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AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Dani Hermit & Curtis Star

hermit & star

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.

The writing duo behind several briefly notorious YuGiOh fanfics, Dani Hermit (they/them) and Curtis Star (he/him) have been romantically involved for over 20 years, though they have been telling stories together for even longer. A mutual love of slash fan-fiction and high fantasy novels lead to a love for each other that hasn’t faded through the years. Together they created the various incarnations of the characters who would one day emerge as the cast for their original works.

 Dani does the cover design both for the Hermit & Star books as well as a side-hustle to pay for coffee. They’ve also been known to crochet odd little creatures, read Tarot, and play a wicked good game of Cards Against Humanity.

Art school survivor Curtis is working on designs for the covers of the Hermit & Star catalog, as well as drawing cute critters in the kawaii anime style of his own, when he’s not drowning in an ocean of baking shows and home shopping binges.

Website: https://hermitstarbooks.com/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hermitstarbooks/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hermitstarbooks
Twitter: https://twitter.com/hermitstarbooks
QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/dani-hermit/

Thanks so much, Dani and Curtis, for joining me!

J. Scott Coatsworth: Where do you like to write? 

Dani Hermit: Pre-pandemic, we wrote nearly everything either at our fave coffee shop or this cute little breakfast place. And we had a weekly night out at a local pizza parlor. They started calling us “the writers” and had our iced teas on our table as soon as we walked through the door. It was kinda fun to be a local celebrity!

Curtis Star: But suddenly everywhere we loved going no longer had dine-in and the whole world was crazy scary. It actually really impacted our writing patterns and slowed us down for a few months. But then we discovered 4thewords.com, an online video game that lets you fight monsters by writing. That was something we could do at home and Dani LOVES video games. It really picked us up and put us back on track. Now we write at home in our pajamas and it’s weird to think that we used to do almost all of our work outside of the house.

JSC: What advice do you wish you’d had before releasing your first story? 

DH: STOP, Don’t do it!!

CS: They’re playing. We learned a lot from our mistakes. Our first stories are out of print now and we’re re-writing them so that they are the best they can be. 

DH: Those early books were too complicated, too many ideas in one book. I wish someone had told us that we didn’t need to put every idea we had all into one story. But for some reason, it felt like all we had was this one shot and we needed to give our readers every good idea (and a few not so good ones) that we had.

JSC: How do you approach covers for your indie stories? 

DH: I ply our cover artist with sexual favors. (Am I allowed to say that?)

CS: NO you are not allowed to say that! I’m the cover artist.

DH: After trying out a few different options, our readers respond best to Curtis’s art, so he does digital drawings in the Japanese yaoi style and I do the graphics work to make them into covers. It gets the attention of the people who know what to expect from a dark yaoi story.

JSC: How did you choose the topic for this book? 

CS: That’s a funny story. Originally, Black Devil was a joke book. In our Burn Outs series, one of the characters wants to be a writer and he keeps talking about this book about a black cat detective. So while Dani and I weren’t doing much writing together in 2020, I started working on his book. I decided to make it an omegaverse book because Dani had just started reading that genre and was loving it. They drew me into it and since this book wasn’t supposed to be serious business, I thought I’d give it a try.

DH: Another funny thing about Black Devil is that we weren’t originally writing together. I was reading it and offering feedback as he went, but I fell in love with the world and the characters. I ended up writing a fanfic about one of the side pairings and eventually, Curtis found out about it. After we laughed at ourselves, he invited me in. I’ve loved working on this with him.

CS: It’s been so amazing to be able to share something that meant so much to me with my partner. They dropped in seamlessly during the final scenes of book 3. Originally, I meant it to be a single book, but that didn’t stick for long. We’re about to finish writing the 5th book in the series with seven planned.

JSC: Who has been your favorite character to write and why?

DH: In Black Devil, I think it’s been the no-fur Spitfire. He’s a sassy little brat and I can use him to really push at Curtis. Though my all-time favorite character to write has just reappeared in the re-write of our old story Ghost House. It’s Jacob Kruez from the serial RE: Possessed that we just started posting.

CS: I didn’t think I could have a favorite, but then I wrote Curtis in Burn Outs and that changed everything. I fought my demons and faced myself with that one.

Right now, I’m having a blast writing King in our Black Devil serial. He is a big Daddy tom who sometimes, much to his surprise, is a switch in his relationship with his soulmate. And in RE: Possessed, getting to write Brodie as a better foil for Jacob as well as his love interest with a more confident author voice is fantastic.

JSC: What was the weirdest thing you had to Google for your story? 

DH: The mating habits of feral cats. Half of our cast in Black Devil are anthropomorphic cats. Domestic cats, not like lions and tigers. The no-furs are the omegas and I wanted to make sure that some of the practices that happened with them and the tom alphas weren’t completely foreign to cats. But Curtis had nailed that pretty good.

CS: I don’t recall looking up anything too weird for this one, but Dani’s search history is going to get us both thrown in prison. 

JSC: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? 

DH: I really wanted to be a teacher, but then I found out that they didn’t make any money so I decided that being famous was a better bet. But I never really specified how that was going to happen until I was like 12 or so and decided writing books was going to be my thing. Still working on that whole money thing though…

CS: Santa Claus. No joke, I wanted to design new toys and bring presents to everyone. But it was mostly about the magic of bringing joy and as a storyteller I think I still get to do that. There is a song in the musical PROM that I play whenever I forget how important what I do is called “We Look To You.” I think. That makes me feel like I did even better than becoming Santa Claus. That we as storytellers can heal the world.

JSC: What pets are currently on your keyboard, and what are their names? Pictures? 

CS: Thankfully, I write on a tablet and my bluetooth keyboard is tiny and hard for the cats to lay on. Doesn’t stop Khoshekh from trying to bap the screen copying me.

DH: Both Khoshekh and her sister Erika have tried to turn my laptop into their bed. My new desk is hard for them to climb up on, but they still try. 

(The orange one in the pic is Erika and the tortie is Khoshekh)

JSC: What are some day jobs that you have held? If any of them impacted your writing, share an example. 

DH: Mostly I worked in fast food. Did my time at a gas station and worked security at a medical center for a little while. Weirdest thing I ever did was I spent about a year and a half working on a sex text line. Made damn good money too. If the laws hadn’t changed, I might still be doing that. It was freaking wild.

But everywhere I worked, I was a people watcher. I definitely think that affected how I write my characters.

CS: Well here’s one. I was a guard at a state prison. I learned alot about human nature there. I saw guards abuse prisoners and I had inmates protect me from other inmates and everything between. It made me see people as complex and not as easy to judge as the world suggests. I try to put that in my work. I have no room for black and white thinking. My characters make horrible mistakes, awful choices,  then can turn around and act out of shocking kindness. Most importantly, they all deserve love.

JSC: What are you working on now, and what’s coming out next? Tell us about it!

DH: Our main project right now is getting the final books of Black Devil finished. We’re nearly to the end of 5, and are planning it to be 7 long. But on the side, we’re working a few different things. One of which is a bonus book for our Burn Outs series. It tells the story of Cat Fight & Dark Mirror between the end of book 7 and the epilogue of the series. There’s six months unaccounted for for most of the cast and we’re tentatively planning for the main couples to have bonus books that show what they were up to during that time.

CS: We’re also in the process of taking our Parliament of Twilight world books and untangling the individual story arcs for the many couples who were part of that so that we can rewrite them. They are such good stories and such amazing characters. They really deserve to have their stories told, but properly this time. Not all twisted together into a Gordian knot that no one, not even us, could understand.


The Black Devil

And now for Dani and Curtis’s latest story (available on Kindle Vella): The Black Devil Omegaverse…:

Hermit & Star have created another steamy, dark world – this time with anthropomorphic feline Alphas and their no-fur Omegas!

When the Black-fur Hades meets the no-fur Doll, he can just feel his comfortable life as a back-alley fixer slipping through his paw. Being contracted to take the no-fur away from trouble brewing with his mobster owners to a breeding farm upstate seems like a straightforward enough job. But when it comes to dealing with this particular no-fur, nothing is straightforward. 

Season 1 is now complete! Season 2 coming soon!

Read on Kindle Vella


Excerpt

**please be aware this story is labelled as “dark romance” and contains dub-con & non-con scenes as well as some elements of horror & violence. None of those elements are in this preview.**

Shadwell Sebastian Woolsey stomped aimlessly through the rain. He had a destination but he was in no hurry to get there.

His shoes needed replacing, he noted as water crept in from a puddle he had not managed to avoid. He hated getting wet. Some might say he was a walking stereotype but he had never met another tom who hated it as much as he did. Hell, a fair amount of them used water as their first introduction to the Elemental arts. 

Not Shadwell, though. As a Black-fur, he couldn’t create an affinity for such a healing Element to use in his magick. His gifts – if you could call them that – were of a much more complicated and forbidden nature. He could scratch the surface of his potential and did fine for himself with what he could do. However, Black-furs could only access their core magick by using a no-fur conduit.

Which was something Shadwell was never going to be able to do. Collaring a no-fur was a luxury for the most elite of Elementalists, something that Black-furs definitely were not. Beyond the prohibitive cost of just owning one, if an Elementalist wished to use a no-fur as part of their magick practice, there was a very expensive licensing process. Only the talented and affluent Calicoes would have the resources to have a collared no-fur. From what Shadwell had heard, most of them who showed any inclination towards Elemental magick when they came of age were gifted a no-fur of their own to use and abuse. 

Black-furs like Shadwell were about as far from Calicoes in the social pecking order as no-furs were from toms. His jewel green eyes and thick soot-colored coat marked him as a Cursed One. Which, while still being better than being born a no-fur, was not the easiest of lives. Not that Shadwell was going to ask for pity for how he’d been born.

He’d always been clever and was born with a knack for reading auras, allowing him to see the motives of most toms. What had started when he was young as a hustle to keep himself fed had become a real career with real clients who paid well for his less-than-legal talents. It also allowed him to have an office that doubled as an apartment and featured a gorgeous antique stained glass lamp that he’d gotten cheap because it had never worked. Like every other feline Elementalist, Shadwell enjoyed shiny things. Unlike most of them, Shadwell often got himself into trouble because he could become fixated and obsessed with shiny things.

He couldn’t afford many of those these days as his ability to attract clients was uncertain at best. Keeping his apartment office in the City took most of his coin. The office didn’t need much anyway. It was a place to keep a few precious treasures and a couch to crash on. Most of his clients preferred to meet in clandestine alleys and bars so they weren’t actually seen going into the Infernal Affurs office. Shadwell’s best friend Jinx swore it was because of the awful pun in the name, but it had to be the reputation that Shadwell had on the streets.

Even with a solid success rate and reasonable prices, you blow up one small parking lot by accidentally opening a demonic gate and you are suddenly a pariah.

Oh, they’ll still pay for your services, but they’d prefer it not to get out that they did. Which made word of mouth a hard sales tactic.

Tonight, like most nights, Shadwell was meeting someone Jinx had set him up with. Thank the gods for Jinx. The Orangelo owned a barely-this-side-of-legal speakeasy in the heart of the City. In exchange for keeping him in rich clients, Shadwell kept the speakeasy cloaked in a shadow spell so it stayed off the radars of the authorities that might like to break up the illegal gambling and smuggling that Jinx allowed to happen in the back rooms. 

The whole demon gate incident had also had earned the Black-fur the street name of Hades. His proper name was such a pretentious mouthful and the moniker suited his line of work. Hades didn’t just work the underground, he basically ran it as far as the uptown toms were concerned. He investigated the stomach-turning bad things that toms did to each other. For a price. Needed to figure out who had cursed you? Hades did that for a price. Need to find some dirt on a rival business or break up an illegal gambling circle? Hades did that too, for a price. 

If he were completely honest, there was very little that Hades wouldn’t do for the right amount of money.

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