Jeff & Will welcome author Robin Knight as he celebrates 15 years of publishing stories featuring queer characters. He talks about the conclusion of the Fathom’s Five adventure series, which is the series that began his career. We also get details on his latest romances with Under the Arabian Sky and Heartless, which is his first m/m/m story. Robin also reveals what else he’s working on, and he’s got book recommendations too.
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Here are the things we talk about in this episode. Please note, these links include affiliate links for which we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase. These links are current at the time the episode premieres, however links are subject to change.
- Episode 149 – Geoffrey Knight’s Adventurers & Billionaires + TV & Book Reviews on Big Gay Fiction Podcast
- Robin Knight Interview
- Robin Knight website | Robin’s Nest Facebook Group
- The Cross of Sins (Fathom’s Five Book 1) by Robin Knight
- The Pyramid of Puzzles (Fathom’s Five Book 2) by Robin Knight
- The Eye of Doom (Fathom’s Five Book 3) by Robin Knight
- The Tomb of Heaven (Fathom’s Five Book 4) by Robin Knight
- The Temple of Time (Fathom’s Five Book 5) by Robin Knight
- The Tears of the Golden Tiger (Fathom’s Five Book 6) by Robin Knight
- The Thief of Thunder (Fathom’s Five Book 7) by Robin Knight
- Dynasty Season 5 on Amazon Prime Video (see the season finale, “Royal Wedding,” for the Moldavia massacre)
- Moonraker on Amazon Prime Video
- Outrun the Rain (The Storm Boys Book 1) by N.R. Walker
- The Day After Tomorrow on Amazon Prime Video
- Independence Day on Amazon Prime Video
- Superman: The Movie on Amazon Prime Video
- Under the Arabian Sky by Robin Knight
- Heartless by Robin Knight (pre-order until July 31, 2023)
- A Boy Called Rainbow by Robin Knight on Amazon (pre-order until September 19, 2023)
- The Billionaire’s Boyfriend (My Billionaire Book 1) by Robin Knight on Amazon
- The Billionaire’s Wedding (My Billionaire Book 2) by Robin Knight on Amazon
- My Billionaire’s Wish (My Billionaire Book 3) by Robin Knight on Amazon
- Dearest Milton James by N.R. Walker
- Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman
- Deadloch on Amazon Prime Video
- 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, author Robin Knight joins us to celebrate 15 years of his adventures, romances, and rom coms.
Will: Welcome to episode 432 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 co host and husband, Jeff.
Jeff: Hello Rainbow Romance Reader. It is great to have you here for another of our Super Summer bonus episodes.
I am so happy that we get to celebrate with Robin Knight for his 15th anniversary of publishing. His “Fathoms Five” series has long been one of my favorite things and I am a proud owner of a first edition paperback of “The Cross of Sins,” which is the very first book in that series.
We also love his romances and rom coms. Now, he’s been on the show before. In episode 149 from 2018, when he was writing as Geoffrey Knight, we got to talk to him. And it’s great to catch up with him now and talk about this milestone anniversary, the conclusion of the “Fathoms Five” series, as well as his latest romances with “Under the Arabian Sky” and the forthcoming “Heartless.” We’re also going to get some book recs, and some hints at what else Robin is working on.
Robin Knight Interview
Jeff: Robin, welcome back to the podcast. It’s great to have you again after some number of years that neither one of us is sure how long it’s been.
Robin: Too many years. Thank you for having me back. This is wonderful.
Jeff: I could not let the end of “Fathom’s Five” pass without having you back on the show. There’s so many milestones here. For me, “Fathom’s Five” is one of the first pieces of gay fiction and was, kind of, one of my gateways into gay romance, even though it’s not really a romance per se because it’s very adventure-y. So, there’s that. Your 15-year publishing anniversary is tied to the 15-year mark of “Fathom’s Five.” It’s just all these things, kind of, happening at once.
Robin: That’s right. Yeah, look, I started “Fathom’s Five,.” the first book, “The Cross of Sins” was published in 2008 which makes me feel very old, but that’s okay. And so I was writing in 2007, and the reason I started writing “Fathom’s Five” was I really wrote it for myself because there was nothing…no gay adventures out there that really, kind of, hit that Indiana Jones mark. And I thought, “Oh, God, this is begging for it.” It’s what I want to read. I saw “Raiders of the Lost Ark” when I was, like, 12, and I would have killed for a gay adventure back then, and that just didn’t exist.
And so I just hit a point where it’s like, you know what, I want to get into gay fiction. I want to start, you know, writing something that I’m going to love. And if nobody buys it, that’s okay because I just need to fill this gap in my life more than anything. You know, this hole of entertainment that I really wanted as a kid. And so I wrote “Fathom’s Five,” the first one, “The Cross of Sins,” I loved it, and then I wrote the second one and third one. You know, in the next few years, I was on about one every two years then. And then there was a big pause and I felt very sorry for all of my fans, because I kept leaving them hanging off.
Jeff: I did, kind of, poked you a lot like, “Is it time yet? Is it time yet?” And you, kind of, teased a little bit.
Robin: And then number four. Number five, “The Temple of Time” was supposed to be number four, but I realized that there was a bridge. I needed to bridge a storyline between book three’s, “The Eye of Doom,” and book five is “The Temple of Time.” And book five was always going to be a very big book. It’s like the tent pole in the whole seven-book series, but I needed to, kind of, get some more information in there before I launched “The Temple of Time.” Otherwise, it would have been a very long book. And so that’s when “The Tomb of Heaven,” book four, which is a much shorter book, happened. And it was really just, kind of, a wedge that I needed to put between books three and five.
And then of course, it was ages after “The Temple of Time” before “The Tears of the Golden Tiger,” book six, was finished. I actually held book six off for a while, because I wanted to follow it up with book seven, “The Thief of Thunder,” the new book, as soon as I could because of the cliffhanger at the end of book six, which is…
Jeff: You just, kind of, leave us hanging there a bit. Yes. As soon as I finished it all, I think I messaged you like, “Okay, and now what? When’s the next one?”
Robin: The inspiration for the end of book six is I don’t know if you ever watched “Dynasty” as a kid. It was “Dynasty” for you guys. Yes, the wedding massacre scene in Moldavia was the inspiration. It’s like, “Oh, my God, I’m going to leave this so that nobody knows who will be signed up for the next season.”
Jeff: Yeah, I didn’t make the connection, but now that you said it, I’m like, “Yes, I get it. I totally get it.”
Robin: When I saw that climax, that cliffhanger, it was like, “Oh, my God, this is what I want to do. I want to create this kind of suspense in a book one day.” So, I had that earmarked.
Jeff: I absolutely loved that. Now that we’ve said all this stuff and people are like, “What are they talking about?” because you and I, kind of, just jumped right in because I’m a fan boy of “Fathom’s Five…”
Jeff: …back up a little bit and give us what “Fathom’s Five” is about as a whole series.
Robin: Okay, so “Fathom’s Five,” it’s my answer to Indiana Jones. It’s a gay Indiana Jones meets “The Mummy,” meets “James Bond,” meets “Charlie’s Angels,” meets “Tomb Raider.” All those big adventure set pieces, I wanted to combine them into one big gay adventure.
So, we’ve got five heroes, they are Fathom’s Five. So, the head of the bunch who’s a bit like Charlie in “Charlie’s Angels,” is Professor Fathom. And he has five hot, hunky heroes who he sends out on big adventures, and they all have different strengths. And they come together as a team, so there’s that found family feel that I really wanted to get across. And each book is an adventure that they need to solve, but there’s also a few really big overarching storylines that cover the entire seven books.
There are villains in early books who, you know, have their big villainous moment in later books, and there’s a couple of very big subplots that run throughout the whole series. And then right at the end, let’s have some weddings.
Jeff: I was so happy about that, because that, kind of, leaned into some of the gay romance because these five over the course of the books, they each find their person. And some find it early in books one and two, some find it later, but you get to have that nice arc with them on their romance as they keep moving towards those weddings that we finally, you know, get in the last book.
Robin: Yeah, you’ve got to fall in love when you’re saving the world.
Robin: So, yes. So, that’s “Fathom’s Five.” It’s total escapism, the big roller coaster rides. I know they’re exhausting to read back to back, and they’re exhausting to write as well.
Jeff: We’re going to talk about that a little bit, too, because I totally imagine.
Robin: They’re very chunky, very technical, very adventurous, very… It’s a mechanical beast to ride. And so, yes, to read them is…you have to buckle up, and you have to take breaks.
Jeff: But yet it’s a totally bingeable series. Like, you could sit down and decide to binge a bunch of Indiana Jones movies for example because of the ride that they take you on. I think the series, kind of, moves along in that fashion, too, where you could get a big tub of popcorn and just sit down and… instead of a popcorn movie have a popcorn book.
Robin: Yep, and it’s 15 years of Robin’s life in a day. There was recently a reader contacted me, and she had never started them, and she literally read the first four books in one go and said, “I have to stop literally for a day,” and said, “I have to stop. I’m taking a little break and then I’m going to read the next three.” And she took a break for a few days and then devoured the last three. And she was very happy. She was in the zone, that’s for sure, in a very big action-packed zone.
Jeff: I’m glad you mentioned “James Bond” because I really feel like parts of “Thief of Thunder” without giving away…probably no spoilers because of what’s on the cover of the book anyway. We are in space and then some of this was like “Moonraker.” This is “Moonraker” in a lot of ways.
Robin: Yeah. “Moonraker” was the first “James Bond” movie I ever saw when I was a kid at the movies. And I don’t know. You know, James Bond back then, I know it was campy Roger Moore but, gosh, they were so much fun. And “Moonraker” was such a big idea, you know, stealing space shuttles to build your own empire out in space. And I thought, “Oh, I would love to end ‘Fathom’s Five’ on that.” And as this woman who binged crazily, she said, in her review of “The Thief of Thunder,” book seven, she said, “Well, they’ve been all over the world, so it, kind of, makes sense to take them out into space now.”
Jeff: Well said, person who binged the books, because that’s absolutely right. They have to go somewhere else off-world now.
Robin: Yep, I mean, there are a few places on Earth, but I needed some different action… For the last book, I needed…I wanted to incorporate a little bit of the temple and traps business, but there’s only so many temples and traps that you can, kind of, come up with. And I knew I always wanted the Moonraker climax right at the end. And so the seventh book is very different. It does have the space adventure. It’s also got weather disaster.
Jeff: I love a good weather disaster, so that was just right in my sweet spot.
Robin: I did too. And it’s kind of ironic because N.R. Walker, who I love, is releasing her storm chaser series. She started releasing them now. And they’re all coming out, and I thought, “Oh, I hope she doesn’t think I’m stealing her my thunder.” But I did have the big weather disaster stuff planned out many years ago, and it was a lot of fun to write, I have to say.
Jeff: I have to imagine it because it was just a blast to read, seeing what was going to happen next and who was going to end up, kind of, like, maybe just walking down the street for a minute and then…
Robin: When I started researching… There’s a big New York disaster thing, and when I started researching that and I discovered I’ve never been there, writers can use their imagination, the Intrepid Museum. I thought, “Oh, my God, that is so perfect. Why hasn’t that been used in a movie before?”
Jeff: Probably licensing.
Robin: But in a book, go for it. And budget. The great thing about writing a disaster scene in a book is your budget is zero as opposed to a movie.
Jeff: You know, having lived there for a number of years, I’m like, “Okay, I understand exactly where we are.” I’ve been to the Space Shuttle museum thing on the Intrepid.
Jeff: So, I understood all of that. So, for me it was like, “This is awesome.” I mean, in the same way that I watch a movie like “The Day After Tomorrow…”
Jeff: …and just appreciate like, “Oh, that wave just took out my house right there. My apartment building, gone.” You know, I can appreciate the disaster that was unfolding.
Robin: Right. Yeah. And writing that scene was… Because it’s a big chapter and it’s a big thing to do if you want to wipe out New York, that’s a big thing to do. But I was also careful that I didn’t want it to turn into a walking dead of bodies everywhere and things like that. So, I kind of steer clear of that. And it was just that it’s more the suspense. That was the really important part, the tension of… Can I do a spoiler? Should I do it?
Jeff: It’s your book, so sure.
Robin: And let’s face it, we’ve seen waves come from New York before, but I kind of wanted to give it my spin. So, the wave coming towards New York and just the tension and the separation of the characters because that’s another thing that I do love doing in the “Fathom’s Five” books is separating all the characters. It’s a classic, you know, dates back so many decades in storytelling, so many centuries. But George Lucas did it so well in the first “Star Wars” movie, separate the characters, three different groups, five different groups, however many you need And that builds so much tension when you can put them into their own situation that needs to be solved. You know, that’s just a great mechanism for suspense.
Jeff: Mm-hmm, absolutely. And the thing I liked so much about the New York scene and what you did separating the characters there, so often through the series, the characters are separated by continents. They come together usually at the end to take care of whatever the big thing is for the book, but they spend a lot of the books separated, trying to bring disparate pieces together to solve the problem much like “Star Wars” where everybody eventually comes together for the end. In “Thief of Thunder,” you’ve got them all in New York but separated.
Robin: Yes, so bringing them all together in New York, that big New York scene, which is in the middle of the book, it’s almost like a climax before the climax. It’s almost like…I really wanted to… I guess it’s got a real “Independence Day” feel to it.
Jeff: There’s that, too. Yeah.
Robin: Yeah, where it’s like… That big massive scene is right in the middle of the movie, and then they have to go pick up the pieces. But bringing them together is always tough… When they are together, it’s always really hard to write because you’ve got a busload of characters. There’s like 10 or 12 characters to bring together. It’s very similar in the end of “The Temple of Time.” So many characters who are all together and giving them all jobs to do and without it looking like, “Oh, I’ve got a whole, you know, two of us behind me of characters.” It can be tricky.
Jeff: You mentioned that you had to create connective material before “Temple of Time.” Did you, in general, have the series, kind of, mapped back when you started in 2007 with the first book? Like, what was going to happen and how the big arc was going to be set up or did you, kind of, make more of this up as you went along?
Robin: A lot of it is there very early on. If I didn’t have it in the first book, I definitely had everything in the second book. The villain in book five Caro Sholtez is introduced right at the start of book two. And, again, I’m just borrowing on, you know, giants who’ve stood before me. “Superman: The Movie,” you know, right at the start of “Superman,” the movie, we meet the villains for the second film. And then they get cast off, and we don’t see them again until the second film. That seeding, that planting of all those little bits is the first few books are filled with it. The villain in book seven is right at the start. He’s the antagonism he has towards one of the main characters, Shane, is right in the start of book one, and then he eventually becomes the villain in what was always going to become the villain in book seven.
So, yes, everything was very mapped out to the point that I was going to lose a few characters in book five that I needed to introduce a pilot by book six, and I always did want to make him Australian, and that the pilot would be very much needed in book seven because somebody needs to fly a space shuttle.
Jeff: Indeed. To hear you talk about it now, I mean, you could look at some of the tent poles of like “Indiana Jones,” “Star Wars,” and certainly “Star Wars” is probably the better example because Lucas has always talked about how he had a vision for that original nine-picture set. But we looked, you know, more recently at how Marvel, kind of, set up…you know, when they started with “Iron Man” to get us to “Infinity War,” there was a plan across how many ever movies that was.
Robin: I absolutely think writing adventure and suspense and action needs intricate plotting anyway. You know, you can’t just sit there and go, “I’m going to write a mystery,” and not know how it ends first. So, I think all of that planning, when I sat down and I came and I created these five characters, and I thought, “Hmm, I really want this to be a big story arc. I want it to be a big canvas.” I didn’t mean for it to take 15 years but anyway, sorry, everyone. Planning and plotting are essential. There’s absolutely nothing in that entire seven-book series that isn’t there for a reason, and it all… I think if you were to re-read it again, you pick up so many clues really early on about things that are coming later in the books. So, I kind of liked that, you know, they’re very re-readable. And is it finished? Is it?
Jeff: Well, let’s just talk about that now that you’re saying that. So, you mentioned if people caught it, that people went missing at the end of “Temple of Time” and have been missing other than people being like, “I miss these people.” You know, we haven’t really had a moment to check in with them and yet, in the epilogue of “Thief of Thunder,” here we are finding out about the Time Stormers.
Robin: Yes. I think a lot of people went into book seven thinking that they would all come back in book seven.
Jeff: Indeed, yes. That’s exactly where I went.
Robin: Okay. Sorry, my apologies. It was going to be too big a story. I think part of me was happy not to do that because part of me just doesn’t want to let these guys go. I love them so much. I love writing their stories. I do need a break in writing action at the moment because it is really exhausting. But these guys, these casts and characters are so dear to me, that when I separated a few out at the end of book five, they were always going to become a spinoff series, always planned to write a time travel series, and they are the Time Stormers.
So, they will be coming soon. I have the first book all mapped out and it’s very… Because it’s time travel, obviously that’s a bit trickier, and it does lean a little bit more on that kind of adventure magic kind of feel. But the first time stormers book is set at the end of the second World War. We’ve got some Nazis as our villains. Very Indiana Jones. Back to the basics of what I started. And it’s going to be quite a big book. And then I’m planning three books for the time stormers, but who knows? And the Fathom’s Five characters haven’t completely checked out yet either. So, they will have a place in time stormers eventually.
Jeff: Excellent. I knew there was more. There had to be more. Even as I was turning that page, I’m like, “Okay, oh, epilogue. Hey, look at who’s here.”
Robin: Oh, great.
Jeff: Creating the action sequences and then also keeping things personal with the characters and having that time for romance and the breath to be like, “We can have a moment to have dinner or maybe make out or have a date or whatever that is,” how did you kind of map those across? So, you were always kind of balancing the more personal side of things for these characters versus the big… Usually saving the world is a thing across all the books because of what they’re going after. How was that? Because I know authors… I read a lot of romantic suspense too, and the authors we talk to there talk about having to take care of the running clock on whatever the suspense element is but also giving the characters time to have a romance moment.
Robin: Yeah, and I think that there’s a big difference between romance and some nookie. Nookie is hard to put in. You know, that’s really hard to find a spot for that. And I think when I do find a spot for it, it’s in the transitioning locations. They’ll arrive at a hotel or they’re on a train or they’re on a plane or wherever, and that travel downtime is perfect for that or right at the start of the book or right at the end of the book. When you are saving the world, you don’t want to be busted with your pants down, you know?
Robin: So, there are specific times where I would be able to feed that in. But as the series went on and the romance becomes really important, just those romantic moments, you can steal anywhere. You can steal a kiss. You can steal, “I love you.” And so they became easier to thread through. And also, the more somebody loves somebody, the higher the stakes are and the greater the suspense. So, that really made…the romance can make suspense really powerful. So, that’s kind of the difference that I came to between the two. There is less nookie as it goes along.
I read a review the other day that said that the first book is porn with plot and that I quickly replaced it with plot with porn. And we don’t like to call it porn, but that review was not far off the mark that, you know, there’s a lot more steaminess in the first book and it does become less as the romance builds. Maybe that’s what romance is. Romance is…
Jeff: In the first book, before you were saving the world, you had to bring everybody together so there was more opportunity in some ways because you hadn’t really taken off yet.
Robin: Yes, yes. Yeah, absolutely right. All the stakes increased throughout the book. You know, those relationships have to get deeper. The drama has to get higher. The action has to get bigger every book. So, yes. So, that romance does definitely build, but there’s also…
Jeff: But there’s new romance too because, I mean, Sam just got his romance in book six.
Robin: Finally. Yes, and I love…
Jeff: Young Sam finally.
Robin: Is he your favorite? Is he?
Jeff: It’s so hard to have a favorite, because they each bring such an interesting thing to the mix. And they’re each such their own individual character and couple. If I really had to pick a true favorite across the characters, it’s actually not one of the five. It’s Daniel.
Jeff: Because he’s such an outsider swept into this. He alternates between, “This is awesome. This is fun. This is… I may die. I’m not sure this is so fun.”
Robin: He’s the nerd. Yeah, he’s the Clark Kent of the group.
Jeff: He’s the nerd. He’s the reporter, which I appreciate. Some of my early career was in journalism, so I really appreciate Daniel. So, I always want him to kind of come out okay, which of course, you know?
Robin: Well, I do… Yes.
Jeff: He’s got his arc, and it’s good.
Robin: Yeah. His arc is quite big for a character who’s not even in the first book. I love Daniel. Yes, I do. I love that he and Shane are opposites attract. And the last two books I put Daniel through the ringer probably more than any other character.
Jeff: He didn’t appreciate the “Tears of the Tiger” at all. I won’t even say what about it he didn’t like, but that was… I think that was his least favorite adventure.
Robin: Well, yeah, absolutely. And what happens at the end of six and the start of seven for him, I think that’s how I show affection for a character is I really put them through it.
Jeff: So, 15 years of giant action sequences, and not only do you have to create a few action sequences to get to the big one in an individual book, but then it’s trying to amp it up to get to the finale, how do you go about writing those big things like determining where everybody is and how everybody’s moving? Is there graph paper and charts or is it you’re playing with action figures somewhere?
Robin: I should do that. There’s lots of scribbling in notebooks. Lots of scribbling. I tend to do a lot of… My husband can attest to this. I tend to do a lot of scribbling on notebooks while I’m cooking dinner and he’s like, “When’s dinner going to be ready?” I’m like, “Oh, soon. I’ve just got to get through this.” It’s, yes, lots of planning, lots of, again, amping up. Amping up is really difficult when we kind of do better than the last action sequence. I hit a point in… “Temple of Time,” again, book five, that book was perfectly in my head for years and years before I wrote it. And that’s got some really big action sequences in the middle where I separated everybody. And three of the characters have somebody who’s very personal to them, who they need rescued in a very precarious, diabolical, “We’re going to kill you, Batman,” kind of way. You know, way back to the plots that the Riddler had to kill Batman in the old TV series. So, those were very complicated action sequences and I love them. They’re my favorite in the whole series.
But then when I hit book six and I needed to come up with stuff, I was, “Oh, wow, gosh, what do I do?” But I find a good way through that is to look at where we are, look at what is relevant to that culture or that region, and then use that in the action. So, for example, when I get to book six and they’re in India and there’s a big scene where they need to cross a gorge with vines, and I was like, “Oh, this isn’t enough. It’s not enough. I need more in this to make it exciting.” And then I thought, “Oh, okay, well, we’re in India. There’s lots of cobras in India. Let’s kind of put cobras in the vines that none of them are expecting until they’re halfway across the gorge. So, using that cultural or regional world and pulling pieces out of that to add into the action is always fun.
Jeff: Do you have a favorite scene or moment? And it could be an action sequence or some other moment between the characters across the whole series.
Robin: I do. Again, back to “Temple of Time,” so everything about “Temple of Time” is about time obviously. You know, it begins with a scene at Big Ben, the clock, and clocks and time are all the way through the book. It’s a metaphor that stretches right through the book. And the villain to distract the Fathom’s Five men from getting to their goal, he kidnaps three characters. And so three other characters have to go save them. And each character is put into a different ancient form of a clock that can kill them, so one is a water clock, and there’s a potential of drowning. One is the air clock, and there’s a bomb attached to it. Is that right? Bomb attached to the air clock and one is a wind clock. And so it’s a windmill in the Netherlands, and the character is hoisted up by a noose.
And so these are really intricate ancient devices. The water clock especially. I had to do a lot of research what a water clock did, which is in Morocco. And so these ancient devices are used to put literally a ticking clock on whether these characters will live or survive, whether our characters can save them in time and what will happen. And they were all in very different locations around the world, different weather systems. It was extremely intricate to write, and there’s lots of chopping between the scenes because all of the suspense is happening at once. And it literally was… You can’t get any more literal than saying this is a ticking clock suspense scene.
Jeff: I really love that you picked “Temple of Time” for your favorite, because for me, the finale of “Temple of Time” was just a mind blowing sequence in the temple and how the temple worked and how they had to move through the temple. The whole thing was just like, “Oh, my God.”
Robin: Oh, I’m so glad. I love that climax. And, again, because there’s so many characters in that climax, it was quite difficult to write because there were so many moving pieces, and it was such a big climax because you’ve got, you know, Professor Fathom finally has a moment where he can…he’s normally the old guy who’s in charge of everything. He finally has his moment where he can, you know, right or wrong from his past, and he’s the one who deals with the villain in the end. But you’ve got all the other characters in this moving temple where anything can happen. Yeah, it’s crazy. It’s crazy that one.
Jeff: Yeah. But it’s so fun. So, 15 years, how’s it feel to hit the 15-year of your publishing career mark? That’s a big deal.
Robin: Yeah. I’ve actually been writing longer than that, but I’ve been writing gay fiction for 15 years. Before that, I’d published a few books, which aren’t really around anymore. But my first book was out in 2000, so I’ve been doing it for 23 years now. And, yes, everything’s changed a lot. I used to walk up to the mailbox with manuscripts in an envelope, and I used to give it a kiss and stick it in the mailbox and send it off to some publisher in America and wait six months to hear back. These were the days before self-publishing, and I’m glad everything’s so much more streamlined these days. Makes it easier just to be productive.
But, yeah, it’s been a long time, but it’s all I ever want to do. And I think finishing “Fathom’s Five” as it is finished, that first series, it feels good to mark the end of… Not mark the end, but my 15-year pub anniversary in gay fiction, it’s lovely to wrap up “Fathom’s Five” in its current incarnation at this point. And I need a break from the action I have to say because it is really hard to write, and so I’m looking forward to just throwing myself into the romance and the romcoms now. And I’m in a position now where I’m writing full-time, and I feel quite unstoppable at the moment.
Robin: Yeah, I want that to keep up.
Jeff: So, shifting away from Fathom’s into more romance fare. Earlier this year, you actually released a book that’s part of the “Love Abroad” series with “Under the Arabian Sky.” Tell us about that because that was like bringing you back into the romance area to launch that book out after that pause.
Robin: Yeah, so “Love Abroad” is a…it’s not a series. It’s a collection of nine authors who were invited to be part of it. And the criteria was write a story set abroad, set somewhere that is off the beaten track. So, we’re not talking Rome, London, Paris, New York. It has to be somewhere where people aren’t expecting. Take the reader on a journey that they may never go on to somewhere where it’s just not on their bucket list potentially, or maybe it is on the bucket list and it’s that impossible to reach the bucket list. So, there’s Madagascar in there. There’s Norway. There’s Africa. There’s so many great locations, and I chose Oman because we had just been to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. And the Middle East is extraordinary. It’s so complex, and it’s an amazing place. And I was there and I was like, “Oh, my God, I have to write a love story set here.”
But being in Oman, being in the Middle East, it’s a Muslim country. And so that was a big challenge culturally to set a romance there. But when we were in Dubai, we went out to the desert. You know, we went to a Bedouin camp and the desert is…it’s magnificent. We have deserts here in Australia, which I’ve been to. It’s nothing like the desert in the Middle East or the sand dunes. I was blown away by just this mysticism of the desert out there. It’s incredible, and I really wanted to try to nail that in a book despite the religious challenges that I was going to need to face in a gay book set in the Middle East. First and foremost, I wanted to bring the desert to life and to write a love letter to the sand dunes, and that was my goal with “Under the Arabian Sky” was to really bring that sand and that magic of that exotic Arabian desert. All our lives, we’ve had Arabian stories, Aladdin, and it’s no stranger to us, but to bring a gay romance into that world, I really wanted to see if I could do it. And I’m so proud of that book. Like, I really love what I did with that. I wanted to make it as poetic as I could. I wanted to tap into all that English patient beauty and the culture and just, yeah, really deliver something magical. I hope I did.
Jeff: What kind of preparation did you have to do for it? Because you do have everything with the desert, as you mentioned. Even in the blurb, you mentioned the science of sand that, kind of, gets brought out through one of your characters, but then also, you know, really embracing and working with the cultural aspects too of actually having a gay love story set in that culture.
Robin: So, when we were over there, we did a couple of tours and had a couple of amazing guides. And one guide we spent the morning with and he was just so much information. I was a sponge. I was like literally taking notes during this whole day with this guy. His name was Mohammed and he was a very strong character and believed very strongly in Islam, but there was a very progressive side to him and he really wanted to get through us that… And this was something that’s really struck me about the Middle East was that I feel like it’s a culture that doesn’t want to be left behind, that although so much of it is archaic and so much of it is rooted in centuries, thousands of years of religion, I also think that there’s a very progressive side to them that they realize that if they turn their back on the rest of the world, that they’re going to be left behind.
And this is a culture that doesn’t want to be left behind. This is a culture that actually wants to be a leading culture in the world. You look at Dubai. Dubai is an astonishing city. It’s this innovation. It’s dazzling. It’s an incredible place to visit. And you come away feeling very much like there are rules that they will soften on hopefully. And one of those is I think homosexuality. I think they’re beginning to soften on how strict they are over there. There are obviously some states that are very strict, but I think in other places, they’re realizing that, well, this is the world that we live in and we’re part of the world, so we can’t put blockages up in certain things.
I still wouldn’t want to, you know, walk down the street kissing my husband, you know, but, gosh, there’s lots of other places in the world you can’t do that as well. But I felt very much like this… He spoke very openly about homosexuality, and homosexuality in the Islam culture and the difference between home and religion. Sometimes that marries together, and sometimes it doesn’t. And that’s one thing I really wanted to get through with the book with Tariq who is the Omani character in the book with his family, that home isn’t necessarily a place that needs to be governed by religion if it doesn’t work for that family. So, that’s one thing I wanted to explore.
And I just had lots and lots of questions for him. And it wasn’t just about homosexuality. It’s all about the way women are treated in the Middle East. I honestly think there’s big changes happening over there, and I just kind of wanted to pick up the challenge and go for it and see if I could write a book that didn’t offend anyone and was kind of true to where they’re at the moment.
Jeff: And now you’ve got another book on its way out that’ll happen actually a week after this interview drops with “Heartless,” just continuing your role of putting books out in 2023.
Jeff: This time it’s an m/m/m story, too.
Robin: Gosh, that was hard.
Jeff: Is this your first to do as m/m/m?
Robin: It is, and it might be my last. Wow, it’s really tricky doing three. Yes, it’s my first m/m/m, “Heartless.” I love it. I love this book. It took more out of me than I thought it was going to, having three characters that’s set in New York because I do love New York, and it’s set in the real estate game in New York which is very high-end, very cutthroat, very lots of wealth. And the first character you meet, Ashton is he’s a very successful realtor, and he has a great career going and he’s worth an awful lot of money. He has an assistant Bailey, who’s secretly in love with him, and then a new guy comes into the firm. His name is Jax, and Ashton is immediately threatened by Jax because he’s cool and charming and could take all the business away from Ashton.
So, that’s how the book begins, but it doesn’t end anything like that. Each character has their secret that they’re keeping from the other characters. A threesome forms between them, but there are much bigger pieces at play. The tagline for the book is, “Love is a three-piece puzzle.” So, I can’t give too much away but…
Jeff: And not only is it m/m/m but it’s also workplace. So, they have to deal with a whole bunch of dynamics too. And I love a good workplace kind of romance scenario.
Robin: Yes, it’s enemies to lovers. It’s opposites attract. It’s lots of hurt comfort. There’s backstories that… It’s not one of my romcoms. It’s a very serious romance with other aspects to it. That’s all I can say.
Jeff: What can you tell us about the aspect…? You mentioned that the writing of it really took it out of you, and I imagine it was probably different than how an action sequence from the “Fathom’s” books also kind of drained you in a way too.
Robin: Yeah, so the “Fathom’s” books, I know it’s coming. This one took me by surprise. This was not a book I was planning to write. I’ve got, you know, 40 books I’m planning to write all lined up, but this is one of those… And we all know as writers, there’s always one that goes, “Hi, I’m new and I’d like to be written right now.”
Jeff: I’m going to jump the line.
Robin: Yes, this is a big line jumper, this one. Jump straight to the front of the line, and I wrote it in about a month. And very different to “Fathom’s Five.” I didn’t have a plan at all and so the plan was formed as I was writing it. I just had this thing where I wanted to write about the New York real estate market and that greed is good kind of theme that then falls apart by the end because love is good at the end.
But the characters did that thing where they ambushed me and they needed to go in a certain direction. And before I knew it, this corporate romance, it’s extremely moving at the end. It’s a tear jerker. So, it really shifted fast, and it had a mind of its own and I love it. I love this book. I love the title. I love that “Heartless” is it’s all about being anything but heartless in the end.
Jeff: Wow, can’t wait to read it. It sounds so good. A tear jerker on top of it. So, anything else you want to kind of tease us about like beyond “Heartless”? I mean, we know Time Stormers is out there somewhere. I’m going to pretend like it’s in 2024 somewhere at least. What else can you maybe tease us about what’s coming in that line of 40 books you’ve got to write?
Robin: Well, I’ve got another book coming after “Heartless.” I’m about a third of the way through now. It’s another romance and it involves a character with a disability. So, it’s quite a serious romance and I’ll be putting up very soon. By the time this comes out the teaser place card will probably be up and ready. I’m hoping to have that out in September. And then after that, I’ll do a Christmas story.
Jeff: Yay, Christmas.
Robin: We love writing Christmas stories. It’s so much fun. So, I’ve got a little Christmas story. Well, it’ll be a novel, and it’s a family set kind of… You know that whole family chaos at Christmas kind of story. And then after that I’m going to write the fourth “Billionaire’s” book. So, “The Billionaire’s Boyfriend” came out a few years ago, and the next book was “The Billionaire’s Wedding” and the next book was “The Billionaire’s Wish.” So, “The Billionaires Paradise” is the fourth book, and I’m taking all those crazy, funny, lovely romcom characters to Hawaii.
Robin: So, that’ll be fun.
Jeff: You need to do a research trip to Hawaii, right?
Robin: Oh, let’s do it. I’ll meet you there. But that will wrap up The Billionaire’s series as well. So, everything will be nicely closed off there and they’re going to have a baby so…
Jeff: Oh, nice.
Robin: Yeah, it’s a cute family little finish.
Jeff: Excellent, looking forward to all of that. So, as we wrap up, we love to get recommendations here. What have you been reading or watching lately that our listeners should be checking out?
Robin: Okay, I’m really slow. I don’t know if I… I think I should be getting the recommendations because I’m really slow off the mark. I have just started this, which I’m loving, N.R. Walker’s “Dearest Milton James,” which is fun and romantic and sexy, and I love her writing. So, I’m doing that. I’m actually doing that at the same time that I’m reading, “Call Me By Your Name,” which I started a few years ago, and I picked it up recently. And it’s like, “Oh, gosh, it’s so heavy. Gosh, it’s so full, it’s so chunky, the language in that book.” And so that’s, kind of, why I’m switching between the two. I need something light, I need something heavy.
Jeff: I think the only way I made it through “Call Me By Your Name,” and I said this on the podcast back when the movie came out, because I think I read it before the movie but maybe it was right after the movie. Either way, I did the audio book, so then I could have it read to me rather than having to parse through all of that myself.
Robin: It’s very chunky. Oh, once you’re in his head, it’s, wow, there’s a lot of thoughts going on in there. Yeah. I mean, it’s brilliant. It’s beautifully written, but it’s a big read.
Jeff: I like that you can go over to N.R. Walker, which is a much more easygoing… because N.R. Walker just has that nice vibe about the work and you can just, kind of, get lost over there.
Robin: Absolutely. Yeah, I love her stuff. And what am I watching? We’re currently watching something Australian, which you might not have over there. It’s called “Deadloch.” It’s brilliant. If it comes over, watch it. We nearly didn’t watch it. And it’s a series. It’s a cop series about a serial killer set in Tasmania in this very small town, and everybody’s a lesbian. And everyone’s either a lesbian or a lesbian hater, and there’s a serial killer on the loose and it’s hilarious. It’s so funny, but it’s thrilling at the same time. I think it’s genius, and I’m addicted to it. So, if that does come over to America or wherever you’re watching, anyone in Australia, watch “Deadloch.” It’s fantastic and hopefully it does go international.
Jeff: Now we all have something to watch, and we could check out something Australian. So, that’ll be fun.
Jeff: Excellent. Thank you for that. So, what is the best way for everyone to keep up with you online and find out when everything is coming?
Robin: So, obviously Facebook. You can find me on Facebook. Otherwise you can sign up for my newsletter at my website, which is www.authorrobinknight.com, and that way you’ll get all my newsletters and you’ll know exactly what’s happening and all my books are available in there as well. Or, you can find me on Amazon. All my books are on KU. So, it’s one nice, easy place to find me.
Jeff: Fantastic. Robin, it has been so awesome catching up with you. Thank you for finishing “Fathom’s Five,” and I can’t wait to read some of this new stuff that’s coming too.
Robin: Oh, good. Thank you for having me. It’s been so great. I love being on here.
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, head on over to the show notes page for this episode at BigGayFictionPodcast. com. We’ll have links to everything that we’ve talked about in this episode.
Jeff: Thanks so much to Robin for coming back to the show and talking about all the books. I’m eager for “Time Stormers” to start. Robin, you know it can’t come fast enough for me. But I’m also so looking forward to digging into “Heartless” and see what Robin’s created with that m/m/m story.
Will: Alright, I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up next Monday, we’re going to finish off our Super Summer Bonus episodes with a flashback to 2019.
Jeff: Back in May 2019, just a few days before “Red, White and Royal Blue” hit bookstores, we had Casey McQuiston on the show talking about their debut. With the movie adaptation coming out on August 11th, it’s a perfect time to revisit that interview and recall the story’s origins.
Will: Thank you so much for listening. 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.