Guest Post: Writing the Love that Dare Not Speak Its Name in Historical Fiction

Here’s author Laurel Deedrick-Mayne talking about her new novel, A Wake For The Dreamland, and her experiences writing historical fiction about a gay character during World War II.
* * * * *
 
cover imageHow do we write the love that ‘dare not speak its name’ within the genre of historical fiction? I confess that even writing the love that can be ‘shouted from the rooftops’ has thrown me into flushed-faced fits of laughter… and since this is historical and not hysterical fiction, I have to take a deep breath; maybe recline amidst the mass of rumpled sheets…not those kinds of sheets… (picture me tearing page after page of bad sex writing out of an old underwood) and try, try again. It’s not all ripping corsets and popping buttons.

Writing historical fiction is tricky to begin with— dodging the deadly slings and arrows of ridiculously overly researched, smarty-pants narrative history dumps, often at the expense of our beloved characters. Trickier still: How does a middle-aged-heterosexual woman in 2015 write about sexual awakening of a male soldier in WWII? One can’t even fall back on cliché because…back to my opening sentence: it was love unspoken and unwritten. Homosexuality was a criminal offence under civil law and convicted service personnel risked court martial and dishonorable discharge. See what I mean? There was an accidental history dump.

In my book, A Wake For The Dreamland, the world is on the brink of war and friends William, Robert and Annie are on the cusp of adulthood. Haunted by memories of a boyhood dalliance with a lad and more than platonic feelings for Robert, William feels shame and longing to be ‘normal’. But these are not normal times. Every arena of their young lives is infiltrated by the war, from the home front to the underground of queer London to the battlefields of Italy.

The moment I knew I was writing a love triangle, I also knew that William would be gay. It seems strange to say this but I knew he was gay before he did. That is to say, I understood that the emotional stakes were very high and that it was up to me, to write his experience in the most authentic and honourable way possible. When I began writing in 2003 there was scant information available on homosexuality in WWII. But there were a couple new documentary films and a few excellent books. I had the benefit of a thoughtful archivist who remembered cataloguing a collection of love letters between two men from the 1940’s. And then, there was mustering the courage to come right out and ask the veterans who were helping me with the military aspect of my research. It wasn’t always easy and I experienced some kick-back along the way. There was the retired Major who, upon listening to my ‘Reader’s Digest Condensed’ version of the novel, declared, “Not in this Regiment!” That nearly sent me scurrying into re-write mode but another veteran friend, 90 years old at the time, reassured me that of course there were gay men in the unit. It didn’t bother anyone so long as they were a good soldier and did their job. I guess if you’re a good killer it doesn’t matter what kind of lover you are. There was the indignant participant at a workshop where I read an excerpt. She demanded to know, “Does your veteran friend know you’ve turned him into a homosexual?” I admit I had some fun with that one.

Where the truth lies, is the no man’s land where historical fiction writers tread. Writing the love that dare not speak its name during WWII and the aftermath was like crossing a minefield that could end in disaster. Confinement to a particular time and place in history: truth; gave me a scaffold upon which my imaginary friends could play out their infinite and intimate struggles and triumphs: lies. It was the ‘story’ in history that mattered to me. Nothing else. I kept reminding myself not to be afraid to be afraid, that this was not a story about war as much as it was a story about love. Those rushes of adrenalin were there to remind me I was on the right track.

Those of us writing historical fiction are excused from that old prescriptive chestnut: write what you know. But if we know something about friendship and love, fear and longing, grief and loss— that understanding will allow our characters to rise from the page and into the very hearts of our readers. The rest, as they say, is history. And my closing advice to anyone is simply this: Soldier on.

* * * * *

Excerpt from A Wake For The Dreamland

It was London where he felt most alive. Where he could walk the line between civilian and serviceman, where he could connect with other Allied soldiers for whom the city held the same degree of safety and danger, possibility and peril, sociability and sex. At the Buckingham Gate Urinal or alongside the Albert Tavern, behind two telephone booths, he could steal a kiss or more…gratify his longing. There, or Charing Cross Station, or the gardens in Trafalgar Square.

But it was at Cyril and Lou’s apartment, in an enclave of others like himself, that he first slept in the arms of a man, a lover. There, for three days and nights, the sport he endured and enjoyed came as close to killing him as the war ever would— and it was heaven. Spending each waking moment in the pursuit, the act, or recovery from every conceivable means of lovemaking. To sleep: however briefly, only to be awakened by hunger in the belly, mouth, or groin. And listening: to music, to poetry – reading and writing it, too— and eating and drinking and tumbling, tumbling willy-nilly into bed again.

In the city her learned the language of his type: invisible to passersby, visibly to each other. He learned to go from being hunted to being the hunter. He learned to find his way in the dark, to seek an encounter, to be less afraid, less alone, seduced by the allure of safety and privacy where he could be himself without fear of discovery. And yet. While the other fellows were sleeping it off and the mantle clock in the parlour squeezed out the minutes until dawn, a sickening sadness would sneak through his limbs and curl up in a ball at the foot of his heart.

_________________________________________________________________________________

IMG_9171_Web1_CLaurel Deedrick-Mayne was born and raised in Lacombe, Alberta but has spent her adult life as a city dweller and now makes Edmonton her home. Once an arts administrator (dance publicist, concert promoter and ad copywriter) Laurel has become a juggler: raising a family, managing her private massage therapy practice, serving on multiple arts boards … and writing. This book is a tribute to the generation of her parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles who took the time to hang on to family letters, clippings, stories, and poetry — all those treasures that inspired this story. A Wake For The Dreamland is Laurel’s first novel.

Website             Facebook

Guest Post From Author Ciara Knight

Worldbuilding is my thing

I LOVE worldbuilding. There is nothing better than creating magical castles, freaky creatures, and Earthbound demons.

To set up the world for Rise from Darkness I decided to pick a hot and humid location. I grew up in Florida, so I knew a lot about the culture, weather, and habitat. The town I placed my hero and heroine in is Kemp, Florida, an isolated town on the west coast. Why is it isolated you ask? Because, the world isn’t just built and the story is constructed to fit it, the world should almost be another character in your story. Since I had a character who wished to remain ‘off the grid’ the isolated town was a must. It followed the rules of my world.

Another reason I chose Florida was because the temperature is hot and humid. Palmetto bugs scurry in the woods and Spanish moss hangs from large oak trees. All true aspects of Florida and great setting for a demon story.  The small sounds of nature, there is never a moment that mole crickets aren’t chirping in the heat of the summer, became a warning symbol for demons.

Mood, sight, sounds, taste, and touch are all important parts to dig deep in POV, but giving each sense purpose strengthens the plot and gives the reader more.

One warning about worldbuilding: never throw in a plot element that doesn’t fit the rules of your world. For instance, if you have a frog that turns people’s hair purple if they touch him, and he’s done this throughout the story, don’t turn around a few chapters later and say his power is to turn mushrooms into gold and that’s how he is able to buy the freedom of a princess being held by an evil sorcerer. Also, don’t have a thunderstorm pop up if your characters live in the desert just because they need water.

What kind of thing pulls you into a story? Does it bother you when something doesn’t fit?

Rise From Darkness

Book One: Battle of the Souls

Publisher: Turquoise Morning Press

Young Adult Paranormal

Alexander Lorre gives new meaning to the term “tormented teen.” He’s a newly fallen angel, which means he has the self-control of a three-year-old, the hormones of a teenager and the strength of an angel. When he rescues Gaby Moore from drowning, the chemistry between them is undeniable. With a local demon threatening Gaby’s life, he struggles to find a balance between remaining close enough to protect her but distant enough to control his desires.

As danger draws closer, Gaby uncovers shattering secrets that will lead to an ultimate choice. Will she fight alongside her father, an earthbound hunter killing fallen angels and demons, give into the demon blood coursing through her veins and join the demon world, or save the man she loves from both? The first two choices damn her, but the last one could destroy them all.

About The Author:

Ciara Knight always had a passion for storytelling. At an early age, she wrote several short stories and poems, and in college she started work on her first novel. It wasn’t until late 2008 that she returned to her true passion of writing. Over the past few years she has penned five novels and joined several professional writing organizations to better her craft.

When not writing, she enjoys reading all types of fiction. Some great literary influences in her life include Edgar Allen Poe, Shakespeare, Francine Rivers and J K Rowling.

Ciara is happily married and enjoys family time. She has learned to embrace chaos, which is a requirement when raising three boys, and utilizes the insanity to create stories not of this world including, Fantasy, Paranormal, Sci-Fi, and Young Adult Dystopian.

Her first love, besides her family, reading, and writing, is travel. She’s backpacked through Europe, visited orphanages in China, and landed in a helicopter on a glacier in Alaska.

Website: www.ciaraknight.com
Facebook Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/Ciaraknightwrites
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/ciaratknight

My Favorite Things with Author Jamie Lee Scott

On my iPod: My taste in music is eclectic, so I have the soundtrack to Black Swan (I listen to this when I’m writing darker scenes), George Strait, Kid Rock, Rob Thomas, Wynton Marsalis, U2, Cold Play,  Lilly Allen, and Black Eyed Peas.

Currently Reading: Little Book of Sitcom by John Vorhaus (I’m writing a sitcom for the Nickelodeon Fellowship)

Color: Brown

City: Los Angeles (the greater area) because I have so many friends who live there, and there is so much diversity

Dream Vacation: A private beach, with my cottage just steps away from the sand, and all I can eat and drink

Activity: Working with my horses

Book: Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley

Book on Writing: I’ll just list two: On Writing by Stephen King, and Save the Cat by Blake Snyder.

Place to Read: When the weather is nice, the upstairs deck off my master bedroom. When it’s cold and windy, the rocking chair in my bedroom.

TV Show:  This is tough to narrow down, so Modern Family, New Girl, Whitney, Castle, Once Upon a Time, and Grimm.

Movie: The Air I Breathe, an incredible indie film

Song: “Good to be Me” by Uncle Kracker

Singer: Rob Thomas

Band: Band of Horses

Actor: Oliver Platt

Actress: Natalie Portman

Pet Peeve: People who are oblivious to those around them when talking on their cell phone in public. Seriously, 99% of those calls can wait until everyone standing in line doesn’t have to hear it.

Most Like To Meet: Screenwriter Bob DeRosa, who has been a mentor, but I’ve never met him. And my novel writing critique partner, Jennie Bentley.

Let Us Prey

Book 1, Gotcha Detective Agency Mysteries

By Jamie Lee Scott

Mimi Capurro has been hired to protect New York Times bestselling author, Lauren Silke, who was recently assaulted in the bathroom at a paranormal conference. Though Mimi is hired to act as bodyguard for Lauren’s upcoming book tour, plans change when Lauren’s assistant is murdered and the slaying is a replica of a scene from Lauren’s newest novel. A novel that hit bookstores the same day as the killing.

Now instead of playing bodyguard, Mimi is cracking computer code and chasing down vampires. These vampires come alive on the streets of Santa Cruz as part of a live role-playing game. Mimi must find the connection between the vampires and the author to track down the killer. This would be much easier if Detective Nick Christianson wanted her investigating the case.

Nick, Mimi’s old college fling, is the lead homicide investigator.

Though he wants her off the case, he also wants to pump her for information. Nick may have used her in the past, but this time she’ll use him to try to catch the murderer first.

Amazon Paperback  

Amazon Kindle

Book Trailer

About the Author:

Jamie Lee Scott was born on the Central Coast of California, where she spent her entire childhood entertaining. She wrote plays and charged admission to her backyard stage so her friends and family could enjoy the performances. She wrote her first novel at the age of 10, for her 5th grade class project. The novel was called Cindy.

Busy with horses and school, Jamie rarely wrote through her teens and twenties. She was living a life most dreamed of (well, she dreamed of anyway), competing at barrel races, hanging out with cowboys, and traveling in rodeo circles with her friends. Money was tight, but life was good. Then Jamie met the man of her dreams. And low and behold he was not a cowboy, but a farm boy. They married and he swept her away to her little piece of heaven in Iowa.

Before she finished her first full length novel, Jamie was contracted to write the book, Hiking Iowa, for Falcon Publishing. In a year, she hiked 75 trails in the state of Iowa and mapped the trails, landmarks and  distances. And this was before GPS. It was tough work for the measly advance, but it was a writing credit. So now, Jamie writes the mystery series featuring the Gotcha Detective Agency.

Jamie has written three novels, Let Us Prey, the soon to be released Death of a Sales Rep, and Give a Dog a Bone. She is currently writing screenplays. She is co-founder of Scriptchat on Twitter www.scriptchat.com and TWWriterChat at www.tvwriterchat.com. She is the former president of RWA’s screenwriting chapter, Script Scene. Jamie still lives in Iowa (though she visits California as often as possible) with her husband, 2 dogs, 2 cats and 2 horses.

Website

Twitter

Facebook