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. 

Website: www.karajorgensen.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/authorkaraj
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/karajorgensenwriter/
Tiktok: https://www.tiktok.com/@authorkarajorgensen
Bluesky: https://staging.bsky.app/profile/authorkaraj.bsky.social

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
Website: rorymichaelson.com
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!

Queer Quills and Nerdy Thrills: Glimpses Through my Geeky Glasses – Survival Horror

“I want to show you the New World Corraalllll!” -Rick Grimes, probably talking about books or something.

Busy Geek Breakdown (TL;DR):

Since things opened back up I have made a concerted effort to check out the many small local bookshops and ask for recommendations. I tend to get into a pattern of reading one genre for a month or so until I can’t stand it anymore, then switch, but I’ll eventually reevaluate. So here are the five books I took home for survival horror. I have mixed feelings on most of these, but I recommend you check them out for yourself anyway (unless you can’t stand survival horror, then probably don’t.)

“Manhunt” by Gretchen Felker-Martin

“Fantastic Land” by Mike Bockoven

“The Last She” by H.J. Nelson

“Burn Down, Rise Up” by Vincent Tirado

“All That’s Left in The World” by Erik J. Brown

***So many Spoiler below……. but read it anyway!!!****

***Also, Content Warnings …. Seriously. So, so many content warnings. Most of these books are intense. I read them basically back to back to back, and now I am taking a long break. (CW: Guns, Knives, Pandemics, Graphic violence, Fascism, gore, disturbing imagery, psychological horror, strong language, dark themes, intense atmosphere, depictions of disturbing behavior, racism, transphobia, homophobia, Sexual Assault, drug use, cannibalism, and instances of animals dying)***

5. Manhunt

Book cover image courtesy of Macmillan Nightfire

The best way I can describe the experience of this book is a fast paced and gritty journey through Post-Apocalyptic Chaos, Queer Themes, and Unrelenting violence and a gore that you just can’t put down.

So here we go:

Listen up, folks! “Manhunt” by Gretchen Felker-Martin ain’t your typical post-apocalyptic tale. This book takes a swing at our messed-up world and shows how the toxic crap we sling in our everyday lives sticks around even when the whole damn system goes to hell. It’s a raw exploration of the human mind when the world’s gone to shit.

Now, Felker-Martin ain’t interested in giving you a breakdown of every little detail in this chaotic world. Sure, most of the communities got their own strict rules, but there’s still time for characters to kick back, smoke some blunts, and get all horny talking about their messed-up situation. While this gives room for some deep symbolic and thematic moments, the world itself could be built up a bit more. I know I’m a nerd, but I was left with a lot of questions … although not for too long because the book hardly let me catch my breath to ask further. Honestly, a lot of these questions started popping up once I finished.

The real threat in this book comes from the author’s gritty, sexually violent portrayal of zombified men. They’re like a damn nightmare unleashed on the pages, embodying what Felker-Martin calls “filth core” – a style that hits you right in the gut. Martin’s writing hits its peak in describing the messed-up bodies and violence of those poor suckers infected with the T-virus (and no, not like in Resident Evil, T as in targets testosterone). It’s like the darkness and brutality seep into your bones.

This story ain’t just about survival, though. It’s a backdrop for a deep dive into terfism as a form of fascism. Teach, the leader of the terf militia, is a tough nut to crack, but when she lets loose, Martin’s writing cuts sharp, revealing the complex emotions and traumas that push people towards such messed-up ideologies.

Now, the book could’ve used a tighter crew. Characters like Fran, Indi, and Robbie ain’t as fleshed out as Beth and Ramona. I loved the bond between Fran and Beth at the start, but as they get pulled apart, their connection starts feeling a bit arbitrary. It gets hard to find that emotional center, you know?

The gendered conflicts these characters face are real and in-your-face. They gotta hunt down zombies and chow down on balls to get estrogen and survive. And the virus messes with their transitions, leaving ’em stuck in a body that’s dehumanized by their own damn community. It’s a messed-up world, no doubt. Martin’s filthy, grimy prose style captures it all. It ain’t the most messed-up book I’ve ever seen, but there are moments that’ll stop you in your tracks.

This book ain’t holding back when it comes to trans women, cis women, terfs, men, sexism, fatness, or the unfairness of life. But all that brutality serves a purpose – it develops some deeply wounded characters. Ain’t nobody in this world without deep shame and anger. The trans protagonists look at their bodies and identities with unfiltered cruelty that hits hard. Now, this might be cathartic for some trans readers, but for others, it could be damn triggering. And let’s not forget the splatter gore – it’s a whole ‘nother level of nastiness.

“Manhunt” ain’t gonna be everyone’s cup of tea. It swings wildly from brutal violence to dark humor, from heart-wrenching reflection to awkward moments, and right back to violence again. But if you’re up for the challenge and can stomach the intensity, it’s a damn interesting read. It’s a gritty exploration of post-apocalyptic chaos, queer themes, and a filthy aesthetic that sets it apart from your typical survival horror books.

Side note, the only thing that ever really gave me pause was the description of the reconstructed Destroyer that the terfs get ahold of near the end. The description might be based off some WWII ships, or perhaps info files on what weapons can possibly be carried on a modern ship? But those are possibilities, that much fire power won’t fit on such a small ship, the buoyancy and metastatic center would be all off risking it capsizing, assuming the hull could take the stress, and there are other issues, but honestly, I loved the movie Battleship so in the end I had to tell my brain to shut up and just enjoy the ride.

And there was of course, some controversy, not just because the author dared to be trans and write very human trans characters, but because in her post-apocalyptic world J.K. Rowling dies terribly. I feel like she has enough money that she can buy the world’s smallest violin and hire someone to follow her around, but that’s just me.

All in all, “Manhunt” claws at your soul and leaves a mark. It’s a wild ride that takes no prisoners, and it’s not afraid to get in your face. So, if you’re ready to embrace the filth, dive right in. Just be prepared for the raw, unrelenting journey that awaits you.

4. Fantastic Land

Book Cover Image Courtesy of Skyhorse Publishing

Listen up, folks. I got a story to tell ya. It’s about this book called Fantasticland. Now, let me warn ya right off the bat, this ain’t no walk in the park (see what I did there? Eh?). It’s violent, creepy, and it’ll send shivers down your spine. I wouldn’t call this a thriller, although it does manage to build suspense even though you know some of the worst stuff is coming right from the first page. It basically avoids sex entirely, and there’s even several comments about how you would think a bunch of bored teens would be constantly boning, but apparently ain’t nobody got time for that when they’re busy killin’ each other left and right. That or everyone is collectively forgetting parts and/or lying, which I suppose is possible. Anyway, gender and sexuality, they don’t really come up. Missed opportunity if you ask me. So, it’s all about survival and the primal instinct kickin’ in.

Now, this book takes place in Florida, of all places. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse down there, with Ron “pudding fingers” Desantis runnin’ the show, we got a hurricane wreakin’ havoc on an amusement park, and unsurprisingly, the corporation in charge has not properly trained their people for emergencies, and values the potential for looted merch over their people. Talk about bad luck. But let me tell ya, it’s the Florida Man that makes this whole story remotely believable. That state’s got a reputation for some wild and crazy stuff, and Fantasticland fits right in.

The book’s told in a series of interviews, like we’re gatherin’ evidence to piece together the horrifying events that unfolded. You got heads on spikes, corpses floatin’ in detention cells, people being blown apart by actual pirate cannons (just how high would the liability insurance have to be in a place to have real swords and real cannons for the actors???) and enough blood to make your stomach turn. It’s like a twisted version of Lord of the Flies, told a lot like World War Z only with more rides and a hell of a lot more gore.

The author, Mike Bockoven, ain’t holdin’ back. He’s paintin’ a vivid picture of this nightmare, makin’ it feel all too real. You’ll be glued to the pages, gripped by the darkness unfoldin’ before your eyes. It’s a thrill ride of the macabre, I tell ya.

Mike Bockoven

I gotta admit, this book ain’t for the faint of heart. It’s a dark journey into the depths of human depravity. But if you’re a fan of horror, if you can handle the gruesome and the twisted, then Fantasticland is a must-read. It’ll leave you unsettled, it’ll make you question the fragility of society, and it’ll remind you just how messed up things can get when all hell breaks loose.

So buckle up, my friends. Get ready for a wild ride through the twisted corridors of Fantasticland. It’s a violent, creepy, and downright disturbing tale. But hey, it’s Florida we’re talkin’ about. Anything’s possible down there, especially when Florida Man’s involved.

3. The Last She

Book Cover Image Courtesy of WattPad Webtoon Books

This book was a gripping, if sometimes problematic tale of survival, identity, and love in a Post-Apocalyptic World.

Listen up, folks! I’ve come across a story that’ll grab you by the guts and never let go. “The Last She” is a thrilling post-apocalyptic adventure that delves into the depths of survival, identity, and the complexities of human nature. In this harrowing tale, we follow the courageous protagonist Lana as she navigates a world devoid of hope and confronts the challenges of self-discovery.

“The Last She” excels in its ability to create a vivid and dangerous post-apocalyptic world, where the survival of tribes is constantly threatened by the menacing horde. The author paints a stark and unforgiving picture of this reality, keeping readers on the edge of their seats. However, there are some gaps and issues that merit acknowledgement.

While the book does explore relationships and love, its very heteronormative and definitely falls short in depicting or even really hinting at man-on-man romance or even sex. This omission leaves a gap in the representation of diverse queer experiences within the narrative. Additionally, the book does not adequately acknowledge the existence and experiences of trans individuals in this post-apocalyptic world. This lack of representation is a missed opportunity to explore the complexities of gender identity and the potential impact of the sickness on trans men.

The nature of the sickness itself, with its focus on women (frequently referred to by folks as ‘females’ ugh) dying first and fastest, leaves some ambiguity about how trans people would be affected. The book could have delved deeper into the nuances of gender and the diverse ways in which individuals navigate their identities in this devastated world. By providing a more inclusive perspective, “The Last She” could have further enriched its exploration of queer themes and added depth to the narrative.

One of the most chilling aspects of “The Last She” is the presence of the horde (basically a roving band of ‘Alpha Males’, who’s entrance is literally paid with a fight to the death (not sure about recruiting or retention strategy but apparently the math checks out)– the horde presents a relentless, relentless force that looms over the tribes surviving in this desolate world, and the leader has a very Negan vibe. The author paints a vivid and terrifying picture of the horde, emphasizing the constant danger and desperation that the tribes face. It’s a stark reminder of the ever-present threat lurking just beyond their fragile existence.

In this desperate struggle for survival, the tribes without women must find alternative ways to meet their primal urges. While not shying away from the harsh realities of human nature, this is primarily filled with violence and destruction. It’s a raw and unflinching exploration of the lengths people will go to satisfy their desires in the absence of conventional means. This portrayal adds a gritty layer of realism to the narrative, highlighting the complex moral dilemmas faced by the characters.

Despite these gaps, “The Last She” remains a captivating read that immerses readers in a post-apocalyptic landscape teeming with danger and uncertainty. It delves into the depths of human nature, challenging notions of identity, and exploring the bonds that hold us together. Lana’s journey serves as a beacon of hope in this bleak world, inspiring those around her to find strength amidst the chaos.

H.J. Nelson

“The Last She” is an intense exploration of survival instincts, the human spirit, and the unyielding quest for meaning in a world turned upside down. While it could have addressed certain gaps and issues more directly, it still offers a gripping narrative that delves into survival, identity, and the intricacies of human relationships.

So, gear up and prepare yourself for a journey through a world on the brink of collapse. Brace yourself for a gripping adventure that will leave you questioning the very essence of humanity, while keeping in mind the gaps and missed opportunities in the representation of diverse queer experiences.

*Update* While writing this review, I found out that there is a sequel called “The Last City”. In case you’re wondering, yes, I’m adding that to my list of ‘to read’ once I loop back around to Post Apocalyptic tales.

2. Burn Down, Rise Up

Book Cover Image Courtesy of SourceBooks Fire

This book was a Sapphic Love story with a best friend Monster Hunting adventure in a nightmare world inspired by real world events – (which I didn’t read about until after I read this book unfortunately – much like I didn’t know about the Tulsa Massacre until after I saw Love Craft Country …. I know, I know, Indiana Public Schools should be ashamed) the author, a non-binary Afro-Latine Bronx native, is a Horror Power House. So here we go …

V.E. Tirado

Listen up, folks! “Burn Down, Rise Up” ain’t your ordinary horror tale. This book takes you on a twisted journey through the dark corners of the Bronx, where disappearances are swept under the rug, and the monsters lurking in the shadows aren’t always what they seem. But what sets this story apart is how it shines a light on the strength of the LGBT and BIPOC community.

From the very start, you’re thrown into the chaos alongside Raquel, a brave young girl who’s determined to uncover the truth. As her crush Charlize’s cousin vanishes, Raquel can no longer ignore the eerie happenings around her. Joined by Charlize, these two fierce young ladies team up to face the unimaginable, while challenging the biases and prejudices that permeate their community.

The writing style is spot-on, immersing you in the dark underbelly of the Bronx without holding back. The author’s ability to conjure spine-chilling horror imagery and keep you on the edge of your seat is commendable. But what truly makes this book special is how it weaves the struggles and triumphs of the LGBTQ and BIPOC experience into its very fabric.

In the heart of the Bronx, “Burn Down, Rise Up” introduces us to Raquel, a courageous teenager navigating a world where the disappearance of certain lives goes unnoticed. When Charlize’s cousin goes missing, Raquel is compelled to take action. Together, these two young women embark on a perilous quest to uncover the truth behind the terrifying Echo Game, an urban legend that traps people in a sinister underworld.

As Raquel and Charlize face their own fears and confront the horrors lurking beneath the surface, the book delves into the experiences of the LGBT and BIPOC community in the Bronx. Through their resilience and determination, they challenge the biases and injustices that society imposes upon them.

Vincent Tirado’s writing style hooks you from the very beginning, painting a vivid picture of the Bronx’s dark history and the struggles faced by its diverse inhabitants. The narrative effortlessly blends heart-pounding horror with the indomitable spirit of the LGBT and BIPOC community, offering a fresh perspective on the genre.

“Burn Down, Rise Up” is a gripping horror novel that goes beyond the supernatural, capturing the strength and resilience of LGBT and BIPOC individuals. With its compelling characters, atmospheric storytelling, and a focus on marginalized communities, this book will keep you on the edge of your seat while shedding light on the challenges faced by those often overlooked. So buckle up, because this is one wild ride you won’t want to miss.

Ps. I will now think twice about riding the subway at night …

1. All That’s Left in The World

Book Cover Image Courtesy of Balzer + Bray (an imprint of HarperCollins)

The best way I can describe this book is to quote the author himself, “I wrote this. So I think it’s definitely top five best books of all time about queer kids surviving the apocalypse. I also think you’d agree so give it a read!”

Y’know, in a world gone to hell, where the dead are walkin’ and chaos reigns supreme, you’d think there wouldn’t be time for love. But hold onto your hats, folks, ’cause “All That’s Left in the World” shatters those expectations like a bullet through a walker’s brain.

This post-apocalyptic tale takes us on a wild ride through a world ravaged by a super-bug that wiped out most of humanity. But in the midst of the turmoil, two survivors emerge: Andrew and Jamie. Now, these boys ain’t just fightin’ for survival; they’re discoverin’ a love that’ll light up the darkness and warm even the coldest nights.

If you thought the end of the world couldn’t get any gayer, “All That’s Left in the World” is here to prove you wrong. This book ain’t just a post-apocalyptic adventure; it’s a damn celebration of LGBT themes in the face of the undead.

Erik J. Brown

From the get-go, you can tell this book means business. The writing grabs ya like a hungry walker sinking its teeth into fresh meat. The humor, action, and suspense blend together like the perfect recipe for survival. Erik J. Brown, the author, knows how to keep you on the edge of your seat while sprinklin’ in moments of tender love that’ll warm your heart, even in the darkest of times.

Now, let’s talk about our heroes, Andrew and Jamie. These boys ain’t your typical survivors. They’re beautifully flawed, guilt-ridden, and dang funny. They meet in a world where hope’s in short supply, but they find solace in each other’s arms. It’s a slow burn romance, but trust me, folks, it’s worth the wait. Their chemistry is hotter than a wildfire and sweeter than a can of peaches in a deserted pantry.

What sets this book apart is how effortlessly it weaves queer representation into the fabric of a zombie-ridden world. It’s like watchin’ “The Walking Dead,” but with a helluva lot more rainbows and heartwarming moments. Y’know, if King Ezekiel and Daryl Dixon decided to ride off into the sunset hand in hand, kickin’ undead butt along the way. (Hey Netflix, I have a pitch for you …)

So, my friends, if you’re lookin’ for an adventure that’ll keep you up all night, “All That’s Left in the World” is your ticket. It’s got everything you need: bickering, initially friendly seeming midwestern fascists, real talk, sarcastic banter, and a whole lot of love.

But seriously, folks, this book ain’t just about the end of the world; it’s about love and resilience in the face of unimaginable challenges. So grab your crossbow, lock and load, and join Andrew and Jamie on their journey through a post-apocalyptic landscape where love conquers all—even when the world has turned to hell.

Queer Quills and Nerdy Thrills: Glimpses Through my Geeky Glasses – “Finna” and “Defekt”

“And so, Doctor Beckett finds themselves leaping from pride to pride, striving to assemble what once went amiss, and hoping each time that their next leap will lead to a fabulous, fully decorated home … or something”

Busy Geek Breakdown (TL;DR):

Get ready for interdimensional excitement as Nino Cipri‘s “Finna” and “Defekt” take you on a geek’s dream journey through the enigmatic corridors of LitenVäld, an Ikea-like store. These novellas artfully blend references to Doctor Who, Star Trek, Sliders, and even an unexpected A-Team twist. With authentic LGBTQ representation and relatable characters, prepare for mind-bending adventures, a dash of Ikea humor, and exploring love, identity, and personal growth. Embrace the power of diversity, queer the geekdom, and celebrate the fusion of LGBTQ themes and geek culture!

***So many Spoiler below……. but read it anyway!!!****

Boldly Going Queer: Exploring LGBTQ Themes in Nino Cipri’s Novellas

Welcome, fellow geeks, to an exhilarating journey into the realms of Nino Cipri’s captivating novellas, “Finna” and “Defekt.” Prepare to be immersed in interdimensional escapades, LGBTQ themes, and a sprinkle of geek culture references, including nods to Star Trek, Doctor Who, and the TV show Sliders. As we navigate the labyrinthine corridors of LitenVäld, reminiscent of Ikea’s puzzling layout, let’s delve into the worlds of time travel and alternate realities and even face the super creepy scenario where the store becomes a hive mind, demanding blood as payment for items.

Geek Culture and Interdimensional Adventures:

In “Finna” and “Defekt,” Cipri pays homage to beloved franchises such as Doctor Who, Star Trek, and Sliders. Imagine Ava, Jules, and Jay as intrepid explorers akin to the Doctor’s adventures in the TARDIS or the Star Trek crew’s encounters with strange new worlds. As they traverse the perplexing corridors of LitenVäld, each turn uncovers a unique reality filled with surprises and challenges. But be prepared to encounter the chilling alternate reality where LitenVäld becomes a hive mind, demanding a macabre form of payment in the form of blood. This eerie scenario adds a layer of horror to the interdimensional adventures, evoking a sense of unease and raising questions about the true nature of LitenVäld.

LGBTQ Themes and Authentic Representation:

Cipri’s novellas prioritize authentic LGBTQ representation, seamlessly weaving queer experiences into the fabric of the stories. Love, friendship, and personal growth are delicately explored, resonating with readers deeply. By embracing diversity and inclusivity, Cipri reminds readers of the importance of representation in speculative fiction, allowing them to see themselves in the pages and fostering empathy and understanding.

And amidst the excitement, be prepared to encounter the super cool moment where the team in “Defekt” transforms into a clone version of The A-Team, each member bringing their unique skills to the table. This unexpected twist injects a punch of nostalgia and humor into the narrative, inviting us to cheer on this misfit crew as they navigate interdimensional chaos.

Our protagonist is Derek, a fiercely loyal employee of LitenVärld. He’s got a living space that’s as cozy as a shipping container at the store’s backlot; believe it or not, he’s never taken a sick day… until he starts coughing up blood out of the blue.

Now, you see, a model employee like Derek shouldn’t need time off, right? But alas, fate has other plans for him. So instead of a well-deserved rest, he’s assigned to a special inventory team for a locked-in night of hunting down defective products. And let me tell you, we’re talking about something other than your ordinary unsatisfactory goods here. Instead, we’ve got toy chests growing pincers and eyestalks—now that’s something you don’t find at your typical IKEA!

But hold on to your seatbelts, folks, ’cause here’s where it gets even weirder. The inventory team consists of four strangers who look and sound (almost) identical to Derek himself. So imagine running into four copies of yourself—talk about a mind-bending experience!
Having five Dereks is an advantage when facing down sentient furniture horrors. But guess what? The real problem might not be the furniture that’s come to life but rather the twisted workings of LitenVärld itself.

Nino Cipri

“Defekt” is not just a spooky and entertaining tale; it’s got layers of compelling themes simmering beneath the surface. I’m always looking for the more profound implications woven into a narrative. The LitenVärld stories are more than wonderfully queer anti-capitalist science fiction—about friendship, connection, and resilience. In “Finna”, it’s all about building a fellowship from the wreckage of a romantic breakup during an unnerving adventure. Now, that’s what I call a leap of faith!

But in “Defekt”, things take a different turn. This novella cranks up the fear factor and takes us on a rollercoaster ride. The story starts with snippets from the “Special Exempt Employee” handbook, which sounds more like an eerie manifesto than a regular work manual. And once Derek finds himself locked inside the store for his special inventory night, buckle up, ’cause it’s gonna be a wild one. From being pursued by a carnivorous, free-roaming toilet to navigating the emergency-red-lit maze of the moveable faux-IKEA labyrinth, it’s a nail-biter, let me tell ya.

But here’s the twist you won’t see coming. After Derek is saved by his clone team, we realize that LitenVärld has decided to kill off the defective merchandise instead of cataloging it. So who’s the real monster now? Dirk, one of the clones, is a real piece of work—a sociopath who revels in violence and power. So the monsters we thought were the threat? Well, they’re just fighting for their own survival. Talk about turning the tables!

Derek’s awakening to resistance and refusal to be a cog in a broken system manifests in a unique and unsettling way—a bleeding, ruptured mouth slashed across his throat. It’s a haunting and vivid description of the pain and defiance within him.

And you know what? It’s not all about the scares. “Defekt” brings in some unexpected desires and connections too. Derek’s encounter with Darkness, where they ask to see and touch his throat, turns into a strangely intimate moment. What was once seen as disgusting becomes oddly appealing. And when he comes face-to-face with an alternate-universe version of himself, he finds comfort in seeing his own supposed defect on someone else’s body. It reminds us that embracing our flaws and rejecting oppressive systems can lead to surprising connections and personal growth.

And let’s remember the burning question: would you hook up with your clone? In “Defekt”, that question serves a purpose. The four clones and Derek’s responses to them delve into our desires, needs, and the complexities of attraction. It’s a glimpse into what we seek in others and our social systems. But it’s not just for kicks—it drives the narrative and highlights the power of forming alliances against oppression.

“Defekt” is a thrilling ride, blending high-tension plot twists with thought-provoking themes. It’s a standalone novella and a worthy companion to “Finna”, expanding on the underlying messages of resistance, collectivism, and the strength of queer identities in challenging the status quo. So, kudos to Nino Cipri for keeping me on the edge of my seat with those spine-tingling moments, especially the eerie inserts from the employee handbook. “Defekt” is a quantum leap into a reality-warping adventure that’s both unsettling and fun.

So grab your imaginary LitenVäld shopping cart, prepare to slide between dimensions, and immerse yourself in the imaginative worlds created by Nino Cipri. Then, it’s time to boldly go queer, celebrating the perfect fusion of LGBTQ themes and geek culture!

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
Website: lionelhart.ink

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 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 (https://www.instagram.com/mrmaresca/), 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 (https://www.audiobooks.com/promotions/promotedBook/655954/holver-alley-crew-a-streets-of-maradaine-novel?refId=64976), 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.

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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!

Find Blake R. Wolfe here:

Twitter: twitter.com/BlakeRWolfe

Facebook: www.facebook.com/blakerwolfe

Patreon (exclusive content): https://www.patreon.com/blakerwolfe

Website and Newsletter: www.blakerwolfe.com

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.