Guest Interview: Elin Gregory
Hi Elin! I’m hugely excited about ‘Alike as Two Bees,’ which is set in Classical Greece. You must have done tons of research. How hard did you find it to get into the ‘mind set’ of the period?
The research was done long ago and brushed up on during the writing process. I ‘did’ classics when I finally took my degree as an adult student with the Open University. That period is very interesting because it was then that the foundations of modern politics, philosophy and science were laid down. As for getting into the mind set, I’m not sure I did. It was so utterly different and a correct depiction of it wouldn’t be acceptable to modern tastes – or Paypal probably Slavery was a fact of life. Women were so ‘cherished’ that the greatest compliment one could pay to a married man was to never ever mention his wife! Even asking after her health would be a suggestion that she had been immodest in some way, that she had done something to draw attention to herself. It would be taken as an insult. The tolerance of male male relationships, of course, is a major plus. But even there roles were very strictly laid down and deviation from those roles was viewed with suspicion.
Tell us a little about Philon and Hillarion. Coming from such different backgrounds, I’m guessing their path to happiness is not an easy one…
The action of the story takes place over just a couple of weeks, though they had been eyeing each other up for a few months before . The path is quite a short one but meanders about a bit. They get there in the end but, as Hilarion is fond of saying, “You can choose your friends, but you’re stuck with the family you’re born into”. Philon has moved up in the world from a stone cutter, which was a good job but not particularly high status. The Greeks revered beauty, and the creators of beauty were well thought of, even if they don’t have two beans. Hilarion is from a wealthy family and had he been raised in Athens it’s unlikely he would have given Philon more than a glance. But Hilarion was raised in a Greek colony in the ‘far’ north amongst the Scythian barbarians. They had a fascinating warrior culture about which I desperately want to write a novel. I’ve made a start. ‘Bees’ is a kind of prequel.
When I’m researching for a historical novel, I tend to find at least one amazing nugget of information about a setting/period that never makes it into the final cut of the book. Was there any background info/inspiration that you left out but that you’re dying to share?
The science! How about having an array of polished copper parabolic mirrors that could be used to focus the rays of the sun on enemy ships causing them to burst into flame? Or the use of air pressure to make automatic doors? Or a steam powered machine 1900 years before Watt? To the Greeks they were interesting ideas but imagine what the Romans would have made of them if slave power hadn’t been so much easier. One day I’ll bite the fantasy bullet and write Roman steampunk! Oh yes.
What do you love most about writing? And what (if anything) do you dislike?
See previous answer! No, seriously, when storytelling there are no limits as far as scene or setting goes. Steampunk Romans are the least of it. Look at the popularity of shifter stories. A bank manager could be a badger shifter in a happy relationship with a hamster/cost accountant. You can get away with anything as long as it’s written as absolutely rock solid believable. I hate it when I’ve got some characters and I’ve worked out some really cool stuff for them to do and part way into the story I realise that there’s no good reason for them to behave that way. That’s almost as annoying as getting a good idea for something in an historical then discovering that it can’t happen because the building hasn’t yet been built etc. Then comes the big decision – do I do the sensible thing and change the plot or go with the cool idea anyway and put up with discerning readers going ‘meh’ and closing the book?
Ah, but are those readers really so discerning? They might be missing out on the story of a lifetime.
What can we expect to read next from you? (I’ve been hearing some very exciting things about pirates – *g*!)
Oh the pirates! Yes, I have 95k words of a pirate novel with another 10k to go. I’ve enjoyed writing it very much but it’s desperately in need of editing, especially for ship related facts. Also Kit Penrose, my POV character, as often happens to my lads, keeps informing me that he’s far too busy trying to stay alive to waste time getting his end away so I’ll have to go back and put in the obligatory bonking. Even if I do finish it I have no idea what to do with it, but finish it I shall. But the very next thing might be finishing a contemporary short about Benedict Morcambe, an uptight and earnest book shop owner sorely afflicted but the rock band who are sitting tenants in his garage. Naturally he’s even more sorely afflicted by an inconvenient lust for the lead guitarist. Poor Ben has a stiff upper everything. Aaaaaand there are others, of course. Plot bunnies breed prolifically, the randy little so and sos.
Thank you so much for having me, Kay. Can I just say how much I’m looking forward to reading ‘Bound to the Beast.’ Herne has long been a hero of mine and I would love to invite you to chat about him and your new release on my blog.
Thanks so much for dropping by, Elin. I will be thrilled to come and talk about Herne over at your website. I’ve sent off my finals off for proofing and recieved the wonderful news Anne Cain is doing my cover, so not long now.
Alike as Two Bees
By: Elin Gregory
Published By: Etopia Press
Published: Mar 02, 2012
ISBN # 9781937976194
Word Count: 19,664
Heat Index: mildly spiced – korma rather than vindaloo
Horses, love, and the tang of thyme and honey…
In Classical Greece, apprentice sculptor Philon has chosen the ideal horse to model for his masterpiece. Sadly, the rider falls well short of the ideal of beauty, but scarred and tattered Hilarion, with his brilliant, imperfect smile, draws Philon in a way that mere perfection cannot.
After years of living among the free and easy tribes of the north, Hilarion has no patience with Athenian formality. He knows what he wants—and what he wants is Philon. Society, friends and family threaten their growing relationship, but perhaps a scarred soldier and a lover of beauty are more alike than they appear.
Given an appreciative audience, the horsemen were bound to show off a little. They raced toward Philon almost knee to knee, but parted neatly to pass him by. He turned on his heels to watch them go, but they pulled up, setting their horses to prance. The youth on the black horse made his mount rear, forehooves pawing, his eyes on the brown-bearded man on the gray who laughed and called him to his side. The man on the chestnut laughed too, then trotted the mare back and pulled her up a pace or two away from Philon. He smiled. “Hello, sculptor. A fine day for swimming.”
“Hello, rider,” Philon said. The man was fine-boned and lightweight, but well muscled in his chest and shoulders. On his left thigh was a long, pale pink scar, curving like a smile against the brown skin—a sword cut?—suggesting his horsemanship had been gained on the battlefield rather than just the riding square. The brief exomis he wore was frayed at the edges where the embroidered braid, once expensive, was threadbare, and it had fallen from his shoulder to gather in sodden folds in his lap. The sparse hairs on his chest looked like fine wires of gold.
“A good day for a gallop,” Philon said. “Your mare is beautiful.”
“She is,” the man agreed and gave her a little nudge so she arched her neck, sidling closer. Philon raised his hand to place it on the mare’s glossy hide and stroked down her neck to her shoulder until his hand was an inch or two from the rider’s sweat-sheened thigh.
“Her name is Charis,” the rider said, reaching forward to tug one of her ears.
“Charis,” Philon said. He grinned as the mare turned her head to lip at his chest.
“She won’t bite. She just likes the salt,” the rider assured him. “I know your name too. I asked about the sculptor’s apprentice. I said, ‘No, not the boy. I want to know the name of the youth.’”
The warmth in Philon’s face was suddenly not just due to the sun. “I don’t know who to ask to find out your name,” he admitted.
“You won’t need to ask if I tell you. I’m Hilarion.” Hilarion’s smile was very white, aside from the missing tooth just below the scar at the left side of his lip. He didn’t seem at all self-conscious about either. Philon returned the smile and patted the mare’s neck again in lieu of thinking of something to say.
Hilarion’s eyes crinkled still further at the corners. “Can you ride? My mare will take double on the sand.”
“I…I don’t know.” Philon felt himself flush again. “I’ve ridden a mule sometimes on the way to collect something.”
“A mule?” The rider of the gray horse shouted a laugh, echoed by the youth on the black, but Philon felt they were laughing at Hilarion rather than him.
Hilarion grinned. “Linos,” he called. When the brown-bearded man looked at him, Hilarion made a gesture to his friend Philon had never seen before. Linos laughed and made it back. “Charis is not a mule,” Hilarion said, hitching himself farther along his horse’s back. “Come. You can sit in front of me. Don’t worry. I won’t let you fall.”
He offered his hand and Philon stared at it, imagining the sleek chestnut hide under his thighs and Hilarion’s arms supporting him, holding him tight. He had been warned that there were some men who might take liberties. Hilarion’s gap-toothed smile seemed genuine enough but…