TROWCHESTER BLUES BY ALEX BEECROFT

Book Tour and Interview: Trowchester Blues by Alex Beecroft

 
 
 
We are very happy to welcome Alex Beecroft to the Smoocher’s Voice blog today.
Beecroft’s latest book,
Trowchester Blues, is available on Riptide Publishing.
 
Alex Beecroft is an English author best known for historical
fiction, notably Age of Sail, featuring gay characters and romantic storylines.
Her novels and shorter works include paranormal, fantasy, and contemporary
fiction.
 
Beecroft won Linden Bay Romance’s (now Samhain Publishing)
Starlight Writing Competition in 2007 with her first novel, Captain’s
Surrender, making it her first published book. On the subject of writing gay
romance, Beecroft has appeared in the Charleston City Paper, LA Weekly, the New
Haven Advocate, the Baltimore City Paper, and The Other Paper. She is a member
of the Romantic Novelists’ Association of the UK and an occasional reviewer for
the blog Speak Its Name, which highlights historical gay fiction.
 
Beecroft was born in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and grew
up in the wild countryside of the English Peak District. She lives with her
husband and two children in a little village near Cambridge and tries to avoid
being mistaken for a tourist.
 
Beecroft is only intermittently present in the real world. She has
led a Saxon shield wall into battle, toiled as a Georgian kitchen maid, and
recently taken up an 800-year-old form of English folk dance, but she still
hasn’t learned to operate a mobile phone.
Connect
with Alex
Beecroft:
Jodi: Thank
you, Alex, for joining us on the blog. It is nice to meet you. Your latest
book, Trowchester Blues, is a
contemporary novel. You also write in the paranormal and fantasy genres. Do you
have a preference?
 
Alex: Thank you! I was very happy to be
asked. It’s lovely to meet you too.
I
have to admit that I like fantasy best, at least to read. That’s probably a bit
too simplistic an answer though. The truth is that as I was growing up I read
nothing at all other than fantasy and science fiction, so that’s where my roots
are. However, as I grew up, I started branching out and learning to appreciate
other genres. Now I tend to cycle through them – I’ll have a contemporary binge
and then suddenly go off those and onto historicals. Then after two or three
historicals, I’ll decide I need to read some fantasy. I would say that I prefer
contemporaries and fantasies that have a dash of historical, and historicals
that have a dash of fantasy (ghosts, curses etc). If you make a venn diagram of
all the genres, I prefer the space in the middle where they overlap.
 
Jodi: Trowchester Blues takes place in the town of
Trowchester. It is the first book in the
Trowchester
Blues universe
.
Is this fictional location based on a real location?
 
 
Alex: It’s not based on a single real
location. I’ve essentially taken my favourite things from lots of places around
Britain and put something similar into Trowchester. So it’s got York’s Roman
walls, and Glastonbury’s spirituality tourism, and Chesterfield’s church with
the twisted spire, and a very splendid tea shop unashamedly based on Peacock’s
Tea rooms in Ely. Anything I see and like in the UK is likely to end up in
there at some time or another.
 
Jodi: This is book has a
gritty vibe, and I was hooked from the first chapter. The plot of this story is
engaging and has a few twists and turns with a bit of mystery and crime thrown
into the mix. Was it a challenge to incorporate murder, mayhem and romance?
 
Alex:          Oh
thank you! I like a bit of action-adventure with my romance. Isn’t there a
famous bit of writing advice that says if you don’t know what to write next
then have a man with a gun run into the room? I’ve always taken that a little
more literally than it’s probably meant to be taken. It is important to me that
my characters have lives outside the romance, so that they don’t seem to have
no independent existence from each other at all. It’s not healthy for anyone to
exist only for their significant other. And if characters are going to have
lives, there’s no reason why they should be boring ones.
 
Jodi: The two main
characters are intriguing and seem to fit the adage that opposites attract,
although in some ways, both characters are broken, a fact that seems to draw
them together. Michael May, a police officer by trade, is on the verge of a
nervous breakdown when we meet him. Tell us a little about why May, a veteran
police officer, loses it at the crime scene.
 
Alex:          I have a friend
who used to work in the police force, and she had to retire because she simply
couldn’t cope with the thought of entering another room and finding another dead
body. Michael, who works in the missing persons unit, is facing that kind of
experience every day in his job, and I feel that probably takes a toll on
anyone’s mental well being. I think it’s because
he’s a veteran that he finally loses it. You know? The sheer misery of
desperately trying to find lost children and finding yet another dead one has
been accumulating for him for years before this. Add that to all his unresolved
issues brought to the forefront of his mind by the recent death of his father, and
he’s just reached the point where he can’t take it any more.
 
Jodi: Michael’s
rage seems to be hereditary. Does the relationship he had with his father
influence his decision to become a police officer?
 
Alex:          Definitely. He has
an instinctive sense of justice, and growing up in an environment where he
could never figure out the rules – he could never work out how to avoid setting
his father off – made him yearn for a world where everything was above board
and fair. He saw going into the police force as a way to protect the vulnerable
from people who couldn’t be trusted not to use their brains and strength to
hurt them. He’s always been terrified that he might turn into the man, although
I could have told him that aside from the anger they aren’t anything alike.
 
Jodi: While
Michael is dark and brooding, Fintan Hulme seems to be light and, in general,
happy. Tell us a little about his character.
 
Alex:          Finn does have
some inner scars and fears, but he’s adept at working around them. He takes a
great deal of comfort from beauty and fine things, and he’s talented at
spotting them and appreciating them wherever they are. He also has a good laugh
over the foibles of others and takes a lively interest in other people’s lives
and concerns (though he doesn’t much like it when they pry back.) He’s actually
quite lonely, I think, but he doesn’t realize it until Michael comes into his
life.
 
Jodi: As
a reader, I am drawn to Michael because of his brooding nature and inner
turmoil. What is it that attracts Fintan to Michael?
 
Alex:  Oh, shoulders,
definitely. At least initially it’s Michael’s brutal looks combined with his
air of being emotionally fragile, and needing someone to look after him. Finn
is something of a dominant bottom. Michael, who’s tough enough and strong
enough to hurt him, while also being biddable and lost and looking for someone
to tell him what to do, pushes all of his buttons.
 
Jodi: On the surface,
Michael seems broken, angry and depressed. Yet, he goes out of his way to help
Sarah, and when she attacks him, he folds in on himself. Why does he want to
help her so badly? And, why does he hide this from Fintan?
 
Alex: I think she’s come to represent to
him all the children he couldn’t help in his career. He wouldn’t think it
consciously, but by saving and helping her, he’s trying to atone or earn
forgiveness for all the times he didn’t manage to help a child. Including the
one that opens the book. He’s got so many things to work out with Finn first
that he doesn’t think of mentioning Sarah to him. And he hides the bruises on
his arms because he feels guilty about being hurt, the same way his mother hid
the wounds on her arms – not to draw attention or make anyone angry by being in
need. He has some bad habits left over from his childhood, that’s for sure.
 
Jodi: The families in
this book are a bit unconventional. Finn has made a family of the book club
men. How did they all get together? Are these men the focus of the other books
in the universe?
 
Alex: Finn has excellent gaydar, so when
he arrived in Trowchester and found there were no gay clubs at all, he had some
fliers printed advertising the book club and handed them out to anyone who
looked even vaguely interested in joining. Five years later it’s evolved into a
comfortable social club in which they have chips from the chip shop and
sometimes cake, and occasionally discuss a book if it takes their fancy.
 
I
certainly meant to give the book club boys their own books, but it hasn’t
really turned out that way so far. James the archaeologist gets his own book in
Blue Steel Chain, but Idris hasn’t yet, and although Billy from Blue Eyed
Stranger received a flier he’s quite shy and he’s never yet turned up. So I
don’t know what’s going on there. Idris really deserves a book, I think. Maybe
next time.
 
 
Jodi: Finn has clear reasons for not trusting
the police, but as a former police officer Michael believes in the law. Was it challenging to show both of
these perspectives in the book?    
 
Alex: Not really. While I tend to be
fully in favour of Michael’s view that the police ought to be there to protect
people, and that they ought to be allowed to be proud of that, I’m also fully
in favour of Finn’s view that they ought to leave me alone to live my own life
without suspicion and harassment. I used to live on an estate famous for drug
dealing, where it was a dull month when nobody’s car got slashed or set on
fire. One night the police hammered on my door at three o clock in the morning,
waking my sleeping children. They were after the people who had sold the house to
us – no doubt for some good reason – but I certainly didn’t appreciate being
treated like a criminal because they hadn’t done their research. If I had been
a criminal, I’m sure I would have appreciated it even less. It’s a worthwhile
job and I am glad that there are people who are willing to do it, but that
doesn’t make them comfortable to be around.
 
Jodi: This is the first
book in the Trowchester Blues universe. It looks like there will be at least
two more books on the horizon. The next book,
Blue
Eyed Stranger
,
is scheduled for release in April. Can you give us a sneak peak?
 
Alex: Absolutely I can. For the full
understanding of this excerpt you need to know that Martin is a Viking re-enactor,
and Billy is a morris dancer. They’ve newly met each other for the first time
and are still in the stage of being dazzled. Here you go:
 
 
Matt walked
off. The fiddler began to play, standing with her back to Bretwalda as though
she didn’t acknowledge their existence. Billy, facing the fiddler, was also
facing Martin. He had taken off his black jacket to reveal a long, slender
torso in a white linen shirt. His bright blue gaze lifted and locked on
Martin’s as he stood loosely, head up, waiting for the music to give him his
cue.
 
What was
all this then?
 
Billy began
to dance, leaping, stepping, stamping, his feet beating against the ground as
if sounding a kettle-drum. Those long legs were graceful and powerful, his arms
raised and balanced and bright against the blue sky. Martin couldn’t see the
expression on his face even now, but his body was clearly boasting about its
own prowess – I’m faster, lighter, stronger than you. I can jump higher and
endure longer. You want virile? Look at me.
 
And damn
but it was effective. He was the most beautiful creature Martin had ever seen,
with sweat dampening that white shirt and turning it translucent, his grin all
challenge and his laughing gaze never varying from Martin’s face.
 
With two
great bounds forward, Billy fell to one knee in front of Martin, his arms
spread wide, red handkerchiefs dangling from his hands like flags. Martin
looked down, embarrassed and aroused and singled out, as though he had just
been propositioned in front of the summer crowd.
 
Billy
raised his eyebrows. “Top that.”
 
Oh, he was
on. Martin leaned down to give him a single stage direction. “Run.”
 
He began to
beat his spear against his shield, making a hollow, wooden drumbeat. Used to
this, the garrison echoed the sound in a slow hand-clap of weapons designed to
psych the enemy out. Billy’s grin narrowed, became conspiratorial. He got to
his feet, made a show of looking Martin up and down as if only just realizing
what he was up against.
 
Sword slid
from scabbard. Martin stepped forward and bellowed a war-cry into Billy’s face.
Billy leapt four feet in the air, turned and came down running. To the welcome
sound of the entire audience roaring with laughter, Martin gave pursuit. But he
had barely made it into the centre of the ring before fleet-footed Billy had
hurdled over the straw bales at the outer edge and disappeared.
 
 
Jodi: What other projects are you working
on?
 
Alex: This very week, I’m expecting to finish the first draft of a space opera m/f
romance called Lioness of Cygnus 5, in which my heroine is a captain in
the space navy, and my hero is a pacifist vegetarian nanobot designer condemned
for murder, who she is transporting to a penal colony. I wanted to see if I
could write a m/f romance in a way that I would enjoy – subverting as many of
the tropes as I could find. And it’s really quite exciting to have such a
martial, kickass, masterful female character. I’ve no idea what to do with it
when it’s polished, but I’ll find that out when I come to it.
 
After
that, I’m not sure. I probably ought to do the Trowchester book in which
Michael’s ex-wife comes back into his life. Or Idris’ book! Poor Idris. Always
the bridesmaid and never the bride.
 
 
 
Trowchester
Blues
Michael
May is losing it. Long ago, he joined the Metropolitan Police to escape his
father’s tyranny and protect people like himself. Now his father is dead, and
he’s been fired for punching a suspect. Afraid of his own rage, he returns to
Trowchester—and to his childhood home, with all its old fears and memories. When
he meets a charming, bohemian bookshop owner who seems to like him, he clings
tight.
 
Fintan
Hulme is an honest man now. Five years ago, he retired from his work as a high
class London fence and opened a bookshop. Then an old client brings him a
stolen book too precious to turn away, and suddenly he’s dealing with arson and
kidnapping, to say nothing of all the lies he has to tell his friends. Falling
in love with an ex-cop with anger management issues is the last thing he should
be doing.
 
Finn
thinks Michael is incredibly sexy. Michael knows Finn is the only thing that
still makes him smile. But in a relationship where cops and robbers are natural
enemies, that might not be enough to save them.
 

 

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