The clash of swords, the roar of canon, the scream of horses--war is terrible, and exciting. It's a great subject for a novel, because it adds instant conflict and the author doesn't have to work too hard to make Bad Things happen to their protagonists.
I've based one of my other books around a war too--Transgressions--which is set during the English Civil War. But with both Muffled Drum and with Transgressions I am afraid I cheat rather a lot. Instead of taking the Bernard Cornwell/Sharpe option, and meticulously describing each battle, I tend to skirt around most of the conflicts.
In Muffled Drum I deal with the morning before the battle of Gitschin, where Mathias and Rudolph make their final plans to run away together, and then the aftermath of the battle--because we all know that if someone says "see you after the battle" something is bound to go wrong!
The Austro-Prussian war actually only lasted for seven short weeks from June to August 1866 but was rather bloody, with over 100,000 killed. So my protagonists were pretty lucky to get out when they did, I think.
The main theme of the book is amnesia--a tried and tested literary trope, of course. But I hope that I deal with it as realistically as I can. My father has Alzheimer's so loss of memory is rather close to my heart. Of course, there's a difference between memory loss due to a blow to the head, and Alzheimer's but I think--dealing with my Dad daily, I can understand some of Mathias' grief that the man he loves has seemingly gone--maybe forever.
This is also the first book I've written that's not had its core in England,and that was a bit of a challenge. It's easy enough to write about The Grand Tour because those paths have been trodden by many a diarist and many, many novels, but to write about 19th century Bohemia? Luckily it didn't seem to have changed a huge amount. Much of what I write about on the road trip is modern day Czechoslovakia and thank goodness for Google Earth and Google Maps! I was able to zoom right in to show me what the landscape and surroundings were like. I could even "ride along the road"in the same route as Rudolph and Mathias. Bohemia Nothing at all like the English countryside, that's for sure.
It was very interesting for me to discover new places and new areas of research.
I hope that--if you try the book--you'll like it, and please do let me know.
I'll give one copy to one commenter, and will announce the winner on this blog on the 10th July.
In the meantime, here's a snippet and the book blurb.
They met in a port-side tavern, their lust-filled moments stolen from days of marching and madness. After eighteen months, Captain Rudolph von Ratzlaff and First Lieutenant Mathias Hofmann have decided to run away from everything they hold dear. Resigning their commissions is social suicide, but there's no other choice. Someone will eventually see Rudolph's partiality toward Mathias.
Now their plans have gone horribly awry... When Mathias goes to Rudolph's tent after their last battle, his lover looks at him without a hint of recognition. Mathias can hardly believe the man he knew is gone. He wants to fill in so many of Rudolph's missing memories, but the doctor says a shock could result in permanent damage. The pain of seeing Rudolph on a daily basis, when Rudolph doesn't remember their love, is excruciating. Now Mathias must decide whether he wants to fight for the man he loves or forget him completely...----------------------
“Ernst, my dear, dear, boy.” Rudolph took his free hand and shook it so hard that champagne slopped from Ernst’s glass onto the floor. “You look wonderful, just wonderful.”
Dumbfounded at Rudolph’s behavior, Ernst felt Rudolph slip his arm through his own and was unable to find a rejoinder as Rudolph led him aside and found an empty table.
He sat opposite his former lover, completely astounded at the warmth in Rudolph’s face. The last time they’d met—in fact the last several times, as their relationship had crashed toward a rocky end—Rudolph had been cool, accusing and downright unpleasant.
Rudolph had been appalled that someone had mentioned their relationship to him, someone Rudolph hadn’t known, and he’d taken Ernst to task about it, ranting and raving about the need for complete discretion. “It’s bad enough that you charge my account for your trinkets and then have them delivered to an address which is clearly neither mine, nor a more acceptable mistress’s, but now I find my generosity bandied around the gaming tables and clubs. I warned you, Ernst, more than once. I won’t have my family touched by this, and if you can’t keep your mouth shut then you and I will be through.”
Then had come the crash when Rudolph had heard of sub-leutnant Albert Krueger, a whirlwind affair of Ernst’s that he assumed Rudolph would never find out about. Somewhere—Ernst never found out where—the pretty but stupid Albert had boasted of a gold cigarette case Ernst had given him, and the gossip had reached Rudolph’s ears. That had been the final straw. Rudolph had broken with him entirely, refusing to see him or accept his letters, stopping the rent on his rooms and advising every merchant with a von Ratzlaff account that Herr Fetter’s credit was no longer backed by the von Ratzlaff fortune. Rudolph had cut him ever since, and—what was almost as bad—so had most of his friends and acquaintances, whether they were aware of the more intimate relationship or not.
It had taken Ernst a good long while to cultivate friends with sufficient height in society to allow him to penetrate occasions such as these. Now here was Rudolph, his face full of welcome, as if Ernst was the one person he longed to see over everyone else.
At an unaccustomed loss for words, Ernst let Rudolph take the lead. Rudolph leaned across the table, speaking with a low voice, but his face still full of pleasure. You look surprised to see me, and I don’t blame you—I wanted to write to let you know I was on my way back, believe me. You wouldn’t have been impressed with tales of mud, maggots and blood. Regimental life on the road is not a pleasant tale to relate by letter. And once I was on the road, on my way back—to you—I couldn’t trust anyone with a letter filled with what I wanted to say. A telegram simply wouldn’t have done. Say you forgive me for startling you.”
Ernst nodded, still dumbfounded.
Erastes is the penname of a female author who lives near the Norfolk Broads in England. She writes gay historicals and short stories of many genres. A Lambda finalist in 2009, Erastes is the owner of Speak Its Name, the only review site that specialises in gay historical fiction. She has recently sold a second novella--as yet unnamed--to Carina, which will be released Spring 2012.
Find out about her writings at her website: www.erastes.com