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by Barbara Sheridan
Leslie Tramposch: Managing Editor - Sara Reyes: Marketing and Publicity
To submit articles of interest to our readers Email Barbara.

July 2002 Issue

Fated to Mate - A Date with Destiny!

Update: Ann Lawrence

Ann Lawrence writes both paranormal and historical romance. She was born in England and raised in the Philadelphia area where she lives with her husband, two children, two cats, some mice (the cats are lazy), and enough sports equipment to open her own shop.

When not writing stories set in medieval times or in virtual-reality worlds, Ann teaches full-time.

 

An Interview with Ann Lawrence

PNR: At 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.

PNR: You 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!

PNR: 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 the scenario?

Ann 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
handle the world and the perils he meets.

PNR: 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>.

PNR: 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
virtual world and Gwen had described her to the game's creator. Neil is less than impressed with this new character?

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.

PNR: Though 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 Tolemac
councilor Tol after her father's death, in order to stave off a war over the control of the much valued ice. In some ways this is a sacrifice, but in others it had been a fortuitous match. While women, no matter how noble, have no power in this world, Tol had mentored her, and supported her in her desire to govern her people, and he had given her a son. Unfortunately his advanced age had finally taken its toll putting Ardra in a very tenuous position. Her situation has reached the crisis point when she first encounters Neil. Tell us about this meeting.

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.

PNR: 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
plans. Without a warrior's arm rings, what are his options?

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!

PNR: 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?

Ann 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, smacking him
in the face. He also has to *face* the fact that he has no status in Ardra's world. He needs her as much as she needs him. It's go with Ardra or be prey to every hulking warrior with a sword ... and everywhere he looks are hulking warriors with swords. Somehow making a quest through a dangerous forest to meet a Goddess of Darkness seems an okay alternative!

PNR: LOL. 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 powerless
that Ardra is ultimately pitted against another woman who is as sinister as Ardra is virtuous. Tell us a little bit about her.

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.

PNR: 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?

Ann L.: 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
a bunch of collegiate lacrosse games, my son's games, and also watched the indoor pro league and decided the stick was perfect. I also liked the analogy of sports being a kind of war game...defense vs offense and so on. And I made Neil able to play both defense and offense because he needed to take both roles at different times during the quest with Ardra.

PNR: There are so many interesting locations in the virtual world, the Fortress of Raven, the Tangled Wood. Where do you get the ideas for these places?

Ann L.: They are each from the more obscure Celtic legends. However, that said,
the actual places themselves are places I've visited, old fortresses, the mangroves of Florida, places tied to Celtic legends and so on. I really like to use real places. I choose their names from legend and then fashion them from our world.

PNR: Did 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>.

PNR: 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?

Ann L.: I'd love to! LORD OF THE HUNT will be on the shelves in January. I'm
continuing the idea of the "ordinary" or humble woman meeting the baron or knight. In LORD OF THE HUNT, the hero is a knight named Adrian de Marle. He's the son of baron Durand de Marle from LORD OF THE MIST. Adrian's given the task of unmasking a traitor. To find the traitor, he has to pretend he's a suitor to one of England's most desirable heiresses. Of course, themoment he arrives at the heiress's castle, he meets Joan, who commands the
castle hunting hounds! He's immediately enthralled by Joan who he quickly begins to think of as *his* huntress. Joan has her own mission. She's trying toprotect her father's livelihood. The last thing she needs is an affair with one of the suitors who's vying for her lady's hand. Joan considers herself beneath the knights and ladies, but cannot long deny the attraction she feels for Adrian. This is essentially a rivalry tale--the rivalry between kings, between the hunters, and, of course, between the suitors. I think I've written a very passionate tale of two people whose love seems impossible!

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!!


Ann Lawrence

Website

 Books

Previous Interview


Buy it now!

Love Spell
July 5, 2002
ISBN: 0505524929
366 pages
Paperback

VIRTUAL 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.



Winner of
PEARL AWARD 1999

VIRTUAL HEAVEN - Winner: Best Fantasy/Magical



Nominated for
PEARL AWARD 2000

VIRTUAL DESIRE - Finalist: Best Fantasy/Magical

Nominated for
PEARL AWARD 2002

VIRTUAL WARRIOR - Finalist: Best Fantasy/Magical
1999 P.E.A.R.L.

Medieval Romances

LORD OF THE KEEP
Love Spell
December 1, 1999

ISBN: 0505523515
400 pages
Paperback

LORD OF THE MIST
Love Spell
July 1, 2001
ISBN: 0505524430
400 pages
Paperback

Coming in 2003

LORD OF THE HUNT
Leisure Books
January 1, 2003
ISBN: 0843951397
357 pages
Paperback

The Thrill of the Hunt...
Hunter and hunted, lover and beloved, they would come together in a moment as impossible to escape as it was full of ecstasy.

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.

 

 

Featured in this Issue:

Interviews with
Carla Cook

Ann Lawrence
Catherine Snodgrass
Deb Stover
Special Feature:
PNR Career Achievements Award:

Nora Roberts

All book synopsises are copyrighted to the authors/publishers.
~ interview questions prepared by Leslie Tramposch

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