I'm very pleased to welcome fab writing duo K.A. Merikan to my blog, to talk gentlemen, horror, and zombies! :) I saw the gorgeous cover on their new release, 'Off With Their Heads!', and knew straight away I would love it.
Welcome to Tush's Ten!
Five about the authors
1. Who are you, and where do you come from?
We are two authors who have been writing exclusively with each other for nine years now. We both come from Poland, and we’ve been running a blog with serial fiction for over four years. We started out just for fun, but with time we wanted to get better at writing and treat it professionally. Posting stories as serial fiction and having that instant feedback from readers was a fantastic springboard to realise there are a lot of people out there looking for stories like ours.
So now, after millions of words (I’ve never even counted them properly!) we started publishing in English and it’s been a crazy ride! :)
Agnes is a psychologist with a love for the weird and dark humor. She enjoys flashy clothes and doing research for books.
Kat is an artist and fashion lover, interested in all things bizarre. She loves researching weird fetishes and watching costume dramas.
2. What inspires you?
AGNES: There’s too much to count. It can be anything, from a movie to a random person we spot in the street. But I think my biggest inspiration of all are Kat’s ideas. We have those brainstorming sessions in random places when my mind just won’t stop reworking the topic we are discussing. I also think changing places helps a lot: many ideas I find most interesting were born during various trips or holidays.
KAT: I have a part time job at a shop, that doesn’t require much focus, so I usually do a lot of thinking there and come back home with lots of ideas I can then brainstorm through with Agnes. Getting ideas for stories is easy for both of us. We already have too many of them written down in the “to write later” folder.
Anything can inspire. A photo, a movie, a person, a sentence or a theme we want to explore.
3. Describe your writing style in three words:
AGNES: Dramedy, weirdos, shameless.
KAT: Quirky, wrong, hot.
4. What's next in store for you?
KAT: There are SO many projects we are working on now!
There is “Special Needs” a story of a disability pretender set in California.
“The Copper Horse”, a BDSM/Slavery trilogy set in the world of “Gentlemen’s Tales of Love, Lust and the Undead” which is a ponyplay extravaganza, exploring power play and a love story between master/slave, while going through all sorts of aspects of ponyplay.
And another project being a rom-com between a dollfie collector [Dollfie is a brand of vinyl doll created by the Japanese company Volks in 1997 – Wiki fact,Tush] and a grumpy disabled goth, set in UK/France. This one still needs a title.
AGNES: We don’t like to focus on only one thing at a time. It allows us to write on a daily basis even when we’re stuck with one book. We keep adding new bullet points to our “to do/to write” list, but a lot of our current and future works are set in the world of “Gentlemen’s Tales of Love, Lust and the Undead”. Aside from the big projects Kat mentioned, we keep track of anthology calls, so there is a number of shorts we have planned for 2013. Expect ghosts invading porn shoots in abandoned asylums, hedonistic vegans, clown gangbangs, a love story set in a creepy apiary and many other stories we don’t dare to mention as they haven’t been written yet.
5. Read any good books lately?
KAT: I had lots of fun reading “Mexican Heat” by Laura Baumbach and Josh Lanyon. I’m a total sucker for confident bad boys, so it sure provided lots of excitement.
AGNES: I loved Anne Tenino’s “Frat Boy and Toppy”. She made me fall in love with the characters and the story is a perfect blend of humor and drama. Plus, I have a weakness for jock/geek pairings.
Five about the book
“Off With Their Heads!” (A standalone from “Gentlemen’s Tales of Love, Lust and the Undead” series.)
1. Off With Their Heads! is set in a gothic, dystopian era, where zombies run wild. What inspired the idea for this particular story? Are you horror fans?
KAT: I’m actually easily scared and I can’t watch much horror - zombie stories being the exception. I think it’s because they’re so unreal. This world is something that came together from different influences. We wanted to write a steampunk story and kept gathering themes and ideas for it, but something was missing. The zombies came in when I got obsessed with “The Walking Dead” and it all fell into place :D
AGNES: I’m not a horror fan per se. I like the supernatural and the creepy, but getting genuinely scared in my free time is not my cup of tea. I hate movies about characters who are being chased by psycho murderers (especially if it’s their home they are attacked in) and I still cannot rewatch “Alien”, but I enjoy stories that sort of normalize the unreal or play on basic human fears without making the story too real. Give me zombies, non-sparkly vampires, or creepy fairytale/folklore characters though and I will be happy.
2. The characters are Clint, a zombie mortician worker, and Xavier, an avant garde artist. Quite a combination there. What inspired these particular characters? And which character do you relate to the most; polite, well-mannered Clint? Or political activist/artist Xavier?
KAT: Oooh! This is a tough one. Clint is a character who has a background appearance in another book in this universe, so he was sort of ‘ready to go’ and then we started thinking in the sense “who would be fun and compatibile with him?” But it goes together with making up a small story arc, as we knew we were planning it as a short.
As to the second question - Xavier is too crazy to relate to, so I suppose Clint ;D
AGNES: Yeah, Clint didn’t have much luck in his love life before he met Xavier, and we couldn’t leave the poor guy sulking ;) I do relate to Xavier to some extent for he reminds me a bit of my teenage goth self, but I guess Clint is easier to identify with. And he is just as pragmatic as me.
3. You write as a duo. How long have you been writing together, and how did your writing relationship begin?
AGNES: Living in different cities, we wouldn’t have met if we didn’t share a set of niche hobbies, from goth music to m/m and collecting dolls. Small communities focused on uncommon interests are close knit, so over the years, we shared a number of friends and met on various internet forums before getting to know each other better. We’ve both enjoyed writing since we can remember and kept trying various partners, but it never worked out, so once it clicked between us, there was no turning back. It’s been seven years and still, writing with Kat doesn’t get old.
KAT: I was writing a story with another friend before Agnes but our ideas of what and how we wanted to write were growing apart. I had this american football player character in my mind that my previous co-writer wasn’t keen on. I was moaning about a lack of co-writer at one of the meetups with friends and Agnes was there. I introduced the main idea to her and it turned out that within a few hours we were already brainstorming. It was great because it wasn’t just me making up the story, but Agnes adding bits I’d have never come up with on my own.
In co-writing it’s about finding someone who ‘gets’ you. Even if you don’t agree all the time, and Agnes is someone like that for me. We share similar ideas about what’s hot and what’s funny.
4. As a story comes in three parts, pick me three music videos that reflect how you feel the story goes.
KAT: I’m not very good at the videos themselves, but I can sure pick out soundtrack songs :) And since I love non-literal soundtracks, like with “Marie Antoinette” dancing to Queens of the Stoneage, I’d choose:
Elvis - “Trouble” for Xavier, for the way he wants to present himself: ‘If you’re looking for trouble, you came to the right place/ If you’re looking for trouble, just look right in my face’.
The Doors - “People are strange” for when Clint gets to know Xavier and follows him. Especially for how Xavier moans about how misunderstood he is.
The Doors - “Touch me” for their last sex scene. Especially for 'touch me baby, can't you see that i'm not afraid?' ;D
AGNES: I’m so bad at recalling songs that I always leave these things up to Kat ;) I especially love her first choice here.
5. If your book was a movie, or a music video, how would it go? Talk me through it ;p
AGNES: A movie based on “Off with Their Heads!” should start with clips of zombie usage in context of Clint’s university studies, so it would be a brief introduction of both the character and the world. Then, it would proceed to where the book starts: it’s late and Clint expects to be the only person still working in the mortuary, yet he isn’t alone. Facing away from him is a strange man in a lab coat who attempts to cut off a zombie specimen’s head. It’s clear he’s clueless about anatomy and being the nice man he is, Clint decides to give the stranger a hand when he claims to be a professor’s assistant.
I imagine the color scheme to be dark, but warm: yellow, orange and red - tinted glow in the dark of night. Our version of steampunk isn’t high-tech, but there would be some shiny innovations at the university, shown mostly during the first sequences, for most people are stuck in your average victorian world.
Thanks for playing Tush's Ten!
KAT: Thanks for having us! :D
--- Why would anyone need to steal ten zombie heads? ---
It’s 1907, twenty years after the outbreak of a zombie Plague. For a young medicine student like Clint, the undead bodies provide an opportunity to study human physiology in the working. He is a good young man: tidy, well-mannered and hard working. Focused on his goal to become an excellent surgeon, Clint has a bright future ahead of him. If it weren’t for a shameful secret he’s forced to keep, his life would have been perfect.
Xavier, a peculiar foreigner he finds in the morgue late at night, claims to be an assistant to one of Clint's professors, but doesn’t know the first thing about the proper way to behead zombies. Xavier’s story has many loose ends, but something about him unlocks all the emotions Clint always kept bottled up inside. When he learns the truth about Xavier, Clint finds himself involved in a conspiracy that could destroy everything he’s worked so hard for. Frightened by the possible consequences, yet strangely fascinated by the eccentric, tattooed stranger, Clint follows him to places he would never dare explore on his own.
The moment the door closed behind them, he started taking off his turban.
“Stop calling me that, you have no... oh my God, what happened to your hair?” asked Clint, the tone of his voice suddenly dropping in the middle of a sentence. The man’s hair was long, reaching his shoulders but... it was red at the front half and black at the back. And it wasn’t just ginger either. It was as red as a postbox.
“Hm?” Xavier smirked and Clint immediately felt bad for making such a blunt comment. It was obvious this man was the victim of a cruel prank.
“Unnatural, non?” said Xavier, taking a step closer. “I do not bow to natural!”
Clint just looked at him, his heart skipping a beat at the closeness.
“I don’t understand. Who did this to you?”
Xavier slouched, furrowing his eyebrows. “‘Did’? It is my own creation,” he hissed, clearly offended by the comment.
“Oh.” Clint licked his lips, all tense at the rising awkwardness in the air. “Well, I’m sure it is very artistic. I don’t feel competent to judge...” he trailed off uncomfortably.
“Paint would take very well to hair as fair as yours,” said Xavier, and it sounded almost like a threat, but before he could ponder on that thought, the man reached out and ran his gloved fingers through Clint’s short hair. The soft touch on his scalp sent shivers down his spine and straight to his groin. Clint drew back in shock, dropping his side of the sack. He didn’t even notice how his whole body tensed up at such close contact with a man.
Xavier tried to catch the bag, but before he actually managed to act, it slid out of his fingers and the moment it hit the ground, the bloodied heads rolled out onto the cobblestones. In the faint gaslight from the main street, they presented a gruesome image, but to Clint it all felt like a surreal dream.
“Merde! Get them!” hissed Xavier, and ran after the one that rolled the furthest away. Looking at what a blunderer he seemed to be, Clint had no idea how this man had managed to plan this on his own.