Friday Interview - L.J. LaBarthe

Hi RJ, thanks so much for having me on your blog! It's wonderful to be here. So first up, are three questions and my answers to them. These were rather thought-provoking, I have to say.


How do you manage to come up with such detailed backgrounds, not just the characters, but the worlds too?

The short answer: research. I write predominantly historicals and paranormals, so particularly for the former, there's a lot of research that goes on before I even open Word. I love research anyway, so I don't mind that part of the process at all. Sometimes, as I'm writing, I'll realize I need to check something and pause a moment to hit up Google and see if what I think is right is actually correct. With paranormals, particularly the "Archangel Chronicles," because those books are set all over the world, I need to look at photos of location A or B to get a good idea of how to write the setting properly.

Tetley's or PG Tips?

Tea! I love tea. Because I'm Australian, I had no idea what PG Tips were, so I Googled. And I don't think we have those here. I don't drink Tetley's, either. What I do like are Madura Green Tea bags which are an Australian brand of tea, and Dilmah's Moroccan Mint Green Tea, which is SO good. I also use loose leaf tea and get my teas from the wonderful store, who have more teas than I ever knew existed. I'm very partial to green teas.

How do you keep everything straight? Especially when you have characters from different books fighting for attention.

Notebooks. I have two that sit beside me while I write. One is a basic spiral bound notebook that's full of details like names, physical appearances, relationships, ages, things like that. The other is a green brocade bound notebook which is full of notes for story ideas and plot lines. I don't know why I separate them like that, but it works. I used to keep paper and pen by the bed in case inspiration struck me in my sleep, but honestly, trying to read my sleepy-writing is like trying to read hieroglyphs, so I gave that up, and instead forced myself to get out of bed and power up the laptop and type. Easier to read, even if I have to parse out what my sleep-filled brain is trying to tell me!


L. J. can be found at her blog: here on twitter: here or on Facebook: here.



Blurb: 1131, The Silk Road. 

Gallienus of Constantinople, a scarred soldier who used to work the city gates, enters a new phase of his life when he meets and falls in love with Misahuen of Gyeongju. But prejudice of same-sex relationships dominates Byzantine society, and both the Emperor and the Church denounce such love. Should Misahuen and Gallienus be discovered, the punishment is castration or death. Fearing he’ll lose Misahuen, Gallienus decides to go with Misahuen when he leaves the city forever.

A former farmer, Misahuen fled war-torn Korea and journeyed to Constantinople with a merchant caravan. He didn’t expect to take such an interest in a wounded soldier at journey’s end. But he understands the danger, so he and Gallienus join another caravan as guardsmen and begin a two-thousand-mile trip along the Silk Road. Now all they have to do is persevere to their final destination without the truth of their relationship being discovered and being killed because of it… or by the other dangers along the Road.



Göreme—Byzantium, Antioch—Anatolia

The chamber in the caravanserai was small, little more than a low cave, but Gallienus didn’t feel too much discomfort. It reminded him of military barracks when he’d been on campaigns, or the tight quarters of the soldiers and the Varangian Guards in Constantinople. It was more than adequate for this time of year, the beginning of the year 1132 anno Domini. He ate the simple meal of dates, leavened bread, and roast goat with Misahuen in companionable silence, shifting a little as his hip twinged in protest at being in one position for too long.

“Are you in pain?” Misahuen’s face mirrored his concern.

“No, I’m all right.” Gallienus looked fondly at his lover.

“These are small lodgings,” Misahuen said carefully, “we could have—”

“No,” Gallienus cut him off. “No, we didn’t have enough money.”

“I have some money,” Misahuen said softly.

“And you should keep it.” Gallienus shook his head. “We’re still within the boundaries of the empire; there’s going to come a time when we won’t be and we’ll need every piece of gold, every scrap of currency that we have. We won’t always be part of a trader’s caravan as hired guards.”

Misahuen picked up a date and took a small bite. “I suppose,” he said finally. “However, I do not think the merchant would mind if we asked for more room.”

“No.” Gallienus looked seriously at him. “It’s fine. I’m fine. Everything is fine.”

Misahuen huffed quietly and Gallienus chuckled.

“You worry too much,” Gallienus added.

“One must, for you certainly will not.” Misahuen shook his head. “I am tense.”

Gallienus pushed the small table that held the remains of their meal to the side and stretched out both of his legs. Holding his arms out to his lover, he said, “Share the load, love. It gets lighter with two to carry it.”
Crawling into Gallienus’s arms, Misahuen sighed. “I fear I do not know what I am worried about the most. That we are leaving behind your home because of our relationship or that we are traveling to places unknown, or that we have little money or… are there caravanserais like this one everywhere? I arrived in Constantinople by a different route than the one we are on now.”

As he wrapped his arms around Misahuen, Gallienus hummed thoughtfully. “That is a lot of things to worry about to be sure. Along this part of the route there are caravanserais, but I think that as we keep heading east, towards the Holy Lands, we will find things… difficult.”

Misahuen shifted to look at Gallienus with a raised eyebrow. “Difficult?”

“War,” Gallienus said, shrugging one shoulder.

“Oh.” Misahuen sighed once more and relaxed into the embrace. “It is never-ending.”

“That’s God’s honest truth.” Gallienus kissed the top of Misahuen’s head. “Besides. We are together, we’re warm and safe, we have work and a little money. Everything is fine.”
“All right, jagi.”

“I love that you call me this.”

Misahuen slid his hand beneath Gallienus’s tunica. He ghosted his fingers over his stomach, and Gallienus couldn’t suppress the shiver at the fleeting touch, trying not to wriggle. “That… tickles a little,” he admitted.

“Apologies.” Misahuen’s touch became firmer. “Is that better?”


“I am glad.” Misahuen continued to move his hand over Gallienus’s stomach. “Jagi fits you,” he said. “You are my heart, you see.”

“You’re very romantic,” Gallienus said, his fingers touching Misahuen’s chin and gently tilting his face up so he could look into his lover’s eyes. “I love you.”

Misahuen’s smile was warm. “I love you.”

Gallienus kissed him, soft and slow, and purred low in his throat as Misahuen responded eagerly to him, reaching up to cup Gallienus’s cheek with one hand. Gallienus hummed into the kiss, warmth and contentment filling him as Misahuen pressed close.

He felt a sense of living in a bubble—their love hidden behind a veil of secrecy, behaving as if they were nothing more than good friends who had decided on the adventure of traveling with a merchant train to see the world. Gallienus knew this was the wisest course of action, for attitudes toward those who loved members of their own sex were harsh and sometimes violent. Gallienus was determined to keep their fiction that way. He worried, though, that he and Misahuen might be exposed, despite all their precautions. Gallienus wasn’t sure how he would react to that if it did occur—he decided the only thing to do was to cross that bridge if they should come to it. There was no point in borrowing trouble, after all, and their little ruse had been accepted by the merchant and his employees easily.

There were other concerns too. Gallienus had made the decision to leave Constantinople almost on impulse. He had written his family a note and paid a passing messenger to deliver it to them, but he felt guilty for not having visited with them to say his good-byes in person. Yet it was done, and Gallienus hoped there would be an opportunity to send a longer letter to his family as they traveled. He thought they would understand—he had, after all, been in the army and away from home before.

For now, everything was all right, everything was safe. The worries of today would, he knew, still be there tomorrow.


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