Time for Spotlight Saturday again! Joining us today is Nat Kennedy. She writes gay fantasy. Let’s find out more…
You write gay fantasy. What draws you to that genre? What’s your favorite part about writing in that genre?
I really discovered my love for reading when I found the fantasy genre. As a kid, I read animal books, and some of the Beverly Cleary, and that’s about it. Then I discovered Xanth, a magical place where everyone has a magic talent. The idea of this world with magic flipped my eager little reading lid wide open. I devoured all the fantasy that I could, even if it wasn’t 100% up to my tastes, because at the time I didn’t really have many options.
I was never much of a romance reader. I still liked my external/active plot. I wasn’t interested in a story that was solely about two people falling in love. Of the few romances I had read, the books were focused on women being saved and ‘oh, that brute of a man’. Maybe I just hadn’t found the good stuff, but what I’d found wasn’t for me.
About fifteen years ago I read some romantic gay fantasy. The stories weren’t just about the relationship, about the two characters finding love. There was plot. Guys were loving each other and doing things, not pining, not waiting, but being active. So, I found this subgenre and decided this was where I belonged. I wrote little stories for friends. Then longer novels. Finally, I decided to take the plunge. Last year I self-published two novellas for a greater urban fantasy series – the Wielder World.
My favorite parts? Plotting, worldbuilding, slow burn romance. Because there are other outside forces at work, it isn’t just about the relationship. The characters react to the fantasy plot slapping them about, forcing them to choose and act and then, along the way, they fall in love.
You have two books out in the Wielder World series, Edge of Desperation and Center of Deception. How many books do you plan on in this series? When can we expect the next one out?
Wielder World is a planned four book series, though honestly, if I get to that point and I feel there is more story, I will continue. The two novellas are openers, introductions to my three main characters: Reggie, August and Kyle. They are pre-romance, a way to explore the characters, define the world, and let you know what’s at stake. Following those is a short story treat, called Places Between, which focuses on a fourth character, Bethany, an agent for the government. After these shorter works, there are two novels. The next book, Afflicted to the Core, is in the editing phase. In this novel, the romance and heat ratchet up. The men fall for each other as they struggle against the twisted government, the shadow agency, and the Wielder cults. They’re knee deep in trouble, and along the way, they find love.
Expect Afflicted to the Core out this year, early fall.
You explore many different things while writing. (i.e. agoraphobia, hermaphroditic…) How much research goes into your writing process?
I’m a research machine. It’s part of why I’m a slow writer. I enjoy learning about a subject before I bring it into my world. Though, some aspects of my worlds are pure fantasy, so I can make up my own rules. Though, those rules need to remain consistent so the reader isn’t ever thrown for a loop.
Having well thought-out worldbuilding, even if the facts don’t come out on the page, shows on the page. You need to have a good sense of what it’s like to have agoraphobia before you can translate that to story. I like to read blogs and first person perspectives on places, jobs, diseases, foods, experiences, etc. so that I can hopefully weave the right words so the reader can understand and feel they’ve experienced it too.
Where do your ideas come from? What type of fantasy world do you depict?
In a way, a lot of my ideas come from the desire to fill a hole I see in something I’ve read. I think of a story I liked, but “It could have been better with…” I then take these ideas, these hopes and wishes from stories I enjoyed, and squish them together like playdough. It’s amazing what comes out. I also have brainstorming crazy friends, where we play off each other’s utter random ideas. Some of those ideas bubble to the top, and with a few tweeks come out as viable plot options!
I write in a variety of fantasy genres. Right now, it’s mainly urban fantasy and a bit of contemporary fantasy. My next project is high fantasy. I also have plans for dark fantasy and horror. I like to span the entire spectrum of fantasy. I have so many ideas, I want to babble on about them, but I’ll keep most under my belt for now.
You’ve written some stories with hermaphroditic species &/or characters. Can you explain what that is? It is difficult to write?
I have a draft for a new series call the World of Two Moons in which I have a fantasy hermaphroditic cat race. The people, called the felinori, are both sexes. My goal in creating this race was to toss out gender all together. I like to experiment with social status in my writing (in the Wielder World gender roles are flipped because of the way magic affects men) and this was one way to do so. What if gender wasn’t an issue. Everyone was the same. It was an exciting endeavor and I am looking forward to publishing these novels.
At first, it was very difficult to write. I used the gender-neutral pronoun xe/hir for them. (Xe for he/she and hir for him/her.) But, honestly, I gendered each of the characters in my head, and I found myself slipping in a her instead of a hir, or a he instead of a xe. I had to watch my language when writing them because they didn’t have brothers or sisters, for example. I actually created a new vocabulary, made up words for various aspects of their lives that don’t exist in ours. It was a challenge I enjoyed.
I see you have a cat. Does she help you write, give inspiration in anyway?
I am a crazy cat lady, this is true. My tabby kitty tries to sit on my lap at times while I write. I don’t find it distracting actually. But I do find myself petting her, thinking about the next scene, so maybe she’s actually helping. Maybe, it’s really her story and I’m just channeling the words onto the computer for her! (I do have a cat race after all.) I think when we are being creative, we go into a certain headspace and our pets enjoy being around us. Maybe we put off good vibes.
What’s it like being an indie author? Highs? Lows?
I love the indie community. I’ve felt such great support from the other authors here. It’s like we’re all on this road together, supporting each other. It’s been a wonderful experience. I also enjoy being in control of my novel, freebie days, etc. I find that with indie publishing, I can write my story, not try to stuff it into a marketing box that the large publishing houses look for.
Highs: Hitting that publish button. Your first review and it’s a good one! Fans.
Lows: Publicity, how to get my books out there and find my audience. Where are all the gay fantasy readers? No editing or cover support from a large publishing house.
Crazy question time! You’re whisked away into your fantasy novel, which character are you?
Oh, wow! I love this question. In the Wielder World there are four main characters: Reggie, the professor, Kyle, the student, August, the bartender, Bethany, the government agent. I think I’m most like August. I’m independent, laid back, I like to make people happy, but I don’t put up with too much bull. I don’t like my everyday life mucked with. I’m open minded and nearly vegan (he is vegan). I stand by and watch other people’s happiness too much, too. He is heroic when pushed to the wall, and I hope I would be as awesome as he is.
Any last thoughts?
I’m just so happy I found this genre: gay romantic fantasy. It’s opened new doors of reading pleasure for me, and I hope I can offer that to readers who enjoy this subgenre.
This has been a very fun interview. Thank you!
Thank you so much for joining us, Nat! If you want to connect with Nat, or check out her Wielder World series, just click those beautiful links below.