Hello all you lucky readers! Today there’s two MAJOR reasons to be excited here on Binge on Books:
1. Charmed and Dangerous, the hotly anticipated, new urban fantasy anthology we mentioned a few weeks ago is finally HERE! Woot woot! It is edited by Jordan C Price and features work from the current masters of the genre: Jordan C Price, Ginn Hale, Rhys Ford, KJ Charles, Nicole Kimberling, Jordan L Hawk, Charlie Cochet, Lou Harper, Andrea Speed, and Astrid Amara. Anything this full of amazing writing is sure to blow your mind (and believe me, it will. We’ve read it and it is, in a word, oustanding).
2. Santino Hassell is here today with a treat for you and me. What’s that? Oh right, he’s chatting up the queen of urban fantasy herself, Jordan C Price! It’s two big voices in M/M discussing the Charmed and Dangerous anthology, personal favorites in books, characters, authors, upcoming projects, and so much more in a frank Q&A. So without further ado, let’s get to it.
Santino: I’d like to start by saying that I’m a HUGE fan of yours, and there’s something I’ve always wondered: what draws you to queer spec fic and SFF?
JCP: Thank you so much, Santino! It means a heck of a lot to me to hear that from a fellow author.
I feel like it’s not a very satisfying answer if I say that I write what I like to read, but that’s the case. I’ve always read horror, fantasy, SF and thrillers. That’s what I watch on TV, that’s the type of genre I get excited about when I see something new and interesting of the sort floating past my radar. Why my characters are queer men is a little harder to explain. Gender is complicated. I think writing from a man’s POV allows me to sustain more conflict than I can with a female protagonist. I find I tend to lessen conflict at every turn for my women because every hardship and burden feels like it’s aimed right at me. So writing male gives me enough shift for me to separate the character from myself, and making them queer mitigates some of their inherent male privilege and keeps them more relatable for me as a woman.
Santino: In the Introduction to CHARMED AND DANGEROUS you talk a little bit about loving monsters as a kid and wanting to write their stories—is it the same for you now? I connected with that because as a kid who always felt different and ostracized or misunderstood… I often found myself sympathizing with the “monsters” in movies or comics because people attack them based on fear, and that’s always why people attacked me.
JCP: Writing about the paranormal or SF for me is definitely about otherness, even still. I have a hard time going anywhere I haven’t been specifically invited because I feel like the whole world has a sense of ownership of and belonging to public spaces that I somehow never developed. This anxiety is so long-standing, it seems like if I ever shed it, I’d no longer be me.
Santino: Were there any authors you particularly admired or aspired to be like when you were first starting out?
JCP: Tanith Lee wrote about themes that really rocked my world. Cruel beauty. Otherness and persecution. Gender fluidity. Obsession. I initially tried to emulate her style, but coming from me it was just stilted. Over the years I’ve realized a cool idea described in simple words has a lot more impact than a dictionary’s worth of florid vocabulary. Clive Barker was another big influence—he wrote such appalling stuff in the Books of Blood, and did it so unflinchingly, I just couldn’t look away. I don’t go anywhere nearly as dark as either of these authors but I do my best not to flinch.
Santino: Your books The Starving Years and Mnevermind really stand out to me as innovative in queer fiction. How do you come up with such amazing ideas? What’s your process for starting a book once you’re inspired?
JCP: That’s phenomenally flattering, thank you. I took a completely different approach to writing each of those novels, so I suppose I really haven’t developed a certain way in which I work. Lately I’ve been thinking that with a strong enough premise (or strong enough understanding of the characters) a novel is likely to flow and be interesting. If you can figure out both, the writing and the reading experience should be a joy. But for me, a lot of stuff feels just out of reach, and it mostly me sitting at the keyboard and searching. It’s like driving on a subzero day with a dying heater and constantly buffing the frost off the windshield as you go.
As far as I can figure, I have a series of mini epiphanies. So it’s like, ah, that’s a cool premise! (What if hunger was eliminated?) Ah, I understand that character! (A selfish asshole who didn’t realize how good he had it until he really screwed up.) For me, the epiphanies happen during the act of writing. So I can plan and plan and outline and outline, but the important things feel too big and too deep to plan. They’re hidden until I actually start writing. When I touch those critical points of story, I feel like I’ve unearthed something that already exists rather than creating something new.
Santino: Which book has been the most challenging to write? And alternatively, has there been one that was more enjoyable than others to work on?
JCP: Meatworks was rough because it’s about alcoholism and despair. It’s about irreparable loss. I was surprised anyone even bought it, and I was concerned a portion of my readership would never pick up another book of mine. I considered publishing it under a different name or even not publishing it at all, so I’m glad I somehow found the will to finish it and put it out there. A lot of readers really “got it.” A lot more than I dared hope.
Magic Mansion was a lot of fun to write because it was character driven, and I was invested in all the characters. I enjoyed the challenge of having readers vote characters out of the book—I’ve read that having constraints increases creativity and flow because it gives you some grit to use as traction. I definitely liked that aspect even though it drove me crazy. (I swore some folks were deliberately voting out the most interesting ones.) It was heartening to get fan mail throughout the whole process. I felt like a marathon runner with a bunch of supporters squirting Gatorade down my throat as I ran past.
Santino: It’s sort of like picking between your children, but there are always some characters who are closer to my heart than others—even if they’re not the main characters in the book I’m writing. Does that happen to you?
JCP: Well, there is the issue I mentioned where the characters I become over-identified with start being handled too delicately and become grayed out. I don’t publish the books while they’re so unsatisfying, but I do have to rewrite portions over and over until the conflict is conflict. Recently I read an article about side characters, how they’re usually more vivid because the author feels they can take more chances with a supporting character. Maybe the safety doesn’t come from wanting the approval of the readership, as the article was suggesting, but a longing for security for a delicate extension of oneself?
Santino: What kinds of books would you like to see more of on the market?
JCP: I’ve been reading overly wordy and sadly cliche urban fantasy lately, so I’m really hankering for something tightly written that presumes I’m paying attention and doesn’t spoon-feed me the obvious. I want a fresh premise with engaging characters, fun action and cool twists.
Santino: What inspired you to pull together an anthology? How did CHARMED AND DANGEROUS come to be?
JCP: My intent was to assemble a collection with several significant paranormal authors, so that readers with preferences similar to mine would have a delicious sampler to taste from. Ideally all our readerships will cross-pollinate and many readers will come away with big backlists to explore. I want to all these various readerships aware of what else is out there.
Santino: Tell me more about that and the authors you invited. How did you choose them? Were there specific elements you were looking for?
JCP: It was hard to pick because I know so many talented authors. Quality was my first concern. If I was going to be editing the story, it needed to be something I would want to read myself. Then the backlist played a big part in my decision. Some authors dabble—they write a contemporary, then a cowboy story, then a paranormal, then a mystery. That urge to create a variety makes total sense. Most folks enjoy a few different kinds of books, music or TV. But I was hoping to turn readers on to some paranormal writers specifically, writers they might have heard of but hadn’t yet sampled. So the authors I invited had to write spec fic primarily, or have a strong paranormal series currently running. And in the end, I went with people I’d met in person and had a rapport with, because that made it easier for me to approach them and ask them for this big hunk of new writing.
Santino: I’ve noticed common themes in the stories (for example: troubled heroes, love between partners, loss). Did that happen organically, or did you ask the other authors to reflect these themes?
JCP: My request was only to write a paranormal, spec fic or urban fantasy story and the rest was up to the author. I wonder sometimes if I could’ve set the anthology up to appear to have different themes based on what I said in the intro. If I said it was about triumph, for instance, the part at the ends where the good guys win would resonate more. If I said it was about persecution, those passages would carry more weight.
Santino: I can tell you that I, for one, was so excited to get my hands on CHARMED AND DANGEROUS that I fist pumped once it landed in my inbox. I love SFF and it’s always a treat to get my hands on queer SFF, especially by such amazing authors. Would you ever consider putting together another anthology?
JCP: My hope is that this collection becomes known as a significant book in its niche! I would definitely do another anthology, though now I’d have a better idea of the amount of work that goes in, especially to one this size. Then again I think someone hits me over the head with a frying pan and I have amnesia every time I finish a project, or my writing glands release some kind of endorphin where I instantly forget the sloggy parts so I can bask in the release-day high.
Santino: Annnd can we get any hints about any upcoming JCP projects? 🙂
JCP: Gomez Pugh and I will be producing the audiobook for GhosTV in September. Then it’s travel-time, I’ll be appearing at Gay Romance Northwest in Seattle end of September and GayRomLit in San Diego in October. I’m working on a standalone SF novella that should be out by the end of the year, and then I think a PsyCop project will be brain-simmered enough tap in to.
Santino: Thank you so much for participating in this interview! And a big thank you to Binge on Books for allowing me to do it. I’ve been a fan for years and am honestly too shy to approach you with questions, so this is a great opportunity and an honor. I hope everyone loves CHARMED AND DANGEROUS as much as I did!
JCP: I am always tickled to hang out with you and Judith, Santino! Thanks for having me!!
Author and artist Jordan Castillo Price is the owner of JCP Books LLC. Her paranormal thrillers are colored by her time in the midwest, from inner city Chicago, to small town Wisconsin, to liberal Madison. Jordan is best known as the author of the PsyCop series, an unfolding tale of paranormal mystery and suspense starring Victor Bayne, a gay medium who’s plagued by ghostly visitations. Also check out her new series, Mnevermind, where memories are made…one client at a time. With her education in fine arts and practical experience as a graphic designer, Jordan set out to create high quality ebooks with lavish cover art, quality editing and gripping content. The result is JCP Books, offering stories you’ll want to read again and again.
Santino Hassell was raised by a conservative family, but he was anything but traditional. He grew up to be a smart-mouthed grunge kid, then a transient twenty-something, and eventually transformed into a guy who spends his days and nights writing romance with an edge. Santino is a dedicated gamer, a former fanfic writer, an ASoIaF mega nerd, a Grindr enthusiast, but most of all he is a writer of queer fiction that is heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.
Charmed and Dangerous is out now and you need it in your hot hands: buy it now on Amazon!