J.K. Hogan is best known for her novels I Survived Seattle and Fire on the Island. Her stories flow like the music that inspires them, and readers are brought along for the ride.
What started your interest in writing m/m fiction?
I started reading m/m a few years ago when I got a Josh Lanyon book in the free Kindle store and loved it. In each of my m/f novels there were gay secondary characters, so I started exploring the idea of an m/m spinoff of that series. I haven’t done it yet, because I got another idea and that turned into my first m/m romance, I Survived Seattle (Wilde City Press).
How did your career start? How did you grow your fan base to be so humongous?
I got my first publishing contract by winning a romance writing contest with a young small-press publisher. They published my first two novels, but have since scaled back, so I now self-pub all of my m/f romance titles.
I had just gotten back from GRL (GayRomLit writers’ retreat), where I’d gone just to be a fangirl, when I finished ISS. I was used to the small press dynamic so I decided to check out Wilde City Press as my first place to submit. They’re invite-only but since I’d been to GRL, they took a chance on reading my sample chapters. I was completely floored when they expressed their interest the very next day, and working with them has been wonderful.
I wouldn’t say my fan base is humongous, but I hope to get there someday. I always admired how my mentor (whether she knows it or not!) Larissa Ione really takes the time to interact with them and be a ‘real person,’ so that’s my main strategy for building an audience. I stay active on social media and in the writer/reader community, and try and really get to know readers and what they like.
What is it like to be inspired by music? Do you have a song that always is on the writing playlist?
Oh, I totally am. It’s usually not the same songs; each title has its own unique playlist. I post them on the corresponding book’s page on my website, but I’m a little behind. I need to put up the one from ISS. (I’m also a graphic designer so I do my own site, and lately my covers too!)
Who is the LAST person you’d want to discover you write m/m fiction and how do you think they’d respond?
This is a tough one question. The easy answer is no one, because I’m not hiding it. Of course, there are people who’d cause me to blush a little more if I had to talk about it with them. I’ve been involved in LGBT activism for a while now, and pretty much everyone who knows me knows that. I’m pretty open about my life (I use a pen name, but my real name isn’t a secret) and my writing. I don’t talk about it to people whom I know it will make uncomfortable, but I refuse to hide it either. My husband and my friends support what I do and that’s what works for me. Of course, I also know people who have very real and very important reasons why they can’t do the same. The way I do it isn’t right for everyone, and we should respect everyone’s choices in the boundaries they’ve set between their writing and their everyday lives. To each their own—I’m ‘out,’ so to speak.
What inspired I Survived Seattle? Was there a lot of research involved?
I went on a trip to Seattle for the wedding of our friends, two lovely ladies. Some of my experiences there, and dealing with my travel anxiety gave me a lot of material for the book, and a lot of the things that happened in the book actually happened to me. Anyone who reads it, check out the ‘creatures’ scene because that totally happened (minus the bathroom scene after that!). My friend and fellow (amazing) author, Cardeno C., and I had a conversation about the trip, and an off-hand comment that I made ended up becoming the title. Thus a plotbunny was born.
A lot of women read m/m. Why do you think this is?
Honestly, I think every person’s reason is probably unique to who they are. It might have a bit to do with the fact that just about every trope and plot device in m/f romance has pretty much been explored a million times over. The LGBT element gives us a few new scenarios that we don’t get in mainstream romance. Also, I think women like to read about men being vulnerable and showing more romanticism than we’ve been getting from the whole alpha male-vampire-millionaire tropes so common in m/f. Not that those books aren’t fun! And there are some of those in m/m too, don’t get me wrong!
What was it like writing the relationship between Justice Crawford and Nic Valentine?
The relationship was really fun. Justice is this quirky, anxious, neurotic guy who was way out of his element, and then he meets Nic, who’s the total opposite—laid back sailor guy with a surfer-boy attitude. It was hard writing Justice though, because I drew a lot from my own experiences with my anxiety disorder, so that naturally brought up some uncomfortable feelings. But Justice also gave me a chance to infuse some of my own snarky, dry humor into the story as well, so that was fun!
Are you currently working on anything?
The sequel to ISS, Love And The Real Boy is in the final stage of edits and is set to be released Sept. 17. I’m just finishing up an interesting m/m crime thriller. It has a small paranormal element and romance of course, but otherwise is a complete deviation from my usual work. I’m also in the plotting stages for the next book in the Coming About series.
Tell me about your writing process. Do you outline? Do you rewrite? Do you wing it?
I’m a total pantser. I usually just sit down and write when I can, because that’s how the story comes to me—in stages. I try to outline, but it usually falls by the wayside. I wish I could be more organized like some of my author friends.
How long does it take you to write a novel on average?
That entirely depends on the story and how much I struggle with it. I would say, on average 9-ish months, but it’s been more and it’s been less.
What was it like writing Fire on the Island? Was it fun to write?
That was my first published novel, and will always be special because it is set on a tiny island in Scotland where my husband’s family comes from. We had the pleasure of visiting back in 2009, so that’s how I was able to describe it so well. It was tons of fun and I hope to do more with that series someday.
What advice do you have for those thinking about writing gay romance? Any advice for those who are trying to build an audience from scratch?
If you want to, go for it! Life’s too short for what-ifs. You have to be mindful of your lifestyle and what works for you as far as whether or not you use a pen name or create an ‘author identity,’ or if you just do like me and put it all out there.
The most important thing about building an audience is networking—not just online but everywhere. Go to cons and meetups, go to signings and retreats. Meet readers and other authors because their insights will be essential. Obviously an online presence is very important as well, especially when you’re trying to build a cohesive brand. Before I was writing and ‘mom-ing’ full time, I was a graphic artist specializing in marketing, so anyone can feel free to contact me for advice about either topics!