Go to Homepage   Lynn Kurland: Magic from the Mundane

 
Lynn Kurland (photo by Lynn Rowland, courtesy Berkley Books)

From a heroine marked by smallpox to a hero so intimidating prospective brides will do anything -- including faking their own deaths -- to avoid the honor of his proposal, Lynn Kurland takes great pleasure in tweaking the cliches of medieval romance. Starting from the idea that people from distant times don't differ from us all that much, she delights in plunging "regular people" into extraordinary circumstances, including time travel and intimate encounters of the spectral kind.

A self-confessed fan of epic fantasy, Kurland nevertheless grounds her stories in careful research, vividly capturing the sensory experience of living in other times and conditions. Shortly after the release of From This Moment On, Crescent Blues asked Kurland the secrets of combining magic and the mundane.

Crescent Blues: What prompted you to try a more realistic take on the plot device of a lovely young woman disguised as a knight?

Lynn Kurland: Well, Colin [the hero of From This Moment On] needed a bride and I needed a situation that a woman desperate enough to avoid marriage with him would have found herself in. I'm honestly not sure how realistic it is -- the Middle Ages were notorious for their lack of privacy, so maintaining her disguise might have been more difficult than fiction allows, but factor in Colin's reputation and there you have it.

Book: Lynn Kurland, This is all i askCrescent Blues: Do you consciously seek out atypical situations and heroines, such as smallpox survivor Lianna of Grasleigh, the heroine of "To Kiss in the Shadows" from the anthology Tapestry?

Lynn Kurland: My theory on heroines is -- take a normal girl and put her in extraordinary circumstances and see what happens. I try to avoid perfect women -- probably because I'm not one and I want to read about someone I can relate to.

Crescent Blues: What are the keys to writing against the stereotypes of medieval romance?

Lynn Kurland: Remember that your characters are regular people -- despite their era. I try to keep in mind that the people I'm writing about have the same concerns I have today: keeping food on the table, keeping clothes on my back, keeping my family safe. Add to that a cold, unwashed environment with meat of indeterminate ages smothered in sauces to hide the taste and you have medieval times.

I try to keep in mind that the people I'm writing about have the same concerns I have today...

Crescent Blues: Colin of Berkhamshire isn't your run of the mill romance hero either. What inspired you to write a romance story around him?

Lynn Kurland: I grew very fond of him in This is All I Ask and I had many requests for a book about him. It gave me a chance to look at life from his perspective for a few months.

Crescent Blues: Did you always view him as a sympathetic character?

Lynn Kurland: Always. Gruff, but very tender under that crust.

Crescent Blues: When you began writing about the De Piaget's and MacLeods, did you realize the genealogy would grow so involved?

Lynn Kurland: Involved, yes; intertwined, no. I originally kept them all straight on a genealogy program (I'd still do that if I were better organized), and I used to joke that after I died, people would go through my stuff and be incredibly impressed that I'd researched my family tree back to the Middle Ages and found ancestors not only in England and in Scotland as well!

Crescent Blues: How many more septs and branches of the family tree do you see from your writing desk?

Lynn Kurland: Until the art department tells me they can't fit anymore on those two back pages! Seriously, I think I'll keep going, maybe introduce a few branches of other families as time goes on, and keep at it until I run out of interesting people to tell stories about.

Crescent Blues: What do you find most satisfying about time-travel romance?

Lynn Kurland: I absolutely love the whole fish out of water idea. It gives me a great chance to imagine what it would be like for myself as a modern person to go back in time and experience all those things you only get to read about in historical texts. Fascinating stuff.

Crescent Blues: The magic portrayed in your stories is very down-to-earth and, for the most part, friendly. How does this compare with your own view of traditional healing and so-called "occult" arts?

Book: Lynn Kurland, opposites attraactLynn Kurland: I'm absolutely not into the occult and none of the magic in my books should in any way be viewed as anything relating to anything occult. I'm a big fantasy fan, though, and for me, in my books, the magical element is just that -- fantasy.

As far as traditional healing goes, I think we've lost a great deal of knowledge about the wonderful weeds around us that could cure a whole host of ills in a very simple way. I haven't really gotten into that too much in my writing -- it's my own little soapbox and I think I would probably (and my editor would no doubt agree with this!) get too carried away with the whole herb thing and neglect the story.

Crescent Blues: What's your method for researching the medieval elements of your stories?

Lynn Kurland: The public library! At least it was at the start. I have tons of research books I've collected over the years, but I still am a big library fan. I've found some amazingly obscure tidbits by just poking around in dusty stacks for something completely unrelated.

Book: Lynn Kurland, from this moment onCrescent Blues: Do you ever model your characters on acquaintances or public personalities?

Lynn Kurland: Well, now that would be telling, wouldn't it! There are bits and pieces of friends, family and former boyfriends, of course, in many of my characters, but it would be just too darn complicated to spills the beans on who's who.

But I'll tell you this much -- the way Alex Smith eats (with grunts and pointing to things he needs) is so much like my husband that I honestly wondered, during one of our initial dates, if I could marry a man who didn't do anything during dinner but eat.

Crescent Blues: What influence does popular culture (e.g., movies, television series, the History Channel, fads, etc.) have on your work, if any?

Lynn Kurland: Not much. I try not to date my stuff by putting too many current events in it. (Of course, there is the ever-present desire for chocolate and visits to the mini-mart, but I think that's timeless…)

Crescent Blues: Would you like to branch out into other periods or types of romance?

Lynn Kurland: At this point, I'm pretty happy doing what I'm doing. I can tell you that I won't ever be writing Regency, Glitz or women in jeopardy books. I'm open to other things, but it will, in the end, depend on what the characters call for.

Crescent Blues: What about other genres, such as fantasy or mystery?

Lynn Kurland: Both, definitely! Like I said, I'm a huge fantasy fan and I would love to stick my whole hand in that pie.

Crescent Blues: What inspired you to sit down and write your first novel?

Lynn Kurland: I was first and foremost a reader. I read tons of fantasy and it never had enough romance in it for me. To be quite honest, it was a particularly bad romance novel that made me think that perhaps I might just have the courage to try my hand at it. I think many people find themselves in that boat and I say, go for it! Not everything that's published (be it fiction, or music, or other media) is the best that's out there. I think everyone has a story in them, and some people have several! If you think you can do it better than what you've just read, you just might be right and it's that competitive fire that keeps you going when it might be easier to give up.

Crescent Blues: What keeps you writing?

I don't have much patience for a muse, especially with two small children."

Lynn Kurland: Readers, readers, readers! If I had a nickel for every time I wanted to pack it in, well, I could go out and get myself something really tasty at the mini-mart. What keeps me going are the wonderful letters and emails I've gotten, especially from teenagers who are looking for a love story they can enjoy.

Crescent Blues: Do you have any writing rituals?

Lynn Kurland: Yes, I pull out the computer, put my backside in a chair and make myself work even when I don't feel like it. I don't have much patience for a muse, especially with two small children. That inspiration better be there on my schedule -- which might be getting to write longhand for thirty seconds at a time in between rounds of Disney monopoly or games of peek-a-boo.

Crescent Blues: Would you care to tantalize our readers with any tidbits about your current projects?

Book: Lynn Kurland, another chance to dreamLynn Kurland: I never talk about things in progress, which I know drives some people crazy. (My husband knows better than to ask by now!) It ruins the magic for me to talk about it and somehow it always sounds kind of silly to me when I try to explain what I'm doing. I guess I'm better at putting words on paper than I am trying to tell the story out loud.

I can tell you that next fall Berkley is going to publish Patrick MacLeod's story. I'm really excited about it (and I can talk about it a little since it's finished). He was, for me, an interesting character to get to know given that he'd been in the future so much longer than any of the other time-traveling MacLeods.

Crescent Blues: Anything you'd like to add?

Lynn Kurland: Just an enormous "Thank You" to everyone who has shelled out her (or his!) hard-earned money for my books. I am continually amazed by the loyal fans my little books have found and by the incredibly touching and supportive emails I've gotten. I feel like if somehow I've managed to make a difference in someone's life in some small way, then it's been worth whatever it took to get that particular book out the door.

Click here to learn more about Lynn Kurland.

Click here to read Jen Foote's review of Lynn Kurland's My Heart Stood Still.

Jean Marie Ward