Transcript: 4. K.M. Neuhold
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Full episode transcript
Lee: Welcome to episode number four of the Low Angst Library podcast. Today we have an interview with K.M. Neuhold.
I’m your resident librarian Lee Blair. This library is your stop for all things light, fluffy, funny, sweet, spicy, and everything in between. I not only publish low angst queer romances, but I’m a voracious reader of them too.
I created this podcast because I wanted to talk to other authors who write romances with main characters who identify as LGBTQIA2S+ because I wanted to learn more about what draws them to writing on the lighter side of angst, learn more about their books and their writing processes.
I’m pumped to share my interview with K.M. Neuhold today, we talked about planning book series, low angst motorcycle clubs, and how Kyleen moved from writing high angst to finding her sweet spot on the lighter side.
K.M. Neuhold is a complete romance junkie. Bisexual and polyamorous, she often describes herself as being in love with love. She loves to write stories full of bearded cinnamon roll men who gets super swoony HEAs. Her philosophy is there’s so much angst and sadness for LGBT characters in media. All she wants is to give them the happiest happily ever after she can with little angst, tons of humor and so much steam.
K.M. fully admits to her tendencies of making sure every side character has a full backstory. That will likely always lead to every book turning into a series or spinoff. When she’s not writing, she’s a lion tamer, an astronaut, and a superhero. Just kidding. She is like watching Netflix and snuggling with her Huskies while her amazing husband brings her coffee.
Okay, onto the interview.
K.M. Neuhold, Kyleen, thank you so much for hanging out with me in the Low Angst Library. I’m excited you’re here.
K.M.: Yeah, thanks for having me. I’ve been looking forward to this.
Lee: Awesome. I would love to just jump in and find out from you what got you into writing books and romance specifically.
K.M.: I’ve been writing like, As long as I can remember. Honestly. Like when I was a little kid even, my mom would get me these blank books from the craft store. And I would mostly, at that time it was pictures, you know, picture stories and couple words like making little children’s books for myself basically.
So yeah, I’ve been writing pretty much as soon as I could figure out how to put words together to make any sense, I was writing. When I was in high school and stuff, I mostly wrote a lot of like high fantasy. I was a Lord of the Rings girl. You know how it is when you’re young and writing pretty much _Lord of the Rings _retellings. So I’m, you know, I’m brilliant.
Then as I got into my twenties and I was still just kind of writing for fun, you know, in between taking classes and working and all that and just kind of a side hobby. And I started reading a little bit more romance versus the fantasy and the sci-fi that I’d been reading when I was younger.
And I kind of realized that when I was writing my own stories, that writing the relationships, you know, cause there always would be like little romance, side romances inside these fantasy and sci-fi stories I would write. I realized that that part was actually my favorite part. So I thought, you know what? I’m gonna try my hand out writing just a romance and see how that goes. And that was the first book that I fully finished and, you know, wrote the whole thing. I was like, all right, I guess I’m a romance writer. And just kind of took off from there and fell in love with the genre and never left.
Lee: I love that evolution of just kind of, uh, doing it when you’re a kid and then just navigating through different genres and everything.
K.M.: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. It’s one of those things I think for a lot of people probably changes as you kind of grow up and figure out who you are as a person and all that. And I still love fantasy, sci-fi. I’m a big horror person. But yeah, romance, I just, I’ve always been kind of a hopeless, romantic at heart, so it made a lot of sense for this to be my home in literature.
Lee: I love that so much, and I’d love to know what drew you specifically to writing low angst, especially since you used to write kind of more heavier angst. What was that transition like for you?
K.M.: That was definitely a bit of an evolution as well. So when I first got into writing and was transitioning into M/M and all that. I think, we’re all learning a lot when we’re baby writers. And to me you get a lot of advice and you see a lot of people say that the story is in the conflict.
And so I would focus on that, Okay, what are the conflicts? How can I make this super emotional? Cause if it’s super emotional, then it’s gonna stick with readers and they’re gonna like that. Basically I kind of had in my mind that angsty stories that are really, really emotional are good stories.
That was sort of what I had focused on. I did have one book early on, and that was actually the second M/M, that I wrote, and it’s Going Commando, which is one of my most popular ones. Naturally, I didn’t find a lot of angst in those characters or in that situation. Like it just didn’t feel right.
They were just kind of easygoing characters. So I just wrote it the way it felt, right? And it ended up being just really lighthearted, funny, no conflict pretty much between the characters. To the point that when I gave it to the editor I had at the time, she emailed me back and she was like this is not even a story. Nothing happens in this story. You cannot publish this. And I was like-
Lee: Oh my gosh.
K.M.: Okay, but I’m going to, anyways. And it became my most popular book for years and years. I mean, even still today, readers are obsessed with one of the main characters. Royal, like it’s one of my most popular, most talked about books.
And so after I kind of finished my first Heathen’s Ink series, which is mostly pretty angsty except for Going Commando. I was sort of trying to figure out what came next. And I was writing some more super angsty stuff. I wrote a rockstar series that was really heavy angst and a couple standalones that were super angsty. But they just weren’t like hitting readers the way that I wanted them to.
So I was examining my career and thinking about what’s gonna come next? What series should I work on now? It occurred to me that readers still—it had been probably over two years since I had published Going Commando—at that point, they were still talking about Royal constantly. They were still talking about that book. It was still the one that everybody brought up. Everybody talked about, it was posted about my reader group constantly. And so I thought to myself, You know what? Why don’t I just try some more low angst? And if that doesn’t hit either, then I’ll figure it out from there.
I think the first, like consciously on purpose low angst that I wrote was Rocket Science. That one just exploded. It was another one that readers absolutely fell in love with. And so it just drew me to realize like, I think this is, number one, where my talent is. And number two, what readers want from me and what I really love writing. So I sort of just leaned into that and have been focusing on that ever since.
Lee: That’s great. And it’s so nice when what you like writing, what the readers like, and what your talent is all lines up. Because I see some people posting like, oh, I would like to write high angst, but I struggle with that. Or I really would like to write lower angst stories, but everything that comes out of me is really heavily emotional and intense.
But you’re so right. When we’re taught writing, whether it’s in workshops or other things, when you’re taught, like writing a romance and some of that formula, it’s, it’s the conflict. And you’re right, like the, the conflict is the source of that arc, those story beats, like everything needs to center around a conflict between the characters in the romance.
K.M.: Yeah. I did a talk for, um, RWA, Romance Writers of America. I did like a presentation about writing polyamory stories for them and, and they’re largely straight romance writers, not gay romance writers. So I was sort of sitting in on the meeting for a little bit before, and that was their topic that they were talking about that day was angst and, and how do you make sure, you know, that’s where the story is. You need all the conflict. What more can I do to torture my characters? Your book’s not gonna sell unless you’ve tortured the characters beyond recognition before finally giving them that happily ever after on the very last page.
And so, you know, I kind of like just thinking to myself like, wow, that’s no. I mean, that works for some people. Yes. But whoa, no, that’s not the only way to do it.
Lee: I wish I had learned that years ago. I joined RWA back in 2005, and I swear it wasn’t until last year that I had that low angst realization, and I’m like, oh, I’ve got like 17 years of unlearning to do in terms of how I’ve Yeah.
K.M.: It’s so drilled in there. Yep. Even anything you learn about, you know, writing, what are the beats of writing romance? Like everything is just focused on how miserable can you make your characters so that their happily ever after is well earned. Like sometimes it’s nice just to have a story about people falling in love.
Lee: Yeah, and it just gives readers more options so that whatever mood they’re in at whatever angst level they want, they can find what they’re looking for.
K.M.: Exactly. And you’re always gonna need that palate cleanser after you read a book that makes you cry your eyes out, just what now? You can reach for a K.M. Neuhold book and just feel happy and fluffy for a couple hours.
Lee: Exactly. I love that.
And what does low angst mean to you? So we know how important it is and kind of the vibe that you put in your books, but what do you consider low angst? What are those traits and characteristics?
K.M.: Yeah. So for me it’s a couple things. One of the big ones is that it’s not gonna be anything so extreme that it makes you wanna cry when you’re reading it . So, you know, nobody’s gonna die. Nobody’s going to be injured beyond recognition. Nobody’s gonna lose a family member, nothing like. Or if they do, you know, I focus on keeping the emotions more on the happy end. So even if they have a difficult chapter, by the next chapter, I try to turn things in a more happy light so that you don’t linger on those emotions. It doesn’t start to weigh you down. So I think that’s a big part of, for me, where angst comes in. When you’re kind of weighed down with emotional stuff for many, many chapters in a row, or for the overall theme of the book. And that low conflict between the couple.
So even if, obviously, they’re not gonna be declaring their love and getting married on page two. But the things that keep them apart don’t necessarily have to be things that make you feel heavy and sad for them. It could just be normal little obstacles to get over that are a little bit more low key and a little bit more realistic. Almost like everyday life. The type of things that an average person would find in getting into a new relationship versus some of the high drama type emotions and things that you will typically find more in romance stories or in fiction. So that’s to me what low angst is.
Lee: I view it the same way and what you said about it being kind of everyday situations and just normal new relationship conflicts. I love that about low angst, and I really like how a lot of low ang stories tend to have higher communication and sort of working through. And not that they all do or that they need that. ‘Cause, like, me as a person, I am terrible if there’s like interpersonal conflict or if I have to like tell someone how I feel in a relationship. Oh my God. But I, so for me, part of the fantasy of reading some low angst stories is that they have the ability to talk when I don’t.
K.M.: I was talking with my husband about it. Um, cause you know, I talk to him about my books a lot. And I was kind of telling him I’m definitely in my stories. It’ll be a situation where if there is a problem, by the next chapter, they’re talking it out. As you’re kind of saying, they’re having an adult conversation about it and they’re putting their feelings on the line and they’re resolving it.
And he was like, yeah, that definitely makes sense for you to write something like that because that’s exactly how I am in real life. Like the two of us will get into an argument and within 20 minutes I need to be sitting down. Okay, we had our chance to have an outburst. Now we’re gonna sit down and we’re going to calmly discuss what it was that we were both upset about so we can hear each other and understand. I cannot let conflicts go on. So it makes a lot of sense that that kind of naturally evolved in my writing.
Lee: God, that’s so healthy. I love it.
So before we jump in and talk about your books and writing process, I would like to know about some of your reading habits. Do you have preferences in terms of angst for what you read?
K.M.: I prefer to read lower angst stuff. I don’t really like books that are gonna make me cry, that are gonna make me feel really sad and weigh me down after I’ve finished reading them. I mostly stick to low angst stuff, funny stuff. High heat is a big one for me. Definitely has its place—lower heat books, but for me, it doesn’t really draw me in if they’re not gonna be getting it on quite often in the book. So those are mostly what I gravitate towards.
Lee: And do you read while you’re writing or are you a writer that can’t read while you’re drafting?
K.M.: I do read while I’m writing. I’ve definitely been in a bit of a book slump for the last year or so, but that’s mostly because of my ADHD, not because of intentional purpose not to read as much. But yeah, I do, I think. The hard thing is when I get into a book I really like, I get into the habit where I’d rather read than write.
So sometimes I try to limit myself If there’s an author who I know I’m obsessed with. Okay, I’m gonna read their book this weekend, so it’s done before Monday when I have to work again.
Lee: That’s so true. I have that same issue. And I tell myself that part of it is, well, I’m just soaking up the vibes, like the low angst, light vibes, and it’s inspiring my writing because I’m immersing myself in it. And then I’m like, no. you need to, that’s, you’re
K.M.: Right. I’ll be sitting down and writing like, all I’m thinking about is their book. And I’m like, Okay, no, I just gotta finish that before I-
Lee: yes. Oh my gosh. Same.
Do you have any low angst book recommendations of anyone you read lately or not lately?
K.M.: Yeah. Mia Monroe is always a big favorite of mine. We’re good friends and we alpha read for each other. So our stuff’s really similar in tone and vibe and all that. Some of my other favorites, if people like shifters and Mpreg, Amy Bellows is amazing. She has just the fluffiest shifter, Mpreg romances ever. They always make me feel so happy. Another big favorite is Stella Starling. She has not been writing for a few years now, but she’s got a pretty decently big back catalog and her books were all happy and wonderful. Spencer Spears is another one. Similar, I know he hasn’t been writing too recently, but all of his stuff is just really feel good and always put a smile on my face. So those are a couple of my favorite go-to low angst authors.
Lee: Love that list. I’ve got Spencer’s Christmas, the first of his Christmas duology, sitting at the top of my TBR to reread, to put myself in like the Christmas mood.
K.M.: Yep. Oh, that’s perfect. Yep.
Lee: All right. Let’s talk about your writing. Can you tell me about your writing process?
K.M.: It’s chaotic. I mostly write series. So usually where I start is I come up with a series idea and I’ll start by writing out what that idea revolves around. For example, the Four Bears Construction series. Just write myself a little, couple sentences that’s, you know, 40-year-old, uh, blue collar type guys who work together and are best friends and who own this construction company. Kind of give myself a little overview of what I’m thinking about.
A lot of times I like to write out titles taglines, things like that, to kind of give myself a little vibe of what I’m going for. And then I’ll kind of start planning out the characters and picking out like what tropes I think each book will be.
A lot of times from there, like I would have books, say I write down, you know, the four main characters I wanna have and a brief idea of what I think their book would be. A lot of times there’ll also be alternative ideas, so there might be two or three ideas for what book one could possibly be. But I know who the character’s gonna be.
I sort of plan it out that way. So it’s a little like chaotic, but focused for me. And then when it comes down to actually getting into writing that specific book, I’ll look at that document I made for the whole series and I will start thinking about that character. I start typically by planning out, making sure I have a solid idea of what I wanna do about tropes. So whether it’s gonna be fake boyfriend, woke up married, second chance romance. whatever the case is with that, I write down the tropes I think it’s gonna be. And then I do kind of like a whole thought dump. That’s usually a couple of paragraphs where I will write out just the whole idea that I have as it’s running through my head.
That’s usually very messy, difficult to follow unless you’re me. Like blurt out of all the ideas. And then I take that and I, I turn that into a coherent outline, which I will then not look at again for a month until I’m stuck and I’m on chapter 20. And I’m like, what’s supposed to be happening now? And then I look back at that outline I made all those weeks ago.
And once I have the outline done, usually I will write out the blurb, which a lot of authors think is insane. But I like to have the blurb done so that, that kind of gives me an idea of, again, sort of the vibe that I wanna go for. A lot of times it kind of helps me get an idea of like the character voice and just sort of a general feel for what I want the story to be. It’s almost like a goal post. Like, I want this blurb to fit the story when the story is finished. And then I just dive in and start working.
Lee: I love that and I admire that you write the blurb early. That’s actually something I was talking to a couple writing friends last week about, as I was struggling to work on my own blurb. Dammit, next time, I’m writing this thing at the start, so that I will have a draft. And then when the draft of the book is done, I won’t be like, Okay, I just wrote 75,000 words, but why can’t I write a 250-word blurb?
K.M.: Weirdly, I find it so much easier. So it, it is kind of like this for me. I also pick up my cover models first, and then I will write the descriptions of the characters from there. Because it’s too hard to go in the other direction to, you know, have this character in your mind and try to find someone who fits it.
And for me, it’s kind of the same thing with the blurb and the story. Like when I only have a broad idea of the story, it’s much easier for me to condense that idea into a brief blurb than it is to take 70,000 words of this whole long thing and figure out, okay, how do I explain that in a concise way? Like it’s almost, it, it’s too much and too detailed in my mind at that point to be able to condense it easily.
So it just, yeah, it makes sense to me.
Lee: Oh my gosh, that logic. Yep. Sold. I’m doing it. I just started drafting a book two days ago, and I’m gonna stop and I’m gonna write the blurb.
K.M.: Do it. Yes. Write the blurb.
Lee: Where do you get your ideas and inspiration?
K.M.: All over the place. A lot of times from music, you know, I’ll hear a song and, one lyric or one line will hit me just right and it’ll, all of a sudden a whole story idea just explodes from my brain. TV shows. Sometimes Reddit posts. Just everywhere. Everything around me just randomly sparks ideas.
Lee: That’s great. Reddit posts are so good. So are TikTok videos. I have, I have a favorites collection on TikTok that has 350 videos, and it’s called book Inspiration. Like there’s just so many things.
K.M.: When I’m really desperate, one like surefire thing that I found is I’ll go on Pinterest and I’ll look for memes about relationships. And there’s always something adorable or super swoony, and that will ultimately spark an idea. So that’s kind of my last ditch effort when I’m like, okay, I need to start this book today, and I have no idea what it’s about. I’m gonna go on Pinterest and see if I can find an idea and it works every time.
Lee: Oh my gosh. That’s such a good idea. I love that. I’m gonna have to try that.
Lee: Okay. This is a hard question. At least it would be for me, I think. What’s been your favorite book or characters to write? Choose a baby. Pick child.
K.M.: That’s hard. Oh my gosh. I mean, my most honest answer is it’s always whatever I’m working on at the time is always my favorite. Because I think probably ’cause it’s whatever’s the freshest in my mind. If I have to think back about an ultimate favorite, it’s probably Daniel and Ollie from Screwed. Because their story just felt so special to me. I had this idea when I first started writing it that I wanted to challenge myself to write the most romantic book I’d ever written. And I really think I nailed it with those two. There was just so many, I don’t know, like heart fluttery moments as I was writing it. I’m just like, aw, you two. And I just, yeah, that book really stuck with me. Even it’s been, I don’t know, almost two years probably since I wrote that book, and I still think about those two and smile.
Lee: It’s such a good book. I love that one too. It was very swoony.
K.M.: Yeah. Oh, that first kiss. That just killed me.
Lee: Oh yes. Okay. It’s time for a reread.
Do you have any favorite tropes to write or read?
K.M.: My very most favorite is best friends to lovers. That’s been my favorite since I first got into romance. There’s just something so special to me about this idea of there’s this person that you already love on such a deep level, and then you find this new way to love them that you didn’t even know you. Like, ugh. It just gives me goosebumps. I love it. So it’s my favorite to read and to write. Um, cause it’s just, oh, makes me so happy.
Lee: Yeah, and to explore like what that tipping point is. And how that varies from book to book of how the author finds a way to have that, have them have a realization or whether one or both have loved each other all along in that way. Oh yeah, I love that too.
K.M.: I love it. My, my very most favorite of that trope that I’ve read and there’s a lot, but the one that I always go back to for a reread is called Where He Ends and I Begin by Cardino C. It is just the most like soulmate level book I’ve ever read. And it’s not perfect. It’s not like perfectly written. It’s not the most polished book I’ve ever read, but it is the most emotionally evoking book I’ve ever read, and it’s just absolutely one of my favorites. I reread that every couple months cuz I just can never get over it.
Lee: Ah, that’s amazing. Okay, I’m gonna add that to my TBR. That sounds great.
So your Four Bears Construction series, which we talked about a little bit so far, has been hugely successful. It’s one of my absolute favorite series. Hands down. I am obsessed with it. And I love that you’ve developed an offshoot series with Big Bull Mechanics. Were you planning the offshoot series, or is that more of like a reaction to reader response to some of the secondary characters that you introduced later in the Four Bears series?
K.M.: Yeah, it was definitely a reaction to reader response. I had hoped that four bears would do well, but I definitely did not imagine it would be as loved as it is. It really gave me an idea of at least part of where I need to have my focus, because those books just far and away above everything else I write readers just go crazy for them.
And so trying to recapture that magic and make, I think, 40-year-old blue collar workers as a big part of my brand and keep those, you know, keep series going. I’ve got more spinoff series planned now to go into that universe. So yeah, it was not planned, but it was a happy accident and they were a lot of fun to write so I’m not complaining.
Lee: Well that was, that was gonna be my next question was offshoot series. So, oh my gosh. As a reader, I am so freaking excited.
K.M.: Yeah, I, I have a lot of ideas. I’m thinking about some different stuff. I definitely would love to write- I had introduced some bikers in book two of the Big Bull Mechanic series, which is, Stroker. I’m trying to remember, I’m writing Stick Shift right now, so it was like, don’t mix those up. Um, in Stroker, I’d introduced some bikers, so I definitely plan to do a spinoff for them.
I would love to do maybe some like lumber jacks. I would love to do some landscapers. Um, still think about some different other ideas I can do too. Some blue collar guys in their forties. So definitely wheels are turning for future series also.
Lee: Awesome. When I was reading Gate’s book, I, and I saw the, the motorcyclist, I was like, oh! is this in a Easter egg? Are we gonna get a series?
K.M.: Yep. Yep. I, I am planning that. You know, it’s something readers have been asking me for a couple years. Would you ever write a motorcycle club? And I always, like, when I think about motorcycle clubs, they’re always kind of like grittier type books to me. You know? Cause they’re kinda, you know, rough around the edges type guys.
So I always thought to myself, that doesn’t really fit the types of books I’m focusing on now. So probably not. But then I saw this meme that was talking about, it was like, motorcycle clubs are adorable. Matching shirts? Oh my god. Little adventures together? That’s so cute. And I was like, the kind of motorcycle club I could write. Like, they’re just adorable.
Lee: That is a vibe I am here for.
K.M.: So yeah, definitely have some ideas going that I think will be a lot of fun to write with a motorcycle club that’s just like, they look badass, but they are just the fluffies marshmallows ever.
Lee: Oh, yay. I can’t wait. I love that.
And related, one of the things that I just absolutely adore about your stories is your large cast. It’s so fun to read them and try to kind of pinpoint who’s gonna get a book. And you mentioned this early on, it sounds like you, when you have a new idea for a series, you do plan out that large cast from the beginning as opposed to characters just organically coming book from book.
K.M.: At least to a certain extent. So usually when I plan a series, I typically plan like four, maybe five books. But a lot of times as I’m writing, other characters will pop up who I did not plan. And they just kinda weasel their way in there. One example is in my Palm Island series. Raven who is like the psychic who owns the tea shop and is just like this gothy, little witchy, amazing guy. He was not in any of my planning whatsoever, and he just popped up randomly when I was writing the prequel novella, The Real Deal. He just wormed his way in there and I was like, okay, I guess this guy exists. And even then I was like, all right, well, he’s just a side character. There can be side characters. It’s an island. There’s gonna be a lot of random people who don’t need happily ever afters. But of course now I’ve got an idea for him.
Lee: Oh, good. Okay, good. I’m so glad. I love Raven.
K.M.: Yeah, its definitely a mix. You know, I, I plan, but then there’s always those characters who are like, hi. Yeah, nice to meet you. I need a book.
Lee: And then when the readers are just so voracious and they like really latch onto a character.
K.M.: Absolutely, yep. Yeah, I mean, Porter also. I never intended for him to have a book. I just kind of figured, all right, here’s a guy who like can introduce a little minor conflict into a few of the Four Bears books by dating some of the guys. But then of course after I sent him on a few dates, I was like, well, he needs to live happily ever after. Now, where’s his guy?
Lee: Yes, absolutely. Oh, I love that.
So your Palm Island series, which has the best series branding logo, by the way. I love it. I love the, uh, use of coconuts and the palm tree. So it’s set in a luscious, tropical location. And I would love to know what inspired you to write in that location, ’cause your settings seem to vary, which I love. And specifically also the off season angle to it. Where did that idea come from?
K.M.: For the past, oh my gosh, four or five years now, I have been going to- Once a year there’s this little get together with a small group of gay romance authors. We rent out a beach house on this little place called Island of Palms in North Carolina. We spend a week hanging out at this beach house, like talking together about writing and marketing and all kinds of stuff. And we walk on the beach and we do our work and it’s, it’s a blast. We do it once or twice a year and it’s just, it’s so much fun.
And so I got the idea the first year that we did it and I had to sit on this idea for years. It was really hard because I had so many other things on my plate. We had been out to dinner the, like one of the nights when we were there. I was thinking about it and noticing the waiters and the valet at the restaurant. One of the nights we had a chef come and cook for us. Cause we were like, let’s splurge to do something fun.
Just a couple different things that, like, people who lived and worked on this island, which is right by the shore. There’s just a bridge to it. It’s not far off in the ocean like Palm Island in my book. And I just started thinking like about the people who live in tourist destinations, and what do they do the rest of the year when the tourists have left, for the most part, for the season and the population dwindles down to just those, those locals who are there all the time?
And what’s that like? Like they almost know each other really well. They almost get sick of each other’s faces and have to sleep with the same people over and over again. And so the wheels kind of were turning on that and ultimately that’s where the idea was born. Then putting it out in a more remote island where the off season is this sort of hard and fast thing where like, all right, you guys are basically stuck together now, six months of the year, so figure it out. Just seemed like a lot of fun to me, and I’ve been having a blast with it, so.
Lee: Oh good. I’ve been having a blast reading it, and I am so excited for book three, Dirty Trick. Oh my gosh. The way that you’ve been setting that up in the other books. Oh, I cannot wait.
K.M.: Yeah. And that was a really fun one too. Um, that is a book that showed me my own challenges with low angst writing. In the sense of, I had this idea where Trick is a guy who, I’ve sort of hinted at this in the earlier books. He’s had a crush on Boston for a while, and he’s a little bit of an idiot. And the only plan he could come up with was to just steal every guy that Boston tried to sleep with, so that at least Boston wasn’t sleeping with anybody else. Which you know, is so ridiculous and so silly.
But then as I started to get into plotting and writing it, I’m thinking to myself, well, all right. It’s silly, but also that’s kind of messed up. So having to deal with sort of the, the conflict that is under the surface and sort of the elephant in the room as I’m writing it and trying to work through for myself, how are they gonna resolve this in a way that is satisfying and realistic and isn’t majorly angsty and you know, totally off brand for me and all that?
That’s one of those times when I spend a lot of time in a Zoom chat with Mia Monroe, like, help me figure this out. And, and I definitely feel like I got there in the end. I’m really happy with how that book turned out. But yeah, it definitely shows the fun challenge sometimes of writing low angst is keeping ideas that you have, keeping them low angst when the conflict is sort of there boiling under the surface.
Lee: Oh, that’s great.
K.M.: Yeah, so I’m, I’m excited for everyone to get to read it.
Lee: Yay. Ah, I can’t wait. Good. So how do you go about selecting a setting for your story? So you told us about Palm Island and some of that, but how about your other books? You’ve, you know, set one in New Orleans, you’ve had a series in other places. What’s that selection process like for you?
K.M.: Yeah. Um, honestly, aside from Palm Island, for the most part, it’s either the setting is not that important to me. I just kind of pick somewhere. Like Heathen’s Ink was set in the Northwest and I was just like, I don’t know, pick somewhere Northwest. Perfect. The Four Bears, you know, I just set that series and that universe in Wisconsin because I live in Wisconsin. And I was like, You know what? It’ll make it easy. Like I know everything about Wisconsin.
Aside from that they’re just sort of random. I don’t really put as much thought into it as probably a lot of other authors do. But it’s one of the things that has made it fun about the Palm Island series, actually, is I feel like the island is almost a character in and of itself. So that’s probably inspired me to maybe think a little bit more about that as I go forward in future series, sort of giving a little bit more personality and thought to the location.
Lee: That makes so much sense. I really like that. And I realized when I said, set in New Orleans, the idea for the book came from New Orleans. Right? _Meet Me There _when you, from your trip, I remember that from your reader group.
K.M.: I went on a trip with Mia Monroe and our friend/PA Abbie. We just did like kinda little girls weekend. We had a blast and, and one of the last mornings we were there, we were out to brunch and we saw this guy who was like whooo. I love that guy. And I was just happy to admire him from afar. But Mia, as bold as she is, like as he was walking past our table, she was like, we just wanted to let you know that you’re really attractive. You’re very clearly gay, but we just wanted to compliment you so that you, like we’re not hitting on you, but just so you know, you’re a very good looking man, which I’m sure you already know.
He stopped and him and the guy he was with, like stopped and chatted with us for a while. It turned out he is a model and an author and all this stuff. We had a really good conversation for 30 minutes or so. From there I was like, spinning ideas, that really were very, very loosely related to him at all. Um, but definitely, you know, him and his friend who we met there were, were an inspiration that kind of sparked this whole idea that I had for, for Meet Me There, which was such a fun book to write. I absolutely love that story.
Lee: Uh, it was a fun book to read too. I really loved it. And that one has been a complete standalone. And so you have a few standalones and then you’ve got your series. Do you treat standalones in terms of writing as sort of palate cleansers, or are they more just whenever you have a specific idea that strikes, you just wanna write it?
K.M.: I would say it’s more so when I have an idea that I feel doesn’t fit with anything that I have currently in progress. Especially a story like Meet Me There where the guys are sort of traveling all over the place. It doesn’t really fit with the series that I write where it’s very knit, tight knit group of guys who work together, who are best friends, you know, who just really are very close and spend a lot of time together. So that didn’t fit for me with any of the series I was currently working on. So it made sense to do a standalone, although I’m probably writing another book. And by probably I mean, it’s already plotted out and I’m gonna start it next month.
Lee: So very probably.
K.M.: Very probably. Actually, I would say the only book I’ve successfully planned as a standalone and kept as a standalone was Operation Meet Cute, which I published last year in 2021. Literally, like there is one friend in that book and he is married and they don’t talk to anyone else, they don’t know anybody else. They’re-
Lee: So You boxed yourself in.
K.M.: I did. I was like, this is gonna be a standalone. Like they, they don’t even meet the mailman. Nobody.
Lee: That’s hilarious. So you have written two books with transgender men in them. I would love to know what the process was like for gathering input. I remember reading something about this in your reader group about like sensitivity readers and just checking the trans representation. Can you talk a little bit about that?
K.M.: Yeah. So the first thing I kind of did was I grabbed some books written by trans men, like with transgender main characters. So I could first get a little bit of a vibe of what they felt good representation was. Then, yeah, I had some sensitivity readers that I talked to a lot, that I had read the book, who I asked advice of. Very personal questions, that they were really, really kind enough to, to be willing to answer for me and help me out so I could get some really good representation. A lot of checking out different- There was a blog that I believe it was Jay Northcotte had posted a link to that was a transgender man blogging about his whole experience of transition. So that was something that I read through and really absorbed a lot of and was really good information and kind of a good way to get into the mindset and, and understand where he was coming from and his experiences and things like that. At, at least to the extent that I can as a cis woman. I wanted to do those characters justice. It was a little scary ’cause I think all the other romances I’ve read that have transgender men have been written by transgender or non-binary authors. So it was a little nerve wracking, but I, I feel like they’ve been well received and I feel happy with the way I, I did the representation and everything and all those.
Lee: That’s great. I really like the thorough approach to just making sure that you’ve got solid representation and there’s not harm, and that’s wonderful.
K.M.: Definitely. Super important.
Lee: Yeah. Okay. So what can readers get excited about? You’ve talked a little bit about this so far, but get excited about in terms of upcoming projects.
K.M.: Yeah, so, um, Dirty Trick is coming in a week from today, so that one’s really fun. That one is, enemies-ish to lovers with sort of that underlying tension in there. Um, I guess I would almost say enemies with benefits ’cause they really don’t like each other when they start hooking up. So that one’s a lot of fun. Um, they can get that in a week Dirty Trick. That’s book three in Palm Island. I’m currently working on Stick Shift, which is book three in the Big Bull Mechanic series. That’s coming January 6. It’s a best friends to lovers with a bi-awakening and lots of animal friends, which people I know really are having fun with. At least in the series, in the spinoff series, they, they kind of have a farm together and, and a crazy cow and a bunch of alpacas and all kinds of stuff I’m having fun with. So Stick Shift coming January 6. And then I just finished up something this week that is a secret but is going to be announced next week that’s really, really fun and really different for me. So, um, if they join my reader group, they can find out more about that.
And what’s the best way for readers to learn more about your story? So you’ve got the reader group, and I’ll put links down in the show notes.
K.M.: Perfect. Yep. Yeah, my reader group new holds nerds is probably the very best way. I post in there a lot. I post teasers every week and little snippets of whatever I’m working on and stuff like that. I also have my newsletter, which I think you have a link to, otherwise I can get it for you. Where I usually send out once a week or every two weeks, I send out updates and everything. Those are the two best ways I would say.
Lee: Okay, great. And to wrap up, what can people expect from a K.M. Neuhold story?
K.M.: Lots of men with beards and tattoos. That’s top, that’s 1A. Really generally low angst stories with just a lot of feel good, happy moments, high heat, good communication between the guys. Lots of found family and best friends. And really 40-year-old men acting like teenagers pretty much is the big thing.
Lee: That’s amazing. Aw, thank you so much. It’s been such a blast to talk with you.
K.M.: Yeah. Thank you for having me.
Lee: It was fabulous chatting with Kyleen and getting to meet her at the Gay Romance Lit Retreat in October. Here’s an update on all things K.M. Neuhold books since our interview. Palm Island book three, Dirty Trick, and Big Bull Mechanics book three, Stick Shaft, are both available now. _Wild Goose Ch_ase, which is Palm Island book four, is up for pre-order and will be out on April 7. There’s a link to K.M.’s Amazon page in the show notes.
Thanks for joining me in the Low Angst Library. I hope you enjoyed this interview. Is there an author of low angst queer romance that you’d like me to interview? There’s a link in the show notes and on LowAngstLibrary.com with a guest suggestion form. If you’re an author writing low angst queer romance, there’s a self-suggestion form in the show notes and on the website as well.
A major goal of mine with this podcast is to have guests writing main characters in romance novels who represent identities all over the LGBTQIA2S+ spectrum and your suggestions will help me with that.
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