Blog hop–find out what Christopher Koehler is up to!

Blog Hop Interview—Tag, You’re It!

A while back, my friend James Austen tagged me. Then I got sick. But it’s my turn now, so here I am. I know you’ve all been breathless with antici-say it, Franky!–pation.

1) What are you working on right now?

I’m actually working on a couple of things at the moment. Settling the Score, the fourth installment in the CalPac Crew series, will be released on December 16, 2013. I expect galleys any moment. So I’ve spent a lot of time lately on multiple rounds of editing. It’s the cover art that’s driving me nuts. I think the artist and I are on the second draft. As soon as I get one I like I’ll post it here, don’t worry.

I’m also in the earliest stages of outlining my next project. The hard truth is that I’m essentially done with the CalPac Crew, at least in its present incarnation. I’ve told the stories I want to tell with the present cast of characters. Sure, there may be a few holiday stories to come, maybe a few short stories, particularly where Morgan and Nick are concerned, but I’m essentially done. I’ve told the stories of the characters I’d intended to handle in novels. Sure, there are more stories to tell about minor characters, and I may yet tell them, but they won’t be CalPac Crew stories, not really.

That said, I keep coming back to the idea of taking it back to the freshmen crew at CalPac, the New Crew as such a series might be dubbed. One of the characters in particular has been demanding a great deal of my attention. I don’t have a name for him yet, but that’s about all this guy’s missing.

He has also told me he’s poz.

So how’d he get that way? You must admit, it’s unusual to start college with HIV. He’s not a hemophiliac, and in any event the tests to screen the blood supply are much better than they were when I was an undergrad and a hemophiliac roommate died of complications relating to HIV.

No, this guy was exposed to HIV in high school the old-fashioned way, through unprotected sex. Since it will have been in high school, this suggests a YA adult novel published through Dreamspinner’s Harmony Ink imprint. I’ve dangled the idea in front of the publisher and she seemed interested.

What worries me is that I’ve seized on the notion of telling each character’s backstory through a YA novel. This means I’d be writing two series simultaneously. Even I’m not that crazy. Am I?

On top of all that, I’ve finished the tenth? twelfth? draft of a dieselpunk novel set in an Edwardian world of political and familial treachery in which the magic is slowly coming back after a thousand years of slumber. I’ve no idea whether or not it’s any good.

 

2. How does it differ from other works in its genre?

Hmmm, good question. I’ll answer in reverse order. I’ve been asking that question myself. I try to link the culture I depict in the dieselpunk to the dislocations in our own world as it made its fitful transition to the modern world (n.b. modern in this sense refers to a historically bracketed period of time, rather than as a synonym for contemporary, and is characterized by a shift of populations from rural to urban life, a shift of life’s rhythms to “factory” time, a feeling of uncertainty and anxiety, a sense of isolation from others, a sense that the pace of life was increasing beyond all control, a sense that the wholeness of social life had splintered into nothing but social atoms in the void, a world—as Marx said—where all that is solid melts into air), a world on the verge of ripping itself to shreds as it hurdled at break-neck speed to the First World War.

I’ve taken gross liberties with the technology and magic, as well, of course, but all of this is world building and doesn’t really answer the question. Where I hope it differs is in my view of the people involved, of the characters I hope I bring to life. To an extent, fantasy and science fiction—if not any kind of literature—depend on a “great man/woman” view of history. There is something extraordinary about these people, even if it’s in their utter lack of greatness. Something always sets them apart in some manner, even if it’s just the fact that the fates kicked them in the teeth. But it’s important to remember that even if called on to do great things, they’re still men and women, with the same hopes and fears as the rest of us. I hope I’ve remembered that human element.

As for my m/m romances, that may be even trickier. It’s been suggested that there are actually very few stories to tell in this genre…the fish out of water, the late bloomer, gay for you, cops or firemen, poor communications, to name just a few. These tropes exist for a reason, because in the hands of a good author they seem fresh and exciting. Our stories are ultimately about people and a good author, knowing that, makes people the center of her stories. The rest is just wallpaper. It hangs there in the background and looks tasteful, only coming to our attention when it looks tacky or starts coming undone like a poorly handled plot.

So while collegiate and/or master’s rowing hasn’t been handled by very many people, and certainly not in novel-length stories, I hope it’s my guys that draw people in. After all, if I made rowing the focus of my stories I’d lose people quickly. It’s always been a tricky balance, actually. Include just enough rowing detail to let the reader know why something’s important, but not include so much that it’s a boring info dump.

It all comes back to our characters, doesn’t it?

 

3. Why do you write what you do?

I’ve long read fantasy and speculative fiction, although I’ve never much use for hard sci-fi. It all started one rainy afternoon when Dad gave me a copy of Katherine Kurtz’s Camber of Culdi. I tried to write fantasy seriously toward the end of grad school when I realized that academic history was a bust. I’m still working on the same novel, trying to express the same themes of fin-de-siècle concern about shifting expectations about sex and gender, as well as a distinct unease about modernity, something sensed but unseen, an invisible threat in the air like the smell of gun powder and the report of cannons on the horizon.

I started writing m/m just a few years ago after I read Urban and LaRoux’s Caught Running and one of JL Langley’s werewolf books. It wasn’t so much the plots of the books themselves that captured me, it was reading stories that featured gay men who were perfectly normal (okay, werewolves…drop it). Up until that point, most of what I’d read about me and my kind had been from the queer studies corner of the history of sexuality. Sodometries has that “ooh, look I’m talking about sex” cachet, but just wasn’t the same as reading about normal (there’s that word again) men going about the business of living and loving.

Since I’ve always been a writer, expanding my writing to include contemporary m/m romances seemed like a natural thing to do. As it turns out, it’s been a congenial home.

 

4. What’s your writing process like?

The earliest part of my writing process looks a great deal like staring off into space. I may appear to be daydreaming, but then, that’s where ideas come from, isn’t it? Honestly, I don’t even know if this counts as part of the writing process per se, but one of my stories starts as an idea on a scrap of paper or jotted into the memo app on my phone or something similar. One recent idea was sparked by an article in the local birdcage liner and I spent the next 45 minutes fleshing it out.

From there it’s a matter of adding successive levels of detail until I have a solid outline. At each stage I make note of what research I need to do and obvious holes in the plot. Eventually I end up with an outline that moves me (and the reader) through all stages of the story and the plot structure, including snippets of dialogue that have come to me, as well as notes on what a given scene’s viewpoint character should be feeling.

Then I actually have to start writing. The benefit of this outlining is that when I’m about the 2/3rd to 3/4th mark, when I decide the entire thing stinks on ice and that I have no talent as a writer, I have an outline to fall back on. The outline looked good when I wrote it and I have to make myself trust it when I hit that point dreadful point when I’m that close to finishing.

After that, it’s just a matter of the usual submission and editorial process.

 

In a week or so, look for the answers to these questions on the pages of these fine writers:

 

Posy Roberts

 

Z.A. Maxfield

 

One Response

  1. Tracy

    ARGH.

    Grabbyhands.

    I has them.

    Write faster!

    November 9, 2013 at 7:52 PM

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