Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today, Christopher Koehler – Christopher is one of my “neighbors” – he’s just two cities to the left, in Davis, and is part of our local Queer Sacramento Author’s Collective, so it’s with particular pleasure that I welcome him to the hot seat.
Thanks so much, Christopher, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: What fantasy realm would you choose to live in and why?
Christopher Koehler: Julian May’s Galactic Milieu, because so many of our social ills would be fixed or cured, like energy insufficiency, poverty, overcrowding, and environmental degradation. The Milieu is the promise of the Enlightenment fulfilled. Also, metapsychic operancy.
JSC: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
CK: I knew I wanted to write in grad school when I realized that academic writing sucked all the fun out of it. I enjoyed writing as an undergrad but my professors had a devil of a time preventing me from saying snide things that were hilarious and absolutely true. Ever read Marx’s The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon? It’s hilarious, absolutely brilliant polemics.
But I didn’t “discover” I was good at it. I became good at writing through hard work, sometimes brutally so, and by the efforts of many dedicated English and history teachers and professors. The switch from academic history to fiction took close to ten years, and I have romances to thank for the missing, all-important emotional component.
I’m still working to be a good writer.
JSC: Do you have any strange writing habits or superstitions?
CK: If I write by hand, which still happens sometimes (like the fall of 2016 when both computers died within 2 weeks of each other), I have to write in a particular kind of notebook—college ruled single-subject from my alma mater—with a blue ballpoint pen.
JSC: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
CK: My writing style can still be somewhat baroque—two sentences that turn into a long paragraph that is grammatically correct. Thanks, academia!
I write category fiction, which is designed to elicit an emotional response. I like romance and steampunk, which I suppose is the lovechild of science fiction and fantasy. Romance ideally evokes feeling of love, while steampunk/fantasy/sc-fi evoke wonder and adventure.
JSC: Describe yourself using a bird.
CK: If I were a bird I’d be the silver-crested cocksucker. I have mostly silver hair and I…
JSC: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
CK: I’ll assume you mean my first published fiction, because no one really wants to hear about a non-fiction article in a defunct chemical industry trade journal. It bored me and I got paid for it.
My first published novel was a m/m romance titled Rocking the Boat, which is still in print from Dreamspinner Press. It tells the story of a college rowing coach desperately denying that he’s falling in love with one of his rowers (this violates all kinds of rules) and the rower, who knows his own heart better than his coach seems to know his, putting a stop to the nonsense and making his feelings known.
JSC: Tell me about a unique or quirky habit of yours.
CK: I deconstruct all my food.
JSC: What’s your writing process?
CK: A great deal of staring into the middle distance punctuated by feverish bursts of writing?
I plot rather than write by the seat of my pants. Oh how I plot.
JSC: Were you a voracious reader as a child?
CK: Yes. I learned to read late, age 7 or so. Now they’d slap me special ed, but mostly I refused to read because my teachers wouldn’t stop bugging me. Also, my home life sucked and I was done with more or less everything and withdrew.
But one day I picked up Put Me In The Zoo and started reading aloud as my mom was driving (she almost wrecked the car). Within a month I’d moved on to Watership Down.
The moral of the story is don’t badger me.
JSC: What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
AUTHORNAME: I’m in the earliest stages of pre-writing for the aforementioned steampunk series. This means I’m working on not only the overall timeline for the series, but the plots for the individual books and character biographies. I hope to have the first draft of the first book by the end of the year. This is a project I’ve been working on for a long time, so this is an achievable goal. At that time, I’ll begin to look for an agent.
As for an ETA it’s far too soon to predict that.
And now for Christopher’s new book: Poz:
Remy Babcock and Mikey Castelreigh are stalwart members of the Capital City Rowing Club’s junior crew, pulling their hardest to earn scholarships to rowing powerhouses like California Pacific. Just a couple of all-American boys, they face the usual pressures of life in an academic hothouse and playing a varsity sport. Add to that the stifling confines of the closet, and sometimes life isn’t always easy, even in the golden bubble of their accepting community. Because Remy and Mikey have a secret: they’re both gay. While Mikey has never hidden it, Remy is a parka and a pair of mittens away from Narnia.
Mikey has always been open about wanting more than friendship, but Remy is as uncomfortable in his own skin as he is a demon on the water. After their signals cross, and a man mistakes Remy for a college student, Remy takes the plunge and hooks up with him. After a furious Mikey cuts Remy off, Remy falls to the pressure of teenage life, wanting to be more and needing it now. In his innocence and naiveté, Remy makes mistakes that have life-long consequences. When Remy falls in the midst of the most important regatta of his life, he can only hope Mikey will be there to catch him when he needs it most.
I pulled Josh’s number out and stared at his blocky, masculine handwriting. I did not know what I expected, to be honest. Numbers that burned themselves into my retinas before the paper consumed itself in a puff of flame? Numbers that twisted and turned before my eyes, resolving into a message that told me to abandon all such notions lest I get myself into trouble? It was just a plain scrap of paper, but it held my attention in a way few other things had.
My reactions were all over the place and not even consistent. In one way, it turned me on. It represented physical evidence that some guy was hot for me. The sight of me half-dressed had revved someone up enough to make him do something about it. The sight of me fully dressed in my uni made it more intense for him. That feeling went right to my gut, curling around my spine and groin and warming me in a way I’d never felt before. It felt… powerful. Sexy. Like maybe this gay thing could work out after all, like maybe it wasn’t just going to be me and my hand for the rest of my life. Because even if nothing happened with Josh, the very fact that he’d slipped me his number now meant that someone else later on might find me worth his time, too, even if I did not understand why. I was just Remy, after all.
But that slip of paper with Josh’s number scared me, too, and I knew I should’ve thrown it away before I’d left the boathouse. I hadn’t even turned seventeen yet and wouldn’t for another two months or so. When he’d asked me my name, I should have said, “Jailbait,” and called him out as a fucking pervert. Hello? Look around, Josh. Notice how the boathouse is crawling with what are obviously teenagers? Just because I looked like I might’ve been an assistant coach didn’t mean I was. But I always thought of the perfect thing to say… later. Even if on some level I needed to keep it, by keeping it I was playing that grown-up game. Sometimes acting older than my years could be good, but sometimes it could be scary, and right then it frightened me as much as it drew me in. The Voice of the Beehive had been so, so right, and oh how I wanted those scary kisses.
Finally, those numbers were seemingly my only link to an actual gay adult. In a weird way, that paper represented a lifeline to a world I knew would one day be mine, and when someone tosses you a life preserver, you don’t throw it away.
Christopher Koehler wrote before he learned to read, if one counts the looping swirls the preliterate think cursive looks like. After watching Clash of The Titans in high school he thought “Is that all the higher the bar is?” and set to working writing his own stories. He realized while writing his dissertation in an obscure and specious corner of cultural studies that while he lived to write, academic writing sucked the life out of it, and bailed on academe almost before he’d started. He turned first to romance, writing seven novels in the m/m genre and is now working on series of novels set in a steampunk world of bioengineered butterflies and diesel-powered dragons.