Yes, I noticed that from the review index on your website! I think we have similar tastes. J The turbulent period of Anglo-Saxon England before the Norman Conquest has always been magical for me. England was struggling to rise from the long night of the Dark Ages, staggering beneath the onslaught of successive waves of Vikings who sought not only to plunder England, but to occupy and settle the entire island. The situation I describe in By Royal Command was a national calamity. More than half of England (the so-called Danelaw) was already ruled by the Danes, and Sweyn Forkbeard would go on to conquer the rest of the island in 1013. And then, of course, would come the Normans. My heroine’s uncle, King Ethelred of Wessex (called “the Unready” by historians) began paying the Danegeld—an annual tribute to buy off the raiding Vikings—in 991. His dilemma was immortalized by Rudyard Kipling, who famously warned “that if once you have paid him the Danegeld, you never get rid of the Dane.” In short, this period is so rich in conflict and so transformational in English history that I find it irresistibly romantic and exciting to write about. I hope readers find it the same!
Was writing something that you always aspired to do or was it something that snuck up on you? Why did you choose to write historical romance as opposed to another genre?
I’ve been a scribbler of stories since childhood, but I’m a pragmatic soul and never thought I could support myself doing it, so I didn’t start writing seriously with the intent to publish until years later. The first novel I wrote was the third one I sold. It became By Royal Command (Harlequin/Carina, July 2012), an epic medieval romance about two brothers, one daughter of royalty, and three hearts at war. You can peek at an excerpt here on www.LauraNavarre.com As for why I chose historical romance, I grew up reading fat, dog-eared, classic historical romances by authors like Bertrice Small and Virginia Henley, as well as straight historicals like Gone With the Wind, The Mists of Avalon, and North and South. So there was never any doubt that historicals were what I’d want to write! I love weaving that rich tapestry of historical detail into my plots and characters. My work tends to appeal to historical fiction readers of both genders as well as romance readers—so it’s a bit more cross-genre than straight romance.
When you set out to write a novel, where do you start – with a historical storyline or event that intrigued you or with a romantic storyline that you want to pursue?
For me, that first spark of inspiration is struck by the hero. I’m a character-driven writer, so rather than starting with plot, I start by developing characters. For By Royal Command, the character who sprang to mind during a sleepless night in a foreign hotel was a Viking sword-theyn of rough manners but incorruptible integrity, tarred with the brush of Viking notoriety but fired by a shining sense of honor. He became Eomond, the first of my two heroes in the story. Then I placed him at a point in Anglo-Saxon history that was rife with conflict and transition. I do choose my historical settings very deliberately, down to the year and even the month, because political intrigue and seething tensions between nations tend to figure prominently in my plots. Finding exactly the right moment in history to start my story is a critical choice for me as an author.
Then I needed a heroine to match my hero, so I developed exiled royal Katrin of Courtenay, who believes she murdered her brutal husband when she prayed for his death, and that a vengeful God will punish her for it. Struggling alone to defend her lands, she believes manipulation and deceit are a woman’s only true weapons. But they won’t be enough to save her from making the Devil’s bargain. Katrin’s remarriage becomes the cornerstone of King Ethelred’s scheme to defeat the Danish invasion and save the English throne.
What do you find to be the most difficult or challenging aspect of writing?
Beyond a doubt, it’s rejection. I wrote four novels and soldiered through 67 rejections before I made my first sale, a dark Tudor romance called The Devil’s Mistress about a reluctant lady assassin who’s blackmailed to poison Anne Boleyn, to Samhain in 2009. Since that time, I’ve been “orphaned” twice when my acquiring editors left the publishers I wrote for, and my first mass-market sale was hamstrung when the publisher went bankrupt. Consequently, that book came out with a whimper instead of a roar. And I didn’t sell By Royal Command until years later.
To be successful in the publishing world, a writer has to be endlessly patient, brave as a tiger, faithful to his or her artistic vision yet always savvy to the ever-changing market, discerning, open to criticism but with a finely honed ability to sense whether a particular piece of feedback should be treated as Gospel or shunned like smallpox. Given today’s difficult economy, traditional publishing is a harder nut to crack than ever before. As a writer, I’ve wept tears of despair and rage on so many occasions. Finding the inner fortitude to push the “I believe” button again and again has been one of my most difficult challenges. I’m incredibly grateful for the unfaltering support of my agent JD DeWitt at The View Literary Agency, my fiancé Steven (who’s also a writer) and the mentors who kept me going through those dark days between sales.
Are you working on anything currently and if so, can you tell us anything about it?
I’m extremely excited because I just sold my first historical paranormal trilogy! It’s a trio of dark Tudor romances with elements of Arthurian legend and fallen angel heroes. Release dates and titles are still being worked, but I hope you’ll see these Laura Navarre titles on sale in 2013. As a sideline, taking advantage of my unusual background as a former diplomat, I’m also writing a trilogy of Russian-set romantic suspense, with lots of international intrigue and glamour, under the pen name Nikki Navarre. Think spies, champagne and seduction. State secrets have never been this sexy! The first book is The Russian Seduction (October 2012). You can check out Nikki’s first chapter and other goodies here.
Inspired by the sinister realities of her real life, Laura writes dark medieval and Renaissance romance with a dash of political intrigue. A member of Romance Writers of America’s Published Author Network (PAN) and a 2009 Golden Heart finalist, she has won the Emily Award for Excellence, the First Coast Romance Writers Beacon Award, the Georgia Romance Writers Maggie Award, the Golden Pen, the Duel on the Delta, Hearts through History’s Romance through the Ages, and other awards.
Previously published with Samhain and Dorchester, Laura’s newest releases are her epic medieval romance By Royal Command (Harlequin/Carina, July 2012) and her sexy romantic intrigue The Russian Seduction (Affluent Press, August 2012, as Nikki Navarre). She teaches writing workshops on “Sympathy for the Devil: Dark Heroes in Popular Fiction.”
Laura holds an M.F.A. in Writing Popular Fiction from the University of Southern Maine. Living in Seattle with her screenwriter fiance and two Siberian cats, she divides her time between her writing career and other adventures for U.S. government clients.
You can also take part in the Twitter party being hosted on June 25th from 12 - 1 PM EST. Twitter Hashtag: LauraNavarre. Two lucky winners from the Twitter party will receive a digital copy of By Royal Command. You can pre-register for the chance to win a paper copy of her other novel, The Devil's Temptress.
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