Today I'm welcoming fellow Chatelaine Gerri Russell, whose September release To Tempt a Knight is out in stores. Give it up for Gerri!!
We're also giving away a book from Gerri's first series: The Warrior Trainer.
JA: Please tell us a little about your latest release, To Tempt a Knight.
GR: To Tempt a Knight is the first book in the Brotherhood of the Scottish Templars series. The entire series encompasses a group of knights that existed in Scottish history. These men were ten of the best warriors in the land, hand-selected to be King Robert the Bruce to fight at his side.
Toward the end of his life, the Bruce asked his men to do something for him that he was unable to accomplish in his lifetime. He asked his men to go on crusade and take with them his heart for burial in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
Faithful to their king, they cut the king’s heart out of his chest, placed it in a specially designed cylindrical vessel, and in the spring of 1330, the Bruce’s inner circle of knights, supported by twenty-six squires and a retinue of men, set off on a Crusade from Scotland for Jerusalem, fighting along the way through enemy territory.
On the morning of August 25th, 1330, the Scottish knights joined King Alfonso of Castile in a battle that was intended to crush the Kingdom of Granada, which was held by the Moors at that time. A false battle cry sent the Scottish knights into battle before they had adequate reinforcements. They were outnumbered a hundred to one. And even with the heart of the king on their side, they were doomed to failure. The knights were crushed by the Moors, and their mission failed. Five of the ten knights died, along with hundreds of foot soldiers.
When I read about the devastation Robert the Bruce’s knights suffered, I knew I had to write the stories of how these knights survived, and how they put their lives back together after such a painful experience.
And as though they didn’t already have enough to deal with in the pages of the books, I made these men’s lives a bit more adventurous by bringing a French enemy straight out of Templar lore onto Scottish shores. This Frenchman is determined to destroy all the remaining Templars and claim the legendary Templar treasure hidden in the Scottish Highlands.
To Tempt a Knight follows the story of one of these wounded warriors, Sir William Keith, as he returns from his failed Crusade. He is charged with finding a vital holy relic and protecting the daughter of its former guardian—a task that will force him to choose between duty to his vows and desire for the beautiful, courageous woman finally able to soften his battle-hardened heart.
JA: This sounds like a heartbreaking and excellent story. What an interesting setup to the series! I don't have my copy of To Tempt a Knight yet, but it's on hold for me at my bookstore, and I'm so looking forward to reading it!
JA: Now, Gerri, you are the queen of contests! You won the Golden Heart twice and the American Title contest. How did it feel to win? And do you have tips for other writers who might want to enter contests?
GR: I’m not really a contest queen . . . I didn’t enter a million contests. I was very specific about entering only the contests that could help advance my career. There are a hundred reasons why a person should enter contests. Are you looking for feedback? Do you want to toss your work into a literary pool similar to what you might find in the marketplace? Are you looking for affirmation that you are doing something right? Are you trying to attract an editor’s attention?
I used contests to help me climb to the next rung on the publication ladder. Contests toughened me up for rejections, of which I had many. They opened my eyes to the things I was missing.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. There are great joys in the contest route as well. The first time I won the Golden Heart was one of the most exhilarating days of my life. It was ~not~ the golden ticket to a publishing career, but it was the affirmation I needed to keep on going. I needed that memory in the years ahead, because it took me a total of thirteen years and six completed manuscripts before I finally sold. And yes, even then it took the American Title contest, a legion of voters, and the prize of a publishing contract to make that miracle happen!
If I have any advice to share at all it is this . . . never, never give up on your dreams!
JA: Thirteen years, wow. You are also the Queen of Persistence. But it proves a couple mantras I follow: Persistence pays off, and You need the patience of a saint and balls of granite to make it in this business!
What I meant about you being contest queen is that you WIN them! And you have very savvy advice--target those contests that will do what you need them to do (whatever your particular goal is). It does you little good to scattershot to places that might not help you or be where you can shine.
JA: Next question: Your books are steeped in medieval history and Scottish history, and you are a re-enactor in a Renaissance Faire. Tell us about your love of history and what it's like to step into that world yourself (and do you make your own costumes?).
GR: I have always been intrigued by history, but not necessarily the history that we learned in school. I was probably a really annoying student for my teachers because I wanted to know everything about history--not just about the great men or the battles or the politics. I wanted to know about the little guy who worked for the great men, or the women who supported them, or the servants who made their lives possible, as well as what they ate, how they celebrated? Curiosity had me thinking about how they survive a cold winter with only a smoky fireplace for warmth, what kind of diseases they suffered from, and how healed themselves. I always asked too many questions.
My intrigue with history is not limited to people. I also wrote my first series, The Stones of Destiny, about rocks—mystical pieces of history that the people of old cherished and passed from generation to generation.
My current Brotherhood series also focuses on treasures of the world, particularly the treasures the Templars might have gathered. What was it that the Templars had in their treasure trove, if they had a treasure at all? Where did they hide it? Why can’t anyone find it? The possibilities are endless as are the theories out there trying to explain it all.
But probably the most appealing part of writing about history and re-living it as I do once a year at the Shrewsbury Renaissance Faire in King’s Valley, Oregon, is the appeal of dangerous men and adventurous women. I love watching the knights joust and battle each other with swords. I like men with a bit of brawn to go with their brains.
I also adore the clothing of the period. Dresses for the women of nobility were glorious works of art with the lace and embroidery and beadwork. For the Renaissance faire, I do make my own costumes, and for my entire family. It takes forever to sew them because the clothing (or garb and we refer to it) must be authentic, which means much of it has to be sewn by hand. I can sew glorious period gowns, wedding dresses, and ball gowns, but don’t ask me to hem a pair of pants. It will never happen.
As much as I enjoy history however, I value everything that modern society has to offer. Who doesn’t love a toothbrush, or antibiotics, or predictably disease-free water?
JA: Kudos on your costume talent, Gerri. I'm not a costumer myself, but I love looking at everyone else's lovely work. Oh, and I'm right there with you on the knights. I love a good Renn Faire joust. :-)
JA: What writing are you working on now? What's next for you?
GR: Right now, I’m working on book two in the Brotherhood of the Scottish Templars series, Seducing the Knight, which will hit bookstore shelves in May of 2010. I’m really having fun writing this series, and I truly hope readers will enjoy the adventure and the romance in each of the storylines.
Jennifer, thanks for interviewing me today and allowing me to share a look inside To Tempt a Knight.
JA: No problem. I love your writing, I love Scottish stories, and I love medievals!
Do share your thoughts, say hi to Gerri, and enter to win a copy of The Warrior Trainer.