Theo Fenraven on *Three of Swords* and letting characters speak

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An old houseboat, a hot young guy, a couple of murders, and more mysterious keys than you can shake a stick at: this is what awaits Gray Vecello after his grandfather, Graham, is killed on his way to pick up high blood pressure pills.

A letter Graham left behind sends Gray and his unexpected ally, Cooper Key, on a journey downriver in an attempt to unravel the mystery surrounding an unknown treasure. On the way, they encounter both friends and enemies, one of whom will target Gray and Cooper for death. One thing working in Gray’s favor: he has the sight, just as Graham had, but will it be enough to save them both?

Theo Fenraven has tried his hand at many professions since leaving school, almost none of which he was qualified for. He figured the worst that could happen was he’d be fired. Currently, he’s editing manuscripts for a popular online publisher. He’s also a published writer of romance, erotica, mysteries, and thrillers.

He’s acquired lots of hobbies along the way. In his youth, he hung out with musicians, sang, and learned to write music and play the guitar. He’ll still burst into song at parties if he’s lubricated enough. Then there was the time he tried horse breaking and nearly broke his neck on one hell of a rank gelding, but he survived and went on to caving, rock climbing, and, when friends bought a twenty inch ‘scope, astronomy. His biggest passion these days is photography, and he often posts his photos on his blog.

You can read more about Fen at his blog,, or say hi to him on twitter, @fenraven.

The Interview

Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: Not surprisingly, minor character names come to me out of nowhere. Main character names, however, require much thought and agonizing over. It took me a while to come up with Talis Kehk for Phoenix Rising, but in retrospect, that name was worth every moment I spent thinking it up. And Artemis? That was borrowed from my favorite name and character in the original Wild Wild West: Artemis Gordon. Using that name was a tribute to him. As for book titles, I’m never quite pleased with them. I just do the best I can.

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: Three of Swords, is mostly set in Red Wing MN, on a houseboat. I’m familiar with and love the area. During the course of the story, the MCs travel downriver. To give the journey the proper flavor, it helped I had visited many times.

Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line? That depends on the story, but often, I let the characters lead via dialog. They say things that suggest twists and turns and I gleefully follow while controlling the overall direction of the plot.

Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: I portray all gay relationships as utterly normal. To me, they are no different from straight or other relationships. Genitals may vary from couple to couple, but always, there is affection and hopefully, deep love.

Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: At this point in my writing career, no. Although I have had readers ask me for sequels to stories that contain their favorite characters.

Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: Friendly but respectful. I like maintaining a distance between me and readers. In fact, I insist on it. While I am deeply appreciative of them―let’s face it, without them I am nothing!―my personal life is my own and I prefer to keep it that way.

Q:What do you find useful about reviews?
A: Reviews that are positive light me up inside. Reviews that are less glowing give me something to think about. As a writer, I can always improve and thoughtful criticism helps me do that.

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: All my characters are sexy. LOL My favorites are always the ones I’m currently writing, and that would be Cooper Key and Gray Vecello, an unlikely pairing that becomes more endearing by the day. I’m currently working on the sequel to Three of Swords, and I’m having fun revealing more of their past to readers.

Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
A: Wow. That’s tough! ‘Sexy’ varies from person to person. For no real reason at all, I think this brief bit from Numbers is sexy.

Bracing the phone on my shoulder, I yanked the zipper down, pushed the denim out of my way, and reached inside my underwear to wrap fingers around a cock so hard, it hurt. “Tell me….”

“Every time you answered one of those number questions, I wanted to push my tongue down your throat. My favorite? Sixty-nine.”

Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: The Precog in Peril series will initially contain three books. After that, I’m not sure where I’ll go. I have no lack of ideas and I certainly plan to write many stories.

Excerpt from Three of Swords

It was raining the day we buried my grandfather. I twisted the program in my hands until it started to shred, keeping my eyes down and tuning out the pastor’s words about what a great man Graham Vecello had been. He’d never known him, but I had.
Grandpa Graham had been a holy terror to everyone in the family. He never just talked; he sniped and snarked and growled behind his whiskers. They told me he hadn’t been like that when Lizzie, his wife, had still been around, but after she died young, he’d gradually become meaner and more distant, and then he sold his farm, bought a houseboat, and retreated into weighty silence.

Mom and Dad continued inviting him to join us for major holidays, but nine times out of ten, he didn’t bother showing up, and the infrequent times he did, he sat in a dark corner glowering at the noisy young kids and leaving right after dinner. He scared the shit out of me, and after he disappeared into his watery hermitage, I was glad to forget him.
Mom placed a hand over mine, stilling them, and I sighed and shifted in the hard seat, wondering how much longer this would last. Gramps had been an asshole. I doubted anyone would miss him much, not even my father, who’d been the oldest of Gramps’s and Lizzie’s three boys.

The turnout for his funeral was small, and those who got up to talk about his life were few in number, so sooner than I expected, we trooped to the graveyard, where the pastor did some more talking, the clod of dirt was thrown onto the casket, and people finally drifted away as the diggers started filling in the hole.

Sharing a bright red umbrella, my parents lingered, and as a show of support, so did I, but I was already thinking about what I wanted for dinner and wondering if I should hit a couple bars tonight, hook up with some friends. Flipping up the collar of my leather jacket, I huddled deeper inside it while slipping cold hands into the pockets. Spring was cool and wet this year, and I was looking forward to the warmth of May.

Mom and Dad outstayed everyone, even the guys who covered the casket, but finally, we were alone, and they decided they could leave without censure. They’d put in their time, they’d shown everyone how much Grandpa Graham had meant to them, even if the last time they’d seen him had been four months ago.

Hell, how could they have known he’d get shot picking up his blood pressure pills at the drugstore? Wrong place, wrong time. They hadn’t caught the guy yet, either, and chances were good they never would. No witnesses, no weapon at the scene. Instant cold case.
We reached the cars, and I stopped beside mine, one hand on the door. “I don’t need to come back to the house, do I?”

They gave me matching frowns, and Dad said, “You haven’t been by in a while.”
Mom said, “You have to eat and there’s plenty of food.” Her eyes swept me critically. “You’re too thin, Gray. Have some dinner, talk with your relatives. Harper will be there.”

I liked cousin Harper. We were only a year apart in age; she was twenty-eight and I was twenty-seven. She came out my last year of high school. It took me somewhat longer.
I could stand to see Harper. “Okay.” I unlocked the door and pulled it open.
Mom had gone on with the umbrella, but Dad tarried. “You okay? Is there anything bothering you?”

I refused to meet his eyes. “Not a thing. See you at home.”

I slid behind the wheel and brushed rain-wet black hair out of my eyes, watching through the windshield as Dad joined mom in their sensible Toyota hybrid.

The last thing I wanted to talk about was that I’d known for two weeks Grandpa Graham, after whom I was named, was going to die, and I hadn’t done a single thing to stop it.


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2 Responses to Theo Fenraven on *Three of Swords* and letting characters speak

  1. This sounds intriguing! I’ll have to put it on my wish list.

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