Today on the blog I’m talking to the very talented M. Caspian, author of one of my favourite m/m tentacle reads, KRAKEN. Thanks for stopping by, M.
You’re welcome. Thank you for having me. But before you ask any questions, I have to thank you, Lisa. You had no reason to pick up my book, and I’m so grateful that you did. I don’t even know how you saw it. Once you reviewed it, BAM: it went on 40 to-read lists. And thank you everyone who read it, even if you decided tentacles weren’t for you. I’ve been overwhelmed by the book’s reception by readers. I’m very thankful and happy.
Hey. Fresh non-con m/m tent-sex? As soon as that hit my radar, I was all over it! I’ll start with an incredibly unfair question: why tentacles? And I only ask this because I’m not sure of the reasons I like it so much myself. Only that I do. I definitely do. Is it the dub-con factor? The weird Other/alien factor? Or does it tap into something older than that: humanity’s primal fear of the monsters in the deep and the dark?
When I was a child I had a bed with storage drawers underneath it. I was convinced there was an octopus living in those drawers. It was my deepest fear. I made my mom check every night, but of course she wouldn’t pull all the drawers out at the same time, so I knew the octopus was simply playing Scooby Doors with her. Waiting. Biding its time.
Because I was afraid, I had to know more. Sheer terror made me learn about octopuses, and cephalopods in general. It’s that sense of the abject, you know? You want to look away, but you have to keep watching. Much as with YouTube videos of people s.l.o.w.l.y removing nose pore strips.
I think interesting things come from juxtaposition. What we wish for, and what we fear, at the same time. That’s why love and hate together are so powerful. Love and indifference: meh, no big deal. Tentacled creatures are both very different and very similar to us, simultaneously. When you watch an octopus work out a puzzle, its intelligence seems very human, but when you see it watching you back, you also realize it’s utterly alien. And octopuses are solitary, whereas human are inherently social.
I guess I was just thinking about tentaclesex fics where the tentacle monster is just like a human, which kind of overlooks that they are not only a completely different species, but a different phylum! There would be a distinct difficulty in creating empathy between an octopus and a human. One is utterly individual, yet good at mimicry and camouflage, and collects and keeps things it finds pleasing. The other creates social connections as a matter of survival and uses the exposure of vulnerabilities, and sharing, as a way of creating emotional closeness. It’s a recipe for disaster, relationship wise.
Saying that, I don’t want to overthink things, here. I mean, it’s horror tentacle porn. There’s the . . . length aspect. Tentacles: getting into places other appendages just don’t reach, since 1624. It should be oozy fun with the occasional shudder. Which is why writing Cy and Will was so enjoyable.
Were you inspired at all by hentai, or did you find your own way towards tentacles?
No, actually, I’m not a big hentai fan. I’ve always gone more the traditional art history route. I know most tent fans are familiar with Hokusai’s shunga work Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife --
-- but you know, there’s a Reuben with tents from the Marie de’Medici series, that’s 200 years older: the one where she’s arriving in Marseilles.
There’s no actual penetration, you understand, but the lushness of the tentacles, and the slippery silveriness where they blend into a meaty thigh . . . well, they’re gorgeous. And also look muscular enough to rip a horse apart.
One thing that impressed me a lot about KRAKEN was the research. I mean, I actually learned something about cephalopods. Was there anything you learned while you were writing KRAKEN?
Arguably, I already knew more about cephalopods than is strictly healthy. But I did learn that there are squid who live too deep for ink clouds to be an effective predator deterrent, and instead they extrude a gelatinous glowing glob, made with bio-luminescent bacteria, to act as a decoy. I would have liked to have worked that in somehow, but, you know, a mucous glob, even a glowing mucous glob, is pretty challenging to make sexy. Also I now know entirely too much about the processes and chemistry involved in copper smelting. Probably best to avoid me at parties.
I’ve raved about the world building in KRAKEN before. The island feels very authentic, with its own history and industry and geography. It felt very real, even while the story itself was imbued with a kind of dreamlike (or nightmarish) quality as we experience the island along with Will. That’s not a question. That’s an observation. See? I’m still raving about the world building!
So let’s talk Cy. To begin with, I didn’t know what to make of Cy. I felt that you set him up like so many “alphas” in m/m romance – he was all possessive and “you’re mine” and right on the line of the creep factor. The sort of guy that seems so popular in romance. And then you pushed him right over the edge into Freaky Monster OMFG Get It Away From Me territory. Which I loved! Was it your intention to subvert readers’ expectations in that way?
Ah, the possessive alpha male we love so much. Yes, I wanted to kind of extend that to its logical conclusion. Because, in the real world, possessive alpha males are not sexy after the first half hour. But in a book – hell, yes. So at what point would Cy stop being perceived as alpha, and clearly start being sociopathic? And I think that point is different for every reader. But then he’s never seen an actual successful relationship modelled for him: maybe he’s just a lonely tentacle monster who grasps precious things too tightly to his chest, until he cracks them.
No, no, don't try and make me feel sorry for him now! Was KRAKEN your first attempt at writing a novel? If so, was it different than you thought it would be? Did you find anything easier or harder than you thought you would?
Technically, not my first attempt. I wrote a fantasy novel when I was 13. It had hand-drawn maps. I may have spent more time on the maps than the plot. My English teacher raved about it, so naturally I threw it in the garbage in embarrassment and never tried another. Until Kraken.
OMG. Interrupting here to reminisce about my own fantasy epic with hand-drawn maps. Terrible. It was just terrible. About four million words long without a single original idea. Sigh. I loved it so.
Was it different than I thought it would be? That’s a tough question. It makes novel-writing akin to an unexplored country, doesn’t it? “But the portions are so big! And how do I purchase a subway ticket?”
What did surprise me was that the characters seemed to have their own minds, and I was merely transcribing their actions onto the page. There’s a scene in the book where Cy does something particularly . . . um . . . bad. I initially thought that was going to be a sweet love scene. Cy took Will by the hand, led him into the bedroom, and suddenly I’m pleading for Cy to stop because he’s freaking the hell out of me. But my fingers kept typing. According to experts, that’s the sign of a terrible writer: losing control of what is happening on the page.
Pfft. Experts have no fun.
Was anything harder than I expected? Well, I assumed everything would be hard. And I was right. But the hardest thing of all: mistakes! Not even typos: flat out mistakes that nobody caught, least of all me. Like *cough* Cy and Will having a conversation in the kitchen, and Parker leaning back against the kitchen counter to deliver a line. Say what now? To my shame, the story was indeed riddled with typos. I was racing to get it out as a freebie for Christmas Day, and I just didn’t get them all. If you downloaded a free copy, then you can go to Smashwords and get the latest version. Which is possibly typo-free. And definitely has no Parker in the kitchen. If you bought it from Amazon, then you got a clean copy. But I do apologize for that.
What was better than expected was the astounding generosity of spirit from everyone around me. My betas. You, Lisa, interviewing me here. Author Anyta Sunday, who gave me truly invaluable feedback on the second draft. All the readers who recc’d, rated, or reviewed Kraken. I thought it would take months for anyone to read my book. That people read it, and liked it, has made me happier than anything else in my life.
And finally, what can we expect to see next from M. Caspian?
I am working on something. Which does not involve tentacles in any way. But might involve partner-sharing slash exhibitionism. Again, not something every reader wants to enjoy.
I want to keep writing. I enjoy putting words together, but I know how flawed Kraken was. Is. I just want to work at getting better.
One other thing that was unexpected about Kraken was discovering how much I enjoy the physical act of writing fiction. For tech junkies, I have a Ducky keyboard with Cherry blues, and the clicky-clicky is a very appealing sound. The physical feedback a mechanical keyboard offers is remarkably soothing. Writing for fun is a very different beast than writing for work. On those rare occasions the words are flowing, the process is, well, highly pleasurable.
You had me at "partner-sharing slash exhibitionism". Thanks so much for visiting, M, and good luck with your future projects!
P.S. Kyn from GR wants me to ask if there is a chance of mpreg in any further tentacle stories.
Dear Kynthos-the-Archer, if you get your prompt ready for the M/M romance story event later in the year, I’ll write one just for you, set in the same universe. Because your updates, and review, kept me smiling through a whole week. Again, a sign of a terrible writer: I know we’re not supposed to read reviews! It probably won’t be MPreg!Will, though. And you have to specify if you want struggly non-con, an HEA, etc.
Hear that, Kyn? We’re all counting on you!