To celebrate the Fourth of July, the Wenches have a special interview with our very own Pat Rice, whose newest book, MYSTIC GUARDIAN (Signet/NAL), brand-new on bookstore shelves this week, takes place partly in France at the time of the Revolution — and as we history buffs all know, the French and the Colonials found their separate paths to independence by watching and learning from each other. Long live the red, white, and blue!
MYSTIC GUARDIAN is the first in Pat’s new series of paranormal historical romances, and introduces a mystical island that appears only to certain people at certain times (think Brigadoon). Aelynn is the home of people whose abilities are far beyond those of normal human beings. In order to protect their island, their mystical culture, and their mythic heritage, the people must follow certain rules…but rules are made to be broken. And Trystan L’Enforcer, the Guardian assigned to protect the island of Aelynn, is tempted to break a few rules when he meets Mariel St. Just…Mariel is not of the island, but Trystan needs her help to save a mysterious chalice that is precious to the people of Aelynn. Trystan will do anything to retrieve the chalice once it is stolen–by Mariel herself. As Trystan sets out to reclaim the chalice, he is unaware that beautiful Mariel is about to lead him into unknown waters indeed….
"A fine, fresh series kickoff, Rice’s latest is passionate, rich in historical detail and peopled with enough captivating secondary characters to pique readers’ curiosity for many volumes to come." Publishers Weekly
“Rice has a magical touch for creating fascinating plots, delicious romance, and delightful characters.” –Booklist
*** CONTEST PRIZE!*** Pat Rice will donate an autographed book to one lucky winner chosen from those who comment on her blog today and tomorrow, so feel free to say hi and join in the discussion! The winner will be announced tomorrow, Thursday, here at Word Wenches! Good luck to all!
WW: Pat, please tell us about your new release, MYSTIC GUARDIAN, the first book in your newest series for NAL. How did the concept for these books come about?
PR: Invisible shields, mystic islands, guardian warriors, sacred chalices—where do these ideas come from? I’d like to say I studied the myths and legends thoroughly, then chose the elements that worked for me, but I’m not that organized. The mystic island just appeared in my head, although I assume stories like Brigadoon may have planted it there. Once I had the island, I had to have some way of making it invisible, because it would otherwise be hard to miss an entire island in the middle of the English Channel. So the Guardian and his fog barrier seemed obvious. And since I write romance, I needed a heroine who would oppose him and cause conflict, and what better way than a mermaid who can swim past his invisible barrier? And then the “what if’s” started happening…
What’s really fascinating is that once I researched the history of Brittany, Mariel’s home, I discovered the Legend of Ys (http://www.gensdys.it/tpl.php?sez=8&subs=1) about a beautiful woman who becomes a mermaid and the fantastical city (http://www.pvf.dircon.co.uk/BCH-5B(Legends).html ) that sinks into the sea. Coincidence, hmm? In other versions, the mermaid sings siren songs that lure sailors to the island, and I didn’t learn that until after I’d written the siren scene.
I think these stories lurk deep in our minds, in some form or another. And the “chalice,” of course, can be traced to many sources from King Arthur’s Holy Grail to the Celtic legends of a cauldron.
And this is the moment where I must thank our brainstorming “cauldron” for helping me piece all these bits into a whole. Put three creative minds together and it’s amazing how much knowledge can be accessed in a short period of time!
WW: Paranormal romance is steadily gaining popularity, and your new MYSTIC series pushes the envelope in a different direction. Your previous series, the MAGIC books featuring the Malcolms, also introduced original elements into paranormal romance. Why do you think paranormal elements work so well in romance?
PR: I assume in contemporary romance, paranormal elements give us the distance we need to create a fantasy, and they add entertaining conflicts since most real life conflicts are solved by courtrooms and not anything dramatic. <G>
With historical romance, we already have sufficient distance from the subject matter to build fantasy worlds, but while I love the Regency, I was tired of the proper English world that romance has built. At the time I created the Magic series, paranormal elements weren’t acceptable, but I wanted to play with the male/female conflict on a different level than the usual society misses and alpha males. I changed to the Georgian era but even in that flamboyant period, women were limited in what they could do, and I didn’t want to make that the conflict of my books. I wanted women with abilities that could challenge strong, logical men—voila, they should have talents that defy logic! So my psychic heroines emerged and evolved.
By the time I wrote the last book in the Magic series, paranormal was in full blossom, and I had a magic island kicking around in the back of my head, and it just seemed natural to populate it with a special people, people with well-developed psychic abilities and swashbuckling strength. And why would a special race of people live on an invisible island? To guard sacred, powerful objects, of course!
But I am writing historical romance, not fantasy. Giving my protagonists unusual abilities that cause interesting conflicts is entertaining, but I’m addicted to history, and I had a research itch I wanted to scratch. Which leads us to the next question.
WW: A major theme in MYSTIC GUARDIAN is the breaking down of old structures to allow the people more freedom, both during the French Revolution, and on your mystical isle. Did you set out with that broad theme in mind, or did it develop as you wrote the story? I know you’ve always been interested in the French Revolution. Is there a reason for that?
PR: BTW, Happy Fourth of July!!! Yes, there’s a reason. The French people truly believed in American’s fight for democracy. The Marquis de Lafayette (http://www.marquisdelafayette.net/ ) traveled across the sea at great danger to himself to offer his wealth and experienced services to the American colonies. He became a lifelong friend of George Washington and eventually returned home a hero, to a country torn with strife.
That he and many other nobles and wealthy men took it upon themselves to save France from feudalism was an act of courage and vision equal to that of our American patriots. Essentially, they intended to end the slavery of the serfs by taking back some of the power from the corrupt aristocratic administration.
That this brave attempt at a peaceful revolution collapsed in a bath of blood between the haves and have-nots is a lesson that no one can afford to ignore. In watching France, the English opened their eyes in horror to conditions in their own country. In many ways, France’s revolution led to the English Regency era that we know and love. The history of this era has always fascinated and horrified me. France was a vibrant community of some of the best minds in Europe, both scientific and creative, and yet nothing could stop the tide of blood that eventually ensued.
Although I love research, I wasn’t much interested in writing a political thesis, nor do I have any interest in writing about war and violence. There’s enough of that in the newspapers. So I chose to compare and contrast a seemingly perfect fantasy world to a real country that had once seemed equally blessed. It gave me the opportunity to write exciting adventure and romance against the background of real history, a win-win for me.
WW: Tell us about the Mystic Guardian himself, Trystan L’Enforcer — he’s one sexy golden god of a hero. And Mariel, the heroine with sea powers of her own, is more than his match.
PR: Ah, Trystan! Mariel sees him as a golden god for good reason. Although she’s tall, she comes from a rural village of short, dark Bretons, and Trystan stands taller than any man she’s ever seen, with golden hair and skin burnished by his years of sailing. As Guardian for Aelynn, he can raise the sea mist and form a barrier that prevents anyone from entering the mystic isle, but he must do so at every full moon or the barrier fades away—an all-powerful god wouldn’t be any fun. He also has a tendency to be grumpy when he doesn’t get his way, but he’s a man, what can I say? He has a minor talent for understanding and speaking any language, so he’s perfect for sailing to foreign ports to trade the island’s pearls. As the book opens, he’s been having his jollies sailing around Europe, acquiring wealth, admiring the women, working off his energies with his sword, but he’s on his final journey before he returns home to marry the Oracle’s daughter and become Council Leader, or so he thinks since he’s the most powerful bachelor on Aelynn aside from the Oracle’s son.
Mariel pretty well explodes his little fantasy. Trystan is probably more enraged by the fact that he enjoys being distracted by a woman who challenges him, than he is at being thwarted from his goals. Half the time, he doesn’t know whether to woo her or kill her, the only two choices the Oracle has given him.
For one thing, Mariel won’t stay where he puts her. She’s as slippery as any fish, for good reason, since she can swim beneath the sea and talk to porpoises. When she escapes with the Chalice of Plenty, the island’s reason for existence, he has no choice but to follow her. When he learns she’s desperately trying to save an entire town all by herself, what can a hero do? He certainly can’t truss her up and take her home. Instead, he must learn to deal with her, and in the process, learn a great deal about himself and his place in the world.
Trystan’s lessons cause a great deal of trouble for his beloved home, trouble that will eventually be resolved over the next books as other characters become involved in the war beyond their world.
WW: What did you enjoy most about writing MYSTIC GUARDIAN?
PR: That’s a tough question. I’ve been dying for an excuse to research the French Revolution, and I’ve happily accumulated a mass of books I can sink into and thumb through and ponder. I’ve pretty well memorized my Regency library, so this was a whole new path of study that I can spend time with. But at some point, that research has to be applied to paper, and it was in building the Mystic Isle world that I fell in love. I was dangerously creating one fascinating character after another, developing the island’s history, it’s social and political environment, pondering the place of hedge witches and healers as opposed to Navigators and Finders (just the capital letters ought to reveal something!), when I had to smack myself and remember I had only a hundred thousand words to work with. Really, they ought to make paper free so we can write as much as we want!
Depending on how you want to use the references, I recommend Christopher Hibbert’s THE DAYS OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION for clear comprehensive coverage of day by day actions, John Russell’s PARIS for illustrations and Parisian architecture, David Andress’s THE TERROR for a broader understanding of social and political implications, and Carolly Erickson’s TO THE SCAFFOLD for a a very accessible, intimate understanding of Marie Antoinette and her times. There are also some fascinating English treatises from the period that are guaranteed to put the average reader to sleep, so I won’t go into them!
To find out more about the book, and to see Pat’s video trailer (with a gorgeous images of Trystan L’Enforcer and Mariel), be sure to visit www.patriciarice.com !