Friday, 6 January 2012

Welcome to S.A. Meade

Last year, I picked up a book by an author I'd never heard of. I was blown away by her story and Stolen Summer has become my book of 2011.  Set in Oxford, London and Pakistan, Stolen Summer follows just over a year in the life of journalist, Evan Harrison, as he prepares to travel to Pakistan. In the days running up to his journey, his best friend Colin makes a surprising declaration.

Over to you, S.A. Meade...

When and why did you begin writing?
Like a lot of writers, I started writing as soon as I knew what I could do with words. I was in my first year of primary school and we had two notebooks to write in. One was covered with an eggy yellow paper and was for stories and the other was covered with a lovely dark purple and it was meant to be a diary. I just wrote stories in both.

What inspires you to write and why?
I always loved to read and I’ve always had an overactive imagination. I spent a great deal of my school years staring out of windows and daydreaming. One thing that almost always sets me off is a song. My latest writing jag started three years ago when I was driving across the Arizona desert in the middle of summer. Eva Cassidy’s version of ‘Fields of Gold’ was on the CD player and that was it. I had this idea to write a WW1 historical romance. I wrote it and it went nowhere, but it started me on the road I’m on now. The characters always come out of nowhere and I have this compulsion to do something with them, like give them a story to play in.

What is the best piece of advice you received before you got published?
Never stick your elbow in your ear.
No, seriously I think it was just to sit and write, keep writing whether what I wrote was poo or not.

Do you have any rituals to start your writing day?
Coffee, cigarette, check out what’s going on online, another cigarette, do the shopping/dishes, check out what’s going on online, stare out of window, turn on the Sonia Deol show on BBC Asian and start writing. For some reason Asian music really gets me writing.

What are you currently writing?
I’m just tidying up an m/m historical set partly in India during the Sepoy Uprising. I still haven’t found a title for it but it was fun (and difficult) to slip out of a contemporary ‘voice’ for a character and find a nineteenth century ‘voice’. I just hope my editor thinks it works!

How do you find your names?
I have a serious case of the dithers when it comes to names. With the contemporary stories, I have a mental list of names that I use. With the historical stuff, I look at popular names for the years that my characters were born and take it from there.

What is the most interesting piece of research you’ve done so far?
Without a doubt, 19th century lubricants.

Do you include your life experiences in your books?
Not directly. I do prefer to set my novels in places I’ve been or know. I feel more comfortable if I’m familiar with a place. For instance, part of Stolen Summer is set in Pakistan. I was fortunate enough to take a trip along the route of one of the Silk Roads many years ago. I’d always wanted to set a story there so it made sense to use that experience when I wrote Stolen Summer.  I’ve also used my knowledge of the British horse racing scene in one or two books. My husband works with racehorses and we’ve lived in a couple of racing yards so I’m familiar with that world. My passion for cooking comes out quite often. I’ve been accused by friends of writing food porn.

Who is your favourite author and why?
Tough one. Really tough. There are loads. The one author who really started me writing is Rosemary Hawley Jarman. She’s a British author who wrote the most gorgeous historical novels back in the 1970s. I love her imagery and her sumptuous descriptions. She wrote a novel about Richard III entitled ‘We Speak No Treason’, it’s still one of my favourite books and I’m a confirmed Ricardian as a result.

What do you do to relax?
Make a mess in the kitchen. I love to cook and my family have to eat, so it’s an arrangement that works well. I also find writing relaxing. It’s rarely a chore for me.

Where can we find you on the web?
I’ll also be blogging on the 17th of every month on Total E-Bound’s ‘Hitting the Hot Spot’ blog.

Bio: S.A.Meade lives in deepest Wiltshire and is pathetically happy to see rain after eight years in the desert of south central Arizona. She stumbled into writing m/m by accident when she realised that her historicals put agents to sleep. Since then she’s realised she’s addicted to the genre and keeps writing more dirty books. She loves cooking and eating what she cooks and shares her home with a patient husband and son and two heat-seeking cats.

Stolen Summer
“So tell me about your week.” He leant back. His hand rested on the table, only inches from mine.

“It was pretty boring. I did some research on tribes, wrote up a bunch of questions for Professor Emerson.”

“Bloody Pakistan.”

“Yeah, sorry.”

A touch across my knuckles, soft and light like the drift of a feather, jolted me out of the conversation, out of rational thought. Colin trailed his forefinger over the back of my hand, tracing a vein there. I looked at him. His eyes held a mix of defiance and uncertainty. I couldn’t even imagine what mine told him. I couldn’t move my hand. I wasn’t sure I wanted to. Instead, my fingers wove through his, in that absent way that sometimes happens, no conscious thought guiding them.

“So, what does your research tell you?” Colin swept his thumb across my palm and lingered on the underside of my wrist. The lightness of his touch coiled around my arm like ivy, drifted south and fuelled the growing ache in my groin.

“That it’s a mess.” So was I. I had been reduced to a jumble of thoughts—desire, fear, curiosity. Part of me wanted to know where this was leading, the other part was almost terrified. I was grateful for the privacy of the booth. Those few diners who had us in their line of sight were too busy with their own evenings to be bothered with ours.

“Here we go.” The waitress returned with our meals. God alone knows what she thought of two men holding hands at her table.

Colin eased his hand away. I looked at him, sorry that dinner had arrived. The aroma of linguine was small consolation for the sudden absence of his touch.

He reached across the table and deftly twirled his fork into my pasta. “That looks nice.” He chewed it thoughtfully for a few seconds. “It tastes nice, too.”

“It is.” I sought refuge in the food. “How’s yours?” I glanced at the chicken on his plate.

He speared a piece with his fork and held it to my lips. “Why don’t you try it and see?”

I tasted garlic, onions and herbs beneath the sharp tang of tomato. Colin held my gaze with his. I was a cobra hypnotised by a charmer. “Tasty.”

“It’s a good thing you’re not a restaurant critic. I don’t think your columns would be very long or informative.” He grinned.

“No, I suppose not.” I wondered where my words had gone. I wondered where the evening was going.

“If you weren’t a journalist, what would you do? What would you want to do?”

I nearly dropped my fork when he covered my foot with his. He brushed it languidly over my ankle.

“I have no idea. I think I’d feel lost.”

“Are you sure? Is there nothing that would satisfy you if you couldn’t be a journalist anymore, if you couldn’t just hop on a plane and find yourself in the thick of things?” Colin’s foot crept up the inside of my calf.

I swallowed. “I’d miss the rush.” My heart hammered against my ribs.

He raised an eyebrow. “Really? Don’t you think you could find that rush elsewhere?”

“I…I…don’t know. I suppose it’s possible.” My hand trembled.

Colin’s foot ventured further, caressing my thigh.

I set my fork down and leaned across the table. “What the hell are you doing?”

He leant forward, took my chin in his hand and kissed me—a swift, fierce kiss that swept the last of my appetite away. When he spoke, his voice was a low whisper. “I can’t bloody help myself.” 


  1. Okay, enquiring minds want to know...19th century lubricant...discuss!

    Wonderful interview, thanks so much, Sue and S.A.!

  2. Hi Lisa,
    um...yeah, 19th century lube. I had two issues to research...what would have been used in India in 1857 as lube and then what would've been available back in England.
    I took a bit of a cowards way out and opted for some scented oil in a little blue bottle for India and afterwards.
    I'm told sesame oil was likely to have been used in India. Some further research suggested that olive oil is a good lube. I didn't know if it was available in England at the time so I checked Mrs Beeton's guide to Household Management (a brilliant 19th century resource) and learned that olive oil was available in England at the time.
    Dilemma solved!

  3. Good to know!

    It's sorta like, back when I worked for the film studio, one of my proudest moments was finding an architectural rendering of a 17th century US colonial privy...

  4. So glad Lisa asked about the lubricant (also, hahaha!)

    Also, you're totally guilty of writing the most delicious food porn, Sue. ;)

    Great interview, both of you and yes, everyone who hasn't yet totally needs to check out STOLEN SUMMER right now!

  5. One of my go-to research books for that sort of info is Rictor Norton's "Mother Clap's Molly House: The Gay Subculture in England 1700-1830." Do you know it?

  6. Food porn? Me?

    Bryn, I haven't heard of that, but I'm definitely going to check it out.

    Thanks for stopping by, ladies. xxxxx

  7. I think it's a bit 70s-ish, but Norton is a funny guy, and a thorough-going researcher.

  8. I wish I'd known about it when I was writing my Regency story, Bryn.

  9. Oh! and by mentioning Mother Clap, I meant to ask, How do you deal with the criminality of homosexuality in the 19th Century? (obviously not quite as pressing a matter as lube, but still... ;o) Do you leave it be? Or do you use the issue as obstacle/plot point?

  10. In the historical I've just finished, it's an obstacle to my characters. One of them has serious reservations about pursuing a permanent relationship because he's afraid of the legal consequences. There's also a point in the story where the local Magistrate (this was a rural area where there wasn't a regular police force) is called in to investigate an accusation of sodomy.

  11. Very interesting. I'm always keenly interested in the matter, because in fiction we so often see what are essentially false obstacles to love, when reality has always presented (and sadly continues to present) very real and dangerous obstacles to love.

  12. In my Regency, the men have created their own club and relationships, while being married for years. I also mention men who have not been discreet and the consequences.

  13. Exactly. Four out of the five books of the series I'm working on are set at times when homosexuality was a criminal offence. In theory if the MCs in the first story were found guilty they could be hung. In reality, the law tended to pursue the working class homosexuals rather than gentry. It's sad that the law prevented people who loved each other from being together. Hell, it's a fundamental human right that shouldn't be prevented or punished by law.

  14. Lisa asking pointed questions? I'm shocked, I say. Shocked. Imagine that. ;)

    Sue, I love your bio here. I thoroughly enjoyed STOLEN SUMMER, too. Can't wait until your next release.

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