Welcome Katherine. What would you like readers to take away from your story? Does it contain a message?
I hope they get a glimpse of what it is like to be an artist, a poet, to have this obsessive creative drive, which is sometimes difficult to express, and even more difficult to control. It is a great gift, but it can also be destructive.
Where did you find your inspiration for the story? Was it a person, a current event, something you witnessed, or something else?
Well, the first spark for the story came from a dream I had, about a Victorian painter in love with his model who also happened to be a prostitute (yeah, I have some crazy dreams). But it became a lot more complex of course, especially when I decided to integrate the story in my loosely interconnected transgender trilogy. I ended up adding things that were inspired by anecdotes in various Pre Raphaelite painters’ lives, and also some autobiographical aspects.
Did you face any obstacles or challenges while writing the story and if so, what were they?
Writing historical fiction, especially your first historical fiction has a very steep learning curve, because you have to research everything, even the smallest things. How did people dress, what did they eat, how did they travel etc, how much did a barber charge for a shave? How do you wear a bustle? What the heck is a bustle for that matter? Luckily I have read almost exclusively historical fiction all my life, so I had a certain feel for the period, but even so, there was a lot of work to do in researching small details.
The other great challenge was to turn the artist/muse dynamic into an actual love story between two real persons. Artists tend to see they muse as something powerful and almost supernatural, and to reconcile that with a more “human-to-flawed-human” relationship took some serious leap of imagination for me.
How much emphasis do you put on supporting characters to move the plot of your stories along? Have any of your supporting characters ever gotten their own story?
It depends from book to book, sometimes the cast is pretty numerous and vivid, sometimes I like to write characters that are distinctly alone, in a sort of personal and social void. This is the case with this story, since both main characters are very isolated. But there is a good friend that is essential to their story arc, and two rather remarkable landladies 😊
What or who influences your writing?
The most obvious influence on this book is certainly Antonia Byatt. I love her prose, and the way she can describe works of art as well as everyday situations.
What is your writing process? Are you a patnser or a plotter, or a little of both?
A pantser, a pantser forever! I consider myself lucky if I start a book with the smallest inkiling of what the story arc will be. Sometimes I really no idea where I am going at all. I don’t even write book in chronological order, but skipping back and forth in the plot quite at random, following the emotions that are more in needof expression at the moment. It is very exciting, but also a little scary!
What is important in your life and why?
Just like Nathaniel, the painter in A Muse to Live for (who is most definitely one of the closest alter egos I ever wrote), expressing my creativity is perhaps the strongest need I have. I can become terribly depressed if the “muse” (real or imaginary) is absent.
Other than that I think the most important thing for me is to live a genuine life with the people I love, notably my husband and my pets. I don’t have any wish to waste energy and resources in anything “glamorous”, be it expensive holidays, restaurants, fashionable gadgets or what-nots.
“This is one of the most beautiful romances I’ve ever read.”
An artist lives to create. When Nathaniel’s urge to paint died, so did his will to live.
Until the night he meets Gabrielle.
Gabrielle may be just a poor prostitute, but she has the beauty of a Pre-Raphaelite stunner and the otherworldly aura of a fallen angel. She also has a secret. Gabrielle is Gabriel, and when Gabriel’s dark past comes knocking and Gabrielle must abandon her new career as an artist’s model, Nathaniel’s whole world comes crashing down again.
Better to die than living without her love, and the breathtaking creative drive she brought him. But it’s dead easy to die for a woman. Any fool can die for love. To live for it, that takes altogether more courage, doggedness, and imagination.
Be Warned: transgender romance, queer romance, cross-dressing, m/m sex, anal sex, rape
I am not sure how to touch Nathaniel. I want him to kiss me again, I want him to hold me, I want him to look at me that way he does in his studio, when he watches every line of my body and sees a woman. And at the same time, I wish he would see me for what I am, all that I am, once and for all, so I don’t have to hide anymore.
So I shed my jacket, and the blouse underneath. I shiver a little in the cold when my arms are bared, and he runs his warm palms on my goosebumps, soothing them.
Then I stand to unbutton my skirts and petticoat, and untie my bustle, and I let it all swish down around my knees, and I stand here naked, in my small chemise, and stockings and corset, and my boots.
I am still silk-skinned and woman shaped.
Except for that one thing.
I steal a glance at his face—I can hardly bear to look at his eyes, standing here so naked—thinking he will wince, or frown. Or scream, what do you know. You can never tell, with a sensitive artistic temperament.
But he does none of these things.
Instead he goes to his knees on the floor, like a man about to propose in some play, and with a sort of mute reverence he strokes my thighs and my buttocks, and the back of my knees, through the stockings. When he lays a kiss and then his forehead on the hard of my hip, where the bone pokes sharply under my skin, I put my hands on his crazy hair, and hold him there, and with the barest, lightest touch of his fingertips he caresses the front of my corset, on my belly, and then down, down.
And to my acute embarrassment, the damn thing shivers to his touch, stiffening, rising.
Well. He has certainly seen me, now. He really has.
He is not screaming.
I pull him to his feet and I step out of my puddled skirts, and gently I undress him. Jacket and shirt and trousers and drawers, socks, everything.
He is as tall as I am, which I had never noticed, because he always stands with his head bent and his shoulders slumped. He’s not muscular, but there is no fat on him either. He has well-built bones under his lumpy clothes—he badly needs a good tailor—and he would be rather handsome if he held himself straight, with his chin up, and didn’t look so much at odds with himself. He’s pale, but not as pale as I am, and there is just the merest spray of hair on his chest.
I caress his skin all over as I undress him, and he looks transfixed, as if it had never occurred to him that it takes two to dance this dance. Perhaps he thought I’d make him spend the night on his knees adoring me.
The heat of his skin is like a deep current, and it draws me to him.
We stand here mute, the only sounds the drumming of the rain and the swish of falling clothes, and gently kissing lips.
When I push him to lie on the bed, I have a moment of dread that he might want to do that to me. I cannot have it. I will not be taken that way ever again.
I’ll make my living giving blowjobs for the rest of my days, I guess.
But I am not afraid of him. I do not believe he’d be capable of hurting a fly, let alone me.
“So, do you fancy that blowjob, finally?” I whisper in his ear, smiling, but he holds me close, too close for me to slide down along his body.
“I love you,” he whispers, his lips on my ear, so that words are made into a caress, “I love you, I love you.”
“Hush,” I whisper back, bearing down on him, grinding my cock on his. “Don’t say such things. It cannot be. It can’t.”
“This night, this once, please, let me say it. I love you, I love you, I love you.” His body rises to meet mine, and I feel those tears spilling now, with joy, and grief, and pity. Pity for him, for me, for both of us, lost in this narrow garret under the drumming rain, orphans in this storm, desperately naked in this terrible iron city.
“Only this once, then,” I whisper. “Tomorrow, you must forget.”
And before he can answer or kiss me again, I slip out of his arms, and down, along his chest and belly, so he cannot see me cry.
I have pleasured so many men this way, but never one I loved, and maybe it’s the same thing, and yet it’s something altogether different. He’s all silk and warmth and heaving life and fire pulsing, and his flesh matters to mine, so that my whole body loves his.
“You—don’t—have—to do this,” he whispers at first, but then he surrenders finally, and lets the pleasure take him.
I told him, the first time we met, that I’d do him for free. Who would have guessed, then, that I would end up doing him for love?
And I don’t know if he’s a virgin—but he is indeed quick. His cock grows even tauter on my tongue, and he breathes in short, hard gasps a few times. When his body arches and heaves and his hand fumbles at my cheek, I hold him, and hold him, and hold him… He comes with a broken moan, hotly. I swallow it all.
On the street I never do. But here, now, with him, I could not bring myself to spit.
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