Monday, February 24, 2014

INTERVIEW & GUEST POST: Under These Restless skies by Lissa Bryan

Interview with Lissa Bryan, author of Under These Restless Skies

1 – You started by writing fanfiction. How important was this for your writing career? How has it influenced your books and writing?

I wouldn’t be a published author today if it wasn’t for fanfiction, and so it’s made a profound difference in my life and career.

I have always written stories in my head, sometimes taking books and movies and re-writing them to have an ending I liked better, or sending the characters off on new adventures. I had no idea other people did this until I discovered fanfiction. I decided to write out some of the stories that had lingered in my mind over the years. One of them became popular and brought me to the attention of my publisher. They approached me and asked me if I’d be interested in writing a novel.
Without the support and kindness of the fanfiction community, I couldn’t have done this. It was a great place to begin writing, because the encouragement and enthusiastic support gave me the courage to try new things.

2 – Under These Restless Skies is your third book. How did you come up with the idea of “Tudors meet selkies”?

I had explored the selkie myth in one of my fanfiction stories, and I enjoyed it so much, I wanted to try it again, but with a few new twists.

There is an old Celtic fairy tale called “The Selkie Wife,” in which a man kidnaps a selkie bride to raise his children. It’s a very sad story, and it sparked my imagination.  I wanted to re-write it to have a happy ending, but I didn’t want to set it in the modern day. Tudor history has always fascinated me, and so I decided to set it during that time period.

My fanfiction story covered the reign of “Bloody” Mary Tudor. I decided my novel would be set earlier, during the reign of Henry VIII.

3- What was your research process for Tudors and Selkies?

There isn’t much available on selkies, so I took what I could find and built my own legend around them. Selkies were shape-shifters who could assume the form of a seal by slipping into magical piece of fur. If it was stolen from them, they would be bound to whomever took it until it was willingly returned. They could also be summoned by shedding seven tears into the sea. They were said to be beautiful in their human form, gentle-hearted, and playful. I took those characteristics and added a little magic to come up with Emma, the heroine of Under These Restless Skies. Will, the hero, steals her pelt, but she ends up stealing his heart.

As I mentioned before, I’ve always been fascinated by the Tudor era, and I’ve read countless books on Henry VIII and his wives. But despite my basic familiarity, the book was research-intensive, which is why this book took me a year to write. If I was writing a dinner scene, I wanted to make sure every food item I described was correct, and at one point, I even ended up going to NASA to find out the phase of the moon on a certain date. But it was a lot of fun and I ended up learning so much more about the time period.

3 – Why Anne Boleyn and not another one of Henry VIII’s wives?

Anne Boleyn is one of the most slandered and misunderstood women in history. She was also one of the most important women in history, because without her, the English Reformation would not have happened as it did.

Henry’s subsequent wives will be covered in the sequel, which I’m going to start writing in the next couple of months.

4 – Your books are very different from each other, but all of them have a paranormal element. Why is that?

Paranormal storylines interest me because I like to explore possibilities and impossibilities. I’m always asking the question, “What if…?” What if the most unexpected thing happened? How would people react to it? How would their lives change? Who would they become?

Guest Post by Lissa Bryan

I’ve been writing stories for about three years now, and I’m sort
of a genre-hopper. I’ve done everything from sci-fi to Gothic romance. I guess the best way to put it is that I like to explore possibilities as a writer, and there’s just too many to confine myself to one genre.

Decades ago, I read Margaret George’s magnificent Autobiography of King Henry VIII. One of the characters is Will Somers, the king’s jester. He’s not a main character in the novel, but the real Will seems to have been very important to the king, more of the king’s confidant than a comedian. Over the years, I’ve wondered what Will must have thought watching the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn, and all the wives that came after her.

For my third novel, I decided to write Will’s story. We don’t know much about the life of the real Will Somers, except that he was likely born to a farming family in Shropshire, and likely had scoliosis, which twisted his back and made him walk with a limp. There’s no record he ever married. At the time, people with physical imperfections would have a difficult time finding a spouse. Will is an unusual choice for a romantic hero, but I like a challenge.

I’ve already written an online story set in the Tudor era, based on the old Celtic fairy tale, “The Selkie Wife.” Selkies have fascinated me since I heard first heard that terribly sad old story, and I wanted to write a version of it that had a happy ending. But even after I completed that story, I knew I wasn’t done writing about selkies. The legends still captivated my imagination.

 Unlike the aggressive supernatural characters like vampires and werewolves that have been explored so much in fiction, selkies are gentle creatures whose powers stem from love. In the old legends, they could be summoned by a lonely maiden shedding seven tears into the sea. In their human form, they were beautiful and warm-hearted, though they could be fierce protectors of the weak. The women made excellent wives and mothers, which was why the men in the old legends wanted to capture them.

I wondered what it would be like if Will Somers, rejected all his life because of his back, suddenly encountered a chance to have a wife of his own? What would happen if an innocent, soft-hearted creature like a selkie was suddenly brought into the glittering, cutthroat court of Henry VIII? That’s how Will and Emma came into being in my imagination.

Aside from the paranormal elements, I wanted to try to be as accurate as possible with the story of King Henry and Anne Boleyn. Anne is such a maligned figure, especially since much of what we “know” about her comes from the reports of her enemies. Writing this book required a lot of research, but it was a lot of fun. I’m starting work on the sequel in a few months, and I can’t wait to see where that story takes me.

Click here to purchase Under These Restless Skies!

1 comment:

  1. Great interview! And a sequel? Woo Hoo!! Cannot wait! ;)