Today my guest is Kit Moss, well known writer of historical novels and reviewer of everything LGBTQ.
Thanks, Kit, for agreeing to answer my questions. First of all, can you tell me a little about yourself? For instance, do you have to have a day job as well as being a writer?
CHM – I wrote my first short story when I was seven and the rest, to coin a phrase, is historical fiction. I actually spent my teen years writing what eventually became my first novel, AN INVOLUNTARY KING. I had to have that dreaded day job for a couple decades, with occasional publications in the LGBT magazines, but when I started reading one M/M romance after another, I began to want to read and write the same. It was also about that time I realized I was transgender, and now I have a mission in life… two actually… to write transgender novels and to correct the erasure of LGBT people from history by writing stories that plausibly illustrate how we might have managed to live and love in the past. I have a couple sources of income so I can make my writing a full time job.
EG: When you aren’t writing, is there any other creative activity you enjoy?
CHM – I dabble in song writing and have had one song recorded by a Celtic musician, and I love also to try my hand at various arts and crafts. I have a severe vision disability but perhaps my most creative effort is how I adapt these arts and crafts to my lousy eyesight. I hope to deal with that resourcefulness in future writing products, including a novella about a gay man with the same eye condition I have.
EG: What are you reading? Can you recommend something that you wished you’d written yourself?
CHM – I mostly read M/M and other LGBT but I am currently reading Barbara Hambley’s Benjamin January mysteries and also Edward Rutherfurd’s NEW YORK: THE NOVEL. I recently read two YA transgender novels that knocked my socks off, Zoe Lynne’s FREEING STELLA and Suzanne van Roouyen’s THE OTHER ME. As to books I wish I’d written myself, that’s easy. I just adore everything Tamara Allen has ever written, especially WHISTLING IN THE DARK and DOWNTIME. Both simply exquisite M/M romances.
EG: In that crucial inspiration stage of a new story which comes first? Plot, situation or character? Do your characters arrive fully fledged and ready to fly or do they develop as you work with them?
CHM – I’m with Balzac on this one. The proper way to write a story is to develop characters and come to understand them so thoroughly that you can drop them into a situation and let them tell you what they’d do to cope. I regard each new project as a chance to get myself a new set of friends to play with. The fictional neighborhood is growing almost constantly.
EG: Do you have a crisp mental picture of them or are they more a thought and a feeling than an image?CHM – Oh I know exactly what they look like. I used to have a genius of a friend named Linda Laaksonen who managed to draw and paint them just as I picture them, but alas, she passed away too young.
EG: Is there any genre you would love to write, ditto one you would avoid like a rattlesnake? What inspired you to write about history?
CHM – I want to write mysteries and also paranormal so my storytelling can double as a game as readers work the puzzle out. I would avoid Christian novels like the plague. By that I mean all Christian novels, but especially the romance genre. I write historical fiction because I love history, but even more than that because historians have overlooked large swaths of humanity either because there was so little record of them or they simply don’t want to believe they existed, like LGBT people. I think historical novelists can fill in this willful erasure with plausible tales of how we managed to live and love in hostile societies.
EG: Do you find there to be a lot of structural differences between a relationship driven story and one where the romance is a sub plot?
CHM – I really enjoyed writing WHERE MY LOVE LIES DREAMING which is primarily a love story set against historical events, in this case the American Civil War, but I also enjoyed the primarily historical side of my new novel BELOVED PILGRIM. The particular Crusade it takes place in was pretty cut and dried; they started here and went there and then this happened from A to Z. That allowed me to focus on depicting the events and what living through it might have been like. I’ve gotten some wonderful comments on how I handled this. The love story is sweet but it is definitely not the point of the novel. The novel is about how the protagonist survived and grew through the awful events he experienced. I would say that having a romance as part of a bigger story makes you focus more on seeing it through a character’s eyes, while the romance is more about the relationship growing.
EG: Put together your ideal team of men/women – 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?
CHM – Oh my. I definitely would like Elias from BELOVED PILGRIM and Lawrence and Rory from AN INVOLUNTARY KING, swords drawn, at my back. I think you just explained a puzzle for me. I have long wondered why I always seem to write about war. Sword or cannon wielding heroes come in handy when threatened! Thanks for this.
EG: Villains are incredibly important in fiction since they challenge the main protagonists and give them something to contend with beyond the tension of a developing relationship. The cruel sea. The serial killer. The society itself. Your hero’s inner demons. What sort of villains do you prize?
CHM – What a great question. My villains seem to be people who use power for evil reasons, and I include intolerance in that. In M/M you run into the chance to write the threat of religious or social intolerance that threatens the individual or couple. My best villain though I think is Elerde from AN INVOLUNTARY KING. He is amoral, entirely self-serving but also entirely appealing, often turning out to be the readers’ favorite character. Drives me nuts.
EG: 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.
CHM – I am getting back to a novel I have started several times that blends historical, gay and paranormal, about a 10th century Cornish boy who “sees dead people”. The love interest is sort of his partner in crime investigation. Lots of colorful characters, a bit of satire, details of life at the time which is one of my favorites.
Excerpt from BELOVED PILGRIM by Christopher Hawthorne Moss
Meeting the Knights
Elias found himself embraced by a small cadre of knights a half generation his senior. He came to their attention one early morning as he and Albrecht practiced swordplay in the castle courtyard. Neither had noticed the gathering group, who watched as they matched blow for blow as they had with his brother not so very long before. They were startled when cheers rose from the sidelines, after a particularly hearty blow Elias landed with his sword on Albrecht’s teardrop-shaped shield cracked it in half.
A big man with a bushy black beard and likewise bushy black eyebrows sauntered over and put one hand on the shoulder of each combatant. “Well delivered, young Elias! And you, my friend, need a new shield. Without it, you are a sitting duck for whatever the paynim devils have in store for you!”
He introduced himself as Johannes Schwarzes-Tier, or “Black Beast.” His two companions were Alain de Bourges and Gerhardt von Regenheim. Alain offered to send his squire for an extra shield he had. “I would not wish your lord to be the loser for lack of your good right arm.”
While Albrecht and Renard, Alain’s squire, ran off to get the shield, Gerhardt, a smiling man with hair the color of burnished gold, deep-blue eyes, and part of his right ear missing, challenged Elias to a
bout with axes. The German knight got the better of Elias quickly, as he had never learned the technique of that particular weapon.
Gerhardt drawled, in his easygoing way, “Just remember that mighty crack you dealt to your squire’s shield. That’s how you manage a war axe. With well-aimed might. I will teach you.”
Alain suggested, “Peut-être the young man has more experience with a mace? Ah, I think he does!” he said, seeing Elias’s broad grin.
Alain’s mace was his practice mace, without the spikes he would want for killing. When one of the men standing about offered to lend Elias his battle mace, he started to protest, but Alain waved his concerns down. “I will give you that advantage, my friend.” Nevertheless, he eased Elias’s qualms by donning a thick-padded gambeson.
He and Elias squared off with several feet of ground between them. Elias knew how to use the weapon, though primarily for defense. The two moved toward each other, holding their maces with one hand low on the handle and the other cupped under the shaft, nearer the heavy iron head. Each tested the weapon’s balance by slapping its shaft onto that palm. The trick was to watch the opponent’s eyes to see where he was considering a blow. Elias managed to deflect Alain’s strike aimed at his right arm by getting the shaft of his own weapon up quickly enough to intercept the smooth round ball, though the weight of the blow shoved him back. He feinted, no mean trick with such a weighted weapon, and swung about to strike Alain’s thigh. Alain shouted with surprise. The site of the wound was under the padding, but nevertheless a small amount of blood ran down his leggings. He grinned and held his weapon out in front of him like a sword, danced back, and then forward so sharply that the round iron ball took Elias in the face. His nose erupted in blood. It was his first significant wound, but rather than cry out, he whooped with soggy pleasure.
“Look!” he cried, putting one glove to his streaming nose and reaching up to his mouth with the other, having dropped the mace. With triumph, he pulled out a tooth and held it aloft. “I lotht a toot!” he
Blurb for BELOVED PILGRIM, 2nd Edition
By Christopher Hawthorne Moss
At the time of the earliest Crusades, young noblewoman Elisabeth longs to be the person she’s always known is hidden inside. When her twin brother perishes from a fever, Elisabeth takes his identity to live as a man, a knight. As Elias, he travels to the Holy Land, to adventure, passion, death, and a lesson that honor is sometimes found in unexpected places.
Elias must pass among knights and soldiers, survive furious battle, deadly privations, moral uncertainty, and treachery if he’ll have any chance of returning to his new-found love in the magnificent city of Constantinople.