Ethan Day and Geoffrey Knight are authors and, as of a year ago in April, the publishers of Wilde City Press. Ethan, a resident of Missouri, is the author of books such as At Piper’s Point, As You Are, and Northern Star. Ethan is also one of the organizers for the GayRomLit Retreat. Geoffrey Knight is the author of books including the bestselling gay adventure novels The Cross of Sins, The Riddle of the Sands, and The Curse of the Dragon God. Together, Ethan and Geoff wrote To Catch a Fox and Zombie Boyz: Guess Who’s Coming At Dinner.
Hi, Ethan and Geoff. Thanks for being here!
ED: Thanks for having us!
GK: We’re thrilled to be here… from far and wide!
Ethan, I talked to you and Lynn Lorenz in 2011 about the GayRomLit Retreat. I just saw that the 2014 retreat is in Illinois this October. What would you like readers to know about this year’s event? Are there ways you’ve adapted the event over the last three years?
ED: Absolutely, the event has certainly changed over the past three years. After successful events in New Orleans, Albuquerque and Atlanta we’ve seen growth each year and as such, we’ve had to adjust. Most of the changes we make are a result of survey responses we receive from our attendees each year, but we also take into account the publishers who help pay for the event. The other organizers and I have always felt it necessary to cap overall attendance for GRL, a decision that has more to do with obtaining sufficient publisher sponsorship dollars than anything else. The evening parties in particular can be costly, and with each person added to our overall attendance, the price per event goes up. We don’t want GRL to price itself completely out of reach for most of our publishers, nor do we want the overall quality of the GRL experience for our readers to suffer as a result.
Beginning in 2013, we made the decision to limit the amount of authors who were able to register as a featured author due to the overwhelming response on our survey that there were too many authors in 2012. Author-to-reader ratio ended up being the number one complaint on our survey after Albuquerque, from both authors and surprisingly also from readers, for a multitude of reasons. Considering the cap on overall attendance, it made sense that we needed to further break things down. The author cap continues to be the most controversial thing we have done, and each year there are people who get angry and complain—mostly authors who were unable to register as a featured author, understandably, as no one likes to be told no. To give you some context, while 2013 was the first year we ever completely sold out—though we came close in 2012—this year, our 2015 Featured and Supporting Author spots sold out in less than two minutes, and our General Registration spots sold out in just under two days.
It was never our intent to instigate this sort of frenzied atmosphere surrounding registration, and we even increased the attendance cap for 2014 in hope of alleviating some of that, yet we still sold out in a record-setting time. While we’d love to take full responsibility for the success and growth of GRL, it really speaks more to the passionate fans of the Gay or M/M Romance genre. From its very inception, GayRomLit was intended to be a ‘Thank You’ to the readers, and in organizing the Retreat we continue to make the bulk of our decisions based upon that initial ideal. At the same time, we also rely upon the generosity of our sponsoring publishers and attending authors—who not only help pay for the event, but also show up and spend three and half days interacting with and entertaining readers. As organizers, we do our best to balance the Retreat and meet the needs of everyone participating.
Can you share any plans or hopes you and the other organizers have for GRL going forward?
ED: Honestly, we hope to continue being a strong proponent of the Gay Romance genre above all else. For myself, as an author, I was delighted to discover the genre even existed back in 2009. I had all but stopped writing many years before, but had several finished or near finished novels/novellas sitting around collecting dust from my college days. There were precious few changes required by me in order to make the stories I’d been working on for years fit nicely within the already well-established M/M romance genre. That was, to date, the happiest accident I’ve ever experienced. Like any other author out there would be, I was thrilled to discover there was an actual built-in readership for the types of stories I wanted to tell. I’m still grateful to each and every one of those readers, which is why I continue to work on GRL. I’m certainly not the only organizer/author/publisher who feels that way. : )
Moving on to Wilde City, I loved the concept of your company not just being a publisher but also a city to “play in.” Have any authors thought about setting their work in Wilde City and what would you think of that idea?
ED: We’ve actually discussed that at great length, lol. It was something we hadn’t considered until we were forced to change the name of our press due to trademark issues and thus, Wilde City was born. We’ve definitely discussed a potential series or an anthology of stories set in Wilde City—the name of the press certainly lends itself to the idea. And we’re pleased to announce that Geoff is going to kick off the concept of bringing Wilde City to life with his new book, Buck Baxter, Love Detective, which is due out this September.
GK: Yeah, I’m so thrilled with Buck Baxter, he’s exactly the kind of character you’d find in Wilde City! And we’d love for our authors to start exploring the dark alleys and flashy night clubs of Wilde City to bring us their own stories. Wilde City is a great destination for everything, from thrills to romance, from adventure to mystery. And Buck is just the tip of the iceberg. Here’s the blurb for Buck Baxter, Love Detective, our first ever Tales from Wilde City:
Welcome to Wilde City, 1924—a crane on top of every skyscraper, a party in every club, a romance on every dance floor, a shooting every night, a broken heart on every street corner, and a dirty secret behind every window with the curtains drawn. It’s the kinda town that keeps Buck Baxter, private detective, in business. For despite his fondness for a cold gin and a pipe stuffed with cannabis, Buck is the best gumshoe in Wilde City. Why? Because he has rules: never make friends, never make enemies, and never, ever fall in love. That is until the day playboy nightclub owner Holden Hart swings into town. He’s suave, he’s charming, he’s chivalrous… and he’s exactly the kinda man that Buck will break all the rules for. From the romance of the Rainbow Palace atop the Wilde City Tower, to the dazzling debauchery of the gentlemen’s parlor, The Velvet Viper—from the history surrounding the sinister convent on the hill, better known Hell’s Bells, to the lantern-lit opium barge, The Peking Empress, run by the mystical Madame Chang—could Buck be about to unravel the greatest mystery of them all…the mystery of love?
I noticed in a previous interview that you praised fellow presses Dreamspinner, Resplendence, and MLR. I can guess the basics of a good publisher include picking good books, skilled editing, and treating authors well. Are there other key ingredients to being a good publisher in your opinions?
ED: Recognizing the importance of all those readers out there who make what we do possible is certainly a key ingredient. Treating authors well is important, but also working with authors who care about promoting their own work as much or more than we do as a publisher is also key. It really is a two-way street, and authors don’t always understand that the things they find attractive in a publisher are the same things a publisher will find attractive when considering working them.
In addition to gay male romance and erotica, you’re also interested in gay mainstream fiction. Even though I bet many readers have an idea of what that means, could you elaborate on how that’s defined at Wilde City? For example, I noticed that The Next by Rafe Haze (insanely hot cover, by the way) is listed in your mainstream store, but its subgenres include mystery and erotica. Then you also have three mysteries available in your erotica store. Is where a booked “shelved” based on your general impression of a book’s heat level, on specific parameters, on the author’s input, or anything else?
ED: We definitely take the authors intent into consideration. That is usually the jumping off point for sure. We also depend upon our editors to speak up if they feel the manuscript an author submitted truly doesn’t fit the genre they want it marketed under.
The inception of our three base categories of Mainstream, Erotica & Romance come back to catering to the reader, more than anything else. Romance readers and Erotica readers are typically looking for very specific things when they go looking for a new book to read. That doesn’t mean that all readers of Romance and Erotica are unwilling to read anything else, but it is true some of the time. The romance genre, by design, has several set “rules” which make a book a “romance title.” A few examples would be having a happily-ever-after or a happy-for-now ending, at the very least. Cheating is typically a taboo, as well. They typically also include some erotic content, but don’t have to, and unlike Erotica, the erotic content in a romance novel shouldn’t be there solely for the purpose of titillation—it should also be integral to propelling the story forward.
All that being said, our Mainstream category, which may initially seem to allude to more of a lit-fic status, for Wilde City, it simply means anything other than straight-up Romance or Erotica. We have Mainstream titles that are love stories, but because they don’t fit those rules of romance, we do not market them as such. One thing Geoff and I talked about early on was how much we missed the experience of going into the local bookstore and perusing the mosh-pit of titles located on the shelves of the LGBT fiction section. We always went in looking for one title, and walked out with several other books we’d discovered while in the store.
Amazon and the other online retailers are great, but once you buy one genre you end up getting inundated with the same sort of recommendations. That sort of in-your-face marketing is great if you only like to read one type of book, but it otherwise hinders the discovery of anything different—typecasting in its most basic form, if you will.
We wanted Wilde City to be a return to the mosh-pit, only online instead of in the store, lol. When you visit the Books page at Wilde City, you’ll find Patrick Darcy’s Confessions of a Gay Rugby Player erotica sitting next to Lammie finalist Jon Michaelsen’s mystery, Pretty Boy Dead or Poppy Dennison’s werewolf romance titles next to Historical Western erotica by Dale Chase. We also have authors like Owen Keehnen and J.P. Barnaby writing books for Wilde City, which show up in more than one of our three base categories.
We can’t control the way a retailer chooses to display our titles, but on our site we state quite clearly which category each title falls within, while also exposing each visitor to the wide variety of gay fiction we offer. From there each reader can remove or add filters to affect search results.
I noticed in the submission guidelines some standard content guidelines (though unusually thoughtful, in my opinion) for a romance and erotica publisher as well as a mention that you’re not considering YA. For authors interested in submitting, are there genres you’re hoping for more of in your in-box? Is there anything you’re seeing too much? Are there submission errors which too many authors are making?
GK: We definitely want to be known as an across-the-board gay press. We want to publish everything from romance to thrillers to comedy to action to erotica, although there are always trends that peak and dive, and as a commercial business we’re always on the lookout for that. And although we definitely want to see more romance coming through the door, we also pride ourselves on having one of the finest—if not the best—gay mainstream line-ups in the industry, despite being such a young press.
ED: Speaking for myself as a reader, a good mystery with a romance subplot always gets me. : )
As far as submission errors go, not taking the time to read the submissions page would be the most common error, lol.
You just mentioned that Pretty Boy Dead by Jon Michaelsen was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for mystery. Congratulations! To what level was it a surprise to have such recognition within your first year?
GK: The recognition all goes to Jon! He came to us with a book that he had poured his heart into, he believed in, and his passion spoke volumes to us. We truly love working with Jon—he is a talented, caring, generous soul—and we cannot wait for his next book! And no, the nomination wasn’t a surprise at all, because it wasn’t a nomination for us a publisher, it was a nomination for Jon and his book. We were simply lucky enough to be the ones to publish it.
ED: It didn’t really surprise me either, in the sense I don’t think we’d have published the book if we didn’t think it was well written. As Geoff said, end of the day, the credit all belongs to Jon, who logged in all the long hours researching and writing the book. I know Jon and his editor, Jerry Wheeler, worked long and hard on polishing the manuscript, and the end result was recognition from Lambda. That didn’t exactly suck to see.
What did you like and dislike (if anything) about collaborating on To Catch a Fox and Guess Who’s Coming At Dinner? Perhaps you’re using your real names, but if not, did you come up with “Knight” and “Day” before deciding to collaborate? Did the names lead you toward: Hey, maybe we should work together?”
ED: LOL! I’ll let Geoff answer the why, since he was the one who initially brought up the idea of collaborating. Hopefully he was attracted by more than just my name, lol. We were each already published before ever meeting online, so there was certainly no design in that sense.
The only thing I don’t like about working with Geoff is dealing with the time zone differences, though even that we’ve sort of gotten past at this stage. Still, there have been times when I know we’ve each had ideas or inspiration and wanted to share them immediately, only to realize we’d have to wait HOURS before getting a response. Total suckage, especially for two gay men! We do so love that instant gratification, after all. : )
Beyond that, writing with Geoff has been an awesome experience. Writing can be an extremely solitary and isolating profession. People who aren’t writers don’t always understand that there’s a party going on inside our head, and the fact we’ve neglected to return a few phone calls or missed a couple of days’ worth of texts isn’t a personal slight, just an occupational hazard. Co-writing just means I’m not the only “real” person at the party, lol. Geoff and I are both pretty laid-back, with similar temperaments, and I think that helps.
In terms of the actual writing, there are things that I believe Geoff does better than anyone else out there, so there are times when it’s simply a matter of getting out of the way so he can do his thing. If you’ve read any of his Fathom’s Five adventure series, you’ll know exactly what I mean. Beyond that, I think Geoff is extremely underrated when it comes to writing Romance. The entire concept from Guess Who’s Coming At Dinner was all Geoff. When he sent me what he’d written I was totally taken by the emotional punch he’d packed into the story.
GK: Aw, thanks Ethan! From my point of view, the reason we work so well together—and the reason I wanted to work with Ethan in the first place—was because we get along so well but have different skill sets. It’s always been my motto in business and in writing to surround yourself with people who can fill the holes you can’t fill yourself. That’s what a great partnership is all about. Ethan is amazing at quirky characters and hilarious situations, and laugh-out-loud dialogue. That’s stuff I can’t do as well as he can. But I can write adventure and tension and action and mystery. So combining our two skills seemed like a great idea, and suddenly Fox was born.
GK: Mmmm, that’s a hard question. I guess the main thing readers should know about me is that I love writing a range of genres. I’m best known for my gay adventure series Fathom’s Five, and I’ve written a few other gay adventure tales such as Scott Sapphire and the Emerald Orchid, and Drive Shaft. But I write whatever story I’m in the mood to write at the time, and that can be anything from mystery to comedy to romance. I think my coming-of-age romance set in the Top End of Australia, The Pearl, is the book I’m most proud of, simply because it’s set in my home country and delves deep into our nation’s cultural history, yet is a tender contemporary love story as well as being the story of a young man who must come to terms with his homosexuality and his Aboriginality. The thing I love about it the most is that, true to Aboriginal culture, the landscape plays a major character in the story. We are nothing without the land we live on.
And how about you, Ethan?
ED: I’m a card-carrying smart-ass at heart and that has a tendency to work its way into my writing. I’m probably best known for writing contemporary romantic-comedy, although I’ve dabbled in paranormal and historical, along with mystery/suspense with Geoff. I’m probably most comfortable with contemporary romance. I write about what I like to read about: gay men who are looking for love—usually in all the wrong places. I think relationships, by nature, are funny, and my writing is definitely tinged by that point of view. Some writers might take the subject of stalking your ex-boyfriend to a darker, scarier place. I tend to take a slightly nutty, neurotic, I Love Lucy kinda slant. If the individual reading my book finds themselves wishing they could climb inside the car with my character in order to help them stalk that ex-boyfriend, I consider that a success.
Finally, what are you both looking forward to, in terms of writing? Publishing? General happiness goals you’d like to tell your fans?
GK: Wilde City has been an amazing challenge, but now that we’re up and running I am determined to throw myself back into writing. I have the first Buck Baxter story coming out soon, after which I’ll be releasing the long-awaited, fourth Fathom’s Five novel, The Temple of Time. We’re determined to take Wilde City from strength to strength over the next two years, turning it in to a major player in gay fiction publishing. As for general happiness, last year I met the love of my life so all is great on that front. He’s smart and sexy and supportive and funny and utterly perfect…so writing any angst in my upcoming novels is going to be difficult 🙂
ED: Having time to write, would be one happiness goal…that, and I still have my fingers crossed for a pony! A boyfriend wouldn’t exactly suck, at least in theory—of course that would require me making myself available for such things.
As for Wilde City, like any other online destination, I hope more and more readers will visit, and discover what we have to offer. We’re getting ready to launch our Wilde City Club membership which will allow readers to create accounts and save their information, as well as offering the option to re-download any and all ebooks purchased through their membership. Club members will also have early access to some or all of our new releases, and will receive special un-advertised discounts not offered anywhere else.
Along with WCP Readers Club, we’ll also be setting up a separate type of account available exclusively to independent books stores and smaller retail chains around the country that would like to purchase our print books direct from Wilde City at a wholesale discount.
Thanks to both of you!
ED: Thank you, Gavin!
GK: Thanks for a wonderful opportunity to walk you through Wilde City, Gavin! Hope to see you again real soon!
Keep up with Geoff at the Wilde City blog.
And keep up with Ethan at ethanday.com
Interview by Gavin Atlas