I would think that all readers of gay themed historical fiction have at least heard of Erastes. and by far the majority will have read her work – Standish, Trangressions, Junction X and too many short stories to list – and/or followed her website, Speak Its Name. So I’m sure you’ll understand that I’m very excited to have tempted her to appear on my blog today to celebrate the release of her new work A Brush With Darkness! This sumptuous paranormal is set in Florence and concerns an up and coming young painter who finds his new patron both a delight and a potential terror. Yummy, eh?
Thank you Erastes for agreeing to answer my questions.
Elin: Yuri, one of the main protagonists in Brush with Darkness, is intelligent, cultured, predatory, dangerous. Are you by any chance redressing the balance after Twilight?
Erastes: LOL – I wish I had thought of that, but I actually wrote the story long before I’d ever heard of Twilight. I think vampires need to be dangerous, even if it’s “for a good cause” – I think it was partly what I like about Being Human and for some parts, Angel, because the vampires do struggle, even if Angel is a bit whiney at times. As for intelligent and cultured, yes — It always annoys me when vampires are ignorant, stupid and worse–penniless! I know the first thing I’d do would be to set up some really copper bottomed securities for myself.
Elin: As Yuri seems to have done! His house is marvellous. I loved your depictions of the beauty and squalor of Florence. Is there a city you haven’t yet written about where you would like to set a story?
Erastes: Thank you. I do get inspired by cities, because they are such stories in themselves. Much of my work in set in London because that’s the place I know best. Norwich might be fascinating because it’s one of the oldest cities in England at just over 1000 years old, but if it were to be medieval that’s not an era that appeals to me, writing wise. I am looking forward to writing about the young cities in America that Fleury will be visiting at some point, but the research scares me senseless.
Elin: That actually answers part of my next question. Which part of the writing process do you like most? Ditto least? Planning, research, royalties, sex scenes, just getting the words down?
Erastes: Most: when the words flow and each sentence leads to another and you get sparked with ideas for the next scene as you go and are literally mugging with glee. Happened all the way through Standish but I haven’t had that concentrated flow of words since. It’s absolutely euphoric, and as I literally felt like I was on amphetamines while I was writing it (grinding teeth, no sleep, feeling of highness) it’s probably better if it happens in smaller bursts these days. Least: Writing a synopsis and blurb. Gah. I loathe those. It’s so mechanical, but necessary.
Elin: Which of your characters would you, assuming you were qualified, dump, snog or marry?
Erastes: Oh dear. My trouble is that I don’t really fancy any of my characters because I know them far far too well. I know that most authors seem to fall in love with their characters but I know the warts and all aspects of mine, and that’s quite off-putting. I like flawed heroes and misguided villains–and sometimes just dreadful dreadful people who deserve bad things happening to them but often don’t. And when a hero is nice, he’s often too nice. I’d dump (or push off a cliff, which I think is the more correct and cathartic method) Alvisi from Standish. Like a few of my villains he’s hugely charismatic, but unlike most of them he’s quite utterly ruthless about his OWN pleasure. He’s like a horrible little boy who loves to push kitty under the water to see what happens or likes pulling wings off flies. He’s probably the most amoral being I have in my books, even Yuri from “A Brush with Darkness” has more scruples. Second for cliffing would be Philip Smallwood in “Mere Mortals” – to misquote Frank Herbert in Dune. “A thousand deaths is not enough for Smallwood.” Third perhaps Ambrose because he gets on my wick. Snog: Hmm. An odd choice, but probably another villain, Thouless from “Frost Fair” and “Hard and Fast” because he’s a very experienced seducer and would probably know just how to kiss a girl the way she wants it and adjusts it accordingly. Marry. Lord. None of them! Granted I’d love to live in Standish with all the wealth and pomp that the Goshawk money would allow but then I’d have to put up with Rafe and he’s never going to reform. (The main reason why I’ll never do a sequel to Rafe and Ambrose’s story) I couldn’t make the choice of Miss Pelham in “Hard and Fast” and marry well and securely in order to have children, and protect my bi-sexual husband because I’d want a life. I may write about the past, but I couldn’t live under the constraints. Embroidery? No thanks!
Elin: I’m with you there. Though I suspect the ladies who did the Bayeux Tapestry had a lot of raucous fun when the men folk were away. Now, assuming I provide you with a safety button to press to bring you home immediately if in danger [or bored or something] which period of history or historical event would you like to attend?
Erastes: Hmm – as a terrible cynic I’d probably like to wander around Palestine and see if a certain rabbi ever gets arrested and crucified, but that’s possibly not a good idea (i’m not exactly that much of a killjoy). I don’t know about visiting the past, even with a safety button–it was really really filthy up to the beginning of the 20th century and I don’t fancy wading around in poo – and everyone was so SHORT. The nice thing about writing it is that you don’t actually have to live there and catch their germs, eat their revolting food and suffer their doctors, be treated as property and a second class citizen! But if I had to, and I knew I wouldn’t tread on the ant that would become my grandfather or something, I’d lurk around Whitechapel and find out who Jack the Ripper was.
Elin: Oh good choice! Now, something I’ve been dying to ask – Vitruvian Man. Hot or not?
Erastes: Oh hot hot hot. Da Vinci had a thing – it seems – for the same thing as me – high ridged hips.
Elin: Let’s have a quiet moment of appreciation for Apollo’s girdle.
Take your time.
Okay, are there any stories in the pipeline that you feel you can talk about?
Erastes: Well, I’m sure many people know about “I Knew Him” which has been a bit of an albatross around my neck for a year now. I’ve had the worst time finishing it, (partly because I know what happens now, and once I get to that part I tend to want someone else to write the wretched thing down, I prefer writing when I have no clue what’s happening next). But it is on the move now. I have at least three other projects started which I have deliberately paused because to have three unfinished manuscripts would be insane. One’s a spy/private dick kind of thing but very English. Hopefully British noir in feel, and the other is a Regency (hopefully to pitch at Carina) novella which takes place entirely in a carriage. 😀 The last is set in 20’s England again, and is tentatively called Summer’s Lease. I’ve always got about ten ideas buzzing around in the background. To think I once thought I had no stories to tell, now I don’t have enough life left to tell them. *Eeyore impression*
Elin: Could we please have an excerpt of something?
Erastes: Here’s a snippet from Summer’s Lease, which will probably be the thing I’ll get cracking on with next. Hopefully it won’t need much explanation, it’s mostly character study so far.
Thanks for having me, Elin. And for those who didn’t, here’s my telephone number….
There was a wardrobe upstairs, a wardrobe in his parent’s bedroom where his mother had kept his father’s clothes. Terrence had never so much as opened it since she’d died in ‘19 although he had come close, over the past four years. Father had been something unknown, something only spoken of when Mother was in her Sunday mood. Terrence had been two years old when he never came home again, and if there was a memory of him all his own, he had never found it. All he had was Sunday’s secondhand memories, and a picture of a man in a pith helmet and puttees looking uncomfortable posed on a photographer’s log.
He knew his aversion to the wardrobe was illogical. The wardrobe was locked, even though his mother had never once spoken of the clothes that surely, must lie within, it was stupid and wasteful not to find the key, open the creaky door, brave the moths and the mothballs and find the only legacy his father had left him. But he never had. Even when he’d walked to the village in a mix-and-match suit, or found, in the bakers as he shuffled around waiting for his order to be filled that he had on one ex-army sock and one black, even then he had not been tempted. There was something sacrilegious in it, like Howard Carter breaking a seal that should never have been broken. If he used his father’s clothes–suddenly appearing in finery from another age–it would be noted, people would think less of him than they already did. And selling them? Not to be countenanced. So he continued, shabby and make-do but his conscience was clear, he let no one down by himself.
With a towering pile of toast and the butter in a cold jar, he made his way to the big leather sofa and immersed himself upon, almost within, it. Bless came and put herself where he couldn’t miss her if he tried. Amber remained on her mat, but pointed her nose towards the scents of toast and butter.
On a table next to him, where he put it this morning, a promise after work done, was the latest seed catalogue, with its garish pink cover. A treat to wallow in. He flicked the radio on, but when it warmed up, turned it down, hardly listening to music and leaned back against the myriad tapestry cushions to eat his toast and think of summer.
The pages felt grainy, and he ran his hands over the printed page for a moment. Yes, like everything in life, the quality had gone out of even this simple pleasure. He remembered the catalogues before the war, when money was less of the object than it currently was. Then, Mother had ordered from more than one dealer, from nurseries far and wide. They had been glossier then, their pages smooth to the touch and smelling less of engine oil. Not leaving smudges behind on fingers. There had been photos too–not just in colour on the cover like now, but colour inside too; such extravagance! Now it seemed imagination had to be one’s guide. But that wasn’t a problem. All gardeners, all true gardeners have to live in their imagination for many months of the year. “The petals range in colour from the coolest ice-white the most delicate of fringed pink, they do well both in pots and under glass and after the frosts, outside. Easily over-wintered in a heated greenhouse.”
What to choose, what to choose…Slowly he made his way through the book, stopping at his favourites—orchids, calendulas, antirrhinums – and read the descriptions in which everything was easy to grow, easy to propagate, easy to over-winter. The salesmen knew their jobs; Terrence always wanted a lot more than he could ever afford.
He knew he’d choose nothing tonight, but it was a pleasant way to spend an evening—with a cello in the background and his mind a riot of white and blue borders, flowers spilling over onto the paths, the beds full to the brim, cut flowers for every day, just like it was when mother had been alive. He still bought flower seeds, and always would. He knew it was extravagance, but not all seeds could be harvested—although he did his damnedest to do so, hoarding each precious pellet or grain or dust in paper packets made from newspaper.
He put the book aside and made another pot of tea, frugally reusing half of the soaked tea-leaves before wallowing back on the settee. The warmth of the range was finally seeping into his bones, and the tea warmed him from his toes up. He knew he should get busy, make some dinner, clean up the kitchen, at the very least sweep and mop the floor, but it was so comfortable. He pulled the hand knitted comforter over his feet and stretched out, the worn saggy leather of the settee seeming to hold him like a large human hand. For a while he flipped through the catalogue again, but after a while the music, the warmth and the comfort of the leather simply pulled him towards sleep and he fell into it gratefully, a smile on his face, each square of the woollen comforter becoming a square of England’s patchwork quilt, as he flew over it, the throbbing of the engines lulling him into dreamless oblivion.