The fabulous A.L. Lester is visiting us on the blog today, talking about their upcoming release Taking Flight, the third book in the Celtic Myths collection. I had the privilege of beta reading this little gem and I can’t wait to read the finished product.
I’ve also read the two previous books, Playing Chicken and As the Crows Fly. If you haven’t read them, I warmly recommend them while waiting for the starling book to be released!
But I’ll shut up and leave the floor to Ally now! Welcome, my friend! ❤️
Taking Flight, Trans MCs and a Starling
Firstly a big thank you to Nell, for inviting me to visit today! I’m here blatantly pimping my new release, Taking Flight, which is out on Tuesday 13th July!
As per my usual slightly chaotic creation process, Taking Flight didn’t actually have a name until the last week of June. No pressure or anything. It’s been labouring under the working title The Starling Story, because it’s based on a tale from The Mabinogion, about Brânwen, sister of King Brân of Wales. Her brother marries her off to Matholwch, King of Ireland, but the marriage goes bad for complicated reasons to do with her step-brother mutilating her husband’s horses. Once Matholwch gets her home to Ireland, he banishes her to his kitchens. She tames a starling and sends it with a message to her brother for help.
It’s a fourteen thousand word story that’s part of my collection of reworked Celtic myths and it had been brewing at the back of my head for ages. The previous two feature chickens and crows, so the starling really drew me in. When it came to writing it though, I was much more drawn to the Brânwen character, who is Gwyn in my story. I tried various combinations writing the story from the starling’s (Darren) point of view. I tried to get him to go from Ireland to Wales on his rescue mission, then fix him up with Brân and go back to Ireland to rescue Brânwen, but it just didn’t work.
Then I realised two things. Firstly I was trying to fit a whole strand of The Mabinogion into a short story—and let me tell you, that stuff is both complex and dark! And secondly, I actually wanted to write about Brânwen, because she’s very passive in the original tale and I wanted her to have a happy ending. You know, instead of being married off to a chap who pitched up in a boat one day and asked for her hand, getting trapped in an abusive marriage, her step-brother murdering her kid and then getting home to Wales only to kill herself out of grief.
So Gwyn became the focus of the story. As regular followers of mine will know, I identify as non-binary. I have a couple of non-binary characters in previous books—Jones in The Flowers of Time and Fenn in Shadows on the Border and The Hunted & the Hind, however this is the first time I’ve written a trans guy. I really love Gwyn and I wanted him to have his happy ending as badly as I did Brânwen, so although the story came together nicely once I worked out which POV I wanted to write from it was also quite stressful because I wanted to get him right! Non-binary isn’t the same as trans, obviously—although there’s quite a bit of cross over, in my own sense of self, anyway. I was able to draw on that crossover I think—I hope, although everyone is different—and make Gwyn the person he is.
It’s basically a road-trip story, with self-realisation happening along the way. I really hope you enjoy it.
Gwyn Mabler is on secondment at the Kings of Ireland Hotel at Tara. He and his brother Brân are in the process of buying the place and Gwyn is getting to grips with the everyday running by shadowing the current owner, Mal Reagan.
Gwyn’s an idiot, though. Mal made it clear from the start he’d like to get Gwyn in his bed and after a couple of weeks of pursuit, Gwyn gave in. Mal was hot and pushy and just the kind of dangerous to pique Gwyn’s interest. He honestly thought Mal knew he was trans.
Since that horrible night, Mal has had Gwyn ‘workshadowing’ Chef in the deeply unhappy kitchen. He doesn’t want to go home and cause a fuss that might make the sale fall through, but when a huge row breaks out over a flour delivery and Mal backhands Gwyn across the face, he finally decides enough is enough. With the help of Darren Starling, one of the line-cooks with whom he’s formed a tentative friendship, he leaves.
During the two-day journey from the middle of Ireland home to Wales they have plenty of time to exchange confidences. Could the delicate pull of attraction between them grow into something stronger? Is it safe for Gwyn to out himself to Darren? Will Darren want to go out with a trans guy? And how will his brother Brân take Gwyn’s arrival home with a stranger?
A 14,500-word short story in the Reworked Celtic Myths series.
About A. L. Lester
Ally Lester writes queer, paranormal, historical, romantic suspense and lives in the South West of England with Mr AL, two children, Morris the badly behaved dachshund, a terrifying cat, three guineapigs, some hens and the duckettes.
She likes permaculture gardening but doesn’t really have time or energy these days. Not musical, doesn’t much like telly, likes to read. Non-binary. Chronically disabled. Has fibromyalgia and tedious fits.