Born and raised in Western New York, Laura Strickland has pursued lifelong interests in lore, legend, magic and music, all reflected in her writing. Though her imagination often takes her to far off places, she is usually happiest at home not far from Lake Ontario, with her husband and her "fur" child, a rescue dog. Currently she is at work on the third book of the Guardians of Sherwood series.
What is your story's heat level? How do you approach the sex scenes?
While we all enjoy a good love scene, I believe there should be a high emotional component as well, and I always include that in my depictions. The characters in Champion of Sherwood bond on not only a physical but a spiritual level. When the hero, Gareth and the heroine, Linnet, make love for the first time they create a bond that will ever after allow them to communicate telepathically, a special gift from Sherwood. I feel a bond that deep can only be created by fiery and all-consuming lovemaking!
How do you maintain activity as a writer when sitting at a desk all day?
Well, since writing is my second job, I work at it mostly during early mornings and weekends. My day job, working for a library system, really keeps me hopping pulling loans, chasing down books on hold, scheduling and fulfilling requests for story time kits and shelving.
I’m also kept hopping at home by my dog, Shannon, a rescue. An Icelandic Sheepdog mix, she tends to signal by barking, and when she wants attention, a walk, a treat or just a trip outside she stands in front of me and vocalizes her request. That tends to get me up on my feet quickly whether I’m in the full throes of story writing or not. We’ve both been suffering a bit from cabin fever during this past winter, and when spring comes we’re looking forward to resuming our long walks together up and down the country roads near where we live.
What is it that you loved about the main characters in your story?
The main characters in Champion of Sherwood have absolutely no business falling in love with each other. Linnet is a Saxon healer and member of the contingent in Sherwood that fights against Norman tyranny. Gareth is a Norman knight and nephew to the dreaded Sheriff of Nottingham. I think what I loved most about Linnet was her ability to look past the fears, doubts and narrow-minded prejudice of her time and see the man Gareth was, underneath his Norman armor. She never once looked back or wavered in her feelings for him. And oh, Gareth! He was the kind of man women dream about – unsparing in his emotions, committed to his intentions and willing to sacrifice everything, including his life, for the woman he loved.
Surely two such true hearts deserve a happily ever after, but circumstances do not make it easy for them. In fact, without assistance from the spirits who dwell in Sherwood, it may never come right!
What do you feel is your strongest type of writing? Humor? Angst? Confrontation scenes? Action? Sex? Sensuality? Sweet Romance? And why?
I’ve been told by those who read me that my characters are my strong point. I do know that once I launch a story and set those characters in motion they take on fully-fleshed and three-dimensional lives of their own, at which point they highjack the story, speak their lines and even resolve the ending the way they choose! I’m just the guide and witness who writes it all down.
I like to drop my characters into complex and agonizing situations, just to see what they’ll do. Will strength and courage win out? Faith and intelligence? Will someone turn his tail and run? Will all be given for love? At the same time, I like to toss a bit of humor into my tales. I believe it adds to the authenticity of the dialogue and those who speak it. After all, humor does color our lives – sometimes it’s black humor, but often it is the single light that makes a difficult situation bearable.
Are you social media savvy? If so what do you suggest for others? If not, why not?
I do my best to wrestle with social media but to be truthful virtual promotion is not my strong point. It’s a far cry from the magic of Sherwood Forest to the ins and outs of a site like Pinterest. I do have my own web page through which I love to connect with fans, and a presence on Facebook. But I have yet to learn to tweet, and I’m not sure how I’d fit those 140 characters into the rhythm of my day! Neither do I have my own blog, but through the great kindness of friends I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to make many guest appearances.
What are some things from your life or things you have observed that you've infused into your stories?
As writers, I believe a little of everything we learn and observe eventually gets woven into our tales. I suspect a writer’s best, unheralded talent is being able to glean and process details about every person s/he meets, every circumstance through which we or those around us live, and the accompanying emotions. We distill it all, sometimes without conscious knowledge, recycle it in the very best sense, and then mine it for gold on the page. How can it be otherwise? A person can only give from his or her personal store.
In my stories you will see the loyalty I value in those who are part of my life, the compassion I learned from my mother, the humor that lights my days and the persistence that has brought me to the place I am today. My love of beauty is there also – and my deep, personal belief in magic.
If you had an unlimited budget, where would you like to visit for story-related research?
Unlimited funds, huh? Ooh, what a tempting idea! There are several places in the world I’d love to visit and linger. First I think I’d spend a year in a cottage in the Western Highlands of Scotland, somewhere between Oban and Kintyre. From there I’d move down to a second location in North Wales before spending a month or so in the Yorkshire Dales and at least six months in Sherwood Forest. From there I’d move on to Ireland and island hop around the Hebrides before heading off for Scandinavia. From this wealth of experience, I could write an endless saga of my ancestors, fictionalized, of course!
Any fun facts about the research for your book?
It truly was fun researching The Guardians of Sherwood Trilogy. Many people know a great deal about Robin Hood so I wanted to uncover some things that weren’t yet understood, dig deeper and reveal a Sherwood Forest that had never before been described. I discovered the Sherwood Forest of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries was actually much larger than we imagine, a vast trackless expanse of trees where the Sheriff of Nottingham’s men feared to tread, a remainder of the ancient forests that in prehistoric times covered Britain and Ireland. A perfect setting, I decided, for the limitless magic I wanted to set there.
Finally, tell us a little about your newest release!
Although Champion of Sherwood is Book Two of The Guardians of Sherwood Trilogy, that doesn’t mean it can’t be read and enjoyed on its own. Even if a reader hasn’t yet experienced the world I’ve created for Robin Hood’s descendants, this tale will stand alone and draw her deeply into Sherwood. Each book is a complete story, and each tells of a love that surpasses time.
I try to let my readers experience the past into which I invite them: they will smell the wood smoke in the air of a village on the outskirts of Sherwood, hear the sharp clang of swords during a battle and feel the magical light that sifts down through the greenwood. They will suffer loss and uncertainty along with my characters and I hope that by the time the story is told they may just believe in the kind of love that lingers in the hearts of those who believe in it, and can’t be destroyed.
Laura will be awarding a $25 Gift Certificate to The Wild Rose Press to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour, and one luxury box of chocolates (US ONLY) to a randomly drawn host.
When Gareth de Vavasour, nephew of the Sheriff of Nottingham, is captured by the outlaws of Sherwood Forest and held for ransom, he knows he will be fortunate to escape with his life. Amid the magic and danger that surround him, he soon realizes his true peril lies in the beautiful dark eyes of Linnet, the Saxon healer sent to tend his wounds.
Granddaughter of Robin Hood, Linnet has always known she is destined to become a guardian of Sherwood Forest, along with her sister and a close childhood companion. She believes her life well settled until the arrival of Gareth. Then all her loyalties are tested even as her heart is forced to choose between love and the ties of duty, while Sherwood declares its own champion.
He spun once more. A man stood behind him, wreathed in white mist pure as the moonlight. Gareth reached for a weapon he no longer wore.
"Peace," the man said.
"Who are you? How come you here?"
"I am the spirit of this place. Some call me the Green Man. Others call me Robin Hood."
"Robin Hood is long dead." Gareth had heard the tales. Who had not?
"Aye, long dead," the man agreed, "as are many here. This is our bastion, our refuge, a place of faith and strength."
"What do you want with me?" Surely, and surely, he was back asleep on his tether, and dreaming.
"Nay, lad, you are not dreaming."
"Can you hear my thoughts?" What madness was this?
"I ask of you, young man, only one thing, one boon, one favor if you would survive this night."
"Of course I will survive. This is but darkness, and trees, and moonlight."
The man waved one of his hands. A creature appeared beside him, a pure white wolf with its hackles raised. Another subtle movement and he stood flanked on the other side by a great, white hart, its sides streaming mist. The trees overhead tossed their branches and Gareth felt the power gather, sharp and vital, around this being who faced him.
Fear such as he had never known – not even when awaiting the arrival of his father with the strap – engulfed him. He said, "What do you seek of me? What boon, what bidding?"
"I ask of you but one promise, that you should follow what is in your heart." He smiled again. "Does not a true champion, always follow his heart?"