Grim -related Q & A on the release day! :D
Grim has landed 😉 The book is available [[HERE]]
One of the ARC readers was so fascinated by the story that she asked us to answer a few questions and agreed for the results to be posted on our page. It would be best to read the answers after reading the book, as then our explanations should make more sense and not spoil anything.
Q & A
Roroblu’sMum: Hi Kat, Agnes – thanks so much for letting me read this book, and for providing me with an education that I am not sure I couldn’t have done without! Seriously, though, it was an extremely extreme read (and that’s after I ended up shocked – and educated, rather unwillingly, in all things occult – by SPLIT) – what made you think of the subject matter? And, will my education continue in future tales? Remember, until I discovered your books, I was reading pretty much vanilla novels.
Agnes: We’re happy to educate! 😀 Seriously though, our aim is not to shock but to tell a story, and it just happens that some of the stories we want to tell feature controversial elements. For one, we’re Polish, and I know for a fact that people all over the world have different sensibilities when it comes to levels of violence, sexuality, explicit language, and so on. Being from a country where at school we are required to read gruesome, graphic accounts of WWII or classic books that include lengthy scenes of torture (like impaling in The Deluge by Henryk Sienkiewicz), I sometimes find it hard to understand people who have a violent reaction to such scenes. There is gratuitous violence that I don’t appreciate, but violence can also be used to put across a plot point.
I suppose since both I and Kat were always interested in fringe cultures, and we both identified with subcultures connected to alternative lifestyles on top of that, so we got to meet people who function outside of social norms and see them as they really are. Goths generally don’t brood. They eat cornflakes for breakfast, like everyone else, they like to party and do silly stuff. Satanists can be bankers and dress in pink, and Slavic pagans have guilty pleasures of going to McDonalds. All people are multi-dimensional, and very early on we discovered that it’s fun to be surrounded by people who live their lives in all kinds of ways.
We understand why many romance novels feature archetypes that readers can easily recognize (Ie. goths are sad, surfers are easygoing, lawyers are uptight etc.), but for us it is a pain that there aren’t that many “alternative” MCs out there, so we like to write about them in our books. We will see where our ideas take us next, but I think it will be still educational to some extent 😉
Roroblu’sMum: Is there a Reader Awareness warning with this one? I think it bloody well needs one, and no, the ‘themes’ part does not qualify as a RA warning!
Kat: We have “WARNING: This book contains adult content that might be considered taboo. Strong language, violence and torture. Reader discretion advised. “ and we can only hope that covers some issues without being spoilery. I’ve found that many books nowadays have a violence warning, yet when I read them, I find out they’re quite mellow, so I think there’s a risk that when readers see ‘Warning: violence’ they might not be ready for the extent of it. I always ask readers to take those warnings to heart 😉
Roroblu’sMum: And how much research did you do? Did it involve meeting devotees of the non-Hare Rama/non-religious variety? Did you turn voyeurs in the name of research (and if so, may I please be included the next time round?).
Agnes: We first stumbled upon the term devotee while researching body integrity identity disorder before writing Special Needs. There is a whole community of people who are either attracted to people with disabilities or live as disabled people despite not actually being disabled (pretenders). We read through many forums, websites, and mailing lists used by this community, and we also talked to a few devotees via e-mail. Ryan, the main character of Special Needs is technically a pretender with BIID, so that’s what we focused on in his book, but the information we gathered about devotees stayed with us, and when Grim came into the picture, it made sense for us that he would be one.
Kat: We’ve looked through quite a bit of amputee fetish porn and blogs, stories, not to just see the fetish itself, but to look beneath it. The way something is filmed, or the way a story is told, can show what the creator actually focuses on. Devotees do share their experiences online, so it’s interesting to find out where the attraction lies. Some language used by Grim is inspired by those confessions. For example that Misha’s body is ‘unique’ or somehow ‘special’.
It allows us to sink into the characters as we write them instead of trying to create an artificial construct based on simply wondering about what it would be like to have this sort of attraction. When I write about in in a way that doesn’t feel voyeuristic, but immersive, writing about something that isn’t attractive to me personally becomes a sensual experience, because the focus is on what the character is feeling. The characters need to work for each other even if their attraction is far away from my own experience.
Roroblu’sMum: Can I come with you, all expenses paid of course, on your next recon trip? Please?
Kat: Only if you cook 😉
Roroblu’sMum: Do you get weird fan mail? Do you want to, as IMHO, maybe this book might draw weirdos out of the woodwork? Have no fear, cos the answer to, ‘Something strange in the Merikan neighbourhood – who ya gonna call?’ can be Roroblu’sDad, on speed-dial.
Kat: I did get contacted by a woman with BIID once. She wanted to know if I am one too, because the descriptions in Special Needs rang so true to her experiences, but I had to say I wasn’t.
Agnes: Fortunately, the vast majority of the e-mails we get are lovely, and we enjoy reading them all.
Roroblu’sMum: How long did this one take you to write?
Kat: All in all about 3 months with edits, but what I always stress that we don’t randomly sit down and say to each other: “Allright, let’s write Grim’s book today.” The stories and characters simmer in our brains for a long time, we make notes, gather random ideas so that when we sit down to actual plotting, we already have a good idea of where we are going with it. Grim’s character has been on our mental back burner for at least 4 years. He was a cop, he was a firefighter, he was an Italian Carabinieri… We had different ideas for the settings, but there was a core concept of him. Two years ago we finally settled to write him as a biker assassin, he was in the background or mentioned in the other biker books, and slowly but steadily we gathered ideas for his own book. But from the moment he appeared in our imagination, we knew he would be a devotee.
Roroblu’sMum: Is Grim’s devoteeism extreme, or is this normal for people who like this kind of kink?
Agnes: Devoteeism is a fetish, so in that sense it’s no different from foot fetish. Of course, the idea that something that the disabled person usually sees as their misfortune being sexually arousing is somewhat disturbing, but the mechanism of the attraction is the same. Both devoteeism and foot fetish come in many different colors, from the stage where a person simply finds the trait attractive in the same way most people have body type preferences, all the way to the fetish being the only source of sexual gratification.
When the fetish becomes more extreme, it starts being noticeable to potential partners. I had a situation once when I was out clubbing, and I met a guy who I talked to a lot. He mentioned that he liked my shoes (I was wearing high-heeled sandals), and later asked me if he can take photos of my feet. He was clearly so focused on my feet rather than the rest of me that it became noticeable, and it is the same with any other fetish.
I would say that while Grim’s devoteeism is quite prominent in his sexual life, I wouldn’t call him extreme, because he doesn’t treat disabled people as objects. He feels he relates to them on an emotional level, and he craves their approval. Many disabled people online complain that devotees would sometimes stalk them or touch them inappropriately, or even sneakily make photos and share them online. That being said, Grim clearly is not able to be satisfied by a relationship or sex with a healthy person, so the fetish is a prominent part of his life.
Kat: I would say it’s also an interesting issue with Grim, because he is an extreme person: an assassin, on the psychopathy spectrum, aggressive, obsessive, forward, but when it comes to his fetish, he is not extreme.
Roroblu’sMum: A bit personal, I know, but do you have personal experience, vicarious or not, of devoteeism?
Agnes: No. The same way I have no experience of gun violence, and yet I incorporate it into so many of our books. I guess we just like exploring situations that are outside of our own experience, to work through them in a safe way.
Roroblu’sMum: You made me wonder about myself over my weird fascination with the tale – did writing it make you wonder about where your mind and imagination were taking you?
Kat: Discovering fetishes I’ve never heard about and researching them is my guilty pleasure. I like to find out what makes people tick.
Agnes: My imagination has been taking me weird places since I can remember, so I guess this is a natural state for me 😉 I wouldn’t call my life dangerous, so this is a bit of harmless excitement that I enjoy.
Roroblu’sMum: My husband, the psychiatric nurse I mentioned, laughed at your bio and trivia, but that was after I’d summarised the tale for him, and he’d been trying to keep the smile off his face. His initial and only considered comment was, ‘frickin weirdos’, with the frickin being of the Dr Evil-patented variety, not the insulting variety. Do I smack him for disrespecting us females? Does he have a point that includes me, his wife of 25 years? Do I point out that this was not a professional opinion?
Kat: Ha ha! I’ve been a self-professed weirdo since my early teens, no way denying that. I love living life my own way no matter what people say. I find that too many people put trying to fit in before their personal happiness, and it’s a shame.
Agnes: Same here. I’d never deny being a weirdo, because the world would be boring without them.
Roroblu’sMum: I just summarised Split for him, and he was speechless, though he knew about bifurcated tongues (he’s coming up to 30 years as a psychi nurse). Do you think I should stop here, or tease him with future tales? Will there be future tales as extreme as this, or is this the far end of the spectrum, even for you?
Kat: I have to admit we really felt like writing something fluffier after His Favorite Color Is Blood. At least as fluffy as a Merikan book gets. The next one is called Heart Ripper, and it’s nothing like Grim’s book. It deals with issues of going out of the box and embracing your own quirks, but is super sweet in comparison.
We don’t write the stories we write just for the sake of being extreme, but we don’t shy away from topics we want to write about. That’s why we did the Satanism plotline in Split despite knowing it’s not the most marketable of topics. We want to write books that are diverse without being preachy, and which show a whole spectrum of characters who aren’t stereotypes. We have a slavery-ponyplay trilogy that we intend to finish this year, and we’re definitely open to extreme stories if an idea catches our attention.
We want those stories not to have only shock value, but to show characters who are fetishists, strange, or in morally dubious situations, as real people who get complete stories, not just tiny vignettes or fetish-oriented books. We want readers to feel for them, step in their shoes and empathize with them. I’ve actually loved hearing from some readers that they loved a character, yet felt uneasy about it. That’s great. Means that it would stick with them, that they had a chance to reexamine themselves in the process.
There is definitely more freaky cool stuff coming from us in the future.
Roroblu’sMum: Do you get much sleep? Is it perhaps sleep deprivation that is causing your minds to come up with your books?
Agnes: We have the privilege of setting our own schedule, as writing is a full-time job for us. We are both night owls, and there had been times when our sleeping time moved to strange slots of the 24h day, but we get the right amount or shuteye, unless the dogs wake us up too early 😉
Roroblu’sMum: Thank you for managing to shock my non-shockable hubby. How much do I owe you?
Kat: A batch of cookies 😉
Agnes: And coffee <3