A big welcome to H. Lewis-Foster as part of her blog tour with Gay Book Promotions for Strokes on a Canvas from Pride Publishing.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your writing?
I’ve been writing gay romantic fiction for a few years now and my stories are set in all sorts of times and places. I like to bring characters together from different backgrounds, and they’ve included Scottish clansmen, an Edwardian gentleman and his valet, and rival international sportsmen. I’ve lived in various parts of the UK, which has helped in creating stories set all over the country, from Scotland to Somerset.
Can you tell us about your new release? What inspired you to write it?
Strokes on a Canvas is set in 1920s London, where former coal miner Evan meets art teacher Milo. The 1920s is a decade that’s always interested me, especially the more bohemian side of society. I love the art and literature of the time, and the great social change after the First World War makes it a fascinating time in 20th century history.
How did you come up with the title?
Strokes on a Canvas is based around an artist painting a portrait, so the title is a direct reference to the central characters and plot. Milo and Evan’s involvement also grows over the course of several sittings for the portrait, the layers of their relationship building like oils on a canvas.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The most challenging part was trying to keep the story historically accurate. It’s so easy to include a word or item that simply wouldn’t have existed in that time period. As it happens, I quite enjoy the research side of writing, looking into the lifestyles, fashions and politics of a different time, as well as searching through books like the Oxford Dictionary of Slang to find words that would have been used at the time.
Did you learn anything from writing your book? What was it?
It’s always interesting—and often quite a wake-up call—to look at how different life was in another era. It can be easy to forget how much things have changed for gay men in the UK over the past hundred years. The need for secrecy, or at the very least discretion, wasn’t just a matter of keeping your social standing in the 1920s, it was essential to keep yourself out of court and quite possibly jail. Milo and Evan may come from very different backgrounds, but they both have to hide their true feelings in public.
I find love stories between men intensely romantic, perhaps because men are often portrayed with a ‘tough’ exterior in books and films. I also think there’s potential for a little more fun than in straight romances, and I like to give readers a bit of a chuckle along the way.
Do you have a favourite character and/or book you’ve written? Who, what and why?
I guess I fall a little bit in love with all of my main characters, but a particular favourite is Jim in Out in the Sticks. While he can turn his hand to anything practical, he’s also the perfect gentleman and a wonderfully caring lover and friend. His only fault is that he’s a hopeless cook, but then nobody’s perfect.
Are you obsessed with stationery? And if so, what and why?
I am indeed obsessed with stationery. As I spend most of my day at a computer, I love to take a break from the screen to write in a notebook with a nice cover. I also like writing in different coloured inks, purple being my favourite.
What are your writing and personal goals for 2019 and beyond?
I’m just happy to keep writing whenever I can. I’ve always got new ideas for stories – it’s a matter of finding the time to write them down!
What are you working on at present? Would you like to share a snippet?
I’m working on a story set in a seaside town in the 1960s, another decade of big social change. It’s still a little way from being finished, but here’s a quick snippet:
“Do you have to smoke those things? They’re supposed to be bad for you.”
“You may well be right.” Harry eased the cigarette from his lips and blew a lazy cloud of smoke into the air. “But isn’t everything you enjoy a little bit bad for you?”
“It’s been so long since I enjoyed myself, I can’t remember if it was bad for me or not.” Jake turned onto his back, not wanting to burn his shoulders. “And seeing it was only a quick fumble with you, I’m not sure it counts.”
“Thanks a lot.” Harry chuckled and took another drag on his cigarette. “Why don’t you come to York with me next Saturday? I’ve found a cracking pub with some dead posh blokes and a very understanding landlord. As long as you behave in the public bar, you can make all sorts of acquaintances.”
“I’m sure you can, but you know it’s not my scene.”
“And what is your scene, exactly?” They’d had this conversation a hundred times, but it didn’t stop Harry starting it again. “Are you going to spend your whole life working at Den’s then going for a pint at the Red Lion?”
“You know I’m doing my evening classes. I am trying to make something of myself.” Jake sat up and brushed the sand from his arms. “But I’m not like you, Harry. I can’t just walk into a pub and buy some bloke a drink.”
“Why not? At this rate, you’ll ending up becoming a monk, and the good brothers probably have more fun than you. You need to stop worrying and get out there. What we do isn’t illegal anymore. Or at least not as illegal as it used to be.”
“Try telling that to folk round here. Can you imagine what they’d say about us? This is Fenbury, not York. And it’s certainly not London.”
“Now, that’s a place we should go.” Harry lay back on the sand. “Just imagine what we could get up to there.”
Book Title: Strokes on a Canvas
Author: H. Lewis-Foster
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Cover Artist: Cherith Vaughan
Genre/s: Historical M/M Romance
Heat Rating: 3-4 flames
Trope/s: Friends to lovers
Themes: Overcoming the past
Length: 29,060 words/114 pages
It is a standalone book.
Love and art escaping the past in 1920s London
London, 1924. Evan Calver is enjoying a quiet pint, when he notices a man smiling at him across the bar. While the Rose and Crown isn’t that kind of pub, Evan thinks his luck might be in, and he narrowly escapes humiliation when he realises the man is smiling at a friend. Eavesdropping on their conversation, Evan discovers the man is named Milo Halstead and served as an army captain during the war.
When they meet again by chance in the British Museum, artist Milo asks Evan if he would sit for a portrait. Evan is amazed that an upper-class artist wants to paint the son of a miner, and he’s just as surprised when their acquaintance blossoms into friendship. When he discovers that Milo is a man like himself, he hopes that friendship might become more. But as Evan and Milo grow ever closer, can they escape the fears of the past to find their future happiness?
On the opposite side of the cabinet, a man was gazing intently at the Athenian amphora. Evan doubted he was having the same thoughts as himself as he scrutinized the naked athletes, but he seemed transfixed by its sporting design. The dark-haired man was wearing a brown pinstripe suit, the kind seen in newspaper photographs of famous actors and royalty, which Evan could never hope to afford. The stranger looked born to wear his stylish attire, his confident posture showing the suit’s fine cut to full advantage. Then he raised his eyes, and Evan saw the man was not a total stranger. His hair was smooth with Brilliantine, and he wasn’t wearing his gold-rimmed glasses, but he was unmistakably Captain Milo Halstead.
Evan was about to make a hasty exit when he realized the former soldier was smiling at him through the glass. He may have looked smarter than he had last night, but his smile was still as warm and kind as a Nightingale Nurse’s. Evan didn’t imagine the captain remembered him, but he smiled back, thinking it would be impolite not to, then turned to walk away. To his surprise, Evan’s action was mirrored on the other side of the cabinet as Captain Halstead moved in the same direction. He was still looking at Evan, still smiling, and as they both reached the end of the cabinet, Evan wondered what would happen next. Would words be exchanged? And what would those words be? If Milo remembered him from last night and he wasn’t the genial man he seemed, they might hint at blackmail or violence.
Evan was tempted to put his head down and make a run for it, but he didn’t want to attract the attention of the museum guards. He took a breath and stepped forward, only to find Milo standing in his way.
“Excuse me. Could I get past?”
“Of course, but…” Milo’s smile was uncertain now, but he didn’t move from Evan’s path. “It was you I saw in the Rose and Crown last night, wasn’t it?”
Evan lowered his eyes and weighed up his options. He could admit he was at the pub and ask to know what business of Milo’s it was. Or he could deny being anywhere near the place, or even knowing of its existence. The latter seemed the most sensible choice, avoiding all confrontation, but when he looked up and saw Milo’s blue eyes sparkling cheerfully back at him, Evan was overwhelmed by a longing to spend a few seconds more in his company.
With no idea of Milo’s intentions, Evan answered, “That’s right. I saw you there too.”
About the Author
H. has worked with books for a number of years, and is delighted to finally find herself on the author’s side of the bookshelf. She enjoys writing historical romances, and contemporary stories too, and while her characters travel all over the world, they always have a touch of British humour.
H. has lived in various parts of the UK and currently lives in the north of England, where she’s enjoying city life as much as the beautiful countryside. In her spare time, H. loves going to the cinema and theatre, and her very eclectic tastes range from quirky comedy to ballet and Shakespeare, and pretty much everything in between.
BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE