Friday, November 15, 2013

Interview with historical romance author Laura Strickland

Today’s focus is on the historical romance novel, Daughter of Sherwood: The Guardians of Sherwood Book One, by Laura Strickland.

Laura’s bio:
Born and raised in Western New York, Laura Strickland has pursued lifelong interests in lore, legend, magic and music, all reflected in her writing. Though her imagination frequently takes her to far off places, she is usually happiest at home not far from Lake Ontario with her husband and her "fur" child, a rescue dog. Currently she is at work on the third book of the Guardians of Sherwood series.

Welcome, Laura. Please tell us about your current release.
This is my second release for The Wild Rose Press. The first, Devil Black, is a Historical Romance set in Scotland, so when I sat down to write a second book I wanted to do something a bit different. I’ve always been fascinated with myths, legends and the ancient history of Britain (most of my titles to date have been centered there) but when the idea of writing about Robin Hood occurred, I told myself I must be crazy. It’s been done so many times both on the large and small screen, and ever since the days of the great writer, Howard Pyle, Robin has been a literary institution. But the idea wouldn’t leave my mind, so I decided my Sherwood would be different -- a place of ancient magic that actively serves to assist the Saxon outlaws in their fight against Norman tyranny. And I would create a whole new set of characters led by the daughter of Robin and Marian.

When the story begins, the heroine, Wren, has no idea she’s the daughter of a legend. Hidden all her life from the Sheriff’s vengeance, raised under his nose in the kitchens at Nottingham Castle, she only learns of her destiny upon the death of one of the current Guardians. Ever since Robin’s death, a triad of three has served to uphold the circle of enchantment that guards the forest. Now Wren discovers she must bond with two young men – Martin Scarlet, son of Will Scarlet and Sparrow Little, son of Little John – to form a new circle and take up the enchantment. To one of these young men she will also give her heart.

What inspired you to write this book?
Well, usually my ideas for books come to me in a flash. I'll see a mental image of one of the main characters, or conceive of a setting or situation. Sometimes it's something as elusive as a feeling I wish to create through the writing.

In this case, much of the credit has to go to my daughter. From a very young age she was captivated by the legend of Robin Hood. And growing up, she frequently asked me to join her playing with her Barbie dolls, which turned into "Robin Hood Barbies". Oh, what adventures those Robin Hood Barbies had! The space under the dining room table became a dungeon, the edge of the sofa was a cliff in Sherwood Forest, the very handsomest of the Ken dolls was Robin and the one we liked the least was the evil Sheriff of Nottingham. Eventually, I got so into it I sewed them all period clothing. We'd play around the living room while listening to English folk-rock on the stereo.

So I guess all that time spent in the "Sherwood" my daughter and I created became my inspiration. It certainly didn't take much for me to slip into period when I began work on the book.

Excerpt from Daughter of Sherwood:
“Do you remember him, Robin Hood?” she asked.

“Your father? Aye.”

“Can you tell me something about him? I cannot quite believe he is my father. It is oversetting, finding oneself the daughter of a legend.”

“I remember them both, your father and your mother. I was about six when you were born. But I do not know to what extent my memories are colored by what I was later told.”

“What was he like?”

Sparrow closed his eyes and considered his words before speaking. “Strong and kind. I remember that about him. When he looked at you, you could feel his kindness. I never saw him angered with anyone, not like Martin’s father. But when Robin took up a cause, the magic in him flared and he became unstoppable.”

“Magic.” That word again. Rennie sighed.

“It abounds, here in Sherwood. And your father had it in full.”

“Is that what I feel?” Rennie glanced round at the trees.

“You look like him.”

“What? How is that?”

Sparrow smiled again, almost ruefully. “You have his strength about you, and the cast of your face is the same, but I think you have your mother’s eyes.”

“Can you describe him to me?”

“Well, he seemed very tall to me then, but I was small. He was not big like my own Da, who was a veritable giant. He had hair just the color of yours—dark brown—and I remember his eyes glowed blue, like jewels.”

Rennie’s breath caught in her throat. “I think I have dreamed of him, over and over again, for years, not knowing who he was. He used to speak to me while I slept.” A shiver made her tremble. “His eyes shone with blue light, just as you describe.”

Sparrow leaned closer. “What did he say to you, in these dreams?”

“Many things, most of which I did not understand.”

Rennie pressed her lips together. The strange man had visited her dreams at times when she felt at her most desperate and vulnerable, when she wept. She would not admit that to Sparrow, whom she barely knew.

What exciting story are you working on next?
My next book, already under contract with The Wild Rose Press, is Book Two in the Guardians of Sherwood Trilogy, entitled Champion of Sherwood. Book Two tells the story of the next three guardians destined to uphold the circle of magic that protects Sherwood Forest: Wren’s two daughters, Lark and Linnet, and their lifelong friend, Falcon Scarlet. This time I throw a handsome, young Norman knight into the mix. There’s plenty of romance, and even more magic and mysticism.

Book Three of the trilogy, Lord of Sherwood, is in the final stages of editing. I hope Champion of Sherwood will be released next spring and Lord of Sherwood later next year.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
On some level, I think I’ve always considered myself a writer. I wrote my first “book” in third grade, hand-printed with a construction paper cover, and wrote my way through High School, scribbling stories in binders that were then passed among my friends to read.

I’ve written constantly, ever since. In fact it’s a bit like that old commercial for orange juice – for me, a day without writing is like a day without sunshine. My first published full-length work was a Romantic Suspense called Queen’s Knight, published by Walker and Company. I guess it was then I felt I’d truly earned the right to be called A Writer.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
Well, I work full time at a job outside the home and write whenever I can. It’s a little like having two jobs! But I enjoy them both very much so that lends me a lot of enthusiasm and good energy. In both jobs, I’m surrounded by books. I work for a Library System where I get to process, handle and read books both old and new, so it really doesn’t get much better than that.

As for writing, I tend to get up very early in the morning – usually before it’s light – and take that precious, quiet time to slip into whatever book’s in progress. My husband and I heat our home with wood, so in the winter I rise ahead of everyone else to kindle the fire; in summer when the windows are open I get to hear the first birds begin to chatter and sing. When a book’s really rolling, I often take time to write on the weekend as well. I still work using a pen and spiral notebook, and type it all up later, doing the first edit as I go. I enjoy editing too, but nothing beats the sheer joy of writing, especially when a book consumes me. I had a wonderful time writing all three books of The Guardians of Sherwood Trilogy.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I tend to “see” everything that happens in my books, and then write it down. It’s a little bit like automatic writing. I also hear what my characters are saying to one another – sometimes, if I’m cleaning the house, shopping or busy at work, I have to grab a scrap of paper and jot down what they’re saying so I don’t forget it. I can’t take a whole lot of credit for my books. I’m less the author than a conduit through which they flow onto the page.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
That changed from time to time, as I grew. I wanted to be a teacher until I figured out that would require me to go to school every day for the rest of my life! Then I wanted to be the wife of a Highlander and live in a croft completely cut off from civilization where I’d sew quilts and recreate the life of my ancestors. For a long time I wanted to raise dogs because I’m so comfortable in their company. Behind it all, I knew I’d be a writer – whatever else I did to make a living, there’d always be a notebook somewhere and stories crowding my mind. And that’s the part that came true.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Just that life is a journey, and we have the privilege of choosing how we want to travel. We can focus on the negative things that surround us, both in our personal lives and the world around us. Or we can choose to see the good, nurture it like a small flame day by day until it becomes a conflagration. Positivity and negativity both feed on themselves. Every morning when I wake up, I get to choose whether I’d prefer to spend my day happy or miserable. Not much of a choice, really. Attitude is the vehicle we drive – and gratitude’s a classic Jaguar!

Thanks for interviewing me today. I’m ever so grateful!

It’s been my pleasure. Thanks for stopping by!


Barbara Bettis said...

Hi Laura. I love the Robin Hood (myth?) stories, and the idea of his daughter carrying on is wonderful! The only sad part--Robin Hood is dead :( I hope you plan sequels with other members of her 'band.' Best of luck with the book. Barb Bettis

Laura Strickland said...

Barb, Books Two and Three of the Trilogy carry on Robin's legacy and (without giving anything away) maybe a bit more! I don't think Robin can ever die! Thanks so much for visiting.

Amy Jarecki said...

Fun stories! Wishing you all the very best!