Erotic Fantasy Romance
Today we are thrilled to welcome author Tof Eklund to our blog. Tof has just released Autumn Harvest: Maiden, an erotic fantasy romance, published alongside eighteen short stories from the world of Autumn Harvest. You can find out more about this novel, including some excerpts, by reading the rest of this post, in which Tof also shares with us some of the many and varied experiences of being a writer. Tina 🙂
Interview with Tof Eklund
1. Hi Tof. Thank you for being with us today. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I think all writers are odd ducks, but I may be a bit odder than most. I earned a Ph.D. in English with a dissertation on comic books and videogames, I’m non-binary transgender (closer to “androgynous,” than male or female), I’m a proud parent of two, and I teach creative writing and game design at my day job.
2. Please tell us about Autumn Harvest: Maiden and the other tales contained in the novel and what inspired you to write them.
I’ve always had a very active, very visual imagination (and a rather wild libido). Most of these stories began with vivid impressions in my mind’s eye and grew from there. The romance of Yelen and Kaye in Maiden has a unique origin: it began as a story written for my spouse when she was pregnant with our first child, and I was torn between excitement at becoming a parent and fear of complications during pregnancy.
3. The tales are set in fantasy worlds. What do you think prompted you to write these tales in the fantasy realm rather than other settings?
I have a love-hate relationship with fantasy that goes all the way back to grade school. I love the idea of new worlds and magic, but not the paternalism and ethical simplicity that often go with fantasy. I wanted to write a romance that didn’t idealize feudalism, a world where the existence of magic reflected the complexity of human nature and ethics.
4. What is your writing process like? To what extent do you plan and how much do you just let the words flow?
Because Maiden was originally serialized online by Big World Network (http://bigworldnetwork.com/site/), I had to outline my episodes and plan ahead, but that’s only part of it for me. When I’m into a story, I obsess over it, planning scenes and trying out ideas in my head, coming up with more plot threads and themes than I will ever use. Then, when I sit down to write, all of that stuff’s there, but I’m much more focused on the immediate, and what comes out on the page often surprises me.
5. What about the personalities of your characters – are they always fixed in your head before you start writing or do they develop a will of their own?
There’s always a concept, but I don’t feel like I’ve “found” a character until they surprise me. Honestly, my characters tend to be a step ahead of me. Maybe it’s a subconscious result of my ruminating on my own plots, but I often find I reach a point where I go “oh, that’s why they did that thing thirty pages ago.”
6. Are any of the characters in your novels based on people you know or reflect elements of your own personality?
There’s a little of me in each of my characters, even the unlikeable ones, maybe especially the unlikeable ones. There are also bits and pieces of people I know in there, but I’ve never written a character that was a straight-up fictionalization of a real person.
7. What is the best thing about being an author? What do you find the most challenging?
The best thing is getting to create the stories, the worlds and people, that you always wanted to read about but couldn’t find. For me, it’s promotions, getting the word out that’s the hardest part. I find it helps to think of it as something I’m doing for my characters and worlds, rather than for myself.
8. If you could give an aspiring author one tip, what would it be?
Write the stories you want to read, the ones that are telling themselves in your head. It’s the only way to remain passionate about writing, and writing is too hard and too demanding to be worth it if it doesn’t satisfy an inner need.
9. What type of books do you like to read? Have you any favourite authors?
Octavia Butler and Ursula K. Le Guin, have influenced me greatly. Le Guin’s short story “Coming of Age in Kaehide” is great speculative fiction and very sexy at the same time. Lois McMaster Bujold as well: the way she combines romance and action, magic and scientific understanding had a huge impact on Autumn Harvest. Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona’s Staples’ comic book Saga is another inspiration: it’s a borderline surreal science-fantasy, but it’s really all about family. Oh, and there are some seriously hot moments in Saga as well.
10. Can you tell us about what you working on at the moment?
In between teaching and co-parenting, I’m working on a tie-in game called Autumn Harvest: Rites of Spring. We’re not talking about anything too fancy, it’s basically going to be like a “choose your own adventure” book. The story in Rites of Spring is from over a thousand years before Maiden, but with implications about where the plot will go in Autumn Harvest: Mother, the second novel.
11. And finally, have you a message for readers?
I have a lot of stories I want to tell in the world of Autumn Harvest. The continuation of Yelen and Kaye’s story is the biggest one, but I have tales to tell about Isa and Bess and their lovers, plans for the literal subculture of the dwarves, and secrets to reveal about the saphhic temple in Rites of Spring. If you want to see more of any particular part of that world, let me know! There’s a big picture I’m working towards, but your input can help me decide what order the stories get told in.
Tof, many thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer these questions. It is always interesting to find out where authors find their inspiration and how they develop their stories and characters.
Autumn Harvest: Maiden certainly sounds like an entertaining and fascinating read, which I am looking forward to reviewing. I think that when it comes to writing fiction the fantasy genre is a great forum in which authors and readers can explore both major societal issues or those affecting the individual. Authors in the genre produce many entertaining and thought provoking reads. When I first started to read fantasy novels many years ago it was sometimes difficult to find stories where the romance was central to the plot and I am pleased to see that today many authors write fantasy romances and erotic fantasy romances.
Your plans for future tales set in the world of Autumn Harvest and the tie-in adventure game sound really exciting and we’d be more than happy to help you spread the word on these. Tina 🙂
Autumn Harvest: Maiden is a sensual and socially conscious tale of irrepressible longing in a court full of intrigue and inequality. Yelen is a long-lived witch of the Order sent to the patriarchal kingdom of Thrycae, where witchcraft is punishable by death. Kaye is the young prince of that kingdom, and becomes attached to Yelen after she saves his life (but not the use of his legs) from a deadly childhood disease. As the years pass, Kaye grows into a handsome and thoughtful adult, and Yelen finds herself drawn to him despite the mortal peril inherent in such an affair. Eighteen short stories from the world of Autumn Harvest are also included in this volume, including a jilted young man’s life-changing encounter with an emerald-eyed dwarf, the inner monologue of a lady’s maid in need of a helping hand, the frustrations of a dominant dryad, and a series of tales about a polyamorous trio.
Summer passed into autumn, and the weather cooled. I was reviewing some of Kaye’s geometrical proofs when he broached a topic that I should have expected, but was unprepared for.
“One of the maids offered herself to me.”
I was struck silent, so after a moment, he continued.
“I refused her.”
I managed to nod and, after a moment, said, “Well, Kaye, that was very responsible of you. You shouldn’t let anyone push you into a sexual relationship before you’re ready.”
“That’s not why…” he trailed off, then started over. “I don’t know how to love a woman. You once told me that it’s more than just putting it in – that only barbarians ignore a woman’s, uh…pleasure.” He blushed.
Embarrassed at his discomfiture, I replied, “You do have a right to know about these things. And any lovers you have in the future will appreciate your, ah, consideration. I’ll see that you get uncensored copies of the Codex Anatomica, the Garden of Seventy Paths, and…let’s see, Timor’s Way of Love is probably the best general introduction.”
“Yelen…you have been my tutor in everything – will you be my tutor in this?”
I felt the blood rushing to my cheeks at this, and had to take a moment to compose myself before answering. “I…if there is anything that confuses you about the texts, let me know and I will attempt to explain it.”
Kaye’s face twisted up in a conflicted expression. “Thank you,” he replied, his voice quiet and flat. “I couldn’t ask for more.”
I felt simultaneously flushed and queasy looking at him, so I returned my gaze to the parchment in my hand and launched into a lecture on the various applications of geometry to architecture and sealing sigils. Kaye was silent and downcast, quite unlike his usual self. After a couple of minutes, I sputtered out in mid-sentence, and declared our lessons over for the day.
“Kaye…” I started, then trailed off as my voice began to tremble.
“No!” His voice was soft, but intense. “Please, Yelen, don’t reject me. I’ve loved you for years. I can’t remember not loving you.”
“I’m older than your mother,” I started, a bit feebly.
“So? I’m not a child anymore.”
“No, but you are the heir to the throne of Thrycae.”
“The throne can go to Nestor or another noble house for all I care.”
“You should. You have a chance to improve upon your father’s reforms, make Thrycae a better place. Others would undo what progress has been made.”
“You yourself told me that I don’t have any great destiny. I will help someone else towards greatness, but I will not achieve it myself.”
“That’s not quite what the wyrding means. I’m more worried that you could destroy yourself.”
“For you, Yelen, I’d—”
“Stop! I didn’t save your life—twice—just for you to throw it away!”
“Yelen, give me your hand.”
I reached out and let him clasp my hand.
“Yelen,” he whispered, “you’ve given so much to me, so much for me. I don’t know if I can be your lover. I don’t know if that’s what you really want. I know that’s what I want. I want to be close to you, any way I can. You tell me how, and that’s what I’ll do. I’m not afraid for myself.”
“Oh, Kaye, I want to remain close to you as well, but I don’t think I can bear it. If we become lovers, one of us is going to die.”
Kaye stared at me in shocked incomprehension.
I continued, “I’ve seen it, in true dreaming and waking omen. We have a child, and then only one of us is left to raise her—or him. That part of the vision is unclear.”
Kaye lurched forward, pressing off the wall in a half-controlled fall toward me. I caught him and held him close. For some time we stood there, just supporting each other like fallen branches in the path of the firestorm.
In that sudden silence, I heard Kaye whisper in a voice husky with awe, “Our child.”
Excerpt 3 (from “Delta,” one of the included short stories):
Not far from the coast of Pa’an, in the delta of the lifegiving Lwan river, there lived an old fisherman. Every morning he would cast his net into a fork of the delta and fasten it on either side with bamboo pegs, hoping to catch a great salmon swimming upstream to spawn, or even a handful of herring. Every evening he would return, and most days the net would be empty.
When he caught small fish he would fillet them by the side of the river and eat them raw. On the rare occasion he caught a salmon or other large fish, he took it back to his hut and smoked it carefully to preserve it. When he had no fish, he would take a small handful of rice and prepare it in a large pot of boiling water. As the rice cooked, he would stand over the pot and breathe in deeply, not letting the rice-steam go to waste.
One day, when the old fisherman went to check on his net, the pegs had been pulled out and the entire net dragged upstream by some great fish that now lay tangled and beached on the near side of the river. The fisherman was confused, as he’d never caught a salmon that large, and from between the close-woven strands of the net, the fish’s scales gleamed in the dimming light, catching and throwing the sunset like flashing fire.
Picking his way through the wild yarrow, the fisherman stopped still when the fish spoke.
“Fisherman, you have caught me in your net. Free me and I will grant you a wish.” The voice was high and undulating, moving over itself like waves coming to shore.
The old man stared, dumbstruck.
“Please, good fisher, do not leave me here. I grow dry.”
A talking fish was a wonder, and wonders were dangerous things. The fisherman hesitated a moment, then gave a slight nod and knelt by the fish’s tail. The net was a mess, torn and twisted by the fish’s struggles. There would be no simply pulling it free.
Taking out his boning knife, the old fisherman began cutting his net, carefully sliding the flat of the blade between strand and scale, then turning the sharpened edge out and slicing away from the great fish. The tail, a wondrous fan-like spread of glittering color, was soon free, but that was the barest beginning. It was slow work, and grew slower as the blade dulled on the hemp, but the old man was immune to boredom, as all his work was slow.
Completely focused on the task at hand, he did not look ahead, and so was surprised when iridescent scales gave way to pale skin. Smooth, flawless skin, and so light in color as to be translucent; he could make out fine blue veins traversing that milky map, and thought of the familiar forks and windings of the river delta.
The awesome artwork featured above is the work of Rebecca Schauer (http://fruitbeat.smackjeeves.com/) .