On Tartan Ink, the blog I share with Sue-Ellen Welfonder, we occasionally have author guests. Sue-Ellen has come up with thirty questions. We ask our guests to pick ten of those to answer.
One of the thirty is this: do you believe in gift books?
A gift book is one of those enchanted books where everything goes right. The plot flows, the writing is easy, your editor loves it, reviews are wonderful, and sales are great.
My Beloved is one of my two gift books. (The other is A Scottish Love – 12/2011. How lovely to have both books out in the same year.) The book, my only medieval, was originally published in 2000, and has just been re-released (7/29/11).
I dreamed the plot of My Beloved, but that's a story I've told before. Something I've never told anyone is that I knew exactly what kind of book I wanted – had to – write. I already knew the atmosphere I wanted: intensely mysterious, sensual, with characters who longed for each other.
The story of My Beloved focused on two people – a tormented man, Sebastian of Langlinais, and his convent reared wife.
Sebastian had a great secret, one that would destroy his holdings and strip his family of wealth if the Church discovered it.
Sebastian was a leper.
Juliana, recently summoned from the convent that had been her home for years was suddenly faced with a man who remained in the shadows, attired in a monk's robe with cowl. This man had a strange and troubling request of her. If she would pretend to be his wife, he would ensure her life was luxurious.
Through the years, Juliana had been trained in the art of being a scribe, and in order to consent to Sebastian's odd arrangement, she wanted the inks and powders denied her in the convent.
The very last thing either one of them expected was to fall in love.
The Church held great power in the middle ages. A man suspected of being a leperwas declared legally dead, and his property and wealth confiscated, while he was sent to live in exile. The Mass of Separation dictated what would have happened to Sebastian:
I forbid you to enter the church or monastery, fair, mill, market-place, or company of persons...ever to leave your house without your leper's costume...to wash your hands or anything about you in the stream or fountain. I forbid you to enter a tavern…and so on. In other words, lepers were shunned at all times.
How could I write a romance about a leper? Not any leper, but Sebastian of Langlinais, a man of great honor and determination. My Beloved is a love story, a tale of the sacrifices made for love. It's also a story of power, faith, and perception.
Here's the scene where Sebastian and Juliana meet for the first time as adults.
She turned and stifled a sound of fright.
A specter stood there watching her. A shadow limned in light. No, only a man garbed in monk's habit. But he seemed so tall, so broad of chest, that he filled the doorway. Indeed, he looked to be more than a mortal man.
"Are you Death?" she asked in a tremulous whisper.
"Come to judge you in your final hour?" His voice was low, a rumble of sound. Had he spoken or had she just imagined the words? "What would you confess if I were? Or does your silence indicate a pure soul?"
Not Death then. Death did not speak in a voice that hinted at irony.
She felt absurdly weak, as if her knees wished to give out beneath her.
"Are you a zealot, then?" she asked, hearing the tremble in her voice and wishing she was capable of hiding it.
His cowl shadowed his face so well that she could see no hint of his features. She clenched her hands together at her waist, forced herself to take a deep breath, ask yet another question.
The words came softly, seemed tinted with kindness. "I am your husband, my lady wife."
There's a touch of mystery featuring the Cathars, the Knights Templar, and the early banking system they created.
I hope you have the opportunity to read My Beloved, and let me know what you think (firstname.lastname@example.org).
In the meantime, since I'm thrilled to be a guest at Romance Bandits, I'd love to give away two copies of My Beloved to a random commenter. If you're a writer, do you believe in gift books? If you're a reader, has a dream influenced your actions in some way?