GENRE TALK WITH CAROLE CUMMINGS AND PATRICIA CORRELL
Greetings and Happy Wednesday! Today on Genre Talk we have DSP Publications author Patricia Correll who’s here to talk about Late Summer, Early Spring, which is two (two!) books in one. So before we get to the chatting, let’s have a look at what Patricia’s brought for us:
Hour of the Lotus
General Sho Iwata is devastated when the man he secretly loves, Prince Narita, is struck with a mysterious illness. Iwata’s current lover, Hiroshi, is well aware of the general’s unrequited passion. But that isn’t his biggest problem. His sister is Narita’s favorite consort, but Hiroshi believes she has been replaced by an imposter. When they discover the true cause of the illness, they will have to battle an ancient spirit and survive.
Lord General Sho Iwata sets out in search of the mysterious Fox Hunter. When he finds his former lover, Hiroshi, he discovers a changed man, scarred inside and out and consumed by vengeance. Together with Narita’s grown son Daigo, Iwata and Hiroshi pursue the malicious spirit as it leaves bloodshed in its wake. Iwata worries about what will become of Hiroshi when the fox is defeated—if Hiroshi’s revenge doesn’t kill him first.
Carole: Wow. Sounds wonderfully complex and intriguing, so let’s start at the beginning. Tell us about your genre.
Patricia: I tend to write character-driven fantasy stories and Late Summer, Early Spring is pretty typical of my style. While it is fantasy, it’s not the world-shattering, wizard battling, when-does-the-war start fantasy. I love that kind of story, but I’m not interested in writing it! Late Summer, Early Spring is an intimate story focusing on a handful of characters, but set in another world and with supernatural elements based on Japanese mythology.
The world-shattering, when-does-the-war-start fantasy definitely seems more common in today’s world, but I think as a genre fantasy is open to many kinds of stories and my type of writing has its niche. Fantasy has always been an inclusive genre, and is open to characters of many races (and species), orientations, and values. I feel that relatively recently there’s been a shift from telling stories based on European history and mythology to stories based on other worlds, which I think is really exciting.
Fantasy is a broad and open genre, and its writers, publishers and readers are willing to entertain all kinds of ideas, even if they widely diverge from what’s accepted by the mainstream. I love it. I can’t think of any other genre that’s quite as diverse and welcoming.
Carole: So, with all that wide-open space, why M/M?
Patricia: My mind works on a story for a long time before I ever write the first word, and as a consequence my characters are fully formed as soon as they hit paper. Iwata and Hiroshi just happened to be lovers; I saw that the relationship added a new layer to the story and ran with it.
Carole: And Spec Fic is all about layers. ;) So tell us about Late Summer, Early Spring.
Patricia: The book is actually two linked novellas; the title refers to the seasons when each story takes place, though the late summer and early spring are actually separated by eight years.
I’ve written several short stories based on Japanese folktales. I’ve always imagined the old storytellers sitting around the fire, giving every well-worn tale their own personal twist. I like to think I’m upholding that tradition when I write these stories.
These two novellas are the latest in this vein; they’re loosely based on an old folktale about a shape-shifting vampire cat. While I’m fond of cats, I thought it would be more fun to transfer the villainy to Asian mythology’s most famous shape-changing trickster, the fox, which has a long and detailed supernatural history. Hour of the Lotus and The Fox Hunter are definitely the most complex of my retold folktales, and I think that’s because I find the main characters so engaging.
Carole: Late Summer, Early Spring is being published through DSP Publications, Dreamspinner Press’s imprint for nonromance genre novels. Tell us about the relationship in Late Summer, Early Spring and why it doesn’t fit the accepted definition of Romance in the M/M genre.
Patricia: Iwata and Hiroshi are already lovers when Hour of the Lotus begins. Their relationship changes as the plot develops over the course of the two novellas, and progresses from solving a mystery to seeking revenge. It’s an aspect of the story, but not the whole story.
Hour of the Lotus was originally published under (spoiler!) Dreamspinner’s Bittersweet Dreams imprint, which means the ending isn’t exactly a happy one. I always felt like the end of that novella was more like a pause, and I later wrote a sequel, The Fox Hunter. I submitted it to Dreamspinner, and that’s when I learned about DSP Publications. They suggested packaging the two novellas together. I was thrilled, because it seemed like DSP Publications was a better home for it, focusing as it does on stories where romance is not necessarily the main point. I felt it was possible that some readers might have been disappointed with Hour of the Lotus, if they were expecting a straight-up love story. People who read books from DSP Publications should be going into it with the knowledge that they’re going to get something different.
Carole: *nod nod nod* That’s what I always say! ;) Okay, now we’ve come to my favorite question: tell us about the evolution of this story. What was its earliest incarnation as a concept and when did it begin to take the form of Late Summer, Early Spring?
Patricia: Since I have an interest in world mythology, I like to seek out folktales from different places. I came across the vampire cat story. All the basics of Hour of the Lotus come from it: the energy-sucking shape-shifting villain, the loyal retainer who fights to solve the mystery and save his prince. But as my characters developed they brought with them more and more elements and the story became more complex. Unrequited love from a couple of different angles, familial loyalty, traditional Asian values, adherence to duty and finally, a quest for revenge and forgiveness. When Hour of the Lotus was complete, I knew there would be a follow-up, but it took some time to write it.
Two of my favorite writers are Ursula K. LeGuin or Peter S. Beagle, and you may be able to see their influence on my style. I aim for just enough description, and hopefully a little lyricism as well.
Carole: Well, if you’re going to have role models, you can’t go wrong with those two. Now, with everything going on in these two stories, why did you feel they needed to be told with the M/M dynamic?
Patricia: I honestly didn’t put that much thought into it. Hiroshi and Iwata seemed like a natural couple. As their personalities developed, it was obvious that Hiroshi was the sort of determined person Iwata would respect, and the strict, collected Lord General was the kind of man, or challenge, really, that Hiroshi would be eager to take on.
Carole: And finally, as a kind of tagalong to that last question: there are so many questions writers get asked, some unusual, some clichéd, some that make you go “hmm…” and some for which we actually have an answer. Give us one you get a lot and how you generally answer.
Patricia: When people learn I’m a writer, they often say, “I wish I could write, but…”
But I don’t know how/I don’t have time/I have no talent.
Well, I can help you. You don’t know how? Here’s a notebook, a pen (or a laptop — I write longhand but most people don’t). Sit down in this chair and begin. You don’t have time? Do you eat lunch? Eat with one hand, write with the other. If your kids are at the park, write while they play. As for talent, there’s a place for it, but it’s far, far less important than work.
People tend to think that writing is some holy experience where you go into a locked room and work in absolute solitude and silence for hours at a time. Some people can do that, but the rest of us fit it in when we can, while the TV is on or the radio or the guy in the next cubicle is on the phone. If you keep your story running in a stream at the back of your mind, you can easily dip your fingers in and pluck out a piece of it while your kid is at sports practice.
We all have lots of stuff to do in our lives, but if it’s important to you, you’ll find the time for it, and if you want to learn to do it, you will. Anyone can write if they really want to.
Carole: Interesting points, Patricia, and thanks so much for sharing them. And thank you, Dear Readers, for dropping by. Buy links and other info is at the bottom of the post, but first, please enjoy the following from Patricia’s upcoming release:
EXCERPT: LATE SUMMER, EARLY SPRING
A lantern hung at the end of the new corridor. A figure stood in front of it, cast into darkness by the light behind. Iwata pulled up short.
“Lord General Iwata?” The figure spoke. “Younger Brother?”
Iwata felt Hiroshi’s muscles knot; he thought he could hear the younger man’s teeth grind. Iwata made himself relax and sheathe his katana. But he kept his hand on his obi, where his dagger hid.
Lady Kumomo drifted toward them, emerging from the darkness into the dim light. Her face shone white as the moon. Despite the hour she was fully dressed, her hair piled in a shining mound on top of her head. “Why is your sword out, Hiroshi?”
“We’re protecting the prince tonight.” He didn’t sheathe it.
Iwata interrupted. “Why is my lady out at this hour?”
“I couldn’t sleep, my lord. My worry for my prince is too great.” She smiled sadly. Iwata peered into her face, but he saw nothing sinister, nothing false. Nothing that had not been there before.
She turned to Hiroshi, who stood just behind Iwata, his katana still exposed. “I’m sorry if I frightened you, Brother.”
Hiroshi’s eyes were black pools in the dimness. His scar stretched tight across his face. He held his sword so tightly that his knuckles were white.
Don’t, Iwata thought, his gut clenching. Don’t.
Hiroshi stared at Lady Kumomo. His fingers twitched, and Iwata gripped the hilt of his dagger. Lady Kumomo blinked at him, her face a mask of puzzlement. “Brother?”
Hiro, Iwata thought desperately.
As if he’d heard, Hiroshi breathed deeply. Woodenly he sheathed his sword.
“No,” he said quietly, his voice brittle. “You don’t frighten me.”
She stepped past Iwata, who stiffened. She smelled of incense and honey. “Poor Hiroshi. Good night.” She raised one hand and brushed his cheek with lacquered nails. Then she leaned up and kissed his scarred cheek. A visible shudder coursed through Hiroshi’s body. Lady Kumomo stepped back, smiling. A light flashed in her eyes; a light that shouldn’t have been there, so far from the lantern. An icy fist clutched the base of Iwata’s spine.
“Good evening, Lord General. Take good care of your prince.” She rested a hand lightly on Iwata’s arm. A spike of pain tore through his wounded thigh, pooling beneath the stitches. The agony was so intense it made Iwata’s head spin. Vaguely he felt the pressure of her hand lift, heard the rustle of her robes, saw the flicker as she passed by the lantern. When she was lost to the darkness, Iwata staggered back and leaned against the wall. Hiroshi remained in the center of the corridor, staring after Lady Kumomo. His face had collapsed into fury, disgust… hate. Iwata knew the expression well but had never seen it on Hiroshi. It cut through his dizziness into his heart. “Hiro.”
Hiroshi looked at him. Immediately his expression turned to concern. “Sho?”
“My leg,” he growled. Hiroshi crossed to him, taking his arm and propping him up. They leaned together. Iwata’s dizziness began to abate.
“It was mocking us.” Hiroshi’s voice was thick with bitterness.
Iwata said nothing. Hiroshi was right. The pain had burned down to a single point of agony; he focused on it, trying to drive it out. Hiroshi reached up to brush a stray lock of hair from Iwata’s ear. He leaned forward until their foreheads touched. “Sho?”
“Yes, it was mocking us.” Iwata sucked in a breath, grimacing.
Late Summer, Early Spring will be released July 14th from DSP Publications and is available for pre-order now.
Patricia Correll believes that all humans are natural storytellers. She’s been telling tales since she could string words together, but in the last thirty years or so has graduated from My Little Pony stories to the unholy trinity of fantasy, SF, and horror.
She lives with her husband, their sons, and a fifteen-pound calico cat. When she’s not writing, she spends her time being a stay-at-home mom, occasionally working at a bookstore, and trying to make her cat lose weight (which is almost impossible to do). She also eats lots of ice cream, pretends to be a gardener, and possesses staggering amounts of Hello Kitty merchandise.
That’s it for this edition of Genre Talk. Thanks for reading, and please join us next time when we’ll turn Deja Black upside-down and see what kinds of answers fall out of her pockets. ;)