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, Jon Keys – like me, Jon straddles the line between sci fi and contemporary, and many of his stories have a magical realism element. Mark and I met Jon at Rainbow Con – he’s a sweet guy with a mean writing talent. 🙂
Thanks so much, Jon, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
Jon Keys: Everything? Anything? No, not really. But I have tried several genres. I didn’t come to writing until a few years ago. Mostly it was in response to the way rural characters were depicted. I’ve done contemporary, western, urban fantasy, detective, alternative fairytales, high fantasy, rodeo (is rodeo a genre? Probably not.) I seem most comfortable right now with contemporary western and fantasy.
JSC: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
JK: Heart of the Pines, it was released as part of Dreamspinner Press Christmas anthology. It was a look at an older bisexual man who had recently lost his wife to cancer. A family friend whose relationship had recently went south becomes more than a friend.
JSC: What’s your writing process?
JK: Usually I do the “What if” line to get started. For example, in Obsidian Sun I wondered about a magic system based on weaving. That was the initial kernel from which everything else grew. The bad guys developed from something familiar, but with twists and turns to make it more interesting. I had a rough idea of the world itself, but a lot of the details developed as the story grew.
JSC: Tell me one thing hardly anyone knows about you.
JK: I won a cutest baby contest when I was about a year old. Wearing a beret no less.
JSC: What was the first speculative fiction book (sci fi, paranormal, fantasy, horror) that you ever read? How did it influence you?
JK: Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. What could be better than a sword and sorcery western set on Mars.
JSC: If you were stuck on a desert island all alone with only three things, what would they be?
JK: Two sides, practical would be knife, firestarter, water. Fantastical would be hot native guy, hot native guy number two and blond surfer. Boy, I really suck at this.
JSC: Which of your own characters would you Kill? Fuck? Marry? And why?
JK: That’s an easy one. Kotu from Obsidian Sun. He was by far the most evil character I’ve ever written. He was essentially a demon. He enjoyed beating people to death. Yeah, I could go on and on. But there’s no one else even close to him.
Fuck? Hmm, that’s tougher. There are a lot of my characters I think are hot. Office workers, landscapers, farmer’s market booth owner. I guess if I had to pick just one—it would be Rick Anthis from Crossfire. He’s easy on the eyes, a big guy, a little more mature, state highway patrol, olive skin, versatile…hmm, yeah. But anyway, Rick would be my choice to fuck.
Who’s marriage material? Rick would fall in the marrying category, but I guess you want me to pick another character. Given my choices, it would be James de Boer from Razor. James was threatening his own life to take care of his husband who has a terminal illness. That’s what I’d want. Someone who is willing to put everything on the line if I needed them.
JSC: Do you have any strange writing habits or superstitions?
JK: Not really. I don’t edit while I’m writing rough draft. I don’t think that’s all that remarkable though. I have to get the rough draft out and let it age a little. Then I can go back and work on it some more.
JSC: Are you a plotter or a pantster?
JK: Both, neither. Somewhere between the two.
JSC: What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
JK: I almost have the rough draft of Obsidian Moons written. It’s going to need a rest period to get it in shape to be submitted. I’m hoping it will be out in fall of 2016. The other novel I’m working on is Camouflage. It’s a contemporary western set in eastern Oklahoma. It’s close to ready to send to a few beta readers. I’m hoping I’ll be submitted around the first of 2016. It would be great if it were released next summer.
And now for Jon’s new book: Spurred On:
His wicked stepfather is trying to drive Kegan off his family’s ranch… He promised his dying father to always be there to protect his mother. But when she leaves on a cattle buying trip, his stepbrothers join in to bully and overwork him. Can he hang on until her return? And even if he does, how can he tell her that her new husband is evil incarnate? The only bright spot is Cole, a handsome neighbor he’s admired from a distance.
He’s new in town, and his parents are holding a rodeo… It’s not easy to meet new people in an established ranching community, but a rodeo will draw everyone in and give Cole an opportunity to make friends and show his skills in an arena they all understand. Maybe even get to know someone special.
A mystical medicine hat stallion walks into Kegan’s life…. It’s not long before they are the talk, and mystery, of the rodeo. The only thing more daunting than keeping his identity secret is how Kegan is going to balance all this with his draw to the man of his dreams. Will Cole end up being his magical prince, or is Kegan going to find himself left in the dust?
An hour or so later, Kegan stood in the driveway watching Alec drive away in the final rays of sunshine. Alec had offered to give him a ride to the rodeo, but he’d turned him down. Once the pickup disappeared from sight, he walked into the house and worked his way to the dark back room he called his bedroom. He flipped on the light and clenched his jaw at what he found.
His clothes were strewn across the room. Some were ripped, but all of them looked and smelled like they’d been stomped on by someone who’d just walked through the holding pens after they’d worked cattle. They were smeared with mud and cow shit.
“Dammit to fucking hell! The assholes!”
He stomped through the room, kicking piles of clothes out of his way in a blaze of fury. Everything he touched needed to be patched, washed or, more often, both. This settled it. Brent and Seth were out to make his life miserable. The question had become, what was he going to do about it? They seem to have done a good job of taking away his choices.
He began to straighten the tiny basement bedroom. A few minutes later, the job became so discouraging he dropped to the bed and sighed. Kegan lost track of time as he thought through the last months. The sound of a horse nearby shook him from his desolation.
He forced himself from the bedroom, tired of being the one who was crapped on around there. He stomped through the empty house, his anger as fierce as ever. Another nicker drifted to him, and his focus shifted to the present. He opened the door to find a horse standing beside the porch. A beautiful Paint stallion with classic medicine hat markings.
Kegan eased down the steps and held one hand toward the horse, watching him closely. The animal leaned forward, sniffed him, and then snorted.
“Hey, big guy. Where did you come from? If a medicine hat had appeared in any of the BLM herds around here, we’d have known.”
The horse tossed its head, the black and white markings shimmering in the sun. He didn’t shy as Kegan moved closer. The horse’s only reaction was the rippling of thick muscles as it shifted its weight.
“Easy, boy. You’re awfully tame.”
The horse froze in place, studying Kegan as he moved closer. He reached out, resting his hand against the stud’s silky skin. It nickered at the touch but didn’t move. As he ran his hands over the animal, he marveled at how calm the stallion was. This was one of the steadiest horses he’d ever come across.
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My earliest memories revolve around books; with the first ones I can recall reading being “The Warlord of Mars” and anything with Tarzan. (The local library wasn’t particularly up to date.) But as puberty set in I started sneaking my mother’s romance magazines and added the world of romance and erotica to the mix of science fiction, fantasy and comic books.
A voracious reader for almost half a century, I’ve only recently begun creating my own flights of fiction for the entertainment of others. Born in the Southwest and now living in the Midwest, I’ve worked as a ranch hand, teacher, computer tech, roughneck, designer, retail clerk, welder, artist, and, yes, pool boy; with interests ranging from kayaking and hunting to painting and cooking, I draw from a wide range of life experiences to create written works that draw the reader in and wrap them in a good story.