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 novaecomic.com (permission given to author for use)

Interview with Author KD Edwards

KD Edwards, author

K.D. Edwards lives and writes in North Carolina, but has spent time in Massachusetts, Maine, Colorado, New Hampshire, Montana, and Washington. (Common theme until NC: Snow. So, so much snow.)

Mercifully short careers in food service, interactive television, corporate banking, retail management, and bariatric furniture has led to a much less short career in Higher Education.

The first book in his urban fantasy series THE TAROT SEQUENCE, called THE LAST SUN, was published by Pyr in June 2018. The third installment, THE HOURGLASS THRONE, is expected in May 2022.

K.D. is represented by Sara Megibow at kt literary, and Kim Yau at Echo Lake Entertainment for media rights.

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

Of course! I’m the author of The Tarot Sequence series, an urban fantasy that reimagines a modern world with a very real Atlantis. The series is built around several broad concepts: LGBT+ inclusion, found family, humor, tarot card imagery, a lack of toxic masculinity, and lots of immersive world-building in a society that blends science fiction and fantasy.

Congratulations on your upcoming book, The Hourglass Throne! Could you tell us what it’s about and where the idea for the book came from?

It’s the third book in a continuous series and is being released May 17, 2022 – I actually have nine planned books (three trilogies). My largest motivation for the series was to create a wildly different type of society free from many of the biases in our own culture. There is no “gay” or “straight” – Atlanteans operate on a very broad spectrum of gender and sexuality. I wanted to tell a story that honors urban fantasy greats – like Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs, Jim Butcher – while also featuring a cast of characters that I would have wanted to read as a young gay man.

As a writer, what drew you to writing fiction/fantasy?

I read SFF almost exclusively as a teen, and then moved away from it in my 20s and 30s. When I hit 40, I decided the world…. Well, the world kind of sucks at times. So I turned my back on contemporary fiction and dove whole-heartedly into escapism. I want people to ENJOY these books, and escape from the grind of doom scrolling. I want people to laugh, and care about the characters, and get lost in the wonder of this city I’m creating – a city built from teleported human ruins from across the world. I love that element of SFF. It can be uplifting, and can present a World we deserve. 

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

In the beginning, I thought I was something special for having a book with a lot of gay men. My readers – my very kind, awesome readers – disabused me of that. Since then, I’ve taken it as a point of pride to really explore the depth of the queer community. My main character, Rune, is demisexual, and in a relationship with a man. Quinn is Asexual. Layne, who was introduced as a 15-year old male teen, now identifies as gender fluid and uses “they/them” pronouns. One of my newest central characters, Lady Death, has had relationships with women in the past. I’m only getting started, too.

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

I have a complicated relationship with the books I read growing up. The SFF was so important to my development but, looking back, I can see how homogenous the material was. And how male. It’s so powerfully obvious that those stories lacked diversity. Some of those series I cannot even talk about – especially the ones where the hero’s journey is built on raping others or violence against women. 

The urban fantasy stories I read as a young adult fare better. JD Robb’s In Death series; Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson; Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels…. I really adored a lot of the early urban fantasies. 

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

I can’t even remember a time I didn’t want to be a writer. Ever. I think the ability to escape this world and live in another has always been the draw, for me.

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

One of the ways I manage a 9-book series is having huge, tent pole ideas for each book. That satisfies my craving for different sub-genres within SFF. For instance, I’ll have my Natural Disaster novel. I’ll have my Kaiju novel. I’ll have my Roadtrip novel. 

But given the constraints of the series I built, there are still stories I wish I could tell. I want to write a space station book. I want to write a post-apocalyptic tale….

What inspired you to incorporate Tarot cards and it’s mythology into your stories?

My own writing has always involved archetypes. I’ve been working on Tarot Sequence for close to 10 years, but the archetypes of Rune and Brand pre-date that by many years. That’s what I love about tarot cards – they’re built on human archetypes and appetites, like Love, Fortune, Nature, Death. My focus is on the major arcana cards, in particular. Given the unique identity of each major arcana card, it seemed like a good idea to build a nobility system around it. My main character, Rune, is the sole remaining heir to the fallen Sun Throne. These novels represent his journey in reclaiming his birthright.

Your last short story collection placed your characters into the COVID pandemic and under lock down. How did your own experiences during that time inspire that work?

Oh my God, those stories SAVED ME. I was just as lost and scared as everyone else during the start of the Pandemic. Putting Rune and Brand through quarantine was my way of coping with it. And it snowballed from there – the response I got from readers also looking for a distraction, or meaning, was fantastic. So I decided to make the stories canon – and haven’t regretted it.

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

The Pandemic has changed everything. I moved from a workplace-based day job to work-from-home status. (And I love it.) I also stopped reading books in favor of watching international TV. It really opened my eyes to how perspectives change globally. It expanded my tastes, and gave me new ideas and ideas. I really, really need to get back to reading – but the TV habit still persists for now.

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

Hah! If you knew my readers, you’d know that there are very, very few unexplored questions. My readers are amazing, and supportive, and vocal. I am so freaking blessed. They exchange ideas with me, ask questions, make artwork, provide music recommendations… So I’m honestly at a loss at what question I haven’t been asked.

I suppose one question I don’t get often: The series is based in New Atlantis, formed after the fall of Atlantis during the Great Atlantean War. Every now and then a reader asks if I ever intend to take the story back to the abandoned homeland. And the answer? Oh yes.

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

I am really loving David Slayton’s Adam Binder series. TJ Klune is one of my favorites. Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner books. Gideon the Ninth is magnificent. I know I’ll regret not spending more time on this list….so many suggestions that they bottle-neck in my brain. Oh! Hero by the late Perry Moore remains hugely influential for me. Gregory Ashe is a prolific sci-fi and mystery writer, and I love his Hollow Folk series.

Interview with Author Abigail Hilton

Abigail Hilton finished her first novel when she was fifteen and never stopped writing. She has a science background and a day job in healthcare.

She frequently travels for work, but comes home to the Pacific Northwest, where two elderly tabbies and two Japanese bobtail cats maintain her home in perfect condition. (Haha, j/k; they try to wreck it.)

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

Hi, fellow Geeks! Thanks for having me. “Novelist” has been near the top of my personal identifiers since I was young. I’ve worked hard to build a life with books at the center. I started podcasting my novels back in 2008. I narrated the books myself at first, then moved on to elaborate fullcast productions, all of it “for the love.” Around 2011, Kindle upended things in the publishing world. I discovered that people would pay for my books, which made it easier to justify the massive amounts of time I was spending on them. I moved into ebooks and paper, then into more professional audio. Along the way, I’ve dabbled in all kinds of commissioned illustrations, promotional art, and comics.

My Abigail Hilton books all feature non-human characters. I love the biological sciences and xenofiction. However, I finally realized that most humans would rather read about other humans. I launched my A. H. Lee pen name in 2017, partially to publish steamier titles, but also to see whether I was right there being a larger audience for human characters. Sure enough, that pen name did really well. I still write under both names, though, and I publish everything from children’s books to adult romances. All of my books are some flavor of fantasy, and I gravitate to high fantasy/epic fantasy. Queer characters have been showing up in my stories since that very first novel.

Congratulations on your upcoming series release, Pirates of Wefrivain! Could you tell us what it’s about and where the idea for the books came from?

Pirates of Wefrivain is a redemption story about a couple of dudes who realize they were working for the evil empire and try to switch sides. They fall in love and fight dragons. That’s the first 2 books. Then it opens out into a broader epic, following some of their friends and enemies through war, nautical adventures, and airship battles. All the plot-lines converge in the final book. This series goes to some very dark places (all the trigger warnings), but I promise I am not a nihilist, and you’ll get a happy ending if you stick with me.

Unfortunately, Pirates has a confusing publishing history. The first book was published in 2010. It was originally published as two separate, interlocking series, and the tale spills over into a couple dozen short stories, which were originally published separately and on Patreon. With the publication of the last book, I have repackaged everything into 5 volumes and put it all under the Pirates of Wefrivain series title. New readers can skip all the confusion.

You asked where the idea came from. No clue. The Elder Gods. Lord Frith. Somewhere beyond the Ninth Gate. Sorry, ideas are mysterious and complicated, and I’ve been writing this series for over a decade. This was my second series set in the world of Panamindorah, so it’s not like the world itself was new to me.

What can you tell us about your most popular series, The Knight and the Necromancer? Where did the inspiration for these books come from?

This one is a little easier, because The Knight and the Necromancer (K&N) was fully planned and completed before anything was released. (I had a lot more publishing experience by then.) K&N did not develop organically over many years like Pirates. K&N occurs in my Shattered Sea universe, which I had already fleshed out in The Incubus series. In that way, I guess it is like Pirates. It’s the second series I wrote in an already-established universe.

The Knight and the Necromancer is about the titular characters, who meet under false pretenses, find that they like each other, and then learn that they are natural enemies. Then they have to solve a problem together. This is a well-trod setup, but it’s one that I particularly enjoy, and I had a lot of fun coming up with all the necromancy magic.

The world was influenced by Garth Nix’s Abhorsen books, all things D&D, a little HP Lovecraft, Jonathan Stroud’s massively underrated Bartimaeus trilogy, and many things I’m probably forgetting. Also, don’t judge me, but James Harriot (I mean, for the farms and farmers and livestock-related plot points). The character dynamics were influenced by C.S. Pacat’s Captive Prince, KJ Charles’s entire catalogue, probably a bit by T. Kingfisher, and perhaps even Terry Pratchett. 

As a writer, what drew you to writing fantasy, especially epics?

This is another of those “where do the ideas come from” questions. I write the kind of stuff I like to read. I feel like there isn’t nearly enough gritty epic fantasy with queer characters who are allowed to have happy endings.

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

I most enjoy writing gay and bisexual men. Most of my books include at least one gay or bisexual male couple, frequently (though not always) in the lead. But I also like variety. There’s a trans man who is a stealth favorite in K&N. My Hunters Unlucky xenofiction epic includes a lesbian couple, as well as many gender-bending species. There’s an MFF triad in my Pirates of Wefrivain series, in which one of the ladies is on the ace spectrum. I like writing polyamory, although I’ve come to realize that the market for it is limited, so I feel pressured to write about monogamous couples. But my Incubus Series is unapologetic MMF.

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

Write something before bed. Even if it’s just 200 words. If you go to sleep thinking about it, you wake up thinking about it. Sometimes you solve a problem in your dreams.

As an author, what advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

Nothing will ever be as fun as writing the novel and sharing it with your friends. Making money, being approached by publishers, seeing positive reviews – all that stuff is nice, and you think it will make you happy, but that happiness lasts, like, 5 minutes. Writing the book is the fun part – that state of creative fugue, where it feels like you’re taking dictation. Second most fun is sharing it. Receiving related artwork comes in as a close third, whether it’s art you commissioned or fan art. You don’t need anyone’s permission to do the fun stuff.

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

I wish I’d known that I would eventually “make it” in the sense that I have an audience and make a living wage. I spent a lot of time worrying about failure in my teens and twenties. I’m not usually a jealous person, but I felt insanely jealous of traditionally published novelists back then. It turns out, I was already doing the fun stuff! And I would eventually get paid for it, so I needed to just cool my jets.

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

I’m currently writing some follow-on novels to my Hunters Unlucky series. That’s one of those not-at-all-commercial projects, haha. But they have been insanely fun to write, and a small group of (the coolest) people are excited about them along with me.

The next thing I’m planning to write that I think a large number of people might want to read is a new series that I’ve been calling the Sleipner-verse. This is a new setting, where sailors hunt Lovecraftian monsters for their magic, chasing them through multiple universes in world-hopping ships. The story is about a young man from a wealthy, magic-wielding family, who befriends a lower-deck sailor from one of the slipper ships. They proceed to get into all kinds of trouble. 

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

Entertaining my cats, growing carnivorous plants, reading (of course), hiking in out-of-the-way places, and using my passport as often as possible.

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

What formats are my books available in?

ebook, paper, and audio. You can get most of my audiobooks in many places besides Audible. You can buy them directly from me on my website, which is generally the cheapest way (coincidentally, I also get paid the most). You can also get them on some library platforms.

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

My first experience of gay fiction was Marry Renault. I still return to her work sometimes. She probably seems stilted to a modern audience, but the language is so beautiful, and she can get a sentence wound so tightly that it twangs. Her Alexander books, including the non-fiction biography, absolutely broke my heart. Scenes and lines from those books stick in my head to this day.

I really like KJ Charles. She’s most known for her historicals and her historical urban fantasy. However, my favorite book of hers is neither. It’s The Henchmen of Zenda, which is a queering of the classic Prisoner of Zenda. The book is full of quote-able lines and genuine wisdom. I rarely see anyone recommend it – an under-rated bit of her work.

I’m sure everyone reading this already has an opinion about C.S. Pacat, so let me pitch something of hers that you might not have read. Her short story, “Pet,” is maybe my favorite thing she’s written. It’s set in the Captive Prince universe, but stands on its own, and you can tell that she’s bringing everything she learned from writing CP to the table. It’s deft and understated, gentler than CP, but still has some teeth.