Thursday, May 21, 2015

Katey Hawthorne Talks THE PLAYHOUSE!

I am so happy to have the endlessly awesome Katey Hawthorne on my blog today to talk about two of my favorite subjects: theater and queer girls. Her newest release is a F/F romance in the Superpowered Love series called THE PLAYHOUSE, and I can’t even describe how excited I am to read it. Let us welcome her!

So, Katey. Theater people are a unique bunch. You and I have both been involved in theater and have written theater-themed romances. What was important for you to capture about theater and/or the people involved?

The drive to do it, I think. There’s a foundational love of theater that’s involved, but then the rest kinda varies depending on the theaters. Even between Calling the Show and The Playhouse, you can see it. The academic interest and perfectionism (which, okay, a lot of the latter is just Jesse being Jesse but to be fair people at that level are way more perfectionistic about it!) in the former can spring from the amateur love affair in the latter, yeah. But I think the former is more interested in making everything work for the audience (or should be…) and the latter is more about a bunch of people entertaining themselves as much as the audience in some ways? Maybe?

Yes! THE PLAYHOUSE features both an actor and a techie. Was one job harder to write than the other? Do you think one side of things is harder than the other IRL?

I don’t think one side is harder than the other IRL. I like tech stuff better, personally, but I had fun being on stage, too. I don’t know, what do you think?

I was terrible at tech stuff. The scene in CALLING THE SHOW where Sim causes a blackout onstage was based on a mistake I made that I still feel guilty about to this day. So to me tech seems harder. I love acting, which is challenging in its own way, but I can get away with being my disorganized self.

… that’s hilarious. I mean not that you feel guilty but--oh you know what I mean!

Anyhow, I feel the same way about writing them as I do actually doing them, I think. I wanted to show that neither of them are altogether those stereotypes you get of techies and actors but… that stuff does come from somewhere, right?

For sure. And there really is such a thing as “theater people.” Like, you can pick them out of a crowd.

SO much. They are like glaring beacons of weirdness and I love it.

You did two techies in yours, was that weird, or easier?

I had to do research. I’d been involved in theater for a huge part of my life, and yet there was tons I didn’t know about the backstage side of things. I actually went into a control booth and stared at the lighting board and made peace with my past. Very cathartic.

If you had a flawless singing voice and mad dance moves (and I’m not saying you don’t) what musical would you most want to star in?


Okay, no, I don’t. At all.

Honestly I’d go for Pippin. I don’t know, I just think the music is fun to sing. I’d want the part I gave Genny, Catherine. Or maybe Pippin, if I could sing the part. That’d be fun.

Pippin would be awesome. I always wanted to sing the dude roles in every musical. I know he’s the worst person ever (especially in the London version), but I totally want to play Freddie in Chess.

Oh my god, yes. Those are the BEST parts to play. Not the dude roles (well, yes, the dude roles, but that’s a WHOLE other conversation… AS WE BOTH KNOW), but the horrible ones.

With Pippin, I was also thinking I could bust some Bob Fosse moves. Who doesn’t want to bust some Bob Fosse moves?

I want to bust all the Bob Fosse moves.

Someday we’ll do a Bob Fosse flash mob.

Okay no but. It was a dream.

Or was it?

So we both have our first F/F books out this year. You know how much I don’t want to be the person who asks if there was anything “special” about your approach to writing F/F as opposed to M/M. But I do think it could be worth noting that there are potential differences in terms of audience, marketing, and even the gender politics of the story. Were there any challenges or joys you faced that seemed unique to writing a F/F relationship?

Yeah no, there are a lot of differences and we both know it, it’s true. And I did a weird thing in that I made mine part of a series that has so far only had m/m pairings--one of the m’s in there is genderqueer but he goes by ‘he’ and ‘him’, you know?

I love that Superpowered Love has variety. Including bi characters who don’t end up in a menage, for which I will be forever grateful to you.

THANK YOU. Poly is awesome but =/= bi amiright? What even.

I reckon some people prrrrrobably think WTF with me suddenly coming out with this f/f in the series but… it was always intended to be LGBTQA+, I just didn’t get around to it until now.

Marketing is a bit weird, because there’s less of an audience/less sales in general. I’ve heard a lot of theories about that but I don’t think we have any actual data. I just figure, I’m trying to convince people to give it a shot. What else can you do? Girls kissing is so good, I need to SHARE IT WITH THE WORLD.

Yessss. I just want to read and write about girls doing it. But because I don’t have a day job, the sales thing does matter somewhat. But then, the more authors write F/F, the better the chances are of it finding wider audiences.

The gender politics are notoriously dangerous, too, yeah. I mean, it’s a well-known fact that people will unknowingly shit on a female character for doing or saying things they’ll praise a male character for--there actually is data for that. On the one hand, an audience who’s going to read a book about two women is less likely to go there, but it’s still in the front of my mind when I’m writing. Do you think about that?

YEP. I think about it a lot with F/F BDSM, which is the direction I’m slowly moving. In my real life kinkxperience, the women I’ve met have often been more adventurous and have WAY higher pain thresholds than men. So it stands to reason that the filthy-kink potential in F/F is off the charts.

Right?! I mean, I’m not super kinkxperienced (!!!) but just in terms of openness in partners, women have historically been so much more all about it.

And yet, I’ve seen some resistance to the idea of two fictional women getting into REALLY kinky shit. Like, the guys in my books do all kinds of things with bodily fluids and name calling and marking each other and whatever (and I still haven’t even scratched the surface of hardcore BDSM in my M/M books). But when you get into women loving to consensually beat the crap out of each other, or get physically dirty, or use derogatory terms, there can be that knee-jerk reaction of “Ooh, that’s not pretty. Women are supposed to be pretty and nice!” Plus there’s SO MUCH in human history with women being non-consensually denigrated. So even though BDSM is absolutely not abuse, the parallels our minds draw can be complicated.

Completely. There’s a weird reaction to women owning our bodies, experiences, and words that I totally understand… but also want to shatter with a sledgehammer. A fictional sledgehammer.

Yes! And I’m not criticizing that reaction, because I feel it too. I just try to keep calling myself out on it. Like, “J.A., you’ve SEEN the way kinky women are in real life. You ARE a kinky woman in real life. Stop being afraid to portray that on-page.”

Also with gender politics, it’s interesting to navigate how the male characters are treated. Because the truth of being a woman is that as often as they’re not, men are shitty to you and don’t even realize it, because that’s the definition of privilege. Or they think they’re being less shitty than they are. And sometimes other men back them up on that--sometimes women back them up on that and it feels like this horrid betrayal, right?

Absolutely. And I know it’s been pointed out many a time that it’s sexist to suggest women have some special obligation to support other women. To an extent, I can see that. But also...yes, it does feel like a betrayal. Unfair as that might be.

Yyyyeah I mean. Reverse sexism is also a whole other conversation that would take up your entire blog if we got rolling (because I know us). So I’ll just say that obviously if a woman is shady and terrible there’s no special obligation, but when she’s actively being oppressed and marginalized, whole other thing.

So it’s weird because when you put that in a book and call it out as bullshit, sometimes you get people who are shocked. It’s the first book I had to brace myself for impact on because of stuff like that. Normally nothing gets to me, but since it’s something I’ve been through personally, repeatedly, I had to be extra Zen, going into the release.

I can imagine.

And I mean, we gotta talk about the obvious thing. This is obviously not exclusive to f/f books, but mine does happen to contain two cis women with vaginas. Which are like--there are a lot of words people don’t wanna hear or see, when it comes to vaginas.

Haha, yes! I have so much trouble with vagina terminology. Apparently I’m in the minority with hating the word “pussy” with a FIERY PASSION. Give me cunt any day. (If there are pussies in THE PLAYHOUSE, that’s fine. This is strictly a personal thing that I am capable of working through.)

There may be, like, a pussy or two? I like it okay, but it requires special care and framing, since it’s used as a word for ‘weakness’ in relation to femininity historically. I mean, I can be conscious of that and kinda use it? I guess? SORT OF?

I mean, the best thing we can do is imbue it with positive connotations.

It is not my favorite, either way!

I just think it’s a gross sounding word. It makes me think of pus. But also cats. This is upsetting on so many levels.  

But yeah, MINOTAUR, my upcoming F/F horror novel, was tricky, because it takes place in a time before the reclamation-of-cunt movement. And since I hate euphemisms, I was like, how am I going to talk about their vaginas? Because no way am I doing the gardening metaphors. Like, these girls don’t have delicate buds or secret flowers. But also they definitely can’t say cunt and have it mean anything good.

Right?! Man I love those Song of Sappho short, erotic f/f novellas--they’re all Victorian era though so there’s a lot of flower imagery happening and I’m like. It’s so period appropriate but it just makes me laugh.

Yes, there’s historically been a lot of fruit and flowers involved in fictional ladysex. It’s like the sexual equivalent of manufacturing pink handguns. SO YOU KNOW IT’S 4 GIRLZZ. How can you tell this literary sex scene involves lesbians? Because one woman compares the other to an exploding peach or something.

I do love the word ‘cunt’, too, but I mean, when it’s been used to denigrate women for so long it’s just hard sometimes. I can totally get why there’s a kneejerk reaction against it, and that would interrupt any hotness building. SIGH. Why must they injure our word, J.A.? WHY?

I don’t knowwww. I used to have a huge problem with cunt. Didn’t like to see it or hear it. But now I think it’s all kinds of hot when used positively. Next time you’re on the blog, can we invent a new sexy word for vagina?

THE PLAYHOUSE is now available from Loose Id, Amazon, and ARe!

Summer has been Lily McBride’s favorite time of year since she was a kid, because that’s when the Brookesville Playhouse opens its doors. Now that she’s an adult and works as their tech director, Lily wants more for her beloved Playhouse: a larger audience, a longer season, and exciting shows to draw new patrons.

This year, though, she also wants Genevieve Mason, a pretty starlet-in-the-making from the local university, recruited for the season’s tech crew. Genny throws her heart and soul into the place too, adding her own dreams of representation to the ‘must-have’ list, and using her sweet voice and surprising flare for pyrotechnics to draw the crowds in droves. They work so well together, it’s not long before their summer crush blossoms into a steamy affair.

Lily’s falling hard, but always feels like Genny’s holding something back. And then there’s the dreaded Brookesville Arts Council—supposed to be a support system for all things cultural, instead dragging the Playhouse down with their old-fashioned stubbornness. There are a lot of hurdles to jump and egos to deflate before they can get what they want, both for the theater and from each other.

Check out the rest of the SUPERPOWERED LOVE series on Katey's website!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

THE GRAND BALLAST is a thing that will happen soon!

So for the past two years I've been working on a book called THE GRAND BALLAST. It was originally conceived as a ~30K novella about a guy who works in a sex circus, and then it grew and grew and became a 95K novel about obsession, art, love...and a sex circus. And it's finally about to be a thing that people can buy, on June 29th!

We've got some gorgeous cover art by MC Blackman:

We've got a blurb:

In a future where live sex shows abound to keep a jaded population entertained, dancer Bode Martin falls for the brilliant and unstable Kilroy Ballast, who molds Bode into the star attraction of his erotic circus, the Grand Ballast. Drugged beyond any real feeling, Bode trades his freedom and his once considerable pride for an illusion of tenderness—until he rescues a young man from a rival show, and together they flee to an eccentric town in the west where love still means something.

Valen’s not an easy man to know, and Bode shed his romantic notions under Kilroy’s brutal employ. Yet their growing affection becomes a strange and dangerous salvation as they attempt to overthrow the shadows of their pasts and wade together through a world of regret, uncertainty, beauty, and terror.

But Kilroy isn’t going to let Bode go so easily. Long ago, Bode was responsible for the loss of something Kilroy held dear, and he still owes Kilroy a debt. As the three men battle toward a tangled destiny, Bode must decide if his love for Valen is worth fighting for—or if he was and always will be a pawn in the story Kilroy Ballast will never stop telling.

And we have a warning that while this does feature a love story, it is not a genre romance. Which I guess is just my way of saying there's some violence, and the love story is not the main focus. I established a few weeks ago that I'm not really sure what makes a romance, but just know that this is definitely not man-chest-on-the-cover romance, and that there are potential abuse and sexual violence triggers.

I'm excited to share this with you guys, and I'll be posting excerpts and such in the coming weeks!