Wednesday, November 02, 2011

A Bluffer's Guide to Gay Historicals

Top facts:

* Once non-existent, the genre stands proudly, and there are hundreds and hundreds of titles to choose from in every possible era from cavemen to WW2
* Covers. Getting better and better every year, we've gone from naked men in a frozen pond to covers with ships and everything!
* Writers of the genre here at Carina: 
ErastesJosh LanyonAleksandr VoinovFae SutherlandBonnie DeeAlex Beecroft, Charlie Cochrane (the latter two have books coming out in 2012)

In a nutshell

* There's still not enough of it, for a start. Yes, I'm never satisfied...
* Some Gay Historicals address the very real problems of being gay in a time when it wasn't just unacceptable, it was reviled and illegal. (Basically after Christianity kicked in) However, there were times when man on man love wasn't just acceptable, it was a normal part of everyday life. (The Greeks had a word for it.)
* Thankfully, due to pronouns there are few books with those classic romance titles such as "The Belgian Captain's Depraved Toyboy." (With thanks to the Random Romance Title Generator)

The Heroes

Not too different from the heroes in other historical romances. They are generally aristocratic (tall and handsome goes without saying - plus they are ALWAYS - always hung like horses, this is the law.)

So, create your character: Rich, check. Commanding, check. Handsome, check. Package of unusual size. Check and double check. OK, you can stop checking now.

The, er, OTHER Heroes

Now here you can play around a little. You can either make your other hero a match for your arrogant alpha in every sense of the word (and sit back and watch those sparks fly and those buttons go flying (gotta have flying buttons, more later) OR you can create a sensitive little soul. A downtrodden artist, perhaps, or an impoverished tutor. A kidnapped slave or an abused and rescued young man. As long as you get a vast gulf between your alpha and your omega, it doesn't really matter. Any excuse to make that boy cry his little heart out because the rough tough alpha doesn't know how to handle him. Or rather - he doesn't know how to handle his feelings - he knows how to handle him all right. (hur hur) The important thing is the desecration of innocence - but don't worry. No matter how nasty the alpha is, your sensitive soul will fall in love with him as he tops from the bottom.

The best bit about writing gay historicals
* Buttons
. Oh GOD the buttons. I've coined the term breeches ripper before, but for me waistcoat ripping is far more exciting. Also cravats. You can have a LOT of fun with cravats.
* UST. (No, no, not thereUnresolved SexualTension. Buckets and buckets of it. "I'm homosexual!++ Argh! God he's pretty. I wonder if he's homosexual too? How can I let him know? What if he's not? All right... so he is - he's sleeping with Lord [Whossit] - how can I get him?"A writer of gay historicals have immense fun torturing her characters - making every glance count, and when one's passing the port (to the left, of course) at dinner, fingertips are just bound to brush against each other.
It's much easier to get men together on a day-to-day basis. Whereas a hetero historical writer will have to write about dances, and chaperones and perhaps elopements men can simply hang out with each other, ride in each other's carriages (and no, that's not a euphemism!) without anyone fainting or ruining anyone's reputation. Of course it's pretty difficult to get them into sexual situation, but that's another post...

The best bit about reading gay historicals* Buttons! Ok, Is it just me and the buttons?
* Appreciating that the author knows exactly what the difference is between a sailor's whipping and a double fisherman but that you don't need to know anything as silly as long as the hero gets tied up.
* Sponge baths.
* The membrum virilus! Members, yards, rods, poles, perches, arbor vitae, gaying instrument. (yes, really.)

Top tip: beige...biscuit...blasé bleeding anachronisms

Check check check. You may think that it's all right to say your hero's breeches are beige but it wasn't so and any eagle eyed reader will Mock You. They will, however realise if you are trying and make a small slip-up, but they won't appreciate sloppy (or no) research, modern day speech patterns and contemporary men in fancy dress.

What not to say

* “Gad, that's an attractive ass!”

Over to you...

* What gay historicals would you like to see?
* What cliches are you sick of?
* What do you think of the covers these days?
* Anything else?

And if you are interested in finding out more: (and in a more sensible fashion)

Speak Its Name has The Definitive List of Gay Historical fiction.
The Macaronis: Fiction out of the Closet

Erastes is the penname of a female author who lives in Norfolk, UK with 3 demanding cats and a mad dog. Her new novella, "A Brush With darkness" a gay romance set in 19th century Florence is coming to Carina in March 2012. Check her website for her non-Carina titles


Janet Mullany said...

Hi Erastes, thanks so much for the link to "You Can't Say That!" I have to admit I'd never considered the buttons thing before. Neckcloths, however, are dead sexy.

Erastes said...

That's a great link, isn't it? You are welcome, so many things to trip you up, and so many things surprisingly modern! Agree with you about neckcloths too!