This very talented author let me pick her brain a bit regarding her sexy hero Bran, along with his story in the full length novel edition of the Immortals of Annwyn - VELVET HAVEN.
Available in stores now, this dark and erotic paranormal romance stole my reader heart and you can read my review of VELVET HAVEN HERE.
Sophie is also generously giving away a copy of VELVET HAVEN to one lucky commenter. Please see the end of the interview for contest details. Good Luck!
In today's paranormal romance market, coming up with an original world or putting a refreshing spin on a familiar myth, is becoming increasingly difficult. However, Annwyn and her inhabitants are extremely unique. How did you approach the development of the world in VELVET HAVEN knowing this about today's market? Was the idea of sidhe heroes and heroines something you set out to write deliberately or was it a lucky happenstance?
When my editor turned down Trey’s book (I know...booo! :) we discussed options. One of them was that the publisher was looking for an erotic shape shifter series. I immediately balked at it. I had ZERO ideas how to bring in a unique vampire or werewolf to the mix, so I told her I would think on it. And I did think, racking my brain for ideas. I already knew that I wanted to write something related in the fairy genre for Harlequin Spice. All the Celtic mythology research that I was doing for the Celtic Spice anthologies had opened a creative font for me and I was very eager to explore my historical Dark Fey Court.
So, I began mulling over ideas, thinking of things that interested me about the Celts, but that wouldn’t be overlapping for the faeries that I was doing for Spice.
And then it hit me, to combine the Druid aspect of the Celtic culture, and draw on inspiration for Avalon, and the religious aspects of the Celts. That’s when I researched Annwyn, and the kind of animals they revered. I learned about Druidism and the Dark Arts that at once drew them yet terrified them. The Sidhe, I used because I have always had an absorption with them. I made the Sidhe in Velvet Haven, and Annwyn, totally different from the Fey in the Sins and Virtues series, exploring different facets of Fairy folklore to make each series completely different. I knew the Sidhe of Annwyn would need to be more than just fairies. I wanted them magical, but I also wanted them to actually practice Druidism. To have a faith, and beliefs.
When I pitched the idea verbally to my editor, I told her I was going for a dark and sexy, Celt-Druid kind of vibe, with Wyverns, Gargoyles and Goddesses—and Sidhe. She loved the idea, and the first book sold on two paragraphs!
In VELVET HAVEN, not only are you creating this new and exciting world of Annwyn, you're also running this fictional world parallel to a familiar - potentially controversial - realm of Christianity. Writing about such a prevalent religion in paranormal romance can be a scary topic. Why did you decide to incorporate the God of Christianity into your Immortals of Annwynn series? Was there any hesitancy with regards to reader reactions?
What a fabulous question! In a word, religion fascinates me. The bible is filled with beautiful descriptions, with stories of love, faith, devotion, over-coming obstacles. But it can also be a terrifying read. It’s this dichotomy that intrigues me. I was raised Presbyterian—pretty strict, too! As I’ve grown up, I’ve retained my faith, but have also become very spiritual as well. It’s this meshing that made me desirous to combine both thoughts in Velvet Haven.
The early pagans had religion—it was spiritual. They worshipped the stars, moon, sun, elements, trees. And then Christianity came and incorporated many Pagan beliefs and festivals into the Christian calendar. So, to me, I couldn’t not incorporate Christianity into the series. I chose Christianity because I understand it. I know it. I didn’t want to work with other religions for fear of misrepresenting it. I have no wish to offend anyone. Christian or otherwise. I only wanted to present parallels in Celtic religion and those that were presented in the bible. I wanted to bring those doctrines forth to show the mortals, and the immortals, that they’re really not all that different. There is Heaven and Hell, and Purgatory in Christianity, and there is The Summerlands, The Shadowlands, and The Wastelands in Celtic folklore, that mirror the three realms in Christianity. So, they really do parallel each other quite nicely.
At first I had thoughts of ‘uh oh, how is this gonna work’. I was pretty certain that my editor was not of Christian faith—going solely on last names. But that’s not something you come out and ask! So, I was worried on her take. But she came back loving everything about it, and I felt okay with it. We did discuss briefly, reader reaction, and in the end, we decided to go with it, thinking that there really wasn’t a huge religious overtone that overshadowed the Celtic feel of Annwyn.
I’m not planning on getting preachy or really delving into religion as the series progresses, but there will be some mergence of sin and beliefs in life after death etc... To me, that’s pretty much universal doctrine across all religions whether based more on spirituality or a specific deity.
I have had a few reviewers say that the religious parallels were thought provoking and interesting. No back lash, yet!
Sidhe, in general, aren’t your typical paranormal character. Can you describe in more detail who and what they are?
In general, the Sidhe are fairies. Like I mentioned earlier, I decided to explore a jyhthygrfdvc different facet of Fey folklore with this series. I discovered an anecdote in one of my Celtic mythology books about an ancient race called Fomorians that many people believed became the Fey. They were giants, and fierce warriors as well.
Because I was such a huge fan of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, and I wanted some big hunky type heroes, I decided to go with this image. So, the Sidhe are a group of Fey that are fierce warriors—their weapons, ancient magic. They’re tall, powerful, merciless when required. They’re secretitive, and don’t really mix well with the other inhabitants of Annwyn. They tend to keep to themselves.
I made Bran a Night Sidhe because they’re the fiercest of the Sidhe. They’re like mercenaries for hire. But I didn’t want to be ripping off JR Ward’s brotherhood, so I made the Night Sidhe mine in a way. I made them old, with an ancient religion and rules they must play by. Their language is more sedate, rooted in the old world, as opposed to modern slang, which played well into my strengths as a historical writer.
Bran, he's an incredibly dark and tortured hero. I know that you've mentioned that he was difficult to write at times and I did notice that he not much of talker unless he's in the bedroom. And can I say YOWZAA, that man had a mouth on him then! *blushing* He had me squirming on my couch more than once. Can you describe who Bran is to you? Was his darkness something you sought for in his character or did he pour out onto the pages that way? And why does he shapeshift into the Raven? What appealed to about this type of animal?
Bran....ACK! He was a bugger to write sometimes. I threw out about two copies of the first three chapters because he wasn’t working—for either me or my editor.
By far he’s been the most difficult hero I’ve ever written. When I write, I can hear the characters in my head. The men all chatter along in my mind, but Bran, he never talked to me. Never surfaced. I really had no idea who he was when I sat down to write him. I knew what he was, what his role in Annwyn and the book was, but who he was....total mystery.
So, I did something I do a lot when starting a book. A stream of conscious writing. This exercise is basically when I sit down, and say, ‘right, I’m going to type whatever comes into my mind’. I did that, that exercise is now the opening of Velvet Haven, with Bran in his sacred grove, practicing his magic, and religion. It’s where I heard him first—a mixture of modern man, and ancient Fey.
When I sent this to my editor, she knew I had found him. He sounds a bit historical, and I couldn’t write him any other way.
He doesn’t talk much. He never did in my mind, so I decided that it was him. How he was meant to be. I put it down to the fact that he’s a king. He doesn’t really have friends—just allies. He would naturally keep to himself, therefore his social skills wouldn’t be all that hot! So, I guess the round about answer to your question is, he poured onto the page that way, all dark and brooding!
As for his raven form, the raven was the symbol of the Otherworld. There’s much known about the animals the Celts worshipped. The raven, the Celt’s believed, was the ruler of the Otherworld, and the Gaelic meaning of the name Bran is Raven.
So, I used that link to create him.
I loved Mairi and that's not something I often say about a heroine. Her prickly nature combined with her unshakable loyalty really had me bonding to her. Also, her overall necessity to Bran and Annwyn was beautifully choreographed making her originality something that others will be hard-pressed to top in my opinion. How was she different from Bran writing wise? Without giving away her amazing gift, can you say whether or not it was an idea you had been harboring for a long time or was it something that was just as surprising to you as it was to me?
Well, thanks for loving Mairi! Heroines are not my strong suit! Sometimes I really struggle with them, to make them identifiable. But Mairi was a dream to write. Where Bran was closed off, Mairi was just so honest and open. Mairi chatted away, so much so, that I had to cut some of what she said, to make way for plot points!
As for her gift, I knew it all along. My editor when I told her, was immediately intrigued, but a little worried how I was going to pull it off for the reader, once she read the importance of Suriel in Mairi’s life. She thought it was going to really confuse the reader, but somehow, I managed to pull it off!
For me, I love how Bran and Mairi, mortal and immortal, male and female, are completely integral to the other’s existence. It goes beyond love and sexuality. I’m really pleased with how it turned out, and I will say, that I’m tickled no one has come up with it—at least not that I know.
In addition to being Sophie Renwick, paranormal author extraordinaire, you also write erotic historicals as Charlotte Featherstone. Out of your entire combined backlist, which book represents you the most as a writer and why?
LOL! Well thanks for that!
Man, this is hard a hard a question to answer. I suppose the historicals are more me as a writer. I have been blessed with an editor who gets my writing, my style, my use of language for historicals. When you peel back the layers of me, I think you’ll find hidden there, what I put out in my historicals.
That said, the Sophie voice has not been easy to find. My editor for Sophie likes a more clean, stream lined voice, and readers will laugh at this, because that is the total opposite to Charlotte. So, finding the right nuances for Sophie hasn’t been as easy. I always worry that readers who like Charlotte, won’t like Sophie and vice versa. But I’m trying to find that happy medium between contemporary and historical for Sophie. I think, probably where you’ll see some of Charlotte reflected in Sophie’s voice, are the love scene.
As far as backlist goes, I think I’m going to have to cop out and say both Addicted, and Sinful, from Charlotte. There is an incredible amount of introspection in those books, which really is me as a person, and a writer. I suppose I am most proud of those books because I dared to look deep into human behaviour and write about it—warts and all. Neither of those books was easy to write. But as a writer, they’re the ones I’m most proud of—maybe because they were so difficult to write and perhaps, some of the underlying human weakness I share with my characters.
If you could only choose one heroine from all your written titles as your best friend, who would it be and why?
Two heroines came to mind, and I suppose it’s because they were basically written side by side. They are Jane, from Sinful, and Mairi from Velvet Haven. I suppose, if I had to pick, it would be Mairi. I could see me sitting around with her in her apartment, chatting and laughing. She’s prickly, but then, so am I. There are a few facets of her personality that mirror mine, but in all, she is a different person from me, but not so different that we wouldn’t be friends, have a beer, and check out hot guys!
Jane on the other hand, is the heroine who is most like me.
Cailleach, co-ruler of Annwyn with Bran, is a mystery and not only to the reader but to Bran as well. Why does Annwyn need a goddess co-ruler? What was the inspiration for that? Also, she and Bran have a pretty volatile relationship; will that improve now that Bran has Mairi?
Cailleach is a mysterious figure. I like her. She’s a very strong woman. She’s a goddess, and Annwyn, which is based on the Otherworld, and Avalon was traditionally presided over by a Druid Priestess. They taught the ways of the Mother Goddess to females. The world grows and evolves through them and their fertility and magic. So, I definitely wanted that strong feminine figure in Annwyn. But Goddesses divine power through nature, and inner strength. She’s very magical, but she needs a strong, warrior type consort. So, that’s how Bran, and the Sidhe came into play. It’s a symbolic marriage of two races, one ancient and ethereal, and the other dark, powerful, and strong.
I like that the goddess need someone, and that it is a man. I like the imagery it evokes, and of course, the nuances of sexuality it. An ethereal female, with a strong male protector.
As to whether Cailleach and Bran will ever soften to one another. I’ve written the opening for book two of the series, and interestingly it begins with Bran at the Goddess Temple, giving Cailleach the names of his nine warriors. They still seem stiff and unyielding with each other. But Mairi will be a calming influence on Bran, but I still don’t see him softening too much to Cailleach. I think the only person he can truly open up with is Mairi.
In book two, readers will learn much more about Cailleach, and who she is on the inside. She is, of course, not everything she appears to be, like so many in the book, and in Annwyn. We’ll also learn more about Annwyn, and the order of the Goddesses. As well, we’ll learn a bit about the goddesses weaknesses...fallen angels, for one! :0
What's up next for the Immortals of Annwyn? Can you give us some juicy gossip on who the hero and heroine will be as well as their story?
Definitely more time in Annwyn, and learning about the Goddesses. The prophecy will evolve, and the quest for the amulet and flame will be going full force. As well, something sad is going to happen. I’ve already written that scene!
The hero is Rhys, Bran’s mortal nephew who runs the Velvet Haven club. His heroine is a goddess amongst other things. We’ll learn more of Keir, Rhys’ Shadow Wraith, and more about Rowan and who she really is.
And of course, the Soul Stealer, and that mysterious Destroyer will be begin to take shape. I’m expecting book 2 to be a bit more dark, with more scenes of the actual Black Magic being conducted. As well, Rhys, and his heroine, Bronwnn are going to be combustible. I’ve already written TWO scenes for them, and Rhys stole my heart in one. ;)
Me and my blogger friends have a love for what we affectionately call "Hussy Reading Material". Do you have any romance authors that you prefer when or if you're in need of erotic romance reading material?
Argh! There are so many good authors out there, and my reading time has been greatly cut back! But I love, love, Joey Hill, and Shayla Black. Lisa Kleypas, although not erotic, can make me sigh with her excellent dialogue and sexy heroes. JR Ward. Rhage...his book always works for me to get the inner hussy purring! But then, who doesn’t love the brothers?!
**Must be 18 or Older to Enter**
***Contest Closes Thursday, March 11th at Midnight U.S. Pacific Standard Time and a Winner will be Chosen Randomly and Announced Friday, March 12th**