31 July 2011

Guest Blog: Erastes

This week, we're welcoming historical novelist, Erastes, as she celebrates the release of her latest novel, MUFFLED DRUM, her first release with Carina Press. Please leave a comment for a chance to win one of two generous prizes from Erastes; details below! Here's the blurb:
Bohemia, 1866
They met in a port-side tavern, their lust-filled moments stolen from days of marching and madness. After eighteen months, Captain Rudolph von Ratzlaff and First Lieutenant Mathias Hofmann have decided to run away from everything they hold dear. Resigning their commissions is social suicide, but there's no other choice. Someone will eventually see Rudolph's partiality toward Mathias.
Now their plans have gone horribly awry... When Mathias goes to Rudolph's tent after their last battle, his lover looks at him without a hint of recognition. Mathias can hardly believe the man he knew is gone. He wants to fill in so many of Rudolph's missing memories, but the doctor says a shock could result in permanent damage. The pain of seeing Rudolph on a daily basis, when Rudolph doesn't remember their love, is excruciating. Now Mathias must decide whether he wants to fight for the man he loves or forget him completely...

What makes your recent release, MERE MORTALS, an unusual historical?

It’s great to be back here!

It’s set during a period I haven’t read much fiction about—the Austro-Prussian war of 1866. More correctly called the Austro-Prussian-Italian war, or—if you are from Germany, it’s just called “the German War”! My mother did her thesis on this war and I remember her studying it, and using tapes to do the whole sleep memory thing. Perhaps something rubbed off on me, because I’ve always found the period to be quite fascinating. I thought that a campaign that was rarely mentioned, and a road trip rather than a set-piece with country houses and balls would be fun to do.

What’s it about?

It’s a story of loyalty, and friendship and how far one goes to hold on to something that may or may be gone forever. It takes the trope of amnesia as its theme, and twists it to incorporate a homosexual romance, which goes wrong in so many ways! (It is me, after all—can’t have it going smoothly!) It’s also a road trip.

What gave you the idea?

Well, partly it was from my Dad. He has Alzheimer’s you see, and although he’s still functioning in a “get up every morning and wash, dress and tidy up” kind of way, he’s slipping away from me every month and he can’t forget the simplest things like my birthday, or even my late mother’s birthday. I wanted to explore the devastating effects of memory loss, and how it might affect not only the onlookers, the person themselves.

I have to be honest, too and say that much of the inspiration came from the hussar uniforms, because they are just gorgeous!

Why is it called Muffled Drum?

It was inspired by a poem I found in The Gentleman’s Magazine published in 1805

Ah me! how sorrowful and slow,

With arms revers’d, the soldiers come—

Dirge-sounding trumpets, full of woe,

And, sad to hear, the Muffled Drum!

John Mayne, 1805, The Gentleman’s Magazine

It immediately spoke to me of memory loss, as well as the loss of comrades, and seemed a perfect title.

You tend to use war as a theme often, Transgressions was set in the English Civil War and Tributary was set between the two world wars- why is this?

Well, it’s probably a lazy writer’s way to create conflict. When you place a story in a war you have as many action scenes as you might wish, and the possibility of injury and/or death of characters, whether they are main ones or not. I like to have another edge to my stories, one that doesn’t necessarily concentrate on JUST the relationship, because that would be too limiting for me.

However, in both Transgressions and in this, the battles are pretty much all off-stage. In Muffled Drum you see the pre-battle preparation, and the aftermath—the dead, the wounded and the celebration. The way men can put horror behind them and carry on.

What’s your writing routine?

I’m lucky enough that I have been able to give up my full-time work. I look after my Dad 5 days a week (or at least, I’m with him 5 days a week, obviously I do stuff for him 7 days!) So I go over there, make us breakfast and then set to writing while Dad does his own thing. I try to write 1000 words a day, but as I said, it’s been a struggle this year, and I’m lucky if I can do a fraction of that.

I try to write two books a year, because I’d like ideally to publish two books a year and so far, that’s been happening. I just need to write another one this year, or I’m only going to have one out next year!

On that note, what have you got planned for the future?

I have another novel coming out this year (I’ve had three this year, which is a record for me!)  called Junction X. It’s set in the early 1960’s and is a love story but definitely not a romance. That’s all I’m saying. What I’m writing? A kind of spy/mercenary story set during the Blitz, and a 1920’s murder story, which is very loosely based on Hamlet. Both are kind of stalled though, I’ve been going through a rough spot this year and have written almost nothing.

My second novel for Carina will be out in March 2011, and is a vampire story set in 19th century Florence; it doesn’t have a title yet though!

Thanks for being here, Erastes—do you have anything for our readers?

Yes!  I will be giving away two prizes to commenters. The first one is a download of Muffled Drum and a goody bag sent by post, and the second is either a download of Muffled Drum or any paper book from my back catalogue. Please say which you’d prefer in the comments. I welcome questions too, so please don’t hold back!

Thanks you, Erastes. Please leave your comment to win one of these generous prizes.


Kristin said...

Muffled Dreams sounds like a truly amazing book. I love that you picked a historical period that isn't frequently highlighted. The fact that you chose to highlight a homosexual romance is just gravy. In the hands of a writer with your ability, it should be an incredible read.

Erastes said...

Thank you, Kristin - I hope you like it if you give it a try!

Virginia said...

This sound like a really interesting book and I would love to read it. I would be happy with either prize. I love reading historicals.


Erastes said...

Hi Virginia - thank you for commenting and your name is going in The Hat!

Jen B. said...

I just started Muffled Drum on my Kindle. I can hardly wait to find the time to sit down and just read. Thanks for the giveaway. The goodie bag sounds great. I would love a copy of Mere Mortals, if I win. Have a great day.

Erastes said...

Hi Jen B - you are such a great supporter - thank you! I hope you enjoy the book, and of course, Muffled Drum it is if you win!

Pamala Knight said...

First, I'm sorry to hear about your father. Alzheimer's is a horrible disease and your father is lucky to have your love and care. One of my own dear friends suffers from it and it breaks my heart every time I see her and she recognizes her family and friends less and less.

Thanks for the excellent interview. I'm already a fan of your writing and this new work sounds awesome from the characters to the historical period covered. Can't wait to read it!

Erastes said...

Thank you once again, Pamela. He's not too bad at the moment--his memory is very limited on a day to day basis. He can't remember having done things five minutes ago, but can remember things from long back. Luckily he still knows me, thank goodness! Even if he does call me by the (dead) dog's name sometimes! LOL.

Kimi-chan said...

I've only read a sample of muffled drum so far (so many books I want to buy, only so much money so they are queued)but so far it has me hooked. having read this interview and about how your dad inspired you, I'm sure the emotional punch is going to be huge from reading the whole thing.

Erastes said...

Sorry. Pamala. *smacks self*

Gehayi said...

What I love about your books is the way you bring different times and settings to life and then marry the detail to vividly alive characters. Were there any characters that flat-out refused to come to life or that just leapt to life right off the screen?

Did you find out anything during your research that might be a seed for another book?

And why did the uniforms for the Hussars inspire you?

MichelleKCanada said...

I love historicals and you are a new to me author. I'd love to have an ebook copy. *fingers crossed*


another_look_book_reviews at hotmail dot ca

Essayel said...

I like the way I can 'watch' your books in my head. I've read Muffled Drum and I have several very vivid mental images of bits of it.

No, not THOSE bits! Honestly.


It's a lovely read. Lucky the lady/gent who wins it.

Erastes said...

Hi Kimi-chan,

I hope you feel the punch - the reviewer at Miz LOve Loves Books said that tissues were a definite requirement (and one of the best books she's ever read *blushing*) so I hope the punch is there for you. I did draw -not too much, or thepunch wouldbe TOO much - on my experiences with Dad.

Thank you for commenting!

Erastes said...

Hi Gehayi, and thank you so much for popping over. :D

Were there any characters that flat-out refused to come to life or that just leapt to life right off the screen?

Not in this book, I have to say. If a character doesn't spring to life, then I generally exise them before they see the light of day. Philip in Mere Mortals remained a bit of an enigma for me, and I got a bit frustrated with him, because even his name didn't suit me, but then I realised (d'oh) that he was supposed to be an enigma, even to me, or I couldn't write him through Crispin eyes.

Talking of that, having just watched Stardust again, the character there is Tristan Thorne. Oops!

Did you find out anything during your research that might be a seed for another book?

Not really for this time era. It was a very short war--only about six weeks, BUT the barking mad Hussars with Wings are tempting me madly, so there's a possibility of using them. Because--really! Has anyone done a book on them? Definitely not any m/ms anyway!

And why did the uniforms for the Hussars inspire you?

BUTTONS. i love the frogging and the buttons and the colours and the gold and the tassels and the ridiculous additions such as the sabretache and the cloak thing which name I have already forgotten. Having been a horsewoman most of my life I can't imagine how much of a hinderance all that crap would be.
Thanks you!

Erastes said...

Thank you, Michelle! I'm always so happy to meet people who want to read me, I'm still pinching myself that anyone does, to be perfectly honest. I hope you enjoy the book however you get it!

Erastes said...

Thank you, Essayel, it was very kind of you to comment, seeing as how you've already got it! Don't want a Kindlegraph of it?

and what a lovely thing to say. *hug*

Essayel said...

I'd LOVE a Kindlegraph of it! But I don't have a Kindle. Can you do an Eeepubograph instead?

Pamala Knight said...

Hi again,

I'm glad to hear that your father memory issues aren't so very bad yet. My ex-employer donated a music program to my local nursing home designed specifically for Alzheimer's patients. It piped music from the 40's and 50's--the Big Band era really, because many of the patients could tell you what happened on their birthday in 1952 but couldn't tell you what happened five minutes ago. They did find that the music helped with short term memory issues. So, depending on your father's age, it might not be a bad idea to play some music from his younger days to and with him. I do it with my friend and I find that it gives us something to enjoy together, even if she doesn't remember who I am exactly at that moment.

And no apology necessary for the name thing. i'm used to it ;). *waves*

Erastes said...

Sadly I don't think anyone's developed a universal ebook signer, which seems annoying after all this time.

lilian-cho said...

I'd like to put my name in the hat for the first one please! =D

Amnesia = bullet-proof trope for me

(I feel like I'm spamming all your Muffled Drum posts ^^;;)

Hussars with Wings = Do write it someday please!

lulilut said...

Thanks for the interview and how interesting that the book was inspired by both your parents.
(And I agree - I love a man in uniform)

I would love the chance to read to read it. Thank you.
d.septer at insightbb.com

StacieDM said...

I would love to win a download of Muffled Drum. What a heartbreaking story. They were so brave to choose love over social standing and now it could be lost forever. I adore m/m romance. It sounds like a lovely story. Congratulations on the new release. Carina Press books never disappoint.

user1123 AT comcast DOT net

Alison said...

Yours sounds a very unusual book - it's a little-known period of history (even for Europe!) and the secret hidden longings of your characters must be at odds with the world of war they live in. I'd love to read it but my ability to cope with e-books is non-existent so if I should win I'd have to ask for a paper copy of a previous book!