Jeff & Will welcome author KD Casey to talk about the Unwritten Rules series, including the latest book Diamond Ring. KD shares what sparked her love of baseball and why she enjoys setting romances in that sport. She also discusses the articles she’s written on the representation of Jewish characters in romance, and their presence in her books. In addition, KD shares some book recommendations, and her favorite ballpark and road trip food.
Look for the next episode of Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Monday, April 27.
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.
- KD Casey Interview
- KD Casey website | Twitter | Instagram | TikTok
- Unwritten Rules by KD Casey
- Fire Season by KD Casey
- Diamond Ring by KD Casey
- Liar City by Allie Therin
- Heated Rivalry by Rachel Reid
- Think of England by KJ Charles
- Falconer by John Cheever
- Persuasion by Jane Austen
- The Last Dance on Hulu
- Sherry Thomas on Amazon
- Episode 357 – Heat, Heart, Humor and Spreadsheets with Lauren Blakely on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- Dirty Slide by KD Casey & Lauren Blakely
- Dirty Steal by KD Casey & Lauren Blakely
- Effectively Wild Episode 1776: How Can You Not Be Romantic About Baseball? on FanGraphs Baseball Podcast
- KT Hoffman website
- Sailor’s Delight by Rose Lerner
- Bookishly Jewish website
- Deaf Players in Major League Baseball by R.A.R. Edwards
- Game Misconduct by Ari Baran
- Even Though I Knew The End by C.L. Polk
- 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.
Jeff: Coming up on this episode, we’re off to the ballpark to talk about baseball romance with author KD Casey.
Will: Welcome to episode 418 of the “Big Gay Fiction Podcast,” the show for avid readers and passionate fans of queer romance fiction. I’m Will, and with me, as always, is my cohost and husband, Jeff.
Jeff: Hello, rainbow romance reader. It is great to have you back for another episode of the show.
As always the podcast is brought to you in part by our remarkable community on Patreon. Thanks to Stefanie and Amanda for recently joining the community. If you’d like more information about what we offer to patrons, including a monthly bonus episode that you’ll find nowhere else, go to Patreon.com/BigGayFictionPodcast.
Now, I love a good sports romance and KD Casey definitely pitches a perfect game where baseball romance is concerned. KD has all the details for us about her latest, “Diamond Ring.” And we have a fantastic conversation about how she fell in love with the game, and how she could totally geek out about it. We also get into why sports is such a great environment for romantics to take place in as well as her co-writing partnership with Lauren Blakely. And, stick around after the interview and I’ll give you my review of “Diamond Ring.”
KD Casey Interview
Jeff: KD, welcome to the podcast. It is wonderful to have you here.
KD: Yeah, thank you so much for inviting me on. I’m looking forward to our chat.
Jeff: It’s a perfect time. You’ve got a new book coming out with “Diamond Ring,” baseball season just started.
KD: Yeah, I’m not gonna tell you, I didn’t want to plan to have this book come out at the beginning of baseball season. I know that was a lot of double negatives. I definitely kinda wanted to plan. I sometimes ask my publisher, “Can we put books at specific baseball events?” And the beginning of the season was somewhat intentional.
Jeff: Of course, it’s perfect. Before we talk about books, I wanna go back to the past and find out what got you into writing.
KD: This is one of those questions that I think when you ask, and you yourself obviously are a writer, and then when you ask writers about this, it’s always, “You know, I always kinda knew I wanted to be a writer,” which in my case like it’s completely true. I have a degree in fiction writing. I also have a degree in something else because my parents were like, “So, you’re gonna eat and pay rent, right?” And I was like, “Yes, I’m gonna eat and pay rent.” So, I got a degree in fiction writing. You know, most undergraduate writing programs are really focused on like literary fiction and short stories, but I kind of always knew who I wanted to write a genre of some kind. That’s what I really enjoy reading. And so that’s what I enjoy writing. So, I went and got my degree in slightly pretentious literature, which is fine. A lot of good writers. And then kinda did some other stuff for about 10 or so years, kind of all the while writing in the background. And then December 26th, 2019, I sat down and said, “I’m gonna write a book.” And so I wrote a book.
Jeff: What made that the magic day?
KD: I don’t know. And like consider like what the world was like December 26th, 2019 versus say like March 14th, 2020, which was about when I finished the book. But I kind of was like, “I have a premise. I wanna write a book.” I’ve been kicking around various story ideas. I think I added up at one point kind of everything I had written in the past 10 years. And it was hundreds of thousands of words, but none of them added up to like a full-length novel. And so I was like, “I’ve been doing a lot of stuff. I have been out of school for a long time. I’ve had kind of a different career. I wanna just sit down and if I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna do this now.” And then I guess I didn’t really have the most auspicious timing because I sent my first round of queries to agents on like March 13th, 2020, which people were focused on maybe some other things right at that time. So, in retrospect that was not a great idea. But that book that I ended up writing starting kind of that December to March period ended up trunked. So, I think a lot of folks have that experience where the first book they write is really figuring out how they’re gonna write a book. And then after querying it, not really getting anywhere. Sometime in mid-April 2020, I said, “Well, my current round of querying isn’t really getting anywhere. I guess I’m gonna write a second book.” And that became, “Unwritten Rules.”
Jeff: Which then of course came out in 2021. Was the first book baseball romance, or in the romance genre, or something different than what “Unwritten Rules” turned into?
KD: Yeah, that first book was…I mean, one of the many issues with it, is it was a little bit of a genre straddle. I would actually say its closest comparable…so it was a baseball romance. It was m/m baseball romance with sci-fi elements. So, real marketable stuff. But I would say the closest comparable would be like Allie Therin’s “Liar City.” And I know you…
Jeff: Which I adored, I just read that recently.
So, please give me sci-fi baseball.
KD: Yeah, I also read “Liar City” and adored it as well. I know she’s been on to talk with y’all. But I would say it’s sort of had that kind of contemporary fantasy sci-fi with superpowers vibe, but make it baseball. I might go back to it at some point, but that’s a lot of concepts for a first book, is what I’ll say.
Jeff: Absolutely. If you’re gonna bend the rules a little bit, do it after you’re established and people trust a little bit more probably.
KD: Yeah. I think it was a good indication when I was doing querying and they’re like, “Pick the genre it’s in.” And I’m like,” I don’t know.” And they’re like, “You need to know what genre the book’s in.” And I was like, “I genuinely could not tell you.” So, I set that one aside and then kind of have been writing, I guess, more regular flavor, contemporary baseball romance ever since. Because there is also historical baseball romance.
Jeff: Those hundred thousand or so words that you’d written previously, was that also m/m romance, or was that around other genres?
KD: Yeah, that was lots and lots of different stuff. So, I had written…I’m trying to think over the years, I had written things that were 20,000 to 25,000 words in length. So, I guess like sort of short novella length, some in romance, some in fantasy, some sci-fi. I’ve written a little bit of horror as well, and I think some detective stuff. So, really like every genre but the one I have a degree in, but literary fiction. But yeah, I tried to just kinda tool around and see what was interesting to me, and the thing that really kept resurfacing was baseball.
Jeff: And how did you land in m/m romance to tell your baseball stories? What made that the right sub-genre of romance?
KD: I’ve also written…and again, my drafts folder, she’s deep. So, I’ve also written f/f, m/f romance, I think some f/non-binary romance as well. I’m just trying to think back. None of which is currently out in the world yet. But for m/m romance for baseball, I think what I really kind of latched onto and what is pretty consistent in my books is it’s usually romance between players, right? So, it’s two people who are both involved in playing the sport. And there is women’s baseball, which is a thing that exists, not softball but women’s baseball. But when you’re talking about sort of the professional dealings of the sport, that does tend to be sort of like with, if you set those boundaries for yourself, well, that’s gonna end up being m/m Romance.
I also just like read a lot of m/m Romance, Allie’s book. Rachel Reid’s “Heated Rivalry” was kind of formative in terms of thinking about sports romance. I think the first romance-romance book I ever read was KJ Charles’s “Think of England,” which is again, m/m. So, some of it was sort of what I had read over the years kind of formatively. And then some of it was just kind of the boundaries of the world I had created for myself. And you know, I’m also just like a queer person who writes queer stuff. Like, I should also mention that.
Jeff: Has your degree in that literature type of literature helped you in the writing of these books at all? I mean, if only from like a craft standpoint or was that almost like, “I have this degree, now I’m gonna go write genre?”
KD: I think so. I know I’ve been a little bit dismissive about like, “You know, I had this undergrad degree in fiction.” I actually enjoyed getting it. I met a lot of people who were great writers. I got to read sort of a lot of, I would say sort of like foundational mid-century American literature in particular, because that was what my program really emphasized. And I think just there’s value in reading all kinds of different stuff and figuring out what you like.
So, like I haven’t read this in years, but I remembered like adoring John Cheever’s, “The Falconer,” which is sort of an m/m romance-ish, I couldn’t tell you. I believe it has an optimistic ending. But I was like, “We get to read a book that’s vaguely happy in literature, in a literary fiction class.” But I think that that sort of has just influenced how I write is just kind of reading somewhat diversely. And then there were a few things that I like.
The other thing I find inspiration from is Ray Carver. There’s I think a semi-apocryphal thing about him saying like, when he goes and edits a short story, like all he did one day was like take out and then replace the same comma. And that’s all he did.
Jeff: That’s my relationship with commas.
KD: Yeah. And I kind of find that inspiring because like I’ll do like some light editing and I’m like, “I’ve done more work than Ray Carver did that day.” So, anytime you replace, you remove and then add and then remove and then add and then remove and then add the same comma, please think of him.
Jeff: So, we gotta talk about baseball, of course. And your interest in baseball goes beyond writing m/m romance featuring baseball players. You’ve had a podcast on baseball, you’ve written non-fiction articles about the sport. What sparked your interest in the game?
KD: So, I grew up in the DC era. We didn’t have a baseball team in DC while I was growing up. So, the Nationals moved to DC in 2005. I was already out of college basically by the first time you could actually watch them on TV. And my sister got very into like the 2006 to 2011 era Nationals, and just got really enthusiastic about them, which they were terrible. Just like FYI, like that is just like some of the worst baseball you could ever wanna watch. I’ve told this story about her and she’s given me permission to share it, but she is like the world expert on that era of the Nationals.
So, she was in a minor league game in somewhere, and she noticed that one of the coaches for one of the teams was a former National. And it’s a minor league game so you can go up and say hi to whoever because it’s just kind of in the stadium milling around. So, she goes up, it’s a guy named Willie Harris and she goes up to him and she’s like, “I loved you when you were on the Nationals. I used to watch you play and I just really enjoyed you as a player.” And he looked her in the eyes and went, “I don’t remember being on the Nationals.”
Jeff: Oh, wow.
KD: I mean, I think he was joking, but like that’s how deep a fan she is of like, “I’m gonna go and like…yeah.” So, it was a little infectious. The Nationals got better as of 2012, which is when sort of my interest in them went from being casual, but they’re terrible to really intensifying and now they’re bad again. So, they’re really gonna test the, I guess, mettle of my fandom. But kind of along the way just got really interested in a lot of different aspects of the game and just completely nerding out about the sport. Like I have feelings about like analytics that are probably best left off of this podcast.
Jeff: Because we are not a baseball podcast.
KD: I was like, “If we wanna talk about like comparing fielding metrics, woo, I have feelings but no one else does. So, we shouldn’t.” But yeah, and I’ve met a lot of cool people. There’s a really, I would say, healthy and thriving community that is particularly on Twitter but has sort of migrated to different areas. That tends to be, I would say, like pretty… It’s like lots of queer people, lots of leftist people, lots of Jewish people, just lots of really cool folks. So, that’s also a really nice aspect. So, when people I think, think of like sports fans, that’s not necessarily who they would kind of profile, but like obviously you’re a hockey fan, I’m a baseball fan like we exist. And so it’s also been really nice in meeting just a lot of different folks in that community.
Jeff: How do you approach baseball in the books? Because I know in talking to other people who write sports, it’s trying to find that balance so that if somebody’s a fan of the sport, they get it, that you’re a fan of the sport too and understand the game, but then you also try not to put necessarily too much in it if someone’s not a baseball fan or maybe doesn’t interact with the sport at all. How do you kind of think about the game when you’re writing the romance and how they fit together?
KD: Yeah, that’s something I’ve really…I think that’s evolved over the course of the number of the books that I’ve written. So, “Unwritten Rules” is probably the most baseball-intensive book of mine. And then the subsequent ones, I wouldn’t say are less basebally, but there’s just like, in each book I tend to emphasize like a particular technical skill. So, in “Unwritten Rules” that skill is like catcher framing. So, essentially when catchers can make balls that are thrown, look like strikes when they’re outside the strike zone is basically like…I’ll quote somebody else in saying this, it’s lying to umpires. It’s essentially just advanced lying to umpires. And so, I got into a lot of the mechanics of that and then subsequent books just focused on slightly different skills. So, one was new pitch development.
And then the “Diamond Ring,” which was coming out is really about like the pitcher-catcher relationship and communication and sort of how that works. And so, I think just by kind of picking things that are inherently a little bit less technical, I’ve moved slightly away from it. I like baseball fiction. I’m also of the opinion baseball people like baseball in their baseball fiction. There’s a running joke that if you’re a baseball person and you’re watching a movie and they like show a clip of a game on TV or like somebody like plays catch for five seconds, you’d point to it, and you’re like, “That’s a baseball movie now.”
And so that’s the other thing of…I don’t wanna lie to your listeners, my baseball stuff is pretty basebally. Please, don’t go in expecting not baseball because it’s baseball. But I really tried to kind of think about that balance with the sort of, how does the baseball advance the plot in a meaningful way? How does it show relationship between the characters? I’ve been asked a lot, but like, how do baseball scenes compare to sex scenes? I’m like, “Well, they kind of functionally, they’re both action scenes, right?” They should advance the plot. They should show characterization. And you also have to like be clear as to where bodies are in space. And that’s all, you know. So, include as much of either as you want, as long as those things are clear.
Jeff: For folks who haven’t read “Unwritten Rules,” which is the first book in this series, I’d love to hear a little bit about that, but also what the inspirations were for Zach and Eugenio.
KD: So, I always wanna be really clear that none of the characters I write are based on real people, right? So, no one has really a direct antecedent in real life. But for Zach and Eugenio, the premise of the book is you have this catcher, his name’s Zach Glasser, he’s playing at this point for the Miami Swordfish baseball team. He’s selected to go to his first All-Star game in his career as the best player on a pretty bad team.
And when he rolls into the All-Star game, there is Eugenio, who is his ex-teammate, but also his ex-boyfriend. And then the book is a dual timeline and kind of flashes back and forward between them meeting and getting to know one another and falling in love, and then breaking up while they’re on the same team, the Oakland Elephants. And then their eventual reunion and reconciliation.
So, I would say the inspiration for that one is as players I kind of modeled like, there’s two different like catcher types. So, Zach’s really modeled off of like a guy named Jeff Mathis or a guy named Brad Ausmus who are more like defensive catchers, which is the nice way of saying catchers that can’t hit but who are more like into working with pitchers and kind of really into like framing stuff.
And then Eugenio’s is based off of like more offensive catchers. So, like Wilson Contreras in particular, but there’s a few others. So, that was sort of their baseball inspiration. Their literary inspiration is that I kinda wanted the book to be a very, very, very, very loose retelling of Jane Austen’s, “Persuasion.” So, kind of the ultimate second-chance romance of instead of my ex has gone to the sea, it’s my ex demanded the trade out of Oakland. But kind of the same thing.
Jeff: I have to say that I love your team names, especially the Oakland Elephants.
KD: Thank you. I got a lot of assistance. I have a friend whose party trick is coming up with fake team names and he did about, I would say, a good third of them. So, I’ll pass along the compliment as well.
Jeff: It’s a wonderful party trick to able to come up with those.
KD: He’s really good at it. I was like, “Do you do this for like fantasy baseball?” He is like, “Yeah, I just do it for fun.” And I’m like, “Okay, time to name some teams Justin.”
Jeff: So, “Diamond Ring,” the third book in the series is actually released in the same week that this interview is. What are readers gonna find there, and tell us a little bit about Jake and Alex?
KD: I love a second-chance romance because I’ve written three books in the series and two are second-chance romances. This one is set on the Oakland Elephants. You have two players. So, Jake Fischer and Alex Angelides who are called up on the same day as rookies and they spend their first season together, get to be friends, and eventually lose a world championship series together. For trademark purposes, it is not the World Series, so it’s the fall classic in my books. They then have something of a falling out and then reunite 10 years later to kind of have one last run at a championship at the end of their playing careers. And they kinda fall in love along the way.
So, this one is, I wanted to write essentially a sports movie. It’s a very sports movie, sports movie or a sports movie, sportsbook. So, one of the things that was the inspiration was I watched “The Last Dance,” the series about Michael Jordan’s last sort of run with the Bulls, and that kind of flavors how this book is as well. So, it’s thinking about sort of how these relationships are played out through the backdrop of sports.
Jeff: What is it for you about second-chance romance? What makes that one of your favorite things to write and perhaps to read as well?
KD: Yeah, I really, really like it. I’ve gotten into Sherry Thomas recently and she is just like just the ruler of second-chance romance. So, I adore her books. I think for me it’s often, and this can be a really good thing in romance books, but they’re often on a really compressed timeline, which is totally fine. Like if you have sort of two characters who meet, who have an instant connection, who fall in love over the course of weeks or months, that can absolutely be a compelling story. For me, I like to see sort of what is the effect of time on this relationship, right? What is the effect of having made big mistakes in the past? So, Jake and Alex are respectively 22 and 24 the first time they’re playing together, and then reunite when they’re 32 and 34.
And I don’t know about you but I’m not necessarily a different person between 22 and 32, but you’ve learned some stuff along the way and you have this sort of wisdom of experience or at least being able to look at things with a little bit more perspective. And so for me what I really like is the effect of sort of what happens when you have these relationships that can marinate over much longer periods of time. And I guess that that’s kind of part of the appeal and just having these deep histories between characters.
Jeff: Yeah, it’s absolutely one of my favorite things too. Second-chance and friends-to-lovers kind of had our like one and two and can flip-flop depending on the day. Because there’s just something about that history, whether it is the full second-chance or just the history that friends would have to deepen everything because they know so much about each other.
KD: Yeah, for sure. I describe “Diamond Ring” as friends to enemies to lovers. But yeah, I mean…
Jeff: Given the falling out, that makes sense.
KD: Yeah. But I really like when two people know each other at the beginning of the book you’re like, “I love the getting to know your stuff in a lot of romances, but I also love the, I already know your stuff, but now I’m gonna look at you in a new light.” With that sort of depth of experience.
Jeff: What was a favorite scene to write in “Diamond Ring” if you can share one without giving a spoiler?
KD: Goodness. That’s a good question without spoiling it. The book sort of is in three sections. The first section, and I like to give a lot of like sign postings. So, like there’s what month it is and then like what POV we’re in kind of stuff. So, the first part is the kind of 10 years ago portion. And I think the most fun scene in this sort of their past together portion for me was at one point they’re in the off-season and they go to a party together and this is in the neighborhood where Jake grew up. And so it’s a lot of like his friends from… Because he is 22 at this point. So, it’s a lot of his friends from like high school who are kind of all back for like, it’s holidays.
And so they go to this party together and it was really fun writing that because I tried to have this sense of like, you’re 22, you’re playing professional sports and you go and encounter sort of all of your friends from high school and it’s not that you’re like, “I’m a hotshot like a professional athlete or whatever.” And like, you’re not, but like even seeing sort of like your life is already on a different trajectory than theirs. And so like that was just really fun to write. And then you have Alex who is kind of a tribute to my misspent punk rock teenage-hood at this sort of like very like fancy suburban house being like, “What is going on?” Yeah, he’s a really fun character because I spent most of my teens going to punk concerts. So, anything involving him in punk music is also really fun.
Jeff: From punk rock to baseball in your life, I love that.
KD: You know, I like to go where there’s good community and there’s just good community in both those places.
Jeff: How far do you see going with “Unwritten Rules” now that you’ve finished up and released book three?
KD: I don’t know is the short answer as of this recording. Like I mentioned, I have a spreadsheet of 30 teams, so I really focused on the Oakland Elephants. So, I am interested in seeing about opening the world up a little bit and sort of seeing what’s going on with other teams. And without spoiling the end of “Diamond Ring” too much, there’s some stuff that happens at the end that kind of shifts how the universe functions. Like, not in a sci-fi way, but like in a plot way. And so I think it’d be really cool to kind of explore other teams kind of after the events of “Diamond Ring.” But I don’t know.
Jeff: So, we’ve got a question from Sarah who’s in our Patreon community. The question is, what is your favorite go-to no question road trip snack purchase at a convenience store? And I think since we’re so into baseball here, it has to be like you’re on a road trip to go to a game or maybe following a team around a little bit and there’s no limit on items or price.
KD: Yeah, I enjoy a good ballpark snack. I would say my go-to at the ballpark is genuinely like, I like a hotdog and I like peanuts. Like I guess that I’m a traditionalist.
Jeff: It’s a classic. Absolutely.
KD: Yeah. And like it’s nice, you’re in the summer, you’re shelling peanuts, you’re drinking a beverage, you’re watching some athletes do athletic things and gently heckling them sometimes. It’s a good time. I would say, on a road trip, this is gonna be controversial. I’m like a salty licorice person. So, my go-to road trip snack is actually salty, black licorice. I guess that’s the punk part of me coming out.
Jeff: That is controversial. Yeah. Because you either really love licorice or you really don’t. There’s very little middle ground there.
KD: I will also take a sour cream and onion Pringle if given the option. Yeah. But yeah, salty black licorice with the panda on the bag. Yeah, that’s my go-to snack. How about you?
Jeff: If I’m going to hockey at the game, it has to be a pretzel. There has to be a pretzel. Those soft pretzels with salt. No mustard but gotta have the pretzel. And I’ll usually do a hot dog too because I don’t normally do hotdogs just as a run of course of life. But in an arena, it’s like, “Yeah, give me the hot dog.” Especially since it’ll show up to the seat. The pretzel, you usually have to get up the stands in my experience. But the hot dog just, they’re wandering around and carrying them, so happy to grab a hotdog too. And then usually for one reason or another in the third period, I would end up and have ice cream, like just an ice cream bar. I don’t know why but it was like the capper for the evening.
On road trips, I need chips. Usually like a corn chip of some kind, or like a Tostito chip or something like that. And then some chocolate to balance the sweet. They’re usually like, it’s hard to like eat a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup like while you’re driving but like, peanut butter M&Ms can fill into that void because you’re getting the peanut butter and you can just reach in and grab and like eat them. Reese’s pieces though are too small. So, there’s a balance there of like what fits in my hand well, and those M&Ms being just a little bit bigger help to stay in the hand as you’re digging into the bag and then eating.
KD: I feel like M&Ms needs to do a pretzel peanut butter M&M. Like they got the pretzel M&Ms and the peanut butter M&Ms, but they’ve never combined the two. And I’m like, put all of those together and then never tell me about it because I would not stop eating them. But you’re right, yeah, the slightly larger size.
Jeff: If I could be assured of getting them like I could get them in a grocery store but I don’t always find them in convenience stores, or the peanut butter-filled pretzels that are just like nice little nugget size that would be perfect for that. But sometimes you can’t get them in a convenience store. Now, I’m hungry. We might make the audience hungry too. Everybody go grab a snack, pause the show, get a snack, come back.
KD: Yeah, for sure. I am on a baseball group and something that people are planning for the summer is doing like a British bake-off competition but like baseball themed. And so they picked sort of for the technical challenge, ballpark pretzels.
Jeff: That would be a trick because I’ve seen them do pretzels on the bake-off and that often flummoxes those bakers to form them right and do the dough right. So, I wanna know how that goes. Please update us after that happens.
KD: I will. I’m in the section that shows like not yeasted products. I was like, “I’m gonna make a baseball-themed cake.” Sort of like execution TBD. So, that’s what’s gonna happen.
Jeff: Now, back in episode 357, we had Lauren Blakely on. She’s a huge fan of yours, which I know you know because she’s blurbed some of your books. You got to co-write with her because she actually reached out because she loved “Unwritten Rules” so much. And you’ve co-written a little bit. How’s the co-writing experience? Because that was your first co-write too, it looks like.
KD: Yeah, for sure. It was terrific. So, Lauren is wonderful. I had just an amazing experience writing two different novellas with her. So, we wrote “Dirty Slide” and then “Dirty Steal,” the first of which came out in November 2021. And then the second of which came out in September 2022. We had a really good time is probably not surprising to you. I learned a lot, a whole lot, a whole, whole lot working with her. So, she’s just like incredibly generous of spirit and time, and kind of getting to see how she thinks about writing and craft up close was just…like, I can’t overstate how meaningful that was in terms of just like my own thinking about writing and development as a writer.
So, the actual co-writing experience, we actually tend to be pretty balanced in sort of what we were drafting and running by each other. And she was kidding. She was joking around but not really that she would put like baseball to baseball, in parts where I would just fill in sort of like the baseball action stuff because they’re both baseball novellas. And then there were a good number of things where I was like, “Hey Lauren, could you fill this in?” And so, we balance each other in terms of what we like to write and what we kind of wing to the other person.
But it was really like a really organic process of like one person kind of drafts and the other person looks for those kinds of elaboration points within a scene, where can you sort of open things up? Where can you put in a little bit more character work, a little bit more dialogue, stuff like that? So, yeah, it was just a really, really positive, wonderful experience. And yeah, like I said, I just learned a lot about craft in a very short amount of time, which was pretty incredible.
Jeff: Do you think we’ll get more in the “Dirty Players” series at some point?
KD: No, we’ve kicked around a few ideas. We’ll see if I’m sounding a little cagey about my future plans, just because they’re a little up in the air right now, but yes we will see.
Jeff: Well, let’s talk about the non-fiction side a little bit. Besides baseball, you’ve also written some articles about Jewish representation in romance novels. What prompted those particular articles? I’ve seen at least three in some of the research that I’ve done.
KD: So, I’m Jewish, I should mention that at least one of the main characters in all of my books is also Jewish. So, Zach Glasser is Jewish who’s the MC in “Unwritten Rules.” Jake Fischer is Jewish who’s in “Diamond Ring.” And then I actually have like, in “Fire Season,” which is my second book, Reid Giordano is also Jewish. And then in one of the co-written books with Lauren, Adam Chason is also Jewish. So, there’s a growing representation of Jewish characters in genre romance. We have a kind of small but thriving community of Jewish readers and writers. It’s not something that I think was well represented in the genre even 10 years ago or so. There were always, I think, Jewish writers of romance, but a lot of times that would necessarily translate to the characters being Jewish for a large number of reasons.
And so it’s been really wonderful seeing sort of how that’s expanded in the past even three, four years it’s gone from… There’s a good number of us to… Wow, there’s actually a good number of us writing all kinds of different books. And so I joke, but I am like not even the only Jewish writer of queer baseball fiction set on teams on the West Coast. Like there’s another one, it’s a writer named KT Hoffman who has a book coming out in 2024. But sort of, it’s a growing community.
In terms of like representation, it’s one of those things where there just wasn’t any for a long time or it was just really thin on the ground. And so I think as publishers and as writers become more comfortable with sort of what the reader reception is gonna be like, are people gonna buy Jewish books? Are people gonna respond positively to Jewish characters? That does tend to feed an understanding that there’s like an appetite for this. And so people write more of it, which is wonderful.
Jeff: It’s always great to see representation for any group. It’s fiction. It feels all the more important now to have this representation with just what we see going on in the world right now with some of the attacks against the Jewish community to have this type of representation in the happy world of romance to put it out there for people to understand more about a life that they may not live.
KD: Yeah, and I would say I think most people’s experience with Jews in Jewish characters in fiction does for understandable reasons tend to center around World War II and the Holocaust. And the idea of like reading a book about Jewish characters where it’s set, first of all, in the contemporary world, which there’s a misperception that like Jews are people who lived in the past as opposed to contemporaneously. And that’s actually a pretty big misconception people have, or Jewish stories don’t have to center around tragedy is actually relatively new in terms of like publishing in the literature world’s acceptance of that. So, I think for like the community of Jewish writers, it’s kind of really important to say like Jews exist now. We’ve existed in large portions of history that were not 1929 to 1945, and in all different kinds of walks of life and in all different places and with all different backgrounds.
And I’m not gonna say it’s all happy but there has been happiness at some point in the past 5,000 years as well. I’ll pick on an example, Rose Lerner, she mostly writes m/f romance but has written some f/f and then actually has one m/m Romance that is called “Sailor’s Delight.” And it is about a Jewish…oh, god, I don’t remember the name of the profession, but he’s essentially like an agent for sailors in like 1820s England. And it’s about, he basically like arranges the finances for sailors who are at sea and he’s like this Portuguese Jew and he has like this big family, some of whom are Portuguese, and some of whom are not. And he falls for one of the sailors whose accounts he arranges. And it’s a really lovely novella but like that’s not a like a walk of life that people would, I think necessarily like think about in terms of Jewish history of there were Portuguese Jews, they were in England, they invented fish and ships.
So, and they were involved in essentially the early Victorian period, but not necessarily sort of in the more traditional depictions of it with nobility. I could spend like literally hours talking about this book because I love that book so much. I did another podcast with a friend where we just talked about that book for 90 minutes. But yeah, I think that that’s sort of a thing of now that, it’s been established that people will read and like respond positively to Jewish characters, not sort of in very hyper-focused World War II fiction. There is more and more appetite for readers wanting to read those characters and writers wanting to write those characters.
Jeff: Which is, like I said, we love to see that kind of representation because everybody needs to find themselves in a book and especially a romance book.
KD: Yes, absolutely. And there’s just like tons of stuff. I tried to make a list for somebody about like what’s coming out in the next year and I was like, “I’m gonna stop listing every single book because the list is gonna get really long.” But what I would say is there’s a great blog called Bookishly Jewish that does a lot of romance reviews. So, if people are interested in Jewish books coming out in the next year, that’s a great one to follow.
Jeff: Excellent. We’ll link to that in the show notes for sure so that people can check that out. You also mentioned in your bio that you like to focus on characters with disabilities as well. Another group that we certainly see having more representation in romance but probably is still underrepresented overall. What leads you to write those characters as well?
KD: Yeah, so I think it’s for me generally writing characters with disabilities, like because people are in the world who have disabilities. Each of the characters sort of who I have written with disabilities. One Zach is in “Unwritten Rules” was hard of hearing, wears a hearing aid. And then Jake in the “Diamond Ring” has some mental health stuff going on. And I think for both of them in particular, it’s about both depicting that obviously and how that kind of shapes their lives. But also being like, yeah, you can be a professional athlete and be hard of hearing or have mental health stuff. And I think that that’s also kind of an important aspect of saying like they’re in a profession that depends on their physical abilities in a lot of cases. And there have been players who are hard of hearing or deaf.
There’s a great book, and this is not for anyone but the incredibly people who are interested called “Deaf Players in Major League Baseball.” And it’s a comprehensive history of all of the players in the sport who have been at least on the record as being deaf or hard of hearing. And it’s actually, it goes back to like the 1880s as like this was a sport for people in particular who were deaf and hard of hearing to the point where the…oh goodness, this is getting in really nerdy stuff. There were a lot of deaf boarding schools in particularly like the 1880 to 1920 era.
And they had their own like newspapers and sports teams and sort of like this particular culture that arose from it. And players from those schools ended up recruited into major league baseball fairly consistently. And so that for me was really interesting to kind of dig into of like, how this kind of disability intersects with sports and how it has traditionally done so. So, like Zach is there but he is not an anomaly in the history of the sport, if that makes sense. Like he’s sort of more of a representation of various players who’s played over the years. And I even have, I think a really tiny like teeny blink and you miss it reference to one of the books he has on the shelf is a biography of a deaf player named William Hoy, as sort of my tribute to the players of the past.
Jeff: That’s wonderful to give that little nod and to integrate that into the story as well.
KD: Yeah. And I’ll mention I am not personally hard of hearing. I have a lot of family who is. I will also caveat I’m not yet hard of hearing is what I’ll say. So, that also kind of shaped things.
Jeff: We love to get book recommendations and you’ve actually thrown a few out here as we’ve gone. Is there anything that you’ve read recently that you think our listeners should be checking out?
KD: I for once wrote down the list because every time you ask a writer what they’ve read recently, like I don’t know if you’ve had this effect, your mind goes instantly blank.
KD: Like have I ever read a book?
Jeff: If I get this question anywhere, it’s like I come with my list so that I know what I wanna say otherwise it will absolutely be, “I have no idea what I read yesterday or the week before.”
KD: I was like, I was reading on the bus earlier, I can remember that I was doing it. What was I reading? I don’t know. So, I have my list. So, a couple of things. So, I know we mentioned Allie Therin’s, “Liar City.” I really enjoyed it. Folks should go and listen into that episode. But it is a contemporary fantasy murder mystery set in Seattle. And the first book is not strictly genre romance because there’s just a lot of delicious tension, but she has promised that by book three you’d go get a happily ever after and I believe her. And then the other thing I’ve read, which is another Carina author. So, Allie and I are both published through Carina Press, but another Carina author who has a book coming out in May, Ari Baran or Baran, I know them mostly through online stuff so I apologize in advance because I’m probably mispronouncing her name, has a hockey book. It’s an MM hockey book called “Game Misconduct.” And it is about a player who plays for the Philadelphia hockey team. And a player who plays for the Pittsburgh hockey team. And as you can imagine, they might not like each other at the beginning.
Jeff: I’m actually reading that right now.
KD: Oh, really?
Jeff: I’m 80% in and absolutely loving it.
KD: Yeah. There’s no spoilers but the thing with the flowers, I like scream cried.
Jeff: I’ve had a couple moments in this book where it’s like, “Oh my gosh, that. These two big burly hockey players who…” it’s a really enemies to lovers kind of story there. Hardcore enemies.
KD: They punch each other in the face. Yes. That one is terrific. And that comes out in May, so I’m excited for everyone else to get to read it too. But yes, I agree. And then the other book that I read recently that I really enjoyed, I was on a fantasy murder mystery kick. So, Allie’s book created like this need for me to read that. So, I also read C. L. Polk, “Even Though I Knew The End,” which is a historical fantasy murder mystery novella. It’s f/f and it’s set in Chicago and it’s just terrific. I will like stand out on the street corner and like hand people flyers about this book.
Jeff: I’ll have to check that one out because that is a new title that I have not heard about. So, I will check that out.
KD: Yeah, like, it’s a novella so it’s short. I try to read across genre, but that one was really terrific. And then I guess we also mentioned Rose Lerner’s, “Sailor’s Delight,” which is historical Jewish m/m.
Jeff: So, we’ll link to all of that in the show notes because everybody should go check those books out for sure. As we wrap up, where could people keep up with you online to know as you get your future plans sorted out, what that future looks like?
KD: Sure. I am at KD Casey Writes on almost every platform. So, I’m primarily on Twitter and Instagram. On Twitter, I mostly scream about writing and baseball. On Instagram, I mostly scream about writing and baseball. That’s also my website. So, kdcaseywrites.com. If folks wanna subscribe to the newsletter, you get a little free MM baseball story if you subscribe. I just started a TikTok account and it’s KD Casey author for a variety of complicated reasons. So, if people are TikTok people, you can also find me on TikTok. But yeah, I will be on various platforms, probably yelling about the things I have a deep, nerdy passion for.
Jeff: Will put all of that into the show notes as well. KD, it has been so wonderful talking to you. It’s been great having you here and wish you all the success with “Diamond Ring.”
KD: Yeah, it’s been great chatting with you, and getting to hear about sports. You made me hungry, which I appreciate. So, I’m gonna go and I don’t think I have any ballpark pretzels, but like maybe something similar.
Wrap-Up and Diamond Ring Book Review
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 has links to everything that we’ve talked about in this episode.
Jeff: Thanks so much to KD for being here to talk about “Diamond Ring.” I enjoyed the conversation and learning about her complete nerding out about baseball. I also love the diversity of the characters she brings to her books, including queer, Jewish, and those with disabilities. and enjoyed talking to her about that as well.
Now, before we wrap up the show, I need to talk a little bit more about “Diamond Ring.” It’s documented that I love second chance romances and I love friends-to-lovers with friends-to-enemies-to-lovers being right in there too. I love what KD did with these tropes. We get to see everything. The first third of “Diamond Ring” is Jake and Alex in their twenties. We get to see the meet cute. We see the beginning of the feels. And we see everything go wrong. In second chance romances you don’t, at least in my experience, get more than a few details usually about what went wrong the first time. KD gives it all to us. And I love seeing the first go round. Jake and Alex had.
The rest of the book takes the 10-year time jump and brings Jake and Alex back together on the Oakland Elephants. There’s no re-meet cute. It’s more of a, like, “why is he here?” sort of thing. The tension is palpable until the chemistry they had slowly resurfaces.
Jake and Alex are so amazing together. Even while they’re still mostly enemies, they can’t stop doing little things for each other. It really starts out small, usually things to make the other a little more comfortable in situations. Sometimes it’s like they’re not even aware that they’re doing it. I mean, that’s the level of care these two have for each other even while they still kind of hate each other. It’s so charming to watch, especially in those moments where they don’t quite realize they’re doing it.
While they were in their twenties, and now a decade older, wiser, and a little more beat up by the sport they play, these two are so good together. For what I understand about baseball, the pitcher and catcher are really kind of a team of two within the larger team because of how they have to work together. Jake and Alex, once they get past some of their baggage, are such a great team on and off the field. KD makes Jake and Alex jump off the page with the level of depth that she gives them.
They both have that baggage even going back into their twenties. They both want to excel at baseball, even as it starts to take a toll on them. Both have things going on with their families that are complicated, and they both want each other. When they finally let that happen, the sparks fly, because these two are so hot together. But also they’re very tender in making sure the other is being pleasured and into what’s going on. This book has some of the best consent that I’ve ever read, especially with how Alex looks after Jake.
I mentioned character diversity and getting Jake’s story about how important his Jewish heritage is to him but how he’s also sometimes afraid to show it was such an interesting dimension. Given the increased level of hate towards the Jewish community recently, Jake provided a window into that experience that I don’t live myself and I really enjoyed getting that from this book.
I have to say, I loved everything about “Diamond Ring.” The way that Jake and Alex work together, come back together, have an even stronger bond than they would have had, I think, if they’d stayed together when they started in their twenties. It’s such a wonderfully satisfying read. And while there is some angst here because of them getting older, trying to survive in this sport that takes its toll on its athletes, some mental health things going on, it’s not super heavy angst. It really turned into such a page turner for me. I loved it so much and I imagine that I’m going to be going back to the rest of the “Unwritten Rules” series because I’m very much hooked on the kinds of stories that KD Casey tells.
Will: All right, I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up next on Monday, April 24th, author K. Sterling is going to be joining us.
Jeff: It seems this month’s episode are sponsored by the letter K, since we had KD this week and K coming up.
Anyway. Yes, we’re going to be talking to K. Sterling about the “Nannies of New York” series and the latest book, “The Handy Nanny.”
Will: Jeff and I want to thank you so much for listening and we hope that you’ll join us again soon for more discussions about the kinds of stories that 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. Original theme music by Daryl Banner.