It was my pleasure to talk Real Shit and Book Shit with fantasy author K.R.R. Lockhaven, who’s as swell a human as I’ve had the pleasure to meet.
Dan: Hey Kyle, thank you for joining me on Real Shit and Book Shit! I always start with the most important question: How’s your mental health faring these days?
Kyle: Hey, Dan! Thank you for having me! My mental health is doing…okay. It’s kind of hard to give a confident answer on that because it changes so much from day to day. Right now I feel pretty good. I just got off from a 48 hour shift, I came home to my kids cracking up about something together, and I’m here with you! My family is doing good, so I really can’t complain at the moment.
Dan: BIG OOF on the 48 hour shift! But I guess you’re used to that in your line of work.
Kyle: Yeah, I actually really like my schedule. The time away from home sucks, but I do end up getting a lot of time off.
Dan: How does it feel to be a real-life, lifesaving superhero? Kyle’s a firefighter, in case anyone didn’t know.
Kyle: I definitely don’t see myself as something like that. It just feels like a job to me. I am grateful that I get to be a part of lifesaving stuff from time to time, but it’s mostly down time to tell the truth.
Dan: Tell us about your work as a burn survivor advocate. I noticed that in your Twitter bio and I wasn’t aware that was a thing, but I expect it’s a pretty important thing.
Kyle: About 20 years ago, I heard about this camp for burn survivor kids in my state. I donated a little money to them and they immediately reached out and asked if I wanted to come volunteer for a week. The idea was terrifying at the time, but I jumped out of the old comfort zone and gave it a shot. I’ve only missed one year due to illness since. I absolutely love the people I have met there and I intend to be a part of that family for the rest of my days 🙂
Dan: That’s amazing, and it’s great to hear about your work with these folks. We’ve started with some pretty serious topics, but your writing is often anything but. Tell me why humor is so important to you as a writer and as a person.
Kyle: I hadn’t really thought of it being tied into my burn camp experiences before, but thinking about it now, I believe they played a part. Some of the people there have been through absolutely tragic things, and the people who do the best with it are the ones who lean on humor as a coping mechanism. Most of the kids up there are hilarious. I’ve found the same kind of thing in my own experience. Life is tough sometimes, especially if you take it too seriously. So I strive to never take myself too seriously, and to find joy in life whenever possible.
Dan: Absolutely, especially these days, with all the madness of the past 3 years. Even the titles of your books give us a clue about what we might find inside. Your first book is called The Conjuring of Zoth-Avarex: The Self-Proclaimed Greatest Dragon in the Multiverse, and the title alone is already funny!
Kyle: Thanks! I’m so glad I thought of that title at the last second. It was going to be called The Dragon of Bureaucracy, but that wouldn’t have been very good. I’m happiest about it because the title alone enticed the wonderful Fiction Fans podcast to give my book a try, and that has led to some of the best experiences of my whole author “career” so far!
Dan: That’s where I first heard about this book! Sara says hi by the way–I told her I was talking to you and she got very excited. Fiction Fans is the BEST podcast, bar none.
Kyle: Agreed! Hi, Sara! Yeah, I really can’t stress enough how much finding them has meant to me. Whatever success I’ve had so far can pretty much be traced back to them. Before they took a chance on my book, I had zero contacts in the fantasy world, and I had no idea if anyone would ever like anything I wrote. They not only gave me a foot in the door to this community, but also gave my confidence a much-needed boost. And, most importantly, they’ve become my friends.
Dan: It’s interesting how these little personal connections are so important in the bookish world. We never know who our books will reach! Going back to that book–you established yourself as a humorous fantasy author, and I wonder how you feel about it now that you have a few more books under your belt. The first book is always our precious baby, but we learn a lot while writing it.
Kyle: For sure. Overall, I’m happy that I initially established myself in humor, but since then my writing has definitely become more serious. I’m much more interested in, for lack of a better word, heart. The only real regret I have is my pen name. With the first book being over-the-top silly, I thought the whole KRR (Kyle Robert Redundant) thing was pretty funny, but now I’m kinda stuck with it. Oh well. Sara and Lilly love it, so I guess it’s okay 🙂
Dan: Whatever they say, is the absolute truth, and you can’t convince me otherwise. And as someone who foolishly used my actual name as my author name, I feel your pain now that I’m writing smutty romance, but I digress. Tell me a bit about the interactive Pick-your-own path experience! That sounds like a hoot!
Kyle: It was so fun to write! I used to love those books as a kid, and I wonder why it isn’t as much of a thing anymore. Of all my books, that one has sold the least by far, but the people who have given it a try told me they had a lot of fun with it. I should say that it’s probably much more fun for people who have read The Conjuring of Zoth-Avarex first.
Dan: I’m going to go ahead and link that one here for anyone who wants to try it, and here’s an interview you did with Fiction Fans. I also loved the choose your own adventure stories as a kid, and I listened to a podcast about that style of book, with a particular focus on LitRPG, and it sounds amazing! Hopefully it will get discovered over time! Tell me though, is Zoth-Avarex connected to the Azure Archipelago trilogy?
Kyle: Well… Although the two books are completely separate stories in separate worlds, there may be a scaly link between the two…
Dan: Insert Frodo “All right, keep your secrets” gif…So let’s talk about The Marauders, the Daughter, and the Dragon. You’ve said you moved into more serious territory with your trilogy, but it’s not exactly devoid of humor. How do you balance the serious and the humorous? Is it something you think about explicitly or does it just come naturally to you when you write?
Kyle: In a way it comes naturally, but I’ve been very cognizant of the overall tone as I write these books. I don’t want to shy away from my natural inclination towards humor, but I want the story to have more emotional heft, too. I think sometimes the two can complement each other. Often, the characters I find myself caring for the most when I read are the ones who make me laugh. It’s a balancing act for sure, and I hope I’ve found that balance between humor and emotion.
Dan: I suppose it’s hard to be overly serious when capybaras are some of the characters. Tell us about them, about their cute little clothes, and about how you came to be so obsessed with them!
Kyle: Haha! I think I’m starting to be known as the capybara guy, and I embrace it! I couldn’t really tell you how I decided to make them an important part of the world. I’ve always loved them, and I wanted to fit them in somehow, but their importance just sort of expanded over time 🙂
Dan: You could be known for much, much worse, and we need moments of levity like this to balance the emotional stuff. Have you ever seen them in the wild?
Kyle: No! But it’s one of my goals for sure!
Dan: Why should someone pick up Marauders, besides the quality capybara content?
Kyle: Besides the capybaras…that’s tough. Okay, I think anyone who likes books with a bit of fun, adventure, moments of coziness, and unique characters who are brimming with a joie de vivre (a little French for you) might like this book. One of my favorite reviews said it was, “Like The House in the Cerulean Sea meets the Pirates of the Caribbean, but with more cussing.” My goal was to write a book that was both fun and emotionally resonant. On its serious side, it deals with a father daughter relationship, and how differences in political beliefs can tear families apart. The main character, Azure, loves her father, and is thankful for all he has done for her, but she is absolutely opposed to who he has become.
Dan: That’s a really interesting dynamic, and one you don’t see enough of in fantasy, tbh, especially since a lot of people are experiencing this right now in 2023 America. Will family relationship themes continue to be a focus in The Foundling, The Heist, and the Volcano, which is available now?
Kyle: Yes. The idea came from my relationship with my dad, and how tough it has been for the last 6 years or so. Writing this book was cathartic in a lot of ways. I think it helped me get through to the underlying truth that even though I hate many of his beliefs, I still love him. It’s not easy, though! Family relationships continue to be the focus throughout the series. In the second book, Azure finds herself engaged and responsible for the care of a young foundling, and she’s not 100% sure she’s ready for all of that yet.
Dan: Does your family read your books?
Kyle: That’s up in the air right now… My mom is very supportive, and reads everything I write. My dad really liked the first one, but I don’t think he has read this one yet. I’m not too worried, because the overall point of the book is that love can overcome anything, but it will be touchy at first. He and I are in a much better place now. We had a MAJOR blowup at each other recently that led to the first “I love yous” in at least ten years.
Dan: Family and books are quite a challenge, I can attest, and your statement about love overcoming everything leads me perfectly into the next question: I have to ask, since as you know it’s a particular focus of mine: how much romance and/or smut is in your books, and do you see that changing?
Kyle: Romance is creeping its way in, but I’m sorry to report that there is zero smut…so far. BUT, on the latest Fiction Fans episode, they coined the term wholesome horniness when referencing my latest book, so that’s something. I’m unsure about the future in that regard, though. I’m not opposed to mixing in smut, but I just haven’t yet. I know my wife would appreciate it, because she reads a lot of smutty stuff.
Dan: I’LL TAKE IT! Where do you see your writing going next? The Azure Archipelago is a trilogy, I believe, and I assume the third book is in editing as we speak. What comes after the trilogy?
Kyle: I had a slight detour recently. A cozy fantasy story popped into my head and I couldn’t seem to push it to the side. So I wrote it in between writing books 2 and 3. My publisher was nice enough to let me push book 3 off a bit. After book 2 releases on January 20th, I’m going to try a Kickstarter with this cozy fantasy book sometime in March or April. I’m excited and terrified!
Dan: Sounds amazing! What kind of extras are you planning for your backers?
Kyle: It’s been really fun setting up all that stuff. I think/hope people will find the extras I’m offering creative and fun. I’m not locked in on any of them yet, but I’m toying with things like, “Name a capybara in the book,” and other stuff like that.
Dan: I love this whole idea–it’s great not to put all your eggs in one publishing basket. Trad, indie press, and self-pub are NOT mutually exclusive.
Kyle: For sure! Shadow Spark has been really cool with that. They had no problem at all with me trying this out, which I appreciate. And if the Kickstarter project ends up meeting its goal, I can only see that as a good thing for the books in my trilogy, too.
Dan: I’m excited to see where you go next in your career, and I hope your Kickstarter (link? https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mrscovingtons/mrs-covingtons-a-cozy-fantasy-novel) is a raging success and that book 3 flows out of you like wine from a tapped barrel.
Kyle: Thank you! That Kickstarter link is a “Notify Me On Launch” page. Thank you for including it!
Dan: Before you go, tell us something you’re reading right now or something you’re really looking forward to reading.
Kyle: I’m currently reading the Terry Pratchett biography. He is, as you might guess, one of my most important influences. I hope to read a lot more indie books this year. I believe the next one I’m going to dig into is We Break Immortals by Thomas Howard Riley.
Dan: I KNEW YOU WERE GOING TO SAY TERRY PRATCHETT. I love that and it fits you so well. And Riley’s The Monsters We Feed is high on my TBR, after one more SPFBO book and one more romance. Listen, it’s been an absolute pleasure chatting with you! All the best of luck with your upcoming launch, your Kickstarter, and everything else!
Kyle: Thank you so much for this! It was really nice to chat with you, too!
KRR (Kyle Robert Redundant) Lockhaven writes fun, often humorous fantasy with ever-increasing infusions of heart. He lives in Washington State with his wife and two sons. When not writing or raising kids, he works as a firefighter/paramedic.