Welcome Chris T. Kat to the Smoocher’s Voice blog. We want to thank Chris for taking the time to answer some questions about herself, her writing and the Jeff Woods mystery series. The second book in the series, Sacrifices, released on Dreamspinner Press on April 28. [Yesterday]
Chris T. Kat lives in the middle of Europe, together with her husband of many years and their two children. She stumbled upon the M/M genre by luck and was swiftly drawn into it. She divides her time between work, her family—which includes chasing after escaping horses and lugging around huge instruments such as a harp—and writing. She enjoys a variety of genres, such as mystery/suspense, paranormal, and romance. If there's any spare time, she happily reads for hours, listens to audiobooks, or crafts.
Jodi: Welcome to the blog, Chris. Tell us a little about yourself.
Chris: “I never know what to say here... Okay, let's try: When I don't write, I work as a Special Ed teacher, which I enjoy a lot. I'm specialized in dealing with kids with physical and learning disabilities. At the moment, I work at a primary school where special Ed students also attend. Other than that, I love to spend time with my family, spend time outdoors, and also read lots and lots of books. :)”
Jodi: How long have you been writing in the m/m genre?
Chris: “I started writing fan fiction in 2008, and did that for about three years in various fandoms. In 2011, I decided to write original fiction. And since April 2012, I'm a published author.”
Jodi: What made you choose this genre for your stories?
Chris: “I've always been attracted to same-sex romance stories, even as a very young teenager. However, I do read m/f stories as well, although I generally prefer the younger man older woman trope.”
Jodi: Who are some of your favorite authors?
Chris: “Oooh, what a nice question! Let's see, Dean Koontz, Lynn Flewelling, David Eddings, James Rollins, and the newest addition is Megan Derr.”
Jodi: What inspired you to write the Jeff Woods series?
Chris: “In 2011, I visited my best friend in the US. Everything was new and exciting and wonderful. I was pretty overwhelmed by all the impressions because U.S. cities are so much different from European cities. We took a walk along the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, and I just knew this area had to be the setting for my next book. My poor friend had to suffer through my interrogations about locations of bars, stores, and so on, and she even drove me in and out of Atlantic City, so I could get a better handle on distances.
“For a long time, I wanted to write a story with a severely disabled child (Sean), and the difficulties the families have to face on a daily basis. I also wanted to show the difference between a character who is devoted to the child (Alex) and another character (Jeff Woods) who has a hard time getting over his prejudices.
“I knew right from the beginning that this was going to be a series, and planned for three books. I wanted to show the characters from getting to know each other, to forming a family, and eventually to getting their happily ever after.”
Jodi: Are your characters complete fiction, or are they modeled after real people?
Chris: “[They are] partly fiction and partly modeled after real people. Sean is based upon a boy I had the pleasure to work with years ago. Even as a teacher, you always meet some kids that touch you deeply, and he was definitely one of those.
“Jeff Woods is based on people I met that just couldn't deal with disabled children/people. When I told folks I wanted to become a Special Ed teacher, most of them looked at me as if I'd just grown a second head. The job would be too difficult. How would I cope with all the misery around me? These arguments still make my blood boil. Even nowadays — and I've worked in my job for about fifteen years now — people still either pity me or tell me how brave I am. I grit my teeth through these observations because I don't get it. I love working with kids, whether they're disabled or not, and that's it.
“Anyway, I've met a lot of prejudiced people in my line of work, and also as a mother of an autistic child. I channeled all the prejudices, etc. into the character of Jeff Woods in the first book. My way of dealing with all the insanity, I guess.”
Jodi: The mistreatment and prejudice against the severely disabled is a theme in some of your books. Why did you choose to attack this subject?
Chris: “Like I said above, I have some strong opinions on the subject. I get that if you've never seen or spoken to a severely disabled person, the first meetings will be awkward. Especially with non-speaking kids, you need patience and regular visits to be able to interpret signs. But if, after years of working at a Special Ed school, you're still whining about the kids drooling and how you always need to change your clothes after work? Ugh! Maybe you've chosen the wrong profession.
“Okay, as you can see I get riled up easily. ;-) Writing about disabilities is something I want to do to help create awareness.”
Jodi: Have you received some negativity about your treatment of this subject in your books?
Chris: “Absolutely. Several people didn't finish the first Jeff Woods mystery because they hated the main character. That's fine by me, I stop reading books too if they're not to my liking. The only thing that really irked me was that some people confused the character's opinion with me as an author. I admit that hurt, but that's the way things go.”
Jodi: According to your blog, there will be one final book in the Jeff Woods series. When is that scheduled to publish?
Chris: “I'll submit the book today or tomorrow and hope DSP will offer me a contract for it. If that happens, then I assume it'll be released early 2015.”
Jodi: Will Parker and David get their own story?
Chris: “I'm still torn about that. I'd love to write their story, but I'm thinking about cutting down on my writing time, so I'm not sure which stories will become my priority.”
Jodi: Why did Jeff need to leave the police force between the two books?
Chris: “He didn't need to leave per se, but for the overall story arc, I felt compelled to have him change his profession.”
Jodi: While Jeff and Alex are both dynamic characters, it seems Jeff is presented as more evolved at the beginning of Sacrifices. What makes it so difficult for Alex to trust his feelings, Jeff, and the relationship?
Chris: “Alex has been Sean's sole caretaker for a long time. He's been used to dealing with a lot from a young age on, and for the past years he’s only ever relied on himself. He's had his sexual encounters, but no real relationship. It's a big transition for him to depend on someone else, and he also feels out of his depth since he's never been in a relationship before. In that regard, he’s a very young man, overwhelmed by strong emotions and no knowledge of how to deal with them.”
Jodi: Is the Church of Virtue a metaphor?
Chris: “Caught that, huh? :) When I named the Church, I checked several Church names, but I knew that I wanted a name that sounds good even though the Church members aren't good people, and definitely not virtuous people.
Jodi: Has it been a challenge to write these books in first person point of view from Jeff’s perspective?
Chris: “Many of my books are written in first person point of view because it's my favorite point of view. It has its limitations, but generally it's the easiest way for me to slide into a story. These are also the stories that flow best when I write them.
“Writing from Jeff's perspective was a challenge, however, especially in the first book, because I didn't like him much in the beginning. He was a prejudiced asshole, but I always reminded myself that fear and the lack of knowledge guided his actions, not maliciousness. Let's say, writing book two and three was easier since he's now more relaxed and open.”