Today I’m interviewing Kimberly Gardner, multi published M/M author and fan favourite.
Hi Kimber. First, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed on the site. Sincere thanks also to Jenre for helping me with these questions
Since most of the bloggers/readers who drop by this site don’t know a lot about you, could you please give us a brief picture of Kimberly Gardner, the author and the person?
Kimberly Gardner is my pen-name. I am a middle-aged, married, straight woman with a rather long history as a storyteller even though I didn’t get my first publishing credit until early 2008. Some of that history is even a little slashy, though I was writing slash before I knew what it was.
As pre-teens, my friends and I would make up these little dramas about our favorite rockstars, mostly male and very slashy, although back then the most risque things we had them doing was kissing. I call them dramas rather than stories because we rarely wrote anything down or saved our imaginary adventures in any kind of organized manner. Oh, to be able to read some of those stories now!
The book that introduced me and M/M romance readers to you was Phoenix Rising (reviewed here) which I believe was your first foray into M/M romances. Was there a special reason why you wanted to write romances about gay men?
Though I’ve been an avid reader of romance for most of my life, I had never, with the exception of my adolescent slashing of rockstars, given much thought to, let alone read, a gay romance until around 2006 when I bought J.L. Langley’s The Tin Star. It was my very first m/m romance and remains one of my favorite reads to this day. Once I had a taste of that dynamic, which is very different from the dynamic in heterosexual romances, I quite simply couldn’t get enough. I started snapping up all the gay romances I could get my hands on, which in those days, was not very many. Thankfully that has changed dramatically.
At that time I had been writing romance, straight romance, for nearly ten years. But I had never even thought of trying it with two yummy heroes instead of one. As soon as I did, I knew I had found my niche. And two years later, Phoenix Rising was published by MLR Press.
Bound to Please (reviewed here) is loosely a sequel to Phoenix Rising with characters Benny and Jason from the previous book and a new character Rain. How much research did you have to do into BDSM clubs for your story?
With every story there’s a certain amount of research that’s required because I am not one of those writers who ascribes to the adage, write what you know. Rather I prefer to say, know what you write. The downside of having to know what I write, is that I do a lot of preliminary research before I begin the actual storytelling.
Since I have no firsthand experience with BDSM, I did a lot of reading and talking with people who do have that experience. There’s a whole psychology of dominance and submission that I felt very strongly that I needed to get right. It’s not enough to hand a character a cane or a flogger and let him go to town. The author has to know the mind-set of someone who enjoys inflicting pain as well as someone who enjoys receiving it. Without the psychology it’s all just trappings.
You mentioned in another interview that Rain was not supposed to be a permanent member of the relationship. What changed? Why did you decide to write an M/M/M menage story? What interested you about the dynamics of that relationship?
I never intended to write a menage because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to give it the right balance. I’ve read a lot of menages where I felt that one of the partners got the short shrift, like s/he was simply a third added on to an established couple for kicks, or treated as little more than an accessory. I didn’t want to write a book like that. I wanted to portray a threesome in which all three partners fulfilled some very specific needs for each other.
Without including spoilers, I can say that Benny and Jason had enough issues between the two of them that I recognize the need for an outside catalyst to sort of push them together at least initially. The attraction was already there, established in the first book, but the resolution, how they would make that next step wasn’t clear until Rain showed up. In him I found the catalyst I was searching for. But it’s true, he wasn’t supposed to be a permanent partner. I even tried to bribe him with his own story, but he had other ideas.
I understand that you’re considering two or three more stories in the Phoenix Rising/Bound to Please world. For someone who wrote Phoenix Rising as a standalone, that’s a huge leap. Why did you want to write additional stories in this world rather than moving on?
The short answer is the characters. Not only do I enjoy revisiting established couples like Adam and Jimmy, giving readers a glimpse into how they’re doing, but I find that with each story I discover more compelling characters who want their stories told.
As soon as Phoenix was published, readers began asking me for Benny and Jason’s story. And as soon as I met Mario in BTP, I knew he had an interesting story to tell me. I’ve already proposed his story to my editor and received an enthusiastic thumbs up.
As for moving on, the manuscript I’m currently working on is a story well outside the PR/BTP story universe. So I do have other projects outside this series.
Your story in the Bravo Brava anthology contained a cross dressing hero. What made you choose to write about a man who wears women’s clothing? Do you know any cross dressers in real life? 🙂
Actually I do, though they aren’t as flamboyant as Kieran.
More than just cross-dressing, I wanted to explore a character whose gender identification was sort of fluid. That was important to me in this story. There’s a line that Kieran says–I think he actually says–that there are days when he feels more like a girl than a boy. That was very much his sentiment rather than my own and really speaks to the kind of character he is.
You continue David and Kieran’s story in the Encore Encore anthology. You seem to like writing sequels – is there any special reason why sequels are attractive to you?
There are some characters, like David and Kieran, who seem to have more story to tell. I knew from the time that I finished Women’s Weeds that they needed another story to reach their HEA.
And something else. There was a review of Women’s Weeds, I can’t say for sure who said that when she finished WW she was a little melancholy because she could imagine the boys not staying together and that of the two of them, Kieran would be more all right than David if that happened. That made me sad, and it was then that I became really committed to writing them another story and giving them a HEA.
In Shape of a Heart you write about a character who is overcoming grief. Why choose that theme and how easy did you find it to balance the feelings of Zach for his old lover, Jay, with those of Keith the new lover in the story?
At the beginning of a story I never consciously choose a theme. I begin with a character and that character always has some issue he needs to work out. In this case I started with Zach who had gotten stuck in his grief rather than moving through the various stages. Though he readily admits, even at the end of the story, that he will always love Jay, he can’t deny the spark of life and desire that Keith brings with him when he comes to work for Zach. It’s this spark that gives Zach a reason to get on with the business of living and building a new life with Keith.
I thought it was important to explore aspects of the first relationship between Zach and Jay even while I was telling the story of Zach and Keith’s growing attraction and eventual love. It was like telling two lovestories at once, a kind of balancing act, because I wanted to show that both had their places in Zach’s life and both were important to him.
Interestingly, that theme of grieving and moving on seems to have chosen me again. The new manuscript I’m currently working on has a hero who is dealing with the loss of a longtime partner and the issues of getting on with life and finding new love. So I guess I haven’t yet said all I have to say about that.
Many of your stories have the theme of the older/younger man pairing. What attracts you to writing about relationships where there is quite a large age difference?
I don’t know. I dated mostly older men when I was single and my husband is six years older than I am. But with my characters, I never consciously set out to write a May-December pairing anymore than I consciously choose a theme. It just sort of happens.
My characters, the good ones, the ones who stick around and get stories, always show up with their personal backstories already established. For example when I began writing Phoenix Rising, I knew that Jimmy was a 36-year-old, wealthy, closeted gay man who, although he was mostly content with his life, was still longing for something. I knew too that Adam was a 22-year-old former ballet dancer who had suffered a career-ending injury, that he was fiercely independent, a little jaded and that he wouldn’t settle for less than what he really wanted–in this case, an open relationship with a man who loved him. I couldn’t have changed their ages anymore than I could have changed these other details without turning them into completely different people.
What do you find most challenging about writing? Are you one of those authors who always has plot bunnies running around your head? Do you breed the extra bunnies? 🙂
Do I ever! In fact, I had to build a hutch to house all the extra bunnies. Lol!
The biggest challenge, I think, is balancing my desire to write with my obligations to my family and my day job and all the things that take me away from my fictional worlds. The need to create and the need to be a real person with a real life can sometimes seem mutually exclusive. But it’s abalancing act and I admit that there are some days when I lose my balance.
Do you still find writing fun?
Absolutely. The day writing stops being fun will be the day I close my eyes for the last time. A writer is who I am, not just what I do, and I believe in wringing every last ounce of joy from that experience.
What’s next for Kimber?
I have a novella called Blush which is releasing later this month as part of the Red anthology from MLR Press. It will appear along with stories from Victor J Banis, William Maltese, J.P. Bowie and P.A. Brown. I’m incredibly excited about this project, first because it was sort of unexpected, and second because I am a huge fan of all the other writers in the anthology. It’s a great privilege for me to share pages with this group of authors whose work I so admire.
My other works in progress include a novel-length project with the working title Dancing With Degas. It’s about a man who, following the sudden death of his partner, discovers that perhaps his lover wasn’t the man he appeared to be. He meets another man fairly early in the grieving process, and as his dead lover’s secrets come to light, he finds himself caught between the memories he treasured, memories that maybe based in lies, and the desire for a future and some new happiness.
What do you do for fun?
I love to travel, always to warm places, and of course, I love to read. What writer doesn’t? Oh, and I really really like to eat ice cream. 🙂
Thank you Kimber. I appreciate the time.
Thanks for inviting me. It was a pleasure.
KIMBERLY GARDNER’S CONTACT INFORMATION