Monday, January 12, 2009

Make-Believe Mondays With Erastes

Today on Make-Believe Mondays my guest is Erastes.

Erastes, first, tell us a little bit about the manuscript you're working on now.

Erastes: I've just finished editing "Transgressions" which is an English Civil war (gay) romance and will be out in April--and I've just started something new. It's very new, and I'm not really sure where it's going yet. I'm not a plotter, in general--sending an outline to a publisher terrifies the life out of me--and so far I've got "character character character in a coach on their way to X"

It's going to be set in the Norfolk Broads, because I live here - and I suddenly realised that I'd be barmy not to use such an enigmatic, Gothic landscape for a Gothic novel. I can't say much about the plot as yet, as it's a mystery as well as a romance, but if I were to say "gay Victorian Vertigo" that might give people a flavour of what I'm aiming for.

Debra: Yes, that is a perfect setting for a Gothic novel. You'd be surprised how many authors have done just that, written books set outside of their surroundings and then suddenly realized the place they call home is the perfect setting for what they want to write. :-)

Ray Bradbury said, "We are cups, constantly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out." How do you keep your creative cup filled?

Erastes: I'm not really sure. I'm constantly being touched with small brushes of inspiration. I see something on the TV, or I read something, or overhear a conversation, or have an email from someone and something sparks--and I think. "Hmmm. Now what if I were to drop that sort of thing back to the 18th century, make it homosexual, change this and that...." - that's the wonderful thing about gay historical fiction - there are so very many ideas that have not yet been explored, the genre is still very finite.

Debra: Small brushes of inspiration is a lovely way to describe it. Everything which we come into contact with becomes fodder for the page, even the slightest thing we brush up against.

Is there a point when your characters begin to come alive and you can see and hear them?

Erastes: Definitely. In fact I find it hard to write until that process has happened. I may not know my plot in advance but I HAVE to know my characters before I can get involved with them. I find the best way to avoid writer's block is to write my own fanfic - put the character into a situation and see how he deals with it. I must know not only how they look, but how they dress, what their mannerisms are, their speech patterns, whether they are stubborn, or carelessly cruel. I think this deep immersion technique helps to bring the characters to the reader, quickly and seemingly effortlessly. It gets to a stage when the characters start nagging me to get on with it, or I'll be yelling at them to stop bloody TALKING and kiss already!

Debra: That inevitable question - Are you a plotter or a pantser (writing by the seat of your pants for those who don't write) has always seemed to me to be a question which leaves out the vast middle, as if there were only two ways to write. Many authors begin with character studies and go about the process in just the way you described. There is more than one or two ways to write story.

Some very famous authors have played with language, creating words for people or places that no one has ever heard of. Have you ever played with words in that way and if so how?

Erastes: I don't think I've ever created words, per se, not in the way that Lewis Carroll did for example--but I will play with word structure, creating double barrelled words that illustrate something more succinctly. I haven't tried this technique in my novels yet, I think that 100,000 words of Erastes doing slipstream would be a bit wearing, (laughs) but I have done it in some short published stories, such as Drug Colours which appeared in Where the Boys Are by Cleis. Or I'll warp the imagery - the piece is about drugs and punks in London in 1978.

Debra: For some writers, dreams play a role in creating fiction. Has this been true for you? Have you ever dreamed a scene or an image that later wound up in one of your books?

No, I'm afraid not. I'm hopeless! I often do dream what seem to me to be the most brilliant scenes ever (I doubt they are) and I wake up and think, I must remember that in the morning, and I never do. One of these days I'll get a voice recorder and put it next to the bed and see just how brilliant my ideas in the night really are!

Debra: Now that is an excellent idea. I'd get a voice recorder too except that my spouse would probably not appreciate me waking him up by talking into it. With a dream journal I can quietly use a book light.

As a child did any particular book or author pull you into their imaginary world?

Erastes: Far too many to count, really. I was reading long before I went to school and my mother was actually told off for putting me so far ahead of most of the class. I think the one that has stayed with me forever has to be The Narnian Chronicles because I beleived in that world completely. Still do, in a way, still looking hopefully into wardrobes.

Debra: Oh, yes, I had a teacher like that. Brought my mother in for a conference because "Debar always has her head in a book" and she was "concerned" Well and I still peer into and under things. Who knows, perhaps one of us will find Narnia after all.

If there were no categories for books, no reader expectations to meet, and you could create the wildest work of imagination that you could think of what kind of story would that be?

Erastes: I think I'll probably disappoint people here, because what I'd like to do more than anything is to write gay historical fiction in more of the way that I'd like to write it--without the category, without the genre, without the expectation of a happy ending, without being trammelled with "your hero must be 18" - because all that is nonsense when you start writing historical fiction. I don't necessarily WANT to write sad endings, but I want to be able to have the freedom to do so without my publisher automatically turning them down because everyone wants a HEA. It's a tricky thing to manage, especially in the Regency!

Debra: Yes, romance of any sort must have that happy ending. I admit if a romantic movie doesn't end with the two of them together, say one is killed off, I am a bit upset and want to rewrite the end. But that is just me. There is a reader out there for every story, I believe.

Is there anything else you would like to add about the role of imagination, and dreams in creating fiction? Any other message for our readers?

Erastes: I suppose the most important thing I could say at the moment is don't be too influenced by what people say. Listen to advice, certainly, but don't take it if it's not right for you. Let the story and the characters guide you, and if it goes in a different way to the way that other books go, don't stress about it. When I first started out, I didn't realise that there were "rules" - like POVs and HEAs and the like. I just wrote. The more I learned, the more I found it difficult to write. I just now trying to break myself of those bonds of reader and publisher expectations and am struggling to find my voice again.

Debra: Voice can be so hard to find and can be difficult to hold onto. I hope you find it soon and can hold onto it.

Thank you for joining us here on this Make-believe Monday to share a little bit of the magic of writing with our readers.

Readers can visit Erastes at
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