Thank you, Beverley. Our festive season was lovely and I hope yours was too.
I think you know I loved ‘Once Upon a Haunted Moor’ and ‘Tinsel Fish’, were these mysteries and the new characters of Gideon and Lee inspired by your move to Cornwall and do you think your type of story changes according to your surroundings?
Gideon and Lee have been very well received and I’m delighted by that; it’s good to know that, fifteen books in, I can still introduce fresh protagonists who are going to touch readers’ hearts. Yes, they sprang from Cornish soil, definitely. So did the whole idea for a mystery series. I don’t have a natural flair for a mystery plot – not of the hardcore “sleuthing” variety, anyway – but the numinous atmosphere of places like Bodmin and the misty wild coasts suggested to me the type of crime story I could write, where the characters and the setting are at least as important as the crime element itself. I do love the tension of a police-drama situation, but I’m not big on body count or gory forensic detail, partly because I don’t have the expertise and partly because I find there’s enough pain in the world already – pain I can’t imagine altering or healing with what I write, I mean; I dearly hope that the romance in my stories eases other kinds of difficult hours for my readers. I’ve been told on a few occasions that it does, and that’s one of the nicest compliments a writer can get.
With regard to Gideon and Lee themselves, yes, they’re proper Cornishmen and I don’t think I’d have written them whilst living anywhere else. I think of them as “two types of tough”, and without wanting to stereotype any of the huge variety of personalities we’ve met down here, I’d say there are the pragmatic souls and the dreamers, providing me with the archetypes for Gideon the policeman and clairvoyant Lee. But it’s not as simple as that – I find that even the most level-headed of the folks I meet down here have an open-minded, slightly otherworldly aspect to them, and the dreamers have tough day jobs, often (like Lee) more than one of them, in order to make ends meet in a tough economic climate. And I love that dynamic – the big strong guy with a soft side and the apparently soft one who turns out to have balls of steel. So the Tyack and Frayne Mysteries have been a particularly Cornish take on that!
I really admire the way that the environment is almost another character in your stories, do you find certain types of stories lend themselves to certain landscapes and environments or do you mould stories around the setting?
Thank you! The environment-as-character isn’t something I consciously do, but it seems to work well for readers and I’m glad, because I don’t have a very clearly defined boundary between what’s inside me and what’s outside me, so there’s a lot of crossover, and it’s a relief that I’ve managed to turn that into a literary asset rather than a mental illness.
To answer the question – both things happen. With A Midwinter Prince and its sequel, the story kind of demanded London as a setting. This wasn’t one of my times of being hammered down by my environment until I damn well wrote a story there – we were living at the other end of the country, but I found I had an awful lot to say about the gap between rich and poor, bright lights and dark alleyways, princes and paupers, and the city was there, all ready-made and vivid for me from my memory of living there. In a book like The Salisbury Key, though, the exact opposite thing did happen – I travelled across the sunny, shimmering wasteland of Salisbury Plain with its henge and its Ministry of Defence warning signs, and the basic plot almost dictated itself to me from these surroundings. Hmm. Is that a sensible answer, or are you now contacting Mrs H to sort out my committal papers? 😀
I think that’s a perfect answer Harper and Mrs H, the men in white coats are on their way!
I know you’ve mentioned that there will be more stories coming for Gideon and Lee (Tyack and Frayne Mysteries) in my review of ‘Tinsel Fish’, I referred to them as ‘episodes’ in a larger story, can you give us a clue as to what you have in store for your unusual couple?
Yes, I’m happy to share a clue or two! Gideon and Lee are pretty unusual, and I think that will develop as each draws out the hidden or unexpected side of the other. It’s probably clear already that Gideon might not be the complete psychic insensitive he took himself to be – he can hear the voice that’s tormenting Lee, and maybe Lee will find out soon that he needs to become a rock for Gideon to hold on to. And although Gideon loves his role as friendly village policeman, I guess nobody, of his talents, is going to stay put forever. But will the change be something he chooses or a sudden, shocking twist of fate? Okay, I admit I am now deliberately teasing, so I’ll stop! But you’re quite right – the stories are episodes, which I hope to build into a broad plot arc over time.
Apart from the ‘Tyack and Frayne Mysteries’, can you tell us anything about projects that you are working on at the moment?
I love the novella format but I do like to try and add a big meaty monster of a full-length novel to my backlist at least once a year, so I’m simmering up ideas for that. I’d like to try and place it with a publisher – I’m finding that a balance between traditional publishing and self-pub through FoxTales works really well for me. Samhain would be my first choice. They’ve been really good to me and I have an editor I love to work with. Although Brothers Of The Wild North Sea was a great success, alternating historicals with contemporaries makes good marketing sense to me at the moment, so I’m brewing up the bare bones of a story called Out, which might just deal with the trials and adventures of a young man quite literally trapped in his job at a beautiful Edinburgh hotel – he’s developed agoraphobia as the result of a traumatic life event and never leaves the building. Until, that is, a handsome guest threatens to make the inside even more dangerous than outdoors… This and about five other plot-monsters are fighting for room inside my head, so who knows where we’ll go between instalments of Tyack and Frayne?
Without seeming too sycophantic I can’t wait for a good meaty novel from you!
I was comparing the UK Amazon Best Selling Gay and Lesbian Lists with the US and was amazed that I recognised so few authors on the UK list, do you think UK M/M author’s are promoted less than their US colleagues or do the Brits. maybe promote themselves less vigorously?
Goodness, this is a tough one. The mysteries of promo, what works and what doesn’t, why some books are a huge hit and other far better ones remain obscure, why some strategies and stories work on this side of the Atlantic and not on the other… The whole thing bewilders me, and at times seems entirely random. I can do one type of marketing exercise on one day and get a ton of interest, and repeat it a couple of months later and die on my arse! 😀
To answer your question as best I can, though, I have to say that from the very beginning of my writing career, I have written from England and pitched to the US. That’s to say, my advisor, best writer-mate and mentor, Josh Lanyon, kindly showed me the best publishers for my work, and naturally enough since he’s a successful US writer, the publishers were American too. And to tell you the truth, even the briefest glance at the UK M/M scene shows me that we just don’t have anything like that gay-romance ebook publishing industry on this side of the pond. So not only was my target audience mostly in the States (just in terms of comparative population!), but so were the people I needed to work with in order to establish myself as an M/M author and make a living at it. Right or wrong, those were just the pure pragmatic facts, and I think the situation remains similar now. The US market actively welcomes new authors – they’re looking for ’em, and I hope I’m not being too unfair to the Brits to say that publishing houses here want you to arrive with an established rep – a tough job, if you can’t get your break in the first place!
I know that if I do a promotional exercise, 90 percent of my response will come from the states, just as 90 percent of my sales come from Amazon.com, not .co.uk! Having said that, I have a loyal core of UK readers and I love them dearly, partly because there are so few of them that I actually do get the chance to know them on more of a one-to-one basis. (I wish I could do the same with all my readers – and I have made really good mates worldwide, for which I’m hugely grateful.) Perhaps there is a cultural thing going on; perhaps Brits are less willing to parade their wares on the social media, though I think most successful self-pubbing authors find a way to get over that. I’m not a fan of self-marketing at all but I’ve found ways to do it which don’t make me cringe, which allow me to connect with people rather than feeling I’m just out there going, “Hey, I’m great, buy my book!” I prefer Facebook to Twitter, for example. If I post to FB, I can respond to comments individually, develop a bit of a dialogue.
So the answer is – I don’t know. That was helpful, wasn’t it, after all that speculation? Bear in mind that I haven’t had the experience of being published by a UK publishing house, so I can’t compare how they would market my work against how, say, Samhain or Carina does it.
I think you have opened up that debate nicely actually and personally speaking, I like being able to have a personal dialogue with authors I like. How amazing it would have been to have questioned Dickens or Shakespeare. Have you ever considered attending author/reader conventions like (GRL) Gay Rom. Lit. in America or the new ‘UK Meet’ equivalent? If ‘yes’ what do you think you’d enjoy the most about the experience and if ‘no’ why?
Oh, how could you ask me this? I’m so torn! 😀 Honest, I’d love to go. I look at the pics and the stories from GRL, and so many people I really like go there, and then I imagine myself actually *going*, and freeze in absolute terror. I’m your classical superfically extroverted introvert. I love people but I also need to be able to flee back to my lair at a moment’s notice. So even if I could afford the grand adventure of a US con, which is unlikely, it wouldn’t be practicable for me. (“Plane! I need a plane right now! Whaddya mean, you can’t charter me a jet back to my writing cave in Cornwall?!”) With regard to a UK meet – yes, definitely, if I could (a) summon up the nerve and (b) have my own transport right there to jump into and zoom off. See, if I had that total freedom to leave when I wanted, I’d probably be happy enough to stay; it’s just an inconvenient old limbic-brain flight reaction which only kicks in if it’s thwarted, if you see what I mean. What would I enjoy about the experience? Well, the pure delight of meeting some of these wonderful, amazing people I’ve had the privilege of befriending online over the past few years. That would be fantastic. On the “no” side, the people who know me in “real life” will attest that large social occasions where alcohol is involved don’t end well for me. I get flash-drunk on half a glass of shandy, run around dancing and laughing and (for some reason) introducing people to one another who already know one another perfectly well, then five minutes later crash into a pit of reactive despair and go to sleep. So. Um – yes, is my overall answer. I’d love to go. But sober.
Good grief, you sound like me, whilst ‘happy’ I introduced a young handsome undertaker to a lady with, ‘Have you met our sexy undertaker?’ she replied ‘Yes we’ve been married for 20 years!’
One of the aspects of your writing I love so much is its ‘Englishness’, I recognise your England, the people and the surroundings whether, London, Salisbury, Cornwall or the Northumberland coast. If you were to base a story out of England, which countries or environments would appeal to you and how do you think it would affect your writing?
Ah, tempting! I’m not very well travelled but we have visited a few places that really, really want to spark stories in me. I’ve held back because the English thing, especially in a US market, does have a massive appeal, and I kind of want to offer up this lovely island – oh, not just its pretty places and broad sunlit uplands but its dark Satanic mills as well – and show it all off. It’s home; it made me, all the more so because I’m the granddaughter of a European Jewish refugee – I have that sensation of having found sanctuary. But if I did ever set a book abroad, I think I’d start with Greece. One of the tinier islands, maybe, or better yet the wild, unspoilt Peloponnese mountains. We’ve travelled there a lot and it’s enthralling, all that history and the air alive with scents of myrtle, really pretty intoxicating for any writer, I’d think. As for how this would affect my writing – well, you know, in The Lost Prince I had a bash at creating some Americans, and I think I got away with it – I’ve had no death threats, anyhow. So I would try my hand at a handsome young Greek, so to speak, though I think my other MC would be a Brit. It’s tricky – I’d rather die than piss anyone off by misrepresenting their culture or language, so I’d be doing a lot of research before I started. Which would necessarily involve a long research trip. Okay, so who would like to sponsor my next holiday to Meganisi? I’ll write a book while I’m there – honest!
One last question and I’m sorry if you have been asked many times before but did you always want to write and what drew you to write stories featuring gay characters?
I’ve been told by gay friends that I’m a gay man trapped in a woman’s body. That’s nonsense – I don’t feel trapped at all. 😀 Seriously, I love being female, or at least I enjoy the spirituo-physical experience of having what feels like a female psyche in a female body. I don’t draw lines or boundaries across the gender spectrum for myself or anyone else. I’m fortunate that my flesh seems to fit me, that’s all. (Though it’s a wee bit tight around the seams after Christmas.) To answer the first part – there’s never been a time when I didn’t want to write. In fact I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. As soon as I’d figured out that I could make the wiggly lines on paper for myself, I was using the little blighters to create the imaginary worlds I craved. And as soon as I saw how effective that was – that I really could take my dreams and fantasies, externalise them and make them real on the page – that was it for me. For my whole life. I literally can’t recall a day when I haven’t written something – a journal entry, some notes for a book that never happened, a scrap of a poem. I can’t not take my circumstances and turn them into a written-out version of what I’m feeling, seeing, hearing. If I don’t, I haven’t really experienced my own experiences. (This is sometimes, by the way, entirely exhausting, and I do recognise that it’s more than a little bit nuts.)
As for what drew me to write stories with gay characters – TV bromances charmed me utterly from the first moment I saw them. Star Trek was my babysitter in the ’60s (I am pretty darn old, now I come to think about it) and my parents knew they could plonk me in front of it and leave me quite unattended. So I’m pretty sure I sucked in all those passionate, blanket-denial relationships between the male protags as part of my earliest consciousness. Like many other M/M authors, I wrote the holy hell of a lot of gay fanfic! And – also like a lot of pre-internet Brit writers – I thought I was perverted (Catholic family) and ALOOOOOOOOOONE. Which kind of added to the anguished fun of it all. (I may have been the original emo kid, a kind of paleo-emo, although that sounds like some kind of giant extinct bird.) Nevertheless it was a joy to discover, when finally someone got around to inventing the web, that I wasn’t alone, and that in fact there was not only a huge community of people out there who loved the same things I did, but in fact a market for original M/M fiction. It was quite a revelation, and it’s no secret that I owe a huge debt to Josh for encouraging me to write and submit my first novels.
Thank you very much for your time Harper and for being one of our first authors to be interviewed for Prism Book Alliance site.
It’s been a great pleasure. I think I’ve wandered off-topic and talked your patient readers’ hind legs off pretty well! Thank you for inviting me, and I wish you and Prism Book Alliance all the very best for the future.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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