Cover Art: Tiferet Design
Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Kim Fielding here today talking about her latest story Blyd and Pearce.
Hi! Kim Fielding here, and I’m so excited to be sharing my newest release—my 21st novel!—with you. Blyd and Pearce is a fusion of some of my favorite genres: m/m romance, medieval fantasy, and noir private eye. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Today I’d like to talk about story settings—specifically, settings for noir stories. In case you’re unfamiliar with noir, here’s a quick definition from Merriam-Webster:
crime fiction featuring hard-boiled cynical characters and bleak sleazy settings
Notice how the setting is integral to the description? Some literary genres can take place nearly anywhere, but some, like noir and its cousin, gothic, almost require a very particular type of place. In the case of noir, that place is a city, preferably a large one, and the neighborhoods are not the ritzy ones. Noir characters live in seedy apartments and hang out in rough bars and dirty back alleys. Not only that, but most of the action takes place at night, with fog or cigarette smoke distorting the shadows and hiding secrets.
There are some notable exceptions to the urban setting requirement, such as one of my favorite films, Fargo. But in Fargo, those lovely shots of forlorn, snow-covered fields and parking lots serve the same purpose that the empty streets of nighttime Los Angeles do in other noir films: emphasizing the alienation and despair of the characters.
In films, noir has a signature cinematic style, drawing from expressionism, with lots of angles and odd perspectives that add to a sense of unease. The films are usually dark of course—that’s why they’re called noir (French for black or dark)—but they don’t necessarily have to be in black-and-white. Again, Fargo achieves an almost monochrome aspect by utilizing winter scenery in the North. Blade Runner uses claustrophobic buildings and constant rain.
In Blyd and Pearce, I’ve transplanted noir from modern American cities to Tangye, a city more typical of medieval fantasy. Tangye is preindustrial, and it’s also home to river wraiths, wizards, necromancers, and other characters we’d be unlikely to see in New York or LA. Yet it also retains many of the characteristics of typical noir settings. Daveth Blyd lives in the Low Quarter, the slums, where the inhabitants scrape out desperate livings and often drink (ale) or drug themselves (with trance drops) to dull their misery. Tangye has surly tavern-keepers, wily street waifs, and crooked cops. And of course it has our private-eye hero and the homme fatal who leads him into trouble.
Do you have a favorite noir setting? Please comment!
Born into poverty and orphaned young, Daveth Blyd had one chance for success when his fighting prowess earned him a place in the Tangye city guard—a place he lost to false accusations of theft. Now he scrapes out a living searching for wayward spouses and missing children. When a nobleman offers him a small fortune to find an entertainer who’s stolen a ring, Daveth takes the case.
While Jory Pearce may or may not be a thief, he certainly can’t be trusted. But, enchanted by Jory’s beauty and haunting voice, Daveth soon finds himself caught in the middle of a conspiracy. As he searches desperately for answers, he realizes that he’s also falling for Jory. The two men face river wraiths, assassins, a necromancer, and a talking head that could be Daveth’s salvation on their quest for the truth. But with everyone’s integrity in question and Death eager to dance, Daveth will need more than sorcery to survive.
The narrow stairway rose steeply, each step creaking under our feet and taking us into increasing darkness. I smelled onions and fish—a bit strong, but better than my apartment’s odors—and blindly held on to the banister. It occurred to me that Pearce was in a good position to attack me, since I’d have trouble defending myself in the blackness of unfamiliar territory. But I wasn’t afraid of him. Maybe some of his enchantment lingered.
We climbed four flights to the top floor, where he unlocked another door. A few scattered spiritlights flared to life at once, but he lit two lanterns as well.
It wasn’t a large apartment, and the roof angled steeply on both sides so that he had to stoop a little when he hung his lute and midnight-colored cloak on a hook. Bright fabrics adorned the walls—silks and embroidered cottons—and a thick mat and pile of pillows were heaped in one corner. Rag rugs and pillows for seating covered the wide floorboards. The apartment held little else other than a dry sink, a few shelves, a little stand with a chamber pot, a painted wardrobe. But it was a cozy space, and two pottery vases of flowers squatted on the windowsill.
“Do you want some wine?” he asked.
It wasn’t what I expected, so I didn’t answer at once. “Uh, yes. Sure.”
He took a green glass bottle from the shelf, pulled the cork, and poured a red liquid into a pair of plain clay cups.
He was no longer wearing the gauzy silks he’d performed in, but his current outfit was hardly understated. Embroidered snakes—matching the bright blue of his chausses—trimmed a sunshine-hued tunic, and instead of sensible boots, he wore scarlet stockings and yellow slippers with curled, pointed toes. On another man, the clothing would have been gaudy, but it suited him well.
I remained near the closed door. With a tiny quirk to his lips, he prowled closer. He held out one cup of wine, which I took, and when I hesitated to drink, he took a dainty sip of his own. “It’s mediocre, I’m afraid.”
Not being able to distinguish good wine from bad, I swallowed a mouthful. It tasted fine to me.
“What shall I call you?” he purred, standing quite close. He was older than I’d thought, but the fine lines at the corners of his eyes didn’t make him any less beautiful.
“It’s a pleasure, Citizen Blyd.”
“I’m not a citizen.”
He tilted his head. “Oh?”
He wore a scent—something spicy and warm—that made my head swim. And his voice….
When I was newly signed on as a city guard, my duties had included carting my captain’s soiled uniforms to the laundry. It wasn’t one of my favored tasks. But she’d been a showy woman and had her capes trimmed not with dyed wool but with velvet. I’d rarely felt anything so soft, and I used to give the velvet surreptitious little pets as I carried her clothes.
Jory Pearce’s voice was like that velvet: soft and rich and plush. And, I reminded myself, expensive.
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Kim Fielding is the bestselling author of numerous m/m romance novels, novellas, and short stories. Like Kim herself, her work is eclectic, spanning genres such as contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, and historical. Her stories are set in alternate worlds, in 15th century Bosnia, in modern-day Oregon. Her heroes are hipster architect werewolves, housekeepers, maimed giants, and conflicted graduate students. They’re usually flawed, they often encounter terrible obstacles, but they always find love.
After having migrated back and forth across the western two-thirds of the United States, Kim calls the boring part of California home. She lives there with her husband, her two daughters, and her day job as a university professor, but escapes as often as possible via car, train, plane, or boat. This may explain why her characters often seem to be in transit as well. She dreams of traveling and writing full-time.