The show’s upcoming anniversary is next week and Jeff and Will would love to hear from listeners about what they’ve enjoyed and what they’d like to hear in the coming year. Listeners are encourage to leave comments either in the shownotes or as a review on their favorite podcast outlet.
With the fall TV season in full swing, Jeff & Will review what they’ve been watching, including Stranger Things, This is Us, Speechless, The Good Place, the superheroes on the CW and more.
Will reviews Stranded with Desire by Vivien Dean and Rick R. Reed and Jeff’s reviews TJ Klune’s Murmuration.
TJ stops by to discuss Murmuration along with what it’s like being a full time author, books that might be becoming a movie and a play, and what’s coming up for him in 2017. After the interview, Jeff & Will talk further about NaNoWriMo.
Here are the things we talk about in this episode. Please note, these links include affiliate links for which we may make a small commission at no extra cost to you should you make a purchase.
- Stranger Things on Netflix
- This is Us on NBC
- The Big Bang Theory on CBS
- The Real O’Neals on ABC
- Superstore on NBC
- Speechless on ABC
- The Good Place on NBC
- Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on CW
- The Voice on NBC
- Supergirl on CW
- The Flash on CW
- Arrow on CW
- DC’s Legends of Tomorrow on CW
- Stranded with Desire by Vivien Dean & Rick R. Reed on Amazon
- TJ Klune Interview
- TJ Klune: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon
- Murmuration by TJ Klune on Amazon
- Jeff’s review of Murmuration by TJ Klune on JeffAndWill.com
- John and Jackie by TJ Klune on Amazon
- Wolfsong by TJ Klune on Amazon
- How to Be a Normal Person by TJ Klune on Amazon
- The Lightning-Struck Heart by TJ Klune on Amazon
- National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) website
Interview Transcript – TJ Klune
This transcript was made possible by our community on Patreon. You can get information on how to join them at patreon.com/biggayfictionpodcast.
Jeff: I’m excited to welcome TJ Klune to the podcast. When TJ was eight, he picked up a pen and paper and began to write his first story. Now over two decades later, the cast of characters in his head have only gotten louder. But that’s okay because he’s recently become a full-time writer and can give them the time they deserve. So as it’s being published, TJ has won the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Romance and was chosen by Amazon as having written one of the best GLBT books of 2011. His latest book “Murmuration” comes out October 28th. TJ, thanks for being with us.
TJ: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
Jeff: So, I’ve read “Murmuration,” one of the lucky few who got an advanced copy. I loved it. I don’t know how to talk about it so I’m gonna make you talk about it.
TJ: Right, that’s good. And you were one of the few that got advanced copies as we actually limited the amount of advanced reading copies that went out or the review copies that went out this time around, just because I wanted to keep it as close to my chest as possible without revealing too much. But “Murmuration,” it’s a book that I wrote last year for National Novel Writing Month at NaNoWriMo. I’d never done it before. And a friend of mine, author, S.A. McCauley wanted me to try it with her. So I said, “Yeah, whatever, deadlines they suck, that’s why my publisher never gives me deadlines so whatever.” And she convinced me. So I said, “Sure. Let’s just see how it goes.” So I sat down and I wrote the entire 106,000 words in 27 days. Like…
Jeff: Wow, so you did two NaNos in a month?
TJ: I did. And that one book, it came out faster than almost every other book I’ve ever written before. But “Murmuration” is essentially my love letters to 1950s Americana because I have a huge fascination and appreciation for post-war America and how we were in the 1950s, It’s that idyllic time that I think is very romanticized in media, in movies, in magazines, books. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to get into. I dabbled in it a little bit with my novella, “John & Jackie,” that time period was sort of addressed that I kept that appropriately vague, but with “Murmuration,” I knew that I wanted to get actually… That’s my cat, interrupt, that’s what she does. It’s my bad. I wanted to get actually very deep into it because I knew that if I was gonna write about time period 1954, that I was going to have to…I wasn’t gonna be able to cut corners with that because you have to make sure that the timing is appropriate or that the language is appropriate, any product to use make gender appropriate. So I have to get into that. But “Murmuration” is my love letter to the 1950s. It’s my fascination with black and white, like so-called monster movies that are an allegory for, like, communism, and the Red Scare, and stuff like that. So, kind of what I was going for, that kind of whole feel with the novel.
Jeff: Yeah, and I can see all of those things kind of mesh together. Now, you wrote it during NaNo, anda 107,000 words during NaNo is insane. What was your process for writing the book? Did you have all the research and everything ready to go or…?
TJ: Yes. Because I knew that I was gonna be… I had just finished writing “Wolfsong.” I was not really sure what my next project was gonna be. And I’ve been playing around with the idea of writing a book in the 1950s for a long time. So I had plenty of research already up and ready to go. But then this idea came into my head after GRL last year, I just got this random idea of this book that eventually became “Murmuration.” And it was… I knew the beginning of the book and I knew the ending of the book. The ending is something that has not changed at all. In the last three or four paragraphs of “Murmuration” are word for word what I had written at the very beginning. I wrote the ending of the book at the beginning because I wanted to get to that point and that remained unchanged. But there’s a lot of research that goes into this book. And there’s a reason why for it, which obviously, people will see when they read it. But yes, all of that was completely done before I started and then I wrote, I think… Typically now I write four days a week and take three days off, but when I was writing that book, I wrote seven days a week, just because I couldn’t get the idea out of my head.
Jeff: That’s awesome. Now you’ve said it’s a love letter to the ’50s. Is there anything else you wanna say about what it’s about, that’s not in the blurb or are we just gonna…? Does everybody just need to go look at it? Because I think they kind of do.
TJ: It’s so hard to talk about without attempting to spoil it for anybody. I mean, even the blurb I was a little bit eh about, but essentially, what it comes down to is my goal with “Murmuration” was to write, not just a romance, but something that was sweet and innocent, almost, like I felt like the time period kind of was. I think that there’s an almost naivete to the two characters, and they’re wrapped in this little bubble of themselves. And in the end, my main goal by the end of “Murmuration” was to, as I’ve said before, write the most romantic thing I’ve ever written. And it’s not the fiery passion I think of first meetings and stuff like that, I think this book is more of a crescendo, that it starts off quiet. And by the very end, it’s exploding, which people will see once they get to that point.
Jeff: Now you’ve said…
TJ: But I think that’s all I can say on it.
Jeff: Yeah, absolutely, I completely agree. You said it’s probably not a book for all of your readers. What kind of reader do you think will enjoy this the most?
TJ: I think readers that enjoy books that have twists and turns in it because this is not gonna be a straightforward narrative. I think that it could even go to the point maybe an extreme end of saying that it’s an unreliable narrator. But it’s gonna be people who I think… I think the big thing is it’s gonna be people who like solving puzzles because the book itself is I give out pieces at a time. And I put it to the reader to try to put those pieces together. And I think that I wanted people to think it’s going a specific direction, and then wanting to kind of knock them off their feet when they find out that maybe that’s kind of correct. But in the end, there’s this whole bigger picture of what it actually was.
Jeff: Now, if you had to play like the Amazon algorithm and you were posed with the question, if you liked blank, you’ll like “Murmuration,” what goes in that blank, either in your catalog or in literature overall?
TJ: That’s gonna be tough because I could go into spoiler… You know what? I’ll say, like, if you’d like “Memento” and the other Christopher Nolan movie “Inception” or if you love the… Like me I love, hence I’m a big old SAP when it comes to this, but I love like the whole 1950s black and white romance, the big sweeping movies where at the very end, there’s the big musical score. Everybody’s dancing and stuff like that. That’s kind of the feel that I’m going for. But I think that a big inspiration for the book could be said to be in the vein of, like, “Memento.”
Jeff: Okay. What was your process for writing this? We touched on it a little bit, but it sounds like you didn’t even have that much prep time because you said it came to you at GRL last year. And, of course, that’s mid-October and you’re taking off writing in November. Was this pantsing or did you have a lot of plot down?
TJ: Halfway through the book, I realized that to get to the endpoint of where I wanted to be, I needed to take a step back and make sure that the path that I was on was the right one. Because with a book this intricate, you have to have every piece and part firmly in place. You can’t cut corners. You can’t be… My biggest concern for this book, I think my biggest worry was the plot holes that you could drive a bus through. Because if you find a plot hole that something that is missed, then it kind of completely ruins the experience, I think, for the reader. So, at the beginning, I wrote like a man possessed and kept on going for two weeks. And then I got to the mid-week point or the mid-month point and I said, “Wait a minute. I think, like, maybe a quarter of this absolutely does not make sense.” So I had to stop for a day or two, and I went back in, and was bitching myself out because it was terrible. It was terrible what I was trying to do. It made no sense what I was trying to do. So, I stopped and course-corrected. And it was tough because I had to cut out a bunch of stuff that I thought was pretty darn good writing, but it wasn’t right. For the book, it didn’t fit. So, I had to get rid of it and put myself back on the right path. But it took only those 27 days to write it. But I mean, we’re talking… And that was when I was still working. We were talking… I would go to work from like 6:00 to 5:00, and then I’d get home and I’d write until, like, 2:00 in the morning. So this is like 7, 8 hour writing days, 27 days in a row. So it was hard, but I think that at the very beginning, I knew what I wanted to do with it. And I just incorporated all the research that I’d already done.
Jeff: Now for most people, you know, they get through NaNo when they’ve got this first draft, and then it’s a matter of all the fixes, and edits, and getting it all together again. How was the edit process after your first draft for you? And I’m not talking about, like, when Dreamspinner starts doing all their stuff, but before you submitted it.
TJ: It was terrible. I’m trying… I’m thinking that I have this great story and I get to my ending point, you know, with the ending that I wrote at the beginning, and I’m like, “Oh, my God, this is so awesome. I got to this exact point that I wanted to get at, I’m going through,” and I was like, “What the hell was I thinking?” You know, I had to cut out, I mean, stuff that just didn’t make sense. Like, I think there was a point where I tried to make myself too clever, like I tried to make it too much of a puzzle. And it showed. And I had to tell myself to calm my tits because that wasn’t something that I needed to do. I needed to be very objective about. I can be my harshest critic when I need to be. So I was able to take a step back and tell myself, “Well, like you need to… This is gonna work, you need to make it better. You need to stop trying to be… You’re not as clever as you think you are. So you need to kind of take a step back and fix what needs to be fixed.”
Jeff: Now, you’ve been writing full-time since February.
Jeff: So it’s about nine months in as we’re talking in October. How’s that been?
TJ: It’s been the best decision of my freakin’ life, man. Like, look, I worked in an office job, in a cubicle, in an insurance company for 10 years. I started there when I was 23. And I was in Tucson for seven years and then here for three years. And my job was, essentially I worked in auto insurance claims. Like, if you got into an accident and you killed someone or somebody was suing you, that’s the type of claim that I would handle. And it was killing my soul because it got to the point of where I would just be sitting at work, staring at my computer screen, slack-jawed in my tiny little cubicle, filled with my knickknacks that I had accumulated over 10 years of being in an office, and it just graded on me. So I started planning because I’m a very meticulous planner. If I was gonna do this, I had to commit to it and make sure that I had a nest egg set aside in case I failed spectacularly. But once I made that decision, I committed to it and the best decision I’ve ever made for myself, hands down, completely best decision I’ve ever made.
Jeff: That’s awesome. Has anything been particularly surprising about being a full-time writer over the last few months?
TJ: I thought that the newness of it, the idea of it would wear off rather quickly. Like, my final day, it was on a Thursday, and I took the Friday off from doing anything. And I told myself I was gonna start writing on Monday. And I did. It was awesome. And then I thought that as the week went on or the next week went by, that I was gonna wear off the whole idea of, “Oh my God, I’m doing this.” But it hasn’t. Every day that I get up and write, it’s just awesome. It’s absolutely… I mean, my output in the last nine months has been probably more than my past three years combined. So, it’s insane. It’s absolutely intense that I’m able to do this and I’m greatly appreciative of my readers supporting me, making me be able to do this because without them, I wouldn’t be able to be where I am right now.
Jeff: What’s, like, your daily routine, the four days that you are writing?
TJ: I get up at 5:30 in the morning, still. I am at the computer by 6:30. And I’ll review for half an hour or so. I’ll review the previous day’s work. And then I’ll sit and write until probably about 2:00 or 3:00 every day, or Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and then Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I usually go back and edit what I’ve written in the week before. But I’m averaging now on a good day, 10,000 words a day, and on an off day, I can probably give about 5,000, 6,000, 7,000. So, I’m a machine right now. That would…
Jeff: You are, I’m jealous.
TJ: I really thought that that would wane. I really thought that that would be something that would be affected. But if anything, my output has increased. And I mean, I’ve got so many freakin’ ideas that I wanna do but I have so many series that I have to finish before I can do anything else. But it’s, yeah. Most weekdays, I’m at the computer, bright and early and finishing up in the afternoon. And that’s what I do daily now.
Jeff: That’s awesome. What kind of advice would you have for authors in our genre who are looking to go full-time?
TJ: You gotta make sure that you’re prepared to commit to. If you’re gonna do this, you have to do what you say you’re gonna do. I mean, I think the biggest… I mean, there’s days when I wake up, it’s a Monday morning and my alarm is ringing at 5:30, and I’m thinking “Oh, well, you know what? Last week I wrote, you know, 40,000 words. I could take today off. I don’t need to do this.” But you can’t do that. I mean, once you leave that job, that security behind, you have to keep writing because that’s gonna be your only income. Another big thing that I think that a lot of people don’t realize too is that royalties tend to come quarterly. So you’re not getting a paycheck every week or every other week like you normally would. So it’s a very good idea to have a savings account, like, you know, with as much saved as you possibly can because you never know what kind of emergency will happen. You know, maybe you didn’t have a good sales quarter and you don’t have that money coming in, so you need to be able to have that nest egg set aside. That’s the biggest thing that I did was I saved as much money as I possibly could and just set it aside, and haven’t touched it for anything because it’s gonna be there in case something goes wrong. I’ve been fortunate so far obviously with sales but you gotta plan for every eventuality. I mean, maybe by this time next year, I’ll have crashed and burned, and have to get a job, but as of right now I’m doing pretty good.
Jeff: Yeah. Dealing with the quarterly thing. Life could happen between the quarters and you needed that money all of a sudden like anybody. Yes.
TJ: Yeah, I mean, you have to… You know, it’s kind of redundant to say, but you have to plan for the unknown. Stuff could happen that you don’t even think about but it’s something that I think I would… Even if something were to happen, say next year where I have to go back to work, I have to find another job, I will not regret this time that I’ve had. This has been the best time of my life so far.
Jeff: You mentioned recently on Facebook that “How to Be a Normal Person” might become a movie, which is awesome and exciting. And I’m saying awesome way too much in this interview. It’s just that I…
TJ: That’s totally okay. That’s one of my…
Jeff: Anything new to report at all with that situation?
TJ: No, not really. It’s these… I mean, I’m gonna sound like I’m all Hollywood, even though I have no idea what I’m talking about. from what I understand, this process can take a long time for it to actually go through. And even when and if, a production company acquires the rights, that means that the rights are theirs. So technically, they don’t even have to do anything with them if they don’t want to. I mean, there’s production companies that acquire rights for books that haven’t even come out yet, and then well, nothing gets made with them. I’m hoping obviously that that’s not what happens here. But it’s a long-drawn-out process. And I think it’s something that we have to be patient for, which, you know, is not one of my fortes, unfortunately, but the very idea that this is even a possibility just blows my mind. I mean, it’s phenomenal that something like this could even happen. And I obviously say that’s for me because, you know, it’s my book, but at the same time, I think it could be big for our genre too. Because, you know, if this happens, if it goes through, if it gets made, and if it’s any kind of success, that could potentially open the doors for other books in the MM genre to be optioned for films or whatever, like even frickin “Lightning-Struck Heart” is being made into a stage play. I mean, you know, there’s all these different avenues of media that can be explored, I think. And I’m hoping that this will open doors for other people should it go through.
Jeff: I didn’t know about “Lighting-Struck.”
TJ: I think they…
Jeff: That’s exciting.
TJ: Yeah. Well, it’s kind of odd. Like, it’s in Spain, that they’re optioning for it. So it’s gonna be in Spanish. And, like, just the idea of “The Lightning-Struck Heart” being made into play is just, like, I mean, more power to them. I’m all there. I’m gonna be there opening night. I have no problem with that whatsoever. But, like, the logistics behind that book being made into a play of some kind, I can’t wait to see what they do. I’m not gonna be able to understand it, but I just can’t wait to see what’s gonna happen. It’s gonna be fantastic. So, you know, but I mean, that’s just another form of media that I think will hopefully help us. I mean, you have so many TV shows and stuff like now they just forego actual television, and get streamed online, and stuff like that. And I can see some books that I’ve read in our genre being made into shows, movies or something that you can stream online. I mean, it’s not just a movie doesn’t have to go to a theater and be successful. That’s not what the model is anymore.
Jeff: Right. And it’s okay… It’s better not to go to the theater, I think.
TJ: Right. Because I mean, my biggest concern with it is twofold. One is the whole asexuality aspect of it, that has to stay in, otherwise, I would rather have the whole thing collapse than have them write that out. But two, if you go on, like, Netflix, and you look up, like, the GLBT or LGBT movies they have on there, a lot of them are crap. Let’s face it. A lot of them are unfortunately crap. And they look cheap. The acting is terrible. That’s something that I wanna avoid. I don’t want… If this is gonna happen, I want it to be the best that it can be.
Jeff: Absolutely. In your dream casting, who are Gus and Casey, if you could have just anybody out there?
TJ: See, that’s the problem with something like that. There are writers that they base their characters off of people, like character models and stuff like that. I can’t do that because it will mess with my head a little bit that, you know, this is who they’re supposed to be, and this is what they act like and blah, blah. And I can’t do that with casting either. I’ve been asked that question about like “Bear, Otter, and the Kid” when that first came out. With almost every subsequent book I’ve had written, I’ve been asked, “If this would be to be made into a movie, who would you want it to be?” And I have no idea. Like, I have absolutely no idea. I will say one thing, though, and this is probably gonna tick off a few people. When I announced that “Normal Person” was gonna be made into a movie people were talking about casting and stuff like that. There were suggestions that a few people agreed with that… God, what was his name? Jim Parsons.
Jeff: Oh, Sheldon from “Big Bang Theory.”
TJ: Yeah, that he should be Gus. First and foremost, I have no idea who that was when they said Jim Parsons. And I was like, “Oh, okay, who is that?” Whatever. They were like, “Big Bang Theory.” And I said, “I’ve never seen that TV show and don’t know who that is.” And so I looked him up. Isn’t he like 40? Because I don’t… Absolutely not. Sorry for the people that wanted that to happen. But absolutely not. Gus is not that man. He’s not Jim Parsons because he’s too old. He’s absolutely far too old to play that character. Again, granted, he may be the best actor in the world. I’ve never seen him, I don’t think in anything but he cannot… Well, it won’t be him. But other than that, honestly, I think that if they’re gonna get… If this is gonna be made, I’d like to see a bunch of unknowns or, you know, I would be totally happy with Betty White playing one of the we three queens. I have no problem with that whatsoever. She would love… If she… Betty White, if you ever see this, please, please, please, please, please be one of my VESPA writing pink jacket-wearing ladies in their gang. Please be one of the we three queens. I would love Betty White to do that forever. That would be the only person that I could actually say, I would want cast in the movie.
Jeff: I can get behind that casting absolutely.
TJ: Oh, like, wouldn’t that be so awesome. That would be so cool to have that happen. I would absolutely love that if they were able to get somebody like her for that. But other than that, I would want it to be a bunch of unknowns, just because I don’t want, like, a viewing experience of that movie to be distracted by somebody celebrity, but aside from Betty White because she’s Betty White.
jEFF: So “Murmuration” is your fifth book this year. What’s coming in 2017 that the world can look forward to?
TJ: I’ve got five books coming out in 2017. And the way that it’s going now, and don’t, you know, hold me to this in case I am a liar and a fat mouth, but I may try to do five books a year, from this point on, cross my fingers. But next year, February is the third book in the “Tell Me it’s Real” series. And that’s called “Until You.” April, I have a book called “Olive Juice” and I am going to be as secretive about that book as I have been about “Murmuration,” because it’s a book that I thought about releasing under a different name because it’s so completely different than anything that I’ve written before. It’s a romance. And it’s about two guys in their 50s. But it’s different for me. But in the end, I decided to keep it under my own name, just because I think that they’re people who will hopefully appreciate the differences versus the books that have come before. So, I’ll talk more about that down the road. After that in June, is the sequel to “Lightning-Struck Heart,” “A Destiny of Dragons.” August for the sixth anniversary of the first book is “The Last Bear, Otter and the Kid” book. And then in October or November is the third book in “The Lightning series.” And all of those books are done and have been completed. So yeah, five books next year. Each book comes out the same month as I had books come out this year. I don’t know why it worked out that way. But that’s how it’s going to be. So maybe that’ll just be my time period, from this point on.
Jeff: Yeah, they’ll just… Dreamspinner will just have you penciled into those slots. And those will be TJ months.
Jeff: What is the best way for people to keep up with you online so they can know everything going on?
TJ: Yep, I’m on Facebook. I have my author page and my regular page. I don’t know why I have two pages. I just do have them.
Jeff: Because you’re supposed to.
TJ: Yeah, I tend to forget my author page. So forgive me if there’s months that go by between me posting on it. I’m on Twitter. I’m on Instagram now or you can just email me at email@example.com. That’s one thing I do wanna say. Since I started this whole process of being an author, I remember when my book came out on… “Bear, Otter and the Kid” came out on a Friday in 2011, in August of 2011. I woke up Saturday morning and had my very first piece of fan mail, an email from a reader who had read the book. And I have gotten countless emails from people. But each one is like I’m getting it for the first time again because absolutely, that’s something I never expected, ever expected when I published a book was to be able to hear from readers all over the world, frankly. And it’s awesome. And I really, really, truly appreciate the time that people take out of their day when they sit down at a computer and write to me about something. So thank you for everybody who’s ever written me any kind of email about my books because it truly makes my day.
Jeff: That’s tremendous. That’s very cool. We will link up to all of your social media websites, as well as to “Murmuration” so people could pick that up and everything else that’s out there on Amazon.
TJ: October 8th it comes out. Be ready, it’s a Friday…
Jeff: Just a few days from when this goes out because this will come out on Monday, the book will be out on Friday.
TJ: Oh yeah, yeah, so it’s… Oh, man, I can’t wait for people to read this book. It’s gonna be hysterical.
Jeff: Yeah, I’m looking forward to it too actually to kind of see how people react to it.
TJ: To get to finally talk to people about it, right??
Jeff: How they choose to talk about it and not give anything away.
TJ: Oh, there’s gonna be those people though that are gonna end up ruining it for everybody. And I’m telling you right now, if I find out who those people are, man, I’m not gonna do anything, but I’m just gonna probably in my head think, “You bastard. Why would you do that?” But no, seriously, big thing, folks, before we end this, reading “Murmuration,” I want everybody to have the same experience when reading it for the first time. So don’t be a dick and ruin it for anybody else because that’s a douchebag move to do. So just let people have their own experience reading it and, you know, talk about it when they’re done reading it. That’s totally okay with me. Just don’t ruin it for anybody else. Thanks.
Jeff: Yeah. I concur with you completely. TJ, thank you so much for being with us.
TJ: Thank you. I appreciate it.