Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Guest Post: Writing Historical Fiction by Sam Starbuck

It's my great pleasure to introduce guest blogger Sam Starbuck. He's here as part of the Riptide Publishing Warriors of Rome series tour and in particular to tell us something of his book The City War. Over to you, Sam!





Hello readers! I am happy to be hosted by Well Read for the third installment of my The City War blog tour!

I've been discussing the process of writing historical romantic fiction, though in reality I've been building up to it. We've talked about studying history and writing within a historical context, and now I want to talk about writing romance with a historical bent. To thank you all for reading, I'm offering a chance to win $10 in credit with Riptide Publishing; every comment you leave on the post today and for the entire tour enters you to win!

Writing historical fiction isn't easy, but often in the end it comes down to study and knowledge. Writing historical romance, particularly gay romance or erotica of any kind, gets tricky because these are things people don't often talk about. Even academia, up until about a hundred years ago, shied away from the naughtier side of history. At least in public.

So finding out about the myriad of ways in which people made love in the ancient world is a challenge, but especially in LGBT lit, because for most of Western history homosexuality has been either outright condemned or carried on as a private matter, not to be made visible in any official way in public. Nobody wants to write a gay romance that's all about how our protagonists have to hide their love, but we also can't deny the reality of history. In some cases, it's important to remember that history, lest we repeat the mistakes of cultures that came before.

One of the ways I dealt with this was to use the tension of "being found out" as a point of conflict between my characters; certainly neither Brutus nor Cassius wants their relationship made public, particularly since they are both married noblemen, but Brutus approaches it somewhat casually, while Cassius is overly cautious to the point of paranoia -- indeed to the point where it almost seems like rejection.

Brutus turned, caught Cassius’s mouth, and kissed him deeply, a reassurance and a promise. Cassius moaned into his mouth, but then he pulled back and seemed to gather himself.
"Not here," he murmured.
"No?" Brutus asked, teasing. "You wouldn’t, not even for me?" 

There were undoubtedly couples throughout history who faced this issue. Some of them may have dealt with it more gracefully than others, and some more safely. As difficult as it is to write about a time when the closet was an absolute necessity for most strata of society, it's also a good way of exploring how far we've come, and how far we still have to go. History is, after all, not just about knowing the past, but about seeing how it influences the future. Working with history as a writer is something I'll be talking about tomorrow at Words of Wisdom.

***

Bio: Sam Starbuck is a novelist and blogger living in Chicago because he enjoys trains, snow, and political scandals. By day, he manages operations for a research department at a large not-for-profit, and by night he is a pop-culture commentator, experimental cook, advocate for philanthropy, and writer of fiction. He holds two degrees in theatre, which haven't done much for his career but were fun while they lasted. His love of ancient cultures and art crimes makes him a very strange conversationalist at parties. His novels include Nameless, Charitable Getting, and Trace, published independently, and The City War, published with Riptide Publishing. He blogs here, and you can check out his writerly accomplishments here.



Blurb: Senator Marcus Brutus has spent his life serving Rome, but it’s difficult to be a patriot when the Republic, barely recovered from a civil war, is under threat by its own leader. Brutus’s one retreat is his country home, where he steals a few precious days now and then with Cassius, his brother-in-law and fellow soldier—and the one he loves above all others. But the sickness at the heart of Rome is spreading, and even Brutus’s nights with Cassius can’t erase the knowledge that Gaius Julius Caesar is slowly becoming a tyrant.

Cassius fears both Caesar’s intentions and Brutus’s interest in Tiresias, the villa’s newest servant. Tiresias claims to be the orphaned son of a minor noble, but his secrets run deeper, and only Brutus knows them all. Cassius, intent on protecting the Republic and his claim to Brutus, proposes a dangerous conspiracy to assassinate Caesar. After all, if Brutus—loved and respected by all—supports it, it’s not murder, just politics.

Now Brutus must return to Rome and choose: not only between Cassius and Tiresias, but between preserving the fragile status quo of Rome and killing a man who would be emperor.

You can buy The City War or read an excerpt here.

17 comments:

  1. Sounds like a great book! Please count me in. Thanks.

    gisu29(at)yahoo(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Hope you enjoy reading it :)

      Delete
  2. I always thought Ancient Rome had less prejudice against gay relationships. Shows how little I know!
    brendurbanist at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In some ways they did. It's difficult to compare because the treatment of homosexuality was so radically different, and also because we know less about ancient culture than modern culture.

      Delete
  3. This book sounds really good. I love the time period, but haven't read any m/m books yet that take place during it, so I look forward to checking this one out.

    JYL22075 at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you enjoy it! The rest of the Warriors Of Rome collection may be of interest to you as well -- you can check them all out at Riptide Press, with excerpts and summaries.

      Delete
  4. Loved the post.
    and that little excerpt god.. it was enough to make me itch for this book! lol...

    Judi
    arella3173_loveless@yahoo(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! There are other excerpts at my wordpress, if you're interested. I hope you enjoy the book!

      Delete
  5. It sounds like a really affecting story!

    vitajex(at)aol(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I hope it will be :)

      Delete
    2. Well done, vitajex. You are the winner of the $10 Riptide voucher.

      Someone from Riptide will be in touch soon.

      Congratulations!

      Delete
  6. "Nobody wants to write a gay romance that's all about how our protagonists have to hide their love, but we also can't deny the reality of history."
    Yep. Good point. Not to mention balancing the need to deal with historical prejudices realistically, while not alienating your readers and making it impossible to connect with your protagonist(s).

    ReplyDelete
  7. Ah, thanks for a post with a more serious look at the history of homosexual relationships.
    OceanAkers @ aol.com

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks so much for coming along and entertaining us here, Sam.

    I often despair of the sort of historical romance which conveniently ignores the fact that there is danger in openly expressing any form of affection between gay people. I'm glad you've thought carefully about that in your book.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Great points on how gay relationships were handled in those times, I'd love to see how you'd treat similar topics in other situations, like in the Roman army, or among the gladiators.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oh, wow. You've put a lot of thought on how the historical aspect of the relationship, which I have to admit is not really something I've thought about much. Thank you for the info - it was enlightening.

    ReplyDelete
  11. It sounds like a fascinating balance of historical setting and the emotional problems and delights we're still finding today! I admit I love books in the Roman period. Thanks for sharing some of the background :)

    ReplyDelete

Comments are closed, sorry.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.