We speak to Kevin Patterson & Alana Phelan author's of For Hire: Operator. The book is an all emcompassing love story and super hero novel all wrapped into one. 2 women of color with super human powers whose story touches on subjects on consent, polyamory, gender-non-conformity, safe sex practices, sex clubs and more! These super heroes want to help their communities while pushing back against today's obstacles.
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Alana Phelan: One person came up and said, "Hey, I had to put the book down for a second because I finally saw my polyamory on the page and it was overwhelming."
Emily: If you're happy with the same old ways of dating-
Dedeker: If you and enjoy sucking at communications--
Jase: - and you have no desire to improve your romantic life, then our podcast might not be for you.
Dedeker: If you want some out of the box ideas to deepen your current relationships.
Emily: Broaden your sexual horizons.
Dedeker: Develop a better understanding of yourself.
Emily: Or learn more about non-monogamy.
Jase: then you've come to the right place. I'm Jase.
Emily: I'm Emily.
Dedeker: I'm Dedeker.
Jase: This is the Multiamory podcasts.
Jase: On this episode of the Multiamory podcast, we're very excited to have Kevin Patterson back on the show along with his co-author Alana Phelan. Together they wrote a book that just came out a couple months ago called For Hire: Operator, which is a cool Sci-fi book. We're going to have them tell you more about it, but it exists in a world where there's polyamorous and queer people all over the place and it's fantastic. We're really excited to have them back on the show.
Alana Phelan is a writer, editor, librarian, and community organizer. She offers everything from advice to dating events to relationship support coaching through her website, The Polyamorous Librarian. Kevin Patterson has been practicing non monogamy for many years. In April of 2015 he started the interview series blog, Poly Role Models, and his first book Love's Not Colorblind, which we talked about on this show a few months back, covers the intersection of race, polyamory and community. With that, let's get into the interview. Here we are with Kevin and Alana, thank you so much for being here.
Kevin Patterson: Hey, glad to be back.
Jase: We're very excited to talk about your book For Hire: Operator. That just came out like a month ago now? I guess, like two months ago, probably by the time this episode drops at least that, right?
Kevin: Yes, about mid October.
Jase: Mid October. It's been out for a little while. We've all read it and we're super excited to talk about it.
Alana: Yes. So excited to talk to somebody already had a chance to read it.
Jase: Yes, totally.
Jase: Could we start off by you giving us like the quick pitch version of what the book is all about for our listeners at home?
Kevin: Yes. It's a love story. A superhero novel, a representation. It's about two women who have been together since high school. They are both superhuman but they employ their super-humanity in two different ways. One of them is a superhero, which is pretty self explanatory. The other is an operator, which is more of a sheriff for hire, illegal dirty work sort of superhuman. Both of them are top notch at what they do, but they're at such different ends of the superhuman spectrum in terms of what they're using their powers for that it causes friction in their relationship. The operator who the book is titled after, goes on a job for her favorite client and things quickly go completely off the rails.
Dedeker: Got It. Also just for our listeners to know, like Kevin said, this is very much a representation novel as well that- it's a full cast of plenty of non-white people, queer people, gender nonconforming people, a variety of nontraditional relationships represented in a way that I find was very, very normalized as opposed to how it pops up in most fiction, which is like, this one gender nonconforming person shows up either as the token representation or oh, there's these weirdos over here who have a triad. It seemed like in the world, where your novel was set that all these things were like very, very normal in day to day.
Alana: Absolutely. That's one of the things that I loved about what Kevin created when he started this universe is that everything is, if it's not completely normalized, at least it's a lot closer to normalize than we see in the real world.
Jase: Right. Totally. Well, I was kind of curious actually, if you could tell us a little bit about, how this story came about and how you two ended up working together on this?
Kevin: To start, the last time I was on this podcast, I was talking about Love's Not Colorblind. I was about halfway into it and I just needed a mental break and I took some time off and it was really weird because Love's Not Colorblind from start to finish took me about eight to nine months, but the first draft of For Hire, which I did in the middle, it took me barely a month. I wrote a longer book that I thought no one would ever read.
Dedeker: Hang on. Sorry. You wrote another book in the process of writing Love's Not Colorblind?
Emily: Dedeker is flabbergasted.
Dedeker: No, I feel like--
Kevin: No, dawg.
Kevin: I wrote a book--
Emily: He's like, "What can I say? I don't know."
Kevin: In case you want to read a book while you were reading your book.
Emily: There you go.
Dedeker: I feel really like an underachiever now.
Jase: Well, so it makes me think that really-
Emily: Well, they're amazing.
Jase: - what we should have done is read Love's Not Colorblind take a break in the middle to read this one and then go back.
Emily: There you go.
Kevin: That's a super fan.
Kevin:If somebody decides they want to do that. I'll work out some prize for that human. Let's just put that out there.
Jase: That's fantastic.
Emily: Oh my goodness.
Jase: Alana, how did you get involved in that process?
Alana: Well, when Kevin finished it, he handed it off to me and said, "Hey, you're librarian. What do you think?" I read a couple pages and said, "Can you hand it to me when it's done?" He was like, "That hurts." He came back to me a little while later after he had been doing the tour, the Love's Not Colorblind tour and said like, "No, I really love this book and I really need- I need you on this to look at it, to see how to make it its best self." We started collaborating, talking about it, seeing what was working and what wasn't. At some point, I started writing a scene or two, editing a lot. I cut the first half of the book, which was--
Jase: Wow, really?
Emily: The first half of the book?
Alana: I did. What you're reading now is basically an expanded second half of the book and then the first half of the book is probably something we're going to revisit sooner. What's going on in this story, everything from the beginning was a backstory and could stand on its own. Both stories could stand on their own. I told Kev, this is the story that you want to tell, this one right here. I ended up a co-writer.
Kevin: We essentially took a 50,000 word first draft, cut 25,000 words out it. Then, took remaining 25,000 and made it about 65,000 words. That's the book that you have. The first draft starts with our two main characters meeting as teenagers and creating their own path, the super humanity. We got rid of all of that. Books three or four or five might be an origin story for these two characters.
Emily: Wow. Oh my God.
Dedeker: I see, so interesting. Kev, for you, was that a difficult process? It's the whole trope of like murder your darlings.
Kevin: You know it hurt.
Dedeker: Was it a difficult process? Yes, it hurt.
Kevin: It hurt. Something that works with Alana and I and our dynamic is that she doesn't really pull any punches with me. While it hurts, it results in a better product. When she said, "Okay, well your book actually starts here in chapter 11, Kev." I was like, "Wow. Okay." I could have argued and had a worst book, but instead I let Alana cut 10 chapters out of a book and then retool the rest of it. I'm really proud of what we put out.
Alana: He was super great about it though. He's the one who really realized where the book started. I asked him, "Where's your inciting incident?" which is the thing that kicks off the book and he's the one who looked at it critically and said, "It's in chapter 11."
Emily: I did want to expand on something that Dedeker talked about it earlier, which is also that in terms of normalization, things like good kink etiquette and just communication, consent, all of those things also seem to be something that these characters just inherently are good at. Was there a reasoning behind why you decided just people in this book, just the universally are going to be great at these types of things? Or it just more evolved, I think, then perhaps our current society certainly is.
Kevin: The two of us are polyamorous, but also because of the work I do, I found myself in a lot of sex ed circles. I realized there's so much that representation gets wrong. Just little things that if you find yourself in sex ed circle as much as I do. There are little things that we do that work and then we get missed completely. Like just a basic example, She's Gotta Have It, that was on Netflix last year. There was zero talk of safe sex in that show until the ninth episode. Meanwhile, if the main character had a bowl of condoms just next to the bed, you wouldn't even need to have that conversation.
We wanted to make sure that we were alluding into little things like just basic recognition of like you said, kink etiquette or safer sex practices. Things that are normalized to us that should be normalized in general. We wanted to make sure we planted those in there.
Emily: Yes. Someone got rejected and then they said, "Thank you taking care of yourself," and that was just in there and it was lovely and very normal. It was very refreshing truly to see that and not have to be like a big thing. It would be nice if all books were written in such a manner.
Kevin: I've read a meme or I saw a Facebook thread or something recently where somebody was talking about that asking for consent isn't sexy or something like that and--
Alana: I think that was me talking about a conversation I'd had with someone about a partner they had.
Kevin: Yes. Maybe not the way that you ask for consent.
Emily: Yes, exactly.
Emily: That must be the case.
Kevin: I've never had that problem. I feel like that conversation, the safer sex conversation, the consent conversation, the negotiations, those can be sexy and if you're going into it thinking, "This is going to break up the flow," you need to examine the flow.
Dedeker: Right. Well it is still interesting that when it comes to these kind of conversations, whether it's around negotiating consent of negotiating play or even communicating about hooking up with someone else or hooking up with multiple partners or something like that that definitely so many people have a struggle around. Just wrapping their heads around this new form of communication and I don't think that's because this is inherently an awkward thing to talk about. I think it's just because inherently most of us grew up never seeing examples of that kind of communication. That was never in our media.
Emily: Of course.
Dedeker: Most of the sex scenes that I can recall seeing as I was growing up, there's no consent talk. It's all everyone's just mind reading and that's how it works.
Emily: Just happens.
Dedeker: Right, and so that's why it is so nice to have something that is in media that does just kind of demonstrate that. I actually think that's a great segue to actually talk about the sex club scene. Jase?
Jase: Well, yes. That's something that I was going to bring up later but we can talk about it now. I read whatever I can of other poly content, like books that people are putting out there that have polyamorous characters or things like that. In a number of those, what I found is that there's this kind of you're claiming that you're normalizing polyamory through this book and yet it's very overly sexualized and over-simplified and also kind of that like, "We're so good at communicating that we don't have to communicate. We mind read for each other."
I was reading a scene in one of those books where these two women who are polyamorous and also partners with each other go to a sex club. There's this scene and it's very sexual and it's all kind of about how their bodies are moving and how they're feeling and what the people watching are feeling about them and all that sort of stuff. Then, by contrast, I found in reading your book, there's this fantastic scene at a sex club where the main things that the character is commenting on about why this woman she's watching is so sexy is because she's navigating consent so fluidly and being so respectful of her partner's and she's the one who, like Emily said--
Emily: Making sure someone knows after care and yes.
Jase: She's the one, like Emily said, is the one who says, "Thank you for taking care of yourself," and is super respectful of those things. Just those attributes were things that the character found to be so sexy. It was so cool seeing that because you're like, "Yes." In real life, you see someone demonstrating those traits in a kink club you're like, "That's a person I am interested in being involved with." It's just something that I hadn't ever seen before in a book that had a sexy scene like that. It was really cool.
Alana: That scene just blew me away. It's probably the one that we changed the least. It just seemed to flow from him and I just think it worked so well. I don’t want to talk too much about what else happens in that scene that's important.
Jase: I know. Yes.
Alana: I think it just builds and builds and it's so good. I'm not generally a person who goes to sex clubs, that's just not really me, and I was entranced by that scene. That was one of the main things that brought me into doing this and absolutely committing to it. I was saying like, "Wow, Kevin is such a good writer," and-
Alana: - I'm going to be a part of this but it's not just that. It's everything that-- We've had people come up to us. One person came up and said, "Hey, I had to put the book down for a second because I finally saw my polyamory on the page and it was overwhelming." It was so wonderful to hear that. I want people to see themselves in this book. I want them to see their polycule members.
I want them to see their fights. I want them to see their own resolutions in there as well. I think that even just as a 250-page superhero novel that we've actually done that. That we've put so many of those things to the page that I've never seen before. I grew up reading romance novels. I would borrow them from my grandmother, I would get them at yard sales and, like you said, there's a lot of mind-reading, not a lot consent in there.
In fact, a lot of not-a-lot-of consent and I got away from it because of that. In fact, I'm down to the point where I maybe have like two romance novelists that I still follow so, I'm so happy to have something out in the world that I can read that is sexy, that has people who are making these hot connections. I don't want to minimize that. I think it is hot but also it's very real and it's very warm and connective and I love it.
Kevin: To piggy back off of that a little bit, there's something that happens in that scene. Something that I really love where, like you said, there's somebody being observed in that scene and this person being observed stops and has a little bit of a sexy moment. There is a point where that character says something to somebody, the somebody that's spoken to nods some consent and then this little sexy thing happens.
That was something that I had forgotten until maybe like two or three days before we were actually finalized with this book where I looked at it and I was like, "You know what? I understand that this is supposed to show the magnetism of this character being observed and this is okay with everyone involved but if it's not on the page, it's open to interpretation."
I added maybe like two sentences that- put them on the page and it really doesn't take that much.
The bar is low. You have to show characters-- The bar was really low to show characters who are queer, who are polyamorous, who are people of color, who are sex positive, who are fat, who are disabled. The bar is so low to show these characters in a positive way that it should be embarrassing for folks to miss out on those things because that bar is so low.
Dedeker: Yes. That's a really good way of putting it. Something I also wanted to highlight is that you had multiple characters who were either gender neutral or some kind of fluid or non-conforming very early on in the book. You introduce a character whose pronoun is they and what I noticed after I got to the end of the book is there was so little, very little- possibly zero, if I recall correctly. Zero emphasis on what someone's body parts were.
Emily: Yes. There were none.
Dedeker: Even in the sexier sections there was a very little description of like, "And her tits looked like this and his tumescence looked like this."
Dedeker: All the normal stuff that we see in romance novels but instead the sexiness was again more in the way how is this person behaving? How are they acting? What is their energy? What are they saying? What are they doing? Not about this is what their body is. I really loved that, that there was such an emphasis on you can’t make assumptions about power dynamics, you can’t make assumptions on gender dynamics.
What you can see is what's actually important in this relationship, which is what is attracting this person to this other person? It's not a question of like what does that fit with their sexuality? What does that fit with their genital preference or whatever. It's just no, it's them as humanbeings that they find really sexy, that was also really refreshing, I found.
Alana: Interestingly people are telling us what gender they think that character is, right? No. It's like, "No, no, no." They're non-binary, that's their gender but we've had a lot of people say something like, "We think that this character is a man, or we think this character is a woman." It's just like--
Emily: How do you respond to that?
Kevin: It's really interesting where part of me wants-- I want to defend my character. Part of me wants to immediately correct them on this gendering the character but then another part of me is like, "What makes you feel that way?" Where you've got a character who's on page and there is one minor detail. Yes, in 250 pages, there is one minor detail that designates an assigned gender at birth and it's blink and you miss it. Just like if you don't know the terminology, you'll miss it.
Kevin: Yes and that's in there but we've had people say, we've had people misgender the character. We've had people say this non-binary character is assigned male at birth or assigned female at birth. One way or the other, they're getting some of this wrong and it's like we'll, "Where are you getting this from?" While at the same time I'm glad I've written a character that can confuse the readers in that way.
Dedeker: Yes, I know and I think that's great. I know that we use the word like confusing the reader but I think it's a great kind of confusion because I love that kind of confusion that snaps you out of me trying to find all these clues so I can figure out is this is a man or a woman so that I can be more comfortable as a cisgender person, being able to figure out clearly what kind of body this is. Instead that it is confusing enough that's like you can't spend too much energy trying to figure it out because it also doesn't really matter.
Alana: Somebody else's body shouldn't matter to you. How someone designated them when they were born should not matter to you. Interestingly, Kevin and I we do a talk about representations in general and we talk about John Scalzi's book, which we're going to--
Kevin: Lock In.
Alana: Yes, Lock In. I feel bad because I feel like I'm spoiling this, but it's not a spoiler, it has nothing to do with the story. The story never tells you whether the main character is a man, a woman. Never tells you if the character is white or black or Latin. I have talked to so many people about that book because I recommend it and I love that book. It's been fascinating to see who read through the entire book without changing their mind of what their first casting of the character was.
Alana: That's not what we're doing here at all. If the word trick came up in terms of-- Confusing the reader is one thing but no one is here to trick the reader. Non-binary people are not here to trick anyone. That is something horrible, right? While Scalzi brings up a lot of things in his book like the way we bring our own perceptions to what we read. This character Vas does not do that. Vas is a character who exists in that world and is a person and needs to be treated as a person, which is why we took so much care and we talked to our non-binary friends and family and partners and we made sure that there was nothing in the book that didn't feel at least accurate to somebody at some point.
Kevin: That one little detail that made it into the book, we debated that. We had a long conversation about it because there was the idea that if it doesn't matter, maybe we don't need this detail but then we spoke with Alana's kid who also identifies as non-binary. We wanted to make sure like, "Hey, we're getting consultants on this one." The decision was made that this one detail represents a normal facet of somebody's life and that's important to show. That is important to show as it would be to leave out, so we left that part in and it worked. Some people catch and some people don't and it's fine either way.
Jase: Can I ask which John Scalzi's book was it that you were talking about?
Kevin: Lock In.
Alana: Lock In.
Jase: Lock In, okay. Because I'd just read two other John Scalzi's books from his series after that, the interdependency series and he was talking about those a few episodes ago, but anyway, yes, that's cool. I haven't read the Lock In universe stuff.
Alana: I love Lock In.
Jase: I have to check that out.
Kevin: Something that was weird about that is that if you pre-ordered the book on Audible, which I did because I like Scalzi, you got two versions of the book if you pre-ordered it, you got one with a male narrator and one with a female narrator.
Kevin: I listened to both versions back to back and in my head, the main character Chris was a black dude. There was one detail about the character that said this is a black dude. I listened to both versions of the book and I was like, "This is a black dude." It wasn't until years later when Alana's like, "Yes, they never tell- they never give up gender or race of the character." I was like, "Yes they do," but wait no, no they don't.
Jase: That's great. That's really cool.
Dedeker: That's so fascinating. Well, speaking of a broader range of sci-fi universes and authors, are you familiar with Stranger In A Strange Land? The Heinlein novel from 1961? '60-'61?
Jase: '61, I think, yes.
Kevin: I've heard of it.
Dedeker: This is such a funny experience for me because I read Stranger In A Strange Land and finished it right before I started reading your book, so, I got these two interesting sci-fi books back to back.
Dedeker: I will say, just to give a disclaimer for anyone who's listening and who hasn't read it yet, it's very much a product of its time, it's extremely homophobic, extremely sexist, has just a lot of issues with it. However, it was extremely, extremely influential on the Free Love movement and on a lot for people who would go on to end up writing more about non-monogamy and polyamory and relationships without jealousy and stuff like that. That was kind of the cool part, it's wrapped up again and kind of disinherit like racist, transphobic, homophobic rethoric.
It was a little bit of a palate cleanser reading your book right afterwards because, okay, well here's the world where those things aren't necessarily first and foremost but-
Emily: They're not existent.
Dedeker: - I do think it's interesting looking at this kind of recurrent pattern of sci-fi being the medium for introducing concepts that can have a revolutionary impact on our present day lives. I see it with looking back at Stranger In A Strange Land where it was like the first major popular fiction book, I think, to have this big rethoric about jealousy not being based in love.
That having sex and being in love with multiple people is okay and can be healthy and if anything, could possibly be a better choice for many people and kind of mirroring in the same way. The two of you have done in this book. It's a sci-fi setting but having this kind of representation is not something that's inaccessible to us in a modern day setting essentially.
Kevin: I know you want to make sure that our setting in sci-fi, it wasn't that sci.
Kevin: Yes, it's a superhero novel but we kept it very rooted in reality. I've made a couple of references to modern day pop culture and everything like that. Because a lot of this is how our lives look. I've got queer friends that joke around and say like, "I haven't seen a straight person in like three weeks."
Kevin: I know that's how I were like. There are days that go by where I don't run into any monogamous people, outside of my work. I get my coffee from a monogamous person and go home where my polyamorous exists. We want to make sure that if we were going to do this representation-wise, we were going to show in a world that can exist. A world that is accepted. Keeping it rooted in a very close reality. I don't say it out loud very often but the main city that this all thing place in, Cargill, New Jersey, it's basically just a fictionalized Newark but the rest of America is still the rest of America.
Emily: Yes, I was like, "Is it New York?"
Emily: Yes. Because-- No, it's not quite. Okay. It's Newark?
Emily: New Jersey?
Emily: Yes, that's cool. There you go. Just over the...
Alana: Yes, it's right over--
Emily: There's like a bridge.
Alana: It's over the bridge.
Emily: separating those two.
Jase: Something that I did find really interesting about this and I know Emily and Dedeker have both mentioned it, it's just this idea of creating a world where it seems like, at least, from the slice of the world that we get to see, that things like racism and sexism also aren't something that's a big plague on this world like it is on ours. It reminded me of a talk that I went to just recently about representation in media that was at PatreCon that I went to a couple of month ago now, I guess. Like a month ago. The woman who is hosting that, she hosts a channel that's all about games, like tabletop games as well as video games.
They got a lot of questions about Dungeons and Dragons campaigns and representation in those. It led to this whole discussion about this idea that whether we're talking about elves and dwarves and orcs and whatever, or sci-fi where we're talking about Romulans and Klingons and whatever, that we're still kind of taking all of our baggage that we have in our modern life and just doing it again with different colors and shapes on it, and she was really encouraging people to be like, "We don't have to do that. We get to create these worlds. Can't we find other things to have conflict over or other things to be concerned about?"
She was really coming down to that. Then, reading your book shortly after that, just kind of being like, "Hey, you know what? This is kind of an example of that, of not having to make the fact that one of the recurring characters in the book has they pronounce that that wasn't the issue that anyone was contending with." It's like if you're going to read fantasy or sci-fi and be in another world, why not have it be a world where we can take a break from some of the shit that we have here?
Alana: One of the things that I like that Kev did was he basically created a timeline for the world where it shows you that these things exist and they happen but also that there has been more pushback against it for such a longer time, which was another one of the big things that drew me in. When we first started, I was like, "But, Kev, if we're in a world without racism--" He just kept sighing at me because that's not what he created. What he created was a world that's willing to push back more. That sort of optimism and that sort of activism makes this world special and it makes it aspirational.
Kevin: A thing that's inherently oppressive about sci-fi is that a lot of science fiction jusr theorizes that they're in a world without bigotry, in a world without racism or ableism or one thing or another. That sort of like the theory of the narrative, but they never examined what and the story almost always still follows a cisgender heterosexual white man whether it's sci-fi or fantasy. If these things don't exist, why are we still following the same exact characters? If these things don't exist, why don't they exist and why is the power structure the same?
We created the timeline where superheroes take the front line in terms of social change. It's not just people with privilege using their platforms as people with straight up super powers using their platform. The first superhero is a guy in the 1960s, it's a black guys in the 1960s who also says, "Hey, if you want me to keep this community safe with my powers, cool, but you got to get rid of all these racist white cops around here."
That creates a culture shift where every superheroes says, "I want to use my powers, I want to use my powers for good, but also what's up with this equal pay for women? What's up with this body positivity? What's up with this housing reform?" Superheroes take a responsibility to use their platform so they're not just saving the day, they're saving the world and that's where they come from.
In the modern day that Operator is set in, racism exist but it's lessened and there's a reason why. Homophobia, transphobia, bigotry in general, those things still exist, but it's more likely that you're going to find somebody who is mildly suppressed by a way of identity than completely oppressed by the way of identity and it's a world that pushes back on that and actively so.
That's why the main characters of Operator are women of color because if we're living in a world that has less barriers in place or women of color, then the main characters can be women of color and it's not a strange thing. Our two main characters are the best there is at what they do. To quote the Wolverine line. This is not a weird thing.
Dedeker: Yes, that make sense. It's interesting the way you described your superheroes. These people who want to help their communities, but they also have interest in pushing back against these things, pushing back against the racist cops, pushing back against all these obstacles in place for equal pay for women. It's kind of funny that it's like in an ideal world, that's what our politician should be for us, but clearly, we're not living in an ideal world.
Kevin: No, we are not.
Alana: In this time line, Kevin has this very important legal battle that goes on and one of the people involved is in a polyamorous relationship. That person's fame helps normalize the concept of ethical non-monogamy. That's why when you see our characters, they can choose what their default is rather than having a default put on them by society which would be monogamy usually. In this case, people talk about it. It doesn't mean that cheating's gone. This is the same thing as Kev was talking about in terms of transphobia and racism.
Instead, you have this whole thing where someone goes into a relationship and they have that conversation. "Do you want an open relationship? Do you not want an open relationship?" You don't see that particularly happening on the page in this book, but it is a part of this whole world is that people are communicating more about relationship types because they have some people that they have looked up to. If we had the people that we have now who are in the media, if we had had them decades ago, where would we be now? That's sort of what this book is.
Kevin: That conversation happens in those first 10 chapters.
Dedeker: At the same time, I just wanted to really quickly point out that I do appreciate, like you mentioned earlier, Alana, that these characters also don't have it down perfectly like there are still some fights, there are still some arguments that come sometimes by accident, by just, "I didn't know how to communicate this thing." Or, "I thought that this would be okay and it turns out it wasn't okay," which that felt very much, "I know that. I've been there." It's not quite--
Emily: There was like don't ask don't tell in there, in a certain way, which was really interesting. I was like, "Is this a metaphor for something?" I enjoyed that, too. These were definitely real people.
Kevin: We want to make sure that those conflicts read as real to us because the way, say, love triangles get played out in a lot of fiction, they don't read as real to us because we're polyamorous folks. Katniss is into Peeta and Gale and she get two completely different things out of both of them.
Emily: Cool. Be with both of them.
Kevin: Yes, exactly, but instead they always find a way to kill a character or make someone leave or make someone evil and make somebody a mystery sibling somehow. They find some way to cancel the triangle so that a choice never has to be made, whereas, our characters, they find themselves in a conflict, but the conflict isn't the existence of multiple relationships. The conflict is the particular dynamics of the characters and that's how they approach it and that's how they resolve it.
Emily: Yes, that's awesome. It does sound like obviously, at the end of the book even, there will be more to come from these characters. Do you have an idea where their story is going to go? Do you already have everything mapped out or do you think it's going to be more of an organic process? When will we see more from these characters?
Alana: The next book is actually going to follow two completely different characters. I said to Kev, "It would be so easy to go jump into flashing out that what ended up being the prequel. Let's do that." Let's do-- It's called Supercell right now. That's the working title. Let's do Supercell. It's probably going to be called Supercell. Kev was like, "If we do that, then people are going to think that all we're going to do is interact with these characters." That's not where he wanted us to be and I agree with him now, even though I do think Supercell probably would've been faster to push to completion--
Kevin: Yes. Without a doubt.
Alana: Right now we're dealing with all these new characters and how they relate to the world. It's very different.
Emily: Getting new consultants.
Alana: Getting new consultants and just making sure that's all accurate too and working on that plot. We do know, generally speaking, where we're going for the next five or six books. A lot of them are all happening around the same time.
Kevin: Yes. Whereas--
Alana: It's not that kind of series series.
Kevin: I think Operator happens between about April and January, 2018 to 2019. I don't know even if we put years on it but it's like--
Alana: I think it's 2017 to 2018.
Kevin: Okay. I would
Kevin: It's from about April to January whereas the next book that we're working on is that same year from about April to October.
Jase: Kind of overlapping stories?
Kevin: Yes. While there are characters and elements that are going to recur, you might see characters that you're familiar with and see them at a different angle but it won't be their story this time.
Dedeker: I have a question, I want to hear answers from both of you. If in writing the next book in this series, you decide to take a break halfway through to write another book on an entirely different genre, what genre is that going to be?
Alana That would absolutely be our cautionary poly book. A cautionary polyamory, which is based on our workshop Cautionary Polyamory because that's the book I wanted him to do first and he wouldn't listen to me.
Kevin: I will agree with Alana because Alana would be very upset with me if I disagree with her. We were supposed to jump in working on the cautionary poly book and I really wanted to stay in For Hire. I think we have a really good foundation to get that cautionary poly book off the ground. What I want-- I like what we're doing with For Hire and I want to stay in that universe a little bit longer before we shifted gears to something else but also there's still stuff left over for Operator.
We're currently recording an audiobook. We've got a great voice actress involved. She's currently recording that and also we're working on some DLC because, like you said, I'm a gamer. There's a bit towards the end that required a character flip. A change in perspective and it's something that was-- It was a change of perspective in the first draft and we got rid of that. I'm trying to put it back in but it no longer fits where it fit before. The game plan is that we're rewriting this change of perspective.
We're going to release it with the audio- recorded with the audiobook and also digitally for anybody who wants it. Anyone who's read a paperback or ebook, whatever copy of our Operator they have or released it for free just to put it out there was a little bit of extra content there.
Jase: All right. It's really cool.
Dederek: Yes. Some DLC. Some custom skins.
Jase: Yes. It's great.
Alana: Super exciting.
Jase: For this bonus content for our patrons, I wanted to hear a little bit more. You mentioned kind of earlier about what's the reaction to the book been? Like you mentioned some people saying, "I finally saw myself in a book." What else? Have there been some other extremes, more negative? I'm just really curious what's that's been like.
Alana: I think Kevin should tell this story for once.
Kevin: No. I'd rather hear you say it actually.
Alana: I know. So far everything- the feedback has been incredibly positive. Our book release party was standing room only at Amalgam Comics in Philly. That was super great because we got to support a black-owned business and also we are from that area. It was a lot of our friends and our partners and our partners' friends and our partners' partners. It was still really wonderful that he...
Kevin: It wasn't just that either.
Alana: No. It was not just that. We sold way more copies than we even thought we were going to.
Emily: That's awesome.
Alana: We have had one criticism so far. Just one. It was a person who sent a very positive email but then also said, "As a cis man, I felt there were too many feelings in the book."
Emily: Somebody actually wrote that?
Emily: Man, I'm sorry-
Alana: It's interesting because--
Emily: - for that person.
Alana: Yes. We've been talking about this book for a little while now. We talk about it online. We talked about it on a podcast. We talked about it all over the place. One of the things that we say is that it's about polyamorous people. This idea that there are a lot of feelings involved I'm not really sure what that expectation was.
Kevin: They're all fantasies.
Alana: I knew you were going to go there. This is what happens when we talk about that Kev goes off about harem fantasies.
Emily: Of course.
Alana: I get really annoyed with this concept that we wrote this book, it's about a couple and that the criticism was that there were too many feelings. Kev said it in the beginning. This is a book with relationships in it. For me, it's like, "Okay. Cool." This book is a thriller and it has relationships in it but so does everything else ever. My housemaid who is one of my favorite people in the whole wide world. They talk about how much they can't stand forced love stories in movies and they talk about things like Transformers.
Every action movie has some sort of love subplot. Every movie that's marketed to men has this. Basically for two reasons. The first is this concept that women won't go see movies unless somebody falls in love. Then the other is for the hero to basically win someone at the end.
Alana: None of those are accurate or healthy. It confuses me that someone said, "Hi. Your book has feelings it." It's like-- One it's a polyamorous book and two, it's a book.
Alana: Not every book seems to have a love story but most things do.
Kevin: Yes. That's only really authentic with our love story and with our feelings. I've read through Operator a lot both in the writing of it and afterwards. There were times where I think about a part of the book and I'll sit down and read a couple of chapters. Also, I'd like to get prepared to write more content both for Operator and for the next book but when I read it, it's like, "You know about feelings but none of them really is disingenuous and none of them read as forced." They just read like people talking about what's going along with their lives and with the relationships there.
Alana: Yes. I can't imagine a polyamorous relationship where nobody talks about their feelings ever.
Jase: [laughs] Right.
Emily: That would be a very dysfunctional one.
Alana: It would and the plot is-- When Kevin and I sat down and we talked about this book, we talked about how there's basically two plots going on, two antagonists. There's a parallel thing going on and it's every time our main character Sana makes a choice, it puts her in direct opposition to her partner. While you're following Sana's trip to basically the big bad at the end, every single one of those choices has to be deliberately made. Those choices, though they feel very right for Sana, are still putting her in opposition to her partner. You can't pretend like that's not a thing that's going to hurt people.
Kevin: Derailing a little bit and piggybacking off of what Alana talked about, we had our release party at Amalgam Comics. Amalgam Comics is the East Coast first black female-owned comic book shop. Yes. To be able to have our release party there was really brilliant. Everybody involved in the process had some identity type weight to what we were doing where- You're talking about this book is queer poly and where superhero stories centering people of color and everybody involved was like queer person, the superhero, a polyamorous person or a person of color. One of those identities got touched by every person who was involved from editing to writing, to the cover art, to the voice actress. We wanted to make sure that we were authentic with our representation, not just on the page but holding the pen as well.
Dedeker: Right, that's awesome.
Alana: I think you should talk about harem fantasies and harem books. Kevin--
Kevin: Patreon people don't want to hear me talking about harem fantasies.
Dederek: I want to hear you talking about harem fantasies.
Kevin: It was just something that was really frustrating in looking through the book. We self-published this one so we had to do a lot of the leg work and the research ourselves. When I went to do the market research for what we should do with a superhero novel, what I found was so many books marketing themselves as polyamorous. They were all harem fantasies. The polyamorous superhero books were all harem fantasies. The covers were all ripped white dudes surrounded by scantily clad skinny white women, more like orange and purple and...
Dedeker: Because diversity.
Kevin: There was so much of that to the point where the word harem would be in the title or the tag line, definitely in the description, the authors and in their author bio pages would write descriptions of themselves and about harems. It all sounded like low hanging fruit, it sounded like stuff that I would have written in high school with a basic knowledge of non-monogamy. It was all male powered fantasies and it was really dismaying seeing that written as polyamorous. I am a cisgender dude with a ton of female partners and I was dismayed by seeing this.
Dedeker: Well, actually that's something I have noticed with authors who are putting out work where it's maybe not necessarily a harem fantasy but it's marketed as like polyamorous fiction with two female protagonists and it's always just like lesbian or erotica for men essentially. That's come up in a lot of the books that we've read. Trying to pour through what kind of polyamorous fiction is out there that it is like that. It's either the harem fantasy or it's going to be really super graphic descriptions of lesbian sex that are for the male gays.
Kevin: Nobody's complaining about that book having too many feelings.
Emily: Because there were none.
Alana: Something that's really cool is that I just saw a call from, I believe, it's called Carina Pres,s which may or may not have something to do with Harlequin. It might be a Harlequin imprint. They're looking for own voices stories. Own voices is the hashtag for people writing books that are about characters like themselves and they are looking for polyamory stories. They're looking for queer stories. They're looking for everything right now.
What they're looking for though is tropey versions like romance tropes. Like friends to lovers, secret princesses, you know what I mean? Stuff like that. I think, that's going to be really interesting to watch how that plays out, especially if they're looking for own voices. If you're listening and you're a polyamorous writer, this is something you need to jump on. It's Carina Press, C-A-R-I-N-A and it looks like they're going to start publishing in 2020.
Dedeker: Do you have to actually be a secret princess? Like does secret princess have to be your own voice?
Dedeker: Because I can't wait to see them come crawling.
Alana: It's just the character part but a bunch of us have been throwing titles and possible plots just to see what sounds really good. I came up with one that was like Tea For Three or like Paint By Numbers or it's B-I. I'm just coming up with all these things because-
Emily: That's adorable.
Alana: - it can be so much fun.
Kevin: Somebody needs to write a secret princess book that starts with a secret prince and then boom.
Jase: Secret princess.
Alana: Actually I was thinking--
Emily: I'm actually a secret princess. Yes.
Alana: I actually talked to someone and was talking to them about writing this together because they're non-binary and I said, "You know what would be great, if we did like a secret princess or like a secret prince story where the person is gender non-conforming," and they take that and say, "Hey, you can't have me as royalty unless you are accepting of who I am." We called like secret royalty instead of secret prince or secret princess. The idea would be maybe there's one sexy advisor or one person who is really into this person in particular and very much willing to back them up on what they're doing and then that becomes the romance. That's what I'm thinking.
Jase: I love it. I'm excited to see what ideas come through.
Dedeker: Yes, there's a lot of potential. Excellent.
Emily: For sure.
Dedeker: Look forward--
Alana: I sometimes write five other For Hire books [inaudible 00:55:29]
Dedeker: Easy, easy. You got it all planned out.
Kevin: The cautionary polyamory.
Alana: The cautionary polyamory book.
Dedeker: No problem.
Alana: We're fine. We're set through like-
Emily: This is easy.
Alana: - 2024 or something.
Emily: Kevin and Alana, we would love to know where we can find more of both of your work. Kevin, obviously we had you on a couple months ago promoting Love Is Not Colorblind but what else can we expect from the two of you and where can we find your work?
Kevin: Well, I'm still Poly Role Models pretty much everywhere. I'm Poly Role Models on Youtube, Patreon, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Most of my stuff is on Facebook. I'm currently on Tumblr, I don't know how long that's going to last though so I might be--
Emily: Is it would be-- Don't worry about going out of business.
Kevin: Yes, they're getting rid of their adult content. I don't think Poly Role Model can see the adult content but those filters have been big and sweeping. The nets have been catching a lot of stuffs that doesn't have adult content so I don't know if I'm going to be allowed to stay there. I'm not sure that I want to continue supporting a platform that would commit this sort of changes. That might be a change.
Now For Hire as a novel and as a series, you can find that at @ForHireMag on Twitter and facebook.com/forhiremag. The books Operator is available on Amazon as an ebook. I'm sorry, Amazon is a paperback and basically everywhere Amazon, Kobo, Sony, Barnes and Noble, IM, Smash Words as an ebook.
Alana: You can find me online as the polyamorous librarian. I'm on Wordpress, I am on Patreon, I'm on Facebook and then on Twitter, I have a different name because I started my Twitter so long ago. It's @hellolibrarian.
Jase: All right. Well, thank you both again so much for joining us today.
Alana: Yes. Thanks for having us.
Kevin: We really appreciate that.
Dylan Thomas: Hello, I didn't see you there. I'm Dylan Thomas, co-host of Life On The Swingset the podcast. We share our experiences in swinging, polyamory and beyond. You're listening to a Swingset network podcast at Swingset.FM