Jeff & Will welcome author K. Sterling to discuss The Handy Nanny and the Nannies of New York series. The guys talk to her about what prompted her to write her first book, and why today she writes primarily romantic suspense and romantic comedies. She also has details on the long running Lake Cliff series, a tease about a possible new series, and she’s got book recommendations too.
Look for the next episode of Big Gay Fiction Podcast on Monday, May 8.
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.
- K. Sterling Interview
- K. Sterling website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Patreon
- The Last Nanny in Manhattan (Nannies of New York Book 1) by K. Sterling
- Giles Ashby Needs A Nanny (Nannies of New York Book 2) by K. Sterling
- The Handy Nanny (Nannies of New York Book 3) by K. Sterling
- Hide And Keep (Boys Of Lake Cliff Book 1) by K. Sterling (with narration by Scott Sterling)
- Waiting For Mr. Ashwell by K. Sterling
- Reese Ryan on Amazon
- Off the Menu (Cursed by Cain Book 1) by K. Sterling
- The Baby-Sitters Club on Netflix
- The Sound of Music on Disney+
- Mary Poppins on Disney+
- The Enchanting Nanny (Nannies of New York Book 4) by K. Sterling (pre-order until August 17, 2023)
- Heat on Amazon Prime Video
- Silence of the Lambs on HBO Max
- Avengers on Disney+
- Murder, She Wrote on Peacock
- Agatha Christie’s Poirot on BritBox
- Kaleidoscope on Netflix
- A Valentine for Christmas by Reese Ryan
- Savannah’s Secrets (Bourbon Brothers Book 1) by Reese Ryan
- Teacher of the Year by M.A. Wardell (pre-order until May 9, 2023)
- Whisper into the Night by Jay Leigh
- 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 episode, we’re talking about single dads and handy nannies with author K Sterling.
Jeff: Welcome to episode 419 that the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of queer romance fiction. I’m Jeff and with me as always is my awesome cohost and husband. It’s Will.
Will: Hello, rainbow romance readers. We are so happy that you are here and can join us for another episode of the show.
Now, before we get into our interview with K, I know you want to talk about the first book in the “Nannies of New York” series.
Book Review: The Last Nanny in Manhattan by K. Sterling
Jeff: I do. I loved “The Last Nanny in Manhattan” so much. “The Sound of Music” and “Mary Poppins” overtones were absolutely a delight. The workplace, age-gap romance gave me everything I could’ve wanted from both tropes. Perhaps most importantly, the six-year-old triplets added very nicely to the story and made me fall in love with both characters in ways beyond the romance.
In this story, Fin has just been let go from a nanny position and needs a new job. Luckily Walker’s triplets have caused another nanny to flee, and Walker needs someone new immediately. Fin is up to the challenge to help cement his place as the best nanny in Manhattan. He soon finds that it’s not the kids who are really the problem. It’s their dad. Walker lost his husband and he’s not coping well, and part of that is not paying enough attention to the children, just letting the staff deal with them. In true Mary Poppins style, Fin works to transform the family to make things better for everyone.
As he’s getting things with the kids situated, he and Walker do start to have the feels. It’s so subtle at first, because of course neither of them expects it and neither wants to be the one to be having a workplace fling. But those feels start coming anyway. It’s beyond the physical attraction too. Walker sees Fin’s skill with his kids, and the way he adapts to any situation. I have to say I enjoyed that aspect a lot. Fin is capable, smart, clever, and that can be very sexy. Meanwhile, Fin sees the capableness in Walker too, and over time he starts to see the more private side of Walker… when he’s not having to keep with the expectations of being the business leader. The at home moments with the kids show Fin that Walker is everything he’d want in a boyfriend.
K worked up to these two stealing a kiss, and eventually sleeping together with just the right pace so it didn’t seem like it was happening too fast… but also that it wasn’t going too slow to the point that I was screaming at the book hoping they’d finally hook up. It was such a good, warm feeling how the romance developed, I really, really loved it. It makes me want to read other books in the series to see how K does this with other couples.
I also liked how the triplets added to the story. Sometimes kids are just there to essentially take up space. In this case, with the nanny plotline, the kids were integral to everything… right down to realizing what was happening between Fin and their dad and trying to nudge the two together even more.
There’s a great supporting cast here too. Fin’s brother Reid who is on the verge of starting his own nanny business, was wonderful. There’s some great family concern here as Fin grapples with the impact a romance with Walker could have on Reid’s business plans, but you know what? Reid’s the supportive brother and really looks out for his brother’s happiness first. Fin’s friend and fellow nanny Riley is wonderfully supportive of Fin’s new relationship and is a good soundboard. I loved Riley’s personality and look forward to reading his story in the second installment of this series. Walker’s sister Agnes is so wonderfully boisterous and a bit of a free spirit who is all to happy to give Walker advice. There’s also a delicious, humorous sort of villain in the story too with Muriel, another socialite desperately trying to marry off her gay son.
This book was my first by K Sterling and I look forward to exploring more in this series, and some of her other books. Certainly “The Last Nanny in Manhattan” was a wonderful read for me and I highly suggest you check it out as well.
All right, on to my conversation with K. We talk about her love of rom-coms and how she goes between writing those rom-coms and her romantic suspense titles. And of course, we get all the details on the latest in the “Nannies of New York” series with “The Handy Nanny.” Plus, K’s got a great story about what got her into writing. I tell you it’s one of my favorites of all the origin stories that we’ve had on this podcast.
K. Sterling Interview
Jeff: K, welcome to the podcast. I’m so excited to have you here.
K: Hey, it’s really, really exciting to be here. I have been so excited about this and I’ve wanted to do this forever. So it was really kind of an honor and a big moment when you messaged me, I think you saw how quick I said yes, and I was like, “Yes, yes.”
Jeff: It was so fast. I felt like I barely hit the send button and I was like, it came back. It’s like, excellent. She’s in.
K: I happened to be on and I saw it and I was like, “Oh, sh…” And I was like, “Yes, yes, yes.” So.
Jeff: And you could totally curse here all you want. That’s totally fine.
K: I’ll try my best. But, yeah, I was like, oh, I’m right out the gate. I’m already doing it. I’m already doing it.
I had to have you here to talk about “Nannies of New York.” That first book just, it warmed my heart. It was funny. The kids in it are great.
K: Thank you.
Jeff: I just loved it. And with the new one coming out in just a few days after this podcast comes out, it was perfect.
Now, before we talk about that book, we gotta talk about your history a little bit, because by my count, you got more than 70 books out there. You have been in this for a while.
K: I’m old. No. I mean, I know, yeah. I have been doing it for a while and I do write like, really, people always ask, like I’m like really afraid of my brain. So I have to give it people puzzles to work on. Yeah, I just, I have to keep it cranking and it’s just, it’s kind of like become an obsession maybe, maybe. It’s healthy.
Jeff: People puzzles. I love that idea of what building a plot is.
K: Yeah, well it was just a way for, for years, it was just a way to, like, divert my brain. So I wasn’t thinking about, like worrying about my son or bills or something. I said when I was 12, like, it was just like, let’s just figure this out. And I just had little stories stacking up in my head and it was just kind of a soother for me and therapy. You pay for my therapy. Thank you.
Jeff: What got you started to decide, I have all these stories in my head, I’m gonna really put them down and publish.
K: My husband dared me to do it.
Jeff: Nothing better than a good dare.
K: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, I had been in the army for a bit and then I got out to take care of our kids because that’s kind of what happens when you’re a couple in the army. And it’d been like 10 years I was getting really depressed and I kind of, it’s that thing where you just kinda lose yourself and you don’t feel like you have an identity. And my husband’s like, “Well, you’ve always wanted to write a book. Go write a book.” And I was like, “Nobody is gonna read any of my books.” Because I definitely wasn’t thinking romance. It was like historical fiction kind of thing with like post-Napoleonic Europe, kind of thing. Not at all in the romance thing. I was like, “Nobody will read that.” And Scott was like, “You know what? I’ll read it, write it and I’ll read it.” So I was like, “Okay, fine.” So I was like, what is the last thing he would wanna read?
So I wrote Regency bodice-ripper, and it was male/female. And I made it, like, so raunchy and it was basically like an amalgam of almost every romance novel I read and just, yeah, just all the tropes. It was so trope heavy. It was just a big old trope fest. And it was just… And there’s literally a scene where he rips open her bodice, and she looks down and laughs, you know? Because it was like a meta moment.
But then I finished and he was like, “I’m not reading that.” And I was like, “What?” He was like, “Send it to a publisher or something.” He’s like, “Do something with it, babe.” So I was like, “I’m not gonna do that.” Because I had queried like years and years ago and it got, like, a rejection letter. I was like, “I’m never doing that ever again.” So I published it on Amazon and it ended up doing really well. And it ended, it just, it kind of took off. And, yeah, that’s just kind of how it happened, it was a dare.
Jeff: Those dares, I tell you. I can’t believe he didn’t read it though, after he promised to read it, he didn’t read it.
K: Oh, well he… That’s not, like, fair, fair, because it was one of those things. Because there was, like, a spy angle and there was some, some PTSD from the war. So I would run some of the action things from him and some of the points like that by him. And so he would read those things, but he didn’t read it from cover to cover basically. So, yeah.
Jeff: How did you…
K: He reads almost every book. So and in that essence. So give him more credit. He narrated, like, the first four “Lake Cliff” books for me and they’re on Audible. So, yeah. So he’s read some of my books and everybody can witness that.
Jeff: And read them for everybody else too.
K: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah.
Jeff: How did you move from Regency-era bodice-rippers to where you are now with kind of a split between rom-com and romantic suspense?
K: So that first series was three books and it was siblings. And the third one was a brother who at the time, because I have a son who’s severely autistic, I was looking at what it was like to have a neurodivergent person in the Regency era and what that character would look like in that relationship. Like, falling in love would look like. But, like, I was starting to get letters from people who were like, okay, “If you make this character gay, I will never read anything else you write.” And I was just like, “Well, you know, screw you.” But, you know, I had already written the book and it was about to come out. And I was, like, but that kind of bounced around in my head for a while. But then I decided that, you know what? The next book I ended up writing was “Mr. Ashwell,” which was a male/male regency.
And it’s terrible. It’s terrible, terrible, terrible. All my early books are just, they’re really rough because I just wrote ’em myself on an iPad and I edited myself for a month, and then threw it out there. But I started there and then I tried to do a contemporary romance. And that just felt so much more natural as being male/male and contemporary. And then I decided to go back to, when I was in the military, I was in military intelligence and that’s how I met my husband. So I kind of drew from that and I wrote “Hide and Keep” the first “Lake Cliff” series, which was a force proximity romance between two gentlemen, with a stalker angle. And it had a law enforcement angle and it had a forensic psychologist who had severe.. Well not, he has Asperger’s, which we don’t consider it Asperger’s anymore. But, yeah, at the time I was having a character who had Asperger’s and I was exploring that in a procedural kind of romance loosely. So that’s kind of how that happened and it just, that really really took off and I just kinda lost my heart there for a bit.
Jeff: I like how you bring your military background into the romantic suspense because that must give you so much thought, or for research points you may wanna do. And for plots, and all of that thing, all of that kind of stuff to bring into those books.
K: A lot of times, a lot of times. I don’t do a lot with the military angle, but when it comes to like, I use a lot of like FBI agents and there’s some CIA plots and stuff that go on there. So I do draw a lot from there because I did get to work with a lot of other agencies and we had to figure out how to work with other agencies, and how they worked, and, you know, how to coordinate, like, that when you’re doing investigations.
Jeff: And it sounds like we have that irate letter writer to thank for you kind of coming into m/m romance even.
K: Thank you. Yes, thank you for helping me find, basically my happy place, my comfort zone. And I just, I never really looked back. I’ve done a few female… Well, now I’m working on a female/female soon, but I’ve done a few male/females. But, yeah, it just really resonated and felt more comfortable for me there.
Jeff: Where did the love of the rom-com angle kind of come from as you were doing so much romantic suspense after you moved from the Regency?
K: Well, I tried to do, I think if you look in my catalog, I have a few rom-coms in there, but my audience started leaning really so heavily towards, “Lake Cliff” and the rom-sus type books. That every time I would do a rom-com, like, I would just see a huge drop in readership. And so, I initially went to a couple of publishers and said, “Look, I’d like to do a rom-com, but my audience won’t. But what if I put together a rom-com series for you?” And Carina said, “Yes,” Initially. And I wrote the first book for them and they ended up dropping it. And so I kind of sat on it for a while, but then Reese was like, “You know what? You’ve gotta put it out there, put it out there.”
So I changed the title and I changed the cover, and put whatever I wanted to put in it that I couldn’t before. And I went ahead and released it and ended up being the best release I’ve ever had. The biggest success. Like, it really was just, just the best thing that could have happened for my career. And that book, and that whole series, it’s been just the joy of a lifetime getting to do that on my own, actually. It seemed like the worst thing that ever happened to me. And then, like, four months later it ended up being, like, just this really, just joyful, joyful thing.
Jeff: And we should tell people who don’t know who Reese is. That’s Reese Ryan, who you are good writing buddies with.
K: There’s my shrine to Reese.
Jeff: And who’s Harlequin… and several Harlequin novels are back there behind you. Yes.
K: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. She’s my writing bestie. We hang out on Zoom, like I feel very at home here right now because we hang out, like, almost seven days a week sometimes. I was just telling you this morning, like, we were here this morning till like two hours ago. I was like, “I gotta put on a face, I gotta go.” And so I jumped out, but we just, we chat all day and we’re just checking in, and always, like, motivating each other, and, yeah, she kind of pushed me to go ahead and do it. And so, yeah, yeah, she’s my ride or die.
Jeff: What is this first rom-com series for those who don’t know about it? Tell us what that series is and tell us a little bit about it.
K: The Nannies? Okay.
Jeff: Oh, the Nannies, is the first rom-com series.
K: No, no, no. I’ve had some sprinkled throughout my back catalog. I’ve never done a series though because like I said, like I couldn’t get them to take off. Like my readers just were like, “Nope, you just need to keep writing these gory, scary jumpy things. Like, just make them do blow things up.” Yeah, so I’ve done a couple, like, I mean, you name it, it’s probably in my back catalog. I’ve got a gay vampire that falls in love with a vegan chef. I mean like name it, it’s in there. It’s just, I dare you to find something that’s not in there.
Jeff: Well, all those books, you’ve certainly got room to write pretty much everything.
K: Yeah, well, I enjoy the challenge of trying to see if I can put my voice in these different genres and moods, and stuff. So it’s just, that’s, I gotta have fun with it.
Jeff: Absolutely. Otherwise, it can get a little old after a while writing the same thing all the time. Yeah, I hear that from authors a lot, who look to branch out a little bit.
Jeff: So, yeah, tell us about “Nannies of New York,” because like I said, I found that first book so utterly charming and delightful. Thank you Reese for nudging K to go put that out. What was the inspiration? Where did these wonderful characters come from?
K: Well, I said I wanted to write something that was super fluffy and it was kind of like, I wanted to kind of reach through and give you a hug, like if you wanted something that you were like, I can’t deal with everything. I need something that just kind of, just feels safe and soft, and fun, and makes me laugh. And I was like, that’s what I wanna do. And I pitched it initially as like the Baby-Sitters Club meets the Sound of Music, or Mary Poppins. And there are jokes in the first book about that. Like, is this a Sound of Music reboot or is this a Mary Poppins reboot? And they’re just like, you know. So I try to have fun with that. But, yeah, that was kind of the original starting point with that. It was just, let’s have some struggling single fathers and these super competent nannies who are there to just provide care. And it was just, you know, each book is what kind of care does this family dynamic need in order to kind of balance and settle, and make everybody have a happily ever after.
Jeff: Watching the competency of Fin was one of my favorite things. I mean, I enjoy watching skilled people do their thing in the pages of books, but he was just brilliant.
K: Thank you.
Jeff: Did you have to research, like nannies or educators, or anything like that, or?
K: Well, a little bit but I think that, like, my son is on…well he’s really autistic. And I spent a lot of time with him, with paraprofessionals in classrooms and hanging out with his peers, and just basically learning there. And then you read everything you can find on how to educate and encourage and support your child. And then I home schooled him for a while and worked on educating and building a curriculum for him in our home environment.
Jeff: It’s interesting to me too, how you’ve kind of balanced so many things in these books because we’ve got like elite single fathers because they’re able to afford a nanny.
K: Exactly. Yeah.
Jeff: And it doesn’t feel like you’re reading a millionaire, billionaire kind of book because these, at least in the first one, he’s doing the best he can to balance family, balance the grief that he’s got because he’s lost a husband a few years back. And then here’s Fin who’s this, like, bubbly bit of joy. It’s such an interesting dichotomy without moving into some of the problematic things that you can see with millionaire/billionaire tropes.
K: Oh, yes, yeah. Well, and that was kind of, it’s kind of the challenge with every book is to create a single father. First of all, how do you make a single father and then make him someone who you can relate to and also root for? And I wanted to have that kind of New York fairytale romance with the billionaire and the snarky nanny who doesn’t like billionaires who says, you know, “It’s kind of not really super ethical, you know, your whole existence, but I like surviving and having a paycheck.” So I really love that. But it is like, finding the things in Walker that make him someone that you want Fin to be with. It’s gotta be someone who deserves Fin and who deserves a happily ever after in your mind or else you’re just not gonna… It’s just not gonna feel as well or is gonna have the impact.
Jeff: How did you go about deciding the agency? Because I love the origin that we see as the agency is really starting to build in that first book. And it’s such an interesting idea to have this elite core of nannies that is almost a family business in a way.
K: Yeah. Well, it almost comes down to a practical thing when you’re building a series, is you’ve gotta figure out what ties this group together and, you know, who’s going to lead the group. And usually, you wanna set up like I’m setting Reid up for the last book, so that you’re watching him in the background and seeing how he’s doing all these things. So it just made sense for me, you know, when I was kicking around the idea and we talked about a nanny agency, because I love nanny books and I also, I wanted to do something with kids. So it just was natural. So it is basically the little brother is gonna be the first book and then we’ve got the big brother. So it just made sense for the big brother to be the one who sets up the agency and basically is tasking all these people out, and guiding them through the series so that it gives us the framework for the whole series basically.
Jeff: And we were talking before we hit the record button about the kids in the book. And threading the needle of having them there, to be an interesting plot mover and not just kind of being there potentially being annoying.
Jeff: As you’re building this series where you’re gonna have to have kids feature in every single one of them, what’s going through your head about how to make the kids different and interesting, and good for the reader to see in their romance? Because I know not every reader wants to see a book with kids.
K: Oh, absolutely. That was something I was definitely aware of. Like, I initially said like, “I just want enough of the kids on the page to move the plot along and to make it feel like that, that kind of family rom-com and to just add that, just enough interest or to just make it feel round and authentic enough as a family romance.” And then, I love the dynamic that you have with siblings, whether they’re triplets or twins, or just close in age. Like, every one of them will have their own little personalities and be just super unique.
And like, I’ve talked to people who have triplets and they’re like, “You can have three kids born almost the same time, but they will be just so wildly different.” And I have kids, like three of my own and my girls are very close in age, and they’re just so different. And the younger one tries so much to be like her big sister and I’m always saying like, “Stella, just be you. Be you, you’re so different and that’s perfect. Why would I want two Zoe’s? I love Zoe, but I don’t need two of them.” So, yeah, I really enjoy exploring that with those characters in these books. And, yeah, they’re stinkers those three. But that’s perfect fodder too for rom-com. Like, that just really sets up a lot of gags in the book.
Jeff: We’ve gotta talk a little bit about the, I don’t know, do I wanna call Muriel a villain? Probably not a villain, but at least maybe a complication that will run through some of the series because she’s got a son, she is desperate to marry off to somebody and to the right somebody. Where did she come from?
K: Okay, well I wanted… She’s a throwback to that classic kind of regency trope with the dowager, who’s always throwing someone at the eligible bachelor or the Duke, or whatever. And in this instance that is Walker, and then in the next book, it’s Giles. We don’t see Muriel really in “The Handy Nanny” because of the nature of that book and the way it’s set up. But we hear just a mention of her. But, yeah, I really enjoy that kind of trope and having that kind of as like a running gag through this series come back, in “Giles Ashby” and she is just certain that Giles will marry Jonathan and she will not let another one of Reid’s nannies get in the way. It’s really just… And it’s a whole play on the “Pride and Prejudice” kind of reboot thing. And, yeah, she’s Lady Muriel. I love her though.
Jeff: I just see people trying to flee when she’s around.
K: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But I just, yeah, I love characters like that though. Like those are always my favorites in romance novels, just the cranky old lady who’s kind of oblivious and just, she knows, like, you know, what’s right and what’s going on, and people should listen to her. I just kind of love that. And that feels very New York to me too, in a way.
Jeff: Do you think you’re ever gonna try to give Jonathan his happily ever after?
K: I did joke with that, with my editor and with some of my beta readers. I said, “I feel like…” And it’s a joke in, “Giles Ashby” that maybe Jonathan needs kind of a redemption, or kind of have a happily ever after. Maybe it’ll be like a fun, like, newsletter kind of thing, kind of, you know, magnet or something, or something from…
Jeff: Oh yeah, that could be fun.
K: Yeah, yeah. Maybe for that. Who knows? I’ve done weirder things.
Jeff: So book three, “The Handy Nanny” comes out just a few days after this episode does, what are readers gonna get with Penn and Morris’s story?
K: So I gotta just do, like, a content warning I think for you and your audience, because it deals with some really, really heavy, heavy themes in this one. Like, a major one being grief. Like if I could do it in, like, a 36-point font, like, if I could put this trigger warning across the screen, like, in big letters, grief. And there’s, it opens with Morris losing his sister to a stroke. He’s at her funeral and she lost the baby right after childbirth, which is something that unfortunately affects a lot of women, Black women in particular. So I kind of wanted to highlight that for readers and that’s a really difficult thing. And then Reid does this really difficult thing. I’m not gonna be able to talk about this book without crying.
So, yeah, you should have tissues ready when you’re reading it. And then also cancer is another big thing that we’re dealing with in this book. And then the impending loss of a parent. So, yeah, we open with Morris losing his sister and then Reid makes a really hard call. He sends Penn in and Penn lost his mother to a stroke when he was 20. So we’re seeing both ends of this almost kind of like, it’s like a mirror end of this grief kind of story, but also a rom-com still. It was, that’s been like kind of the whole thing with this book, is how do you balance that and still make people laugh, and enjoy that?
Jeff: But some of the best rom-coms have those moments of grief and dealing with sadness that come in them as well.
K: Yeah, yeah. And it really is about, Walker says this because Penn goes to him and says, “How do you cope with this?” And he said that basically some of his Jewish friends would say, “May his memory be a blessing.” And that kind of became a theme of the book is, it’s not just a way to comfort somebody, it’s kind of almost a statement about a stage of grief. Like being able to get to the point where thinking about somebody doesn’t feel like a trap or hurt, and you’re not, like, edging away from their memory or like when you see something. To getting to where the point where you can think of them and it feels like a blessing. So it’s kind of a theme in the book, which like I said, like, I can’t talk about that without crying. It’s just, it’s been that kind of a thing with this book. This was like probably the hardest book I’ve ever written, but it still feels like a rom-com. And I think that was kind of the goal or the challenge that I set out was, we gotta balance that and still make it feel good.
Jeff: And as a reader, I love it when I hear that an author can be that emotional about their story, because it means it’s gonna resonate most likely for me too, that so much emotion is sitting there, that just writing it can bring that out as well.
K: Honestly though, like I’m the kind of person, like I can write like a birthday card to somebody and I’m just like, “Happy birthday,” but I’m crying. So I’m just the biggest crybaby ever. Like, you would think that even in every book I cry, even in, like, my darkest thrillers, I find a point in there to make myself cry, at least once every book.
Jeff: What more can we expect in the “Nanny” series? How far will it get to go?
K: Well, the next book which I am working on the cover for right now is going to be “The Enchanting Nanny” which is Penn was the handy nanny and his little sister Penny is “The Enchanting Nanny,” and she is going to be pairing up with Agnes, Walker’s sister, and it’s going to be just a whole fun. Penny is such a wild child and to me she steals, she’s one of the characters that steals the handy nanny, because Penn raised her. She’s just a, she grew up, like, just rolling around in the city with Penn or the Catskills. So she’s just a little cottage core punk fairy. And then just a whole opposites attract thing with Agnes and she’s gonna take her into the woods, and Agnes is gonna try to impress her, and it’s gonna be hysterical.
And then after that we have Gavin and a character named Dash that we meet in “The Handy Nanny” who… Dash is a Himbo and he is just so in love with Gavin, and Gavin just has no time for him, because this guy is just, he’s a jock. He was supposed to be a football player, his dad’s a football player and he was supposed to be a football player, but it just wasn’t for him. And he’s just in love with Gavin and just making a whole fool of himself through the… Every time we see him on the page in “The Handy Nanny” he’s just so struck with Gavin. He’s just… Gavin’s not enjoying himself with it. Poor prickly Gavin.
And then the last book that I have planned, I never wanna say that’ll be the last one, it’s going to be Reid and it will be an older gentleman, because Reid, he doesn’t have time for romance. So he prefers the kind of guy that you meet at a hotel in the business district. You know what I mean? Like, he wants an older gentleman in a suit who smells like a cigar and tastes like scotch, and just for a night. Because he’s got other things to worry about and he will end up accidentally getting involved with one of his future clients who will be, like I said, like, an older gentleman. And for some reason these pictures of Chris Pine in his silver fox era that have been floating around all over the internet are just really kind of sticking. So it could kind of go in that direction for Reid. I have a feeling.
Jeff: Nice. So at least three more books after “Handy Nanny.”
K: Yes. Yes. That’s the plan.
Jeff: I love that Agnes is getting a story. She’s such a delight, nudging Walker forward in the first book.
K: She’s an animal and we’re… She’s gonna meet her match with Penny. She’s definitely meeting her match with Penny.
Jeff: Can’t even imagine, because I mean she is the strong person, Agnes with very distinct opinions.
K: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, like I said, like Penny. And she’s younger, she’s kind of that younger. We’ve got the Finn and Reid, and Penny, and Dash, they’re kind of in their 26, 28 kind of range. And then we’ve got Gavin and Reid, and Penn, and Morris who are closer to 40. So, it’s gonna be fun. And then Agnes is, I think she’ll be like 52 in my head, when her and Penny kind of come together, which, and I’m not gonna give any secrets there. I’m not giving away that secret. Something may or may not have happened at the wedding, in Finn and Walker’s wedding, is all I’m gonna say. Because, you know, Penn points out, he’s like, “That makes sense because lesbians are chaotic.” And that’s kind of the theme of the third book, lesbians are chaotic, or no, fourth book. Yeah, sorry, fourth book. Sorry, I can’t keep track.
Jeff: So, of course, we have to talk a little bit about “The Boys of Lake Cliff.”
K: Oh, okay.
Jeff: Your first romantic suspense series, 14 books and related spinoffs. For those who haven’t picked that up, I mean in general, what is this series about and what is the setup for all of these romantic suspense stories?
K: Well, for “Lake Cliff,” “Hide and Keep” the first book, it kind of started with the forced proximity romance with these two characters. And it was supposed to be the one book, and then for some reason they just really took off, and they really resonated. And so I thought, you know what? I’ll do a short or a novella. And then I was like, okay, just… And I left the door open in the novella, like there was another villain kind of dropped. And I was just like, okay, maybe just one more book. And then a writer or a reader wrote to me and said, “Well, what if you wrote an assassin romance?” And we’re like, “Oh, that’s crazy. I would never write an assassin romance.”
But then I was like, what if his name was Mr. Lavender? And so that took place. I started writing and he was in Chicago, and he was supposed to kill an artist, and then he was like, oh, but he’s too hot. Let me try to save him. And then he decides to… And well, he doesn’t decide, he just…things happen and he ends up meeting with the chief of police of Lake Cliff, and it’s Lane. And I thought it’s just gonna be a cameo for Lane. And it’s this really super tense moment. It’s supposed to be kind of like the diner scene in “Heat” right? And basically Lavender has some information, he wants some information from Lane about a young man that he’s trying to find, who is basically dead in Lane’s morgue.
So they’re having this really tense scene and Lane kind of knows who he is. And it’s supposed to be tense. But then Lavender reaches across and he takes a cherry tomato off of Lane’s plate and he eats it. And I was like, okay, what if he moves to Lake Cliff and it becomes like a buddy comedy. So we have that kind of dynamic with him, this assassin who is also kind of, he’s a little bit of a serial killer like kind of character and it’s that kind of morality chain romance.
And it does kind of become, like the rest of the series becomes this weird family dynamic that kind of snowballed from there. But, yeah, I can’t help but pull from my military intelligence experience and just that kind of love of mystery, that I just love that dynamic. But then also it’s gotta still be funny and emotional and I think the best way I would describe it is like if it was “Silence of the Lambs” but a rom-com and there were “Avengers” in it. Like it’s got that kind of energy, like, with the characters and the found family kind of element. But there is that investigative aspect and some violence, and it’s just fun.
Jeff: Do you enjoy building the suspense plot as much as you enjoy building the people puzzles, or are those two things very intertwined to each other, how the people turn out versus the mystery they find themselves in?
K: No, it’s definitely something I love doing and it’s almost like braiding two different things. You’ve got the romantic beats that you’re following when you’re structuring it, because I don’t really structure, it just kind of happens to fall out in a way that makes me look competent. But I’m constantly, like, interweaving that with the mystery plot, because you’ve got certain beats there that you want in a mystery plot. And I try to almost keep them where they’re at the same pace, if that makes sense. Like, the climax of the mystery and the romance is happening at the same time and then the resolution is happening at the same time.
So I love that. I love the puzzle there because I’m a super mystery nerd. Like, my comfort shows are like, “Murder, She Wrote” and “Poirot”. Like, I’ll watched those over and over, and over again. And then I love like modern series, like, “Kaleidoscope,” was amazing to be able to write… I don’t know if anybody’s seen this yet, but just to be able to build a mystery every, you can watch it out in any order. Like they’re the color coded and you can watch it in any order. And the mystery basically works no matter which point you enter this heist. And it’s brilliant writing. And that just blew my mind to be able to write a heist like that with this many different people and this many different stories, and to go in at any point was just thrilling to me, thrilling. And I…
Jeff: I have to check that out, because that sounds very intriguing.
K: Oh yeah. And the cast is amazing. Like just… And the writing, just like I said, the writing, just everything. It is very violent though, so just beware, just super violent and it’s not necessarily like a, it’s not a romance. Like I had to tell my… I tell Reese, it’s like, there’s no happily ever after necessarily, so don’t go into that expecting that. So there… You know, all the trigger warnings are in that. But, yeah, I love the puzzle of it almost as much as I like writing the romance aspect in those.
And I think I like, I always go back to that, like, writing this series, the getting to explore the fluffy rom-com aspect of it, but getting to, like, step away from, like, when things got really rough with “Handy Nanny,” like I would cry every day. So I would get to, like, jump over and write a short about Lake Cliff or something. And it was such a…you know, to have that kind of balance, a different serotonin kind of, or adrenaline kind of experience that you have when you’re writing something that’s really heavy with grief, was kind of comforting to me in a weird way.
Jeff: It’s good to have the… I’ve heard some authors kind of refer to it as the palate cleanser, when you hop between such very different genres and story types.
K: Yeah, exactly. Or getting to flex different muscles even, to just walk into a different mindset almost. So, yeah, yeah. It’s good to have a palate cleanser when you’ve had a lot of crying going on and just go, you know what? Let’s go write something really violent or funny, or just, yeah.
Jeff: It sounds like “Lake Cliff” was an accidental series, it just kind of happened.
Jeff: How much further do you think it goes between just everything and the spinoffs and…
K: Well, I did the thing that makes sense most when you were writing an assassin, I gave him a child. So Lavender has a son named Robin and some readers know that I have been slowly hinting that there’s something we don’t talk about Robin, because nobody wants to upset Lavender like they… You know, your kid’s not… Or there’s something concerning going on with your kid. So we’ve been kind of hinting that there could be a 2.0 and, you know, after when the gentleman are ready to retire, which I’m always trying not to age them up too fast while still aging robin up. So they’ll stay, like, eternally, like, 55 while he goes off to college and does stuff. I don’t know.
Jeff: That’s a very daytime soap. The child goes upstairs and comes back down and they’re suddenly, like, a teenager or something.
K: Yeah, yeah, it is like, I’m very just, like, slowly, like in every little book, like, this one he’s walking, and this one he’s, like, working on a pumpkin and this one he’s, so he might be shooting things in the woods. So it’s just like slowly just nudging it up a little bit in the reader’s mind. So it’s not a shock when, like, something big happens.
Jeff: So you got this community on Patreon. What led you over to start doing things on Patreon? Because we see that more and more with authors lately.
K: I’ve done it for a long time. It just was like a place to… It was like, if you guys wanna buy some more, like, content on “Lake Cliff,” but, you know, not like, just I’ll do it for you guys. So it’s just like a place where we get to, like, I’ll put out a poll and I’ll say, “What do you wanna read about this month?” And they’ll vote on it, and I’ll write them a short story. And some of those short stories end up being the inspiration for books. Like, we had a whole spinoff of “Lake Cliff” that was like a blackhurst, I call it the “Blackhurst” books.
And it was like, what if the bad guy wasn’t… What if he was just misunderstood and what if he just needed a morality chain kind of arc and hot archeologist to fall in love with. So it just kind of explores that as like a little side thing. And it kind of came out of a Patreon story. And then I have a not safe for work tier where I get to do… I collaborate with artists and we bring some of our favorite moments from “Lake Cliff” to light, or into art. And that has been, like, really fun, and really hot, and I’ve got to work with some brilliant, brilliant people, and we have fun with that. And then just throwing up, like, all kinds of behind-the-scenes things for “Lake Cliff.” It’s just extra content and I get to share my inspiration with them and it’s fun. Every now and then we’ll do a Zoom, and they can ask me questions and we’ll have a cocktail hour or things like that.
Jeff: That is super cool.
Jeff: Especially I like that you’re working with artists to… I mean fan art is always so cool to see, but then when you can have that moment to collaborate and make art that’s a specific scene or something, that sounds amazing.
K: Well, that was kind of one of the… Like, when I talk about, like, the joy of the “Nanny” series was I had an artist that I was working with my Patreon. I said, “Look, I gotta make a cover.” And one of the things that I… When I made this series, like, I wanted it to work with an illustrated cover. And so I said, can you make some character art for me? And I used it, I made the covers with it, and then I made bookmarks, and stickers, and stuff. I love that with being able to do that.
Like a lot of people, it’s just, it’s easy to kind of, like, go overboard and get really obsessed and you wanna just do everything. And getting to do that inside the books as well, like the paperbacks have illustrations to go with certain moments, like, that I really, really loved in the book, and then for stickers and such. So doing that with an artist was one of the biggest, biggest joys. And kind of thing that I kind of build a series around even, is like, I need a scene that will be really cute to do a sticker for. So things like that is, yeah, it’s a total blast.
Jeff: I love how that’s the genesis of the “Nanny” covers, because those just scream so much rom-com, in the way that they’re done. That was one of the things that drug me into the books first, like look at this cover.
K: It was, like, the cover of my dreams, I was kind of a pain in the butt when I was working with Carina about the original cover. And it was just, I had this vision, like I really, really, like, I love the so “Wedding Crashers” is that what it… I’m so bad with titles and names, and stuff, but it was a pink cover and it was just so, such an eye catcher and I was like that shade of pink. And I just knew that I wanted Fin to have, like, a certain kind of cockiness to him, and with the tie grab, it was just, yeah.
Jeff: Yeah, just love it. They could make good movie posters to anybody out there who might be listening to turn this into a movie.
K: Knock on wood, knock on wood. Yeah.
Jeff: Yeah. Knock on wood.
We of course love to get book recommendations here. Curious about what you’ve been reading recently that our listeners should be checking out.
K: You’re gonna be so surprised. But I have been reading “A Valentine for Christmas” by my girl Reese Ryan. I loved her “Bourbon Brothers” series, which if you’re like me, like with all my series, like I’ve told you, I really love the found family or a lot of times in these cases they are actual family. It’s got chaotic siblings and, like, this one is fake dating and it’s an older woman, younger man. So that’s sexy and hot, and it’s always hot because it’s Reese Ryan. So I’m enjoying that.
And like I said, it’s a spinoff of “Bourbon Brothers” which you’ve got “The Bourbon Brothers” and then there’s gonna be a vineyard that’s like a family kind of connection kind of thing that has siblings and from the other series making cameos and stuff. I’m so excited about this, and if you love family romances and series, or sagas if you wanna call them, that’s definitely, that’s for you. And she’s kind of the queen of that. We are talking about category romance, she is the queen of that. And in my mind, and I am a little bit biased, I think she’s the queen of category romance.
But I’m also getting ready to, as soon as… I haven’t finished the draft for “The Handy Nanny” yet and I’m sending it tomorrow, Tuesday maybe to my editor. But as soon as I’m done with that I’m picking up “Teacher of the Year” by M.A. Wardell. And I am so, like, looking forward to that, because it’s gonna be a teacher with a hot single dad, parent of a student kind of thing. Because that’s always, I think a favorite trope when you’ve got a teacher romance, is the hot dad, I think. So that’s a kind of a favorite of mine as well. So I’m looking forward to that.
Jeff: Yeah, I’ve got that ARC as well and it’s very high up on my list of things to read because it sounds, oh so good.
K: On the cover of that is just so dreamy and just watercolory with the pastels and it’s just, I’ve heard good things, good, good things. And he’s just an angel.
Okay, another one that I’m really excited about is “Whisper into the Night” by Jay Leigh, which is a romantic suspense, and it takes place I think in the Capitol with a Secret Service agent and a research person or something. But, yeah, I’m super thrilled to get into that as well. Like, I’ve promised myself I’m gonna read both of those as soon as I’m done with “The Handy Nanny” before I get those edits back, like a week later. So, yeah, that’s what I’m looking forward to.
Jeff: I love that you use books as treats to get stuff out the door so you can go read.
K: It’s the best carrot, it’s the best carrot. It’s like, you wanna get back to this, you want it? You want it? You better get those words in. So, yeah, that’s kind of what motivates me when I get really kind of like in the doldrums with a book. It’s like you’ve got something waiting.
Jeff: Now as we wrap up, we’ve talked about “The Handy Nanny” coming out in just a few days after this episode. What can you kind of tell us about the schedule through the rest of the year? Do you have things kind of planned out there of what comes next?
Jeff: You say with a laugh.
K: No, I have, like, writer friends who love to do their boards and they’ve got everything planned out, like a 90-day plan and I am loosely planning to do a new nanny book every three to four months. So we’ll get, by May June-ish, I think for “The Enchanting Nanny” and then I don’t have the name of Gavin’s book, but I’m thinking it’s gonna be a holiday book, early November-ish.
Jeff: Nice. I love a good holiday book too, so.
K: Yeah. And because, yeah, I really wanna have a cute red cover. Because I’m trying to do rainbow when you have all the spines lined up. So, I want, like, a cute vibrant little red cover. In my head I’m seeing maybe like, what if Giles was in a Santa outfit? But no, that wouldn’t be for a cover, but we might see a sticker like that or something. So, yeah, like I said, like, I’m always thinking about the art now as I plan a book there.
But, yeah, that’s maybe every three to four months and then finishing early spring with Reid’s book. I may, I may, I may be working on another romantic suspense thing soon, that will have a little witchcraft and a little bit of occult in it, and involve the FBI, almost kinda like a “Mindhunter” kind of thing, but up in the Virginia area with witches and stuff maybe, maybe. For my latest book.
Jeff: Oh, with witches. Okay.
K: Yeah. Yeah. And I’ve also wanted to write a lady serial killer who is an adjacent to Lake Cliff, it’s Aiden’s sister, she’s a serial killer in a mental health facility. So, I would love to get her out and do something with her soon too.
Jeff: Nice. So what is the best way for people to keep up with you online so they know exactly when all this is coming out?
K: I’m more active now on Instagram. I like to kind of share more things there and post things more in real-time. Social media is so hard for me. It’s one of those things, like, I’ve gotta have a really high battery, like, as far as my energy goes, and I can just do it in spurts. So I try to be really regular there and post things in real-time, and weekly things. And then I have a website which I’m trying to get better about keeping up with. And if you go to my website, it’s ksterlingbooks.com. You can also sign up for my newsletter, which I am trying to do at least three times a month because that’s how many I get from weeks. So in some months I don’t make it, some months I don’t make it, because I am really, really bad about the business aspect. Like, I can write books obviously like all day every day, but getting out and talking about them and promoting them is really tricky for me. But I try to be regular with the newsletter and yet check me out on Instagram and a little bit on Twitter, and I don’t know if I’m gonna get on… I’m trying TikTok, but it’s so…
Jeff: I can’t get there. I just… That’s too much for me. And, of course, people could check you out on Patreon as well and see what you’re doing there. So we’ll link up to all of that in our show notes along with all the books.
K, It’s been so amazing talking to you. Thank you for coming and sharing all of this with us.
K: Thank you. I was a nervous mess, but this was fun and like I said, like, I have wanted to do this for years, so it was an honor and a blast, and I’m so glad you reached out to me.
Will: This episode’s transcript is brought to you by our community on Patreon. If you’d prefer to read the conversation for yourself, 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.
And just as a quick reminder, if you want to get book recommendations in your inbox every Friday, you should sign up for the Rainbow Romance Reader Report. It’s this podcast’s official newsletter. We feature new releases and upcoming books to help keep your TBR up to date. You can sign up at BigGayFictionPodcast.com/report.
Jeff: And thanks so much to K for talking to us about “The Handy Nanny.” Beyond loving the story of her husband daring her to write a book, her approach to plotting as solving people puzzles really intrigued me. I’ve been thinking about that a lot since we talked a few weeks back and have been trying to think that way for the short story that I’m currently plotting. It’s really been fun to think about everything as just a puzzle.
Will: All right, I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up next on Monday, May 8th, we’re going to catch you up on everything that we’ve been reading and watching over the past few months.
Jeff: It’s been a while since we’ve done a solo show and we have so much to share. Plus, we’ll have details on a couple of events that we’re going to be taking part in during the month of May.
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 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.