"New Worlds Are Our Oyster."
Fated to Mate - A Date with Destiny!
When not writing stories set in medieval times or in virtual-reality worlds, Ann teaches full-time.
An Interview with Ann Lawrence
the time of our last interview, your debut novel VIRTUAL HEAVEN had
recently won the 1999 P.E.A.R.L. award for Best Fantasy Romance. Since
then you have written two additional novels in the Virtual series,
VIRTUAL DESIRE released in 2000 and VIRTUAL WARRIOR has just been
released. The readers loved the unique concept of entering the game
to another dimension, a very real and different world. Where ever
did you come up with this concept?
Ann L.: The idea for VIRTUAL HEAVEN came from watching my daughter play an interactive game on the Ocean City (NJ) boardwalk. The shop isn't there anymore, but at the time, they had a game where the child entered a booth and spectators could watch on a TV screen. On the TV it looked like my daughter was under water grabbing gold coins. Swimming all around her were sharks. I really got into the game, yelling out warnings every time a shark got close to her...I thought, "Wow, what if she got sucked into the game?" And the idea bloomed from there. I used the idea of being sucked into a game for my book, but when I planned my game, it just seemed natural to use my love of Celtic legends to fashion my fantasy world. I've always loved quest stories, so that found its way into the mix as well. Each place in my virtual stories exists, by the way. I may have altered colors, but I've been to every place mentioned. That's also true of my medieval stories ... I used places I've visited and although all my castles are of my own creation, they have parts of real castles I've visited.
are also the author of a medieval historical romance series. Honorable
heroes and strong heroines are common to both series. As with your
historicals, the fantasy world within the Tolemac games is medieval
in nature. What is the appeal of this type of setting for you.
Ann L.: I'm a castle and medieval history junky, is all I can say. I just love the times of knights and crusades and along with that I also love legends and myths. So when I came up with the game, using legends just made sense to me. What makes the fantasy stories so much fun is that I can take the medieval world and twist and shape it to suit me. I get to keep my castles and warriors, but play with them till my heart's content!
I'd have to say that much of the appeal for me has to do with the
rigid class system of the medieval setting and the fact that it lends
itself to "Cinderella" type scenarios. It is very romantic
tobelieve that a hero of high birth could fall in love with and stand
by a woman who is "beneath his station". Such plots call
for extremely enlightened heroes, and heroines with a great deal of
courage. VIRTUAL WARRIOR is a mirror image of this scenario. The hero
is Neil Scott who we've met before and know as the co-owner of VIRTUAL
HEAVEN. It is he who enters the game world lacking status, unlike
the heroine who is of noble birth. What made you decide to reverse
L.: When I was
writing VIRTUAL DESIRE, I really liked the Ardra character as well
as Neil. Ardra just cried out for her own story by the time I was
finishing VIRTUAL DESIRE. So when I thought about who I might match
her with, the hero just had to be from our world. Without really planning
it, or maybe my mind was planning it all along, I gave Neil the ability
to take off on an adventure. I gave him enough tragedy to leave him
in need of healing, without making him in despair. I also thought
it would be interesting to think about how a man of our world would
handle my fantasy world. Some may say Neil's not as alpha a hero as
Kered and Vad from my other books, but I really wanted Neil to be
an ordinary guy. I didn't want to do the ex-Seal, or cop, etc. traveling
into the game along with a knowledge of weapons. I wanted him to go
as "weaponless" as Gwen and Maggie had in their stories.
And to me, heroism is very often seen in an ordinary man thrown into
extraordinary circumstances. It's how the man or woman handle the
emergency that makes them heroic. And that's what happens to Neil.
He goes for adventure, but he has to find the best part of himself
in order to
In spite of what he knows from his partner, Gwen's stories of which
her husband Vad is living proof <g>, Neil actually enters the
game intentionally. Why and how does he do this?
Ann L.: Neil feels like he has nothing going for him in this world. He's lost his widowed mother for whom he made a number of sacrifices, and he's lost his girlfriend. Things seem rather pointless to him. He's rudderless, so once he knows how to enter the game, it makes sense to him to go. He really goes on a lark...he could have gone to Tahoe <g>.
The third version of the Tolemac wars game is different as well. The
featured character is Ardra the Selaw guardian of the ice. She and
Gwen had met in the
Ann L.: Yes, Neil is less than impressed by Ardra--when he first encounters her. Neil's a breast man...haha...and Ardra's too thin for his taste! He sees her as lacking passion as well. What he learns is she only needs her passion awakened. And Neil's the perfect guy to wake her up! He calls her Refrigerator Girl when he first sees her and thinks she's as cold as the ice she guards, but he soon learns she's smoldering inside. It's kind of the old story of not judging a book by its cover! When he first kisses her, he has more on his hands than he bargained for.
Ardra is of noble birth, woman have no power in her world. For the
sake of her people she had agreed to marriage with the much older
Ann L.: Ardra encounters Neil when Tol is on his deathbed. She goes to the wiseman's mountain to seek something to ease Tol's pain--and, of course, she'll want advice on how to keep control of her fortress. Before she goes up the mountain, Ardra decides to practice an ancient ritual...one that she hopes will be pleasing to the old gods and her quest to rule. Ardra's desperate enough to appeal to anyone for help. She's practicing the ritual, the lighting of a fire and waiting for the moons to rise, when some outcast rebels attack her. At that moment, Neil enters the game. He appears to her like a man aflame and immediately tries to rescue her. Although he's badly beaten by the rebels, he does save Ardra. Of course, the wiseman sees this as an omen that Neil needs to stick by Ardra's side. Neither of them are happy about it...but that's their story journey ... learning how they can help each other--learning that they both need each other and, in the end, complete each other as well.
Neil, renamed Lien, had planned to pass himself off as a wealthy merchant.
After his is stripped of his possessions by the outcasts he is forced
to change his
Ann L.: He really has few options but to join Ardra's party of men and servants. Neil thinks of Ardra's party as nothing more than free transport since he's now destitute--he literally loses everything, including his clothing. Unfortunately, he thinks he'll be safer saying he's a pilgrim. Little does he know he's making a decision that will reallllyyyy complicate his life! I could have made Neil say he was a warrior, but I wanted him to learn he needed to become Ardra's warrior. It's a decision he has to choose. And, in truth, Ardra also needs to learn that she has to stand up for herself, be herown warrior, so to speak. The title really plays on the idea they must both be warriors in their own ways.
PNR: Although Ardra is beholden to Neil for saving her life, there are things about him that make her wary? What influences her to trust him?
Ann L.: Ardra has difficulty with the symbol of evil Neil has on his arm, a snake tattoo, as well as a piece of jewelry he has that is the emblem of her arch enemy. But as Neil/Lien travels with her, he does some incongruous things that puzzle her and make her question who he is and what he stands for. He treats her serving woman with compassion and kindness. He also stands up for Ardra when it will gain him nothing. She also has a wonderful physical connection with him. Her physical attraction to him also keeps her close to him. She can't ignore him no matter how hard she tries!
Samoht the Tolemac High Councilor has made it clear that he has dishonorable
designs on Ardra. Tol's death puts him a position to possess both
her and the coveted ice. When both Lien and Tol's brother witness
his unusual death bed request that Ardra be allowed to rule in his
stead until their son was of age to do so. How is this request met?
Ann L.: Samoht is such a dog. He contrives an "impossible" task for Ardra to perform if she wishes to prove herself worthy of rule. Even though Ardra knows she's being set up for failure, she has to take on the impossible task. It's the only way she can win. When the wiseman tells her to take Neil/Lien, she's leery, but if this enigmatic man can aid her in any way, she has to accept it. Her son and people are depending on her. By the time Ardra gets her task, she's also physically enthralled by Lien. I won't give away how they complete the quest, but they really need each other more than they could have imagined.
PNR: Lien isn't eager to take on any further responsibility. How is it that he finds himself accompanying Ardra on her quest?
L.: Lien may
think he's escaping responsibility, but he's one of those people who
just keep finding it! Every time he turns around ... there it is,
Though Samoht is a very unsavory character, he isn't the true villain
of the tale. It seems fitting that in a world where women are virtually
Ann L.: The Goddess of Darkness is a character from legend. She comes in many guises, both beautiful and ugly. I wanted to give Ardra an equal adversary in another woman. And women need to use their wits more than men in this game. They're denied the "usual" weapons, so they have to be a bit more creative. The Goddess of Darkness also offers Ardra an opportunity to throw it in Samoht's face that here is a woman who rules her little corner of the world, so why can't Ardra rule hers?
PNR: I have to ask. Many of the names in the virtual tales are also names in reverse, Tolemac's mirror is Camelot, Nilrem reverses to Merlin. No doubt this had an influence on the name Neil chose to use, Lien. Ardra however, spells the same either way you look at it. Was this intentional or merely a coincidence?
Ann L.: The characters from legend have reversed names. The name thing is really from word games my dad played with me and my sisters. So without really planning it, it just happened. My dad is also heavily into palindromes, so when I was looking for old Celtic names for my heroine, I liked the palindromic thing. That was when I was writing VIRTUAL DESIRE. Neil and the other secondary "our world" characters in VIRTUAL DESIRE get their names from the combination of two astronaut names. Neil Scott is from Neil Armstrong and Dave Scott. I've always had a fascination with the space program and think they're another kind of hero/heroine. I didn't want to use legendary characters as my heroes and heroines because I don't want readers to have a preconceived idea of how they should behave. Instead, I chose names that were Celtic or *heroic* in origin.
In a nice bit of analogy you repeatedly tie Neil's personality and
actions in to his history as a collegiate lacrosse player. Where did
that inspiration come from?
Well, I was trying to dream up some kind of weapon I could give my
"everyday" guy. I didn't want to contrive some way for him
to be well versed in swords or knives or bows and arrows, so I'm lying
around on my hammock mulling this over and flying over my head are
lacrosse balls! My son and his friends are shooting at my garage (they
beat my rose trellises to death by the way) and smashing into each
other. I realized their sticks made great weapons. And I had always
loved the Little John character from Robin Hood. I watched
There are so many interesting locations in the virtual world, the
Fortress of Raven, the Tangled Wood. Where do you get the ideas for
They are each from the more obscure Celtic legends. However, that
VIRTUAL WARRIOR leave any loose ends or characters standing? Or is
this the final tale in the series?
Ann L.: Oh, I hope not. I did fall for Ralen while I was writing. He popped up and made a place for himself in my heart. I think he needs his own story, don't you? He needs a woman to knock him out of his warrior socks! And I do wonder what evil Venrali might be cooking up out there somewhere <g>.
Of course Ralen, he did have plans didn't he? He'd would be a great
one to shake up. Personally, I'd like to see if Samoht's pilgrimage
did his character any good <g>. Glad to hear the series will
continue! Your medieval romances have garnered critical acclaim as
well. LORD OF THE MIST was a USA TODAY Best Seller as well as a Romantic
Times Magazine Top Pick. I understand that a third medieval romance
is in the offing? Can you tell us anything about LORD OF THE HUNT?
I'd love to! LORD OF THE HUNT will be on the shelves in January. I'm
PNR: Can you tell us anything about other works in progress, ideas for future books?
Ann L.: I'm working on another historical proposal as well as a paranormal. When I can, I'm also working on a young adult romance for my daughter who is always bugging me to write something for her. That's a bit of a new challenge ... I'm always telling her my books are R rated and she can't read them yet. Now I've got to come up with something PG-13!!
WARRIOR - Where does reality end and fantasy begin? With
a virtual reality game that leads to another world? At the fingertips
of a bedraggled old man who claims he can perform magic? Or in the
amber gaze of an ice princess in dire need of rescuing? As the four
moons of Tolemac rise upon a harsh land vastly different from his
own, hardheaded pragmatist, Neil Scott, discovers a life worth struggling
for and principles worth fighting for. But only one woman can convince
him that love is worth dying for, that he must make the leap of
faith to become . . . a VIRTUAL WARRIOR.
OF THE KEEP
OF THE MIST
Coming in 2003
OF THE HUNT
Thrill of the Hunt...
THE THRILL OF THE HUNT?
What man does not savor it? Whether the chase was for savage boar, political prize or beautiful heiress, a knight worth his spurs threw himself into it once his blood was up. And if Adam Quintin was to succeed at the secret task given him by the king, he must pursue all three. But never did he imagine he might become the quarry himself--unhorsed by a wild boar, betrayed by political enemies, seduced by a simple maid with no claim to power or position.
As daughter to the keeper of the hounds, Joan Swan was no stranger to the hunt. Like the legendary Diana, she slipped through the moonlit woods with her dogs, her loveliness as irresistible to Adam as the goddess herself.
Hunter and hunted, lover and beloved, they would come together in a moment as impossible to escape as it was full of ecstasy.
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