Goodreads MM Romance Awards: 10 Nominations.
The news this week has been about the ten nominations my novels have received at the Goodreads MM Romance awards. All ten are from the Clearwater and Larkspur series of books, where we have a mix of MM romance, mystery, history and bromance. I thought, today, I might give you the list of nominations and a few words about each. If you follow the links, you will see a list of nominated titles/authors in that category. Find the one you want to vote for, and click. You might need to be signed up to Goodreads to do this; I already am, so I could go straight to the pages. If you’re not, then it’s free and doesn’t take long, and you’ll discover a world of reading once you’re a member.
Here are the nominations.
This is pleasing to see because I consider this one of my best novels. After writing eight Clearwater Mysteries in a row, I wanted to take a step back. I knew that Silas and Andrej were the best of friends when we meet them at the start of the series, in chapter one of book one, actually. What I didn’t know, was how they came to meet, other than what I described in ‘Deviant Desire.’ So, the purpose of ‘Banyak & Fecks’ was to put their two stories together. I also wanted to write something more personal to them, rather than a typical all-out Clearwater adventure.
This involved not only researching travel from Ukraine to England in the mid-1880s but also involved looking in-depth at the male prostitution scene of the same period. Not a lot has been written about that, and it’s hard to find references in the newspapers of the time. However, what I did find was invaluable, and much of what you read in ‘Banyak & Fecks’ is based on truth, including the fairground scene, the workhouse scene, and the rent boy rackets. As always, I incorporated localised cant (slang) and street language, Silas’ ‘Irishisms’ and Andrej’s Ukrainian heritage.
Guardians of The Poor nominated in 5 categories
There are incidents and characters in ‘Banyak & Fecks’ that have a knock-on effect years later when we get to book nine of the Clearwater series, ‘Negative Exposure’. That’s why I recommend reading the series prequel after book eight and before book nine. Book ten, ‘The Clearwater Inheritance’ leads on from book nine and was intended to be the finale of the series.
However, I wasn’t able to let the characters and their world go, and neither were my readers, so I developed ideas for the follow-on series during books nine and ten, and that’s how we come to the Larkspur Mysteries.
Larkspur is Clearwater’s country house in Cornwall. The series aims to bring in new characters while keeping the Clearwater crew in the background, sometimes in the foreground. Doing this enabled me to continue the popular Clearwater world, and have existing characters play parts big and small while giving us something new.
I always like to have an historic ‘theme’ in my novels, hence male sex workers in ‘Banyak & Fecks’, the theatre in ‘Unspeakable Acts’, Bram Stoker in ‘Bitter Bloodline’ and now, the workhouse in ‘Guardians of the Poor.’
‘Guardians’ kicks off the new Larkspur series with a new character, introduced at the beginning of it all, Dalston Blaze. (The name is explained in the story.) It was intended as a linking story between the two worlds, Clearwater and Larkspur, and it achieves that aim. What it also does, is start a three-part adventure for Dalston and his deaf lover, Joe Tanner (my favourite character, but don’t tell the others), which I am now finishing in book three, ‘Agents of the Truth’ due out early next year.
‘Guardians of the Poor’ has been nominated for five out of my ten nominations, which is stunning, and here’s a note about each one.
The history behind Guardians is accurate. Some of the story takes place in the Hackney workhouse, I took some of the character names from newspaper reports of the time, and particularly, a scandal involving staff and inmates and illegal MM sex at the Chelsea workhouse. Even the law Creswell states in court in the early chapters is real, although I twisted it slightly, but the conditions of workhouse life, the terminology and some of the minor characters are all from real life. At least, they are from reports and experiences of first-hand witnesses written around the time the story is set.
The title, Guardians of the Poor comes from a description of the role of workhouse guardians (committee members) from the 18th century. It is what the philanthropists and staff of the Poor Law Unions were called, but in my case, it also refers to Dalston, Joe, and the Clearwater crew.
This award is one of the most gratifying because it is not for me, it is for Andjela Kovacevic. I found Andjela through a freelancer for hire website when I began writing as Jackson Marsh, and she has been with me ever since. She has designed all 22 Jackson covers now, and I couldn’t ask for anyone better. It’s got to the stage where I’ll send her an email telling her vaguely what the story is about, when it’s set, and what I thought of for the cover. She will send back something perfect that I’d never have thought of. We tweak it sometimes, and there we go. Great design, great price, eye-catching cover and meaningful. It’s like she reads my mind. One day, we may even meet.
The cover art for Guardians shows my deaf character Joe Tanner signing the BSL word for deaf while thinking, and in the background is a moody depiction of life in a Victorian workhouse. Simple, to the point, and gorgeous—as is Joe.
When ‘Guardians’ starts, Joe and Dalston are already lovers, and I always knew they would be. What I didn’t know was how that was going to be possible in a workhouse at a time when homosexuality was punishable by two years in prison with hard labour. (Hanging as a punishment had not long been abolished.) Their backstory grew organically as Dalston told Clearwater his history. It was as if I let him tell the story, and I just transcribed it, and after a little adjusting for authenticity, I was rather pleased at how he told it. Writing the flashback sequence was gratifying because the character did the work for me.
Dalston and Joe start out as strangers when they are 12, with Dalston fascinated by the deaf mute, and Joe in need of understanding. Thanks to Dalston’s surrogate mother, the workhouse matron, Joe is allowed to live in the general population rather than the ‘imbeciles’ ward’ where deaf children would have been put. As was standard, he and Dalston share a bed. That’s all fine and innocent until they get to seventeen/eighteen when their best friendship becomes something more intimate. Maybe just for comfort to start with, but quickly it turns to love, and it’s that which keeps them surviving through their ordeals of ‘Guardians of the Poor’, ‘Keepers of the Past’ (though it’s a rocky road) and into ‘Agents of the Truth.’
Dalston Blaze and Joe Tanner. Virgins? Don’t make me laugh… Seriously, they were, once, and I think they deserve an award for losing their virginity to each other while living in the Hackney Workhouse. After all, it must have happened. The only question is how? Although there are no intimate sex scenes in the Clearwater and Larkspur series (apart from in the early books and Banyak & Fecks), there are ‘fade to black’ and suggested sex moments; the rest being left to the reader’s imagination. However, there is no doubt that when Dalston and Joe meet, they are virgins, but when we meet them in Guardians, they know each other intimately and lovingly.
Take a bow, Dalston Blaze. Read the series to discover why he deserves this nomination.
All Time Favourite M/M Series The Clearwater Mysteries
Romance features throughout the series. It’s a bit clunky in Deviant Desire as if I was fishing around trying to make a story about Jack the Ripper into a classic MM romance, and then deciding that, actually, it’s a mystery during which two unlikely people fall in love. It is, though, the start of a very romantic series where all the main characters are gay. Apart from Andrej/Fecker, who’s only ‘gay for pay.’
We have some lovely couples through the series: Rich Vs poor, Clearwater and Silas. Delicate Vs masculine with Thomas and James. Not allowed and can’t happen, between Clearwater and Thomas. Male-flirty between Silas and James. Bromance between Silas and Andrej. First-love with Jasper and Billy which has resulted in Best Coming of Age Home From Nowhere . Love under pressure, and between hearing and deaf with Dalston and Joe. Even straight love (in the background) with Andrej and Lucy.
All said and done, the series relies on bromantic male friendship for the emotional through lines and a darn good and historically accurate mystery for the action, and judging by popularity, award nominations and sales, it’s a winning mixture.
Best Book of The Year The Clearwater Inheritance
I’d always wanted to write Dracula. Well, not the story, of course, but to write something in a similar, epistolary style. ‘Inheritance’ is not 100% epistolary, as Dracula is (it’s not all written in diary form), but I use newspaper articles, telegrams and letters as a good 50% of the storytelling. There is also a classic journey involved, in this case, across Europe by train during the 1889 Russian flu pandemic, and part of that journey involves the Orient Express. This is the longest Clearwater novel, at 150,000 words, and was probably the most satisfying and fun to write.
All Time Favourite Author Jackson Marsh
Well, what can I say? I am my all-time favourite author too.
That’s a lot to take in, I know, and I shall say no more about these awards except for… How thrilling it is to have been nominated by the committee, how grateful I am to my readers for reading these novels, and how honoured I am even to be nominated. This kind of thing makes you realise that the hours you put into creating a novel are worth it, that others enjoy what you do, and that your creations bring pleasure to so many people. After all, that’s what it’s all about.
Click the links to vote, but for me, being nominated is the prize.