Okay, I’m declaring a bias right now. I bloody love Elin Gregory, from her adorable little home made sheep that nearly caused a riot at UK Meet 2012, to her skill as an author, the light of which she always hides under a bushel. Am delighted to have her and her new release here today.
Hi Charlie. Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog to talk a little about my new book Eleventh Hour. Also thanks for making it easy by providing me with some very interesting questions.
What inspired this book?
Loads of things. But mostly the recollection of an amazing gentleman I saw around town for a couple of months some years ago. He was very tall and broad shouldered with a military bearing and was often with his grandson, who appeared to be about ten. They would stride down the street chatting, or stroll into one of the shops and the gentleman always seemed perfectly at ease and very comfortable whether he was wearing tweeds and cavalry twill slacks, or a floral frock and a wig. The little boy seemed perfectly at ease too. I loved that and loved that the gentleman could wear whatever he wished with pride. From that it was a short hop to imagining a historical scenario where someone was enabled to do that, yet kept his enjoyment of it a secret.
Another great source of inspiration was Underground, filmed in London in 1928, the year in which the book is set.
Not only is it a super story with loads of excitement and conflict but it’s filled with brilliant details of everyday life. It’s available on DVD from Amazon and really worth a look.
If you could cast this as a film, who’d play Miles and Briers? And who’d be the landlady?
The landlady is, in almost every respect, Irene Handel. Here she is in a cameo role in The [proper] Italian Job:
Okay the clothing isn’t right but the accent and clutter is. (Charlie’s note – I love Irene Handl, too!) Just imagine black taffeta and a pug as well as the pussies. Incidentally the character with Michael Caine’s Charlie Croker is referred to throughout as Camp Freddie, and is the toughest most competent person in the film. As for who would play them, I have very sharp images of them in my head so it’s quite difficult to imagine who could stand in for them in a film. Maybe young Ray Milland for Briers?
And Miles – I don’t know. Maybe the fabulous Barbette, a circus performer who wowed audiences in her skimpy costumes before whipping off her wig to reveal the truth? Here she is pictured by Man Ray
Have you ever been writing and discovered something totally unexpected about one of your characters?
Yes, and this is your fault. Here’s an excerpt :
“Dear God in Heaven.” Siward sighed. “Don’t think I’m doing it because I like it. I just happen to be very, very good at it.”
“And how did you discover that?” Briers asked. “No, honestly. I’m genuinely curious, not poking fun.” He turned a little on the broad seat and studied Siward’s profile. “We’re going to be in close quarters for a while and I like to know a bit about the people I work with. Was it at school?”
Siward’s flush was immediate. Even the narrow strips of skin visible between his cuffs and his driving gloves went pink. “I didn’t go to school. I had rheumatic fever when I was six and again when I was nine, so I stayed with my parents and we hired a local tutor wherever we happened to be. Hence all the different languages, I suppose. No, it was when I went up to Cambridge. I read English and wasn’t doing too well. My supervisor – dear me, even he was a war hero – suggested I join the Shakespeare performance society. He felt it might give me more insight. I’m not sure it worked as he intended but, over my time there, I think I played all the main female leads – Viola, Ophelia, Rosalind, Beatrice, even Lady Macbeth. I enjoyed the challenge but that was Shakespeare, with all the weight of tradition of men playing female roles. Out in the street, it’s something else entirely.”
“We all have to play roles in this business,” Briers said. “Just remember you are doing something unique. Something I most certainly couldn’t do.”
Siward replied with a peevish snort. “Well, no, because you are a proper stalwart type. You don’t get people sneering at you barely behind your back. I bet you played rugger and boxed for your college.”
The supervisor who gave Miles such good advice was, naturally, one Jonty Stewart. I expect he spent a little bit of time rolling his eyes at this particular dunderhead.
Which book do you wish you’d written and why?
Who wouldn’t have wanted to write something as wide ranging and academic as The Lymond Chronicles? Such marvellous characters, settings and world building, so many horrific and funny and exciting set pieces, a plot that’s complex enough to make your brain hurt and a bisexual hero. For its time – the first book was published in 1961 – it was really brave. I love it to bits, even though Lymond would be considered a bit over the top. He’s like a Renaissance James Bond with a keen sense of the ridiculous. By modern standards he’s a total Mary Sue, but I don’t care.
But what I would really REALLY like is to be able to write my own books in my own voice. If nobody else ever reads them, so be it. I’m so much happier when I can write, when I can put the stories seething in my head down on paper. It really is the most fun anyone can have. If anyone else reads them and likes them, that’s a great bonus.
Which book do you wish somebody else would write?
If there’s a book I’d like to see I usually plan it myself and add it to my WIP folder. But if someone would like to write a sequel to Sollicito [hint hint] I would be very happy to read it.
Borrowed from the Secret Intelligence Service cipher department to assist Briers Allerdale – a field agent returning to 1920s London with news of a dangerous anarchist plot – Miles Siward moves into a ‘couples only’ boarding house, posing as Allerdale’s ‘wife’. Miles relishes the opportunity to allow his alter ego, Millie, to spread her wings but if Miles wants the other agent’s respect he can never betray how much he enjoys being Millie nor how attractive he finds Allerdale.
Pursuing a ruthless enemy who wants to throw Europe back into the horrors of the Great War, Briers and Miles are helped and hindered by nosy landladies, Water Board officials, suave gentlemen representing foreign powers and their own increasing attraction to each other.
Will they catch their quarry? Will they find love? Could they hope for both?
The clock is ticking.
68,000 words/ 248 pages
Publication 1 August 2016