Interview with KJ Charles

Interview with KJ Charles on The Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast

Episode 36b with Heather Rose Jones

A series of interviews with authors of historically-based fiction featuring queer women.

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In this episode we talk about:

Links to the Lesbian Historic Motif Project Online

Links to KJ Charles Online

Transcript

please note this transcript has not been edited and is automatically generated meaning certain words will be incorrect

[Music] this is Heather Rose Jones with a lesbian historic motif podcast this weekly podcast looks at lesbian themes in history and literature and historic research into gender and sexuality we talk about current historical fiction with queer female characters including fantastic versions of the past and have interviews with authors who write those stories and in months when we have a fifth show we’re proud to present new original lesbian historical fiction for your enjoyment today the lesbian historic motif podcast is delighted to welcome KJ Charles to the show welcome KJ hello thank you for having me KJ is a prolific author of queer historical fiction and historical fantasy primarily featuring male characters but I invited her on today to talk about her recent book proper English which features a female couple perhaps you could start by telling our listeners a bit about the story right well proper English is set in Ernie and Waldi in England so that’s about 1903 or so so right Golden Age when the Victorians have done all the amazing technological innovation Britain was on top of the world everything was absolutely marvellous no possibility of anything bad happening in say 11 years or so everything’s great if you’re English if your wife if you’re rich etc so it’s it’s a fun period to do and it’s also a period that’s covered a lot in pulp novels adventures john buchan you know lots of stiff upper lip and derring-do all the early spy novels are starting and it’s just before I got the Christian kicked in but nevertheless you already had a lovely range of detective stories of country house stories of country house murders and there is nothing I like more than a country house murder so I had these a vertical think of England a few years ago which was an mmm romance set in an Edwardian country house which had these two characters Patricia Merton and Fenella careth as secondary characters and lots of people liked them I like them very much so I thought I would write their origin story and what because think of England was very much sort of Pulp spy thriller I felt that proper English needed to be a proper country house murder so that is what I wrote so we’ve got Pat Merton who is ladies All England champion shot goes up to her old friends country house to meet his new fiancee who is this very attractive very bubbly apparently completely airheaded industrial heiress and but unfortunately the house is full of all sorts of other the usual suspects of the country houses dreadful person who deserves to be murdered and we go from that yeah you set it up very nicely with the classic anybody could be the murderer if they’ve all got a good reason the most biggest comments I’m getting back is why does it take so things we kill them could we not see more because I decided I wanted to write something nice and frothy but I also really felt like writing a murder and you think well happy making there to feel good do you think killed somebody energy is a word I’d use to describe it because the the the peril that leads to him being murdered is is is pretty dire for the characters involved it is pretty done yes I’m not actually very good at rice and frothy I think I’ve managed one frothy book in mind no I yes I think I think it’s a comment I think sort of mine to trade between on the one hand if you’ve got all this potential to this disaster but on the other hand these are these people living this ridiculously for relief like yes and so it’s it’s quite fun to balance out yeah it fits very nicely into the the overall romance genre of money porn I think it’s like let’s get these characters enough money and power to do whatever they like and then we can watch them and not have to be too too jealous because it’s so separate from our lives yeah I think it’s allow you to deal with all kinds of other because so many problems they come back to mummy and you know your face says everyday and it’s you know it’s gonna break from life to deal with problems that really can’t be solved by throwing money at them yes you take a rich person give them problem they can’t buy their way out of like a murder and yeah so yeah and for the reason your writes about that I think we all enjoy the idea of you know the beautiful dress a servant the fact that you don’t have to be the washing up I’m thinking of all the contemporary romance novels with like high-powered executives and movie stars and all that and and then faking those people don’t necessarily actually really have time for romance but whatever executives they always like take three weeks off and just go off to an island and you think I can really really don’t think this is how high-powered exec also you know you open the newspaper you can see what high-powered executives look like you know that’s that’s nobody’s idea I think with with the you know the old-fashioned aristocracy although your characters are not technically aristocracy they’re just like you know money and burry but you can have that illusion that it could happen to anyone you know that you could have you know handsome personable people they didn’t have to claw their way to the top of industry first and yeah all the way all those young handsome Regency Dukes just running around unmarried you know yeah I have to say it’s it’s a step she fell for me just because it’s I tend to be a bit obsessed with the power differential there deeps are just too powerful there’s no if you’re doing a Dukes that is anything more than just using dicas shorthand for really rich bloke yeah I know Duke the Duke is too powerful there’s no there’s no peril there’s no actual threats there’s no there’s no real thing you can do with them actually so many historically accurate you and obviously there won’t be continuous torrenting accurate anyway but if it’s word because to mean anything it just unbalances things catastrophic Lee yeah I I was in a conversation once about this where we’ve sort of concluded that you know in modern Regency romance you know the Duke stands in for a particular modern type of character you know the the your wealthy powerful you know the big gates type well okay maybe not Bill Gates not exactly but we’re where it’s actually got nothing to do with the historical class status it’s basically the billionaire romance but with the title slap down to it exactly and the problem is because you can you can absolutely get away with that if you’re looking at the minor the the relatively minor aristocracy but when you’re talking about Dukes hey well you know there’s 27 of them across yeah I really like most of the country like even now the Duke of Westminster for example you know you’re looking as landholdings and heroes like a sizable percentage of the whole of Britain you know we’re not messing about here they’d still own the company with fining number of people and Deacon one step down from the king they’re actually hugely important and sort of social status tatius thing so both messing about with me they can marry but also the idea that they had this completely carefree life where they didn’t have to do anything and where they can get away with personal lives that wouldn’t really survive scrutiny you know yeah check around there’s no say want and they could probably get away with marrying incredibly in unsuitable people you know there are like Lord Eastern the Earl of Houston was the buttes of somebody or others eldest son I forget anyway he was certainly a deep so the son and he did indeed marry a woman at the Music Hall so it did happen that was in the Victorian era but you know they could probably marry people that they wanted to because they were so powerful but because I was so powerful they really wouldn’t have had to mm-hm so it just puts too much on one side but the problem when you’re trying to write the romance and make it work and make people believe in and happy ever after I think you’ve got to end up with some kind of power balance so that brings up an interesting topic that I keep wanting to explore ideally with you know an entire panel full of queer historical writers which is that the the legal and social context for men and women for queer men and women in history was very different from each other so in writing you know both the possibilities and the rules for queer men to you know to have a happily ever after romance as opposed to queer women that would be very different you know they would have different types of hazards different types of opportunities and different types of potential outcomes how did you deal with that in you know deciding to write a female romance well it takes away a huge chunk of the sort of the obvious problem the peril the I think greatly like writing male male romances where the big threat is we might get caught I’m gonna say of course in England that was specifically a male hazard that the significant difference was that in the English legal system female homosexuality was not even recognized much less exactly people saw women having quote marks lifelong strong friendships and being terribly terribly fond of one another and probably knew exactly what was going on you know they’ve just made that film gentleman draft about a Lister yes very well done and whereas if you do male homosexuality then there’s a point at which you kidney to execution although yeah that stops in about 1836 second best second or so but then after that you’ve got you know punitive laws so you’ve also got the fact that I lost juries didn’t want convicted because and also they’re so grossly unfair until do you thing that happens and you’ve got all this complicated legal structure and that’s just taken away if you’re writing FF you know the characters don’t have that horrible thing hanging over them so from that perspective it was something people relief but then on the other hand as you say it wasn’t even recognized so instead of having a relationship that dare not speak its name and could open you up to punishment you’ve got a relationship but you know the world literally doesn’t believe could possibly exist or mean anything you know you can’t be arrested for it there’s just you know it’s just treated this as a normal thing which open kids yeah and and in comparison to men’s lives the problem for women even women from you know the the upper classes was that they had a lot less power to live independent lives yes of course if you don’t have an independent income then you’re in trouble you’re very likely not to inherit anything if your parents had money at all and if you do marry up until distressingly late on all of the property immediately becomes your husband’s and so you have these women who were just the look totally at the mercy of men effectively and that is you know that’s happening you know it would be very difficult for a young woman to for example leave her father’s home and go off with her quote mark very dear friends yeah if she goes off and goes off with a lover and you know they know it’s a lover or not they say just want her to come home it is possible for the father just don’t bring her home because even woman in her early twenties yeah because when us have no power so that’s you know the constant cleaner and yet and yeah we have time after time examples of women who did succeed in doing that so I think I think sometimes I talk to people who think that the general rule you know the rule that meant women were always under a man’s control was universal and think well there’s no point in writing stories about you know independent women in history because they didn’t exist and that’s just as wrong violence which takes us back to money yes you know they need you can’t you can’t be independent if you’ve got nothing to live for and so you’ve got to learn your breath so this if you are for example a woman you know of a reasonably good family who hasn’t been left any money but also hasn’t been educated to do a job then you’re really up a gum tree yeah and then I’m gonna say in that in that social stratum where women did not work you know where you didn’t really even have the social option of going out and working yeah well there was no job available and and then alternately you know you had women who were from a slightly lower social stratum he could run their own businesses very successful they don’t very sharp we could you know be crafting making things selling things and if you’re able to teach you know that they weren’t there were absolutely options so one of the things in proper English is that my heroine has heard she’s been the basically taking care of the house as to her father and then her older brother and now her older brother is married and she naturally has no role anymore she’s been the woman who runs this house all this time and now she’s just completely supplanted and that’s just her tough luck and she’s got you know small independent income that she’s been left but she now has no hurt her entire life that’s it yeah her life for the surfing is globe now she’s got finds an entire new place to sell because her brother got married mm-hmm which is you know it’s not a disaster for her but it’s it’s an unpleasant upheaval of her life and because she because there is no there’s no role in a patriarchal system ready for her as a daughter you don’t want to get married the lesbian talk show relies on support the support of you our listeners the support of those who like and review our show on their favorite podcast app the support of our patrons on patreon and the support of our sponsors we hope you’ll continue to enjoy and support the lesbian talk show [Music] so you you’ve touched a little bit on this next question because you talked about your your love of this particular type of mystery setting but so I think most of your books have been sort of in the long 19th century as it were Regency Victorian Edwardian eras even when you include fantasy elements it’s pretty clear you’re in love with those eras so what’s the attraction of history and of that particular span of history for you as an author oh well I makes me I’m very fond of I’m very fond have been not being mobile phones I once wrote story for mobile thing absolutely ruins the whole thing how can he plot around those blasted things I hate them so again never gonna be one of them I like I like the 1920s very much I think they’re they’re sort of intimate periods enormous I think there’s a whole interesting range and a lot of it is to do with the interaction of Technology and the way society was developing and also the freedom of the increased movement that people had seen that you’re looking at much more potentially diverse casts and going to different places and people having different experiences different life experiences and I think when you when you’re writing and much earlier Georgian the earliest I’ve done is I think 1805 and when you get much other than that you know it’s very difficult for people to move around at all and there’s a staggeringly rich and then you just get this point very tiny worlds which I’m not so comfortable writing myself but yeah I I just very much enjoy that entire span of history and I really lost it and we get a lot of pulp fiction I’m laying affirmation is driven by pop fiction so you’ve been if I may say wildly successful with your core product if I can call it a product what is your and your core product is male-male fiction what was your professional goal in branching out to an FF story so is it something that your existing readership was clamoring for or are you trying to pick up a new set of readers that way and I felt I will there is definitely a an issue with FX any other you know it just your sales just do not reflect what the sales of MMR and that is I think something that can and will change but I felt reasonably sure that enough people you know modesty aside I have people who like to read my stuff and I felt fairly confident that it would repay my time investments and they seem to be doing pretty nicely so I’m fine with that but it was mostly it was not so much it was really I really wanted to write the characters you know they need a gift and it’s at my head and then such a the story was right there for them and that was actually the driving factor but I would like to write more I’m writing an MS at the moment I just feel like I’m settling into writing female voices in the way I haven’t done before and I’m gonna be doing a variety of it uh-huh yeah there’s been something of yeah I’m not sure it’s up to the level of a trend yet but in the last half year or so there has been an assortment of romance authors fairly well known romance authors in some cases who who typically write either MF couples or mmm couples who have tried their hand at @ff I mean there’s your book there’s courtly Milan with mrs. Martin’s incomparable adventure lily Maxton with a lady’s desire which is a regionality and cat Sebastian has an upcoming FF a little like mischief so it’s a way in if he awaits the Trinity coming with Abel that’s what I’m excited about oh his I think the 3d just named are all novellas well there’s been a bit I think I’ve been if you recall but there was a period where publishers were sort of doing MF series and then allowing authors to do an mm novella to sort of attach to the MN series like dipping their toe into the market as it were and I think we’ve seen a bit of that with publishers an FF so I’m really excited Avon has committed to a profit free book novel deal for a nephew wait with the ladies that celestial mechanics yeah I didn’t mention that because I wasn’t thinking of her in the category of having originally been known as maybe it’s just a thing with whose time has come I don’t know maybe I can’t speak for anyone else but yeah unless Appel wrote yes Royall series so hopefully it’s just that people maybe people are singing more yeah and maybe there is more market opportunity III would love if there became you know more widespread market opportunities for every of historical x’ I would get a little worried if that opportunity was only available to people who’d already established a career with other types of couples that’s that’s the thing isn’t it don’t want people you know crapping out what I’m rather hoping will happen obviously is that authors of mm or NS will bring their readers in that people say well I’ll read this because it’s caught me Milan and then say oh I really like that and maybe I’ll read another one by somebody else and actually just learn not to be scared of really know something outside their original comfort zone and I think my good you know I think that could happen we’ve seen that leaders being pushed there and boundaries once again Suzanne Brockman for example really brought a lot of readers to MN and I think so hopefully it will have that effect rather than punishing the authors of FF which would be obviously the worst effect but I don’t think you know grown-ups read it’s a so voracious I don’t really think there’s a that much scope for there’s not one there’s not there can be only one thing you know romance readers want as many books as possible that’s they’re pretty much joining characteristic but there is this interesting phenomenon and I had a long two part podcast with Anna Clutterbuck cook about this who had a lot of fascinating opinions and observations that you get these these siloed communities and especially around queer fiction where people are know about and read within a particular community of authors and readers and don’t even know that the others exist so you’ve got like all these different smaller communities that are saying I want more FF fiction but it doesn’t exist and what they mean by doesn’t exist either is the people that I am reading don’t write it or the people who are are hitting my sweet spot in some way that that that there’s I’m because let’s be honest there’s this enormous small press and self-published industry of FF romance and when people who read you know say in your reading community either don’t know about it or they say oh but those are those books aren’t doing the thing I’m looking for and and it creates this fascinating dynamic of scarcity where everybody says I want this thing and it’s so scarce and nobody’s reading it why is nobody writing it and everybody out there you know all the other communities are saying hey hey what am I chopped liver because I’ve been looking at all the ffs hysterical romance and one things I really come across is the completely different pricing issue so you know you get publishers who are yesterday plenty of it but you’re looking at a 999 price tag on an e-book very often I’m not taking a punt on a 999 but I read falsely much like a bank robber I’ve never read it Justine Saracen but yet because I’m really highly priced and I keep thinking you know I’ve got these the sale and that thing on but it’s so expensive yeah and I I mean I don’t only sort of superficially about the the market dynamics of that but part of that is that it those are you know both bold strokes books and my publisher Bella books they’re doing a you know both ebook and physical book marketing strategy and the just the dynamics of publishing books and distributing books in hardcopy and having a professional organization to do that you know so employees and warehouses what can have a thing so yeah and and I I find that you know the books are the pricing is aligned with mainstream publishing so if you’re used to buying you know books from from the mainstream publisher the pricing isn’t that different what’s different is the the assumed contract with the reader about what you’re getting you know because like I find the prices in those publishers quite high even for mainstream because a lot of publishers are now moving to thing where they actually do price the e-book a lot nowhere in the hope of selling a lot more copies so I would I would say it’s it’s still a bit high but also it’s you know yes so basically he might be priced for the historical fiction market but I’m not looking for it if I’m looking for romance novel I know what romance pricing looks like and it doesn’t look like that and that just puts me off taking account and you know I’ve got reasonable disposable income I’m not break but I’m still you know there’s a point where something is just too expensive yeah if it’s way after the market it’s nothing it won’t be at the top of my massively long list if I could think I can get well I think actually gets free contemporary access novels or I could get you know this many millions of other things I want to read so I think I do honestly think it’s a problem yeah so you know and and there are other sides of whether it’s I notice as you say well that’s not the issue and and one of the things the phenomena I’ve found really quite interesting as I’ve been sort of scrabbling around the reading more FF is how much of it is very heavily fanfic influenced so you so see that in style you know what I mean yeah no I know exactly what you mean but yeah and then you get that and that’s obviously a huge thing and people are obviously writing loads of it and they’ll have say it’s a lot of style but I find particularly enjoyable but it’s a style that obviously really works for a lot of people yeah but that’s an entire group of people just doing their own thing so yes it is interesting but you know with mark if the big publishers are doing it and people are self-publishing you’ve got a certain amount of crossover appeal and I hope that then it will manage to break down a few of the more than walls between silos or at least little tunnels between I like that image yeah so do you have any current projects that you think our listeners might get excited about that you can talk about Oh the one that’s I think your listeners would be most aligned team is also one that I’m favoring on it’s the sequel to might expect about the spectre dial which was one I wrote set in 1920s and it’s paranormal and it’s post-war and everything has gone terribly wrong because of occult attacks and that’s going to be an FF between a woman who is sort of the a photographer London Dayton deity and the woman who made the relationships find relationships great I’m really looking forward to writing that but the overarching plots has been giving me a lot of problems because trying to write sort of a world going terribly wrong at the moment is a bit too close to home I hope that will be my next FF projects and there’s something called lost couple in Hell and I’ve been seeing you mentioned it for quite a while now so it’s banana well I really I feel like I’ve made a breakthrough on the concept so I’m finishing at the moment my sequel to any old diamonds which is going to be an MS story with quite a feisty female needs and then hopefully I’m going to last couple in health and we will just see okay so if people wanted to follow you on social media where should they look on Twitter which is where I waste my stuff I mean spend most also called KK Charles chats on Facebook which is an extremely nice and very very hungry for ffs historical romance incidentally it’s a place that people absolutely and neat there are many that I can recommend so if anyone’s got anything to talk about in the way ff4 circles are welcome to come in and share it okay well that’s wonderful I will have links to all of those and to the books we’ve discussed in the show notes thank you so much for joining us on the lesbian historic motif podcast gidget’ thank you very much for having me I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of the lesbian historic motif podcast if you want to follow up on anything we’ve covered see the show notes for links and to contact me with questions book announcements or topic suggestions if you enjoyed this podcast please read it and subscribe on itunes stitcher or pod bean and consider supporting our patreon and if you’re on facebook check out the lesbian talk show chat group [Music]