Blogging with Blythe Gifford
I write medieval romance for the Harlequin Historical line featuring characters born on the wrong side of the royal blanket. The Chicago Tribune called my work the â€œperfect balance between history and romance.â€ I call them â€œangsty historicals.â€ My fifth novel is out this month and Iâ€™m contracted for three more. After a long, hard struggle, Iâ€™m living my dream and couldnâ€™t be more thrilled!
So tell us about your new book.
HIS BORDER BRIDE is my first story to be set in Scotland. This time, itâ€™s my hero who is the royal bastard, the son of a much-hated prince of England and a Scots woman. A man without a country, heâ€™s seen the worst that men can do, and done some of it. The heroine believes in the laws of chivalry and is sure this man has broken every one. While sheâ€™s drawn to him, sheâ€™s afraid of whatâ€™s inside of him—and of her own dark urges when she is with him. Hereâ€™s an excerpt:
From Chapter One
On the Scottish Border, 1356
Morningâ€™s warmth had ebbed, and a chilly mist huddled in the valley and obscured the hills, reminding her of the dangers that lurked all around. The Inglis army might be far away, but the Inglis border was not.
That was her last thought before he rose out of the fog, a golden man on a black horse, like a spirit emerging from the mist.
A man without a banner.
A man without allegiance.
The hound barked, once, then growled, as if cowed.
The manâ€™s eyes grabbed hers. Blue they were, shading as a sky does in summer from pale to deepest azure. And behind the blue, something hot, like the sun.
Any words she might have said stuck in her throat.
Next to her, Euphemia gasped, then giggled. â€œWhere are you going good sir?â€
Clare glared at her. The girl was hopeless. Theyâ€™d be lucky to get her married before she was with child.
â€œAnywhere that will have me.â€ He answered Euphemia, but his eyes touched Clare.
Her cheeks burned.
Beside her, young Angus drew his dagger, the only weapon he was allowed. â€œI will defend the ladies.â€
â€œIâ€™m sure you will.â€ The strangerâ€™s smile, slow, insolent, was at odds with the intensity in his eyes. â€œThatâ€™s a handsome dirk and Iâ€™m sure you could wield it well against me, but I would ask that you not to harm my horse.â€
His tone was oddly gentle. Where was his own squire? â€œWhoâ€™s with you?â€
â€œA dangerous practice.â€ Did he lie? An army could hide behind him in this mist. Her fault. She had ridden out alone and unarmed and put them all at risk. â€œDonâ€™t you know Edwardâ€™s army still rides?â€
He frowned. â€œDo they?â€
His accent confused her. It held the burr of the land closer to the sea, but there was something else about it, difficult to place. Yet over the hill, in the next valley, each familyâ€™s speech was different. He might be a Robson from the other side of the hill, scouting for one last raid before the spring, or loyal to one of the Teviotdale men who had thrown their lot with Edward. â€œYouâ€™re not an Inglisman, are you?â€
â€œI have blood as Scots as yours.â€
â€œAnd how do you know how Scots my blood is?â€
â€œBy the way you asked the question.â€
Did her speech sound so provincial to Alain? She winced. She wanted to impress the visiting French knight, not embarrass him. â€œWhatâ€™s your name, Scotsman?â€
â€œGavin.â€ He paused. â€œGavin Fitzjohn.â€
Some Johnâ€™s bastard, then. Even a bastard bore his fatherâ€™s arms, but this man carried no clue to his birth. No device on his shield, no surcoat. Just that unkempt armor that, without a squireâ€™s care, had darkened with rust spots.
No arms, no squire. Not of birth noble enough for true knighthood then.
â€œAre you a renegade?â€ On her wrist, Wee One bated, wings flapping wildly. Clare touched her fingers to the birdâ€™s soft breast feathers, seeking to calm them both.
His slow smile never wavered. â€œJust a tired and hungry man who needs a friendly bed.â€ His eyes traveled over her, as if he were wondering how friendly her bed might be.
â€œWell, youâ€™ll not find one with us.â€
â€œI didnâ€™t ask. Yet.â€
Did he think sheâ€™d offered to be his bedmate? She should not be talking to such a man at all. â€œWell, if you do, Iâ€™ll say you nae.â€
â€œI donâ€™t ask before I know whether Iâ€™m speaking to a friend or an enemy.â€
â€œAnd I donâ€™t answer before I know the same.â€ Her voice had a wobble she had not intended.
â€œAre you a woman with enemies?â€
â€œThree kings claim this land. We have more enemies than friends.â€
â€œAye,â€ he said, nodding, a frown carving lines in his face. He flexed his hand as if it itched to reach for his sword. â€œWho are yours?â€
Her eyes clashed with his. She should have asked him first. Where was his loyalty? To the Balliol pretender, recently dethroned? To David the Bruce still held for ransom by the Inglis Edward? Perhaps he had lied about his blood and was Edwardâ€™s man himself.
Next to her, the young girl sighed. â€œThis is Mistress Clare and Iâ€™m Euphemia and I have nay enemies.â€
â€œEuphemia!â€ Was she batting her lashes? Yes, she was. â€œDo you want us to be killed?â€
â€œHe wouldnâ€™t do that. A knight is sworn to protect ladies, arenâ€™t you?â€ She fluttered her eyelashes at him, then turned to Clare. â€œDonâ€™t treat him as an unfriend.â€
â€œIf I do, itâ€™s because I have a brain in my head.â€
If she kicked the horse into a gallop, could she outrun the man? Not with Angus and Euphemia in tow and Wee One on her wrist.
She lowered her voice to a whisper. â€œHe looks like a dangerous ruffian, not a knight. He wears no markings and heâ€™s wearing dirty armor with rust spots!â€ The man, if he knew the maxims of chivalry, cared little for them.
Euphemia shrugged and turned to the man. â€œYouâ€™re not dangerous and dirty, are you?â€
Something darkened his face before a smile waved it away. â€œWell, that may depend on how you mean the words, but Iâ€™d say Mistress Clare has a gift for judging character.â€
Excerpt from HIS BORDER BRIDE
Copyright Â© 2010 by Wendy Blythe. Gifford
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A…
You said a long hard struggle. When did you start writing?
Well, I started writing when I could hold a pencil, but I started writing seriously after a corporate layoff. One of the things they tell you when you are going through what is euphemistically called â€œa transitionâ€ is to evaluate your life and see what is on your list of things youâ€™ve always wanted to do. â€œWrite a bookâ€ was on still mine and I figured now might be a good time. Ten years and one layoff later, I was an â€˜overnight successâ€™ when I sold my Golden Heart finalist manuscript to Harlequin.
Why historical romance?
They say write what you read. Iâ€™m not sure thatâ€™s perfect advice. I read lots of things I could never write well, but I read, and love, romance and history. I found a pencil-written â€˜manuscriptâ€™ not long ago of an historical novel I started at age ten! So the urge was there long before I acted it.
What did you do before you were published?
Some of what I still do. I started out in journalism, went into public relations, advertising, and then marketing and finally business consulting. I still juggle consulting work along with my writing.
How do you manage both? Whatâ€™s your writing schedule? Is there a ritual?
On a normal day, (and there actually are a few of those), I write in the morning and do consulting work in the afternoon. Iâ€™m a believer in writing everyday. I show up at the computer at the same time each morning so the muse knows where to find me.
And I do have a ritual. When I start a book, I create a â€œsoundtrackâ€ to write by and choose a fragrance (buy a candle) that summons the story for me. When I push â€œplayâ€ and strike that match, like Pavlovâ€™s dog, I am trained to make a cup of tea and open the file. No decisions. No waiting for the muse.
Habit can be your friend.
The soundtrack and candle also come in handy when it is time to do revisions or book promotion. They help me get back in the mood of the story, even if Iâ€™m immersed in another project by then.
So what inspires your stories? Where do your ideas come from?
History. Somehow, I can see human beings walking around in the midst of those events. For HIS BORDER BRIDE, for example, I read about the English invasion of Scotland in which they reputedly burned down a church full of people who had sought sanctuary inside. My book opens with the hero, standing in front of such a church, with a torch in his hand.
What authors influenced your work?
I always start with Anya Seton, who wrote Katherine. I loved that book and itâ€™s amazing to see that my lifelong interest in the English royal family, legitimate and otherwise, particularly in the 14th century came from that story.
Who do you like to read?
There are so many great authors out there, itâ€™s hard to name just a few, but Laura Kinsale, Penelope Williamson, and Megan Chance always make my â€œaspirationalâ€ list. I love Deanna Raybournâ€™s work. And Madeline Hunter. And newcomer Courtney Milan. And I do love a good suspense. Lisa Gardner and Tami Hoag are two of my favorites when Iâ€™m in that mood.
Well, Iâ€™d better stop here. You see the problem.
Have you any parting words of wisdom?
Know why you write what you write, beyond the desire to be published. I do not downplay fame and money! Iâ€™ll happily accept more of both. But when you are sitting at the keyboard facing a blank screen, those arenâ€™t the things that bring forth your most authentic work. Itâ€™s the soul you bring to the page that connects to the reader. Thatâ€™s what brings them back for more.
And thanks for having me!
How about you? Whatâ€™s the reason you write? Iâ€™ll give a copy of HIS BORDER BRIDE to a commenter!
BLYTHE GIFFORD is the author of five medieval romances from Harlequin Historical. She specializes in characters born on the wrong side of the royal blanket. With HIS BORDER BRIDE, she crosses the border and sets a story in Scotland for the first time, where the rules of chivalry donâ€™t always apply. Hereâ€™s a brief description:
Royal Rogue: He is the bastard son of an English prince and a Scotswoman. A rebel without a country, he has darkness in his soul.
Innocent Lady: Daughter of a Scottish border lord, she can recite the laws of chivalry, and knows this man has broken every one. But sheâ€™s gripped by desire for himâ€”could he be the one to unleash the dangerous urges sheâ€™s hidden until now?
Cover Art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved. Â®and T are trademarks of Harlequin Enterprises Limited and/or its affiliated companies, used under license. Copyright 2010 â– Author photo by Jennifer Girard