Please welcome the witty Christopher Koehler to my blog today. Christopher is an avid rower, a stressed-out parent (aren’t we all??) and the author of 3 m/m romance books. His latest book, a holiday story called The Advent Calendar, came out a couple weeks ago at MLR Press.
Welcome Christopher! I’m very happy to have you here. Are you ready for your grilling? J
1. How did you get started writing m/m romance? Did you always want to be a writer?
I’ll start with the second half of the question. Yes, for all intents and purposes I always wanted to be a writer. My parents tell me I filled notebooks with looping spiral, which is what cursive looks like to preliterate children. I actually started reading relatively late, at age 7. Now I’d be in special ed, but I attended an “alternative” private school that let me go at my own pace, and within a month I went from Dr. Seuss books to reading novels like Watership Down.
I found m/m romance quite by accident. I can’t even remember what I’d been looking at on Amazon to bring up such an ad, but it was for two of JL Langley’s books, Without Reservations and The Tin Star. I loved having romantic stories told about my people, as it were (yes, I’m a ranching werewolf, I admit it). They were like crack, and thank goodness for e-books, because they’re cheaper. All it took was reading a few abysmal stories for me to say, “Is that all the higher the bar is? I can do that.” And I did.
2. What were your early influences either in this genre or any other?
In fantasy/sci-fi, my influences were Katherine Kurtz and David Eddings. In fact, Eddings is probably why my dialogue tends to snap and crackle. In m/m romance, I’d say ZA Maxfield’s entire oeuvre, as well as a few treasured books by other authors, like Urban and Roux’s Caught Running and Isabelle Rowan’s A Note In The Margins. When I was starting out, I actually analyzed what it was about Crossing Borders and Caught Running that made them work as stories, and set out to include those kind of structural elements in Rocking the Boat.
3. What is the hardest part about writing for you? The benefits?
Hmmm, the hardest part of writing. I’m not actually sure how to answer that. I work hard at writing, but I’m not sure any of it qualifies as “hard” per se. Since writing is what I’m supposed to be doing with my life, it’s as natural for me as breathing. That’s the benefit—the bone-deep knowledge that this is how I’m meant to spend my life.
4. Tell us a little about your Christmas story. Did you something specific inspire you to write it?
Kris Jacen posed a challenge this summer on ZA Maxfield’s Cybercafe about making mud sexy. For some reason I flashed immediately to the tree farm at Apple Hill in the Sierra Nevadas my family’s been going to since I was two and how muddy it is. The debate about having children was also drawn from my life.
5. Do you have any writing quirks? (ie computer has to be facing a certain way, cup of coffee on the left, certain music playing, etc)
Music always helps. Certain novels have “soundtracks” in that I listened to a particular album or albums a lot while writing them. First Impressions, which is even now in the hands of beta readers, was written while listening to “The Cellblock Tango” from Chicago on a loop, as well as Florence+The Machine’s “Ceremonials” and “The Family Jewels” by Marina and the Diamonds. Tipping the Balance was written to “Projekt Presents: A Dark Cabaret” and various songs by the Dresden Dolls. My choice of music probably tells you something about my psyche, too. ;-)
6. Do you have any writing or reading squicks? Things you don’t like to read and can’t see yourself ever writing?
I don’t see myself writing much in the way of paranormal or horror, since I don’t like to read them. I don’t see myself writing m/f, either. Women are even more of a mystery to me than they are to straight men. ;-)
While my stories are just fiction, I’d say that all of my characters—certainly all of my main characters—have some shard of my personality at the root of theirs. I’m extremely aware of my internal emotional states, so it’s fairly easy for me to answer the question, “How I would feel if…” and then give that to my characters. But people shouldn’t read too much, as it were, into my stories. They’re only fiction.
8. What’s next on your plate? What are you working on?
I’m taking a short breather from m/m romance. I’ve written three novels and a short in 18 months and I feel stale. So while I research firefighting to tell Owen’s story in the CalPac world, I’m working on a steampunk fantasy I’ve been picking at for years. It’s set in an Edwardian world and deals with the clash of a technoculture with ancient barbarism. Oddly enough, it’s the closest thing I’ve written to my dissertation since I graduated.
9. What’s your favorite part of Christmas?
It honestly used to be getting the Christmas tree up in the hills. But last year I finally had to face the fact that I’m sufficiently allergic that I can’t have live trees in the house anymore. Frankly, I don’t enjoy the holidays like I used to. They’re just work.
10. Finally – a few quick choices:
a. Coffee or tea - Tea—white, green, or black in that order.
b. Dog or cat - Cat.
c. Beach or mountains - Beach.
d. Pecs or abs - Pecs, especially hairy ones. I seem to have a thing for bears going these days.
e. Smile or eyes - Smile.
f. Cowboys or rockstars - Neither.
g. Who would win in a fight – vampires or werewolves? And why.
Preternaturals! Seriously, I don’t like paranormal.
Christopher has generously offered up a copy of his holiday story, The Advent Calendar or one of his backlisted titles, to one lucky commenter on my blog. PLEASE REMEMBER TO INCLUDE YOUR NAME AND EMAIL ADDRESS IN YOUR COMMENT.
CONTEST CLOSES ON DECEMBER 20.
If you don’t win, you can pick up, The Advent Calendar, at MLR Press MLR Press and be sure to check out Christopher’s other books on his website Christopher Koehler