Support Big Gay Fiction Podcast on PatreonJeff & Will congratulate TJ Klune and V.E. Schwab for the nominations their books received in the 26th Annual Audie Awards.

Joshua Ian is here with the scoop on Manchester Lake, the latest book in the Darkly Enchanted Romance series. Joshua discusses why he loves gothic romance and what draws him to the Edwardian era. In addition, he talks about his contemporary romance alter ego Lawrence I. Hill, how he got started writing, and authors that have inspired him. Plus, Joshua shares a couple of book recommendations.

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Show Notes

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.


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Will: Coming up in this episode, we take a trip into the darkly and chanted world of Joshua, Ian.

Jeff: Welcome to episode 292 at the Big Gay Fiction Podcast. The show for avid readers and passionate fans of gay romance fiction. I’m Jeff Adams and with me as always is my co-host and husband Will Knauss

Will: Welcome back rainbow romance readers.

Jeff: As we get started in this episode, we’d like to shout out two of the audio books nominated recently in the 26th annual Audie Awards in the fantasy category. We’ve got nominations for TJ Klune’s, “The House in the Cerulean Sea,” which is narrated by Daniel Henning, and V. E. Schwab’s “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue,” which is narrated by Julia Whelan, both scored nominations. We are so happy that we’ve had both of these authors on the show. If you actually want to hear more about those particular books, you can check out TJ in episode 232 and V.E. in episode 263. We wish them both luck in this category and hope one of them walks away with the prize.

Now some of you may know that we both love Joshua Ian’s style of Gothic romances, and it was really great talking to him about the “Darkly Enchanted” series, including “Manchester Lake,” which actually comes out to this week. Plus, we also find out a little bit about his alter ego Lawrence I. Hill.

Joshua Ian Interview

Jeff: Joshua welcome to the podcast. It is great to finally have you here with us.

Joshua: It’s great to finally be here. Thank you so much for having me.

Jeff: So I think podcast listeners have heard us talk about how much we love the “Darkly Enchanted Romance” series, Will and I have both read those books.

You’ve got a brand new one coming out on March 9th. Before we get into that new one, for our listeners who haven’t picked up one of these yet, tell us a little bit about the “Darkly Enchanted” series.

Joshua: Sure. Well, in the most bookstore speak, it’s a Gothic slash paranormal historical romance series. But past that, it’s really kind of my homage to a lot of old school writing that I love.

I love historical fiction and romance in general, but I’ve always been particularly drawn to Gothic historicals and a specific era of storytelling, I guess. And I also kind of wanted to pay respect to a lot of what we now call, pulp fiction. Like going back as far as the Victorian era penny dreadfuls up to like the mid-century 1950s through the seventies supermarket or magazine rack, newsstand books.

And I particularly wanted to pay homage to that era because a lot of queer writing, say before the late 1970s, particularly stories that we would call now queer romance, were published by a lot of these pulp publishers. It wasn’t like a mainstream thing. So not only did I love them as a reader, but I kind of want to look back on those styles as part of our like queer fiction history.

So that was kind of the motivation that inspired me. I mean, and I just love Gothic stories.

Jeff: What is it about Gothic and historicals that kind of draw you to them?

Joshua: I mean, I liked the mysteriousness. I’m a huge mystery reader as well. And I liked the kind of feeling of danger I guess that is inherent in most of the stories, people are peeking around corners and they’re not sure the people that they meet are exactly who they think they are and that kind of thing. And so I just really like that aspect of it.

Jeff: Any particular authors from that era stand out for you?

Joshua: I mean my first kind of introduction, and they were my first introduction to romance in general, were people like Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart and Phyllis Whitney And my particular favorite is Dorothy Eden. She’s not the most well-known, but I just, I really love her, especially her historicals. She did contemporary stuff. Well, it was contemporary at the time, but she wrote in the fifties through the seventies. But, really any of those, like old Gothics from zebra or ACE, where there’s like a woman fleeing from a castle or a house looking over her shoulder at the mysterious shadows behind her. I’d read any of that.

I just really loved that kind of stuff. So it just really speaks to me for whatever reason.

Jeff: So tell us what’s going to happen, of course not giving way too much with “Manchester Lake.”

Joshua: Well, “Manchester Lake” essentially is a shifter romance. It’s a story of two best friends, Monte and Bishop are the two main characters and they discover a selkie in a Lake in the English countryside and the selkie transforms into the most gorgeous man they’ve seen obviously.

And then they have this kind of adventure romp through Edwardian London nightlife. It has moments that are lighter and more comedic than the previous two entries in the series, but it still has the dark Gothic stuff going on. And there’s, for instance, there’s like a German folklore shapeshifter and that kind of thing.

And not only is it set in Edwardian, London, but part of the action of the story, some of the backstory takes place in Paris. So it’s creepy and dark, but it’s also kind of bitchy funny, my favorite kind of funny. And there’s some magic in this one and a little bit of opera, cause Who doesn’t love a falling chandelier?

Manchester also brings in the kind of shared universe element of the series because it is a series. And they are standalone stories and people have asked me, is this really a series? Are they interconnected? But they are. And in this particular entry, you’ll meet some of the characters from the previous stories.

And also you might meet some of the characters who are set to play roles in upcoming stories. So this is kind of the first kind of intersection of all of that.

Jeff: That’s really cool. It’s interesting how you keep picking different things too. Like the other books didn’t have the shifters and had ghosts and other things it’s like, you’re just drawing from all over the place in the paranormal realm at the same time, which is really kind of fun.

Joshua: I mean, I think so. I like all that, I’m writing the kind of stuff that I love as a reader, and I love all of that kind of stuff. And selkies in particular, which is the shapeshifter upcoming is just my like personal kind of favorite shifter, which quite a few people write about, but it’s not like on the level of like, the werewolf and that kind of thing.

I just like all the different elements of Gothic. For instance, “Hilcomb Hall” was particularly, the haunted house type of story that I wanted to tell. And this one I kind of wanted to bring in a little bit of magic. There was magic in the first short story in this series, but I wanted to kind of bring that element in a little bit more this time.

Jeff: So, given that you are writing historicals, how much research and stuff are you doing to get the period, right? Or is it a little pivot on the period that you’re already dealing with paranormal and magic and things like that?

Joshua: I like to do a lot of research and I like to keep it as period accurate as possible. And like you said, obviously you’re doing paranormal things. So certain things would not be period accurate just because they’re not accurate to real life. I’m not sure if I achieve it, but what I like to go for is juxtaposing, like the realism, kind of gritty realistic.

I mean, we’re talking about aristocratic people in Edwardian, England, so it’s not exactly gritty, but I like to keep the realistic elements of life, especially when dealing with the queer element, because I don’t want to pretend away actual history, even though, of course, obviously this is romance and we want to have a happy ending and we want to be uplifted while reading it, but I don’t want to completely strip away the social context of what queer was a hundred or 200 years ago in that kind of thing.

So making sure it’s rooted in historical accuracy and then that way, when I do go off on my fantasy/fantastical jaunt it’s kind of, it has that grounding too it.

Jeff: What’s coming in the future for “Darkly Enchanted?” You’ve hinted now that there’s going to be more after “Manchester Lake.”

Joshua: Yes. well, you know, a bitch can do what a bitch can do. What I have planned at the moment, I have three more stories in the works for this extension of the “Darkly Enchanted” series. And my plan is after those three entries I would like to do kind of like a grand finale story that brings together various characters from the previous entries in a kind of big to do at the end.

But there’s more to explore. Well, like you said I explored various kinds of paranormal and Gothic and I personally have a strong interest in folklore and that kind of thing and mythology. There are other mythical creatures and mythical tropes that I want to kind of bring into. And so I want to explore that and maybe a seance or two, something like that.

Jeff: That just has Gothic written all over it. The concept of the seance.

Joshua: It does. Yes.

Jeff: Did you plan this as a series or did it just kind of start with that first book and then morph its way into it? And did you know, is there a grand plan?

Joshua: A little of both, to be honest. the last story “Hilcomb Hall” and “Manchester” were stories in my head that hadn’t been completed at the time.

But I did envision those and some of the upcoming stories as being interconnected, the first source story, “The Harvest Moon” came after those. And so it kind of happened to be the first entry. I had written it for an anthology and then this was kind of me dipping my toes into the self-publishing world and seeing how it could go.

I thought I would try with that story and it does have the same thematic things going on and it does have the same Gothic elements. I thought it fit.

Jeff: Prequel or actual book one, it could go either way.

Joshua: Exactly. And it kind of will be a prequel because it is set in the early 19th century and the sort of a Regency era.

It’s not a Regency romance and the typical sense of the sub-genre, but it was set in that time period. Most of the Edwardian time period is probably my favorite time period to write in. And then that kind of turn of the century, London and Europe and France. I like that whole kind of time period.

I mean, the Edwardian period is only about, nine years technically, but anything from the turn of the century to world war one, that whole area. Most of my stories that I envisioned for the series take place in those years. So the Harvest Moon does kind of serve as a prequel of sorts because it is so much earlier, but you know, the people in the Harvest Moon were magical people.

So that doesn’t mean that they can’t still be around in Edwardian times. So you never know.

Jeff: And what is it about Edwardian that just pulls you to that period to do these books?

Joshua: I like it because I think it’s kind of, I’m laughing because, I mean, I read and enjoy and love kind of all historical periods.

I don’t turn my nose up at any of them or I don’t hate reading any of them as long as they’re well-written I don’t care, but I always joke when I’m with other friends who like historical fiction and romance that I just can’t get down with any period of time before indoor plumbing was available and bathing and stuff.

So I kind of joked, that’s my Edwardian attachment, but also it is kind of the beginning of like modernity and it’s post-industrial revolution. And so we start having these kinds of gadgetry and cars and the stuff that we kind of know is today, obviously it’s just the beginning of those things.

And so I kind of love that it takes place at that kind of turning point in history that it really is kind of a marked difference from say 1800 to 1900, as far as technology, I also love a lot of the stuff that’s going on in England, at least in the Edwardian period with the class structure and how the servant class is kind of moving into new jobs and new opportunities and kind of changing that dynamic that’s existed forever, which was kind of all the way back to, if you want to say like feudal systems where you have these really rich people. And then the majority of really poor people who were like, forced to work for these people. And that’s kind of what the upstairs downstairs dynamic is to an extent. And then in the Edwardian period, you really see that start to break up. And I really liked that kind of social dynamic. So that’s part of it too.

Jeff: Now you’ve also dabbled in sci-fi as well. You’ve been in a couple of queer sci-fi anthologies, the one for “Innovation” and the one for “Impact.” What drew you to center something on those specific words?

Joshua: I’m a big sci-fi/fantasy nerd from way back. I mean, when I was a kid, like when I got my first job as a teenager, the first thing I did was join the Science Fiction Book Club. I don’t know if people even remember that was like the Columbia House of books clubs or something. And I was like obsessed with Anne McCaffrey and C. J. Cherryh and those writers when I was young. So, and then I just discovered Scott Coatsworth’s Queer Sci-FI website and his community, which I just think is amazing. And so as soon as I found out about the different anthologies, I thought I’d try my hand.

Jeff: With those two it’s really quite concise. Cause you’ve got to get a story done in like 300 words or less.

Joshua: Oh yeah.

Jeff: What’s your secret to telling a story that short, because for me, I haven’t figured out how to crack that yet.

Joshua: I mean, I’m not entirely sure that I’ve done it successfully yet.

I mean, I’ve gotten some flash fiction published, but it is quite a challenge. I mean, I like to talk obviously, and my writing style can be verbose and just paring it down to especially 300 words. There’s a lot of flash fiction out there that’s like a thousand, fifteen hundred, which for me personally, it’s more manageable and that it’s less of a challenge, but for 300 words it’s really hard. I think it’s harder than writing long form stuff, at least for me.

Jeff: I would certainly agree. And especially to me with sci-fi too, because you’ve got this economy of words, but you also might have to build a bit of a world while doing it too.

Joshua: Exactly. Yeah. One of the ones that I did get published was kind of a more hard sci-fi and when you’re trying to communicate different alien races and another planet and just, that kind of world building, like you said it’s really challenging to do in 300 words, but it’s also exciting because then when you actually manage to communicated in a sentence or two, you’re kind of impressed with yourself, I guess, or, hopefully at least.

Jeff: Now last year, you also debuted an alter ego with Lawrence I. Hill and doing contemporary romances. What led you, swinging over from Gothic romance over to contemporary?

Joshua: Well, I just started getting published recently, obviously. But I’ve always written various things. Historical isn’t all I’ve ever written.

Although it is my primary interest right now in my life, but I’d written short stories and contemporary things before. It was just kind of, really, for me, it was more of just an extension of what I already wrote. I mean, for me as a reader and a writer like romances or romance is romance.

I personally don’t only read historical or only read contemporary, but I know there are people that do that, and I respect that, but for me, it’s not really that different for me to go from one to the other. I created the pen name because I do know that people do like to keep them separate and people have their separate tastes and not only that, I mean not only contemporary versus historical, but I think my style as Lawrence Hill is different, it’s a more paired down or restricted point of view, first person sometimes.

And it’s a little steamier, there’s a little bit more sex going on in the Lawrence Hill books.

Jeff: And you had a holiday story under that name last year called “Deja Vu.” Now, honestly, to us that this second chance story can really be read any time. Tell us a little bit about Deja Vu for folks who might’ve not have picked that up in the past holiday season.

Joshua: Okay. Yeah, it is a second chance story. It’s about two guys who were at different places and coming to terms with their sexuality when they were friends as teenagers, and then they meet back up years later. And they’re both at new places in their lives, new places in determining themselves and who they are.

And so, because they’re both at these new, different places, they’re both finally kind of able to be honest about their feelings for one another. And so, they reconnect, and it was a very , kind of personal story for me is probably the most personal I’ve written just because I came out and as a teenager.

I don’t have an unrequited love story with a finance R and B thing or anything like that. Especially in the ancient times when I was a teenager, what it was like to come out that young and to have it just completely change your friendships and your personal dynamics, especially with other male friends, and so I wanted to kind of talk about that, how people can abandon you out of fear for how other people perceive them, but also out of fear about their own issues and despite that you can still understand where they’re coming from and yeah. Maybe later in life, you can love them despite that or something.

Jeff: Do you like going back and forth between writing a historical and then jumping back into contemporary time?

Joshua: It is, yeah, it’s refreshing because like I said, especially with the ones I’ve written. I mean, I’ve only published the two contemporaries so far. Well, I’ve only published two historicals for that matter, but it is a different style and it’s nice to kind of shake up my brain a little bit.

It’s like flexing a different muscle, I guess, or a different set of muscles or whatever. But it, it is nice. I do like kind of jumping back and forth, which I can in the writing and publishing of them, I did kind of do that.

I mean, I did go like historical, contemporary, historical, so it is kind of how things are going.

Jeff: Do you see at some point bridging into paranormal contemporaries that you’ve got the paranormal vibe going over in the historicals?

Joshua: Oh, yes. I have a story that is brewing that I want to publish as Laurence Hill that is a contemporary take on the whole selkie paranormal that I explore in “Manchester Lake.” I would like to explore contemporary paranormal in general, so yeah. There are things that I’m not all that educated in the contemporary paranormal, like mpreg and that kind of thing.

I haven’t read a lot of that kind of stuff, but I would like to explore different things.

Jeff: Let’s talk origin story a little bit. What got you started writing?

Joshua: I guess reading, I mean, isn’t that obvious? I’ve just always read. And books and I have just always been a huge part of my life and I don’t not to sound too corny or pretentious, but I guess I think of myself as like a storyteller and I love storytelling.

Like just storytelling period, be it music or writing or theater or film. I just like creating worlds with words, when I went to school I studied literature and filmmaking and I’ve written screenplays and I directed some short films and that feels very much akin to writing to me.

I mean, obviously writing a screenplay is writing, but I mean, even when you’re working from someone else’s script, being a director just feels like storytelling to me. And that’s what I love, I just love creating worlds.

Jeff: You mentioned some authors who kind of influenced your Gothic romances.

Do you have other writers that are like influencing your writing and the kinds of stories that you want to write?

Joshua: Yeah. I mean, I have really Catholic tastes, so I read like all kinds of genres and stuff. So I mean, like Toni Morrison is my ultimate, but obviously Toni Morrison did n’t write anything to do with romance or paranormal or anything like, Oh, I guess, I did, honestly, I do think that’s interesting because I saw a list recently of recommended Gothic.

I don’t know if it was Gothic. Gothic writers in general and female writers. And they had “Beloved” by Toni Morrison on that list. And I had never really conceived of it as a Gothic story, but it’s a ghost story and it’s dark. And it’s obviously not a Gothic romance, but you know, as far as Gothic story, I thought that was interesting.

I think Anne Rice was a big influence on me. Her vampire books when I was young, I tore through those and Tananarive Due her “African Immortals” series, I was really into and as far as the historical stuff, I loved Edith Wharton and E.M. Forster as a kid. “Maurice” by E.M. Forster was a huge influence.

And, that was probably the first, I mean, I don’t know if it’s recognized broadly as a romance, but it is in my opinion and it there is a romance at the center of it and there is gasp, a happy ending to it as well. And that was one of the first like queer stories I encountered as a young person.

And I think it’s been a profound influence in that it, one of the first ones I ever encountered, did have a happy ending. And that’s why I think romance is important because, when you’re coming to terms as a young person, especially, like I said, back in the day, in the ancient times when I was coming to terms with it you need some kind of hope and there’s not a lot of that in mainstream media all the time.

“Maurice” is Edwardian set, not in a historical fiction sort of way, because that was just when he was alive and writing it, so I’m sure that’s kind of bled into the things I like. And I also grew up reading Armistead Maupin and E. Lynn Harris books, which I loved all of those.

So I think they have really influenced me.

Jeff: I like your reading list from when you were younger. It’s good stuff in there.

Joshua: If we’re talking about queer Gothic, historical you have to give a shout out to “Gaywyck” by Vincent Virga, the novel that was published in the early eighties, which kind of is, like a cult classic or whatever, however you want to define it for that sub-genre at the time.

Jeff: Do you have favorite tropes and themes that you like to work with? Whether it’s in the Gothic romances or your contemporary romances that are kind of the things you like?

Joshua: Most definitely. Especially when it comes to contemporary romances, I’m really into the forced proximity trope and enemies to lovers, which I guess, I mean, that kind of seems like everybody loves that, but I do.

Those are particular favorites. I’m a big mystery reader, as I mentioned before, but so when it comes to mystery and romance, I love forced proximity, like getting snowed in or trapped in a blizzard or anything like that is my jam.

And I definitely have a soft spot for holiday themes as well, particularly Christmas, just because I love winter, like coziness of it, I’m not really, tropical beach excursions and sipping pina coladas is not my thing. Like I want a cabin in the snowy mountains. Big sweaters and hot chocolate and that’s where I’m at.

Jeff: I’m right there with you in that cabin and put some sparkly lights up and I’m a happy guy.

Joshua: Exactly.

Jeff: So what’s a book you’ve read recently that you would recommend to our listeners?

Joshua: I’m kinda behind the times when I’m writing romance.

I don’t read a lot of it just because my brain can’t really like parse that. I don’t know. I can’t really function. I mean, I love K.J. Charles and her “Will Darling Adventures” series is great. And I love “The Sugared Game,” which came out last year.

Joanna Chambers is another one of my favorites. And she has a new “Capital Wolves” shifter historical series, which I really loved. That’s ongoing. And I did recently read ” The Hideaway Inn” by Phillip Stover, which I thought was really cute. And I liked that a lot. I know you guys reviewed that as well, and I’m really excited to Carina Press has that Adores line that “The Hideaway Inn” as part of which I’m really excited to see what comes out of that because with the own voices, LGBTQ thing. So that’s cool.

And Casey McQuiston I mean, I love Red, White, and Royal Blue. I’m really looking forward to her next book that comes out this summer.

Jeff: Yeah, me too. I can’t wait.

Joshua: Right. I mean, I don’t need to recommend Royal red, white, and blue to anybody because everybody’s talking about it, but I really did love that book. It was very kind of swoon worthy and just so damned good.

Jeff: We’ve talked about that. There’s more “Darkly Enchanted” coming. What else can you tease us about that might be coming out this year?

Joshua: Well, I have a couple of possible projects that I hope I can have more news about later in the year. But I know for sure that there is another “Darkly Enchanted” installment coming out this year.

And when that comes out all of the “Darkly Enchanted” entries, including the new upcoming one will be available in print edition for the first time. So that’s kind of fun. Yeah. If you’re someone who likes print books, that’s something to look out for. And then this holiday season upcoming, I am going to be releasing a follow-up to “Deja Vu,” the story that we talked about earlier it just got such a great reader feedback and people wanted more of the characters. I loved writing those characters and so I wanted to do another story with them and I wanted to keep it in the kind of holiday theme. So, at the end of this year there’ll be another story with Tim and Alvin and even Devon is a character that people love. And he may have a little romance brewing in the next entry too. So, which also I plan, it will be a longer form entry. The first one was a short story and people were like, telling me, why did you do that? I want more, I love it, but it’s too short.

So, it was always intended to be a short story, but this next entry will be a longer format, so you’ll get more of them.

Jeff: Fantastic. Good stuff to look over to you there. And how can people keep up with you online to know what’s coming next? And when it’s coming.

Joshua: Sure. My self-publishing company name is Moody Box Fan Books, and that comes from my main handle, which is Moody Box Fan.

And you can find me like everywhere on the internet as Moody Box Fan on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, everything like that. And also, my website is So, all of it’s pretty easy to remember, but I also have a dedicated author handle, JoshuaIanAuthor, all one word that’s on Facebook and Twitter.

If you want to check that out as well, that’s more of the, I like to think of that as the more professional face where I just give publishing updates and releases for projects and stuff like that. But if you like to hear me talking shit and want to see me comment on all the bad television I’ve been watching, you can follow me on Moody Box Fan as well.

Jeff: Fantastic. We will give links to all of those social handles plus everything that we’ve talked about in this interview. Joshua, it’s been such a wonderful time talking to you. Thanks for coming out and hanging out with us a little bit.

Joshua: Thank you so much. I’ve had a wonderful time. I appreciate it.

Wrap Up

Will: This episode’s transcript has been brought to you by our community on Patreon. If you’d like to read the author interview for yourself, simply head on over to the shownotes page for this episode at And don’t forget the shownotes page also has links to everything that we’ve talked about in this episode.

Jeff: And thanks again to Joshua for coming on the show. I loved hearing how he draws from all different types of paranormal and magical things to create the “Darkly Enchanted” series and hearing all of his influences that range from Toni Morrison to Armistead Maupin to Vincent Virga was a real treat.

Will: All right. I think that’ll do it for now coming up on Thursday in episode 293, Phillip William Stover is going to join us to talk about his latest book.

Jeff: Last month, I got to host a conversation with Philip for the Doylestown Bookstore, which is actually just a short distance from New Hope where Phillip’s books take place. We’re going to bring you that chat as we talk about “The Beautiful Things Shoppe.”

Will: Thank you so much for listening. Until next time, please stay strong, be safe and above all else. Keep turning those pages and keep reading.