Trick and treat: romance with a side of horror

Trick and treat: romance with a side of horror

If you ask me what I write, I’ll say romance.

If you fold your arms and tap your foot meaningfully, I’ll admit that I write romance with scary stuff. Romance first, but with horror as a partner, an undercurrent, a constant possibility. The two might seem opposed at first glance, but they go together beautifully. Two sides of the same coin. Chilli and chocolate. Snow White and Rose Red.

Both genres aim to do the same thing: to provoke an emotional response. That’s not all they do, of course; the best work in both areas provides great writing and fantastic plotting and all the other trappings of a terrific book – but they need more as well. If a romance or a horror doesn’t evoke a powerful emotional response, one you feel in your body, it has failed.

I used to be an editor at a large romance publisher. I can’t tell you how many slush MSS we’d see that were well written, competently plotted and utterly inert. They’d come in from people who believed that you could knock out a quick romance novel and make a few quid, who’d written with absolutely no emotional commitment, and they were like getting dead fish in the post. They were also, to a manuscript, unfixable. You can take an absolute mess of a poorly-written MS where the feelings blaze off the page and edit it up to a good read, but there’s damn all to be done with a manuscript where the characters have no emotional impact on the reader.

In these genres, you need the feelings. The endorphin hit of love, the erotic arousal; the goosebumps of terror, the squirmy visceral response to horror. The word ‘horror’ comes from a Latin root meaning ‘to make your hair stand on end’. It’s all about the physical-emotional reaction.

I needn’t go on. Everyone knows the close link between fear and sex. After all, what piece of furniture do the monsters live under? And we all like to go bump in the night…

So I write horror, fear and scary stuff in my romance. Not too much, because in the end I read romance to have hope. I need something good and bright to hold on to. But enough horror to keep the edge sharp, and remind you about the bad things love saves us from. I like the heightened emotions, the switchback between feelings, keeping the reader on the edge of the seat. I like pulling my heroes to the edge of what’s bearable, and seeing if they can take it like a man.

And therefore I wrote some full-on gay romance spookiness. Well, it is Halloween.

My ghost stories are about a Victorian ghost hunter, Simon Feximal, and his narrator, sidekick and lover, Robert Caldwell. The Caldwell Ghost  deals with their first encounter in a house haunted by a particularly frustrated ghost; Butterflies  continues the story of how Simon and Robert became a partnership as they face an ancient power and a modern evil.

And, since it’s Halloween, Butterflies  is completely free at Smashwords. My treat, no tricks. I hope you enjoy it!


Do you like your romance spiced with scary stuff? Find more great UK gay romance paranormal titles here Share your thoughts and recommendations in the comments!

KJ Charles is a writer of gay romance. She blogs at, and tweets @kj_charles. Her first book, The Magpie Lord , is out now from Samhain.

Bedrooms and Hallways – remodel your love life

This is another review of one of my favourite gay British films. Another one from the nineties, but if you didn’t know, that’s one of my favourite recent *retro* periods.

Blurb: At the suggestion of a straight friend, gay man Leo joins a men’s group,  where he causes some upsets by declaring his attraction to one of its members. (IMDB)

Angie, ‘Leo, you are a strawberry blond. You can’t go out with an ash blonde. It’s just not right.’

I accidently discovered this when visiting a friend at university in York. We’d spent Friday night out drinking and wanted a night in with a video – it was 1998 – and a takeaway. I was joined by my friend Kate, her boyfriend, and two gay friends. Unsurprisingly we ended up choosing this sexual identity, romantic comedy. I had campaigned hard for a complete avoidance of anything with action or horror in its description. I won, and it’s served me well ever since.

It’s a film which most people haven’t heard of. OK, so it wasn’t Four Weddings-successful. Yes, it doesn’t have the cult following of Beautiful Thing. But it’s got Leo (Kevin McKidd) in all his unassuming cuteness, Angie (Julie Graham) his trolley dolly flatmate, Darren (Tom Hollander) as a spectacularly camp and entertaining best friend of Leo, Brendan (James Purefoy) showing his full-on Irish smouldering charm, as well as Hugo Weaving as a sex obsessed estate agent.

What’s not to love?

I don’t want to give too much away, for it has a twisty plot with *I think* some surprising parts. It’s like a French farce or an Alan Ayckbourn play: there’s mistaken identity; men jumping out of windows in their underpants as house-owners return; witty one liners. It’s a film about how fluid sexuality is; how whether you’re gay, straight, bisexual, whatever, most people just want to be loved, and someone to share their lives with.

It starts with Leo’s surprise thirtieth birthday as he sulks about not wanting to join in. I like this, as it plunges you straight into the action: in the party you see the host of characters you gradually meet during the rest of the film. The story rewinds to the point at which Leo agrees to join the men’s group.

Gay men think they may be straight, straight men give being gay a go – some with more success than others. Some men and women cheer from the sidelines with encouragement, and others are horrified at talking about feelings ‘with other men’ or proclaim the sex police will be calling soon.

I love the scene as the straight man tells the other men about how it *felt* to have sex with a man and be passive, for the first time. And if you don’t like the sound of that, Darren’s (Hollander) outfits are worth a look, as well as seeing James Purefoy and Kevin McKidd kissing in bed together.

Go on, treat yourself, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

Liam Livings xx

If you like what you’ve read here, I can be found mincing, mimsying and musing on the internet in various places.

Website including free story samples


Twitter @LiamLivings

To meet me…I will be at the Feminist Library, in London reading an extract of my current WIP novel, And Then That Happened on 30 October at 7pm. I will be at the Festival of Romance in Bedford 9-10 November. More details on my blog.

Upcoming stories: I have the MM British set novella, Christmas Serendipity, published in December 2013. For more nineties retro camp, you can read the first part of the Best Friends Perfect series in spring 2014.

UK Meet GLBTQ Fiction 2014

Sorry we’ve been quiet for the past week, work and family commitments have been manic, but now it’s time to catch up with what’s going on with ukgayromance.

Registration is now open for the UK Meet – GLBTQ Fiction

The 2014 meet will be held on June 6th to 8th 2014 at the Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel.

This is an event run for and by GLBTQ fans / authors / readers. I have been to the last three and I can tell you it is a fabulous event and well worth attending.

The UK Meet has the following aims:

  • With a British flavour, to raise the profile of English language GLBTQ fiction to readers around the world.
  • To facilitate peer to peer community support between readers, writers and bloggers of English language GLBTQ fiction.
  • To facilitate publishing of English language GLBTQ fiction around the world.

Why would you want to attend the UK Meet? Do you love GLBTQ romance? Do you want a safe place to share your love with writers, readers, reviewers and publishers? Then this is the place for you. Look forward to seeing you next June!

Giveaway: The Choosing by Annabelle Jacobs

Annabelle Jacobs has her new book out, The Choosing. She is giving away a copy of her new book to be picked at 9am GMT on the release date, October 18th. Leave a comment here to enter the draw.

1. How did you discover the MM/gay romance genre?

Hmmm… I guess that would be when I started to watch the UK Queer as Folk and thought it was fabulous, and incredibly hot. But it wasn’t until many years later that I started reading stories in that genre.
After discovering fanfiction, a fandom friend suggested I might like to broaden my horizons and recommended a couple of m/m stories to me, and I was hooked.

2. What made you start writing in the genre?
I began writing fanfiction m/f stories to start with, but the more m/m stories I read and loved, the more I fancied trying my hand at writing one. Initially it was a way of writing my favourite characters together, but the more confident I became, the more I wanted to write a story with my own ideas and my own characters. So in November last year, I joined a couple of my friends and had a go at NanoWriMo. To my amazement, I managed to reach my 50K target and by the end of December I’d finished my very first novel, The Choosing.

3. Where do you base your books?
I absolutely adore fantasy and paranormal stories. For a long time it was all I used to read, and so it wasn’t a big surprise that when I thought about writing a full length story, the first idea that sprung to mind was about shifters. I have a vivid imagination, and I love to put it to good use building worlds and filling them with all sorts of weird and wonderful things. So essentially my stories are based in whatever made up land my mind can produce.

4. Tell me about your current/forthcoming novel.

The novel I wrote during NanoWriMo is due to be released on October 18th 2013. It’s about a village of feline shapeshifters, and tells the story of Jerath – a young man from the village of Eladir– and his best friend Serim as they struggle to save their people from raiders. As with all the girls of the village, Serim was born knowing which animal she would change into, and hers is a beautiful black panther. Jerath, like all the other boys, must go through The Choosing to reveal his shifter form.

I loved the idea of the The Choosing itself being a coming-of-age ritual, and I had the best time writing Serim and Jerath. Their friendship is just as important to the story as is Jerath’s eventual love interest, Meren.

5. What are you writing at the moment?
At the moment I’ve just begun writing the third and final instalment in my fantasy trilogy, Torsere. The first in the trilogy, Dragon Rider, will be released in early 2014. This third book is called Alliance, and it continues the story of Ryneq, The Prince of Torsere, and Nykin, a Dragon Rider in the Prince’s army. I don’t want to give too much detail about the story, because it follows on from books one and two. But as with most of my stories, there’s love and adventure, and magic.

Author Bio :
Annabelle Jacobs lives in the South West of England with her husband, three rowdy children, and two cats.

An avid reader of fantasy herself for many years, Annabelle now spends her days writing her own stories. They’re usually either fantasy or paranormal fiction, because she loves building worlds filled with magical creatures, and creating stories full of action and adventure. Her characters may have a tough time of it—fighting enemies and adversity—but they always find love in the end.
Internet links:

Buylink: Dreamspinner
Blurb for The Choosing:
Jerath is facing the biggest problem of his life. When boys in his shapeshifter village Eladir get their fangs, they must endure a coming-of-age rite called the Choosing, so they can take on their animal form. The rite is performed on the full moon, but the trouble is the Choosing involves having sex with a girl, and Jerath’s only interested in boys. Even if he manages to somehow get through the rite, he doesn’t know if he’ll ever find a mate in his village, where opposite-sex couples are the norm.

Even worse, he may miss the rite altogether after raiders attack his home and take several young men prisoner. Jerath will need the help of warriors if he’s to free the captive shapeshifters, so with his best friend, Serim, he flees south to find aid. Along the way, they meet Meren, a handsome warrior whose attraction to Jerath is instant and very much returned. But with the next full moon approaching and available time for the prisoners to undergo the Choosing running out, Jerath’s love life is far from his only worry.