It’s Wizards with Words time! Today, I’m super excited to welcome my Lyrical Press sister, Laura Lee Nutt. Her debut novel RED AND THE WOLF, a fantasy romance, was released yesterday. Yesterday! How cool is that?
In celebration, Laura is doing a week-long giveaway. You’ll find all the details at the end of this post, but first settle in and help me welcome Laura.
Laura, please share a little bit about yourself and when you first became interested in writing.
Mae, thank you so much for having me today. Honestly, I’ve loved telling stories since I can remember, but I really started writing them down in second grade. I would staple paper into little books and write, rather illegibly I must confess, and illustrate them, usually with horses. I wrote so much in fact that my second grade teacher selected me as her student to meet Mary Brooke Casad, author of the Bluebonnet the Armadillo books. That was an awesome day, and not just because I got to miss school. Since, writing has become as much a part of my life as walking. Storytelling has become a part of my soul.
That’s about the time I started writing too. And strangely enough I wrote about horses–and dogs, LOL. Your new release, RED AND THE WOLF, puts a new spin on the classic fairy-tale, Little Red Riding Hood. I love your tag line—“They said Little Red Riding Hood lived happily ever after. They lied.” How did you come up with the idea for the novel?
I’m glad you like the tag. I’m always a bit paranoid that people won’t like it. Anyway, I honestly don’t recall what my initial inspiration for the book was. I was sick for about two weeks and needed something to distract myself from how awful I felt, so I threw myself into writing the first draft of RED AND THE WOLF. I recall thinking how strange it was that Little Red Riding Hood could be so content and cheerful after getting swallowed by a wolf. It made no sense to me, so I started theorizing what might have happened had the fairy tale gone a more realistic route, at least as far as Red’s reactions were concerned. Then, since I love romance and werewolves, I wove those inextricably into the tale.
I have a particular passion for romance and werewolves. I’m going to love this book! Tell us about your characters and what motivates them in the story.
Heinrich Jaeger is the hero and huntsman of the original tale. He is also a werewolf; though, he would never confess that to the villagers he protects. Even werewolves can’t survive getting burned at the stake or beheaded. Six years ago during a territory dispute with another werewolf, Blanchette and her grandmother got caught up unwittingly as pawns. Heinrich arrived in time to save them but not in time to prevent the mental and emotional trauma Blanchette suffered. Since, he humbly takes on the duty to watch over Blanchette and her family, no matter how it hurts that Blanchete always shies away. Her fear of all things outside her house is his fault, or so he believes. She has grown into a lovely young woman, one he would dearly love to set free.
Blanchette Krautbrauer still frequently relives the wolf attack six years ago. She almost lost her beloved grandmother and her own life. Since, she dares do nothing to endanger either of them, especially step foot outside her home. Heinrich is the only one outside her family that she trusts. But when a stranger comes to the village to destroy any dangerous elements left over from the old folk tale and targets Heinrich, Blanchette finds that staying hidden isn’t always the best course, especially when the life of someone she loves is at stake. In this story, she has to choose between safety and love, and the two conflicting motivations compel her to do some very brave things by the end.
Lothar is a nix, a freshwater German-style merman, who Heinrich imprisoned in the lake on the village edge to stop him from eating villagers or dragging them down for twisted entertainments in his watery abode. Since, Lothar has craved vengeance. When Heinrich’s attention slips because of Blanchette, Lothar takes his chance and concocts a plan to destroy them both.
Karl Kaismann has a duty to the Holy Roman Emperor to seek out and destroy all unnatural threats to Germany, mainly those associated with these strange tales of wolves dressing in women’s clothes and consuming children. If there is any truth behind the fantasy, he must eliminate it for the greater good. Unfortunately, Blanchette’s sweet disposition and ardent insistence that Heinrich is innocent makes his task much more difficult. When only Lothar will give him facts, what is he to do but act on them?
Wonderful Intricacies! I always loved fairy tales as a child and began reading fantasy as a teen. Having the fantasy/romance genre explode on the scene has been wonderful. What originally attracted you to the genre?
I actually started writing the genre before I began reading it. Well, I had read a couple books with paranormal and romance elements, but I wasn’t serious about digging in then. Mainly, my fantasy and romance were already blending in my own stories because I love both so much. Then I met Jessi Gage, who became my critique partner. We were both on the Write_Workshop chat on Yahoo Groups for a pitch class. Her pitch so intrigued me that I private messaged her about it. It had wolfmen and romance and a whole world at stake. That was the first book of Jessi’s I critiqued, but it showed me how beautifully the two genres could meld. Since, I’ve taken a particular fascination with urban fantasy, which is often like the fantasy heavy side of fantasy romance, and paranormal romance, which tips the scales more toward the romance end. I look back now at some of my earlier stories and realize that I’ve always included a strong romantic thread in my fantasy. I just didn’t know then that there were subgenres to support it.
Do you have a favorite scene in the novel?
Hmm, that’s a tough one. Off the top of my head, I would have to say that it’s probably the scene right after the first love scene where everything starts to really come to a head between Heinrich, Blanchette, and Karl. The emotions, conflict, courage, vulnerability, and everything in that scene I loved writing so much. It’s especially fun when the characters really start acting from their deepest desires.
What is the biggest hurdle you’ve encountered on your path to becoming a published author and how did you overcome it?
For the longest time growing up, I could never finish a story. I would either keep writing on and on and on until I finally realized I wasn’t going to get to the end, if one even existed, or I would get distracted with writing another story. It took me taking a creative writing class in college where I had a deadline for turning in a finished story. The pressure to get a good grade and an outside force insisting I finish made it possible. Then, once I knew I could finish a story, it became much easier to do it in the future. Learning good plot structure later on made finishing even easier and gave me better results.
Which do you find the most difficult to write – - beginning, middle or end?
Beginnings. Definitely beginnings. I find I cannot write a decent middle or end I’m willing to admit has any potential unless I feel my beginning is strong and that I have a good sense for my characters and story. My first five or so chapters always undergo two to three times the number of edits as the rest of the book.
Name three books you’ve read over and over again. If you don’t reread books (I can’t imagine!), name three books that have made a strong impression on you.
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, my favorite of all time.
Shadow of the Fox by Ellen Steiber. I used to read this to my brother as a kid. Spooky, romantic, and very cool.
Most of the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. I’ve actually read the whole series, but I haven’t read book seven more than once yet.
Some random facts for readers to get to know you better:
Favorite time of day to write: Night, especially with a good moon.
Favorite color: I don’t have one. I can never make up my mind between red, forest green, or blue.
Favorite holiday: Do I have to pick only one? Let’s go with 4th of July. It has less commercialism, fireworks, doesn’t stretch the pocketbook, and I do love my country.
Sunset picnic or candlelight dinner: Candlelight dinner. Picnics attract bugs that totally ruin the mood for me. Ick!
Seaside or mountains: Mountains, especially up through Oregon, Washington, Utah, Idaho, and Montana. Gorgeous.
Favorite board game: I’m not allowed to play board games very often. My husband says I’m a sore loser, which I am. If I don’t win, I get grumpy and take it way too hard. If I do win, I feel bad about feeling so thoroughly smug about it. So to answer the question more directly, any game I have a good chance of winning.
Favorite fairytale (I have to ask ): Disney’s version of Beauty and the Beast, which is actually quite different from the original tales.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing (or reading)?
Role Play, mainly tabletop roleplaying games. I love the process of creating a character and theatrically playing them out. I enjoy being with a good group where everyone contributes to making an awesome story. For those of you familiar with roleplaying, my favorite games are Changeling: the Dreaming, Dark Ages Werewolf, Fading Suns, Pendragon, and pretty much anything that encourages character based roleplaying.
RED AND THE WOLF is your debut release, but the first in a planned series called Embracing Ever After. Is there a second novel already in the works? If not, do you have another WIP you’d like to share with us before we wrap things up?
Yes, there is a second novel in the works. Currently, it’s titled GRETEL AND HER GHOST. Now grown, Gretel is determined to marry and have a normal life, but nearly getting eaten as a child still haunts her and her brother. Hansel is determined not to lose his little sister and does everything he can to keep her, including driving away all her suitors. When a mysterious man comes to the village begging Gretel’s aid in rescuing more children, she has to make the most difficult decisions of her life, but ones that might ultimately set her free and satisfy her desire for a loving husband.
If all goes according to plan, I hope to have the book to my editor this spring. If she likes it, you’ll see it follow RED AND THE WOLF probably next year. After that, I’ve got partial work done on a Beauty and the Beast and a Sleeping Beauty story.
Six years after the attack at her grandmother’s cottage, Blanchette still hides in her bedroom, unable to hear the wolf’s cry without shivering to her soul. Nor can she scent the pine and spruce rising from the Black Forest surrounding her home without remembering the lunge of a savage beast, the thick aroma of blood, and its tooth pricking her finger. But when Karl, the emperor’s hunter of the fantastic and monstrous, arrives at the village questioning her tale and threatening Heinrich, her huntsman rescuer, Blanchette’s worst fears swarm to the fore. Unless she confronts these fears, embraces her lupine nature, proves her control over her wolf, and accepts the bond of mated love Heinrich offers, Karl will butcher her and Heinrich like the unnatural beasts that they are.
Thick fir and pine scented the cool air, overlaying familiar aromas: animal musk, moss, and the lynx Heinrich skinned. Beneath all, the wind bore sickness’s sour stench.
He lifted his head and inhaled, sifting through flavors on the autumn breeze to define the scent’s origin and character. Northward it drifted, from Ulfheim Village through the woods until it chafed his nostrils, belying the idyllic afternoon’s enfolding shade and lulling birdsong surrounding his cottage.
Instinct pressed a name on his mind: Blanchette, the girl he had saved six years before from his kind’s brutal horrors. He tightened his hold on the skinning knife, ready once more to rush to her defense.
But this scent lacked Blanchette’s fullness and unsoiled maidenhood. Threads of her mingled with it, suggesting she lingered nearby. Only one person smelled so similar yet distinct and remained within Blanchette’s company enough for their scents to blend: Ada Krautbrauer, her grandmother.
He twitched, fighting the impulse to race for the Krautbrauers. To banish recklessness, he shook his head and forced his skinning knife to the forest floor. The beautiful golden lynx lay half finished at his feet. Compared to the urgency lashing his wolf’s mind, it meant nothing. Forgotten.
With a satisfying surge, he shoved up, took two steps, and stopped.
Racing off senseless like an animal might alert suspicion. No decent huntsman arrived at the village panting and purposeless.
He returned to the lynx outspread before his cottage door and retrieved the skinning knife. Survival and protecting his true nature required a strategic approach. The villagers must perceive him as human. His arrival should appear coincidental. Racing off and leaving a partially skinned lynx hardly compared with rational human behavior.
Yet Blanchette had endured anguish enough because of him and his kind. His conscience stabbed him for failing to immediately investigate the scent. What if she needed help?
As he finished the lynx and cleaned up, he disentangled the facts. Blanchette’s grandmother and parents sheltered her well. Though her grandmother could not guard her while ill, Blanchette hardly lacked companionship or assistance. Nevertheless, the slightest wavering in her grandmother’s constitution or countenance sent Blanchette’s precarious disposition reeling. What shattered state must have overcome her already?
Comparatively, what could he offer? A friendly neighbor poking his head in the Krautbrauer apothecary shop for a casual greeting fell woefully short of proper aid. Further, in feigning ignorance and concealing the anxiety the scent stirred within him, his arsenal of comforts, protections, and assurances would whittle to nothing. Even under the best circumstances, Blanchette would probably refuse to make an appearance. Since the incident in her grandmother’s cottage with the other wolf, she avoided the world outside the Krautbrauer residence. Considering all she had suffered and the part Heinrich played in bringing it about, he could not blame her.
While the lynx’s pelt hung to dry, he assembled an excuse, any excuse, to visit the apothecary’s. Firewood was his usual ploy, so he gathered a hefty load of dried logs and hoisted it over one shoulder. He marched toward the village at a forced stroll.
When wet, mossy aromas off the great lake crouching northwest of Ulfheim Village assaulted his nose, he slowed. Along the shore, he prowled and growled toward the dark king who lurked beneath the undulating waters made coppery in the setting sun.
Lothar, the nix he had claimed victory over years before, hissed a defiant spout of water at him. Satisfied, Heinrich turned his back and sauntered down the main path into Ulfheim.
When the world said that life was little but disappointment, struggle, and pain, Laura chose to still dream upon stars. She believes birthday wishes can come true, that good can triumph over evil, honor and true love really exist, and hope and happiness are worth fighting for. When not living vicariously through her fiction, she seeks to encourage others to aspire to such life-affirming ideals.
Laura has been writing since she could pen sentences and making up stories long before that. She first published a poem, “Glass Eyed Inspiration,” about her admiration of Patrick Hough, a man blinded by a bullet to the head but who still fought for success and a positive attitude, a martial artist who inspired those around him. Later, once she decided to embrace her dream of becoming an author, she published “Entomophobia: An Insect Incident” in A Long Story Short and “War Drums Beat” in Sacred Twilight.
In fiction, Laura continues to build worlds, instigate adventures and romances, spark the fires of vengeance and love, and thread in that ever elusive yet essential hope. Her favorite theme to explore in writing is that, even in the darkest hour, the best of what we are can shine through and amidst calamity something good can take root and blossom.
Currently, she lives in Texas with her equally fiction obsessed husband, her rambunctious boys, and her dog, Shakespeare. Her favorite book is Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, which has one of the most heart-wrenching romances she has ever read.
RED AND THE WOLF is also available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble Nook, and the I-Store.
Look for Laura at the following haunts:
Okay, ready for the giveaway details? Here are they are!
Giveaway Details: For Red and the Wolf’s release week, Laura is hosting a giveaway. There are several ways to earn chances to win one of two prizes, an e-copy of Red and the Wolf and an adorable Annette Funicello Collectable Bear Co. Little Red Riding Hood valued at $105. You have from Monday, March 4th, 12 AM central time through Sunday, March 10th, 11:59 PM central time to get as many points as you can. Each point equals an additional time your name gets entered in the drawing for these prizes. Laura will announce the winners on my blog Monday, March 11th. To begin with, you will earn your first point for the drawing by commenting on today’s post. Do you prefer more fantasy or romance in stories? Why? For more ways to earn points see Laura’s blog. Good luck!