Monday, 30 March 2009

Guest Author - Erastes

We have a guest blogger on the Hoydens and Firebrands site today. Erastes is the penname of a female author and has been writing all of her life, in one way or another, letters, emails, diaries used to satisfy her need for the written word. She simply didn’t think she could write, make plots that people would be interested in. Then one day in 2003, inspired by fanfiction, she simply started, a few short stories, and then a novel and then…well, she hasn’t stopped writing since. She lives in Norfolk, and when she can be dragged kicking and screaming away from her computer, she enjoys walks by the Broads. She likes cats and cheese but has discovered only one of those is any good with toast. She likes her men like her fiction, dark, with a hint of danger, romantic and intelligent without being too wordy. She believes in the GDM and bases her dodgy morality on Heinlein’s Intermissions. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Director of The Erotic Authors’ Association and owner of Speak Its Name, the only review site for gay historical fiction. She has had two novels, three novellas and over 20 short stories published. The blog today features Eraste's latest novel, 'Transgressions', which I will let her introduce herself.

Hello Hoydens and Firebrands!

My name is Erastes and I write gay historical romance.

Sounds like a confession, really - there should be a help group!

I'd like to introduce you to my 17th century novel set during the English Civil War - "Transgressions" - the story of two young men, who are drawn together into an forbidden love only to be cruelly separated when war blows their world's apart. One random commentator will win a signed first edition of the book - although you'll have to wait until my author copies arrive...

The idea came from my mother--who, while she didn't really approve of my subject matter, being of an older generation, she became my greatest supporter and would come up with time eras and ideas for me to write about. I was planning to write something in the American Civil War and she said "You are English, why not do the English Civil War?"

I've always been interested in the era, even though it was never taught at my school, but it wasn't until I started to write it that I realised how complex a matter the whole thing was. Just about the first thing I realised was how little I did know. My knowledge stemmed almost entirely from the film "Cromwell," and to me -- together with many others, I am sure -- the ECW consisted of Roundheads and Cavaliers and they were easily indentifiable from each other by the way they looked.

This was the first misconception that had to go. The uniforms (about which there is a mass of information, online and otherwise) could be almost indentical. There were limited colours available for cheap dyeing, so yellow, red and blue were the most popular colours for uniforms. If you look at the cover of Transgressions, at the bottom are two opposing armies in full fight--looking almost identical in red!

It was true that the term "roundhead" was used as an interchangeable term for the troops of Parliament, but it started off as an insulting term for some of the Puritans in Westminster who wore their hair short, quite unlike the fashion of the day.

The main problems I had researching this book was that the English Civil War (or wars, as they rumbled on, even after the devasting defeat at Naseby) subsumes the 17th century in a lot of respects. It's very easy to find tons of books on the subject, and there are thousands of sites dealing with every aspect of the war from ammunition, to weapons to real life characters to exact details of every single battle.

But a frustrating lack of detail of the every day life of the time. The war in Transgressions actually only occupies about a third of the book, and I don't go into Cornwell like minutiae about it. It's a story about two young men, and their journey through life and love, not really about the war. So I needed to know what people ate, how they travelled, what the houses were like in the country and in London, how they got water, where they went to the loo, all that sort of thing, and there's very little information about this.

Thank goodness for re-enactment societies. Not all members of re-enactment societies are interested in bashing eachother around the head with 17 foot long pikes or firing cannons. Some are just welcome doing living history, and it was from these sources that I got most of my detail.

Anyway, here's the blurb, and an excerpt, and I hope that you might give the book a try out, even if gay romance isn't your thing. There's a further except on my site, together with a book trailer and free bookplates.

Book Blurb

1642, England David Caverly's strict father has brought home the quiet, puritanical Jonathan Graie to help his dreamer of a son work the family forge. With war brewing in Parliament, the demand for metal work increases as armies are raised.

The indolent and deceitful David Caverly is bored by his father's farm and longs to escape, maybe to join the King's Army, mustering at Nottingham. David finds himself drawn to Jonathan, and after a passing cavalry trooper seduces the beautiful David and reveals his true nature, he determines to teach Jonathan what he's learned. When David is forced to leave the farm, and the boys are separated by mistrust and war, they learn the meaning of love and truth as they fight their way across a war-torn country, never thinking they'll ever see each other again.


Jonathan took the candle and went to his room where David was still asleep, his face pale and waxy in the dim light. He sat on the stool next to the bed and held David's hand. It was cool to the touch so he rubbed it to attempt to warm it. Then, because he could not think of anything else to do, he slid onto his knees, and although he knew it was wrong to barter with the Lord, he began to pray desperately.

"Lord, I beg of thee, save him. He is a sinner but he can do better than he does. If thou willst grant me this, I will serve thee however thee guide me to do so, just save him, and I am thine." There was a gentle touch on his hair and Jonathan started, looking up to find David smiling, but clearly dreadfully tired.

"No, my brave Puritan," David said hoarsely, "you cannot go promising yourself to others. You are mine."

Jonathan thought his heart would break. He wanted to that it was true, that he was David's, completely. But he couldn’t find the words to tell him. Instead, his fingers sought David's hand, and tightened around it. "David. Thank the Lord. Let me go and tell thy father,"

"No. Not yet." David clutched Jonathan's hand in both of his. "Is he very angry? I'll wager he is. I will be mucking out cows for months after this…." He frowned. "We should not have gone, you were right. You risked your life and saved mine, because I was too stupid to listen to you. I--only I wanted to see... I only hope he.…"

Jonathan hated to do it, but he had to, for his own peace of mind if nothing else—he had to know one way or the other. He squeezed David's hand. "It's Master Tobias isn't it? Thou art worried about Master Tobias?"

David turned his head and looked Jonathan straight in the face, his eyes frightened. "Jonathan?"

"It is all right," Jonathan hastened to reassure him, "all right I tell thee. Dost thou not understand? Nothing matters to me except that thou art alive. If thou ever wishes to tell me about what happened between thee and the trooper, then thou canst, and if thou wishes it, I will go back there and find out if he lives, if I can."

David was crying. It tore Jonathan's heart to ribbons to see the real sorrow and huge tears in his eyes. "I can't bear to think of him lying there cold the others," David gulped. "You would do that? For me? Knowing what you do?"

Jonathan had not known, for certain, but David's words confirmed his suspicions. He found that he did not care, it did not change David in his eyes. He was still his own David, whomsoever he loved. "Let us not talk about it now," he said bringing his friend's hand to his lips and kissing it, comforting him like he would a child. "Thou needest rest, but please David, never lie to me again? Promise me?"

David squeezed his hands. "Never again, I swear..." His voice was soft and affectionate. "Get into bed, Jonathan, I'm so cold."

Jonathan looked doubtful. "I do not think I should, thy injury--"

"Is behind me..."

Jonathan could not help but smile at the small joke. "Art thou in much pain?"

David nodded with a small weak smile which warmed Jonathan from the inside out. "I think I would be more comfortable on my left side, and not to roll back, I can bolster myself with pillows on one side, but if I had you to support me on the other I would not roll." Jonathan gave up and slid gently in. When David instructed him, he turned his back to his friend, feeling David wrap himself around him. "That's better, Jon, and it doesn't hurt half as much like this."

Jonathan lay as still as he was able, shocked but inexplicably happy by the feel of David pressed against him, the touch of David's head on the back of his neck. He couldn't help but think that David was already lying, that it was unlikely the pain had lessened just by his own presence, but he forgave David for such a sweet calumny. Although David's body still felt chilled where their skin met, from his shoulders to his hips, a warmth spread between them. David's legs tangled themselves around his, his feet icy, and the warmth traveled through Jonathan like a trail of gunpowder ignited, down his spine, suffusing his hips and thighs until he felt himself harden as the heat moved forward and inward. Thankful he was facing away from his friend, he bit his lip hard in an attempt to wish away the embarrassment.

His wish was granted as after a few minutes, he felt David shaking with silent sobs and his unwanted ardor cooled instantly. He longed to turn and comfort David, but could offer him no words of solace although he had promised that he would try and find out what had happened to David's trooper, he could not tell David in all honesty that he felt the man was alive, because he did not. All he could do was hold David's hands in his own and wait in the dark until his friend stilled, his breath slow and regular, showing he was asleep again at last.

Many thanks!

Transgressions is published by Perseus Books and Erastes' website is here

For a chance to be entered in a draw for a copy of 'Transgressons', please leave a comment


Pheebles said...

I am so intrigued by this story. :)
Love the speech patterns, the setting. Lovely.

Ginger Simpson said...

I've never been into gay romances, but after reading the excerpt, the story stirred my interest. I love historical novels and never thought about the mingling of m/m and history. I enjoyed your history lesson, too. Thanks for sharing.

Rhyss D. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rhyss D. said...

I have really enjoyed erastes other historical novels and looking forward to reading this one. The author's dedication to authenticity for the era combined with good character development makes this a wonderful addition to the growing genre of mm historical romance

Anne Whitfield - author said...

It is great to see this period come alive again. I don't see enough books set in the English Civil war era.

Anonymous said...

Ooh.. I love tales of forbidden love! And what a wonderful choice of time period. I think Erastes' mother had a fantastic idea, and it sounds like a lot of incredibly detailed work and research went into this.

I'm always so impressed with historical authors. It has to be the hardest genre to get right... and it looks like you really hit it on the head.

Sounds wonderful!

Alison said...

Wow this certainly sounds different, Erastes. It is not an easy period of history to sell so I hope you do really well.

kathryn said...

The love that dare not speak its name! How I applaud you for writing this book, and to do so with skill, verve, and just all out plain great storytelling skills.

You have a fan in me!


Carolin said...

Shows how dense I can be - I always thought that m/m relationships are part of history, like shown so well in Mary Renault's Alexander Trilogy. Didn't think there was a specific subgenre for gay historical novels. This excerpt seems quite interesting, and it would be fascinating to explore how m/m relationships fared at this time, especially given the religious austerity of the Puritans.

Erastes said...

Thank you, Pheebles - sorry to be so long to respond, but things got a little busy around here! I'm very happy you like the speech patterns! On a related note, Alex Beecroft's False Colors just got a rare A grade on Dear Author - and the books are now in the shops! It's a very scary time!

Erastes said...

Thank you , Ginger, how kind of you! I hope you will check out "Speak Its Name" as there is a list there of every gay historical I have been able to track down--there's something for everyone there, from the non-sexual to the highly graphic and everything in between. (sorry to be so long to respond)

Erastes said...

Thank you, Rhyss - that's very kind of you to say.

All the best, Erastes

Erastes said...

Thank you, Anne - I think that the unusual setting - and the fact that it won't be a setting that as many people know about as, say, Regency, will dampen sales a bit - but I hope the opposite, obviously. It's a period that, as you rightly say, is very neglected.

Thank you!

Erastes said...

Thank you, Nixy! I do apologise for taking so long to respond.

She was an utter treasure, and was behind me all the way, I miss her so much.

I hope you enjoy the book if you try it.

Erastes said...

Thank you, Alison - I hope it catches people's imaginations. I think that the publisher is pitching it right, with good covers and putting them into the romance section - so the rest is up to the gods of gay romance...


Erastes said...

Thank you, Kathryn! What a lovely comment! It's a very small genre, but five years or so it simply didn't exist, so to see as many people as there are writing it now is very exiting. There are so many tales yet to be told - I certainly won't have the time to tell them, I'm no cartland managing six books a year!


mc said...

Sorry, but I find your work to be annoyingly smug and pretentious. The Georgette Heyer of M/M you are NOT. You're a fair enough writer, but not original, and I get the feeling you think you invented the m/m historical novel, news for you didn't, and it's been done much better.

Erastes said...

Dear MC

I'm sorry you feel like that, obviously everyone isn't going to like everyone's work. I hope that your vitriol isn't fuelled by other influences. I apologise to the Hoydens to have attracted such a unpleasant troll.

Erastes said...

I have to add, because you make accusations or insinuations that I think more of myself than I do.

I don't consider that I invented the m/m genre. If I did, I'd hardly maintain a blog that lists every single one I can find back through history, would I? Nor do I think that I'm the Heyer of gay romance, I've never said that, never implied anything of the sort, so unsure where you got that impression.

As I said before, I'm sorry you don't like the work of mine that you've read, but I don't expect everyone to do so. I don't like everyone I read, but I have the politesse at least not to create a fake anonymous blog just so I can abuse them.

Apologies again, to the Hoydens, I won't be replying to this troll again if there's response from it.