Fourteen years and counting

This post and some of the links in it contain advertisements for my books.

The fourth of July means a lot to some people, and I’m one of them. Because July 4, 2003 was when I met my nemesis – no, sorry, love of my life!

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Now I’m a complete romantic fool. Maybe that’s why I write romance books. But my idea of romance isn’t always that… uh, romantic.

You see, I’m an INTP, which is a personality type according to the Myers-Briggs typology system (if you’re unfamiliar with the MBTI, this is an awesome site for information on it). Anyway, INTPs tend to be unsentimental about things, or at least that’s the stereotype. Think Sheldon in Big Bang Theory (or so I’m told, I don’t watch it). INTPs love ideas and finding out how things work and logic and systems. Flowers and champagne? Not so much.

Yet here we are.

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Chin-chin!

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So what gives? How can this purple prose Angst Queen who photographs backlit flowers profess to be an INTP? Well, because the stereotype is a, how shall I put it? Stereotype. Yes, INTPs love systems and ideas, but that doesn’t mean they’re all mathematical geniuses. Ask my primary school teacher what my math book looked like. We had a meeting about it.

Because this particular INTP (pictured above with romantic interest, flowers, and champagne) is interested in human systems. Language. Psychology. Sociology. Physiology. The hard sciences are meh, but anything that helps me figure out what the hell makes people tick? Count me in.

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(Last Communion)

You can see this again and again – in a romantic context – in my books. In All You Can Eat, I explore not only the psychology behind eating disorders, but also the way we sometimes try to scare off people before we let them in: the old princess-guarded-by-a-dragon-of-her-own-making mechanism.

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In Not Safe For Work, the hurdle to overcome is other people’s expectations and not being allowed to make your own decisions because the script has already been written by other people. A mindfuck I really enjoyed torturing my poor boys with – especially because of the added breathless stress of having that script spreading like wildfire across social media!

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In Rival Poet, I go full INTP and have my protagonists find each other through their writing. Sometimes you can hardly separate their creative collaboration from their lovemaking – because that’s what makes it romantic from my point of view: working towards a common goal, admiring and enjoying each other’s talent and intelligence.

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The same goes for the Pax series, where play-writing is replaced with musicianship. During the long and arduous periods where Jamie and Michael are unable to talk to each other about their feelings, their music talks for them.

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So I guess this all sums up my view of romance. I’m a sucker for one-to-one-ness, for the concept of soulmates and the one person who understands and appreciates you. But I don’t have my characters yell “I love you, honey” at every possible moment, and I don’t think any of them has bought the other flowers or chocolate. The closest I ever get to a Hollywood moment is this type of confession from Rival Poet:

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!

When Kit spoke, his voice was the mere wisp of a sound. “You’re going to hate this,” he prefaced. “Or laugh at me. But…” He stopped to breathe, to gather his courage. “I’m in love with you, Will.”

Will froze. Stared into those hypnotising eyes, that unique golden colour. In love? His whole upbringing rebelled against the words. They didn’t make sense. Loving someone was one thing, but being in love… that was just possible when one of the two was a woman.

Only… when Kit said it, it did make sense. In the secrecy of this room, in the greyness of predawn, with just the two of them present to hear it, it made perfect sense.

Will breathed in. “If it’s something you can be,” he replied slowly, “Then… I am too.”

Well. I guess that is kind of mushy. But if you’re not allowed to be mushy about the kiss at the end of the rainbow, then what other opportunities are there really?

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Shakespeare, Marlowe and the pageboy guy

So the world is talking about Shakespeare’s collaborations, and this girl couldn’t be happier. We’ve long known that Will’s plays are full of interpolations from other writers, but to have Kit be specially credited warms my heart.

Because the whole point of Rival Poet is that Will needs help. His hand, his country manners, his lack of brashness, his dialect, his tendency to give up… he wouldn’t have got anywhere without his best friend Richard, his loyal company from whose voices he crafted his characters, and above all, without Kit.

And neither would I.

You see, Kit is the person I never can be, but sometimes wish I could. He’s my secret animus and the man of my dreams – literally. When I was eighteen, I started having this recurring dream about a tall guy with a pageboy cut – which was sometimes a bright green – who just sort of moved through the dream and was cool and mysterious and intelligent and wore a Sherlock style coat. Irresistible. I always woke up with a feeling of yearning. I wanted that man to be real. I wanted him in my life.

But not as a partner. I wanted to be him.

So for me the “pageboy guy” has become the symbol of a side I never reveal. He’s the part of me that speaks through my less-than-considerate characters. He’s Becca in Pax, and maybe Nathan. He’s Laila in All You Can Eat and Garangjas in Last Communion. But above all, he’s Kit Marlowe.

MAJOR RIVAL POET SPOILERS AHEAD. If you want to avoid them, scroll until you see the cover and then continue reading below it.

SPOILERY STUFF:

There was an earlier version of Rival Poet where Kit actually died for real. A non-romance version, obviously. But he continued haunting me. There was a niggling doubt at the back of my head. I didn’t want him dead. I also didn’t want to buy into some stupid conspiracy theory and ruin the part of the plot where losing Kit was the breeding ground for all of Will’s tragedies. To say I had cognitive dissonance is an understatement.

And then finally, I brought him back. I sometimes wonder if it was the right thing to do, but the answer is always the same: yes. Because he does live on. Just like Shakespeare, Marlowe is as alive today as he was four hundred years ago, and I needed that scene, that (slightly twisted) riding-into-the-sunset-and-living-forever scene that can be taken as face value, but which also has a more symbolic meaning that nudges the reader and says, “You know? Wink, wink.”

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OKAY, NOW IT’S JUST NON-SPOILERY STUFF 🙂

So yeah, seeing people today be all excited about how my two favourite boys collaborated on a bunch of plays is a joy for me, because I’m personally convinced they did. Will and Kit go together like the two halves of my soul: the middle-aged woman who guards her tongue, and the devil-may-care shadow with the artsy coat who laughs at everything.

I even wrote a song about it. Now, I’m not a flawless singer, and I’m definitely not a pianist, but I do consider myself an amateur composer. (Can’t write novels all the time, you know?) So here it is, in all its do-I-really-remember-the-chords glory: my tribute to Kit Marlowe.

Lyrics below.

 

PAMPERED JADE

He steps out of the shadows like
An impish sprite on the lookout
For a narrative to hijack
’Cause he didn’t have enough time
In his own lifetime
To fill the world with his words
And he will not be able to sleep soundly
In his grave until

He has conquered all the world
Like the pampered jade he is
He’s been made immortal by
Another Helen’s kiss
His cry will be Come live with me
All through the night
’Cause whoever loved
That loved not at first sight?

So here I am, in this song
I suppose it’s about me
But if you look, I’ll be gone
’Cause I’m strange and elusive
Now you see me, now you don’t
I’m the Magus, I’m the Puck
I am Mercury, I bring a message from the gods

I have conquered all the world
Like the pampered jade I am
I’ll be made immortal by
The kiss from another man
My cry will be Come live with me
All through the night
’Cause whoever loved
That loved not at first sight?

I am back from Hades
And I know you can’t resist
So come with me and we will get
Fictionally pissed

’Cause you can conquer all the world
Like the pampered jade you are
You’ll be made immortal by
The kiss from a shooting star
Your cry will be Come live with me
All through the night
’Cause whoever loved
That loved not at first sight?

Gatecrashing celebrity parties and being hijacked by a dead poet

This post and the links in it contain advertisements for my books.

A good friend of mine once said that writers are people who still have imaginary friends as adults. I have always believed this to be true, but it became really obvious when I started writing about Shakespeare. Even though I’m used to having fictional people clamoring for attention in my head all the time, I wasn’t at all prepared for being swept off my feet like I was by Kit Marlowe.

It all began in Liverpool, of all places. My husband and I went to a concert with a singer that he has admired since his teenage years. After the gig, we stalked one of his friends and gatecrashed the post-gig party. Now, I’ve never wanted to meet my idols, since I just know I would make a fool of myself. But my husband isn’t quite such a coward, so he went over and introduced himself. The singer was really nice and talked to him for a long while, and the memory of that stuck with me.

When I started researching for Rival Poet, I came across the only known (alleged) portrait of Marlowe. In it, he looks a lot like that singer. Rival Poet AReMulling over the connection, I decided that when Will first came to London he must have met someone he looked up to – a poet, probably. The two most likely candidates for such hero worship were Kyd and Marlowe, both successful playwrights at the time. Simply because of the link in my mind to my husband’s idol, I leaned toward Marlowe. Finally, after watching a BBC documentary where he was depicted as a madcap biker, I knew I had to go with him.

So I decided to write a scene where Will meets Kit and is really awkward – as a kind of flirtation with my own admiration for Shakespeare and how nervous I would be in his presence. It was just supposed to be a minor plot point. Little did I expect that both Will and I would fall head over heels in love with the man. In no time at all, he had completely hi-jacked the story, and in the end, the book was more about him than about Shakespeare himself.

And you know, it’s kind of ironic: I chose this profession because I like having full control over everything – only to end up at the complete mercy of people who don’t even exist!