Big Gay Fiction Fest: Pride 2022 begins! The guys announce the the Big Gay Fiction Book Club selection for Pride is the super sexy second chance, bodyguard romance Under His Protection by LaQuette.
For the first Fest Author Spotlight, Kate Hawthorne talks about her latest series, Not Ready for Love, including how the inspiration for the books came from cover photos that she saw. Kate also discusses how standalones books often turn into series, the types of kink and angst she likes to include in her stories, and the importance of keeping the writing process fun.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find many more outstanding podcasts at frolic.media/podcasts!
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.
- Under His Protection by LaQuette
- Kate Hawthorne Author Spotlight
- Kate Hawthorne website | Hawthorne’s Harem Facebook Group | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | TikTok
- E.M. Denning on Amazon
- Not Allowed (Not Ready for Love Book 1) by Kate Hawthorne
- To Love You (Not Ready for Love Book 2) by Kate Hawthorne (pre-order until June 16, 2022)
- Until Now (Not Ready for Love Book 3) by Kate Hawthorne (pre-order until July 7, 2022)
- 6:12 Photography by Eric McKinney website
- Heated Rivalry (Game Changes Book 2) by Rachel Reid
- A Real Good Lie (Two Truths and a Lie Book 1) by Kate Hawthorne
- Worth the Risk (Giving Consent Book 1) by Kate Hawthorne
- Worth the Wait (Giving Consent Book 2) by Kate Hawthorne
- A Matter of Fact (Two Truths and a Lie Book 3) by Kate Hawthorne
- Episode 367 – Six Recommended Reads from Jay & Lisa on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- Unfettered by Kate Hawthorne
- Reckless (The Motel Brothers: Room for Love Book 1) by Kate Hawthorne
- Limitless (The Motel Brothers: Room for Love Book 5) by Kate Hawthorne
- Big Gay Fiction Podcast Links
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 on this Big Gay Fiction Fest episode, we’ve got an author spotlight featuring Kate Hawthorne.
Jeff: Welcome to episode 382 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of gay romance fiction. I’m Jeff, and with me as always is my co-host and husband, Will.
Will: Hello, rainbow romance reader. We are so glad you could join us for another episode of the show. We want to welcome you to the first of seven Big Gay Fiction Fest episodes that will feature author spotlights, genre specific panels, and a special Big Gay Fiction Book Club selection.
And I’m happy to announce that that selection is the super sexy, second chance, romantic suspense with some bodyguard and fake relationship tropes thrown in for good measure, it is “Under His Protection” by LaQuette.
The Fiction Fest Book Club episode will wrap up the Fest programming when it releases on Monday, June 27th. So, if you haven’t yet read this fantastic book, you’ve got plenty of time before our deep dive discussion comes out at the end of the month.
Jeff: And now let’s get started with our first author spotlight. Kate Hawthorne has been writing gay romance since 2018. And this summer she’s releasing her new series, “Not Ready for Love,” which kicked off with “Not Allowed” and continues with “To Love You,” which releases next week on June 16th. Not only do we discuss the series, but we also chat about the “Two Truths and a Lie” series, as well as what started Kate writing.
Author Spotlight: Kate Hawthorne
Jeff: Kate, thank you so much for joining us for The Big Gay Fiction Fest. We’re excited to have you here.
Kate: Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to be here.
Jeff: So, before we dive in talking about books, I wanna go backwards a little bit and look at your past a little. What sets you up on the path to being a writer?
Kate: I feel like I’ve always been a writer to some degree. Like when I was in school, I was always that kid who was the reader, and the writer, and, like, library times, always super into that. And, you know, in high school, nobody ever told me that, like, I could grow up and be a writer. It’s like, it’s one of those things where, like, you’re obviously doing this required reading, and you understand that writers exist, but nobody was ever like, “Hey, this is something that you really like, and that you’re good at. You can pursue this.”
And so, originally, when I graduated from high school, I was gonna be an English teacher because I think every author has, like, that really impactful, English teacher or humanities teacher that really changed the course of their education. And I had one. And so I was like, “Well, I wanna pay this back. And this is what I wanna do.” And life had other plans. And I ended up dropping out of college like my second semester, and my career took a whole different path. And then I was in my 30s. I got back into, like, actively reading and Amazon and it’s great, wonderful guidance. It was like, “Oh, you read this book, you might like this book.” And it, sort of, Amazon led me down this rabbit hole of, like, hetero romance, to dark hetero romance, to, like, ménage, to gay romance.
And so, I’m, like, a latecomer to reading gay romance even though I’m familiar with it. So I started reading it. And I got on to Facebook and I was, like, finding like, “Oh my God, there’s all these social media. And these authors are all engaging with people. And I’m making, like, new friends who are, like, reading the same things that I’m reading.” And then just for fun, one day, I was in a group chat with some friends and one of my best friends, E.M. Denning, who is also an author. I wrote something and she was like, “This is good.” Her and my friends were like, “You should keep doing this. Like, you should seriously do this.” And I was like, “Really? Like, should I?” But I’m, like, also like, “Good job. Good job, Kate. For sure do it.”
And so, I just, like, wrote a book. And I didn’t even tell my husband about it. So this was like four and a half or five years ago. I didn’t even tell my husband about it because I was just like, “If this goes anywhere, then I’ll be like, Hey, here’s this thing I did.” But my husband’s like my number one cheerleader, in all things. And I knew that he would super hype me up. And I didn’t want him to get invested in it for it to just, like, not go anywhere and not become anything.
And so, I published my first book, and it did extremely well. And then I was like, “Okay, cool. I’m gonna keep doing this then.” And that was four and a half years ago and here we are. So, you know just good books and supportive friends I think is what got me here this time.
Jeff: There are so many things I love about what you said, starting with the supportive English teacher. I think that is almost the foundation of every writer that I know is that there’s that English teacher who set the spark.
Kate: Yes, absolutely.
Jeff: And of course, I love that you have a supportive spouse. I think that is so important to have. Not just the friends in your life, but the spouse who will, like, be that cheerleader because sometimes you need that because this is not an easy thing that you do as a writer.
Kate: Yeah. He is like so supportive with everything, even when it comes down to, like, shifting and like parenting responsibilities, if I wanna go do a book signing, or like, he’s just so encouraging, and accommodating, and helpful, and just, I could not do it without him, for sure.
Jeff: What would you say the trademarks of a Kate Hawthorne book are at this point now that you’re, like, you know, the four and a half years in?
Kate: Kink for sure to some degree. I wanna say though that, like, 95% of my books have some kind of kink in them, but not necessarily, like, what readers would expect in a kinky book. I try to, like, approach kink a little bit differently. But, like, kink and angst, I think is where I’m at right now. Like, the little tagline on some of my promo stuff is “angst and spanks.” So, I think that’s a pretty, like, encompassing teaser about what you’re gonna get when you open one of my books.
Jeff: How would you describe the kind of kink that plays out in your stories?
Kate: I have, like, a personal experience with kink for the past years, and years, and years, of my life. And so I see how people can engage in, like, BDSM, and, like, the kink lifestyle, and have that be part of their personality, but not their whole personality. So when I write kinks into books or characters who engage in power exchange relationships, I try to make it as, like, a facet of their relationship. So it’s just something, it’s a part of them, and it’s something that’s important to them, and it’s something that they enjoy. But there’s so much more to the character separate of these kinks.
And I also really try to, like, approach kink from… Like, I always try to, like, get to the psychology of some of the kinks that I’m writing because I think that even though these books are fiction, you want to have some elements of accuracy and truth within that content. So I do try to, like, explain why, especially if I’m writing kinks that are less popular, or, like, less common, trying to, sort of, really spend time in these characters’ heads going through about why they’re into the things they’re into. And I really just try to, like, show that, like, it’s a broad spectrum of fetishes, and kinks, and likes, and things that get you off and showing what that looks like for different people and how that works in different ways for everybody and that no two relationships, or no two, doms, or no two subs are gonna be the same.
Jeff: It’s one of the things I like when I read kink is to get, kind of, behind as you put it, the psychology, you know, why somebody may be into that certain thing, not just that they are into that certain thing, but a little bit more understanding of it, especially as they may explain it to a partner, for example, or a prospective partner why they like that kink, how they like that kink, you know, that back and forth because one of the things I love about books that I think most readers do is you get that little glimpse into something that may not be part of your life.
Kate: Right. Yeah, exactly. And I have one book with a couple that has they do some, like, humiliation in within, like, the bounds of their relationship. And so it was a lot of fun to get into those scenes from, like, both character point of views to see, like, how they come at it from a place of love and respect. And it’s not meant to be like a demeaning or a shameful thing and like how something like this really can, like, bring both of these characters’ enjoyment and satisfaction. And I just tried to show that with, like, every sort of kink that I write.
Jeff: How would you say that your stories overall have changed since you began this publishing journey back in 2018 like it did four and a half years ago?
Kate: I feel like my craft has obviously gotten definitely, like more well-tuned as I’ve gone on. I will be a pantser until I die. Like I will never in my life plot a book. But I think that I approach stories now more from, like, a character-driven perspective. I find a lot more, like, satisfaction in my craft like writing character-driven stories. And so now, instead of looking at like, “Here’s this plot, and here’s the story, I wanna tell through the plot,” I write in dual POV. So I’m like, “Here are these two characters, and here’s where they are, and here’s where I want them to go.” And then I use, like, their character growth and development to move the book forward. So, I think that’s a shift from, like, my early books are more plot-driven and the later ones I think are definitely more based on, like, character development and character growth.
Jeff: Do you usually have an endpoint, or do you just let all the character growth and development that you’re doing as a pantser dictate the endpoint that you end up at?
Kate: I feel like half… Well, you know, when I first started, even when I went from going plot-driven to character-driven, it was very much like I still write romance. So, this endpoint is always going to be this happy ending.
Kate: But I wrote a series in… What is time? This panic at the panorama disco has completely thrown off, like, my sense of time… I wanna say 2020, series. And really, that’s when I started to play with, like, unconventional happy endings and recognizing that, like, what a happy ending looks like for one couple may not be the same for another couple. So while it’s always been like, “They’re going to have a happy ending,” that happy ending isn’t the same anymore. So, it’s not a given. But like, generally, I see where I want everybody to end up and I, sort of, just try to let them get themselves there and hope for the best. And sometimes they do and sometimes they throw me curveballs and…
Jeff: Of course, they do.
Kate: …and then we have to reevaluate how we’re gonna get them there.
Jeff: I have to say I think panic at the panorama is the best description I’ve heard of the last years. I may have to borrow that from you.
Jeff: But speaking of that panorama, you were so productive in 2020 and 2021, looking at the volume…
Kate: I was.
Jeff: …of work that you put out. How did you keep your creative well filled to keep yourself focused while the world was very much on fire?
Kate: I mean, so, I very much treat writing is like a full-time job. But that said, I have like, I call it my day job. I have another job. And, for better or for worse, that went work from home on March 13th, of 2020. So I didn’t have to go into the office anymore. So, I have literally been at my desk in my office, in my home for the duration of the pandemic. So even though I have had a lot of, like, admittedly, like, I’ve had a lot of, like, mental health struggles with the anxiety that comes from this pandemic, and having a… My daughter was three at the time. She’s almost six now, a child through this and my husband who was is an essential worker, dealing with all of that anxiety, like I couldn’t just, like, sit at my desk and let it consume me and overwhelm me.
So, I just put myself on a schedule and reevaluated, like, how I spent my time and my day and just wrote through it. I just kept going, like, because the books that I had published in 2020, I had the ideas for them and the plot, and like, I knew where I wanted the characters to go before the pandemic started. So, I was like, “You know what to do, just do it.” And I did.
Jeff: It’s really awesome because we’ve seen on social media, you know, how the pandemic hits so many authors in different ways. Some got more productive, some got much less, some kinda kept the status quo. So, it’s really great you were able to just keep going and have creativity keep moving along through all of that.
Kate: Yeah. I had to and writing started as a, I don’t wanna say like a hobby, but it started as something fun that I was just doing for fun. And that’s one of the things that my husband always reminds me when something about writing does stress me out. He’s like, “Is it fun? This is supposed to be fun. Why are you doing this if isn’t fun?” And he really, like, forces me to, sort of, step back and, like, look at why I’m doing this and what my reasons are and what success looks like to me, and then I refocus myself and get back going.
Jeff: Oh, it’s so great for that. I like your husband more and more as you talk about him.
Kate: He’s amazing. He really is the best.
Jeff: Now, you’re just starting a new series with “Not Ready for Love.” Tell us about the characters that we’re gonna meet through this series.
Kate: “Not Ready for Love,” is a trilogy and it is a dad’s best friend. Well, it starts with being a dad’s best friend’s story. So, you meet Wyatt when he is 18-years-old, and it’s the summer between high school and college. He’s lived with his mom for most of his life, and he’s gonna go stay with his dad for a couple of months before he leaves for college. So he’s exploring his sexuality and doesn’t want to go to college not knowing what’s what, as it so often goes with these young impressionable characters. And then he decides that he is interested in his dad’s best friend who was also his dad’s neighbor.
And so, they get involved and that goes really well until it’s not going really well. And then Wyatt leaves for college. And that is what it is. Normally, all of my series books are, like, standalone. It’s like even though the series are interconnected, they often stand alone. This one is not. I’ve tried to tell everybody everywhere I can and that book one is a cliffhanger. It is a hard cliffhanger, there is no resolution at the end of this book at all. And so we leave them when Wyatt leaves for college and it looks like what it looks like. And then the other books that go through life, the middle book is Wyatt’s dad pursuing his second chance relationship that he’s after. And you get peeks of Wyatt and Grant who is the best friend in that second book.
And then the third book is Wyatt and Grant later in life coming back together for whatever their reasons are, and finally getting a chance at really getting to explore what it means to be together. And Wyatt, of course, being older, has a lot more life experience under his belt and is probably a better partner for Grant at that point than he would have been when he was younger. So it works out for them in the end. And then they do get their happy ending at the end of the series.
Yeah. So that’s what that is. And I had found some pictures at a book signing I was at last July, I found the picture that’s on the cover of the first book “Not Allowed.” I saw an Eric McKinney, who’s the photographer in his little photo book. And I took a picture of it on my phone and I sent it to my group chat with my author friends. And I was like, “Look at this picture.” Like, I had all of these ideas in my head, and I was like talking to other author friends, “Like I wanna write this book and I have all these ideas.” And I ended up buying the picture, but I fell in love with another picture, and I was like, “Well, maybe I can give them two books.” And then there goes my bank account and here we are.
Jeff: I’m always intrigued by the authors who, you know, find that cover, buy the cover, and then they got to figure out what they’re exactly going to do with it, then you ended up with two covers to think about.
Kate: Yeah, but then I had to find like a third cover too because I was like I already had these ideas for like the dad. And that is like 100% not me. Like I have never been like a photo purchaser. I’m like, I have a really great cover designer. So I’m like, “Find me a stock photo and make it work.” But the picture was just too good to not use. And so I wanted to do it. And there’s some like, the characters have been really interesting for me because there’s definitely like layers of kink that exist within all of the relationships.
And so, the first book, Grant is, sort of, navigating the fact that he does not want to engage in that kind of relationship with his best friend’s son because he’s kind of like, “It’s bad enough that we’re doing what we’re doing I don’t wanna take it this far.” And then sort of how they do come together and explore that later on in life and all of that. So there’s definitely like kink in this series. But again, it’s just very, like, these are the characters and this is what the characters like to do with each other. So…
Jeff: And I can see, you know, the other half of your brand playing into this too with the angst, angst a little bit for everybody who’s involved, especially in that first book.
Kate: I had, like, an ending point for the first book and then my proofreader was like, “This feels a little bit abrupt to me.” And so I sent it to a reader friend of mine who subscribes to my Patreon who reads all of my books like 7,000 times and so, I’m like, “Hey, can you read this and like give me your honest feedback about what you’re thinking?” And I was like, “Here’s what I could add at the end,” and she was like, “Yes, absolutely add it.” So I added an epilogue to the first book. And then when I sent the review copies out, people were like, “That epilogue Kate, like how dare you?” And I’m like, “Okay, good. I made the right decision because there it is, I’m gonna get you.”
Jeff: At least your big upfront with the cliffhanger, you know that this is going to be…
Kate: Oh, my God.
Jeff: …the trilogy and I appreciate when… I don’t mind cliffhangers, but I know sometimes you wanna know that, you know, yes, the series is gonna continue, yes, it’s planned for X books, whatever that is to kind of set the contract with the reader.
Kate: Yeah, and I have always had a super aggressive publishing schedule because I wanna stay in, like, the algorithms good favors, but this one is much more. This is a month apart like these books are releasing May, June, July. Like I’m going to be finished writing the third book this week. So they’re done, and they’re packaged, and they’re on preorder. And so like, I tell people like, “This is a cliffhanger but look like I promise like the end is here.” So…
jeff: The next one is right around the corner.
Kate: Yeah, before you know it.
Jeff: There’s so much of this that I just wanna pick up. You’ve got age gap, and I love a good age gap, which clearly there is between an 18-year-old, and you know, dad’s best friend neighbor.
Kate: Yeah. What do you love about age gaps? Can I ask you a question in this? Like…
Jeff: Of course.
Kate: …I’m always so curious to see, like, what people like about, like, tropes.
Jeff: I like the age gap because it gives you that moment, especially and I really like it when the younger person really knows what they want. And it’s not about necessarily the older person teaching the younger person, although certainly, there’ll be some life experience to convey but it’s about I love it, when the younger person is confident enough to say, “Look, I like you, here’s why I like you, you know, sure, there’s whatever things that we’re going through.” But where you can really get that dynamic of it doesn’t always have to be the older person who’s taking the leadership role.
Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t like it the other way too, because there are times when that older person can help the younger person figure themselves out, help them become the person that they’re meant to be, which I think is also what any good relationship does regardless of what the age dynamic is. You’re always hopefully making each other better identifying, you know, what the other might be able to do to get to where they need to be. But when there is that age dynamic, it can be so much interesting to see how that plays itself out and authors who can do age gap well, I’m just like, “Yeah, give me more.”
Kate: Yeah, I love that.
Jeff: Age gap can be done very poorly. Like any trope, but you know, when it works well, I think it just brings interesting dynamics into the story on how those age things kinda work themselves out.
Kate: Yeah, absolutely. There’s so much, like, nuance that can exist within that kind of relationship. And it’s, like, like you said, it’s not always the older person being the one who is sharing the wisdom and help it. Like, it works both ways and I love those moments, especially when, like, the older character sees something in the younger character or something within the relationship with the younger character that helps something click into place for them. And you’re really able to show like, the way it’s beneficial for both people and show like that real healthy, like dynamic and growth within their character relationship.
Jeff: Yeah, and I love too that you’re stretching this out over three books, even with that middle book…
Kate: My beta readers hate it.
Jeff: Oh, see, I like books with there’s a good reason for it, where you get to follow one relationship through some set of time across multiple books. I’ve seen it in several romantic suspense series that I’ve read, you know, take the couple from the first book and just continue with through whatever that arc is of that romantic suspense trilogy. I know one author who stretched it, I think across five or six books before you finally got to the point where you knew that this couple was set.
Jeff: And I’ve just read a series, Rachel Reid’s “Game Changers” series, where she’s had a relationship that started in book two, and you’ve seen it in three, four, and five, and now we’re back to them as primary in six. And to see how that has spread itself out even when they’re not the primary, I’m fascinated by the different ways we can get there. And I know that, you know, many readers want their happily ever after all contained in that one book. But if there’s a good reason, and you can give me the compelling story, by all means, stretch it out.
Kate: And that’s one of my favorites. I love like in a series like meeting an established side character couple and seeing them as like a side character or a side couple track through the series and then getting to see their whole story. Like, I love books about established couples, especially if you get like the little bread crumbs dropped, and then you get to them at the end. Like, oh, I love that.
Jeff: Yeah. I’m a sucker for that too. We should trade book recs more often you and I.
I’m curious as you approach the series, and this kinda goes back to you being a pantser. And I can see it playing in with this and the series that we’re gonna talk about in a second, which is “Two Truths and a Lie.”
Jeff: As you’re looking at things as series, does that at all affect how you’re planning to know, “I’m doing this in one and I’ve got to get over there for book three just to make sure all of your parts connect together,” or is it just really piecing it together and taking care of it as it comes?
Kate: Generally, it is totally fine because most of the series that I write are really just standalone that feature, like, overlapping characters. The second series I wrote the “Giving Consent” series, the characters in my second book have a lot of overlap from the first book. And I was like, “I never wanna do this, again.” Like trying to like pick out their parts from the first book and tell it from their POV in the second book, I was like, “This is torture, and, like, this was not, like, what I wanted to be doing at all.”
So generally, like the way most of my series work will have like the character, the couple in the first book, and you might meet one of the side characters or the side character separately for the second book in that first book. But the first characters end up together, and they’re wrapped up. And so, by the time you get to the second book, it’s this whole new couple, they might exist within the friend group, or the family circle, or whatever it is. And then the only thing that really connects is that you have characters from the other books who are single appearing in that book and then you have the established couple appearing in that book.
So, it’s rare that I have to like hit certain, like, relationship milestones and like peace all of that together because I learned that lesson and we are definitely not doing that ever again. That’s not it for me. Like kudos to any author who has the gusto to, like, sit behind a computer and, like, piece that timeline in a series bible together, but it is not me anymore.
Jeff: So how do you approach it when you’re doing something like “Not Ready for Love” when you’ve got, you know, your couple in book one, you’ve got things you’re gonna tell about them in two, but then you know you’re gonna wrap up their story in three?
Kate: It’s such a weird thing. So, originally, that series was just supposed to be one book, right? Like I found the one picture and it was gonna be one book. And I was thinking about doing like a freebie novella or something like that that was sort of like, you know, there’s 5,000 or 10,000 words of when Wyatt’s 18 and propositions to Grant and give it away the newsletter thing or whatever. And I was talking to another author, friend of mine, she’s like, “Or you could write them a whole book. Like, you could just do two books.” And I was like, “Yeah, I probably could.” And then I’m obviously so suggestible. I’m like, “Sure, why not?”
And then one of my PA, my PA actually was, like, started reading the first one, and she was like, “But the dad, the dad needs a book.” I’m like, “Please don’t do this to me. Please don’t do this to me.” And then I realized that like, “Yes, like giving the dad book would be a good opportunity to, like, take up some of the time between” because there’s 10 years between the first book and the third book. But again, like pantsing, right. So, I’m writing the second book, and I’m dealing with the dad and his boyfriend, and I’m like, “I knew that there was gonna be an event that brought Wyatt back to town.”
And so, the event happened, and Wyatt came back to town, but again, like, I’m just the author. I have no idea how that’s gonna go. Wyatt comes back to town, who knows what’s gonna happen? So, then I, sort of, just watched, like, what happened with, like, Wyatt’s interactions with Grant within the context of the dad’s book.” And that’s how I ended up knowing where I needed to start the third book because I really, like I knew where it was going to end. I know where the third book was going to end, but I had no idea where the third book was going to start until I started writing it. And thankfully, they gave me a nice starting point.
Jeff: Well, that’s good.
Kate: But again, like, it’s really just like when I started, I knew Wyatt was 18, I knew that he was interested in his dad’s best friend, and I knew that eventually, theye were going to end up together, but not at that point. Everything that happened in between is as much of a surprise to me as it was to them.
Jeff: You know, like I alluded to, we have to talk a little bit about “A Matter of Fact,” which wrapped up “Two Truths and a Lie” series recently. Listeners on the podcast may have heard Jay from “Joyfully Jay.” I absolutely rave about that book in Episode 367. So the first five-star review that she’s given, as she put it “in a while,” she just fell so hard for the redemption arc in that book. Now for those who haven’t picked up “Two Truths and a Lie,” tell us a little bit about that series and how you built to that final book that turned out to be so amazing for Jay.
Kate: Right. So again, originally, the first book in that series is called “A Real Good Lie.” And it was supposed to be a standalone.
Jeff: There’s a theme here. That’s supposed to be standalone.
Kate: Yeah. Well, yeah. So, well, that one was supposed to be a standalone and it ended up not being a standalone. So I thought for sure that “Not Allowed” was going to be my standalone, but I keep getting thwarted. So, I marketed it as a standalone, even though as I was writing it, I was, kind of, like, “Maybe there was room for another thing.” So I feel that book is really character-driven. So, I loved writing it, of course. It’s about Jace and Callahan. And it’s a fake relationship book, which is a trope that, like, I love and a trope that I hate. Like, I love to write it, but I feel like even like when I’m writing it, when I’m reading it, it’s so predictable. Like, you know it’s not gonna be fake for long. There’s gonna end up being only one bed. Like it’s just how it goes, right?
And so, I wrote it and so they were a fake relationship. There was a big wealth disparity between them Callahan, super-rich, silver spoon kind of upbringing, and Jace very much not. And they end up getting set up by Callahan’s best friend because Callahan needs a fake date to this event because his ex-boyfriend Rhys is going to be there and he doesn’t wanna go alone. And so, obviously, their real feelings, fake relationship. And when I was writing that book, again, standalone, like Rhys was so arrogant, and so horrible, and so mean in the first book. And in my head, I was like, “No one is getting a book because, like, this character is a jerk and nobody’s gonna want me to write him a book.” But again, my PA, Amy was like, “I like Rhys.” I’m like, “No,” like, no.”
So that was the first book, Jace and Callahan, conquering Rhys who’s a horrible person in the first book and getting over their issues with their wealth gap and all of that, and understanding, like, how they can be together and what they have to bring to each other’s lives. But even as I was getting towards the end of it, I knew that there was going to be a second book as it goes.
And so, then that ended up being Jace’s best friend and Callahan’s best friend. They get together in the second book, and it just so happens that Jace’s, or Callahan’s best friend is Rhys’ little brother. So I knew that by moving from Callahan to Sebastian who’s the younger brother, that we were going to see more of Rhys in the second book. And it really gave me an opportunity to, sort of, write another side of him because I think that, like, everybody presents themselves differently depending on who they’re talking to. right?
So, like, Rhys is going to be one way to his ex-boyfriend and he’s going to be a different way to his brother. He’s going to be a different way to his father and he’s going to carry himself differently depending on who he’s talking to, and who he’s engaging with. And as I was writing Sebastian’s book, I realized that Rhys had reasons for why he treated Callahan the way that he had and why he treated Sebastian the way that he did. And even though it wasn’t his book, I started slipping into his head more and really seeing, like, what his motivation was for what he was doing, and what he was willing to sacrifice and give up so his younger brother could have his happy ending.
And again, my PA is in my ear like, “Rhys gets a book.” I’m like “No, no, absolutely not,” but it has already taken, like, seed in my head and I was, like, seeing, like, Rhys developing as this really robust and full character as I got to talk through him within the second book. So then I was like, “Yeah, like I cannot give him a book.” I had absolutely fallen in love with him by the time the second book was done being written. And so, then I was like, “Okay, so, I’m gonna do a third book, and I’m gonna write Rhys and we’re gonna get to the bottom of his issues and really, like, understand why he’s been so horrible to, like, all of these other people.
And so, as you get into his book, you, like, have a better understanding of, like, the things he does and what his motivations are. And so I felt like it was an important story to tell. I infused Rhys’s character with a lot of personality traits from… Once I realized I was giving him a book at least, I started to infuse a lot of, like, my best friend’s personality into Rhys. And there’s lots of conversations and a matter of fact that him and I had in real life with each other. And so…
Jeff: Does he know he’d been an inspiration for a character and character traits?
Kate: He did, and he… I don’t wanna be like a huge downer here. He was killed in a motorcycle accident in…
Jeff: Oh my God.
Kate: …November unexpectedly, obviously, unexpectedly. So I had just finished the book, and he hadn’t had a chance to read it, but he knew because I would send him, I talked to him all the time. So I’d send him parts of, like, what I’m writing and we would both laugh about it. So I took, like, the things I saw in him as my friend and who he was as a person. And I looked at how he presented himself to all the other people in his life and I really just shoved that into Rhys. And I mean, it must have worked, obviously, but yeah.
And so, Jay had jokingly said that I should call this series The Redemption of Rhys St. George, because, like, you really just like see his character development through the whole book. And I think that like that trilogy is what really cemented to me that like, “This is what I wanna be writing, like these character-driven stories,” and maybe not everybody is worthy of redemption and maybe not everybody gets a redemption arc. Like I’m not trying to write like villain to protagonists all the time, but, like, looking at that character growth and how they can do that on their own and with other people and the importance of, like, that found family and support system existing within these characters in these books. And like, that’s what I want to do more of. So, that’s what that’s like now.
Jeff: And it sounds like you really cracked the code there with that book…
Kate: Oh, I know.
Jeff: …because Jay was talking about it on the show. Redemption arcs are not easy when you have somebody who’s, you know, kinda terrible, and then you manage to redeem them to the point that everybody can be like, “Okay, you’re not so bad anymore,” and, you know, really make it stick well.
Kate: Right. And it meant so much that people were so willing to, like, read that book and really take a chance on Rhys as a character because he was, like, really horrible in the first book. You didn’t see a lot of him in the first book. Like, you just saw him being like an absolute POS, to be honest. And then you get to have a little bit more, like, one on, like, conversations with him in the second book. So you, sort of, see like he’s just toeing the line and he’s really, like, doing the best he can and just trying to protect the people that he cares about. And then when you get his book, you really see, like, he is willing to sacrifice so much of himself and his happiness to make sure that people that he cares about are happy.
And that’s why I think that his redemption story worked because it wasn’t coming from a place of arrogance or selfishness, even though that’s how it looked on the page initially. It was really coming from a place of like, “I have so much love for the people in my life that this is what I have to do.”
Jeff: I love that. Now, you’ve got several series and there are actually standalones in your backlist despite how some of your more recent things have gone
Kate: There’s two, I think, right?
Jeff: There’s a couple.
Kate: Like there’s two maybe.
Jeff: For someone who’s new to your work, what would you kinda recommend as the ideal, you know, starting point?
Kate: Right. This is always such a hard question for me because one part of me is like, “Start at the beginning” or like, “Here start this series” that depends on what you’re into. Like, do you like humiliation kinky? Yeah, start here.” And so, I pulled my reader’s group yesterday, and I’m like…
Kate: Because I feel like they’re reliable enough. So, I said, “If you could only recommend one of my books to somebody who had never read my books before, what would it be?” And the majority consensus was my standalone, which is a book called “Unfettered” and I agree, and that’s the one that I generally recommend a lot as well, like, one because it’s basically a standalone even though it segues into a series.
Jeff: Even the standalones segues somehow.
Kate: I know, I know. I’m the worst. It’s basically a standalone, but it really has a lot. It’s kinky, and it has a lot of angst, it’s a little hurt/comfort story, there’s age gap in there. And I do like to make things a little bit unpredictable. So that book has the younger character is the dominant partner in that relationship and the submissive character is healing from some trauma from a past relationship. And so a lot of the growth and development in that book is them learning how to, like, navigate this path of healing for Heath, who’s the older character. So I think it, like, hits the important Kate Hawthorne brand things. Like it has the angst, it has the heat, it has kink, like, it’s good, and then it shoves you right into a five-book series, “Room for Love.” So, I think “Unfettered” is where to start.
Jeff: Excellent. Looking off into the future a little bit after “Not Ready for Love” is done, which will be, you know, later this summer, what’s coming up next for you?
Kate: No idea. Which is actually, like, the first time where I have not known what I’m doing next. And I don’t know if that’s just because I’ve been on, like, autopilot for, like, the past four months. And now that I’m out of the ideas that I came up with before then, like, I’m gonna have to stop and think what to do. E.M. Denning, who is, like, one of my best friends gave me a plot bunny today that has been burrowing itself deeper into my head the longer I think about it, and I’m like, “Oh, it could be this one. Maybe it’s this.”
But yeah. I really have no idea what’s next. This would probably be, like, a fair point to say I am working on, like, a secret side project that not a lot of people know about. So, like, realistically, that’s probably what’s next, but it is a new pen name and it’s Safak which is really fun for me to write. And I’m really excited to, like, dip my toes into that. So that’s probably what’s next.
Jeff: That’s exciting.
Kate: Assuming I get it finished. Yeah. I’m having a lot of fun and I’m really looking forward to, like, branching out and telling more stories. But beyond that, who knows? Not me surely.
Jeff: The pen name when you’re ready to put that out is it gonna be a secret pen name or will it be, you know, Kate Hawthorne is also this person?
Kate: No. Definitely not a secret. And I weighed, like, the pros and cons for a really long time if I wanted to, like, just write it under Kate Hawthorne, or if I wanted to write it under another pen name. And I respect the fact that a lot of my readers are not interested in reading books that are not about men or male presenting characters. And I want to make sure they’re getting the best reading experience they can. Like, the Kate Hawthorne book is going to have angst, and kink, and heat, I want them to know that that’s what they’re getting. I’m not quite sure where this other story is going, but the two lead characters are women. And so I just think that it’s best, to sort, of keep that under another pen name, but I’m 100%, like, open about the fact that it’s me. And I’m just sort of separating it for that whole customer experience.
Jeff: Good. Absolutely. Look forward to that news when it’s time for it to come out. That will be exciting.
Kate: Yes, absolutely. Like, hopefully, like, right after this series is done. So hopefully like July or August. More to come.
Jeff: And of course, this Big Gay Fiction Fest is taking place during Pride month right as the month gets started.
Jeff: I’d love to know what pride means to you.
Kate: I think, like, it’s such an interesting question, right, because, like, I have grown up around pride events. My mom is a lesbian. My best friends in high school were gay. My best friends as an adult are gay. I’m bisexual. Like, I think that pride is really just about, like, living your authentic life in the most honest and admittedly, like, the safest way you can. I do always try to, like, remind myself and remind other people, right, that, like, the first pride was a riot. It was a protest and what the roots of, like, pride are and what it meant versus what it is now and like, “Cool, yes, now it’s a party,” but trying to be really, like, cognizant of the work that has gone into getting us to where the community is in 2022. And recognizing that you can celebrate, like, the leaps that had been made without shutting out people who are not able to come out or are not comfortable with some of these labels or whatever. So, I think that, like, Pride is just really like being authentic and letting other people be authentic in the ways that mean the most to them.
Jeff: And I really like how you threw in there being safe at the same time because they’re certainly being your authentic self, but I think making sure that you’re safe at the same time is so key. How did you…
Kate: Yeah, especially with, like, all of this legislation…
Jeff: Oh, My God. Yeah.
Kate: …that’s been passing lately. Like, it’s absolutely, like, it’s frustrating and terrifying. And I think that, like, more than ever, Pride should really be like about voting…
Jeff: Voting. Yeah.
Kate: …and, like, protecting your rights and doing all that you can.
Jeff: Protesting, maybe not in a riot but definitely protest.
Kate: Yeah. Like, we all have voices, we should use them.
Jeff: Yeah. How do you think pride manifests itself in your stories?
Kate: I always do my best to write characters who are comfortable in their own skin, right? So like, being authentic and recognizing, like, what you’re into, and why you’re into it. And I try to, like, have all of my characters do that, right? Like, I am not over here telling, like, coming out stories and it’s different for me to have come out as bisexual for, like, a man coming out as gay or a man coming out as bisexual. And everybody’s experiences are different. So, I just try to really just, like, write characters who are being true to themselves and chasing after their own happiness, and supporting the people around them to do the same thing.
So, I hope that, like, hope that comes off the page, but I really am just like all about, like, being comfortable, and being honest, and being proud obviously, of the queer community, and the queer culture, and, like, and what everything means to each character individually.
Jeff: I love that. As we wrap up here, what do you hope your readers are taking away from your stories?
Kate: That changes. So I have to write. Like, sometimes I’m like, “I really want a reader to, like, see the appeal of the specific kink that I’m writing,” or, like, “I want a reader to, like, not be squicked out by this specific thing, by the time they’re done with my book.” Or like, you know, like writing like unconventional happy endings where these characters are like in poly relationships, or are not living together and are not, like, subscribing to, like, heteronormative sort of happy endings.
Like, I really, like, want readers to recognize that happy endings look different for everybody and being okay with that. Like I have a book where the characters are super, super happy, and in love when the book is over, but, like, they do their own thing, like they travel the world separately because that’s what they wanna do, and that’s what works for them, but at the end of the day, they come home to each other in the safe little space that they have created and the kink that exists within the safety of their home.
And I want readers to be able to, like, look at that book, and look at that couple, and be like, “This is valid.” Like, you know, to, like, look outside your own experiences and recognize that what you might consider a happy ending or a successful relationship is not the same for everybody else because even though this is just fiction, like, real-life is like that too. And, sort of, like I would love if my books could, like, push people to broaden their horizons a little bit, whether it’s in regards to kink, or relationships, or anything. Like, that’s what I hope to do. And like if I make people cry along the way, even better,
Jeff: It comes back to presenting that life that you may not live and giving a little more understanding into something that is not your everyday.
Kate: Yeah. And like most of these books are not my every day. Like, I am not one of five brothers, and I don’t own a hotel, and I’m not a vampire, and I don’t make a million dollars a year, you know, but we’re just here to tell stories and have good, like, hopeful stories, and show happiness, and like unconditional love and make some people happy along the way.
Jeff: That’s, like, the pull quote for this entire interview right there? Like that’s it.
Kate: Finally. You mean it wasn’t the one about the humiliation kink? Okay. If you’re boring, just say so.
Jeff: What is the best way for everybody to keep up with you online to know about that new pen name when it’s ready and what you decide to do after “Not Ready for Love” and everything else is gonna come down the line?
Kate: The best way is to sign up for my newsletter at katehawthornebooks.com. And then like when you sign up for it, you open it, and you read it, and you click something in it. So my newsletter provider knows that you wanna receive it. Aside from that, I am on Facebook, I’m on Twitter, I’m on Instagram, I’m on TikTok, which I shouldn’t be. I have a really decent size and active Facebook group called Hawthorne’s Harem and I spend way too much time there. I would probably publish more books if I wasn’t on Facebook as much as I am. So that’s probably the easiest place to find me.
Jeff: I think everybody has that problem as an author.
Kate: Oh, my God. I literally, like, posted, like, a TikTok today that was like, “If I can get off TikTok, like, I might make this deadline,” but here we are.
Jeff: Okay. I’m so happy you joined us for the Big Gay Fiction Fest. Can’t wait to read the “Not Ready for Love Series” and thank you for being here and celebrating a little Pride month with us.
Kate: Yeah, thank you so much. It was so much fun and I’m just really glad to be a part of it.
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. The show notes page also has links to everything that we talked about in this episode.
And if you’d like even more gait fiction recommendations, Jeff and I have put together “Happily Ever After,” a free ebook full of reviews and suggested romance reads. You’ll get it when you sign up for the Rainbow Romance Reader Report, our weekly podcast newsletter. To learn more, and to get your free ebook, go to biggayfictionpodcast.com/report.
Jeff: Thanks again to Kate for being part of Big Gay Fiction Fest. I loved “Not Allowed,” which I’ll review in more detail on a future episode. But I can tell you right now that I can’t wait to read the next two books in the series. It is so good.
Will: All right, I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up on Thursday in episode 383, Fiction Fest continues with a panel on historical romance.
Jeff: We’ve got a great lineup for this panel with Annabelle Greene, Merry Farmer, and Cat Sebastian. Among the topics we’ll talk about are why they picked the time period that they write in, the research that goes into those historicals, and why historical romance is so popular right now with shows like “Bridgerton” and “The Gilded Age.”
Will: On behalf of Jeff and myself we want to thank you so much for listening, and we hope that you’ll join us again soon for more discussions about the kind of stories we all love the big gay fiction kind. Until then 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.