Author Interview: Sam Thorne on Tarzan’s sex life and Edwardian humor

I’ve been holding on to this interview with Sam Thorne ever since we got the proofs for His Seed: An Arboretum of Gay Erotica, in which we each have a story. The book is now available in trade paperback, so I get to release this interview as well.

I talk about Sam often enough on this blog that she should probably get her own tag. But in case you’ve missed my previous flailings, let me introduce her as a brilliant writer and editor with an encyclopedic knowledge of  everything from WWE wrestler stats to the frequency of gerundial phrases in Victorian speech.

When I got the proofs for His Seed, I immediately flipped to Sam’s “Lord Greystoke’s Greenery” and devoured it. Yes, I was supposed to be combing over my own tale for glitches, but how could I concentrate on that when her story called to me from just a few pages away?

My impatience was rewarded with page upon page of Edwardian sensuality. Tarzan (aka Lord Greystoke), a greenhouse, and unique plant life are all involved, and I was not disappointed the way I am every time I read EM Forster’s Maurice and hope that swoon-worthy fade-to-black sex scene between Maurice and Alec will finally become explicit.

Tarzan is no tease.

I also liked that the story’s main character—Arthur, Tarzan’s favorite manservant—is disabled in a story that is not about disability. Disability is part of life and shouldn’t always be a plot device. Sam knows how to push all my happy-reader buttons.

If you’re not familiar with  the Tarzan story, you may wonder what Tarzan is doing with a manservant. Isn’t he an orphan who lives with apes? Well, yes, that’s the first part of the story. But upon reaching adulthood, he gets found by other humans and returned to the home of his parents—Greystoke, England—where he must learn how to function in human society.

After I finished reading, I fanned myself for a while, then messaged Sam with questions about “Lord Greystoke’s Greenery” in order to to prolong the pleasures of a good read.

She kindly obliged by answering.

(Note: To ensure the continuation of our friendship, I’ve maintained Sam’s UK spelling and punctuation in her portion of the interview.)

 

What was your inspiration behind the story of ‘His Seed?’

I’d initially written Arthur as a timid manservant who’d accompanied the Porter Family to the heart of Tarzan’s jungle for their botanical and anthropological journey of exploration. In the back of my mind, I was working towards a scene where the wide-eyed Arthur finds himself pinned to a tree while Tarzan carries out his own anthropological study of their comparative man-parts. I loved the mental image, but I couldn’t quite balance the plot, environment, and sensual elements. I also wanted to show their growing chemistry and affection over a longer period of time, so I transplanted the whole story to outer London, at a time when Tarzan—Lord Greystoke—had been returned to ‘civilisation’ for a few weeks.

 

Do you have a favorite part that’s not a major spoiler?

Other than the parts I wrote with the intention of getting the reader as hot and bothered as I was, I loved showing Arthur struggling to communicate with the feral house guest, who seems to regard him with an air of bemused tolerance. Arthur’s slim-built and fairly fit, but next to Tarzan he’s about as butch as a teacup puppy. It was fun showing Arthur going through his daily trial of trying to encourage Tarzan to put some clothes on, only for Tarzan to whip all Arthur’s clothes off.

 

I want to know how you are so in tune with Edwardian English and how many times you have read Tarzan of the Apes.

Oh, I was young when I first read Tarzan. A tweenager, I think. He was my first fictional crush! I read the whole series many times throughout my teenage years, but forgot about how comfortable I was getting lost in them for years after that. When I saw the call for His Seed, I actually had to download the series to my Kindle again because I couldn’t find the hardbacks. Overall, I absolutely love late Victorian/Edwardian English because of the flow and the unashamed delight in the long sentences. It was also a period of delicately understated comedy, mostly written in first-person diary style. One of my favourite writers is still Jerome K Jerome. His lively, immodest adventures never fail to lift my spirits.

 


Want to read His Seed? It’s available from Lethe Press, your favorite bookstores and, if you’re lucky, a library near you.

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