Interview with Author Kara Jorgensen

Kara Jorgenson

Kara Jorgensen (they/them) is a queer, nonbinary oddball with a penchant for all things antiquated, morbid, or just plain strange. While in college, they realized they no longer wanted to be Victor Frankenstein but instead wanted to write like Mary Shelley and thus abandoned their future career in science for writing. Kara melds their passions through their books and graduated with an MFA in Creative and Professional Writing in 2016. When not writing, they can be found hanging out with their dogs watching period dramas or trying to convince their students to cite their sources. 


First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Thank you for having me. First and foremost, I am a queer, nonbinary, neurodivergent writer of queer historical paranormal books, most with a healthy dose of romance. I like to describe myself as Vincent Price meets Julia Child because I love things others find spooky or macabre, but I also love to teach and encourage others to experiment with their art. My day job is teaching college students creative and academic writing at my alma mater, so I spend much of my time talking about writing. My interests are numerous, but I really love my dogs, art history, crafts (and the history of), crustaceans, dinosaurs, medical history, and of course, queer books and history.

Congratulations on your recently released book, The Reanimator’s Soul! Could you tell us what it’s about and where the idea for the book came from?

So The Reanimator’s Soul is book 2 in the Reanimator Mysteries series. Without giving too much away, book 1, The Reanimator’s Heart, is about Oliver, an autistic necromancer, who accidentally reanimates the guy he has had a crush on for years after finding him murdered. Together, Oliver and Felipe team up to solve his murder and the murder of a nun. In book 2, they are called to investigate a body that was dumped in the middle of a cemetery with its organs missing. The investigation leads them to a mysterious clinic that claims it can remove people’s magical abilities. Unfortunately, Oliver’s obnoxious ex is also working the case, so they all must work together, all while Felipe is dealing with his recent un-death and family obligations.

With this book, I really wanted to explore what it’s like for Oliver and Felipe to navigate the complexities of being magically tied together while Felipe’s family has no idea he’s undead. Felipe and Oliver are both adult men with lives of their own trying to figure out a relationship, their own insecurities, and solve a mystery at the same time. It’s a lot. Most queer romances are one-and-done, but I enjoy exploring what comes next and how they grow as a couple in order to overcome whatever is thrown at them. The Reanimator’s Soul also explores some heavier topics that are as prevalent today as they were in the 1890s, such as conversion therapy, how medicine upholds the patriarchy, and ableism.

Since Geeks OUT is a queer centered website, could you tell us a bit about the LGBTQ+ characters featured in your books?

Basically, every character in this series is queer. Oliver and Felipe are both cis gay men, but Oliver’s best friend Gwen is also queer (this will be discussed more in future stories). Felipe’s lavender marriage wife, Louisa, is a cis lesbian who is partnered with a bisexual trans woman named Agatha. Most people who work at the Paranormal Society are some manner of queer as that tends to go hand-in-hand with having magic. While the outside world in the 1890s might not have been accepting of queer and trans people, the Paranormal Society is a community where they can thrive.

I didn’t see many characters like me growing up, so something that’s very important to me is portraying disabled and/or neurodivergent queer characters. There are quite a few of them sprinkled throughout my various books with Eilian being asexual, ADHD, and an amputee, Oliver being gay and autistic, and Theo being bisexual and dealing with epilepsy.

As a writer, what drew you to writing fiction/fantasy, especially that intended for adult audiences?

I’m not exactly sure, but that’s always what I’ve written. Even back when I was a teen, I wrote about adults. I think I prefer the autonomy and complexities of adult characters, but this might be because I didn’t realize I was many layers of queer until I was an adult. The whole young adult coming out narrative often feels alien to me as that wasn’t my experience growing up in the early ‘00s with very little queer rep. It’s also important to me that queer, neurodiverse, and disabled adults are portrayed as people living full lives with people who love them, even if they’re still figuring some things out. There’s a lot of infantilization of neurodivergent and disabled adults, so it’s important to show them doing adult things, and while that does often include sex and romance for me, it’s also things like managing their own lives (sometimes with help) and going on adventures.

Were there any books that touched you or inspired you growing up? 

I feel like these will sound very weird yet make total sense if you’ve read my work, but the two series that had a major impact on me as a kid are the Bunnicula series by Deborah and James Howe and Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. The Bunnicula books were my first brush with the Gothic or spooky narratives beyond those Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books, and I devoured them in elementary school.

Anne Rice’s vampire books were probably my biggest inspiration and what made me want to become a writer. I probably read them too young (I was eleven), but the lush historical settings, sensuality, and queerness drew me in and resonated with me, even before I realized I was queer. I don’t often reread books, but Anne Rice’s The Mummy is one I have gone back to several times as it made me want to write my own archaeology adventure story when I was in college and realize I might be queer.

You do not shy away from making your characters unique, seeming to focus on people with different ways of dealing with the world and those with non-typical behavior living patterns. Can you go into more detail on how that evolved?

I write about this a lot because that’s how I, as a neurodivergent, chronically ill person, move through the world. Often, what is taken for granted as “normal” by neurotypical, non-ill people is wildly difficult and inaccessible for people like me. In writing from the perspective of characters who live in ways that go outside the norm, I hope that people can see themselves or see how they can make things easier for others by pushing back on norms that don’t work for a lot of people. When I wrote my first book, The Earl of Brass, Eilian’s AuDHD comes across as somewhat muted because I wasn’t sure if readers would get him, and I was afraid to be too pointed with the representation. With Oliver in The Reanimator’s Heart, I went full tilt into him being autistic and based a lot of his experiences off my own. If readers don’t like it or think it’s too much, then my books probably aren’t for them, and at this point in my career, I’m okay with losing readers in favor of authenticity.

What inspired you to pick the location and time period you’ve set the Reanimator’s Mysteries and Paranormal Society series in?

All of my books so far are set in the 1890s, and when I was writing my first book, I was struggling to decide on the time period until I realized the 1890s were referred to as “The Gay Nineties.” My twenty year old self took this as a sign. After doing research, the 1890s appealed to me because so much of what society was exploring and grappling with, we are as well, such as quack medicine warring with science, anti-queerness laws, and purity culture that was enforced through Comstock Laws that can be seen in modern book bans.

In terms of location, my first six books are set in England, but I wanted to explore my own local history on the East Coast of the US. I’ve grown up traveling to New York City regularly, so setting the Reanimator Mysteries and the Paranormal Society Romances in New York felt right since in the 1890s not only was it a hub of queerness but it was exceedingly diverse.

What’s something you haven’t done as a writer that you’d like to do?

One day I would love to write a Scandinavian-inspired fantasy trilogy. It’s still marinating in my brain and has been for a while. I’ve never written an epic, expansive fantasy before and still don’t know exactly how to do that, so I probably won’t get to it for a while. It’s one of those projects where every once in a while you sit down to think about it, add a few ideas to a running document, then confirm you are not ready and/or skilled enough yet to pull off this idea, and vow to come back later.

What do you wish you had known at the beginning of your writing journey? 

That half of writing is maintaining your mental health. I write to help purge my brain and stay mentally balanced, but if things go off the rails, I struggle to write and things go from bad to worse. Early on in my writing and publishing career, I tanked my success several times because I was running myself into the ground instead of listening to my brain and body when I needed a break. My biggest career regrets stem from not allowing myself more time to breathe, recover, and avoid burn-out. When you’re mentally fried, you don’t make good decisions or produce your best work, so if you can avoid that hustle culture mentality, you’re more likely to succeed long-term, no matter what others lead you to believe.

Are there any projects you are currently working on and are at liberty to speak about?

There are a few in various stages of completion/development. Currently, I am writing a Reanimator Mysteries short story set after The Reanimator’s Soul, which will be a freebie for my newsletter subscribers. Felipe convinces Oliver to take a vacation at the beach, and the plan goes completely awry. I think my readers will really like this one; it’s quite sweet and silly.

Once that’s finished, I will be working on the third Reanimator Mysteries book, which involves Oliver, Felipe, and Gwen going to a “murder town” to investigate only to discover the secrets hit far closer to home. I also want to write a story featuring Joe and Ansley from The Reanimator’s Soul, but I’m not sure when I’ll get to that book. 

Aside from writing, what do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

My two favorite things to do besides writing are crafting and learning. I love to do deep-dives on things I need to research for my books or random topics my partner or I stumble upon (we love to share a good info dump), like uranium glass or how the undead manifest in different cultures. On the crafting side, I started crocheting a few years ago and really enjoy it. I also like to do plastic canvas village kits, painting, and whatever new craft I can get my hands on. I like to joke that every mental breakdown or burnout leads to learning a new hobby.

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet, but wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)? 

Kara, what is your writing process like?

I’m not going to lie, I enjoy talking about my writing process because I find the way people’s creative brains work to be fascinating. I know a lot of people sort of go off what tropes they want to put in a book, but my brain immediately goes for who are the two main characters and how do they fit together? For example, with Oliver and Felipe, I knew I wanted an autistic main character and that he should be gothy because that’s the tone I wanted for the story. What works well with that? A necromancer, which then leads into how can a necromancer get in trouble in a story? By accidentally reanimating someone. Even though my stories have magic, my brain is always fixated on logic, so I was like, how could I keep MC2 from decomposing? If he is a self-healer, his body can stave off decomposition. What jobs might be good for a self-healer? Anything dangerous, and that’s how I decided that my two main characters were a monster hunter and a necromancer. Once I have the characters, I struggle for a bit to figure out the conflict and how that fits with the overall theme and growth these characters need to go through.

From there, all my ideas get tossed into a doc and slowly hammered out, but I tend to only loosely outline one act of the book at a time. I’m a plantser/gardener, so I don’t outline too heavily or I lose interest. Each day, I edit the chunk I wrote previously before starting my writing for the day in order to tidy up what I have and reacquaint myself with where I left off. I tend to be a slower writer, but this process works well for me. 

Finally, what LGBTQ+ books/authors/creators would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT? 

This is a very non-exhaustive list, and I’m sure I’ll be kicking myself later for forgetting someone, but here are some of my favorite queer authors and/or authors of queer characters: Anna-Marie McLemore, Nghi Vo, Jordan L. Hawk, Cat Sebastian, KJ Charles, Joanna Chambers, Talia Hibbert, Freya Marske, Azalea Crowley, Arden Powell, Vanora Lawless, Olivia Waite, A. E. Bross, Darcy Little Badger, Sakaomi Yuzaki, Rebecca Roanhorse, and P. Djèlí Clark.

Interview with Author Rory Michaelson

Rory Michaelson (they/them) is the author of the multi-indie-award winning Lesser Known Monsters books, a queer dark fantasy series with a diverse found-family cast. Rory is always too busy but rarely doing the things they ought to be. They are generally a solitary creature that can often be found hunched over their laptop eating cookies in London, England.

Tiktok: @RoryMichaelson
Twitter: @RoryMichaelson
Instagram: @Rory_Michaelson_Author

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Thank you so much! I feel welcomed. I’m very much an introvert (though publishing demands I pretend otherwise on social media). I’m queer, neurodivergent, non-binary, and love writing stories. It’s something that allows me to connect with other people in a really special way. If I can make you laugh on one page and cry on the next, I’ve done my job–but if I can make you laugh and cry at the same time, even better. Interesting fact: though I write about monsters and darker themes, I am too scared to watch most horror films (but do need to read the full synopsis of every horror film I hear about on Wikipedia and look at the cast to know what happens to each character!).

Congratulations on your very successful series, Lesser Known Monsters! Could you tell us what it’s about and where the idea for the book came from?

Oh I don’t know about ‘very successful!’ Maybe if there’s ever a TV adaptation or something? Lesser Known Monsters has found quite a few people that it really connects with that tend to be loud about how much they love it. That’s my favourite kind of success, really though. 

The Lesser Known Monsters series follows a character called Oscar Tundale who is “entirely average in many ways and less than average in more.” Oscar gets dragged into an investigation of his workplace crush and discovers that not only do monsters exist but for some reason they’re very interested in him. Now, the fate of the world is in Oscar’s dithering hands, and the best he can do is try to not end it by mistake.

With Lesser Known Monsters I really wanted to give urban legends and folk-lore some love and send people into google-loops to learn even more about them. I often find traditional ‘hero’s journey’ and ‘chosen one’ narratives a bit uninspiring and tired, so writing Oscar–who is far from heroic–gave me an exciting angle into that world. Because he’s overwhelmingly human, I got to explore the world of monsters through a character who struggles with his own agency being faced with difficult situations. The stakes of the story in terms of events might be apocalyptic, but the heart of it is absolutely Oscar finding his own kind of strength, even if it doesn’t seem like much to others.

As a writer, what drew you to writing LGBTQ+ fiction, especially that intended for mature audiences?

As a queer person who grew up in section 28 in the UK I was very starved of representation. I was a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan and when Willow and Tara kissed it was like an awakening. I got to see queerness brought into a world and characters that I loved, and it made my existence feel more possible. When young people don’t get to see characters like them, I think it really impacts the growth of their identity. I don’t think I really hit what should have been my ‘teens’ until my early twenties. This made that sort of ‘new adult’ phase an incredibly important growth period in my life and one I wanted to try and represent. I remember hearing V.E. Schwab talk about how when she writes, she does it for a very specific version of herself, so I wrote Lesser Known Monsters for that tired and fragile adult version of Rory that was struggling to figure things out. As creators we put parts of ourselves in our work, and we also are gifted with the chance to create a place for others, too. Now I get to help other people feel like their existence is more possible, just like Willow and Tara did for me. 

Since Geeks OUT is a queer centered website, could you tell us a bit about the LGBTQ+ characters featured in your books?

I really wanted to center the story on a small found-family that was representative of a few different parts of our community. The main character is a gay man, and his best friends are a lesbian (Zara) and a trans man (Marcus). All of the characters come into the story fully realised in terms of their queer identity. Queer trauma and coming-out narratives are super important, but I wanted to write stories with queer leads that were just getting into trouble and experiencing peril and joy of a different variety! We later get to meet bi/pan, and non-binary characters who play important roles, and there’s a variety of different romance pairings throughout the cast. Personality wise, I really wanted to create a group that, whilst they were all very different from each other and at times argued or fought, they offered a real sense of belonging both together as a group and to the people reading.

Were there any books that touched you or inspired you growing up? 

I don’t think I really found books that spoke deeply to me until I was quite a lot older, maybe even in my thirties. When I was a teenager I mostly remember reading a lot of Buffyverse books, and then moving onto The Wheel of Time. Interesting that these both have a lot of found family vibes, right? I didn’t really get access to queer literature until I was older–at least not without the sense of shame around it that had been forced on it and me whilst I was growing up. I try to read a lot of stories now that nourish my inner teen and find that incredibly healing; reading the books today that I wish I’d have been able to read when I was growing up. I’ve started writing YA too, which adds a whole new layer to that. This is why a lot of authors joke about writing being cheaper than therapy, huh?

Where did you get your start in creative writing? What pulled you to fiction?

Fanfic! I used to write secret stories about my favourite TV shows but make the characters queer–creating my own representation since I couldn’t get it elsewhere. I think I stopped doing that when I was about sixteen. Then I was wrapped up in the drama of college and university and things, then went into a career in science, so all my writing became of a strictly academic nature. I don’t think I did any creative writing at all then for maybe fifteen years, until I finally found myself in a space to start rampantly consuming media that primarily focused on queer characters. It was incredibly revitalising and refilled a creative well inside me that I didn’t really know existed anymore.

I’ve always gravitated toward fiction. I love the escapism and adventure of it all. I suppose transplanting personal parts of ourselves to characters into fantastical settings and putting them through grueling, thrilling, and liberating experiences is a way for us to find a different sort of satisfaction that which we consider ‘mundane’ at a safe distance. It just scratches that itch that I can’t quite reach otherwise.

What’s something you haven’t done as a writer that you’d like to do?

Because of the little snippets I put in chapter breaks in Lesser Known Monsters (which feature things like poems or doodles) I technically became not only a published author, but illustrator and poet, too. This is hilarious to me because I think I’m pretty awful at the latter two things. Honestly though, I’d also love to be invited to things like events and panels. It’s quite a challenging prospect for me (as I’m very anxious and shy), but one I’d also really love to explore more. In terms of writing, I’m working on a book with a non-binary main character which I’m really excited to share in the future as I think it’s something we need more of, and also something which is really fulfilling for me to create.

The second book in the series, The Bone Gate, deals with a world wide illness, was that inspired from the COVID-19 pandemic? 

It doesn’t feature much! Early on in The Bone Gate, I mention that there’d been a pandemic following the events of the first book, but never really elaborate (beyond a little speculation of the magical-realism variety). It was mostly because I wrote it amidst the height of COVID-19 and it seemed strange to completely separate the world I was writing from the world we live in. I think the characters having experienced that event provides a grounding for relatable context within the narrative for readers. The pandemic was a life changing event for lots of us, so showing an echo of that in my story allows people another step closer to being tethered inside the characters heads, but it also doesn’t feature enough to be distressing.

Your main couple, Oscar and Dmitri, exhibit a few common tropes in their relationship, but you also seem to be having them grow beyond that. Was that all planned out? Or did it change as you wrote them?

Yes! I love tropes, but even more I love subverting them. One of my guilty pleasures is taking something that people expect and understand and giving it to them until they’re about to get sick of it, then revealing that it was actually something else all along. Lesser Known Monsters was the perfect story to do that with. I honestly don’t think that what I’m doing really starts to hit hard until the middle of the series, which I realise is pretty risky, but I’m so happy with how the series turned out all put together. I’m very much a discovery writer, so I like to let my stories run wild as I create them, but most of the big character and plot notes I absolutely had in mind from the beginning. There’s quite a lot of foreshadowing throughout–even from small occurrences in book one that pick up again in the finale. 

Are there any projects you are currently working on and are at liberty to speak about?

I actually have two books finished that I’m querying with agents at present! They’re both YA and sit within different shades of horror. The first is my spin on one of my favourite movies ever The Mummy, and features a queer autistic librarian as the lead. The other is about trying to rescue all of the queer characters killed off in stories before their time with a Happy Death Day meets Addie Larue sort of vibe. I’m also working on a few other things in earlier stages. A YA horror about a sleep paralysis demon, an adult fantasy about steampunk sky pirates with superpowers, a heist, and perhaps a standalone foray back into the Lesser Known Monsters universe from a different angle…

Aside from writing, what do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

So much of my time is spent balancing overstimulation and understimulation. I work a full-time day job and spend just as much time on my writing work as I do there, but I also love playing video games (Dead by Daylight, and recently Baldurs Gate 3). I’m also a big fan of traveling and holidays (though I usually need a few weeks and a spreadsheet to prepare myself and spend almost all my time when I’m there writing). That’s all quite a lot, isn’t it? Sometimes I just lie under blankets holding my big plushie bulbasaur and close my eyes.

Finally, what LGBTQ+ books/authors/creators would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT? 

There are so many incredible creators out there that I’m terrified of missing someone amazing out. Terry J. Benton-Walker is doing incredible things in YA (Blood Debts) and MG (Alex Wise) with rich and heartbreakingly brilliant storytelling and vivid characters. Adam Sass is another one that somehow destroys and nourishes me in equal parts with amazing YA stories like Surrender Your Sons and Your Lonely Nights are Over. Both of them have such wickedly addictive writing but also descriptive and exciting voices.  I’m also a huge fan of Jonny Garza Villa (Ander & Santi Were Here), A.J. White (Hell Followed With Us), Xiran Jay Zhao (Iron Widow), Kalynn Bayron (You’re Not Supposed to Die Tonight), and V.E. Schwab (The Shades of Magic). I also beg people to check out indie and self-pub authors which have so many diverse voices that bring new and exciting perspectives and imaginative stories you won’t find in other places. Check out books by Tiny Ghost Press who are an indie imprint specialising in Queer YA fiction, and also explore work by authors like Jayme Bean (Untouched), Gabriel Hargrave (The Orchid & The Lion), and Gideon Wood (The Stagsblood Trilogy) among so many others!

Interview with Author Lionel Hart

Lionel Hart (he/him) is an M/M fantasy romance author based out of the San Diego area.

Twitter: @lionelhart_ 
TikTok: @author.lionelhart 
Facebook: Lionel Hart, Author

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Hi! I’m Lionel Hart, and I write M/M romance books. I write primarily fantasy romance but have plans to branch out into a few different subgenres of M/M romance. I live in North San Diego county with my partner and our dog.

Since Geeks OUT is a queer centered website, could you tell us a bit about the LGBTQ+ characters featured in your books?

For sure! Well, I’m a gay trans man, so having representation that mirrors my own experiences is important to me. Not all of my main characters are trans, but they are all somewhere in the LGBTQ+ spectrum. But, I do focus mainly on male-male relationships, since that aligns with my own identity and lived experience.

How did you find yourself getting into writing fiction, particularly fantasy adventure with a side of gay eroticism?

I’ve always wanted to be an author, but had put that dream on the back burner as an adult — paying the bills and keeping a roof over my head was my primary focus for a while after getting out of college, when I came out and lost a lot of familial support. Then even when I was in a more stable place, it was hard to get back into writing. It was actually a few months into the pandemic, after I was laid off, that got me into writing seriously again. I had so much free time all of a sudden and decided now was my best chance at making writing my career. 

I did a ton of research into the world of indie publishing and decided romance was a genre I enjoyed reading, would enjoy writing, and would give me the best shot at making a living doing what I loved. I knew I would want to write gay romance, of course, and as an avid Dungeons and Dragons player and general fantasy enjoyer, I saw there weren’t a ton of the sorts of stories I liked to read in indie published gay romance. So I decided that would be the niche I focused on, and here we are!

Your book(s) tend to center around male protagonists of fantastical origins. Could you tell us about some elements of these characters you’re excited for others to see in stories?

My debut series, The Orc Prince trilogy, features an arranged marriage between an elf and an orc. I wanted something that felt like a D&D inspired world, and I thought that would be a fun pairing. And since this was going to be a spicy romance, I included some omegaverse-like elements in my lore for elves — the series isn’t exactly an omegaverse series, but there are definitely shared elements so I’d say it’s omegaverse lite, haha.

I also have a more paranormal/urban fantasy series that’s in progress, the Chronicles of the Veil, which features a trans MC with a cis male love interest. The main character Florian finds out that he’s secretly a fae prince prophesied to save the world, and falls in love with his wolf shifter bodyguard along the way. This is a different take on fae and shifters, but I really love these characters and this series, and put a lot of myself in Florian. My partner is a cis man, so their dynamic was one I loved writing and felt very comfortable with.

Lastly, I have a dragon romance duology featuring an immortal dragon with a mortal fated mate. This is a darker romance which I really loved writing, as I got to explore what morality means to an immortal, extremely powerful creature. The dragon MC does a lot of morally questionable things in his attempts to keep his mortal mate with him forever, and I loved writing a villainous character who would not consider himself evil in the least, but would gladly destroy the world for the one he loves!

Were there any books that touched you or inspired you growing up? 

Too many to name! I was a voracious reader as a child, so it’s hard to name any in particular. I re-read the Chronicles of Narnia a lot, so I’d say that really started my love of fantasy as a genre. I think that the book that made me decide I wanted to write fantasy books was The Secret of Dragonhome, a YA fantasy novel which I randomly found in the school library and loved it so much that I just never returned it… oops! It’s fairly obscure and I’ve never met anyone else who’s read it, but I read it over and over. I’d say that was my first experience with romantic fantasy, and while I’m not sure that book specifically stands up to the test of time, it definitely shaped my reading and writing habits into adulthood.

Where did you get your start in creative writing? What pulled you to fiction?

To be honest, I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I wrote my first story in kindergarten — my mom still has it — about me finding a dalmatian puppy on the way home from school and convincing my parents to let me keep it. I was obsessed after watching 101 Dalmatians, but wasn’t allowed to have a dog at the time. The story didn’t convince my parents, but I never stopped writing after that. I got my bachelor’s degree in creative writing, and for a while wanted to get more into literary fiction to be a “serious writer” but honestly found I had a lot more fun writing genre fiction instead.

What magic systems/worlds/characters draw your attention?

I play a ton of D&D, specifically 5th edition, so I think that influences my magic systems and worldbuilding. For a future project I’d like to create a new magic system from the ground up, but for now, the worlds I write in have a softer, looser version of D&D’s magic system.

My partner is deep in the A Song of Ice and Fire fandom, so I know a lot about it even though I’m not nearly as big a fan as he is. I don’t know if I’d ever be able to pull off writing a world as intricate and deep as George R.R. Martin has accomplished, but I do love the idea of creating a fantasy world from the beginning, having its own mythos to self-reference and an entire history to pull stories from. I think a lot about that when trying to come up with ideas for future books, so maybe I’ll attempt something that ambitious someday!

As far as characters, that’s so hard to say! I love tragic characters and angst in general, so I think I’m drawn more to characters like that. Those who have dark pasts and carry deep sorrow or grief with them, but work to keep living until they find purpose again. I think a lot of LGBTQ+ people can resonate with those sorts of characters, because we still live in a world where just openly being LGBTQ+ means experiencing a loss of friends and family for a lot of people. That was my reality, too, so seeing characters who struggle but ultimately triumph is a comfort and an inspiration.

Is writing in the genre you have chosen difficult? Do you consider the results worth the challenge?

Fantasy can definitely be a challenge just by the virtue of how much worldbuilding goes into creating a good fantasy story, and while romance has a different reputation, it can still be a challenge for very different reasons. Putting both together creates unique challenges that encompass the pillars of both genres, but I think that when they’re done well, this is absolutely worth the challenge! I love the familiarity of romance beats contrasted to the new, unknown elements of a fantasy backdrop.

Do you have any plans to branch into other genres?

I do, actually! While I plan to stick with MM romance at the core, there are other subgenres I’d like to explore. I recently have been reading a lot of litRPG as a genre, so I have some ideas for more litRPG/progression fantasy-inspired romances, and I’d also like to dip my toes in contemporary MM romance in the future as well.

What’s something you haven’t done as a writer that you’d like to do?

I’ve never fully fleshed out a custom, hard magic system. It seems daunting from the outside, but the more I read about creating magic systems, the more I think it’s a challenge I’d like to take on at some time. So I’d like to do that in the future, especially if I decide to move forward with the litRPG-inspired fantasy ideas I have.

Are there any projects you are currently working on and are at liberty to speak about?

Definitely! I’m currently working on finishing my paranormal romance series, The Chronicles of the Veil. Books one and two are out, and I’m finishing up book 3 now and hope to have it published this spring. Book 4 will be the final book of the series and should be published later this year. I’ve really enjoyed writing this series and I’m eager to share it with my readers!

After that, I think I might give contemporary MM romance a shot. I’ve had some ideas for an angsty rockstar romance series, which would be pretty different from what I’ve written before, but I have three books basically already outlined so I think it would be a fun but fairly quick project to experiment with.

Aside from writing, what do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

As mentioned, I play a ton of D&D, haha! I used to be a DM but when I started writing seriously again, I found it difficult to put my creative energy into two big projects, so now I’m a player in two different campaigns. I’m also a huge Pokemon fan and I play a lot of that when I have the time — I love shiny hunting, but I’m not very good at competitive battles unfortunately! I live in San Diego, so when it’s warm my partner and I spend a lot of time at the beach as well.

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet, but wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)? 

This is a tough question, haha. I think someone’s favorite food can tell you a lot about a person, so — Lionel, what’s your favorite food? Thanks Lionel, if I had to pick, it’d have to be sushi for me!

Finally, what LGBTQ+ books/authors/creators would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT? 

So many!! If you want more M/M fantasy romance, especially if it’s spicy, check out Ben Alderson’s books — he has quite a few, but I loved his gay vampire Beauty and the Beast retelling, Lord of Eternal Night

For a more high fantasy inspired omegaverse series, I’ve loved Corey Kerr’s The Middle Sea series, especially The Sorcerer’s Alpha. Kerr really nails keeping the appeal of omegaverse books in a very different setting, and the fantasy world of this series feels very expansive.

For some spicy trans rep, I’ve loved everything I’ve read by Freydis Moon, especially their novella Exodus 20:3. If you have some lingering religious trauma like me, I think you’ll enjoy this spicy story between a trans man and an angel in disguise.

And finally, for a cozy, non-spicy, sapphic fantasy, I adored Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree. I read it with a friend who’s into a very different vein of fantasy romance (cough, ACOTAR, cough) and we both loved it, so I would highly recommend it to just about everyone, especially if they love D&D flavored fantasy.

Interview with Author Michele Kirichanskaya

Michele Kirichanskaya is a first-generation Ukrainian Jewish American writer and journalist born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. A graduate of the New School MFA Program and Hunter College, they have written content for platforms such as Geeks OUT, Catapult, Bitch Media, Electric Lit, The Mary Sue, and more. When they are not writing, they are reading, watching an absurd amount of cartoons, and generally trying to live their life despite its many interruptions.
Twitter: @MicheleKiricha1
Instagram: michelekiricha1

Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Sure. My name is Michele Kirichanskaya, and I am an asexual writer and journalist, as well as the first-time published author of Ace Notes: Tips and Tricks on Existing in an Allo World. Beyond what’s covered in my bio, I can tell you that I am a huge geek (as partially evidenced by my book at GeeksOUT, ha ha ha) and am constantly consuming in terms of books, comics, and animation. 

I also recently started work as a sensitivity reader. On my website it reads:

As a queer first-generation Ukrainian Jewish American reader, for a fee, they can read your book, comic, or script with queer/Jewish/Slavic representation and help identify any biases, stereotypes, harmful tropes, or inaccuracies in mind, as well as provide useful tips on creating more accurate, authentic representation.

Below are the following areas they can consult on:

  • Jewish Identity/ Culture/ Antisemitism (Especially North American diaspora)
  • Ukrainian/Russian/Slavic Culture
  • LGBTQIA+ Identity (Especially Asexual/Aromantic)

I’ve also organized and moderated a number of panels over the years at conventions like NYCC, Flame Con, Anime NYC, MoCCA, and am currently available to do more.

Congratulations on your recent release, Ace Notes: Tips and Tricks on Existing in an Allo World! Could you tell us what it’s about and where the idea for the book came from?

Prior to this book, I had the idea floating in my head of writing down some of the lessons and “notes” I’ve learned existing as an asexual person in an allonormative world. Growing up, ace visibility was only just starting (and still is growing) so there wasn’t a lot of media, fiction or otherwise, on the subject, and I had to do a lot of work to learn what I know today, and figured other ace readers shouldn’t have to work as hard as I had to for information and representation. So when I heard JKP was looking for book proposals from ace writers, I jumped at the chance. 

Who do you feel this book is written for? And who do you think would benefit from reading it (if that is a different group)?

In a way this book was written for the younger version of me who didn’t have a book like this when they were first coming out as ace. I wrote this book primarily for those in the ace community, those who might feel a little lost or confused or just looking for information on the subject, but I would love it if non-aces read the book as well.

The book seems to be part “intro to a community”, part “voices and history of the community” and part “how to deal with society outside of this community”. Was that the goal when you started to plan for writing it? Or did it evolve as you worked on it?

I think it might be best to say it evolved as I was writing. Beyond the basic premise of Ace Notes as a field guide or starter guide to asexuality, I basically just started jotting down every concept I could think of related to asexuality, from pop culture/literary representation to consent and relationships. Until the deadline for the book, I simply spent my days writing as much as I could, reflecting on my past experiences and wondering what topics seemed relevant to the discussion on asexuality. 

There are a lot of great interviews in this book. Was getting those people lined up a challenge? Was that always going to be a part of this book, or were the interviews something that were added later?

I think it was always my intention to include voices other than my own for this book. I didn’t want anyone coming into the book to think there was only one perspective on asexuality, and that in fact the asexual community is diverse and multifaceted with lots of different intersectional voices, including BIPOC, disabled, etc. As for the people chosen, a lot of the aces interviewed for the book have been those I interviewed before through my work as a journalist, and so I just had the luck of them being open and available to sit down and talk with me for the book, which I’m forever grateful for.

Do you see a follow up book in the future? Are there other topics you wish had been covered? Or for now have you said all you want to on this topic?

Not unless Jessica Kingsley Publishers decides they’re interested in more, lol. For all seriousness though, I would have been game to cover more on asexual representation in pop culture, i.e. talking about the lack of it, as well as the few shows and movies that have done it (mostly) right, like BoJack Horseman, as well as continuing the discussion on intersectionality within the ace community. Who knows, there might be other books in the future on this topic.

There is a lot of discussion and reference to an asexual and aromantic spectrum in the book. While I identify as a gay male, I did connect with a few aspects of that spectrum, which I felt was really enlightening. Do you think many people that don’t consider themselves on either spectrum will read your book?

I can’t predict how many people who are not asexual or aromantic will read this book, but I certainly hope non-aces and non-aros will get a chance to read it, if only to read more about these orientations and become better allies, quite possibly for their own loved ones who might be ace or aro or both.

Were there any books that touched you or inspired you growing up? 

  • Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco
  • Fairy Realm Series by Emily Rodda
  • The Emily Windsnap series by Liz Kessler
  • Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters by Lesley M. M. Blume
  • xxxHolic by Clamp
  • Hana-Kimi: For You in Full Blossom by Hisaya Nakajo
  • Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa
  • Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori
  • The Hours by Michael Cunningham
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Unfortunately not a lot of it was explicitly queer growing up, but I am glad to see more and more queer books for younger readers all the time.

Where did you get your start in writing?

Mostly writing notes in notebooks, thoughts I had on the world, snippets of story ideas, etc. In high school, I started out as a writer for a website called, TeenINK, which gave me a platform to display my work and start my ground as an online writer. 

What do you wish you had known at the beginning of your writing journey? 

Take care of your mental health. The times when your brain is not producing anything isn’t because you’re being “lazy.” You’re not a golem, you can’t always make yourself work on command. If you’re burnt out and tired, you need to take care of yourself before you can take care of anything else.

Are there any future projects you are currently working on and are at liberty to speak about?

I am currently working on a few projects, but not at liberty to say anything yet. Fingers crossed soon though. 

Aside from writing, what do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

When I’m not working, I definitely enjoy geeking out in my free time. I would call myself a full-spectrum geek, watching cartoons, researching anything from superheroes to fairytales, going to the library, spending time with my dog, Foxie, just in general feeding my brain creatively. 

To borrow a question you had in the interviews featured in your book, what are some things you would want someone to take away from this book about asexuality?

Some of the things I would want people to take away from this book is that ace people aren’t “broken” or “immature” simply by being asexual. There’s nothing “wrong” with our orientation. It’s just another way of existing in the world that deserves to be respected and validated, and not dehumanized or pathologized. The ace community features some of the most loving, creative, and thoughtful people I know, and we have many lessons to give to the world, to both people who are ace and non-ace. 

Finally, what LGBTQ+ books/authors/creators would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT? 

Believe me there are many I would love to recommend, including many I interviewed myself:

Featured Artwork by Ashley Masog

Interview with Cosplayer Michael Hamm

Michael Hamm is a geek, model, Cosplayer, and social media personality from the beautiful city of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Spending his entire life surrounded and obsessed with comic books, cartoons, and action figures, Michael’s passion for geekdom hit a peak when he attended his fist Comic book convention in 2009.

First attending conventions strictly as a fan, it wasn’t until 2013 at his hometown convention of Hal-Con that Michael fell in love with Cosplay.

Always excitedly, and impatiently waiting for Halloween, Michael was ecstatic to get the chance to dress as his favorite characters more than once a year.

With the support of his friends and family, Michael built a Robin costume that would later go slightly viral causing him to start a fan page due to the overwhelming friend requests. 8 years, and over 50 costumes later there is no looking back as Michael has been able to take what was once a hobby and turn it into a full time job.

Whether an invited guest, a panelist, a judge, or just a fan, Michael strives to promote that Cosplay is about more than costumes, it’s about enjoying your passions and doing whatever makes you happy.

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Michael Hamm and I am a Canadian cosplayer, model, and as pretentious as this sounds, a content creator. I’ve been doing cosplay for about ten years in total and about six or seven professionally. Overall, I’m just a geeky guy who likes comic books, comic book related paraphernalia like toys and video games and other stuff like that.

Since Geeks OUT is a queer centered website, could you tell us a bit about how your projects relate to the LGBTQ+ community?

Yeah, I tend to get a little bit of flack when it comes to this because I don’t really do a lot when it comes to public representation. I do think the flack is warranted in many ways, but I do try to create queer content and content for queer people. I try to cosplay as many queer characters as I can, but It’s a balancing act between should I just cosplay them just because they are gay or should I actually cosplay them because I like them, or should I cosplay them because other people want to see me cosplay them?

On top of that, I’m really focused on supporting other queer artists. All of my commissions I get done are through queer artists, any artwork I have done I get from queer artists, and I mainly, probably 90 to 95 percent, only promote other queer cosplayers. So yeah, I think personally not a lot of my projects have a lot of queer influence, but what’s important to me is supporting other people in the queer community that aren’t at the same level that I’m at. So, if I can spend the queer dollars that are coming my way on other queer artists I think I’m doing something right. That is where I try to focus a lot of my energy. I’m a fairly private person when it comes to family and stuff like that, I don’t put a lot of that out on the internet.

Photo credit Shaun Simpson

The photoshoot you did recently with you as Jon Kent and another cosplayer (Duy Trương) dressed as Jay Nakamura was great.

Yeah, I loved doing it, but even that got some flack online. It was two queer creators, creating queer content and we got so much shit for it. There is just so much hate in our own community for each other and that is one of those things that prevents me from doing more of that type of content. The fear of everyone just getting pissed off at me. If you just stay quiet, no one can complain about anything.

Photo credit Shaun Simpson

Do you consider cosplaying a career (even if it’s a secondary one) or a hobby?

At this point I definitely consider it a career. That wasn’t always the case though because even when I was truly doing cosplay at a professional level, it still took me a few years to accept that. I noticed at some point, maybe four years in, there was a switch where it went from “I’m making costumes I want to make on my schedule” to being “I’m making costumes other people want, on their schedule.” And whether that is because I have to get new stuff done for a con, or I want to keep up with new content for Pateron, or there is high demand for a new character, or whatever, it just stopped being about me just making some obscure character because I really like them and it quickly became, “Ok, everyone wants to see another Nightwing, so I have to work on making a new Nightwing from that new comic book series.” I think that is when it shifted from a hobby to a career for me. Once I was doing what other people wanted, I realized that I’m selling a service rather than being financially supported by fans of my work.

Did you start using Patreon in 2015, you think?

It’s been so long now but I think it was late 2015, maybe in October-ish. I think I usually just say 2016.

Do you have preferred or favorite fandoms that you cosplay from?

I’m pretty strictly Marvel or DC, I’d say about 80% of my costumes are in that realm. It’s mainly because I don’t think I look good in wigs. I usually just cosplay white guys with brown hair and luckily for me Marvel and DC have a lot more of those than anime or video games protagonists. I definitely could spread out more, and I definitely should. I think anime is such a growing fandom and I know I’m missing a huge demographic of people. Not to mention that I also do enjoy watching anime and want to cosplay a few of my favorites. There are a slew of characters that I love that I’m just not cosplaying because I don’t want to put a wig on, which I know I need to get over. I think it’s my inability to style wigs and being too cheap to buy one professionally done.

Do you attend a lot of events? Do you usually travel for them or are you content to remain in your local area?

I used to travel a LOT and my peak was probably 2017-19. At that point I was gone almost three times a month and I was barely ever home. Sometimes that was for paid gigs, sometimes it was for gigs with free flights and hotel, and sometimes I was just  going to conventions to for fun and for personal reasons. Then the pandemic happened, obviously, and everything shut down, and now that everything is back I’ve really changed my views on travel and burnout. I knew by 2020 I had burned myself out on conventions, so now I have told myself that one every two months is my limit. I live in a small town and there is really only one convention locally, so I have to travel for pretty much everything else.

What’s something you haven’t done as a cosplayer that you’d like to do?

My main goal is to try and do more collaborations. After doing the Jon Kent and Jay photoshoot I realized that collaborating is a lot of fun. I’ve always been scared of it because I’ve always been hyper protective of my content and what I put out on the internet. I’m protective of how I’m seen on the internet so collaborating always seemed like a huge risk but in the end it felt really rewarding. Whether or not other people liked it in the end didn’t really matter to me and I just loved seeing the results. The creator of the comic series reshared us and that was a really important moment for me because obviously I like his work. So yeah, collaboration is the thing that I hope I can dip my toes into a little bit more because it always a been a thing I’ve been afraid of doing.

You have recently gotten into more professional modeling and acting, is that something you want to do more of?

Honestly, I’m quite content with just doing the cosplay part. I just did a modeling gig for Olympic hot tubs but that was really great because it’s a gay owned company and I knew that it would be promoted in the Seattle Gay Men’s Chorus. It was a really cool thing to do, but not something that’s common for me. If by happenstance things like that come up again, I have no problem doing it again, but I’m certainly not out there looking those opportunities. At this point I actually spend a lot of time saying no to things because they just don’t interest me. As for acting, that’s something I did a lot of in my early twenties but now I’m more focused on the cosplay.

What do you wish you had known at the beginning of your cosplaying journey?

It’s going to sound odd, considering what I do, but I really didn’t think it was a sex thing. When I started cosplaying and going to conventions, I was doing a panel called “Cosplay: It’s not a sex thing – How to explain cosplay to your parents”. It was based on the idea that everyone has this connotation of cosplay is roleplay, roleplay is a sex thing, so cosplay is a sex thing. I was trying to dispel that myth and talk about what cosplay really was and why we do it. Now I do a panel called “Cosplay: It is a sex thing – The inexplicable link between cosplay and sex work”. I just wish I had known that there was this whole market back then, because through doing the sexy stuff I’ve become so much more comfortable with myself, and with my body, and with my sexuality. I really think that the past version of Mike in his early 20s would have loved to have been this comfortable with himself. I truly wish I had known that it was OK to be sex positive, especially in regards to cosplay, because I feel like I spent so much time feeling repressed and shunning sexy cosplay.

What surprises you about cosplay?

Everyday feels surprising, but what I’m most surprised by is that so many people are cosplaying and that it continues to grow in popularity almost daily. I always think this is a weird thing, but it’s slowly becoming more and more mainstream. Geek culture in general, is becoming more accepted. There are conventions these days that are strictly for cosplay and it’s become almost typical to see more cosplayers in attendance than regular people. I can’t believe how fast it has just grown in such a short amount of time. I’m surprised that older people know what cosplay is now and it has become a common enough word that when it’s said people don’t have to ask what it is.

How has cosplay impacted your self-image, especially as a queer person?

The effects it has on my self-image ebbs and flows. In the long run it’s definitely been very good for me. Being able to see myself as someone else was a very helpful tactic in learning to love myself. That said, being on the internet obviously can be a very toxic place. For good or bad, everyone is focused on my looks and not on my personality which is sometimes a hard pill to swallow. But I realize that I’m selling looks and not personality, so I can’t complain about that too much. Generally, I try not to talk about the toxic stuff and the people that make me feel bad, so let me just say it’s been good. Honestly, it’s been really, really good for me because through the hate you can learn to appreciate yourself a lot more. You will always read the hateful comments, but then you realize that there are a lot more positive ones, and the people that matter are the ones leaving the positive comments, not the hatful ones. Content creation has also led me to get really into body positivity which has become something that is incredibly important to me. I quickly realized how much fake content I was putting out on the internet. I always had abs, I was always well lit, and I was always trying to look my best. Meanwhile I’m scrolling through Instagram saying “God, I wish I looked like that guy.” Knowing very well that they are likely doing the same thing that I was. People are looking at my content and thinking the same thing. That realization led me to a point where I had to put my foot down and post some more unflattering photos. To my surprise people loved them, which in turn made me want to post more of those photos. It made me feel like I don’t have to be in shape all of the time and I don’t have to just show the highlights of my life. It made me think it was OK not to look like a model every single day and that felt really good.

What’s your favorite photoshoot of your cosplays to date? What do you particularly like about it?

Typically, my favorite photos come from my least favorite photoshoots. Anything that is shot on location I find usually comes out the best. Hawkman comes to mind immediately as one of my favorite photoshoots. Aquaman was also a top tier shoot because we actually got to shoot in the ocean, which was amazing because of all the rocks and crashing waves. But, if I had to pick my number one shoot it would probably be the Venom shoot. That shoot really falls in line with the rule that “anything that was terrible at the time ends up being my favorite”. That was a nine-hour photoshoot where I had to shave my body because the whole suit was made of liquid latex. It was also a continuous series shoot where we wanted the venom to look like it was slowly taking over my body. That meant that we had to do a couple layers, let it dry, and take some photos. Then we would do a couple more layers, let that dry, followed by more photos, and it just kept going for 9 hours. It was excruciating. We also shot it in my apartment, so there was liquid latex everywhere. The worst part was peeling the latex off of my body. Shaun Simpson, the photographer, is allergic to latex, so we had to be extra careful the entire time. It was a nightmare, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Besides, the results speak for themselves in a big way.

Photo credit Shaun Simpson
Photo credit Shaun Simpson

Do you like the shoots that are more story driven, since you’ve done a few of them? Like the Venom one and the “Peter Parker comes home after patrolling” one?

Actually, to me those two are kind of the same in my head. The Venom shoot starts off with Peter Parker getting into the shower after a day out patrolling, and the “Spiderman: Coming Home” series is everything that happens before that. Even though that shoot ends a bit differently with Peter going to bed rather than taking a shower, I still think they blend really well together. I love the story driven stuff, but it’s just a lot harder to plan out. I’m not exactly sure if I like that style of shoot better than being able to create individual images because you just can’t get the same epic feel of shooting in studio. When we shoot in studio, we are basically able to make anything happen. If we want a character to be in space, we can edit that onto the green screen. If we want to have a character lifting a car above their head, we can edit that on the green screen. When we are on location doing a story-based shoot it is much harder to add those effects, so we rely on the props and posing a lot more. I guess I don’t really have a clear answer. I like each for different reasons.

Photo credit Shaun Simpson

You have been doing this for a few years now, what changes have happened that you notice, in the industry, and do you think they are good or bad changes?

I think in a tangible sense, things have gotten more affordable, supplies are easier to get a hold of, and there are a lot more resources online. I think that’s mainly because there are just more people doing cosplay and there are a bunch of new and easier to use products being created. When I started, Warbala (which is a heat forming material) wasn’t really a thing, and now it is something you can buy at any craft store. On top of that, fabric is so much easier to get, and cosplayers are even making their own fabric. And let’s not forget about how 3D printing has changed cosplay more than anything else in the entire world.

When it comes to what has changed negatively, I’d say there are more people, which has led to it being a bit more toxic. I feel like the cosplay community used to be really close knit because we were all feeling like outcasts. And while I do still think there is some of that community, I think having cosplay be a lot more mainstream means there is a lot more criticism. No one used to really care if you just bought a cosplay or if you made the cosplay. We would always say that dressing up is what cosplay is all about and it doesn’t matter whether you make it or buy it. I really feel like that has changed in a lot of ways. There is a lot more “Oh, they aren’t really a cosplayer because they bought their stuff.” Which is an incredibly toxic kind of mentality.

Oh! One more positive thing that’s changed is that there are a lot more male cosplayers and a lot more queer cosplayers now. I remember that I used to do panels on “Men in cosplay”, because there were so few of us that I felt I needed to speak on it. Now there are so many guys doing cosplay that a panel like that feels useless. We don’t need a panel on why it’s OK for boys to cosplay. And that’s been really, really great.

As a social media personality, how have you dealt with keeping your private life private?

It’s pretty easy for me, because I keep my private life private in my real life too. I am an extremely private person with major trust issues, so I don’t find it that difficult. I’m the type of person who doesn’t have a group of friends and instead I just have individual friends who have never met each other. I’m sure there is some past trauma to dig up about why, but my private life staying private has never really been a problem. I’m not afraid of anything getting out there though because I remember putting up an amazon wish list once and it had my full name, my home address, and all this other information on it. A lot of people were very worried that I had given out too much information, but I wasn’t, and am still not. Needless to say, I’m not too worried about dangerous packages arriving or people just showing up at my house. That said, I have had a couple of stalker-ish situations that have been a bit worrisome and have made me feel like I need to be a bit more private than I used to be. When I did the Jon Kent and Jay photo shoot, I had to warn the guy who played Jay (@cafededuy) that people would start messaging him about me and asking him questions about me. For some reason people love to become friends with my friends and then use them to get to me. It can be really weird and uncomfortable to see a friend used that way and I think that might be why I don’t do a lot of collaborations. I don’t want to put my friends in any sort of awkward position.

Most of your cosplay income comes from Patreon, correct? How has that worked for a business model?

Nearly 100% comes from Patreon at this point. I do print sales sometimes, but always donate all of that income to charity. And for cons I will usually ask to have my hotel, food and flight covered, but if there is an additional payment for attending a con, I will usually ask for it to be donated to charity as well. I am very lucky that Patreon is generating enough that I don’t have to try and make additional income someplace else. I feel very blessed that I can do that stuff now because it hasn’t always been like that. In the beginning I was getting money anywhere I could. I was doing cons, selling prints, working a fulltime job, selling costumes, doing shout out videos, and yeah… anything. I realize that patreon isn’t sustainable and every year I’m ready for it to end and every year I’m OK with the idea with it ending. I feel very lucky and fortunate to be doing this for as long as I have and if patreon got shut down tomorrow and it all got taken away from me, I would be very happy going to work at a restaurant. Knowing I’ve had six or seven great years of doing my hobby for a living is pretty incredible and more than enough for me.

So, do you have a “retirement” plan, or an idea what you will do next?

No, not at all. I live very cheaply and that is why Patreon can support me, because… I just really don’t spend a lot of money. I put about 70% of my income into savings because I know it won’t last forever. I was very happy living in an apartment, working as a server, and I know I could go back to that and still be just as happy. So yeah, no plan at the moment, but I’m just kind of just riding it out while it’s fun. Believe me though, the minute I no longer enjoy doing cosplay, or the cons begin to outweigh the pros I’m ready to start filling ketchup packets and rolling silverware again.

Are there any new projects you are currently working on and are at liberty to speak about?

I have a couple of things I can talk about! One is that a friend of mine and I just put out a book, which was very exciting. It’s the story of… well me… I guess. Well not exactly me, but a version of me. It’s about a cosplayer named Michael Hamm who finds a magical gem in the floorboards of the Stonewall Inn, and he gets the power to harness the abilities of anyone he’s ever cosplayed. The book is called Myriad: The Rise of a Superhero and everything surrounding that has been really fun and exciting.

It’s also about to be my ten-year anniversary of cosplaying, so I’m working on “The Ten Years of Hamm” or “X-Hamm” as I like to call it. The plan is to redo some of my original costumes with my new skill sets. It’s also a chance to start working with other artists and getting things commissioned. It’s basically doing a revamp of some old favorites.

I’m getting a Tim Drake design completely commissioned, which is really exciting because it’s being done by this amazing artist who creates the most beautiful suits and with Tim Drake coming out as bisexual, I thought it might be time to finally do the one Robin I’ve been missing. I’m also working on a new Iceman and just finished my new Ash a few months ago. I have a few more things in the works but those will have to wait.

After all that I’m planning going “gay panic blonde” and I have a huge list of blonde characters I’ve been dying to do. I’ve slowly been working on multiple blonde characters over the past year so that once I dye my hair the costumes will already be don and ready to go!

Aside from crafting and cosplaying, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I like this question, because I really don’t have any free time. That’s not really a complaint, because my whole life is work and I love what I do. I hear it from my friends all the time. It’s like, “All you talk about is cosplay, all you talk about is Patreon.” Unfortunately for them that is literally all there is. When I’m watching TV, or going to see movies, that is also “work” for me. Right now, I’m watching Vox Machina because I need to know who these characters are when I go to conventions. For example, if someone says that they like my costume, I need to be able to say, “I like your costume too, I love Vex” (a character in the show Critical Role). So even when I’m doing geeky things, like reading comic books, its usually for work. I’m catching up on X-men stuff right now because I’ll have to do a podcast on it soon. I am playing Hades on switch right now and it is one of the best games I’ve played in my life. I know I’m a few years late playing it because I’m pretty sure it won the best game of the year in 2020. Even though I love that game I still find it hard to find time to play. I wake up an hour early just to play it, and then I pick it back up at 11 pm at night because those are the only hours I have that make me feel guilt free. But again, I do love what I do, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. Who else can say “I watched anime for work”? I’m very lucky and happy that work takes up as much time as it does.

You have played some D&D as part of an online stream, was that just for that group? Or is it a hobby you enjoy also?

I started doing D&D a long, long time ago, and we were doing in person games. Then I stepped away for a while. After that I became a part of one online group, and then went into another one that would be broadcast online. The problem is that I live in the middle of nowhere, and my time zone sucks. Everyone wants to start at 7pm their time, which is 9 pm my time, or 10 pm my time, or even 11 pm my time if they are in the west coast. So yeah, I just can’t do it that late, and honestly, I prefer to play it in person now.

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet, but wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)?

This is a hard question, because it feels like you are asking “What does Mike want to talk about?”. Maybe it would just be nice to get asked “Are you happy?” Is that sad? I get a lot of flirty DMs and comments on my photos but no one asks “How are you? Are your parents doing well?”. That said, I am doing well. I like the slowed down pace of life right now and I think I’ve made some decisions lately to help prevent the burnout I was feeling. I’m excited to just spend time with myself over the next year. The pandemic was obviously tough for everyone, but for me I spent time figuring out who I was and I really didn’t love that. Right now though, I think I’m feeling good, and I think I like myself a bit more. I’m not particularly in shape, I’m not particularly eating very healthy, I’m not getting out and seeing people, but I feel good.

You can find more of Michael Hamm on Instagram @michael.hamm.cosplay and @Hammy73 and at his Patreon.

Interview with Author Marshall Ryan Maresca

Marshall Ryan Maresca (he/him) is a fantasy and science-fiction writer, author of the Maradaine Saga: Four braided series set amid the bustling streets and crime-ridden districts of the exotic city called Maradaine, which includes The Thorn of Dentonhill, A Murder of Mages, The Holver Alley Crew and The Way of the Shield, as well as the dieselpunk fantasy, The Velocity of Revolution. He is also the co-host of the Hugo-nominated, Stabby-winning podcast Worldbuilding for Masochists, and has been a playwright, an actor, a delivery driver and an amateur chef. He lives in Austin, Texas with his family.

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Hi, I’m Marshall Ryan Maresca, and I’m a fantasy author and a podcaster.  I’ve written 16 novels, a novella and a novelette, most of which take place in the same world.  I’m also the host of Worldbuilding for Masochists, a podcast about fantasy worldbuilding in deep and considered ways.

Your stories are a intertwined group of series all taking place simultaneously in the same city. How did you come up with this interesting way of telling your tales?

So, I started the worldbuilding work of the Maradaine setting in the 90s, and I had done a lot of the entire-world, broad-brushstroke work of it all.  With that, all of my early attempts to write in it tried to be these giant epics where, because I had made the whole world, I wanted to show off the whole world. When those projects didn’t work, I reconsidered my approach, deciding to narrow my focus to one city in the world, and from there, finding the stories in that city, and how they could come together to be facets of the larger story.

Since Geeks OUT is a queer centered website, could you tell us a bit about the LGBTQ+ characters featured in your books?

So, one of the ethos of Worldbuilding for Masochists is “Choose, don’t presume”, in that when you are building the world your stories are in, you want to make deliberate choices of what’s going on in your world, instead of falling back on lazy presumptions. And one of the top presumptions to push back on, for me, is heteronormativity.

Now, in the case of the Maradaine books, my intention was to show a culture in a time of social change, and part of that is shown with more visibility of LGBTQ+ characters as Maradaine goes on.  One of the main ones is Jerinne, from the Maradaine Elite books.  We first see her just having a crush on one of the other young women in her cohort, and then later has her first kiss with another woman, and then in later books she is starting a potentially long and serious relationship with Rian.  

With The Velocity of Revolution, I made completely different choices, namely: I created a culture where pansexual polyamory was a social norm, so almost all of the characters are LGBTQ+. 

There have been LGBTQ+ characters in the background of some of your stories, but recently one of the main protagonists in a series was portrayed as bisexual, why was this the time to show that aspect of them?

This is in reference to Asti Rynax in The Quarrygate GambitI’ve always known Asti was bisexual, but since the beginning of the series he’s also been carrying a lot of trauma, to the point he doesn’t trust himself to let his guard down at all, let alone be intimate with anyone.  I’ve had readers presume he was ace because of that, actually.  But Quarrygate gave me the opportunity to give him a quieter moment with Tharek Pell– another character whose queerness was strongly implied in his previous appearance in the saga, but not explicit.  And in starting to write that quieter moment, it was clear to me that Asti needed intimacy, and given his traumas, Tharek– someone who you would never describe as a “safe” character, but he’s definitely capable of protecting himself–  was the perfect person to have that with.  That moment actually wasn’t in my outline, but when I was writing, it just made sense for both of them.

As a writer, what drew you to writing fantasy?

It’s funny, I can’t think of an exact, you know, origin story for that.  It’s just a genre that’s always pulled at me, and which I’ve alwasy found the most interesting, just out of the limitless possibilities it has.

Were there any books or authors that touched you or inspired you growing up? 

Two of the big ones were the Green Sky Trilogy by Zilpha Keatly Snyder and Watership Down by Richard Adams.  Both are absolutely fantasy stories– though Green Sky is kind of fantasy-embedded-within-scifi — but neither of them look like “traditional” fantasy, which I think was instrumental in a lot of my mindset as I’ve been approaching the genre.

Where did you get your start in creative writing? What pulled you to fiction?

It had always held my interest, I know somewhere around middle school I made my first attempts at “writing a novel”, not that I had any idea what I was doing.  I actually remember in 7th grade I was attempting to write a fantasy novel called “The Last Righon”, but I had no idea what a Righon was or why someone might be the last one.  I just thought it sounded like a cool fantasy title.

How would you describe your writing process? Are there any methods you use to help better your concentration or progress?

Despite my prolific output, I actually have something of a slow-cook process.  Often I will have an idea, and then outline it roughly, put it to the side to marinate, then outline it more thoroughly, put it aside again to stew, and THEN, much later, start actually drafting.  Honestly, Velocity probably had the fastest turnaround from concept-to-draft in 18 months.  

As far as concentration tactics, I’m a big fan of putting in earbuds and then one song on repeat so it drowns out all the “what about this shiny thing?” thoughts that pull me off track. 

What’s something you haven’t done as a writer that you’d like to do?

I still have a space opera type project stewing in one of the crockpots in the back of my head.  Haven’t quite cracked it yet.

Are there any projects you are currently working on and at liberty to speak about?

Right now, I’ve been calling 2023 a “rebuilding year”, as I’m creating some new projects that aren’t Maradaine, as well as readjusting the long-term Maradaine plans.  One of them is a secondary-world fantasy, sort-of gaslamp, about people trying to build a theater company in a new city, where I’m also using magic in very class-specific ways as a tool of wealth inequality.  I’m enjoying drafting it, but there still are pieces that haven’t clicked into place.

Aside from writing, what do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

I’m a big fan of cooking from scratch, which I find very zen and relaxing… most of the time, at least.  If you look at my instagram (, pretty much everything that isn’t shouting about books is food porn.

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet, but wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)? 

How about, “Hey, are there going to be any new audiobook versions of your books?”

YES THERE ARE.  In April and May we’re getting all four of the Streets of Maradaine series in audiobook, starting with The Holver Alley Crew (, followed by Lady Henterman’s Wardrobe,  The Fenmere Job and The Quarrygate Gambit.  

Finally, what LGBTQ books/authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT? 

I have to plug my co-host Cass Morris, whose Aven Cycle books are very bisexual (as is she!).   And I’m probably not telling your readers something they don’t already know, but I just adored CL Clark’s The Unbroken.  Also Andrea Stewart’s Drowning Empire series, Victor Manibo’s The Sleepless, and Jordan Kurella’s I Never Liked You Anyway

Interview with Author SL Rowland

S.L. Rowland (he/him) is a wanderer. Whether that’s getting lost in the woods or road-tripping coast to coast with his Shiba Inu, Lawson, he goes where the wind blows. When not writing, he enjoys hiking, reading, weightlifting, playing video games, and having his heart broken by various Atlanta sports teams.

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Thanks for having me! I’m a fantasy author of over ten books and audiobooks. I got my start writing LitRPG, (If you’re not familiar, think Dungeons & Dragons meets epic fantasy) and I’ve just started branching into more traditional fantasy with my first cozy fantasy, Cursed Cocktails.

What can you tell us about your newest story, Cursed Cocktails? Where did the inspiration for this book come from?

All credit for the inspiration goes to Travis Baldree and his amazing debut novel, Legends & Lattes. It’s an amazing story of a retired orc barbarian who opens a coffee shop. I didn’t know how much I would be drawn to the idea of high fantasy with low stakes, but I loved it.

As I was reading, the idea for Cursed Cocktails started to form. It grew for months and months in the back of my mind while I finished up another project, and by the time I was done, I had this whole world that was ready to be explored. I knew I had to write it.

Cursed Cocktails seems to fall into the “cozy mystery/fantasy” genre, which is a genre I didn’t know I needed until I read and loved it. What caused you to move into that genre?

I felt the same way. After discovering cozy fantasy, I immediately fell in love with the possibilities it could offer for storytelling. One of my favorite tropes is the retired hero/adventurer, and seeing what these characters do when the fighting is over.

After the last few years, I kind of felt like everyone needed a bit of an escape from the doom and gloom of the real world, and cozy fantasy offers that. I love high fantasy and dungeons & dragons, and some of my favorite moments are the small scenes in a tavern or camping by the woods. The idea of writing full novels that capture that feeling was incredibly appealing to me.

As a writer, what drew you to writing fantasy, especially works intended for LQBTQ+ audiences?

Fantasy has always been a big part of my life. I grew up playing RPG video games and reading the Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter. As a kid, I’d often go out into the woods pretending I was on some epic quest and looking for hidden treasure. I’ve always been drawn to the fantastical, magic, elves, dwarves, and the like.

When the idea for Rhoren first came to me, I knew he was an LGBTQ+ character. It wasn’t what defined him, it was just part of who he was. And I wanted to tell his story to the best of my ability.

Since Geeks OUT is a queer centered website, could you tell us a bit about the LGBTQ+ characters featured in your books?

I’ve had several books feature LGBTQ+ characters as side characters, but Cursed Cocktails was the first one I’ve written with an LGBTQ+ protagonist. Rhoren is an elven blood mage suffering from the chronic pain caused by years of using blood magic to defend the realm. Once he retires, he moves to a warmer climate in the hopes that it will help with his pain. He’s a little broody at times with a good heart and a desire to help people. When he arrives in Eastborne, he meets Kallum, a human bartender who’s naturally charismatic with a detail oriented personality. The two have an easy-going relationship, balancing one another out in a lot of ways.

Where did you get your start in creative writing? What pulled you to fiction?

I dabbled with creative writing growing up, but never really pushed myself to explore it or hone my craft until much later in life. I had a pretty dysfunctional childhood growing up, but I always found escape in fantasy books and video games. Learning to write fiction has been a lifelong process. There were some very bad Harry Potter-esque attempts at worldbuilding in high school, and then I wrote a few post-apocalyptic short stories in college.

At 27, I took my first shot at writing a novel. It was a post-apocalyptic novel about a guy who dives into a lake and wakes up in the apocalypse. The book wasn’t very good, but it got me started down the path that would eventually become my career. This was when I first realized what it was like to have the characters really come to life in a story, and become more than just words on a page. By 29, I’d started researching publishing and eventually indie publishing. I published my first novel at 30, and I’ve been doing this ever since.

What magic systems/worlds/characters draw your attention?

There’s so much that I love–tolkienesque high fantasy, grimdark, cozy, litrpg. I think they all have something to offer, and depending on my mood, I’ll read just about anything. I love the retired adventurer trope, like Kvothe in Name of the Wind or Viv in Legends & Lattes, which has become a pretty popular in cozy fantasy as well. Morally grey characters can be fun. As long as the characters are written believably, I’ll ride along for the journey.

Your latest book contains drink recipes for the cocktails created in the books. Did you develop them yourself? Have you tried them all? Do you have a favorite?

Creating the drinks for Cursed Cocktails was a really fun experience. I worked in upscale restaurants for 10 years, so I have quite a bit of drink knowledge. Plus, I love a good cocktail. I had an idea for the type of drinks I wanted to include, and I knew I wanted to have a recipe book as a bonus download so that readers could make the drinks themselves.

One of my readers is an amazing bartender, and he’d made one of the magical drinks from my Sentenced to Troll series for fun. I reached out to him for some suggestions, and he helped me narrow down a list of real-world cocktails to use as a guide. Every drink in Cursed Cocktails is based off of a real-world cocktail, with all of the ingredients translated to a fantasy setting.

I’ve tried a good portion of them and one of my favorites is the Nelderland Mule, which is based on a Moscow Mule. There’s something about the copper mug that really sets it off.

Where do you see your stories going in the future? More like Cursed Cocktails, back to your previous works, or in a new direction?

I’d like to do a mixture of stories. One thing about creating the world for Cursed Cocktails is that it’s really epic in scope, allowing for a variety of story styles set in the same world. I already have a handful of story ideas I want to explore there, but I also love litrpg, so I’m sure I’ll write more in that genre as well. I just want to tell good stories with fun characters, wherever that leads me.

Are there any projects you are currently working on and are at liberty to speak about?

I’m currently working on a second book set in the world of Aedrea, the same setting as Cursed Cocktails. It will feature a character who made a brief appearance in the first book. I intentionally made the world epic, with nine kingdoms and a deep history, so that I could tell a lot of small-scale stories within the setting. I already have ideas for several more books.

After this current book, I’ll be wrapping up the sixth and final book in my Sentenced to Troll series before doing another book within Aedrea.

What’s something you haven’t done as a writer that you’d like to do?

That’s a good question. Doing a book tour sounds pretty cool but also incredibly stressful. 

Aside from writing, what do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

I spend a lot of time walking my dog, playing video games, weightlifting, or getting lost in a good Netflix binge. I’m also a big fantasy football nerd, so that consumes way too much of my time in the fall. My interests are all over the place, so there’s usually something to keep me occupied.

Finally, what LGBTQ+ books/authors/creators would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?

There are so many great stories that fall under this umbrella with more releasing by the day. It’s great to see more representation in fiction. I think as readers, we can all enjoy stories that are different from our own, but it’s a nice feeling when you can relate to a character on a personal level.

A few of my favorites are The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune, Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree, and Can’t Spell Treason Without Tea by Rebecca Thorne. They all have great characters and are feel-good stories.

@slrowlandauthor on TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook

Interview with Photographer Shaun Simpson

G’day! I’m Shaun Simpson, a nerdy photographer from Halifax, Nova Scotia – on the East Coast of Canada; my preferred pronouns are he/him. 🙂 I can be found @ShaunTheShooter on most platforms, or via my social links site at:

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Thanks! Quickly summarized, I’m just a hardcore geek with a camera. My fandoms generally include anything Star Trek, Star Wars, Marvel or DC. I love reading comics – especially anything Tom Taylor writes – watching anime (BNHA, Jujutsu Kaisen, Demon Slayer, Death Note, etc.), and I’m heavy into IRL science geekery as well.

When it comes to photography, I shoot just about everything from landscapes to portraits, although I’m probably most known for my fitness and cosplay photography.

Cosplayer Michael Hamm (@hammy73) as Wiccan

Since Geeks OUT is a queer centered website, could you tell us a bit about how your projects relate to the LGBTQ+ community?

For starters, I’m gay (demi/ace) and massively introverted, but photography has always given me an easy way to experience life from a more comfortable perspective. I love Pride events but being solo in the crowds was always a little anxiety inducing. As a photographer I could shoot the events from the sidelines, put the camera down when I wanted to be social, then I’d start shooting again when I needed to retreat. Since starting in photography I’ve shot numerous Pride events, drag performers and performances, and even worked on a few 2SLGBTQIA+ TV/films productions.

Growing up in a conservative small town, when I was coming out a comment I heard often was a variation of “Gay, why? Women are hot, guys are gross.” – so, when my photography started evolving from just shooting nature and landscapes, I made an effort to show that men, and masculine energy, could be beautiful, sensual, and artistic too.

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to shoot a few cosplays of characters representing the 2SLGBTQIA+ community as well; seeing this inclusive evolution of comic book storytelling has been ridiculously inspiring!

Drag Artist Crystal (

How would you describe your creative process? Are there any methods you use to help better your concentration or progress?

Being self-taught in photography and post-production, I took the long way around and trial-and-errored my way into developing a creative process and style.

I digitally develop the photographs in Lightroom, then I load them into Photoshop. I created a Photoshop Action that runs about 60 steps to prepare the image, then I start the retouching process, compositing backgrounds, and adding effects. I have a strict policy of not manipulating a model’s body, but everything else is fair game for my post-production work; my final shots rarely resemble the straight from camera look, even for portraits and headshots.

Work on shots for models/cosplayers tends to be inspired by the people I’m working with; the more I connect and vibe with them, the easier it is for me to focus my creative energy. I think of it the same way as when actors talk about feeding from the energy of a live audience. Some people give that muse-like energy that feeds my creativity – they end up in front of my camera as often as I can book them for a shoot.

When I’m having a creative block, I force myself into doing small steps. Loading the images in Photoshop, completing one simple step no matter how small – just adjusting the cropping and rotation, just fixing a costume imperfection, just selecting a background. Once I get that one step finished, if I don’t feel the creativity flowing, I give myself permission to call it quits for the night, then I try again tomorrow.

Cosplayer Dan Morash (@danmorashcosplay) as Robin

What’s something you haven’t done as a photographer that you’d like to do?

I’d love to be able to travel and take my best friend with me to do epic location shoots – from luxurious NYC Penthouses, black-sanded beaches in Iceland, castles in Europe, to ancient forests in Japan; the logistics would be complex, but the memories would last a lifetime.

I’d like to travel to comic conventions to shoot as well. There are so many talented cosplayers around the world that I’ve connected with over the years; it’d be great to finally get to collaborate on a shoot together.

Model/Activist Myles Sexton (@mylessexton):

What do you wish you had known at the beginning of your career?

Chasing likes and follows, trying to be the best photographer in my genre – it’s a fun challenge, but it isn’t sustainable for me; algorithms change, one minute you’re on top, and the next you’re buried below a thousand posts. Those goals weren’t motivating, and the self-applied pressure to constantly grow my audience was just pushing me into hardcore burnout.

I eventually realized, even if I paid to promote a post, the only ‘like’ I watched for was from the person I created the image with; if that person liked the shot, then I’d be happy, and if they say my work has been helpful, in any way – it’s the best feeling. What really motivates and sustains me creatively, as cheesy as it sounds, is the time I get to spend creating art with my friends. Creating something with the potential to be more than just a simple photograph; creating something filled with meaning or value, that’s the goal.

Do you do most of your photography shoots in your area? Or do you travel some?

Mostly just shooting in my area these days. I’d love to travel more for both nature and cosplay/fitness photography, but so far that opportunity hasn’t been readily accessible; maybe someday!

Cosplayer Jeremy M. (@jshrall) as Zero Suit Samus

Besides cosplayers, what other subject matter do you work with?

I love finding and capturing beauty in all its forms! I’ll happily shoot pretty much anything – from landscapes and wildlife, to fitness and fashion, and everything in between, with the exception of Weddings – too much pressure, I leave that to the pros.

Are there any new projects you are currently working on and are at liberty to speak about?

A lot of my studio work is dependent on model/cosplayer availability, which is always a bit of a moving target, but I do have a few fun new cosplay and creative shoots in the works; some new and familiar faces, stay tuned! 😉

Fitness Model Kyle Hynick (@kyle.hynick)

Aside from photography, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Besides photography, and my day job in the IT world, my free time is mostly spent being a professional introvert. I had a little brain surgery mishap years ago that left me with a permanent CSF leak/headache, so I tend to spend a fair amount of my time chilling online, at home. You can usually find me in front of my computer playing in Photoshop, at the gym, and catching up on shows or talking about comics with my friends.

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet, but wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)?

People often make comments, assuming the best part of a photographer’s job is just getting to work with ‘hot’ models. Most everyone enjoys a bit of eye candy, but for me the best part of the job is the conversation that happens during the shoots. Photographer Annie Leibovitz was quoted saying “When I say I want to photograph someone, what it really means is that I’d like to know them.” – I find that relatable, I’m a thoroughbred introvert, so it’s sometimes hard to make new connections, but the camera helps with that. The camera creates a connection and also a safety barrier, but as cheesy as it sounds, after a really good shoot, when I put the camera down, I find I’m no longer talking to just a model or a client, but a new friend.

Cosplayer Michael Hamm (@hammy73) as Superman (Jonathan Kent)

Finally, what LGBTQ crafters or creators would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?

If you know my work, you almost certainly know my best friend, cosplayer and content creator extraordinaire, the iconic Michael Hamm (@Hammy73 & @Michael.Hamm.Cosplay on Insta). I’ve worked with Michael on dozens of fitness, fashion, and cosplay shoots over the past decade; check out his Patreon, where most of our work together lives at

Big shoutout to my nightly entertainment while editing photos, the phenomenal Twitch variety streamer Loganolio, and his wonderfully inclusive community.

Highly recommend checking out the inspiring work of my friend Akshay Tyagi, a remarkably talented stylist, and co-creator of the new fashion label Happiness Within.

And things wouldn’t be complete without adding my dearest friend (and ex-), the ineffable James Neish to the list – creativity personified; a talented comic book artist, painter, and illustrator.

Interview with Author Blake R. Wolfe

Blake R. Wolfe (he/him) is an LGBTQ+ fantasy and romance author of over a dozen books. His work is known for its heartfelt characters, daring adventures, and commitment to preserving the magic and wonder that readers love. Blake resides in Muskegon, Michigan near the shores of the Great Lakes. He spends most of his time writing, usually while sitting on the beach, and cooking/gardening with his partners.

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Of course! My name is Blake and I’m a fantasy/romance author. I’ve been writing for a couple of years at this point, although I’ve been dabbling for most of my life. Up until recently I almost exclusively wrote epic fantasy. However, in the past couple of months I’ve been diving into Shifter Romance and let me tell you, it’s been a wild ride!

What can you tell us about your newest story, Alpha’s Rejection? Most of your previous books have been fantasy, what made you change to paranormal romance?

I hate to admit this, but Alpha’s Rejection was a complete experiment and an “I don’t care” project. I’d been listening to some shifter romance on Audible and I thought to myself, I can do this. So I gave it a shot. You wouldn’t believe it, but I wrote 99% of the book in 15 days. It just flowed so easily that I could barely put it down. I fully intended it to be a one-off romance novel, have it flop, and never come back to it. But in less than two weeks, it’s become one of my most popular books I’ve ever written. I guess it’s true that good things happen when you’re having fun! Now I’m halfways into the next book in the series and have at least a handful more planned for this year.

Since Geeks OUT is a queer centered website, could you tell us a bit about the LGBTQ+ characters featured in your books?

All of my main characters, regardless of the series, are LGBTQ+. I try to make them as real as possible and convey some of the struggle of being LGBTQ+, but I also like to put them in worlds (especially in the fantasy stories) where being queer isn’t a taboo. Sometimes, in situations where people are required to produce an heir (like nobility or royalty) I can create some tension with the characters coming out and going “against the grain”, but usually I just want them to have problems outside of their sexuality. I want them to be first and foremost compelling characters, not just queer people struggling BECAUSE they are queer. I had to go through that growing up and I can’t bring myself to do it to my characters.

As a writer, what drew you to writing fiction/fantasy, especially that intended for LGBTQ+ audiences?

Pure and simple, I wanted to read about people like me growing up and I couldn’t. There were no queer characters in fantasy. It was always the knight in shining armor and his princess. Reading those books, I always saw myself as the hero, but when they got to the romance with the princess, I found myself losing interest. So, when I started writing, I decided I was going to write the kinds of stories I love, for a younger version of myself.

Were there any books that touched you or inspired you growing up?

Most of the books I read growing up were things like Animorphs, Deltora Quest, Jurassic Park, Eragon, and Harry Potter. However, I didn’t really get into the big name fantasy stuff until I was nearly thirty. That being said, movies played a HUGE role in my understanding of the fantasy genre. The Neverending Story, Labyrinth, Stardust, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, Studio Ghibli, and a ridiculous amount of anime, not to mention almost every Final Fantasy game. All these pieces of media evoke a nostalgia that’s so deeply comforting and I try to bring that into my work while weaving in a bit more realism. I love dark and gritty stories, but at the same time, I know it can be overwhelming if it’s overdone, so I try to make sure there’s quite a bit of levity at the same time.

Where did you get your start in creative writing? What pulled you to fiction?

As a kid, I used to make up stories all the time and I loved to draw. When I learned that art got me more immediate attention (I was like seven), I leaned into drawing. But there were always little stories happening. During high school and college I would make an attempt, at least once a year, to write a novel and never really got anywhere. However, in 2019, after my divorce, I found myself too emotionally compromised to draw, so I began to write. And wouldn’t you know it, I finished something for the first time in my life. It was a horror novella composed of eleven short stories about a killer mermaid. I published it with a shrug in May of 2020, figuring it would never go anywhere. But people liked it, so I kept writing. Now, nearing on my third anniversary of being a published author, I have fifteen books written, over 1.3 million words under my belt, and more ideas that I could write in a lifetime. This has become the most euphoric and difficult (in a good way) creative experience of my life.

How would you describe your writing process? Are there any methods you use to help better your concentration or progress?

I am 100% a panster (a writer who flies by the seat of their pants). My method is similar to Stephen King’s, although I don’t claim to be anywhere near his level of competency. I come up with a “what if” scenario and then I go nuts. Usually I’ll develop a character, or a magic item, or a problem, and then I sit down and try to solve it. The great thing about this method is that since humans are genetically wired to tell stories, my brain takes care of most of the story beats without me realizing it. However, I do go back, once the draft is done, and clean it up, add foreshadowing, and make sure it flows. I write with a goal of 1500-2000 words per day and I write every single day. That usually means I’m done with a book in less than 60 days unless it’s super long.

As for concentration, I find being excited about the story really helps. If I’m bored while writing it, my readers will be bored, and that simple will not do. I also like to write at night while I’m tired. I close my eyes and leave my fingers on the keyboard, writing what I see in my mind. Sometimes I can bang out 1000 words in twenty minutes if I really get lost and I love that feeling. Definitely hitting that elusive “flow state” that people talk about.

What’s something you haven’t done as a writer that you’d like to do?

One of my biggest goals is to go full-time as an author. That is really the one BIG thing I’d like to accomplish. As for the actual creation of books, I want to write a big meandering epic fantasy, something like The Lord of the Rings, but more easily readable. I’m currently working on building a world for that project, but I don’t expect it to be finished anytime soon. I’m in it for the long haul.

What magic systems/worlds/characters draw your attention?

I love intuitive magic because frankly, it saves me a lot of time making up hard magic rules. Hard magic is great, it’s just too stifling for me when I’m trying to be creative. However, I see that as a challenge, so I’m actually trying to figure out a way to make it fun. As for worlds, the bigger and more high fantasy they are, the better. I adore giant magic crystals, floating islands, gods that meddle in the affairs of men, and mages that can grow so powerful that they control the fate of the entire world. Make it big and chaotic and I’m in.

When it comes to characters, I like them to be a little bit broken (I blame Disney for that) and I like them to be a little morally ambiguous. Fantasy worlds are nothing like our own and sometimes that means defending yourself (murderously) with a sword or magic. I think that makes them more real when faced with a problem. There’s an easy way out and there’s the hard/right way and sometimes, they make the wrong decision. It’s relatable, because there is not a single person on this planet who has not made the wrong decision in their life. We can watch these characters fall and then cheer them on as they rebuild themselves from the ashes. So, in reality, I tend to write a lot of phoenix characters.

Are there any projects you are currently working on and at liberty to speak about?

Absolutely! As mentioned, I’m working on Beta’s Bliss, the sequel to Alpha’s Rejection. It’s another shifter romance. After that, I’ll move onto Gamma’s Delight, probably the last in that series. However, that won’t be the end of werewolf romance for me. I’ve got another series idea brewing in the back of my mind.

My giant fantasy project is currently being worked on as well. Right now I know the premise and the name of the world, Eadronem. This will be a much larger epic fantasy, probably a trilogy with pretty thick books. I imagine it will take me a year or more to complete it with other projects going on.

I also have one book, that is incredibly stupid, coming out in March called The Quest for Cowmelot. It’s a fantasy satire/spoof about a cow that pulls Excalibur from the stone instead of Arthur. It makes fun of the entire fantasy genre, it is incredibly ridiculous, and I think I make fun of every major political/rich person figure in the world today. It’s another giant experiment, but I’ve laughed so much writing it that I think people will like it.

Aside from writing, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I love to garden and I love to cook, I think those are my two big ones. My partners and I just bought a house in late 2022 and we finally have enough space for a big garden. I’ve got lots of little plants growing already for this season and I can’t wait to cook with those veggies! I actually bought a new wok recently and I’ve been only making Cantonese/Japanese food for the past two weeks, haha. I’m sure they’re getting tired of it, but I really do have a lot of fun learning all these cooking techniques and making some of the best food I’ve had in my life.

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet, but wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)?

I think a lot of people focus on the creative aspect of being an author, which is awesome. It’s inspiring and it gives people more of a “story” to attach to that author. However, I’m surprised nobody ever talks about the business side of being an author. Being an indie, I have to not only be a good writer, but I have to know how to balance spreadsheets, run ads, hire narrators and cover designers, do taxes, and run marketing campaigns. I LOVE the business-y side of being an author, but I think it’s something a lot of people struggle with. It’s not often that people love math and writing at the same time, so some of those less “fun” skills have to be learned. I’m definitely privileged in the fact that I enjoy both and a successful marketing campaign feels just as good as publishing a successful book.

Finally, what LGBTQ books/authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?

One of the best LGBTQ+ books out in the past year is definitely Perception Check by Astrid Knight. She is an incredible author and wordsmith. Her characters and worlds are so ALIVE, you can practically feel the book breathing in your hands. I have the greatest pleasure of working with her and Taiylor Wallace on novelizing one of our recent Dungeons and Dragons campaigns (The Obsidian Archive). It is incredible to work with them both and the stories we create together are so much richer because of that. We recently released book one in the series, The Wayward and the Wanderer, and it’s just amazing. I don’t usually claim one of my own books is good, but this one is GREAT because those two were part of the team!

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Interview with Author David Slayton

David R. Slayton (He/Him) grew up outside of Guthrie, Oklahoma, where finding fantasy novels was pretty challenging and finding fantasy novels with diverse characters was downright impossible. David’s debut, White Trash Warlock, was published in 2020 by Blackstone Publishing and was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award. The Adam Binder series continues with Trailer Park Trickster (October 2021), and Deadbeat Druid (October 2022).

In 2015, David founded Trick or Read, an annual initiative to give out books along with candy to children on Halloween as well as uplift lesser-known authors from marginalized backgrounds.

A lifelong Dungeon Master, video gaymer, and sci-fi/fantasy/comic book fan, David has degrees in History and English from Metropolitan State University in Denver. He’ll happily talk your ear off about anything from Ancient Greece to Star Trek.

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Sure! Like Adam, the main character in White Trash Warlock, I grew up in a trailer outside of Guthrie, Oklahoma. Like him I’m gay and a high school dropout. Now I’m fortunate enough to live in Denver, Colorado with my partner Brian and write the books I always wanted to read.

Congratulations on releasing the last book in your first series, Deadbeat Druid! Could you tell us what it’s about and where the idea for the book came from?

It really springs from my rural background. I love urban fantasy but could never find myself represented on the page, not just as a gay man but as someone who comes from where I do. I wanted to tell a story about people like us and I can’t express how touched I am by some of the emails I’ve gotten from readers who connect with it. Deadbeat Druid is the third book in the series (I hope for more) and is my take on the Odyssey, only it’s a road trip through hell to get the two love interests back together. It’s spooky and weird and full of healing your trauma by facing what you don’t want to.

As a writer, what drew you to writing modern fantasy?

Urban fantasy as a genre has so much flexibility in it, so much variation. I always saw myself as a high fantasy or epic fantasy author, and there’s a lack of representation there too, but I wasn’t making headway publishing in that space so I tried something new and it paid off. I originally started writing White Trash Warlock to remember why I love writing. I was very tentative when I shared it with my agent, but she loved it and it ended up being my debut book. I’m very grateful that it’s been so well received.

Since Geeks OUT is a queer centered website, could you tell us a bit about the LGBTQ+ characters featured in your books?

Absolutely! I focus on gay main characters for all of my current books, as that’s my experience. The Adam Binder series also features a bi love interest and including that representation was very important to me. The elven characters we meet are pansexual. Argent is also aromantic and Vran is asexual.

I’m writing the spin off, Rogue Community College, now and I’m happy to get to work with a bigger cast and show more LGBTQ+ characters and relationships.

Your book(s) tend to center around gay and bisexual protagonist(s). Could you tell us about some elements of these character(s) you’re excited for others to see in stories?

I love getting to include the characters’ identity without it being the thing that drives the plot. I always say that I write books about LGBTQ+ characters that aren’t about being LGBTQ+. The Adam series is contemporary fantasy and Adam is from Oklahoma so homophobia and other issues exist, but they aren’t the focus of the story. I’m especially happy to be releasing Dark Moon Shallow Sea later this year as it’s high fantasy in an original world where I could leave homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexism, etc. behind. In that world, nobody cares about your identity or orientation but which god you worship? That can get you in trouble.

Were there any books that touched you or inspired you growing up?

I especially loved Tolkien and Ursula K. Le Guin when I discovered her work. My mother went deeply into religion at one point and my reading was limited to Star Trek books (big shout out to David Mack here), which were fantastic, but as with fantasy, we just weren’t on the page or on the screen. It’s great to see Star Trek correcting this, but I’ll always be sad I didn’t have that representation when I needed it the most.

How would you describe your writing process? Are there any methods you use to help better your concentration or progress?

I use an Agile Project Management approach to my writing, which means I set weekly goals, track everything in spreadsheets, and try to maintain a consistent daily practice, though sometimes the day job means I just don’t get to write on a weekday and have to make up the time on the weekend. The best thing I can do is turn off the Internet, social media especially, and just lose myself in the work. It’s also been really important to me to not compare my career trajectory to others. That way lies madness. A lot of what happens in a writing career comes down to luck. The only think you can really control is your writing, so I focus on always learning and continually improving my craft.

What’s something you haven’t done as a writer that you’d like to do?

I’d love to be nominated for a Lambda or a Hugo. I’d especially love to see the Adam Binder novels made into a TV series, to see that representation on the screen. I’ll admit that I’m always fan-casting my books. I saw that Noah Schnapp from Stranger Things just came out and my first thought was that he’d be great for Adam.

Your first series has characters that come from the southern states in the United States, why did you pick this area that is usually unwelcoming to people like your protagonist?

We’re not often portrayed in urban fantasy. Books like this one are usually set in big cities like Chicago or New York. It was nice to be able to showcase small town Oklahoma and a smaller city like Denver (where I live now). I also think that so many LGBTQ+ people come from places like Guthrie or have experiences like mine. I wanted to tell our story and I wanted us to have the chance at being the hero. Someone recently asked me why there’s a car chase with a dragon in the book and my answer was how often do you see a gay action hero?

All three of your books mix the modern day world with high fantasy, can you explain how you developed the world you’ve placed your stories in?

I’m all about trying to undermine stereotypes and encourage readers to look beneath the surface. I like to take fantasy tropes and mess with them or flip them on their head. No one in my books is simple and the worlds they inhabit reflect that. For example, the elven realm is beautiful but there’s a shady side to their politics and some of their motivations are outright evil. My friend Shiri said that my elves would have Tolkien spinning in his grave and I take that as a high compliment.

Are there any projects you are currently working on and are at liberty to speak about?

I mentioned Dark Moon, Shallow Sea. It’s queer and dark and full of ghosts and dead gods. It’s everything I love in high fantasy and it’s out on Halloween 2023! It’s Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn meets Dark Souls. On the other end of the spectrum, I have a gay, geeky romance called To Catch a Geek coming out late 2023, maybe 2024. It’s nerdy and full of every nerdy reference I could work into it. It’s really fun. I have also have a spin off to the Adam Binder series, Rogue Community College, coming out in 2024. It picks up on developments in Deadbeat Druid and it’s Umbrella Academy meets Doctor Who with lots of great representation. It’s a bit more cozy which is funny since the main character Isaac is an assassin, but he’s quickly faced with his attraction to another student and the problem of trying to murder a living building.

Aside from writing, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I’m a huge gaymer. I’m really excited to see what Bethesda’s Starfield will look like later this year and for Baldur’s Gate III to leave early access. I’m also anxious to get my hands on Jedi: Survivor, the sequel to Jedi: Fallen Order. That quickly became my favorite Star Wars game. Let’s hope Cal gets a boyfriend this time around. I’m a big fan of TTRPGS, Dungeons and Dragons especially. I’m writing an adventure set in the world of Dark Moon, Shallow Sea that I’ll give away on my website as we get closer to the book’s release.

What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet, but wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)?

I was stumped so my partner Brian suggested this one: how do you write about your experience without opening yourself to hurt or pain when you put yourself on the page? My answer is that you don’t. You have to open yourself to the pain to write authentically. Obviously, my characters are fictional. They aren’t me, but I try to give them pieces of myself, enough to make them feel real to the reader. A lot of Adam’s experience around his family and upbringing in the White Trash Warlock series come from my experience. A lot of Raef’s hurt and anger in Dark Moon, Shallow Sea come from my hurt, anger, and my own experiences with faith and religion.

Finally, what LGBTQ books/authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?

Some of my favorite authors working in the LGBTQ+ space are:
K.D. Edwards’s Tarot Sequence is great urban fantasy. It’s high action mixed with cool magic and witty banter.
Cale Dietrich: The Pledge, The Friend Scheme, etc. He just captures that sense of teen want like no one else. Reading Cale’s stuff takes me back to being an awkward gay teen.
Helen Corcoran: Queen of Coin and Whispers, Daughter of Winter and Twilight. This is low magic YA sapphic fantasy with deep political machinations.
Barbara Ann Wright: The Pyramid Waltz, Thrall, etc. Barbara is the queen of sapphic sci-fi/fantasy romance and has fourteen books ranging from fantasy to space opera.
I’m also really excited about Trip Galey’s A Market of Dreams and Destiny coming in September.

Fanart for David Slayton’s Adam Binder series, first three are from Jake Shandy (permission given to author for use); second three are from (permission given to author for use)