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Title: Wanted, A Gentleman
Author: KJ Charles
Cover Artist: Lou Harper
Genre: Gay, Gay Fiction, Gay Romance, Historical, Regency, Romance
Release Date: 01/09/2017
By the good offices of Riptide Publishing
KJ Charles’s new Entertainment
WANTED, A GENTLEMAN
Or, Virtue Over-Rated
the grand romance of
Mr. Martin St. Vincent . . . a Merchant with a Mission, also a Problem
Mr. Theodore Swann . . . a humble Scribbler and Advertiser for Love
Act the First:
the offices of the Matrimonial Advertiser, London
where Lonely Hearts may seek one another for the cost of a shilling
Act the Second:
a Pursuit to Gretna Green (or thereabouts)
a speedy Carriage
sundry rustic Inns
a private Bed-chamber
In the course of which are presented
Romance, Revenge, and Redemption
Deceptions, Discoveries, and Desires
the particulars of which are too numerous to impart
From Soup to Story: how ideas happen
Some people talk about starting a story as a blank page. I tend to see my writing brain as a cauldron, of the kind that contains ongoing soup. It sits there bubbling away, and you chuck handfuls of random things in as you go along. Some of them dissolve into the mass, or sink to the bottom; some flavour the whole broth; some cook and float to the top, and that’s when you scoop out a bowlful.
Wow, that is an unappetising metaphor. You probably shouldn’t come to mine for soup.
Consider me, then, with a contract and a deadline for Historical Novella (Untitled) and a head full of soup. Recent ingredients include a book on the history of Lonely Hearts advertising, a visit to the British Library exhibition on the Gothic genre, and research for a previous book that had forced me to calculate how long it would take a carriage to get from London to Cricklade. And stuff is coalescing. I have a hero embedded in the world of the Georgian professional writer. A concept of the classic chase up to Gretna Green, adapted for queer romance. A plot hanging off a lonely-heart advert—which is obviously the motivator for the road trip and the thing that brings in our scribbling hero.
But none of that is the story. I don’t have any idea of the romance, or the conflict, but most of all, I don’t know what the story is about. I have a bunch of raw ingredients; nothing worth consuming.
And then I went to an exhibition at the Black Cultural Archives in south London: Black Georgians: the Shock of the Familiar. It was astonishing. They’d got together an amazing set of prints, engravings, documents and stories of Britain’s black population in the eighteenth century. Which was large, from both forced and voluntary migration—some estimates suggest up to 30,000 black people living in Britain, mostly London and the south, when London’s total population was in the region of 750,000.
There were so many fascinating stories. Poets, radicals, sailors, soldiers, servants, boxers, greengrocers, magistrates and merchants. Enslaved people; rich and powerful people. One of the latter was Cesar Picton, enslaved and given to the Phillips family as a child. He was a “favourite” of the family and lived with them (with the status of a free man) until his thirties, when he was given a generous sum in Lady Phillips’ will, set up as a coal merchant, and made himself incredibly rich. And he stayed on friendly terms with the Phillips’ three unmarried daughters throughout his life. They seem to have supported him using their connections, it’s likely he helped them run their estate as well as running his own business, and they all left him legacies. The exhibition noted other cases of enfranchised people staying on these apparently close, friendly terms with their former enslavers and asked, simply: How must this have felt to those involved? What was that like?
I couldn’t stop thinking about that. It’s a question with so many possible answers, that could have been written in so many ways. But I had this particular soup bubbling, and this was the last ingredient that tied together all the disparate bits in my head into a story about debt and obligation and exploitation and habit—and the ways people can love and be loved even when some of us don’t deserve it. That’s what the book’s about. The road trip to Gretna and the lonely hearts ads are just how it plays out.
That’s what I mean about soup: cooking up ideas to make a whole out of of individual parts. It’s what makes writing fun, and I hope it makes reading a more flavoursome experience too. Just don’t spill it in your lap; it may be hot.
To celebrate the release of Wanted, A Gentleman, one lucky winner will receive $20 in Riptide Publishing credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on January 14, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries.
About the Author
KJ Charles is a writer and freelance editor. She lives in London with her husband, two kids, and a cat with murder management issues. KJ writes mostly romance, mostly queer, frequently historical, and usually with some fantasy or horror in there.
Find her on Twitter @kj_charles, pick up free reads on her website at kjcharleswriter.com, get the infrequent newsletter at kjcharleswriter.com/newsletter, or join her Facebook group, KJ Charles Chat, for sneak peeks and exclusives.
One random commenter with thoughtful, relevant comments will win a $25 gift certificate each month in 2016.
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