Today I am so pleased to welcome A.K. Holubek to Joyfully Jay. A.K. has come to talk to us about his latest release, The Empath and the Soldier. He has also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving him a big welcome!

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Thanks for the opportunity to talk a little about my new book. In this post, I thought I’d discuss the inspiration behind the world of The Empath and the Soldier. 

What if, instead of being reviled throughout much of history, gay men had been honored and revered? 

Long before I ever began penning The Empath and the Soldier, this was always the premise that first came to mind whenever I considered writing a book. I wanted to explore a world where homosexuality was not just accepted as “normal,” but actually elevated above heterosexuality. After years of being made to feel like my queerness was a curse, I was ready to imagine a place where an attraction to men was considered a blessing.

When I did finally begin writing the novel, I realized early on that I needed some sort of basis for this exalted gay status. And I figured the best place to start was to replace the patriarchy with a matriarchy, since so much of the derision heaped upon gay men is based on a male disdain for anything feminine. In a world where femininity is venerated as superior to masculinity, gay men could be respected for being much closer to the feminine ideal than straight men. 

In addition to turning homophobia on its head, I also found the idea of a matriarchal world appealing because it would be a stark contrast to the male dominated fantasy genre I grew up with (thankfully, in recent years the world of fantasy literature has begun to grow past its straight, white male hegemony). 

To further emphasize the novel’s focus on the feminine, I decided that not only would women rule society, but that they, along with gay men, would be the only people with magic. In addition, all of the main characters and even most of the supporting characters would be women, gay, or bisexual. At times I wondered whether this was too much—maybe I should include at least one straight male. But then I’d recall all the fantasy books out there dominated by straight males. One self-published book dominated by gays and women is really just a drop in the bucket to balancing things out. 

As I began to create the world of the novel, I found it was not all that difficult to imagine a civilization ruled by women. I’ve always been much more comfortable around gay men and women than I have around straight men, so a society dominated by these groups felt quite natural. Still, I would sometimes catch myself assuming certain characters (religious leaders, military leaders, scholars, etc.) to be male, when in a matriarchy they would have to be female, an indication of just how pervasive patriarchal assumptions in our own society can be. 

One of the most significant challenges I encountered while writing The Empath and the Soldier was the binary nature, in terms of sexuality and gender, of the world I was creating. People were either women, who had magic, or men, who did not—with one exception. And this exception was yet another binary.  Men were either straight, and therefore non-magical, or gay and blessed with magic. This world was missing out on the full spectrum of human identity in our own world, where people don’t always fit squarely into one of two genders or into one of two sexualities. 

I was able to fix this glaring omission for sexuality not only by including bisexual characters, but also by making bisexuality a plot point. Yet the book still lacks inclusion of the nonbinary gender. This is a major failing and my biggest regret for The Empath and the Soldier. It’s a failing I intend to correct in the subsequent books of The Unconventionals series. 

Ultimately, in this novel I feel I’ve created the world I always imagined I would create; one that emphasizes and celebrates women and gay men (even at the expense of straight men). And going forward, I hope to expand this world so that it’s more inclusive of the full LGBTQ+ spectrum, continuing to do what I can to help expand the LGBTQ+ footprint in the fantasy genre.  


empath and the soldier coverThe situation seemed hopeless. But Tyrran couldn’t pretend to be ignorant of the danger and just wait for his home to disintegrate around him.

As a Favored male, Tyrran belongs to a select group of men born with one of the Four Gifts, a blessing usually reserved for women. Quiet, introverted, and filled with self-doubt, Tyrran has always struggled with living up to the responsibilities that come with being Gifted. Still, he had managed to achieve the near impossible — admission to the prestigious Lyceum Institute in Corvit, the Coarian Sovereignty’s bustling capital city. With this success, Tyrran’s future seems clear: the best education, a position in a Temple, and, one day, marriage to a young man of good fortune.

That is, until sinister forces intervene to shove him down a much bleaker path. Tyrran’s plans are thrown into upheaval when a deadly attack reveals the existence of an insidious evil festering within the ranks of the Sovereignty’s elite.

Now, he must use the privileges afforded him as a Lyceum student to uncover the secrets of a corrupt government. Targeted by relentless assassins and trying to ignore his growing attachment to the handsome exchange student Adwin, Tyrran must gather trustworthy allies to face the dangers that threaten to tear apart his nation and his home.

Bridgerton meets The Magicians in this fantasy novel about the importance of confidence and the strength of friendship.

Buy Link: Amazon:


A.K. Holubek author photoThe moment A.K. Holubek stumbled across a ragged copy of The Fellowship of the Ring in his elementary school library, his life changed forever. The rest of his childhood, his adolescence, and even his college years were spent living only part time in the real world. He much preferred spending time in the fantasy lands of his imagination than in the reality of life as a closeted gay kid. As real life got better, he left his fantasy worlds behind. But a few years ago, those worlds called him to return, and to share his created worlds with others who might also need a place to escape. He now endeavors to carry out this mission from his home in Baltimore, supported by his husband and two ridiculous cats.


A.K. is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour:

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