UPDATE: Winner Announcement!! —> Congratulations to Angi, who won the $10 gift card and “an e-book or two” that will be provided by TJ!!
TJ Klune (author or Bear, Otter, and the Kid and Who We Are) is here with us today, and Jackie and I are thrilled! This is the author that opened up my reading experience to a whole new genre (and thanks again to Jackie for that insistent nudge). You were so right, Jackie!
I once hesitated on reading “gay romance” only because I wondered… how in the heck will I be able to relate? I can’t “crush” on the “hero” can I? ‘Cause… you know. He’s definitely not into girls, right? BUT OMG I totally did. Crushed big time, and I adored these characters like they were my own family, or even as if “Bear” was me. I felt every bit of the main character’s pain, insecurities and triumphs. And best yet, I felt the love, in every form it was presented. TJ Klune’s books made me realize… I love love, no matter what genre it comes in. The heart wants what the heart wants, and that is something I get.
Now for those of you who haven’t read this series yet (two books so far) I suggest getting to the books first. You might want to hold off on the interview for now, as there are *slight spoilers below*. I promise, these books will rock your world! Heartfelt, touching, emotional and hilarious. These are the whole package!
Maryse: Hi TJ!! *hug* We’re so happy to get the inside scoop on your awesome characters and the man behind them! So… who do you connect to, or relate to most amongst your characters?
Jackie: Having followed your Facebook page and blog for a few months now, I see an awful lot of Bear in you.
TJ: Bear, hands down. While I may not be as neurotic as he is (though I may be close), Bear is undoubtedly, unequivocally me. I over think things to the point of ridiculousness, I tend to say whatever is in my head without sending it through a filter first, and I have an way too smart for his own good little brother who I helped to raise. The major difference between Bear and myself though is I never had the struggle with sexuality as Bear did. I led a gay pride parade out of my mother’s vagina when I was born.
Maryse: LOL!!! I’m starting to wonder if you have some “Kid” in you, too, considering his leading skills. How hard did you laugh (and did you realize that you were a comedic genius?) when you wrote Bear’s thought-rambling scenes?
Jackie: Do you ‘get’ the conundrum that is Bear’s mind?
TJ: I do admit without any shame whatsoever that I crack myself up sometimes when writing. Bear’s mind doesn’t work like regular people’s do. Normal thought process involves going from point A to point B to arrive at destination C. Bear’s thought process tends to go from point A to point What The F&ck only to arrive at destination Perfectly Logical In A Bear Sort Of Way. And yeah, I do “get” Bear’s way of thinking, only because it’s essentially my own. It’s cathartic, really, to be able to get my manic side out on paper.
Maryse: Cathartic for you, and entertaining for us! I crack myself up, too sometimes (the more eye-rolling my attempt at humor is, the more I laugh), so I get it, and knew you had to be laughing while writing his scenes. Can you describe the moment you decided you were going to write Bear and Otter’s story? How did this story come to you? Did you encounter any difficulties in your writing process, or did the story just tell itself? Are there any scenes or situations that were inspired by real life events?
TJ: This first moment I ever even thought of Bear, Otter, and the Kid was randomly hearing the Kid’s voice in my head one day, talking about animal rights. I don’t know where it came from, but it just hit me atop the head and wouldn’t leave me alone. The Kid’s voice is one I always hear now, when I think of Bear and the boys.
There was a point when I did stop writing on BOATK for. I’d reached the point in the novel (*Spoilers*) where the clichéd evil mother had returned and threatened to take the Kid away unless Bear broke up with Otter. He goes to Otter’s house, and in typical Bear fashion, makes a mess out of everything. I stopped writing then because I could picture Otter’s face in my head and it broke my heart to keep writing it. So I stopped, saying I would come back to it in a week. And then a year went by. Randomly, I came across the file on my desktop and opened it back up and looked through it again. As soon as I reached the part where I’d stopped, the Kid all but shrieked at me in that way he does so well so I pushed through until, for better or worse, it was finished.
As for being inspired by real life? To a certain extent. I didn’t have the greatest teenage years growing up due to family unable to accept who I was and had to make some tough decisions in order to ensure my survival and the survival of my siblings. I’d never wish that on anyone, but I’m all the more stronger for it.
Jackie: I sobbed at that part of the book and can totally understand how you had to take a break.
Maryse: Thank goodness for your “random” rediscovery of that file. This story needed to be told. Are you surprised by the amount of women that love m/m romance, and truly connect with the male characters? Many of my own friends (Jackie included) read these on a regular basis now.
TJ: I’m not surprised by that in the slightest. When I first set out to write BOATK, I wasn’t thinking of what genre it would fall into. I just wanted to write the story. Can it be classified as an m/m romance? Sure, and I’m proud to wear that label. Unfortunately, there is a stigma that comes with that as well, one we’re still trying to work our way out of, and it’s one I think blankets the entire romance genre as a whole. Many of the literary elite don’t consider the romance genre to be a viable source of literature. We romance writers are the red-headed step children of the publishing world, no matter how successful the books are.
But as far as the amount of women that love m/m books, I think it’s wonderful. To me, it shows that people understand that love doesn’t have limitations. I knew when I was first published that the majority of my readers would be women. But what surprised me the most was how many of my readers are men. If I had to put a split on it, I would say probably 60% of my readers are women, and 40% men. What I love the most though, are the readers who surprise me. I’ve received emails from men in the military serving overseas who have read my books and wanted to let me know it reminds them of home. I heard from an 80 year old grandmother who was online trying to locate the first season of “TJ Hooker” on DVD on Amazon and somehow ended up on my book and bought it because she thought it sounded sweet (though, I wonder about the cosmic joke that God seems to be playing on me, where the two words “TJ” and “Hooker” would lead to me—Well played, God. Well played.)
I guess my rambling point here is that I appreciate all my readers, no matter their sex/orientation/creed/race/foot fetishes.
Maryse: These books have enough of everything to touch anyone’s heart. I can’t believe I almost missed out.
Jackie: I have a theory on this – with a standard m/f book we can all swoon over the guy and hate the woman …. but with two guys we get to double swoon and all our hate and angst is saved for the baddies in the story. Its a win/win situation!
Maryse: LOL!! YES!! That is exactly it.
Jackie: A reader recently suggested to you that you should write m/f romances. I can’t repeat your reasons why you declined here – Maryse would kill me! But, does it bother you that so many people wouldn’t read your books just because they are about two men in love as opposed to a man and a woman
Maryse: haha!!! I remember you pointing that one out to me Jackie! Yep, it made me giggle.
TJ: Ahahahahahaha!!!!! You won’t explain to Maryse why I declined? That’s okay, I will (see answer to question one where I state I don’t have a filter.)
Jackie: *giggle * – I knew you would!
TJ: A female reader asked me if I would ever consider writing a m/f romance novel and I gave a succinct response. I told her I couldn’t because I didn’t know where the clitoris was or even really what it did. Funny, I haven’t heard back from her yet.
Maryse: Tee hee!! *blush*
TJ: Does it bother me that some won’t read my book? No. It doesn’t. The reason it doesn’t bother me is this: when I first set out to write BOATK, I told myself that if even ONE person bought my book and if that ONE person was affected by it, then I’d have done my job. Shortly after BOATK was released, I received an email from a seventeen year old boy in Kentucky. He came across my book and wrote to tell me that he’d been having a tough go of it at his school. He’d been bullied for being gay and that he was slightly effeminate, which obviously didn’t help. He told me he’d given serious thought to suicide and was about to give in when he read BOATK. He wrote to me and told me that if Bear could survive what he went through, then so could he.
I wrote back to this wonderful, wonderful boy and told him that I’d make a deal with him. If he wrote me back once a week to check in so I knew he was okay, then I’d name a character after him in a book. And he has. Every week. Three weeks ago, he graduated from high school and is going to California this fall for school on a scholarship. He wants to be a major in broadcast journalism. His name is Dominic, and for those that have read Who We Are, you’ll know how important that character is. The real Dominic is one of my heroes and I am so very, very proud of him.
So am I bothered that many people won’t read my books? No, because one person read my book and it helped them. That’s all I could ever ask for.
Maryse: OMG I love Dom!! Now that is a great inside scoop, and the fact that this book has helped someone to that extent, is nothing short of wonderful. But I can see how. Anyone could connect to this, on many different levels.
Jackie: WOW – that has just made Dom even more special!
The title of the book Bear, Otter, and the Kid is actually referencing the two main character’s nicknames (very cute, how those came about). But for my readers that don’t know, could you explain what a “Bear” and an “Otter” usually references?
TJ: Yes! A “bear” in the gay world is usually reserved for a big hairy dominant dude. An “otter” is typically a smaller hairy gay dude. I received quite a few emails from savvy readers who expected the book to be a lot more…hairy…then it was. Obviously, Bear and Otter do not fit their gay namesakes.
Jackie: All through BOATK Bear struggled to ‘label’ his sexuality and denied he was gay (adored that Otter never once called him on it!) – then accepted he was ‘Gay for Otter’ only. Was it a point of principle for you that Bear should become an open ‘out’ gay man in Who We Are?
TJ: It was a point I strove to make. As much as there is the romantic fantasy behind it, “gay for you” is not necessarily a realistic thing. I can’t really think of a single real-world example where this is true. And that is something I took myself to task for. I wanted Bear and the boys to be as realistic as possible. Sure, there’s an almost fairy tale quality to the boys, but I like to think they are also grounded in reality. I never really thought of Bear as “Gay for Otter,” but that’s what people took away from it. So yes, I made it a point in Who We Are to open up the world so Bear could find out who he truly is.
Jackie: There was a terrible point (I felt physically sick) in Who We Are when Bear realised that he wasn’t just ‘Gay for Otter’ and I really feared he was about to ‘experiment’ elsewhere. I could have hugged you when he had his epiphany and realised that the attraction was purely physical and nothing in comparison to his feelings for Otter. Were you tempted to take the story there, and what made you decide to keep the boys monogamous? You do realise btw that we all fell totally in love with Otter when he gave Bear the ok to ‘dabble’.
TJ: Was I ever tempted? Oh man, that’s a hard question and one that I’m sure fans would shoot me for if they knew the true answer, but here goes. In an earlier iteration of Who We Are, Bear and Otter broke up. Bear, as Bear usually is, acted stupidly and thought Otter was pushing him away when Otter gave him the okay to screw around. In this version, they did break up and Bear did sleep with Isaiah.
Maryse: Eeeeeeeeep!!!! NO WAY! But you know, I love that kind of torture (only in books, though) so I probably would have gotten a kick out of it (even though I would have had a public meltdown).
Jackie: You know, I had a feeling you were going to say something like that . I can see how much you like to shock your readers and keep us on our toes. But I for one will be forever grateful that you left our boys faithful – you’d have broken my heart!!
TJ: Why did it not go that way in the book? A couple of reasons, the first of which is I knew what was coming at the end of the book and I thought it might just be too much for people to handle over all. I know that people cry while reading my books, but I didn’t want it to become Sob Fest 2012.
And second, Bear just wouldn’t let me do it. Regardless of what I thought Bear needed to have happen open his eyes, Bear showed me that he just needed Otter to make things okay. So I went back and ripped out about twenty thousand words and deleted them completely and started again. It’s still a tough chapter to read, but it’s more true to the characters. Bear and Otter are going to be Bear and Otter forever and that’s the way it should be.
Maryse: Yep… you did good TJ! Just the thought that it *could* happen was enough to keep me on edge, and I’m glad it didn’t actually go there. Although Bear’s admission of that barely there “kiss” and Otter’s reaction to it, was priceless! Thank you for that.
You took a chance with the epilogue in book #2, when Kid realizes his own sexual orientation. Did you hesitate with that conclusion, you know… considering Kid humorously brings up a certain “social view” on the matter:
“It’s not as if I planned it or anything. the social conservatives will point out that if it’s anyone’s fault, it’s yours and Bear’s for raising me in a gay household. Thanks for turning me into a homosexual, Otter.”
TJ: I did take that chance, but to me it felt like a natural progression. Regardless of their demeanors and actions, to me Bear and the Kid are brothers in the truest sense of the world. Obviously, I’d like to think the Kid is smart enough to figure out on his own about how he feels without having to go through all the angst that Bear did. In my head, the Kid will always have the understanding that it doesn’t matter the sex of the person you fall in love with. What should matter is the fact that you fell in love with someone in the first place. So while Bear and the Kid may be the same, the Kid isn’t going to have the same set of issues that Bear did. It doesn’t mean, however, that his happy ending is going to be any easier.
Which of course, brings me to BOATK3.
Maryse: A third book!!!??? *squeeeee* Whoops, I hope your ears aren’t ringing. I tend to do that to people… Do you intend on writing it from Kid’s POV with Dom?
Jackie: … what about ‘our boys’ Bear and Otter? Can we assume they live happily ever after, or is there more drama to come?
TJ: Yes. There will be another book (and, for the first time, I’ll let you all know that there will also be another book after that about Bear, Otter and the Kid). BOATK3 will be Ty and Dom’s story and will be told from Ty’s point of view. I haven’t started it yet, as I have a few other things on my plate to get to first, but I already know the outline of the story and I can’t wait to show you all what will happen. Dom’s past is going to catch up with him quite quickly and then Ty will have to make choices about his own past as well.
Maryse: Oh I know that one will be full-on angst! And a 4th book?!! You are just to good too us.
SO, what are you working on now? Any writing projects already in the works for the future?
TJ: Right now, I’m about to finish a huge project that I started only at the beginning of May. It’s a two book series, the first of which is called Into This River I Drown and the second book is The River Crossing. It’s quite different from anything I’ve written. It’s still a love story between two men, but it goes further than that and a large focus of the book is the relationship between father and son. I lost my father at a young age and this is my tribute to him. It’s the most personal thing I’ve written so far and I can’t wait for people to meet Benji, his father Big Eddie, and a man named Cal who is not at all what he seems.
After that, I need to get back to my other series, Elementally Evolved. My readers are absolutely howling for the sequel, given how I ended the first one. So I will be working on Book II of that series after I finish my current work.
I also have plans for a few more BOATK shorts to be released on my blog this year, the next most likely being released on BOATK’s one year anniversary on 8/12/13.
Jackie: *happy dance* – a fourth book! Whooooo! Hey TJ, what are you doing wasting time chatting to us – get writing!
Maryse: Hehe. *chuckling at Jackie’s happy dance* Sounds awesome! For those who want to get started on your books, where can your books be found, and where can they find more information about you?
TJ: My books can be found through my publisher: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/ and on most other book sites such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Fictionwise, All Romance ebooks.
I can be found on Facebook under TJ Klune.
My blog is www.tjklunebooks.blogspot.com
Maryse: Okay… remember that time, in one of you blog posts how you brought up a list of the stupidest question you received. Umm… remember that one… “I’ve always wanted a gay friend.”? *blush* But… what if I ask? ‘Cause if you’re anything like Bear, you ‘n me would be awesome friends!! Whatd’ya say? Please???
TJ: Oh hell yes. Just as long as you can bring your own bedazzler so that we can make make our jeans say “Rockstar” on the butt, then you and I will be bestest friends ever.
Maryse: OMG!!! I’ve always wanted to bedazzle something! Oh we are gonna have so much fun as besties!
TJ: thanks, Maryse, for having me today!!
Much love, TJ Klune
P.S. TJ sent me this eye popping photo of himself. ——->
“I’ve also attached a photo that my fans are finding hysterical right now if you’d like to use it for the interview. Let me know what you think!”
Tee hee!!! Ummm. I totally giggled, but well… I took your R-rated t-shirt to “PG” level. I thought maybe we could meet in the middle, with this one? *blush* You can click on the picture for the “real” version. 😉
P.S. –> $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble Gift Card giveaway (to one lucky winner, that I will randomly choose from the comments below). Okay AND!! AND!!! TJ just posted this:
Tj Klune: OoOooOo And I will throw an ebook or two to the winner as well 😉
How to enter for a chance to win it? Just leave a comment below, I will end the “contest” at 9pm EST tomorrow night (Thursday June 28th 2012), and I will contact the winner by email to confirm if you want the Barnes and Noble card or the Amazon card. The winner will be contacted and the gift card will be sent to the email address provided (make sure it’s valid!!). NOTE: The “winner” will have 48 hours to respond to the winning email notification. If no response is received, I will randomly select another winner. Make sure to check your email, so you do not loose your chance. This is open to anyone that can receive an emailed giftcard from either of these two companies.