Interview with TJ Klune and Blake Dorner, author and artist of Withered + Sere!


Tj Klune has a new novel out tomorrow, and it’s something really special. Withered + Sere is not a romance novel; it’s a gritty post-apocalyptic/sci-fi tale about two men trying to survive. And Tj has collaborated with artist Blake Dorner to provide several stunning illustrations in the novel!

Today I have Tj and Blake on the blog to talk about this unique book, and working together to create Withered + Sere and its sequel (out late summer). Plus I have an exclusive reveal of one of Blake’s illustrations for the novel! 


Oh wait, how could I forget? There’s a little giveaway for you… how about an e-copy of Withered + Sere of your very own? YEAH, you know you want one! So keep reading, and check out the giveaway at the bottom! The giveaway has ended.

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Withered + Sere, by TJ Klune
Series: Immemorial Year, Book 1
Publisher: DSP Publications (Dreamspinner Press)
Release Date: April 19, 2016


Hi Tj and Blake! Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. I’m really excited to talk about the combination of text and artwork in Withered + Sere.

Hi, thanks for having us! I’m excited to finally get to show the world Withered + Sere after all this time.

So, a quick first question: what’s your favorite illustrated book (adult/kids/graphic novel) and why?

saga by brian k. vaughn

saga by brian k. vaughan/image comics

TJ: I was a big comic book nut as a kid (and still am, though not to the extent I once was), and had so many graphic novels, that it’s hard to single out just one. If I had a gun to my head and had to pick one, I’d probably have to go with Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. The artwork behind it (and the story, obviously) is absolutely amazing. (And I just thought of a second that I have to say, because I’ve probably read the collections more than any other books: Calvin and Hobbes. Always Calvin and Hobbes.)

Blake: Obviously I have to read The Sandman now, but I’ve got to say my favorite is probably Saga by Brian K Vaughan. The story and art are incredible and so unique.

Was this always going to be an illustrated novel, or did the desire to add illustrations to it grow somewhere during the writing process?

TJ: It wasn’t always going to be an illustrated novel. Withered + Sere (and its follow up, Crisped + Sere) took me two years to write, and by the time I’d finished, I was exhausted. I loved the story, though, and wanted to think of ways to move beyond a traditionally published MM novel, to give the story something more. Which was, in part, why I split the book in two: to give the story room to breathe, and to be able to add get more artwork in. This book was originally over 200K words, and Withered + Sere has 10 illustrations on its own, so the book would have been too big, I think. Also, I am a bastard and now get to tease people for a few months before they get the resolution to the story.

Blake: I like to imagine it was written specially for me to draw  so I’m just going to go with that because it makes me feel like a special princess.

How did the collaboration work to create art based on writing? Tj, did you give Blake images to base the characters on, or describe them and let Blake use his imagination?

Tj: I gave Blake Withered + Sere and Crisped + Sere to read and told him to go town, to read through the whole thing and find which scenes spoke to him the most. And no, no images were given to Blake for which to base the characters, aside from Bad Dog. I gave him full descriptions of each character he was thinking of drawing, and let him do what he wanted to do with them.

Blake: I drew Lucas and Cavalo twice each before I landed on the final character designs. I’m pretty sure I’ve been preparing myself to draw all of Tj’s characters since I first read BOATK.

Blake, when you were reading the book the first time to create the images for it, were there any scenes or imagery that popped out at you right away?

Blake: When I finished the book and looked at the list scenes I could possibly draw I was a little annoyed at myself. I had well over sixty illustrations I wanted to do. There were so many things I wanted to draw, so many moments  that I loved. Tj created something so beautiful with this book, with characters that are incredibly difficult and real.  I wanted to draw everything! I wanted to turn the entire book into a picture book.


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I literally got chills down my arms when I saw the first image in the book (not the one shown above!), because it’s such an emotional scene. How did you choose which scenes to illustrate?

TJ: Since we were only going to do a limited amount of illustrations, I wanted the ones chosen to do exactly that, for the reader to have an intensely emotional reaction, because they come when you least expect them too, and they are rather startling when they appear. I didn’t want any of them in color, because the world of Withered + Sere is bleak washed in blacks and grays and white. It’s bleak and rather desolate, and that’s what I wanted the art to portray.

Blake: I was able to get it down to around 15 scenes and then TJ decided on the ones he thought worked best with the story. I love that you got chills. That gives me the chills.

Can you talk any about the collaboration with Crisped + Sere (out this summer), and if working on Book 2 was different in any way?

TJ: Withered + Sere is intentionally a mind fuck of a novel. It’s cerebral, and lays out a lot of the players, the scenes, and the deteriorating sanities of Cavalo, Lucas, Bad Dog and SIRS. Crisped + Sere is essentially an action scene. By the time W+S ends, the groundwork is laid for war to be brought to Cavalo’s doorstep. Crisped + Sere is that war. And it’s also where the romance between Cavalo and Lucas takes more of a lead. W+S laid the groundwork for many things, yes, but it also pointed these two men in each other’s direction for a reason. Things are beginning for them by the time Withered ends, and we get to see the culmination for that in C+S. The art style remains the same, and is part way finished. One, in particular, is my very favorite out of all the art Blake has done so far, and shows a very important and poignant moment between Lucas and Cavalo. Also, it was Blake’s idea to draw one of the sex scenes, so. =D

Blake: The process was pretty much the same for me for both books. The only difference was the sides of the characters I was able to draw. The first book there is a lot of hostility between the characters, neither quite comfortable with the other. With C+S I got to show another side of them that I can’t wait to complete. I’ve got a deep sense of love for these characters and these books. So much so that I might have to put a ring on it.

And the sex scene, oh my god. You are not prepared for the naughty goodness. I was finally able to draw a little more skin. Tj kept reminding me that it was cold in the story therefore shirts were needed in most of the illustrations. So I got to draw a little less of those pesky clothes in that one. A little less. It’s still classy mind you.

Last question, any future plans to work together on books with illustrations? And what’s coming up next for both of you?

klune-burnTJ: Up next after W+S is Wolfsong out in June. After that is Crisped + Sere in August, Murmuration in October, and then in 2017, we have the Tell Me It’s Real wedding novella plus the sequels to the Lightning-Struck Heart (all three of them).

And yes, I’ve already floated the idea to Blake about illustrating the re-release to Burn and Books II and III for that series.

Blake: I’ve always got a million projects that I’m working on but I doubt any of them will see the light of day for a very long time. Other than that…. Burn. So much Burn. I plan on illustrating Burn book 1-1000000 so prepare yourselves for that. My favorite will be Burn book 97654 where Felix and Seven become Spanish soap opera stars who slap each other passionately and say things like, “aye dios mio!”

Thank you again! Withered + Sere was absolutely stunning!



Once upon a time, humanity could no longer contain the rage that swelled within, and the world ended in a wave of fire.

One hundred years later, in the wasteland formerly known as America, a broken man who goes only by the name of Cavalo survives. Purposefully cutting himself off from what remains of civilization, Cavalo resides in the crumbling ruins of the North Idaho Correctional Institution. A mutt called Bad Dog and a robot on the verge of insanity comprise his only companions. Cavalo himself is deteriorating, his memories rising like ghosts and haunting the prison cells.

It’s not until he makes the dangerous choice of crossing into the irradiated Deadlands that Cavalo comes into contact with a mute psychopath, one who belongs to the murderous group of people known as the Dead Rabbits. Taking the man prisoner, Cavalo is forced not only to face the horrors of his past, but the ramifications of the choices made for his stark present. And it is in the prisoner that he will find a possible future where redemption is but a glimmer that darkly shines.

The world has died.

This is the story of its remains.

Buy Withered + Sere from:

Dreamspinner Press Publications
Barnes and Noble


When TJ Klune was eight, he picked up a pen and paper and began to write his first story (which turned out to be his own sweeping epic version of the video game Super Metroid—he didn’t think the game ended very well and wanted to offer his own take on it. He never heard back from the video game company, much to his chagrin). Now, over two decades later, the cast of characters in his head have only gotten louder. But that’s okay, because he’s recently become a  full-time writer, and can give them the time they deserve.

Since being published, TJ has won the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Romance, fought off three lions that threatened to attack him and his village, and was chosen by Amazon as having written one of the best GLBT books of 2011.

And one of those things isn’t true.

(It’s the lion thing. The lion thing isn’t true.)

Facebook: TJ Klune
E-mail: tjklunebooks AT

Withered + Sere Blog Tour:

April 12 – MM Good Book Reviews
April 13- My Fiction Nook
April 18 – Just Love Romance
April 19 – Divine Magazine
April 19 – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
April 19 – The Novel Approach
April 20 – Kimi-chan Experience
April 21 – It’s About the Book
April 21 – Love Bytes
April 22 – Prism Book Alliance


You want an ebook copy of Withered + Sere  of your very own, right? RIGHT! All you have to do is drop a comment on this post telling me your favorite illustrated book (adult/kids/graphic novel), and you’re entered to win!

Open to anyone WORLDWIDE, 18 years or older. Please leave a way to contact you. Contest ends April 22, 2016 at 11:59pm EST. (If you already own the book, a $5 gift card to Amazon or ARe can be substituted.)

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22 thoughts on “Interview with TJ Klune and Blake Dorner, author and artist of Withered + Sere!

  1. You did include ‘kids’ so I’m going to have to go with The Hungry Caterpillar. It’s so simple. It’s for kids. But it was one of my fondest books to look at as a kid and is still dear to me. 🙂


  2. I have a couple of (rather different) favorites. When I was younger it was the illustrated “Little House on the Prairie” books…the first books I had that had ‘a lot of words’ plus pictures…revolutionary! And, as a 20-something it was “The Sandman”…I’m not a comic geek, but that book was (and is) amazing!


  3. Thank you for the fantastic interview! I am beside myself to learn that not only will Burn finally have sequels (feels like I have been waiting FOR – EVER), but that they will have illustrations.

    My favorite illustrated books are the Bloom County compilations. I loved that strip.



  4. I can’t say that I have read many illustrated books, so I’ll have to go with the books I can think of that include a few illustrations that help lend to the story line – the Valdemar series by Mercedes Lackey.


  5. I so need to see that scene Blake mentions at the end! Aye dios mio!

    My favorite illustrated book is one from my childhood. The Lorax has fond memories from when I was a kid. My mom read it every night and I memorized the book so I knew when she skipped pages to get done faster.


  6. Pingback: Guest Post: Withered + Sere by TJ Klune – The Novel Approach Reviews

  7. Pingback: Release Day Review by El: Withered + Sere, by TJ Klune | Just Love: Romance Novel Reviews

  8. For a standalone read, The Little Lame Prince by Dinah Maria Mulock Craik (I have the Random House 1993 edition). There was this strange juxtaposition of whimsical artwork to entice children and a pretty twisted, complicated story that felt perfectly suited for adults.
    I’ve really enjoyed Yun Kouga’s Loveless series as well, though. There’s a teetering perspective where youth and innocence is concerned and I thought the artist and author captured the whole coming of age thing well. Plus words. The books have so much to do with words and how they can be used to both create and destroy.
    Thanks for the opportunity!
    ~Ara (


  9. I loved the illustrations for an elderly copy of Little Lord Fauntleroy that I found on my grandma’s bookshelf. It took the young me right into privileged Victorian England. And yes, I know that’s an odd choice. :). I’d also like to give a shout-out to Patricia Briggs’ graphic novel versions of her books.


  10. Pingback: Interview with TJ Klune and Blake Dorner, author and artist of Crisped + Sere! | Just Love: Romance Novel Reviews

  11. Pingback: Release Day Review by El: Crisped + Sere, by Tj Klune | Just Love: Romance Novel Reviews

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