Monday, 25 March 2013

S A Meade interview

Last week I featured a review and excerpt from 'Lord of Endersley' by S A Meade. I thought people might be interested in seeing inside the mind of another person writing about gay men in the Indian Mutiny. We're scarce. (Ten points if you get the 1972 movie reference.) Anyway, here's the interview.

Lord of Endersley is set during the Indian Mutiny. What made you want to write about that period?
I’ve been fascinated by India since I was very, very young, when a primary school teacher brought an Indian couple to our class so they could tell us about their culture. I was entranced. Then, when I was older I stumbled onto an amazing novel, ‘Zemindar’, by Valerie Fitzgerald. It’s one of those lovely, old fashioned doorstoppers, set in mainly in Lucknow during the 1857 uprising. I’ve since read a few others, including ‘Shadow of the Moon’, by MM Kaye, ‘Siege of Krishnapur’ by JG Farrell and, of course, ‘Cawnpore’. I’d been wanting to write a story set during this period for so long, I just had to wait for the right characters to come along.

How did you do your research?
With LoE, I had a rough idea of how I wanted the story to go. I knew that I wanted my main characters to be caught up in a siege. I thought long and hard about the Siege of Lucknow, but it’s been done. So I did some initial research about the Sepoy Uprising and found this amazing book on Google Books, ‘A Lady’s Escape from Gwalior’, by R.M Coopland, a woman who was widowed at the start of the mutiny, and spent part of her time in Agra during the siege there. It’s a somewhat biased account, but it gives some lovely details about what day to day life was like for those who were holed up in the Red Fort. That book was my main source for the India section. With the remainder of the book, researching the setting was easy since I live just down the road from the house I modelled Endersley on.

Lord of Endersley is a love story about two gay men. What made you write this genre, rather than more conventional stories?
I did actually start off writing ‘conventional’ historical womens’ fiction. But then someone posted a challenge on the Absolute Write forum, I wrote a scene about two men, best friends, who’d known each other since college. Basically, one of them confessed to the other that he was in love with him. Much sex ensued. I had a lot of good feedback. Then those two characters just would not leave me alone. I scribbled a few bullet points down on a flight between Phoenix and LA, was introduced to the music of Einaudi by my lovely roomie in Santa Monica and that was it. Four weeks later, I’d written the first draft of ‘Stolen Summer’, my first m/m romance. I really thought it was a one-off. I guess I was wrong!

Given that homosexuality was illegal until quite recently, do you find that writing historical novels with gay characters poses any particular problems?
It’s a bit tricky, but I’m fairly certain that many, many gay couples managed to keep their relationships alive and secret. With LoE, there was something I picked up during my research of attitudes to homosexuality in 19th century that gave me the validation I needed for the story’s conclusion. Basically, it tended to be the poor who were persecuted under the Sodomy laws, the better-off had ways of working around it.
Ah, yes, lube. I’m guilty of relying on handy little bottles of oil for my characters.

In my own books, there is very little description of sex. This certainly isn't true of yours. Some people would say that these books are just soft-core gay porn. How would you respond to that?

My initial response is to go and bang my head against the wall. I try to concentrate more on characters and plot, rather than just have the MCs have at it like bunnies for no apparent reason. I’m finding that I’m throwing in less and less sex with each new story. I think it’s a learning process, discovering that balance between the naughty bits and the plot. When I first started in the genre, it was more about the sex.  ‘Orion Rising’ is a prime example of that. Those two characters couldn’t keep their hands off each other. I think the novelty of writing sex scenes wears off after a while.

Do you think your books appeal only to gay men, or do you write for a wider audience?
The main audience for m/m romance is women. They make up the majority of my readers. I’d love to think that my stories appealed to gay men.

You used to live in the USA but now you have returned to England. Writing is quite a solitary activity, but are there differences between being a US based writer and working over here?
I don’t think there’s much of a difference at all. The main thing for me is that most of my stories are set in the UK, so it’s nice to live here. It means I don’t have to rely on good old Google Earth for my research!

I think Master of Endersley was your first historical novel, but I know it has given you a taste for the genre. What other historical works do you have planned?
I’ve written a novel set in central Asia and Russia during the ‘Great Game’. I’m waiting to hear whether the publisher I submitted it to likes it or not. I’m also about halfway through the next Endersley book which is set partly in St Petersburg before and during the Russian Revolution. The third Endersley book is set during WW2. So yes, there’s more historical stuff on the way and there may be more ideas biting me in the arse before too long. It doesn’t take much to set the plot bunnies loose.

Some authors don't like to talk about themselves while others love nothing more than to tell us the colour of the ink they write with. Is there anything you would like your readers (and potential readers) to know about you?
Um…anything I say is going to sound like a cliché. I like cats, chocolate, cooking, usual boring stuff!

Hilary Mantel has realised that gratuitous offensiveness gets column inches. (No, I don't care that she was "quoted out of context". She knew perfectly well what she was doing.) What would you like to say to get everyone talking about you?
Enough of the drama, people. Let's all just tell our stories and let the readers enjoy them. If the m/m genre can make it through the next year without any more upheavals, sulks, tantrums, foot-stomping, I'd be very very happy. I'm tired of the train wrecks.  

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