I’m super excited to be featuring Renae Kaye today, an author I adore! I’ve read at least 5 of her books and helplessly fall for her quirky characters every time! I’ve been trying to remember which or her titles I started with, but each one feels like a world unto itself. With each one, I wish it was book 1 of a series. Hint hint Renae, more series!
Here’s a quick snapshot on her before we dive into the Author Interview! Did you know that excessive use of exclamation marks makes you look dumb?! Oh well, Renae deserves them!!!
Featured Author Snapshot
Author’s Name: Renae Kaye
Author’s Genre(s): Contemporary Gay Romance
Latest Release: You Are the Reason, released 7th of August 2015
Author’s website: www.renaekaye.weebly.com
Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/renae.kaye.9
Twitter Account: @renaekkaye
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
About the Author
Renae Kaye is an author living in Perth, Western Australia where she struggles to find time between her writing and the other parts of her life – like her children, husband, the housework, the garden and the myriad of pets who have found a home with her.
Meet and Greet
MF: Welcome and thanks so much for sharing your work and experiences with us! Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming release?
RK: Hi, Michele. Thanks so much for having me on your blog. I’m super excited about it.
My new release is called, You Are the Reason. In July last year I released a book called The Blinding Light which was about a rich but fussy blind man, and his mouthy new housekeeper. The story was told from Jake’s point of view (the housekeeper) as he fell for Patrick. After releasing this book, the readers wanted more. More of Jake and Patrick. More of the story.
In The Blinding Light, Jake had a good friend who went by the name of Davo – and this new release is Davo’s story. It starts three weeks after The Blinding Light finishes, and so tracks the next part of Jake and Patrick’s story, but is focused on Davo.
Davo is scared of anything femme and anything too obviously gay. So, of course, I just had to find him the most obviously gayest man around…
The New Book!
MF: Can you tell us about the situation your main character finds himself in and what’s standing in the way of his happiness?
RK: Davo is running scared. He thought he had his life down-pat. He was satisfied with himself. He had a good job, had bought himself a house, and had good friends. He wasn’t looking for anything that resembled a relationship, and he told himself that all was fine, because his closest gay friend (Jake) was exactly the same. What more could a man want?
And then Jake fell in love, moved in with Patrick, and settled into domestic bliss – complete with a baby.
Suddenly he’s questioning himself and is unsure about anything he once thought. Central to this is Jake’s newborn daughter, Maxine. Davo is terrified of feeling any kind of soft emotion toward another, yet this tiny baby has grabbed his heart.
Enter Lee – the type of man that Davo usually runs from. But with Davo lost at sea, questioning himself and his attitudes, Lee manages to worm his way into Davo’s heart. Now Dave needs to learn to love without borders.
MF: You’ve mentioned in your bio that you often feature “quirky, snarky and imperfect characters.” My favourite! Can you tell us about your latest cross-dressing hero and what you admire about his unique approach to life?
RK: Oh, I love Lee. I think I’m jealous of him too. A lot of the time we hide ourselves when we put on our face for the public. We squeeze ourselves into tight dresses, when we are really more comfortable wearing jeans. Or we order wine at the restaurant, when we really want to throw back a beer.
Lee is a lot more confident in his life. He’s a guy, he’s gay, but he enjoys slipping into a dress every now and then, and is not ashamed of the fact. Lee has it together – a good head on his shoulders. I think this kind of acceptance comes from our upbringing – our parents primarily, but also our family, siblings and friends – and I strive to raise my own children in this way. If they want to wear a dress, they can. If they want to play football, they can. I’m never telling them that “girls/boys don’t do that.”
MF: I feel exactly the same way with my kids Renae. Thank you for sharing that; I knew I adored you. Your book “Loving Jay” featured the lovely Jay, who wasn’t shy to rock a little guy-liner, and his admirer. How is this story similar and different?
RK: I think there are only surface similarities with Jay from Loving Jay and Lee from You Are the Reason. Jay is completely flamboyant, with his emotions see-sawing through him. He has no other choice but to show the “real” him to the public – he’s transparent. He doesn’t see the need for hiding it, but at the same time, he would never successfully be able to act in any other way.
Lee is different. Calmer, more patient, more relaxed. He could exist without the guy-liner and the zing, but chooses not to.
I’m a huge fan of the opposites attract storyline, so yes, I often will pair the ultra-masculine with the not-so-masculine. I don’t like to play into “stereotypes,” so each character is unique and has their own quirks and personalities. In Loving Jay, Liam had to realise that he was attracted to men, and that was okay. In You Are the Reason, Davo knows he is gay, but he needs to get over his dislike of femme-acting gay people.
MF: How would you describe your work?
RK: Humorous, contemporary gay romance, set in Australia.
MF: Are there themes that come up again and again in your work? What are these core themes?
RK: A reviewer recently mentioned that you always get a blue-collar worker when you pick up a Renae Kaye story. I have to agree. They are the people I like writing about. They are my friends and family. They are those I see and where I get my inspiration from.
MF: Are there experiences from your own life that have worked their way into your work?
RK: **looks at the cover of The Shearing Gun** Did you really need me to answer this question?
Yes, of course. Jobs, families, pets, locations – they are all interwoven into the fabric of my stories. I think family is the biggest. My family had a huge influence over my life, and all of my characters have family influences. Especially with my novels, where I can explore a character’s background more, you will find that family is the reason for most of their life choices.
The Writing Story
MF: How did you start writing?
RK: I only started writing in 2013. I had hit a roadblock in my reading, where I was bored with the stuff coming out. I wanted humour. I wanted Australian. I wanted a twink story. And I couldn’t find a book that did this.
So (stubborn me) decided that I would write my own story. At least I could then read it and have a laugh. I really didn’t intend to publish it.
There were a number of elements all happening in my life that propelled me to submit it to a publisher, but basically I never considered Loving Jay to be good enough to publish. It was written by me, for me. In the back of my mind, I did have a bit of an idea about trying to earn a bit of pocket money writing, but it was “in my wildest dreams.”
MF: Pardon me? 2013?! Ok, I’m not sure I like you anymore! *outraged muttering* Was there a moment in your life when you decided that you were a writer?
RK: Ha ha. I had this conversation many times with my BFF. When did I become a “writer”? When I first put word to page? When I finished my first manuscript? When I found the courage to send my manuscript to a publisher? When I was accepted? When I published my website calling myself a writer? With the release of my first book?
I don’t know. **thinks hard** I actually don’t think it was until the release of my third novel. About that time I think I came to realise that yes, I was a writer. People were buying me and liking what I wrote.
Is that crazy?
MF: Yes, that’s insane. LOL. I believe you are a writer when stories form in your head, whether you choose to write them down or not. Of course, it’s different for everyone, and very tricky to figure out once and for all if your work is validated “enough.” Was writing an impractical choice for you? Why did you go for it anyway?
RK: **rolls on the floor with laughter** Absolutely.
I barely passed English Literature at high school. I pulled A’s in all maths and science based subjects, but would scrape through at 52% on my English Lit exams. I would never have thought I could write a book. For years and years everyone has told me that my skills lie in the mathematical fields. Although I’ve always been a prolific reader, my reading choices have always been scoffed at, and I’ve never had encouragement toward anything in the creative field.
Why did I go for it? To prove to myself that I couldn’t. Sounds weird? Yeah. I had this idea of writing, and dismissed it constantly. In the end, I set out to prove I would fail at it, so that the idea would go away.
Can I say I rejoice in my failure to prove that I would fail?
MF: What is your life like outside of your writing career?
RK: I’m a mummy. I do school lunches and ferry children to football games. I wash clothes, vacuum floors, do dishes. I wear jeans daily because they’re practical. I buy handbags that I can fit lots in because I need to carry wet wipes, bandaids, tissues, etc around with me. The car is full of car seats, empty lolly wrappers and sand, sand, sand… Do you get the picture?
MF: How long did it take you to get published?
RK: I was one of the lucky ones. My first manuscript I ever sent in was accepted by a publisher.
MF: How did you go about trying to find a publisher? Was this difficult for you?
RK: I write middle-of-the-road stuff, which makes it easier in finding a “fit” with a publisher. Those who write further away from that middle line, perhaps have less choice and less examples.
But the first thing I did was make a list of my favourite stories in the genre, and check what publishers they were through. I checked out their sites, making note of their submission guidelines. If your book falls outside their guidelines, don’t waste your time, and their time, by submitting. If you wrote a fantasy, but they only publish westerns, then don’t submit. If they’re only interested in stories that are between 45k-65k long, don’t send in your 100k saga.
Satisfied that my story was similar to stuff they already published, and that they were looking for stories from this category, I wrote myself a list of publishers to try. I did a little bit of googling about the various publishers, to make sure they were decent, but I had a set list – I was aiming high, but you should as well.
I then submitted my manuscript to the first publisher, and waited. My plan was that when it was rejected, I would try the next, and the next, and the next. Any feedback from the publisher, such as suggestions as to why the story was rejected, would be carefully listened to.
Fortunately for me, I received a contract as a reply.
MF: What do you think was the most important thing you did to break into the industry?
RK: Submit a story.
There is an old joke about a devout Christian who prayed every day for God to help him win Lotto. Every day he prayed, and yet he never won. One day, after 40 years of daily prayers, God materialised in front of the man and yelled, “I would help you win Lotto, but you have to buy a damn ticket!”
You don’t have to write the latest Harry Potter. You don’t have to write a sweeping saga. But you do have to write. Get a story on the page that is robust and thorough. And then submit it to a publisher.
MF: Do you identify yourself as a writer first or are there other roles that take precedence in your life?
RK: Mummy and housewife come first. Then writing.
MF: When you fill out forms do you put Author or Writer as your occupation?
RK: I usually write author. A subtle difference, but I think a writer can be a journalist, a blogger, a non-fiction writer… An author is pretty much someone who writes books. As writing is my only source of income, I am obligated to write it as my occupation.
MF: Was it difficult to label yourself as a writer or author, or has this always felt natural to you?
RK: Very difficult. It’s like blowing your own trumpet. I’m still not comfortable with it.
The Writing Process
MF: Can you tell us a bit about how you work?
RK: I send the kids to school, I open up my Word document, I write. No magic. No planning. No thought, other than “what happens next?”
MF: Stephen King talked about situations as being the starting points for his novels, and author Lois McMaster Bujold talked about building situations around what she wants to show about a particular character. Is there a pattern to the way a story starts in your imagination?
RK: Yes – for me there are definite patterns to how I start thinking of a story. Each story is different, but I usually get hit with an inspiration of a character, and the question of how he would react to a certain situation.
With Loving Jay, I have a friend who is very much like Jay. One day I was thinking, “How do straight men react to his flamboyance? What if there was a guy who didn’t even realise he was gay until he met Jay?” and next thing I was creating the story. Why doesn’t Liam know he’s gay? What’s stopping him from admitting it? Where does he meet Jay? And then I flesh out the character, giving him physical appearance, personality, fears, hopes, family, back story – and then I put him in the situation and write the story from there.
With The Blinding Light it was “What if there was a blind man that was made crazy each day with the scent of his housekeeper he’d never met?” With that I started fleshing out the story. Why is he blind? What would make a man take a housekeeping job? What characteristics would a blind man be attracted to?
With my coming release, You Are the Reason, I was given the personality of Davo, because I had already created him when writing The Blinding Light. I was hit with the task of working out why Davo was the idiot he seemed in the first novel. I created a back story for him, then hunted around for the perfect match that would make the man realise what a dick he’d been, and how he no longer needed to be afraid. And so Lee was born – a man that was patient and caring enough to handle Davo’s insecurities, but strong enough not to change himself, just because Davo was uncomfortable with him.
It’s usually the situations that I put my characters in that spark the story. What if there was a gay guy who didn’t realise the woman he met was really a guy?
MF: Many writers talk about an element of “the unexplained” when it comes to their writing process. Is there any magic in what you’ve experienced as a writer?
RK: Yes. But I think it comes from your subconscious. Our brains are always taking in information and learning. Sometimes you need to relax and trust your subconscious to work.
I will often be writing and the words on the screen are astounding me, and I think “Where the hell did that come from?” Or a joke will pop up. Relax and trust – that’s how I write.
MF: What are your peak writing hours?
RK: I write when the kids go to school, and when the kids go to bed. If I didn’t have kids, it would be interesting to see what my peak hours are, but alas, I’m restricted.
MF: Do you listen to music while you write? Anything you would recommend?
RK: I wrote the first couple of novels to the sound of Play School, Bob the Builder, The Wiggles and Peppa Pig. I usually don’t listen to any music while I write, but it is far from quiet. While I type this, it is 1pm at my house – the canaries are whistling in the backyard, the budgie inside is chirping away, there’s a cat insisting that his bowl is not full so he’s going to die of starvation. There are planes, cars and sirens that usually fill the day, as well as washing machines, dishwashers, etc…
If I need to drown out the sounds of the kids playing (ie fighting), I usually go for classical music. If I listen to anything that has words in it, or is instrumental music to a song with a melody, I’m too busy singing the words and can’t write.
MF: Have you ever experienced writer’s block and if so how did you overcome this?
RK: Not so much writer’s block, but more “Oh, heck – I’ve written myself into a corner. How do I get out of this?”
So many writers I follow on FB work to a schedule – “I must get this finished by Tuesday.” I think this can be draining. Forcing the creativity can make your story flat. I’m not afraid to put aside a story and work on another story if I get stuck on the storyline.
I was writing a spin-off to Loving Jay and had 30k on the word count (approx 50% done) when I suddenly thought that maybe I had overwhelmed the story with too many storylines. I put it aside and worked on another book for 2 months before coming back and rereading what I had done. With the distance I had given myself, I was able to see the story with fresh eyes, and realise that contrary to my thoughts, it was perfect.
MF: Do you use an outline when you write (Plotter style) or does the story evolve as you’re writing it (Pantser)?
RK: Definitely a pantser. It feels more natural to me when I’m writing and when I’m reading. Which is why my books and characters frequently misbehave.
MF: How does plot take shape? Do you build this consciously?
RK: I really don’t know how I do it. I just follow the story where it wants to go. Sometimes I have a particularly scene in mind, and will work toward it. But when I write a story, I create the character and the scene where they meet – and then just work to have them together in the end.
MF: Do you prefer to compose on paper or on a computer?
RK: Always computer.
MF: Has reading about the writing process of other authors helped you in your own work?
RK: Only to affirm that it is different for everyone. Do what works for you.
Gender & Orientation
MF: How do you feel your gender, and the roles models you had as a child influenced what you wanted from life and how you went about getting it?
RK: I had an interesting upbringing, in the fact I went to high school during the 90s (showing my age there). The big push in that decade was to get women into what have been traditionally men’s roles. I remember a particular sticker that I was given that said “Hand a girl a spanner.” I was unfortunately a girl who also had top marks in most classes, and so the adults around me pushed me harder to enter a field that was typically male-dominated.
I felt I needed to become a top player in a male-dominated field so that I wasn’t letting my gender down.
In truth? All I ever wanted from life was home, children and family.
The result? I entered university, but left with 6 months to go before my degree was completed so that I could pursue my dream of home and children.
My role models as a child were all mothers with children. My own mother and sisters shaped my life a lot. But I think it’s harder to be a mother today. In today’s society, we have the added pressure of mothers returning to work – financially needed, socially required, and society expected.
MF: I’ve noticed that your work explores not only sexual orientation, but also gender identity. What is most important to you in terms of gender, stereotypes and identity in your work?
RK: Stereotypes exist for a reason. I know there were some readers who thought that my twinkish character in Loving Jay was too stereotypical and disliked the portrayal – but at the same time, I’ve had a lot of comments/reviews/messages from people who thank me for the character – saying that it is them, or their friend, and dislike that other authors often dismiss them.
My characters can seem one dimensional (ie stereotypical) – but there are layers upon layers if you care to look for them. People are not one dimensional. We will often make snap judgements about people from the way they look, and it’s only when you explore their personalities that you realise how wrong you are.
All of my characters may be gay, but this is the only thread that connects all of them. It is the same in life. I have a gay friend who wears makeup, dances ballet and had to ask me how many points was a goal worth in Aussie Rules, yet my other gay friend is football mad, and if you see him wearing any other colour other than black or white, you know he’s having a mental breakdown.
Gay people are not all the same. I love exploring PEOPLE and their personalities in my writing. They just all happen to be gay.
What is most important to me in my work in terms of gender and stereotypes, is that my characters seem real, and that I represent a large variety of different men when writing.
MF: Thank you for that. Well said. I really enjoy the way you address and explore diversity. What was the first homo-erotic story you ever read? How did it affect your work?
RK: My first gay romance I read was Marie Sexton’s Promises. And yes, it affected my work—because I fell in love with the genre and began to read and explore it with excited eyes, and quick one-clicky fingers.
MF: I love that book! Wow, that’s exciting that it was your first *stars in eyes smile*.
Romance and Sexuality
MF: How do you handle sexual content in your work? What’s most important to you when it comes to your spicy scenes?
RK: I write love scenes with my hands covering my face.
LOL – no. I find love/sex scenes hard to write. I often have to stop and reread over and over to make sure I have the right tone. I also use the thesaurus a lot to find other words for “thrust” – LMAO.
But despite me finding them difficult, I am 100% sure that they are essential in the telling of the story. What happens in the bedroom (or not in the bedroom as the case may be) is important to the relationship between the characters – whether you are writing straight or gay romance. I therefore think it is a crucial part of the story that the reader must experience.
I try not to write a sex scene for the sake of sex. The reader should hopefully learn something with each encounter, and perhaps the character will learn something about themselves too.
What is most important to me in writing these scenes, is to keep it realistic. In my scene, we have condoms and lube, sometimes it doesn’t work, and sometimes someone comes too soon. I try to keep it fun and loving. In You Are the Reason, Davo has a bit of a problem with a fry pan during a sex scene – they are making love in the kitchen and he trips over it several times. It keeps the humour going, as well as reminding people this is not a perfect porn shoot.
MF: What is it you hope your readers will get out of the romantic elements of your work?
RK: I’m a big fan of the “you don’t have to be perfect to be perfect for someone” theme. My characters are hopefully someone you can relate to, or is the guy down the street, or that guy who waved to you across the car park.
Yet, through the story, it turns out that they’re perfect for someone else. In You Are the Reason, Davo and Lee are opposites in a lot of respects, but they are perfect for each other. Davo is not perfect, and neither is Lee – but that’s okay.
Love is not only for the supermodels of this world.
MF: Here here to that!
MF: Who do you write for?
RK: Primarily me. I write the kind of story that I would enjoy picking up at a bookstore.
If readers like it too, well bonus!
MF: Stephen King talks about his use of an “Ideal Reader” or IR, a real person who gets to read and comment on your work before anyone else. Do you have a person like that in your life?
RK: Not really. My BFF gets to read and comment on each story in its draft stage – but that’s because she’s my best friend and with it comes privileges.
Going through a publisher is good, because I rely on them to pick up anything that they think won’t work with the readers, or needs adjustment. Being a publisher and handling high volumes of work is handy with this.
I recently released my first self-published work – Out of the Rain. It was a short story, and I asked two close Australian author-friends to have a look at for me. They did a wonderful job on commenting where they thought the story didn’t work, although because it was only 10k long, it was only a quick job. If I ever try self-publishing a full-length, I will probably have to beg a couple of favours.
MF: In several of your books, you’ve explored how homophobia touches people’s lives and how this ignorant hatred can become internalized. Can you tell us more about how this affects these characters?
RK: This is the crux of the problem with Davo. He was exposed to homophobia on a daily basis when he was too young to even understand what “gay” was. All he understood was that gay was bad. His immature mind clutched on to the fact that it was the “girly” bit of gay that was the bad bit – and so he went out of his way to not be girly. He’s proud to be gay, but no way in the world was he going to be girly.
I think this is how a lot of people deal with homophobia. They get told homosexuality is wrong, and when they question it, they receive an excuse: because it’s dirty, because the bible says so, because you don’t want to be a girl, because no one wants to see that stuff, because people will hurt you. But for the large majority of people, their homosexuality cannot be denied, so they make steps to circumvent the reasons against being gay.
It’s alright if I’m gay, as long as I don’t bottom. It’s alright if I’m gay because I no longer believe in God. It’s alright if I’m gay as long as I’m not girly about it…
Lee accuses Dave of being a gay homophobic during the story, and this is true. Dave has always shied away from the obviously gay people, so he’s never gotten to know them, and see how silly he’s being. There is a lot of soul searching that goes on in this new novel.
MF: What would you most like to see your writing accomplish in the world?
RK: Laughter. Happiness. Acceptance.
I hope for two things from my audience – I hope that they have a good time and leave my story with a smile on their face, and I also hope they learn something.
For someone who is unsure about homosexuality, I hope that my stories unveil some of the questions they have, and show them that gay men are just the same as straight ones.
I also try to place a character in my story that people may feel a little unsure about if they meet them in real life. For example, how to I act around a blind person? I hope that people can see that there are challenges for blind people, but they’re just normal people.
I hope to show readers the challenges faced by someone caring for their Alzheimer’s stricken mother. I hope to explain to readers the challenges faced by a farmer on the land. By unmasking these people through the words of a story, I hope to foster acceptance of them.
MF: How do your spiritual or religious beliefs influence your work?
RK: I am a Christian, and one of the things I dislike is that some people think that being gay and being a Christian are mutually exclusive. Because I am Christian, do not think I hate LGBTI people. Because I am a supporter of gay rights, don’t think I am not a Christian.
The book I am currently working on features two men who are both Christians – but from different denominations. One is accepted in his church, one is not.
I wrote this story so that readers could (a) understand that people who are Christians can be gay-allies, and that (b) people who are gay, and have perhaps been made to feel they are not welcome in their church, would maybe realise that not all churches are the same. Sometimes it’s just a matter of trying out a couple of others (church shopping, we call it in our church) until you find the right fit for you.
So how do my religious beliefs influence my writing? Sometime not at all, sometimes it creates a whole story by itself.
MF: What are you working on right now?
RK: I’m writing a few different pieces at the moment, and we will see which one get finished and submitted first.
At the “so close to finishing I can taste it” stage is a spin-off to Safe in His Arms, featuring Paul and Andrew from the first story.
I’m also working on a story that is a spin-off to Loving Jay. That is over half way done.
MF: Is there anything that you’re dreaming of working on?
RK: Once I finish Paul and Andrew’s story, I get to work on Ash and Devon who we met in Safe. I can’t wait. I also am itching to write Mickey Ryan’s story who we met in The Shearing Gun.
MF: If you could co-write your next book with anyone, who would it be?
RK: **coy smile** Maybe you will just have to wait and see on that one.
MF: Thanks so much for taking the time to tell us all these great insider secrets Renae! What a pleasure! Can you tell us about your scavenger hunt? Sounds cool!
In order to celebrate my release of You Are the Reason, I’ve organised a scavenger hunt. I will be releasing ONE WORD as the hunt item on several stops of my blog tour. In order to WIN an eBook copy of the book, follow along the blog tour and find a minimum of FIVE unique words. Email the five words to me at firstname.lastname@example.org before August 16th to be in the draw.
Today’s word is: CROSS-DRESSING
I look forward to hearing from you.
Back Cover Blurb
Davo’s a pretty average guy. He has a decent job, owns his own home, and spends his weekends at the pub. He fully accepts that he’s gay, but doesn’t want to be one of those gays, who are femme and girly. He likes football and other masculine pursuits, and firmly avoids anything that could be seen as femme—including relationships that last beyond fifteen minutes.
Then Davo’s friend and gay idol not only gets a boyfriend, but also adopts a baby girl. Davo is seriously spooked and scuttles down to the pub in fright. That’s where he meets Lee, who is cute from her cherry-red hair, to her pretty little dress and pointy red shoes. Davo is charmed—but how is that possible? He’s gay. Isn’t he? Then Lee tells him he’s actually a guy—he just likes to wear women’s dresses occasionally. Thoroughly confused about an attraction that’s out of character for him, Davo begins the long journey to where he can accept himself without caring what everyone else thinks.
Official Author Bio
Renae Kaye is a lover and hoarder of books who thinks libraries are devilish places because they make you give the books back. She consumed her first adult romance book at the tender age of thirteen and hasn’t stopped since. After years – and thousands of stories! – of not having book characters do what she wants, she decided she would write her own novel and found the characters still didn’t do what she wanted. It hasn’t stopped her though. She believes that maybe one day the world will create a perfect couple – and it will be the most boring story ever. So until then she is stuck with quirky, snarky and imperfect characters who just want their story told.
Renae lives in Perth, Western Australia and writes in five minute snatches between the demands of two kids, a forbearing husband, too many pets, too much housework and her beloved veggie garden. She is a survivor of being the youngest in a large family and believes that laughter (and a good book) can cure anything.
How to Contact Renae