Author of the Month Interview - K.A. Merikan

August's Author(s) of the month come to us in the lovely form of K.A. Merikan! A lot of us unicorns (Natasha, especially) are huge Merikan fans, and we couldn't be more excited to have them over at our little blog to share a bit with us, and answer some of our questions.

BMBR: If I didn't know, I would never have guessed that your books were written by a duo working together, they are seamlessly written. How does it actually work in practice?

Kat: I think the fact that we’re extremely compatible is important, but it’s also the years of experience writing together that makes it so easy for us. When you write erotica with a co-writer, you really have to be ready to bare it all and have open discussions about sex. And then another part is sense of humor. We don’t have discuss the scenes down to the little details because we find the same things funny. I don’t have to explain why ‘my’ character said this or that. We get asked if we’re sisters all the time, even though physically, we don’t look very much alike.

Agnes: Each of us is ‘responsible’ for one of the main characters, and we take turns writing other characters as needed. We always work together, in real time, and usually alternate writing a paragraph or two each. By the time we finish a first draft and both re-read it to make necessary changes, we frequently don’t even remember which one of us wrote what. This way, the whole manuscript becomes smooth.

BMBR: Who is your favourite character from your books and why?

Agnes: A character from our upcoming series, Guns n’ Boys, which premieres on 09/11/2014 with the first part of book 1. I created him years ago, and he never lost any of his appeal. Domenico is a bit like my evil alter ego as he does things I wish I could do, but restrain myself, because I am a socially competent adult. Ever wanted to do something radical when a spoiled brat kicks you on the bus while his parents pretend nothing’s going on? Well, Domenico would. God, I love him. And while he’s far from perfect as a person, he is also a total badass. He’s one of those characters with who I tune in so perfectly, I don’t have to consciously think about their responses at all. Writing him is pure pleasure.
My other favorites include Ryan and Liam from “Special Needs”, who are completely crazy, chaotic, and lovely at the same time. We keep roleplaying their conversations in everyday situations because it’s just so much fun.

Kat: This just goes to show how compatible we are ;) Domenico happens to be my favorite character as well. He’s my dream sociopathic assassin lover. I can never exactly predict what he’ll do, which makes writing his story a constant adventure. He has an extremely hot, tumultuous, and violent relationship with his partner, Seth, and on paper, that presses all my buttons.
He also taps into the part of me that enjoys dark and non-PC humor. He is unapologetically misogynistic, homophobic, rude, nationalistic, and happy to criticize the world around him. He is so outrageous in his views that I can’t help but laugh at all the awful things he says. I know not everyone will get that type of humor, but I can’t help it. I’m Polish and laughing at horrible things is my inherent nature ;). And then it gets even funnier when Domenico’s attitudes get challenged, taken down, or he gets called out on his hypocrisy. Like when he has to admit he actually likes American sweets, or has his life saved by a flamboyant gay character.
I have no problem with making fun of my own characters in their POVs, as unreliable narrators are often supposed to be funny through the dichotomy of what the readers know is true and what the character tells them. I trust my readers will understanding that my character isn’t me, and that the character’s views don’t represent mine.
Oh, and did I mention he fucks like a demon? Yeah, there’s that.

BMBR: Very important question, we need to know how you achieved the did you ever come up with the idea of making clowns HOT? Most of us (Natasha the freak excluded, mwah, love you Natasha) are scared boneless of them...yet *cough* enjoyed *cough* them in this book.

Kat: He, he, happy to hear that. I think at the core, the thing with clowns is that you can’t see their faces, so it taps into the ‘gangbanged by strangers in masks’ kink. And then there’s the freak factor of using technically innocent things like balloons or face paint in a dirty way. The aspect that Kyle gets fucked by *clowns* is an element of the humiliation kink. He’s not only getting degraded by a bunch of guys, but they’re making fun of him as well, which makes the sex all the more humiliating, something Kyle gets off on.

Agnes: I agree with Kat. Clown’d is focused on the “gangbanged by anonymous brutes” fetish. I think what makes the story sexy for the reader is Kyle’s perception of what is happening. Since it’s his POV, the reader is inclined to look at the sex scenes from his perspective and be aroused by things that arouse him. Other than that, the ‘clowns’ in this story are actually hunky guys, with good looking bodies ;D

BMBR: Who are your favourite authors? Do they influence your writing at all?

Agnes: I don’t have a favorite author, but every good book I read, whether within the genre or not, can be a source of inspiration. At the same time, some books I love are nothing like the things I want to write. My recent discovery was a het romance by Shay Savage, Transcendence. It’s a long novel written entirely from the perspective of a caveman, so the POV character’s understanding of the world is very limited, his perception on human relationships is different from what we’re used to, he can’t verbally communicate so there is virtually no dialogue, and yet the book works the way it is. It was astonishing, and made me rethink some ideas that I had previously dismissed as impossible to pull off.
The other book I found inspiring in the past year was Soulless by T. Baggins, a historical M/M novel with vampires and a touch of SF. This might sound like a recipe for disaster, but the author pulls it off. The story behind the plot is very outside the box, but as it is slowly revealed, both in the present and through flashbacks that actually make sense, everything falls into place.
Other than that, I read many factual books, both for research and for fun. Currently, it’s a monograph about Bedlam and the history of mental health care in London.

Kat: I have to admit I don’t have a favorite author either. I really like some books, and there’s always something you can learn from them, be it a way of describing something, a style of narrative, or a concept that starts spinning the cogs in my head. Lately I’ve read It Ain’t Me, Babe by Tillie Cole and absolutely loved it. It has a badass biker protagonist, who actually does bad things, and his POV is so different from the heroine’s.
I like reading other writer’s voices, but to be honest, it never makes me go ‘oh, I want to write a story like this person now!’. More often, I’m inspired with visuals, TV shows, or movies. Like I watched Sons of Anarchy and thought ‘oh, wow, I want to write a book in this style but with lots of gay sex’ (it’s always ‘lots of gay sex’ I feel the TV shows lack ;)). The way it inspires me is often about giving the book a particular theme. There’s always romance at the core of it, but I think about the genre being for example ‘a biker book’ + romance, not the other way round. It doesn’t mean the romance is just a side plot, but it means the content of the book will be anything that would fly in SoA, for example. So the love story is soaked with dubious morality, murder, internal and external conflict, and crime. I don’t feel I should pull any of that back because the book is a romance. Many readers who read biker romance love SoA, so I don’t see why they should have a problem with violence and murder in a book. *I* as a reader, don’t want a wishy-washy version of an outlaw biker book.
But why I’m talking about TV shows is also because, as a writer, you can learn some amazing storytelling from TV. Most of the time you don’t get an internal monologue from characters, so they really have to speak through their actions. That helps you learn a lot about how not to info-dump, but instead, show the characters through what they do and their dialogue. I often think to myself when I write: “Who would the camera follow?”, “What would be the focus of this scene?”

Agnes: I think Kat’s right that television and visual arts influence our style a lot. We generally dislike being too blunt in the character’s internal monologue. Most people don’t over analyze everything they do, and we believe it’s best to focus on their actions and leave them up for the reader's interpretation instead of adding thoughts that the real-life person wouldn’t consciously acknowledge.

BMBR: The XXX'd series is great fun, usually nothing too serious, and (we think, at least) meant for a rather particular niche in the m/m genre. Do the fun, easy nature of these books reflect your own personalities?

Kat: It definitely reflects my belief that kinky sex should be fun, intense, and unapologetically dirty. We want the stories to be spankalicious and not pretentiously ‘deep’. I hope they are arousing for the right audience and humorous at times. They also represent that we are very set on providing readers with entertainment. Sure, I write the stories I want to, the stories that come to me, the stories I’d like to read myself, but I consider myself an entertainer. Be it the violence in Road of No Return, the comedy in Special Needs, or the porn in XXX’d, they all hope to entertain, pull at the heartstrings and let readers relax, immersed in another reality. Just like sometimes I watch Sons of Anarchy, sometimes I feel like 2 Broke Girls, and sometimes I just feel like watching some Cockyboys ;). It’s all about what I as a viewer get from them, not about the creator’s ego, and that’s how I approach writing: I think about what I can give the reader so that it’s worth their time.

Agnes: Definitely. We don’t take ourselves too seriously so the light tone of this series is very much in tune with the overall atmosphere in our apartment. Minus the frequency of fucking ;D Those books certainly reflect our sense of humor and attitude toward sex. Just as Kat said, our priority is to entertain the reader. That doesn’t mean we don’t write about important or difficult issues, but I’d rather do it in a subtle way. The XXX’d series might not be the best example of this, but  I believe that there is much more depth in something the readers have to interpret on their own that serious prose where the important issues are handed on a silver platter with a side of angst. But to each their own, of course.

BMBR: What's the most difficult book/difficult part of a book you've ever had to write, and why?

Kat: Strangely enough, it’s not the horrible stuff like rape or violence, but when the story is too sweet. I like when sex, passion, and drama are the driving forces in a book, so it’s when the intensity fizzles out that I struggle. And you can’t just fake it and throw in some random crap. It has to be logical, make sense for the way the characters are constructed. When I’m passionate about the characters, I can feel the chemistry sizzling between them, I write like crazy, but when that gets lost, so does my interest, and every hundred words is like pulling teeth. When that happens, we always try to take a step back, identify the problem, and try to think of a way to make things exciting again.
We had a problem like that with a New Adult romance that we started writing quite a few months ago. It was set in London, with one character being an avid collector of Japanese dolls and the other a makeup artist goth who recently lost his arm. A mix of comedy and erotic romance, but the more we wrote, the more the sexual chemistry fizzled. They were really good with each other, and I can imagine these two people working really well together in real life, but that doesn’t make an interesting story for me. The drama was low key, and the sex timid and painfully vanilla. Even though we wrote quite a lot of this story and had the overall plot outlined, we had to stop and ask ourselves why it’s not working. After sleeping on it, talking it through, we decided one of the characters was just too nice. Don’t get me wrong, nice people are perfectly great in real life, but rarely make interesting stories, since they’re so kind, polite and generally understanding. Those are not traits that create conflict. Nor was that character amazingly sexy either, so we’ve reached a wall with this story. It was tough, because we have both invested so much time and energy into it, and even though it didn’t work out, we still really liked the characters.
We rarely completely abandon stories, so we were still thinking about making it work. It took over two months to arrive at the conclusion that we will actually make this premise into a straight story. Gavin, the goth makeup artist without an arm will be an incredibly interesting romance hero within a straight relationship, and his disability will create a whole different dynamic than in the gay version. Not to mention that he’s not a firefighter/cop/vet etc., which also makes him an out of the box romantic hero. And then Anna, the doll collector will be a very independent girl with her own doll painting business and a dash of crazy sauce. Taught by the experience of the first version, we also decided to spice things up on the sexual level. Anna is crazy about all things Japanese, and we gave her an extra edge with her being into all sorts of kinks that appear in hentai, like groping on the bus or schoolgirl outfit sex. Their sexual adventure and how they get to know each other on that level will be a whole extra arc on top of the love story and other elements. The variety of kinks explored will help the sexual tension going throughout the story, and they wouldn’t work the same way in the gay version.
So the tl;dr version of this ramble - I find it difficult to write romance without high sexual tension between characters, and the story I described above was one of the biggest struggles for me.

Agnes: We also struggled with a story that we ended up being very proud of, The Summer When It Snowed, for very different reasons. It was originally meant for an anthology, and we deliberately wrote it in a style different from the one we usually use, in order to comply with the desired word count and overall mood of the compilation. We usually go deep into the character’s head and try to realistically portray human emotions, but this book is written as a fairytale so it follows a different logic and doesn’t have to be psychologically accurate. While we enjoyed this new concept, it was very new, and because of that, more difficult to write. If we were to write it without the prompt of the anthology, we would had probably developed the plot more and made it darker. But since we liked the finished book as it was, there was no reason to change it just because it was different from most K.A. Merikan books :)

BMBR: Have you two always wrote together, or have you had/do you have any side projects that you work on separately?

Kat: We have been writing together for eight years now, and we hardly worked with other people since then. We wrote online serials in Polish, but even though we had to start from scratch to write in English, I’m kind of happy about it in the end because throughout the years we have developed as storytellers. One story that we’re so extremely proud of - Guns n’ Boys got reedited and revamped for the English-language version, and we get to tell it the way we want to without making it a ‘reedition’, ‘director’s cut’ or something of that sort.
I had one project before working with Agnes - with a co-writer, but I could hardly call that a proper story. It was a good experience, but extremely juvenile. What can I say, I was 16 and thought that a Catholic boarding school full of gay boys was a great idea. Rape drugs, spankings, and Milky Way spread as lube. Nuff said.
I’ve been toying with the idea of a cool lesbian romance, because Agnes isn’t interested in writing it, but somehow writing together is always more fun, and I end up putting that project to the side.

Agnes: I had a long-term co-writer before I met Kat, but it was just casual writing that we never published. We developed an extremely ‘deep’ and dramatic story about a future where people who don’t comply with societal rules are condemned to live in a city enclosed by high walls that they could never leave. The premise is something that I could work with today, but the plots were juvenile. I had this incredibly ‘original’ idea that it would be very deep if the characters always wore masks in public and could only show their faces to closest relatives and lovers. What I still like about this story is that the prison-city in many ways reflects my ideal society (minus the prison factor).
I also used to draw gay porn comics in high school. Some people draw hearts on the margins, I had whole notebooks full of dick. So obviously, eventually my Math teacher sneaked up on me and grabbed the notebook, trying to see what I was doing. We had this staring match over the notebook that each of us pulled in her own direction. It would have been a brilliant sitcom scene if she fell down on her ass after I yanked it free from her, but I’ve been scared shitless at the time ;D
At the moment? I only write with Kat and have no plans to stop, though adding one more co-writer is within the realm of possibilities.

Ladies, thank you so much for joining our little rag-tag team of misfits over at BMBR! We loved having you here and look forward to reading many more of your wonderful stories in the future.

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