14 October 2007

Release Party: Taken by the Viking

Today we welcome one of our long-time contributors, talented Harlequin Mills & Boon author Michelle Styles. Michelle's newest book is Taken By the Viking, a departure from her successful catalogue of Roman-set historicals.

A Viking raid: They claimed they came in peace, but soon Lindisfarne was aflame. Annis of Birdoswald fled in fear, but she could not escape the Norse warriors.

An honourable captor: One man protected her--Haakon Haroldson. The dark, arrogant Viking swept Annis back to his homeland, taking her away from all she held dear.

A new life--as his mistress! Now Annis must choose between the lowly work that befits a captive, or a life of sinful pleasure in the Viking's arms!
Michelle has agreed to answer our questions about this newest storytelling venture. Welcome!

You have written several Roman set historicals Why the change in time period?

The change came from a lunch I had with my editors. We discussed my career and the fact that I did not want to be pigeonholed into a time period. The problem from their point of view was that I am prolific and the Unusual Historical slot is very popular amongst authors, and they did not feel that solely concentrating on Rome would be a good idea. We discussed a number of time periods and came up with the Viking period. According HM&B research, they do not get many manuscripts in the Viking period, but those that they do publish traditionally do very well.

I also pitched an idea for an early Victorian with a self-made hero. This book is going to be published in the US in December as A Christmas Wedding Wager, and in the UK's single title programme as part of a duo--Christmas by Candlelight. Going to lunch with your editor can be good for your career as well as being fun.

What is the most challenging part about writing Viking-set historicals?

The most challenging part for me has been to get the hero super alpha enough. Readers of the Viking period expect really alpha heroes. Viking alpha heroes are more alpha than Roman heroes because of the warrior culture. And with both of the books that I have written, I have had to go back and make him even more alpha during the revisions. However, fingers crossed, I think I have managed it. Personally I find it easier to go back and my heroes more alpha but that might just be me.

What about this book in particular?

Aside from making Haakon more alpha, my other great problem with the book was making sure that Annis and Haakon actually spent time together. I had to rearrange chapters four through eight, but in the end it worked. I discovered, for example, that I had set a sensual scene too early and therefore suffered from a lack of tension. Moving the scene to later in the book really helped up the tension, in my humble opinion.

What is it about the Vikings that makes you want to write during that period?

I have been interested in Scandinavian myths and fairy tales since I was a little girl, and my grandfather gave me a large picture book on the subject. There was a very lovely picture of a dark-haired man holding a woman on a white horse to illustrate the story of how Sweden was founded. I find the whole era intriguing--the different perceptions about the Vikings, their sagas and the way they changed the course of European history.

Give us a tidbit of history that surprised you when researching Taken by the Viking?

Nobody is precisely sure who conducted the Lindisfarne raid. There are some good guesses, but because there is a lack of reliable primary sources, we can not be sure. The great Viking longship burial sites date from just after this period and it is possible they included one of the ships that did raid Holy Island.

What advice would you give to anyone trying to write or sell Viking set historicals?

Make sure your hero is very Alpha. Do not let the history overwhelm the romance, and keep the focus on the growing emotional relationship of the hero and heroine. A strong and compelling romance is really important with an Unusual Historical as there is a lot of competition.

What is your favorite genre or period to read?

Historicals and within that, I am simply looking for a good story.

Favorite book from the past year?

The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn. I am a recent convert to the Bridgerton series and that one was my favourite. I can readily understand why the series was so popular.

Five books from your TBR pile?

1. Thames--the Sacred River by Peter Ackroyd
2. Industrial Revolutionaries by Gavin Weightman
3. Wicked Pleasures by Helen Dickson
4. The History of the Middle Sea by John Julius Norwich
5. Cabal by Michael Dibdin

Tell us what part of Taken by the Viking is your favorite: the scene or element that, when you read it, leaves you feeling most satisfied?

I think my favourite scene is where Haakon is forced to cut Annis’s hair. I loved the whole conflict and feelings of betrayal on both sides. It is when Annis finally has to face the fact that instead of being a high-born prisoner, she is about to become a slave.

What's up next for you?

At the moment, I am working on the second book of my Regency duet which is set in Northumberland. The second book has a self-made man as a hero. After that, I am planning to write the third book in the Viking series. It will be Ivar’s story and is something I have planned for awhile. The second book--Viking Warrior, Unwilling Wife--comes out in the UK in June 08. My next US release is A Christmas Wedding Wager and that comes out in December.

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Thanks for your thoughtful answers, Michelle!

Ask your own question or leave a comment for the chance to win a copy of Taken by the Viking. One random commenter will be chosen this time next week. Check back to see if you've won. You can purchase Taken by the Viking online through Mills and Boon, Amazon.co.uk or even Amazon.ca

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