Guest Post: “What I’ve Learned From Readers” by K.D.

Guest Post, Misc.

KD.pngMeet K.D.

K.D. 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 follow-up, THE HANGED MAN, will be published in September 2019. K.D. is represented by Sara Megibow at kt literary, and Kim Yau at Paradigm for media rights.

 

The Guest Post.

What I’ve Learned From My Readers.
Everyone tells you the same thing: DO NOT read the reviews on your novel!

It’s crazy…. Literally everyone has an opinion on it. People who’ve never written a book. People who want to write books. People who’ve written lots of books. All of them seemed to say the same thing. Ominously. Like even the act of opening a reader review will cause a pale girl with lots of dark hair to climb through my computer screen.

But I did. From the start. From the first one, to the one that was written yesterday. I’ve read every word that people have taken the time to write about THE LAST SUN.

Anyway, this is me: an urban fantasy author who writes about a reimagined Atlantis in modern day society, built loosely around the theme of the tarot deck’s major arcana, with main characters who just happen to be gay. My novels center around a buddy-duo named Rune and Brand, and their adventures in the sprawling world of New Atlantis. I’m hoping to turn this into a nine novel series – 3 trilogies, actually. The overall series is called the Tarot Sequence, the first novel is THE LAST SUN, and the follow-up, to be published in December 2019, is THE HANGED MAN.

I didn’t know what to expect when the first novel came out. I’m an older writer – old enough, at least, to remember a world that looked a lot different from the one today with regards to casually including gay characters in your story. I didn’t know if my series would be pigeon-holed as simply “Gay Fiction” or if by marketing it as Sci-Fi I’d be enduring the wrath of unnamed straight readers who picked up the book assuming Rune was a red-blooded straight male who would obviously never fall in love with someone named Addam.

The truth? Most people were awesome. My readers rock this universe. They are kind and effusive. They share artwork and song recommendations. 95% of my reviews are overwhelmingly positive. I worked my ass off writing HANGED MAN, largely because these people are so exceptionally great. I owe them a great follow-up.

But for a second….let’s talk about the 5% of reviews that weren’t overwhelmingly positive. I read those too. This is a list of what I learned about my readers (my audience); my writing; and the thickness of my skin.

  • Oh wow did I mess up my portrayal of female characters. Looking back, I thought I was Mr. Diversity because I had an urban fantasy with characters who just happened to be gay men! And while, sure, I think there’s a market for that, I also learned that it’s not enough. It’s no excuse to omit vibrant, strong, interesting, powerful female characters. I literally had none. NONE. Those that I did include were either villains or heavily-flawed people. I am deeply ashamed of this, and worked hard to show a better balance in HANGED MAN. This is, by far, one of the most powerful things I learned from my audience. I can’t wait for people to meet Anna and Lady Death, in particular. And Aunt Diana returns for at least one scene where she kind of beautifully puts Rune in his place.
  • And along those same lines? My character were overwhelmingly white. Part of that originally had to do with my own sensitivity, and not wanting to appropriate other cultures. But I’ve learned that’s no excuse not to include people of color in my story. So I start correcting that in HANGED MAN, and will correct it even more in Novel #3. Lady Death, who makes her first appearance in HANGED MAN, is a strong black woman who will get along well with Rune, and play a huge part in Novel #3. And the Dawncreeks are a family with a bloodline that traces back to the Wampanoag (not unlike Rune himself)—an American Indian tribe I’ve mentioned before in the context of their importance in East Coast history. And the Arcana—the rulers of New Atlantis –are an extremely multicultural bunch. Since they’ve had business interests in every part of the human world, it wouldn’t make sense to have them be anything but diverse.
  • I also learned it’s OK not to have a knock-down, dragged-out action sequence every other chapter. Now this is a much more subtle learning. I think genre novels always have a fair balance of action and narrative; but “action” doesn’t always have to mean a fight sequence. Early in HANGED MAN, there’s a long sequence that takes place in a red light district called the Green Docks, which is comprised of long-lost ghost ships. I learned that I didn’t need to use this as a backdrop for a fight, because the backdrop itself was the action. It was spooky and haunted, and Rune, Brand, and Addam had to be on their toes the entire time they explored it to gather information on a runaway named Layne. I didn’t necessarily need to have more than that. Atmosphere is action.
  • And sure, in reading all of the first novel reviews, I got some homophobia. Shockingly little, however. So little that I actually was able to laugh most of it off. There was one person who gave me a low-star review, but also published their Kindle notes. And in their Kindle notes, I saw the point where their enjoyment of the story turned into a rejection of the gay theme. (The focus of the story isn’t on a gay character; the main character just happens to be gay, and a potential love interest that appears halfway into the story is, indeed, a man.) The reviewer made a Kindle note to the affect: “Oh great, this just turned into another homoerotic bottom boy novel. What a waste.” And most recently, a reader made comments about my pandering to the diversity crowd by having a character who wasn’t a “boring straight white male.” I should note that in both cases, I anonymously reprinted the comments on Twitter with this caption: MORE TO COME!
  • …..BUUUUT I learned, hypothetically, that the person who left that borderline homophobic comment may see that I quoted him or her on Twitter, because the next thing I knew that last 3-star review became a 2-star review, and was immediately followed by another 2-star review by a new reviewer who just happened to have reviewed no novel except for LAST SUN. So…maybe I learned not to engage? We’ll see if that sticks.

OK! Now that I’ve blown this blog entry’s word count request out of the water, I’ll stop here. Lord knows there are plenty of other lessons I’ve learned, but these are the Big Ones. These are the lessons that heavily impacted how I wrote & structured THE HANGED MAN.

Thank you for the opportunity to write this, Rae! I’ve been wanting to put this into words for a while!

 

Thank you K.D. for sharing!

THE HANG MAN comes out in December of this year!

Author Interview: Victoria Lee

Author Interview

Meet Victoria Lee.

 

Victoria Lee author photo (no credit).jpg

Hi Victoria! Thanks for joining us today. Tell us a little about yourself.
Hi! Thanks so much for having me.
I’m Victoria Lee, author of The Fever King and its upcoming sequel. I grew up in
Durham, North Carolina where I spent twelve ascetic years as a vegetarian before discovering spicy chicken wings are, in fact, a delicacy. I’ve been a state finalist competitive pianist, a hitchhiker, a pizza connoisseur, an EMT, an expat in China and Sweden, and a science doctoral student. I’m also a bit of a snob about fancy whisky.

I write early in the morning, then spends the rest of the day trying to impress my border collie puppy and make my experiments work.

Social Media:
– twitter.com/sosaidvictoria
– instagram.com/sosaidvictoria
– sosaidvictoria.tumblr.com
– victorialeewrites.com
– facebook.com/victorialeewrites

 

The Interview.

 

Science vs. magic – Magic vs. science. Who reigns supreme? *dramatic pause* How did you write through the logistics of a dystopian USA where magic and science both have areas of control?
I feel like if I don’t say “science,” my Ph.D. adviser will kick me out of grad school. But on the other hand…do I still get to call myself a fantasy writer if I don’t say “magic?”

DECISIONS.

In The Fever King, magic and science are intertwined and kind of mutually enhance each other. Since magic is a virus—not caused by a virus, magic is the virus—in TFK, already you can sort of see how inextricable they are. And even if you have the virus and can use magic, the only way to make something magical happen in this universe is if you know the scientific principles underlying it. So for example, to perform telekinesis you have to understand the physics of motion.

What was actually interesting about figuring out the intersection of magic and science in Carolinia was the fact that, although the book is set in the future—like, 22nd century future—in a lot of ways, the tech hasn’t advanced very far from our own. This is because Carolinia was founded to be a state that privileged protecting magic and magic users above all else, whereas the rest of the world had just tried to commit a massive genocide against magic users. So Carolinia has closed borders, and the powers-that-be have eschewed adoption of much foreign technology. But then they end up more advanced than those other countries in some ways, because they don’t have to worry about tornadoes leveling towns, for example—a meteorpath (a witching who can control the weather) should be able to send the tornado spinning off in a different direction.
So it was a lot of fun while developing the world to think about the implications of magic/science in Carolinia, but also of the politics in the country that keep it isolated from the rest of the world and nostalgic for the 20th and 21st centuries.
If you could control technology with your mind, what would be your first attempt as a technopath?
Um, to be honest, I’d probably take a leaf out of Noam’s book and try to crack some government firewalls to pull a Wikileaks 2.0. I might also do the world’s most intense self-Google search.
What is it like in the day of a debuting author? The feels? The stresses?
Well, as of me writing this interview, a day in the life mostly involves furiously trying to type out a draft of this sequel—guzzling coffee—trying to get some exercise in via a muay thai addiction—and occasionally making progress on ye olde dissertation.

I’m definitely excited for The Fever King to be out in the world and reaching readers. I so badly want people to fall in love with Noam and Dara and this world they live in. I’m very much a character-focused writer, so that’s the thing I want most—for people to feel a connection to the characters…and hopefully, to feel seen by them.
Were there any parts in The Fever King that had you gasping out loud?
The last third of the book felt like a whirlwind. There are so many reveals and sudden changes and reversals of power, and writing that was just…wild. It took me a long time, though, because I was so worried that what I put on the page wouldn’t match the vision I had in my head.

There’s also this scene where Noam and Dara are talking about astronomy that has a special place in my heart. You know the one.
If you would be able to meet Noam in real life, what would be the first thing you would say to him? What would he say to you?

I’d tell him to please sleep. Just…take a nap. It’ll be okay.

I’d also tell him that, if he gets invited to stay and look at the stars with a certain someone, he should just say yes.

As far as what he’d say to me…. I imagine he’d be pretty pissed at me for fucking with his head. Like. Why is it so hard to just be straight-forward. Can’t all the characters in this book just say what they mean?
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers today?
In many ways, this book was the product of some of my personal experiences with anti-Semitism (transformed, in The Fever King, into anti-Atlantian and anti-witching sentiment), and as a survivor of childhood abuse. I very much hope this story and these characters help readers feel seen, and a little bit less alone. However, the content of the book can be quite heavy at time. I’ve posted the content warnings on my blog at https://victorialeewrites.com/2018/09/18/the-fever-king-content-warnings, and I encourage anyone who needs them to take a look and make sure they will feel safe reading this book.

 

Thank you Victoria Lee for stopping by!

Happy Book Birthday to THE FEVER KING – out now!

 

The Fever King by Victoria Lee cover.jpg

 

Stay tuned for my review coming later today.