Jeff & Will welcome Kirt Graves as the new voice of the show.

This week we present a conversation Jeff had at GRL 2019 with wives, authors and all-around creatives BA Tortuga and Julia Talbot. They discuss how they met and started writing together, the publishing company they once formed with friends and how they published some of the first books that make up the gay romance genre we know today. We also find out how the question “what if” is the foundation for so many of their projects as well as what they’ve released for this holiday season.

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Show Notes

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Interview Transcript – BA Tortuga & Julia Talbot

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Jeff: So I’m very excited to be sitting across the table at GayRomLit in Albuquerque with BA Tortuga and Julia Talbot. Thank you so much for being here.

BA: Thank you for asking us. It was just totally cool. We were like, “Oh look at us, we get to play.”

Julia: It was. I was like, “Dude, we made it.”

Jeff: Well, Will and I were talking, it’s like why haven’t we had them on the podcast before? Because rightfully, yesterday in the reading you guys were participating in, which we’ll talk about a little bit more later, Amy referred to you guys as gay romance OG. And it’s like you guys totally are that because you’ve been writing in this genre forever.

BA: And I even know what that means now, OG.

Jeff: It’s true. You did do some Googling and had to ask.

Julia: It doesn’t just mean, you know, old guys.

BA: I did. Well, you know, somebody said that to me and I went, “What does… Is that good?”

Julia: She did.

Jeff: It’s very good.

BA: And good, I know.

Julia: And Damon Suede was like, “Yeah, that’s totally good.” And you know, we’re never sure if he’s messing with us or if it’s true.

BA: So we Googled it.

Julia: We looked it up and we’re like, “Original gangster.” What is…

BA: We aren’t totally gangster.

Julia: It just means old guard .

Jeff: That’s right and totally.

Julia: Yeah, we’re like that. We’re like that.

Jeff: Now, for those who don’t know your OG-ness, please introduce yourselves and give us some context on the career that you’ve had in this genre.

BA: You want to go first?

Julia: No, you go first.

BA: Okay, I’ll go first. Well, I’m BA Tortuga and I’ve been around since the beginning of time.

Jeff: True OG.

BA: To quote my mother, “You must have gone to school with Jesus,” but we started Torquere Press in 2003 when nobody was publishing gay romance. In fact, Ellora’s Cave…

Julia: Oh, my God.

BA: …because we wrote first, right? And then, we figure out, “Okay, we’re going to publish this.” We look and we look and we look. And Ellora’s Cave had this banner right? And it said, “No…”

Julia: It said they would take male-female-male threesomes, but the boys…

BA: Boys couldn’t touch.

Julia: …could not touch. There will be no boy touching.

BA: No boy touching, girls were fine. Boys, no. And so we… Okay. She was living in Colorado, I was in Texas and this conversation we had it on IRC. Do you remember IRC?

Jeff: Oh, yeah.

BA: Okay. It’s literally like three lines long. I said, “Well, we could do that.” And she said, “Well, we could.” And I said, “Okay.” And she said, “Then we will.” And that’s it. I mean, we…you know, she spent $200. I got a business license…

Julia: I started the bank account…

BA: And that was it.

Julia: …opened a post office box.

BA: And we started this business so that we could publish our books and our friends’ books. And it just sort of snowballed and snowballed and snowballed. And then we did it for what, how long? 12 years. A long time.

Julia: 12 years, I think.

BA: And we decided, you know, we don’t…I mean, we weren’t business people who became writers.

Julia: We never really wanted to be publishers. We wanted to be writers who help with that…

BA: Real crap business people. We wanted to write. So we sold off and…

Julia: And we retired, well, as publishers. And then we decided to…

BA: I was going to say, “We didn’t retire. We worked our butts off.”

Julia: Right. But it’s way harder to publish our books.

BA: And it’s been…we’ve had a good time and in that everything has changed and grown and it’s just been crazy.

Julia: It’s crazy.

BA: You know, you figure when we started, everything kind of started from fanfiction, right. It seems like anyway. And I’m not talking about gay lit, which has been…I mean, and you know, you have to give respect for that and you know. But lots and lots of the…especially the female male-male romance writers, you know, came to us.

Julia: Started back with Kirk and Spock and you know…

BA: Right. “X-Files.”

Julia: Zines and, you know, pre-internet stuff.

BA: And so, you know, and now it is its own genre and it…

Julia: Four hundred fifty people at this conference, right.

BA: And now the people, the readers that are coming are romance readers. They are not coming from slash fiction. They’re coming from the romance…and you know, sort of coming from this side and it’s just, I mean…

Julia: It’s kind of a glorious thing.

BA: Yeah. It’s wicked cool.

Julia: So neat.

BA: Now it’s your turn.

Julia: Well, you know, I started the same time that she did in 2003 as far as publishing or, I mean, I had had some stuff published, short stories published in the more traditional gay…

BA: Starbooks. Do you remember Starbooks?

Jeff: My first was in Starbooks, an anthology, yeah.

BA: And they used to change your pseudonym. Remember?

Julia: They did. Because I’ve always been a Julia and they used to change my name to either Jay Talbot or Jules Talbot because they said that their readers in Starbooks wanted male authors.

BA: Oh, sure.

Julia: They didn’t want to know that women were writing gay stuff, which I, you know, whatever sells books. Right. But it’s been very nice to see, while there are still pods of that weirdness going on, to see the diversity now. I mean, you know, it’s been really interesting just the last couple of years to see ace fiction and trans fiction and, you know, some of these other things that people just didn’t even want to touch coming into their own right.

BA: Well, it’s specifically romance because I think fiction has always been.

Julia: Sure, romance. Sure. Yeah. So, but I mean, I’ve always been a writer and I’ve been in the book industry for, well, since I graduated from high school. I was working at a library.

BA: Back in the stone age.

Julia: In the stone age. Yeah. I used to work for Ingram’s Book Distributors. You know, I used to, I worked for libraries, but you know, writing, that’s the best job on earth. And so I’ve been doing that almost full time since 2003.

Jeff: How did you two meet that led to the IRC message?

BA: I get to tell this story.

Julia: You do because it’s your best friend.

BA: It’s my story. Well, my best friend, Sean Michael, introduced us and it was just really very, very random. But the cool thing is she was writing this, well, her very first book, and they’re the “Thatcher Brothers” series. And I read it and I went sparkle. And so I fell in love with her writing before I ever, ever met her, you know, and I sent her a little gift because, you know, I just, I was in love. I mean, I read her book and I went, “This is it. This is my girl.” And so, and then, it just determinedly, and I went and I got you, didn’t I?

Julia: Yeah.

BA: Took me about three years to convince her. And then, well, we got… Well, we’ve been together for 16 years and we got married 5 years ago. So, but yeah, it was, she…I read her stuff and I went, “This is my girl. This is my girl.”

Jeff: Oh, my god. I love that.

Julia: And I knew… Oh, it was probably a couple months after we met, we’re on IRC and Sean Michael had convinced us to write a story together, all three of us. And we’re writing this story where there’s this established couple and there’s the pizza delivery guy, you know, and he comes in. It was just supposed to be this pornolicious, you know, plot what plot.

Jeff: You had your pornolicious with pizza delivery guy.

Julia: Well, and the delivery guy shows up and our guys on page are acting perfectly normal but I’m going… And finally, I opened an IRC window just with her and I’m like, “They’re going to eat him. They’re gonna eat him. They’re werewolves and they’re going to eat him.” And she was like, “Yes. Oh my God. Don’t tell Sean.” I was like, “Okay. I won’t tell him.” But it was absolutely the truth. We were like on the, and I knew then, I’m like, we’re on the same page, you know?

BA: We’re writing the same story.

Julia: If I had said that to anyone else they would’ve gone, “You’re crazy.” But we were totally writing the same story and we’ve been sort of…

Together: …writing the same story…

Julia: …ever since.

Jeff: It’s such an incredible story that a story brought you to her and all of the love grew out of it. You built a company out of it.

BA: Right, we did.

Jeff: And an ongoing creative partnership that’s endured 16 years. Did you see any of that happening or is it because that it started with a story that you kind of could see the creativity that was going to come out of it?

BA: I don’t think we…I mean when she tells us the story of her pseudonym, it tells you that we had no idea that this was going to become what it became. I mean, I think we thought we were always going to be able to write stories together and stuff, but I don’t think…like we would’ve never said we were both going to quit our day jobs and we were both going to be able to, you know, make our living out of this.

Julia: When she moved to Texas, she says to me, “I’m not the constant companion type, honey. I’m going to live in another town.” It’s okay. She buys a condo next town over. You spent what? Six weeks there? Maybe? Tops?

BA: No, maybe six months.

Julia: But no, but I mean even like, but you have to count the days we weren’t together.

BA: Well, that’s what I mean because I like the…I was at the condo “for like a year” before we actually, I moved in with her.

Julia: And then we got dogs.

BA: And then we got dogs together.

Julia: And it was over, right.

BA: Which is whole another story that we don’t have time for. Sorry. That was also fated. You know, she was just like, “Wait,” we’re driving by, I’ll tell you just really quick, puppies, side of the road, puppy mill kind of situation. And I said, “Do you want to stop?” And she was like, “No.” But you know what? A mile down the road, she’s like, “Turn around.” And we went home with two puppies. She was like, “No, wait, those, there are puppies over there.”

Julia: And they had names before we ever left. But yeah… And then, you know, all of a sudden, I mean, we haven’t been separated for more than… When daddy had a stroke, I had to fly home and it was two and half days and that’s the longest we’ve been apart in…

BA: Because of said dogs, I couldn’t leave the dog. You know, that was after we moved up here.

Julia: Yeah. And we haven’t been, I mean, we spend every waking hour together and well, all the sleeping hours too.

BA: All of the hours.

Julia: And people think we’re crazy. They’re like, “You work together, you live together.” And we’re like, “Yeah.”

Jeff: It is really the best.

Together: Yeah, it really is.

BA: Yeah. I’ve got my whole world just right here.

Jeff: Let’s go back further. Okay. In time, how did you start writing? Like what was the impetus to write stories?

BA: I have never wanted to be anything else. I got my very first publication cred in 1976 and I was 5, and I have been writing since. I’ve never…no one has ever heard me say I ever wanted to be anything else. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do and that’s all I’ve ever… I mean, I was an artist for a little while, but really, it’s what I do is I write stuff I make. I make shit up for a living.

Julia: And you tell stories.

BA: Tell stories.

Jeff: I have to ask, what was the five-year-old writing credit?

BA: You know the, the magazine “Cricket.” Have you ever heard of that?

Jeff: Oh, yeah.

BA: Okay. It was a poem in the magazine “Cricket.”

Jeff: That’s awesome. Do you still have it?

BA: No, no. I had a house fire.

Jeff: Oh no.

BA: And so, no.

Julia: And a tornado.

BA: And a tornado. Rednecks.

Julia: Texas.

BA: Texas. Okay. So I’m going to tell you a story. We had only knew each other online and I’m telling her this and this is this and this happened and this happened and she’s going, “You are a liar. You are not a good…”

Julia: Like there is no way that that much crap could happen to one single family in a three-month period. I mean there’s no way. There’s no stinking way.

BA: Right. She meets my family and she goes, “Oh my God.”

Julia: I’m surprised you’re not all dead. I mean, honest to God, you know, because, you know, my family, military brat, four of us, we moved around, we were the core group. She’s got nine brothers and sisters. You know, her dad was married three times, twice to her mother.

BA: My mother’s been married so many times that she can’t get married again.

Julia: Yeah. Because they won’t let her change her social security card anymore.

BA: Listening, shh, I apologize for telling stories on you. My father won’t be listening, so it’s okay. Yeah.

Jeff: We need to get your writing origin story, too.

Julia: Well, you know, I always, always…my parents were both storytellers. Neither one of them were particularly, I won’t say literate, but neither one of them were particularly writerly. You know, they were bullshitters, sit around the campfire, tell stories, tell the same stories to the family over and over and over again. No matter how many times you hear them and the kids sit around and go, “Tell it again.” And so, I think I just come by it naturally. But I wrote my grandma a letter when I was seven because my mom made me write my grandma a letter every week, whether I wanted to or not, on this pre-internet where you could just write an email and yes, dear grandma,

BA: Dear grandma.

Julia: And I decided that maybe the world…it would be a great place if we could power the world with popcorn.

Jeff: Okay. Sure.

Julia: Solar power, popcorn, the energy of the popping of the popcorn, and my mom was like, “Dude, that’s awesome. You should start writing stories.” And I did. Now my first publication wasn’t until I was 15, my first pub credit and that was in a literary magazine. But you know, that was where it started, popcorn.

Jeff: So jumping forward again from “Cricket” and popcorn…

BA: “Crickets,” popcorn.

Jeff: …what brought you to writing gay romance?

Julia: Oh, fanfiction, for me. No, I mean now my fanfiction career was this long.

BA: Teeny.

Julia: Yours was shorter. But mine, you know, I had…was living in Colorado and I’d had a girlfriend who left me. It was very sad. My mom passed away, very sad. And so I filled my time. A friend of mine introduced me to “Buffy,” I think it was fanfiction, Spike and Xander, you know, and I would sit there for hours and read. And I would think, “Man, this is crap.” I mean, some of it was really good and some of it was really crappy. And I was like, “I can do better than this.” And I did. And I was like, no, I mean, years ago I’d read Anne Rice’s A. N. Roquelaure hilarious stories where there was a lot of male-male goings on, right?

BA: I remember those. I remember those.

Julia: And I was like, “You can do that.” And same way Poppy Z. Brite, I was a big fan of hers and everything, but it never occurred to me that I could write that stuff until fanfiction. And then I wrote fanfiction for like a year and I was like, “Yeah, but you know, I want complete creative control over these characters. I want to know that I can…I don’t have to stick to any kind of canon and nobody’s going to complain if I veer off the beaten track. So I’m just going to go write my own stuff and whether anybody reads it or not.” And lo and behold, I did. You know, so.

BA: And it was good.

Julia: Yeah, some of it. Oh God, when you look at some of those early books, I think…

Jeff: I think all authors do that.

Julia: I think so. I think so, but, you know.

BA: Cheesy, greasy. And I get my turn?

Jeff: Of course.

BA: Well, my degree is in erotic literature and so…and I’m going to back up a little bit. Where I grew up, I grew up in Greenville, Texas, and I knew all sorts of gay men, tons, I dated lots of them. But nobody, nobody ever told me there were lesbians. It never came up. We just all sort of assumed that that’s what girls did, right? We were experimenting. And so, you know, I knew all these gay men and I had all these gay friends, but there weren’t lesbians. And then I got married very, very young to a man. And so that wasn’t a thing. And then when I figured out I was a lesbian and my mother-in-law figured out I was lesbian, I had a child and she was a lawyer and she said, “You toe the line or I will take that baby from you.” So line was toed, toeing line but…and so I was sort of like, you know, I would sneak the lesbian fiction, but gay fiction was fine because it didn’t upset the index. Right. Nobody was mad. That was cool. And I write all around and it just happened to my branding and I hit with the gay fiction because I have lesbian fiction and trans fiction.

Julia: And she writes horror really good.

BA: You know, I don’t care, I’ll write anything. Just give me a piece of paper, I’ll write it. But that’s how…and it was really, because when you gave me the questions, I was like, “Okay, how did I start? And that’s it.” I mean, I knew all sorts of gay men. And I know that it sounds incredibly stupid when you say it. I didn’t know that there were gay women. No one told me.

Jeff: But you’re in Texas.

BA: Right. And in teeny-tiny town Texas.

Jeff: I mean, what year must that have been?

BA: In the ’80s.

Jeff: In the ’80s, yeah.

BA: In the ’80s, yeah. You know, and I’m not sure, I mean I’m not sure why, but everybody just assumed, I think, that experimenting is what girls did. And that was okay.

Julia: Eventually, you were going to get married and have babies and then settle down.

BA: But eventually you were going to get married and have babies, because that’s what one did. And that’s what I did. So I know that’s like a crazy answer, but it’s the truth.

Jeff: No, I mean, it’s like you said, it’s the truth. So as you got together and made a publishing company, which I have to say, especially in, like, 2003 when there was…

Julia: We had no idea what we were doing. I mean, e-books were baby.

Jeff: Exactly, e-books were baby. I don’t think the…was the Kindle out in 2003?

BA: Oh, no.

Jeff: Yeah, we were still like the good five years away.

BA: There were PDFs and we burned CDs and mailed them to people. Honest to God, that’s what we did.

Jeff: And so you weren’t doing it with the technological easiness of today. I mean, there’s still a lot of work. Let’s not mistaken that there’s still a lot of work, but that was a whole different…stone age practically.

BA: You hand put it line by line, that was my job. She did all the money stuff and I…

Julia: And she hand coded stuff line by…and did a lot of the covers to begin with because she had done graphic arts for a while. That was one of her degrees was graphic arts and so she did that and, you know, she was working on Photoshop before it was called Photoshop, you know, and so…

Jeff: But to make a publishing company in that time rather than just trying to put your own books out, you’re taking on the overhead of bringing your friends on too. And how did all that build itself up? Because it sounds like the amount of work it sounds like that takes almost exhausts me just to hear it a little bit.

BA: I was a lot younger then.

Julia: We were. I was going to say we were a lot of younger then. We were all working like three jobs. But, you know, all of…the one thing about it was that all of us, including our friends, Sean Michael for example, Jodi Payne was around then, believe it or not, in 2005, she came on board, Chris Owen. We were all English majors at some point in our lives, whether it was master’s degrees or… So the editing was built in there to begin with. And nobody got paid. They got paid in books. We had a couple of artists friends who came on board right away and did covers for us, everything for free until we, so all we had to do is pay for this…

BA: Because nobody thought this was actually going to happen, right. This was the, you know, this was us being dorks and, you know, humor the crazies and then this will go away.

Julia: Like her best friend from high school who had never read a gay book in her whole life was…came on as a proofreader because she has this really analytical, she’s an analyst, you know, and so she has this really, like, analytical mind. We would give her a list of things to look for and that’s what she looked for, you know? And so that was…you know, and then, bless her heart, she didn’t stop working for us until like two years before we closed. You know, she was just like, “I think the idea of reading one more book for anybody, makes me want to cry. I’m going to quit now.” And we were like, “Okay.”

Jeff: That’s so sad that you…she didn’t wanna read any more books.

Julia: Well, but by then… Right, because, you know, by then we’d started out putting out five books a year or whatever it was. I think the first year, we probably put out 15 books or something like that. And then we were putting out 15 books a week there for a little while. And she just, you know, she was hysterical. I don’t blame her. I don’t know…

Jeff: How many books do you have now in your overall lists?

BA: Between us, probably 300. Probably.

Jeff: That’s amazing.

Julia: You still have 160 to republish.

BA: Yeah, I still 160 to put back out.

Julia: You know, we’re just going through a phase where we’re having…we’re republishing a lot of our stuff as self-published books. And so we know, that’s a great question for us right now because, you know, I know with that…with the books that I’m having to republish, I had like 30 from that catalog and that’s over and above the 50 or something that I still have.

BA: And that’s not all full-length novels.

Julia: You know, that’s novellas. It doesn’t include short stories, but you know, the shorter works are in there.

Jeff: It’s an amazing back list of, and body of work. What’s it like to be a creative household, like two creatives living and working together?

Julia: We don’t ever really, I mean, especially now in the internet age, we hardly ever leave the house. I mean, it’s kind of…

BA: But I mean, it’s everything we do though. We make things and that’s all we do. I mean, you know, what are your hobbies? Well, we knit, we quilt, we cook. I mean everything we do, right.

Julia: And we have to sculpt. And then we have, you know, we both have a couple of little side businesses we do. I do Etsy, so I do antiques and vintage stuff, you know, on Etsy. She does covers for people occasionally…

BA: I make weird dolls.

Julia: So she makes weird art dolls, vampire teeth on little baby dolls, you know, with the crazy zombie eyes and stuff, you know, that sort of thing.

Jeff: I don’t need to see those ever. That’s nightmare material.

Julia: Or, you know, picture books, you know. But yeah, and…

BA: But we just do it. I mean, I can’t imagine not doing it, you know, because I mean we tell each other’s stories and we…

Julia: I do or what if. You wouldn’t believe, and in fact it hangs on the wall in our office, the letters, we have wooden cut out letters painted in rainbow paint that says, “What if?” And so it’s that what if, and that’s, I mean, 90% of the conversations in our house start either what if or “Hey, what if there was this…?” Well, there again is the what if. “What if there was this guy and he did blah and he had a lover who did blah.” But we also say, “Well, you know, what if we put vampire teeth on the baby doll and gave her a little bit of werewolf hair on her chin, what would that look like?”

BA: “What if we break this and stick it to this other thing and then we can make this thing.” My mom says I wasn’t a why baby. I was a what if mama. “What if there’s a murderer outside and what if he opens the door and what if he has an ax and what if that ax is slippery and what if it falls and it hits him in the foot and then he has to limp.”

Julia: And he leaves, bloody footprints.

BA: Then he leaves bloody footprints all over the house and then you have to mop again and then you would be mad.

Julia: Spoiler. That hasn’t changed since. She hasn’t changed a bit. She’ll hear a noise outside and I’m like, “Well.” She’s like, “What was that?” I’m like, “It was a coyote.” We have an easement behind our house, the great biggies. We have coyotes, we have deer, we have skunks, which you can at least tell when there’s a skunk. But she’ll say, “What was that?” I’m like, “It was a coyote.” She’s like, “No, what if it was a rabid two-legged, you know…”

BA: It could happen.

Julia: “…Moss-covered credenza.” And I’m going, okay.

BA: This is the one which she says to me where we’re sitting there, it’s dark, we’re sitting there and she’s like, “Was that an ice cream truck?”

Julia: It was an ice cream truck.

BA: And she said, “You could run out and see. You get me ice cream.” And I looked at her, I said, “In what universe? In what universe is ice cream truck music at night a good idea? There’s not a dimension where in ice cream music at night does not mean acid pouring out of the window or big scary clown or you know, alien hoop in the tentacles and it’s bad.”

Julia: Ax murderer if you go.

BA: Ax murderer, anything.

Jeff: I went to the clown, personally.

Julia: You went there.

BA: But I’m like, “What? Who says this? Who says this? Could you run out there and see if that big scary ice cream truck music is okay?” “Sure, baby. No problem.”

Julia: Now this is just because where she comes from, if there’s an ice cream truck, it’s a drug dealer.

BA: It’s a drug dealer.

Julia: In Austin, if there’s an ice…and they run away from you, the kids run out with their money and the guy goes, “No.”

BA: Faster, because he’s paddling.

Julia: Because he doesn’t want the kids to see the drug, the meth lab in the truck. So I tell her in New Mexico, that’s not the case. It’s just some poor guy in there, you know, running a…

BA: She lies.

Julia: …Hurdy-gurdy or something.

BA: She lies.

Julia: It’s just some poor schmuck trying to sell ice cream, but…

BA: Scary clown.

Jeff: You started collaborating from a writing standpoint, also very early with that Sean Michael story that you three worked on. How’s that part of collaboration between the two of you creating stories and then writing the books and…?

BA: There’s never a story that, you know, somebody hasn’t needed to be, you know, pun intended, that their finger hasn’t had in the pie.

Julia: I have to tell you, when we first started Torquere, there was only so much, so many authors to pull from. Right? And so we all sort of wrote together and sometimes we would pick a pseudonym and it would be, for instance, Lauren Rodman was me and Sean Michael writing together. That was our pseudonym together. Because Lorna, that’s, you know, and Sean and Rodman is based off of a last name in her family and that sort of thing. And so, but at one point, somebody accused us all of being the same person and we’re like, “Well, we kind of are.” I mean, we’re not…it’s not like we weren’t gonna acknowledge that. We all co-wrote it together. And there’s, and she’s right, there’s really not a BA or Julia story that doesn’t have at least some, you know, she’ll…if nothing else, she’ll read it and say, “God damn it, Julia, put somebody’s eye out, you know, or do something.” But there are times when, you know, “I’m on deadline. You come in here and write this character for me while I write this one. In that way we can get this book turned in.” I mean, it happens.

BA: Or and all stories start right with this, what if blah, blah, blah. And then we have to fight it out. Well, whose book is it? Right.

Julia: Okay. Is it going to be a Julia book or BA book or a Minerva book or a, you know…

BA: Right. So we’re kind of going, you know, so we can kind of go, “Hey, but I want it.” In fact, that is even been known to happen when she started something, and I finally said, “You know, I need it. Can I have it?”

Julia: I’ll tell her, you know, I started a book, I don’t know, it was about a year ago now and I got 30,000 words into it. Not kidding. And I said, “This is not a Julia book.”

BA: So she handed it to me.

Julia: Because I was trying to make it this weird BDSM thing and it ended up being a cowboy magical realism book. And you know, the BDSM went out the window.

BA: Yeah, I totally changed it.

Julia: What I mean, it just was totally not meant to be my book. And I wrote those 30,000 words solo, but I handed it off to her and said, “Here you make it a BA book.”

BA: “You fix it.”

Julia: And she fixed it and made it a BA book and finished and it’s coming out in the spring, I think. So, you know.

Jeff: That’s amazing. My brain goes off to maybe a weird comparison, but like Lennon and McCartney. They wrote all those songs. Sometimes they don’t even know who wrote what anymore. And all of your stuff, I mean, it blends together. And everybody…

BA: We’re all kind of the semi…you know, writing, we like to pretend that it’s super, super solo, but it’s not. I mean, we all…we’re collaborators in a really deep sort of way, aren’t we? I mean, you know, you can’t write in a vacuum. I mean, in a weird sort of way, we’re like the biggest collaborators because we’re doing, I mean, we’re pulling all…

Julia: Everything.

BA: …from everything and we’re sucking it all in. Right? And so we’re collaborating with the damn universe. So collaborating together. I mean that’s nothing easier, right?

Julia: That’s small scale.

BA: Yeah, when you think about it

Jeff: And you both co-write with others, too. How’s that perhaps different from the way you two do it together?

BA: Well, it’s totally different because especially when you…well, like, I co-write with Jodi Payne quite a bit and she has a character and I have a character. Now we don’t do chapter by chapter. I’m going to try that. I don’t know how it’s going to work.

Julia: With Jodi, you have a process…

BA: Kiernan Kelly and I are going to try that, but we do kind of…it’s conversational. She’ll type a bit and then she’ll tell me, “Okay, you go.” And then we’ll trade it back and forth and there are lots of problems with it because since it is a conversation, kind of literally, you tend to white room a little bit. You have to go back and afterwards and add, you know, the little things because in your head, right, you’re literally having this conversation.

Julia: And occasionally, you have to go back and fix those POV slips because since both of you…like when she and I write, we both, she picks a character, I pick a character that we both identify with the most and the couple. But at the same time I’m allowed to write dialogue for her character and vice versa. And with, I know with Jodi, Jodi tends to not do that. You know, she wants to write the…so the POV can slip, occasionally. If it’s tight third person…

BA: You have to go and fiddle,

Julia: We have to go fix it, you know.

BA: With you, I just go, “Cut, damn it.” Yeah. It’s a little more immediate.

Julia: She can just throw something at you from across the couch and go, “Would you please pay attention?”

Jeff: So we have to talk a little bit about the book you debuted here at GRL. So let’s just have you tell the story of what happened when you ended up with this reading slot all of a sudden at GRL.

BA: We have to go back a little bit further. Kiernan Kelly and Julia and I were in Coastal Magic a couple of years ago and we were fucking around as one does. And we were going, “Oh, what if this and what if that?” We were like, “What if we did an ABC book?” And I went, “Yes, A is for asshole.” And it just went boom, boom, boom.

Julia: But, you know, as it happens, with your life, you get busy. We never had time or the urgency to make the project a reality. We were like, “Oh, we’ll work on it. We’ll work on it. No problem. Whatever.” And then when they told us, because we had…it’s been years since we did GRL and things have changed very much since the last time they did it. And they told us that we had to sign up for a slot. You could either do a reading or a Q&A session or one of those storyteller things. And so we missed the storyteller deadline, went right by us, you know, and when they opened the Q&A slots and the reading slots, we were all out of the house for more fun. You know, all of us for the change, out of the house doing things. And Reese Dante texts me and says, “Are you going to sign up for something? Slots are going fast.” By the time we all got there, they just signed up for a slot, all that was left is readings because nobody wants to do that. Right? Like everybody’s intimidated to stand up in front of people and read their own work. And so it was me and Jodi Payne and Kiernan who got the same slot. And we were like, well, what if we had BA crash the party and we did “The ABCs of Gay Romance.” That could be kind of epic, I think, if we could get it done in time.

BA: So Lorna or Julia, I’m never going to get that right.

Julia: Doesn’t matter, everybody knows who I am.

BA: You wrote the poem and then I did the meter and, you know, made sure everything fit and edit and swole because swollen, it just doesn’t run very well.

Julia: And then Kiernan corrected me on some of them, you know, she chose different things because she had to do something she could illustrate. She illustrated the book and she was like, “Yeah. I don’t know if I can illustrate that.” So let’s do…

BA: She should get all the credit because I mean, it’s the illustration.

Julia: Creatively, it is Kiernan’s book. You know, and she just gave us all credit for, you know…

BA: Being alive.

Julia: Being alive

BA: But it’s her. And we saw the first, we saw the asshole and we went, “Oh, this is hilarious. This might actually work. This is another one of our stupid ideas that might actually work.” You never know.

Jeff: You had the room cracking up yesterday.

BA: Yes.

Jeff: A 100%. And I mean, you turned a reading into story time because Kiernan was reading it. Julia and Jodi were walking around the room showing the pictures.

BA: I was just gonna be an asshole, but that’s okay.

Julia: You were doing it on Facebook live. So, the entire world out there can watch it now not just the people here at GRL, but, you know, you had to be here to get it firsthand.

Jeff: Now it’s up on Amazon and we’ll certainly have the link to it in the show notes so that people can find it because it is hidden because it’s filed under adult material or however they figured it out.

Julia: Oh my gosh, gay romance, first of all. And second there is, yeah, no, there is some…

BA: It qualifies it as adults.

Jeff: You don’t want a child to get a hold of it for story time.

BA: I’m not going to explain it.

Jeff: Can you imagine?

Julia: No.

Jeff: What if a child gets hold of it for story time.

Julia: Somebody takes that to, you know, for show and tell.

BA: Bad, bad, bad touching.

Jeff: So this came together pretty quick. Because if I remember right, the signups were happening like mid-summer. And you’re here in October with a completed book.

Julia: Kiernan was here, when was she at the house?

BA: In September. It was early September.

Julia: And we sat down and did the lion’s share of the work then and then she did the illustrations, you know, after she got home and had her computer so she can clean everything up and everything. And then she, but I mean we just got the proofs. Oh, I don’t know. We got the books in two weeks ago. So we must’ve just got the proof like two weeks before that, you know. So yeah, it came together pretty fast.

Jeff: Just amazing. And it’s so adorable. I’m leaving here with one autographed before the weekend is out. You both have pen names beyond how I introduced you. Tell us about your pen names and what you write under those so people can go find the entire catalog.

BA: Well, I write under Anne Key. I write YA under Anne Key. And it’s bizarre because I’m not a YA writer? I mean, I wasn’t going to do it. I had no interest in it. And then my son, who is trans said, “There’s nothing for me. I need books.” So, okay, mama will do it… And so now I have a YA book out, a trans YA romance out. I have a number of lesbian YA books out. Just, you know, because I think everybody ought to be able to tell that… Look at themselves.

Julia: Yeah, absolutely.

BA: Look at the book and see themselves.

Julia: We always say representation is important and that is…

BA: Especially at that age. Right. Or you could end up like me and not know that there were lesbians.

Julia: Or just, for example, Jodi Payne’s son. Right, now we’re wanting books with male. YA books with male characters, not female heroines. Because right now the female heroine is very in in all YA, right. And so she…

BA: He wants scary books.

Julia: Yeah. He wants horror books. And so now she’s going to write a YA horror book with a male.

BA: I can’t let him not have a book.

Julia: You know, this is not a “Goosebumps story,” you know, not that “Goosebumps,” there’s anything wrong with it. I mean, anything that gets your kid to read 500 books. You know, I used to say that about “Harry Potter.” When I went to the bookstore, people would be like, “I don’t want my child reading those trashy books.” I’m like, “They’re a thousand-page books.” Anything that gets your kid to read a thousand page book, rejoice, you know, just sit there and go, “Oh,” you know, but yeah, so that’s…

BA: You get to plug Minerva now.

Julia: Right. I write as…my Julia stuff is sort of like the more traditional trophy gay romance. And then as Minerva Howe, I write a little kinkier, more BDSM-y, spanky, daddy kink sort of, you know, stuff like for instance, I have a male-male-female historical femdom as Minerva, which, you know, say that three times fast…

BA: No, thank you.

Julia: And people sort of go, but it’s set in the Georgian period. So it’s not even like a historical period. Everybody knows a lot about, you know, but that’s, I kind of like, I kind of use Minerva for my stuff that I don’t know if it’s really going to take off or not, but it’s fun. It’s a lot of fun. And then I’ve had several other pseudonyms over the years as co-writers. And right now none of those books are out there, I don’t think. Like the Lauren Rodman books…

BA: I don’t think so.

Julia: …I don’t think they’ve been republished right now.

BA: And then once upon a time we were Rob Knight.

Julia: We were Rob Knight. There was a pseudonym called Rob Knight and we wrote suspense, romantic suspense, honestly as Rob Knight. Yeah.

Jeff: Are those books floating around?

Julia: You’re fixing to do a “Touching Evil.” It’s going to be re-released soon.

BA: Yeah, there’s a couple, but most of them say now they’ll just, they’ll say BA…

Julia: BA Tortuga, Julia Talbot.

BA: Yeah. Because it just seemed easier to not confuse people.

Jeff: And maybe to reduce the overhead of so many pen names because there’s an overhead to having that for sure.

BA: Exactly. You know, 20 years ago there wasn’t as much because, you know, there was no Facebook.

Jeff: No Facebook, no social, no.

BA: No. It wasn’t a thing

Jeff: With hundreds of books out, what keeps your creative well going so that you keep having the new ideas and the things that excite you to go write the next story?

BA: I’m gonna say music a lot. A lot of my stuff is, you know, I’ll hear a song and go, “Oh, what if blah,” right. I mean, you know, I’ll hear a song…

Julia: And she’ll look at me and say there’s a story there.

BA: Yeah, there’s a story there.

Julia: Like there’s a novel right there. I mean right there, all I have to do is translate that into two guys and…

BA: Reality.

Julia: And their reality, right?

BA: Yeah. For me, it’s really music. Music is my thing because I can’t write, like, if my vampire playlist is on, I can’t write something else that, you know, I am totally…

Julia: Yes, but if your angry cowboys playlist is on, you’re not writing vampires either.

BA: I have to tell you that somebody gets really, really frustrated about the 27,000th time I have played playlist number 4 that has 20 songs and she’s going, “Either finish writing the God damn book or I’m going to choke you.” I’m like, okay, typing faster, faster, faster.

Julia: If I have to hear that Tori Amos song one more time. Yeah.

Jeff: Can you tie a specific book to a song to give us a couple of examples?

BA: Oh goodness, sure.

Together: “Whisky to Wine.”

BA: “Whiskey to Wine” is a Garth Brooks song. And I mean, the story is about former lovers, one of them a blind sculptor and, what’s that thing with this…not the skiing. Snowboarding. A snowboarding professional, has nothing to do with the song. Nothing, except that when I heard the song that was the story, right. That was it. I got them both. Boom. “Two of a Kind Working on a Full House,” which is another Garth Brooks song. Like I said again, you know, this is a song about, you know, a guy and his wife and they’re fixing to have babies. And the story is about a rodeo cowboy and a ranch cowboy who inherited five children and how they work that out. They don’t have to correlate in anywhere but in my bizarre little brain.

Julia: “Living in Fast Forward” is another one.

BA: “Living in Fast Forward,” you know, there’s tons. I mean, I tend to use, because, you know, you can’t copyright a title. So I tend to use a lot… I have plans for, you know, a whole series that are based on Alan Jackson songs and it, like I said, they don’t correlate except for in my brain and…

Jeff: But that’s that spark of inspiration.

Julia: That’s all that it requires, yeah.

BA: Oh, that one right there.

Jeff: And what about your creative well?

Julia: I get… Well, I get it. I draw it from all over the place, but I get a lot of stuff from traveling. You know, I will come home from a trip that we take to Colorado. Colorado is where my mom is from…was from. And so I go up there as much as I can, you know, I’ll go up to the mountains and just hang out and I come home with, “Well, what if there was this wolf shifter that’s been released on a, you know, I don’t know…”

BA: Youth reservation.

Julia: Well, or on grand mesa, you know, they’re doing repopulation of wolves and one of them happens to be a shifter and he’s hiding out, you know. What about that?

BA: No moose shifters.

Julia: I did a moose shifter actually for a Christmas story once. Yeah. Yeah. Everybody thought he was a reindeer. He was like the ugly duckling and he went to live with Santa, you know, and he wasn’t a reindeer when he got to be full grown, they were like, “My God, he’s a moose.” And so he’s actually the postal delivery guy for Santa up at the North pole. And then there was an elf that he hooks up with, you know…

BA: Because that’s as one does.

Jeff: Indeed, yes.

Julia: That particular publisher encourages that sort of nonsense, you know, so, which is great. I love Margaret, the lady that runs the company, it’s Changeling Press. She’s like, “Write me this craziest Christmas story you can think of.” And I’m like a moose shifter. When I was in my early 30s, my mom passed away and she had told me to go, “You go and you do.” Pardon me. And so I went to Italy and I went to England and I went…and man, I wrote.

BA: To Texas.

Julia: I did. I went to Texas. But, you know, I was, I grew up in Las Cruces, New Mexico, you know, 45 minutes from El Paso. But I’d only ever been to El Paso in Texas. So, you know, I’m going to Dallas and I’m going to Austin. I’m seeing, we’re seeing all sorts of stuff together. So to me that’s, you know, and then like for the cowboy stories that I write, which I do write a few, rodeos. I go to a lot of rodeos.

BA: We go to a lot of rodeos.

Julia: My grandpa was a rodeo cowboy. I had a cousin who was on the rodeo team at NMSU and you know, when he was in college. And so rodeos, I go to a lot of rodeos and you watch the cowboys and you go, “Okay, we could…I could rub that one and that one together.” You know, and say that works. You know, I love that. But that’s traveling too. We went to Cheyenne to go to the frontier days. You know, we want to go to Calgary and go to the stampede. And which is also interesting because you know, there’s a lot more gay wise in the rodeo life than you would think. And so that’s also very interesting to see that juxtaposition between them being whether they’re allowed to be gay or not and whether they’re in the closet or in the…

BA: Traveling partners.

Julia: …traveling partners. Yeah. And that sort of thing. So that’s a lot of inspiration for me, too.

Jeff: There’s a lot of cowboys in your work and I think we’ve just heard some of the why because there’s all those, you’re going to the rodeos and going to those events. What are some of your other favorite character types and paired with that, some of your favorite tropes that you like to play with often?

BA: My favorite trope of all time as former lovers, I just…

Jeff: Second chance is the best.

BA: Yes, I would eat…I eat that up. I like enemies to lovers, but…

Julia: And you like friends to lovers like best friends to lovers.

BA: I love friends to lovers, but second chance, that’s my jam. We have this huge terrible backstory and we’re going to be forever after. I mean, I love that. I have to say that if they’re not cowboys, they’re rednecks. I mean, I write westerns, you know, I grew up on a ranch. My daddy’s a cowboy. If I try to write somebody that’s not a cowboy, they still say y’all and there’s nothing I can do about it. I mean that, you know, because that’s my whole self. I don’t know anything else. And so I write that and it’s kind of strange because people will go, “Well, do you read a lot of cowboys?” And I’m like, “I read some cowboys, but I…” You know how you know what you know? That’s the cowboys I know. And to me, you know…

Julia: And a Texas cowboy and a Colorado cowboy and a South Dakota cowboy or not the same animal.

BA: Right. They’re not the same critter.

Julia: We’re at the rodeo in Austin one year and unlike normally, we’re sitting at the roping end, there’s a roping end…

BA: And the roughstock end.

Julia: …and the roughstock end where the bull riding happens and the bronc riding happens, the roping end has got different kinds of shoots.

BA: Roping.

Julia: Well, yeah, shut up. Anyway, so we’re sitting in the box seats right there and we’re watching the cowboys get ready to do their event. And this guy comes over and he’s carrying his gear. He hangs over the fence and he starts doing yoga. I mean, like not just stretching but like foot behind the…

BA: Right. Like, real-life downward dog.

Julia: …downward dog.

BA: All these, I mean, all of us were…and all the cowboys all going.

BA: And the announcer goes, “And now, cowboy Joe from so-and-so California,” and the entire crowd goes, “Oh.” He’s from California. We get it.”

Julia: It’s all right. So Texas, California, not, you know, I mean so you know, it’s interesting because she just, I mean I can read, because my dad, my grandpa obviously was California, was from Colorado. Right. So I can read a wider variety of cowboys for instance than she can. But she, if something is just not right, she starts going…

BA: “That’s not my… Spin out that it’s not right, but then it’s not my experience.” That’s a bit more clear.

Julia: And that it’s fair, because people, you know, do the same thing about books.

BA: Other people have other experiences than me.

Julia: I know.

BA: Damn it.

Jeff: Did you write the yoga cowboy into a book, yet?

BA: Yes.

Jeff: Thank goodness, because somebody needed to write that thing there.

BA: We totally did.

Julia: I tend to like the because I read a lot of paranormals, so I tend to like the alpha male stuff. I love fated males. I love it. I love it. And it’s not just because it’s easy to write because sometimes it’s not, you know, trying to come up with something new for the fated male trope is tough. Everybody’s like, “Oh that’s just lazy because you like that they just immediately to get together.” And I’m like, “No, I actually like it when they fight it.” And they go, “I don’t believe in fated mates.” And then there’s the push and pull and the tag, and that’s my favorite when it comes to that.

Jeff: I’m gonna suspect the answer to this is no, but I could be wrong. Just given how long you’ve written in all the books, is there a trope or a character type that you’ve wanted to write that you’re like, “I don’t know how to write this yet.”

BA: I haven’t written a murder mystery yet. I don’t think, have I? Like a real life murder mystery that’s not paranormal.

Julia: No.

BA: Yeah. And cozy mystery.

Julia: Cozy mysteries. I want desperately, desperately to write the time travelling Sheik, you know, who, like, kidnaps the British guy and takes him off to his harem and, but nobody wants it, you know? Right now. And I don’t, I understand politically right now it’s a very difficult thing for a publisher to like imagine selling, you know, and people are worried about being skewered on social media for, you know, getting anything that might smack of misrepresentation and which totally, you know, I absolutely get that and I’m not entirely sure I can handle it without, you know, even being tongue-in-cheek without insulting somebody. So I think that probably it might even be, yeah. So I think maybe that’s when I won’t touch. But man, I want to do it. I want to be like, it doesn’t have to even be time traveling, but it would be fun.

Jeff: So this is going to come out first part of December. What are releases that have maybe just happened or coming up that folks should be looking for?

Julia: I actually have a Christmas novel that’s gonna come out in early December and it’s called “One More Yule Log” and it’s about a baker who as he says, “If I get an order for one more fricking yule log.” And this little girl comes in and says, “I want you to teach me how to make a yule log for my daddy.”

Jeff: No, not just make one, but teach me.

Julia: You do baking classes. Teach me. And he’s going, “It’s the Christmas season, I’m not doing any classes.” And you know, he kind of falls in love with her and then he falls in love with her dad who is a real estate agent and who is, who really just wants to be a house husband. You know, he doesn’t want to be, you know…

BA: A mogul.

Julia: He misses being at home and taking care of his daughter. And you know, it’s, and so for me it’s, you know, kind of a departure because it’s a contemporary and it’s just a sweet, sweet Christmas story with two guys and a kid, you know, and so I’m really looking forward to that one.

Jeff: Awesome.

BA: Yeah. I will have Midnight Rodeo 10 out. It’s called “Brownie’s Sway,” and it’s…the Midnight Rodeo series is a paranormal rodeo, demon ghouls, werewolf, bull fighters, the whole shebang. Cheaters, shifters, dragon barrel racers. And this one is, it’s a unicorn and a brownie.

Julia: As in like a Scottish spirit that cleans lose your house, you know the brownies who are helpful. You know, the shoemakers Elvis is sort of the same kind of story. They show up overnight. They clean your house.

BA: And then in January I believe, I will have the last in the spirit quest trilogy. And it’s a set of shifters that is up from where Lorna’s people are from in Colorado and…

Julia: Serve an alternate reality sort of thing. It’s one of those things where they can slip into another dimension. And we started out with werewolves…

BA: …then we have werebears, and this is a werekitty and a wereraven. Because I get bored and I go, okay, well what if this and what if that and okay. So yeah, those will be my two.

Jeff: Cool, awesome things to look forward to it.

So how can people keep up with you guys online?

Julia: Well actually the best place to keep up with me is on Facebook and on my Facebook group. My website right now is woefully out of date, although you can link to my Facebook and all that from my website, which is and it does have neat stuff. It has our newsletter sign up on it. It has all that stuff so that you can bet Facebook is right now where I, and Twitter is where I’m most active and you can find those links off of my website.

BA: I’m at because who else is going to have that website but me. And then I have BA’s Cowboys and that’s my Facebook group. And we have a ball, you know, cowboy butts of every shape and size.

Jeff: A whole gallery of cowboy butts.

Julia: She does, she has a whole gallery of cowboy butts. She also does her ARC’s there. You do your…

BA: I do my ARC’s there.

Julia: She’ll do a free story, right now you’re giving away a free story in chapters.

BA: Oh yes I am. That’s relatively new. I’m on chapter three and it’s just for them, you know, just to say thank you for supporting me and loving me and hanging out when I freak out and go, “Oh my God, what am I going to do?” Which happens and he’ll go, “Okay, here’s this thing. I don’t know what to do if someone helped me.” Anything from a story idea to, “Okay, I just finished chemo and my hair’s coming back in and it’s curly and I don’t know how to brush it.” Someone said use a wide comb, wide tooth comb, honey. Magic. That was it. That was it. Yeah. They’re very good to me.

Jeff: That’s awesome.

BA: Yeah. You don’t have that problem with the wide tooth comb thing.

Jeff: No, because I just…

BA: It works for you.

Jeff: Thank you. We will link to all those things in the show notes page so people can go find them and all the books that we talked about and everything. BA and Julia, thank you so much. This has been such a delightful conversation.

BA: We’ve had a ball. Thank you so much.

Julia: Thank you for having us. Yes, it’s been a, it’s been a blast.

BA: I’m super excited.