Hello and welcome to Genre Talk. This week we are lucky to have Mickie B. Ashling joining us to talk about her book, Mayon, which was released earlier this year.. A great big thanks to everyone joining Genre Talk today on The Novel Approach Reviews. Now say hi to DSP Publications author Mickie B. Ashling who’s here to talk about her historical fiction book Mayon. But first, let’s take a look at what the book’s about.
The Philippines, 1946
After being discharged from the Marines, John Buchanan is offered a position as overseer for plantation owner Ignacio Saenz. The offer is unexpected, considering he knows nothing about coconut farming, but the presence of Mount Mayon, an active volcano within sight of the property, tips the scales in Ignacio’s favor. Finally John has a chance to put his lifelong passion for vulcanology into practice.
Gregorio Delgado, the current overseer, takes exception to this turn of events. He views John as an interloper and Ignacio’s offer as a thinly disguised excuse to marry off one of his six daughters. What neither of them expects is the powerful physical attraction that simmers between them. Could John be a kindred spirit, or is he just using Gregorio for his knowledge of farming to ingratiate himself with his potential father-in-law?
As John and Gregorio begin a tour of the haciendas, John discovers he has far more in common with his new acquaintance than he thought possible. Torn between honor and desire, John struggles to define who he is and what Gregorio could mean to him. Like the unpredictable volcano, equal parts beauty and danger, Gregorio becomes an obsession that could erupt at any minute and destroy them both.
Elizabeth: Mickie, would you tell us a bit about why you’ve chosen this particular genre and time period? What made you decide to place this book with DSP Publications?
Mickie: There is something about the historical genre that has drawn me from an early age. I love being transported to another time and place, immersing myself in different cultures, societal mores, landscapes and cuisines so radically different from my own. As a young woman, I was heavily influenced by such greats as James Clavell (Shogun, Tai-pan), Paul Scott (The Jewel in the Crown), M. M. Kaye (The Far Pavilions), James Michener (Hawaii, Tales of the South Pacific), Leo Tolstoy (Anna Karenina, War and Peace), Diana Gabaldon (Outlander) and many more.
Growing up in a country colonized by my mother’s Spanish ancestors for over 400 years gave me the unique advantage of being able to bring an authentic voice to my own historical novel.
My goal in writing Mayon was twofold; inform and entertain while sharing my love for a beautiful nation and its people. The characters who populate the story are complex, diverse, and resilient but also deeply swayed by ancient prejudice. John Buchanan and Gregorio Delgado are as different as any two people can be. They find common ground in their love and physical attraction, but the obstacles they face are commensurate to the times. Resolution is achieved in a nonconventional way. This is why DSP Publications is the perfect home for this novel. Finding a traditional happy ending for the romantic love between two men in 1946 is unrealistic. Choices made in that era might not make sense to someone born in the late twentieth century and in a country as progressive as America. However, they are relatable and necessary to those who still live in a hateful environment and have had to disguise their orientation or face serious repercussions.
Elizabeth: How has your writing changed since you published your first book?
Mickie: I would like to think it has improved through the years. One of the areas I’ve noticed a big change in is how I write sex scenes. Explicit sex was prevalent in the early days of the M/M genre and some publishers wouldn’t consider a novel that didn’t have a certain number of on page sex. Now, I prefer quality lovemaking vs quantity. Regardless of the genre, there’s only so much you can say to describe the act without getting repetitive. I’m more interested in the emotional connection between my characters, and, as a reader, I skip the long and drawn-out scenes unless they are unique. I’m not saying there are no sex scenes in Mayon. There are quite a few, but I felt they were necessary to further the plot.
Elizabeth: What sort of research did you need to do?
Mickie: Fortunately, I lived in the Philippines for almost thirty years, so it was more a question of dredging up memories than actual research. I double-checked dates on the internet and polled family and friends on certain aspects of Philippine and Spanish society, but for the most part, I’m happy to say this wasn’t as daunting or difficult as it would have been if I’d written a novel set in another country. I did a lot more research for my historical novel Yesterday, which is set in Pakistan and Iran.
Elizabeth: And because everyone likes to talk about what they’re doing the old standby: What projects are you working on now and what is coming next from you?
Mickie: I’ve just started a contemporary novel set in the Basque Country, where I was on vacation for the last five weeks. Daily walks along the beach inspired this one. Book two in my Open Series (Open House) will release in October, and it will be followed by the final book in the trilogy (Open Case) in early 2017. And then I plan to tackle the sequel to Chyna Doll, which I’ve already started but put aside for the moment.
Elizabeth: Mickie has brought a remarkable excerpt for us:
John had never been a glutton for sleep and could function remarkably well on five hours. He didn’t need any transition time either. Thanks to his years in the military, he was poised for action as soon as he opened his eyes. That morning, though, he lay in bed for a few more minutes, luxuriating in the comfort of the best mattress he’d slept on since the war started. The four-poster was raised four feet off the floor, higher than normal, to catch a direct breeze as it blew in from the open windows. Mount Mayon, seen through the gauzy mosquito net, was another reason to linger. If he turned his head just so, he could see the symmetrically perfect outline through the early-morning mist.
A cockroach crawled across the white netting, obstructing his vision for a second until he flicked it off with his fingers. These were not standard American bugs. They were twice as large, flew, and actually bit you if they were hungry. He shuddered in revulsion, remembering the first time he’d seen one. He’d been warned, of course, but hadn’t believed they were capable of flight until he’d become a human landing strip. Hordes of mosquitoes had also feasted on his tender flesh like cannibals. It was no wonder the Marines drummed in the importance of taking the tiny yellow pills to ward off malaria. The Atabrine tasted vile, but it actually kept the disease away, as did the mosquito nets when they had a chance to use them.
He rolled over on his back and debated having a cigarette before getting into the shower. Something niggled at the back of his brain. Closing his eyes for a second, he tried to conjure up last night’s dream. The details were fuzzy, but the images of writhing bodies were crystal clear. So clear he could feel his body responding, and he pressed a pillow against his groin in an effort to quell the natural reaction. He wasn’t prone to erotic dreams and took pride in his ability to quash his desires as easily as he did the many insects surrounding him. John could only deduce that alcohol and the excitement of a new surrounding had brought on these unexpected feelings. An ice-cold shower would do wonders for his overstimulated body.
Grunting in frustration, he punched his pillow a few times to try to get comfortable. It was filled with kapok and was not as malleable as goose down, but he finally found the right position so he could resume his daydreaming. Glancing upward, he spied the inevitable lizards crawling along the high ceilings. They helped keep the ecological balance by subsisting on mosquitoes, so it seemed only right to let them roam freely to forage at will. The top of each wall had about a foot of latticework, allowing air and voices to travel from one room to the next. Before the war, ceiling fans provided cooler air, but now, they had to rely on nature and strategically placed windows.
The Manila Electric Company was working furiously to restore power throughout most of Luzon, but like everything else, it was bound by the constraints of the economy. The citizens who could afford to buy generators and the fuel to power them had at least one or two. The putt-putt-putt of the small machines had become as familiar as the clicking sounds of cicadas. John recalled last night’s dinner and realized the room had been illuminated by bulbs and not candles. He’d obviously tuned out the sounds making it all possible.
Sighing, he pushed aside the netting and climbed out of bed. A few stretching exercises and thirty push-ups were a part of his morning ritual, and when he’d finished, John stood by the open window and had a cigarette before hunting down the bathroom. The water was ice cold, as he’d expected, so he didn’t dawdle. He was just grateful water came out of a tap and he had the privacy in which to enjoy it.
Daisy and two of her sisters were already seated at the dining room table while housemaids circulated the room and poured coffee and hot chocolate as needed.
“Good morning,” John said, pulling out a chair.
“Morning, John,” the girls chorused cheerfully.
John smiled at the trio in front of him. “How’s everyone this fine morning?”
“Good,” Daisy replied. “Do you drink coffee?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Fely,” she said, addressing the closest servant and pointing at John’s cup. He studied the three women in front of him. Daisy’s chestnut-brown hair was twisted on her head in a messy knot, and soft tendrils fell around her face, making her look quite fetching. Their shared genetics were easily discernible in the heavy-lidded eyes fringed with curly eyelashes, which they batted at him in varying degrees. He felt like a pair of new shoes on display, and right then, anything new was highly coveted. It was an odd situation, to say the least.
A week before he was just another GI wondering what awaited him back home. Marriage had been the furthest thing from his mind, and yet, here he was, surrounded by eligible women in need of mates. Was this really what he wanted? He’d never entertained the idea of matrimony while he was stateside; he’d been too young, and when the war broke out, all thoughts of starting a family had been abandoned.
By agreeing to take the job of overseer, wasn’t he tacitly in league with Ignacio’s matchmaking scheme? Did it all boil down to economics and convenience? Where was the passion that generated sonnets and melodramatic operas? There was no stirring in his groin when he looked at the women who were eyeing him with interest. If only one of them could elicit that erotic spark he’d felt in his dream the night before, there would be no question as to the rightness of this proposition.
About the Author
Mickie B. Ashling is the pseudonym of a multifaceted woman who is a product of her upbringing in multiple cultures, having lived in Japan, the Philippines, Spain, and the Middle East. Fluent in three languages, she’s a citizen of the world and an interesting mixture of East and West. A little bit of this and a lot of that have brought a unique touch to her literary voice she could never learn from textbooks.
By the time Mickie discovered her talent for writing, real life got in the way, and the business of raising four sons took priority. With the advent of e-publishing—and the inevitable emptying nest—dreams of becoming a published writer were resurrected and she’s never looked back.
She stumbled into the world of men who love men in 2002 and continues to draw inspiration from their ongoing struggle to find equality and happiness in this oftentimes skewed and intolerant world. Her award-winning novels have been called “gut wrenching, daring, and thought provoking.” She admits to being an angst queen and making her men work damn hard for their happy endings.
Thank you so much to Mickie, The Novel Approach and our wonderful readers for joining us today. Make sure to join us on September 14, 2016 when Carole talks with Kim Fielding who will bring us some dark fantasy! Will there be only one? That is sure to be a real treat and become our precious.
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