month.
And so, in May, I published my fourth novel, Dangerously Happy, which was also my first foray into gay erotic romance. Well, my three previous novels all had at least a subplot involving a gay couple, but Dangerously Happy is the first where the central drama is a love story between two men.
Katinka asked me how Dangerously Happy came together, and what´s important to me when I´m conceptualizing a new book. I´d say there are two core elements at the center of each of my novels, the seeds from which the rest of the story eventually sprouts and grows as I write: the erotic seed, and the emotional seed. Of course, the two are intimately related.
I never start with a big-picture concept, a whole story idea, and then fill in the details. I do just the opposite, and start with one concentrated moment, and work my way outward. Essentially, I’m constantly playing with scenes in my mind, exploring tender or fraught or even frightening moments between people. And every once in a while, I sense a larger story around this originary moment, and I try to explore outward, and figure out what brings these people together, what sparks the attraction and the danger between them, and where these two people can take each other. It’s a little bit of a mental process of mapping a rational path of the story, a plot; but for me, the emotional, intuitive explorations are the much larger elements of the process. When I imagine a kiss, or a moment when the two are alone in a room together in silence, or an argument, do I feel that certain twinge in my gut? That thrill? That ache of melancholy? Then I know I’m going to connect to these characters and their story, which usually means the reader will, too.
I’m always aroused—not only physically, but psychologically and emotionally—by certain rarefied interplays between attraction and fear. On the surface, that fear is usually centered in a disparity of power, and the threat that the protagonist will be sexually dominated. But on a deeper level, these games of domination and submission always connect to anxieties about our sexuality that are born out of society’s fixations on what people are “supposed” to be.
In Dangerously Happy, Aidan is a straight guy who falls in love with Dario, a gay man. For me, there’s something inherently delicious about the image of a first moment, a first encounter when a man who’s only been with women before suddenly feels an overwhelming attraction to another man. For any man who’s attitudes line up more or less with those of Western society, this is an intense and dangerous confrontation, because in order to give in to and fulfill his desire to be with this other man, he has to sacrifice his heterosexual identity.
Of course, in the real world, I wish this weren’t a big deal. Everyone should be able to hold hands with and kiss and have sex with whoever they want. And in most of my books, I also have at least one character who wholeheartedly embraces an ideal of fluid sexual identity, and is open to romantic partners of any sex. These characters are usually allergic to monogamy, as well. But the anxious character who’s been a bit brainwashed by society’s more Puritanical norms is the one who brings all the tension to the relationship, and hence to the story of the romance that unfolds in the novel.
Another question Katinka wanted me to answer was whether I leave key elements of my novels open to the readers’ interpretation. My answer is an unqualified yes. Obviously, I have strong opinions about certain things, such as, women and men should be able to explore and enjoy sex and their sexuality without shame. But fundamentally, in each of my novels, I’m asking questions, not doling out answers. Every novel I’ve written has at least one significant character—Conrad in Abduction, Galen in Hurt, Smith in After, and Xavier in Dangerously Happy—whose actions are dubiously moral, and blatantly illegal. Each of these men believes that they are acting for someone’s benefit in transgressing the line they cross. But they are dangerous men, playing dangerous games. And I couldn’t tell a reader, “You should approve,” or, “You should disapprove,” because frankly, I go back and forth, myself, on whether I adore or despise some of these characters and the things they do.
Actually, I’m struggling with this right now, in my current work in progress, in which Xavier from Dangerously Happy is the protagonist. I’m in serious antihero territory with this guy, and it’s pretty scary. I don’t know if his choices will be redeemable, when all is said and done. But this is one thing I love about writing—exploring these dangerous boundaries, seeing how far someone will go to ensure an outcome that they feel is more important than adhering to society’s moral codes, or even obeying the law. But it’s always interesting to hear readers’ feedback, because they seem to feel more or less the same way I do. They’ll write and tell me, “Xavier was so scary.” And then they’ll say, “Are you going to bring him back in another book? I need more Xavier!”
Katinka also asked me about the strong reactions Dangerously Happy has provoked, and I’ll say the biggest controversy has been the chapter which includes some menage scenes between Aidan, Dario, and a woman. As I mentioned earlier, Dangerously Happy is my first m/m novel, and when I sent the book out to a few beta readers, I was repeatedly warned that the m/m/f scene would not go over well with the m/m readership. I confess, I was kind of stunned. It just hadn’t occurred to me, I suppose because in my many years of writing fiction, I’d always been fretting that people were going to be offended when a second man intruded on the central m/f couple, or that there was a side story about a gay couple in a novel about a heterosexual romance, but I can’t recall ever hearing a single complaint. So, in my mind, going from a “straight” readership to a queer readership, I just didn’t anticipate intense resistance to a bisexual encounter. And for the first time as an author, I considered pulling that part of the novel out of fear of alienating the readers.
In the end, though, I decided to leave it in. As much as I want to be liked (okay, if I’m honest, I’d really prefer to be adored) as an author, and to have readers gush over the novels I write, and, yes, of course, sell my books, I’ve never written for the market. If I did, I wouldn’t have an erotic romance where the main character has a double mastectomy.
In Dangerously Happy, the chapter with Vera is critical to the story that unfolds between Aidan and Dario, in part because it’s Dario’s way of teaching Aidan how to transcend jealousy, in part because Aidan has been straight all his life, and Dario’s way of loving would never include denying Aidan the pleasure of being with women, and in part because Dario needs Vera in order to help Aidan become the lover he needs.
That said, Xavier does not have any of these issues, and for those who like your m/m books free of any and all girly parts, you’ll be in luck with the next novel. Promise!
About Varian Krylov
For a chance to win a copy of Varian Krylov’s latest release — Dangerously Happy — just leave a message on this post, including an e-mail address where you can be contacted. One winner will be picked at random on 17 July 2014.
Aidan has always played it safe. Instead of pursuing his dream of creating innovative music that makes his soul sing, he settled for a degree in software, a job in a cubicle, and a spot in a generic band with his buddies.
And he’s always been straight. But when he’s seduced by magnetic local literary luminary Dario, Aidan must decide whether to keep playing it safe, or succumb to a ravenous passion and a nourishing love unlike anything he’s experienced before. Will he find the courage to go after real happiness if it means admitting he’s in love with a man?
Their journey together isn’t easy. Sometimes it isn’t safe. Even if Aidan has the courage to admit he’s in love with Dario, can he endure the repercussions of the traumatic event in Dario’s past?
This novel has mature content and is intended for readers over the age of eighteen. Although this is a story about two men falling in love, there are extended, explicit sex scenes, including some BDSM, m/m/m and m/m/f scenes. There are references to sexual violence which may be a trigger for some readers, although there is no graphic depiction of rape in the book.
Read Katinka’s review here.
Title: Dangerously Happy
Author: Varian Krylov
Publisher: Self published
Release Date: May 18th 2014
Purchase Links: Smashwords