Tell me why you wrote THE PRINCE OF VAL-FEYRIDGE.
THE PRINCE OF VAL-FEYRIDGE is the book of my heart. I conceived the storyline and characters the summer before I began college. I’d been reading THE FOUNTAINHEAD, GONE WITH THE WIND, and THE LORD OF THE RINGS. The world was full of turmoil in the Middle East (no change there) and racism in the US (not much change there either). I wanted to tell a story about a broken country and the characters that would stitch it back together again. They would have to overcome class and ethnic divisions to do so.
While thematically that was the premise, the heart of the story was the against-all-odds love that grows between my warrior prince hero and my displaced healer heroine. While everything is stacked against them, what binds them together is honor. They can—and do—trust each other with their lives.
You’re multi-published. Which of your heroes is your favorite and why?
That’s a hard one. I love my heroes, never more than when I’m writing their individual books, but they are very different people.
Prince Arn is a swashbuckler, a charismatic leader of men who puts his life on the line—recklessly, some would say—to single-mindedly pursue the lost Crown and restore the Kingdom. Having survived the assassination of his family at age 12, he loves no one, trusts but a few, and gambles daily to achieve what’s rightfully his.
Durren Drakkonwehr of BLOODSTONE was once a warrior, descendant of a long line of dragon-keepers, but his personal failure has led to his land’s collapse and the curse that makes his life a living hell. He lives in isolation, determined to protect his people from his cursed appearance and too proud to die at the hand of subhuman beings.
Flip sides of the warrior coin, one could say—success versus failure—but both scarred inside and out, with stone walls around their hearts that have to be chipped away by the heroines.
My heroes are two stubborn, prideful men whose emotional journeys are equally satisfying, but I think I had more fun torturing Durren. Still, if I had to choose, I have to go with my ‘firstborn’ Prince Arn because he’s been with me so long.
How do you keep writing when the ideas flow slowly?
Slowly? How about slogging through molasses? Normal speed for me.
One thing that works is having a critique partner who is a prolific writer and keeps expecting me to return the favor. Another thing is simply writing something, even if it seems like crap, because the act of getting words on screen/paper gets the juices flowing. Finally, I sometimes have to start a later scene because the current one isn’t going where I want it to. Then I can go back and fill in the gaps.
Thanks for hosting me, Barbara! It’s a pleasure to visit with a fellow Wild Rose Press author.
THE PRINCE OF VAL-FEYRIDGE
2011 EPIC Winner in Fantasy Romance
A warrior with a destiny, a woman with a gift. Can loving the enemy restore a broken kingdom? Or will forbidden love destroy it—and them—first?
Prince Arn has a destiny—an ancient throne—but he’s not waiting for fate to deliver when he can act now, before his enemies organize against him. The healer Aerid longs for her barely remembered homeland. Marked out by her gift and her foreign looks, she insists she is no witch. The swordsman Naed hopes to honorably defend his uncle’s holding, but he harbors a secret fascination for the exotic healer. Prince Arn’s campaign against Aerid’s homeland throws them into a triangle of forbidden love, betrayal, and heartbreak. Only when they realize love is blood-kin to friendship, and neither is possible without risk, can they forge a new alliance and restore a kingdom.
The Prince’s arm tightened, drawing her hard against the planes of his chest.
Aerid sucked in breath, digging her fingers once more into his tunic sleeve. Every movement reminded her, perched sideways as she was on the saddle pommel, all that kept her out of the water and away from trampling hooves was the strength of his arm—and that arm was trembling. Not with the fear still rattling through her, for he was Tolemak and a warrior. Nor with weakness, though the wound she had stitched a scant seven-night before could yet give him cause.
No, in that moment when he had recognized her—in that awful moment after the shock—she’d seen all too clearly the fury vibrating through him now. And the knowledge that it had not abated even a whit made her flinch when he bent and his voice lashed at her ear.
“Tell me, witch, and tell me true—does Krenin know who you are?”
The question itself startled Aerid, not its harshness, for she had expected that. Twisting her head, she caught a glimpse of eyes like coals in a face dark and set.
“I mean,” he said, each word measured and knifesharp, “either who you are or who you pretend to be.”
She flushed, knowing full well what he meant. “I—I think not, m’lord. ‘Twas dark and—”
“Then you’ll do nothing to enlighten him. Hear?”
She heard him clearly despite the water-song and hoof splashes she was sure prevented their voices from carrying to Krenin. She understood, too, what underlay his warning. He wanted no one to know that he, the exalted and invincible Prince of Val-Feyridge, had been tricked—trapped—into sparing the life of an Adanak—and a woman!—only to cover the fact he and all his army had been duped into believing—for weeks!—that she was a boy, and a D’nalian. Oh, he had chosen well the moment for his question, Aerid thought, a rush of indignation beating back her shivers.
“Aye, m’lord, ‘tis safe with me, your secret.”
Helen C. Johannes lives in the Midwest with her husband and grown children. Growing up, she read fairy tales, Tolkien, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Agatha Christie, Shakespeare, and Ayn Rand, an unusual mix that undoubtedly explains why the themes, characters, and locales in her writing play out in tales of love and adventure.
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