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. Noone employs her academic research for writing romance, most often LGBTQ, frequently paranormal or historical.
Thanks so much, K.L., for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: If you could sit down with one other writer, living or dead, who would you choose, and what would you ask them?
K.L. Noone: Sir Terry Pratchett, so that we could talk about folklore and identity and weird little bits of history and the importance of fantasy!
JSC: Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?
KLN: Part-time – though I spend a lot of the day writing for work! By day I teach in the English department of my college. My research areas are medievalism and fantasy and romance and adaptation, and they also let me teach a course on Batman, which is fun for both me and my students – or I hope so!
JSC: Where do you like to write?
KLN: At home on the sofa, with the laptop and the cat keeping me company!
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 before I can shape a story around them. I hardly ever write linearly – unless it’s a super-short flash fiction piece – and usually start with an emotional scene or conversation somewhere in the middle, and work outward from there: how did they get to this point, and what happens as a result?
JSC: What do you do when you get writer’s block?
KLN: I work on a different story! I generally have at least a couple in progress, at least at the outline stage, so if one isn’t behaving, I switch to something else for a while and let the first one rest in the back of my head. Usually that helps sort it out, and if not, I try switching scenes and working on a scene earlier or later in the story, which can help with figuring out what information might be needed or not needed, or who has to go where or be told what, in order for the difficult bit to work properly.
JSC: What inspired you to write this particular story? What were the challenges in bringing it to life?
KLN: I’d been wanting to write a holiday story, and also watching a ton of cooking and baking shows – the Great British Bake-Off, all the Food Network seasonal specials, Nailed It!, and so on – I do love those shows. And I thought, well, what if this was also a love story, and a judge fell for one of the contestants…
As far as challenges, the actual plot and baking competition details were interesting – I had to do a lot of thinking about what the structure of the competition show would be like, and what everyone would bake, and what that would say about character. Plus I kept making myself hungry with all the recipes!
JSC: What was the weirdest thing you had to Google for your story?
KLN: For this particular story? Medieval gingerbread recipes, which is almost more like toffee or candy than contemporary gingerbread – there’s a fourteenth-century version that’s made with honey, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, and breadcrumbs, and people made shapes with it and decorated it with sugar, which sounds like fun!
JSC: What pets are currently on your keyboard, and what are their names? Pictures?
KLN: Miss Merlyn the Magnificent, the kitty who adopted us only a couple of months ago by showing up at our door! She’s very good at purring in encouragement, and she also wants to try all our people food, so she probably approves of a baking-themed story.
JSC: Star Trek or Star Wars? Why?
KLN: Both – they’re different sub-genres with different goals, and I get excited about both! I deeply, deeply love the old Star Wars Expanded Universe novels – the Timothy Zahn, Michael A. Stackpole, Barbara Hambly, Kathy Tyers, etc novels – and my first-ever unfinished piece of fanfic, way back when, was a Star Wars story. But then again I’m also working on Star Trek for scholarly purposes right now – editing an academic collection about the tie-in novels. So I love that too! We can love both – infinite diversity in infinite combinations!
JSC: What are you working on now?
KLN: A few things! The third Kitten & Witch shapeshifter story – this one’ll be longer, than the first two, maybe even a full-length novel – which is actually a murder mystery, which is interesting because I’ve never written a murder mystery before. The third Extraordinary novella, with the M/M/M superheroes, now happily getting comfortable in their superpowered relationship. And then there’s that one other thing, which is the story I keep describing to people as “actors cast in a gay Napoleonic Wars drama, basically Master & Commander, but with all the behind the scenes filming bits and somehow even more gay.” I’m hoping those are all things people like!
And now for K.L.’s new book: Gingerbread Dreams:
One Gingerbread Extravaganza competition. One cynical judge. One holiday-loving baker. Four challenges, and a pinch of spice …
Nate Miller has never entered a televised baking competition before. But he’s good at gingerbread, he loves flavor, he adores the holiday season, and he’d definitely like $25,000 and the publicity for Nate’s Bakes. He’s here to win — but also to have fun and enjoy himself. Too bad one of the judges has a reputation for ice-cold critiques and precise perfection … along with a gorgeous smile, killer cheekbones, and a delicious air of command.
Marcus LeGrand knows his reputation: sharp, chilly, and demanding perfection. He’s great for ratings, and baking-show audiences love his sarcasm and his expertise. But he’s getting tired of being the bad guy, intimidating everybody, never getting close. He’s here to judge this competition, and he’ll do his job…but Nate’s persistent friendliness, terrible holiday sweaters, and decadent gingerbread just might make Marcus want a taste.
The kitchen chemistry’s instant, but Nate and Marcus will have to resist temptation in order to make it through the competition …and achieve their Gingerbread Dreams.
Nate’s turn. Round one. First challenge. First of four. Time to show off what he could do.
For the money, for the prestige, for the chance at a bigger bakery and expansion and more publicity. For the joy he felt when making people happy with a taste, a sensation, a cozy shared bit of indulgence.
Maybe, just a little, to show Marcus LeGrand what he could do. To impress those wintergreen eyes.
He set out plates. Cleared his throat. Time to be himself, as hard as he could: the person who liked silly sweaters and hot guys, and who loved every gingerbread holiday crumb.
“This particular gingerbread recipe is based on my grandmother’s. She taught me how to bake — some of my best memories are in her kitchen, especially around the holidays. This version’s got some updates, though. A little extra spice.” He paused, threw in a grin, batted eyelashes at the judges. At Marcus in particular, who got more stiff-backed and astonished. “I like a little extra spice in my life.”
Miranda and Eric laughed. Marcus looked as if he was trying not to; his lips twitched.
“So,” Nate said, “I hope you enjoy them,” and took a couple of steps back and waited.
Miranda nibbled a gingerbread heart. Eric took a large bite, and both eyebrows went up. Marcus actually cut his in two, very precisely, no doubt inspecting the bake and the texture, and then bit into a half.
And made a small noise. An honest-to-God happy noise. Blissful.
Nate couldn’t not grin more, though he tried to squash the exuberance. Marcus LeGrand had just made that sound. About something he’d baked.
He wanted to jump up and down and cheer. He wanted to dance under the preposterous exuberance of on-set holiday lights and garlands. He wanted to lean in and kiss Marcus, to taste those lips with traces of cinnamon and molasses and pepper, and to see if he could earn that soft pleased sound again.
He stood in place and beamed. The glow spread all the way to his toes.
Marcus cleared his throat. His fellow judges were regarding him with some awe and some startlement. “That … is an excellent piece of gingerbread, Nate. You should be proud.”
“Me and Grandma Louise,” Nate said, mostly just to see the expression and a little to give his grandmother the credit. She’d been his inspiration and his cheerleader; she would’ve loved this, he knew.
Marcus cleared his throat again. “Yes. Well. Well done. I was worried from your description that you might be in favor of too much spice, but it’s perfectly balanced with the sweetness.”
Had that come with a double meaning? Innuendo? A warning, or approval? Nate couldn’t quite read the tone. Maybe Marcus just approved of holiday flavors.
“It’s delicious.” Miranda was nibbling more. “I could eat this whole plate. The cloves and allspice you’ve put in blend so well with the richness of the molasses, without being overpowering … I’d like to hear more about your recipe later.”
Eric put the whole rest of the cookie in his mouth, and said around it, “That’s how good it is. You did not come to play, man.”
“Oh, I’m here to play,” Nate corrected. “I do love the holidays. I love feeding people. I’m having fun. But I can have fun and be awesome. I’m good at multitasking.”
The judges laughed more. Marcus did that skeptical eyebrow-lift again, which Nate was guessing meant he was amused and cranky about it.
A memory drifted up like oven-heat. Marcus out in that little space behind the studio. Face tipped up to the sun. Less guarded, more wry, more touchable. Offering reassurance that an accidental meeting was okay.
Nate, under set lighting and glittery tinsel, thought briefly about other situations in which Marcus might reassure him. Might touch him. Might rest one long-fingered commanding hand at the nape of Nate’s neck, or stroke his hair, or press gently down and bring him to both knees.
Marcus, he thought, would be stern but kind. Surprisingly so, given that reputation for precision and perfection. Someone who’d care for a nervous contestant, who liked sunshine, who made tiny happy noises about a cookie he enjoyed.
Those were not wholesome camera-friendly thoughts to be having, mid-judging.
K.L. Noone employs her academic research for writing romance, most often LGBTQ, frequently paranormal or historical. Her two full-length romance novels include A Demon for Midwinter, available from JMS Books, and A Prophecy for Two, available from Inkshares, and she’s also the author of multiple romance 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 an upcoming book on Terry Pratchett. She is happily bisexual, happily married, and happy about happy endings.