Ten or more Things about KL Noone - An Author Interview

The Twitterverse helped me meet KL Noone and get to know more about them.. we share a love of all things history and Medieval.. and getting started on our conversation, it just kept flowing... so y'all benefit from the things she had to share by answering way more than ten of my favourite questions!  Let's dive in and meet KL Noone and then you can go and explore their socials to meet Merlyn the cat!

Indie or Traditionally published? 
Indie – I’m published with the small LGBTQ press JMS Books, which is lovely! They had put out a call for specific types of stories, a few years ago, and I had something in progress that fit, so I figured, why not? And they took it! (I was also previously published with Less Than Three Press and Ellora’s Cave, before JMS.) 

Plot or Pants?  Do you pre-plot your books, use an outline, fly by the seat of your pants or some combination of things?  How do you keep track of characters in a series?  Do you keep a journal of your characters’ statistics, such as hair and eye color, relatives, hometown, etc? 
I think I’m some sort of combination, honestly! I don’t write linearly – most often a scene or conversation will turn up in my head, a significant emotional debate or discussion or something that characters are trying to cope with! And that tells me something about who the characters are and what they want or need. And then I work outward from there: how did they get to this conversation or argument or emotional beat? (Which includes some setting and backstory: how did they get here in terms of each character’s circumstances? Who are they?) And then what happens as a result, and how does it change them? 

After I have a few key scenes in rough draft form, I make a very loose outline – big plot beats as I currently know them, like “and now they get help from his old friend” or “oh no there’s only one bed at the inn when they arrive” or “and now the Evil Sorcerers interfere!” Those usually aren’t specific (what exactly do the Evil Sorcerers do?) but help give me a sense of overall structure, and how much might need to happen, and whether it’s likely to be a stand-alone novel, or a shorter novella, or a longer trilogy.

As far as characters, I don’t keep a specific journal, but I have a sort of ever-evolving page of character notes which tend to be mostly about relationships and motivations: what do they value, what do they want, how will they feel about certain things? And, if it’s important, who’s related to who/any titles, like dukes and marquesses. 

I don’t generally bother to write down physical descriptions once I’ve written it into the story at some point, though I do sometimes (not always) do some mental fan-casting. Lorre from Magician is a young David Bowie. Anthony from One Night in London is inspired by Alan Rickman, especially the voice. Jason from the Character Bleed trilogy exists at some sort of intersection of The Rock, Keanu Reeves, Clive Owen very specifically from Shoot ’Em Up, and Jason Statham, or else possibly just a kindhearted craggily attractive mountain.

Tell us about your first published M/M fiction/romance…
My very first published M/M romance was the first version of my short story “Leather & Tea,” a mildly kinky Dom/sub established relationship story with a romance writer and a retired spy – published with Ellora’s Cave, quite a few years ago! And then EC closed, and I was busy with grad school, though I was still writing a few things (and fanfic!) just for fun. 
And then JMS Books put out a call for musician-themed romances, and I had a novel in progress – paranormal, a demon and a rock star – and that became A Demon for Midwinter, published by JMS in 2018! JMS has also since republished “Leather & Tea” plus two follow-up stories, which I’m thrilled about. I love Simon and Ben, and in my head there were always at least those three stories for them.   You can now buy the whole Demon in Love series as a Box Set too! 

… and then your most recent one.
The most recent is Spells & Sensibility, the first in a Regency Magicians trilogy, co-authored with the fabulous K.S. Murphy! It came out January 29, 2022 from JMS Books, and it’s got a post-Napoleonic-Wars setting plus established magic, and a curse, and a former spy who could use some assistance from the new librarian at the Royal College of Wizardry, and, surprise, they quite like each other, when they’re not having discussions about tracking mud into the library…

Aside from that, my most recent story is “Renovations,” which is a bonus story (rather long short story? short novella?) for the main characters from my M/M contemporary Character Bleed trilogy, which is about actors falling in love while filming a gay historical Napoleonic Wars epic! So this story’s set a bit after they’ve finished filming and are moving in together. (I promise I write in other historical and fantasy settings! I’m trained as a medievalist! The writing muse just felt like hanging out in the nineteenth century for a bit…)

Do you write full time or part-time?  
Part-time, though I’d love to do it full-time! I do also love teaching, though.

If you could invite 4 people (real or fictional, living or dead) to a dinner party, who would you invite and what would you serve?
This answer might change on any given day, because there are so many options! For today, let’s say…Terry Pratchett, Mary Renault, the medieval writer Marie de France, and – for a fictional one – Dr. James Asher from Barbara Hambly’s Those Who Hunt the Night. (I’d also include Don Simon Ysidro from Hambly’s novel, but he is a vampire, and one wouldn’t want him to feel peckish…and anyway he’s likely to turn up where James is, in due course.) I think they’d have fascinating conversations about folklore, philology, history, fantasy and the fantastic, and gender and desire. 

I’m not sure exactly what we’d serve, but it’d probably play with history – some modern interpretations of medieval or classical recipes, perhaps, like a menu that Max Miller of Tasting History would come up with! I feel like they’d all appreciate both the continuity and new reimaginings.

On a different day, I’d probably throw Tolkien, Shakespeare, Hope Mirrlees, and James T. Kirk (or Robert April, if you’re a Star Trek tie-in novel fan) in there. Or Margaret Cavendish. Or Pratchett’s Granny Weatherwax. See? Too many options!

Something people would be surprised to know about you?
I used to be on a competitive roller-skating team! Dance and figures – basically what ice skaters do but on roller skates. I still have the sparkly outfits, though I doubt they still fit!

Which character still pops into your mind to visit from time to time?
Most of them! That’s often how I know a story’s working: if I care about the characters, and have random trivia, head-canon, little side stories in my head for them. The loudest and most persistent, though, are Colby and Jason from the Character Bleed trilogy and also Gareth and Lorre from Magician, my high-fantasy formerly-sort-of-evil-magician-meets-heroic-prince romance.

Where do you write?  Do you have a routine?
I like writing on the couch with my laptop and some form of beverage – being cozy, with space to stretch out, and Miss Merlyn the big black cat for company! At the moment, since everything’s a bit odd and my husband and I are both working from home, I sometimes go upstairs to the little office area I use for online teaching – I get self-conscious writing with other people (at least, non-writers) around, especially if it’s a sex scene!

What are your writing goals for the next year?  The future?
Hmm…most immediately, finish the co-authored trilogy with K.S. Murphy (which is a delight! I love writing with other people – sharing ideas and making a story together!), and also get back to the spin-off novel for a side character from the Character Bleed books, who absolutely deserves his own romance, and in fact I’d started working on it, got about 30k into it, and then got stuck on a particular plot point, because I realized the way I’d set some things up wasn’t going to work, but then I couldn’t move certain early events around because they had to fit the established timeline. So I have to sort that one out!

What’s the hardest part about writing M/M romance or erotica?
For me, it’s often one of two things: first, actual straight-up villains, if there is one (and there is, in the Regency magicians trilogy) – I always end up wanting to give them redemptive qualities, or at least sympathetic, which turns into, “oh, but if I understand why they’re doing this, okay, they’re not so bad, they might have real emotions and a heart under there…oh drat I’ve made myself want their POV and redemption arc and story!”

Second, action sequences. (Not the erotic kind of action! Those scenes are often fun; the only difficulty is in not being too repetitive with vocabulary!) I sometimes joke that most of my stories are really just two (or more) people standing around Having Emotions At Each Other. It’s kind of true. But often there’s also coffee. And rain. And that time I dropped poor Colby off a cliff in one of the Character Bleed books.

I’ve just realized that none of the above rambling is specifically about M/M. But honestly I think that answer is the same for me regardless of whether it’s M/M, M/M/M, M/F, F/F, or M/genderfluid fairy person – all of which I’ve written!

What else do you want us to know about you?
Er…I like cats? And good craft beer, preferably dark and barrel-aged. And sneaking medieval history and classic punk rock references into my stories. Oh, and I was a runner-up for Sexiest Consent in the Good Sex Awards for the scene with all the tea metaphors, which I’ve described to people as “the best sex scene I’ve written in which nobody actually touches anybody,” from Seaworthy, the first Character Bleed book.

What is the funniest scene you’ve written?
Oh goodness. Am I funny? Sometimes I try! I don’t in fact know, though; my readers would probably have a better answer! My guess would be some of the dialogue and banter in “Frost & Raine,” where they’re flirting via mutual sarcasm, or all the bread puns (there are, er, a lot…they just seemed to get on a roll, as it were…) in the Character Bleed books. Or maybe the fluffy rom-com bits of The Featherbed Puzzle when all of Arthur’s suitors are around – I tried to make that whole story very light and bright and sparkling, to paraphrase Austen: very affectionately wry, and of course Arthur’s a wonderfully oblivious narrator.

What’s the hardest part about writing?
Finding consistent long-enough blocks of time! The words usually come pretty easily, but the time to write them down and sort them out…!

Who’s your biggest supporter/cheerleader?
My lovely, lovely, network of Internet Family – most of whom I’ve known for over a decade now, via fandom! – and also my husband, who loyally puts up with me staying up late to just get this one last scene written down…

What made you decide M/M romance was the genre you wanted to write?  Do you write other genres?
Oh, good question! I have written some other pairings – the Extraordinary superhero novellas are M/M/M polyamory, and the medieval-fantasy-ish short story “The Snails of Dun Nas” is M/genderfluid fairy person, and I’ve written some F/F shorts, and one M/F short story, “Sorceress,” with two bisexual main characters. As for why mostly M/M, I think it’s a combination of at least three things…

…first, I love fandom and fanfic, and my writing grew out of that, in a sense – not that all fic is M/M, but that was the dominant mode in the fandoms I was in, and the pairings I loved, so that was where I started. Second, as a bi person, I really wanted more non-straight romances with happy endings (most of my M/M involves at least one bi or pan character), especially historical, because LGBTQ people exist in history! And then I also sometimes have complicated gender-embodiment emotions around depictions of female bodies in romance. M/M is easier in that sense, both to read and to write.

Where do you find inspiration?
All sorts of places! Sometimes lines of dialogue just turn up in my head, and I need to know who said them and why. Or specific scenes, bright and vivid. Sometimes I’m chatting with the Internet Family about head-canon, and it turns into a story. And sometimes I just pillage my medieval and folklore research, from my day job, for interesting ideas!

What do you do if you hit a wall while writing?  How do you combat writer’s block?

I generally start by reading over the previous chapter or two and then my outline and notes, to see if something clicks – it doesn’t have to be the very next scene. I normally don’t write linearly, so I might jump ahead and, for instance, do the consequence or fallout of a plot point, or an argument, or a sex scene, before writing the actual sex scene or fight or action-y plot bit. 

If nothing’s sparking, I switch stories – I usually have at least two or three WIPs, and at least one of them is likely being noisy in my head at any given time, though not necessarily the one I might prefer! 

What do your friends and family think of what you write; do they know?

I think at this point most friends and family know what I write, at least in general – I’m not keeping it a secret! I think sometimes they aren’t sure how to explain it to people, but it helps that I’ve won a couple of awards, perhaps? My grandmother has read at least one of my books, though I think (I hope?) she might’ve skimmed the sex scenes. My husband is a very good sport and has read a few, especially the big important ones, like Magician, which is one of my favorite things I’ve written.

Academically, as a professor, I’ve published on romance, including LGBTQ romance, and on fantasy, so being able to practice what I research is a valid form of expertise! And my dean, where I teach, knows exactly what I write – she also reads a lot of paranormal romance and fantasy, including LGBTQ, and she’s wonderfully supportive.

What is your favorite thing about writing M/M romance?
The sheer pleasure of imagining a world – so many worlds, from Regency to steampunk to shifters to coffee shops! – where these sorts of love stories and happy endings can be true. And that in turn lets us explore alternate and untold histories, potential futures, ways of being in the world, actively choosing narratives about emotional connection, pleasure, and love. It’s always an act of optimism, both in the reading and the writing.

How can we connect with you?

I’m pretty findable on social media – come say hi! You may also get many pictures of Merlyn the cat, I’m warning you now.
Blog (I’ve utterly failed at actually updating the book list on here, but the blog gets updated!): https://klnoone.wordpress.com/blog/ 
Facebook (for now – some author group things in progress): https://www.facebook.com/kristin.noone/