Author Visit & Giveaway: Ingela Bohm

The oh so lovely Ingela Bohm is here visiting today to talk about her latest, Rival Poet. She's sharing some background on the story, an excerpt and she has an ebook copy to give away!

Blame it on Marlowe

In the beginning, Rival Poet wasn’t supposed to be a M/M romance at all. It was supposed to be an epic biography that spanned four decades and focused on Will’s relationship with his family, using the Mount Everest of research I’d done for it. We might not know much about the man himself, but we know quite a lot about daily life and the rocket burst of theatre in sixteenth century England. Based on that, I planned a 200K feast for the Shakespeare nerds out there.

But in the end, that’s not what happened – because sometimes writers get hijacked.

Maybe I should have seen it coming. After all, I was the one who introduced my young protagonist to Kit Marlowe. There’s no historical proof that the two poets ever met, but London was a town of only 200 000 people, so it’s not a stretch to imagine it. Besides, the idea of forcing Will to confront a playwright superstar on his first visit to the capital was too attractive to resist. So I stupidly led Will into Kit’s path, and Will made an awkward mess of their first meeting.

I thought it would end there. I thought Will was just nervous because he was meeting his hero.


No sooner had I opened the door than Kit completely took over. And just like Will, I fell head over heels in love with him. From that point on, I didn’t have any control over my story. It was a hostile takeover, but one which I will never, ever regret. The only thing I regret is that the book is finished – because I miss him! I wish I could call him on the phone and ask for advice. I wish I could introduce him to my friends and family. My husband even made a t-shirt for me that says ‘What would Marlowe do?’ – because for a while there, I was quite obsessed.

So what was it that made Kit so irresistible? Personally, I think it’s that he says what he thinks. He doesn’t bother with social niceties. He’s not impressed by educated wit. He calls a spade a spade, and he has no patience for empty ritual – except when he has something to gain from it. Then he can pretend for a few hours.

For a newbie like Will, meeting Kit makes all the difference. Will might be talented, but he’s a country boy and knows nothing about the cutthroat world of London theatre. Kit introduces him to the right people, gets him his first job, and helps him navigate the confusing city.

He also influences the way Will writes, and this is what got me really hooked. Even a genius needs a sounding board, and when I started researching Marlowe, I was stunned by how many formulations crop up in both poets’ work: how they apparently stole from each other and tweaked each other’s lines to fit their own text. My mind was really blown when I watched Marlowe’s Edward the Second and realized that it echoed whole passages from Romeo and Juliet. I think Will fell in love not only with Kit, but also with his words, just like I’m in love with Will’s.

That said, I didn’t want to write the kind of historical where the dialogue is peppered with phrases like what ho, my liege or thou liest in thy throat. They have their place in other books, but I wanted this one to feel contemporary. I wanted the reader to feel as if it was all happening now – as if, when they finished the story and went out into the world, they might run into one of these people on the bus. That’s why my characters sound quite modern. I avoided some phrases that referred to things that hadn’t been invented yet – ‘blowing a fuse’ being one – but for the rest, I tried to imagine how their conversations would have sounded to them.

At the same time, if you know a little Shakespeare, I hope you won’t be disappointed. There are many oblique references and modified quotations in there, both well-known and more obscure. Of course, you can simply read Rival Poet as a M/M romance that just happens to be set in Elizabethan times, but if you want to, you can also look deeper. If you do, you might even discover how some events in it are reflected in Will’s plays.

Because, after all, I am a fan girl – and what’s a story about Shakespeare without a lot of Shakespeare thrown in?

Blurb & Cover:

1587. A young Will Shaksper arrives in London, hoping to publish his poems. But rejection hits him hard, and he wants to give up – until he meets Kit. Dazzled and drawn in, Will is shocked to find their friendship escalate into something else – something dark and dangerous in a country where sodomy is a capital offence. When Kit finally tries to seduce him, will he be able to resist?


“Hey, don’t I know you from somewhere?” His eyes searched Will’s face curiously, and for a moment Will was hit by the ridiculous thought that his poems had somehow preceded him, that rumour of his rejected writings had reached this man, this shooting star, this paragon of writers. But almost at once he realised that the question wasn’t to be taken literally. It was a pick-up line – a parody of a pick-up line, and therefore impossible to respond to without making an ass of himself.

He stared at the smirking man. “I-I know you,” he stammered stupidly, snippets of Amores and Dido clouding his brain.

Beside him Richard shifted, embarrassed. “Burbage.” He clasped Master Marlowe’s hand, or rather the two fingers not currently employed in elegantly balancing the pipe.

Marlowe smiled briefly. “I know.”

Richard looked stricken for a moment. “Oh, er… I’m, well I’m honoured, Sir – I mean…” His customary cool seemed to have been completely sucked out of him. “Ah… please meet my very good friend William Shakespeare.” He gestured towards Will, apparently eager to deflect the attention.

“Charmed, I’m sure.” Their new acquaintance laid his pipe on the table and enveloped Will’s hand with both of his. They were seething hot and Will almost yanked his hand back. “And please, call me Kit. All my little friends do.” He glanced at the confused trio still waiting for him in the corner.

“I’m such a fan,” Will blurted.

Obviously delighted at the praise, Kit pulled up a chair and sat down. Only when his hand dragged Will down with him did Will realise that he was still holding it. “So… you’re an aspiring dramatist, then?”

“Oh, I… no… well, that is…”

“Never mind.” Kit finally let go of Will’s hand and grabbed Richard’s mug. Realising that it was empty, he set it down again in vague disappointment. “Where are you from? You’re obviously not a Londoner.”




“Never heard of it. Hah! So much for a university degree.” Kit lit his pipe again, seemingly in need of something to do with his hands. “Well, nothing of value was ever taught in such a ridiculous place. Come to think of it, maybe they did mention domestic geography at some point, but education and alcohol really is a detrimental combination! You can’t have one without the other, and yet one innocent drink takes away the whole performance. So, Stratford… a shit-hole, no doubt?”

“On the contrary,” Will protested. “It’s a beautiful place. I was reluctant to leave.”

Kit grinned broadly and slapped Will’s back. “Spoken like a true gentleman! Never let on how much in love you are with the big city, you might come across as a simpleton. Wax lyrical about the unpolluted countryside instead, and you’re automatically in, eh Robert?” He winked at one of his abandoned friends. The one presumably named Robert, a thin man with a straggly red beard, muttered something inaudible in reply. Kit immediately lost interest and turned to Will again. “You should work on that accent, though.”

“Wh… what’s wrong with it?”

“It’s bloody incomprehensible, that’s what’s wrong with it! You don’t think I got to where I am by speaking like a Canterbury ale taster, do you?”

Despite himself, Will chuckled. It was difficult not to be contaminated by Kit’s exuberant manner.

“Hey, you written anything I might know?”

Will hesitated. Was he being ironic again? “Well… not really… I’ve put together some poems, but…”

Kit snorted. “Poems! Stop right there, darling. Your shoes are growing too small for your feet by the minute, and you know it. Poetry and la-di-dah is all very well, but the theatre, now that is the future.”

Will smiled tentatively. “I can see why you’d say that.”

“Setting aside my own glorious self for a minute, think about it: not everyone can read. But even the most down and out hooker has ears, and they flock to the play-houses like simpering lords to Rhenish wine. As a playwright, you have the ear of the entire city – fuck it, you have the ear of the Queen herself! And a soliloquy is poetry in its own right. Only, getting your poetry read aloud by an artiste like Edward Alleyne… not to demean you, sir,” he looked briefly in the direction of Richard, “… that just makes it so much… grander! It’s almost better than sex.”

Will nodded slowly, his mind awash with images of said Alleyne tearing the stage apart in his bloodied shirt. But he didn’t dare compliment Master Marlowe – Kit – on his intimidating talents, for fear of being taunted. Instead he mumbled, “I don’t have the imagination.”

Kit shook his head impatiently. “Don’t be stupid. Stories are ten a penny. It’s what you do with them that counts. It’s all the same crap anyway, life and love and death, blah blah blah. Use whatever’s around, that’s what we all do.”

“Yeah, but…”

“Look, when people just buy and read your stuff, you never get to see how your words seduce them. Wouldn’t you like to hear the sea-surge of applause?”

Will felt the dangerous tug of Kit’s imagery and protected himself with feigned annoyance. “I’m sure it’s all very exhilarating, but I’m quite serious when I say that I can only write poetry.”

Kit hesitated, and then shrugged. “So what? We’re the makers of manners, puppy. And verse makes for excellent crutches. That’s why you begin by writing speeches.”

What’s it to you? Will wanted to ask. Instead he said, “I just don’t know how to translate the stories that I love into dialogue. I read something and I’m inspired, you know, but when I try to write, it comes out poetry. I can’t bridge the gap. I can make poetry out of stories, but I can’t make stories out of poetry.”

Kit smiled. “That’s just the kind of phrase that makes me wish you could. You have the art of rhetoric down pat – God knows how you’ve managed to pick that up from your provincial education! All you have to do is push the boat out, and I’m here to help you with that.”

Will frowned at his assailant. Just a few minutes ago, he had been wilting like a dead man in his lonely corner, for all the world like someone who had just lost his whole fortune, and now he was a veritable river of words. “Why do you care anyway?”

Kit looked stricken, but just for a moment. “Well… why did you want to meet me, if not to further your career?”

“I didn’t! I was leaving, it was you who… Ask Richard!”

Kit glanced without interest at Will’s silenced companion. Then he knocked the ashes out of his pipe, put it in his belt and blew the last cloud of smoke into Will’s face. “Tell you what. Why don’t you write a speech about…” He turned to his morose-looking friends who must have given up hope of his company by now. “Robert! You said you needed some kind of soliloquy, didn’t you?”

“What?” The red-bearded man flung up defensive hands. “No, I don’t need any help.”

“Yes you do, shut up. It was Constance, wasn’t it?”


“Yes, it was, don’t lie to me.” Kit turned to Will again. “He needs this pompous speech, you know, anguished ramblings of the tragic heroine and all that… and he has trouble connecting with his feminine side. His women come off as wooden statues. Don’t they, Robert? Now you, on the other hand,” Kit grabbed a lock of Will’s hair and twisted it between his fingers. “You are surely very good at identifying with girls, am I right?”

Will stared at Kit’s face, suddenly so close to his. This man had no personal space. “Oh, I don’t know… I mean, of course I took on roles at school, but…”

Kit laughed. “And I would have loved to see them! So you’ll submit something?”

“I…” Will looked over Kit’s shoulder at the fuming writer in the corner. “I don’t know, he doesn’t seem to…”

Kit scoffed. “Don’t pay any attention to Robert! He expects me to help him out – he doesn’t see the difference, poor sod, doesn’t realise how glaringly obvious the shift is, from his language to mine, I mean, honestly! But maybe if you wrote it instead, as a fellow amateur your text wouldn’t jar so much against his.”

“We don’t know him,” Robert complained. “He could be worthless.”

“Don’t be so inconsiderate, Robert! We won’t know his worth until we let him try. Besides, we need some new blood. If his text is good enough, you two could even collaborate on something. Or at least he gets to show that no-good printer of his what he missed, and that’s as noble a mission as anything, right?”

Will made a face. So he had been listening in.

“Hey Will, wouldn’t that be great?” Kit implored. “When you’re a famous playwright he’ll come crawling back, begging you to grace his worthless printing house with your immortal poetry!”

Will looked down at the table, striving to hide his smile. “Okay…”

Kit cocked his head. “Okay?”
“Yes, okay. Just to shut you up, mind you.”

Kit grinned broadly. “You’re in good company, my friend. Many a thing has been done just to shut me up.”

Find Rival Poet at:
Barnes & Noble
All Romance Ebooks

Enter to win an ebook copy of Rival Poet! Comment below with your name and a way of contacting you (email, goodreads profile, twitter, etc) for a chance to win! The giveaway closes on August 11 at 9PM PST when a winner will be randomly drawn. 


  1. This sounds a bit different, especially considering that some theories go for Marlowe as Shakespeare!

  2. It does sound intriguing. Would be great to back in time and find out.
    debby236@gmail dot com Debby

  3. An Elizabethan m/m romance? Sounds great.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Congrats Angeles! You are the winner of this giveaway! *throws confetti* You'll be contacted shortly :)