For their third live episode from GRL 2017 in Denver, Jeff & Will welcome TJ Klune and Poppy Dennison.
Among the topics discussed: Returning to GRL after a year away, their favorite things from this year’s retreat, being a full time writer, what they have releasing in the coming months and much more.
Look for the GRL wrap-up in episode 107.
Remember, you can listen and subscribe to the podcast anytime on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Stitcher, PlayerFM, YouTube and audio file download.
Here are the things we talk about in this episode. Please note, these links include affiliate links for which we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase.
Interview Transcript – TJ Klune & Poppy Dennison
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Jeff: Welcome to another live broadcast of Jeff & Will’s “Big Gay Fiction Podcast.” I’m Jeff from jeffadamswrites.com.
Will: And I’m Will from willknauss.com.
Jeff: We are very pleased to have for our final live broadcast from GRL, Poppy Dennison, and TJ Klune with us.
TJ: Thank you for having us.
Jeff: Welcome. Our pleasure. Two of our favorite past guests back here with us. So it’s Saturday afternoon. GRL’s pretty much done except for the last party. How’s GRL been for you two? You missed last year, so you’re back after a year’s absence.
TJ: It’s been good. You know, when you get closer and closer, there’s always the excitement of actually coming here and being here. Then when you get here, you tend to forget how much work it actually is. And it’s good. I mean, I always have fun, but by the very end of…like, right now on Saturdays, I’m tired. It can be pretty exhausting, but it’s always worth the effort to be able to come and do and meet people, especially this year when there was a bunch of new people.
Poppy: A bunch. They said that they lost count after 100. They were in the newbie meet and greet. I think somebody told me that there were so many new faces that they just stopped counting after 100.
TJ: And even cooler than that, what I thought was really neat is one of the organizers told me that this year, they had more men than they’d ever had before as attendees, and I thought that was really awesome to hear.
Poppy: That’s amazing.
Jeff: Good job. Yeah.
Poppy: That’s amazing.
Jeff: I felt like I saw more men around this year than usual.
TJ: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. That’s very cool. It just shows, you know, another side of the MM genre expanding, and I think that’s really great that people are coming to this that have never come before.
Poppy: And I think the thing about this community is that it gives us all so much energy and it’s a reminder of what we’re doing this for. I mean, it’s all well and good to say, you know, “I write romances,” or, “I write amazing fantasy work,” but when you’re in the community and you remember that you’re telling the stories of people whose voices have not been told before, their voices have not been heard, and we’re part of that and it’s really powerful and it’s really special. And, you know, when you meet so many people who are touched by the words we’ve put on the page, it’s a reminder of why we do what we do besides just that we have to tell these stories.
TJ: Right. Exactly.
Poppy: You know, it’s a reminder of how important what we do is, I think.
Jeff: What’s been your favorite part, or panel, or segment, or random meeting?
TJ: Hosting the audio panel because it’s the first time…well, first and foremost, just for a little personal, that’s the first time I’ve ever gotten to meet Derrick McClain and Michael Lesley face-to-face. Michael I’ve worked with for four years now and Derrick for two, and that’s the first time I’ve ever actually got to meet them, and it’s also the first time here at GRL that we’ve actually had the audio narrators actually together as a group and able to do their own panel.
And when I was asked to host it, I was told that was a night before GRL so probably wouldn’t be that many people, and then it turned out to be a lot of people, which was even better because it just shows the passion people have for audiobooks which is something that I’m very, very proud about and something that I push for a lot because audio narrators that we have in our community are one of a kind. They work their butts off and they make our words that much better, and to give them a showcase is something I think has been a long time a-coming.
Jeff: And to let our viewers and listeners know, we do have that panel shared into our “Big Gay Fiction Podcast” Facebook group.
TJ: Oh, awesome. Cool.
Jeff: So people can catch that there as well. Speaking of the audio panel, you mentioned to me, I believe, that it was the first time you’d heard Derrick do Normal Person.
TJ: Yeah, yeah. And he chose to do the cable company scene. Because I don’t tend to listen to my own audiobooks because it’s really weird for me to hear my own words performed aloud like that. But to hear him do that and then to be followed shortly after by Michael doing “A Destiny of Dragons” was just phenomenal. It’s just really cool to see them in their element doing what they do best, but it’s also super embarrassing for me to have to hear that. And so I was starting to stand against the wall and trying to blend in as much as I possibly could because, you know, people were laughing, and that’s great because it’s funny, but at the same time, I’m like, “Okay.”
Poppy: “That’s weird.”
TJ: Yeah, it’s weird.
Poppy: “That’s weird.”
TJ: It’s weird. Yeah, so I still enjoyed it though.
Jeff: Yeah. It was very cool to hear it performed live, some of those segments, for sure.
TJ: I know. And, you know, to…because these voices mean so much to so many people. Because there’s readers out there that they prefer to hear the audiobook rather than read, some by choice, some because they have to. And I think it’s amazing that they got to meet the people behind their favorite voices.
Jeff: Yeah. I hope it’s something that GRL does again.
TJ: Yeah. I’m gonna push for that, whether it be me hosting, or even having the same narrators, or going something different, or even moving it into a main event during the Thursday, Friday, or Saturday so that way, people that get here for GRL Thursday morning would actually be able to do it, too. Because I think that they just showed themselves that it was probably one of if not the most popular events that they had.
Jeff: Yeah. It was crazy the number of people that were there on Wednesday.
TJ: Yeah. I think we had over 200 people in the audience for that. And Ethan told me that they had more people register on Wednesday than they ever had before at any prior GRL, so I thought that was amazing.
Jeff: Yeah. That’s awesome. What about for you? What’s been your…?
Poppy: Can I cheat and say two?
Jeff: Of course.
Poppy: Because I think, for me, the signings are the favorite part, one of my favorite parts. So the supporting author signing because you really get to meet authors that you’ve probably never heard of. And, for me, for the supporting authors, in particular, there are folks that, you know, only have a couple of books out, so they’re probably not on my radar yet. And it’s so fun to go through there and talk to people and learn about these new authors that I haven’t had a chance to meet yet, so I love that.
And then I also love the featured author signing. I mean, this was the first year that I made it. I stayed the entire time and went and just kept circling the room because there were so many people and it was so fun. I just love that energy in that room, and how excited all the readers are, and just getting to meet everybody. And there’s some really cool swag in there, so I was like, “I got some really cool stuff this year.” So I was really excited about that. And I think the readers love those the most, too. I really think that they enjoy that. And as a reader, I know I got a big kick out of it too.
Jeff: And you are here as a reader this year…?
Poppy: I am.
Jeff: Because you’ve been an author in previous… How does that change your experience?
Poppy: It’s so much less work.
Will: I was gonna ask if you were relaxed more after that, jeez.
Poppy: I did, and I got to enjoy it in a different way because when you’re here and you’re working, you know, you have to be thinking, “Okay, I have to save energy because I’m hosting a panel at…” whatever o’clock that was, 9:00 I think your panel was. And so I have to store energy for that. And I think, a lot of times, people don’t realize that when you’re up on a panel and you’re being asked questions, or you’re doing a reading, or you’re preparing for whatever, it requires energy and you have to think about it in those terms. Like, “Okay, I can’t go to every morning panel and see everybody because I have to host a panel in the afternoon,” or, “I’m hosting an evening event.” So I didn’t have to worry about any of that. I was like, “All right. I’m good.” I could do whatever I want and not have to worry about, “Oh, I need to have energy for this,” or, “I have to be able to stay up until midnight for this thing.” I could do what I wanted. That’s awesome.
Jeff: “I can go have a nap now.”
Poppy: I did. I did that a couple of times too, not gonna lie. There was a couple of naps that happened. So it was a lot of fun, but especially, like, for the signing, as I was mentioning, this was the first time I’d ever been able to…nope, that’s a lie. I was a reader at the very first GRL in New Orleans, so I was able to do the signing then, which was on a riverboat. And we were talking about that. I don’t know how many people know that the very first time…
Will: What’s the major difference between now and that first GRL? The amount of people?
Poppy: It’s bigger. I think, and I wanna ask Carol and Ethan, I think that there was only, like, 100 or 150 of us total.
Will: Authors and readers at the first one?
Poppy: Yes, I think. And I could be mistaken, but I’m pretty sure it was much smaller. And so I was looking back at my pictures from the very first one in New Orleans, but to be on a riverboat, it just stuck in my mind that sort of moment. It was so fun, and it was the first time so many of us had met. And then fast-forwarding to today, how many people were in that room, wow. Like, this community has really grown so much and become so much, has really become a community, and I think that GRL has been a really big part of that.
Jeff: The energy in the room for the signing was amazing and it seemed like it never stopped. There’s usually a little lull that seemed to happen after the first hour.
Poppy: Yeah, I know.
Jeff: At this time, I didn’t really…
Poppy: It was packed when we packed up. And, normally, as on the author and the things, normally, that lasts 20 minutes. You’re, like, staring at your watch, you know, because everybody’s made their way through and you’ve given away all your swag and all your books, and you’re kinda like, “Okay. I’ll just wait just in case somebody comes by.” But this time, it was like there were still lines, you know, and I was like, “This is so amazing.” It’s changed so much and…yeah. So it was different as a reader, and it kinda took me back to my very first GRL so many years ago.
Jeff: You asked me before we started…so I’ll ask this to the two of you. Was there anybody that you met here that was like, “Oh, my God, I met X?”
TJ: Go ahead.
Poppy: Oh, you stinker.
Jeff: This is how Q&As work, which I learned on my Q&A panel. It’s like…
Poppy: “No, you go.” “No, I’ll go.” “No, you go.”
Jeff: “You go. You go first,” you know?
Poppy: There was a lot of people that I was really excited to meet. I think Lucy Lennox and I have become very close. I absolutely adore her books. “Made Marian” series for the win. I’m a big fan, right? And so we’ve actually spoken and things, but I had not had the pleasure of meeting Lucy. So getting to meet her was really, really special. But I’ve met so many readers that I had not seen before that I only knew online. And I think when you see those people that come and they’re like, you know, it’s so cool. So, new readers, but, as an author, author person would be Lucy Lennox.
TJ: For me, just gonna have to repeat myself would be Michael Lesley and Derrick McClain because they’ve been such a big part of my life for years, you know, and we’ve communicated through email, you know? And there’s a difference between actually seeing somebody face-to-face and seeing how they are and everything like that because you get a better sense of the person behind the voice of, you know, your own book. So being able to meet them, and seeing how great that they were, and being able to talk about plans for the future of all of us working together I think was the highlight for me.
Poppy: And can I also just say that it was so neat to watch Michael Lesley go into the world of…
TJ: Oh, his voices?
Poppy: Yeah, “The Lightning-Struck Heart” and just, like, transform because it was such a neat experience to all of a sudden hear Gary’s voice, and I was like, “What is happening right now?”
TJ: Right. With the way that he so effortlessly switched between the voices, it’s phenomenal work.
Poppy: It is, it is. It’s so phenomenal.
TJ: He’s a true talent and he’s gonna go far, but I won’t let him go too far because…
Poppy: No, you can’t. No, no.
TJ: Michael, if you’re watching, you’re never gonna get away from me.
Poppy: I mean, yeah, he’s terrible and can only do TJ’s books forever.
Jeff: I felt the same way with Derrick and Gustavo.
Poppy: Oh, yes, definitely. Definitely.
Jeff: To hear that, it was like, “Wow, here it is just right here.”
Poppy: Yeah, and they’re so talented. Those guys were so…and all of them, and Greg, and Joel, I mean, they were all just…they knocked it out of the park.
TJ: And Nick and Jason, they did amazingly too.
Poppy: Thank you. I was sitting here thinking, “I know there was four guys, but I’m so tired.”
TJ: They were amazing too.
Poppy: Yes, they were all…I mean, it was really neat because you don’t hear it, I mean, when you’re an author and you’re just, you know… And if you listen to audiobooks, which I do sometimes, I don’t ever see…I’d never thought about it in those terms and to watch all of them, I mean, it was just really cool.
Jeff: But, yeah, the on-the-fly shifting of the voices for all of them.
Poppy: All of them, yeah.
Jeff: Because, you know, in the studio, they could stop and redo, and…
Poppy: “Oh, I messed that up,” or, “I need to wait and take a break and change voices.”
TJ: Joel Leslie just whipped out that Australian accent, didn’t he? Jesus Christ.
Poppy: From one to the next. Yeah. They were just all…that was, you know… As your listeners can tell, that was a big highlight of the…I think it was a big highlight for everybody. It was such a great panel.
Jeff: Yeah. It absolutely was. What do we have coming up for you both? Because our listeners may not know, Poppy has stepped away from Dreamspinner Press as their marketing director to go full-time author again.
TJ: It’s bound. That’s how we do full-time.
Poppy: Yes, yes, full-time.
Jeff: And, of course, TJ’s been full-time now for a while, and he’s…
TJ: Yeah, almost two years now.
Poppy: Has it been that long?
TJ: February 2016, yeah.
Jeff: That’s amazing. Congratulations.
TJ: Thank you. I appreciate that. It’s been a wild wild ride.
Poppy: Well, I gotta tell you, like, TJ’s jumping off the cliff, like, that was a real big inspiration for the decision that I made because, you know, we’ve known each other for a long time, and he had always…you know, you get up at stupid o’clock in the morning and you try to get your work done, and then you go to work all day. And then you come home and you do your evening chores or whatever, and then you sit back down at the computer and try to get a little more word count in. And it’s really hard to do when you’re as passionate about this as, I think, we both are. So when I saw TJ make that jump and land so successfully.
TJ: Yeah, you know, there’s still days where I pinch myself, but it’s been… I’ve been very lucky in that regard, so…
Poppy: Yeah. And there’s been a couple of others as well who sort of made that pledge, and I found myself being really jealous of them. And, you know, I saw, like, 27 TJ books on the, you know, coming soon list, and I was like, “Ugh, I love him but I hate him at the same time.” So I talked to Elizabeth who, you know, owns Dreamspinner and I said, “I love Dreamspinner and I love everything we’re about, but I just wanna be a writer again.” Like, that was my dream, and they were so supportive and said, you know, “Yes, we want you to be a writer again,” you know? So, yeah, I have, I think 10 books coming out in the next 12 months, so…
TJ: High-five, man.
Poppy: Yeah. I did the TJ. I think I did the TJ. So I took six months and I did nothing but put words to page, and I didn’t try to publish anything, and I didn’t try to edit anything. I just got the words on the page and really developed a plan for myself. And I was so blessed to have had that six-month window where I could just breathe and so, yeah, next month. So the next month, November, the first book comes out and it’s called “Family Ties,” and it’s the first in a four-book series called the “Bartlett Boys.” So it’s about a large, Southern family and all of the stuff that they get up to. I was gonna say “shenanigans” but that’s kind of a TJ word now, so, the gall, the trouble that they get into. Yeah, so that’s what’s coming up real quick.
Jeff: November 1st did you say, or just in November?
Poppy: No. It will be the end of the month, probably around the 20th is what I’m shooting for.
Jeff: In time for Thanksgiving.
Poppy: Just in time for Thanksgiving. Just in time for Black Friday.
Jeff: That’s that marketing side coming out right there.
Poppy: Yeah, no, no, no, I guess.
TJ: Speaking of November 20th, that’s when my next book comes out.
Poppy: Okay. Change that. Scratch that. My book will not be coming out on November 20th.
TJ: It is the next book in “The Lightning-Struck Heart” series, “The Consumption of Magic” will come out. That will be my fifth book this year. And then in my final book this year….I released five books in 2016, five books 2017, next year, I’m giving myself a much-needed breather and break. I had planned on still doing the same trying to get to five books a year, but I had a long, hard talk with myself and I said, “Why do I need to hit that number every single year?”
And it’s not that I’m having any trouble writing or feeling burned out about that. I’m writing as much as I always have, It’s just the…much like going to GRL, this is exciting, but can be exhausting. The promotional side of publishing can be very exhausting too because you have blog tours, you have…you know? And now we’re, you know, incorporating all different kinds of social media, Twitter, Instagram, to do a promo for every book that we write.
And that can be very tiring to do because a lot of people don’t realize that you write the book, but that’s not the end because then you have to edit the book three or four times with different editors, and then you have to go and proofread the book again after, then you have to publish the book, and then you have to do all the promo for the book. And I love every aspect of publishing a book, but there’s a time, I think, that I need to take a little bit of a break. So, that being said, I’m only publishing three books next year, three full-length novels that…I have the last book in the Sam Destiny arc, that will come out in March. Then I have what’s probably gonna be the big one which is the sequel to “Wolfsong,” that’s July 31st, 2018. It’s already been set, yeah.
Poppy: Write that down, July 31st. Thank you very much.
TJ: Dreamspinner is trying something a little new with a promotional company that they’re working with that were doing the books editing stuff sooner, pushing the date out further, and actually giving a date, and, hopefully, it will be able to let the book build more steam before it actually hits, you know, and build up the hype for it. And then next fall, I will be doing an experiment where I will be self-publishing for the first time, and I’m really excited about that. I actually just had a meeting with Greg Tremblay and I’m gonna be having him do the audio narration for it. And we’re gonna try something a little different where we’re gonna actually try to get the audiobook and the book out on the same day because that’s something that you see a lot in the big five publishing…
Will: I was about to say, yeah.
TJ: But you don’t see that here because of the way that Amazon and the Audible company, ACX, work. You don’t see that happening because the book has to be on Amazon before a contract can be offered to the audio narrator. So now that I’m self-publishing, that will give me time to put the book on Amazon whenever I want, that way, we can get the contract to Greg who can do the work. And then, we can, hopefully, release them at the same time. And I’m also looking at, hopefully, trying to get a translation or two of that said book at the same time so we can release that on the same day.
I’m trying to expand the way that we do releasing in the MM world to be more like a traditional publisher because I would like…because, like I said previously, there’s people that can’t read a book for whatever reason. I have quite a few readers that have health issues that their sight is failing and they can’t actually read as much as they used to, that’s why they like the audiobooks. But there’s always the long and dreaded delay from when the book is released to when they actually get it, so I’m hoping to try to change that a little bit. So we’re gonna see how that plays out.
Jeff: That’s exciting.
TJ: It is exciting, and I hope it doesn’t blow up in my face.
Poppy: It won’t. It won’t.
TJ: I don’t know.
Jeff: Yeah, I don’t think it could because you’re at least trying it, and the worst that you’ll do is just not connect all the dots and…
TJ: Right, yeah. But the good news about it though is I have very good people having my back. Derrick McClain knows the industry inside and out. Greg Tremblay is obviously, you know, very well-tenured in this industry, so they know that I’m gonna be coming in as a newbie not quite understanding how audio works, and they’re gonna be holding my hand as a unit. So I can’t wait to see what we come up with.
Jeff: Well, not just the audio but the translations too. I think that’s pretty awesome.
TJ: Yeah. What’s awesome though with that is I have fans worldwide that are offering to translate the book because they know I’m gonna be self-publishing. They’re offering to translate. And, you know, obviously, I’m gonna, you know, check everything out to make sure everything’s on the up and up, but if we go that direction, then it will be very much a crowdsourced release of a book. And it’s a book that I’m very excited about that is something completely different for me, so…
Jeff: Can you give any teasers?
TJ: It is set in the mid-’90s, and it is my take on the Heaven’s Gate cult with Marshall Applewhite and how he believed, through a guy that’s a precursor to Alex Jones, the fanatical radio guy. There was a guy that did the same thing in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s on a radio show called “Coast to Coast AM.” He was very big on conspiracies, and he was the one that convinced people that there was a UFO in the tail of the Comet Hale-Bopp. And Marshall Applewhite, the leader of Heaven’s Gate, believed that and then formed his cult on that basis, and it led to that. The whole premise of “The Bones Beneath My Skin,” is the title, is what if they were right and there was one, and that’s what I’ll say about that.
TJ: Yeah. Oh, it’s so MM, enemies to lovers, explosions, helicopters, and marines, so…
Poppy: You saved that bit for last.
Jeff: Let’s all figure out how that might [crosstalk 00:21:38.068]
Poppy: And done. [crosstalk 00:21:40.394] Thank you very much.
Jeff: You mentioned your fans worldwide, and we haven’t talked since Lightning-Struck was on stage over in…
TJ: Canary Islands.
Jeff: Canary Islands. That was pretty amazing.
TJ: It was amazing, and Tetroscopia that did that, they are just a phenomenal group of young people that put that together. Young people, listen to me.
Poppy: Grandpa Klune.
TJ: Yeah, there we go. It’s the beard, it’s the beard.
Poppy: It is the beard. Daddy.
TJ: Very daddy.
Poppy: Daddy Klune.
TJ: And they took what was a 19-hour audiobook and condensed it into a 4-hour play, made their own costumes, wrote their own scripts, choreographed this huge dancing from the ballroom scene in “The Lightning-Struck Heart.” And I couldn’t believe what they were able to do with it. Granted, it was all in Spanish and I didn’t understand a single word, but it was still just weird and wonderful seeing that up on the stage. And, especially, I mean, one of the main characters is Kevin the dragon. They made this frigging dragon costume thing that was just remarkable. And I’m absurdly touched that they chose my book to do that play with, and from what I understand, it was very successful for them and that’s just amazing. And now another one of my books, “Olive Juice,” is being optioned for the stage from what I’m being told.
Jeff: Oh, I could so see that.
TJ: Yeah. I mean, that book was written like a play.
Jeff: That would be much easier, too.
TJ: Yeah. But I love the idea of all of these different mediums because that’s what I wanna try to play around with. And getting something onto a stage, be it a main Broadway stage or a stage in the Canary Islands, it’s the same to me because that’s just a remarkable thing to actually have happened, and I appreciate them very, very much for choosing my book to do that with.
Jeff: Yeah. That’s awesome. Let’s talk about being full-time authors a little bit since you’re both that now. What was the biggest surprise for you, Poppy, as you transitioned to that in terms of…was it getting the word count done or suddenly having all this time and figuring out how to use it correctly, or…?
Poppy: I had to take a little bit of time in the very beginning to sort of let my brain, like, build up the steam again. I think when we had talked about this right after TJ left, he was able to kinda dive in and he was, like, all, like, pent-up energy.
TJ: I was full of steam, yeah.
Poppy: Yeah. And I hadn’t because I had made the decision over a few month period where I really started thinking heavily about it, but I hadn’t really, like, set my heart on it until the moment when I realized I’m gonna do this, it sort of, like, hit me. And so I hadn’t built up…like, I had sort of, like, the ideas had fizzled and the word count had fizzled, and so it took me a few weeks to, like, get excited.
So what I started doing, in the beginning, was just writing ideas, and I didn’t try to pressure myself to get word count. And it wasn’t about hitting a deadline or finishing a book, it was just about how many ideas can I generate over the next few weeks and make them things that I’m excited about? And I have now, like, 30 books in a…I keep this little notebook, actually, I think I might even have it with me, that I just put all these ideas in, tropes that I’ve always wanted to write, characters that had spoken to me and that I had just sort of let drift away into my memory. So I pulled all that stuff back out again and I just started playing.
And so that was a big change because I had let that creative energy really go into my marketing work. It takes a lot of creative energy to market as well, so that was the real transition phase for me. And then it was like when I kind of got to that point and I had all these ideas then, it was like all of a sudden, it was like boom, go. And so it was just a different…because I had always been so energetic about my work, and so it’s just transitioning that energy back into a creative energy that I could tap into and build that steam back up again. Because you know you kinda have to do that. You don’t have to…well, I assumed about your process, but you kinda have to get that energy going.
TJ: Yeah. And, for me, it was a little bit on the opposite spectrum. I just kind of exploded. And I’ve been planning it for months, and months, and months, so I kept it quiet because I didn’t wanna jinx myself because I knew something would happen that would just devastate me if it didn’t go through, but it did. And I had time to build up my finances to make sure everything was set in order, to make sure that if something bad happens while I was jobless, I would be able to stand on my feet still. But I was drowning in my job. It was thankless. I had been in it for 10 years and I was sitting in a cubicle, and it wasn’t, you know, conducive for my sanity any further.
So when I made that decision, it was because of my love of writing but it was also because I was learning to love myself again so I could be happy and do what I want. And I figured, you know what, at that point, I was 33, and then it came to…I was young enough to do something like that. And if I failed, you know what, I can just go back to work, but if I didn’t do it then, I was never gonna do it and I’d regret it for the rest of my life. So I came out, and since I became a full-time author, I’ve written probably over 2 million words, and that’s all manic energy. I really thought it was going to stop and slow after a certain length of time, and it’s just finally starting to do that because I’m allowing myself to let it do that. Because I don’t need to write all the words forever, you know? I don’t need to release five books a year.
Poppy: I beg to differ. You need to write all the words forever. I’m just gonna…
TJ: But I don’t need to write five books a year to be happy and feel like I’m still relevant in this genre, you know? I can go in different directions. And I’ve just recently completed a YA that I now have an agent for, and we’re going in a different direction with that. And I have big, big things on the horizon, I just can’t wait to get to them.
Jeff: I can’t wait to read the TJ Klune YA.
TJ: Yeah, that’s a gnarly book now. That is a gnarly book that I hope does big things for my career because it’s something completely different than a TJ Klune book because I’ll be publishing under Travis Klune, my real name. Because I wanna differentiate between, you know, a 15, 16-year-old picking up one of my other books and be like, “Okay, there is some pretty good sex in this one,” you know, which they do still. And then they email you and you’re like…
TJ: I can’t email back because this is really weird for me. But…
Poppy: Well, can I just, like…? I’m gonna sing you praises for a second, but I think the thing that’s so special about what you do is that you’ve written so many different books. I mean, some of us, like myself, I mean, I have sort of my thing and I stick to it because it’s what I enjoy and what I’m good at, right? I love my small towns, you know, and all that stuff. The magical thing about what you’ve done is all of the worlds that you’ve created, and I think that that energy that you’ve put into it, you’ve created so many special worlds.
TJ: Well, thank you.
Poppy: So I don’t see that going on anywhere.
TJ: That is very awesome to hear.
Poppy: Yeah. It’s really special what you’ve done.
TJ: And it’s honestly just because I could get bored so easily. Because, you know, as everybody can see, I’m very twitchy, and I move a lot, and I talk a lot, but it’s because I can’t sit still. And writing one type of book over and over and over again, it works for some authors who have, you know, their werewolf I’m in book 34 of these series with a million characters, but I can’t do that, you know? In my head right now, I have an idea for a Western, I have a space opera that I wanna do, I wanna do this futuristic android, you know, that takes on Isaac Asimov’s rule of robotics and all of that kinda stuff. So I have so many things that I wanna do, and I don’t wanna get trapped in a box because that would be the worst for me because I think my writing would begin to suffer at that point.
Jeff: I was gonna ask you…
TJ: Thank you.
Poppy: You’re welcome, you’re welcome.
Jeff: Based on something you’ve said there, you know, of what a TJ Klune book is, what is a TJ Klune book? I don’t know how to put a label on that.
Poppy: Can I answer that?
TJ: Okay. Yeah, good, because I don’t know how to answer it. Yeah.
Poppy: A TJ Klune book is amazing characters because it doesn’t matter what genre he’s writing, he can write his high fantasy characters. It’s all about the characters, you know? Gus…
TJ: Gustavo Tiberius, yeah.
Poppy: Thank you. That name trips me up every time. But it’s the character. You don’t remember what genre it is because it doesn’t matter, you know?
TJ: Thank you. That’s very kind of you to say.
Poppy: He captures characters in ways where you know that person. They sit next to you on the train on your way to work, or they’re your neighbor across the hall. Even if it’s a, you know, hornless, gay unicorn, you know that character. You know when you really do. You know somebody who sounds like Gary, who feels like Gary, who acts like Gary, or any of the other characters. I’m sorry, I’m just a fangirl, you know?
TJ: Thank you. That’s so awesome for you to say. I really appreciate that.
Poppy: But the funny thing is about TJ is that his “Bear, Otter, and the Kid” came out just a few months before my first book, so we were sort of in that same…
TJ: First book buddies.
Poppy: First book buddies. Like, it really was…I think you were October?
TJ: It was August, yeah.
Poppy: August, and I was April. So I was April 2012. So, really, like, as I’m getting my contract and getting…because that was right after I got my first contract and he’s come out. So we’ve sort of been in this, really, the same amount of time, and I’ve read all of his books.
TJ: And we’ve seen how much the genre has changed in that time because it’s a completely different world than it was when we first started. I mean…
Poppy: We’re like the old guys now.
TJ: We are. I mean…
Poppy: Isn’t that crazy?
TJ: There’s one of the panels that I was sitting in on. Somebody in there was talking about how they were published in 2009, and I was like, “Holy crap,” you know? And it’s such a different world now, and it’s insane.
Poppy: It really is.
Jeff: And then you had your Q&A…
Poppy: Sorry, did you wanna answer that question about…I just jumped right in.
TJ: You said it better than I can. I have no idea how to answer that question.
Poppy: I think it’s the fans and the fans’ interpretations of what’s special about our books is really more important than what we think because once we’ve…again, let me just put words in your mouth, but once we’ve put a book out there, it’s not about us anymore. It’s not TJ’s or my books.
TJ: Honestly, I don’t wanna ever see that book again by the time we put it out because I’ve seen it…
Poppy: A thousand times.
TJ: …and I know every single page like the back of my hand. And by the time the editing is finished, I’m like, “Go away, book. Go away.”
Jeff: I find it interesting that you said you liked the entire process of publishing. Because by the time I’m doing the galley, I’m like, “Please make this stop.”
TJ: Yeah. See, what I’ve learned to do from these when I get the galley and you have to do that final read-through, I have other people that do that for me so I can… Because by then, they’re just trying to pick up mistakes, and if I had to read that story one more time, I’d be like, “You know what? I’m…” Because you go in stages. During that first edit, you’re like, “Okay, this is a good story. There’s a good foundation here.” The second edit is like, “Okay, there needs to be a little bit more worked on it.” The third edit, you’re like, “I hate this. I’m a terrible writer. This book is awful.” And then you get the galley, you’re like, “Why is this even being published? Who the hell agreed to [crosstalk 00:33:02.907]”
Poppy: Rip up that contract.
TJ: Jesus Christ. And that doesn’t change, no matter… I’ve only had one book where I did not feel that way through the entire process. I was excited and super happy all the way through this.
Poppy: Which book was it?
TJ: “How to Be a Normal Person.”
Poppy: Oh, yes.
TJ: That book makes me happy no matter what, and all the way through, I was just happy about that. But every other book…like, right now, I just recently finished up with everything having to do with “The Consumption of Magic” and I never wanna see that book ever again.
Poppy: And you haven’t even started promo yet.
TJ: I know.
Poppy: And I think that’s one thing that readers may not realize is, you know, we write a book and, you know, it takes different… Some people write a gazillion lines a day, some of us don’t, but it takes, you know, a couple of months.
TJ: Well, you have these 10 books coming out in the next 12 months.
Poppy: You shush, you shush. Stop putting my words back up. But, you know, we get these out. It takes, you know, probably two or three months to get a good draft together, depending on how fast the book is coming together, and then you send it in. And so then you’ve got the whole contract process that you worked, you know? And it can take several weeks to even get a contract, and then you get that back. And then it goes into edits, which that can take months before you even get your first book back. And then you’ve got the editing process, which takes months. And it’s like I don’t think readers realize that by the time the book is in their hands, it’s probably been about a year for us. And it’s like you’ve already put that book aside. It’s a year ago. That was your mind a year ago, so it’s really hard to kinda keep up that sort of excitement and energy for it. So do you find that as well [crosstalk 00:34:35.120]
TJ: We do our best, though.
Poppy: We do. Well…
TJ: We do our best.
Poppy: And I think it gives me energy when the book hits the readers’ hands and you start getting that feedback. Because our readers are so amazing by giving us feedback and being excited for us that that energy, I think, then fills us up again, at least it is for me.
Jeff: Yeah, definitely, definitely.
Poppy: You know, you get that flashback of when the readers are getting it. They’re like, “Oh, my God. I’ve been waiting for this book,” and, “Yay, it finally is here.”
TJ: And one of my favorites are the ones where you spend a year working on this book from, you know, conception to finally being published, and then it goes out, and you go to bed, and you wake up the next morning and they’re like, “We just finished it. It’s so good. Where’s the next book?” And you’re like, “Whoa.”
Poppy: Yeah. And our readers are amazing. I mean, I think that’s, you know…
TJ: Yeah, they are the best.
Poppy: They give us a lot of energy, they really do. It’s really funny. Or when you’re now an author who, I don’t know, teases about a book that’s not gonna be coming out for at least a year so you sit here waiting and waiting for it.
Jeff: Yeah, yeah. I think we got teased on the books that we may see in, like, 2021 [crosstalk 00:35:34.756]
TJ: Yeah. I already have books planned through 2020 at this point, and, you know, I didn’t even talk about the graphic novel that I’m publishing next year. But that’s for another day. That’s for another day.
TJ: That’s for another day.
Poppy: You get plays, you get graphic novels, you’re like… He’s so cool. I mean, seriously, how cool is this guy with his beard?
TJ: Yeah, daddy.
Poppy: Daddy Klune.
Will: Daddy Klune.
Poppy: Yeah, Grandpa Klune over there. He’s an old-timer in the genre now.
TJ: I can’t believe I said, “Young people,”
Poppy: Yeah, especially, as you know, some of us might be several years older than you, yeah, yeah.
TJ: No, no, it’s fine.
Poppy: Thanks for that.
TJ: We’re having a good time.
Will: Oh, my goodness.
Poppy: We’re all friends here.
Jeff: Yes, we are. Well, I think this will about do it for this live episode. You two have been a blast to have on…
TJ: That’s how we do.
Poppy: We do.
TJ: That’s how we do.
Jeff: Before we go, can you quickly tell us where people can find you online to keep up with all the good work?
Poppy: Absolutely. You can find me at my website, poppydennison.com. I’m always available on Facebook. You will never find me on Twitter, so, you know, although I technically have one, not gonna happen. Facebook is the best place if you really want instant gratification.
TJ: Not everyone…
Poppy: Just saying, for men. I post pictures of my dinner. I’m that person. I’m that author.
TJ: I’m at tjklunebooks.com, I am on Twitter, I have Instagram, my handle is there, @tjklunebooks. I have my Facebook page, and we have a recently started Facebook reader group called the “Klunatics,” and they are…
Poppy: The name is really clever. I just gotta say.
TJ: isn’t that fun? I thought that was super fun, but it was started a couple of months ago. We’re already over 1,000 members in that group from all over the world, and it’s absolutely wonderful. And everybody goes in and talks about my books and talks about other people’s books. They discuss, and it’s a great place if you like to read MM and want to discuss it with other people, and that is on Facebook.
Jeff: Fantastic. Again, thank you so much.
TJ: Thank you for having us.
Poppy: Thanks for having us. That was fun.
TJ: That was wonderful.