Prism Book Alliance® would like to thank Anna Butler for taking the time to talk with us today about their retro title from Wilde City Taking Shield Series “Gyrfalcon” and “Heart Scarab”.
Retro Reads Spotlight with Anna Butler
We are here today to talk about the Taking Shield series: Gyrfalcon, Heart Scarab and (coming soon!) Makepeace. What can you tell us about it?
Thousands of years after an alternate universe Earth went dark, the people of the only known human planet, Albion, struggle for survival in the war against the Maess. The Taking Shield series combines old school science fiction adventure (aliens! big space ships! heroes running around with laser pistols!) with an intense love story — Shield Captain Bennet tries to prevent the destruction of humanity at the hands of an implacable alien enemy while fighting his attraction to Fleet Lieutenant Flynn.
Please tell us more about our main characters.
Bennet is a member of Albion’s Shield Regiment, its special forces. The military is principally divided between Infantry, which deals with ground operations, and Fleet, the space navy—the Shield Regiment does both, mostly behind enemy lines. They are scouts and spies. Bennet is a dedicated soldier who risks his life to bring back vital intelligence for the war effort. Distractions are dangerous. Distractions can kill him. Fleet Lieutenant Flynn is one helluva distraction…
Bennet’s family is a traditionally military one—he’s been brought up to revere Duty, Honour and Service—and very well connected, socially and politically. The family has served in Fleet for generations and his father, Caeden, is commander of the First Flotilla. Bennet’s broken the family mould, not only by joining Shield but through his defying his family’s religious traditions by being openly gay. At the beginning of the series, he and his father have seen little of each other for almost a decade. The events of Gyrfalcon, which set in motion the entire storyline for the series, force them to work together and start to heal the breach.
Flynn, his love interest across the series, is a Fleet lieutenant, serving as a fighter pilot on the Gyrfalcon. He’s the social opposite of Bennet, having been orphaned as a result of the Maess raid on Thorn, one of Albion’s major colonies. He got through military training at the Academy by winning scholarships and sponsorship. Flynn’s far more laid back than Bennet. Flynn doesn’t do love, he doesn’t do commitment. Nothing’s ever permanent. Then one day, the Gyrfalcon’s commandeered by Shield Captain Bennet for a behind-the-lines suicide mission to infiltrate a Maess base and steal vital data. Suddenly Flynn’s rethinking his stance on love and he risks his life and career to get Bennet out of danger. That will change his life as much as it changes Bennet’s. Now the commitment he wants eludes him: as long as Bennet’s serving in Shield, their chances of meeting again seem slim. Flynn’s not comfortable being one half of a pair of star-crossed lovers!
What do you want to tell those who may be new to the series (if applicable)?
That this is not a romance, and won’t meet many of the romance reader’s expectations. But Taking Shield is a love story—a very deep and, at times, intense love story that covers six years of interstellar war and billions of miles of space travel.
Across the whole of the Taking Shield series, there are two main story themes, inter-twining with each other: the war against the Maess, and, set against that, the way Bennet’s life is turned upside down by that intoxicating temptation aka Fleet Lieutenant Flynn. The Maess war and everything Bennet has to do there gets equal billing with the slow unfolding of his relationship with Flynn, and sometimes the love gets pushed into second place. But it’s there, all the same. They love each other a great deal, despite every parting, and every reverse and upset in their relationship. And perhaps one day, at the end of everything, they’ll get the chance they deserve.
What about Taking Shield makes you the proudest?
Taking a genre like military science fiction and making the hero gay and it not being a big deal in terms of the story telling. The point of the story isn’t that Bennet is gay, but is an immensely important part of it. I think this is where the focus is slightly different to m/m romance, where the relationship between the two MCs is front and centre.
What is next for these characters? Is there more to this series? If so who will we hear from next?
This is a series of five books. The third book, Makepeace, will be published by Wilde City shortly—Bennet will discover what the Maess have in store for humanity and all I will say is that it is Not Good. Book 4, The Chains Of Their Sins will be available by the end of the year, and will deal with the political and personal fallout of Makepeace. The last book, provisionally entitled Dies Irae, will be published next year, and bring the story to its climax. Which may not be what people expect…
If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Not everyone will like your book. Not every book you write will be a best seller. Not every book will win prizes. Not every book will be noticed. You will get bad reviews – fact of life.
Embrace that. Remind yourself of two truths. First, that you’re a writer and nothing and nobody can deny you that. And second, and most important, you must write what makes you happy, because you’ll tie yourself into knots trying to write to please everyone else.
What is the nicest thing a reader has said to you in a review, email, in person, or on social media?
A reviewer who said “I’m always thrilled to read a new book that seems like it would fit right in on any sci-fi shelf in any library anywhere, right next to the works by the great sci-fi authors of the past.” and “I’m not exaggerating at all when I say this is a mainstream science fiction series that I would expect to see at the city library if I went looking for it. It is that well written.”
I can’t tell you how good that felt. Because what I want Shield to be is a mainstream sci fi series that happens to have a gay protagonist. It was very satisfying that the reviewer thought I’d achieved that.
How do you choose names? If you decide to change a name, do you feel that it alters your perception of the character?
Names are crucially important to me. They have to reflect the character and fit his personality. Flynn, for example. I hope what that conjures up is someone a little devil-may-care, brave and adventurous. I chose that one because of Errol Flynn, the hero of so many derring-do films of the golden age in Hollywood. Bennet, however, is more serious, reserved and buttoned up, and his name and the way it closes down as you say it – the hard sound of the ‘net’ at the end conveys the distance he tries to keep between himself and others.
That sounds terribly technical. On the other hand, I just love both names and I can justify anything if you give me long enough!!
How important are secondary characters to your story telling? Do you actively try to have women characters in your M/M to balance the male focus of the MCs?
Taking Shield has a cast of hundreds – I need a ‘bible’ to remind me who’s who! I do have female characters in there, and strong ones too. Without, I hope, them being caricatures. For instance, women serve naturally on the front line as pilots and soldiers, and it’s not an issue for anyone. The second in command of the Gyrfalcon, Colonel Quist, is a woman, who’s respected and (slightly!) feared, and who was both the outstanding pilot of her generation and who is currently the outstanding exec officer in Fleet. She’s due a dreadnought command of her own. Rosie, Bennet’s lieutenant in Shield, gets no different treatment than any other Shield officer: she’s tough and competent, and holds her own. Ditto Shield Captain Van Trion, in Makepeace. Or Flynn’s best friend and fellow pilot, Cruz.
The principle I’m working to is to build a 3-D world and making sure women have a good, strong place in it in the process.
How will the world end?
In rising sea waters, in famine and scorched earth, in poverty, war and desolation. We are leaving a terrible legacy to our children, and I don’t know that our governments have the real guts to make the changes to reverse the damage we’ve done to the planet. Or even if it can be reversed. The inequalities are too great.
If you could have a conversation with any famous author, who would you want to get writing tips from and what skill of theirs would you like to emulate?
Oh this is such a cliché, but Jane Austen, of course. I love her characterisations so much, and her sly, wry sense of humour. She is expert at creating a world (admittedly, a small one) and populating it with characters so real and three-dimensional that they live in your heart for ever. I’d love to be able to do that.
If you had to be a cat, dog, or a rat, which would you choose and why?
Cat. They’re lithe and beautiful, get to have human servants and they sleep all day. Perfect. (or Purrfect…)
What are you reading right now and what is next on your to-be-read list?
I’m revisiting some old favourites from a long, long time ago. I’ve just reread Sheri S Tepper’s Grass – classical mix of SF and fantasy – and I’m starting on her Land of True Game books.
Rapid Fire Time
Caramel or Chocolate? Chocolate
Champagne or beer? Champagne!
Hamburger or Hotdog? Burger
Freddie Mercury or Adam Lambert? Freddie Mercury
Summer or Winter? Winter
Beach or Mountains? . Mountains
To-may-to or to-mah-to? To-mah-to. I’m British!
100 years in the past or 100 years in the future? The future!
Christmas or Halloween? Christmas
Favorite alcoholic beverage? Tequila
Fire or Ice? Ice
What are you working on? What is next?
I’m currently working on the follow-up to the award-nominated The Gilded Scarab, my steampunk m/m adventure/romance story. Set in 1900, my hero Rafe and his lover, Gallowglass First Heir Ned Winter, are about to set off for Aegypt for the winter’s archaeological season where adventure awaits with jackal-headed gods and, of course, scarab beetles. The book is called “The Dog Who Swallows Millions”.
But the next book to be published will be the third Shield book, Makepeace. No firm date yet, but I hope in late June.
Title: Taking Shield Series “Gyrfalcon” and “Heart Scarab”
Author: Anna Butler
Publisher: Wilde City
Cover Artist: Adrian Nicholas
Rating: of 5 Stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Gyrfalcon: Earth’s last known colony, Albion, is fighting an alien enemy. In the first of the Taking Shield series, Shield Captain Bennet is dropped behind the lines to steal priceless intelligence. A dangerous job, and Bennet doesn’t need the distractions of changing relationships with his long-term partner, Joss, or with his father—or with Flynn, the new lover who will turn his world upside-down. He expects to risk his life. He expects the data will alter the course of the war. What he doesn’t expect is that it will change his life or that Flynn will be impossible to forget.
Heart Scarab: Telnos is an unpleasant little planet, inhabited by religious fanatics in the festering marshlands and unregistered miners running illegal solactinium mines up in the hills. But the Maess want Telnos, and Shield Captain Bennet’s job is to get out as many civilians as he can—a task that leaves him lying on Telnos while the last cutter of evacuees escapes in the teeth of the Maess invasion.
Bennet is listed missing in action, believed dead on a planet now overrun by Maess drones. His family is grieving. His long-term partner, Joss, is both mourning and guilt-ridden. And Fleet Lieutenant Flynn? Flynn is desolate. Flynn is heart-broken… no. Flynn is just broken.
As advertised, the Shield officer was proving to be the enigma that everyone had expected.
Flynn had worked it that first briefing so he got a good look before anyone else. He liked what he saw. In his black uniform, the Shield captain stood out in the crowd of Fleet pale grey. Everything about the Shield rig was plain. The rank pips in the stand-up collar of the tunic under his flight jacket were a dull silver, and only about half the size of the ones Simonitz wore. There wasn’t a medal ribbon in sight. Only the tiny, ornate Shield badge at his throat was a bright silver.
The monochromatic look suited the Shield captain, matching his black hair and the pale grey eyes. The captain’s hair had more cowlicks than a field full of heifers, spiking up despite it being worn longer than was strictly regulation. Flynn took note, too, of cheekbones so sharply defined that they looked like they’d been machine cut, and a strong mouth. The face was youthful, except for the eyes. They’d seen a lot. Altogether, the Shield captain was definitely one of the pretty people in life. Almost as pretty as Flynn himself.
Cruz, to whom he imparted this insight in the OC after Bennet’s first visit, rolled her eyes so hard it was a wonder the girl didn’t have to grope about on the deck for them. She had never appreciated his true worth. He had to guilt her into buying him a beer in reparation.
He sipped his beer appreciatively. It always tasted better when someone else was paying. “What d’you think of him?”
“Seems pleasant enough.” Cruz shrugged. “He didn’t tell us much, though. I didn’t think he would.”
“No. And that first briefing was a bit basic. Wonder what he was fishing for there.”
“We’ll likely find out in time,” said Cruz.
“I’d rather know now.” Flynn took a pull on his beer. “Simonitz doesn’t like him.”
“Did Sim ever apply for Shield?”
“You picked up on that too, did you? I don’t know, but there were a few hints there. I thought the Shield was pretty gracious about it, with Sim sitting there glowering all night.”
Cruz nodded. After a minute, she said, “He was good with Nairn, taking him seriously. Some people might have laughed or slapped the kid down.”
“Nairn’s a question mark on legs, some days.”
“He’s young for his age.”
“And getting a severe case of hero worship,” Flynn said, laughing.
Cruz looked at Flynn, brown eyes warm with affection and amusement. “He’s not the only one, I’d say.” She smiled. “Would you?”
Flynn liked kissing. In fact, Flynn considered himself something of an expert in the art of kissing. He’d tried it in all its forms, from the first tentative pressing together of juvenile lips that had you wondering what all the fuss was about, to the discovery that if you just opened your mouth and, you know, kind of moved everything, your tongue suddenly had a lot more positive uses than just allowing you to articulate clearly and swallow things without choking. Flynn got the hang of it, ran with it, and never looked back.
Soft kisses and hard kisses; kisses that were wet and slobbery with people who didn’t know exactly how to hold their lips to get the best and sexiest effect, and wet and sexy kisses with people who did. Kisses that turned the blood to molten lava and kisses that cooled you as you came down. Kisses that inflamed and kisses that soothed; feverish kisses and languid after-sex kisses. Kisses that meant only good fellowship and casual affection, and kisses that were desire incarnate.
Flynn had not only tried them all, he’d made them his own. He was considered by all the relevant authorities to be rather a specialist in the area.
Flynn really liked kissing. He had been gratified by the discovery that Bennet liked it too. Because now he could add slow kisses to the repertoire. Kisses so leisured and intense the world came to a stop while a hot tongue moved over his lips, explored each and every tooth down to the last molar, while teeth pulled at his bottom lip, biting it gently until it was swollen and hot and heavy, and he had to lick his lip to cool it and met Bennet’s tongue with his. Only then, would Bennet’s mouth close over his and start a real in-earnest kiss that lasted several more centuries. Those were kisses Bennet seemed to specialise in.
Flynn was always willing to take tips from another expert. A man should always try to extend his technique.
About the Author
Anna Butler was a communications specialist for many years, working in UK government departments on everything from marketing employment schemes to running an internal TV service. She now writes full time, indulging her love of old-school science fiction. She recently made her escape to the country after years of living in the ethnic and cultural melting pot of East London. These days she lives in an old Victorian former rectory, deep in the Nottinghamshire countryside, with her husband and the Deputy Editor, aka Molly the cockapoo.
Website and Blog – www.annabutlerfiction.com
Facebook – www.facebook.com/anna.butler.9822
Pinterest – https://uk.pinterest.com/annabutlerfic/
Twitter – @AnnaButlerFic
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