20 July 2008

Book Party: Erastes

This week we welcome one of our regular contributors, Erastes, to celebrate the release of SPEAK ITS NAME, an historical anthology of homosexual love stories featuring Erastes' story "Hard and Fast."


Speak its Name
Major Geoffrey Chaloner has returned, relatively unscathed, from the Napoleonic War, and England is at peace for the first time in years. Unable to set up his own establishment, he is forced to live with his irascible father who has very clear views on just about everything--including exactly whom Geoffrey will marry and why. The trouble is that Geoffrey isn't particularly keen on the idea, and even less so when he meets Adam Heyward, the enigmatic cousin of the lady his father has picked out for him... As Geoffrey says himself: "I have never been taught what I should do if I fell in love with someone of a sex that was not, as I expected it would be, opposite to my own."

"Hard and Fast," your story in the anthology, is a Regency. STANDISH was a Regency too. Would it be fair to say that this your specialist era?

In a way--not really the Regency, but the 19th century I suppose. I've spent so many years reading books from that era, I've only just started to read modern fiction and am only now discovering new genres. But as I say, I spent so long reading "classics" that I feel most comfortable writing in a previous time. I would say that "Hard and Fast" is probably the most traditional Regency I've done so far, a drawing room match of manners and wit with a trip to Bath thrown in, but I don't want to be known only for writing Regencies. Not even gay ones. I don't want to be typecast and I like to stretch myself and try different eras. My second novel, Transgressions, is to be published by Running Press next Spring--and that's English Civil War. Oh, and I've just finished one which is based in the 1960s. And believe me, researching the 1960s was every bit as hard as the English Civil War!

How did SPEAK ITS NAME come to be?

Lee Rowan has been writing for the publisher (Linden Bay Romance) for a while now, and one day she suggested to me that her and I (and a writer called Charlie Cochrane who I hadn't met before) could do a novella each for one of LBR's "Trilogy" series. I had "Hard and Fast" started, but it had ground to a bit of a halt and this gave me the impetus to get it finished. We submitted the three stories to Linden Bay and they accepted them--we were lucky and I like to be lucky!

Was there any rationale regarding the differing eras?

We wanted to present a sweep in time--not to all write in the same era, so Charlie went for 1920s Oxford ("Aftermath"), Lee wrote a great Victorian spy story ("Gentleman's Gentleman"), and mine was Regency. I wouldn't mind doing the same kind of thing again one day, with perhaps stories from before the 19th century. There are so many eras unexplored in the realms of gay historical fiction, one only really needs to stick a pin in a calendar.

What's "Hard and Fast" about?

It's told from the point of view of Geoffrey Chaloner who is (considering he has difficulty expressing himself in speech) remarkably verbose in his own head! He's a major, and he's experiencing the first spring of peace in England. Unable to afford set himself on his own on his major's half pay, he's forced to live with his father who, naturally enough, wants his youngest and only single son to be married as soon as possible, now that Bonaparte has been defeated. Geoffrey is a little reluctant, but he's very much governed by his father and courts the lady his father chooses. The trouble is, the lady has a cousin, Adam Heyward, club-footed, rakishly handsome and with a vitriolic tongue. Geoffrey finds himself drawn to Adam in a way that he never expected, and he has to decide whether he'll follow his heart or his duty.

I tried to make it funny in parts. Geoffrey was so easy to use as a foil to spoof the ideals of the military. One instance is when Geoffrey describes how he was raised by his irascible father to know that he was destined for the battlefield; his nursery is swathed in bloodstained flags and pictures of glorious death, he has a rocking horse which is more like a charger, and had wooden swords and guns to play with. He reflects that if he were more sensitive, he would have been put off from war and only embarked upon it to save his comrades, but he admits he's not that sensitive, which is a sly dig at The Four Feathers and was great fun to write.

I can't see me changing in the near future. Perhaps I might start writing less "romance" and more just gay historical fiction, because the Happy Ever After that's required for "romance" is something I'm a little uncomfortable with, but gay historical fiction is so unexplored.

What's next for Erastes?

I'm finishing off another novella for Linden Bay at the moment--it's (yet!) another Regency, but this time it's nothing to do with ballrooms and drawing rooms. It's about an impoverished printer who has trouble making ends meet--and a large portion of the book is based around the 1814 Frost Fair which was fascinating to research.

Standish by ErastesOnce that's done, I need to get on with novel four. I'm planning a sort of sequel to STANDISH, where one of the minor characters flees to America. It's not a romance, more like gay Flashman meets the New World--each chapter a separate adventure, or that's the plan. I'm looking forward to it and dreading it by turns. Whilst my comfort zone is Regency London and Bath, researching early 19th century America is hugely daunting, and I'll be relying on my online friends a lot! After that, I'm not sure. I have several ideas percolating away: gladiators, Shakespearean actors, Victorian solicitors... *laughs* Too many ideas and I have only ten fingers.


Thank you for joining us, Erastes! If you'd like to try SPEAK ITS NAME for yourself, leave a comment or a question. You name will be entered in a drawing for a free copy, to be drawn next Sunday. Best of luck!