Q.) …why are you multiple people?
A.) Genre differentiation – so you know what you’re getting by the name on the cover. Xen is for SFF and horror; Cole is for contemporary romance and erotica.
Q.) It seems like Cole is more for cishet stories and Xen is for LGBTQIA.
A.) Nah. There’s queerness all over Crow City – I talk about writing Leigh as a queer heroine in a heterosexual romance in THE LOST, Vin makes no secret of being bisexual in both THE FOUND and THE SAVED, AUTUMN is M/M, THE RICH will be M/M, not to mention Drake in the Bayou’s End series is gay and will eventually get his own story. I will admit that in my Xen stories I tend to gravitate more toward queerness – because as much as I love contemporary, SFF and horror are the ones where I crave to see myself most often. I’ve yet to write a cishet SFF story (well, that’s been published, I have one out on sub), but it’s safe to say I’ll probably wander through whatever strikes me as far as sexuality and pairings for both pen names, with no distinction between either because sexuality isn’t a genre.
Q.) So why did you change your screen names and domain?
A.) Universal platform. Felt weird having everything under Cole while building an increasing presence as Xen. Needed something more broadly applicable for a single brand.
Q.) So is Xen your real name?
A.) No, but it’s pretty close. It’s a variant of an old university nickname.
Q.) Then what should I call you?
A.) I’ll answer to either Xen or Cole, but most just call me X. It’s simpler.
Q.) You’re an author…but also started a review blog?
A.) Because I want to focus more time on reviewing books from marginalized authors. Advancing diversity in publishing isn’t just about pushing my own career. It’s about using what resources I have to help uplift other marginalized authors, too. I’m bad at publicly gushing about books on social media, so reviews are a good way I can help other authors by boosting ratings and advocating their books.
Q.) Don’t you feel like that’s a conflict of interest? What if you hate a book?
A.) I have provisions for that and a reason behind my “three stars or higher” policy. You can read more about that on the review policy page.
Q.) So if I’d like you to review my book, how can I send it?
A.) Again, review policy page. Details there.
Q.) So back to your books. Will [X book] be available in print?
A.) If it’s any of my self-published work, yes. I don’t always release print editions at the same time as e-book, but print usually goes live within a few months of digital release. If it’s an Entangled or Riptide book, that’s at the publisher’s discretion, but so far both my publisher books are available in print.
Q.) I don’t get the Crow City prequel novellas. There’s no romance, there’s not even sex, and I’m supposed to read them…after the books they’re prequels for?
A.) The prequel novellas are optional side stories, and not really standalones; they’re hero novellas, companions to their hero(ine) novels. THE FALLEN is companion to THE LOST; THE SAVED is companion to THE FOUND. (Reading order list is here.) In the main line novels we stay in the heroine’s POV, and there are some things about the hero that remain a mystery, both for the tension of it and to avoid infodumping backstory that it’s intimated their opposite learns off-page. That backstory instead is told in a more active way in the side novellas, while weaving them along the path that leads them to the person they’ll fall in love with. That’s why it’s more fun to read them after – to enjoy the mystery of the hero during the main novel, then unravel his secrets and catch those little teasers pointing him toward his love interest in the novella.
Q.) Then why is AUTUMN a side story even though it’s a full-length novel?
A.) It was never planned to be a part of the series, and was written on a whim in response to overwhelming reader interest. Also, it breaks away from the formula of the other books, and in a lot of ways it’s just a continuation of THE FOUND; on Twitter I described it as fanfic of THE FOUND where everyone’s favorite OTP becomes canon, and that’s not far off. But it also doesn’t follow the prologue + flashbacks formula of the other main line novels; it’s dual POV instead of single POV; it doesn’t have a companion hero novella; and, it’s sweetly angsty, light, and hopeful instead of a sunken pit of grimdark misery.
Q.) I’ve seen hints and rumors of a spinoff series from Crow City, about Wally and his circus. Is that true?
A.) Yep. The series will be called Caravan of the Macabre, and will be set in the 90s; while Walford Gallifrey will be a major character in the story, it’ll be mostly centered on the people in and around his circus, and their relationships. It will probably be very, very queer, and I’m hoping to start writing it in 2018.
Q.) Why do you write such dark stories?
A.) Because I like reading dark stories? I like writing and reading light stories, too. Honestly, I like everything. And because I write what I like…yeah. Also, the darker stories are a bit therapeutic for me. I’ve been through some shite. I don’t exactly do well with normative life narratives, and it helps me to write and read stories with people who’ve dealt with things similar to my own struggles, especially if they fight their way toward the kind of happiness that works for them instead of some universal ideal of happiness. I love fantasy happy endings and read/write them when I want to feel light, but sometimes I need darker struggles toward happiness that make me feel understood.
Q.) I wrote a review of your book! Want to see?
A.) If you tag me in a review on social media, I’ll likely RT it, but to be honest…I probably won’t read it. I try not to read reviews, either positive or negative. Reviews are for other readers, and I just don’t feel comfortable hovering around when that’s your space and you don’t need to feel like authors are watching or policing or judging. If you reviewed my book, thank you so very much and I love you, but the best thing I can do out of gratitude is respect spaces for reviewers/readers and not go barging in.
Q.) You said Drake from A SECOND CHANCE AT PARIS will get his own story. What about Ion’s other sister Scheherazade?
A.) Yep. A #2.5 F/F novella between Ophelia’s book and Drake’s book.
Q.) Is each book in the Bayou’s End series a standalone?
A.) Yes. Certain events follow a timeline from book to book and familiar characters return in each book, but they can each be read as a standalone HEA.
Q.) Why are Zero’s and Scheherazade’s stories considered #.5 stories instead of main line novels?
A.) Because they never take place in Bayou’s End at any time in the story, they happen outside the main timeline of events, and they’re on the shorter end of novels/longer end of novellas.
Q.) When is the next Bayou’s End book out?
A.) Probably late 2018 or early 2019. I’d like to finish out the Crow City series and then come back to wrap up Bayou’s End before I start any more new series.
Q.) Is it true you hide Easter Eggs in your books?
A.) Kind of? Just silly little wink-nod things, plus in nearly every book I write I make some mention of one of my favorite obsessions.
Q.) What do I get if I find one of the Easter Eggs?
A.) Personal satisfaction? I don’t know, no one has yet. They really are small things, but I might toss a $10 gift card or something to whomever is first to find them.
Q.) What’s the timeline for your next book?
A.) Right now I’m spending some time on THE GIRL WITH THE STARS ON HER SKIN, and shooting for a late summer release. After that, hoping to get THE RICH and THE ROGUE out by the end of the year. I’m working on a number of other side projects, but I won’t be able to concretely say anything about those until 2018.
Q.) Why does it take you so long to write new books?
A.) Full-time job as a consultant and freelancer, which basically means being a small business owner and all the off-hours work that entails. Reviewing. Working on a side art project. Chronic pain that sometimes limits my physical capacity to write. Having a life. Occasionally remembering to sleep. Plus I write long. Also I do a lot of things on my own that are usually handled by a publishing company, and even though I’ve started delegating more lately, that still takes up time to work with the people I hire to help out.
Q.) Your new covers are amazing. Are you still designing your own covers?
A.) Nope. I might be a good cover artist, but I’m not a great one, and I hired someone who can pull off that professional polish I was missing. Her name is Les, she’s brilliantly creative with a beautiful style, and you can find her here.
Q.) Are you really a guy?
A. ) Oh, for the love of – Yes. Jesus. Go read this. Then go hug a puppy.
Q.) Then how do you write from the female POV?
A.) …mostly by listening to the women around me and trying to empathize instead of dismissing, trivializing, objectifying, hypersexualizing, and stereotyping, which is pretty much a solid rule for any time you’re writing outside your lane, realm of experience, or sphere of privilege.
Q.) You empathize with women? Are you gay?
A.) Unashamedly bisexual, actually (no, we aren’t mythical creatures). Which really has nothing to do with treating those who are female-identified as equal human beings that I can empathize with.
Q.) Why won’t you tell us your real name?
A.) Because it’s not important, and I like to have a little privacy despite the expectation of continuous, performative openness required of an author in the age of social media. That, and I tend to work with stuffy old guard corporate white guys, and I have zero interest in justifying what I do in my off hours to them.
Q.) You disappear off social media a lot.
A.) Burnout. Plus if I have a lot to do social media is a tempting distraction and method of procrastination, and I need to stay away to maintain some level of discipline and focus. Wordcount before socializing. I always come back. Eventually.
Q.) You spell “shit” as “shite” and “ass” as “arse,” and you say “white guys” as if you aren’t one. Are you foreign?
A.) American born, brown as the day is long, and from a multicultural, multiethnic, multilingual background. You’d be surprised how many brown people who speak multiple languages are from here.
The spellings…all right, this is silly, but I first learned written English from very old books (while I learned spoken English from kindergarten and TV). So I first learned the British spellings of a lot of words. My high school English teacher trained most of it out of me, but not all – though I should really train myself to stop anyway, as it looks affected and pretentious, and I don’t even use “shite” the right way half the time.
Q.) Why did you take down the Speak Project?
A.) No one was using it. Also people who read it weren’t reading the names on the posts, and thought they were all from me. And while the sympathy and kindness were sweet, those weren’t my stories or my pains.
Q.) Why did you take down Dammit, Cole?
A.) Again, no one was using it. Plus it was a whim and someone else’s idea that I’m just not really into anymore.
Q.) I won something from you in a contest and haven’t gotten it yet.
A.) Any digital items such as gift cards, you should’ve gotten within 24-48 hours. If you didn’t, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org; it’s possible it was overlooked in my emails. If it’s a physical item, those are on pause right now for two reasons; I’m re-covering all my books and waiting to stock up on physical copies until they’re all done, plus since I just moved I really need to set up a virtual P.O. for a return address so I’m not just giving out my home address everywhere. Once that’s taken care of, I’ll get caught up on any backlogged books that need to be signed and sent. Sorry for the delay, but thank you for your patience.
Q.) Who is Tybalt?
A.) Tybalt was my geriatric little monster of a cat, whom I loved against all reason. After first losing his hearing to a battle with FHV, he suffered a seizure that left him with feline vestibular syndrome. In March of 2015, after nearly fifteen years with me, he died of complications from a much larger seizure. The cat in The Lost is named Tybalt in honor of him – and my new boys, Mercutio and Benvolio, take their names from the same play.
|NEW CROW CITY COVERS
The Crow City Series now has a new cover set – dark, sleek, and just in time for the latest book in the series. See the full series covers here.
|TWENTY NOTES TO THE ANXIOUS, MELANCHOLY WRITER
Judging yourself? Feeling down on your writing? Over-comparing until you work yourself into a hole and can’t get out? Here are a few reminders to help you breathe and refocus.
|AUTUMN (CROW CITY #2.75)
The latest installment in the Crow City series is here – with series favorites Walford Gallifrey and Joseph Armitage returning in a poignant story of reconciliation and newfound love in the first contemporary M/M in the Crow City Series.