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Friday, September 28, 2012

Attila wraps up the month

I remember someone asking how such an infamous and barbaric warrior as Attila the Hun could be used as the lead character in a romance. My answer was that the good and kind do not have a monopoly on love; Adolf Hitler loved, after all, as have many tyrants and monsters through the ages. Love is a natural condition to which we are all susceptible, we simply have to meet the right person. But how did I ever get the idea to write a gay love story involving Attila? The kudos, I have to say, goes to a fan on Goodreads who, having read one of my earlier novellas said ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if someone wrote an MM about Attila the Hun and made him the sub?’ My interest was piqued and I accepted the challenge.

At the time, I’d actually thought I might write a SciFi but with the seed planted, the idea of an historical novella soon captured my imagination and my thoughts turned to the past rather than the future. Other than the Hollywood stuff  - which is rarely accurate – I knew little of the barbarian leader, but I have always been fascinated by ancient Rome. About Rome there is much, but about Attila there is relatively little known. Fortunately, my research turned up a couple of good books on the Huns and their leader, and I discovered enough about their ways and his probable characteristics to piece together someone I could work with. I rather grew to like him, since the real Attila was far from the outright slaughterer that we have been led to believe.

Drawing on my knowledge of Roman history, I began to put together a tale of political intrigue, warmongering, love and betrayal. But for me the key was to twist the truth a little. I have used real events, some real names, but have altered their involvement and significance. After all, it would have been perverse, in my view, to make one part of the story historically accurate while playing God with the main character. There is no evidence that Attila the Hun was gay or bisexual, or that he ever developed a friendship with a Roman general.  All of that is my own imagination, running riot among the huts and mud of ancient Pannonia.

This is not to say that my Attila is anything less than the fearsome tribal leader you would expect. Publicly he is tough and uncompromising, and the story opens with him beating his metaphorical chest in no uncertain terms. For me the key was to imbue his character with a more emotional private side where he reveals his weaknesses and his needs. Although the homosexual relationship between him and the general Livianus is the crux of the story – and it provides an opportunity for some alpha male sex as opposed to the smushy stuff of some MM romances (that would have been totally out of place with these two giants) – I didn’t want to slight Attila’s wife or undermine his relationship with her. I had this feeling that he would have been too strong and dependable for that. Her too! 

Livianus is bored and longs for action. His reward for serving Rome is the governorship of a quiet corner of Gaul, but as he whiles away his days at his sumptuous villa, his thoughts turn to Attila the Hun, the feared barbarian with whom Livianus once enjoyed an intimate friendship. When a desperate emperor asks him to return to Pannonia to broker a truce with Attila, Livianus’s old passion flares.

Attila is losing the will to go on. He is tired of being a tyrant but his people’s future depends on him. The arrival of Livianus renews Attila’s spirit as he prepares to march on Constantinople. Livianus has nothing to bargain with, but when the emperor’s sister delivers a proposition for Attila, a new and brighter future seems to lay directly ahead. For the people, and especially for the two men.
But the deadly hand of the emperor isn’t interested in peace, and as their plans are destroyed, only one course of action remains open to the Hun and the general.
Length: Novella, 28,000 words approx.

The Hun and The General - Sample
Livianus woke with a heavy heart. Caecilius would not listen to him. In some ways he admired the younger man for the strength of his convictions but nothing could persuade Livianus that it was right to stand by a weak and unreliable emperor. Not when the empire was at stake.
He turned on his side, surprised to see the space beside him empty. Attila had taken him to his bed, and they had fallen asleep entwined in one another, discussing their plans. But for Caecilius’s stubbornness, Livianus felt happier than he had for a long time. If he had any regrets, it was that he had to leave this place at all, and he knew that the likelihood of returning was as remote as the farthest corner of Britannia. Siege or no siege, the campaign would be bloody.
Livianus got out of bed, slipped on his clothes and picked up the scroll he’d prepared the night before. He tapped it on his chin, then went outside to look for Caecilius. Attila had agreed to let Caecilius leave on condition that he stayed away from Ravenna and Constantinople, at least until Theodosius had been toppled. Still, Livianus was under no illusions. The odds were stacked against Caecilius. The future of an entire people, of two nations in fact, carried more importance than that of one man.
He found Caecilius and the four soldiers ready to depart, the horses loaded with provisions that Attila provided. “Are you sure you won’t change your mind?”
“I’m sure, Livianus. It pains me more than you can know to leave you in these circumstances, but I will not be a part of this.”
Livianus took hold of Caecilius’s hand and squeezed it. “I fear for you, my friend. Please, stay with me.”
Caecilius snatched his hand free. “It is not for me you should worry, but for yourself. Whatever my fate, I go to it with a clear conscience.”
Livianus sighed. “Then take this.” He handed Caecilius the scroll. “This makes you the rightful owner of my villa and all that goes with it—the women, the slaves and the governorship.” He remembered his ring, the governor’s seal, and tugged it from his finger. “Here, it’s yours now.”
Caecilius took the ring, scrutinized it silently, and slipped it onto his finger. “Livianus, are you sure—”
“I’m sure. Go, before one of us weakens.”
The sound of horses greeted Livianus as he turned away from his old friend, a dozen Huns armed to the teeth with swords and recurved bows. Livianus counted five of them with stakes strapped to their mounts. He felt sadness more than surprise. He looked again at Caecilius, ready to plead another time, but he could see from the expression on his friend’s face that it would be futile.

You Can Find Tristram La Roche Here:

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1 comment:

  1. *waves* Hi Tristram. I enjoyed your 'Fixed' and 'The Hun' is on my TBR list. I'm curious about this Alpha Male Sex you mentioned. ;)