Saturday, December 21, 2013
Interview: Laura Strickland
1. What sparked your interest in writing a story set in the world of Robin Hood?
Answer: When my daughter was very young, she loved playing Barbies with Mom. As soon as the supper dishes were done she’d sidle up to me with a hopeful look on her adorable, winsome face and ask, “Can we play?” Well, of course I couldn’t refuse but as a then stay-at-home Mom in desperate need of stimulation, just dressing up a crowd of dolls didn’t cut it for me. My daughter’s other love was Robin Hood, so we ended up putting the two together, and “Robin Hood Barbies” were born.
Oh, what adventures those Robin Hood Barbies had! The space beneath the dining room table became a dungeon and the edge of the sofa a cliff in Sherwood Forest. The very handsomest of the Ken dolls became Robin, and the ugliest the wicked Sheriff of Nottingham. Eventually I got so into it, I sewed them all period clothing!
Little did I know then I was building a world I would revisit many years later when I decided to take on the legend of Robin in a Historical Romance. All the pieces were there – the brave fight against Norman tyranny, the loyalty and courage, and most of all the love. The writing went easily for me, probably because it was so grounded in that world my daughter and I created. That’s why I dedicated Daughter of Sherwood to my daughter, Alix.
2. Do you have a favorite quote/part of Daughter of Sherwood? What is it?
Answer: There are many parts of Daughter of Sherwood that fill me with delight. You have to understand that once I finish writing a book, it doesn’t feel to me as if I’ve written it. The characters always become so real, they seem to have told their own story and spoken their own lines – I just write it all down. So I don’t feel as if I can take a great deal of credit. Many people who’ve read the book have told me their favorite part is this passage when Wren first encounters the spirit of her father, Robin Hood:
In the gathering gloom, the man looked tall and slender, a shadow seen only indistinctly. But she knew him, had seen him numerous times in both dream and imagination.
A sob burst from her throat. "You are dead."
“But I live on, here in Sherwood. That to which we give our love in life is never lost."
This is something I believe very strongly, that the people, things, animals and even places we love – truly love – in life can never be taken completely from us. Echoes of the love always remain, just as the echoes of belief founded so long in Sherwood Forest remained to form the magic Wren experienced, in the story. This particular line did seem to resonate most strongly with my readers.
3. What were some of the biggest challenges when writing Daughter of Sherwood?
Answer: It’s always a challenge to take on History and make it vital and accessible to readers. It was challenging to present the magic I wanted to include in the book in a way that would be believable. But without doubt, the biggest challenge was taking on the legend of Robin Hood. His story’s been told so many times, and is familiar to so many people. Ever since the time of Sir Howard Pyle, Robin’s been a staple of English literature. Did I dare?
Yet the idea just wouldn’t go away, so I decided to begin my tale after Robin and Marian were both gone from the picture, and populate it with all new characters. What if Robin had a daughter? What if once grown she discovered she had an identity as a Guardian of Sherwood, destined to carry her father’s magic and his people’s fight for justice? What if she needed to bond with two young men in order to maintain a circle of protection? And what if ultimately she must choose just one of them upon whom to bestow her heart? When I wrote Daughter of Sherwood, I had no idea it was the first book of a Trilogy. That came later, after the book was already contracted.
Answer: The road to publication can be a long and often very rough one. Don’t embark upon it unless you are totally committed, and have complete faith in yourself and your work. Try to grow a tough skin, because you’ll need it. Rejections are plentiful and positive feedback difficult to find. Not everyone will love your work: people don’t all even like the same food, movies, cola, chocolate, music or anything else! But there will be those who love it, who “get” you, and jump on board with where you’re going. Write for them, and because you can’t bear not to, and would write even if no one ever paid you a cent.
With the advent of Print On Demand publishing and ebooks, it’s a brave new world out there for writers. Research publishers well, before you query them. I studied the Wild Rose Press and their submission guidelines thoroughly before I wrote the first of my Historical Romances, Devil Black, to meet those guidelines. They contracted that book and four more, so it pays in the long run.
5. Are there any books you would recommend to readers who enjoyed Daughter of Sherwood?
Answer: Oh, wow – there are so many wonderful Historical Romances out there, and as I’ve just said, not everyone enjoys the same thing. I tend to read everything from Fantasy to Romance to Steampunk, depending on the mood I happen to be in, so I reach for many kinds of stories. But if someone’s hungry for good Historical Romances, they needn’t look further than the Wild Rose Press’s catalog at www.thewildrosepress.com. I’m not saying that just because they publish me, but because I’ve had the opportunity to read some of my fellow Wild Rose Press authors, and there are some absolutely amazing stories out there. Barbara Bettis’s Silverhawk tells the tale of a Medieval knight-turned-mercenary, trying to avenge his past. And if you crave Civil War stories, you simply couldn’t do better than Nicole McCaffrey’s Northern Temptress.
Of course, if you really did enjoy Daughter of Sherwood, the second two books of my Trilogy are coming very soon! Champion of Sherwood, Book Two of the Guardians of Sherwood Trilogy, will be released on Amazon on December 27, 2013, and Book Three, entitled Lord of Sherwood, is now under contract. I’m hoping Lord of Sherwood will be available next autumn. The three books of the Trilogy are not interdependent. A reader can read only one of them and enjoy a complete story. But I’m particularly proud of the way all three fit together and form a complete, magical circle. My Scottish Historical Devil Black is also still available.
6. Anything else you'd like to add?
Answer: I’m so grateful to those of you who still love to read in this mad, busy and demanding world in which we live. There’s a certain beauty in the written word, whether it appears on a paper page or a Kindle. The medium doesn’t really matter, does it? It’s the reasons we read that count: because we love to see pictures a writer has painted in our minds, because we love to walk in the shoes of an outlaw or even a scullery maid for a time. I believe that, like music or even sleep, reading has the power to heal and renew us. A chapter a day keeps the doctor away, so read on!