Sunday, November 14, 2010
Today's Special -- Angela Johnson
I am thrilled to welcome Angela Johnson to The Romance Dish. Angela writes historical (specifically medievals) romances for Kensington. Though her love for romance began at an early age, it wasn't until college that Angela fell in love with history. Encouraged by her very own hero to combine her love of romance and history, Angela began writing medievals romances. And I, for one, am so glad she took the plunge! Angela's debut novel, Vow of Seduction, was release last year and you can read my review here. I am currently reading Angela's latest release, Vow of Deception, and thoroughly enjoying it. My review will be posted on November 23. Please join me in welcoming Angela Johnson!
Your first allegiance is to your heart…
As a knight, Sir Rand Montague’s allegiance is to King Edward I. But when the king orders Rand to escort Rosalyn Harcourt to court in order to wed her off to Sir Golan—a crass knight Rand abhors—he’s torn between duty and desire. For Rand has never forgotten the woman he spent one unforgettable night of passion with…
After suffering abuse at the hands of her deceased husband, Rose wishes to never wed again. But when Rand rescues her after Sir Golan attempts to compromise her, she agrees to marry Rand in name only. However, sharing such close quarters with Rand brings back memories of their torrid rendezvous—and tempts Rose to give in to an all-consuming desire…
As the cover blurb says, in Vow of Deception, Rand is ordered by the king to escort Rose to court to marry Sir Golan. Rose dares not defy the king if she wishes to protect her young son, but fears her husband-to-be is violent and dangerous, just like her first husband. Protecting herself and her young son would become Rose's steepest challenge.
I have never been abused, nor do I have any children of my own, so I had to dig deep to write my heroine. I had to do my best to understand her situation, and the relationship between her and her young son. To accomplish this understanding I had to go through a process of looking at mothers—up close and personal—as they say. I had to observe them, question them, seek their insights and input, and listen to their feedback.
This involved me putting out first drafts of my work for critique to two of my trusted friends who are mothers and writers. And I must be completely honest with you about this. Their feedback was like a cold slap in the face. They flatly told me that I was not capturing the essence of the whole motherhood experience. Their honesty sent me back to work and surely saved me some embarrassment. I can't thank them enough for that.
To be successful as a writer, I believe you must find "inspiration". You'll do your best writing when you are inspired about something.
As an author, many times we draw inspiration from the world around us. And that is what I tried to do with Vow of Deception. For example, one day I was discussing relationships between parents and children with a couple of my friends who are mothers, and one of them said rather matter-of-factly, "I love my children so much, I would die for them." The other friend spoke up quickly and affirmed that she'd do the same.
They both agreed the core motivation of a mother to protect her child is rooted in one's complete and utter love for their children. This is when I realized I had to tap into this emotion and express it in my book. Though I can’t truly understand a mother's love, I can relate to it. I have a husband whom I love so completely that I'd do anything to protect him. So I tried to transfer those emotions into Rose's character.
I also was inspired from the world around me when it came time to create a believable child in Vow of Deception. I needed both a physical description and inner personality traits. I started with his physical attributes—dimples, blond-hair, and almost four years of age. When creating characters, many writers draw inspiration from images of models or actors. I'm one who does this to solidify a character in my mind’s eye. But as serendipity would have it, my husband’s nephew fits this description perfectly. He’s the little boy you see in the picture, and he lives next door to us. He would often come running over to me to say "hello" whenever I was outside writing my novel, and ended up becoming my inspiration for Jason, Rose’s son.
Now that I had a physical description, I needed to define Jason’s inner traits. Inspiration came from another good friend of mine who visits me often with her son. Her young son is usually right beside her at all times. He's always excited to be "Mama’s little helper." So personality wise, Jason became a precocious little boy, devoted to his mother. He became a composite of two children I knew rather well through personal interaction. Here’s a sneak peak of a scene featuring Rose and her son, Jason.
Rose raised the missive in her hand and waved it at Edith. “The bishop has cancelled his trip to Ayleston, again. I wonder what can be keeping him?”
Edith set one of Jason’s hose she was mending down on the bench beside her. She rested her right arm, bent at an awkward angle, in her lap. “Milady, calm yourself. I am sure there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for his delay.”
Rose smiled at her former maidservant’s observation. Rose could not be any calmer outwardly, but Edith knew her very well and understood her agitation.
“I cannot help feeling something is amiss. Not till the bishop takes my vow of chastity will I feel safe. I shall never marry again,” she swore, a dark thread of conviction drawing her voice taut.
Rose plopped down on the bench beside Edith. Jason tugged a worm from the earth and squealed in delight, his cheeks dimpling. Rose’s gaze softened as she watched him.
“Are you sure you wish to take such a drastic measure? A vow of chastity is irrevocable. Perhaps you will want to marry again one day.”
Rose jerked her head to Edith. Jason’s nurse gazed at her, eyes shadowed, her left hand rubbing her crippled arm.
Guilt reared. Rose reached over and began massaging the shrunken muscles and tendons of Edith’s forearm. “Oh, forgive me, Edith. Here I am rambling about my troubles when you are in pain.”
A significant pause, then Edith whispered, “’Twas not your fault, milady.”
“If only I had been obedient and dutiful, Bertram would not have broken your arm and forbidden me to set it properly for you.”
Rose gazed off in the distance, her thoughts returning to the past. Rose had been spoiled and indulged as a child, and her father, Lord Briand, had taken the unusual step in allowing her to choose her own husband, provided the man was of equal or greater rank than she. But Rose had chosen unwisely, to her everlasting shame and regret. When she threatened Bertram that she would return to her father and tell him of Bertram’s perverse sexual proclivities, her husband struck out at Edith instead.
From that moment on, she learned never to defy him. No one was safe from his violent tendencies, not even Jason, his own son.
“Once I take my vow of chastity, I shall never be compelled to marry and be at the mercy of a man again.”
Marriage required enduring the humiliating debasement of conjugal duties. She had barely survived her first.
“Wurm, Mama. I found a wurm.” Her son’s excited voice drew Rose from her devastating memories. She looked down at Jason standing before her. The worm lay in his dirty palm as he raised it up for her inspection. She relaxed her tight grip on the crumpled missive.
Her eyes grew big as she stared at the worm he dangled before her. “Oh my, you did find a worm. A big, fat, wiggly one.” She growled beneath her breath, then reached out and tickled his tummy.
He burst out giggling, his little body wriggling as he tried to escape her marauding fingers. “I can’t breathe, Mama,” he gasped between giggles.
Rose relented, bent forward, and kissed his sweaty brow. “Jason. How would you like to help me collect some herbs in the woods? You are always such a great help to Mama.”
“I’m a good helper, Mama.” He jumped up and down, a huge grin on his face, his gold curls bouncing in his exuberance. Her heart twisted at the resemblance to his father, but she pushed the guilt away.
Regrets could not alter the past. She lived in the present, her sole purpose to rear and educate her son to prepare him for responsibilities he would assume upon his majority. Her son was her life. Indeed, she would protect him to her last breath from anyone who would harm him. She would teach Jason to revere and respect women, like his uncle and grandfather. They were the rare exception of what was good and honorable and chivalrous in a man.
“Good. Why don’t you go put the worm in your pail?”
Jason skipped away.
“Milady. What do you intend to do?” Edith looked up at her, her hand shielding her eyes from the glare of the sun.
“We leave for Lichfield at dawn. I dare not delay one day longer.”
“I shall go and have Lady Alison pack for you and Jason then.” Edith rose and hurried toward the Keep.
Rose’s gaze returned to Jason, drawing in the dirt with his stick. Her only regret about her decision to formalize her vow of chastity was that she would not have any more children. But it was a sacrifice she was willing to make for her independence. Not to mention her emotional and mental welfare.
In a book, an author must make the reader empathize with the heroine or hero. Statistics show the majority of romance readers and authors are women, many of whom are mothers.
If you are a mother, do you enjoy romance stories where heroines are also mothers? Or do you prefer one without the complication of children, which you might find distracting from the romance and sexual tension? Conversely, if you do not have children, do you prefer romances with heroines who are single and childless? Or does it matter to you one way or the other? Perhaps it comes down to believability only. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Two random commenters will receive an autographed copy of Vow of Deception.
Be sure to stop by Angela's website and check out her latest contest. You may just win a $50 Susan G. Komen for the Cure Visa card!