Last Gasp is a historical anthology spearheaded by Erastes, and because there aren’t many of them we thought that a nice way to give readers an idea of what the stories were all about was to interview the authors and give them an opportunity to talk about their books. The anthology is now available from Noble Romance Publishing here.
Hi Erastes. Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for the launch of your first “project” i.e. spearheading the Last Gasp.
You have been interviewed on the site twice and you are our resident author contributor, which means that everyone on the site knows you, so I won’t ask you any of the general “interview” questions. I’m just going to segue into questions about the Last Gasp which was released May 3 by Noble Romance.
What can you tell us about your story in the anthology and how did you decide what period was going to be the setting of the story?
Tributary is set in 1936, the period between the two world wars. Over in Spain, Civil War is breaking out, and young people are being drawn to the fight for adventure and a sense of justice.
Guy Mason, after having suffered a personal loss in England, is drifting around Europe and stops at the Hotel Vista in Lombardy, Italy. He expects nothing from it but bad food and ex-pat English and at first he’s not disappointed in that. But he meets James Calloway, a scientist, who he likes a lot–and James’ secretary Louis Chambers, who he falls in love with, almost at first sight, and he finds he can’t drag himself away.
The era sort of picked itself once the theme had been decided upon, I just saw this bored, sad, man driving through Europe and wanted an adventure for him–I suppose I’m the sister who writes to him in the story! 🙂
What did you set out to achieve by this anthology?
When Noble Romance asked for an anthology, I knew I wanted some kind of theme to hold it together. Chris Smith suggested the Last Gasp idea – I think she used that exact phrase right from day one. The idea of civilisations “gone with the wind” kind of idea. (which if you think about it, is just about everything, so it was pretty wide!)
How did you decide which authors would participate?
It was a general call for submissions. Private at first – to the members of the Macaronis – but then when I realised how busy they all were, I put the call out on all the submission sites. I had more stories sent in than I needed, and then I found out how difficult it was to be “an editor” e.g. one who decides who is published and who isn’t. Gay historical fiction being such a small pond, one tends to know everyone else, and no matter what I did I was going to have to disappoint several people who were friends and colleagues.
So it was the strength of stories and only that that decided who got in – obviously – I’d have been mad to pick “oh this person is a better friend so they must be published.” That way leads to madness and professional authors will understand – which they all did, I’m sure.
Why did you choose Chris Smith’s story, for example?
I was sold on the story from the first chapter. Normally with her writing I’m beta-ing it with her, but in this case I told her I couldn’t read it as she was writing it because I wanted to read it with as much disinterest as I could. She found it hard to repress her normal enthusiasm and I got the gist that she was delighted with Edgar (her main character) but other than that I knew no more than it was set in Hong Kong during the 1830s. When I finally started to read it, I just knew it was perfect for the anthology, because it was so damned refreshing. Edgar is so awful that I was jaw-dropping. He’s SO the epitome of the English Abroad at this time–and he’s a MISSIONARY for goodness sake. And he hates everyone, including himself. I had to have his story.
You have known Charlie Cochrane for some time, having participated with her on another anthology a few years ago, Speak Its Name. Since you were responsible to the publisher for the completion of this anthology within the established timeframe, how did this change your relationship with Charlie, or did it? Did you say “Get off your cushion Charlie, we have a deadline to meet?” If you did, I would be interested in her answer. 🙂
She lies about the cattle-prod. I believe she had already started Sand but didn’t know quite what to do with it, and the story suited the anthology perfectly so it gave her the impetus to complete it. The good thing about Charlie is that she IS a consummate professional–having edited two editions of the short stories of “I DO” has helped her see the publishing business on both sides of the fence.. She would not have expected any favouritism from me. So, no – it hasn’t changed our relationship, she’ll always be mad as a box of frogs. (She doesn’t have a cushion, she has a lilypad)
As for the timeframe, I’m ashamed to say that ALL the authors finished their stories in time, and it was me that held it up, as my story was a month late in completion. blush
When you approached Noble initially, what was their reaction to your idea? Or maybe I have this wrong. Did they approach you about the anthology?
Yes, they approached me, which was hugely flattering, and I’m notoriously “the gal who can’t say no.” I don’t know why they did, other than I’m the person who yells about gay historical fiction a lot. When I suggested the Last Gasp idea to them they were very enthusiastic and right away they could see where I was coming from with it.
To be honest, I was very surprised at the time eras represented. I was expecting stories of the American Civil War, or perhaps the Mayan or Incan civilisations, all the “obvious” cultures that have gone forever – and so the three I did get were such a pleasant surprise, and very unusual – I don’t think any of them have been done before, but that’s what I love about gay historicals–there are SO many eras that have yet to be explored.
Jordan Taylor is an unknown entity to me and people who drop by the site every day. What can you tell us about Jordan that’s funny? What made you want her to be part of this anthology?
I didn’t know much about Jordan either when she submitted a story. She was on my radar, as it were, as she’d published a story in Cheyenne Press’s Hidden Conflict but that’s about it. However when she joined the anthology I soon found out that she fitted right in with the duo of reprobates I already had (Chris and Charlie) – she has the same sick sense of humour as the three of us, which is always a bonus when you have four people who have to work together and share emails. Humour is a great pressure reliever, and when the pressures get intense, with deadlines looming and an EXTREMELY tight turnaround for edits (literally under a week) being able to chivvy people along with humour and THE POINTY STICK OF DOOM helps enormously.
Now that the anthology is released what is your principal emotion? Relief? Gratification? Do you say to yourself “shit I’m glad that’s over and I lived to tell the tale”?
Relief and gratification, I think.. It’s always a nice feeling to get something done, dusted and published. The end week was so quick it’s hard to register that it’s already out there. I don’t think I’ll rush to do another one immediately, but I’d certainly think about it in the future. It’s taught me a lot about seeing things from both sides of the publishing world, and that’s always useful.
Congratulations Erastes. I hope that the Last Gasp does well – you deserve to have every success.
Hi Charlie. It’s great to interview you again, this time for an anthology, the Last Gasp. How have you been?
Pretty good, considering I have the distinct feeling that some miserable so-and-so came along and hacked two hours off every day this year. Isn’t it going fast?
I know you’ve been very busy with promoting Lessons in Trust which has just been released by Samhain so I appreciate you taking the time to answer a few questions about the Last Gasp
My pleasure, my dear. It’s always nice to come and chat here, and to admire the ‘scenery’. (And yes, life gets pretty hectic with those Cambridge boys to keep an eye on – you can’t trust them not to misbehave themselves.)
What can you tell us about your story Sand which is set in Syria, other than what is in the blurb?
It’s about finding the unexpected, in a place you don’t want to be. Charles has come to Syria to accompany Bernard, who’s been sent ‘on tour’ by his mother because he can’t resist women. Andrew has taken over an archaeological camp there, sent abroad because of an inappropriate entanglement at home. Andrew and Charles find something that might be burgeoning love. (And even Bernard discovers he enjoys cleaning the artifacts from the dig almost as much as he enjoys chasing women!)
You and Erastes have a long relationship, what was it like to work with her on the Last Gasp?
Smashing. As you say, we’ve been pals since Noah was a boy and we ‘chat’ in some way most days. She was great at keeping everyone on task and to deadline – the job doesn’t stop at publication, of course. This is where the hard work really begins.
The first book I read that you had written was Aftermath in the anthology Speak Its Name which was re-released last year. You seem to love anthologies of which the Last Gasp is the latest. What attracted you to writing a story for this anthology other than what was in the call for submissions?
What always makes me want to follow a call – I have the germ of an idea (or maybe a work already started) that will fit. I always think it over and see whether it’s such a good idea ‘in the morning’ – in this case it was. I had the scorpion bit already written, so had to build/adapt the rest of the tale around it.
Now that the Last Gasp is out what do you feel about the actual product?
Spiffing. I love the cover (I’ve got it into my mind he’s an ancient Greek rugby player, with scrum cap and jockstrap!) and it’s good to be in with such a great collection of stories. No makeweights. (That’s so funny Charlie – only you can come up with a rugby player in jocks in a historical story) 🙂
Will you be continuing to write stories for anthologies or concentrate on series books?
I’ll be doing whatever feels the next right thing to do. Lessons In Trust brings the Edwardian Cambridge fellows books to a close, but I’m working on one set post WWI. Whether that leads to a new series, who knows. I also have some ideas for a couple of contemporaries…
Thank you Charlie.
Thank you, Wave. Always a treat to be here.
Hi Jordan. I hope you have a good time answering my questions. 🙂
Hi, and thanks for the opportunity!
I believe this is your second story in an anthology, the first one being your story No Darkness in Hidden Conflict. What is it about anthologies that interest you?
The submission calls. Hidden Conflict and Last Gasp are the only anthologies I have ever submitted stories to (that are not currently outstanding). I did them both because I liked the theme and the overall concepts that the publishers were trying to achieve.
Do you have any plans to release a standalone novel in the immediate future?
I have written four novels, but no, not in the immediate future. I’ll need to find someone who would like to either agent one or publish one first.
How do you think your story ties into the theme of the anthology? The Yukon was a pretty desperate place during the gold rush and I wonder if you could give us an idea about The Ninth Language, outside of what’s in the blurb.
I hope it does. 🙂 The story takes a look at the age-old theme of culture clash and one society imposing itself on another. The research for The Ninth Language was quite disturbing. I have collected about 20 books chronicling the Yukon Gold Rush (research for a novel). Not a single one mentions the native people who were displaced so prospectors could hunt for gold in their homeland. Not one. The information is out there, but you have to dig for it. For me, that was the most important thing about this story: offering a glimpse into something that history has all but ignored for over 100 years.
When Erastes approached you about contributing to the anthology did you already have a story written?
She did not approach me. She posted a call for submissions online that I happened to see. I had already been doing research about the rush and instantly knew I wanted to write a story for the anthology.
Now that the Last Gasp is released what are your reactions to the final product?
Very positive. The cover is lovely and everyone at Noble Romance has been wonderful. Being involved in the project with Erastes, Chris, and Charlie has been great. Really fantastic group of people, besides being great writers!
Hi Chris Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed.
I understand that this is your very first published work. What’s it like to be a virgin writer?
Bloody hell! You do drop me in it from a great height don’t you! Well I’ve been writing in one way, shape or form since about 2000, so it is actually not that bad. Today I’m slightly on edge about the whole thing (can’t tell if that is work or writing, but as it is the same sick feeling I used to get back in my fanfic days, I’m thinking writing). The whole process has been quite easy — for THIS novella — I’m still editing the first novel I wrote (I believe I’m on the seventh pass with regards to that now). However I’m glad I have a day job — publishing is not precisely going to pay the mortgage.
When you were approached by Erastes to write a story for this anthology what was the first thing that went through your mind? (You can be honest.) 🙂
Option 1: Erastes solicited me (I choose this word wisely) by dint of sending her winged monkey minions to my workplace. It is a good thing that they were winged, because our security guard would not let them through the front door — they do not have corporate passes. So they flew up to my window. Unfortunately one of them was old and slightly incontinent, so my first thought was “Oh, monkey poop.”
Or option 2: I am in regular contact with E (for my sins, which must have been many and varied, this is my penance on earth), and knew this anthology was coming up because we’d been discussing it, so I figured I’d give it a bash and see if it was good enough. What did I really have to lose other than time?
(You may chose for yourself which is the more likely. I prefer the pooping monkeys though.)
Tell us why you chose Edward’s story which is set in the 1830’s? Why Hong Kong as the setting – Was there something special about Hong Kong and the period? How did your story tie into the theme for the anthology?
I honestly have no idea why I chose Edgar’s story. I think I was debating writing something regency at the time, but regency tends to be much of a muchness, a comedy of manners and general drollerie, so I tried to think where I could set a story which could still have the same biting wit, but not the repetitiveness of Boodles and Almacks et al. With the theme for the anthology being a sort of “sic transit gloria mundi”-ness, it made sense to look at what England was doing at the time. The first opium war grabbed my attention at once. I also wanted a complete bastard of a main character — I am slightly fed up of the good and the wise and the generally perfect — but one who DESPITE his bastardness, ends up doing the right thing. Hong-Kong was strange and alien to him, he was running away from himself, he was the most selfish human I could think of, and yet he ends up finding the bedrock of his principles. I rather enjoyed writing him, if you can’t tell!
Most new writers are very excited to be published and then there’s a feeling of let down – kind of “is that all there is” because people are not knocking down your door asking for autographs and interviews on television. 🙂 Are you surprised when you woke up on the day the anthology was released that you were still the same Chris Smith?
Actually I came back from holidaying with my parents the day before and was somewhat dead. I think I had a lot of muddled up thoughts (and still have actually) from fandom time — I miss the instantaneous feedback and was half expecting that now that The White Empire was published, I’d get SOME feedback. If people want autographs and interviews (LOL, poor people who’d be that mad), I am happy to oblige. However, being serious, I was not expecting the world to change when The White Empire comes out, or even when De Ruina Mundi is (a) finished, and (b) published (Florence, 1491). I am enough of a realist to know that M/M is fun, but it is a small pond at the moment. (I am convinced it will grow in time). I have plans for some more M/M, and some narrative non-fiction, which I think stands more of a chance in today’s marketplace. Maybe after that I’ll start to worry if I’m not a different Chris Smith, but today I’m happy enough that something is out there, building up a platform. I hope. It could just as easily scare people away — Edgar is not a nice man, but he is a very real man.
What’s the best thing about being published?
Yesterday I would have said “people spending money to read what you wrote”. Today I’ll say that is probably the worst part about it — I just hope they are happy with spending it. I have no idea yet what will end up being the best part of it, to be honest. I am just glad I’ve gone through it once — now I have an idea of what to expect for the future. And E will (hopefully) get less whining and random panic. Though she should not count on it!
What was it like working with Erastes on this project? She claims that she is the most wonderful collaborator and I’m sure she’s lying through her teeth. You can tell us the truth because the anthology is now published and she can’t take the job back. 🙂
Working with Erastes is a joy and a pleasure and a fantastic thing to which I must devolve much tribute and albino penguins and cheese and no that is not a gun in my back I hope.
Actually she’s very good — she puts up with my random whining, chivvies me into shape, yells if I am procrastinating etc. I’m not sure how much of this is because E’s my friend, and how much of it is because she is an evil dictator, but it worked out okay in the end. She’s very professional, and did not do me any special favours because I am her friend, if anything she was doubly sure to ensure that my story was up to snuff. And so was I — I’d not like to embarrass her by any accusations of nepotism.
Why do so many Brits have cats? Is there a rule that says you must have 1.5 cats per person? 🙂
I shall go saw one of my cats in half. Wait, there are two of us humans in the house! I will go buy another cat forthwith.
I think people in the UK keep cats because they are very independent and can look after themselves. When the average person commutes about two hours a day, and in most families all the adults are working at least one job each, it makes sense to have pets that do not pine without constant attention. Also cats are fluffeh and generally sweet. Mine look like they have been hit by frying pans in the face. They amuse me.
Thanks Chris and congratulations on your first book.