Title: Heart Scarab (Taking Shield #2)
Author Name & Publisher: Anna Butler (Wilde City Press)
Publication Date & Length: July 22, 2015 – 97,900 Words
Telnos is an unpleasant little planet, inhabited by religious fanatics in the festering marshlands and unregistered miners running illegal solactinium mines up in the hills. But the Maess want Telnos, and Shield Captain Bennet’s job is to get out as many civilians as he can—a task that leaves him lying on Telnos while the last cutter of evacuees escapes in the teeth of the Maess invasion.
Bennet is listed missing in action, believed dead on a planet now overrun by Maess drones. His family is grieving. His long-term partner, Joss, is both mourning and guilt-ridden.
And Fleet Lieutenant Flynn? Flynn is desolate. Flynn is heart-broken… no. Flynn is just broken.
Flynn liked kissing. In fact, Flynn considered himself something of an expert in the art. He’d tried it in all its forms, from the first tentative pressing together of juvenile lips that had you wondering what all the fuss was about, to the discovery that if you just opened your mouth and, you know, kind of moved everything, your tongue suddenly had a lot more positive uses than just allowing you to articulate clearly and swallow things without choking. Flynn got the hang of it, ran with it, and never looked back.
Soft kisses and hard kisses; kisses that were wet and slobbery with people who didn’t know exactly how to hold their lips to get the best and sexiest effect, and wet and sexy kisses with people who did. Kisses that turned the blood to molten lava and kisses that cooled you as you came down. Kisses that inflamed and kisses that soothed; feverish kisses and languid after-sex kisses. Kisses that meant only good fellowship and casual affection, and kisses that were desire incarnate.
Flynn had not only tried them all, he’d made them his own. He was considered by all the relevant authorities to be rather a specialist in the area.
Flynn really liked kissing. He had been gratified by the discovery that Bennet liked it too. Because now he could add slow kisses to the repertoire. Kisses so leisured and intense the world came to a stop while a hot tongue moved over his lips, explored each and every tooth down to the last molar, while teeth pulled at his bottom lip, biting it gently until it was swollen and hot and heavy, and he had to lick his lip to cool it and met Bennet’s tongue with his. Only then, would Bennet’s mouth close over his and start a real in-earnest kiss that lasted several more centuries. Those were kisses Bennet seemed to specialise in.
Flynn was always willing to take tips from another expert. A man should always try to extend his technique.
1) Can you describe in detail what your writing environment is like?
We live in a four bedroomed Victorian house in London, and I took over the second bedroom. Gradually, so no one else in the house had the chance to complain!
It’s a reasonably-sized square room with a cast iron fireplace, one big window and cream walls. My desk is tucked into a corner, facing into the wall so I don’t get distracted by looking out the window (I get distracted by cat videos on YouTube instead!). Beside me is a big bookcase filled with books on jewellery—a passion of mine—particularly books on the great jewellers such as Cartier, Boucheron and Faberge. And behind me is an extra table filled with colouring pencils, because I’ve succumbed to the craze for adult colouring books and I tell you, it is the greatest stress relief ever.
Most of the pictures on the walls are autographed photos from my fangirl days. My proudest possession there is a gorgeous BW photo of Legolas, signed by Orlando Bloom. But right in front of me hangs some antique textiles, including the family christening gown first used by my grandfather in 1901 and by every child in the family since.
2) Is there one of your characters that you relate to (from any of your works)? Why?
Probably Bennet, from the Taking Shield series. He’s rather shy and introverted, uncomfortable in big social situations. A little gauche and awkward. But when he’s at ‘work’, behind the lines on a Shield infiltration job, he’s confident and assured.
That’s me. Anything to do with my work, and I probably come across as brassy and over confident, if anything. But put me into a party, and I’m the one in the corner clutching my glass and with a dreadful rictus of a smile on my face.
3) If you couldn’t be an author, what would you do instead?
I’d have loved to have been an opera singer. I took singing lessons for years, but although I had a reasonable soprano voice, it had limited range and power. I’d never be able to hold the stage at Covent Garden! I still regret giving up lessons and concentrating on my career in the UK Civil Service instead, but you can’t go back on things like that for a do-over. Unless you use your voice and practice constantly, it will fade away. Sadly, mine isn’t even the ghost of what it once was, so that door is closed for ever.
But if I couldn’t write now, then I think I’d concentrate on my needlework and gardening. Very boring of me!
4) Is there anything that you learned during the writing process that you wish you had known before hand?
Ach, that’s a hard one. I think there are many things I’ve learned over the last couple of years, that I might have done differently if I’d known in advance – things about how to categorise your books properly so you don’t mislead readers, being clear about what your website will cover *before* you build it (ouch!). But principally, I’ve learned to take reviews, particularly lukewarm or bad reviews, not as reflection on me, but as no more than a stranger’s opinion of my book that is personal to them, and not to me. That’s been a hard lesson to learn and if I’d known it in advance, I may not have spent so much angst and hurt on reviews of my earlier books!
5) Is there anything that you wish you could change about your book now that it is out?
You know, I don’t think there is. I thoroughly enjoyed writing Heart Scarab and loved taking Bennet and Flynn back out to play. I can’t wait for the next one!
6) How do you come up with new ideas for your story?
Taking Shield is a series of 5 (possibly 6) novels, that has its roots firmly in traditional, old school science fiction, where humanity is pitted against a powerful enemy. What can I say? I adore big space battles! With the Taking Shield series, though, I wanted a little more than a space opera with handsome, sexy pilots (attractive though that notion is!). I spent all my working life in Whitehall, the collective name for the UK Civil Service that’s close to government ministers. Seeing how politics works in practice is a bit of an eye opener, and I hope to capture some of that in the series, so at least some of the ideas have come from my experiences there. The key element is that Bennet comes to learn that it isn’t always clear who the enemy is.
When I pitched the series to Wilde City, I wrote something grandiose like: Over the Taking Shield arc, Bennet will see the extremes to which humanity’s enemies, and his own people, will go to win the war. Some days he isn’t able to tell friend from foe. Some days he doubts everything, including himself, as he strives to ensure Albion’s victory. And some days he isn’t sure, any longer, what victory looks like.
7) What’s next for you as a writer?
The third Shield book, Makepeace, is with Wilde City and I’m currently working on the fourth book, The Chains of Their Sins. That’s in second draft at the moment.
As soon as I have that done, I want to start on the second book of an entirely different series, the Lancaster’s Luck series, where we will have more steampunk adventures for Rafe and Ned from The Gilded Scarab.
8) Where do you live? Do you think this influences how or what you write?
I live in London, in the UK at the moment, although we’ve just bought a house in the country, in Norfolk, and will be moving this autumn.
London certainly influenced The Gilded Scarab. It’s set in streets and places I know very well: the streets of Bloomsbury, around the British Museum. I spent several days out with a camera in the areas I wanted to use, photographing houses that would stand in for Gallowglass House, or Stravaigor House, or Rafe’s coffee house. Each of the locations has a real place stand in – I think that helps give Gilded Scarab an authentically London feel.
9) What is your favorite genre outside of the one you write in? Why?
Oh detective/mystery novels, without doubt. I’m very fond of the classics from the 20s and 30s: Lord Peter Wimsey, Miss Silver, Roderick Alleyn, Albert Campion. And I love Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody novels set in the Egypt before the First World War.
I read and reread these even though I know whodunnit, because I enjoy the writing and the intellectual exercise a good detective/mystery author puts the reader through.
10) Do you have any vices? Shoes, coffee, shopping…etc?
Mulberry handbags (what in the US would be called a purse). I have over a dozen of them, and they’re a real indulgence. I liked one of them so much I bought it in two colours: one a soft primrose yellow and the other a rusty brick red. Lovely things.
Anna Butler was a communications specialist for many years, working in UK government departments on everything from marketing employment schemes to running an internal TV service. She now spends her time indulging her love of old-school science fiction. She lives in the ethnic and cultural melting pot of East London with her husband and the Deputy Editor, aka Molly the cockapoo.