Hullo all, and Happy Wednesday! Today on Genre Talk here on The Novel Approach Reviews, we bring you DSP Publications author Kim Fielding, who’s come to tell us all about her new Fantasy release Flux. So before we get to all the whys and wherefores (and that promised giveaway!), let’s have a look at what we’re getting into. 😉
Ennek, the son of Praesidium’s Chief, has rescued Miner from a terrible fate: suspension in a dreamless frozen state called Stasis, the punishment for traitors. As the two men flee Praesidium by sea, their adventures are only beginning. Although they may be free from the tyranny of their homeland, new difficulties await them as Miner faces the continuing consequences of his slavery and Ennek struggles with controlling his newfound powers as a wizard.
Now fugitives, Ennek and Miner encounter challenges both human and magical as they explore new lands and their deepening relationship with each other.
Carole: So, Kim, let’s start with the easy bit—tell us about your genre.
Kim: I have to begin by saying that I often find specific genre labels restrictive, and many of my stories cross genre lines or blur them thoroughly. This book is one of those stories.
Carole: Okay, so maybe it’s not so easy. 😉 Tell us about the various genres that could include Flux, then.
Kim: Flux is a dark fantasy and a historical fantasy, but it’s also an Alternate Universe story, and some people have discerned a dash of steampunk in the series as well. It’s set in a world physically similar to our own—but with magic. Wizards, merpeople, talking birds…. The time setting is late 19th century. In this universe, the Roman Empire lasted longer and extended farther, even reaching Asia and the Americas. Eventually the empire collapsed, and now people live in small kingdoms and city-states. Oh, and did I mention there’s magic?
AU has always been one of my favorite genres because it allows the author to play within a set structure. It also requires lots of research, and I love research. For Flux, I learned a lot about 19th century sailing ships, Chinese geography and fauna, and—because guns are rarely used in my world—warfare with swords. So AU calls for a lovely combination of creativity and looking things up, which makes me very happy. Sometimes it even gets me carried away. While writing Flux, I spent the better part of a day trying to ascertain whether a jolly boat can be lowered from a ship by the people inside the jolly boat, or whether it has to be done by people in the bigger ship.
Carole: *grin* Well, you’ll always have something to talk about at parties, right? 😀 Okay, so give us more about Flux.
Kim: Flux is the second book in the Ennek trilogy. In the first, the wizard Ennek was faced with some terrible decisions. He also rescued a slave named Miner from a punishment known as Stasis, but as it turned out, the rescue led to considerable complications. While Stasis took place in the city-state of Praesidium (located where our San Francisco sits), now Ennek and Miner are fleeing across the Pacific. Needless to say, their journey will not be an easy one.
The book’s title reflects the characters’ physical situation, since they’re almost constantly in transit. But it also indicates their mental and emotional states. Ennek is trying to deal with some of the profound difficulties posed by his growing magical powers, while Miner’s reeling from having his entire world turned upside-down. They’re also exploring their new relationship with each other. And Flux also refers to changes in political power—a theme that persists throughout the trilogy.
Carole: You’ve also got a broader theme of diversity that runs through most of your published works. Tell us how you define “diversity” in your writing, and how you explored it in this book.
Kim: I define diversity broadly. Some of the ways are obvious—most of my protagonists are gay men. But I don’t think I would be doing anyone a service if they were all wealthy, white, beautiful, young gay men. I prefer to write people who represent a broader spectrum of humanity. Many of my characters are in their forties, for example—a rarity in romance (or in genre fiction in general, actually). Some of them have physical or psychological disabilities. A lot of them are blue-collar or have mundane jobs (fiscal analyst, anyone?). Their religions and ethnicities vary too.
Diversity is important to me because I want my stories to reflect real people—and to show the commonalities of the human experience. Honestly, I find diverse characters more interesting to write as well, a way to perhaps approach familiar subjects in a fresh way.
In Flux, Ennek and Miner come from a place with harsh rules and little allowance for differences or dissent. Homosexuality is prohibited, a situation that has caused great grief for both of them. As they travel, they discover lands with different laws—in some cases, more lenient laws—and of course different customs as well. These things help alter Ennek and Miner’s worldviews.
Carole: Flux is being published through DSP Publications, Dreamspinner Press’s imprint for genre novels that don’t necessarily focus on or even contain romance. Tell us about the relationship in Flux and why it doesn’t fit the accepted definition of Romance in the M/M genre.
Kim: As I’ve hinted, this book does include a romantic relationship between Ennek and Miner. That relationship is in its beginning stages, but it’s not the primary focus of the story. The guys are fugitives who have interactions with murderous pirates, a scheming wizard, and a stubborn king. Not to mention a talking bird, merpeople, and cruel slave masters. On top of all that, Ennek and Miner are each questioning themselves—who they are, how they fit in the world, what kind of men they will be. That doesn’t leave much time and emotional space for thinking about new love!
Furthermore, the overarching theme of the trilogy has to do with balances of power. What are the costs of freedom and security? What are the hazards of being granted control over others? What kind of personal sacrifices are worthwhile for the greater good? We could deal with these themes in a traditional romance, but I’m not sure they would resonate as well.
I’ve been trying to think of similar books readers might be familiar with. Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner series comes to mind, although our worlds are quite different. I’m also thinking about Mercedes Lackey’s books, although mine isn’t high fantasy.
Carole: Good company to be in, though. So we’ve covered some of what goes into your work, which begs the question—what do you do for fun?
Kim: Fun? I think I’ve heard of that, vaguely.
I have a more-than-full-time job as a university professor (and department chair), a husband and two teenage daughters, and a prolific writing habit. Those endeavors take up almost all of my time. I rarely watch TV (except Game of Thrones) and I go to the movies maybe twice a year. I get most of my reading in on audiobooks during my daily walks.
The one major recreational activity I squeeze into my schedule is travel. The good thing is I can often combine travel with my obligations. I love going just about anywhere, whether it’s a day trip in California, where I live, or a long journey overseas. I was traveling a lot while I wrote Flux, which suited well since Ennek and Miner are in transit too. In fact, I finished the first draft while I was on board a cruise ship, watching the dolphins leaping through the water, and I did many of the initial edits in Croatia and Italy.
Carole: And because readers always like to know, the old standby: What projects are you working on now and what is coming next from you?
Kim: I have so much going on right now, I’m having trouble keeping track! Within the next four or five months, I’ll be releasing the final book in this trilogy, Equipoise, as well as a contemporary I co-wrote with Venona Keyes (Running Blind), and another contemporary novel, Love Is Heartless. I’ll also have a novella in the 5th Gothika anthology, Contact, which involves stories about aliens. I’ll have a short story in a terrific anthology, Once Upon a Time in the Weird West. My story takes place during the gold rush era and includes a dragon. And I’ll have a holiday short called Anyplace Else. Slavic gods in Hawaii, of course. And! I have several translations on the way, plus Greg Tremblay’s wonderful narration of my dark fantasy novella, Guarded.
Still with me? I told you it was a lot!
Right now I’m working on a light contemporary romance about a big-city lawyer and a cook from the sticks.
Carole: Wow! That is a lot, and doubtless your readers are thrilled to hear it. It’s been wonderful to have you here, Kim, and we really appreciate it. But before we go, we understand you’ve got something quite special going on with this newest release.
Kim: I have an extra incentive for folks who are thinking about buying Flux. I donate all my royalties from this trilogy to Doctors Without Borders, so if you buy, you’ll also be contributing to a wonderful cause.
Carole: A wonderful cause indeed, and kudos to you! Thank you for being here, Kim, and thank you, Awesome Readers, for coming along. Buy links and giveaway information are still to come, but first, please enjoy this excerpt from Kim’s new release, Flux:
They shouldn’t have wasted moisture on tears. The vomiting hadn’t helped either. By the time the sun set, the bits of Miner’s exposed skin—his face, his hands—felt hot and sore, and both men were as dry as old paper. Ennek had slept most of the day, slumped against Miner’s chest, but as the sky alit with oranges and reds, he stirred.
“I’m sorry,” he said in a sandpaper voice.
“Not being… better. Stronger. Smarter.”
Miner wasn’t sure whether to laugh at Ennek’s foolishness or cry at the man’s inability to see his own worth. He ended up doing neither, instead caressing Ennek’s back under the shredded shirt, murmuring nonsense syllables at him like a parent might to a distressed child. After a time Ennek pulled away a little. His eyes were very shiny, but he wasn’t crying. “I think we’re not far from land,” he said.
“I saw a gull this morning.”
Ennek nodded. “Good. I can try to steer us to shore. I’m not sure how soon I can row us there, though—”
“You’re in no condition to row us anywhere,” Miner said, because Ennek was still pale and drawn.
“Well, neither are you.” Ennek pointed at Miner’s wrist. Then he frowned and took a closer look at the cut on Miner’s arm. “And this is beginning to fester. You’re dehydrated too.”
“So are you. So much water and nothing to drink.”
Ennek looked out over the edge of the boat and frowned in concentration. “I’ll wager I could remove the salt,” he said, almost to himself.
“You’ve already made yourself sick enough doing magic,” Miner protested.
But Ennek ignored him. He knelt and leaned over the side, scooping up a double handful of sea. Then his frown deepened for a moment and he brought his hands to his face. He sipped cautiously at the liquid and then grinned triumphantly. “It worked! Come here.”
Miner considered arguing but decided that would be pointless. He scooted around until he was next to Ennek, also along the side of the boat.
“Get some water,” Ennek said.
Miner stole a glance over the edge and imagined himself hanging over as Ennek had just done. “I… I can’t.”
Ennek gave him a patient smile. “That’s all right. It probably wouldn’t have worked with your wrist anyway. Hang on.” He leaned over again and brought up more water. “Drink it before it drips away.”
Miner leaned down and put his lips above Ennek’s palms. It was a strangely intimate thing to do, to drink from someone else’s cupped hands. But the water tasted only a bit brackish, and it felt wonderful as it moistened his tongue and throat. He drank it all, and then Ennek gave him another handful and another, and he would have kept on going, but when Miner saw him begin to sway and noticed the way his breaths became harsher, Miner stopped him. “Drink some yourself,” he insisted.
Ennek managed to drink only two handfuls before he collapsed.
“Don’t you dare throw up that water!” Miner said anxiously, moving Ennek’s head into his lap.
“Trying not to.”
Miner rubbed softly at Ennek’s temple. He didn’t know if would help, but he doubted it would hurt. He felt so useless, just sitting there like a great, timid lump. Ennek closed his eyes, and Miner thought he might have fallen asleep. But then ten or fifteen minutes later, he opened them again. “This is a stupid way to die.”
Kim Fielding is very pleased every time someone calls her eclectic. Her books have won Rainbow Awards and span a variety of genres. She has migrated back and forth across the western two-thirds of the United States and currently lives in California, where she long ago ran out of bookshelf space. She’s a university professor who dreams of being able to travel and write full time. She also dreams of having two perfectly behaved children, a husband who isn’t obsessed with football, and a house that cleans itself. Some dreams are more easily obtained than others.
That’s it for us this week. Thanks for joining us today, and don’t miss our next edition of Genre Talk, when Elizabeth Noble will welcome A.J. Marcus, who will be dropping by to tell us about his upcoming Mystery/Suspense Cougar Chaos, available for preorder now!
For Elizabeth Noble and me, that’s all for this week, and thanks for spending some time with us. See you next time!
Kim is generously giving away three books today—1 ecopy of Stasis, the first book in her Ennek Trilogy, plus an audio copy of both Treasure and Guarded. That’s an awfully generous giveaway, guys, and all you have to do to enter for a chance to win is comment on this post.