Over the years as a writer, I have read many first drafts, Advance Reader Copies, and recently published books by new authors. I love it, especially if I can do any to help the writer. Writing is a difficult job and marketing after you publish the novel is mind-bending. So giving a shout out to a writer with a few novels is always helpful.
I sent Kit Fortier a list of questions after I read his book A Touch of Lightning and he answered in detail. Which shows to me that he has a quick mind and a lot more stories to tell. So let’s jump into the interview.
Novel Approach: This story obviously builds a world where magic is pitted against alchemy. How did that concept come to you?
Kit Fortier: I’ve been a huge fan of Japanese Role Playing Games (J-RPG), Manga, and Anime. Many of their stories centered around a power that had been used and abused by a party that is typically villainous—though sometimes a twist here and there makes you rethink who the real villains were. That being said, I wanted something similar that could play over a number of books, where the MCs find a foothold in their strengths and can grow over the course of the series, while simultaneously preparing them for what may likely be the epic battle to come. To that end, magic use has largely been glamours and mind-games, with the occasional use of blood for purposes nefarious or benign. Alchemy can be seen as a more physical “tool” where one could build shelter, raise shields, create weapons. But Alchemists are sorely at a loss for the one thing they have little defense against—the power the Aether can have over their minds if unguarded.
NA: Is there room for more novels here?
KF: So far, three novels have been completed. The third is in serious nit-picky mode, as the first draft definitely had some unpolished nuggets that deserved to be far better explored. The characters aren’t strangers to each other. In fact, the family, as it were, only stands to get bigger, as the battle they will inevitably face will not hinge on one or two men…
NA: Have you been to the beautiful places mentioned in the first novel?
KF: Unfortunately, I have yet to visit Devils Tower or the Grand Tetons National Park. They are effectively on my bucket list. For the most part, there are many things that I had to substitute in my head when describing similar landscapes. For example, the German Alps, which I have visited on a number of occasions, are a handy stand-in for the vista that Jake and Fox share at the lake at the base of the Tetons. The wall that is the circumference of Devils Tower reminds me much of the Grand Canyon—another view I have all but memorized. For these two locations in the novel, in addition to my substitutions, I had become very well acquainted with the National Park websites, photos shared on Google Images, even 3-D renderings of the locations through Google Maps. One of my beta readers had explained that I could not raise an earthen mound on the plateau of the Tower without raising suspicions, which lead me to having the men make an alchemy-created cave-shelter on the Tower’s face near the summit, hiding them from view without marring the surface.
NA: You served your country in the military just like your character Jake did. Is his place in the story give you a chance to vent about some wrongs that you saw yourself?
KF: I’ve kept Jake’s view of his service rather non-descript. I realized that a significant portion of veterans haven’t been exposed to the true horrors of the battlefield. If they have, it’s not likely they’d openly share about it, but rather leave it to serious conversation between a handful of friends and family, maybe even a therapist. Technically, Jake’s “encounter” with the mage and his Kuwaiti friend and Alchemist was one of the worst episodes during his time in the military, though it was not directly related to military action. Jake and Taylor, on the other hand, had been through hell-in-a-hand-basket together through their shared incident on a military assignment, though Jake would rather let Taylor take the lead on explaining his fate. We are only treated to the key points of the incident—it’s just enough to let Fox know that he’d seen some horrors up close and personal of his own, much like I did.
NA: Most writers of Male/Male romances and stories are women. I found a few differences in your writing than those I have read before. You focus more on touch, like Papa Bear’s chest hair being attractive to Fox, and his sleekness turning on Jake. In real life, are those sort of things important in gay relationships? (I’ve never read much in hetero romances about that, so it stands out for me.)
KF: When I took creative writing courses, my instructor was heavy-handed on the use of concrete imagery versus abstract imagery. When I describe the textures and sensations, I wanted to elicit a rather visceral reaction to the intimate moments, rather than a general sense of the events as a whole. It happens from time to time, and I am not deriding the use of abstract imagery. I just find that concrete imagery gets a lot more mileage, particularly when I write about the intricate details behind Alchemy. That being said, I can only speak for myself where the sensations of another man’s body are concerned. I know, for myself, that I would definitely relish in the intimate details, learning about my partner in such a way that not even his mom and his doctor could know.
NA: To me, the important part of the story is how much it takes to get to a happy ending. No matter what sex the main characters are, they get to struggle to make it. You made that work and made it appealing. Do
you find your audience is mostly gay men or is there a broader appeal to the story?
KF: Curiously enough, one of my Beta readers is a gent who is rather straight, but open-minded about the literature that comes his way. He’d read both Lightning and An Ocean of Light, and had nothing but praises for them (errors notwithstanding). Of my friends, I have a unique mix of both straight and LGBTQ+ readers interested in the stories. The reviews so far have largely been from ladies who are presumably fans of M/M fantasy-romance. I cannot speak to their sexualities, but it’s almost a certainty that ladies are more fans than the guys.
NA: Family relationships are high on the list of important things in your world. Fox is lucky to have a great dad. Jake is lucky to have a great son. Are these relationships based on your experience or more what
you would like to have?
KF: In all honesty, Jake’s son Ben is someone I would have liked to have been. More confident, more capable, and seemingly more self-assured—though we do see otherwise in the younger Hughes man. My upbringing came with a lot of recrimination, mind-games, invalidation, fear, and intense bouts of physical abuse, which is the polar opposite of what Fox’s father gave his son, and what the Samuels gave Ben. My polar opposite upbringing enabled me to imagine a better life for an only child, for both Ben and Fox. But even then, Ben and Fox had serious insecurities that clung to them throughout the novels.
NA: The scene in Iraq where Jake witnesses the death of an entire family by magic is vivid and compelling. Did you pull that out of your own service experiences?
KF: A dear friend of mine named Sam was an Army coroner. We met in Iraq, and our friendship largely consisted of hanging out wherever and whenever free-time allowed. Oftentimes, I’d hang out in his tent with members of his small unit. One night around Halloween, Sam disappeared. There was no word from him for two nights. I was concerned—he never mentioned going home or moving on to a different station. On the third night, he showed up, gray, haggard, shaken. It turned out he had spent around 48 hours collecting the body parts, not bodies of the dead American soldiers who were shot down in a Chinook Helicopter on their way to R&R. I wasn’t and am not one to make light of something like that. But I couldn’t begin to describe the horror he’d seen, as I’d never been privy to that. I have seen several dead Iraqis in different states of decomposition. I’d seen coalition dead with injuries to their heads and faces that would prevent an opened casket funeral back home. To that end, I was able to piece together the scenario that Jake happens upon using those recollections.
NA: I’ve mentioned my acquaintance, HelenKay Dimon, who is published and writes Male/Male romances. One of her best selling books is Mr. and Mr. Smith. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27876307-mr-and-mr-smith Who are some of your favorite writers in any genre?
KF: My favorite writers do indeed span genres, from Frank Herbert and the first six Dune books, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, the M/M fictions of Lucy Lennox, Sloane Kennedy, T.J. Klune, Jordan L. Hawk, and Mason Thomas, to fantasy-fiction writers such as Piers Anthony and J.K. Rowling.
NA: Do you have any words for aspiring writers, especially gay men and women looking to self publish?
KF: I started down this path over a year ago, after having finished T.J. Klune’s Ravensong. I was inspired by the system of magic in the novels in the Wolfsong series, and I found myself itching to write something that had all but literally been on the tip of my fingers. When I began writing, I was unemployed, which meant that I had huge swaths of time on my hands, and the mantra: “The only way to get it done is to do it!” on my mind. I wrote 99k words in Lightning in about 10 days. That ballooned up to 110k words after sweeps of edits and added material suggested by my author friends who read the book. But my crowning achievement was that at the end of 10 days, I had a full-fledged novel in my hands. It would take some time getting around to publishing it, because I couldn’t afford an editor or a proofreader at the time. Now that I have gainful employment, I’m aiming at fixing those situations, starting with book 3 and backtracking to the first two books. But seriously, in order to do it is, literally, to do it. Don’t put off the idea. Don’t wool-gather. Don’t start a collections of songs and photos, telling yourself that these would inspire you to write—because eventually, you’ve wool-gathered and collected mountains of dozens if not hundreds of “inspiring” pieces of material that you don’t even remember what the original idea was!
Thanks, Kit, that’s great advice and really great information here. And impressive to get a novel written in ten days! Keep on writing and publishing. Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Thursday. (Happy Easter!)