Carrying on from the first part of the interview…
If you had no constraints of time and a guarantee of publication, what book would you write?
Heather: We would like to write the book this project originally would have loved to have been able to do –to investigate the lives of all the officers and men on the three ships in the Droits de L’Homme action and all that could tell us about life for French and English sailors at the time.
Lorna: Several of the men we write about in Hornblower’s Historical Shipmates warrant books in their own right. We uncovered so much fascinating information about them in the course of our research that we couldn’t squeeze into a single book. Nicholas Pateshall in particular would be a fascinating subject for a biography.
Is there a classic book you started and simply couldn’t finish?
Heather: War and Peace – like so many people, I think- and almost anything by Thomas Hardy in prose, though I admire his poetry very much.
Lorna: I’m laughing because I’m not a fan of Thomas Hardy either. I also have a violent dislike of Billy Budd, though I adore Melville’s White-Jacket, which is one of my favourite Age of Sail books.
Which book do you wish you’d written and why?
Heather: That’s a question I really had to stop and consider – I would like to have written Bleak House in a way because it’s a magnificent, complex and compelling work but one has to endure the character of Esther through all the sections of her narrative and she can cause one to want to pass the sick bag at times. Sherlock Holmes perhaps, – that’s me along with untold millions of other people, many of whom have had a go of course!
Lorna: I’m not sure I could pick a specific book, but two writers I really admire are the English author Alan Garner and the Scottish poet Kenneth White. I can’t think of another author whose writing comes close to the vivid clarity and intensity of Garner’s spare subtle prose and White’s writing has a transcendental quality that is as beautiful as it is enlightening.
What’s your favourite gay romance/ other genre book ?
Heather: I am not sure I have one yet – I don’t think I have read enough to have a definitive favourite. I like tales set in the the long 18thcentury – no great surprises there !Though that is not to say that I cannot be persuaded to read some thing set in another age – like, say, Edwardian England, but as I say I am seriously under read in this area – its so often the case I see some book cover on a website and think – oh that could be good -but life intervenes and I never get further than that.
Thinking back to earlier days and landmarks in my reading life, standout would be Alan Hollingshurst’s The Swimming Pool Library which was a landmark indeed in my reading of novels by and about gay men.
Lorna: I haven’t read much romance literature, but in terms of gay writers, I have loved Edwin Morgan’s poetry all my life. Much of Morgan’s poetry was ambiguous as to the gender of the subject until he came out on his 70th birthday in 1990 and confirmed that “all the love poems which I have published are gay.”
At the other extreme I am a big fan of Patrick Califia who writes on sexuality, gender identity and BDSM. In terms of genre fiction, I’ve read the entire works of Tolkien several times over, I adore Ursula le Guinn and I am a huge manga fan 🙂
What’s your next project?
Heather: Well, concerning Navy boys, we have a paper coming up in Oxford in December but if we ever get the opportunity and time we would like to write about some of the wives and mothers, sisters and daughters of men of the Indy and illustrate something of what their lives were like. Certainly it would be great to use some of the other material that we have collected.
Lorna: As Heather said, we’d really like to write a book about the “Indefatigable Women”. I’m also helping to organizing the Maritime Masculinities Conference in Oxford in December which Heather and I will also be presenting at and I have a whole pile of blogs posts I lined up that I need to write for various people.