We're closing Pride-iversary with an interview from Third Time's the Charm author Gio Peters!
We want to thank all of the authors who participated in our special month, and we hope our readers found some amazing new books to add to their TBR. It's so important to us to celebrate queer indie authors from all walks of life, and it's truly a privilege to work with so many of you!
Don't forget to check out our Instagram for our final giveaway with MC Johnson, and keep a look out for our monthly LGBTQ+ Releases article coming tomorrow.
Without further ado...
Tell us about your newest book, Third Time’s the Charm, and what inspired you to write it.
Third Time’s the Charm is a mix of things. It’s a gothic historical fantasy novel, as it takes place in the Kingdom of Ura, which is a kingdom analogous with Victorian/Edwardian England but with smatterings of magic. The only difference being queer positivity. Everybody is represented across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum
Niamh Nestor is the third son of the third son, making him a fae, and as such, on his sixteenth birthday, he is supposed to get a fae power and a birthday wish. On his special day, he gets bullied by a trio of witches, their leader being Alexandria Lambert. Once he is out of their clutches, he wishes to kiss a merman, which does come true, but Alexandria catches him and reports him for it, as interspecies sexual relations of any kind is illegal (even a little kiss). So instead of receiving his fae power, he gets sent off to a correctional facility for magically inclined youth, called Carpathian Keep. All the youths have their powers negated by a magical charm that chokes them when they break rules, making sure the kids can’t get out or fend for themselves.
The crux comes in when Niamh discovers that the headmasters are vampires and the teachers are their familiars, who suck blood from students in the evening, meaning that the reform school is a feeding pen. Also, the charges’ families and friends in the outside world forget about them once their time at the Keep has elapsed. Niamh needs to figure out a way to escape the Keep before they all get drained dry on the winter solstice.
Can you tell us a little bit about your characters? Which, if any, did you identify with most and why?
Niamh is a shy guy. He often cries when he is sad, laughs when he’s happy and loves hard. His emotions are always on display without being pushy, and he has a strong love for his friends and family. Theron is a very intelligent wizard and generally a ball of sunshine. Calligula, a shifterfae who can take the form of a cat, is aloof but at times very protective of their (they're non-binary) friends. Those are the three mains, and they really unravel throughout the story, particularly Niamh and his relationship with Matthias, a boy who bullies him There is also the unflappably humourous Riley, Lydia, a ticking time bomb of anger, and her girlfriend, the gentle Angelique; kind Jordan and their assertive partner Taylor; nervous Leland; and in-his-own-world Ahmad. Of course there’s also the unfailingly mean Alexandria Lambert.
I identified a lot with Niamh, because of his demonstrative and emotional nature, as well as Caligula, because they’re quick to defend their friends. Theron, with her hopefulness, strikes me once in a while when I find a good story to tell.
What initially drew you to the fantasy genre?
I’ve always loved fantasy. It holds up a hyperbolic mirror to reality and gives us a place to escape. As such, I was always hooked on fantasy from when I was very young. Discovering imaginary worlds, and speaking to people about their own worlds makes for such a fun and creative experience.
What made you decide to include bi and gay (M) representation and is there any rep you wished to see more of?
We need, I think, more bi and gay males in fantasy because firstly we need to be represented and secondly to open up doors for bi and gay boys and men. It often seems the only path forward is getting a stereotypically feminine job and being hyper-femme (not that there is anything wrong with that at all) but I think many queer men out there also want a hero that suits them and breaks a stereotype. At the same time, I don’t want to enforce gungho toxic masculinity. Niamh, while not being camp, is still quite sensitive and in tune with his emotions, and he doesn’t mind a good cry every few pages or talking about his feelings or the feelings of others (in a good way, i.e. not gossip).
I would like to see more action fantasy gay male rep, a la Brandon-Sanderson-type epic fantasy with a gay male lead. It would really shake things up a bit.
What drew you to historical settings, and are they difficult to combine with fantasy? How much research goes into each?
Well, what drew me to historical settings were actually the Bronte sisters. Their writing got right into my heart, and the scene setting was so artfully done. I wanted to imitate them (kind of) in my prose, and I just couldn’t see it outside of the context of a historical setting. Also, exploring an alternate history is fascinating to me, like having lamps that light themselves for the rich but for the poor they still use oil lamps etc., so the world isn’t wholly reliant on magic but it is there, and it has an effect.
Concerning research, I’ve sat and watched YouTube videos on what different types of lamps they used in each era, when hansom cabs and old cars came into use, what clothes were worn for each time period, how plumbing worked, how clubs and pubs looked, etc., for quite some time, to make it all accurate.
Did you come across any challenges while writing Third Time’s the Charm? How did you overcome them?
Frankly, I had such a difficult time getting the last few scenes together I actually deleted the book! I deleted it for three whole months, and I was looking through my recycle bin, saw it and thought “Let me take a look at this again” and fell right in love with it. So the final scenes, and their logistics, were difficult for me. Reason being, the students had their magical powers arrested by the titular charms, while they had to fight their overly magical headmasters. I couldn't figure out how to do it, until I did.
Fortunately, I got around it with a little bit of planning and concretising the magic system a bit more. Now I have definite categories for each type of thaumaturge (magic user) so when there’s conflict it’s very clear who can do what and to what degree.
This is the first book in The Kingdom of Ura. What can readers expect to see in the rest of the series?
Every book in the Kingdom of Ura will have a different protagonist, all of whom will be gay or bi men, in a different time period between 1800 and 1920, and they will all have to face their own villains. There will, however, be overlapping casts, like one hero knowing the other, or secondary cast members in one novel being secondaries in a different one, or their children meeting newer heroes or there being references made to previous or even future books, as the books won’t be released in chronological order. Thus each novel will be a standalone, but in the same kingdom. They can be read alone, but it makes more sense if one reads them all. Also, many of the villains will be villains from the Gothic era, like the main villain in Third Time’s the Charm (but I won't give away spoilers).
Do you have any advice for authors about to dive into the publishing world? Anything you’ve learned along the way?
Do research, research, research. There are so many pitfalls, and I’ve wasted a lot of money on accidentally doing something and then correcting it later. Finish your novel, sit with it for a while. Self-edit it then have it beta read, professionally edited and formatted. Have a cover designer design a cover according to the dimensions of your book (which you should figure out beforehand). Use your cover as a marketing tool, and make it have elements from your story in it. For instance, mine has the three headmasters on it, as well as the Keep where Niamh and co. are doomed to stay in as the background.
We’d love a hint about any of your current projects! Are you working on anything that might please or even surprise your readers?
I have in fact completed two more novels in the Kingdom of Ura, the next one being Hounded, about a small farming community being haunted by a werewolf, only for the MC to discover that the beast itself is the result of a town-wide conspiracy.
After that is In Everything but Beauty where a moon witch has his youth stolen by a man who painted four portraits of him, and he must break each portrait using his magic (he’s a powerful witch). However, in order to do that, he must confront a horrid memory from his past with each painting, and then eventually duel the evil wizard. (Dorian Gray is the wizard in question.)
Right now, in the fourth book, I’m sort of plodding along and seeing where it takes me. It doesn’t even have a title yet, but I’m six chapters in, and I feel that I’m close to actually fishing out a story from there… somehow and somewhere!
Book number five will be two split novellas, one where Dr Henry Jekyll is the villain, and the other where Dr Frankenstein is the villain. I’ve yet to properly plot them out though, though I do have characters for them.
Ultimately I plan for there to be nine books, as the kingdom is quite big and rich in history and lore.
Have any other shows, movies, books, or games influenced your own work at all?
The biggest things that have influenced my style would be Victorian and Edwardian classics, particularly Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Agnes Grey, Dracula, Carmilla and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Those have been my biggest influences.
If you could give any advice to indie authors set to make their debut, what would it be?
It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Things will inevitably start out slow, but keep pushing and you’ll get to where you want to be. Participate in interviews, do get ARC readers, put on promotions and be active on social media. Draw attention to your work, and the right people will find you.
Our podcast focuses on media we’re currently loving. Are there any books, shows, movies, games, or podcasts you’re enjoying this Pride month? Any recommendations for our audience?
I can’t particularly say anything concerning queer media, besides Shadow and Bone on Netflix which has Jesper and Wylan as queer leads (they’re part of the Six of Crows cast) and also on the more sapphic side, there’s Mia Corvere from the Nevernight trilogy, one of my favourite book series.
Gio is an avid reader, his favourite genres being fantasy as well as Victorian classics. He combines these two genres in his debut series The Kingdom of Ura, which is a fantasy series set in the equivalent of Victorian/Edwardian era England. He wishes to see more LGBTQIA+ representation in literature, fantasy novels especially, hence the Kingdom of Ura is queer positive, specifically for bisexual and gay men.
He is a mental health advocate, animal lover (yes a vegetarian) and obtained his postgrad in English from the University of Cape Town.