Today with have author Kevin Klehr with us. Check out our interview where we talk to him about his book Drama Queens with Love Scenes, upcoming works, and more.
Author Kevin Klehr has some interesting queer-centric stories you should check out. Also, make sure to read his opinions about the current status of LGBTQIA+ literature.
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
I’m an author who likes to dabble in magic realism or have the genre sneak into books that wouldn’t normally have random ghosts or angels. I find it’s the best way to illustrate an idea to readers when they don’t expect it but are willing to listen.
I have several books out, including the one being showcased here, which is part of a series called Actors and Angels. The novels explore unrequited love, lust, and theatre in the Afterlife, and they contain a high dose of silliness.
How long have you been writing?
I started writing when I was a kid. In Grade 5 we were encouraged to write eight- to sixteen-page books which were placed on the sill of the blackboard. Mine were always sought after and being read as soon as I finished them.
Drama Queens with Love Scenes was my first novel. Like all new writers, I labored over it for many years, getting it professionally assessed three times, getting it to eight drafts then reworking it further with my first editor. Once it had a publisher I knew I wanted to continue my childhood passion.
Are there other authors who’ve inspired you?
Away from the GLBTQI realm, I would say Jonathan Tropper (whose books always deal with unrequited love, a problematic father/son relationship, and grieving). If you haven’t read him, check him out.
My assessor got me to read the books of Joe Keenan who became influential in my queer fiction, especially with comedy. His main character is gay and often inappropriate. I was advised to “turn up the ‘tude” on my main character, Allan, in Drama Queens with Love Scenes. If you love queer fiction and you’ve never read Keenan’s classic series of books, do yourself a favor and read them. There’s three in the series.
Christian Baine’s novel Puppet Boy has influenced me by getting me to feel comfortable writing in third person (while still making the text feel like first person), and in making my work a little darker. I’m exploring this in my current work in progress, The Midnight Man.
I am also impressed with the short stories of Jerry L. Wheeler. Keep an eye out for his novel The Dead Book which he’s still working on.
What’s your writing process like?
In the past, I’ve had plenty of time to write. I’d have at least two days off during the week to simply get lost in my characters. I start my writing day by reading out loud the last chapter I’ve written as if addressing a small group of book lovers at an author reading. Straight away I’ll see the spelling mistakes and the lines that just don’t make sense. This will be my initial edit as I write.
When a draft of one novel is complete, I will go back and work on the next draft of another. I like to have at least three months off between drafts where, during their downtime, other ideas or lines of dialogue come to me in the course of normal life, which are jotted down and kept for the next rework.
Have you ever experienced writer’s block? Any particular thing you do to deal with it?
I don’t get writer’s block too often, but I do know when I’m on a roll and when I’m not. I have learned that doing the laundry on my writing day helps, as when I pop outside to the washing lines, I will rewrite in my head what I’ve just typed and it will always sound better. Plus new plot twists also come to me as I’m reaching for the clothes-pegs.
Tell us a bit about Drama Queens with Love Scenes. What kind of readers will it appeal to?
When Drama Queens with Love Scenes was initially picked up by a previous publisher, there was a year between signing my contract and working on it with my publisher. So I began writing the sequel, Drama Queens and Adult Themes, downplaying the role of a secondary character, the insecure gay angel named Guy.
Once the first book was out I realized I made a mistake with the second. Everyone was falling in love with Guy. The lovers, Allan and Warwick, seemed secondary to readers, so I began making the angel’s role larger, concentrating even more on Guy’s story in the third novel, Drama Queens and Devilish Schemes.
In all three books, the same lovers appear, although they are different reincarnations of themselves in order to resolve unfinished issues. Twenty-somethings Allan and Warwick, who are trying to remember if there was any romance between them when they were alive, become the middle-aged established couple Adam and Wade for the second and third books, with their own set of midlife crisis dramas to contend with in both life and the Afterlife.
Plus the last book introduces the leader of the Underworld, Preston. Yes, he has horns and a tail but also likes to wear a waistcoat, black pearls, and a top hat. And he strikes a deal with Adam that could mean heartbreak to the guardian angel, Guy, if Adam doesn’t succeed.
All three of the Actors and Angels series are dear to me. They are where my writing began. And they camouflage what was happening in my real life at the time they were written.
Any opinions you’d like to share about the current state of LGBTQ+ literature?
I mentioned in an earlier question the novels of a gay author, Joe Keenan. My Blue Heaven came out in 1988 and follows four friends (two gay where one is the main character) who get caught up in an ill-fated attempt to scam the Mafia. There are two sequels to these comedies and are out through larger publishers. I read them all around the time I was working on Drama Queens with Love Scenes.
Back in the 1980s I also read The Swimming-Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst and have read Virginia Woolf’s Orlando after seeing the artistic but camp film version. The Monkey’s Mask by Dorothy Porter, a classic Australian lesbian detective poem, also made it to my reading pile.
The point I’m trying to make is that these were the early influences on my queer writing journey, so for the life of me I’m always perplexed when I read critiques on Goodreads or on blogs that damn a novel because it doesn’t follow M/M romance conventions, even when it’s clear it’s not a romance story. When did M/M romance become a starting point for gay lit?
Don’t get me wrong, there are some wonderful M/M romance books I’ve read, but in this age of information it’s not hard to research the beginnings of LGBTQ+ literature and use that as your reference when you critique.
The good thing is, more and more LGBTQ+ books are going back to the roots of queer lit, so we have wonderful dystopian novels, complex relationship stories and so on. This became apparent when I asked an older gentleman reviewer who usually loves my books to beta read a sci-fi of mine. He stopped once he realized that it wasn’t gay-centric. His reasoning was that he spent most of his life reading mainstream novels and now we are in an age of so much good gay writing, he has more to read than he could ever dream of.
Is there any advice you’d like to give aspiring authors?
A first draft is never your final draft!
A first draft doesn’t even come close to being the final version. It will have many flaws, and they are flaws you won’t notice unless you give yourself three months before you work on it again.
When you’re ready to revisit it, print it out in a font you’ve never seen it in before, take a red pen and read through it in two days. You will quickly realize why this version should not be seen by anyone, let alone a potential publisher.
Are there any upcoming works you’d like to share with our readers?
The closest thing I have to a romance, although it is the tale of trying to learn to love second best, has just been released in print. The Nate and Cameron Collection is two stories originally released as ebooks. I’m excited about having these in an old-fashioned book. I just have to organize to get a copy myself.
I have a dystopian tale signed to my publisher, NineStar Press, which hasn’t got a release date yet. It follows Tayler, the only person in Astra City who isn’t addicted to Social Media Central. By the way, that’s its title, Social Media Central. He befriends the social media socialites, a trio so famous that others pay to go to their parties so they can take selfies and increase their popularity. But soon Tayler learns the truth about his society and the dark nature of the social media platform everyone is addicted to.
I’m also still working on the first draft of The Midnight Man, the tale of a middle-aged man in an unhappy relationship who meets the perfect man, in his reoccurring dreams.
Drama Queens with Love Scenes is currently available for purchase. I’ll be reviewing it soon.
Have you read books by Kevin Klehr? Let us know.
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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