Today I’m thrilled to welcome, Brita Addams to talk about why she writes historical fiction. I’m inspired to check out some more books from this genre where I only occasionally read, and I’ll definitely be reading Beloved Unmasked.
I started my writing adventure with Regency romance, because as a reader, I had immersed myself in ornate ballrooms, the smell of beeswax candles, and the hero’s relentless pursuit of his ladylove. They sold well and I kept writing, but my reading veered off that path when I read a book by Phillipa Gregory that contained a short but impactful scene between two men. I read the scene over and over, studying the nuances of their dance around each other, their reactions to emotions they’d hidden beneath marriages and children and responsibility and anger. They’d buried their passions and forsaken their true selves and sadly, had thought themselves happy.
I favor historical fiction in my reading, so writing it feels natural to me. I love researching the customs, the manners, the very idea that “way back when” was a more genteel time, though study has revealed something quite different, particularly for those born gay.
My last published book is Beloved Unmasked, and takes place in the early years of twentieth century New Orleans. As a Storyville prostitute’s son, Pic grows up in a sex-soaked brothel, amidst dissolution and abject ignorance. To rise above the only way of life Pic had known required more than his knowledge allowed. Throw in his budding attraction to men, and his life looked bleak.
Homosexuality was against the law, and into the late 19th century, was a hanging offence in many countries. Can you imagine men living what is natural to them under those circumstances? The fear often forced men into lives that were unnatural and even abhorrent to them. Or, like Oscar Wilde, cast their fortunes to the winds that blew them into jail.
For me, depiction of my characters requires reverence. I keep in mind, even before I write the story, what life in the era I’m writing must have been like for men like them. The underlying fears and rejection that would intrinsically be a part of their lives from their moment of revelation. The rebellion within them that festered and overflowed, perhaps into recklessness or sadly, conformity.
Gay men in history weren’t just products of their upbringing. They learned the signs of danger early, resulting in the need to hide and lie, to others and themselves. While they smiled at their fellows’ weddings, they faced questions about why, at their age, they weren’t married. They questioned the reason why their wayward glances focused on the neighbor boy and not the sister, their desires for the hunky longshoreman and not the petite blonde. With these thoughts came doubts—was something wrong with them? And more, wondered “why me?” Who could they talk to about such confusion? To be out and proud often meant death.
My characters face the world with these thoughts, though not being an angsty writer, I don’t have them gnashing teeth and wringing hands. They don’t speak openly at length about their obstacles gth, but instead instinctively act in a way that keeps them safe. I don’t write about gay bashing, but about my characters winning the day. They are products of their times, and are therefore aware of the dangers. They can’t afford naivete, though there is always the possibility that someone will expose them.
Here is the blurb for Beloved Unmasked.
Born in 1898 to a heartless prostitute in Storyville, the red-light district of New Orleans, David comes into the world as Picayune, a name meaning “of little value” or as his mother reminds him, “nothing.”
In the early 20th century brothels and clubs, his love of music sustains young Pic until a fortuitous meeting places him on the road to respectability, and Pic reinvents himself as David Reid.
As David realizes happiness for the first time, conscription forces his friend and first love, Spencer Webb, into the Great War. A telegram from the War Department deals a staggering blow and interrupts David’s pursuit of a law degree. He must gather his wits and move forward. While his future looks bright, specters from Storyville return.
The past holds both pain and love, and facing it head-on might destroy David or give him the freedom to live the life he has dreamed.
2016 winner of the Best Gay Historical and fifth runner up in Best Gay Book Rainbow Awards.
About Brita Addams
Born in a small town in upstate New York, Brita Addams has made her home in the sultry south for many years. In the Frog Capital of the World, Brita shares her home with her real-life hero—her husband. All their children are grown.
A writer of both het and gay fiction/romance, Brita was proud to win a Rainbow Award in 2013 for her first gay romance in her Tarnished series, Tarnished Gold, in the Best Historical Romance category. The book also received nominations for Best Historical and Best Book of 2013 from the readers of the Goodreads M/M Romance Group. In 2016, Beloved Unmasked won for Best Historical Gay Romance and was fifth runner up in a field of over 400 entries, for Best Gay Book of 2016 in the annual Rainbow Awards.
Readers can find more information about Brita Addams on her website, http://www.britaaddams.net
A bit of trivia—Brita pronounces her name, Bree-ta, and not Brit-a, like the famous water filter.
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