Deborah feels the universe is against her. She wears a back brace and is mocked by her fellow college students. Professor Maris takes an interest in her and she falls in love with him, but he is out of her reach. She asks Venus to take her back to the Middle Ages, never dreaming it could happen. A turn of events and her modern ideas endanger her life and the life of the knight she loves in danger.
Shirley Larson has joined me today to unravel the dangers of Deborah’s quest for romance in ‘The Medieval Knight’. Shirley, thanks for joining me today. To kick things off what started you thinking about the quest that Deborah finds herself in during this story?
The idea came to me in the shower where all my best ideas originate.
The shower, it’s so true that great work comes from there :). How did the novel evolve outside of the bathroom?
I had written the Middle Ages section as a stand alone short story. But I loved the characters of Deborah and her knight lover, and I thought, what if she were a modern girl thrown back in time. A woman friend close to me told me about the trials of wearing a back brace to correct her scoliosis. And so the book began to take shape.
To give it a bit more shape did you also try to swirl in aspects of your own life?
Yes. Always when I write a book, I put myself in the place of the characters. This particular life experience was feeling excluded because I was younger than everyone else and really liked to read.
I hope that you’ve continued that desire to read into your adult life. While you were writing this book did you try and use the cover ‘I have to research my book’ as a guise to allow you to read more?
When I wrote the first part of the book, the internet was just beginning. So it was trips to the library. When I began to write the book as it is now, having the internet was wonderful. There are always questions. Did they have a stove or a fireplace in my time period? How did they keep clean? How did they address one another? What kind of dogs did they have? I even had to go back and discover what kind of chickens they had. Their chickens were totally different than our modern ones. They had white legs, whereas today all our chickens have yellow legs.
Researching the leg colours of chickens really does demonstrate your dedication to the integrity of the story. To ensure this integrity was solidly woven throughout the plot did you consciously work on thematic story devices?
Not usually. Usually my characters get themselves in deep trouble, and the themes arise from there.
*Laughs* That works too! How did your characters emerge?
As I indicated earlier, the Deborah in the first part of the book wore a back brace and I was able to talk to my friend about this. I could see Deborah in my mind, feeling like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Rogen was partly a man of his age, and a man like my husband, very conscious of his responsibilities.
Are you always very conscious of the voices on your characters? Do they follow you into the subconscious realm of dreams?
Always. Your characters are always there, floating in your subconscious mind. I had a dream about the book I’m working on this morning.
Yes! I love the characters that won’t leave their authors alone. I think it makes a strong argument as to how compelling they are. Talking about compelling, did you have a character that you stuck such an accord with that you were compelled to visit them again?
Actually, Deborah’s knight appears in the book I am now working on. Deborah also appears for a cameo performance. Annalise had a cameo in the first book but appears as one of heroines in the most recent book that I’m still writing, titled The Medieval Knight’s Heroic Bride.
And what is the relationship between ‘The Medieval Knight’ and ‘The Medieval Knight’s Heroic Bride’?
The Medieval Knight’s Heroic Bride is the third book in the series of Medieval Knights. It is nearly finished.
That’s exciting. Good luck getting it through the final stretch! Now if the opportunity came up for you to meet one of your characters would would it be?
I would love to take Nicholas out for a beer, the hero of my second Medieval book, The Medieval Knight’s Lady.
Heroes are a tempting pick. A very wise choice indeed. Out of all of the lines in this book do you have one that really strikes you as either being fantastically well written or just a great line of prose?
While there was merry-making everywhere about me, dancing, drinking, eating, I sat at my wedding feast contemplating murder.
I like the visual images that sends up of one of the wedding couple quietly sitting there stewing and plotting. What aspect of this novel was the most rewarding thing for you working on this book?
The most rewarding thing about this book was taking a woman who literally had nothing going for her but her intelligence. Then she becomes beautiful, much like Cinderella emerging from her rags. But when she is forced to make a desperate choice, she makes the right one.
I’m a sucker for the Cinderella like story where the heroine for lack of better word makes the right choice. I’m glad to hear that she got to the right conclusion. Did it take you a long time when you were writing to get to this conclusion?
This is a hard question to answer. The first part of the book came rolling out as if I were a secretary recording the scenes. The second part of the book and weaving it all together took about three months.
That’s a reasonable timeline. Are you writing full-time now?
Right now, my occupation is writing, but originally I was a musician and I think that listening to thousands of lyrics in the songs I sang gave me a feel for the rhythm of my work. I have to have a certain ebb and flow to my words.
Creating a rhythm is something that a few authors have talked about before, but I find it interesting as I think that a good rhythm can really set a good novel apart. Do you use any particular techniques to get the writing and rhythm going?
I write every day, as a habit after breakfast, until lunchtime or longer if it’s going well. If it isn’t going well, I force myself to write, knowing I can always edit.
Are you are big editor of your work?
Yes. I go back and reread and edit constantly. Sometimes I do it to get my juices going in the morning for the original wring, sometimes I do it at the end of the day when I’ve finished the original writing. Then when the book is finished I go back again and again.
Do you find any techniques like writing by hand help get the ideas flowing when you are forcing yourself to write?
I always type on my computer. My long hand rivals a doctor’s for illegibility.
*Laughs* You’re not alone there! Last time I filled in a form I had to do it twice because the first attempt was so illegible! Are your handwriting skills outweighed by artistic skills that you have used as a part of the book cover design or did you get another artist to complete the cover for you?
I’ve been using the Book Cover Designer and I’ve been super happy with them.
I haven’t hear about them before but I will have to check them out. Aside from good book cover talent, do you have any other tips that you think other authors can take away to improve their own self-publishing journeys?
Listen to what other self-publishing authors have to say. I follow Goodreads and a fellow author there very generously shared the names of his sites that he used. I’m just now getting around to using them.
There’s so many wonderful sites and tips out there I’m sure you’ll be working a while to get through all of them. And then there will most likely be more resources available after that. A writer’s work is never done! Have you received reviews for your work where you really felt that you’d done a great job for the reader?
I guess I was most thrilled when I got a wonderful letter from a reader praising a book that a publishing house who shall remain unnamed gave my 375 page historical work that I had spent months working on absolutely no publicity. As for my first complimentary review, I was probably surprised.
The more I read about the traditional publishing industry the more surprised I am with how it works, I think I was mistakenly under the impression that they gave a large amount of support with regards to editing and publicity but it appears that I have been working under false assumptions. That is one great thing about self-publishing you get back that control and can really work on the promotion yourself. Do you think that your favourite authors have really inspired you to push to write and publish your own work?
Absolutely. I originally loved Janet Dailey and I think she influenced my work, because she drew me in so easily and kept me enthralled. Then there’s Judith McNaught, Jacqueline Winspear and her amazing Maisie Dobbs series, and Laura Willig whose books are a take off from The Scarlet Pimpernel. Lately I’ve been reading every extra hour I have and I’ve found some stand outs, Amy Sandas, historical romance, Fallen Lady series, T. Torrest the Remember when series, and of course, the romance author who is the ultimate writer, Jane Austen.
Another nod for Jane Austen. And now we’re onto my the quick fire round of questions to loosen you up and give a little bit of variety and creativity to end the interview on. Let’s start with a simple one:
What is your zodiac sign?
What are you currently reading?
Just a Girl by Ellie Cahill. I’m loving it because it gives the reader a good look at all the various sides of music, selling, giving lessons and performing.
I haven’t read it, but it sounds like it might be another viewpoint of that rhythm we were discussing earlier in the interview. Okay, here’s a good one which literary character do you think has a great literary rhythm?
None other than Darcy.
Much of the romance community is in agreement here. Can you stand on your hands unassisted?
If you could steal one thing without consequence what would it be?
A four carat diamond ring.
Nice choice, although I do wonder if you’re stealing why you’d stop at only four carats. I guess anything greater than that does tend to look a bit ostentatious and perhaps a tad on the brassy side of jewellery. Less importantly, can you curl your tongue?
What was your favourite book as a child?
All the Nancy Drew books. I waited patiently for a new one to come out. When I began to drive, I wanted to be as good as Nancy and turn on a dime.
Do you have any philosophies that you live by?
I live by honesty, kindness, and trying to see life from the other person’s viewpoint.
Seeing the world through other’s eyes will make you a great writer. Which are cooler? Dinosaurs or Dragons?
Technically Dinosaurs but in slang, Dragons.
Is there a book that you wish that you would have written?
To Kill a Mockingbird
What is your favourite quote of all time?
From the movie Splash Has to be spoken at the top of a guy’s voice in utter frustration ‘She left me, all right, she left me’. There are so many great lines in that movie. The guy or the island?
What is your best tip overall for authors?
Have a set time and place to write and go there every day except for Sunday or the one day you have decided to take off.
What is your favourite word?
Nice tie-in to the previous question. We’ve been having such fun today, I’m afraid Shirley that we’ve reached the end of today’s interview. I’d like to thank you again for spending a little time with me today and I wish you the best of luck for your promotion of ‘The Medieval Knight’ and I hope you enjoy working on the final instalment in that trilogy.
Want to find out more about Shirley? Connect here!