Let's start with you telling us a little bit about yourself, H.
I guess I’m the sort of person who likes a little variety in life - or maybe I just have a short attention span! I’ve lived in various English towns and cities and have loved every one, but after a while my wanderlust kicks in and I get the urge to try something new. Fortunately, my wonderful and endlessly patient husband is happy to tag along.
I’ve worked mostly in libraries and archives, and have met some amazing people. I love people who are passionate about what they do, whatever it might be. Through the great friends I’ve made, I’ve enjoyed amateur dramatics (I’m a very bad actor, but pretty good at props), volunteering for Oxfam and playing board games (I’m even worse at that than I am at acting). I also love going to the cinema, and have very eclectic tastes. I’ll watch anything from serious French dramas to sci-fi thrillers and everything in between.
What would people be most surprised to learn about you?
I’m a bit of an aspiring playwright as well as a fiction writer, and I’m delighted that my first short play is going to be included in the Southend Playwriting Festival. Writing plays is a completely different art from writing fiction. The technical challenges of stage direction and dialogue are skills I’m still trying my best to learn, but I thoroughly enjoy it.
When did you start writing, is it something you've always been interested in, or did it develop later in life?
I only started writing seriously three or four years ago. I’d always been a daydreamer, I suppose, and finally decided to write some of those daydreams down. When I realised I’d written something that might be worth reading, I contacted a couple of publishers. I had the usual rejection letters, but they all had positive comments and liked my style of writing. So I didn’t lose heart, but looked at my stories again. I tightened up the plots and before long my first short story Balancing the Books was published by JMS Books, soon followed by Secret of the Code.
Has it been everything you thought it would be or not?
It’s been fantastic, but it’s also been more hard work than I expected! Once you start getting contracts, there is so much to do on top of writing. In the last few weeks, I’ve had three stories published: A Valet’s Duty, Northern Relations and my debut novel Burning Ashes. So I’ve spent hours checking edits, corresponding with cover artists, then emailing, blogging and tweeting post-release. It’s been a really exciting time, but I am quite looking forward to the New Year, when I can get back to doing some writing.
How did it feel when you realized that your very first book was going to be published?
It was a great feeling, realising I’d written something good enough to be published, and that people would actually be able to read it. The only slightly odd thing about it was that I hadn’t told anyone about my writing – not even my husband! So it was a bit nerve-racking telling my family and friends what I’d been up to, but without exception they’ve been incredibly encouraging, so I couldn’t have asked for more.
What's your favorite part of writing a book?
I suppose I enjoy the initial burst of activity, when I get the first draft of a story done, building the plot and the characters. But I also enjoy the next stage of the process, going back over each sentence and choosing the perfect word or phrase. And of course, I enjoy writing a good sex scene, too. From the innocent pleasures of Counting Parakeets to the erotic exploits of Northern Relations, I’ve covered most points on the sexual spectrum. But the relationship between characters is always paramount, no matter what they get up to between the sheets (or anywhere else for that matter!)
Do you get time to read for pleasure? If so, which books do you enjoy?
I don’t get an awful lot of time for reading, but I do have some favourite authors – Edmund White, David Leavitt, Alan Hollinghurst – amazing gay authors whose writing is heartbreaking, funny and beautiful. I’ve also recently discovered the novels of Mary Renault. I’m in absolute awe of her, as she wrote gay romances in 1950s England, which was such a brave thing to do.
Are there any other genres you'd be interested in writing?
I may have a go at writing in another genre someday, but for the moment I’m having such a good time writing gay romance, I’m not sure when that might be. While I still have ideas for stories about men falling in love with each other, I’m happy to stick with this literary niche.
Please tell us a little about your most recent release.
My most recent release is Edwardian romance A Valet’s Duty. It tells the story of Londoner Henry, who goes to work for the Earl of Wayshaw in his Somerset stately home. Henry has previously enjoyed a clandestine sex life with staff from other grand houses in the capital, but out in the English countryside, his life is rather less eventful. But then the Earl’s younger brother, Rafe, arrives from his villa in Italy, with his mischievous dogs, Pepe and Paolo.
Rafe is handsome, bright and full of stories of his Mediterranean home, and Henry enjoys his nightly conversations with Rafe as he goes about his duties. Then one evening, Rafe asks Henry if he would do more for him than simply tidy away his clothes. Henry is only too happy to relieve Rafe’s sexual tensions that night, and many more times in the subsequent weeks. Henry’s problems begin when he realises he feels more for Rafe than mere sexual attraction.
With all the fun and emotional drama of sex between the social classes, A Valet’s Duty might just fill the gap if you’re missing Downton Abbey!
What can we look forward to in the future from you?
I’ve started work on a couple of stories. One is contemporary while the other is set in the 1960s. There are some really interesting characters in both stories, and I’m looking forward to having a little more time to finish them.
Anything you want to say to your readers?
I’d just like to say thank you to everyone who has bought and enjoyed my books. It’s the most wonderful feeling to read a great review of one of my stories, to know it’s given a reader pleasure to meet the characters I’ve created. So thank you very much indeed.
H. Lewis-Foster's recent releases:
A Valet's Duty
At the turn of the twentieth century, Henry Simpkins is a valet at Taverslow, the Earl of Wayshaw\'s Somerset home. When the Earl\'s younger brother, Rafe, arrives from his villa in Italy, Henry is given the task of caring for his mischievous dogs, Pepe and Paolo. As part of his valet\'s duties, he also goes to Rafe\'s room each night to tidy away his clothes.
One night, Rafe tentatively asks Henry if he would go beyond his valet\'s duty to relieve his sexual tensions. Henry enjoys their increasingly intimate encounters, but he\'s soon disturbed to find he feels more for Rafe than mere physical attraction. Henry faces a difficult decision. Can he bear to remain in the same house as Rafe if his affections are not returned?
Intelligent and confident, Australian cricketer Nat Seddon is one of the world\'s best bowlers. He\'s openly gay, but keeps his private life to himself, with everything under control. But on the last day of his team’s Ashes tour of England, he meets Scott Alverley, England’s promising new batsman. Nat tries not to be attracted to Scott, but he can’t help finding the privileged young man handsome and endearing. Nat is tempted by a little end of tour fun, but finds himself playing agony uncle to a virgin. Instead of going home to bask on a beach, he spends a wet week in the north of England with Scott. Try as he might to resist, he can’t help falling hopelessly in love.
The hectic sporting calendar is a persistent obstacle to their growing romance; Nat and Scott are rarely even on the same continent. They make the most of the time when they can be together, but the months apart take a toll on Scott, professionally and personally. The possible solutions are nearly unthinkable, but if they are willing to make sacrifices that will change their lives forever, they might hold on to the love they found in the Ashes.
Edward, Lord Hadnall, leads a hedonistic life in Regency London, along with his friend and occasional lover, Charlie Brabinger. The only blot on Edward’s carefree horizon is the insistence of his female relations that he settle down and get married. He intends to ignore their pestering for as long as he can, and continue his decadent lifestyle of dances and debauchery. But then Edward meets Charlie’s cousin, Arthur Hathwaite, a kind and honourable country gentleman.
Edward accepts Arthur’s invitation to visit his Yorkshire home and is surprised to find life on the rural estate extremely agreeable. He enjoys Arthur’s company immensely and they become firm friends. But when Edward makes an unexpected discovery, he is left in a moral dilemma. Will Edward follow his usual indulgent urges or do the right thing for once in his life? Or might he be lucky enough to do both?
Excerpt from Burning Ashes:
The next morning, Nat stood on the rain-spattered pavement outside the hotel, shivering slightly and wondering what the hell he’d done. The Australian team plane was waiting on the runway, ready to take the heroes home to their adoring fans, but Nat wouldn’t be receiving their adulation or even enduring the media storm.
Instead, he was going to spend the week with an English batsman, in the English Lakes, in the godforsaken English weather. Nat still wasn’t sure how he’d managed to explain it to Harry, the Australian team manager, as he was having enough difficulty explaining it to himself. In the end, the only sensible option had been to tell a big fat lie.
He’d told Harry that he’d met an old friend in a bar. Nat knew him from school and hadn’t seen him in ages, so they thought they’d do a bit of sightseeing. Yes, he had seen the weather forecast and yes, he did know it was going to be the coldest autumn in years. It’d blow away the cobwebs; a refreshing change from the week on the beach he’d been fantasizing about for weeks. Nat had almost hoped Harry would tell him he couldn’t go, that his contract obliged him to travel with the squad, but Harry had given a laconic half smile and told him not to do anything stupid. Nat figured his warning was rather too late.
Nat had waved off the team bus to a chorus of smutty chuckles and comments. The old school friend story had convinced them for less than a second, but there was no way he was telling them the truth, that an adorable arse and a heart-stopping kiss had lured him into making a complete fool of himself. But it really had been quite a kiss. He’d known all kinds of kisses all over his body: sweet ones, rough ones, and downright dirty ones, but he’d never seen stars in front of his eyes or felt his knees go weak. Maybe the lack of oxygen to his brain could explain his answer to Scott’s bizarre question, but the plain truth was that spending more time with Scott had seemed like a lovely idea. In fact, it seemed like the most natural thing in the world.
Stepping into the London drizzle last night, Nat had realized the enormity of what he’d done. He’d thought about going back to Scott’s apartment and making up an unlikely story. He could say he’d remembered an important appointment, an interview with the prime minister maybe, or an audience with the Pope. Then he’d pictured the look of disappointment on Scott’s face, the tears welling up in his eyes, and he knew he wouldn’t be able to do it. Dialing the airline to book his flight, he’d made an addition to his unbreakable rules. Do not play agony uncle to twenty-one-year-old virgins, especially ones with tousled blond hair and criminally cute backsides.
Nat looked at his watch, wondering if Scott was going to show up, when a sleek silver dream of a sports car pulled up to the curb in front of him. The driver’s door opened and Scott appeared, looking like he’d just got out of bed. His hair hadn’t seen a comb that morning, and his shirt hadn’t been anywhere near an iron. Scott smiled shyly, and Nat thought how unfair it was that a man could make so little effort and still look so damn good.