All my guest authors are special, but this one has a particular place in my heart. Have known her since before she was Elin and I was Charlie, and we regularly tease each other about rugby and daughters and whatever comes into our heads. So, when Elin submitted stories for Tea and Crumpet/British Flash I threatened to lie on the floor and scream if I couldn’t edit them. They were her first published stories and the vanguard to Alike As Two Bees
Thank you, Charlie, for being kind enough to welcome me onto your blog and for the questions.
What inspired you to start writing?
Story telling came first. Another word for it was ‘making things up’ or, if one wants to be nasty, ‘lying’. As soon as I learned to write I wrote my tall tales down and drew pictures to go with them – a nice quiet occupation for an only child with busy parents – and I just carried on doing it. Then I discovered the internet and, to my amazement, fan fiction! After a year or two beta reading some truly startling material, I discovered that people were actually publishing the type of stories I tried to write – action adventures, mysteries and historicals with brave gentlemen who were rather more than jolly good pals – so I thought I’d give it a try!
Your first stories were in British Flash and Tea and Crumpet. What’s the best thing about writing stories set in Britain?
It gives me the warm fuzzies to write about places that I love. I like to share them – to show off their beauties or the scary places. And the history! Also it’s practical. Anywhere else and I’m in a constant fret that someone will say something like, “Oh no, you’re rubbish. That’s not how the US postal service works!” Of course, writing historicals brings a whole new batch of problems but I stand more chance of being able to find out the little details about 16th century Hereford than I would 16th century Massachusetts. Also the English language is grand. I don’t think there’s a publisher anywhere who would accept a story written in the proper vernacular but it’s fun introducing a flavour and seeing if one can get away with it.
What did/does it feel like watching your first solo book fledge and leave the nest?
Worrying. Like sending a kid off to university. Except most kids can look after themselves and will call if they are in difficulties. A book just goes and – well, that’s it really. All one can do is provide a bit of publicity for it and hope it makes some friends and pray you don’t get a phone call at 3 am where it’s sobbing “Come and fetch me home”.
I think that metaphor got a bit mixed. Actually it’s exciting and interesting balanced almost equally by anxiety that I’ve got it all wrong.
Why this particular setting and era?
For “Alike as Two Bees”? A few years ago, before I had any idea about trying to get something published, I saw a call for submission on the subject of Gemini and immediately thought of the Dioscuri – twin demigods famous for their horsemanship in the Greek pantheon – and this image came to mind:
As for the setting, I’ve drawn together things that give me pretty mental images – a sculptors’ yard, horses bounding through the shallows, the shadows of vines on tanned skin.
The other big draw for the period is that two men being in a caring relationship would not be an issue, even though the way they express it might be. I recalled a comment I saw from a gay man who asked “Doesn’t anyone write historicals where people can just be HAPPY?” so decided to write something light and easy with small domestic conflicts rather than life threatening ones.
Are you character or plot driven? What do you do if one of your characters starts developing at a tangent?
Plot driven, mostly. I think that comes down to confidence. I don’t trust myself, or my characters, to get to the end of the journey unless I’ve got a pretty fair idea which route I’m going to take. That said, sometimes characters get off the leash and unplanned things happen. That has happened recently with a WIP but I went back and added a paragraph to chapter 2 and a bit of dialogue in chapter 3 and bingo the sudden digression in chapter 4 looks as though it was planned!
Possibly. It might look daft once the story is finished, but then any first draft has its crazy moments.
I really admire pantsers. It must be great to be relaxed enough to just write and see what happens.
If you were in a tight corner and had to rely on one of your characters to save you, which would it be and why?
Oh crikey, that depends on the corner. If it’s a practical problem, I have a character called Charlie Shaw who is a very handy man with a spanner or a dowsing rod. If my boat was sinking and I couldn’t bail fast enough, I’d want to see Lt Kit Penrose, RN, [who is trying very hard not to be a pirate] because he’d show me how the pumps work. If I was being mugged I think I’d want to see Carlito Esposito di Uberto, Renaissance actor and spy, who is a fine hand with a rapier and can swear in eight languages. But any of them would do. It’s nice to have company in adversity.
If you had no constraints of time and a guarantee of publication, what book would you write?
In Alike as Two Bees there is a secondary character, a young boy called Anatolios. I would like to write his story where he goes north to Scythia and gets involved with power plays amongst the Scythian warlords and Greek colonists and, eventually, with a man who thought nothing of telling Philip of Macedon to take a hike. It would be a 60 year story, though, and would take almost as long to write. And just for the heck of it, I’d add some unsparkly vampires and werewolves because they figure in the mythology of the period and people like paranormals, don’t they?
Is there a classic book you started and simply couldn’t finish?
War and Peace! Twice. Each time I’ve had to stop reading in order to do something else and by the time I got back to it I’d forgotten who everyone was. All the characters have 3 or 4 names each and my memory just can’t keep them straight.
What’s your favourite gay fiction book? And why?
There are some authors who are ‘automatic buys’ and I know I’ll be in for an engrossing read, others where I take care to read the blurb and reviews because I know that, while excellent, some of their works don’t suit me. Every so often I’ll read something that makes me say “OMG everyone should read this book!” and that will be my favourite until the next one comes along. The last book that made me feel that way was “Junction X” by Erastes so perhaps that should be the short answer although, honestly, if I was allowed only one book to read forever I’d prefer something a bit less soul-wrenchingly sad.
What’s your next project?
Novels take me ages to write so I’ll have other things bubbling away as well. At the moment I am winding up a novel called “On a Lee Shore” which is pretty standard generic pirates on the high seas hokum, but NOT I hope, to be confused with POTC fanfic. On the second draft I’ll go through and triple check all the boaty bits. I daren’t get those wrong. Also I have half of “A Fierce Reaping” about conflict between the northern Romano-Celts and the Saxons in the 7th century AD – that’s on the simmer while I try to finish the pirates. In addition to those I have a paper first draft of “Eleventh Hour”, a spy novel set in London in 1928, and am assembling notes for 2 novellas – “A Long Secret Summer” set in Sussex in 1941 and “The Hounds of the North” set in Rome in 63AD. There are other ideas but I’m beating them off with a rolled up newspaper!
Alike as Two Bees, from Etopia Press.
Heat Index: mildly spiced – korma rather than vindaloo
Horses, love, and the tang of thyme and honey…
In Classical Greece, apprentice sculptor Philon has chosen the ideal horse to model for his masterpiece. Sadly, the rider falls well short of the ideal of beauty, but scarred and tattered Hilarion, with his brilliant, imperfect smile, draws Philon in a way that mere perfection cannot.
After years of living among the free and easy tribes of the north, Hilarion has no patience with Athenian formality. He knows what he wants—and what he wants is Philon. Society, friends and family threaten their growing relationship, but perhaps a scarred soldier and a lover of beauty are more alike than they appear.