Author Interviews

lawbooks.gif

I’m pleased to announce that very soon we will be starting a series of Author Interviews which will continue for as long as I can rope Authors in to do them.

So far I’ve managed to convince Rochelle Hollander Schwab (Author of “A Different Sin”) and Max Pierce (Author of “Master of Seacliff” – review on this book to be done over the weekend) and in the last minute, Marion Husband (Author of “The Boy I Love.”)  I’m asking others, some possibly I’m a bit cheeky even to ask, but hey, if you don’t ask you don’t get, that’s my motto.

Actually my real motto is Moderation is for Monks, but that makes no sense in this context.

Women writing M/M

There’s a subject I keep seeing all over the net recently, and that’s about people who are not gay and lesbian writing gay and lesbian fiction. Some people find it annoying, some people even find it offensive, a lot of people seem puzzled by it.

Myself, I’m puzzled why people are puzzled.

For me, writing fiction isn’t about who are actually are – and that seems such an obvious statement that I am staring at it wondering that I actually had to write it down. If writing was about who I actually was, then all I would write would be very dull work stories, or perhaps some wild-child fiction, or even horse stories. God forbid.

I’ve seen it argued that women can’t write gay men. Granted I’ve seen some excruciatingly girlie boys in gay fiction, but hell – that doesn’t mean they don’t exist, or that people (men and women) don’t like reading about them. In my personal life, I’ve met gay men and lesbians which encompass just about every range (well, DER) from squealing girlie boys to bears with grease under their nails and men more beautiful and yet more masculine than a lot of heteros, despite being gay gay gay. And actually – some of the most girlie men I’ve read in the historical genre have actually been written by men. You can’t deny that Duncan from The Master of Seacliff, or Robert from Gaywyck are rather feminine in their attitudes, complete with bouts of tears on a regular basis.

So a particular woman might not write your cuppa tea when it comes to gay men, but you can’t write off all female writers of the genre off just because you’ve read one you didn’t like. I know of some women who write porn more basic and just as downright filthy than any wank book I’ve read available at Starbooks or Alyson.

It seems to me that it’s only in this corner of the writing world that this problem raises its head. No-one cares who writes crime fiction. No-one cares particularly who writes Historical Fiction. (There is, in the latter genre, some discussion between “what men like” (“battles”) and “what women like” (“queens and shit”) but it’s still generalisation. It’s like ALL girl children playing with Barbie and ALL boy children playing with Action Man/GI Joe. It doesn’t happen. Some men will read a story with a romance, and some women love the stories that are battle heavy.

Even with Romance, no-one really cares that much. I know a few male authors writing it, although they usually use a pseudo, there doesn’t seem to be the “you are a man, you shouldn’t be writing this.” campaign.

Why then, is it annoying to some that women write gay fiction? Is it because a lot of it is erotica? I suppose I can relate to the fact that gay men might find the objectification of their bodies to be offensive, and that they feel that they are being exploited in some way, but can we say “puhleeze” people? Women have been treated in this way since women were invented – us doing it back is not revenge after all, it’s a sign of our feminism (perhaps) that finally we can write erotica – buy and read it – without shame and without having to buy Playgirl or ask gay friends for loans of magazines.

For many many years (and still to this day) men smirk, fanaticise and wank at the thought of two women in bed together – I cannot see why women finding two or more men in bed together a beautiful thing is something that raises eyebrows.

But when it comes right down to it, fiction is fiction. An author, be they male or female, writes PEOPLE. Whether the author is good at their job is another matter.

There are a lot heterosexuals writing bad romance, erotic or otherwise. There are a lot of gay people writing bad romance erotic or otherwise.

I can’t, despite my plumbing and “it’s got a pulse?=SHAG” mentality, write a m/f or m/f/m scene to Save My Life. It would be unconvincing and would probably end up on Weeping Cock. However, gay men, lesbians, bis and straights of all types have read my stuff and while it’s not universally popular, I hit the spot (as it were) or so I’ve been told.

As for non-erotica, perhaps the feeling stems from “you have no right to write about our struggle if you haven’t been there.” I can see this point of view too. I’ve seen anthologies which won’t take stories from people who aren’t gay men, and this makes me sad.

Why?

Because when did I need to prove what I was to submit a story to anyone? Despite the fact that my appearance is female, how does the editor know what I consider myself to be. This, I thought (unless I’ve got the whole thing terribly wrong from start to finish), is what I thought the essence of gender was all about. Not what you SEEM to be, but what you are, what you consider yourself to be.

So when am I allowed to submit? When I start on the hormones? Or after the surgery is completed? When will I will gay enough?

(Incidentally, I exclude real-life memoire submission calls, I would never submit to one of those, as that would be dishonest – they are not fiction and do not declare themselves to be)

Consider this. Do I need to be black to attempt a story about slavery, or segregation? What if I were to write a story about Rosa Parks, would I need to prove I was black? I don’t know. Possibly. It would depend if I got it right enough for the readers and didn’t lessen the impact.

Part of the reason I write gay historical fiction is to show people the problems gay men had in times before ours. I think it’s important to remember – obviously – and there seems to be a preponderance of text-books and articles on the subject, but very little historical fiction. Not enough stories, and there must be a million stories untold.

Should I be Irish to write about the famine, or the troubles? Should I be Chinese to write about the Boxer rebellion?

Or what about – like Anna Sewell or Michael Morpurgo – I were to write a story from a horse’s pov? Is that right? Is it just because the horse can’t say “oh, that would never happen” that we consider it to be literature?

Or a robot?
Or an alien?
Or a hobbit?

Yes, I know, I’m getting facetious but my point remains the same. It’s up to the author to write characters and for the reader to be (or not to be) convinced by them. That’s all. Whether the name on the cover is Janet or John – as long as the story is good –does it matter? Discuss:

Review: Hot Valley by James Lear

It’s New England, 1861, and the troubles in the southern states seem a long way off for Jack Edgerton, the spoiled son of a prominent Vermont family. Howver, when he meets and falls in love with Aaron Johnson, the sexy son of a slave on the run from Virginia, Edgerton’s world is turned upside down. Separated by circumstances, the lovers pursue each other through the escalating madness of the Civil War and both find themselves forced to choose sides.

Review by Erastes

I was utterly enamoured and in love with Mr Lear’s last novel “The Back Passage” that I was over excited that another book was coming out. I pre-ordered.

Sadly, though, I was rather disappointed, because where TBP was witty and unique (whilst incorporating a series of fuck scenes to solve a mystery) this was nothing but a series of fuck scenes.

Whilst it won’t dissapoint readers who like a hot scene to excite them on every other page, that’s where the book failed for me.

In The Back Passage, the hero goes from sexual encounter to sexual encounter in his quest to find out clues for a murder in an Agatha Christie style romp and although the sex is possibly gratuitous its cleverly done and never feels like it. There’s also much wit and humour.

But Hot Valley – set in the American Civil war–felt to me that sex scene after sex scene after sex scene (…) were linked tenuously by the hero’s travels. It felt like the background of the war is added as an afterthought. It also feels hugely anachronistic as surely to Betsy 1860 America wasn’t so accepting of gay sex.

Every single man that Jack meets, from his co-workers, his father’s employers, drinking companions, fellow soldiers – everyone! Wants to (and does) have sex with him in many various ways. As much as I enjoy (heaven knows!) an erotic book, there is a case for Too Much – and I found myself hoping that the next man that Jack met simply wanted to have a chat. Or a cuppa tea. Or anything! I found myself skipping the sex to find the next piece of plot, which, as I’ve said before, always makes me feel that the reader is cheated.

I’m sorry, James, that I didn’t like it. I wanted to, but I was hoping for a good gay historical romp but didn’t find it in Hot Valley.

Buy at Amazon UK :   Amazon USA

Review: The Stallion & The Rabbit by Mike Shade

 

Review by Erastes

Alex is a reporter, determined to follow a great race through the Sahara and earn his name in his field. What he doesn’t count on is desert cheiftan Alfahl kidnapping him and carrying him off.Alfahl needs and English tutor, and Alex fits the bill. Alex fascinates him, as much for the Arabian Nights style tales he tells as for his sweet body and foreign ways. Can these very different men find enough common ground to last together? Or will they become just another story?  

This is an odd little novella and almost defies my reviewing it. It possibly is far more clever than I am giving it credit for, the meaning of it is probably steeped with folklore or something but that may have gone completely over my head.

At first glance it seems like a typical Sheik/slave story, Alex is reporting on the first Trans Sahara road race when his car breaks down and he is captured by Alfahl, a powerful Sheik.

Ostenibly, the men have brought Alfahl an English speaker to help him with his language but it’s soon clear that Alfahl has more on his mind than vowels and he refuses to let Alex go.

Alfahl nicknames Alex “the Rabbit” for reasons that escaped me (as I said, perhaps the whole book went over my head) because I considered Alex to be (‘scuse the pun) quite spunky and he stood up to his kidnapper, wasn’t afraid to make a deal with him when a lot of people might have been a little more terrified.  Alfahl is “the Stallion” which is hyperbole whichever way you cut it.

Alex borrows Scherezhade’s trick of tale-telling (because, hey, every Sheik falls for that trick, right?) and it works beautifully. Alex’s ravishment is gradually put off until he starts to tell tales that excite both of them.

On the surface that’s just about all it is, but I think personally it’s more than that. There is some beautiful writing here, and the gradual increasingly sexual scenes are genuinely erotic rather than verging anywhere near porn.  For those reasons I have kept the e-book (which is rare for me) and I intend to read it again because it haunts me a little.  I do have a small quibble that a white man and a reporter can go missing in the desert and no-one actually bothers to look for him, but that’s just me.

That being said, this book has the feeling more of an allegory, (although I’m too dim to work it out) and less of a narrative and I personally liked that feeling as I was unsettled throughout and still am.

Well worth the $3.95 that it’s on sale for, and I wouldn’t mind reading more of this author, if there is any.

Buy from Torquere

Review: The Hill: A Romance of Friendship by Horace Annesley Vachell

hill.jpg

Reviewed by Hayden Thorne

FROM THE PUBLISHER:
In this novel based on the life of the masters and boys at Harrow school, two boys compete for the love of a third. Lord Horace Vachell was an English novelist who introduced polo to Southern California when he moved there in 1882.

REVIEW:
I must say right now that this novel was the most frustrating, exasperating work of fiction I’ve read in a long time. It isn’t badly written though at first I railed against Vachell’s characterization of Scaife and Desmond. As it turned out, my complaints were largely unfounded, at least with regard to Desmond.

Jonathan Verney, the new kid in school, falls hard for Henry Desmond (or Caesar, as he’s called), and he does all he can to develop and nurture a close friendship with the older boy. Unfortunately for him, Reginald Scaife, who’s older and more street-wise than the other two, also has plans of winning Desmond over. And so begins the tug-of-war between good (Verney) and evil (Scaife), innocence and guile, intellect and brute strength. The opposing forces are classic – cliché, almost. Yet Vachell’s presentation is anything but, hence my growing frustration that made me set the book aside two-thirds of the way through, while I redirected my energy elsewhere.

I picked up the book again and finished it, finally. Yes, I stand corrected on a number of things. My initial complaint was characterization. I found Scaife and Desmond at first to be so one-dimensional that I simply wanted to reach into the book and give both boys a damned good thrashing. By the book’s conclusion, however, my opinions of Desmond had shifted favorably, and not because of the conclusion, in which Verney’s friendship and love play a significant role.

Desmond, while admittedly a weak character, is still complex in his own way, which is the reason why the tug-of-war and growing hostility between Verney and Scaife don’t seem to have an end. He’s torn between the two boys for reasons he can’t understand because he’s ruled mostly by his emotions though deep down, he really is a good, decent fellow. Scaife, also called Demon by his peers, is pure evil, his initial charm and wit slowly losing their veneer till in the end, Verney sees him as “deliberately setting about the devil’s work.” And I saw nothing else about Scaife other than he’s simply rotten to the core, so much so that when Verney admits to himself (much to his horror) that he’s actually wished Scaife to be dead, I didn’t feel outrage at Verney’s sentiments. “The bastard deserves it” was the thought that crossed my mind, and it’s an uncomfortable one. I like my villains more multi-dimensional than that. I want to feel a little torn between sympathy and disgust. Unfortunately for Scaife, I felt nothing but the sense of being cheated out of a potentially very good antagonist.

Verney shines as the lead character. Though the angel against Scaife’s devil, he still makes all sorts of errors of judgment, which end up giving Scaife ongoing ammunition to be used against him. It’s because of his innocence that he hurls himself headlong into this wild, romantic, and passionate attachment to Desmond. It’s also because of his innocence that he holds on to hope, defying Scaife’s expectations, which, in turn, fuels the other boy’s antagonism toward him.

It’s the perpetual battle between good and evil that ultimately wore me down because it simply dragged on. However, Vachell saves the best for last, when all things seem to be so hopeless in Verney’s eyes. There’s redemption, but in a manner that I never expected. The Hill concludes with an event that’s tremendously heartbreaking yet ennobling, the final scenes being the stuff of classic, enduring romance.

Vachell lovingly paints Harrow school as a gorgeous pastoral. Even with the presence of the proverbial serpents (Scaife, Lovell, and their circle), the school still resonates with the lushness of spring and youth all richly detailed. When Verney, in his final year, looks forward with trepidation to the darker, murkier waters of Oxford and Parliament, I also wished that he – as well as his friends – needn’t go anywhere else. The side characters are also vividly drawn, with Caterpillar (a snobby older student who openly despises Scaife for being lowly bred) and Fluff (a younger student who attaches himself at first to Verney but eventually drifts away) being my favorites.

Yes, it was initially an agonizing read, but The Hill is really much more complex, much deeper than a simple rivalry between two boys over a third. As a rare book that specifically deals with 19th century/early 20th century boarding school romance between boys, it’s a significant addition to the library of historical gay fiction enthusiasts.

Buy the book: Amazon USA, Amazon UK

Review: A Different Sin by Rochelle Hollander Schwab

 

Review by Erastes

Wow. What a read!  I had few expectations of this book – I’d seen it around here and there, in this limited genre the same books are bound to crop up from time to time – but the cover always put me off.  However, eventually I ordered a copy and it arrived  (and it’s a signed copy no less!) 

It starts simply and familiarly enough; our main protagonist, David, is the son of a plantation (and slave) owner.  He chafes against living at home and the hum-drum existence and wants more. But the twists start almost immediately and there’s a hell of a lot packed into this not very long book.

It would be almost impossible to write a book about this war without mentioning race and RHS meets this head on. David’s father has a shameful “secret” – which is no longer a secret – he fathered a child, Mike, from one of his slaves and has helped him escape from Virginia to Boston to become a doctor.  David lives under the impression that, as an artist and someone who has no interest in taking over the plantation, that Mike is the son that his father would have really wanted, especially now as he’s acknowledged him publicly.

David is offered a job on a New York paper and becomes friendly with Zach who he quickly becomes friends with and soon realises that his feelings are a little more than platonic.

The nice difference here is that the men aren’t the usual hairless 20 year old Adonises, (Adoni?). These are bearded men of their era in their late 30’s and early 40’s. Zach in particular is rather beary-hairy and the way that David fixates on his solid mature body is no less sexy than the endless stories of six packs and ridged hips.

The love story itself is familiar though, Zach is an experienced homosexual who knows what he is and he’s finding a way to communicate his preferences to others, finding others with his tastes in the big city. David has been unsatisfied with sex with women and doesn’t know there’s something missing. The difference between them is that when David does fall in love and into bed with Zach he can’t accept himself for what he is and he fights his “perversion” almost every step of the way. (This jarred me a little because I knew that the word pervert/perversion applied in this sense was anachronistic in itself and wish that (as Schwab has so much right) that she had found another word to use – because David uses it a LOT.)

He’s a very angsty man, and sometimes he was so repetitive in his angsting that I wanted to smack him.

He tries to break with Zach time and again, (despite knowing now that he loves him) as the country falls into conflict and then into war and then finally he can bear his own perversion no longer and volunteers to go to the front for the paper, despite having had it proved to him that he’s no hero.  He joins Grant and some very bloody history is recounted at this point, seen, on the fringes by David, and his new friend, Al.

I’ve seen this book accused of having “too much history” which has to make me smile – it’s rather difficult to avoid the history in the middle of Grant’s Wilderness Campaign!  However I know that military campaigns aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, and despite having a penchant for Sharpe they aren’t usually mine, but here I really I enjoyed reading about an era that I only know from Gone With The Wind.  I didn’t know anything about the draft riots for example – and some of the violence, truthfully written, is quite hard to read.

People’s wildly varying attitudes to the black population are interesting, difficult to cope with, and inspiring in turns, and I admire that the author didn’t shy away from all this, as she could have done, she could have smothered a difficult and bloody time for all involved with a gay love affair in a wallpaper historical.  But she doesn’t, for my money – there’s politics, and the man on the street, and the soldier’s opinions about many different things.  I would have been happy if this book had been twice the length, to be honest – I find it hard to work out how she managed to cram so much in.

Yes, this is about love, but it’s also a message (that Zach mentions) that there are “different sins” and perhaps two men loving each other in private can’t compare with what America was doing to itself. It’s still easier for some Americans to see a man with a gun in his hand than another man’s hand, actually, isn’t it?

I also particularly liked the New York social scenes; they are entirely masculine – the only mention of women being when one of the group goes to a brothel.  The newspaper men meet up in journalists’ bars, men frequent gymnasiums and you get a real feel of hard bitten journalists working round the clock. Walt Whitman makes an appearance (at one point rather disturbingly kissing a young armless soldier) and there are hints of men meeting up in groups for possibly orgies, but as David turns the offer down, we never know. It is clear however, (Zach gives us broad hints of this) that there is a large and close homosexual fraternity in New York.

Anyway – all in all very enjoyable. However, I have to say- it has possibly one of the worst covers ever. I AM going to continue to critique the covers of these books because I think that it’s important. However, as one of the protagonists is a war artist in the American Civil War, I can’t help but wonder if this was deliberate and that the painting is supposed to reflect that.  However I hope that David’s art was a little better.  If I saw it on a shelf, there’s no way in God’s green earth I would turn it over to see what the blurb said.

And then I’d have missed an excellent book, which would be a criminal shame.  Historically weighty, yes, (for the size of it) but the theme of this blog is Gay Historical Fiction, and this book certainly is one of the examples I shall point to when I say “This is gay historical fiction.”

Buy: Amazon UK   Amazon USA

Covers: Survey Questions regarding Buyability

Ruth Sims has a series of unofficial survey questions for readers of m/m romance .

Please reply personally to Ruth at RSNewsletter@insightbb.com

1) If m/m romances were readily available and easy to find in stores such as Barnes & Noble would you buy them?

2) Is the author’s perceived gender a consideration? Would you buy a m/m romance authored by a man?

3) Women tend to read in public a lot–doctor’s offices, etc. The following Amazon titles represent different types of covers. Which one would you be more likely to buy in a store? The titles below were chosen only for their covers as examples, with no consideration given to the author or story. Please just rank them 1 (would buy) 9 for bookstore “buyability”. We’re not collecting names or information, so any comments you care to make are welcome. The titles were chose at random from the Amazon Top 100 lists – gay fiction, and gay romance.

Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,986 other followers

%d bloggers like this: