TNA: Hi, Kate, welcome back to The Novel Approach. I’m so pleased to have you here with us today. Why don’t we start with the basics? Tell us a little bit about yourself, please.
Kate: I am so pleased to be here! About me: I am the author of ten novels and a handful of novellas and short stories, with lots more on the way in 2015 and beyond. I write mostly gay contemporary romance, but sometimes I shake it up and write paranormal or historical. When I’m not writing, I work as a nonfiction editor. I live in New York City, Brooklyn specifically, in an apartment over an ice cream parlor.
TNA: How is it that you found your way to the M/M romance genre? Was there any one book or author that fostered your love for it and influenced your desire to write gay romance, or did you, like so many others, get your start in fanfic?
Kate: I was a big romance reader and I’d been trying to write a mainstream literary novel for a while and not really getting anywhere with it. Then a lot of things happened all at once: I started writing romance, and then I read—and I can’t remember which came first—the Suzanne Brockmann Troubleshooters series arc with Jules and Robin and the first two Adrien English books by Josh Lanyon. I had no idea gay romance was a thing before that. I loved those books so much that I went looking for more like them. Then I decided that if I wanted more of those books to be in the world, I should try my hand at writing one. I’ve been at it ever since.
TNA: If someone who’d never read your work before asked you to recommend one of your books to them as a good place to start, which would you recommend, and why would you choose that particular book?
Kate: Probably Out in the Field. That’s the book I’m best known for and that I still get the most fan mail about. I think it’s a pretty good representation of my books—emotional but not super angsty, set in New York, and, naturally, it’s full of baseball.
TNA: Several of your backlist titles are set in the sport of baseball, which I’m assuming means you’re a fan of the game? From a creative standpoint, what is it that makes baseball, or any sport, for that matter, a particularly interesting setting for a gay romance?
Kate: Yes, I’m a huge baseball fan. What I love about the sport is a hard thing to quantify, but partly it appeals to the nerd in me; there’s trivia and statistics and history and team rivalries that are a hundred years old. There are few things more fun than sitting in the stands during a real nail biter of a game.
I thought sports would be an obvious setting for a gay romance; you’ve got a team of guys who spend a lot of time together and locker room hanky panky is almost a cliché. I’d read a few het sports romances that weren’t very good—light on the sports or full of factual errors—and was having a rough time finding any gay sports romance at all, so I decided to write one and that was how Out in the Field happened. (Happily, many gay sports romances have been published in the last year or two.)
In the real world, now that professional athletes are slowly starting to come out, I think the dynamics will change. Right around the time I was writing Out in the Field, there was a big scandal at Yankee Stadium because a group of fans had written a vile, homophobic chant that they were screaming out at games. The Yankees did the right thing and banned that kind of language from the stands. But it shows how these hyper-masculine environments like sports stadiums can breed that kind of homophobia, so if you have two teammates attracted to each other, that’s a lot to deal with. But the sports world is changing. Major League Baseball has appointed Billy Bean, a gay former pro baseball player, to be their diversity liaison (or something like that, I can’t recall his official title) with the aim of making it easier for players to be themselves. There are some college kids who have come out, but no professional baseball player yet, but I think we’re close. So Iggy Rodriguez in Out in the Field was kind of the prototype for that, in my mind. He’s a young guy who doesn’t want to play in a game that won’t let him be himself.
So, yeah, I find those things fascinating. I’m working on a series now (the first book will be out in April 2015!) about an amateur baseball league. It’s an LGBT amateur league, so the dynamics are different than in a book about professional athletes, but there are some similarities: teamwork, close friendships between teammates, competitiveness, love of the sport. That series was really fun to write!
TNA: Let’s talk a bit about your latest novel When the Planets Align, a contemporary friends-to-lovers story. Will you tell us how Michael Reeves and Simon Newell came to be? What made them and their story so compelling that you felt it needed to be told?
Kate: Hands down, childhood friends to lovers is my favorite trope of all time ever. This book kind of just started with a scene, of Simon waiting under the departures board at Penn Station because Michael is late to pick him up, and I built it out from there. In that scene, they’re seeing each other again for the first time in a while because one betrayed the other and they’ve been living apart, but they just can’t stay away. So I had to think about what that betrayal was, why it was a betrayal, how the characters felt, why they felt that way, and the story basically formed around that. There’s also a lot of New York in this book. I wanted to show how fast the city changes but how much it stays the same, too. My favorite scene in the book is one in which Simon takes a walk and nearly everything he sees is imprinted with some memory, which is how NYC is after you’ve been here for long enough.
TNA: I ask this question all the time, but it’s really become a favorite. If you were casting the movie of When the Planets Align, whom would you choose to play your leading men?
Kate: It’s so hard for me to assign actors, because I see these characters a certain way and it’s hard to find actors who look just like them. But, okay: the book was influenced a little by Michael Cunningham’s novel A Home at the End of the World, which I thought was brilliant. The movie version of that book stars Dallas Roberts and Colin Farrell, who have roughly the right looks for Simon and Michael, respectively. Or, for Simon, someone blond and cute but a little dorky, like David Monahan and for Michael, Jeremy Renner was the first one to come to mind. But taller? I don’t know, casting is hard.
TNA: Would you care to share an excerpt from the book with us?
Kate: Sure! Here’s a taste:
Brash, outgoing Michael’s unwavering confidence that he and Simon are meant to be carries him through some hard times. When Simon moves to New York, Michael dutifully follows. Quiet, practical Simon loves Michael as a dear friend, but he’s not ready for anything romantic.
Several years and several failed relationships later, Simon realizes he’s been in love with Michael all along. Only now Michael has moved on. Though Simon offers everything Michael’s ever dreamed of, the timing is all wrong. Confusion, betrayal, and secrets from the past threaten their friendship until it might be time for them to go their separate ways. Or maybe the planets will finally align, and Michael and Simon will find themselves in the right place at the right time to take the next step.
Excerpt: There was a spring in the sofa bed that must have come uncoiled or something, because it stabbed Michael in the back every time he moved. He wondered if perhaps this was his penance for persuading Simon to come home even though Simon hadn’t seemed ready.
Simon had spent most of the afternoon lamenting how much the city had changed, not only in the six years he’d been away, but since they’d been in college. Michael had tried to argue that the changes were for the better; sure, everything was more expensive now, but the city was so much cleaner and safer, and it wasn’t like Simon couldn’t afford to live here with his fancy finance job.
Simon himself had hardly changed at all. His bright blond hair looked a little dustier, maybe, but he was still in good shape, he still had the same perpetually flushed pale skin, he still wore glasses with dark frames. Not that it had even been that long since they’d seen each other, only eight months, maybe, but having Simon back in New York for the long term made it feel like Simon had never left.
Michael reflected, as he squirmed across the mattress to get away from the spring, that a lot had changed since Simon had left. Joan was currently enjoying the quiet, open air of the Catskills with Trevor, for one thing.
And with that thought, Michael was awake and knew he would not be sleeping for the rest of the night.
His stomach churned as he got out of bed and walked into the kitchen, where he poured a glass of water and fished through the cabinets for crackers or some other bland snack food.
What was it that he wanted here? He wanted Simon back. He’d take Simon’s presence in his life again, though he wanted his friendship and craved his love. But there was damage to repair.
Michael had hurt Simon and he knew that, even though he had often pretended he didn’t understand why his taking up with Joan had cut Simon so badly. But he and Simon had been at odds back in those days, and Simon could never understand about Joan. Michael didn’t understand what had happened with Joan either most of the time.
She was one in a million, no doubt about that.
She and Trevor had a nice spread up there in the Catskills, which Michael could say with authority since he’d seen it, both on occasions he’d been invited and ones he hadn’t. The last time he’d said, “I could sue,” without really meaning it, which probably hadn’t been the way to go and had only served to piss Joan off more.
Regrets. Michael had a lot of them.
He couldn’t seem to undo the damage to his relationship with Joan without digging himself in further, but Simon’s presence in his apartment told him maybe he could repair his relationship with Simon, which was what he intended to do. And maybe that wouldn’t solve anything, and maybe it would make them both as miserable as they’d been when Simon moved to Dubai, but Michael wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he didn’t give it a shot.
And by “it” he meant the whole thing.
Aren’t you gay?
That was what Simon had said when Michael had come to him with the news that he’d hooked up with Joan, and for whatever reason, those words still rung through Michael’s head. Simon had been stunned. Michael knew that. He knew, also, that Simon probably would not have felt as thrilled about Joan as Michael had felt at the time. He’d hurt Simon deeply. He knew all of that.
So, fine. Michael had been a lousy friend, but all that had been years ago and he’d changed a lot since.
He supposed the problem was proving that.
TNA: Would you like to share a bit about some of your current works in progress with us?
Kate: I have a lot of books on the horizon!
First up will be the aforementioned contemporary series from Dreamspinner Press about the guys who play for an LGBT amateur baseball league in NYC called the Rainbow League. It’s currently a trilogy with the potential for more in the future. Each book features a different couple, but each book builds on the next, so they’ll be best read in order. The first (called The Wind Up) will be out in April 2015, then Book 2 (Thrown a Curve) in June and Book 3 (working title: The Long Slide Home) in August.
I’m also working on two historical novels, both of which will be published by Kensington starting in 2016. The first is a romance between a vaudeville dancer and a mob boss set in the Jazz Age. I’m working on the second, unrelated book now; it’s about a cop in Gilded Age New York who falls for the witness to a murder he’s investigating.
TNA: Kate, thanks for taking the time to be here with us. Will you tell us where we can find you on the internet?