Guest Author Kim Fielding – Loving Characters and the Tin Box


I think writers have to love all their characters at least a little—even the villains. But we love them in different ways. For example, there’s the title character in my novel Brute. He’s big, he’s ugly, he’s uneducated, but he’s brave and loyal and stubborn and sweet. I loved him from the very start, and so do most readers. We want to wrap him up and give him hugs. Or there’s Drew in Speechless. Rendered mute in an accident, he fights so hard for his dignity and independence. How could we not admire him? We want to talk to him, to tell him how well we understand him even without words.

But it was a different story with the characters in my newest novel, The Tin Box. At the beginning of the book, I’m afraid William Lyon is not terribly lovable. He’s uptight, rigid, and not very friendly. In the middle of a divorce and working on his dissertation, he appears perfectly content to take a solitary job as caretaker of a former mental hospital. As it turns out, he has good reasons for being like this, and as the story progresses he begins to loosen up. I slowly warmed up to him as I understood his pain and realized what a struggle it was for him to change. I love him for his courage.

Then there’s Colby Anderson, who works at the nearby general store/post office. Colby’s a ray of sunshine—bouncy, sparkly, joking. He’s pretty to look at and undeniably a lot of fun, but it would be easy to dismiss him as shallow. He’s not, though. As William gets to know Colby, so do we, and we find out he has some surprising depth. I love him for his big heart, even when his own life has had plenty of sadness.

And finally, there’s Bill. We know him only through a series of letters he wrote his lover in the 1930s, when Bill was committed to the hospital for being gay. William discovered those letters hidden in a tin box. Bill is steadfast and true, and he ripped my heart to little pieces. I love him for the message he sent across decades.

When I finished writing The Tin Box I was depressed for days. It took me a while to realize why—it was because I missed William, Colby, and Bill. As much as I love all my characters, I think I might love these three the best. I hope you decide to read about them, and you fall in love with them too.


The Tin Box is available from all booksellers, including Amazon and Dreamspinner Press.


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William Lyon’s past forced him to become someone he isn’t. Conflicted and unable to maintain the charade, he separates from his wife and takes a job as caretaker at a former mental hospital. Jelley’s Valley State Insane Asylum was the largest mental hospital in California for well over a century, but it now stands empty. William thinks the decrepit institution is the perfect place to finish his dissertation and wait for his divorce to become final. In town, William meets Colby Anderson, who minds the local store and post office. Unlike William, Colby is cute, upbeat, and flamboyantly out. Although initially put off by Colby’s mannerisms, William comes to value their new friendship, and even accepts Colby’s offer to ease him into the world of gay sex.

William’s self-image begins to change when he discovers a tin box, hidden in an asylum wall since the 1940s. It contains letters secretly written by Bill, a patient who was sent to the asylum for being homosexual. The letters hit close to home, and William comes to care about Bill and his fate. With Colby’s help, he hopes the words written seventy years ago will give him courage to be his true self.

Guest Author Kim Fielding – Night Shift

Most people probably think of prisons as being pretty terrifying places. And, well, they can be. But they’re not necessarily the scariest things we can imagine.

I have a friend who, because of the nature of her job, spends a fair amount of time visiting prisons, jails, juvenile facilities, probation offices, police stations, and the like. Sometimes she even has to go to the coroner’s office. She doesn’t mind. I’ve been with her on a couple of these visits and she’s completely calm. But tell her there’s a snake in the room and she’ll run away screaming.

A lot of my students work in various correctional facilities. I remember one student several years ago, a really big guy who spent his free time at the gym. He was a deputy sheriff who worked at the county jail. But on the day he had to give a presentation in front of the class, he spent a good half-hour beforehand in the bathroom, throwing up. Speaking in front of forty fellow students scared him more than facing cells full of inmates.

And I’ve spent some time in prisons, too. No, not like that. I got to go home at the end of the day. I’ve had lunch in a federal maximum security prison (turkey burgers) and in a Croatian prison (chocolate crepes for dessert). I’ve sat down across the table from a guy who’d spent the past ten years locked up and who, if he was very fortunate, would be released before AIDS debilitated him. But when I tried to go snorkeling in the bathtub-warm waters of the Florida Keys, I was too claustrophobic to keep my mask on, and I ended up staying in the boat instead.

In my new novella, Night Shift, Aiden Quinn has spent over half his life behind bars. He’s built up a lot of muscle and he knows how to stare down a threat. You know what makes his knees wobbly? Joining a book club.

Kim Fielding Night Shift

Night Shift at Dreamspinner Press:

Kim Fielding:


Aside from a sympathetic parole officer, Aiden Finn is alone in the world. He knows this is his last chance—after a lifetime in and out of prison, one more mistake will land him there to stay. Unfortunately, his job as a night custodian at a motel is neither satisfying nor good for building his confidence, and booze and burglary are always just a step behind him.

Enter beautiful, exotic, and secretive Luka Gabor, the motel’s new security guard. He seems to know a great deal about literature, history, and travel but otherwise remains a mystery. Aiden has to admit, the sex has never been better, and he might even be feeling the beginnings of friendship. He dares to hope that this time, he won’t mess things up—if lurking monsters don’t ruin his plans.

Kim Fielding’s ‘Brute’ Blog Tour and Contest!

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Hi! I’m Kim Fielding, and I have no musical talent.Once when my younger daughter was two years old and we were running errands in the car, she asked me to sing. I obliged, launching into an enthusiastic rendition of a Beatles tune. “No, Mommy!” she cried. “Sing song!”

Thus ended my musical career.

But even though I can’t produce music, listening to it is important to me. It can give me energy, relieve boredom, get me in the proper frame of mind to tackle some task. I think music is important in fiction as well. It can tell us a lot about a character’s personality or mood. Is he listening to Rachmaninoff? Randy Travis? The Ramones? When Dylan Warner, the protagonist in my novel Good Bones, listens to the Decemberists and Pink Martini, we get the feeling he may not be the stereotypical werewolf. And when we find out that Chris Nock, the guy he lusts after, has a penchant for Molly Hatchet and Lynyrd Skynyrd, we can guess that the two of them may have a few differences to iron out.

In my novella Speechless, music is how Travis meets Drew. As Travis walks home from work every day, he passes Drew, sitting on his front steps and playing the guitar. And it’s also how the men communicate, because Drew suffers from aphasia and cannot speak or write. With hand gestures, facial expressions, and a few well-chosen tunes, Drew does a pretty good job of letting Travis know what’s on his mind.

Music is also important in my latest novel, Brute. We find this out in the very first paragraphs:

Music was his companion.

Brute sang about a love lost at sea as he settled the stone slab more comfortably on his massive shoulders and began to trudge uphill on the narrow path. He sang quietly, because with his very deep voice and inability to carry a tune, he knew he sounded terrible, and the other men would glare at him if he became too loud. Nobody was close enough to hear him if he kept his voice low, and the music made his burdens seem a little lighter, made the pathway a little less treacherous under his feet. He sang the bawdy songs that rumbled in the tavern under his room and the wistful ballads the women sang when they gathered around the well at dawn, and sometimes he even hummed the lullabies he half remembered someone crooning to him.

Brute’s life is about to change drastically. He’s going to rescue a prince, get seriously injured in the process, and end up with a job guarding a wretched and potentially dangerous prisoner named Gray Leynham. But even as Brute’s world shifts, music will remain important to him, serving to calm and heal—even if, like mine, poor Brute’s voice is enough to make small children angry. Continue reading