We're delighted to have as our Featured Author, Carrie Lofty, author of What A Scoundrel Wants. All this week, we'll be featuring Carrie and her wonderful writing. She shares with us some insights into the life of a busy writer here in her Q&A.
Hello Carrie, do tell us how your interest in writing developed. How and when did you decide to write your first book?
I’ve been a storyteller since I was a child, but my interest crystallized in the summer of 2006 when my husband moved to Virginia for a three-month internship. I stayed in Wisconsin with our young daughters and needed a creative and professional outlet. That summer I finished my first manuscript, Serenade, in which a widowed violin prodigy in 1804 Salzburg falls in love with a composer who stole the symphony he’s most famous for.
How did you conduct your research for the novel and what resources did you find most helpful. Internet? Library? Actual travel?
Because What a Scoundrel Wants is based on legendary characters, I took two approaches to research. First, I studied the basics of medieval life—customs, dress, food, social climate. The good solid facts. Second, I read everything I could of the old Robin Hood ballads and watched dozens of Robin Hood movies and TV programs. I wanted to ground this story in the tradition of Robin Hood as much as the history. Unfortunately, most of Sherwood Forest is now dominated by Nottingham and its environs, so I couldn’t justify the need for in-person research.
How did you choose the setting and timeframe for What A Scoundrel Wants?
When doing my research, I realized that Will Scarlet is the least defined of the Robin Hood characters. Historically, he’s served whatever purpose the story required: a cad, a thug, a dandy, an inexperienced youth, a confidante. I wondered what sort of hero he would make. And because the best known modern adaptations of Robin Hood involve King Richard and the Third Crusade, the time and setting emerged naturally from there.
What is the one obstacle you've had to overcome in order to become a productive writer?
Fiddling. It’s the number one killer of momentum and productivity. If I re-read what I’ve already written, I tweak and fiddle and play with it until a) it loses it’s color and voice, b) I become convinced that it’s an utter steaming pile of worthlessness. So if I can keep hitting my page counts on a daily basis, I don’t have time to fiddle. There’s plenty of time to neaten it up in revisions.
Generally, how long does it take you to write a book?
Anywhere between three and five months. I’m learning to trust myself with each new project, which makes it zip along a little quicker.
Why did you decide to write historical romance novels?
I fell in love with historical fiction when I devoured the “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I think I was eight. Then came an obsession with the plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln, and an ongoing fascination with legends of the Old West. Long about the time I was 15, I read my first historical romance—a beautiful novel called Santana Rose by Olga Bicos—and I was hooked. History and romance? There’s been no turning back.
Do you write other eras or is Medieval of specific interest to you and why?
I came upon medieval quite by accident because of my interest in Robin Hood. My historical training was in the American West, particularly gunfighters and the social impact of legend. But ever since finishing my master’s thesis, I’ve been interested in all other history we have available to study. One day I’ll tell stories set in the Australian Gold Rush, Imperial Russia, the silent movie era, and WWII.
Give us an interesting fact you discovered during your research of twelfth century England?
The best, best find I made was Adelard of Bath, a scholar who travelled North Africa and Spain to study Arabic and learn all of the science England wasn’t ready to seriously investigate. He translated Euclid’s geometry from Arabic into Latin, believed the Earth was round, and hypothesized Einstein’s law of on the conservation of matter. A keen alchemist, he wound up tutoring Henry II at court. What an incredible scientist, and yet he remains relatively unknown.
What books do you have on your bookshelves?
Romances, historical fiction, everything Shakespeare’s ever written, my husband’s poly-sci and economics texts, and all the holdovers of my academic days: a Jane Austen collection, British poetry, monographs on race and frontier expansion, and a huge collection of X-Men comics.
Do you have a favourite comment or question from a reader?
My friend Caridad Ferrer, RITA-award winning author of Adiós to My Old Life, told me she was late to dinner with her in-laws while finishing up my short story “Sundial,” so that made me smile.
What do we have to look forward to from your pen/computer next?
I’m working on a romantic WWII historical fiction saga that follows the men of the 82nd Airborne, and hopefully, I’ll soon have good news about two more “Scoundrel” books.
How may readers contact you?
Carrie Lofty's Website
Unusual Historicals Blog
It’s the autumn of 1199 and in Charnwood Forest outside Nottingham, Will Scarlet, Robin Hood’s nephew, is now under orders from Roger of Carlisle, the Sheriff of Nottingham’s man.
Gathered in the road with a dozen men, an armed patrol under the Earl of Whitstowe marches toward them. Harsh words concerning lack of loyalty and obedience are exchanged and before Will understands what is happening, swords are drawn and several men lie dead amongst the trees, including Earl Whitstowe.
Will watches the faces of the victors and realises that Whitstowe’s man, Hendon, was in league with Roger of Carlise and Will has unwittingly been made part of an ambush. Before Will can fathom what this means to him, he hears a woman’s scream and dives into the undergrowth to go to her aid.
The lady he rescues from the Whitstowe entourage is Meg, a physic healer, whom Will believes is the same woman he arrested in Nottingham for illegal practices. Determined not to return to the traitorous Carlisle, Will takes off through Charnwood Forest, with no option but to drag Meg along with him. He soon discovers that Meg is blind, and the woman Will arrested was in fact her sister, Ada.
Imprisoned in Nottingham, Ada is charged with selling imitation emeralds which she claims her alchemist father made before he died. Sherriff Finch demands Ada make more in return for her life and Ada agrees, telling him she needs Cyprian copper. But it is Meg who made the emeralds, and all Ada can do is pray her blind sister will find her.
Having alienated his uncle Robin by going to work for the Sherriff, and unwilling to ask Lady Marian for help, Will is in a quandary. Meg offers to tend his shoulder, damaged by one of Whitstowe’s men in the fracas. Meg instantly hates Will for arresting her sister and doesn’t believe Will’s protestations of innocence regarding the treachery in the woods. Fearful Meg might incriminate him, he turns away from her to storm through the trees.
Despite living in a world of darkness, Meg is well equipped to defend herself and begins to find her way through Charnwood without Will, musing over the swindle she and Ada had carried out for the last two years. Their trade in fake emeralds is now over with the Sherriff’s discovery, but before Meg can ponder too much on her fate, she is captured by Hendon’s men. She tries to trade her freedom for Will Scarlet’s whereabouts, but apparently he too has been taken.
Hendon threatens Will by promising to destroy Robin, Marian and their son if Will won’t tell him where Meg is. Wondering why Meg is valuable, Will works on his bonds and when Hendon’s men arrive with a shackled Meg, Will frees them both and gives Meg a choice. Go with him or stay. Meg chooses Will Scarlet.
Meg seduces Will while he sleeps, and although he is wary of this strange girl, he finds himself enamoured. He allows her to dress his wounded shoulder and gives him wolfsbane to help him rest, but in the morning, Meg has gone.
Convinced she poisoned him, Will continues through the woods, pondering on how to find a way to prove to Robin and Marian that he didn’t desert them by leaving and that his work for the Sherriff was a means to an end. But there are still enemies lurking and this time, the Earl of Whitstowe’s men find him, determined he will hang for the murder of their master.
Will Scarlet, a conflicted soul himself, struggles with his own emotions. Should he forget, blind, Mad Meg who would make love to him one moment and poison him the next, or try to understand her? Used to keeping his inner thoughts hidden, Meg is the one woman who begins to know him and the knowledge is frightening.
For her part, Meg is a damaged soul who despises her dependence on others and the way she has been used in the past. Left blind by an illness which many are willing to blame on sorcery, she trusts no one, not even her sister. Ada betrayed her with Hugo, the man Meg now despises, but who is always on hand to torment her.
Will’s nemesis, the Charnwod Forest, serves as shelter for others too, amongst them being Stephen, Baron of Monthemer, Jacob ben Asher, David Fuller and Whitstowe’s son, Dryden. But are these enemies or allies? Can Will and Meg, two disparate characters achieve their goals by sticking together, or will their suspicions drive them to betray each other?
Carrie Lofty has drawn a complex and flawed character in the lovely Meg, but tempers this expertly with a deep insight into Meg’s character, why she feels the way she does and how her soul survives in a world which vilifies and abuses her. Will Scarlet is a misunderstood man with a deep sense of loyalty to his uncle whom he is desperate must not misjudge him. Will is both confused and captivated by Meg, a proud girl who dreams of fire and whose ambition is to see colours, but is determined to be no man’s possession.
In the harsh life of the 13th Century where few are free and fewer still have the power to live as they wish, Ms Lofty takes her characters through life and death ride through ancient forests, where trust is hard to come by and life is lived at the basest of levels. Scheduled for publication in December, 2008, Carrie Lofty’s characters are a worthy addition to the Robin Hood legend.