Author Interview and Giveaway: K.A. Merikan

K.A. Merikan is the pen name for Kat and Agnes Merikan, a team of writers, who are mistaken for sisters with surprising regularity. Kat’s the mean sergeant and survival specialist of the duo, never hesitating to kick Agnes’s ass when she’s slacking off. Her memory works like an easy-access catalogue, which allows her to keep up with both book details and social media. Also works as the emergency GPS. Agnes is the Merikan nitpicker, usually found busy with formatting and research. Her attention tends to be scattered, and despite pushing thirty, she needs to apply makeup to buy alcohol. Self-proclaimed queen of the roads.

They love the weird and wonderful, stepping out of the box, and bending stereotypes both in life and books. When you pick up a Merikan book, there’s one thing you can be sure of – it will be full of surprises.

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PK:  So, let’s get the elephant out of the room, you write straightforward romance (pun completely intended) but also M/M Romance – why did you decide to write in this genre in particular?

Agnes: I started being interested in the dynamics of male/male relationships as a teen. At the time, I was passionate about Japanese popular culture, and I stumbled upon a gay-themed manga at a convention. What drew the young me to reading about gay relationships in the first place was the lack of traditional gender role expectations, but as I met gay people in real life, I noticed that most media featuring LGBTQ content were misrepresenting the lives of my friends. For some reason, movies and books with tragic endings are automatically considered more high-brow and deep, but after consuming a fair amount of them, the melodrama becomes a cheap cliche. I felt that the time of stories where LGBTQ characters were bound to be tragic heroes was over, and in the end, I started reading a lot of slash fiction, where the resolution was often more rewarding.

While I always thought romance had a lot of potential as a genre, I kept stumbling upon books with heroines I couldn’t identify with and heroes that didn’t feel like real people, and for a long time I stopped reading it altogether. M/M features more than one man, so each book shows a greater variety of male characters, which I really enjoy. It was only about a year ago that I gave M/F romance a chance again, and I found that many writers are experimenting with portrayals of straight relationships as well. I still feel slightly more comfortable within the M/M genre, but I am also slowly discovering what kind of straight romance I want to write. At the core, the love of those characters is all the same, and the way a relationship functions is more about the people involved than their gender..

 

PK: You write about burglars, pirates, zombie gentleman (ahem), people with disabilities, ghosts, mermen and bikers. Where does your inspiration come from?

Agnes: Movies and TV shows are a major inspiration, but I’m also a keen watcher of people. I enjoy just sitting on a bench or in a cafe and observing little quirks, body language, various interactions between people. Sometimes, a random person can spur a new character or story. It was like that with Grim, a secondary character from our Sex & Mayhem series, who will  be getting his own book very soon. He was conceived in his original form when Kat saw a very handsome policeman on a motorcycle. We started discussing what a character he’d make, and Grim effectively became the first Sex & Mayhem character we came up with.

Kat: Oh, yes, Grim, ha ha. Anything can be inspiration. We both enjoy watching a lot of documentaries, and reading non-fiction, which can be a great source of inspiration. One of our favorite books – Special Needs was inspired by extensive research of all kinds of disability fetishes and Body Identity Integrity Disorder. We love writing about the unusual, about characters who live outside of the box in this way or another. Not to mention all the dubious morality criminal characters bring with them. In our lives we’re pretty chilled out, so we love the thrill of writing about all sorts of badass, crazy guys

 

PK: One Step Too Close deal with the semi-taboo subject of stepbrothers. What inspired you to write about this?

Kat: We weren’t planning to write a stepbrother story, but the characters for it came about in Guns n’ Boys: Swamp Blood, where they are side characters. Any time we would write scenes with them, there was an undercurrent of loyalty, protective feelings, but also jealousy, and the more we wrote about them, the more sparks we could sense between them. By the time we finished writing Swamp Blood, Jed and Ryder needed a book of their own. I love the several layers of taboo in this book. The stepbrother aspect, being gay in homophobic surroundings, and then being brothers in arms in the motorcycle club on top of that.

 

PK:Is there any subject you would NEVER write about?

Agnes: While we don’t shy away from scenes of torture and violence, I wouldn’t write a scene of torture for the sake of it. I have a low pain threshold, and so whenever I describe strong physical discomfort, it is just to prompt an emotional response from the reader and for the sake of plot. When it comes to sexual scenes, I am pretty open about most acts, but I don’t write torture porn or certain things that personally gross me out.

Kat: Hard Sci-Fi doesn’t interest me much.

 

PK:You also deal with subjects such as BDSM, pony play, etc. These are subjects that have become popular recently but still not really mentioned in ‘polite’ conversation. Do your friends and family know what you write about, and if so, what were their reactions?

Agnes: I’m not uncomfortable with any of those topic, but I learned that many people are, so I sometimes don’t mention certain things for their sake. If someone actually asks about details, I’m excited to discuss pretty much anything.

Kat: Most of my family and friends know more or less what I write, and usually, just like Agnes, I try not to come out with all the pony play, BDSM craziness too soon, so that I don’t make others uncomfortable. Also, people make the strangest assumptions when you tell them you write erotic romance. Like they can’t separate that from you. If you write thrillers, no one assumes you’re a serial killer, but if you write romance, people feel entitled to outright ask personal questions. I’ve learned that the hard way when dating, and it left me on the fence about disclosing what I write too soon even though it’s such a big part of me.

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PK: Are there any differences for you between writing M/M Romance and straight Contemporary Romance? If so, what are they?

Agnes: Pronouns! After years of writing M/M, M/F feels so straightforward when there’s only one ‘he’ 😉 When I write M/M, I alternate identifying with both MCs, but M/F immediately puts me into the shoes of the heroine, and because of that, I’m very conscious of the relationship dynamics in books. Very frequently, I read novels or watch movies where women lack agency or have the personality of an outline drawing in a coloring book. That is slowly changing in our popular culture, but just a few days ago I watched a movie based on a classic Victorian novel, and it only reminded me what I hate about the way women are frequently portrayed. Weak, focused on either trivial things or making others content, easily swayed. That’s not what I see around me. There are so many amazing women in my life, and I want to convey that while also writing an exciting erotic romance.

Kat: The differences are what attracted us to writing some M/F in the first place. Some people think that they can just swap the pronouns in a story, change the details of the sex scenes and the stories can be the same, but that only works in certain contexts. We are most interested in relationship dynamics, and those can differ depending on the gender of the people involved. And then there are many different types of guys and girls to create neverending combinations of personal qualities, of how they function in society depending on what role in life they have. There are issues with which men don’t have to deal with as they grow up, and the other way around. Everything depends on a particular character, and they are never interchangeable. Our first M/F book actually came about because the setup wasn’t working for M/M, and when we decided to write the story with an M/F couple, it just clicked. Or depending on the setting, even a badass assassin woman, would not be able to operate in a very macho mafia environment the same way a man does.

 

PK: Let’s talk sex. The scenes in your books can certainly be described as ‘creative’, do you have fun writing these?

Agnes: I love writing sex scenes. It’s funny how easily I can tune into a character’s fantasies. For example, I personally don’t consider pony play or BDSM arousing, but if the character does, and I’m in the zone, for the time I’m writing, there’s nothing more exciting in the world for me.

Kat: Some authors say they get bored of writing them after some time, but I love them. Each one has to feel new, fresh, and different, and it does because of the characters. No couple has the same internal dynamics, and that in turn makes the sex interesting each time.

Agnes: We make a point of writing the sex scenes in a way that makes them an integral element of the plot. When we create the outline, sex scenes are treated the same way as any other elements, and they serve a purpose within the main narrative and conflict. It’s not possible to just cut them out without removing a block that is integral to the construction of the book.

 

PK: There are two of you who make up KA Merikan, what does your writing process look like?

Agnes: The writing itself is a bit like a written role play, only there is a basic outline for each scene. Each of us is “responsible” for one of the romantic partners, and we share secondary characters. When there’s longer descriptions, we often write simultaneously in one document, but the romantic interactions and dialogue are written in real time.

Kat: But before the writing itself, comes the outlining. Each time we sit down to plan a new book, the process becomes smoother. We write down the character bios, look at their flaws, goals etc. Sometimes, we have a plot idea, and we incorporate it, but sometimes we just look at the issues the characters need to deal with, and we make the plot out of that.

 

PK:  Of all the books you’ve written, which has been your favorite and why?

Agnes: The Guns n’ Boys series is our baby. Those characters have been with us the longest, and we are most attached to them out of all our creations. The biker books are also very close to my heart. I love The Devil’s Ride, and I have a mild obsession with Sex & Mayhem book number 5, Red Hot, because the characters are so crazy in all the best ways. That being said, I love the raw emotion of the newest novel, One Step Too Close. This one is all about the kind of forever love that I just know would never burn out.

Kat: Yep, I’m a Guns n’ Boys addict. It’s pulpy, sexy, crazy, with the most outrageous characters, and I don’t know how I will feel when the series comes to an end. Special Needs has a place in my heart as well, for the quirky characters and one of the guys, Liam, being my book-husband 😉

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PK:  If you could bring any one of your characters to life, who would it be and why?

Agnes: As much as I adore Domenico from Guns n’ Boys, in real life I probably wouldn’t want to have much to do with him. He is a terrible person, and the only thing that redeems him is the love he feels for Seth. I like making fun of him in the narrative, because he deserves it, no matter how much of a hot badass he is. I know that some people believe that an objectively bad person should not be a romantic lead, but erotic fantasies aren’t restricted to the bedroom. An adult can enjoy the fantasy of a relationship that wouldn’t be healthy in real life and shouldn’t be policed for it. A book boyfriend doesn’t have to be a man whom one would want in real life. But as much as I enjoy the guilty pleasures of lovable assholes, I also write about guys I would like to date. I suppose if I could bring one to life, it would be Hunter from our upcoming M/F book, Split. Minus the life of crime of course, but I do think he is an amazing and smoking hot guy. Can’t wait to see what our readers think about him!

Kat: If he could be my boyfriend, I’d go with Liam from Special Needs 😉 He’s funny, sexy, kinky, and an amazing cook.

 

PK:  Kat is an artist and Agnes is a psychologist, why the decision to start writing?

Agnes: We both always enjoyed writing as a hobby. I’m still very interested in psychology, most of all in psychopathology and sex therapy, but as I started doing clinical practice, working with patients, I realized that it wasn’t a job for me. I’m an introvert, and I think I wouldn’t have been able to avoid taking the stress of clinical work home in the long run. I had to face the fact that no matter how much I loved psychology and science, there was nothing that gave me as much satisfaction as writing. I needed to take a risk and stop following the straight career path that would probably end up making me miserable. Kat really helped me to make up my mind about this, actually.

Kat: Yes, there was a moment in my life where I had an average retail job, was trying to make it as an illustrator, looking for jobs, sending out my portfolio, getting nowhere with it, but every day, I also spent a few hours writing. When I think back to it, writing was always the highlight of the day I looked forward to once I finished all my jobs. It didn’t feel like work. We wrote fun stories for a blog that had a following, and it was the same kind of escapism that a lot of readers have when reading. But to succeed in art, I would need to really commit to it more than I was. So I had to choose, and after telling Agnes that I will either need to cut down on writing, or try to do it professionally, we decided to give it our best shot and see where we could get with it within five years if we really dropped everything else and just worked a part time job to get by. It was the best decision ever (comparable only to doing full time housesitting ha ha). Once we focused our efforts on actually growing our writing skills (and transferring from Polish language to English at that), everything fell into place.

I’m now slowly getting back to painting in my free time as a hobby, and not having the pressure to draw based on what has potential to sell is fantastic.

 

PK:  What does a typical day look like for you?

Agnes: We have daily and monthly word quotas to meet-this allows us not to fall behind. We typically do our chores, exercise, and enjoy some free time during the day before starting work in the evening. Each of us does some admin, but writing and editing take up most of the work time.

Kat: Agnes has lately developed an obsession with coloring books 😉

 

PK:  What was the first book you wrote, and what happened to it?

Agnes: It was a dystopian SF, which wasn’t very good and ended up never being published anywhere. Kat and I wrote our first stories in our native language and published them as online serials. We wrote Guns n’ Boys first in that format, but the version we are publishing now ended up being a very different story with the same characters.

Kat: The first one I wrote was a ridiculously kinky, slashy, soap opera kind of story set in a Catholic boarding school. Ha ha, yes, there were spankings, evil priests, and schoolboy drama.

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PK: Is there anyone, dead or alive, fictional or real, that you’d like to really just punch in the face?

Agnes: There are such people, but I try to keep negativity private 😉

Kat: I hated Lori from the Walking Dead SO MUCH. /spoiler > fortunately, she’s dead now.

Agnes: Now that you mention shows, I hated Marley from Glee so much I wanted her to be eaten alive by crows (there goes my declaration…)

 

PK: What was the last lie you told?

Agnes: I told the dog he was gonna get a biscuit if he stops hunting moles and comes home. I know, I’m a terrible person…

Kat: I told myself I won’t eat too much Nutella.

 

PK:  When was the last time you said: “GROSS!”?

Kat: Today, when the dog started eating some sort of poo off the ground… :/

Agnes: When I spotted a long, disgusting bug in my room two days ago. It was moving so fast:/

 

PK: When was the last time you blushed?

Agnes: I don’t remember. But I can say something about one time I blushed a lot. I was out in London, wearing a lovely new dress made of two layers of fabric, one of which was transparent (I bet you know where this is going). So there I am, walking down the impossibly crowded Oxford Street, and an older guy pokes me in the shoulder. It turned out the opaque layer of my dress rolled up against the bag I wore on my hip, and I had been happily walking through London with people watching my underwear.

Kat: I laughed so hard.

 

PK:Would you rather have to read the same book for a year, or lose the ability to read for a year?

Agnes: Definitely read one book all year. I could memorize all the best passages <3

Kat: Read, definitely.

 

PK:  You become ruler of the world. What’s the first rule you make?

Agnes:  In a world in which I would be good world leader material, I would make an effort toward allowing every person explore their potential to the fullest. Equal access to education and culture, and also promoting frank discussion about any topic, are the first steps to a fairer, more peaceful world.

Kat: Gah, there are so many issues that need to be addressed in the world for it to be a more equal, happy place, but on a basic level, I would try to ensure that everyone has access to good healthy food that will help them thrive.

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PK:  What’s next for KA Merikan?

Agnes: We’re finalizing our newest Miss Merikan book, Split, which is about the sister of the main character of our M/M romance, The Devil’s Ride. I think the couple is incredibly well matched in this one. Asty is the daughter of the president of a motorcycle club, and she falls for a new member, who she knows wouldn’t be well received by her dad, so there’s a lot of sneaking around and secrets in this one. The novel is hot, dramatic, a bit crazy, but it also deals with very real issues, such as coping with loss of a loved one. Oh, and I want a real-life Hunter, as I already mentioned.

Kat: Then it will be time for Grim’s book. Did I mention he’s an amputee fetishist? :>

 

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