Hi everyone! I hope you had a lovely weekend. We’re starting this Monday off right with a very special guest. In my interview you may have read that I’m a big fan of the Killian Kendall Mysteries and that I was very happy with the new release: A Change of Worlds. It got even better with when the author agreed to do an interview! All you ever wanted to know about the Killian Kendall books and more!
Hi Josh and welcome to Bookwinked. Can you introduce yourself to the readers and tell us how you started writing?
Thanks, Larissa! Thanks for having me at Bookwinked. It’s my pleasure. I’m the author of the Killian Kendall Mysteries, a series that I actually started almost 20 years ago. Back then, there weren’t many books — or any other media really — for gay young adults. When my first book was published, it was pretty much just me, Brent Hartinger and Alex Sanchez, and I was the only one writing mysteries. I just wrote what I wanted to read.
Can you tell the readers a bit about what the Killian Kendall series is about?
As the series title indicates, it follows the adventures of Killian Kendall, a teen sleuth. He ages with each book in the series, so you get to follow him as he grows and makes mistakes and learns, both as a person and a private investigator.
What made you first write a series with a young psychic sleuth.
It’s funny, because when I started Bleeding Hearts, the first book in the series, I didn’t start out to write a mystery. It was going to be more of a romance, but then the love interest ended up dead. Trust me, I was as surprised as my readers were when Killian found the body! Similarly, Killian was originally going to have pyschic gifts, but he had other ideas. It just sort of happened organically. Considering my favorite genres to read growing up were mystery, fantasy and ghost stories, it was sort of inevitable they would converge in my own writing.
Did you intend the write the series for young/new adult readers or for adult readers?
I always hoped the books would appeal to both young adults and adults, and from what I’ve heard from fans, I think they do. It’s funny though, adults who read the series often say things like, “I loved the book but tdo eenagers really talk like that?” Young adults, on the other hand, think it’s pretty realistic. I think adults sometimes misremember what it was like to be that age.
It took some time for the series to continue with A Change of Worlds. Can you tell us why?
A series of unfortunate events! I actually finished A Change of Worlds over a decade ago, but then I had a lot of bad luck with publishers. Three publishers in a row went under while I was waiting for my next book to come out. It was quite an ordeal. I kind of took some time off in there as well. I was just burned out, tired of starting over and having the rug yanked out from under me again and again. My friends and some very loyals fans kept encouraging me to not give up, so after I had recharged a bit, I returned to the scene. And here we are!
Thankfully, the publisher of MLR, Laura Bambauch, loves Killian, so they were thrilled to get the first four book back in print and publish A Change of Worlds. And I was fortunate enough to work with a very talented writer and editor who really helped improve the original books. They’ve been rewritten and updated so they feel modern. Killian has a smart phone!
A lot of the books, but especially the first book Bleeding Hearts, deals with some serious topics, murder, abuse, drug abuse. Did you plan the stories like that?
Yeah, I wanted to explore stories I was hearing and seeing online and from friends, bring them to people’s attention. Gay kids deal with a lot, I mean, all kids deal with a lot, but gay kids deal with even more. They’ve got bullying and family acceptance and coming out to work through on top of all the things every kid deals with in their teens.
When I was writing Bleeding Hearts — which, as you say, deals with abuse, hate crimes and a parent refusing to accept their gay son — if you’d asked me if it would still be relevant in twenty years, I would have said no. But here we are. Sadly, it’s just as relevant as ever.
Where did the inspiration of Killian’s character come from?
He’s a little bit Nancy Drew, a little bit Matthew Shepard, and a lot sprung from my imagination. He’s really his own person.
What was your favorite book the write in the series?
That’s a tough one! My favorite book to write is whatever book I’m currently working on. That said, I loved researching A Change of Worlds. I talked to so many fascinating people, from a real life Native American medicine woman to tribal elders to archaeologists.
What do you find most important when writing a story?
Emotional honesty! No matter what genre you’re writing, if it doesn’t feel real then you can’t connect with your reader. I’m also a big fan of outlining.
In A Change of Worlds, but also in the other books, Killian deals with some serious things that make him come across as mature, but at the same time you can also see he has some growing up to do when it comes to other aspects of the story. How is it write a character who is still very young, but deals with some serious issues?
I love Killian. I feel like I understand and know him so well that he’s actually really easy to write. Like most 19 year olds, he’s on the verge of adulthood, so he’s a mixture of mature and childlike. He’s been through a lot, though, so he’s maybe just a little more mature than usual.
What was one of the funniest things to happen to you while writing?
My father is a retired Baptist minister, so, needless to say, while we’ve come a long way, we don’t always see eye to eye on LGBTQ issues. When I found out he’d read several of my books I almost fainted. Just the idea of my very conservative father reading my sometimes gory, sometimes sexy, always very gay books was almost too much for me to imagine. In fact, just today, he called to congratulate me on the publication of A Change of Worlds, and said he wants to read the rest of the series. To be honest, I’m kind of hoping he forgets…
Lastly, a very important question, will the series continue beyond A Change of Worlds and, if so, what is next?
I don’t have anything else written at the moment, but I don’t feel like Killian’s story is finished yet. I feel like there’s at least two more books in the series, if not more. I’ve always had a rough idea for the final story, and I’ve been toying with a very dark plot idea for a couple of years now. It’s just a matter of finding the time and energy. When I wrote the first five books, I was a full-time artist and writer, so I had so much more time to devote to writing. These days, I work a full-time job, work for Submersive Productions (an immersive theater company), and make jewery and paint when I find time. It doesn’t leave much time for writing a novel, especially when my writing routine involves a lot of quiet alone time. But now that A Change of Worlds is out there in the world at long last, I feel Killian getting restless for a new adventure, so we’ll see.
About the author
Josh Aterovis fell in love with mystery novels in the fourth grade when he discovered the Nancy Drew series in his school library. He soon moved on to Agatha Christie, which led to a lifelong love affair with whodunits, culminating in his award-winning Killian Kendall mystery series.
His first book, Bleeding Hearts, introduced gay teen sleuth Killian Kendall, and won several awards, including the Whodunit Award from the StoneWall Society. All Lost Things was a 2010 Lambda Literary Award finalist for Gay Mystery.
Aterovis grew up on the bucolic Eastern Shore of Maryland, which, coincidentally, just happens to be the setting for the Killian Kendall books. He now lives in the quirkiest city in America — Baltimore, Maryland — where, besides writing, he is also an artist and, sometimes, an actor.