Today, in a break from the usual Author Profile, I’m letting Grace R. Duncan visit to talk about ‘her gypsies’ from her new book Choices. To get you all in the mood, and since I can’t hear gypsies without thinking Cher and her Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves, I’ve embedded a link to the video if you want some theme music while you read.  [Click it, c’mon, you know you want to. It is Cher after all]

Also, Grace is giving away a ‘bag of swag’ to one lucky commenter.  Easy to enter – leave a comment and email address and Grace will pick one name out of a hat to get a winner.

Okay, so having put you all in the mood, let’s see what Grace has to say.

Grace R. Duncan:

When I sat down to write Choices, I’d had a really good idea already of Teman’s background.


I knew that freedom was exceedingly important to him and I knew the basics of what he did before the story started.  But the why of this was something I hadn’t decided yet. Where did his need for freedom come from? What led him to being a thief-for-hire?  What went into making him the person that he was?

We have heard over the years, many times, about gypsies. They’ve made appearances in so many different movies as to almost be beyond countable; everything from Disney’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (not the same as Victor Hugo’s version by a long shot) to Sam Raimi’s horror “Drag Me to Hell” and everything in between.  A friend of mine recently wrote a novel with the Romani people – the classic gypsies – called Înflori, a m/m romance.  But the Romani gypsies are far and away not the only gypsies out there and pretty much every representation of them in fiction takes their own liberties.  The range of realistic portrayal runs from “fairly close” to “grossly wrong.”  And I’m not talking about Esmerelda here, either.

Like any group, there is a lot of misinformation about the gypsies, more assumptions and still further bigotry.  Some of the “articles” (I use that term loosely) I read were worse than a KKK rally.  It was disgusting to see people lump everyone in a group together.  The gypsies are no better or worse than any other ethnic group out there. There is good and bad in everyone – individually and whole groups.

What I think frightens people the most is that there is much about them that isn’t understood. And let’s face it, we write and read m/m fiction, right? We understand what fear does to people because there ARE (whether it’s ridiculous or not) people who fear homosexuality.  But just as we shouldn’t accept that kind of fear when it comes to sexuality, we shouldn’t accept it from people over someone’s ethnic group, either.

A.F. Henley did a great job of showing just how good the Roma people can be in Înflori.  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses.  He definitely showed both sides of the coin.  But his MC’s love interest, Nicholæ, despite a few character flaws, was an amazing character and most definitely the good side of the coin.

I have done insane amounts of research for Choices.  My beta often shook her head (in a very indulgent way) at just how much I read over things that never even made it into the book. I spent hours researching the different types of gypsy (most coming back to the aforementioned Roma people).  And what I read about the attitudes about gypsies just made me more determined to create a type of character —a cultural group that showed only the positives.

Don’t get me wrong, no group is perfect, I know this.  Even my gypsies aren’t. Freer than most peoples, they still live on the edge of what is considered “legal” in my world, roaming, going where the wind takes them.  Teman’s mother Kaya – the head of their clan along with his uncle – make a point of saying as much.  That while they do skirt the law by going where they will, they obey the laws of whatever land they inhabit, even paying taxes, as required.

So I like to think of them as something between the free-spirited hippy and the mysterious Romani people.  That said, there is so much to them, like there is to any other aspect of my world, that I had to decide what was important and what isn’t.  For instance, my gypsies weren’t specifically Gifted.  Teman did have an instinct for when things were about to go wrong.  He learned to listen to it but not depend on it.  But this wasn’t so much a trait of their group, but rather something individual to him.

The other thing that makes my gypsies stand out is that, not only were they different culturally than the rest of my world, they have marked differences from the Romani people, as well.  Kaya is the head of Teman’s clan.  In Neyem, women were not allowed positions of power.  Even in the Romani peoples (what I understand of them) women were not regarded the same as men.  Mind you, Teman’s uncle is also part of the clan leadership (though we never meet him and, in fact, I haven’t even named him!), it is more for appearances when they meet people who won’t deal with Kaya.

Kaya. Now there is a woman that, if I could spend some time with one of my characters, I would love to sit with her.  The things she has seen, the places she’s been must have been amazing.  She’s an open, caring person with good humor and a core of steel.  She believes firmly in no only their freedom but freedom for all people and will be very vocal about it.  It is, in fact, one or her flaws.  She won’t keep quiet, no matter who she’s talking to (be it the Neyemen amir or the Tiantang empress).

I spent a good deal of time working through the many possibilities when making up my gypsies.  In the end, I went back to focusing on who Teman was: a caring, strong, capable man who loves freedom and I made my choices from there.

I think in a lot of ways, my gypsies ended up having quite a bit of me in them.  I’ve always been one who liked to go and see and do.  My views on the laws have been fuzzy in many ways, though I abide by them.  And I’ve been accused on more than one occasion of having a sixth sense about some things.

I just hope that the group in my book comes across as the open, free, good group that I wanted them to be. What do you think?

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Many thanks to Andrew for hosting me today! I really appreciate the opportunity to talk about my gypsies and Teman’s family.  Please remember to leave a comment for a chance to win a swag bag of Choices goodies!  Winner will be chosen randomly from those who commented next Monday.  Thank you for reading.

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Born and raised a gypsy in the late eleventh century, Teman values freedom over everything. He and his best friend, Jasim, are thieves for hire—until one night they’re caught and their precious freedom is revoked. Given the choice between the dungeons or palace pleasure slavery, they become slaves, but Teman vows to escape someday.

Bathasar doesn’t want the throne. He supports his brother instead, which suits their sadistic father, Mukesh. When Teman, the handsome slave Bathasar has secretly been watching, saves his life, Bathasar requests a slave for the first time. Before long, Bathasar and Teman fall in love. But all is not well. One day Mukesh brutalizes Teman before the court, angering the empress of a neighboring nation. To appease her, he then offers her Jasim as a gift, and Teman decides to stay with Bathasar for now—despite the abuse he may suffer.

The peace doesn’t last. Mukesh plans to invade Jasim’s new country, and Bathasar must find a way to stop the destruction. But if he succeeds, he’ll ascend to the throne and have the power to grant Teman his liberty. Then Teman will surely leave him. What other choice could a gypsy make?