Delighted to welcome Heloise, who has a brand spanking new story - Ardent - out with Manifold.
Heloise, thanks for being my guest. What inspired you to start writing?
I always had a vivid imagination as a kid, and once I learned to read and write, I started putting narratives together from the books I read. Not fanfic, but kind of derivative of the things I liked reading about. I wrote pirate stories, caper, post apocalyptic, a gothic romance, and fantasy. It was both an escape and a way to cope, I think. Still is. Mostly I was, and still am, inspired by reading the words of others, but I found my own voice and narrative. I always wanted to be the mind behind the story—which was how I described wanting to be a writer to myself as a kid.
Does it feel different when you're launching your fourth book compared to the first?
Yes, I’m definitely much calmer about it, but still excited. Things have changed in the last two years in publishing, especially in the small press, so I never really know what to expect.
Why this particular setting and era?
I think Ardent sprouted from a seed dropped way back when in Art History 101 with a very long germination time. The first novel I ever finished was an Italian medieval mystery set in Tuscany during the time of Dante, and I spent a lot of time reading books backwards and forwards on that timeline. For me, I think all roads lead to Florence. There was so much going on during the Italian Renaissance, so many personalities, conflicts, innovations. Much of the material I found wasn’t taught in undergraduate classes, either. It would be difficult for me not to find a story to write by reading between the lines of this particular era in history.
Are you character or plot driven? What do you do if one of your characters starts developing at a tangent?
Character driven. Well, there’s quite a few characters in Ardent who have their own complicated stories to tell, and I was hoping they would continue to speak to me after Ardent was finished. There is so much more to explore here, from so many different perspectives.
If you were in a tight corner and had to rely on one of your characters to save you, which would it be and why?
Falcone. Who also has the most developed next story in this universe. Falcone is morally complicated, an abandoned child who had to learn to fend for himself, who also loves beauty and music. His loyalty and love, however, once earned, is unwavering, and he would do anything for that person who earned it.
If you had no constraints of time and a guarantee of publication, what book would you write?
My Italian medieval mystery ended up being a mess, but it was my learning project. The main characters are still compelling to me, as is the place and time. It occurred to me that I could create an AU with strong fantasy elements where Dante goes to hell and curses Florence by unleashing the inhabitants on them. I’d need the time to do submerge myself in the research and developing the AU.
Is there a classic book you started and simply couldn't finish?
Crime and Punishment *hangs head*
What’s your favourite gay fiction book? And why?
Only one? Okay, The Persian Boy. I re-read that one every few years. I love Bagoas’ voice. It’s not a romance, but the love story between him and Alexander makes the historical aspect even more compelling and vivid.
What's your next project?
Well, speaking of historicals, the rights for my short story from the Dreamspinner anthology Juicy Bits were just returned to me. I’m thinking of self-pubbing it as an erotic historical, as it’s not technically a romance. The premise for the anthology was to write just the juicy bits from a romance, so they didn’t have time to get to the learning to love part. I’m undecided about expanding it, as it feels complete to me as it is. But I’ll let that simmer on the back burner for a while, see what my subconscious comes up with. The story is called River Gods, set later in the Renaissance in Florence. There’s another murder mystery beckoning, set in this same time period and place, basically after Savonrola’s death. I’m also working on a novel for the Order of the Black Knights multiauthor series with Dreamspinner, and edits for the third novel in my Heart and Haven series with Loose Id.
In the village of Torrenta, master painter Morello has created a color that mimics the most expensive pigment of all, the crimson red. Master Zeno, from strife-ridden Medici Florence, tells him the color gives him a competitive advantage – but Morello must be careful. Fraud is ever-present in the dye and pigment markets.
As they work together in Torrenta, Morello falls hard for Zeno’s assistant, Benedetto Tagliaferro, a young man of uncommon beauty and intelligence. Benedetto is still fixed on his old lover, the master painter Leo Guisculo, and cannot return Morello’s affections.
But when Leo dies in a terrible accident, it’s to Morello that Zeno and Benedetto turn for help. And Morello soon finds that in Florence, every surface hides layers of intrigue.