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In this episode of The Turn On, Erica and Kenrya talk to Author Claire Kann about finding motivation wherever you can, the link between horror and anxiety, taking back your agency, trying not to write a villain, communicating boundaries without being mean and reveling in joyful moments even when things feel hard.
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Kenrya: Come here. Get off.
Kenrya: Welcome back good people today, we are talking to Claire Kann, pronouns she and her. Claire's the author of several novels and an award-winning online storyteller. In her other life, she works at a nonprofit you may have heard of where she daydreams like she's paid to do it. She loves cats and is obsessed with horror media, which makes the whole being known for writing contemporary love stories a bit weird, to be honest. Hey, Claire.
Claire Kann: Hello. Good morning.
Kenrya: Yay. Thank you for coming on.
Claire Kann: Very happy to be here.
Erica: Yes. Thank you. Thank you for letting us use your book. All of that. We really appreciate it. Especially being that it's a little early for you. What did you want to be when you grew up?
Claire Kann: I had no idea. My parents said doctor, I said, no. So I said veterinarian. And then I realized I have a pretty severe adverse reaction to a specific bloodily fluid, and so I couldn't make it through. So then I just sort of floated around for a while. Even after I graduated high school, I had no idea. I paid for a semester at a four-year university to major in "business." What does that even mean?
Kenrya: I was a business minor. It means nothing at all.
Erica: That and psychology either.
Claire Kann: Yeah. I didn't know... I just wanted to end up somewhere where I could be comfortable. That was honestly my long-term goal.
Kenrya: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Word. All right. That's a worthwhile goal.
Erica: I wish everyone thought of it that simply because I think it would take a lot of... I mean, there's still a lot to that. But it would take a little bit of the pressure off when you're 18, sitting there like, "Let's chart the course of my life. So I'm going to major in business." You know?
Kenrya: Like we know shit at 18. So then how did you come to be a writer?
Claire Kann: So I took a break. So after my one lone semester of college, I took a break for about five, six years. I was nannying for a while. And then I decided I wanted to back to school after having a quarter life crisis. And the good thing about waiting until you're about 24, 25, at least in America is you can file independent.
Claire Kann: You don't have to rely on your parents' income to get financial aid. And I was fucking broke, so I got all the money. And I'm fairly book smart. I was able to get some academic scholarships and such. So while I was doing general ed, just knocking that out of the way, I took a creative writing class just for an elective. And you had to submit a short story.
Claire Kann: And up until that point, I had never written anything that wasn't for school, like nothing really creative other than some poetry when I was trying to sort through my feelings. But it's bad, it doesn't count. And so, in this class, I was sweating bullets. I'm like, I don't know how to write, 50 people are about to read something and I'm going to look stupid.
Claire Kann: But I took that anxiety, I channeled it into a little fantasy horror story. Turned it in the second week, whole class loved it. And it was that response that changed the entire course of my life. That was the night I decided I'm going to write books and I'm going to be published. It had to be those two things together.
Kenrya: Wow. Okay. So this is not a question that we were originally going to ask, but I want to know. And you say in your bio that you love horror. What is it you love about it? I'm so interested in the fact that it’s what started your foray and that it is a bit different than romance, but not that different. Genre's not that different. But what brings you to horror?
Claire Kann: I have pretty severe anxiety and-
Claire Kann: Yeah. And a lot of people who have anxiety have this weird thing about horror where they just love to consume it because it's fear in a controlled setting. Everything that can possibly happen that's negative, you will see it play out on screen and there will be a resolution at the end. So it's very cathartic in a way, but at least that's how it started.
Claire Kann: And now it just comes from a place of habit. I still really enjoy it. But a lot of the tropes that are in movies and books don't really do it for me anymore. I often tell people there's nothing that scares me. It's not possible to scare me at this point.
Claire Kann: Anxiety and worry doesn't count. That's completely different part of the brain. But true fear, I don't know what that is. And so that's why I just keep watching it or reading it, consuming it, trying to find the one thing that scares me again.
Kenrya: Mm-hmm (affirmative). What's the last thing that you watched that actually scared you?
Claire Kann: Probably when I was 19 or 20. “The Fourth Kind,” it's a movie about an alien documentary. And I re-watched it a couple years ago. And it was fine. There's nothing scary about it. But at the time, I was so deep in alien paranoia that it scared the hell out of me. I could not take it.
Claire Kann: I was so unnerved because I believe in aliens. There's no way we're the only creatures in the universe. And just the thought of them coming here and being malevolent. Oh too much for me. Couldn't handle it.
Erica: Yeah, yeah. So who or what inspires you to write?
Claire Kann: When I first started writing, it was the drive of wanting to please people, to entertain them with a story. Now that I'm published, that is no longer the case. Because once you release a story to the wider world, it goes beyond your friend group or your social circle, you can't anticipate what that reaction is going to be.
Claire Kann: And I've had enough negative reactions where I've had to train myself to not seek validation through writing anymore. And so currently when I get asked this question, I say what inspires me are my contracts. I am legally bound to produce work at this point for a couple more years. I like to be paid and I don't want to let my team down. But from a creative standpoint, there really isn't isn't much these days. Yeah.
Kenrya: That's real.
Erica: Well, thank you for your honesty. But also it shows how amazing a writer you are, where in spite of all of that, you are still putting out some really dope content. So thank you for sharing that.
Claire Kann: Oh, yes. This is why I really don't do interviews, it's because like I don't put up a front, I'll tell you the truth of just about anything.
Kenrya: That's what we like.
Erica: I appreciate that. Because also, people need to see that. I think that there's so many people that are creatives. Not even just writer, but they're creatives. That sometime, the only thing getting them through the next project is the fact that, "I made this commitment and I have to follow through."
Erica: And if once that project is completed, that then results in, now I have another spark of creativity. Or okay, I'm finished with this phase. Well, not this phase. I'm finished with this period, and now it's time to move on. And that doesn't make it any less or greater than any other experience. I think it's a...
Erica: I appreciate you saying that. And I think it is very helpful to so many creatives. So thank you for being honest and not bullshitting us because that's... I mean, what's the point in that?
Kenrya: And I have 100% been there, working on books where I was like, okay, it's a contract. It's a project I said I would do. Oh, I got to promote it? Fuck. Okay, that's in the contract too.
Claire Kann: Yeah, that's where I get lost. it's the promotion for me, honestly. That's where I get stuck a lot because I am anxious and I'm not really a people person. I make this joke because my mom is like the social butterfly. People come to her for her energy. I repel people. It's very difficult to live in that shadow. So promotion is not [crosstalk 00:09:20].
Kenrya: It's hard. You're talking to fucking strangers all the time. You never really know what their motives are, where they're coming from. Half the time, they probably didn't read your fucking book. They don't really understand the themes or are not really interested. It's tough being on that circuit.
Kenrya: I respect that you have very clear parameters around... Like y'all can't see her right now. That's because she don't want to be seen. Listen. That's why I used to love on my last promo tour, doing podcasts over doing anything else that require video. I don't do TV anymore.
Kenrya: And it gets you more hits, sure, more people see it. But it's so... The last time I did TV, I had a literal panic attack. And my kid had to go down to Erica's house and I had to go to the dispensary and use my medical card because I was shaken and fucked up. And so, I decided I wasn't doing it anymore.
Kenrya: And when you remember how much power you have and how much agency you have in these situations to be able to say, "You know what? This is what I will do and this is what I'll not," that is power in itself. And so I'm glad that you exercise it.
Claire Kann: Yeah. And I have a similar experience that was my hard stopping point, was after a video interview. I disassociated for three hours afterwards. I lost three hours of time and I said, no more. I will [crosstalk 00:10:51].
Kenrya: For fucking what?
Erica: Yeah, that's so much to give for fucking what? Nah.
Kenrya: Yeah. So a couple of niggas can watch? That's cool. Not worth your health. But all that to say we're even more honored that you said yes, and that you came on. And I'm a massive fan. I have literally read all of your books, torn through them. And then sent you random messages like, "Girl, I love this book. I read it in two days." And so I'm really glad that you're here.
Kenrya: So thank you. And it actually brings me to my next question, which is how do you balance the this of it all? The writing, the promo, the having to create that creative space for yourself even when you don't feel like it with your day job, the other shit that pays you that you got to do every day?
Claire Kann: I wasn't for a really long time. This year, it was a goal for me to find balance. But in years past, it's literally just been me running myself ragged, like taking time off work to write for 18 hours a day or a week straight because my book is due Monday at 7:00 a.m. Don't recommend that.
Kenrya: That's probably not fun.
Claire Kann: It's not. But I can do it. I try to hit my deadlines. But I'm also very blessed in that I have a wonderful job. They are aware of what I do on the side. They're very supportive. They hype me up like no one else. I really love them. And so, part of it is wanting it to make it work for my company and my executive directors specifically.
Claire Kann: They depend on me there, they love me there. I'm never going to quit. I would probably take a break from writing before I left my job.
Kenrya: That says so much. Wow, that's tough to come by.
Claire Kann: And I know the pandemic has exposed all the cracks in our wonderful system here. And when I see the way employers are treating their employees, I'm like, I'm so blessed that I don't have to deal with any of that.
Kenrya: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Look at that. You found some place where you would be comfortable.
Erica: And that, again, people... I think when we are younger, we think about... Because I went through that. I spent my entire life like, what's next? I'm going to do this. I'm going to be better. Da, da, da, da. And then like you, Claire, I got to a spot while I was working in a job that was super comfortable. And I was like, this is nice.
Erica: Because I worked jobs before where you see people and they've been in their jobs for years and hating it. And you're just like, "I'm never going to be that person." And I ended up in a spiral. I was like, yo, I could ride this shit out. This is great. Nice people, I like what I do, all of that.
Erica: But again, especially in the pandemic, you realize this is not common, and it's beautiful. So we use erotica as a jumping off for all of our conversations, including sex. So we always like to ask about the lessons that folks learn when they're young. So what was the prevailing attitude about sexuality and gender in your home when you were growing up?
Claire Kann: Okay. Well, I guess it comes in twofold because there's large age gaps between me and my siblings. So between me and my eldest sister, there is six years. And so when you're at 10 and they're 16, you'll learn a lot of stuff early. So everything I learned or gleaned was from my sister. My parents didn't have anything to do with it.
Claire Kann: They never sat me down and we had never had the talk. They were doing their own thing, and trying to survive, and provide for their children. This was just a bridge too far for them, and I would recognize that early. And so I just never asked either. So luckily though, the internet existed.
Claire Kann: Since the '80s, it's been around. But really in the '90s is when the internet got going. My mom was very supportive of the things that I wanted as long as they weren't too great of an ask. And I asked for an internet connection, a computer, and she got that for me. Her and my dad did make that happen.
Claire Kann: And so, I was on the internet early. Probably a lot earlier than I should have been. Not as early as kids these days, but considerably early for a kid from the '90s. And that's also where I got a lot of the content and information, was the internet. And I just sort of kept it to myself.
Kenrya: Word. So originally, we reached out to you because we wanted to excerpt “Let's Talk About Love,” and you were like, "Chill, it's not appropriate."
Erica: I think it was like, “I've listened to you all, and we can't do [inaudible 00:16:32].”
Kenrya: “It's a YA title.” “Okay, fine.” But instead, you told us that you were working on “The Romantic Agenda” and that we could [crosstalk 00:16:43] that.
Erica: We appreciate a good pivot. We appreciate a good pivot.
Kenrya: Thank you. And so, we're glad we got to read from it last week. So in the book, as you know, obviously, Joy and her bestie, Malcolm, and the chick that he calls himself liking, and her bestie go on a little trip. And we follow them as they try to figure out how they fit into each other's lives. Where does idea for this book come from?
Claire Kann: Well, from a craft standpoint, I'm a character writer first. So I usually just think of a plot and just wait for the characters to come to me. And so the plot I had initially was from two movies; “My Best Friend's Wedding” and “The Great Outdoors” with John Candy.
Claire Kann: And I wanted to put those two things together. And I just sort of waited around, and then Joy showed up. And I said, ”Hey, Joy, you want to be in this book?” And she said, "Yeah." She's like, "Hey, I have this friend, Malcolm." And as I was writing it, I knew...
Claire Kann: For the very first draft when I'm trying to get a feel for the characters, I knew Joy was in love with Malcolm, and either Malcolm didn't know or Malcolm was ignoring it. And so, that causes obvious tension. And when you have a situation like that, the main pressure point would be to introduce a third person.
Claire Kann: And so, Malcolm found someone which is the catalyst for Joy's story here. But then it's a romance. So I have to throw someone else in there to give her her happily ever after. And so that's where, to make it even more complicated for myself. I said, well, what if Fox is Summer's best friend? And I wrote myself into a corner multiple times.
Erica: What about this? What about this? What about this?
Claire Kann: Yeah. And it took a really long time to get it to where it needed to be for it to be publishable because it was so complicated, and I wanted to respect everyone's feelings. I didn't want anyone coming off as a villain at any point. It was a little harder with Summer because she's annoying. But I try. I know she is. And I think that's-
Kenrya: But she doesn't come off like a villain though.
Claire Kann: Yeah. And that was the main thing. It's okay to be annoying as long as it's in an endearing way, I think. And that's what I tried to give her. You don't have to like her, but at least respect her stance and where she's coming from. So that was my goal with that character.
Kenrya: Yeah. That feels like that. So did Malcolm not know or was he ignoring it?
Claire Kann: A little bit of both. I think he... They have a really unhealthy relationship I think. And they realized that, and he was putting her needs above his own to the point where he couldn't recognize her as a romantic interest because he thought she wasn't interested in dating.
Claire Kann: And respecting her was more important than maybe reading any signs. He thought he was just making it up. Like, "No, she's not sending me signals. Of course, she's not." So a little bit of both.
Kenrya: I'm just thinking because she was also codependent, and putting his needs... They were each behaving co-independently toward each other like... We're going to get into that. But anyway... Go ahead.
Erica: Okay. So two of the characters in “The Romantic Agenda” are asexual. And “Let's Talk About Love” also has an asexual protagonist. What draws you to write about these characters?
Claire Kann: So perspective mainly. So I am asexual. I didn't say it for a very long time because I don't want people in my business. I'm very private. And I was like, if I'm going to keep writing about it, I probably should start talking about it. And it is a spectrum, and people can fall anywhere that they may on it.
Claire Kann: But for me, I'm very baseline definition. I just don't experience sexual attraction. I don't think about it in that way. And so when I write, that's my default state. When I'm writing characters, they also don't experience it. So I've been trained by society to recognize it, to participate in it, to understand what's going on when it's happening.
Claire Kann: But fundamentally, I do think differently. It just felt more natural to start writing characters who had this one tiny sliver of a viewpoint that was similar to mine.
Erica: I think that's great. I mean, there's some... All right. We're going to write people that represent all types of folks in the world. I was actually talking to a woman who just found out that her daughter's asexual and I recommended your books to her.
Erica: Because I was like, Claire... I was like, she just paints a beautiful picture and it shows the spectrums and how things can be different. And it's just a story and it's not a very special episode. So I thought that was... So bravo, bravo.
Claire Kann: Thank you. It's so funny you said that because editing the first book with a professional editor, it was starting to feel like a very special episode. And I'm like, lady, I think you're wonderful, but I don't think you get what I'm trying to do here. So let's talk about this.
Erica: Yeah. Because, again, it's not like beat you over your head with it. It's just like, this is me. There are scenes where you're describing or where Joy is describing her asexuality, her asexual nature to Fox. And it reminded me of, and I know this is horrible, but it reminded me of that scene in “The Godfather” where they're making the tomato sauce, the pasta sauce.
Erica: And so it's a scene, shit's going on. But if you're paying attention, you learn how to make really dope pasta sauce. I have the worst analogies, but that's what it is. It's like, it's a scene... She's like, look, "This is what I like." But if you're paying attention, like, oh, okay, so this is what asexuality looks like in Joy. So it was great without being like a very special episode.
Kenrya: “Here is a definition. Let's read this together.”
Erica: “Asexuality, colon.”
Kenrya: Yes, absolutely. Okay. This is what I said we're going to get back to. So in the beginning of the book, Joy, she spins out when Malcolm asks her to be a buffer on this trip with this chick that she ain't never heard of. So of course, as I was reading it, I was thinking about what the fuck I would do. I want to know what would y'all do if the person who you loved, who also happened to be your bestie asked you to do some shit like this.
Claire Kann: Absolutely not.
Kenrya: Right. I'm not going bro.
Claire Kann: Absolutely not.
Erica: Old Erica probably would have. But I'd be like, bitch, you better find somebody. No. No.
Kenrya: No. Okay. I was like, am I mean?
Erica: No. And, again, we touched on this in the last episode, Kenrya. Like, there's some levels of petty that just leap out of my spirit. And so, even if I did, being codependent Erica, then I'd devolve into passive aggressive Erica. And be at dinner like, "Girl, look at these cute messages he sent me."
Erica: And I don't mean to be that person. Just like Monique said, when the whore leapt out, the petty would leap out of my spirit. And I just say that ain't good for nobody. I don't even want to be that person. So hell no. Claire, you're a wild one for that piece.
Claire Kann: No, but that's exactly what happened. That's how she used to act. And so this was to her, the book of her unlearning, how not to be petty because she used to do shit like that. So you're right on the money. That's it.
Erica: Joy is here in my spirit.
Kenrya: She has her moments where she is just like, “Fuck this shit.” Where she is just like, "I can't believe that you're asking me to do this.” And the petty leaps out. But she does a good job of stuffing it back in because I ain't got it.
Erica: Yeah. I would've burned. It would've been scorched earth on that [inaudible 00:26:07]. Y'all would've had me going home in an Uber. I would've been the trauma that bound those three people together.
Kenrya: For the rest of their lives.
Kenrya: But she found her person.
Erica: She did.
Kenrya: Or another person, right?
Kenrya: So there's that. Because she got past her petty, I guess. I ain't got it. I ain't got it.
Erica: Okay. So we have had the can women and men be friends conversations a million times on the show.
Kenrya: Hate it.
Erica: And it's usually like, “Can men and women be friends?” We're like, “Yep.” But in this story, it goes beyond that. It's like Malcolm's partners have problems with him being so close to Joy. And it's not inappropriate, "Can I be friends?" It's just deeper than that. Why was it important for you to explore that relationship dynamic?
Claire Kann: I think it's because of the question, can men and women to be friends. And I also agree, yes. Why is this even a thing? I felt like if I took it to that superficial level and just left it there, it would not have worked because the Summer character wouldn't have worked either.
Claire Kann: And so, just to serve the story, I had to deepen their relationship to the point where it's understandable why all of his partners, they feel so insecure and threatened, but at the same time, Joy doesn't understand what the problem is.
Claire Kann: She knows she's never going to get with Malcolm. Why can't they just chill the fuck out? And hopefully, I illustrated why things are the way they are for that particular couple.
Kenrya: Yes. Everything made sense. And I know you're saying that it felt complicated at first, but it never felt complicated in the read. It was never like, let me draw a fucking diagram on this whiteboard so that I can understand. There was none of that. Everything flowed and made sense, and the character stayed within their character. I was never like, why the fuck would she say... Everything made sense.
Erica: Okay. So I think I know the answer to this, but you may surprise me. Who's your least favorite character in this book?
Claire Kann: Summer.
Erica: Bingo. Okay. There's that.
Claire Kann: Oh, yeah. And it was real apparent in the first couple of drafts.
Erica: “This bitch, cross it out. My bad. Summer.”
Claire Kann: Yeah. They had to check me a couple of times. They were like, "Are you sure this is how you want Summer to read?" And I'm like, yeah.
Kenrya: You're like, "This is who she is. What are we talking about?"
Claire Kann: I can't help this. It's okay. And I realize like, no. Claire, really think about it. If you were Summer, how would you feel if this was how you were being written? And I really had to take some time and do some character interviews, and get into her backstory, and find out why she is the way she is. And while I understand it, I still don't like it. So she's still my least favorite.
Kenrya: To your credit, I didn't hate her at the end. No, I did not hate her. She annoyed me the entire time. Like, “Bro, I don't want to make a cake with you. I don't know you.”
Erica: That's it.
Kenrya: “Leave me alone.” She aggravated me. But I didn't hate her.
Erica: Kenrya, I cannot stand you because I totally see you being like, "I don't want to do this with you."
Kenrya: I would literally be like, “No.”
Erica: Even repeating it back makes you feel stupid for being like, “Well, damn. I thought a cake was nice.”
Kenrya: No. No.
Erica: Okay. And we all have people in our lives... I can name people right now for me, and I can name people for Kenrya that Kenrya's like, "She's sweet, but yeah, she's just annoying. I ain't doing that."
Kenrya: Yeah, and so I don't. But they're so sweet.
Erica: Yeah. And so it is like, you can't be a bitch, but you'll just be like, “Oh honey, I ain't got it.”
Kenrya: I can have boundaries without being a bitch. That's what I got.
Erica: I'm sorry.
Kenrya: Okay. So I was looking back at the book yesterday, because I read it as soon as you sent it to us a couple months ago. So I was looking at it again and I noticed that you dedicated to... I don't know. What was it? Yourself at 14 and then yourself now? I love that. Why did you dedicate it to yourself?
Claire Kann: I actually changed it. So the ARC, the advance reader copy is dedicated to me, and then the final book is dedicated as a different dedication.
Kenrya: Oh, look at that. Well…
Claire Kann: It's kind of a hidden fact.
Erica: Deep cuts.
Claire Kann: Yeah. And I think I did that because the book was so hard to write and I struggled so much. And it's a pandemic book. So I wrote it all between 2020 and 2021. And I was alone. Just cut off from family. Can't go see my friends, can't go drive to see my mom. Just alone in my house writing.
Claire Kann: And a lot of my pain, and loneliness, and that fear of being disconnected went into Joy, which is why she holds onto Malcolm so tightly. It's because she doesn't want to be alone, and I was alone and thinking back 13, 14, those were the ages where that became a real problem for me as a teen. Because I feel like when you're alone and when you're lonely, those are two different things.
Claire Kann: I'm never lonely. I love myself. I find comfort in myself. But being alone too long is when I start running into trouble. And so, if I could go back to those ages because I'm way beyond 33 at this point, I would give myself this book and say, "Hey, look, we get to the point where we can write this. And you love it a lot. I hope you enjoy it, younger me."
Kenrya: Yeah. That's super powerful. I'm glad that you were able to give yourself the gift of this book, even if it was later than you wanted it, right?
Claire Kann: Yeah.
Kenrya: Okay. So as you mentioned a little bit earlier, “The Romantic Agenda” was traditionally published, but your other books kind of followed, and especially your first book followed a different model, which... I only know that because I'm the nerd who reads literally everything. So I read all the back matter in the book like all the thank yous.
Kenrya: And when you're talking a bit about the website and all of that, can you tell about the process of how your first book came to be and how that publishing process differs from your current one?
Claire Kann: Yeah. So with publishing, if you're going the traditional route, usually you find an agent. Agent likes the book, they sign you, and then they pitch you to publishers, and a publisher picks it up, and then it goes onto the world. So for my first book, while it was traditionally published, I didn't have an agent. So it was the...
Claire Kann: It's now defunct, but it was SwoonReads. A website you uploaded your completed manuscript. The editing team, they also do the Feiwel and Friends. It's part of McMillan, those books as well. They went through the submissions and they pick which books they wanted to publish and I got chosen.
Claire Kann: And I only submitted because I'm terribly impatient. As soon as I write something, I want to show it to everybody. And I was really in the thick of that. So I was posting on WattPad, I was on SwoonReads. I was looking for any kind of open calls to just bypass the agent stuff. Like I would do everything except query at that point.
Claire Kann: And so when I got picked up, the way I got an agent was because they read “Let's Talk About Love.” And they said, "Hey, I want to sign you if you don't have an agent yet." And so I just... Everything I've done has been unconventional. So I try to not talk about it because I think it gives a false expectation of there's all these back doors into publishing when really there's not. I just got lucky a bunch. I worked really hard. I struggled with my craft greatly, but I still got in those ways.
Kenrya: I mean, thanks for sharing that. I don't know, I think telling the stories of the different ways that people get in also gives you the space to be like, this ain't typical. Don't expect this to be the way that it's going to go, but it is still a part of your story. And how you got to be where you are. And it's pretty dope. So I'm going to pat you on the back that you got in that way.
Claire Kann: And it goes way deeper than that. There's some stuff that hasn't been announced yet and that I can't talk about. But same backwards route where someone spotted me and said, "Hey, can you do this thing?" And I said, I'd try.
Erica: This is the equivalent of the little girl walking in the mall, and they're like, "I want you to be a model."
Claire Kann: See, that analogy was really good.
Kenrya: “The Godfather” one was too.
Claire Kann: It was, it was.
Erica: But this one makes a little more sense. Again, Claire, your story is your story, and I'm happy that you're sharing with us. And I am really thankful that you're just honest about it. Like, look, this is what happened to me. It may not be everybody's, but this is what happened to me.
Kenrya: And, I don't know, it feels like... I don't know, shit's hard. A lot. And when we have those moments of favor that pop up, I don't know. It reminds me that there's joy, even in the negotiations of the bullshit.
Claire Kann: And I just took it as a sign. Like, this is what I'm supposed to be doing. I'm supposed to be in this spot. I don't think... If one thing had gone wrong, if I had never taken in that creative writing class, I wouldn't be here today. So I'm walking my path.
Kenrya: Yeah, you are.
Claire Kann: And it's a very lucky path. And I'm very cognizant of that.
Kenrya: You know, you're... I don't know. I'd be trying not to fan girl, but I love “The Marvelous” so much. I was taking a walk, and no bullshit, reading it on my phone while I was walking through the woods because I didn't want to stop. And I was almost done, and I wanted to see how it ended before I started my workday. Yeah, I see you looking at me.
Erica: I'm like, that don't seem real smart, but okay.
Kenrya: It's not. But I didn't have... My headphones were out, so at least I could hear what was going on around me, but I was in it, in it, in it, in it. And that is not a thing that happens that often. I just really, really connect. Your work really resonates with me. And even if it's just weird motherfuckers like me, just reading your book while we walk around, not looking where we going, know that it's reaching people.
Claire Kann: Thank you. I really love that. It's really great.
Erica: What did you learn from writing this book?
Claire Kann: I learned I'm greater than my struggles because it was hard, honestly. I did learn that I was capable of more than I thought. Because writing young adult with an asexual protagonist, you can kind of lean into the audience, not knowing what's going on. You can get away with explaining things. You can be a little bit didactic. You don't have to worry about sex scenes.
Claire Kann: When you write adult romance, the game changes. And it was.... One of the first questions when I was talking for editors while I was on submission, one of the main questions I got asked was, "Are there going to be sex scenes?" And it's like, “No?”
Claire Kann: I mean, I hadn't thought that I had to do that. And I really had to sit down with character, me and Joy and say, "Hey, is this something you want to do?" And the answer was no. And so I had to find a way around that and just let people know upfront that there's no sex in this book. If that's not your thing, I don't recommend reading it because there will be no spice.
Claire Kann: And that does create a lot of pressure in terms of how the book performs because readers are looking for that. Closed door is still a thing, but it's becoming less frequent. And so I had to push past that fear to write the scene that Joy deserved.
Erica: Yeah. And it still has spice. We're here right now because it has spice.
Kenrya: I was like, you're on an erotica podcast, we don't need penetration.
Claire Kann: The next one that I'm working on now, I told my editor this character is also asexual, but she's a little different.
Erica: She's more Malcolm than Joy?
Claire Kann: Oh yeah. And I'm like, I'm just going to prepare people as much as possible because when I say I'm going to write something, I mean it. No one has seen that from me yet. And I'm there now. So that's why... It's on my brain. I want to work on it more today. So it's like, these scenes are... So I'm learning that as well right now. I am capable of more than I think. I just have to try and push myself. My [inaudible 00:41:08].
Erica: What do you want readers to walk away with?
Claire Kann: I would love it if readers could walk away with a deeper understanding of a small sliver, small facet of asexuality through experiencing Joy's story. And on the flip note, or flip side flip note, I just feel, wow, I'm tired. On the flip side, I would like for readers to have a deeper understanding of what a relationship could look like. And so, I don't really read reviews, but I did read one.
Claire Kann: And the reviewer was questioning why I didn't mention queer platonic relationships because that's essentially what Joy and Malcolm had. And I'm like, I didn't mention it because they don't have that language. That's not something that's a part of their wheelhouse. And I wasn't going to give it to them because that's not how they view each other.
Claire Kann: So just an open mind. I would love if readers had an open mind when they walked into the book and then left with a deeper understanding that you can be friends with the opposite sex. When you have issues within your relationships, you need to communicate. If your needs aren't being served, you have to be willing to disconnect even though it's going to be painful.
Erica: Okay, girl. All right. Okay. Whatever.
Kenrya: Also, fuck that reviewer. This is not a fucking nonfiction primer. Go read something different then if that's what you were looking for. Yeah, no, don't read reviews. Reviews suck.
Claire Kann: I don't. But overall I was actually-
Erica: [crosstalk 00:42:59] calm down.
Claire Kann: I was really pleased with this review, but that was that one thing. And I'm like, not everybody has that language and the assumption that just because you know I do because “If It Makes You Happy” has a queer to talk relation, doesn't mean these characters do. So I think this expectation that I'm going to put the same information as a primer in every single work that I write.
Claire Kann: And the answer is no, because I am not my characters. This is their journey. I'm just the spokesperson. They're telling me what's happening and I'm giving it shape and form.
Kenrya: Right. I was actually just about to mention “If It Makes You Happy,” because yes, that is exactly what their relationship is, but they're teenagers. They didn't have theory, they didn't have the language. They just knew how they felt about each other, and worked it out as they went.
Kenrya: And it wasn't a big deal. It was just the way that they related. And I remember me as an adult trying to figure out what their connection was. And I didn't have that language either, but it didn't matter.
Erica: That ain't your problem.
Kenrya: Right. It was just about following these characters and enjoying their story, and their growth, and whatever. Folks want to make everybody be everything for them.
Claire Kann: Yes.
Erica: Okay. A few things. I'm sorry, you got me... Okay. So first talking about... You know what, I'm not even going to bring it up. We'll talk about it offline. Just remember...
Erica: Making yourself a note.
Erica: Uh-huh (affirmative). Because I don't even want to get a situation... I don't want to give it the joy of The Turn On discussing it. As a non-writer, because when we interview authors, I feel like it's a very Kenrya–author situation. And I am the girl in the orange dress in a Bella Noche video.
Erica: It's just like, that's sad. It's a very specific call out. But as a non-writer, if listening to you, Claire, talk about how you talk to your characters, this is the character story and you're just dropping in, watching it play out, it's beautiful. It's evident in the story. I appreciate that is the way that you convey the story, and how you develop and all of that.
Erica: And, again, before this podcast, Harry Potter was my shit. That was the height of my reading. Fuck J.K. Rowling. So just learning the nuances in the back story is just amazing for this little fiction former Harry Potter reader. Okay. Do you have a favorite line or passage in this book?
Claire Kann: So I don't have a serious favorite line, but I'm working on merch right now, or little pre-order stickers to entice people to buy the book. And one line that my friend pointed out that she thought would be a good one would be "petty speaks to petty." Or "the petty apple doesn't fall from the tree."
Erica: That's fucking phenomenal. That [crosstalk 00:46:34] it needs to be.
Claire Kann: Yeah. Because Joy describes herself as petty and she's unlearning that behavior, but she's still in the thick of it. And that's how she views herself.
Erica: Again, true to the character.
Claire Kann: Yeah.
Erica: True to the character. I like it.
Kenrya: What's your superpower?
Claire Kann: I would say analyzing things, people. Cutting through the heart of a situation and seeing things for what they are. It's very hard to bullshit me. I have a long memory and I never forget.
Kenrya: Yes, that's a skill.
Erica: That sounds like some Game of Thrones shit.
Claire Kann: It's true. They would have to honestly just kill me because I would rule everything.
Erica: Like, I'm going to remember that shit. Speaking of superpowers, quick either or. Would you rather have invisibility or flight?
Claire Kann: So you know I mentioned earlier that I repel people. I'm pretty much already invisible. So I would go with flight.
Kenrya: You're not invisible to us.
Erica: You're not... Says the voice.
Claire Kann: No one sees me, no one knows who I am. I do spend a lot of time feeling invisible already.
Erica: Well, I will say that your presence has been... Your presence has not only been felt on this show, but it has been a looming force on this show for a minute, because after Kenrya read “Let's Talk About Love,” you have been on our vision board for a while. This has been a plan.
Erica: Claire Kann and her work has been very visible in the work of The Turn On and in our space. And I know we're not alone in that. So yeah, I don't know if some people prefer invisibility, but unfortunately dog, over here, you visible as shit.
Claire Kann: It's so funny because usually I just turn everything down. I won't even entertain the idea of coming on interviews most days, but I got your email and I was like, let me look at these, see what's going on. And I listened to four episodes in a row and I'm like, “I want to go on, but it's a young adult book. That's not appropriate.”
Erica: “These bitches crazy.”
Claire Kann: You read full excerpts and just going in. I'm like, I don't know. Maybe they might want to do the next book. So that pivot was a wild card. I'm like, they're probably going to say no [crosstalk 00:49:20].
Erica: No, we appreciate it because Kenrya loved it so much, we were like... I mean, because she-
Kenrya: I was like, whatever she got we are gonna do it.
Erica: ... loved it so much, I was like... Because very rarely do we get turned down. But I felt like if we got turned... And some books, if they turned us down, okay. This one-
Kenrya: We've actually never been turned down. We've had some people who just haven't responded, but we've never had anybody take the time to hit us up and be like, "Nah, bitch"
Erica: Y'all just haven't read your email. Because we fine. Y'all would've been here. But this definitely would... Moment.
Kenrya: Because honestly if somebody doesn't get back, we'd be like, all right, on to the next. But I was like-
Erica: They're going to be looking at their email in four years like, "Damn, I missed an opportunity."
Kenrya: But with this one, I was like, I hope she says, “yes.” And so then when you got back and you were like, "Hey, bitch. This is not appropriate."
Claire Kann: I'm like, well...
Kenrya: Then I was like, oh, great. Okay. Okay. We can do this. We can make this happen. So no, very excited. But the reality remains even though you're very visible over here, that don't really mean shit if that's not how you feel.
Kenrya: So I don't know that.
Claire Kann: Very appreciated. I appreciate you both.
Erica: If you had... Wait, I thought you were pointing to me to go to another question-
Kenrya: No, I was like-
Erica: More, okay. So would you rather have the ability... This is a horrible way to set it. You're living now. You're a superhero now, would you rather be able to pop back in the past and come back, or pop into the future and come back?
Claire Kann: Can I change things if I pop into the past? Because there's some people I want to talk to, change the course of history a little bit.
Erica: You would literally have folks come in like, "Claire. So I need you to see this, do that." You wouldn't be complete...
Claire Kann: Because usually in honesty when people ask the question about going to the past, I say no. The past is horrible to Black people [crosstalk 00:51:41].
Kenrya: ... That's why I'm making that face. But you're right. If you can change some shit...
Claire Kann: Yeah, that's different. I got some scores to settle.
Erica: Yeah. That's what I'm thinking like. And I didn't say live in the past, like go back there, fuck some shit up, pop on back. So, all right. So past. Is that what you said? Past if you can go back and fuck some shit up.
Claire Kann: Yeah. Yeah.
Erica: Okay, perfect. Last one. Would you rather have super sight or super hearing? So like you can see like...
Kenrya: You're like Dolores. But see it'd be fucking Dolores up. You haven't even watched “Encanto” yet, have you, Erica?
Erica: No. And everybody keep talking about Bruno. Nobody don't care about Bruno.
Kenrya: You got to watch.
Erica: I haven't seen “Cocomelon.” I haven't seen...
Kenrya: Have you seen “Coco”? That's different.
Erica: No. I ain't seen that. I ain't seen “Frozen”, I ain't seen “Frozen 2.” I just saw “Moana.” You made me sit down and watch “Moana.”
Kenrya: Because it's one of my favorite movies.
Erica: So y'all going to have to make me watch “Encanto,” “Encanto”?
Kenrya: “Encanto.” It's so fucking good. Okay. I'm sorry. But so Dolores, one of the characters, her gift is that she can hear everything, but it's a heavy gift.
Erica: Yeah. I feel like both would be... Sorry, Claire. This is your question.
Claire Kann: No, I was thinking about it. You guys make some excellent points. I'll probably go super sight because I can't see now. Just being able to see the trees outside without my glasses would be incredible.
Erica: Okay. All right.
Claire Kann: Yeah. Because I got glasses as an adult. And so I literally sat in the chair, the man put the glasses on my face and I said, “Oh.” He laughed at me because I didn't realize how bad my vision was until I got glasses. And I walked outside and saw a tree. I could see the leaves on the tree. It wasn't just a green blur. I started crying. I would take the super sight.
Kenrya: So I've been wearing glasses since fourth grade because I started getting headaches from squinting at the... Do y'all remember overhead projectors?
Erica: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, with the-
Kenrya: [crosstalk 00:53:49] you would write on it with the... And I could never see and I'd be squinting, and I had headaches and glasses.. But my partner has, of course, wonderful sight. And so anytime I can't find them, he's like, "So you just wake up and you can't see shit?" I'm like, “I see nothing until I find my glasses.”
Kenrya: And I remember once years ago I just couldn't find them. And I couldn't start my day. It was just me and the baby. And I was like, what the fuck am I going to do? It reminds you that not being able to see is a disability.
Erica: Is a disability.
Kenrya: Yeah. I just couldn't... I don't remember how... I think I just laid on the floor and like felt around for a while underneath stuff until I found my fucking glasses. So now if I can't find them, either he's here and he finds them, or my kid comes and finds them for me. I can't see shit.
Erica: Bitch, you're going to have to keep them on a string tied to the wall or something, jeez.
Kenrya: Well, they're usually-
Erica: You know how your teacher put a stapler in a hall pass. Put a stapler on the bottom of that bitches or something.
Kenrya: I spend so much time in bed because I have to. Usually next to me is a little pod of my phone, my AirPods, a few books, my glasses, my sunglasses, because I mostly wear those at this point because of my light sensitivity. But if in the middle of one of my naps I knock my shit over on the side of the bed, I'm fucked. It's going to take a while. So yeah, I'm with you, sight.
Kenrya: I want it. I do not have it. Okay. So I'm supposed to ask you what you're reading, but I also happen to know that you were at least recently reading, “Take a Hint, Danni Brown” by Talia Hibbert. Can we just talk about that for a minute?
Claire Kann: Yes.
Kenrya: Okay. So that's the... Is that the second one or is that the third one?
Claire Kann: Second one.
Kenrya: Okay. That's the second one. Have you made it to the third one yet? Have you finished the whole thing yet?
Claire Kann: Oh, I'm done with all three.
Kenrya: How did you feel reading them? I felt so very fucking seen.
Claire Kann: My favorite, I feel like I'm a little similar to Chloe, I think. Because I just hide and run away from my problems. But I think for Danni, Danni's very.... Second one, I wanted to see what it was like to be hypersexual like that. I just needed that. I needed that representation, and a book form that I knew I could trust from an author I knew I could trust. Because not all sexual relationships are written equally.
Kenrya: And Talia does a wonderful job. We had her on the show our first season?
Erica: Yeah. So when we first started, we knew a few of the names, a few of the writers.
Kenrya: But we weren't big in Romancelandia yet.
Erica: Yeah. And we stumbled upon Talia, and we just thought it was a good story. And then I remember we interviewed her and was just fucking blown away. I think we asked like-
Kenrya: We were like, "Bitch, how many books have you written?"
Erica: We asked something and she was like, "Well, I'm only 23." It was like, what?
Kenrya: Then we went into auntie mode because she's our baby. So then when these books came out, for me, felt like such a big deal. And I was reading Chloe just as I was starting to really understand what's been going on with my health. So I was seeing things in her in me and not understanding that we had a lot of the same shit.
Kenrya: And so, it actually helped me to better understand my own disability as I was reading that book. But then I found parts of myself in all of them. And it's just... I don't know. It's such a beautiful series. And I'm so very glad that you read it because... I don't know, it feels good.
Claire Kann: Yeah. Chloe is the reason why I actually began to tell people I'm chronically ill. I need you to understand that I am at a point in my life where you need to know this information and I need accommodations. And luckily, I had surgery last year and it pretty much cleared up all my problems, and that's no longer an issue for me.
Claire Kann: But at the time, I was crying my way through that book. I'm like, this is supposed to be feel good. I'm supposed to be happy. What is happening to me? I'm really grateful that she was able to write that series, and it was supported the way it was. It blew up in romance land. Everyone loves those books.
Kenrya: Yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative). They're massive. I want the hard covers with the sprayed edges, but I am trying not to buy more books because I don't have any room.
Erica: Just buy them. Fuck it.
Claire Kann: Yeah. Just buy them.
Kenrya: I want them so bad.
Erica: You're buying for the home you will have, not the home that you have. So buy the fucking books.
Kenrya: Yeah. Because I'm ready to read them again. I just fucking read them, I don't know, in the summer. But I'm ready to read again already. Okay, yep. Y'all have inspired me. I'm going to buy them today. Spending money I don't have.
Erica: I was literally about to buy them but-
Kenrya: Oh, go ahead. Buy them. Thanks, boo.
Erica: I mean, your credit card is on the account.
Kenrya: Awful. Okay, fine. While's she doing that, what's turning you on today?
Claire Kann: Honestly, my coffee because I'm tired.
Erica: Oh, shit.
Kenrya: They're more expensive than you thought they was going to be?
Erica: No. They're on back order. Well, Eve Brown is on back order. Chloe and Dani.
Kenrya: They don't have them as a set of the three with the... Okay. We'll talk about this offline.
Erica: I'm looking on Bookshop. Sorry.
Kenrya: Okay. So what's up next for you, Claire?
Claire Kann: So I'm working on a secret project that is about to come to fruition hopefully. And for adult romance, there will be another one, hopefully next year. Just waiting for the go-ahead from my editor, but another ace character who is sex positive in a sexual relationship. That's end goal.
Claire Kann: Like if she doesn't like the premise with different characters, we'll pick a different one with different characters, but I want to put that work out into the world because there really isn't, at least, in the traditional sphere, an ace character who really enjoys sex. And we need it. I think it's needed.
Kenrya: And especially Black folks, there's a dearth of books that star ace characters to begin with. But even a lot of the ones that are out there, it's white folks and we don't do that on the show.
Claire Kann: Yeah. And they're... Oh, go ahead.
Erica: Oh. So one of the things as I was reading and... I'm the type of person, if I find something, I do all my googles on it. So as I was doing my googling, I learned that a lot of young people... It takes a while for young people to even recognize that they are asexual because they just don't know. They don't see it.
Erica: And so, again, it's great that you are writing these stories. Because like you said, with the Chloe Brown book... Well, Talia Hibbert's, Chloe Brown book, people can be read it and be like, "Oh, wait, I do that." That's me. And it's much better than getting a pamphlet at a county fair.
Kenrya: Whatever. Malcolm brought Joy to her truth. Shit.
Claire Kann: Honestly, when “Let's Talk About Love” came out, several emails a week of people coming out in my inbox, just telling me like, "I had no idea. This is me. How did you know?" And I'm like, “Girl, I don't know you. I'm happy you found your way. But hey, let's not get too personal here.” But-
Kenrya: It's a lot of information, but you are helping folks.
Claire Kann: It is. And it still happens. Maybe once a month, twice a month, someone will email me and say, "Thank you. I found myself, I love this. This is me. Where can I get more information?" And I'm like, let me help you. I got you.
Kenrya: That sounds like a damn good inspiration to write.
Erica: I think so. I think so.
Kenrya: So folks can find you at ClaireKann.com, which is C-L-A-I-R-E K-A-N-N.com. And can you tell us they can find you?
Claire Kann: Instagram on a good day. Other than that, you got to email me.
Kenrya: And so your IG is @KannClaire, K-A-N-N-C-L-A-I-R-E. And it's the same on Twitter but you're on Twitter less often?
Claire Kann: Yeah, yeah. Almost never. Definitely Instagram is your best friend. It's the same handle, but email is always, always best.
Kenrya: And they can find that by going to your website.
Claire Kann: Yes.
Kenrya: Go check out her site, look at her stuff, order her books.
Claire Kann: Yes.
Kenrya: Yeah. Yes.
Erica: Support this girl.
Kenrya: Exactly. Thank you so much for saying yes.
Claire Kann: You're welcome. Like I said, I had a good feeling and I'm so glad I went through with that. And I'm glad you guys said yes to the pivot.
Kenrya: Yeah, no, that was never a question. And I'm glad it turned out to hopefully be a good experience.
Erica: You could have been like, here's this mystery box and I want you to read it, we've been like, yes. A cheese slice. We are going to read the fuck out of this because Claire wrote it.
Kenrya: Exactly. And on that note, that's it. Wait. So not only is this the end of this week's episode, but this is the last episode of this season. Fuck.
Erica: That's me wiggling my boobs.
Kenrya: So we made it to the end of season five. Thank you to everybody who joined us for the whole way, any of the way, for this episode, whatever. You here and you could have been anywhere else. So thank you for being here with us. Yeah, that's it. We'll see y'all soon. Bye.
Erica: Peace out.
Kenrya: This episode was produced by us, Kenrya and Erica, and edited by B'Lystic. The theme music is from Brazy. Hit subscribe right now in your favorite podcast app and at YouTube.com/TheTurnOnPodcast, so you'll never miss an episode.
Erica: Then follow us on Twitter @TheTurnOnPod and Instagram @TheTurnOnPodcast. And you can find links to books, transcripts, guest info, what's turning us on, and other fun stuff at TheTurnOnPodcast.com.
Kenrya: And don't forget to email us at TheTurnOnPodcast@gmail.com with your book recommendations and your pressing sex-and related questions.
Erica: And you can support the show by leaving us a five-star review, buying some merch or becoming a patron of the show. Just head to TheTurnOnPodcast.com to make that happen.
Kenrya: Thanks for listening and we'll see you soon. Holla.
The Turn On
The Turn On is a podcast for Black people who want to get off. To open their minds. To learn. To be part of a community. To show that we love and fuck too, and it doesn't have to be political or scandalous or dirty. Unless we want it to be.