Joanna Chambers on Unnatural ~ Interview

Prism Book Alliance® would like to thank Joanna Chambers for stopping by today.


Title: Unnatural
Author: Joanna Chambers
Publisher: Samhain
Cover Artist: Gabrielle Prendergast
Genre: Drama, Fiction, Gay, Gay Fiction, Historical, M/M Romance, Regency


Captain Iain Sinclair. Perfect son, perfect soldier, hero of Waterloo. A man living a lie. The only person who really knows him is his childhood friend, scientist James Hart. But they’ve been estranged since Iain brutally destroyed their friendship following a passionate encounter.

Iain is poised to leave the King’s service to become an undercover agent in India. Before he leaves his old life behind, he’s determined to reconcile with James. An invitation to a country house party from James’s sister provides the perfect opportunity to pin the man down.

James has loved Iain all his life, but his years of accepting crumbs from Iain’s table are over. Forgiving Iain is one thing—restoring their friendship is quite another.

In the face of James’s determined resistance, Iain is forced to confront his reasons for mending the wounds between them. And accept the possibility that James holds the key to his heart’s desire—if only he has the courage to reach for it.

Lirtle: Hi Joanna, thank you so much for spending some time with us today. It’s wonderful having you back here at Prism. 😀

Joanna: Hey Lirtle! It’s great to be back.

L: Shall we get started? We’ve got some ground to cover. rubs hands together in anticipation

J: opens beer

Ok, shoot.

L: sips Yummy. Ok, here we go. For anyone who isn’t aware, hasn’t read your Enlightenment series, or simply would love a refresher, what are the origins of Iain’s and James’ characters?

Iain Sinclair is a friend of Murdo Balfour, one of the MCs of the Enlightenment trilogy – when I first created him, I was very taken with his moustache and the twinkle in his eye and I found that he kept insinuating himself into more and more scenes. I made him a key character in Seasons Pass (a short I wrote after completing the trilogy set between books 1 and 2). By that stage I knew I wanted to write his story, so I deliberately sketched his love interest into that story. In my mind, I did that as a sort of puzzle to myself. James was no more than an outline in that story, with some intriguing features. It was only afterwards that I started thinking about what their backstory might be and how it would fit in with the whole theme of the Enlightenment books.
L: The “twinkle” in his eyes is a great description, a door swung wide open for his character. Perfect. Neither of these guys are cookie-cutter when it comes to personalities, quirks, and interests. Do you remember some of your sources of inspiration for them? And how does that work for you, the building of your characters.

J: As a writer, I’m principally driven to build my stories around a broad theme. Unnatural is very much aligned with the rest of the Enlightenment books in that it is about the triumph of reason over irrational beliefs. In the first three books, this came out through David and Murdo’s brief philosophical tussles, however in this book, James and Iain look at it more through the lens of science and nature. James is a scientist, and a keen observer – I saw him as one of those rare men with the ability to think beyond the accepted wisdom of society. Iain’s different. As devil-may-care as he seems, he is, in reality, trapped in a prison of obedience – both from a family and a career perspective. He needs to throw off those bonds to be happy. All the other details about the characters flow from that big picture view.
L: Regarding James, that’s so true regarding his seeing beyond the accepted ways of his time. I think that definitely sets up the major conflict between he and Iain. What is it about this time period, early 19th century, that attracts you so much, that just won’t let you go? The settings, the clothing, history in general? It seems an endless well of possibilities.

J: I really love this period of history. There’s huge political upheaval and widespread civil unrest. There’s incredible unfairness and poverty and vast, glittering wealth. Women have no rights. Children have no rights. Homosexuality is illegal. We have the beginnings of what we think of as a police force – a new concept then. We have passionate reformers and a vicious backlash against them. We have the rise of the middle class and the beginning of the demise of the aristocracy. And yes—there are cravats and breeches and shiny topboots too. What’s not to love?

L: Like I said, endless possibilities LOL. Love it. Additionally and specifically, what about the life-and-death consequences two men could and did face when they tried to form and maintain a relationship, dealing with that fear of being found out, unable to do much more than shake hands while around other people, etc.?

J: I find reader reaction to this issue is endlessly fascinating. I’ve seen comments from some readers of historicals who find attempts at accurate depiction incredibly tedious and wish the characters would just “get on with it” and show a modern sensibility towards sex and love. I’ve seen other readers complaining about books that gloss over the difficulties and ignore the historical context. In truth though, I think there’s probably a place for the whole spectrum of stories. Sometimes you’re in the mood for something that feels realistic and authentic and sometimes you want a fairy tale. In my books, I’m aiming for something that feels credible but I’m also trying to depict something that I feel is true, though difficult to prove – that people will go to incredible lengths to be who they are and have what they want. I try to depict that in a way that feels authentic and doesn’t ignore the difficulties that this would have presented.
L: I think that’s probably true in some cases, that people did do everything they could to be together. It’s a strong desire to be true to oneself and difficult to ignore. Do you ever use photos as inspiration, keeping them close to you as you write? If so, do you have any you’d like to share?

J: It’s interesting you ask this because I was just reflecting the other day that I used to always have photo muses but have fallen out of the habit. I’ve looked out an Iain and a James just for you though (you’ll need to imagine the appropriately historical clothes):















L: Well, I think you did a fabulous job, and thank you. 😉  I definitely picture Iain as a bit more “weathered” and James refined. What are some of your favorite or preferred research sources? Do you look at maps from the time, certain books, both literature and non-fiction, and what are a few of those titles?

J: I’ve got quite a bookshelf of history texts, mainly for the 1750-1850 period. I’m currently dipping in and out of “Before Wilde: Sex between Men in Britain’s Age of Reform” by Charles Upchurch which is a fascinating read and which has set a major plot bunny scurrying around… I also have a list of websites I use a lot. A big favourite I used whilst writing the David and Murdo books is the National Library of Scotland’s maps site. I’ve lost a lot of hours of my life browsing that site.
L: Maps make me kind of giddy, I love them. What are you feelings on whether “Unnatural” could or should be read as a standalone or only after having read Provoked, Beguiled, and Enlightened, the three books in your Enlightenment series?

J: It can totally be read as a standalone. There are some brief references in one chapter to the events of the other three books though so scope for a wee bit of spoilerism but it’s very brief.
L: Butterflies. What gave you the idea to make them such a large part of James’ life? What do you like about them? The ‘common brimstone’ scene, that whole sequence, is beautiful. Wonderous. (I don’t think we’re giving anything away with this question, eh?)

J: Aw thank you!

There’s a sub-theme in the book around masks and passing. Iain passes as a straight man and has spent his whole life hiding his true nature. The butterflies are linked to that, but also to the idea of metamorphisis and change, shedding off an old form and taking a new one. And also taking pride in survival, even if means hiding and dissembling.
L: Well, towards the end of that sequence of scenes, all of that hit me like a ton of emotional bricks. So many things became stitched together, connected. I, of course, must ask whether we’ll get more of James and Iain and all of the other characters in this book. 😀
J: Hmmm. I don’t know. I don’t have any firm plans. I was aware as I wrote the scene with Kit Redford that he was demanding his own story, and I do love the idea of him: this beautiful, aging whore who has found financial success, probably through a series of profitable positions with wealthy patrons. There’s something very sad about Kit. I’d need to think hard about who to pair him up with. Someone from his past? Or maybe someone younger and more optimistic about life?
L: Yes, Kit. He seems to be carrying around a lot on those beautiful shoulders. Maybe someone from his past helps bring some of that to the forefront? I also feel the great need to ask if we’ll get more in the world of The Dream Alchemist, book one in your Somnus series?

J: This is a tough one. Two more books were planned but I have a very full schedule right now, having signed up to write two novels that are going to take me the next 18 months. The longer I leave it, the more difficult it feels to go back to it. Also, although I love that book, it didn’t attract the same reader-love that David and Murdo did. So, the jury’s out on that one for now, I think.
L: It’s a complexly built world, that’s for sure. That was probably my one selfish question in this interview as, any time I think about that story, I like it more and more LOL. What’s on tap, what are you working on now, what hasn’t yet made it onto the list but you’d like to add if, ya know, we were all granted more than 24 hours in a day LOL

J: I have SO MANY things I want to write. Like I said, I have two novels contracted for that are taking care of the next 18 months for me. Those are part of a super sekrit project… I also hope to write a couple of shorts over that period. I’ve recently self-published a Christmas novella called Humbug and I’m keen to put out regular self pub books (probably novellas). Beyond that, I have notes for a dozen or more novels and stories I could happily pick up and start writing tomorrow. A couple of series. There’s a file called Project Two that keeps calling to me. And then there’s the half dozen half-written WIPs I have languishing on my laptop. The only thing I lack, sadly, is the time to make these things happen, which is incredibly frustrating!
L: Hahahaha well, at least you’re fully prepared if those longer days ever become a reality. Thank you so very much for spending some time here on PBA today. 😀 Have a wonderful holiday season!

You too, Lirtle! Always a pleasure to pop by Prism!

L: Yay for popping by LOL

Everyone, check out the review for “Unnatural” that posted on 11-24-15!


Unnatural on Goodreads
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About the Author

Joanna Chambers always wanted to write. In between studying, finding a proper grown up job, getting married and having kids, she spent many hours staring at blank sheets of paper and chewing pens. That changed when she rediscovered her love of romance and found her muse. Joanna’s muse likes red wine, coffee and won’t let Joanna clean the house or watch television.


Link to Samhain store:
You can find out about all my published books here: and here
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Twitter: @ChambersJoanna

Farewell Giveaway
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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