Authors Kat and Agnes, the duo who are known as K.A. Merikan, have been together more than 15 years and produced many fan favorite books. We talked with them about the upcoming 11th and final book in their Guns n’ Boys saga, as well as about their trip into the Old West earlier this year with the Dig Two Graves duology. Kat and Agnes also talk about the Curse Bound series, how they met and got started writing, plus we get details on several books that are coming up next for them. Of course, we cap off the conversation with some book recommendations.
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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. These links are current at the time the episode premieres, however links are subject to change.
- K.A. Merikan Interview
- K.A. Merikan: website | Merikan Playroom Facebook Group | Twitter | Instagram | TikTok
- Guns n’ Boys series by K.A. Merikan on Amazon
- Take My Body by K.A. Merikan on Amazon
- Curse Bound series by K.A. Merikan on Amazon
- Dig Two Graves duology by K.A. Merikan on Amazon | Kobo
- Red Dead Redemption 2 on Rockstar Games
- Hipster Brothel by K.A. Merikan on Amazon
- Down Low by Parker St. John on Amazon
- Monsieur d’Eon Is a Woman: A Tale of Political Intrigue and Sexual Masquerade by Gary Kates on Amazon
- Kings of Hell MC series by K.A. Merikan on Amazon | Libro.fm
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Patreon.com
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast patrons on BGFP website
- Libro.fm website (use this link to receive your Big Gay Fiction Podcast special offer)
- Frolic Podcast Network website
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Will: Coming up in this episode, we’ve got a special extended interview with Kat and Agnes, the writing duo best known as author K.A. Merikan.
Jeff: Welcome to episode 322 of 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: Hello, rainbow romance readers. Welcome back to another episode of the show.
Jeff: I love talking to co-writers and chatting with Kat and Agnes about their 15 year plus partnership as K.A. Merikan was absolutely wonderful. Hearing how these two got together while living in Poland and their ultimate move to the UK is a wonderful story of friendship and creativity.
Of course, we talk a lot about books. And one of the first ones we talk about is this summer’s release of the 11th and final book and their “Guns and Boys” series, which they call a passion project. And it’s one that subverts romance, novel expectations as well because it follows one couple across seven years.
We also talk about another passion project they did this year with the “Dig Two Graves” duology, which is set in the old west. And that was a first for them to actually write within the old west. Of course, we also get the details of what else is on their release calendar, including getting all the way out into like 2022 and even a little 2023, what genres they’d like to write in that they haven’t yet, and we cap off everything with a couple of book recommendations too.
K.A. Merikan Interview
Jeff: Kat and Agnes, welcome to the podcast. It’s so great to have you here.
Agnes: Thank you for having us.
Jeff: I’d like to take a moment and have you each introduce yourselves to us so we can get a little about who each of you are.
Kat: I am a painter outside of writing. I love to do that to relax. And I’m a big history buff as well. I love going to museums and visiting old houses and all things gothic.
Agnes: I’m a psychologist, technically. Never worked in the job. But, yeah, in my free time I like reading. I love movies, I wanted to be a film director when I was younger, before I started writing. And I love gaming, and I’m mostly focus on story-based games because that’s what I like the most.
Jeff: Fantastic. Between the history and the psychology, that just kind of puts so much into perspective on things you can just throw into books.
Agnes: Yes. We have sometimes.
Kat: We love researching, not just historical events as in political events, but what was the social history of…? And reading people’s journals, reading the letters they sent to each other. You can really get a feel of how people connected differently psychologically than in nowadays.
Agnes: We have many books about social history. We haven’t read them all, unfortunately.
Jeff: So, I’d like to get a little history on the two of you. Before we get into some of the books you’ve put out this year. How did you two come together to make this writing duo that we’ve come to know as K.A Merikan?
Agnes: Well, basically, we were from different cities in Poland. Because that’s where we are originally from. But we tended to be in the same, kind of, hobbies and circles. Queer circles as well. And we kind of kept meeting up on various mailing lists, forums, and at some point, she organized a meetup. And I went with some of my friends there and that’s how we properly met. But we actually started becoming friends…
Agnes: …and working together. Yeah.
Kat: I think there was a meet-up in my garage.
Agnes: Yeah. We were in her dad’s garage.
Kat: So, yeah. My parents were really encouraging of us meeting my friends. So they were very smart about that.
Agnes: We met. But we didn’t actually become close friends for a while, until we were at this party and we started talking about writing, basically. Because we both preferred writing with another person. And we both had problems with our co-writers and we started discussing what we would like to do.
Agnes: And, yeah, by the end of the night, because it was a New Years’ party, so by the time we actually went to sleep at 4 a.m. or 5 a.m., we had something plotted out. And that was…
Kat: Yeah, we had an idea for what we wanted to write together. We both went to our respective homes and the next day we started writing. And from there, it was 2006, I think. We started writing together…
Jeff: That’s amazing.
Kat: …and first we wrote on, just like, mailing each other. And then after a while, we started a blog, where people could read them by chapter, original fiction. And we got lots of people being encouraging and commenting and everything. So, we kind of really went with that and continued and continued until we decided we wanted to make it a career. Yeah.
Agnes: Also, her sister wanted to encourage us to publish something in English, as we used to write in Polish. And she basically bet us that she will pay for editing of our first story if we write a story within a certain time frame. And we did. So that was a challenge that actually…
Kat: It motivated us, yeah.
Agnes: …motivated us, yes.
Jeff: That’s awesome, that you had a family member who…
Kat: Yeah, she was very good.
Jeff: …believed in the stories that much to push you to, you know, start writing in English and was even willing to, like, pay for the editing and stuff. That’s awesome.
Kat: Mm-hmm. She was very good.
Agnes: She is great. She’s still supporting us.
Kat: Yeah. She does our website.
Jeff: So she’s still involved, too? Even better.
Agnes: Yes. She also writes. She doesn’t do the same kind of fiction, she does fantasy stories. But she is very involved in writing and interested in the process, so we keep talking about it just between ourselves till this day.
Jeff: It’s wonderful to hear that the partnership has gone on for 15 plus years now.
Kat: Mm-hmm. We actually live together now and we have a cat together, and it’s just great.
Jeff: Makes it easy to write, I guess, when you’re in the same space?
Kat: It does.
Agnes: It does.
Kat. We have a little office together in the living room. It’s really nice, yeah.
Jeff: How has the partnership evolved in those years?
Agnes: So, we started out living in different cities when we first became friends and started working together. But then she moved to England to pursue university studies. I was still in Poland. And we decided, when we started publishing, we decided to start a company in Britain. So I came here after I finished my Master’s degree and got a driver’s license, finally. So, yeah, that’s when we started living together and…
Kat: We just discovered that…
Agnes: …became closer and…yeah.
Kat’s It’s just so much fun living together, that we might as well. That kind of thing. There’s this pressure that I’ve always had, that it’s the natural thing to do. You grow up and then you get a flat of your own, and, you know, you move onto that. But, you know, why? Why not do things your own way? And if I’m having so much fun, it’s basically like a 24-hour sleepover forever. You know? It’s just so much fun to live with Agga. And we share chores, she does the DIY, IKEA, I cook for her. So, you know, it’s fun.
Jeff: Not only a great partnership in writing, but a great partnership in living together.
Agnes: Yes. We are platonic life partners.
Kat: Yes. Yes.
Jeff: What brought you, as you were deciding what to write, and keeping in the genre for so long, with romance and M/M romance?
Agnes: So, we already wrote M/M romance fiction after we met.
Kat: I think before we discovered romance as a genre, that neither of us kind of knew before, we did a lot of fanfiction, original fiction. And we did lots of gay-oriented fiction, but we didn’t do romance. We didn’t understand romance being a central love story and a happy ending. So we wrote fiction that was all sorts of out-of-the-box. That was about relationships, but only once we switched to English and did the market research, we were like, “Look, look. There’s this whole genre. And it’s romance, and people love it. And maybe this is, like, the thing that we could be doing.” And we could then focus on that and see how it really works for what we’re already doing. And it really streamlined our style, yeah.
Jeff: Let’s talk about some of the books you’ve put out this year. Because you’ve had quite a prolific year and we’re only, like, halfway through the year.
Kat: I feel it’s never enough. I feel it’s…oh, it’s been such a slow year, oh no, just this and that.
Agnes: There’s always this angst that we are not doing enough.
Jeff: Oh my goodness.
Your 11th book in the “Guns n’ Boys” series is coming out in July. For those who don’t know this series, before we talk about the new book, tell us a little bit about “Guns n’ Boys.”
Agnes: It’s our longest-running series.
Kat: It’s such a passion project, though.
Agnes: We still started it in Polish and then we wrote it a bit differently, the first, kind of, books, let’s say.
Kat: We thought we’d translate it…
Agnes: Yes. It didn’t work.
Kat: …but we ended up re-writing it. Because it needed…
Agnes: But the story is, it’s about two men who are members of the mafia, the Italian mafia. And one of them is the boss’s son who doesn’t really want to get involved, and the other one is an assassin, a very prolific one. And he’s an extremely toxic person, and things happen, and they end up having to run from the organization. And the whole story from the books is them on the run, and the relationship developing, because…
Kat: Developing their relationship and going through the motions of certain issues. In each book, there’s, like, a new thing that challenges their relationship. So it’s not like they get together in book one and then it’s all just fighting the outside world. Each book has a lot of internal conflict all the way as they build their relationship. So it’s something really special to us, because you rarely get so much time with one couple to really put them through the ringer. And from the start, the story is very dark.
There’s a lot of toxicity in the relationship. There’s violence. There’s things like that. And having a very long story allows us to unpack it years later. Because their relationship throughout the 11 books is 7 years, so we can get through…Both of them have all sorts of internal toxic masculinity issues, internalized homophobia as well.
What they do to each other in these first books needs to be unpacked later on as they grow as people, and grow in the relationship. But what I find also interesting is that they work through it, but they can’t take it back. There is no way to take back what happened. They can only work through it if they want to stay together. And I find that a fascinating story, that you can have a relationship that keeps growing into something new throughout the years that isn’t just the same with a new outside issue.
Agnes: It’s also very pulpy. So when we started writing it, we just wanted it to be like this crazy, pulpy story straight from, let’s say, Quentin Tarantino’s movies. So some really weird stuff happens in there.
Kat: So it’s a conscious choice that a lot of it is unrealistic. There’s wrestling an alligator, there’s drug lords with a golden tank, there’s these really…I see it like a movie. And even though the characters have a lot of internal logic and true psychology, the events are crazy and wild. And they, you know, have shootouts in a butcher shop. You know, all sorts of stuff that really gives the story its own style. Because we like to give a series its own vibe. So, like, we have one book that is very dark and noir, while we have another…like the biker series is wild and crazy, but in a bit of a more realistic way than “Guns n’ Boys.” And, you know, we really like to give each series its own thing. And this one is just crazy, it’s just wild. The characters do crazy shit and we pull no punches.
Jeff: We don’t often see single relationships spread across this many books. It happens in trilogies a lot where you know you’re going to follow this character, and they’re gonna end up with their HEA at the end of the trilogy. I’ve seen some that have gone on for six-ish books before folks really get settled. And those are tight-timeline books, too. Whereas you’re talking about 11 books in a 7-year timeline. What are the challenges in subverting expectations a little bit where, you know, each book in a series is a different couple or things like that, as you continue to spread this story out?
Agnes: It’s complicated. Whenever we were supposed to write a new “Guns n’ Boys” book, there was this tension because you need to remember everything that happened in all those previous books. And then you still make mistakes and you notice them when you re-edit and you have to change things up. So it has lots of challenges. But also every time you need to think about another way to challenge the characters and the relationship so that it doesn’t feel stale. Because obviously you can have, say, a series about two guys who, I don’t know, solve crimes. And they are in a relationship throughout. But then the story is focused on the crimes.
Kat: Not on the romantic tension.
Agnes: Yes. And we wanted to keep them changing, because they’ve been such terrible people at the beginning, especially one of them. That…
Kat: That’s the story. Him, his growth. And the other character’s growth with him is just the fascinating bit. And each book kind of builds on that. But…
Agnes: Yes. We could just do it gradually this way.
Kat: Subtly, there’s also the challenge that, with each book in an 11-series series, the sales fall off and it’s really hard and really heartbreaking because you know the story needs to go on for this and that reason, and it has these die-hard fans who really get you. But then you understand that a lot of people will kind of get to book three and drift off and never come back to the series. So it’s really hard at book 11, when it’s all wrapping up, to have the same amount of people reading it. And that’s, I think, one of the toughest things. Because it’s such a passion project for us to have this series done, yeah.
Jeff: Is 11 going to be the end or is there still more?
Kat: That’s the end.
Agnes: We, kind of, had even more ideas. Craziness, like landing on a deserted island. And it will fit into the series, but we decided that…and one of the reasons why is that we didn’t want to part on the characters. But we, in the end, decided that there is no point in prolonging the series because we want to give…
Kat: Looking at the plot, we saw that that’s unnecessary.
Agnes: Yes. It would be too indulgent and we just wanted to keep the story good, so that every book really has…
Kat: An intense storyline.
Agnes: Yes. So that it’s not watered down. And I think 11 is a good number for those two.
Kat: They had a lot of issues to work through. But it’s incredibly satisfying when you get to this, from this tumultuous relationship, and they go through lots of terrible things throughout the years, to get them to this last book. And you still have all sorts of conflict, but they work together. And to see them finally work together and do things like consult each other and not, like in the past, when one of them would just do whatever they think is right and lie to the other, and things like that. Or do stuff behind their back.
It’s really nice to see them work together, understand each other, or sometimes without words. Because they have so much history. And it’s the history that the reader has seen. And that’s, I think, so different than showing, “Okay, I’m going to write about an established couple and I’m going to tell you what they’ve done in the last 20 years.” To actually be there as it happened, it’s an emotional experience that you go through with the characters that cannot happen unless you’ve been through so much with them.
Jeff: Congratulations on wrapping up something that has gone on…
Kat: I’m really proud of it, thank you. Yeah.
Jeff…for so long. Did you know it was going to be 11? So that you kind of knew where the stop point was?
Jeff: That’s amazing.
Kat: We had a end goal plot-wise. We had certain things that are set. That’s another fun thing. You can set up things in book one, book two, that only get revealed in book nine. And I instantly anticipate that the readers will go like, “Oh no, I saw it coming, I could never really imagine where it’s gonna go.” Yeah.
Agnes: There’s also the biggest villain of the series who appears in book one and then he doesn’t really appear in person. Sometimes he is mentioned.
Kat: But he meddles just throughout. He’s here, he’s there. It’s like an ongoing thread through all those 11 books.
Agnes: The things he did to the main characters, they resonate throughout all of the books. So he is there…
Kat: Like this dark person.
Agnes: …not in person. He is there in spirit, let’s say. And I think it will be incredibly rewarding for the readers of the series to see him be there again.
Kat: How it’s dealt with.
Agnes: And how it’s dealt with, exactly.
Jeff: You’ve mentioned a couple times that this was your passion project. What made it that?
Agnes: I mean, obviously we are passionate about all our books. But there are some that are more special than others. And I think one of the reasons why this is true for “Guns n’ Boys” is because we truly lived through those characters. I mean, we are very normal people in the sense that we, you know, we like to have a chat and go on a walk.
Kat: Go to the café.
Agnes: Go to the café. And we don’t flirt with danger in real life. So this story, we can live vicariously through all those crazy things that those characters do. And because this is so long, I truly feel like, for example Domenico, the main character, is almost my alter ego, my evil alter ego.
Agnes: If I’m hungry, I’m making him eat sweets, for example. Or if I’m angry, I will make him more angry when I write. So I feel I have a very special relationship with this character.
Kat: I think there’s also this very special element that this is the second story we ever wrote together. And we started it in Polish and then we got to re-work it, so it’s one of the stories that has been with us the longest. And I think that makes it very special, too. Not just that it’s the longest we’ve written as a series, but because we started it so long ago. And we got to have so many adventures with these characters, even though some of it that’s been written in Polish has been changed so much. We’ve had even more time with them because we’ve written so much of it before we even got to publish it in English.
Agnes: We even have lots of our marketing material based on this series. So we have this…
Kat: Oh, I can show you.
Agnes: …lemon that’s actually…yeah, that’s them. Yeah, we have this.
Jeff: That’s awesome.
Agnes: And that’s kind of the happy ending where they are back in Italy. Yeah, the symbol of the relationship is a lemon because love is sour for those two. And, yeah, we use lemons everywhere. We are kind of obsessed.
Kat: A little trademark there, yeah. And I also think that, with these characters, we really let our freak flag fly. We let them be as crazy as they want. And we don’t worry much about what will the romance crowd say? No. They do what I think is right. And that’s it.
Agnes: It’s rare that, writing a character doesn’t involve in the moment, that much analyzing. But with those two, we know them so well that we don’t have to plan out what they’re gonna do. Because we have a plan for the scene, but how it happens, happens organically.
Kat: And so often it changes. Because these characters, they speak to us so organically that they will often…it almost feels like they’re changing the scene, the direction of it, because they are so ingrained in us.
Jeff: And Kat, did you paint that?
Kat: No, no. It’s actually a funny story. Because I got it for me for my birthday.
Jeff: It’s gorgeous and it sits right there so well. So…
Kat: Yes. It’s really fun to look at it every day.
Jeff: Now, vastly different from “Guns n’ Boys”, you released “Take My Body” earlier this year and that’s the second book in the “Curse Bound” series. Tell us about Caspian and Gunner. Just to totally move it a different direction.
Agnes: Yes. Yes. Well, it’s a body swap romance. And those two characters, they are opposites basically. One of them is big and this harsh guy…
Kat: Involved in gang.
Agnes: Involved in gang activity, not well off. And the other one is from a nice family of lawyers who… Well, he has lots of issues because he doesn’t feel masculine enough. So he feels like he is lacking, let’s say, muscle mass, height. Because he’s short. And, yeah. They have those opposite issues because Gunner on the other hand, the big guy, he feels like he can’t be himself in the body he has, also. And also there’s the issue that Gunner used to bully Caspian, when they were in high school. Yeah, so.
Kat: Because they were both trying to fulfill society’s expectations of them. And this was a very interesting book to write because of it. Because it focuses on challenging those expectations. It’s almost obvious that it’s gonna go there. That “walk a mile in my shoes.” And when they do, they find out that masculinity isn’t made in muscles and that it isn’t being violent, and that there’s so many other things that can be explored. And then Gunner finds out that, well, he doesn’t need a small body to feel sensitive and to show his vulnerability to others.
And we get to explore…I won’t, obviously, spoil how it ends because you might be surprised. We like to twist things up. But that was very interesting to explore how someone can possibly get their perfect body, but then it’s not really what they thought it’s gonna be and it provides so many new challenges that they didn’t expect. And the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, yeah.
Agnes: It is not a fun book to read.
Jeff: In other typical themes that we’ve seen in so many body swap movies. You know, that it’s not always what you think it’s gonna be and everything like that. This sounds like you’re going a lot deeper there, and I can imagine, you know, this is where the psychology angle, kind of, comes in really well as you’re digging into these matters.
Kat: Yes. We really explored that.
Agnes: See, actually it’s a funny story, because I had a very strange experience writing this book because I recently came out as non-binary. And one of the ways in which I kind of came to this conclusion was by writing this book. Because I was focusing so much on this character not being in sync with how people perceive him, that I kind of started thinking more about how I feel. And why I have some dysphoria’s in my life. Always had them. So yeah, it was a very important book for me to write. And I think we really managed to go deep also because of that. Because it was so in sync with what was going on in my life when we were writing it.
Kat: And how the outside doesn’t always match the inside. But it can be more vague than the obvious that there’s a different size and then you might have a personality that’s, let’s say, loud. But this is much more dealing with this how society perceives you on that. Because you might think, great, I have this loud personality, I don’t mind if I’m small. But people will still perceive you in a certain way. It’s tough how these characters can deal with it. It was a very interesting journey, yeah.
Jeff: It’s interesting to hear these differences between, like, “Guns n’ Boys,” where you’ve given them such an over-the-top, kind of, experience. And, as you noted, things that just don’t fit to your lives at all. Because you’re not living in a Tarantino movie. But then you come to “Take My Body,” where then it does hit much closer to home. And even helps you sort things out as you write it.
Kat: Almost scary, really.
Agnes: Yes, it is.
Jeff: That sounds wildly satisfying as a writer to have those, kind of, two sides of things.
Agnes: Mm-hmm. When you write characters, at least for us, there needs to be a part of you in them. Because otherwise, it feels artificial to me. I mean, I can write some fiction or something like that, but if it’s not a character that I can truly feel what they’re feeling, what their personality is, how it’s built. It’s different.
Kat: But there’s always something that you connect with and latch on with a character.
Agnes: Yes. And, kind of, well, not project you on the character necessarily. But you need to, kind of, simulate the character inside of you.
Kat: I find that very fascinating, that when I’m in sync with the character, when I’m writing and I’m in the zone. I can be writing about a fetish that isn’t mine at all, but I’m in the zone and I channel it. And all of a sudden I can really see why this character finds something attractive or how they go through that situation psychologically. And that’s a really exciting experience.
Jeff: So to change genres again, you put a duology out this year called “Dig Two Graves,” which is set in the Old West.
Kat: Another passion project.
Jeff: Another passion project. What sent you into the Old West and what made this one a passion project?
Agnes: We always used to think the Wild West is boring.
Kat: And dusty.
Agnes: Yes, and dusty. We didn’t get it. And whenever I thought Wild West, I thought about the old movies that my dad was watching and they kind of felt stodgy to me. And I didn’t think it was interesting. But then we saw “Red Dead Redemption,” the game, “Red Dead Redemption 2.” And we decided to buy the game and start playing games.
Kat: Because it looked so exciting…
Agnes: Basically because of it. Yes.
Kat: …and it looked like it had an amazing story. And we generally thought that, maybe by not gaming we are missing out on…
Agnes: On good storytelling.
Kat: …on good storytelling. On a different way of storytelling. And that’s really interesting for us, because it’s not just books. We watch a lot of movies and we felt like, but these games, they’re so good now. And what is it about them? I need to check it out. And, yeah, we literally bought a PlayStation to play “Red Dead Redemption 2.” And the moment we opened it, we were enchanted. I remember I had the console first and she was sitting next to me. And I was like, “Look, look. It’s like a movie. But I’m in it.” It was just so much fun. And the world is so immersive. And all of a sudden, everything clicked. And the Wild West, the way it’s presented in “Red Dead Redemption” and the themes that the Wild West world can convey really resonated with us.
Agnes: We finally got what it was about. And then we started being interested in it. So we started watching movies.
Kat: But we knew that we had other projects, so we shouldn’t be doing this. Maybe one day we’ll write a Western, maybe one day. And it was always on the back burner, always like, “Yeah, yeah, we’ll get there.”
Agnes: Yeah. And we kind of put it on the back burner for, I think…
Kat: Two years.
Agnes: …two years, or something like that. But we actually started, you know, reading on about this time period and watching movies, that turned out to be actually very good, some of them.
Kat: Especially the modern ones. There’s a lot of new movies that challenge the typical Western by including characters that aren’t the usual masculine kind of cowboy. You have a lot of female protagonists nowadays and a lot of Westerns, they go into new types of comedy. They challenge how the world looked back then. That’s very interesting.
Agnes: Yes, at some point I was visiting my parents and I played another game. And when I was playing it, I had this idea for a plot suddenly and I called her on the phone and we talked for, I think, an hour and a half about it. And I was trying to convince her that maybe we should write this Western now.
Kat: No, no, no, we can’t. Let’s make this plot a contemporary. Okay, let’s do it, but let’s make it this or that or a dystopian or something. And the more we talked about it, we could see how there’s no way to write this story without the setting, which is the best for a historical or any book that has a specific setting. It has to have a reason to be that. If it could be placed wherever, it’s kind of, why is it even a Western? But because this story has all these Western themes of revenge and redemption. We include also pulpy things like cannibalism in the woods and things like that. And shootouts and gangs and rail robberies, you know, those kinds of things that are so typical for the Western, that it just had to be a Western, yeah.
Agnes: It was a very interesting process. We never did as much research for a book as we did for those.
Kat: It was crazy. We took a month just for research. And that’s why I’m saying it’s a passion project because you don’t know how it’s gonna sell, but you still do it. Because you have to.
Agnes: We do have some historical books, but we are not specializing in it. So we are not the kind of writer where everyone will know, oh, this person is gonna do a Western and that’s why I get their books. So, yeah, we basically researched full time for 8, 9, 10 hours a day, every day. And that was our month, it was a lot of fun.
Kat: But also, I think the good thing about it going with our brand as sorts, is that even though it’s a historical novel, it’s absolutely, it’s gritty, it’s dark. It’s got gang violence, the characters are criminals. I feel like we did manage to draw in all our usual audience, and we’re extremely proud of those books because they are just so dramatic and so…And again, the relationship spans seven years in these two books. It takes you on an amazing journey with these characters. I won’t lie, I’m really happy when people tell me they cried.
Agnes: Mission accomplished.
Jeff: Mission accomplished. Tell us a little bit about the characters that we find in “Dig Two Graves” and whatever you can hint about the journey that they’re actually going on.
Agnes: So, the main character… Because there is two books and each one is a single POV. So the first one is from the one character’s POV and the other from the second character’s POV. And the main character and the POV character of the first book is Ned, who is, well…
Kat: A farm boy.
Agnes: He’s a farm boy at his uncle’s farm, or ranch. And he gets this ultimatum that he has to leave for reasons, and he happens to meet this guy when he goes to get drunk and gamble because he’s so angry.
Kat: He’s lost his money, yeah.
Agnes: He lost his money. And the guy is Cole, and yeah, they hit it off. They have great chemistry, let’s say. He has no idea that he’s interested in a man. He is completely…
Kat: And that’s the fun thing that had to be a Western. Because we researched so much about the sexuality in those times and the psychology of how people connected with each other. And for him it made sense. That’s why it had to be at least a historical, because it makes sense for him to live his life and not really understand or be aware that he even had an option of a different sexuality. And nowadays, you know, he’d go on the internet and he’d find things. So, yeah.
Agnes: He would be aware that this happens, basically.
Kat: Yes, at least that. Even if he thought, “No, not me.” He’d be aware of this, let us have a very slow growth of a character getting to know himself, but the main theme there is that years ago Ned’s parents were murdered by a gang in the mountains when he was a child. He saw some terrible things, more terrible things happened and that’s how he ended up at his uncle’s. And then when he meets Cole, it turns out that Cole…
Agnes: Cole is a member of the same gang.
Kat: So that gang is still roaming. He can still find them, because, you know, the country was really big so he kind of just thought he’d never see them or find them again when he grew up. Then he is approached by two Pinkertons to go undercover in the gang, to help them bring down the gang. And they know he has a personal stake in it, so they think this is a great person to have him there. So you got the undercover trope and he goes in to the gang, where he is very much invited by Cole because Cole knows what he wants. He just isn’t very good at communicating it because he’s not sure of Ned and it takes forever for them to kind of go around. That’s why it’s fun to have only one POV because you don’t get to know what Cole is thinking…
Agnes: Exactly, he’s thinking, yeah.
Kat: …and you’re in Ned’s head who thinks, like, oh, this is just friendly cowboys being friendly. So it’s just a really fun. I think it was the first book in a very long time that we wrote in only one POV, because we usually do dual POV. And that was really fun. It’s really inspired us to do more of that. But for the Western element, it was so exciting to just put them in this wilderness and put Ned, this innocent guy, on the journey.
Agnes: But also obviously a fall of…moral failure. Because he is undercover but he cannot…
Kat: He has to do things.
Agnes: …he can’t keep his hands clean if he’s within this gang. So he will do things that he doesn’t want to do and keep excusing himself because it’s for the higher purpose.
Kat: And step by step you get to be with him and, I cannot spoil it so I won’t say how it goes in the first book, but you do, you know, have this descent and it’s never something that he wants to do, but he doesn’t even notice how he ends up in the place he does at the end of the book, and everything is broken.
Agnes: Yeah, and Cole is, well, it’s this charming character who is an anti-hero, essentially. He is not one of the guys who killed his parents, but he…
Kat: He was a child back then. And the connection that they have that he doesn’t even know about, and I’m saying this because this is in the first chapters. When the gang was attacking his family, he was still a child. He came around to bring them things from the pantry where Ned was hiding, and they met each other’s eyes, no one said anything and he didn’t tell the gang that there was someone else in the house. And Ned remembered that so he has this visceral connection with this man and he remembers his eyes and it’s very romantic.
Agnes: Yeah, he is a bit crazy and very extravagant.
Agnes: Wild. So they have very different personalities. Things develop very slowly but I think it’s very satisfying in the end.
Kat: To see a progress of characters, yeah.
Jeff: You ran across so many sub-genres. Just in this interview, we’ve talked about some contemporary, gritty…
Kat: Paranormal, mafia, Western.
Jeff: …and paranormal and Western. Old West, not just Western, but Old West. There’s a lot of focus in that dark, kinda dirty, kinda dangerous area. What attracts you to that side to write so many of the stories?
Agnes: I think it’s the same what attracts people to horror. So you want to experience danger from…
Agnes: …the safety of your sofa. Or from the safety of the seat in the cinema. And I think it’s the same thing, because I get very excited when I read or watch or write scenes that are very dangerous, very brutal, very visceral. But this is something I don’t ever want to have anything to do with. So it’s a way for me to get this excitement without actually being involved. It relaxes me. I’m never relaxed by, say, fluffy books. I just don’t get them very much, let’s say.
Kat: I think maybe when people have a stressful day…
Agnes: Probably, yes.
Kat: …as a surgeon and they come back home, and they just want to chill, maybe. They wanna, you know, tone down the level of their adrenaline. But for me…
Agnes: For us, this is relaxing.
Kat: This is extremely…it’s exciting. Like watching the figure…
Agnes: Like a rollercoaster.
Kat: Yes. And I think there’s also the element of exploring that psychological dark side, and how you can twist things around. Even like “Guns n’ Boys,” like how can it go from terrible to something that grows and still makes sense. Because sometimes I will read books that are dark romances that just are torturous and terrible, and I don’t really get that psychological understanding of how these characters…and when did that switch happen? Sometimes it’s too quickly. And I like prolonging it and seeing how the characters grow. Again, just like in the Western that you don’t even understand when, but it’s happened. And they are on a different level. You put them through different challenges together and it’s fascinating to see…oh, I know. Like you put them in extreme situations. Again, people in extreme situations are very interesting to watch.
Agnes: They do extreme things sometimes.
Kat: And they will do things that you will not get to see in a contemporary. Because they’re just nice, normal people. Why would they do X, Y, Z? But if you put people in extreme situations, like someone witnessing a murder or getting, you know, shot at, they will have to change their life completely. And how they react tells you everything about that person. Even if they do something they regret, that will also tell you something about them. And just delving into that psychology of characters in dark situations, I find it super exciting and fun.
Jeff: You do flip over to sweeter stories…
Jeff: …occasionally. What changes for you to end up and tell a sweeter story? Is it to give yourselves a break or…
Jeff: …because there’s a certain thing that only needs to be told as a sweeter story?
Agnes: A lot of the time those darker books are…
Agnes: Intense. So we are sometimes tired and need a palate cleanser, let’s say. And usually, we end up going for something that’s comedy. And usually, when the story is sweet, the characters need to be freaks in bed or something like that. Something strange must still be happening. I mean, strange. Let’s say, out of the ordinary must be still happening because otherwise, it won’t be something I want to write. But, yeah, sometimes we just want to write a wacky story that’s a bit lighter in tone.
Kat: I think wacky is the right word for it. Like, if it’s not dark, it has to have some other crazy stuff going on. Like, we have this one called “Hipster Brothel” and it’s about a guy who just came out of a relationship. And it’s basically quite a fluffy story of friends to lovers, because he has a friend who’s been hanging out with him. And basically, his ex dumped him because, like, he was saying, “You’re hanging out with this guy too much. And I just can’t be the third wheel in your friendship or whatever this might be.” And he decides to prove to his ex that…
Agnes: That he’s adventurous.
Kat: …that he’s adventurous, he can be crazy, he’s not boring. Why would he be dumped like this? And he decides to start a unique, one-of-a-kind experience where he will basically sell himself for a lumberjack experience. Where you come over to his, like, wagon in the woods because he’s a total hipster. And that’s the kind of wacky element…
Agnes: And it makes no sense.
Kat: It makes no sense. It’s wild. And he makes so many mistakes because the idea is bad. He’s very cute and very emotional, he’s this big guy. And his friend loves him being sweet and he’s trying to put himself in this position where he will prove that he can be wild and crazy and do things.
Agnes: Yeah. He doesn’t need feelings.
Kat: Yes. And writing that whole element of inputting all those hipster things in the book, like the lumbersexual experience and that he loves Matcha donuts and things like…and makes his own jam and things like that. That’s like the fun element of that. There’s nothing dark about this book, but it’s crazy because the characters do extreme things, I think. Again, even though they’re, kind of, a regular citizen, they are trying to do something that is out of the norm, and that really pushes them outside. And makes them interesting too.
I think we also write about a lot of types like punks or rebels or goth characters and that comes from us being not…like, in the alternative scene in one way or another. And having those experiences from, like, our teenage years as well. So we best connect with rebels of all sorts, and I think that comes across in the funnier books as well.
Jeff: I love how you take that, sweeter is not even the right word. It’s more like wacky, like you said. You’ve written across so many genres. Is there some genre that you want to dive into, yet that you haven’t quite figured out the right situation for?
Agnes: Yes. We want to write a book about vampires. We’ve talked about it for a long time, but there never has been a good enough project, let’s say.
Kat: And now we’re kind of thinking that next year should…because we’re going to be done with “Guns n’ Boys.” We have another upcoming series later this year. And after that, I think vampires might be next. But I was gonna say fantasy, because…
Agnes: And also fantasy, yes.
Kat: …we’ve been building a world based on some games we’ve played in the past with friends. And then building it up on our own ideas. And we want to write about Orcs and have this dark, dangerous fantasy world that is not YA, that is full on an adult book. And set in this whole, dark fantasy world, in another world. So it’s not like a paranormal, but proper other-world fantasy. And it keeps going on the back-burner sadly. But maybe next year as well.
Agnes: We don’t want to release just one book. We want to make it more of a world. So we need at least two or three so that it makes sense.
Kat: It has to at least be a trilogy to start with. And then we can go from there. But just one book…
Agnes: We need to have more time to be able…or the world building and…
Kat: But the world building is going on in the background. So I’m kind of happy that, hopefully by the time we get there, to actually write, we’ll have all these ideas and stuff for the world written down. We already have a plot for the first book already written down that we had to put on the back-burner, but…
Agnes: A year ago.
Kat: …I really hope that…it’s also tricky because fantasy technically sells less. So it’s hard. It’s another passion project that might be amazing, or it might just be a passion project and not earn much and we still have to pay rent. It’s tough when you have to choose between two things you love when you know one will technically surely be a success. While the other, no matter how much more or less heart you put in it, it might not succeed.
Agnes: We are going to do it. But we need to just wait for a right moment for it.
Kat: But it’s gonna happen. Because we just follow our passion, yeah.
Jeff: I love talking to co-writers because there’s so many different ways that people co-write. I’d love to know a little bit about your process. You know, things like do you plot out a bunch of stuff or is there a lot of discovery writing? And really how you split up the writing too, between the both of you.
Agnes: So it’s usually, we start with an idea. And then once we have an idea, we plan the characters, so basic concepts.
Kat: Like a character concept or like a theme concept.
Agnes: Yes. So that we have an idea of what the basic conflict will be in the book at first. And we do a lot of planning beforehand. We are definitely…
Agnes: …plotters. Yeah, absolutely. So we have all kinds of tables that we fill out that later help us with keeping the mood and themes of the book consistent throughout. So that we don’t forget about them and then have to add it retroactively. Everything informs us in planning the scenes.
Kat: It especially makes sense when we write together, we need to both know where the scene is going. Otherwise, we’re meandering. So even if there’s lots of improvisation when we actually write, we need to know the main goal of the character, what his conflict is for the scene, and what’s his choices. We really try to make things exciting by always giving characters a problem. And each scene will move him forward in the story, in the relationship, in the book. And it will always be based on his choices.
We don’t like to throw characters who flow where it takes them, and go here and there. No, they need to be the protagonist. So they need to choose and they need to move the story. And even though we decide on things together and plot it together, we do share the main characters mostly by one writing mostly one of them and the other writing the other. It’s so that, especially in dialogue, it’s extremely fluid and we can write very fast, when we actually sit down to write.
And usually we do it like that, that we decide on all of this together. Then when we sit down to write the scene, we write together in one file. And then we know where the scene is going, we know the setting, we know the general…that’s like, two paragraphs when we look at our plans. And from there we just write the scene together and if we need to communicate something, “Oh, I think he should, like, go here or I think it should be daytime or nighttime.” We’re just gonna talk about it in our little office as we write on different computers, but in one file. And usually, we write a paragraph or two and then move onto the other person.
Agnes: Yes. And it depends on the scene. For example, for fight scenes, and we have a lot of those. We have a very strict choreography written down, so that we don’t pull in different directions and that it’s dynamic.
Kat: Because you can’t be guessing what the other person wants to do, yeah.
Agnes: Yes, we tried to do that and it just doesn’t work.
Kat: And especially for fight scenes, you really need to plan what’s gonna happen.
Agnes: It needs to be exciting. There needs to be tension. If it’s just one person shoots, the other shoots, it just isn’t. And also another thing, that even though we plan, we often actually change the plan throughout. It’s not set in stone. So usually we have an idea of where we’re going, so it’s rare that the ending changes. Sometimes it does, but usually, it stays the same.
Kat: It happens, yeah.
Agnes: Usually it stays the same. But we usually…as we tend to have new ideas, so we include those and try to work it into the plan so that it still makes sense.
Kat: Sometimes we’ll go for a walk if we’re stuck. And that’s the nice thing about living together, that we get to go out together and we go on a walk. And we can still think about it as working, because we’re talking about the book and its problems. Especially if we’re stuck in a scene. And then we can oftentimes come up with whole new ideas that take us in a new direction. It’s rarely, like, if we argue about where a scene should go, it’s rarely deciding on one or the other. We usually come up with a third option that suits us more. And I would say we have a very good partnership in creative work.
We very rarely argue about something. I think because we both want to make it work. It’s obvious to us that we cannot write something that doesn’t work for either of us. We need to always be happy with the end book, because it’s our book. So there cannot be lack of communication. So we can be very crude to each other and it’s allowed because…or leave really mean comments in the edits. Like an editor would never leave me a comment like I leave to her or she to me.
Because it’s understood that this is all for the better of the text and for the better of the story, and so anything goes. Nothing should be pulled back and then held as a grudge. I think this ultimate honesty that we have when writing serves the stories and makes the partnership so good.
Jeff: How do you think your writing partnership has changed over the years? Things that you were doing back then that you’re not doing or you’ve added a process since then.
Agnes: I mean, obviously things changed because of the way we changed into writing as a hobby to just doing it more professionally. Also, we used to just write spontaneously, let’s say. And those stories were just…we decided to write more concisely so that each scene actually brings something to the story.
Kat: I think another thing that’s changed, we have more ease with writing the other person’s character. Now we kind of understand it more as a story we write together. So if I have a very good idea for a, I think, a line of dialogue that I think works for her character, I’ll just write a paragraph more. And usually, it’s accepted and there’s no problem. Whereas it used to very role-play-y, very, like, this is my character, this is your character and you don’t get to interfere even as a suggestion. So I think that’s changed a lot and it serves the stories. I think we’ve grown so much thanks to that attitude.
Agnes: And we also try to learn more about the writing as a craft, both of us. So we usually…each one brings something to the table and we discuss it. And we go to some courses sometimes. You know, we never actually just take everything as we’re told at those courses, but you can think this through and improve and add to what you’re already doing, if it’s something that you think it will work.
Kat: Just like with a craft book, you don’t have to accept everything you’re reading. You might disagree with some of it, but you still might pick up a gold nugget here and there that you didn’t do before, and we keep adding to our…
Kat: …process of writing. And I think it serves us. So the change has definitely been that we used to just write…
Agnes: Faff about.
Kat: Faff about and write whatever came to our minds. Whereas now you really want the impact on the reader to be there. I have a big excitement of not only writing the story I want to write, but I always think, wow, the reader’s going to be so shocked when they read this. Or like, wow, they’re gonna not see this coming and, like, this action scene is going to be so exciting for them. And when this thing happens, they’re going to be so surprised. I love that. I feel like sharing a story is more than just writing your own magnum opus for yourself and look at me, I’m so great. It’s about providing an experience for someone else. And I love to do that. I feel like I’m an entertainer that way.
Jeff: I love that perception that you’re an entertainer and you’re providing this experience to someone else. And speaking of experiences, I’d love to hear from each of you about a book that’s given you a great experience lately. What’s something you would recommend to our listeners?
Kat: I’ll go first. I just read, I think, two months ago? Something like that. A Western book, a contemporary one, after we finished the Western, I was still so entrenched in it, I was just looking for more Western stories and I actually found a contemporary. It’s called “Down Low” by Parker St. John. And it’s about this bull rider at the end of his career coming back to his hometown, where he lost his love and now, 10 years later, he gets to meet him again.
The guy is a sheriff and they have to reconcile over old, bad things that happened back then. But what I really loved about it, is that it had this amazing sense of place. Like, you could really feel that this author hasn’t just lumped it in a random Western town and oh, yeah, they’re cowboys. She wrote about the bull riding aspect in a way that I understood it. I know nothing about it and now I feel, like, oh, yeah, I know what’s going on and I know what he’s feeling and I know what happens in a ring. And a book with this kind of sense of space, while also giving this very intense romance. Again, that, you know, spanned from their teenage years. It was a very satisfying experience.
Agnes: It was a good one, I read it too. And I’m currently reading a non-fiction book, but it has a very long title so I need to read it. It’s “Monsieur d’Eon Is a Woman: A Tale of Political Intrigue and Sexual Masquerade” by Gary Kates. And it’s a biographical analysis of Chevalier d’Eon, who was a spy for the French court in Russia, for example. And he, or…
Agnes: …they actually, they were cross-dressing, let’s say, up until a point where Louis XVI told them to just wear women’s clothes. They were also a very good fencer and basically, they were great in all those manly pursuits.
Kat: Was there a movie inspired by this?
Agnes: Possibly. There was an anime series for sure, inspired by it. But this person lives the rest of their life as a woman. And when they died, it was discovered that, physically, they were male. It’s a fascinating life because the whole book is about how the society perceived them, how they perceived themselves. Because there is memoirs that have been translated…
Agnes: Yes, and letters.
Kat: And there’s the social aspect of it…
Agnes: Yes, it’s so interesting.
Kat: …that you can learn how those people really thought of it. Not just what you saw in the law. That’s another interesting aspect of this kind of historical research. There is one thing that might be said in the law, just like in the Western times, there would be a law that, for example, would punish this or that activity. But if no one cared and no one paid attention and people were permissive, it would be a completely different experience.
Agnes: So it’s a fascinating person from history. They were decorated with some medals for their service to the country, and a very fascinating life. And I’m currently reading this one and it’s really good, so if that’s of interest.
Jeff: That sounds really fascinating. Thank you for sharing both of those books. I have to put those both on my TBR.
Kat: Very different.
Jeff: Very different. We’ve talked a little bit about vampires and fantasy maybe coming 2022, somewhere in the future. You mentioned a new series that you’re gonna start later this year. Can you tease us more about that and what else may be coming in the remainder of 2021?
Kat: Oh yes, we’re very excited about this one.
Agnes: Oh yes, it’s been a long time coming.
Kat: And it’s going to be a seven-book series. But this one will be, each about a different couple. It’s gonna be a spinoff of our “Kings of Hell MC” series, which was first published in 2017, that has five books, and it’s a paranormal setting with a biker club that is in an old insane asylum, of a place that’s been there for centuries. And so there’s all sorts of diabolical shenanigans and it deals with the devil. And I won’t go into spoilers of how it happens, but basically, the spinoff series is about the seven children that happened at the end of that series.
And the series will be called “Seven Deadly Sons.” And because they are partially demonic, each of them will have a magical flaw based in one of the seven deadly sins. And it will be also a biker club series, because they will entrenched in that kind of reality, and within that. So in a way, more like a superhero, this will be super-disabilities. It will be more of a horror because of that. So each character has to deal with this magical problem…
Agnes: That they have.
Kat: …or power that is actually influencing them negatively. Even if it gives them some bonuses, they might have to find a way to work around them. And each based in one of the seven deadly sins. And it will also span many years. It’s not going to be like, seven of them and each of them having a romance every two months. It’s going to be, like…
Agnes: In different times of their life.
Kat: Yeah. First starting when they’re younger and then going all the way to the son that finds their partner at a later time, so yeah.
Agnes: Yeah, we are very excited because we’ve had this idea for a while. The concept’s changed so many times but I think now we have very good ideas for those books. And we’re super excited to write it, finally.
Kat: So after we finish “Guns n’ Boys,” we get to delve into that. And we want to write them one after the other, so hopefully not to spend the next 10 years writing them, but to actually write one after the other and hopefully get the attention of follow-up readers that way, yeah.
Jeff: Can’t wait to see that start to come out. What is the best way for everyone to keep up with you online, to know when this new series comes out and any other news you’ve got?
Agnes: I think it’s best to follow us on Facebook, to be honest. We have our Facebook group, it’s called the Merikan Playroom, and we have many active readers there who share all kinds of discussions about the books.
Kat: But if you just want the new releases, you can sign up to our newsletter. It’s on our website, kamerikan.com. And there’s a tag for newsletter there and I do not write as often as I would like, but I always write when there’s a new release. So if someone just wants the new releases and have no clutter, they’ll always get an email if they sign up there.
Agnes: But if someone wants more engagement, then the Facebook group is great.
Jeff: Perfect. We will put the links to the Facebook group, the newsletter, all the books that we’ve talked about in our show notes so people can easily find all that. Kat and Agnes, it has been so amazing talking to both of you. I’m so glad you were able to come to the show.
Kat: And amazing to meet you.
Agnes: Thank you so much.
Will: This episode’s transcript has been brought to you by our community on Patreon. If you’d like to read the conversation for yourself, simply head on over to the show notes page for this episode at biggayfictionpodcast.com. And don’t forget the show notes page also has links to everything that we’ve talked about in this episode.
Jeff: And thanks again to Kat and Agnes for spending so much time with us. They had such a terrific origin story, and it’s really wonderful to hear how they keep going strong after all these years telling the stories they want to tell while finding new inspiration for stories. Like they’ve mentioned playing video games and playing “Red Dead Redemption” turned into the old west duology.
Will: All right, everyone. I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up on Monday in episode 323, we welcome author K.J. Charles to talk to us about the recently released third book and the “Will Darling Adventure” series.
Jeff: We took our first dive into the world of K.J. Charles earlier this year with “An Unseen Attraction” and I’ve recently read the first book in the “Will Darling” series, so I am super excited to chat with KJ.
Will: Thank you so much for listening. Until next time, stay strong, be safe, and above all else keep turning those pages and keep reading.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find more shows you’ll love at frolic.media/podcasts. Production assistance by Tyson Greenan. Original theme music by Daryl Banner.