Release Day for Kristopher Quentin’s
The Island Keepers.
They could hardly have been less alike.
David is striking, tanned, smooth, charismatic, blond with an ice melting smile, and possesses an unmistakable gift as a fiction writer, even at twenty-one. Wyatt looks as plain as paper, short by comparison, mildly hairy, white as a ghost, graceless, a celebrated oil painter. He is single and he is out. David, raised a strict evangelical fundamentalist, is embarrassed by his own virginity. Both men are sent to Puffin Island and, within days of their arrival a young woman washes ashore, frozen and unresponsive after her kayak crashes against the rocks.
David and Wyatt save her life. Days later, Wyatt is charged with rape. While the authorities investigate, the woman’s nineteen year old identical twin brothers paddle their way to Puffin to teach Wyatt a lesson. Their goal, to avenge their sister.
The bond between David and Wyatt increases during island duty, and just when things seem as good as they can get, David distances himself from Wyatt. During David’s absence, Wyatt meets a hometown computer whiz who makes it quite clear that he wants Wyatt for himself. But, David’s heart struggles with his imbedded childhood dogma and lethally homophobic parents, propelling him to establish an unthinkable bond of love with Wyatt, and, when the inthinkable happens, Wyatt is once more left alone and he moves forward because there is a lot at stake. He turns to the most unlikeliest of characters to fill the void, a person who will teach him an important lesson; that love is all about choice and on making a decision, he must sacrifice a need that had been created by his past with David.
from The Island Keepers
Thayne wasn’t next to me.
Gradually, I awoke, the reality setting in that his side of the bed was empty.
I figured he’d simply crawled out to take a leak. I knew he needed to leave early, about seven my time, to be at work by eight-thirty his time. Minutes later I discovered the head vacant and that it wasn’t even four forty-five, yet. I could not find him anywhere in the apartment. I hoped to spot him on the balcony searching for dawn’s early lights, but no; still far too early even in this mid-August time frame.
My angst bubbled over when I saw his vehicle wasn’t in the car park.
“What the fuck?” I shouted.
Did he get a phone call in the night summoning him home? Upstairs I scrounged for my cell phone, searched for a hand written note, not that it would be like him to write one. But lo, tucked into the handle of the coffee pot, where I couldn’t miss it, I found one of my index cards.
My name is Thayne, not David. You ain’t near ready for me.
“What the fuck?”
I tried his cell phone, but he had turned it off, sending my pounding heart directly to his voice mailbox.
“Thayne, what happened? Call me. Please.” I prepared a pot of coffee and plopped onto the sofa. My deductive abilities prior to caffeine were near nil. Did I do something or say something during the night that offended him? I sipped on the hot black liquid as my head gradually drifted back into the game of life. I took my cell into the bathroom with the ringer volume on high, hoping he’d call while I showered. I needn’t have bothered. No call came in, so after dressing, I called him again. His phone remained off and being this hour on a Monday morning business calls were unlikely. I suspected it would remain off for hours. But why? What could I have said or done to cause such a dramatic reaction. I read his note again, and a thought came rushing over me like the cascading waters of Dickson Falls in Fundy National Park.
How do you fix something like that? Or could Thayne be spot on, that I wasn’t ready for him? I vaguely remembered kissing and cuddling him in the middle of the night.
I must have called him David, but what else did I say? What else did I do? Did I attempt sex with him thinking of him as David; telling “David” how much I loved him, and how thankful I was that he returned to me?
Oh, I could see that happening, but I had no independent recollection of such an event. I swallowed more coffee. Conversely, I also knew that in times of trouble my mind worked overtime creating a litany of worst possible scenarios like when they charged me with raping Brenda and I saw myself on a chain gang with a pick-axe.
So maybe I did none of those things, just like I never raped Brenda. Maybe I said something earlier in the day that stewed in his mind. Thayne’s inferiority complex could be an undetonated grenade in times of stress. I wondered what time he left and how far he had travelled toward home. Hopefully that’s where he was headed.
After making more coffee, I tried calling him again, this time while sitting on the pot. I might as well have been sitting on Neptune. The results were the same.
Standing on the veranda overlooking the bay I used the peaceful scenery to think. No, think is too strong a word. I stood there for an hour watching the lights, listening to the neighborhood birds protesting their predawn duties, filling the early morning airwaves with their unique and varied songs. I was in no mood for all that screeching and chirping and pecking and warbling and hooting this morning. Normally, I enjoyed the early avian sounds of nature, but I could find nothing in that cacophony to savor at this moment.
I reached for my wallet, car keys, and cell phone, pocketing them with a couple of pens, index cards and a handkerchief to help me deal with the allergies that fucked with my nose and throat this time of year, ragweed now coming into full bloom.
Seated in my parked car, I palmed my phone to try Thayne once again, spotting an inbound voice mail.
I knew who originated it without listening. I felt like a man with his hands tied behind his back, a hood over his head and a rope around his neck.
“Wyatt, do not call me no more. After your love affair with David last night I know you are too sweet on him to care about your ignorant hick even a little. I know I’s just a stand in for David. Nothing more. And it smarts so bad I can’t takes it.”
The trap door opened.
I fell into a deep and dark malaise, choking on my own conflict and phlegm.
My head crashed into the steering wheel.
Anyone walking past my vehicle in the darkness of that predawn hour would have thought I had escaped from the psychiatric ward.
I remembered David walking out on me once, too; that Sunday back in November, 2010, leaving me alone at the Lord Beaverbrook Hotel in Fredericton; also because of another guy.
Kristopher, in a nutshell, please describe what The Island Keepers is about.
Young love interspersed with tragedy on an ocean bound speck of land that exists in a political limbo.
The five main characters are: David, a born-again Evangelical and wannabe novelist; Wyatt, an out and proud gay guy, an oil painter with some impressive regional credits; Thayne and Shayne, a set of identical uneducated twins brothers; and the island itself, where they come to know one another, sometimes under difficult circumstances brought about, in part, by their upbringings and diversified live styles.. A weather related kayak crash and a tobacco induced lung disorder create challenges, as well. The lads are all about twenty-years old, plus or minus.
Where do you write?
Wherever I am, usually my office well before sunrise. But I’ve written in motel rooms, aboard cruise ships, as a guest at friends’ homes and in my car parked along the banks of a river.
What led up to the creation of The Island?
An accident, I guess. I was looking for a new story to tell when, on the internet, I stumbled across this geopolitical anomaly not all that far from where I live. Learning that two men lived on that barren island alone for twenty-eight day stretches, triggered days of mind opening research, months of writing and editing, and fantasy galore. The fun part was creating the characters and the circumstances that are their lives.
What was the time frame for writing The Island?
The first draft was written between March 17 and June 18, 2012. It has been edited time and time again since, by me and others. The story begins in October, 2010.
How did you find your agent?
I was seeking an editor / proof reader, and this wonderful dude from RSA (Republic of South Africa) responded to my pathetic internet plea (Gay Authors.net), warning me he was a harsh, hard-nosed editor. He turned out to be a genius and a pussycat (but not without claws).
What were your 1-2 biggest learning experience(s) or surprise(s) throughout the publishing process?
That “content editors” can be so ignorant and biased. When an editor tells me I can only use the word “rhubarb” to reference a plant, or challenges the fact that Jamaican or Irish coffee contain alcohol, tells me the French preposition “de” is a racial slur, or eliminates two of the four principle characters, this author’s confidence level takes a hard hit. When the publisher backs-up such empty-headedness, I run out of gas.
Looking back, what did you do right that helped you break in?
I came to know one Louis J. Harris better and better. He’s a crack editor, an excellent grammarian a wonderful cheerleader, a literary advisor, a hardworking agent, and is now my publisher. His husband, Louis C. Harris is insightful and artistically creative. Look at the cover on this book. I hope to meet these dudes in person someday.
Did you have a platform in place? On this topic, what are you doing to build a platform and gain readership?
I don’t know. This is my first rodeo and being closeted I find myself between a rock and a hard place. Certainly learning to use social media will be vital as will placing copies on consignment at bookstores. Scheduling book signing events, perhaps in conjunction with other authors if any are willing to be seen with me. These are my only thoughts at the moment.
Facebook, Twitter, Gay Authors. I’m sure there are others.
Best piece(s) of writing advice?
Write what you know, chill on the adverbs, shun the clichés, show don’t tell, don’t screw up what person you are writing in, or get lost in your own timeline…particularly as you edit, research every detail you question. And remember active verbs beat the sperm out of passive verbs.
Something personal about you people may be surprised to know?
My main man and I have been together for more than thirty-years, and I’m a biological father and grandfather.
I’ve written three other M/M novels, so I’m hoping THE ISLAND KEEPERS is successful enough that having another one or two or three published is less of an uphill exercise. And yes, I’m ninety-two pages in a fourth.
Considering the length of The Island Keepers, what kind of research went into it?
Lots. While I live and work within a stone’s throw of Canada, I am not a Canadian. I researched every aspect of the island in question (it does really exist, but it’s not on the map as “Puffin Island”). I studied its size, history, bird life, “guards,” sovereignty…or lack of it, its landscape, and geographical position in relation to other land masses. It also involved hours of reading about the province of New Brunswick, the city of Saint John, the town of Grand Falls, and the tiny town of Cutler in Maine. In fact I undertook special trips to the island, Saint John, NB, Cutler and Machias for background and color. I’d been to Grand Falls many times before.
Research about the Canadian Coast Guard, Saint John Regional Hospital, the New Brunswick Correctional Center, the University of New Brunswick, New Brunswick criminal law, COPD, painting with oils, and the life cycle and habits of Atlantic puffins also joyfully consumed my time. Aspects such as border crossing formalities, the Trans-Canada Highway and other geo-political references were familiar to me.
Since the characters are all imaginary there was no research per se, just note taking so I was consistent with each of their features, backgrounds, phobias, likes and dislikes, and goals in life.
The Geopolitical references to the Island are very important because the island itself is a character in the book. How have things changed there since you began writing the book.
I know of no changes on the real-life island itself. It is still claimed by both the U.S. and Canada. It continues to be staffed by two male Canadian Coast Guard employees. I read where the puffin population was down last summer. Some claim a food shortage for them due to climate change.
David, to me, is the most wonderful character I have ever read. I place him in the same bracket as Billy Sive in The Front Runner, how do you develop such amazing characters?
David was a fantasy character, the “man of my dreams.” His COPD mirrors my own life as was his desire to publish a novel.
Wyatt is just awesome, he’s a very sexual person, could his nature be drawn from real life characters whom you may have known?
Yes. More a composite of a few people I’ve met over the years, some from my college days. As sexual as you see him, he was not a slut; indeed he was a virtual virgin until finding himself on the island with David.
The relationship between Wyatt and Thayne is a slow burn, but necessary as both loved David albeit in different ways, would you say that their coming together was foreseen right from the moment Wyatt met him?
No. Wyatt was totally committed to, and enthralled by David, even though he had “bad thoughts” from time to time. Thayne had no idea he was gay until sometime after meeting Wyatt and David. He had no idea he was sexual at all except for an occasional JO. But witnessing true love made both twins realize how incomplete their lives were. Filling that void the way they did was undoubtedly genetic.
The end of the book is absolutely stunning and emotional. In fact there are several moments in the book which I classify as highly emotional. Do you write emotion from an emotional point of view? What I mean is, do you cry too when you write emotional moments?
I weep when I see animals in distress, especially the wee ones. But I can have an emotional breakdown for weeks on end if (when) I need to have one of my dogs put down. In terms of my characters, I come to cherish (most of) them, especially my protagonists / narrators and their supporters. I feel them, their joys and defeats, their heartaches, and their losses. And yes, I’m a big crybaby.
The Island is a wonderful story of love, loss and tragedy, yet it ends on a note of uplifting hope. What would you tell David if you were to meet him in real life?
“David,” I’d say. “I wish I could be just like you, minus the respiratory problems and the religious history.”
Message from CoolDudes Publishing CEO
When I first read The Island Keepers two years ago, I fell in love with the leviathan scope of the novel. It took me to places I have never been, it enthralled me and blew me away. The book has been five years in the making and during that time it has been through several edits. Without giving too much away, you have my assurance that the characters and the island itself will leave you with a lingering sense of joy, and above all hope. There is such a thing as true love.
Debut author Kristopher Quentin lives a quiet life close to this island.
You won’t want to miss this amazing book to be published on the 1st April. Available through Amazon, and the CoolDudes Publishing website.
Louis J Harris
Kristopher Quentin has been writing for decades. He is a businessman and journalist by trade, a man up at 3:45 every weekday morning for a stint on the news desk; a little earlier on weekends to write fiction in his man cave.
An upstate New Yorker by birth, he now lives in the most rural area of far Maine, USA, on 54-acres of land: wooded, lawns, driveways, and a few buildings including his four thousand square foot home which he calls the white house; because it is.
His property is home to moose, deer, rabbits, raccoons, porcupines, fox, weasels, black bears, and one Bard owl. He loves reading gay romances among other forms of fiction; non-fiction; and memoirs most of which he considers to be fictional. Traveling, dining out, boat riding are among his passions; that and flying his own single engine airplane when he was younger.