Today I am so pleased to welcome T.J. Klune to Joyfully Jay. T.J. has come to talk to us about his latest release, Murmuration. Please join me in giving him a big welcome!
Last October at GayRomLit, I was asked if I was going to participate in National Novel Writing Month, or NanoWriMo as it’s affectionately known as. For those that don’t know, it’s where people attempt to write 50K words through the month of November. There’s a website where you can track your progress, and follow others doing the same.
I admit I scoffed a little at it, because I hate having any kind of time constraint with my writing. To have an allotted time to write a certain amount of words always seems to stress me out. It’s why my publisher knows never to set deadlines for me when turning in a work. You tell me when you need it by, and I can guarantee you will not get it for a while after that.
But then a friend of mine—another author—wanted to do it, so I said, why the hell not. I was done with Wolfsong and had no edits line up. I wasn’t going to push myself. If I did it, if I got the 50K words in November, then great! If not, oh well.
Add too that fact that I’d been playing around with a story idea, something that was unlike anything I’d done before. I told myself that it’d been an interesting experiment, and maybe something would come from it.
I wrote the entire novel in 27 days, all 106K words of it.
Yes, something came of it.
If fucking consumed me.
I was practically feverish in my intensity with writing this book. From the very first word, I already had the ending written out in my head, knowing exactly where I wanted it to go, what I wanted the very last four or five paragraphs to, be word for word.
And by the time I reached that point, those words came out exactly how I’d thought of them. Not a single one of them was changed.
When I wrote the end, I sat back, took a breath, and then—
Well. And then I frowned.
Because I realized what I’d written. The contents of the story.
And it hit me that I couldn’t say a goddamn word about it, because anything could be a potential spoiler.
Wasn’t that a goddamn place to be.
Followers of mine know I like to tease. It’s part of my…charm (read: assholery). I like to give tidbits to what I’m working on, scenes that have no context to the real plot of the story, but just enough to let people know the characters you like are alive and well. I tend to share full scenes and chapters new books (i.e. those that aren’t sequels to something else) so readers know what to expect for an upcoming book.
But I couldn’t do that with Murmuration.
And it was hard. For the last year, I’ve had to sit on this book, only mentioning it a time or two, because I wanted it to actually be a surprise. I’ve said before that this day and age, we’re all about the instant gratification. We want what we want, and we want it now. Remember when we were kids, and a TV show would have its season finale, and everyone would be talking about it excitedly all summer? Now, a show like the Walking Dead will end on a major cliffhanger, and everyone eviscerates them for having the audacity to do such a thing. (Sidebar—I’ll admit, I was outraged, until I realized how genius it was.)
So I kept quiet. In fact, the first time anyone really knew anything about the book was the cover reveal a few weeks ago, and with that, came the blurb, which is the only thing I’ve released about the book.
You need to go into this book blind.
Let me repeat that:
You need to go into this book blind.
Avoid spoilers, or excerpts, or anyone that wants to talk about the book until after you’ve finished. And you will want to talk about it, either in a good way, or a bad way.
Murmuration is a love letter to my fascination with 1950s Americana. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always thought that if I could live in any other time, it’d be the fifties. Cars with the big tailfins, the music, the aesthetic. Men in suits and fedoras, women in dresses and gloves (acknowledging, of course, the rampant sexism throughout the decade). The TV shows, the radio plays, the lexicon used in phrases like wet rag and right-o, daddio. The movies—the black and white monster films that played as an allegory to the Red Scare—are particularly special to me, as some of my favorites came from this decade.
That’s what I wanted.
I researched this time period heavily because if I committed to it, I wasn’t going to cut corners. When people spoke, they needed to sound like the time they lived in. The products they use/ingest/view are appropriate for 1954. I wouldn’t allow myself to skip out on even the smallest details, because it needs to be immersive. It needs to be believable. It’s technically a historical novel, after all.
I’m aware that such a thing might not be everyone’s cup of tea. And that’s okay. And I’m also very aware that this book is going to split my readership right down the middle. There are going to be people that like it, and people that hate it. I’m expecting this. I told myself something similar when I first started writing Murmuration, and that hasn’t changed. Not really.
And what’s going to divide people, I think, is my other main point, other than wanting to write about 1950s America: with this book, I wanted it to be the most romantic thing I’ve ever written.
So that’s what I did.
This is my opinion, obviously. Some will agree with it. Some will not. And that’s okay. I’m biased, I think, (I’m the author, natch), because I can see the whole picture of it, something that you won’t get until you read every word. I didn’t want this to be a boy meets boy, boy falls in love with boy, boy and boy live happily ever after. I’ve done that before. I needed to do something different. I wanted this to be I would do anything for you and Nothing will keep us apart. Whether or not I’ve succeeded is up to you.
You’ll think you know where it’s heading. And maybe you’ll be partially right. It’s deliberate, that. But it’s just a piece of a larger puzzle that that’s only going to come completely into focus once you reach the last page.
Tj, you’re thinking. You vague, inscrutable asshole.
Yup. But trust me, you’ll thank me for that on October 28th.
I’m proud of this book, and I can’t wait for you to read it.
In the small mountain town of Amorea, it’s stretching toward autumn of 1954. The memories of a world at war are fading in the face of a prosperous future. Doors are left unlocked at night, and neighbors are always there to give each other a helping hand.
The people here know certain things as fact:
Amorea is the best little town there is.
The only good Commie is a dead Commie.
The Women’s Club of Amorea runs the town with an immaculately gloved fist.
And bookstore owner Mike Frazier loves that boy down at the diner, Sean Mellgard. Why they haven’t gotten their acts together is anybody’s guess. It may be the world’s longest courtship, but no one can deny the way they look at each other.
Slow and steady wins the race, or so they say.
But something’s wrong with Mike. He hears voices in his house late at night. There are shadows crawling along the walls, and great clouds of birds overhead that only he can see.
Something’s happening in Amorea. And Mike will do whatever he can to keep the man he loves.
When TJ Klune was eight, he picked up a pen and paper and began to write his first story (which turned out to be his own sweeping epic version of the video game Super Metroid—he didn’t think the game ended very well and wanted to offer his own take on it. He never heard back from the video game company, much to his chagrin). Now, over two decades later, the cast of characters in his head have only gotten louder. But that’s okay, because he’s recently become a full-time writer, and can give them the time they deserve.
Since being published, TJ has won the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Romance, fought off three lions that threatened to attack him and his village, and was chosen by Amazon as having written one of the best GLBT books of 2011.
And one of those things isn’t true.
(It’s the lion thing. The lion thing isn’t true.)