One thing which always interests me is — Where do authors get their ideas from and how does that initial idea become a fully-fledged story?
When you are an author, it is self-explanatory as normally you have too many ideas screaming for attention. But if you are reader or someone who wants to write, it can be hard to fathom because often you start with an idea and it peters out.Some of learning to be an author meant I also had to learn to be disciplined enough to finish a story before I started the next one.
So here is a little background of how I came to write Sent as the Viking’s Bride in case it helps someone.
A few years ago on a beach on Islay Scotland this image of a Viking woman who had just arrived on the island and who happened to see a handsome and forbidden Celtic warrior riding away from the Viking stronghold popped into my head. I knew the woman had arrived expecting to marry the commander of the fort but he had fallen for another and was married. It sounded like an idea which had potential as ideas often do when you are on holiday and not thinking about the practicalities of plot, conflict etc. There was just this striking image which seemed to have this great story behind it.
When I returned home and started drafting it out, I realised that perhaps the better place to start would be with the Viking commander who falls for a Celtic woman and then to write the next story with the heroine who had travelled across the sea to marry him. Because basically letting the chance for a good narrative action go to waste is not really a good idea, Iduly wrote Sold to the Viking Warrior and I set up who the next hero was, giving him a significant part. All well and good.
Then I started on what I thought the Mail Order Bride one would be – the one which would finally do justice to that image. However, my characters decided they didn’t want it this way. I tried several different openings and they didn’t work. Finally, I gave in as my heroine decided she was determined to be a Viking warrior and would never consent to being shipped off to marry someone sight unseen. My hero agree that this was the sort of woman for him and I had already set him up as my next hero (he whispered). I wrote an entirely different story with the Celtic warrior hero and his Viking warrior heroine. This became The Warrior’s Viking Bride.
After that was finished, I was moaning to my daughter that I really wanted to write a Viking Mail Order Bride that went wrong as I happen to love the trope and thought it could work in a Viking setting. She basically told me to stop moaning and write it as she thought it would be awesome. This time I made it simple and concentrated on the reasons why a woman might want to travel across the sea and what would happen if things didn’t turn out as she had planned. In other words, thinking about the heroine before I crafted the hero. Because I had already the earlier two, I knew I wanted to return to approximately the same location and so was able to use the Inner Hebridean island of Jura as the location. I also had promised my editor that one day I would use some of the Viking Jul traditions to craft a story. As I looked into the traditions, I thought yes I could do both – have a Mail Order Bride gone wrong story and examining Viking Jul traditions. As I looked at Jul traditions, I discovered the concept of the Wild Hunt and thought what if the heroine had lost her home through an attack and had to leave Norway and what if she was trying to save someone else. But to make matters worse what if the hero didn’t know she was coming and had his own feelings of guilt about how his family died around Jul.
Once I was there, I suddenly knew I had a story I could work with and two characters who would cooperate. I was able to write it and it became Sent as The Viking’s Bride.
So sometimes for me, I start with one idea and it morphs into something else entirely. It is about being open to the possibilities and asking why or how. I also find that when I am writing, I have to avoid the siren call of other ideas which my mind tells me would be easier to write because this can be a way of avoiding the hard graft of writing.
Ragnhild and her sister have arrived on Gunnar Olafson’s lands, only to discover that the Northman has no wish for a bride, particularly not one like Ragn. Desperate to avoid being returned to the North and a certain death, Ragn has managed to convince him that she should act as his housekeeper until he returns with his chosen bride.
She held out her hand. ‘Done.’
‘Done.’ His fingers curled about hers, strong and safe. The warm liquefying of her insides that she’d had when she returned the amulet increased. Her breath left her with a gasp. She stumbled forward. His mouth loomed large over hers and his arms came about her.
She rapidly pushed against him before her bones completely melted into him, before she begged him to kiss her and make her feel desirable. Before she made a fool of herself. ‘We agreed—marriage between us will not happen.’
Her voice was far too breathless for her liking.
His arms fell to his side and the cool air rushed between them. ‘Is there harm in sharing a kiss? I have shared many pleasurable kisses and remain unmarried.’
Ragn schooled her features. Hamthur’s taunts about her passion-killing abilities reverberated in her brain. ‘I know where such things can lead, particularly in the night. I refuse to jeopardise our agreement by adding coupling into it.’
‘Is it Eylir? Are you waiting for him?’ He stroked his chin. ‘Aye, I can understand that. Commendable even, but Eylir is a flighty man, constantly falling in and out of love.’
The lie trembled on her lips. Eylir was pleasant looking, but he was not the sort of man who made her blood run hot.
‘Eylir?’ She rapidly shook her head. ‘No, it is not him.’
His eyes were hooded. ‘Then what is it? A kiss to seal our bargain will not lead anywhere…unless you want it to.’
Ragn tightened her shawl about her shoulders and kept her chin up. ‘I refuse to become a warm body in the night where there is no marriage in the offing. I refuse to play some sort of seduction game with you where I can only lose.’
‘And marriage is the only situation in which you will consider a man in your bed?’ His voice purred, making her knees go weak. ‘You are resolved to make a stand?’
Ragn hastily backed up and her cheeks became hot. In her mind she repeated the reasons why starting anything with this man would be a mistake. ‘I have my principles to keep me warm.’
He made a bow. ‘I will abide by your principles…until you change your mind.’
‘Do women often change their mind about inhabiting your bed?’
‘I’ve never noticed a shortage in past.’ He gave a husky laugh. ‘Eylir claimed bed-sport is the only use I have for women.’
Ragn lifted her chin and met his dancing eyes, eyes she happily drowned in. ‘I look forward to demonstrating to you that women have a use beyond the bedchamber.’
Gunnar raised her hand to his lips. The hot pulse which travelled up her arm gave a lie to her words of not being attracted to him. ‘I always enjoy discovering new ideas.’
Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance in a wide range of time periods.
Her next novel Sent as the Viking’s Bride will be published 18 December 2018
Facebook page: @MichelleStylesromanceauthor