Today, I have author Taylin Clavelli in the interview chair. We are celebrating her release of Hathonatum, book one in the Pelethus Series, a m/m sci-fi contemporary romance. Be sure to check out my review of her novel. And don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.
1. Hi, Taylin. First off, readers have an idea of the writer you, but what about the everyday you? Can you share about your personal life?
Taylin Clavelli: I am in my fifties and married with two grown children. So, I have been around for a while and have done a few things. In my day job, I am the historian at a local hotel, where I also work, front of house, on the breakfast shift. My hobbies include Taekwondo, and I am a second-degree black belt. In 2015 I became a veteran, ladies’ team, world champion in sparring and destruction. Additionally, I am an experienced horse rider – though I haven’t been on horseback for a few years.
2. I’ve been perusing your Goodreads page and discovered you are drawn to many genres in m/m romance. First, why m/m romance? And second, why so many genres?
Taylin Clavelli: Fanfiction can be blamed for a lot – some of it good, some decidedly not. Regardless, it is an excellent place to try out ideas. My love of m/m can be blamed on the author CJ Baty. She wrote a corporate espionage fanfiction where the coupling was m/m – and I loved it. Having all male protagonists added a different dimension to the whole story. I’ll admit, the guys were hot too. It was something I hadn’t read before and the strength of character behind it all was enchanting. It rekindled my love of reading and further broadened my horizons.
As far as the romance being m/m – well I got two for the price of one. What started as an appreciation of reading material and in-built biology appreciating a fit body; has turned into a love and appreciation of the LGBTQ community who, in return, have welcomed me. I attended PRIDE and LGBTQ writing events. I also love the openness and sense of humour. Whenever I am at an LGBTQ event, I smile so much, my face aches. On the flip side, the trials and heartache that many have endured are heartbreaking. The education received, I have passed onto family and friends, who also now embrace the differences that make each individual unique and accept that love in all its forms, is a beautiful thing.
Why so many genres? Well, since childhood, I have always had a book by my side. My default setting is sword and sorcery novels with a touch of romance. As I have gotten older, my tastes have broadened. To read or watch the same style of entertainment year on year, gets old. I guess the critical thing to me is that the story is good. I have always been an open-minded person, and that is reflected in my reading. There are some genre’s that don’t appeal, but just because they’re not my bag, I know they will be someone’s.
3. Your latest release is Hathonatum. Can you tell me what inspired you to create this novel?
Taylin Clavelli: It started with some street art that I saw while on holiday. The images I saw stayed in my mind and got the creative juices going. A few years later, I visited Egypt, after which an outline set in place. I thought over several arc’s but for varying reasons, I discounted them. My ideas became complete after my daughter went to university to study physics. The theory of alternate dimensions clicked with me. Once I had these elements, I subconsciously put together scenario’s and before long I’d committed some of them to paper.
For the most part, ideas for novels evolve from a vision here, a smell there, a characteristic somewhere else. When thoughts of ‘what if’ seep into my thinking, I know I have the start of a story. Anthologies are a different animal, which is why I don’t think I write them well because I have to force an idea rather than it occurring naturally.
Hathonatum started life as a standalone, and it has been written that way. It only became the first part of a series when my two pre-readers confirmed that there was something special about two characters that emerged later in the story and said – “Please tell me you are going to something with these two.” By then a germ of an idea was already in place. Be assured though, the story between Ben and Ashari Hathonatum is concluded.
4. Can you share your writing process through Hathonatum? Did the plot come first or the characters?
Taylin Clavelli: With Hathonatum, the scenery came first, then the plot and lastly the characters. I know that there are many people enamoured with Egyptian history. But for my characters, the link had to be more, which is why Ben and Hathonatum evolved after everything else. I had to answer the question of, who would live where, and what kind of strong connection they’d have with Egypt. I live in the Lickey Hills, so I wanted at least one of my characters to come from there. But if their heritage was Egyptian, that would give them a stronger connection with the country. Once I had my main people, other cast members evolved.
I believe I am what is called a pantser writer, in that I write by the seat of my pants and that I don’t plan…much. Events at the start are planned because that is what gets me past the first few chapters, after that the story takes on a life of its own, and I run with it.
5. How much research went into this novel?
Taylin Clavelli: I believe that research for any story is essential. Even when it is set hundreds of years in the future, one can’t pluck things out of the sky. The fundamental theories need to hold water, then to project what could be, is at least plausible.
On the subject of Egypt, I didn’t have to do much further research for the novel because, since childhood, Egyptian history has been a hobby of mine. I have several books on Egypt, its people and its history. I am still glued to the screen when a documentary involves Egypt. And I have visited the Cairo Museum, the pyramids and had a trip down the Nile. As a young adult, I did a family tree of the first pharaoh to the last. So, I guess you could say that some research has taken a lifetime. Specifically, for Hathonatum, all I had to do was download the latest maps, and closeups of the various digs.
As already mentioned, my daughter was at university, doing a master’s in physics. Our conversations gave me the idea of inter-dimensional travel. I’d look up a subject regarding string theory, alternate dimensions or anything physics related that could be in the story, then skype her for a translation of the text. I don’t go into much technical detail because the why things happen is more important than how. If I’d gotten into the nuts and bolts of connecting universes, it would have been too great a distraction from the storyline.
For quite some time, I had a list on my wall outlining the properties of crystals and semi-precious stones. This is because I use them in various ways throughout the story. I didn’t want to use the wrong stone in the wrong place. I’d tell you how I use them, but that would be giving away spoilers.
I already knew the theories behind reincarnation, having done some research for my novel Secret of the Manor, albeit, I didn’t use it for that story.
6. Let’s talk about the main characters. What do you love most about Ben and what makes you want to shake him?
Taylin Clavelli: What I like most about Ben is that he has an understated strength. His eyes too are a bit special – they have the look of the semi-precious stone tiger-eye. A dinky spoiler there.
As for what I could shake him about – that is more difficult because I purposely wrote a character that I liked. That’s not to say he’s an angel and can do no wrong. Maybe his understated strength is why I could also shake him. He has measured subtle anger, which can be infuriating. He keeps calmer when most would blow a gasket. It takes a lot of prodding for him to lose it completely. That kind of thing is usually left to his brother Jared.
7. The same for Ashari Hathonatum. What do you love most about him, and what makes you want to shake him?
Taylin Clavelli: What I love most about Ashari Hathonatum apart from his physique, is the way he looks at life. He looks at life like it needs to be savoured and appreciated. He is wise. He makes comments on things that hint that he has experience beyond his years. The older I get; it is something I have come to appreciate.
Regarding what I could shake him about. He could kiss Ben sooner and take a chance. He also holds back his reasoning for doing things, leaving cryptic clues.
8. Without giving away any spoilers, what was your favourite scene to write for Hathonatum and why?
Taylin Clavelli: Without a doubt, my favourite scene to write was the big reveal. Why? Because it is complicated, almost unbelievable, occasionally funny. It is the precipice of will they, won’t they and the members involved all have emotions that are verbalised. Their primary characteristics are on show. It is not a small scene, spanning quite a few pages. It was hard to write yet satisfying when complete. It is a turning point in the story, and not the end because other events follow.
9. What makes Hathonatum different from other m/m romances?
Taylin Clavelli: As well as being a writer, I review, too. I have been a reviewer of m/m stories for a few years. Despite reading many genre’s, I haven’t read one that combines the past, with the present and science fiction. The m/m Sci-Fi’s tend to be completely alternate universe, set hundreds of years in the future, or snatch people from Earth at the beginning and have the rest of the story in a different realm. Although, I am sure someone out there will be able to quote a few titles to me. Wahoo, if they’re out there.
Hathonatum spans genre’s, so it could be a little on the marmite side. Readers who prefer to read a book totally in one type may give a little if a novel strays, but baulk when it spans as many as Hathonatum. Then again, when I wrote Dakota Skies, I wrote a historical story with a more modern voice. One of the most gratifying reviews I had was one where the reviewer said that they’d never read a historical before, but because of the way they used old language. They thoroughly enjoyed DS because it was in a more modern format. I am all for introducing readers to a genre they’d not previously considered.
When I describe Hathonatum, I say that it is a novel that has historical elements but is primarily a romance of a science fiction nature. Then just for good measure, I add in the reincarnation aspect and a couple of other things that make it sound as though the concept shouldn’t work. Yet, for some reason, it does work.
Essentially, the story is about a man who conquers the dimensional divide to find the man he fell in love with.
10. If a reader asked you why they should read Hathonatum, what would you tell them?
Taylin Clavelli: A lot of the answer to question nine applies here, too. Hathonatum is different. It combines genre’s in a way that shouldn’t work but does. It is science fiction, is set in the twenty-first century that will hopefully make you think – “Yeah, that’s plausible.”
It is written with UK grammar and spelling, because Ben originates from the UK, and much of the story, albeit written in the third person, is from his viewpoint.
11. You can only recommend one of your novels to a reader, which would you choose from the books you’ve written so far, and why?
Taylin Clavelli: That is difficult. The reason being is that all of them appeal to different readers.
- Dakota Skies is a historical western.
- Secret of the Manor is a contemporary romance with paranormal and historical elements.
- Five by Taylin is an anthology of my short stories – all contemporary.
- Hathonatum – science fiction with some extras.
If I had to pick one, it would be Secret of the Manor because it is a contemporary romance and that genre has the broadest appeal. If it is a first-time reader of m/m, it should appeal too, because the intimate times in it are fade to the imagination. Overall, SOM is a gentle introduction to the genre and the strength behind two male leads.
12. Which novel is your personal favourite to write, and why?
Taylin Clavelli: Each of them has been a favourite while writing because I get totally vested in the story and its characters. Dakota Skies will always hold a special place in my heart because it was my first novel and I learned so much while writing it. Secret of the Manor became a favourite because it contained some personal experiences and I loved the horse.
Hathonatum though is my ultimate favourite. It is special to me due to the historical elements, and I was proud to put together a story that could have been a mess but wasn’t. Unexpected characters emerged that I didn’t expect which was a super surprise. I also wrote it at a time when I wasn’t sure of my storytelling ability. So, to have it accepted by MLR gave me faith again.
13. What do you enjoy most about writing?
Taylin Clavelli: Developing a story and finding that unexpected character that I’d not consciously planned, and who turns into something special.
14. What do you enjoy least about writing?
Taylin Clavelli: Oh, that’s easy. It is getting past the first couple of chapters. The opening chapters set the tone for the story and grab the readers attention. So, they are fundamental and are the biggest pressure to get right. After that, I can settle into the flow and let the creative process lead me where it will.
15. I enjoy doing random questions, so humour me:
- What’s your favourite movie?
Taylin Clavelli: DaVinci Code
- What book is currently in your e-reader?
Taylin Clavelli: Healing Glass by Jackie Keswick
- Who’s your favourite musical group?
Taylin Clavelli: Currently Dynatron
- What song puts a smile on your face?
Taylin Clavelli: The Macarena
16. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Taylin Clavelli: I’d like to say a big thank you to you for hosting me. I am so grateful for the opportunity you are giving me as an author and for Hathonatum.
Series: Pelethus Series
Author: Taylin Clavelli
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre/s: Contemporary M/M Romance, Science Fiction, Contemporary M/M, Interracial (Alien/Human), Interdimensional, Reincarnation. Multi-Verse, Historical elements.
Heat Rating: 3 – 4 flames
Length: 89 000 words
Hathonatum is a love story that spans time, dimension, universe and death.
Blurb: Have you ever wondered if that little voice inside you is actually your voice?
Egypt captivates Benjamin. As an adult, he immerses himself in his chosen profession, as an archaeologist in the ancient city of Abydos. For Ben, the hieroglyphs, and paintings unlock dreams of a time long lost.
The dig Ben works on is financed by Ashari Hathonatum. For many years, the man has been looking for the one who completes him. He initially saw his heart’s match from a distance. But that was a long time ago and from an alternate universe. When Ashari encounters Ben, he wonders if he is the reincarnation of the man he saw, through another’s eyes, all those years ago. Will the secrets Ashari hides about his heritage stop their love blooming, or will others from his dimension, determined to keep Ashari from his heart’s match, rule the day?
Note: The story can be read as a standalone. It is the first book in the Pelethus Series. The next book involves different main characters that are connected to those in Hathonatum.
**The story is written with British spelling/grammar. **
Though Ben loved the thought of studying Seti, he was part of a small crew concentrating on Narmer (3180-3120 BC), whose tomb was located to the west of the dig, almost as far away from Seti as a tomb could get. Not much was known about the first pharaoh of the combined kingdoms, and Ben wanted to help discover something new. He wanted to shed light on a life that no one knew about—a new phenomenon to capture the imagination.
Ben had been on-site for a little over a week when he saw an intriguing man talking to Terry, his dig leader. Judging by his skin, Ben suspected the man to be local, but it was difficult to tell. Other than his face, the only other exposed part of him was his hands. The rest of him was covered with clothing designed to keep out the worst of the sand—layered, lightweight, loose, and black.
When the man locked gazes with him, Ben found himself staring into a vibrant blue sea of lapis lazuli, framed with black lashes and dark eyebrows. It wasn’t until a fellow worker walked between them that the connection was broken. When Ben sought to re-establish contact, the other had his back to him. Ben returned to his work, clearing out a trench of sand. The heat and excitement over what his group might find overshadowed any musings concerning the stranger.
At the end of the day, Ben was so tired he clambered onto the city-bound truck with as much grace as a stumbling mummy.
That night, while lounging on his bed, images of dark blue assaulted him. The event was rare for him, considering Egypt was his prime…prime everything.
Every day, the journey to the ruins was like being transported back in time. Ben could close his eyes and almost feel like he was there, in ancient Egypt. Often, he imagined he could see a partial image of the hustle and bustle of the ancient civilization continuing around him. At other times, he was in the quiet solitude of a temple. The images were odd, considering ancient Abydos was a graveyard.
From the drop-off point the next day, Ben made his way to tombs B17 and B18—the tombs attributed to Narmer. He worked there all morning with his small, square trowel and brush, slowly moving away the sands of eons.
As lunchtime approached, he relocated to the edge of the main dig and took his break. From there, he would imagine life in ancient Egypt.
Daydreaming, he chose to walk back to his station.
Suddenly, an alarm sounded. It was the warning for a sandstorm. It was similar to what his grandparents had described as the air raid warning from the war.
There was a flurry of activity while people efficiently covered artefacts and other areas of importance. Ben glanced around, noticing the storm was a lot closer than he’d originally thought. It had come out of nowhere. What crept toward the dig seemed like a moving wall of cloud, dense enough to shield the view and engulf anything below it. If it wasn’t for the cottonlike plumes of wheat colours, Ben could have believed a curtain of rain was heading his way. The screen of rapid shadow was making quick progress toward the dig, swallowing all in its path. Briefly, Ben went rigid, unable to move. When the sound of hissing reached his consciousness, and sand stung his feet and face, he dashed toward shelter. He was running a losing race.
Abruptly, he was grabbed and pulled to the floor behind a shallow wall. In a spell of activity as sleek as the sandstorm, a mask was put over his face, and his body along with that of his saviour rolled together. Over and over, they turned. Coming to a halt, and dizzy, Ben found himself cocooned, head to toe in a thick blanket. From the outside, the two of them probably resembled a fat, discarded mummy.
As Ben regained his senses, he could feel a wall to his back and secure arms around him. The only thing between them was his messenger bag containing the bottles of water he was required to keep on him to prevent dehydration in the desert sun.
Panting, he opened his eyes to a familiar sea of lazuli.
First, this book was really different, and its concept very interesting. As noted in the blurb, Benjamin is an archeologist obsessed with Egypt. He has been since he was a little boy. So when he begins his first official dig under the tutelage of a man named Terry, Ben’s whole life is about to change.
That’s about as much as I’ll say about the plot because it was so well put together, I had no idea what was coming next. I didn’t. Each time I turned the page, I was in for a surprise. It was really a gripping tale.
As for the romance between Benjamin and Ashari, the chemistry was strong, and the same for the way they cared about one another. The romance moved at a slow pace, something I really liked. They created a nice bond set up wonderfully by the author because the events that happen afterward required such a strong bond.
The main characters were extremely likeable. Ben was a young man about to embark on a new life in Egypt after finishing his schooling, and Ashari was a kind man shrouded in mystery. The mystery about him kept me guessing, especially when Ben would dream about the ancient past.
The world and culture building was done extremely well. I really enjoyed this part of the novel, especially a look into the past of ancient Egypt. The research had me deep in the ancient ruins. Well done.
This is a great book of romance, mystery, action, and adventure. It’s a wonderful read.
There were some POVs that were unnecessary. But other than that quibble, I think you’ll enjoy Hathonatum. The writing is top-notch. I recommend you give it a try. You won’t regret it. It’s a wonderful novel to retire to after a long day and lose yourself in before falling asleep.
I am proud to be British and proud to be an author of gay romance stories from varying genres. I write under the pseudonym Taylin Clavelli, not because I don’t want my real name out there, but because I think my real name is unmemorable for an author. The name came about from a night of Skype and a lot of wine.
My first published work – a comedy called Boys Toys and Carpet Fitters – came out in 2012. It was part of a Dreamspinners anthology called Don’t Do This At Home. Since then, I have produced a further two novels and five short stories, not including Hathonatum.
As well as being married for close to thirty years, and have a grown-up family, who I adore – I work part-time at a Manor Hotel, where I am also the resident historian. I am a book reviewer, too for a well-known site.
Not being a spring chicken anymore, I have a few hobbies that over the years have come, gone and resurfaced again. I am an experienced horse rider, and 2nd Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo. I help my husband with DIY projects, upcycle as much as possible and love my garden. As for those simple things that make me stop in my tracks. The dawn chorus, baking bread, lasagne, and the scene where Shadowfax makes his screen entrance.
Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway for a chance to win:
A choice of paperback + swag from Dakota Skies, Secret Of The Manor or 5 shorts from Taylin – 3 winners
A choice of 1 ecopy from Dakota Skies, Secret Of The Manor or 5 shorts from Taylin – 5 winners