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, K.L. Noone – K.L. employs her academic research for writing romance, almost always LGBTQ+ and often paranormal, fantasy, or historical! Her full-length romance novels include the Character Bleed trilogy (Seaworthy, Stalwart, and Steadfast), Cadence and the Pearl, and A Demon for Midwinter, available from JMS Books, and A Prophecy for Two, available from Inkshares. She’s also the author of multiple romance novellas and short stories with JMS Books, and previously with Less Than Three Press, Circlet Press, and Ellora’s Cave. Her non-romance fantasy fiction has appeared in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress and the magazine Aoife’s Kiss.
With the Professor Hat on, she’s published scholarly work on romance, fantasy, and folklore, including a book on Welsh mythology in popular culture and a book on ethics in Terry Pratchett’s fantasy. She is happily bisexual, married to the marvelous Awesome Husband, and currently owned by a long-legged black cat named Merlyn.
Thanks so much, K.L., for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
K.L. Noone: I was always a writer—I wrote a five-page short story in my kindergarten class, while everyone else was working on the alphabet! That story was about a unicorn and the Tooth Fairy, and I got to go into the office and type it up, and get it printed and spiral-bound. But it was always just for fun—and then, after a lot of fanfic and a lot of community and a lot of love, while I was in grad school, I thought, hey, people seem to like the way I write, maybe they’ll also like my original stories! And they seem to, so far…
JSC: What do you do when you get writer’s block?
KLN: I work on a different story! I usually have two or three in my head, and if one’s not working, it might just need to sit and simmer for a while. If I switch to a new story and new characters, the writing feels new, and the story questions are different, and that interests my brain.
JSC: Do you use a pseudonym? If so, why? If not, why not?
KLN: I use a very obvious pseudonym, which is my initials, because early on I thought it’d be a good idea to a) distinguish my fiction from my academic work, and b) have a gender-neutral writing name! These days I almost wish I hadn’t bothered; my name’s not a secret, and my Dean at the campus where I teach has read my romance fiction! But it’s also nice, because at least students googling my professor name to find out about their upcoming class won’t immediately find my romance work as the very first result.
JSC: What do you do if you get a brilliant idea at a bad time?
KLN: I keep notebooks everywhere—by the bed, in my purse, in various rooms! If I write something down, I tend to remember it—the act of physically writing helps cement it in my head, I think. So I try to at least write down some specific notes: the snippet of dialogue in my head, the reason why a character is doing something, a revelation about what happens next. If I’ve at least got the bullet points, I can recreate it later when I’m typing it up. I have on occasion scribbled notes on blank student writing worksheets during office hours—not while meeting with a student, of course!
JSC: Do your books spring to life from a character first or an idea?
KLN: Always character first! I have to know who they are and what they want—the plot develops from there. Sometimes I have a vague setting or theme in mind, especially if there’s a specific call for submissions I’m writing for, but I can’t write the story without knowing who the characters are and what motivates them. I actually usually start with the middle of a story—I don’t write linearly! It’s often a conversation or confrontation or revelation, something significant—and then I work backward and forward: how did they get to this point? What happens or changes as a result?
JSC: Where do you like to write?
KLN: At home, either on the sofa or upstairs in the office. I like to be both comfortable and alone when I write—I like being able to read a line of dialogue out loud, or get up and grab something to drink, or sit in weird positions, and I like to not worry about anyone else being around; if someone else is nearby, I’m always low-level constantly aware of them and what I’m doing and how I appear to them! That’s the social anxiety and perfectionism for you. *laughs* Sometimes there’s a big black cat next to me, but she’s not a good literary critic—she just sleeps and purrs.
JSC: How did you choose the topic for this book?
KLN: I was thinking about Cupids and Valentine’s Day, and I immediately had Raine’s character in my head: a Cupid who doesn’t really want to be one, who works as a divorce lawyer! And then Don’s voice just turned up so clearly as the POV: the person observing him, and falling in love with him, little by little, every day. And Don himself is unconventional in a quieter way: a Frost spirit who runs a coffee shop, just because he likes to see people warm and happy and smiling. Raine’s a challenge!
JSC: Tell us something we don’t know about your heroes. What makes them tick?
KLN: Something we don’t know about them…Raine is absolutely a punk rock fan, especially that eighties and nineties Southern California punk revival. This is present in the story, a little—he mentions the kind of music he likes—but it was something that gave him a community and an escape from all the familial expectations about being a love coach or a therapist or a matchmaker: he could go see Against Me! or Black Flag and scream along and feel something and have an outlet, for a while. Don was briefly surprised by this—Raine is so very made of, oh, polished suits, fashion and name brands, successful lawyer, in daily life—but after thinking about it for a sec, Don totally gets it.
Don’s good at understanding people—probably even better than he realizes. He’d make a good bartender, quietly listening, nonjudgmental. (For the record, Don likes most music—he’s pretty easygoing and he likes things in general—but if pressed, he’d pick, oh, Fleetwood Mac, Of Monsters and Men, early Tegan & Sara, something like that.)
JSC: What secondary character would you like to explore more? Tell me about them.
KLN: Well, Luke—the very human craft brewery owner who’s flirting with Don, and making Raine jealous—is getting his own story! It’s in progress as we speak. Luke is genuinely a Nice Boy, though he’s very young and enthusiastic and of course he just wasn’t quite the right person for Don. He’s not at all shy or subtle, which is tons of fun. If he wants to flirt with a hot guy, he just goes for it. Straightforward and delightful. But his life’s about to get a lot more complicated, when a Personification in need of rescue turns up at his door, in the rain…
JSC: Tell me one thing hardly anyone knows about you.
KLN: I love architecture and floor plans and house or castle or country manor or even apartment designs! There’s something so satisfying about seeing a diagram of a building: every room labeled, and you can imagine characters walking from one room to the other, from the library to their bedroom, and you can see just where every room is and what its purpose is…if I’d ever been any good at math or drawing, I might’ve wanted to be an architect.
JSC: What pets are currently on your keyboard, and what are their names? Pictures?
KLN: Miss Merlyn the big black cat! She’s a sweetheart, a rescue—she kept coming to our door, hungry and skittish, and of course we took her in—and she’s also the weirdest omnivore ever. She’s voluntarily eaten coconut, banana, soda crackers, rice, Cheerios, corn flakes, vegetarian “meat” crumbles, hummus….basically, if people are having it, she wants to try it! She also gets proper cat food, I promise! And lots of treats! Probably too many treats!
JSC: What are you working on now?
KLN: Several things! The spin-off novel from the Character Bleed trilogy, in which one of my favorite secondary characters (Leo) gets his own love story (also, there’s a lot of tea, and a pillow with a seahorse on it), and also Magician, the follow-up novel that comes after my short story “Sorceress,” which I originally did not think would be a full-length novel, but it’s already over 42k and we haven’t even fought the bandits yet. And, in very nebulous form, the sequel/spin-off story for a minor character from Frost & Raine—Luke is a good guy, and it’s not his fault he just wasn’t the right person for Don to fall in love with, in that story. He deserves another good (and magical!) guy to fall in love with and to be loved by, for himself, for a happy ending!
And now for K.L.’s new book: Frost & Raine:
A Frost spirit who runs a coffee shop. A Cupid who works as a divorce lawyer. And magic in the air…
Raine’s never been a conventional Cupid. He likes organization, his job as a successful lawyer, and black coffee, and he dislikes messiness, physical and emotional. He tries hard not to use his powers, he’d rather not manipulate anyone’s desires, and he’s not planning to fall in love. But the owner of Raine’s favorite coffee shop just might challenge Raine’s resolutions about love.
Don enjoys his life. Even though he’s a Frost, he finds comfort in giving people warmth: good coffee, a cozy refuge from the rain, holiday decorations, and overall cheer. But one gorgeous Cupid seems immune to Don’s cheerfulness—and keeps coming back, day after day. Fortunately, Don’s always liked a challenge.
If Don and Raine can learn to trust each other—with new coffee flavors, with their hopes for the future, and with their hearts—the Frost and the Cupid just might find their own magical happy ending.
May came in with riotous explosions of color: flowers in the newly landscaped area in front of the building, wide arching blue skies, clean clear golden sun like the gleam of a newly opened treasure-chest. Ausriné and Kit and Annie got along disturbingly well, bonding over late nights and superhero television shows; the coffee shop hummed along happily, and Don experimented with lavender, honey, rosewater, and springtime violets.
The Sunrise Children—they had different names, different traditions, but all laughed and chattered and glowed with the brilliance of the Personification of new dawns, so Don’d collectively nicknamed them for the sun—popped in and drank coffee and herbal tea, and laughed and left warmth and fluttering rainbow streamers in their wake. One of them, a shameless and adorable young man with emerald eyes and new-coin copper hair, winked at him when leaving.
Raine, around a caffeine infusion—mid-morning, as usual, a break from whatever the tangled law-office work of the day might be—commented, “You’d end up exhausted. Wouldn’t be worth it.”
“I wasn’t looking, and how do you know, anyway?” Don collected abandoned cups—the Sunrise Children did tend toward forgetful but forgivable chaos—and wiped down the counter. “As if you even like people.”
“I don’t like most people,” Raine said. “They’re reckless and clumsy and made of desires. Walking complications. Which includes humans and Personifications. And you don’t want to go there. The perky good-morning-but-all-day-long sexual stamina always sounds nice, but at some point you need to eat and sleep. And also he’s got no fashion sense. Those sandals? Honestly.”
“You can’t comment,” Don said. “You live in suits. You don’t own anything that’s not a suit.”
Raine looked down at himself. Today’s suit was dark blue, with a lighter blue shirt, and small silver knotwork cufflinks, so discreet they must’ve cost a minor fortune. The cut was good, so very good: it showed off his slender waist and long legs. “I dress like an adult. With an actual job.”
“Why a divorce lawyer, again? You’re a Cupid.”
“I don’t know,” Raine said. “Why are you a barista?”
Raine knew he owned the place. This was therefore deliberate. Don let it go.
He propped elbows on the counter, instead. “I take it back. You’re not a lawyer. You’re a cactus.”
“I’m a what,” Raine said, setting down his coffee-cup. Don considered this a success. “In what universe am I a succulent?”
“Prickly. Pointy. But softer inside. Full of water.” He had the feeling this was not helping. “Good for rescuing people when they’re lost and needing…water.”
“I don’t think you’re very good at either complimenting people or insulting them,” Raine said. “I can’t tell what that was meant to be.” But his eyes had gone softer, less spiky, almost curious. The green and gold flickered, reflective. This green was more complicated than the cheerful flirtation of the Sunrise Child, less pure but more multifaceted. Don liked the complications.
“Never mind,” he said, and slid a mug across the bar. “Try this.”
Raine regarded dark swirls with misgiving. “I don’t like sweet coffee.”
“I don’t like gifts.”
“It’s not a gift.”
“I’m experimenting. You’re helping me out. Try it.”
Raine glared at him but took a sip. Then looked surprised, and took another. “Chipotle spice?”
“And cocoa. Extra dark. I’m thinking about summer.”
“It’s only May. Your windows have spring flowers. Which are melting.”
“That happens,” Don said. “Ice. In warm weather. What do you think?”
“It doesn’t bother you?” Raine took another sip. Then licked his lips, a swipe of pink tongue that Don thoroughly failed not to watch. “That it doesn’t last.”
“No,” Don said. “It’s there for as long as it’s there.”
“But it doesn’t stay.”
“I’m not out to conquer the art world. It’s just a family talent. And it makes people smile when they see it.”
“And that’s what you want,” Raine said. “Making people smile.” He looked slightly tired, Don thought, though there wasn’t a specific reason for the thought. Something around those eyes. Resignation, perhaps, or weight. Not a slump of those shoulders, because Raine was too self-aware and too put-together for that. Something, though.
He said, looking at Raine, “I like people being happy. I also like cacti.”
“You’re the strangest Frost I’ve ever met,” Raine said. “Succulents and flowers. What happened to winter and ice?”
“I can make ice any time.” Don put fingertips on the counter: cold rose, gleamed, faded. “What do you think of the spice level?”
“People will love it,” Raine said. “They always do. I’m sure the ray of morning sunshine with the unsubtle winking will love it too. I have to get back to work.”
“He’s too young for me,” Don said. “And he has no fashion sense. Those sandals.”
“You’re not that old,” Raine said. “I’m taking this with me.” This meant the mug, which was not one of the disposable to-go ones.
“Bring it back,” Don said, and the door opened as the early lunch crowd came in. Raine gave him a moderately offended scowl, and left with both coffees, the everyday and the new.