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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

KAGE by Maris Black #TopReads2015 Interview

KAGE is one of my top reads for 2015.  Author Maris Black agreed to an interview.  Kage even stopped by for a bit!  Also keep reading for a preview of the upcoming SSU Boys novel Dual Threat.

My name is Jamie Atwood, and I’m an addict. I never thought I’d say such a thing. Never had a problem being overly-attached to anything in my life. I came from a perfectly middle-class family, made good grades, and had a hot cheerleader girlfriend... but the truth is, nothing ever really moved me. So how did a guy like me become an addict? 

I met Michael Kage. 

Kage is an MMA fighter. A famous one. I like to think I helped him get that way. 

He’s charming as hell, with looks to rival any movie star and talent to back it up. So why did he need to hire me as an intern Publicist? Simple. He has a darkness in him– like a black hole so deep it could swallow him, and me, and everyone we know– and that’s not good for business. 

The first time I met him, I felt the pull. I think the addiction began at that very moment. And even if I’d known then what I know now, I would have fallen for him. How could I not? 

For me, Kage is everything.


When you started Kage, did you already know how sexual the storyline would get or did it evolve over time?

I planned a very sexual storyline from the start, and I knew Kage would be a kinky bastard with deep-seated issues revolving around his dark past. I knew there would be hot, rough sex, and a strong element of obsession, and I knew book one would be an excruciating slow burn with lots of sexual tension.

Like all of my novels, most of the plot points and several complete scenes of the story were already solidified in my head before I ever started typing. However, each story does morph over time as the characters take on a life of their own. For instance, I never envisioned Kage and Jamie making out in the condom aisle of a drugstore, and the hot scene in Jamie’s mom’s pantry was a big surprise. Conversely, the first scenes I wrote in the entire trilogy were the weight cutting scene from book 2, the final scene from book 2, and the final scene from book 3, and those survived largely intact until the very end.

When you walk into a bookstore, where do you head first?

Honestly, I haven’t set foot in one in ages, but if I were to visit one, I would first try to find a M/M section. Then I’d search in vain for the out-of-print eighties novel Dearest, which at the time was the creepiest book I ever read. It was about a dude who mummifies his girlfriend. I’m 99% certain this book was not a figment of my imagination.

If you could choose one superpower, what would it be and why?

I think I would have to go with time travel. Who wouldn’t like to be able to right past mistakes, or win the lottery by devious means? I would drink more water, finish college a lot faster, and refuse to let my granny fix my hair in Shirley Temple ringlets the night I met the cutest boy in the county. Gah! Couldn’t I have at least looked in a mirror before I left?

How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?

I spend a lot of time choosing the main characters’ names. Occasionally I will choose a name specifically for meaning, but often I’m just looking for a name that fits the character. In the case of Michael Kage, I dreamed his name and woke up with it on my tongue. I’m sure it was a subconscious nod to Johnny Cage and Mortal Kombat. Even the initials — MK. Crazy, huh?

What are some day jobs that you have held? Did any impact your writing? If so, how?

Well, after graduating college with an English degree, my first day job was doing literally everything at a small newspaper: articles, photography, obituaries, layout. Hell, I even delivered the damn things.

Then I was a respiratory therapist. My first novel, Owning Corey, is set in the small town hospital where I worked, though the names of the places are changed. The locals could probably recognize things in that book if they read it— which I’m sure they would never do.

I also trained and worked as a graphic artist for several years, which makes me just audacious enough to design my own book covers.

What projects are you working on for 2016? Do you have an excerpt from an upcoming book you can share please?

My next release is the Kage Trilogy audiobooks on January 26th, through Audible Studios. Works in progress are book 4 of the SSU series, a follow-up to the Kage Trilogy, and an unrelated story about young love and second chances that I’m really excited about. Then at least two more SSU books, spinoffs from Kage, and a music related series that’s been in the works for a long time. Some of these projects may never see the light of day, as I am criminally vulnerable to impulse.


Movie Villain-
Maris: Alex De Large from Clockwork Orange is one sexy sociopath, and so timelessly cool.

Kage: Johnny Lawrence from The Karate Kid (1984). “No mercy!” Fuck yeah. I don’t know if I’d beat him or sleep with him. Probably both. At the same time.

Type of Music-

Maris: I have obsessed over songs in almost every genre, but nineties alternative will always make me FEEL more than anything else— think Pixies, Smashing Pumpkins, Type O Negative, Soundgarden. I think whatever is playing during those borderline teenage-adult years sort of brands itself onto our souls, or at least in my case it did. Right now I like a lot of moody pop, hybrid stuff, some rap.

Kage: Anything that gets me pumped. That one time I used Teleport 2 Me Jamie by Kid Cudi as my walkout song. Not my usual style, but damn it said exactly what I wanted to say to my baby. I knew he’d be listening.

Fast Food Restaurant-

Maris: I really don’t eat fast food that much. If they had Indian fast food, I’d be all over it. Or Iranian. Yum.

Kage: I don’t put that shit in my body, and you shouldn’t either. Mike Dolce is the best dietitian in MMA. If you want to straighten out your diet, he’s a good place to start.

Cleaning Product-

Maris: Clorox wipes. I keep them in every room in my home.

Kage: I use Classic Erotica’s Before & After, because a clean toy is a happy toy.


Maris: I write by this: “You do not have to explain every single drop of water contained in a rain barrel. You have to explain one drop—H2O. The reader will get it.” —George Singleton
But I should live by this: “Write while the heat is in you. … The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with.” —Henry David Thoreau

Kage: “Show no mercy!” —Johnny Lawrence, The Karate Kid
I know I used that already, but it’s so me. Except when it comes to Jamie. He’s my weakness.



SOMEONE once said, As soon as you stop wanting something, you get it. Or at least I think somebody said that. Maybe that mop-haired blond guy from the sixties who made the obnoxious pictures of tomato soup cans? Anyway it sounds familiar, and lord knows it’s true. It’s exactly the philosophy I’ve decided to employ to lure Emilio Madero back into my bed.

Our short but tumultuous relationship has stalled, and I’m at a loss as to how to get it going again. I already made the first move, took him home to meet my family, and even lost my virginity to him, which was a huge deal for me. A lot of guys would probably laugh at me for being so old fashioned, but I don’t live my life to please anyone else. If I make bad choices, the only one who’s going to regret it is me— Andrew Dalton— and as anyone who knows me will attest, I don’t do regret. That attitude, along with my borderline irrational aversion to guns and the unshakable belief that I can do most anything I put my mind to, can be blamed on my parents. They have always made sure I had everything I needed, and pretty much everything I wanted as well, but they made me earn it with good grades, impeccable manners, and a solid work ethic.

But this boyfriend thing has me floundering like hell. The tools I’ve used to get everything in my life so far aren’t working. Grades and manners mean nothing to Emilio. He doesn’t care that I haven’t made below a B on an Algebra test, or that I aced my essay on The Swimmer by John Cheever. He also doesn’t care that I helped my mom bake cookies last Sunday for the residents of my great-grandmother’s nursing home. Apparently, he also doesn’t care that my family has money. I don’t know what Emilio does care about, or what could possibly make him want me like I want him. The only thing that’s gotten his attention so far is spreading my legs for him, and even that hasn’t been enough to keep him from losing interest.

Right now he’s standing across the gym, cutting up with a few of the senior football players and looking totally lickable as he strips off his sweaty t-shirt. Powerful muscles ripple beneath his brown skin as he balances first on one foot then the other to remove his socks. After slinging them into his locker, he starts to unlace his pants. I’ve never had a particular affinity for Latino guys, but something about him makes me want to go ass-up every time I see him. He’s so powerful, so masculine, and so rough.

“Coach was being a dick today,” one of the guys comments, earning an animated reply from Emilio.

“I know, right? He definitely had a bug up his ass. I think it’s that time of the month.”

Emilio’s fingers loosen the pants laces enough to reveal a distracting amount of skin below the belt, and I may as well have stars for eyes and a cartoon heart pulsing out of my chest. Subtlety is beyond my grasp when I look at him, and that’s a really bad thing considering he’s in the closet. I need to be careful not to give him away against his will. I mean, I’m not stupid. I know that his reluctance to let anyone know he’s gay is the reason he’s been ignoring me for weeks. Ever since we had makeup sex on an empty football field in a strange town the night before our first football game, he’s been a ghost. It hurts, but only an asshole of the highest magnitude would out someone who didn’t want to be outed. Even if that someone is okay with using me to get off in private and then acting like we’ve never met in public.

I slam my locker door and turn to head into the shower room to wash the sweat and grime of practice from my skin, but just as I spin around, I catch Emilio looking at me. His liquid brown eyes hang on me for a suspended second, and the raw longing I see in his gaze gets that cartoon heart of mine going even faster than before. Emilio blinks in slow motion, and his tongue slips out to wet his full bottom lip, giving it a tantalizing sheen. Then one corner of his mouth tips up into a teasing almost-smile.

He’s actually acknowledging me?

Just as I open my mouth to say something— please let it be something cool— Emilio turns back to the other guys and laughs. His little smile wasn’t meant for me after all, and now he’s back to ignoring me again, as if we’ve never touched, or kissed, or made love like we were the only two people in the world.

Which brings me back to my new motto. Obviously wanting the guy is not working, so I’m officially putting Operation: Fuck You into effect. Starting today, Emilio Madero is going to learn just how ruthless I can be when I don’t want something.

My name is Maris Black (sort of), and I'm a Southern Girl through and through.
In college, I majored in English and discovered the joys of creative writing and literary interpretation. After honing my skills discovering hidden meanings authors probably never intended, I collected my near-worthless English degree and got a job at a newspaper making minimum wage. But I soon had to admit that small town reporting was not going to pay the bills, so I went back to school and joined the medical field. Logical progression, right? But no matter what I did, my school notebooks and journals would not stop filling up with fiction. I was constantly plotting, constantly jotting prose, constantly casting the people I met as characters in the secret novels in my head.
Yep. I can blame my creative mother for that one!
When I finally started writing fiction for a living, I surprised myself with my choice of genre. I'd always known I wanted to write romance, but the first story that popped out was about a couple of guys finding love during a threesome with a woman. Then I wrote about more guys, and more guys, and more guys. I was never a reader of gay fiction, and I'd never planned to write it. The only excuse I have for myself is: Hey, it's just what comes out!

I adore the M/M genre, though, with all my heart. It feels sort of like coming home. I can’t quite explain it. I’ve always had openly gay and bisexual friends and relatives, the rights and acceptance of whom are very important to me, so it feels great to celebrate that. But there’s also something so pure and honest about the love between two men that appeals to me on a romantic level and inspires me to write.
Thank you, men. :-)

I currently live in Nashville, TN with my devoted husband (who just happens to be my biggest fan), my three eccentric children, and a hairless cat named BLU. Life is good.


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