Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, Tj.
Thanks for having me!
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you stepped into writing?
I’d always wanted to be a writer, ever since I was a kid. I thought I had a knack for being able to tell stories, even if no one would really listen to them. And then, of course, my early twenties hit and I was cocky enough to decide I was going to write the Great American Novel and Change The Face Of Literature Forever. That first book I wrote was such a train wreck that I grew disenchanted for a while (it also didn’t help that a professor of mine called my work “pretentious.” Ouch.) I can’t even open that first work without cringing now (seriously, it’s that bad—you open the word doc and immediately drown in a melodramatic tsunami). So I stayed away from writing for a while until randomly one day I heard the voice of the Kid in my head. From there, the rest just followed.
Your first book, “Bear, Otter, and the Kid” was recently released with Dreamspinner Press, what were the first words out of your mouth when they accepted your manuscript for publication?
“This better not be some bullshit joke.” And then I may have screamed. But it was a very manly scream. More of a bellow, really.
When did you start writing m/m romance? What about this genre interested you the most?
When I set out to write BOATK, I didn’t really give much thought to the idea of m/m romance, or if it would fall under that genre. I simply wanted to write a story about what it means to be family. Yes, there is romance in it between two men, and yes I am honored to be considered part of the M/M genre, but it wasn’t initially a goal to go that direction. I just wanted to tell a story.
How long did it take you to get published?
Dreamspinner was the first publisher I sent it too and they accepted BOATK about three weeks later. Pretty quick turn around time. I was impressed by that.
Looking back was there something in particular that helped you to decide to become a writer? Did you choose it or did the profession choose you?
I think that most writers must be crazy (myself included) because of the amount of voices we hear in our heads. It’s strange really, that characters can speak to us the way that they do (and I even know what most of mine would sound like). I think I wanted to be a writer to get all those voices out and on paper. The alternative, of course, would be admitted for a psych eval. I chose the easier route.
On a typical day, how do you spend your time?
Unfortunately, I can’t spend my entire day writing as much as I want to. I work 40-50 hours per week as a claims examiner for an insurance company. My nights are spent writing and revising. Guess which one I enjoy more?
Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?
Typically, I’ll write during the week for 2-3 hours a night and then take the weekend and revise what I’ve written during the week.
When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?
With BOATK, I put my hands on the keyboard and just let go, trusting that what would come out would be at least slightly coherent. For the most part it was. I had a general outline in my head of where I wanted to go with it, but certain things ( like the character of Mrs. Paquinn) came out of nowhere. But those are moments I love, when a new idea sparks and I can just run with it.
What kind of research do you do before and during a new book?
With BOATK, I had to research Oregon custody laws, especially dealing with the absence of a parent and having a sibling act as a guardian. I believe that research is important, because if you are going to write about something you know nothing about, it’ll sound false if you try and wing it. And readers are smart people; they can see through lines of bullshit. So if I am going to be writing about something that I have no clue on, you bet I’ll try and read everything I can on the subject so I don’t sound like a jackass. Case in point: The Kid is a vegetarian. I am not. I like beef tacos covered in pork. I didn’t know what the hell edamame was (aside from initially thinking it was Natalie Portman’s character in Star Wars). So I annoyed a friend of mine who is a vegetarian with a billion questions. Whatever I got right, thank her. What’s wrong, blame me.
How much of yourself and the people you know manifest into your characters? How do you approach development of your characters? Where do you draw the line?
That’s a tough question. When my friends and family started reading BOATK shortly after it came out, the thing I was told the most is that Bear sounds like me, not so much in the way he speaks but in his sense of humor. I never had to go through half the shit that Bear does. BOATK isn’t meant to be autobiographical. But I think that writers inject at least a tiny part of themselves with each character they write. Every character, however, can’t end up sounding like me because then they’d all sound the same. There are times when I have to stop and think, “Okay, would so-and-so really say something like that or is that just something I’d say.”
How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read?
Depends on the book. BOATK took me two years to write because I had some doubts there for a while on whether or not I could finish it and if anybody would actually read it. My new book, which is longer than BOATK, took me three months to write. I don’t try and focus on how long a book should take me to write, only on when I feel the story is finished. Some stories may come faster than others. I’m shocked and amazed when I see people putting out like 8-9 novels (not novellas, not short stories, but novels) a year. I read that a fellow M/M author had 81 works in progress. How nuts is that? I can only focus on one WIP at a time, and it gets my undivided attention. I couldn’t handle having more than that. If you can, more power to you.
Writers often go on about writer’s block. Do you ever suffer from it, and what measures do you take to get past it?
I think it can happen to anyone. Sometimes you just hit an impasse where your brain isn’t firing like it should be. If that happens to me, I close the WIP and move onto something different. It never really lasts to long, but it’s good to step away for a bit.
How would you describe your sense of humor? Who and what makes you laugh?
Sarcastic and dark. Unfortunately, I have the innate gift of laughing at the most inappropriate times (It sounds so wrong to say, but for example, if you trip and fall in front of me, I’m the person that laughs and then asks if you are all right.) Some people would probably call me immature but they’re just jerks.
What is the most frequently asked Tj question?
“When is the sequel to BOATK going to be published?” Lol, I love that people have responded so positively to these guys and want to know if there is another story to tell.
What are you working on now?
The sequel to BOATK. *grins*
What was the best piece of advice you’ve received with respect to the art of writing? How did you implement it into your work?
“Don’t write for anyone but yourself.” And it’s so true. I can’t go into something thinking about what I can do to please everyone that reads it. No matter what I write, there’s going to be people that don’t like it. I can’t focus on that. If I did, I would probably go bat-shit crazy. So I try not to worry about what others might think. If I finish a work and I am satisfied with it, that’s really what should matter. That being said, I do appreciate the positive feedback I’ve received from people about BOATK. That means more to me than people can know and gives me the courage to continue on with the next WIP.
When it comes to promotion, what lengths have you gone to in order to increase reader-awareness of your work?
Leading up to BOATK’s release, I really didn’t have much of a presence online. I didn’t have a Facebook Page, I didn’t have a blog. I didn’t know what Goodreads was. I’m on a computer all day at work and I didn’t like having to come home and keep up all that unnecessary online stuff. But man did that change. Look, Dreamspinner has been great and wonderful and all that jazz, but they can’t do everything, nor should they be expected to. So I signed up for these social media sites where I regularly speak with readers and provide updates on my current WIP. The one thing I’ve learned is that readers want to speak with the authors if they can, and I am overjoyed by that. I love hearing from people and am doing my best to respond to everyone that writes to me. It may take a bit, but you’ll hear back.
What kind of books do you like to read?
While I do read M/M books, I read much more outside the genre. I love anything Stephen King, early Dean Koontz (really nothing within the last five years—Dean, buddy; what happened?). I read a lot of true crime stories and other non-fiction. As a matter of fact, if you want to read a true-life adventure story about searching for a city of gold in the Amazon, read David Gann’s The Lost City Of Z. It’s fantastic.
Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing?
I just got a new house so that is sapping up a lot of my time. I haven’t moved in five years so I’ve accumulated so much crap that it’s embarrassing. The house needs some work done, and I figure I might as well learn how to do it on my own (caveat to that—I wouldn’t mind a hot contractor coming in and doing the work for me. He’d have to have a rough exterior but a heart of gold).
What future projects do you have in the works?
In Feb/March 2012, Dreamspinner Press will publish my second novel entitled “This Is How We Burn The World.” It’s the first book in an urban fantasy trilogy and to say it’s different than BOATK is an understatement. While it still follows a unique family, it’s dark and gritty and much more action oriented. I’ve had the story in my head for years and finally wrote it down. It’s a big book, but one I can’t wait for people to read. And yes, at its heart, it’s still about two guys who fall in love, just on a bigger scale. I think people will really like Felix and Seven.
Beyond that (and depending on what happens with the BOATK sequel), I plan on revisiting the Kid when he’s older. Boy, have I got some plans for him! And I think there maybe one more story to be told in Seafare beyond that, and it’s from a person we’ve already met. I think he’ll surprise people, but that’s all I’ll say on that for now. 😉
Can you please tell us where we can find you on the Internet?
I’m on Facebook under TJ Klune.
My blog is http://www.tjklunebooks.blogspot.com
I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Could you please share your favorite excerpt(s) from your book with us?
My very favorite:
On Sunday morning, Ty comes to me with a request that catches me off guard. I know I should have been expecting it at some point, but when he asks, it throws me for a loop. I mean, with all that’s been going on as of late, I thought that we were miles away from here. And damn if it doesn’t sort of hurt.
“You what?” I say to him, disbelieving what I’d just heard.
He sighs and sits on the couch next to me. “You know how I don’t have school tomorrow because it’s a grading day for teachers?” I nod. I have to work later on today and was planning on taking Ty to Otter’s before I went.
“Well, my friend from school wants me to stay the night at his house tonight,” he says patiently, as if I’m the child and he’s the adult.
“Do you want to go?” I say slowly.
He sits back on our couch and scrunches his face. “I think I do,” he says finally. “But if I wanted to come home, would you come get me?” he adds quickly.
“Of course,” I say sullenly. “Either me or Otter, if I’m still at work.” I shake my head. “Who is this kid? How do you know him? Have I met him? Have I met his parents?”
He rolls his eyes. “Yes, Bear. I told you, he’s my friend from school. You met him and his parents at my birthday party. Remember Alex Herrera? His mom was the one who asked you where you got the jumping castle from because she wants one for his birthday next month. You said Alex was very polite.”
It’s funny, I know, but I haven’t had to face this yet. The Kid seemed content on not having sleepovers or play dates or anything like most normal kids do. Sure, he would go outside and play, but he never went over to someone else’s house. I begin to think that this is going to be much harder on me than it is on him. Have I really gotten so dependent on him? I think, bemused. I always thought it was the other way around. Do parents feel like this when their kid goes off for the first time like this? Jesus Christ, I need a life.
The next thing I know I’m on the phone with Mrs. Herrera, who’s telling me of course it’s okay that Ty is coming over, and how sweet and intelligent he is. She wonders out loud why the Kid and Alex have never had a slumber party before, and I tell her Ty doesn’t eat meat and that if he needs anything to just call me. Or Otter. Or Anna. Or Creed. Ty looks mortified as I make Mrs. Herrera recite the phone numbers back to me. She says that yes, she knows the number to Poison Control. No, they don’t have any big dogs. Yes, she knows not to let Ty go to the beach by himself. No, she’s quite sure that it’s not expected to rain, but she’ll keep him inside if it does. Yes, she’s positive I don’t need to pack any special vegetarian meals. She’s telling me that no, she doesn’t know CPR, and I’m about to tell her this is not a good night for this, maybe next time, when Ty kicks me in the shins, and I tell her I’ll drop him off on my way to work.
I make Ty take his cell-phone charger so his phone can be charged in case he needs to call me for anything. He says that he’ll keep it charged in case I need to call him for anything. We pack his bag, and I put in four changes of clothes, and he scowls at me and takes some of them out. I make sure he has his toothbrush (and toothpaste and floss and mouthwash and Children’s Tylenol and Band-Aids and tweezers). He stops me when I am packing a Tupperware dish filled with almond granola because I’ll be damned if he’ll go hungry because all they’re serving is a rack of lamb in pork sauce with a side of meatloaf. He takes me to the couch and has another talk with me. I sit with my hands in my lap and nod.
When he’s not looking, I pack the granola anyways.
“You going to be okay?” he asks as we pull out of our apartment parking lot. I glance in the rearview mirror and see how pale my face looks.
“Are you going to be okay?” I retort, not liking his amused expression.
“I’ll be fine, Papa Bear,” he says calmly. “But even if I decide to stay the whole night, can I still call you tonight before I go to bed?” I smile and say yes, and we both relax, and it’s not until later that I’ll realize he’s said that more for my benefit than his.
“What are you going to do tonight?” he asks me as we pull into his friend’s neighborhood. “You probably shouldn’t stay by yourself.”
I snort. “You kidding me?” I tell him. “It’s my first night without you hanging all over me. I’m gonna go out and party.”
He looks at me knowingly. “You should just go to Otter’s,” he says as he stares back out the window. “That way, I’ll know where you are and know that you’re okay.”
“That I’m okay?” I ask him bewildered. “Why wouldn’t I be okay?”
He’s silent for a moment, and I’m about to ask him again when he says, “I know you’ll be okay. But I know you’ll be more okay if you’re with Otter.” He looks at me again. “Does that make sense?”
I shake my head. “Explain it to me.” I honestly don’t know what’s going through his head. I know he can’t possibly know about… you know, us (i.e. whatever it is I’m doing with Otter), but I also know he’s more perceptive than anyone I’ve ever known. I’m curious to see what he’s picked up.
He sighs. “I made Otter promise me that he’ll take care of you,” he tells me. “Remember when we were at his house a couple of nights ago for a sleepover? That’s what I whispered to him.”
“Why’d you ask him that?” I say, opting not to tell him that I already knew.
“Because, Bear. You’ve taken care of me my whole life, practically, and I’m not big enough to take care of you yet. Otter is.”
I pull the car over in front of the Herrera house. I put the car in park and cup the back of the Kid’s head and press my forehead against his. He hums happily and plays with my fingers. “You’ve done a damn good job taking care of me,” I tell him quietly. “More than anyone in the world.”
He smiles at me. “I am trying,” he says seriously. “But Otter….” He stops.
“But Otter what?” I press gently.
He shrugs. “Otter makes you smile. I know I do too,” he says quickly, as I open my mouth to interject. “But you’ve been sad for a very long time, and I couldn’t figure out why, and then I knew.”
“And what did you know, Kid?”
He looks at me funny, like I shouldn’t even have to ask. “You were sad,” he says, “because Otter was gone. But now he’s back, and you’re not sad anymore. And that makes me hope that he’ll never leave again.”
I smile sadly at my little adult and kiss his forehead. His friend opens the front door to the house, and Mrs. Herrera waves from behind him, and Ty unbuckles his seat belt and grabs his overnight bag out of the backseat of the car. He opens the door and yells hi to his friend and grins at me over his shoulder, and then he’s gone too. I watch him run up to the front door, and he turns and waves back at me, and I wave frantically at him, and then they’re inside, and the door is shut. I turn the car around and drive away, feeling strangely alone. Then my phone beeps, telling me I’ve got a new text message from the Kid.
love u Papa Bear