Today we welcome Gillian St. Kevern. Gillian is here today answering a few questions I had for her. She is also giving RGR readers a free copy of her book ‘The Wing Commander’s Curse’. Thank you Gillian for taking time to visit with us today.
What got you started writing MM romance?
I started out writing in fandom circles, and quickly discovered I felt really at home in slash circles. As a reader, I tended to identify more with male characters than female in the books, comics and manga series I followed, so writing from a male POV felt very natural to me. Strong female characters were important to me then as they are now, but despite identifying as female, I didn’t feel qualified to write them. I told myself that my fanfic writing was good practice for the day when one-day I would write a literary novel, but it wasn’t until 2009 that I realised I actually wanted to write original fiction about gay romance. I wrote my first novel The Vampire and the Accountant (never published), with no idea if there was an audience for this sort of stories and it sat on my shelf for years. I’ve only showed it to a few close friends.
Where do your ideas come from?
My ideas come from all sorts of places. I’ve written three stories for the Goodreads M/M Romance Group’s Don’t Read in the Closet event, where readers submit ideas for authors to write. Otherwise, I usually start with a character with a problem, or a scenario I really want to explore.
The Wing Commander’s Curse started as a request. I contributed an original story to an online auction raising funds to support LGBT Chechens. The winner of my auction, Kathleen, requested a story with a magic-user crushing on a barista. When given a story idea like this, I look for the conflict. The magic-user is crushing on the barista. Why can’t he ask him out? Is magic secret? Does the barista want a normal boyfriend? What if the wizard is cursed? Obviously, I went with the cursed option. The wizard is cursed, which means he doesn’t intend to act on his feelings. What is going to change his mind? Is the barista in magical peril? Is the barista pursuing him? What if the wizard’s friends take things into their own hands and try to bring them together? Once I started asking these questions I had Mallory–anguished, fervent, but still with a lot of pride, unwilling to help himself—Jonah, who is very much an impulsive person and whose anger is fierce and fleeting–and Mallory’s wingmen–Mars, the opinionated self-serving cat, and Gatsby, Mallory’s batsman, who is the optimist to counter Mallory’s chronic pessimism. As more characters started appearing–Captain Burrows, the senior witch, Hodgson, her deputy–personalities began to clash and ulterior motives appeared. From there, I could start working out the plot.
Do you read MM? If so what was your first MM book?
I started reading MM after writing my vampire paranormal romance Thorns and Fangs. Again, I’d written this entirely ignorant as to whether or not there was a market for it. I just needed to tell this story. To my surprise, a quick search for ‘gay romance vampire’ brought me to Dreamspinner Publications where there was an entire section devoted to paranormal romances involving vampires. I bought one that I saw had a kiwi protagonist (I’m a New Zealander), and to my delight, discovered it was written by a longterm friend from my fandom days. Since then I’ve read a lot across the MM genre, from contemporary romances to my beloved paranormal romances. I never seem to have time to read as much as I’d like, only because writing takes up a good chunk of my time, and I feel that I’ve barely scraped the surface of what the genre has to offer.
Why did you decide to add a trans secondary character to your book?
I didn’t plan Gatsby. I wrote my first scene, with Gatsby present, as an experiment to see if my mishmash of story elements was strong enough to stand together. Gatsby was a placeholder until I could come up with a better name, but by the time I’d finished the second scene, he was so strongly in my mind that I knew he was staying as he was. Halfway through chapter two, I realised it was really unusual that Gatsby, whose speech and mannerisms are upper-class would be a batsman (a soldier servant) at all. I wondered what the reason for it might be, and it was then, two and a half chapters into the story, that I realised he was trans. If he served in the Army or the Wizards Battalion, he risked being outed and losing his future as a wizard, his chance to fully realise who he is, and his opportunity to serve his country, but as Mallory’s batsman, he’s able to work closely with Mallory, preserving his privacy. It just made sense.
What research did you do to write him?
I feel that we need to see more trans characters, and I want to write a story with a trans main character at some point. I actually started a story, but quickly realised that I was way out of my depth and shelved the project until I had the chance to do more research. While I never found time to actively read stories from trans perspectives, I think my failed story made me more conscious of how much I had to learn, so whenever an article about trans issues came up, I read it, read other commenter’s reactions, listened to my friend’s experiences. I started the story that failed in August 2015, so that’s pretty much two years of passive research, reading and listening. I still didn’t feel ready to write Gatsby, and if I’d sat down consciously intending to create a trans character, Gatsby would not have been who I created. Gatsby wanted to be written, however, so that’s what happened.
As an ally what would you tell a non-ally when they say “I just don’t get it?”
Listen. Accept that even if what you hear does not match your experience, it is the experience of those who are talking. It is not an attempt to invalidate your experience. Listen some more. Understand that people’s difference is not a personal attack on you. Keep listening.
What is in store for new books from you?
I’m actually returning to the 1910s with a historical mystery series. I’m a quarter of the way into the first book—the corpse is about to be discovered!
I’ve got a seasonal short romance coming out in December with NineStar Press, The Op-Shop Rejects live in Concert, and then the third and fourth books of Thorns and Fangs, my paranormal romance series, coming out early 2018.
An unbreakable curse.
England overrun by monsters.
Two men locked in a losing battle. England, 1915.
Jonah Valliant longs for active service, but is stuck making coffee for the local officers. A year ago, the world erupted into magical chaos. No one knows why Britain is overrun by fearsome worms, magical creatures whose gaze turns men to stone, or how to stop them. When Jonah loses his temper with Wing Commander Mallory, he has no idea that picking a quarrel with the wizard may lead to Britain’s salvation–or its destruction.
Augustus Mallory carries more than the weight of the war effort on his shoulders. He’s the last of the Mallory wizards, feared for their power, arrogance and the dark family curse. He knows losing his heart to Jonah endangers everything Mallory cares about—but Jonah may possess the key to defeating the worms once and for all. His only hope: staving off his doom long enough to learn the secret behind the Quickening.
Gillian St. Kevern is the author of the Deep Magic series, the Thorns and Fangs series, the For the Love of Christmas series,and standalone novels, The Biggest Scoop and The Wing Commander’s Curse. Gillian currently lives in her native New Zealand, but spent eleven years in Japan and has visited over twenty different countries. Her writing is a celebration of the weird and wonderful people she encounters on her journeys.
As a chronic traveller, Gillian is more interested in journeys than endings, with characters that grow and change to achieve their happy ending. She’s not afraid to let her characters make mistakes or take the story in an unexpected direction. Her stories cross genres, time-periods and continents, taking readers along for an unforgettable ride. Both Deep Magic and The Biggest Scoop were nominated for Best LOR story in the 2015 M/M Romance Groups Member’s Choice awards. Deep Magic also received nominations in Best Cover, Best Main Character and Best Paranormal, while The Biggest Scoop was nominated for Best Coming of Age.