Here today is Alex Beecroft talking about Trowchester Blues, the first in a new series and one of Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words’ highly recommended reads. Here Alex is talking a little bit about why England as a setting…
I’ve answered so many questions and written so many blog posts about this book that I’ve got to admit I’m running out of things to say, so I’m going to start plundering the questions people have asked me already.
In an early interview, I think with Riptide for their featured author spot, I was asked “Why do you choose to set your books in England?” I gave a short answer there, but I’ve got more to say, so I’m going to flesh it out a bit here.
The first factor, of course, is the simple requirement to “Write what you know.” When I write historicals or fantasies, that part isn’t really important. I imagine things hard, or I do as much research as I can, and – and this is the crucial thing – nobody else knows any better. So I can write whatever I like and nobody can say ‘pah, what do you know?’
But in contemporary life, if I wanted to write a story set in the USA, there would be thousands of people who knew that setting better than me. I’d be working from research and imagination, they’d be working from a knowledge that had settled into them over a lifetime. How could I, a stranger, ever draw a portrait of a location that was anything but a shallow veneer compared to the reality experienced by someone who actually lives there, someone who knows what the nights smell like, and how the dust on the pavements (sidewalks) squeaks under the shoe.
Much better to choose a setting that I know that intimately, so that when my editor says “You’ve said he left his sledgehammer ‘in’ the porch. Don’t you mean ‘on’ the porch?” I can reply “No. The kind of thing you call a porch we call a verandah. “This is a porch in the UK.”
If I set a novel in the UK then suddenly I am the one who has a lifetime’s experience with the mores, assumptions and unstated expectations that rule the characters’ lives. As Oscar Wilde says, Britain and America are two great nations separated by a common language, but we’re also separated by different assumptions and cultures. Fifty Shades of Grey, from what I’ve heard, is written by a Brit who doesn’t really understand how the culture in the US works, and it shows. (Her characters wear dressing gowns instead of robes, and make cups of tea for visiting workmen, which is de rigueur over here but I hear is not done in the US.)
Plus, I know what the evening sunlight looks like on the Peaks, and I’ve experienced the intimidating unassailable politeness of your average policeman, and I have tasted the food, and attempted to hold my own in the relentless banter of your average pub, and I know whereof I speak.
All of that aside, why not set a story in the UK? It’s not the done thing to say so – patriotism is considered a bit suspicious in Britain, a bit vulgar and worrisome, as if it’s a sign that you’re also a closet UKIP member – but I kind of like my country. Admittedly, I don’t know any better, because I’ve never lived anywhere else. But although I hated London, as soon as I moved out into the countryside I felt like I’d come home.
Do you watch Miss Marple? With the gossipy neighbours in their beautiful, twee little villages. Murder, surrounded by dahlias? Those twee little villages actually do exist still. The churches and the ancient monuments, the landscape covered in ruins and history, the summer fetes in which the local vicar has to award a prize for the grower of the best marrow? It’s all true. And having plunged myself into that lifestyle eagerly and discovered the joys of the yearly agricultural shows, harvest festival, Plough Monday and the pagan weirdness of things like the “Straw Bear Festival”, I wanted to celebrate the charming eccentricity and the continued survival of that way of life.
Variety is the spice of life, after all. And despite our reputation for the blandest food on the surface of the earth, you can’t go into a UK curry house and not realize that we also love our spice. There’s a lot to be explored in a country where the accent and the culture can change completely within five miles. Who better to explore it than someone who’s lived it all of their lives?
About Trowchester Blues:
Michael May is losing it. Long ago, he joined the Metropolitan Police to escape his father’s tyranny and protect people like himself. Now his father is dead, and he’s been fired for punching a suspect. Afraid of his own rage, he returns to Trowchester—and to his childhood home, with all its old fears and memories. When he meets a charming, bohemian bookshop owner who seems to like him, he clings tight.
Fintan Hulme is an honest man now. Five years ago, he retired from his work as a high class London fence and opened a bookshop. Then an old client brings him a stolen book too precious to turn away, and suddenly he’s dealing with arson and kidnapping, to say nothing of all the lies he has to tell his friends. Falling in love with an ex-cop with anger management issues is the last thing he should be doing.
Finn thinks Michael is incredibly sexy. Michael knows Finn is the only thing that still makes him smile. But in a relationship where cops and robbers are natural enemies, that might not be enough to save them.
About Alex Beecroft…
Alex Beecroft is an English author best known for historical fiction, notably Age of Sail, featuring gay characters and romantic storylines. Her novels and shorter works include paranormal, fantasy, and contemporary fiction.
Beecroft won Linden Bay Romance’s (now Samhain Publishing) Starlight Writing Competition in 2007 with her first novel, Captain’s Surrender, making it her first published book. On the subject of writing gay romance, Beecroft has appeared in the Charleston City Paper, LA Weekly, the New Haven Advocate, the Baltimore City Paper, and The Other Paper. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association of the UK and an occasional reviewer for the blog Speak Its Name, which highlights historical gay fiction.
Alex was born in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and grew up in the wild countryside of the English Peak District. She lives with her husband and two children in a little village near Cambridge and tries to avoid being mistaken for a tourist.
Alex is only intermittently present in the real world. She has led a Saxon shield wall into battle, toiled as a Georgian kitchen maid, and recently taken up an 800-year-old form of English folk dance, but she still hasn’t learned to operate a mobile phone.
She is represented by Louise Fury of the L. Perkins Literary Agency.
Every comment on this blog tour enters you in a drawing for an e-book from Alex Beecroft’s backlist (excepting Trowchester Blues). Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on February 15. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries.