In case I haven't mentioned it, she's an amazing writer! Please meet my friend and the first Friday Friend for November...Laura Strickland!
Welcome, Laura! Tell us a bit about yourself and why you write the genre you do.
I write Historical Romance because I’ve always liked the idea of time traveling via the power of my mind. For years I’ve been a student of Celtic history and fascinated with the lore and legends of the British Isles. Reading is a great way to visit the past. But as a child, I soon discovered even the best books end too soon. (I can still remember weeping over the end of Marian Cockrell’s Shadow Castle. When my mom asked me why, I wailed, “It was so good!”)
I remember the day when it hit me: if I made up the story, I could continue it as long as I wanted and create the same kinds of worlds I enjoyed inhabiting through the stories I loved. As an adult, I’ve enjoyed creating my own worlds and then going back to visit them time after time. The books of my “Celtic” series, which includes The God’s Song, The Shadow Ground, The Waking Dream and The War Raven, are all set in what I thought were fictitious places in Scotland and Ireland. But when I visited Scotland, I actually located two of those places, so there must be some mystical connection.
Have you ever thought about it? Most people have an affinity for a particular place or time in history. For some of us it’s the American West, for some the exotic Far East, for some Victorian England or our own Civil War period. Many of us love the Scottish Highlands, populated by fierce, Scots warriors. Fortunately for us, we can time travel to all those places, no matter where, through the joy of reading.
I know what you mean! I feel the same way about Gettysburg. How long have you been writing?
I wrote my first “book” in third grade. It was hand-printed in pencil with a construction paper cover and had the unoriginal title of The Haunted House. Do I really have to confess how long it’s been since third grade? Let’s just say a long time! I wrote my way through High School, scrawling story after story in loose leaf binders that would get passed around among my friends. In fact when, as a freshman, I met my best friend (she’s still my best friend) I introduced myself by saying, “I write books about Scotland”. Earlier this year when I presented her with a signed copy of my first Historical novel for The Wild Rose Press, Devil Black, I wrote inside the cover, “I write books about Scotland”.
That is a darling story and how wonderful to have a friend we can go that far back with! Where do you get your ideas?
Oh, there’s never any shortage of ideas. My favorite author, Sir Terry Pratchett, has mentioned in his books he believes inspiration comes like invisible arrows out of the sky, striking people indiscriminately. If they hit just right, or if the person is paying proper attention, s/he will get an idea and become inspired. That’s how it feels for me, with writing. The ideas just come from nowhere and strike me in the brain. I’ve joked to my editor at The Wild Rose Press that my plans for books to come are all flying around inside my head in holding patterns, like planes stacked up at the airport, waiting to land. Often I’m not sure which one is going to come in first.
Frequently I get my ideas while I’m busy doing something else: cleaning the house, folding laundry, doing the dishes or grocery shopping. I’ve had whole plots for books unroll in my head while I’m in a store and I have to scrabble wildly and scratch it all down on a scrap of paper or a receipt so I don’t forget anything.
Describe your typical writing day.
Well, first let me say there’s never enough time. I work outside the home and also juggle the same demands as most of us: family obligations and that never-ending housework! Oh, and my dog, Shannon, always makes sure to stake her claim on a large chunk of my time (thank goodness for her, because she gets me out walking). Most of my writing is done early in the morning or if I can snatch some precious time on weekends.
My husband and I heat our home with wood, so in the winter I’m the first one up. I kindle the fire and then settle down with Shannon for the best part of my day, those moments when the world is quiet and I can devote myself to whatever story’s in progress. I’m usually up when it’s still dark outside, so in the summer, when the windows are open, I hear the first birds begin to sing.
I always listen to music while I work – Pandora if I’m editing and the stereo if I’m writing. I still use a spiral notebook and a pen and type it all up later, doing the first edit as I go. An entire day with nothing to do but write would be sheer bliss!
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
Wow, that’s an interesting question. It’s hard for me to imagine not being a writer, at least part time. Back in school, when we took aptitude tests, they told me I should be an interpreter – still working with words. I’ve always been fascinated with word origins, so perhaps I should have been an etymologist (words again). (Nic-butting in. Another one of those weird coincidences between us, Laura! I'm obsessed with word origins!) The truth is I have the perfect job now. I work for a Library System where catalogue books and also assemble loans to send out. I get to see all the new books as they come in and read the very best new fiction. Since, as a child, I was always known in my family as the girl who kept a paperback book in her pocket, it’s a natural progression for me to do this job. And I love everything about books – even the smell of them!
Tell me your best cure for writer’s block?
I’m very fortunate because I don’t suffer from writer’s block often. The only time I struggle to write is when I’m very tired or so depleted I have too little energy. Something many people don’t understand is that writing requires huge amounts of energy – it’s the fuel my mind and creativity burn.
On the few occasions when I’m stuck for an idea, or between books, I love to employ the “what if?” strategy. What if my dog started talking and turned out to be Albert Einstein reincarnated? What if I found Viking treasure in a shoe box? What if I inherited the ashes of an ancestor and he magically came back to life? This never fails to trigger great ideas for me. In fact the first book of my Celtic series, The Sacred Fire, came about when I answered the question, “What would happen if an elite Celtic warrior, the best of his clan, was injured in battle and could fight no more?”
Tell us a little bit about Daughter of Sherwood: The Guardians of Sherwood Trilogy Book One. I loved this story --it definitely pulled me out of my usual reading comfort zone and introduced me to new worlds. I couldn't put it down and can't wait for the next in the series!
Daughter of Sherwood, released by The Wild Rose Press on November 1st, is Book One of The Guardians of Sherwood Trilogy. When I first conceived of setting a Historical Romance in the time of Robin Hood, I told myself I must be crazy. It’s been done so often both on the large and small screen, and ever since the days of that great writer, Howard Pyle, Robin’s been a literary institution. But the idea wouldn’t go away so I decided I would create my own Sherwood and make it a place of deep magic, an entity that would help in the Saxons’ fight against Norman tyranny. And I’d populate it with a whole new set of characters, the descendants of those we know from the old stories. Robin and Marian’s daughter, Wren, became my heroine, and a member of the magical triad that includes two young men: Martin, son of Will Scarlet and Sparrow, son of Little John. Though she must bond with both of them to become a guardian of Sherwood, she must also choose which of them to love as a woman loves a man.
Here’s the blurb:
Raised in the kitchens of Nottingham Castle, Wren has no idea she is the daughter of the legendary Robin Hood until she is summoned to Sherwood Forest. Since Robin’s death many years before, the resistance against Norman tyranny has been upheld by a magical triad, but now one of the guardians has died. With two young men, Sparrow and Martin, Wren must form a new triad with a bond strong enough to defend Sherwood’s magic. To one of them, she will also give her heart.
From the moment Wren bursts into his life, Sparrow loves her. But he knows she may choose his lifelong rival, Martin, as her mate. Martin wants Wren also, but Sparrow fears Martin is driven not by love but ambition. When Martin is captured and held at Nottingham Castle, will the conflict between love and duty destroy the triad?
Anything else in the works you can share with us?
Well, here’s the exciting thing. When I wrote Daughter of Sherwood, I never dreamed it would be the first book of a trilogy. Not until my editor sent me the contract for it did a light go on in my head. The significance of the number three is so strong in this story: Wren was born three days after Robin’s death, her mother cared for her three days before giving in to her grief and retiring to a convent, and since then three have upheld the magic of Sherwood. It suddenly seemed obvious there should be three books and the story should form a circle that ultimately brings the tale back to the point where it began.
My editor agreed and so I began work on the second book of the trilogy, which is called Champion of Sherwood. That book is now under contract and we’re hoping for a release date in the spring. I’m currently at work on the third book, Lord of Sherwood, in the final stages of the editing process.
Each book can definitely be read and enjoyed on its own – after all, that’s what Daughter of Sherwood was meant to be when I wrote it. The other two books tell complete stories also but I think there’s a little extra magic when they’re all put together.
It’s been great fun working on this trilogy and my one hope is that readers find joy in the books. I’m very grateful to be associated with a wonderful publishing house like The Wild Rose Press, where creativity is given free rein. Do I have ideas for more books after the Trilogy? All I can say is the planes are circling the airport!
LOL I love that analogy! Laura, thanks for visiting with us today!
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.