Sunday, September 20, 2009

Brit Week ~ Sharon Bidwell

Starting off the British Invasion is fellow Loose Id author, Sharon Bidwell.
Sharon's series, The Swithin Chronicles is an unique series that...well, let Sharon tell you in her own words.
No one can be more surprised than I am by my foray into romance, especially erotic and GLBT titles. I’ve written in other genres for many years, and have numerous published works in well-respected small press magazines. However, the question remained as to when I would have a longer title to add to my writing credits. I’ve always had a love of fantasy but it was through reading authors such as Angela Knight that I stumbled across Loose-Id and decided that I wanted to write for them. Yes, as much as they chose to publish my work, I decided that I wanted to write for Loose-Id. Some might say I can be stubborn but I prefer to call it determination. I think determination and perseverance are among the top requisites for any writer.

I started with one idea that simply wasn’t right for the publisher. That first draft was also very much a learning experience and I hope to revise that het title for another market. Alas, that left me biting my nails, wondering what I could write that Loose-Id would be certain to accept. That’s where the story of the Swithin came into being.

I envisioned a man sitting on a bench in open parkland. I had no idea of who he was or why he sat there. I then pictured a thief creeping towards him. The idea was a vague ember of inspiration, yet I instinctively knew I had “something”. Weeks later, I was searching to name a character in another story. I came across Shavar (Hebrew) meaning “comet”. Quite suddenly, everything clicked into place. I had my story...

Or so I believed. While writing the book, I discovered a few surprises. When I began to consider the opening scenes, I quickly realised that my plot would be more expansive if I created a gay romance. Even then, I eventually realised I simply could not leave one of my “men” behind at the conclusion of the story, yet in so doing I complicated my plot in a way that could confuse or alienate some readers. My characters demanded I take that risk. My prince, Markis, and my thief, Uly, had come into being but unwittingly, I’d created Ryanac, Markis’s personal guard and best friend. I created him to manipulate but I hadn’t expected him to manipulate me as much as he did my characters. He completely changed the outcome. An interesting thing is that you never get into his head. The story is told from Markis and Uly’s viewpoints, and yet Ryanac is such a strong and well-loved character many readers tell me he is their favourite and I can understand why. Loose-Id loved the book and wanted a series.

Looking back I can see many influences, some recent, some not so recent. Reading influences would be too many to mention and none are exactly direct. Mostly, they are works that have sat in the back of my mind where small pieces have come together to create something new and whole when I had the right story for it. Team all this with a visit to Italy and I had the scope to create a rich background and setting. The world of the Swithin is a mix of Arabian and Mediterranean landscapes. Think of crisp white marble, terracotta tiles, fairy-tale castles, pale desserts, soaring cliffs and deep valleys filled with rich and abundant foliage (all things you’ll find in Italy) and you’ll begin to glimpse their world. This is off-set by poorer districts with muddy bandit-infested alleys, but this isn’t the world of the Swithin, merely parts of a planet on which they live.

Without trying to spoil the plot, it’s important to point out that the three main novels are indeed a gay romance, although the books contain a small proportion of het scenes. This occasionally leads to some confusion as to the content, but the reasons are simple. In writing the world of the Swithin, I chose to create a race who freely takes lovers of either sex and live in peaceful acceptance of same sex relationships. Secondly, Markis is a prince and requires an heir. This may seem like a cruel plot twist, but it’s a fact of history that many marriages, especially royal ones occur because of duty. Anyone who quickly gets a feel for Markis’s character should realise that there will be an opportunity for all in his life to choose their own happiness by the end of the series. Markis says to Ryanac in the first novel: “I’m a Prince. I get bored.” Well, I guess I heard him and chose to make his life complicated. Uly tell Markis in book two that his people have a curse: “May your life be interesting.”

By the conclusion all becomes clear, but saying that, you can read book one as a standalone novel. You can also read from book two, but if you read book two the chances are you’ll be curious enough to want to read book three. Book one very much sets the stage and looking back with the experience I have now, I might well choose to tweak a few scenes but ultimately, however received, this series will always be special to me. I still wish to write in other genres but this book began a new direction of writing for me. I love my characters and my story, and if it weren’t for that first novel my father would never have seen a longer work of mine published before he died.

The series has been favourably received enough to warrant a sequence of shorter ‘Swithin Spins’, which are in progress. There will be at least three and no more than five of different pairings. So far, Spin 1 (f/f) “A Queen’s Move” is out with Loose-Id. Spin 2 (m/f) “Redemption” will be out with Aspen Mountain Press soon. I’m to sub Spin 3 (m/m), shortly.

Someone described my Swithin ‘Comet’ books as 'the prince and the pauper crossed with Arabian nights'. I hadn’t thought of that but, it’s a fun comparison. Some readers are dubious but mostly those who have given in to their curiosity have told me they’ve enjoyed them immensely. I believe the books also document my progress and growing confidence. Many people are surprised to hear I had never written a sex scene prior to Uly’s Comet.

Take a race that freely takes lovers of either sex. Give them a prince with a problem. Add his personal guard who loves him and manipulates him for his ‘own good’ without apology; a princess who needs rescuing from a backward nation, a war to avoid, and throw a street thief into the mix to steal the prince’s heart...and you have Uly’s Comet:

Unleash the Comet… Feel the Power…

Markis Shaver, the Swithin Prince, controls the power of the Comet, which may be the only thing that will act as a deterrent in a war between two vast monarchies – a war that could devastate the natural world and must therefore be avoided at any cost, even if that means killing the many to save the few. As if things weren’t bad enough, he may also have to rescue a princess and face a marriage of convenience and it doesn’t help that Markis is still in training and struggles to control the power when he calls it forth. At times, he also struggles to control his temper, which is quick to react where his feelings are concerned. The lessons, alas, do not seem to be working and he is running out of time.

His personal guard and best friend, Ryanac, disagrees with the old teachings and has always insisted that Markis should embrace love, both emotionally and physically, to control the Comet … but then again, he could be wrong.

When Markis leaves the palace one night to indulge in the luxury of a little solitude, he captures a young man and would-be thief. Out of boredom he decides to play a little game with the street brat but little does he know that in time Uly will teach him a whole new lesson in desire … and love. But if he gives into love physically before he has full control, what will it mean for the world?

If Uly, a street thief, can teach a prince to let go of control, maybe love really can conquer all. Markis is afraid of the ride but maybe he should just unleash the comet and feel the power…

If you’ve not already done so, consider checking out the free short story set in the Swithin universe. Read “At What Moment” on my website, for a glimpse into the Swithin world.

Thanks so much, Sharon. I loved learning more about the Chronicles.
Sharon can be found online at the following places:
And at Loose Id:


Sassy Brit said...

Congratulations on your new release, Shaz! For someone who has never written a sex scene prior to Uly’s Comet - you do remarkably well. :)

Thanks, Jeanne, for this very interesting post.


K. Z. Snow said...

So nice to "meet" you, Sharon. This series sounds absolutely fascinating. Would you call it epic fantasy?

I really have to check out your free read now.

(Another great guest-post, Jeanne!)

pacet - sounds like something a priest would say

Jeanne said...

Thanks for dropping by so early in the US am, guys.
Yeah, KZ does sound like that ;~D

Sharon M.Bidwell said...

Thanks for dropping by and of course, I'm on a different time zone so it always looks as if I'm incredibly early or incredibly late. LOL.

Epic fantasy? Yes and no. It is a fantasy and there is an action plot but almost all of my books have a real story plot as well as the romance. That doesn't mean they lack in the romance or sex. The book is emotionally driven and there are plenty of emotional and physical changes going on with these characters. As for the sex scenes, they grow progressively steamier through the three books. There isn't a lot of sex for the first half of book one but I don't like characters who meet and jump into bed on the first night without good reason and it wouldn't have worked for this story. However, one reviewer said the story was such she couldn't wait for the sex to begin and was very glad when it did! Once it does they catch up for lost time, especially in the sequels. :o)

Book one sets the stage and ends a little misleadingly in some ways but they get better and better as have I as a writer. I really urge people to read all three and not because I want to sell books but because that's the only way to get the full story, to understand the society, to get realise why these three guys belong together. Maybe writers are always slightly neurotic but I believe my 'guys' deserve a chance and that may not be readily apparent to everyone in book one. That's the trouble with any trilogy.

Thanks for reading!

Charlie Cochrane said...

Great post, Sharon.

I love the bit in the comment about how you feel your books have got better as your skills as a writer have improved. A reflective attitude like that must make you great to work with!


Jeanne said...

Thanks again, Sharon for telling us about the Chronicles. Looking forward to more stories in that world!