Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Interview - Marissa Campbell - Avelynn

Please welcome new to me author, Marissa Campbell to the blog. She's here today talking about her debut novel Avelynn.

ISBN-13: 9781466868892
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: 09/08/2015
Length: 320 pp
Buy It: B&N/Amazon/Kobo/IndieBound

Read an excerpt courtesy St. Martin's Press:

ONE SOMERSET, ENGLAND NOVEMBER 869 Sigberht gripped the hilt of his sword, and my heart quickened. "Cut off his hand, lord," he said. The boy's face waxed ashen, his hands kneading the front of his threadbare tunic. Only eleven summers old, he should have been out chasing chickens or helping his mother collect firewood for the coming winter. Council was held once a year, and petitioners had been coming and going all day long, pleading their cases to my father, the Earl of Somerset. Sigberht, my father's reeve, was on hand to marshal out punishment. Almost everyone from the village was present, spectators and claimants alike crammed into my father's timber hall. I had been silent, beyond the occasional grumble of dissent, and duly recorded each case and its judgment, but this last quarrel broke my tolerance. I put down my quill and rose, the hem of my dress brushing the freshly laid rushes underfoot. I turned an appeal to my father. "The boy is merely a puppet." My father sat in the lord's chair high upon the raised dais, his eyes hooded beneath waves of honey-blond hair, his face unreadable. Sigberht stormed forward. "Surely Avelynn would be better suited to the weaving shed," he hissed. "Council is no place for a woman." I scowled at him. "Apparently, nor is it a place for justice or common sense." "Peace, you two." My father's tone was light, but the warning loomed heavy between us. Sigberht's grip tightened on his sword. "The law is clear. Let me cut off the boy's hand." "If anyone should be punished, it should be the tanner, not his son," I said. "Your daughter needs a tighter leash, lord," someone yelled from the back of the hall, and was rewarded with a round of laughter. Slaves scurried about with clay pitchers filled with mead, and the drink flowed into waiting bone horns. The central hearth, a long, narrow trough dug into the packed-dirt floor, burned bright, filling the hall with smoke and heat. A hole cut into the roof allowed some of the smoke to escape. The rest hovered over the crowd, filling the spaces between the large beams overhead. There were no windows, and shadows were deep. Pinpricks of light flickered from oil lamps suspended from the ceiling, and iron candle trees, scattered about the large open hall, sputtered in the constant drafts. The tanner, his tunic smeared and reeking of dung-the perfume of his trade-addressed my father. "I swear my innocence." "And who supports your claim?" Sigberht's grip on his sword never loosened. "My brother." A round, squat man stepped clear of the press, wringing a wool cap in his hands. "I stand up for my brother and his son, lord." "You are a farmer?" my father asked. "Yes, my lord." I frowned. Judgment was made based on personal worth. The more status you held, the more influence your word carried. Though the farmer was a freeman, his oath would not carry much weight. Eager to strike down the tanner's weak defenses, my father's master of arms approached the dais. Taller and thicker than most men, Wulfric looked like a bear. His shaggy mane and beard were blacker than pitch, and his eyes were hard and implacable. "Both my brother and I have seen your bastard lead your pigs into my keep." He spat at the tanner's feet. "The dog has been doing this all year, my lord. His pigs have grown fat off my land." Wulfric and his brother, Leofric, were both warriors in my father's household guard. In a game of power and oaths, Wulfric had just won. Sigberht withdrew his sword from its scabbard and grabbed the child's arm, hauling him toward the door. The boy's eyes, as wide as a snared fawn's, pleaded with the cold, impassive stare of his father. He was trying to be brave, but a stray tear charted a wayward path through the grime on his cheek. "Wait." I rushed forward. "I offer an alternative." The hard set of my father's jaw warned of his abating patience. "The boy will be twelve summers old, of age to hold a sword on his next birth day. Let Wulfric claim two swine instead, one for each of the boy's hands." "I've only the five swine, lord. The boy will live with one hand," the tanner pleaded. "What say you, Wulfric?" my father asked. "That's fair compensation, lord." "Done." My father waved them both away, ignoring the tanner's protests, and beckoned me closer. I trudged the remaining few steps between us and stopped at his side. His head turned, but his eyes remained fixed on the crowded room. "The next word you speak, Avelynn, will see you bent over that bench, my belt your justice for all present to see. Am I understood?" I nodded and sat back down, picking up my quill, my palms sweaty. After that small victory, I was not inclined to push my father further. Sigberht addressed the crowd. "Demas of Wareham, nephew of the late Bishop Ealhstan, step forward and state your business." Bishop Ealhstan had been an arrogant, dour little man, constantly voicing bleak Christian rhetoric. I never did have much patience for him or his litanies. I studied his nephew with curious interest. He was tall and lean, not a strand of sleek black hair out of place, and his complexion was darker than any of the men in the village. He looked almost Saracen, exotic. His tunic and trousers were made from light brown wool, simple and unadorned, but he wore a purple cloak attached at his shoulder by a magnificent gold brooch. He made his way to the dais. "Lord Eanwulf," he said, bowing to my father. "I've come to ask for your daughter's hand in marriage." My quill floated to the floor. * * * I stomped over to a barrel of strong fruit wine, pried the lid off the cask, grabbed a cup, and ladled myself a good measure. My father sat on a bench nestled up to the central hearth, his gray-blue eyes regarding me. "You are seventeen and unmarried, Avelynn. It is time you were wed." He straightened the front of his tunic. "Demas of Wareham comes from a respectable and wealthy family. He is a good match for you, and he has offered a generous bride price." Ten generations ago, when the Goddess ruled the land, a woman was free to choose her mate, even casting him aside if the whim overtook her. But when the Christian church grappled England to her knees, a woman's rights began to vanish. I could own land, and my oath was respected, but decisions such as marriage were at the sole discretion of my father. I walked back to the fire. Half a dozen small cakes of bread were browning nicely in the raked coals at the far end of the long, narrow pit. The comforting scent infused the air of my small wattle-and-daub cottage. My stomach growled. "When you married Mother, did her interests affect you? Or could you have sat idly by and seen her married off to someone else just because he was wealthy or respectable? Or because he bribed you with a fat purse?" "Mind your tongue, child." He grabbed my arm and pulled me to my feet. "You are not too old to be brought to heel." I barely came to the middle of his chest, but that didn't stop me from testing him. "God help me, Avelynn, you are as stubborn as your mother." And just like that, with the invocation of her specter into the room, he softened and let go of my arm. "Every day you look more like her." I didn't think so. Where her hair had been dark and curly, mine resembled my father's locks, though mine trailed to the backs of my knees. I did have her icy-blue eyes and full lips, which were obstinately set at the moment. "It is for her sake that I do not blister your ass." He dropped his hand from his leather belt. "But I only want what she had. I want love and a man who will respect and honor me. Why is that not good enough for me? Why do you want me to be unhappy?" "I do not want you to be unhappy." "Then why do you insist on pushing me into the arms of a stranger?" "I have given you leave for more than four years to make a choice. You have refused every suitor's attention. What father has given a daughter so much? You have been greatly spoilt, and I have been interminably patient. But your time is up." "I will marry only when I'm in love. You cannot tell me who to love." "You are right, Avelynn. I cannot tell you who to love, but on the other matter you are gravely mistaken, for I can tell you who and when you will marry. And I have decided to accept Demas's suit." He opened the door and stepped outside. "Demas will call later this afternoon. And you, my daughter, will be agreeable and charming." I stood there frozen, rooted to the ground. "Next fall, whether you like it or not, you will be married." The door slammed shut. The veil of bravado drained from my body, and my legs became two limp strands of seaweed. I staggered backward and collapsed onto the nearest bench. Dear gods, how had this happened? One moment I had proven myself equal to the men at council, even swaying my father's vote. The next, I was as insignificant as an ant underfoot. I stared at the door's weathered planks. Demas wasn't even a Saxon name. There was a soft rap at the door. I sat up straight and wiped away all evidence of tears with the backs of my hands. As old and wizened as the wrinkled oak trees he so admired, Bertram was my father's chamberlain, and my most noble tutor. He took one look at my face and nodded, as if affirming something, and then sat on the bench beside me. "How?" I asked, looking up into his gentle blue eyes. "How could he do this to me?" "His actions are not meant to be cruel. The Vikings have marched into East Anglia. He only wants you safe." "Safe." I huffed. England was divided into several powerful kingdoms, each land ruled by its own king, governed by its own laws. Our village, Wedmore, was nestled deep in the heart of the Somerset Levels, on the western coast of Wessex-seven days' ride from East Anglia. "I'm protected here, now. He would never let anyone harm me. Who else could offer me such security?" "Your father lost your mother, Avelynn, and there was nothing he could do-he couldn't save her, couldn't protect her, and he cannot bear to lose you, too. Your father would see you safely away from Somerset." "So he wishes to see me shipped off to be someone else's responsibility, someone else's problem?" I started pacing the floor but stopped and stared at the bread. Forgotten, the bottoms had turned to charcoal. I grabbed my iron tongs and retrieved them from further destruction. "My mother died in childbirth. No man can protect against that." "As far as your father is concerned, it was his seed that made the stillborn child grow in her belly. And therefore, in his mind, it was his fault-he was the cause of her death." I gaped at him. He nodded. "A man's pride is a haughty and pretentious thing. While only the gods and Goddess know each man, woman, and child's time and circumstances of death, when it comes to someone he loves, a man will inevitably blame himself for not being able to prevent it." "But that makes absolutely no sense." "When it comes to love, pet, very little makes sense." I sat down and leaned against the wall. My head hit the wooden post with a soft thump. The smoke from the fire swirled and threaded up through the small hole in the roof until it escaped into the ether beyond. Was the Goddess watching me? "What am I to do, then?" I said, looking beyond the rising smoke. I wasn't sure who I was asking, the Goddess or Bertram. "Your only choice is to give Demas a chance. Perhaps he will ignite something within you that you have been searching for." "Perhaps he will ignite a child inside me and kill me, too. Did my father ever think of that?" I knew Bertram had more sense than to answer my challenge. And in the end, what good would it have accomplished? Bertram wasn't the one I was angry at. "I'm sorry." "It's all right, pet. These things have a way of working themselves out. You'll see." He gave my shoulder a reassuring squeeze and left. I prayed Bertram was right, but what if he wasn't? I consoled myself with the knowledge that, at the very least, I had until the end of summer to try to change my circumstances. A marriage feast lasted several days. Despite my father's apparent urgency to see me married, he would never hold a wedding feast now, especially with the memory of last year's scarcity still fresh in everyone's mind. A week of feasting for hundreds of people would completely deplete our winter stores. He would wait until the crops and game were plentiful and the weather fine for travel before shuffling me off to Demas. I had time. I turned to the small window. There was a lot of shouting outside, and the sound of approaching horses thundered through the courtyard. I leaned over the table and opened the shutters. People streamed through the gate. My brother, Edward, ran toward my cottage, his young face flushed. He burst through the door. "Avelynn, Avelynn, the Vikings are coming!" He ran to me and pulled on my dress. The last time Vikings had been seen in Somerset was more than twenty years ago, well before we were born. I looked at him for a moment. He was only nine and had a vivid imagination, but as I turned and watched everyone rushing for the hall, my heart quickened. I grabbed my cloak and let him lead me into the throngs of villagers. Copyright © 2015 by Marissa Campbell

Marissa, Hi! Welcome to The Reading Frenzy.
Hi, Debbie! Hi everyone *waves into the blogosphere*. J

Tell us about your debut novel, Avelynn.
Avelynn is set in Anglo-Saxon England in the year 869. After winning a small victory in front of all the men in the village, and feeling rather proud of herself, Avelynn is promptly put back in her place by her father, who informs her that she is to be married. Being told what to do is a rather difficult pill for our heroine to swallow, and she doesn’t take to the news or the man, Demas, fondly—she finds him arrogant and shallow. In the end, she learns there’s so much more to Demas, but I don’t want to spoil anything for your readers. ;)
Secretly pagan in a Christian world and deciding to take matters into her own hands, Avelynn heads to the coast to perform an ancient ritual, becoming rather flustered when she is discovered by Alrik the Bloodaxe and sixty Viking berserkers. In a summer of awaking passion, Avelynn and Alrik stumble into a sensual love affair—a clandestine romance made all the more daring for the fact that the Northmen are the most despised and feared enemy of the English.
As one might expect, Demas doesn’t take no for an answer and things get really dicey for our heroine when the Vikings attack Wessex. Avelynn and Alrik are thrust on to opposite sides of the battlefield, and in the hands of fate, she risks losing everything she holds dear.

Susanna Kearsley, NYT bestselling author says – “Marissa Campbell brings a long-forgotten era splendidly to life in this adventurous and passionate debut.”
Nice words. Congratulations!
Thank you! Susanna is wonderful. I love her books, so having her read Avelynn and give it such a wonderful endorsement was thrilling.

What led you to this time period and Avelynn’s story?
Well, as you might guess, Avelynn popped on to the page as a very strong-willed heroine, and not just any time period would fit with her tenacious spirit. What I loved about Anglo-Saxon England was that historically, it presented me with a time and place in which women had a modicum of power. Twenty years after Avelynn is set, Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians, took over the rule of her country Mercia (a vast territory in the middle of England) when her husband the king died. She was loved by her people and not afraid to lead the charge against the Vikings at the head of her army. Queen Judith, the first English Queen and daughter to Charles the Bald (the king of Francia/France) shunned her royal responsibilities and eloped with her lover. Women could hold land and chattel and could pass them along to their children. They even had a voice in Council, the chief court of the time. I knew Avelynn would fit in perfectly in that world.
As for Avelynn’s story, the first scene that manifested in my head was Demas asking for her hand in marriage and her jaw dropping in shock before it became obstinately set in refusal. This was a woman who didn’t take kindly to being told what to do (a trait I admit may or may not be familiar to the author of said heroine ;).  She had a vision for her life and refused to be swayed from that goal. This mindset, of course, was going to cause her a great deal of trouble. I also loved the stories of Arthur of Camelot, and somewhere in the great story arc in my head, which I admit spans several books, these two concepts align beautifully. But I won’t say anymore on that, I’d hate to reveal spoilers! :D

It says that Avelynn is a combination of romance, history and adventure.
So is it historical fiction, historical romance, what genre has it been placed in?
That’s a fine question. If one wanted to place Avelynn into either one of those categories, readers might argue that perhaps there wasn’t enough political machinations to be a true historical fiction, and there’s more to the story than just the romance between Alrik and Avelynn to make it fit tightly into the romance genre. Plus, once we add a dash of the otherworldly and mystical with Avelynn’s pagan faith, we shatter all genre expectations whatsoever. Avelynn doesn’t fit into a neat and tidy category, in my mind it’s exactly what you pointed out: a historical romantic adventure. :D

Marissa this is your debut novel but you’re not a novice to writing.
What is your writing background?
Well, according to my kindergarten reflection sheet, I was always going to grow up and be an author. If we count rhyming love songs and dark, soul-searching poetry as a preteen and teenager respectively, I’ve been writing a long time. J As I grew up, life took a few twists and turns, but my writing has always hung around in the periphery. When my children were young, I freelanced for the local periodical, Durham Parent. As they got older, I veered off into the world of teaching yoga, which lead me to write a spiritual, inspiration self-help book called Life: Living in Fulfillment Every Day, which I co-wrote with my beautiful friend Annemarie Greenwood. I love this book. The message is so dear to my heart. We were on a mission to help everyone live a more authentic, happy life. After that, it was historical fiction or bust!

Was fiction a natural progression for you or did your muse lead you here?
Let’s blame the muse, shall we. There I was minding my own business, having just finished reading Diana Gabaldon’s An Echo in the Bone and waiting patiently for the next book (which would come out five years later) when something suggested I write a book to help other lost and Outlanderless souls like myself. Avelynn cleared her throat and asserted herself right into my thoughts—see what I mean about a tenacious spirit! It took four of those five years to get Avelynn ready for publication, but the rest is history.

I love to hear authors “where I was when I got THE CALL” stories.
Tell us yours please.
Here’s an exact transcript of the moment!
Margaret Bail of Inklings Literary Agency is my wonderful agent.
Facebook Messenger:
February 26th at 11:58am
Margaret: "Are you there?"
I saw the message and responded at 1:03pm. I was sitting on a bench, dripping all over the floor, having just finished swimming laps at the local recreation center. I had gotten into the habit of incessantly checking my phone, because, well when you’re manuscript is out on editors’ desks, you check it at every opportunity, just in case. J
Me: "I'm here."
Margaret: "Well, I hope you're sitting down because we got an offer from St. Martins!"
Me: "OMG! I'm shaking, lol! And sitting."

Marissa I personally can’t wait to read the novel.
Tell me something that will probably surprise me as I’m reading it.
Avelynn is petite. I imagine her around 5’4”, which is no coincidence, since I am rather vertically challenged myself, but like Avelynn, I project myself taller than I really am. In my mind, I’m six feet tall. My friend once said I was a pit bull in a Jack Russell’s body. And honestly, unless I’m flanked by really tall people, I am utterly convinced of my fantasy height—well, until I have to get something down from the top shelf in my kitchen. Humbling.

You have a sexy short story you’re offering readers who join your list –( http://visitor.r20.constantcontact.com/d.jsp?llr=pcsbijjab&p=oi&m=1109485733967&sit=999hi6xgb&f=07418274-8dc8-414f-be8c-f600ba35f42d)
What kind of book will number two be?
Currently, I’m still writing number two in the Avelynn Series, but it will have lots of historical detail, some great romantic, sensual moments, and tons of adventure. I’m keeping true to my adopted genre, of course. ;)
And, for a change of pace, people have requested I write the full story of Samantha and Carlos from Italian Delicacy (my free, sexy short story). So, I’ve started playing around with their lives too.

Marissa thanks for taking the time out to answer my questions.
Good luck with Avelynn!
Will you be touring with this novel, are the times/places listed on your website?
Thank you so much for having me!
Most of my events are online, with several blog tours lined up and some radio spots. But I’d love to do a tour! I’m happy to receive invites to book clubs and stores for book signings, but if I can’t make your hometown, I’m always open to book club Skype chats, too! For a list of where I’ll be and what I’m up to, feel free to check out my events page: http://www.marissacampbell.com/avelynnevents
Thanks again for having me, Debbie! It’s been a pleasure.
In gratitude,
Marissa xo

Connect with Marissa - Website - Facebook - Twitter - Goodreads

Meet Marissa:Marissa Campbell is a published freelance author, and co-author of the award-winning, spiritual self-help book Life: Living in Fulfillment Every Day. Look for her debut historical fiction Avelynn coming fall 2015, from St. Martin’s Press. Currently, hard at work on the second book in the Avelynn series, she is a proud member of the Historical Novel Society, Romance Writers of America, Writer’s Community of Durham Region, and local critique group B7. 
When she is not writing, she is busy looking after her wonderful children, spending time with her fantastic husband, hanging out with her awesome friends, teaching yoga, dancing, laughing, and having fun!

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  1. Really pretty cover on this and 896, England? I am so there! I have yet to read anything from this era.

    1. Hi Ali thanks and I agree and to think this was about a time one hundred years before Beowulf was written

  2. Oh my, I want this! I love that it's not just historical romance, that there are other things to be had in this book! Great interview, Debbie!

  3. You had me at Vikings. I don't think I have read anything from 896. Great interview and find Debbie

  4. Thanks for hosting the interview, Debbie. :)

    So happy to be here!
    In gratitude,
    Marissa xo

    1. Marissa, thanks for the fabulous answers. It was great!