Today I am starting a little guest series I am hoping to call #WhyIWrite. From the hashtag, you can tell it's something that's popped up on twitter. That's not where I got the idea, but I did borrow it for the guest series. Posts will happen every Friday. So, please welcome Kaje Harper as she tells you why she writes. And feel free to share your own why I write stories. (Or contact me to be a guest.)
Hi, my name is Kaje Harper and I write M/M Romance.
That sounds like the opening of an AA meeting, with one big exception. I'm not looking to quit. I love what I do, and I think more people should do it too.
My friend Patricia invited me to take a turn here on her blog to talk about why I love to write. Gotta say – it's not for the money. I have 4 novels and five shorter pieces floating around, and so far I've made...drum-roll please... about $650. Now I admit, that's partly because my first book came out just this April, my publisher pays quarterly, and the second-party vendors pay on the previous quarter. When my next check arrives, it will hopefully be bigger. Oh, and that also doesn't count the $120 from my Amazon short story, which I donated to charity. But it's pretty clear that writing in this genre isn't a get-rich quick scheme.
Which leaves just one answer. Probably the same one you've heard from other writers here. I love it. I would write even if no-one ever read my work. In fact I did that. When I started actually taking the stories out of my head and putting them on paper five years ago, it was just for my own entertainment. I had about seven novels on my hard drive by the time my husband got tired of the keyboard clicking and suggested my obsession would be a lot more understandable if I was actually getting paid for it. So I tried selling one, and lo and behold, people were willing to buy it. The hourly rate is still laughable, but it's now an official occupation.
But the joy is in the creation. People appear under my fingers who had no existence before I breathed life into them.
And also the control. Because I can take those people and I can torment them with bad childhoods, vindictive exes, assault, battery, mayhem, ghosts and wolves, and then in the end I can find them a partner who loves them. In real life, I can't make the world bend for the folks I love. But in my books, I can take all the hard, painful, hurtful things this world does to a man and make it better. They will have a happy ending, damn it! How much closer to a god can one be?
I also love watching my stories unfold. Some authors plot out their writing ahead of time and know exactly where the story is going before they begin. But I just dive right in. I start at the beginning, with a character or a scene, and go on from there. And sometimes even I get surprised by what happens.
Like my upcoming novella, Ghosts & Flames, which will be out from MLR Press in November. I wrote it for a call for a paranormal Christmas story. (And can I say I just love the idea of being asked to write a M/M Romance Paranormal Christmas story? Talk about hitting all the genres.) Anyway, I was determined that I was going to do something that didn't have the standard vampires, werewolves and demons in it. So I started out with a ghost story.
If you've read my free novel Lies and Consequences you may remember that one of the main characters was a writer. And when they were stuck on the mountain, he started reading a bit from his novel about a reporter named Ben and his friend Grant, who was a ghost. I'd meant to actually write that book someday, but I doubt I'll get to it. This short novella tells the story of how Ben and Grant work through their relationship when one man is insubstantial and the other has never spoken up about how he feels. A romance ghost story, right? Except in the middle of writing a scene, these vampires walked into the bar. Well, they didn't actually get in but...
And I sat there in front of my computer and said “WTF? Vampires?” But there they were and they wouldn't go away. So they had to become part of the story. I love being surprised by the narrative that unfolds as I write. Like reading a book, only better.
And since I've started publishing, I have the added pleasure of watching people react to my books. They talk about my characters as if they were real. “Was Tony being selfish in asking Mac to come out for him, or was Mac being cowardly making Tony live in the closet?” So much fun, to see the men I created being psychoanalyzed and discussed as if they were friends.
There is a downside to publishing my work. It's a little like walking around naked. I'm showing something very personal to a wide audience and some of them will dislike or ridicule it. Sometimes for reasons I can dismiss, like the one-star review of And to All a Good Night on Barnes and Noble that said, “Enough with the perverted queer stories. Too disgusting for words.” Now the blurb for this short story begins, “MPD detective Mac and high school teacher Tony decided that a closeted relationship was worth the risks and difficulties.” The person couldn't guess this was about two gay men? Not someone I need to worry about.
But sometimes people whose opinions I respect will down-rate my work. Sure, that stings. But it is a small blip in the great pleasure of creation. And besides, it's a good reason to go out and try to do better. To create a pair of men who are even more well rounded. To write a plot that has fewer holes. To design a werewolf society that isn't all happy-pretty but is filled with concealment and suspicion and predators. To reach out and touch readers as best I can, with the stories of men who are real and strong and interesting and flawed, and oh, yes, gay. And who find each other and deep abiding love at the end of the book. What could be better?