As many of you know, I have a strong affinity for interacting with and highlighting independent creators of LGBTQ+ content. Our community is so marginalized in mainstream media and one of the ways we can correct that is creating for ourselves. When it comes to books, not every mainstream publisher or agent is interested in representing queer content. That’s where independent publishers focused on queer stories come in, publishers like Blind Eye Books.
Nicole Kimberling, senior editor at Blind Eye Books and a novelist herself, was lovely enough to agree to an interview to talk about the company, it’s vision, and her own work as an author of LGBT fiction.
Gretchen: Nicole, I know you are an author yourself, what inspired you to take that next step into creating Blind Eye Books?
NK: My wife and I happened to inherit a little bit of cash about ten years ago and we had to decide what to do with it. We had two ideas on the table: create a publishing company that would produce the kind of books that we wanted to read with the production standards that readers expect or go around the world. The book company won.
G: What kind of publishing do you offer? Would you classify Blind Eye Books as a ‘traditional’ publisher or something different?
NK: We are a traditional publisher. That means all costs of production are born by us and we pay authors royalties on a regular schedule.
G: What does that mean for how many publishing offers do you award a year and the kinds of things are you looking for in a potential publication?
NK: We print only two books a year and we put all of our efforts into them. We want to see traditional genre stories—science-fiction, fantasy, mystery or romance with well-structured plots and great storytelling that happen to feature queer protagonists.
G: Nice! Tell me, and my readers, about your current publications.
NK: This year we’re releasing two titles: Object of Desire by Dal Maclean in May, and later in the year we have my own book, Grilled Cheese and Goblins: Adventures of a Supernatural Food Inspector.
Object of Desire is a psychological thriller set in modern day London.
“Tom Gray is one of the world’s top models–an effortless object of desire. Self-contained, elusive and always in control, he’s accustomed to living life entirely on his own terms. But when Tom comes under suspicion in the gory death of his employer, his world spirals into chaos.
Someone’s framing him. Someone’s stalking him. And as old secrets come to light, Tom finds his adversary always one step ahead.
Will Foster is the only man Tom trusts to help. But Tom brutally burned all bridges between them two years before, and Will paid a bitter price. If he wants to survive, Tom must prove his innocence to Will–and to the world.”
Then Grilled Cheese and Goblins, which is a collection of stories featuring Special Agent Keith Curry of NIAD.
“Vampire Hunter. Leprechaun Fighter. Food Inspector.
Keith Curry has his work cut out for him.
NATO’s Irregulars Affairs Division is a secret organization operating in thousands of cities around the globe. Its agents police relations between the earthly realm and those beyond this world, protecting citizens from both mundane and otherworldly dangers.
Former chef turned NIAD food inspector, Special Agent Keith Curry found out about magic the hard way and is now determined to keep dinner safe for everybody. Includes the novellas “Cherries Worth Getting,” “Magically Delicious,” and the never-before-published “Bring Out Your Best” plus bonus shorts and more!”
Another cool thing about “Grilled Cheese” is that it takes place in our shared-world property. So what that means is several authors all write and create inside this same world. We even expanded it to include a six-episode audio-drama podcast called, “Lauren Proves Magic is Real!”
G: That’s so cool! What a neat project for people to be able to work on. So, how did you decide on which genres you wanted Blind Eye Books to focus on?
NK: I’m a pretty traditional reader at heart so I very much enjoy structured stories: you know, quests, heists, court intrigue, murder mysteries. Stories that have action, excitement and suspense and above all, love. And Happy Ever After only. So, I wanted to be able to read these stories but just with queer characters. At the time I didn’t know if anybody else would love them as much as I do, but I knew that if I was going to invest in creating books they would be books that I wanted to read.
G: You’ve got some award nominees and winners in there! How proud are you of your authors—yourself included!—who end up getting that level of recognition?
NK: Oh, I’m extremely proud of everybody. I knew our books were good, but I didn’t know if I’d be able to convince anybody else. J I guess it worked.
G: Given that you are an exclusively LGBTQ+ publisher, tell me about your thoughts on the importance of LGBTQ+ representation?
NK: Whenever anyone asks me this question all I can think is: why wouldn’t queer representation be important? Who benefits from removing those characters from the world of fiction? Certainly not us.
G: I’ve never heard it put quite that way. Good point! So, with so much focus on visual media like film and television these days, what place do you see for books as a means of representation for the LGBTQ+ community?
NK: The important thing about text is that it’s basically free to produce. Anyone who can learn to write can express themselves without having to pay a lot of money. That’s why books are always the first media where new thoughts and ideas emerge and underrepresented people are finally seen. So books—digital books especially—are on the vanguard in the way that high-cost media can never be.
G: More personally, how do you balance being both a writer yourself and editor-in-chief of a publishing company? That seems like a lot!
NK: It’s much harder than I had ever anticipated, to be honest. Owning and operating a small business can easily take up every second of your life. I try to set aside large chunks of time to just focus on my own writing and to treat myself with the same amount of advocacy that I would accord to any other author. It’s a tricky balancing act though, for sure.
G: As both a writer and editor, what kind of advice do you have for LGBTQ+ authors looking to try and publish their work?
NK: I’ve always found I’m most productive when I’m writing for a specific audience. So at the outset I try and figure out who I’m writing a story for. Is it to amuse my wife? My mystery fans? My inner twelve-year old fangirl? Then I focus on making the story that they would please them most.
Because writing is, above all, a form of communication. For it to be effective the intended target has to understand what the writer meant.
I think a lot of writers focus way too hard on expressing themselves when that’s actually the easiest part of writing a story. It happens automatically in every decision you make from characters up to scenes and down word choice. The hard part is to make it possible for a reader to understand you. So, the burden of writing is to explain yourself and convince the reader to believe in your world and world view.
G: That’s beautiful. Thanks so much for your time! I’m excited about your new releases!
NK: You’re welcome!
About Nicole Kimberling
Nicole Kimberling is a novelist and the senior editor at Blind Eye Books. Her first novel, Turnskin, won the Lambda Literary Award. Other works include the Bellingham Mystery Series, set in the Washington town where she resides with her wife of thirty years. She is also the creator and writer of “Lauren Proves Magic is Real!” a serial fiction podcast, which explores the lesser case files of Special Agent Keith Curry, supernatural food inspector. Contact her @nkimberling69 or www.nicolekimberling.com.
Stay tuned later this month for a review of Object of Desire by Dal Maclean, and make sure to check out Blind Eye Books’ website in the meantime!