The Royal Treatment with John Wiltshire

April 27, 2015

The Royal Treatment

 

Readers who know me well will probably be amazed at me doing this blog post. My name is John Wiltshire (http://johnwiltshire.co.nz/), and I’m a social media virgin. There, confession over, apologies made in advance if I press the wrong buttons and end up answering questions that were never asked. I’m only here today because the sequel to my novel A Royal Affair is out today. Aleksey’s Kingdom picks up the tale of Nikolai Hartmann and King Christian X (Aleksey) two years after Nikolai finished narrating the events of the first book, which took place in Hesse-Davia. I very much wanted A Royal Affair to be a complete and satisfying read without the need for a sequel, and I think I achieved that. The novel has an almost lyrical, fairytale ending as Nikolai and Aleksey carve their new life in the freedom of the great woods of the New World.

However, although it has a romantic ending, A Royal Affair is an exploration of conflict—political ones, the war in which the protagonists are engaged and the reformation they attempt in Hesse-Davia, but also a very personal one between Nikolai and Aleksey. At the end of the novel, they are still two very different men with very different experiences and outlooks on life. So, leaving them in a perfect relationship in the dreamlike innocence of the New World and just concluding ‘they lived happily ever after’ would have been a denial of this central premise. I’m fascinated by the idea of what lies beneath the surface of things, what you discover if you journey into the heart of darkness. In other words, I couldn’t help but picture Aleksey’s face, tool (hammer) in hand, as he was expected to build and live in a cabin in the woods…So, the personal conflict for Aleksey’s Kingdom was very easy to establish—these men haven’t changed who they fundamentally are, and Aleksey, a king and the general of a victorious army, is now stuck in the middle of nowhere with nothing very much to do. I envisaged mischief ensuing.

I then had to plan the dramatic clash—the plot. I’d recently watched a little-known (well, I’d never heard of it) film called Ravenous (1999), in which a group of soldiers travel to an outpost to unravel various nefarious goings on. There’s nothing better for any plot than to have a small group of people trapped together with mysterious emanations (and possibly cannibalism). Today, such stories need to be set in space (or perhaps the Arctic) to establish such a profound sense of isolation, but in the late seventeenth century everything was unknown and can be used to create a wonderful sense of fear and menace. It’s no coincidence that the most infamous witch trials in history took place in the New World at this time—Salem. So, I borrowed the very basic premise of Ravenous, mixed it with the atmosphere and hysteria that surrounds The Crucible and had the skeleton outline for my story. I also have to give credit to John Connolly, one of my favourite authors, who explores the idea in his novels that evil does exist in this world—that the fallen angels still walk amongst us.

So, in Aleksey’s Kingdom, Nikolai and Aleksey join a small band of soldiers and colonists travelling to a deserted outpost that lies alongside a vast waterfall on the border between the English and French occupied regions of the New World. The falls, which dominate the book, are real, and based on Niagara. I once visited this out-the- world place and, for a dare, paddled in the river above the drop off. I leave it to Nikolai to describe the impression that foolish action had on me…This natural cataclysm comes to represent the great metaphorical descent he has to make to save Aleksey—his own personal journey into the heart of darkness and the final abandoning of his scientific, rational way of seeing the world.

I think most of my readers have worked out by now that I don’t write conventional m/m fiction. I’m rather proud of the eye scrawled in blood on the cover of Aleksey’s Kingdom—thanks to L.C. Chase, who did such a great job bringing this to life. Trust me that smear of blood sets the tone for this novel. It’s not a book for the faint-hearted. No adorable presents are exchanged; no romantic dinners eaten; no babies adopted or fluffy kittens were purchased during the making of this novel. There is death and horror—after reading one scene, my editor came back to me and exclaimed, “You have to leave this out; you’ll have no readers left!” The scene is still in. I have faith. And sometimes, as with soldiers in war, there’s great humour in adversity. I find Nikolai extremely amusing, and I know Aleksey secretly does, too. Ultimately, this novel is about bravery and sacrifice. It’s about Nikolai and Aleksey, Faelan, Xavier and Boudica. It’s about love. Always love.

***

To celebrate the publication of Aleksey’s Kingdom, I’d like to give away a copy of the first in the series: A Royal Affair. I said earlier that I’m fascinated by the concept of what lies beneath the surface of things—the journeying into literal and metaphorical darkness. To win a copy of A Royal Affair, comment on this blog post and let me know of a book you love that you think also explores these themes. We’ll pick the best answer and a copy of A Royal Affair will be winging its way to you.

***

I have a very active fan club on Goodreads, where they discuss all the novels (https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/151017-john-wiltshire-fan-group). Tempers flare; emotions heat up, because these books are controversial. I have a feeling there will soon be a very long thread on Aleksey’s Kingdom, especially after some of the scenes in it. This is your chance to challenge me—ask me anything…I could give some hints to up-coming events in the More Heat Than the Sun series about Benjamin Rider and Nikolas Mikkelsen (Book 8 of which is currently being written). Or I could chat about my new novel set in New Zealand (where I’m currently living): Ollie-Always.

I love discussing books (especially mine). I’m sitting comfortably, so let’s begin…

39 Responses to “The Royal Treatment with John Wiltshire”

  1. Trix says:

    I’ve always loved Eden Winters’ DIVERSION series for that, especially the title installment’s exploration of Lucky (the most intriguing antihero I’ve found). He’s a convicted felon who’s become a brilliant undercover agent in an FBI plea deal, forced to explore the underworld of black- and gray-market pharmaceutical smuggling (which has a lot of moral ambiguity itself). Volume 3, COLLUSION, is also pretty interesting because it delves into the dark side of Lucky’s work/life partner Bo (who seemed pretty straightforward in the other installments).

  2. Rick Stilson says:

    John I have your A Royal Affair on my to read list. The follow up won’t be far behind.
    Good Luck on your new release!

  3. JJ says:

    I have to say your “More Heat than the Sun” series. I have the third book in my Kindle’s TBR pile, and I can’t choose between the first and second book since they seem to be so integral to me.

    So dark and complex with surprising reveals. Great series.

  4. Susana says:

    Recently I’ve discovered a writer which explores darkness in all its ways. Her name is Justine Sebastian, and she’s got only two published books Bitter Sweets and The First Incision, but they are both really worth it.
    Congratulations on the new release. the series sounds really good.

  5. Hi, everyone. Sorry for the delay in replying but it’s now the next day here in New Zealand, so I’ve been asleep while the world turns. Trix looking forward to checking out the Diversion series, thanks for that. Thanks for commenting John, hope you enjoy it. JJ, great suggestion!! Susana, I’ll check Justine Sebastian out. I always love suggestions for new reads. Keep commenting guys I’m here all day now and ready for questions. Ah, you’re probably all asleep….

  6. Tess says:

    I’m a big fan of everything you’ve written to date (and the 14% of Aleksay’s Kingdom I’m up to at the moment). I’m interested in the NZ book. How does it compare to your other work? Can you tell us a little about the characters?

  7. Simon says:

    Is this the bloody blog where, if I leave a comment, I’ll receive a free copy of said novel??? I’m so tired trying every bloody option…I’m going to bed with a non-dreamspinnerspress author!

  8. Barbara Dean says:

    Hello :)

    I think Come to Dust by J.S. Cook very much fits the concept of what lies beneath the surface. I don’t like mysteries very much but couldn’t put it down not just because of the mystery but the stories behind the characters that over and over again were getting more complex and interesting.

    Now a question for you! For your new book did you pull in any little known facts about New Zealand?

  9. Lisa M says:

    Nicole Castle’s Chance Assassins books are humorously dark in a slightly horrifying way :-)

  10. Em says:

    I really enjoyed A Royal Affair and can’t wait to make a start on Aleksay’s Kingdom. I’m also really looking forward to Death’s Ink-Black Shadow – not long now, I may have to book the day off of work for that one! I live in Exeter and one of my favourite places is Dartmoor and I must say it’s great to read about both!

  11. Dianne T. says:

    Thank you for sharing your inner thoughts on Nikolai and Aleksey. I’m always interested in author’s insights and behind the scenes info. A Royal Affair is one of my favorite books of the past several years – Nikolai’s narrative voice is fascinating, complex, and so revealing. I’m 70% through Aleksey’s Kingdom and only stopped for sleep, so I could function at work today. Looking forward to writing a review.

  12. Hi, Tess, the new book is called Ollie-Always. It’s probably the most traditional m/m book I’ve written. No tsunamis, no cannibals. It’s also possibly the most autobiographical book, too, in that it’s about being a stranger in a strange land, being a fish out of water in many ways. Ollie is the son of a famous author who writes a series of books about a sexually precocious boy called Oliver…Naturally, this causes a lot of problems for Ollie. He tries to escape the pressure of being mistaken for Oliver by emigrating to New Zealand. Just as he’s at his lowest ebb, he meets a stranger who also seems oddly displaced and lonely…
    There are some familiar elements that seem to be my trademark these days. Army characters and dogs. I can’t not have them in a novel (although I am writing a story set on a Mars mission and that actually doesn’t have a dog in it). (Yet)
    Ollie is a very different character from any I’ve written and hugely fun to play with.
    I hope you enjoy the rest of Aleksey’s Kingdom. Do let me know what you think!

  13. Hi, Simon, yes, it is! Have I discovered a more virginal social media user than I am? I bow down to you, sir. I was asked to do this blog tour and told them I lived in New Zealand and couldn’t travel to the States. I thought tour…Bring back paper and ink! Shakes newspaper in disgust.

  14. Tna says:

    Hi John :)

    It’s still the 27th here in Germany… happy release day for Aleksey’s Kingdom, John!
    Started reading it today, and the guys just met that odd group of people. Niko’s hints make me fear the worst. :) On one hand I can’t wait to read what is going to happen… and on the other hand I’m dreading it. Your text above is not helping either. Horror? Blood? OMG… you’re going to kill me, and I’m going to enjoy every single second. :)

  15. A.B. Gayle says:

    Yeah, it’s the right place, Simon. It is long past the time all you Brits should be asleep, so I guess JW will forgive you. As long as you have the link to this particular page (with his name included) you can access the link anytime into the future.
    I’m sure JW will wait until all his worldwide flung fans have a chance to wade in.
    So got to bed and dream of which book you can recommend to take JW’s fancy.

  16. Barbara… I’ll check out JS Cook. Interesting suggestion. As to little known facts about NZ…well, the book is written from the pov of someone who’s not all that happy being in NZ. I almost had second thoughts about writing anything negative about the country, but it’s done affectionately. Gentle ribbing. So, yes, possibly the only book ever written with some negative NZ things in it.

    Lisa M…thanks for comment. Good suggestion.

    Em…thank you! I love Exeter and always try to pop up on visits home. I’m back in Devon in two weeks time, so very much looking forward to that. Death’s Ink-Black Shadow has one very intense scene on Dartmoor. I’m hoping to have a Dartmoor scene on the cover.

    Dianne…thank you. I really enjoyed writing A Royal Affair, as first person narration is very freeing in some ways. I was conscious of readers’ comments that it felt very much a finished novel, which I’m grateful for, but I suppose my old fan fiction-writer’s head kicked in and made me think…so what happens next…Aleksey’s Kingdom was a complete delight to write, so I hope that comes over.

  17. Tna, thank you. Yes, blood and horror indeed. As I said, when you can gross out your editor you know you’re doing a good job. I’m on a mission to free gay novels from being only ever identified as gay!

  18. Hi, A.B. Good to see you over here. It’s sunny and bright here in NZ for us in the future people. I’m coping JUST with this new-fangled technology. Lots of tea being consumed.

  19. Dianne T. says:

    Forgot to say, Jordan L. Hawk’s Whyborne & Griffin series explores literal and methaphorical darkness very well. Always with bravery and sacrifice, and of course love.

  20. Simon says:

    Thank Fuck for that! Thank you John for replying and thank you Ms A.B.Gayle for pointing me in the right direction…..and I sincerely apologise for my outrageously offensive comments whilst trying every option to win the freebie (my credit card is maxed out mate…I’m trying everything, but the village library does not stock you :( )

  21. Tess says:

    Thanks for responding John. I will definitely give Ollie-Always a try! I’m enjoying Aleksay’s Kingdom, love seeing things from Nikolai’s POV but I’m also a little nervous with all the foreshadowing! Here’s a recommendation for you: The Orenda by Joseph Boyden. It takes place around the same time in the same general region but focuses on the Huron/Iroquois wars and the Jesuit priests. Very good historical novel but dark and extremely violent and not at all a romance.

  22. Tess, I will definitely check The Orenda out. I lived in Canada for a while and studied that era of history and have always been interested in those times.

  23. Simon, I wish I was in libraries. I’ve always loved libraries. I usually get a huge stack of books and then feel quite happy to discard if I don’t like them because I’ve only borrowed them. But one day I intend to restock my bookshelves with favourites–probably if I come back to England and can buy them off ebay! Books in NZ are incredibly expensive. Batteries and books. And paint, for some reason. Actually, the list of expensive things here is rather extensive…

  24. Destiny says:

    Hi John,What is going to happen with Ben/Nikolas and the new addition to family? I am dying for scenes of Nik and Ben being clueless of what to do with a tiny human. Do you plan to move the timeline ahead by a few more years? In the More Heat series you moved the years ahead in 5 books, do you plan to continue doing that? I think–although I can’t be sure that–Ben was 28 in book 1 and 34 by book 5. Will we see a 50 years old Nik? With Aleksey/Nikolai you moved them ahead by 2 years. Are you able to talk about the purpose of moving the timeline ahead like that? Thanks

  25. Destiny, hi, great questions. Yes I think there will be some scenes of clueless men, but not too many. I’m not a fluffy writer, so it would be an uncomfortable territory for me. The timeline just seems to move on naturally. Each novel spans a certain time, so, as you say, they started out at 29 and 42, so naturally they are getting older. I actually have an elaborate timeline document which keeps me straight, because the minor characters are ageing too, and Emilia (for example) is 11 when we first meet her in Russia but she’s 14 in Death’s Ink-Black Shadow. As to Nikolas turning 50…all I can say is, don’t mention it to him!

  26. A.B. Gayle says:

    The timing of this sucks. I’d prefer to ask questions after I finish reading the book! Please check the blog for a couple of days after. I’m sure others are in the same boat.
    I just finished rereading A Royal Affair. You write ten year old boys so well. I’d love to read more of Miles and Stephen, maybe you could write adventure stories for kids as well.
    Mind you, part of the attraction is their interaction with someone like Nicholas or Nikolai.

  27. Yeah, I will check the blog for quite a while. It’s funny you say that about writing boys because one of my characters in my NZ novel is a novelist, and he writes a children’s book, which is plotted out within the book, so I guess I should just go ahead and actually write it. That would be quite funny. Miles comes back in Book 6 and then as a regular character.

  28. Pet says:

    Yups, the timing sucks. But we always have the GR group and can talk over there, right? I’m full of hope that I can start reading a real book again (which would be the “Kingdom”‘) next month but by then this blog thing is finished and done, I guess.

    John, you’re one busy writer! And scaring your editor? That makes me grin. Your intention to open up the m/m genre into a new dimension sounds good to me, more than I’d dare say here, even if the trend seemed to go in the “romance” direction. Hardcore romance. I gave up even looking for new releases months ago, and goodread-surfing was all that’s left for me over the last months.

    I thought about your question for books exploring darkness (not because I even want to win The Royal Affair – I have all your books) and I have to tell which one is running through my mind since I read your blog post, just because I have to – I almost fear that I get banned for that but still have to say it: The Brothers Bishop by Bart Yates. We all know that every book is different for every reader, and I’m sure may readers won’t even touch it due to the subject. For me it’s about how the author manages to take me on the ride into the dark places the human mind can go when it can’t handle things. The book is so beautifully intense written, you know and feel and even smell that it’s about drama coming ahead, and you know neither you nor the characters can stop it. The book is, if categorized, m/m but only because it’s about two brothers – who are, duh, obviously males. Maybe you check it out.

  29. Pet, I know The Brothers Bishop very well and love it. Except for the ending. That seemed an unnecessary sop to the pc brigade to me. One of my favourite books when I read it.

  30. Pet says:

    Hmmm…maybe, maybe not. How would you have ended it?

  31. A bit happier than Yates did. But I invest a lot into my reading and like a positive pay off. I once wrote a sequel to Brokeback Mountain where I managed to convincingly bring Jake back from the dead. Don’t tell Annie Proulx though. She apparently believes in “the only legitimate gay love is dead love”, which was sort of a feature of early gay novels. The Front Runner, for example…I mean, I could name hundreds with unsatisfactory endings.

  32. Pet says:

    I won’t tell.
    I’m not saying that I love happy endings too but some books are almost calling for an unhappy one. I know what you mean about the early gay novels and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they ended sad but besides that obvious intention behind it for me some books are just that good because of how they ended. The unfilled love – so very often it makes them real. And it’s not limited to gay novels – one of the books I’ll never forget (and you can roll your eyes now) is written by Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County”. Call it a simple book but it’s real. If it ended happy, it wouldn’t be so special.
    But like I said before: every reader has their special trigger for what makes a book so special to them.

    You brought Jake back? Spontaneously I said No Way when I read this – Brokeback M had this all-over drama note which made me love it so much, the novel and the movie. Not because the guys were gay – see beforementioned het love story, I don’t see any difference between genders when it comes to love. Even though I have to tell that BM was my very first intense encounter with gay men, if I can say so. Before I was the type “who cares who fucks whom?” and BM made me see that my former simple way to see it was wrong and way too simple. Anyway, back to BM itself: you must know that now I want to read your sequel. Which, so my guess, you won’t share…?

    I feel a bit sorry to brabbel here on a blog that is for your newest release. I hope you’re aware that I did not forget about it, yes?
    How could I, after loving TRA so much.

  33. Well, yes, back to Aleksey’s Kingdom…
    I’ll be intrigued to read the reviews. Also I want to see if anyone likens the title to anything similar. That’ll be fun…

  34. Okay, guys, I’m signing off for the night here in New Zealand. Do keep posting and I’ll catch up with you all in the morning. It’s been fun so far…

  35. JJ says:

    Wow, I skimmed the other posts and saw Destiny’s post about Ben & Nikolas with the new addition. Major spoiler for me since I’m only up to book two so far. Could not resist reading the post.

  36. Eeks, yes, spoilers. I always try so hard to avoid those for myself as a reader, and others as a writer. The blurb for Aleksey’s Kingdom came back from the editor basically giving away the entire plot until I changed it back. It’s actually quite hard to write a blurb that tempts readers without actually giving anything away at all. Sometimes, however, knowing more than what’s on the page is an advantage, which is why rereading some books can be such fun.

  37. H.B. says:

    I’ve added your book to my wishlist. It sounds really good.

    As to dark themed stories…I’m not really sure how dark we’re talking, lol. A good one I think was Barbarossa’s Bitch by Angelia Sparrow…the world building was pretty good and well from the title you can probably tell it’s not for the faint of heart. A good light one total opposite to the one mentioned before is Stalker by RD Hero.

  38. Luisa says:

    Hi John,

    I have already read ‘A Royal Affair’ and I’m in the middle of reading ‘Aleksey’s Kingdom’ (I love it so far!) – Your “More Heat Than the Sun” series hooked me you’re your writing – So now I pick up anything you write.
    Just wanted to say Hi, and congratulations on ‘Aleksey’s Kingdom’.

  39. H.B. hope you like the book!

    Luisa, many thanks. I got my complementary paperbacks of Aleksey’s Kingdom today and they’re sitting proudly in the bookcase with A Royal Affair. Satisfying!

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