Dragon*Con readers who like a little weird along with their World War II historical fiction/alternate history should be bloody glad that Rosemary Laurey is returning to the convention this year. Under the pseudonym “Georgia Evans,” author Laurey has written a new version of the Blitz that has supernatural “Others” fighting on behalf of both Allied and Axis powers. The blend is something out of a B horror flick, Dracula versus the Werewolf, but set in a sleepy English town with all the elements of a cozy mystery. Wake up, Agatha! You’ve got competition, and she’s sporting fangs.
Daily Dragon (DD): Your website at www.brytewood.co.uk, is a great introduction for fans new to the trilogy of Bloody Good, Bloody Awful, and Bloody Right, but can you give us the short version here? What was your inspiration for combining horror tropes with an English village during the Blitz?
Rosemary Laurey/Georgia Evans (RL/GE): Well, the WWII was my editor’s idea. After we’d batted back and forth a couple of ideas, she suggested making the vamps the villains, and what would villains at that time be but saboteurs and spies? Since I had not the slightest intention of letting them win, I had to come up with some equally powerful opposition. Supernatural villagers seemed the answer.
DD: Brytewood might not be on any map, but it reads as real as any small hamlet in classic British storytelling. How did you go about building the small world of Brytewood (and the Europe that is featured in parts of the trilogy)?
RL/GE: I rather had a head start since I grew up, and went to school, in that part of the country. The Mole valley was right in the path of Operation Sea Lion (the German invasion plan) and for years after the war, the area was peppered with pill boxes and the remains of land defenses as well as craters and bombed out ruins. Since the area was rather in the thick of things, seemed to make sense to set the books there and made for some very pleasant research trips and a bit of nostalgia. I used photos of the house I grew up in, the one I lived in as a teenager, the school my sister went to, and a church in the village in the book videos.
As for the German settings, well, that was from memory and the help of an atlas.
DD: The covers for each of the Brytewood novels are distinctive and delightful. I especially liked the parachuting classic vampires on the cover of Bloody Good. Tell us about the illustrator and your involvement with the covers for the Brytewood novels.
RL/GE: Have to say I absolutely LOVE the covers they gave me, but I’m afraid I have no idea of the artist’s name and being midlist, all the input I have on covers is to say “thank you.”
DD: Each of your novels features at least one romantic relationship. Has some romance author persona crept into your alternate history/dark, but somehow cozy, fantasy?
RL/GE: Well, it happened like this. My contract was for three vampire romances. I should say upfront that I’m not one of the detailed plotting in advance sort of writers. I put together a synopsis to sell the books, but when it comes to writing, I write the story down the way it flows which usually varies quite considerably from my original proposal. So I wrote the books and had a wonderful time doing so. After I handed the second one in, my editor told me they were fantasy, not romance. Have to say that rather knocked me for a loop, but, after I got over being astounded, I thought about it, and yes, while there is a romance in each one (and the extra one as a bonus in Bloody Right) between the historical setting, the war, the spies, and all the problems of life and survival, the romance slipped in among the action rather than being the central story as in a Romance.
So I became a writer of Fantasy and they asked me to take another name to differentiate these from my Rosemary Laurey books.
DD: You played with some of the common “rules” of horror tropes to great literary advantage in your stories. What factors influenced you to stretch the rules? Have you received any grief mail as a result?
RL/GE: I really stretch and switch as is needed for the story. Sounds a bit vague I know but it all depends on what my characters and the story dictate.
My stance is that since fiction is all made up anyway, you can do whatever you want as long as it’s consistent and makes sense in the world you’ve created.
Grief from readers? <g> Yes, but not about stretching the rules. The only complaints I’ve had (so far at least) have been about the explicit sex. Three readers (two by email and one via a letter sent to my publishers) didn’t like the love scenes, but said they didn’t spoil the book for them as they just skipped those pages. And then there’s the Amazon reviewer who wrote that Bloody Good was “pornographic.”
DD: The full moon is definitely a factor to the otherness of at least some of your supernatural characters. How did you choose which lunar-influenced supes to include in the trilogy?
RL/GE: I wanted some shape shifters among the population. Welsh Dragons were the most obvious. Werewolves would have been fun, but since the last time a wolf was seen in southern England was, at a guess, about the time the Romans left, a wolf wouldn’t work. When I was a child, foxes abounded. Darn nuisance they were raiding hen houses and carrying off ducks and geese. So a were fox seemed the perfect answer.
DD: Some of your Brytewood names hearken back to other classic stories, the Pendragon legacy, for one. How did you decide which traditions to include as part of the connotative milieu that runs through the story arc?
RL/GE: I did a rummage through my memory and popped into the plot whatever seemed to fit. Very unscientific and unplanned, but honestly that’s the way it happens. If something belongs in the story, in it goes. English (and Welsh) folklore is so full of interesting characters and myths, I had a rather a rich banquet to pick from.
DD: Given the scary bits in the trilogy, do you consider the Brytewood novels to be horror, dark fantasy, or something else?
RL/GE: You’re asking the woman who thought she was writing Romance and produced Fantasy? This whole business of genre (and where it’s shelved in the book stores) is confusing to say the least. IMO, the borders between genres are often blurry and frequently overlap. A lot of the time, the genre put on a book boils down to a decision by the marketing department. With my Bloody books, the chains shelve them in the SF/Fantasy section, my neighborhood indie puts them in Horror, another Indie has them in Romance—because, the bookseller said, that’s where my readers will look for them. Same books, three different places. And then I’ve more than once seen them classified as “Urban Fantasy” which I find astounding since the village setting is about as non-urban as you could get. Rural fantasy maybe, but never urban.
DD: At the close of the trilogy, at least one European “Other” is involved in tandem with a soldier from Brytewood, leaving at least this faithful reader wondering what’s next for these characters still in limbo and far from out of danger. Will you expand the trilogy into a series so we can learn their fates? How about the Brytewood son still at sea?
RL/GE: Alice’s other brother, Alan? You know I’ve never given him a passing thought. I have absolutely no idea even if he survives—there were a lot of U Boats in the North Atlantic.
I read The Cruel Sea when I was about nine or ten and it made a tremendous impression on me, so I have this gut feeling that Alan doesn’t survive the war. Could be wrong though.
Simon and Bela? I’ve had a bunch of readers write and ask about them. I’m certain they have a story, but to write that I’d have to research life in Switzerland during the war and right now I’m busy researching France after the partition for my current book so Simon and Bela are going to have to wait.
I wrote the books as a trilogy and don’t envision another one set in Brytewood, but I do like taking characters from one book and popping them down in another (the vamps on our side, for example, are all characters from my Rosemary Laurey vamp series and the Druid knife appears in Bringham in the first of those books), so who knows where some of them might end up?
DD: Is your Georgia Evans alter ego busy on another novel, even if it’s not part of the Brytewood legacy?
RL/GE: I have proposals for both Rosemary and Georgia sitting on my editor’s desk right now. While I wait, I’m working on the book I mentioned earlier—set in France in the spring of 1941.
The heroine (an America this time for a bit of a change) finds herself taking charge of a small girl after her father is arrested for running an underground newspaper. Wanting to get her out of Paris, she asks a friend who works in the U.S. Embassy for help. She gets it, but, as part of the bargain, has to take along two more children and then discovers the men running the escape route are vamps. When I started, I saw it as a “Rosemary” book but now I think there’s so much peripheral action going on, it will finish as a “Georgia” story.
Of course whether or not I sell it is another matter entirely.
DD: What else can we expect from the pen of Rosemary Laurey in the coming year?
RL/GE: Well my other writing persona, Madeleine Oh, just sold four connected novellas to Changeling. These are erotica. A family of werewolves run an Auberge in the hills above Nice. Guests enjoy all sorts of extra services and there are vamps, too, just for the fun of it. The sequence will follow the changing seasons starting in January with Winter.
DD: Will you be rejoining the Dark Fantasy or other fan tracks again this year at Dragon*Con? What topics will you be discussing?
RL/GE: You bet I’ll be there 🙂 and as for topics, I talk on whatever’s on the program.