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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Writing my first published novel

Almost without exception, my stories are character driven. This was especially true of The Memoirs of Colonel Gérard Vreilhac. I began with a situation in mind: two lovers who find themselves on opposing sides of a political upheaval, one would risk his life to help the other escape, and they are finally reunited after a separation of some 15 or 20 years. Because of my background in French history, I decided on a historical novel and chose the Revolution. The characters now would be separated by class rather than their political sympathies. The peasant Gérard would help Julien, his aristocratic lover, flee the Terror of 1794 and the Restoration of 1815 would reunite them.
Of course, that left me with over 20 turbulent years to fill with more than two men pining for each other. Keeping them faithful to each other simply didn’t seem realistic given Gérard’s personality, which quickly took over. The fellow entered into relationships of convenience with three other partners, each of them very different, and went ahead and fell in love with them all. I also had to find a way for Gérard to move up in the world so the two could meet on equal footing when they got together again.
When Julien returns, Gérard is involved with someone else, though he loves Julien, too, and Julien has also made another life for himself. My “happily ever after” could no longer rely on just their reunion.
Some female readers have complained they cannot relate to Gérard. They find him “detached”. I disagree. Calculating, yes – the Terror teaches him he has to be in order to survive – and very cautious, which is why we see so little overt homophobia in the novel. (There was extensive homophobia in France at the time, but homosexual acts between consenting adults was legal.) And while it is true Gérard does not conform to the norms of the genre, although his other partners start out as a sexual outlet, he does come to love each of them in a different way. That only his love for Julien would qualify as what we call usually romantic does not mean he loves them less.  But you’ll have to read the book and decide for yourself.
I have written only one story in which the characters took over the plot and ran away with it more completely than did Gérard.  It’s my novella, The Father of Free Men, which will appear as a serial in the April and August issues of Wilde Oats. This time two women who were supposed to be secondary characters pushed the main character into the background, making my story theirs. But I’ll let that wait until April.
“When I think of the things that happened and the things I did, it is as though I were living them ... My hands feel what I touched, and the smells that surrounded me fill my nostrils ... Old joys swell my heart, old sorrows clutch at my throat ... I remember every face, every name, every street ...”
So Gérard Vreilhac begins the story of his life from his boyhood as a gardener at the Château d’Airelles before the French Revolution through six decades of upheaval and social change to the eve of Napoleon III’s coup d’état. It is a story of heroism and devotion, of political intrigue, of the great battles fought in Napoleon’s conquest of Europe, and of unprecedented upward mobility. Most of all it is the story of the men he loved: Julien, the aristocrat; the jealous and possessive Laurent; his Egyptian houseboy, Akmoud; Anatole, a male prostitute... And every time he fell in love with a man, it was forever.
Dreamspinner Press released the novel in May 2010 as an e-book and a paperback. 292 pages. As far as I know, it has received 5 reviews, all very favorable (links below):
  • “For anyone who enjoys historical romance with an emphasis on history, and correct history at that, this book is a perfect read.”
  • “Anel Viz has managed at one and the same time to create a brilliant and literary (in the best sense of the word) historical novel and a piece of erotic fiction worthy to share the shelf with the classics of the genre.”
  • “The cast of characters is large and brilliantly drawn, each of them unique and psychologically convincing...”
  • “...historical events are not used as a simple background; they are closely linked to the characters’ destinies and evoke an authentic atmosphere.” 


  1. I enjoyed P'tit Cadeau. Haven't read this one yet. Putting it on my TBR list...

  2. Thanks, Gale. I'll be writing about P'tit Cadeau when the next review comes out. There'll be one in "Wilde Oats" in April, but maybe another will appear somewhere sooner.

  3. Sounds to me as though all your effort has resulted in a wonderful book, Anel. I've got to read this. Tell me that people think a character is 'detached' and I'm immediately intrigued..because what seems detached to some is, to me, usually a delectable, complex character.
    Enjoyed your blog! Thank you for sharing!