TJ Klune on *Burn* and the voices in our heads…

A Click on the cover image takes you straight to the buy link at Dreamspinner.
Book One of the Elementally Evolved series

Set in a world that closely resembles our own, Burn is a story of redemption and betrayal, of family and sacrifice, which leads to the greatest question of all: how far would you go to save the ones you love?

Fifteen years ago, Felix Paracel killed his mother with fire that shot from his hands. Since then, he has hidden from forces bent on exploiting him and his fire and wind Elemental abilities. But Felix’s world is about to change, because he is Findo Unum-the Split One-and his coming has been foretold for generations.

Though Felix’s arrival brings great joy to the Elemental world, it also heralds a coming darkness. No one knows this better than Seven, the mysterious man who rescued Felix from that horrible fire years ago and then disappeared; Seven, who has returned to claim what’s rightfully his: Felix’s heart. But even as Felix begins to trust Seven and his feelings about his place in the world, the darkness reveals itself, bringing consequences no one could have predicted.

When TJ Klune was eight, he picked up a pen and paper and began to write his first story (which turned out to be his own sweeping epic version of the video game Super Metroid—he didn’t think the game ended very well and wanted to offer his own take on it. He never heard back from the video game company, much to his chagrin). Now, two decades later, the cast of characters in his head have only gotten louder, wondering why he has to go to work as a claims examiner for an insurance company during the day when he could just stay home and write.

He lives with a neurotic cat in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. It’s hot there, but he doesn’t mind. He dreams about one day standing at Stonehenge, just so he can say he did.

TJ’s Blog: A Fistful of Awesome.

The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: Character names are very important to me. The names, at least to me, tell part of a story themselves. Bear, Otter, and the Kid, while nicknames, showed a bond between these three given that they named each other. I try to keep the names from being to off the wall, because I do like the sense of realism in my stories (yes, yes, I know I have a character named Seven—but trust me, there’s a specific reason he’s named that. And yeah, that’s me being a teasing asshole yet again).

As far as titles are concerned, the title is something that usually comes to me even before I start writing the story. Titles are important because in all reality, they’re the identity of the story. The only time I’ve ever changed a title to a book of mine was to the upcoming Into This River I Drown, which was originally titled Blue Ford. The story changed in such a way as I was writing it that the Blue Ford title no longer fit.

Q: In what locale is your most recent book set? How compelling was it to set a story there? Do you choose location the same way every time? How?
A: My most recently completed book is Just The Way You Are, which is set where I live, in Tucson Arizona. As much as BOATK was based upon my earlier life in Oregon, Just The Way You Are is based upon how my life is now, with some obvious creative changes. As much as I like to bitch and moan when it’s July and 110 degrees outside, there’s really no place like the desert. Tucson is such a quirky town. There are a million people here, but it’s still got a small town vibe, which I really dig. It’s a little more liberal than the rest of Arizona (which is a good thing, seeing as how the state seems to be bent on showing the rest of the country what it looks like to take one step forward and sixteen steps backward).

I choose the locations for my books based upon the scope of the story. Into This River I Drown is set in the fictional Oregon town of Rosedale, which, geographically (at least in my head) is only a couple hours’ drive from another small town: Seafare, from the BOATK stories. They don’t exist in the same universe, but I couldn’t help but to reference Seafare in ITRID. BOATK and ITRID are set in small towns because they’re meant to be small town stories, though the boys from ITRID will travel a lot further than Bear and Otter ever did.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: As much as they want or need. I go into the majority of my works with an outline as to where I want the story to go beginning, middle and end. But more often than not, there are detours into places that I never thought about when I started. The best example of this is Into This River I Drown. The book started as an ode to my father but turned into something so much more, specifically because of the characters and the direction they wanted to go versus the direction I wanted them to go (and, it should probably be mentioned, that I can’t ignore the fact that I’m apparently a sadistic bastard who has no problem putting people through the ringer; ITRID is going to be nuts).

What a lot of people don’t realize is that the majority of authors are probably certifiable with the amount of voices we hear in our heads. I have no shame in admitting that I have conversations with my characters. I laugh with them, I argue with them. Sometimes they piss me off, other times they make me cry. But I know what each and every one of them sound like (especially the Kid—I’m pretty sure I’m stuck with him for the rest of my life, given how he never seems to go too far away. But what’s funny about him is that I hear him as being older now, knowing that his story will be coming up soon. He’s no longer nine years old to me, but almost a man; I almost feel like a parent).

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: The most satisfying part for me is that relationships happen like those we write about every day. Yeah, some of the plots can be far-fetched and may not be the most realistic thing in the world, but it always boils down to boy meets boy, boy and other boy make sex face at each other, boy and other boy then fall in love and live happily ever after forever and ever. For too long, it seemed as if GLBTQ portrayal in books and other media were all about the tragedies of being gay, either because of violence, hatred, or illness. It’s nice to be able to write and read about the realities of being gay in the 21st century. Even though there still is violence and hatred and illness, that does not have to define who we are, given that we are more than that.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: While I appreciate my readers more than anything, I really try to write what I want to write and not necessarily cater to others. If my readers had their way BOATK3 would be written, Burn wouldn’t have ended like it did, and Julie McKenna would have been run over by a herd of rampaging buffalo, only to survive, stand up, and then get mauled by fourteen rabid raccoons. You know you’ve done your job when you’ve written a despicable character this is universally reviled (I could try to argue here that maybe she’s just misunderstood, but that’d be a bunch of bullshit. I hate her face).

That being said, I always like to hear from readers about what they like or dislike (and you’d be surprised how many emails I get from both sides—I seem to have one of those faces where people seem to think they can tell me whatever they want, which I think is awesome…for the most part. I don’t think I ever received a higher volume of mail then when after Who We Are came out and people read about Mrs. Paquinn. I was pretty sure I was headed toward a Misery type situation right then, especially when I received an email that contained a single line: “You shouldn’t have done what you did to Mrs. P.”

Yikes.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: In an ideal world: readers would read and writers would write, though I don’t know how practical that would be. There has to be a fair amount of interaction between the two groups. After all, books won’t sell themselves.

There’s always going to be a fine line between reader/author contact, and unfortunately, that line gets crossed on both sides more often than it should, and it seems to be happening more and more. In the days of people paying for reviews, the so-called GR bullies and people who make websites about so-called GR bullies, to authors behaving badly and the snipe and snark and viciousness on both sides, it’s a wonder the world hasn’t exploded, or at least collapsed in on itself. Maybe that’s the price (upside? downside?) of social media, that everyone is entitled to share (and can and will share) their opinion about anything or everything.

I like talking to my readers, and I do so through Facebook and GR quite often. I don’t typically comment on reviews of my books (either good or bad), because again, I don’t think the review is for me. This is knocking any other author that does that, just my personal preference. But, of course, I’d be nowhere at all without the people that have bought my books, so I love ‘em to pieces and would have all of their babies had God seen fit to give me ovaries; alas, I am but a man.

Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: Aside from the day a book comes out, I don’t really focus on reviews, to be honest. Reviews, at least to me, are for other readers, and not necessarily for the authors. When BOATK first came out, I obsessed about reviews for a few weeks until I realized there really was no point in it. I am eternally grateful when someone takes the time to write a review for something I wrote, no matter if it’s good or bad. I don’t think reviews are the best place to look for critique when it comes to writing. That’s what my Beta readers are for, and they kick my ass enough, and I know them well enough to know they won’t sugar coat anything.

However, I am also an avid reader and it’s an interesting position to be in, being both a published author and someone who writes reviews for books. On one hand, I am very well aware of the time and energy that goes into writing a book, and how scary it can be to let that book out into the world. On the other hand, I am very opinionated about what I read. It can be a difficult position to be in, but I like to think I’ve found a bit of middle ground with it. I won’t write reviews to books I didn’t enjoy, or even rate them, because I don’t want it to be seen as an attack on another author, but I will praise a book to high heaven if I think it awesome.

Q: I’m well known for demanding to know an author’s opinion about which of their characters is the sexiest, and I’m making no exception for this group. Who, how, and why?
A: Seven, from Burn. He’s a hardcore badass, extraordinarily possessive, and a man who is not afraid to lead his people or protect what is his. He has so many layers, the depths of which readers haven’t even seen yet. I’m starting to think that the Elementally Evolved Trilogy is about him more than anyone else, even Felix. (I know, I know: I keep teasing. But I promise, it’ll be worth the wait when Book II is finally finished.)

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
A: From the upcoming Just The Way You Are:

Sweat formed between us, my cock trapped against his stomach as he slid into me, creating a delicious friction that I didn’t want to push away. I felt fluid and slippery, and he growled against my neck, his breath light and quick as his hips snapped back and forth.
“I’m going,” I whispered.
“Go,” he panted.

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: Now, is all about Elementally Evolved Book II: Break. I’ve got to finish that story before I can start anything else. After that, I plan on heading back to Seafare for BOATK3 (of which I’ve got a pretty good amount of the story thought up in my head—oh man, the angst that’s going to happen in Ty and Dom’s story is going to be something else, that’s for damn sure. I’m excited and dreading it all at the same time). My next release will be the previously discussed Into This River I Drown, followed pretty quickly by Just The Way You Are. I’m also working on another project, though I think I’ll keep it under wraps for now.

An Excerpt from Burn:

I turned to face the crowd behind me and was unsurprised when my stalker
smiled at me from the front of my audience. Funny, I hadn’t seen him standing there
before.

“I’m going to my home,” I called to him.

“I know where you live,” he reminded me, his voice highly amused. The people
around him suddenly looked at him with newfound respect. They hadn’t expected a
second act to this farce.

“I know, but could you just stay away?” I pleaded.

“Do you really want that?” he asked me sharply.

I thought for a moment. “Yes, I do.” My heart hammered in my chest.

“For how long?” he asked.

“You’re not giving up, are you?” I asked him, suddenly feeling very tired. Or
resigned. I didn’t know which.

“Never in your life,” he said, his deep voice rough and wonderful. “You belong
to me.”

“I don’t belong to anyone,” I told him. The heads of our audience swiveled back
and forth like they were watching a tennis match.

He cocked his head. “Oh, you most definitely do. It’ll be easier for both of us if
you just stop fighting me on it.” He flexed his arms against his massive body.

Bastard was cheating.

I grinned at him. “Where’s the fun in that?”

“Come over here,” he ordered. “Now.”

I didn’t dare disobey. As I walked up to him, our audience turned their heads,
watching every step I took. I saw them only out of the corners of my eyes because I
was focused on him. I reached him and put my hands on his chest as his arms folded
around me, the top of my head barely reaching his chin. His body was hard as a rock,
and it felt like hugging human granite. He reached down and rubbed the back of my
head through the hood of my sweatshirt. I stared up at him, and he watched me back,
and I knew I couldn’t (wouldn’t) fight this again. His face lowered to mine, and his
lips brushed against my lips, and I could feel the flash inside me, the flare threatening to rise. But still, our eyes remained open, the ocean looking back at me. I gasped at a thought, a memory—the giant—but it was lost as he brushed his lips against mine again, never fully pressing, only promising. Nothing in my life had ever been more erotic than that moment: the ghosting of his mouth over mine, the feel of his body under my hands, the way he held the back of my neck. I shivered in his grip. I wanted to climb up him like the mountain he was and wrap my legs around his waist and let him rub against me in the alley. That’s why I stepped back; it’s why I stepped away.

He looked down at me, a knowing smile on his face.

“You said I was your Iuratum Cor,” I breathed at him. “And you were mine in return.”

He nodded.

“What does that mean?”

His eyes flashed. “It’s Latin. It means ‘heart sworn’. You belong to me. And I am
yours.”

I turned and ran.

“Soon, Felix,” he called after me. “I’ll see you soon.” His voice was sure,
confident.

I ran faster.

3 Comments

Filed under featured authors, M/M romance, Writers on writing

3 Responses to TJ Klune on *Burn* and the voices in our heads…

  1. Wonderful interview! I loved BOATK & WWA. I’m an emotional reader, and I cry, laugh and get pissed when reading, and it doesn’t matter where I’m at, and I do so freely. I’ve written reviews, and enjoyed it so very much. But I haven’t as much lately when I was accused of being an author ob an Amazon discussion forum. Yes it was a few bullies who hang out on the discussion forums, and act like police just because they know how to google an internet handle then claim to know your very soul for cruds sakes. I would love to be an author, and perhaps in another lifetime…*S* I just love books, and want others to enjoy the ones that have been so wonderful. Just a plain old reader….*S*
    But I adored your 2 books, and loved the connection I got to the characters. They are like family you wish you could choose…*S*
    Looking forward to reading the rest of your books, and treating myself to Burn this Friday.
    Wishing you all the best, and thank you for the wonderful stories, and the characters that just stay with me long after I’ve finished the story.

  2. TJ Klune

    Thank you, Pomma!

    Eh, the whole “bullies” situation is a little ridiculous, isn’t it? It seems like more and more people are sniping at each other when they should just be reading books.

    I hope you enjoy reading Burn 😉

    TJ

  3. Steven Rauscher

    I just finished reading the second BOATK book, you are officially now my favorite author! I cannot wait for the third book to be released. Finished the first two in 3 days! I just couldn’t put it down! Thank you for all you do for gay literature, and keep up the awesome work.

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