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Today we have a guest post from Elyan Smith, author of Portside, and contributing author to the upcoming release O Come All Ye Kinky.
Setting the Scene
guest post by Elyan Smith
I’m pretty easily charmed by places with history. Not necessarily the centuries of history that old ruins have but the more recent history that still has buildings drip with people’s stories and rust.
I first visited South Wales some four or five years ago, roadtripping from Newport through Cardiff, Port Talbot, then to Swansea, and when I began writing Portside the opening scene of Iwan at the unused docks was what I started with, with the setting fully formed.
Most stories in the M/M genre are set in more exciting places than this, more thriving places, too, but I was tempted by being able to write something with protagonists leading more average and unexciting lives in average and unexciting places and still depict them as people with stories, and people who can ultimately look for sex or for love and have a story to tell.
The things that inspire me are the ordinary things: the life’s story of the old couple who used to go dancing down in the sailor pubs when they were younger and now spend their days with the radio on too loud, between doctors’ appointments and the dishes, football on the television and walking to get the milk every morning, watching the town change around them; the guy who left the city he grew up in to go elsewhere and now spends his time in the local pub as a regular, at the bookies every other day and still dreaming of making it big. And so on.
Iwan, the protagonist in Portside, doesn’t dislike his hometown. He’s not looking to leave it even though quite a lot of people around him are looking for a better life or a more fulfilling life elsewhere. But for him, the place he grew up in is all he knows. With all its broken corners and tattered, unused remains from better times, that place is what turned him into the person he is today. And ultimately it’s home.
The places I’ve lived in have always had a charm of the broken and rebuilt and broken again, and I have far too many folders filled with pictures of all the dirty, seedy areas and facades. My parents would regularly stop me and ask, “Why are you taking a photo of that?” but I suspect that for me it’s just knowing there’s a story in it — in an abandoned tricycle left to the side of the road, old graffiti on a wall that is caving in, weathered scratchings into a dying tree.
It’s photos and places like that that get me writing because they get me thinking about the people who have populated those places once. When I start a story, I start with a first image or a first scene. Before I know who the characters are and before I know what the plot of a story is, I’ll have my opening scene of someone standing somewhere looking at something with a distinct mood and atmosphere of the place setting the tone for the rest of the story.
For Portside that first image was very much that of one of these photos. That’s where the story started from. Iwan, as a character, was born a bit later, but he wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for this setting.
Life on the dole in a dying town is defined by drinking when you can, smoking to pass the time, and, if you’re gay, going down to the barracks at the old port to get some. Iwan’s got the cigarettes and the booze down pat, but he lacks experience, which has him sticking to online porn and watching other people.
Everyone else seems to have moved past getting what they want, while all Iwan can think of is what could go wrong. He knows who he is, regardless of labels. But no matter how often his best friend Lyn tells him to just go for it, he doesn’t trust other people to see past his mismatched body.
Paying for what he’s afraid to get for free is a long shot, but it’s better than just watching, and it’s better than porn. It doesn’t change the world he lives in, but it changes him.
Elyan Smith lives in the southwest of England. He works in research during the day and spends most of his free time writing LGBT fiction. Portside is Elyan’s debut release. You can find him at his Website and his Twitter @ElyanSmith, and purchase a copy of Portside at Riptide Publishing .