My guest today is someone I first got to know through our mutual interest in Nelson’s Navy and all things Age of Sail and I was absolutely delighted to hear that she had bitten the bullet and had written her own novel and published it through Storm Moon Press, release date August 2nd.
Welcome Julian and thank you for joining me today.
Elin: Can you tell me a little about yourself? For instance, do you have to have a day job as well as being a writer?
Julian: I’m currently studying for my certification exams in medical billing and coding, and I hope to be able to find a job in that field where I can work from home, part-time, so I can balance that with my writing. I also currently work one day a week as an assistant and office manager for a freelance editor.
Elin: When you aren’t writing, is there any other creative activity you enjoy? Have you ever written about it?
Julian: I knit and I bake. I used to be a professional baker and pastry chef, before the economy put a big dent in the catering business, and now I love experimenting with recipes from period cookbooks. Back in 2011, I made a journal post documenting my efforts to produce an 18th-century seed-cake… which I had to do, because the characters in the story I was writing refused to finish the drawing-room conversation until I made them the seed-cake I said they were eating!
Elin: Can you name any author/authors, past or present, who have been a great influence on your work?
Julian: Let’s get the big ones out of the way first: Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, Patrick O’Brian. A romance set in England during the Napoleonic Wars? I’m standing on their shoulders. I’ve been a fan of Ellen Kushner for a very long time, and I’ve always aspired to write as beautifully as she does. And, in another way, Erastes was a huge influence – because she read a fanfic I’d written (correcting that dreadful mistake at the end of season 5 of Law and Order: UK) and told me “quit writing fanfic, you’re ready to get published.” I don’t know if I’d have done it without that push.
Elin: What are you reading? Something to be clutched to the bosom or tossed aside with force? Fiction or non-fiction?
Julian: I’ve just finished A Thing of Rags and Patches by Catt Kingsgrave. It’s a collection of her short stories and verse – fantasy, but ranging all over from fairy-tale to police-procedural. I enjoyed it a great deal. I’m also working my way through With the Light Division: The Experiences of an Officer of the 43rd Light Infantry in the Peninsula and South of France During the Napoleonic Wars by John Cooke, which is a newly rediscovered and reprinted memoir. I love primary sources!
Elin: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Julian: Pantser, mostly. I start out knowing the characters and the central conflict, and where I want them to end up, and it’s a process of discovery finding out how they get there. I often write out of sequence, and I build an outline as I go.
Elin: Do your characters arrive fully fledged and ready to fly or do they develop as you work with them?
Julian: It’s not so much that they develop as I work with them as that they become more willing to show me things beyond the surface. They arrive with strong personalities and voices, but sometimes I learn things about their histories that I hadn’t originally known.
Elin: I first got to know you through the age of sail enthusiasts. Can you tell me what it is that draws you to this particular period of history?
Julian: I could go back and say “Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, and Patrick O’Brian,” but that’s barely scratching the surface. I’ve always been a fantasy and science fiction fan, from the time I discovered Tolkien when I was seven, and that, unsurprisingly, led me into being something of a medievalist… but on my only visit to England, when I was sixteen, along with all the castles my family visited, we also went to Bath, and I can’t imagine not falling in love with the Regency at least a little after seeing that. Then, when I was twenty, I came down with mononucleosis, and while I was recovering I read my way through all of Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances, and they were a delight. And a few years later, when I had the chance to meet Steven Brust, who’s one of my favorite fantasy authors, he urged me to read Patrick O’Brian. All he had to do was quote me “Jack! You have debauched my sloth!” and I was a goner.
I shouldn’t neglect the influence of television, though. I was as hooked as anyone on the 1995 Pride and Prejudice when it aired, and then there was the Hornblower series… with beautiful ships, and gorgeous men in fancy historical uniforms who were being brave and noble and looking like they were about to kiss each other any second now. How could I resist?
Elin: Put together your ideal team of men – drawing from all and any walks of life, fictional or non-fictional – who you would want to come to your rescue if menaced by muggers/alligators/fundamentalists?
Julian: Is it cheating if I want both Han Solo and Indiana Jones? Plus, for the fundamentalists, I’ll need Stephen Maturin, who’ll refute their nonsense without missing a beat. And I couldn’t possibly do without Admiral Edward Pellew, Viscount Exmouth — the historical man was, if anything, even more amazing than he was portrayed in Hornblower. And I’ll round it out with the Eighth Doctor. He’s clever enough to solve any problem, but if it’s too hairy even for him, he’ll have the TARDIS, and we can leave in a hurry!
Elin: As far as I know all your current work can be classed as historical. Is there any other genre you would like to have a bash at? Is there any that you would pay good cash money to get out of writing?
Julian: There’s a fantasy setting that a friend of mine and I worked out that I’d like to play in some more; it’s a sort of 1960s Europe imagined with magic and metahumans – faeries, selkies, sirens, things like that. And two of my characters have informed me that they’d like me to write a semi-noir mystery series for them, set in post-WWII New York, because they want more stories, but they don’t want their romantic relationship to be the source of the conflict.
Anything I’d pay good cash money to get out of writing? Well, if someone told me I needed to write contemporary cowboys, or a billionaire-and-secretary plot, I’d have to pay someone else to do it, because I’d never manage it on my own!
Elin: What are you working on at the moment? Can you discuss it or do you prefer to keep it a secret until it’s finished.
Julian: It’s still in the planning stages, but as you might have guessed from my nonfiction reading, it’s the story of a soldier in the 43rd Light Infantry during the Peninsular War. Jack Rowe was raised as a girl but identifies and lives as a man. It’s not precisely a sequel to Love Continuance and Increasing, but the 43rd is Lord Rockingham’s regiment, and Polly, the woman Jack loves, was the Rockinghams’ cook-maid before she married a soldier and followed the drum. I haven’t quite decided on the battle where she loses her husband yet, as there are so many – Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, Vimiero – but there’ll be plenty of adventure.
Elin: Could we please have an excerpt of something?
Julian: Here’s a bit from Love Continuance and Increasing:
“I’m sorry you had to be subjected to that,” Rockingham said, once they were underway.
“Don’t worry about it.” Thorne laid his hand atop Rockingham’s. “You’re hardly the only person in the world with a sharp-tongued grandmother. Mine certainly knew how to take people down a peg.”
“Still. Did she go around discussing all your shortcomings in front of your friends? I don’t think she’ll ever believe that I’m more than sixteen, or that I might have learned something since then. I like to think that I’m doing a tolerable job with the family concerns, even if I wasn’t trained to it from the time I could do my first sums.”
“I know the feeling,” Thorne said. “I went away to sea at twelve, with no idea that I’d be the man of the family by the time I was fourteen. Plenty of years sending home my pay and knowing it could never be enough, with four sisters all younger than me besides.”
“I’d no idea,” Rockingham said. “Forgive me. You must think me very self-absorbed.”
“Not really,” Thorne said, although if he were honest with himself, he’d have to admit to thinking just that about a rich man’s troubles. “Besides. It wasn’t as bad as all that. There was enough for them to keep hens, and a pig, and a patch of garden, and they could take in sewing, and my grandmother brought most of the village babies into the world, so between that and my pay they all got by. I think it was that last that made my grandam such a terror—she knew everything about everybody, and she wasn’t shy to bring it up at the worst moments.”
“It sounds like she and my grandmother would have made quite the pair.”
“I can just imagine. Turn them on the French and we’d have no need of broadsides!” They both laughed.
Rockingham turned his hand palm up beneath Thorne’s, then. “At least, if you left home at twelve, your grandmother wouldn’t have been in the habit of nagging you to marry.”
elve, your grandmother wouldn’t have been in the habit of nagging you to marry.”
“No, that she wasn’t.” And there it was, left open; he’d wanted to ask, but hadn’t dared to until now. “Do you hate the idea so much?”
“Not for the reason you’re thinking, I’ll wager.” Rockingham squeezed his hand; Thorne wondered if the gesture was meant to reassure him, or if Rockingham was reassuring himself. “I don’t dislike women, and I would be pleased to have a family. But I could wish for a wife who would like me.”
“I wouldn’t think that such a difficult thing to find, my lord.”
“My lord,” Rockingham echoed bitterly. “And there’s the problem. This is going to make me sound insufferable, I know. But when I’m introduced to suitable young women, it’s clear that they like my title and my fortune, and they’re on their prettiest manners in the hopes that I’ll like them enough to choose them. But when I see them looking around my house, or admiring the jewels my mother’s wearing while I can see on their faces that they’re deciding whether the gems will look well as they are or if they’d care to have them re-set… it’s very hard to believe that I figure into it much at all.”
Thorne had never considered it in that light. He supposed it must be much in the way that a captain could never be said to have friends on his own ship, no matter how much he trusted his lieutenants or his men, because in the end they had to answer to him, whether they wished it or not. Not that being a captain or a lord was without its compensations… but he couldn’t envy them, not in that. He squeezed Rockingham’s hand back. “I see.”
“What of you? Had you ever thought of marrying?”
“I didn’t spare much thought for something it was plain I couldn’t have,” Thorne said. “It’s not that I’d no eye for pretty faces and girlish figures, but I’d nothing to offer a woman. All I had went to look after my mother and my sisters, and even now, with my sisters all wed and my share of the Spanish prizes making sure my mother will never want, well, if I’m on shore, my half-pay isn’t enough to keep a family, and I’ve no other trade; and if I’m at sea, they’d do well enough as long as I kept alive, but I’d never be there to see them. No. I’d make a very poor husband.”
Lieutenant William Thorne, of His Majesty’s Navy, is a man of humble origins. He knows that his affair with Major Anthony Rockingham of the 43rd Infantry can’t last forever, not only because the war against Napoleon has sent him on blockade duty in the English Channel while the major’s regiment trained ashore, but because Rockingham is a viscount, and viscounts must marry. When Rockingham’s letter reaches him, saying that he’d chosen Miss Caroline Filmer as his bride, it is no more than Thorne had expected.
What he does not expect, when he returns home after the Battle of Trafalgar, is to find an invitation to the christening of Rockingham’s son. He does not expect, when he meets the young viscountess, that he would fall instantly and passionately in love with her. And he certainly does not expect that Caroline would fall just as desperately in love with him. Thorne is sure that their feelings for each other can only lead to disaster, even more so as his love for Rockingham has never gone away. While the war with France continues, Thorne finds himself fighting a war within his own heart.
Buy link for Love Continuance and Increasing: http://www.stormmoonpress.com/books/Love-Continuance-and-Increasing.aspx
My website: http://www.julian-griffith.com/