All In Fear is a dark little treasure trove of queer horror stories released last month by Open Ink Press. Fair warning: the book is definitely for mature readers. Several of the stories feature explicit sexual content, and there is genre-typical violence in places.
In most anthologies, I love three or four stories and can take or leave the rest. All In Fear breaks that pattern. I enjoyed the book so much I had trouble choosing one author to interview for this article – so I didn’t. Meet Kris Ripper and KJ Charles. Charles is the author of “The Price of Meat”, a twisted, cleverly-written Victorian tale of cannibalism. Ripper’s contribution is “Love Me True”. Because I don’t want to spoil it, I’m not sharing a thing about zir story other than that it is deeply smutty and you should read it. The writers joined me earlier this week for a double interview where we discussed All In Fear, writing habits, and the publishing industry.
*Note: This interview is adapted from a longer chat. I edited for clarity and to remove spoilers.*
How did All In Fear come together? Were you asked to write a story for it? Was there a call for submissions?
KJ Charles: Judith, of Open Ink Press, asked me. She said to me that I could be as horrific as I wanted.
Kris Ripper: Yes, me too. Only to me she said, “KJ Charles is doing it. I know how much you love KJ Charles, so…” (KJ laughs.) That’s a true story! I was like a puppy. “OH, KJ’S DOING IT? I’M IN!”
KJC: It’s a very cool line up. I was really happy with how it came out. I’ve done three anthos so far and all of them have been really good to be part of.
KR: It does feel a little like a virtual party. Everyone get together and bring your stories! Gather round!
Do you all talk about what you’re writing, or do you write, then talk, and trust that the editor is making sure you’re on different pages?
KJC: I’ve never done that so far, and now I think of it, probably should have. Probably quite lucky there’s never been serious overlap. Mind you, if someone else had been doing F/F Victorian AU cannibalism, I’d have been slightly surprised.
KR: Yes, I think you were safe on that one, KJ! I talked a little with Roan Parrish [author of “Company”] on All In Fear because we’re pals, but otherwise reading the book was a total surprise and delight. [I]t never even occurred to me that we might come up with similar things! Something to add to the anxiety list, there.
Can you talk about your path to writing mostly queer fiction? Was that where you started?
KR: Queer is definitely where I started writing. Then I forced myself to write straight stories every other book, because I thought that was the only way to get published. When self-publishing exploded, I felt liberated to publish what I actually wanted to be writing. I didn’t do any kind of market research, by the way. [I] just started publishing books, and only later realized that “queer romance” was a thing. (I don’t recommend that, by the way. Prospective indies, do your homework before publishing!)
KJC: The first (unpublished) novel I wrote was cis het (as am I), then a fantasy with a whole range of characters. I didn’t really intend Magpie Lord, my first book, to be a romance. Apart from anything else it was supposed to be a fantasy novel, though I obviously knew the [main characters] were gay. Then I had to write two sequels because I loved the characters, and since then the ideas haven’t really stopped coming. I am pitching a mixed M/M and M/F series currently.
About All In Fear, I really loved the dark, fun, smutty side of it, if I can be blunt.
KR: KJ needed to be able to write something really horrific. I said, “So…how smutty can I get?”
KJC: Push those boundaries!
It was fun, and pulpy like an updated version of those old dime novels.
KR: (laughs) Yes. “I will write it EXACTLY as smutty as the far limits you’ll allow, so…”
KJC: I was absolutely going for Victorian pulp, which is my jam. Jam pulp. Mmm.
Where did the idea for your story come from?
KJC: I was listening to Sweeney Todd, the Sondheim musical soundtrack, which isn’t very like “The String of Pearls”, the original Victorian pulp, so I decided to pick that up and run in a different direction. I’d also been reading about the liberties, the areas of London where there were legally no laws, so that all came together in a kind of evil stew.
KR: I wrote an entirely different story for this anthology. But I couldn’t get it to…work, and I tried for about a month and a half. At the last minute—literally on the day of the deadline—I gave up and asked for a three-day extension and took a very long run. This story is what came out of abject panic. My brain went: Let’s take something perfect and totally screw it up. That’s fitting.
KJ, I’d also like to know how much research you had to do. It was beautifully authentic.
KJC: Research-wise, Victorian London is very much my mental home, I have read a lot around that, so not that much. The liberties were all abolished a couple of hundred years previously as well so I just got to make all that up.
Where is the best place for readers who want more queer fiction to find it? Specifically?
KR: Find a group of other readers who like what you like, and live and die by their recommendations. That’s pretty much the only thing that works for me. I’m incredibly picky. I get recs and then run them through my final decision folks, who often tell me NOT to read something. “No, you’ll throw this one at the wall.”
KJC: I get like 90% of my recs off Twitter. I follow people who talk enthusiastically about books.
Can you give some advice to people who want to write in this genre as far as getting published, getting an agent?
KR: I, clearly, think self-publishing is a strong contender. But get your editors and designers lined up well before release! My traditional publishing experience has been entirely through networking. It’s how I got both contracts I’m currently working on, and how I got my agent. Getting to know people sort of “around”.
Around as in on Twitter, in forums, that kind of place?
KR: Twitter, Facebook. I stay out of forums, but I know other folks find community in them. Basically: find community. Surround yourself with people doing the thing. My advice is: treat this like your business. Keep records. Know your sales numbers. This is your job, so treat it like one. Get to know other people who are doing the thing you want to do, and ask them (politely, with respect and boundaries, and only if they welcome questions) how they did it.
KJC: Good advice. Talk to other authors, read blogs, listen to people. Don’t get hung up on finding an agent – a bad agent is worse than no agent, just like a bad publisher is worse than no publisher.
Do you have upcoming works we can shill for you?
KJC: My new book with Riptide, Wanted a Gentleman, is out 9 Jan since you mention it!
KR: The last book in my Queers of La Vista series, As La Vista Turns, comes out in February! Yay!
Kris, that is an incredible name. Is it as soapy as it sounds?
KR: That entirely depends on who you ask. It’s very soapy – for me. The series is soapy in that everyone’s connected and it’s a tightly knit queer community, which was a blast to write. Also, there’s murder. Just for kicks.
Thanks to both these talented authors for the interview.
All In Fear also contains stories from Steve Berman, Avon Gale, Roan Parrish, and J.A. Rock. Stop by the Open Ink Press site and pick up your copy today!
Khai is a writer, anthropologist, and games enthusiast. She is co-editor (alongside Alex DeCampi) of and contributor to “True War Stories”, a comic anthology published by Z2 Comics. When she’s not writing or creating games, Khai likes to run more tabletop RPGs than one person should reasonably juggle.
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