Today it’s my privilege to hand over my blog to Kay Berrisiford, whose erotic historical fantasies interweaving of Saxon and Celtic legend with a thread of BDSM have been wowing her readers.
And there’s a new one out SOON!
Writing the Greenwood through history – why it’s so much more fun backward!
This month sees the release of Lord of the Forest, the third installation in my “Greenwood” stories, a series of m/m romances set in a mythical English forest, vaguely based on the New Forest, near where I live in Hampshire. Lord of the Forest is set in 1217, so I’m getting medieval, with a good sprinkling of myth-based magic and fantasy thrown in. As any of you who’ve followed the previous two books will realize, I’m also traveling backward in time—again. The first published book in the series, Bound for the Forest, was set in 1817. The events of the second, Bound to the Beast, took place in 1588, with its prologue located in 43 CE.
Although I didn’t plan things this way from the start, I decided early on— when writing Bound for the Forest— that I wanted to explore backward through time. The premise of the first book was that pre-Christian pagan religion had its roots in real magic and spirits, and that belief in these survived as late as the nineteenth century in the depths of the English Greenwood. Many of the ideas were derived from archaeological evidence of Iron Age religion (the Iron Age was roughly the first thousand years BCE.) For example, the method of sacrifice that one of the heroes, Scarlet, fears—death three times of by poisoning, cutting, and suffocation—was inspired by evidence from real human sacrifices. I also intended to integrate Romano-British and Celtic Gods. The water goddess Sulis, who plays a prominent role in Bound to the Beast and Lord of the Forest, was originally in Bound for the Forest too, but her scene was quite rightly cut for pace.
The truth was, if I had been allowed to unleash everything I wanted to create, explain, and explore about my Greenwood world in Bound for the Forest, no m/m romance publisher would have touched me with the proverbial bargepole. I kept in all the world-building I could, while still keeping the focus on romance and plot, and realized that if I was going to do justice to the Greenwood universe, I would have to write the backstory some other way. Fortunately, it’s always been my instinct to write/make up histories. I’ve studied history for a period approaching the length of an ice age, and many years ago wrote a set of books and timelines for my Sylvanian Families that traced their history back to Muddy the Great, the, er, mole equivalent of Alfred the Great. I was a strange child.
The decision to make Herne the Hunter the hero of the second novel also naturally pushed me back in time. (Herne’s cameo in Bound for the Forest, unlike Sulis, survived the cutting room). Though I chose an Elizabethan setting for Bound to the Beast, Herne would have had his origins in a much earlier period, and I chose to make him a leader of one of the southern English tribes around the time of Roman colonization. The plot of Bound to the Beast also gave me an excuse to paint more of the religious backdrop: Herne is gifted his crown of antlers and immortality by the spirits, including Sulis and Taranis the Thunder God.
Herne, of course, brought his own baggage of myth and legend, which I had fun integrating. Robin Hood, the hero of Lord of the Forest, brought with him even more (which I will be blogging extensively about elsewhere on my release tour.) Robin’s presence pinned the third book nicely backward in time into the medieval period. I chose 1217, because this was the year of the Charter of the Forest (Carta de Foresta), a kind of Magna Carta of the forest, which on the surface undid some of the more extreme abuses of the strict laws against hunting and foraging introduced after the Norman Conquest. In my parallel Greenwood world, Robin joins forces with Herne and the fairies to fight the evil barons, who’re hoping to turn the Charter to their own ends—and setting the book then also gave me an excuse to expand yet more on my worldbuilding. The hero of Bound for the Forest was Melmoth Brien, who is the last in a long line of “protectors” of the Greenwood, and who has magic powers gifted to him by the sky gods. In Lord of the Forest, I am able to explain exactly how this magic came about, who his ancestors were, and how they fit in with the rest of the Greenwood crew (Herne, Robin et al.) But I better not say any more about that, because I’ll give away the plot!
I’m undecided as to whether there’ll be another full-length Greenwood novel (There will definitely be another novella. Locking Horns, a sequel to Bound to the Beast and a prequel to Bound for the Forest, is set in 1804 and featured characters from both—Herne and his lover Tam are conveniently immortal! Locking Horns is due out later this spring.) However, if there is a fourth novel, I’m going to be plunging back ever further into the mists, setting it in the early Iron Age, and explaining how the spirits bound to the Greenwood came to be there in the first place (yes, all that stuff about Holgaerst and Niogaerst.) That said, I also have an idea for a novella set in the Greenwood during World War Two. I can go forward in time as well, honest.
So there it is. I just love writing the history too much to not keep going backward. It also means, conveniently, that the books can be read in any order. However, from another perspective, the books are moving forward in publication order. Bound for the Forest, Bound to the Beast, and Lord of the Forest, are set in spring, summer, and autumn respectively. The fourth installation, if it ever exists, will be the winter book. To be brutally honest, I’m not sure what the symbolism of this progress through the nature and the seasons is. Nevertheless, I’m sure the Mother Goddess of the Earth, who presides over my Greenwood universe, would thoroughly approve.
Thanks so much to Elin for letting my blog here today!
Lord of the Forest
Robin’s band of brothers is broken. Now a lone warrior, he denies his famous name and laments the friends and lovers he’s lost. When the fair folk capture Cal, a beautiful young forester descended from the Greenwood’s ancient protectors, Robin rescues him and forges a new alliance.
Despite a sizzling attraction, Robin senses Cal isn’t like his old comrades, and he’s right. Cal’s been raised as a royal spy. He plans to seduce and betray Robin, but can’t harm the man he’s falling hard for. Mistrust and arguments spill into passionate lovemaking, as Cal learns the meaning of loyalty, fighting beside Robin, the only friend he’s ever known. Even the enchanted forest seeks to bind Robin and the returned protector ever tighter.
Their connection will be tested by nature’s wildest forces, Robin’s past, Cal’s lies, and in a baron’s darkest dungeon. To survive, Robin and Cal must admit their love and embrace their true destinies. Only then can they save England and each other—and win their happiness ever after.
Lord of the Forest (The Greenwood) will be published by Loose Id in early April. The first two Greenwood novels (Bound for the Forest and Bound to the Beast) are out now, and the series can be read in any order.
THE LORD OF THE FOREST BLOG TOUR DRAW!
If you’d like a chance to WIN your choice any of the current Greenwood novels, Bound for the Forest or Bound to the Beast, in your choice of paperback or ebook—PLUS a $20 Loose Id or All Romance voucher—all you need to do is leave a comment here, including your email (please spell this out e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org would be katy at yahoo dot com.) You can enter the draw as many times as you like at the different blogs I visit on my Lord of the Forest blog tour (for schedule visit http://kayberrisford.com). Two runners up prizes will be a choice of any of my back catalogue titles, excluding Lord of the Forest.
Comp closes midnight EST, 12th April.