This week I had a chance to speak with Erastes, a writer who has established herself as a solid gay historical fiction author. Her first novel Standish (Regency) was nominated for a Lambda Award and her second, Transgressions (English Civil War) is part of the ground breaking line by Running Press and was a 2009 Lambda Award for gay romance.
Where do you live? City, town, island, country?
I live in the country – about ten miles from the nearest which is Great Yarmouth in Norfolk, England.
I was raised in towns and always longed to live in the country and feel incredibly lucky to now be living in an area which would have made me jealous when I was a kid. Open farmland, black skies with a billion stars, wildlife everywhere and a short ride to fabulous beaches.
Writer’s rarely like to toot their own horn, but could you share your greatest accomplishment?
Honestly I think getting published in the first place was a massive achievement considering that gay fiction was nearly entirely written by men at the time and the “m/m” genre hadn’t started but I’m so happy that my first publisher gave me a chance.
Hmm – I assume you mean writing one? If so – I suppose I’d have to say it was “Junction X” my last but one novel set in the sixties. I think the reason my writing has sort of hit a barrier is that I consider that the best thing I’ve written and don’t know–in fact am scared that I might not be able–if I can ever write anything half decent again!
I write on a laptop. I’d love to be able to dictate – the dictation software has improved a LOT in the last few years but I’m a complete seat of your pants writer and I simply don’t know what the next sentence will be let alone the next chapter. My fingers simply take over and if I try to dictate it I just sit there and go …”.er…..” Occasionally I’ll resort to paper if I’m hit by a muse when I’m away from the computer – I was in a traffic jam for three hours once on the way to work (this is hugely rare in Norfolk where the idea of a traffic jam is a sheep in the road) and wrote the first 3 chapters of “Transgressions”
What inspires and challenges you most in writing?
I’m inspired by many things, things I hear on the radio, a chance sentence I hear in the street, a photograph found online, or conversations with friends will send me off for my notepad making notes for a project that may never coalesce. My Mother – who died a few years ago – was my greatest inspiration as she was a real matriarch, someone who had achieved everything she had set out to do (except living till 300) and encouraged me every step of the way.
My challenges are to do better. Just do better. I’m not satisfied with writing the same book with the same plot every time – although I know I could and would probably sell more of ’em if I did, especially in the hetero market, LOL – each book has to really excite me, each sentence has to be a challenge in itself, and I constantly want to put my characters in situations that I have no clue how they are going to resolve – and I learn something about them if and when they do. I find the process endlessly fascinating, but as you can probably see – not easy.
You’ve probably answered this question a hundred times, but please indulge as our readers (and fellow writers) must know: Do you fly by the seat of your pants when writing or plot out your storylines?
Ah, Oops – I’ve already answered this. Very much seat of your pants. I may have a glimmer of an idea – such as a character, or a location or an event (such as a ball or a wedding or a hanging or something) but that’s it, I have no idea what’s after that. I love – LOVE – getting to know my characters because it’s an entirely organic process and it happens on the page as I type. In fact my readers get to know the characters/locations at exactly the same pace as I do – perhaps that’s why my writing has been described as “immersive”
How do you deal with the constant distractions such as blogs, FB, promo and real life (like that dreaded daytime job)?
One word: Procrastination. I think I can blame Humphrey Bogart in the African Queen which I must have watched at a very very young age, and he says he is someone who puts stuff off. Well that’s me. Never do anything today that can’t be put off till at least tomorrow–or often next week. I’m distracted by the merest cat’s whisker, let alone the 3 whole cats I have vying for my attention (plus one very bouncy dog). However when writing does hit me I obsess on that and nothing else – I have a bit of an obsessive personality, and will concentrate on one thing (at the moment it’s knitting) for any length of time. I’ve learned to live with it. My muse has buggered off right now, but I’m sure it will be back and the knitting can be put to one side. At least I’ll be warmer this winter.
Which would you say of your books falls most into the mystery/thriller genre?
I’d say it was Mere Mortals which Lethe published. It’s close to my heart because I set it in Horsey Mere which is one of the Broads (local word for lake) around where I live. It’s an amazing evocative place and unchanged for centuries. My protagonist is adopted by a stranger for reasons he does not know and finds himself taken to a wonderful gothic house on an island in the middle of a lake – and when he’s there he finds three other young men also adopted by his benefactor. set in Victorian England when life was extremely cheap, especially for orphans who could fall through the cracks of society far too easily, my protagonist finds out why he was adopted and what purpose his benefactor has for him and his 3 new friends.
What are your guilty pleasures?
I don’t know if I have any these days. I am of the opinion that if you fancy something then you should do it and not feel guilty. I videogame a lot and have done since the first days of “Pong” way back when, I knit, cook, watch a LOT of tv and, as I live alone, apart from pets, I am lucky that I can please myself as to what I do and when I do it. I suppose I’ve grown horribly selfish about that kind of thing! But I’d rather regret the things I did rather than the things I didn’t do. As it is, I regret nothing!
After your book(s) come out, have had you ever had to deal with homophobia, and if so, what form has it taken?
I wouldn’t say homophobia as such–although my ex-workplace looked a bit askance at my work and hardly encouraged me–but I have faced a lot of strange reactions from both the gay community and the straight community and the writing community as to “why would a woman be writing about gay men” some people even going to so far as to imply that I was betraying my own sex because I should be writing about women’s issues. It’s a thorny subject that raises its head every time some new quarter of the media “discover” the genre and they always seem to think they were the first one to raise it. I’m a bit baffled by the whole thing–I don’t, and never have, been in the slightest bit interested in the sexuality or gender of any writer. To me they were always just names so it never occurred to me wonder who or what they were – it still doesn’t. We are all people and anyone has as much right to write about any topic they please.
Last question; will you share with us a little about your current release and/or WIP?
My next release will be “I Knew Him” which will published by Lethe in 2014. It’s set in the 1920’s and is VERY loosely based on Hamlet in parts. It’s written in first person from the point of view of “the Horatio” character in Hamlet. Harry, the protagonist is best friends with young Holland who he accompanies back to Holland’s family home in the summer to attend his mother’s wedding to her brother in law. as the book progresses, we learn much about Harry and his wants and the way he gets what he wants and it’s not all pleasant! I think Harry is probably the most amoral character I’ve written about and very, very sarcastic. Like a deadly and much, much cleverer Bertie Wooster, he has been described. I hope you’ll try it when it comes out.