Prism Book Alliance® would like to thank Andrew J. Peters for stopping by today. Please give them a warm welcome.
Title: The City of Seven Gods (Book 1 of the Lost Histories)
Author: Andrew J. Peters
Publisher: Bold Strokes Publishing
Cover Artist: Jeanine Henning
Release Date: 09/13/2016
Kelemun was bought from his peasant parents to tend the inner sanctum of the house of Aknon, where wealthy men pay mountain sapphires to behold the beautiful servants of the god. Chosen to bring offerings to Caliph, Kelemun captures the fascination of the young prince Praxtor who has never been denied anything his heart desires.
Ja’bar was hired to roughhouse wayward proselytes for the high priest Aknon-Horheb. In Qabbat’lee, it’s good paying work for a Stripeling, a jungle savage in the eyes of the city natives, and if he’s stingy and stays out of trouble, it will buy him a plot of river land.
But the splendor of Qabbat’lee is a mirage disguising a grotesquerie of corruption. When Kelemun and Ja’bar’s threads of fate entwine on a night of chilling betrayal, their only hope for redemption and survival may lie in one another.
On Writing Stories with Taboo Themes
I’m always excited to have a new release out, but I have to admit, I had some trepidation about reader reactions to my latest title. It’s only hinted at in the blurb, but the co-lead characters are a temple prostitute and a freed slave of a foreign race.
I took inspiration for the story from ancient world mythology and culture, though the world that I created: Qabbat’lee, the City of Seven Gods, grew mostly from my imagination such that sexual exploitation, slavery and race are set in the context of a society that does not and did not exist. Still, I knew that people would read the story with both historical and modern references in mind. I don’t think you can entirely turn those off as a reader. My greatest fear was readers would take issue with the portrayal of certain topics, saying they were lacking depth, or too preoccupied by modern sensibilities, or stereotypical, or eroticized, or gratuitous. I wouldn’t have sought a publisher for the book if I didn’t believe in it, but even after it was vetted by an editorial team, I held onto that little knot of anxiety over whether I got the balance right.
That balance is important to me. As a gay man, I’ve been annoyed and even outraged by poor portrayals of the gay community in books, TV and film, particularly from the 80s and the 90s. There’s a legacy of depicting gay men as demented, predatory, or pitiful victims. It’s gotten better for sure, but there’s still a lack of range in the way we are imagined, in the mainstream at least. Mostly we see ourselves as supporting characters who are desexualized and stand-ins for comic relief. The rebooted Star Trek franchise introduced that Sulu was gay last year for example, but his only gesture of affection when reunited with his husband was to hold hands. The “cheer-up-the-heroine, sometimes flamboyant gay best friend” trope is another common example in popular culture.
Portrayals of sexual exploitation, poverty and race concern me too. I’ve worked directly with people who have been sexually victimized. Before I started writing professionally, I had a long career as a social worker, primarily providing counseling and advocacy for lower income teenagers of color, both LGBT and not. I think that literature and other media can be healing and empowering for people facing stigma, prejudice and economic hardship. It’s important, for example, for a young woman growing up in poverty to see her experience reflected in books. On the other hand, if the characterization reinforces misconceptions that are very much alive in real life, it can be damaging. Regarding sexual exploitation, I think the topic is so taboo, there’s a tendency to avoid it by rationalizing that it couldn’t really happen unless there was something wrong with the person who was victimized.
I should say at this point, I did not set out to write a “message book” to educate readers about any of these issues. I think of my writing as a bit of an escape from my academic and political life, and I hope my stories provide a nice escape for readers. But even in fiction and fantasy, issues of diversity and social justice come to bear. Writing about a world of happy sex slaves who are pleased as can be being bought and sold by men, for instance, brings up the question of ethical responsibility in my mind, even if the story takes place on Mars in the year 5006. No matter what the genre, stories are a reflection of how the writer sees the world. I believe in artistic license and free speech, but if a writer’s perspective is based on ignorance and bias, that needs to be called out for what it is.
What I wanted to explore in my book was what life might be like for gay men in a deeply religious, polytheistic, feudal society, which resembles ancient Egypt and Persia and a touch of Greece, all mixed together as different inspiration points. While researching that world, one thing that stood out to me was the association of beauty with godliness, and naturally I found it particularly intriguing that artists and philosophers of that era were not shy about praising the attractiveness of other men. I was also curious about the tradition of temple prostitution, which was written about by historians of the time but is still not that well understood. Last, I was really interested in the cosmopolitan nature of ancient cities, crossroads for African, Near Eastern and European peoples. What would that have looked like and how would people have interacted amid the nationalist, religious and ethnic prejudices we know existed at the time?
You may be thinking: that all sounds pretty relevant in this day and age, and I absolutely agree. We don’t live in a world with an economy built on slave labor, but race, religion, and wealth still determine social status in many ways, and that brings me back to my concern about wanting to get things “right.”
So far, the response from readers has been very positive, and people have rarely commented on the more sensitive topics in the book. I hope this brief window into the world of The City of Seven Gods has piqued your interest, and you can let me know yourself whether you feel I got it right. J
Drop a comment below and enter a giveaway for an e-book copy of The City of Seven Gods. Include your e-mail address. One entrant will be randomly chosen to receive the free e-book. Good luck!
About the Author
Andrew J. Peters writes fiction for readers of all ages, especially the ones who like mythological retellings with the non-incidental appearance of gay heroes. His Werecat series was a finalist in The Romance Reviews’ 2016 Readers’ Choice awards. His début young adult novel The Seventh Pleaide received a 2014 Rainbow Awards Honorable Mention, and its follow-up Banished Sons of Poseidon was a Best of 2015 Editors Pick at All Our Worlds Diverse Fantasitic Fiction. He is also the author of Poseidon and Cleito and The City of Seven Gods. In 2016, Andrew was featured in Loop Magazine’s “Four Must-Read Authors with Buffalo Ties.” (That’s Buffalo the city, not ties with buffaloes).
Andrew grew up in Buffalo, New York, studied psychology at Cornell University, and has spent most of his career as a social worker and an advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. He writes the monthly feature Dispatches from Hogwarts G.S.A. for the fan site Queer Sci Fi and Fantasy. He has been a contributing writer at The Good Men Project, Gay YA, YA Highway, La Bloga, and All Romance e-Books (ARe) Café. He has also been an invited speaker/panelist at Bentcon, the New York City Rainbow Book Fair, and Queens Book Festival, among other conferences and community groups.
While writing, Andrew works as a faculty and an administrator at Adelphi University. He lives in New York City with his husband Genaro and their cat Chloë.
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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