Today the amazing Marissa Campbell visited and we talked about her book Avelynn, Vikings, strong women, and cake! If you like the Outlander series, or TV shows like the “Vikings,” you don’t want to miss this book! Read as we discuss a variety of topics and drink tea to our hearts content. We even do a few yoga moves….
Hi Marissa! So happy to have you over for a discussion at Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Come on in and have a seat, let’s plop down in my nice oversized comfy chairs and talk about your newest historical fiction release, Avelynn—your book baby born at the beginning of September. Tell me how the launch ride has been as I run into the kitchen and prepare refreshments.
<I’ll try to see if any sexy Viking men are lurking about the backyard while I’m at it!>
Marissa: Thanks for having me, Erin! I love these chairs. I’m big on chairs that I can curl up in and these are perfect—love the accent pillows, by the way. Burgundy is my favorite color.
So about the launch… the Facebook party was a blast. I had a lot of wonderful guest authors help takeover time slots. They talked to readers about their books and gave away a ton of prizes. It was pretty spectacular. I am extremely grateful for their support.
Other than that, it was relatively quiet. Just a normal day of getting the kids off to school, helping with homework, etc. I have no way of knowing sales numbers, so I can’t tell if it was a success in those terms, but I connected with new readers at the launch party and have garnered some nice reviews, so, I’d say things have been going great so far. 🙂
Erin: I know you are enjoying chocolate and/or caramel teas by Teavana, I’ll put on the kettle and brew some up. I already baked some dark chocolate cake with chocolate icing, no worries it’s lunchtime and I’d happily eat cake. Do you take your tea straight in those flavors, or sugar and cream?
Marissa: It’s like you can see straight into my kitchen! Chocolate cake with chocolate icing, yummy. That is definitely my kind of lunch. I dig your style! I’ll take a generous slice, thank you—one with lots of icing. That is buttercream right? Oh, perfect! As for the tea, no milk or sugar in the Teavana blend. If you had morning breakfast though, I’d need a healthy shot of milk and a heaping teaspoon of sugar.
Erin: Now that we are settled with steaming cups of decadent tea (no sugar), and moist slices of heaven, let’s try to talk with our mouths full.
You’re asked this plenty I’m sure, but where did you first have your inspirational moment for Avelynn and can you tell readers, in your words, how you describe the book (beyond the synopsis)?
Marissa: Avelynn came to me on a dark and Outlanderless night. I understand you’ve also read Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. I’m a huge fan and I’m addicted to the series. As it happened, five years ago, Diana had just released An Echo in the Bone, and I dashed to the store to buy my hardcover copy. When I got home with my prize (think Gollum and his precious) I devoured the book, much like I’m enjoying this cake *dabs mouth daintily with a napkin* and then all of a sudden it was done.
It takes Diana about five years to write an Outlander book and here I was at the very start of that five year gap with nothing else to read. Avelynn popped into my head and said, “Hey, I’ve got a story! You could write about me while you wait.” And thus, Avelynn blossomed from a faint idea into a full fledge novel.
As for what it’s about. Well, I’m often asked how I would categorize it. There isn’t enough political wrangling and intrigue for it to fit neatly in historical fiction (though there is certainly a large amount of politics at play and Avelynn gets snared in the crosshairs) nor is the romance the entire focus of the tale (the romance is important, steamy, and sensuous, but Avelynn’s got a whole lot of other things going on throughout the story for it to qualify as a standalone romance) and I added a dash of the otherworldly by bringing in Avelynn’s pagan roots. Because it doesn’t fit into a neat genre box, I’ve created my own category and call Avelynn a romantic historical adventure. 😀
Erin: I love this time period of history. I always feel there is not enough historical fiction written about the conflict(s) between the Saxons and the Vikings. Can you tell “Vikings” is my favorite show? British history is a close second love. I was excited to hear of your book and really liked it. How much research did you have to do and how?
Marissa: I love the “Vikings” too! Fantastic show, great characters, wonderful action—I’m a huge fan.
It took me six months of research before I penned a single word of Avelynn. I wanted to understand the time period. I wanted to know how they lived, what they ate, and how they related to one another. I bought a ton of books, scouring obscure even out of print titles, some of which cost several hundred dollars. When I couldn’t find answers there, the internet was a huge boon. I am so grateful to be living in this time and age. Things that were accessible to me today would not have been twenty years ago. It really is phenomenal.
Despite the upfront research, I was constantly having to look up details or search other sources as I wrote the novel. For example, at one point I wanted Avelynn to hear a bell as a cue for the time of day, and I thought to myself, uh, oh, did they even have bells back then? Cue research… why yes, yes they did. Some churches had huge bells and a few even had a bell tower. How cool is that?
Erin: I also love strong female protagonists! I’m such a supporter of independent, intelligent, and charismatic women, which Avelynn certainly is! Not least in the year 869 though, right? Of course I read something about women then most likely having more rights than women now, however, at least in some regards if one was nobility. Can you talk a little about that? Also the pagan beliefs of the feminine role and how that affected societies, such as Viking culture.
Marissa: In Anglo-Saxon England, a woman’s vote counted at court, she could own chattel and land and could bequeath her possessions to any person of her choosing. Her bride-price, a dowry of sorts, was hers and hers alone, no one could take it from her. And while marriage was still a domain overseen by men, divorce was not out of the realm of possibility. A Viking woman had even more control and could divorce at will.
It was important to me to find a time period that a strong independent woman like Avelynn could fit into. Twenty years after Avelynn is set, Aethelflaed, the daughter of Alfred the Great, ruled a kingdom, led men into battle, and even won victories against the Vikings. She was the perfect role model for Avelynn’s strength and tenacity.
I also discovered Judith of Flanders, a contemporary figure from Avelynn’s time. Judith was daughter to Charles the Bald, king of Francia (France). She fell in love with a man beneath her station and eloped, ignoring her powerful father’s threats and protests—he even had the couple excommunicated. Judith appealed to the pope himself, and he forced Charles to let the marriage stand. Here was a woman willing to risk it all for love—a trait Avelynn could relate to!
Most of my research revolved around the Anglo-Saxons, but many of their ancient beliefs derived from Norse culture. The Gods of the Danes and Saxons were mostly men, but a few local goddesses stood out, as did Freya, the Goddess of fertility, who was worshipped widely.
Much of the paganism for the book was based on Celtic sources, since that was part of Avelynn’s roots. I added a dash and flavor of other belief systems into the mix to fill the gaps between what is known about the period and what could have been. I’m pretty happy with the result.
Erin: What are some of the battles that Avelynn fought both emotionally and physically throughout the book? What did she learn of herself and also, as the author, what did you learn about your character while writing about her?
Marissa: Without giving too much away, Avelynn had to fight against misogynistic and patriarchal views, wanting to be held up to equal standards based on merit and example—she had an uphill battle with that one. She also dons sword and shield and enters the fray, leading her men in a shield wall—a merciless and deadly pushing and shoving match.
She learns a great deal about herself in the process, for example,she soon realizes that she often acts without thinking things through. Despite the penchant for this trait to land her in deep water, she wouldn’t change a thing. Her beliefs mean that much to her. I did, however, learn that like a certain author who created her, she is not overly fond of being told what to do. I have no idea where she got that.
Erin: How important do you feel it is to follow your own heart, life passions, and dreams? And why?
Marissa: The yoga teacher in me just stepped up to the podium. I think it’s essential for a vibrant, happy life. Dreams, your heart’s desire, and passion are all rolled up together. They will never lead you astray. It’s what you are meant to be doing. We create a million excuses, “I’m too busy.” “I’m too tired.” etc., and in essence, we put ourselves last. We need to reverse that.
Our health and happiness are paramount. Once you honor your heart, live your passions, and follow your dreams, life becomes alive with promise and wonder. That’s what it’s all about.
Erin: It’s so cool you teach and do yoga! I love to do yoga, though I just do it at home on my Wii Fit with my 8 year old. She keeps me in check, trust me! Do you feel that yoga increases your brain power for writing?
<Let’s do a mid-interview yoga busta move>
Marissa:Great, downward dog! I love that you and your daughter do it together. 🙂
I think anytime we can take a few deep breaths and stretch between sprints of writing, we are doing our mind, body, and soul a world of good. Meditation can certainly clear your mind and open you up to things you haven’t considered before (it’s a great way to solve plot holes) but so can walking in the forest, or strolling the beach, or tending your garden. Any time we can slow down and connect with our breath is a great opportunity to support our health and writing.
Erin: I got sidetracked a little, so let’s get back to the book! It’s partly romance too, which I thought was done so nicely. I rarely like romance in full-force, but you made it so believable and sensual! I was drawn up into their story. Mostly though, I want to know how you learned to write the action scenes. Can you talk about how you balanced it all together?
Marissa: Okay, action and sex, let’s do this. 😉 *rolls up sleeves*
I guess the best way for me to describe it, is that I often have a cinematic view of scenes, especially very physical ones. It’s like I’m standing right there in a character’s body. I’m experiencing what they are living and breathing. I’m seeing what they see. I can feel the sweat collecting and dripping between my breasts. I can hear the clash of steel and the cries of men, the guttural pushing and slashing. I try to bring each of those senses, that visceral experience to the action scenes, whether Avelynn is facing a horde of Viking Berserkers or discovering the naked flesh of one fine specimen in particular.
Erin: What is something you like about Viking history? What are some of the things that intrigue you or make you want to learn more or obsess about? Any other books you’ve read you’ve enjoyed that I might like?
Marissa: Oddly enough, I hadn’t read a lot of books depicting the Vikings. As you mentioned earlier, there didn’t seem to be a lot on the market. I’ve since learned that there is a whole subgenre of romance specific to all things Viking, and it is alive and well. It’s my goal to dig into some of those in the very near future!
As for other books, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series is an absolute must. I’m also fond of Philippa Gregory, Anya Seton (Seton’s Katherine is my favorite), Barbara Kyle, Bernard Cornwell, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Susanna Kearsley, just to name a few.
In a future book, I will be delving deeper into the world of the Vikings, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how their world differed from the Anglo-Saxons. Before Christianity, the worlds of the Saxons and Danes shared a lot of similar characteristics.
Erin: Do you have a crush on Thor or Ragnar? I prefer…ummm…both! Haha! Do you watch and like Vikings? What do you think of the show? Do you feel people that like the show will like your book, why or why not?
Marissa: I love them both! Though I will admit to having a rather soft spot for Thor. Chris Hemsworth’s abs, butt, arms, and well, basically all of him in his entire deliciousness was the inspiration for Alrik.
I love the show “Vikings.” I was thrilled when it first came out and have watched it faithfully each season. I cannot wait to see what happens next, especially with Ragnar. And I really can’t wait for them to head back to England. I see some comeuppance for the massacre of the Viking village.
I think fans of the show will feel right at home in the pages of Avelynn. The time period, the values, and the world will feel comfortable. I also think anyone who loves Lagertha in particular will appreciate Avelynn’s strength and fortitude. Plus they are both beautiful. 🙂
Erin: I agree. Lagertha is my favorite character and I see that connection. I feel you handled the religious and political avenues of Vikings and Saxons very well. I think you showcased paganism so nicely. It has such an important place in our society. What was your underlying thought in having Avelynn, a Saxon, revere the Goddess? It was ironic I thought since most Vikings eventually took up Christianity. But I loved the use of it in the novel; it was fresh and intriguing and gave the novel suspense and spirituality.
Marissa: I’m blaming Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon for this one. I’ve loved the concepts of paganism forever and find modern Druidism and Wicca fascinating. I think there is a universal curiosity with ancient belief systems. No matter the age, mankind has always asked the tough questions: “Who am I?” “How do I fit into the world?” “What happens when I die?” “Is life predestined or can I change my fate?” I couldn’t have Avelynn fit into the mold, even her beliefs had to contradict society. Writers always seem to say, “If it’s tough for your characters now, make it tougher.” I didn’t go into the novel with this concept consciously, Avelynn chose her own path; I had nothing to do with it—she is after all pretty stubborn—but it suited her. It’s who she is. I had no choice but to write her that way. 🙂
Erin: I know you have a second book planned. Can you tell us anything about the sequel? Are there plans to continue it to a series?
Marissa: My hope is Avelynn will evolve into a long, loved series. In the second book (which I am working tirelessly on) Avelynn gets sidetracked and finds herself in Wales.
I won’t say any more than that, but Alrik and Avelynn’s story isn’t over yet.
Erin: Avelynn has a sweeping feeling like Outlander, which you said was a book series you really adore. Was this part of your intent? Of course Avelynn is original and there isn’t a complete comparison, but how is it similar and how does it differ?
Marissa: That’s an interesting question. I wrote Avelynn in the hopes that readers of Outlander would enjoy it and that it would help them pass the years between books eight and nine in the series, but how it’s similar or different, I’m not sure.Claire and Avelynn are both strong, independent women, and Alrik and Jamie are the kind of men a girl could easily fall head over heels in love with, and I think the world they inhabit comes alive in both books.
Diana is an inspiration, and I’d be honored if fans of Outlander considered Avelynn a worthy read.
Erin: Have you thought of writing other books within different time periods? Or maybe another genre? What are your writing plans or are you just taking it one step at a time?
Marissa: I wrote a sexy short story called Italian Delicacy, which is free from my website, by the way, and people loved the characters so much they have demanded I tell the full story of Samantha and Carlos. It’s a contemporary romance, and I’ve plotted out a great deal of it, but I find I can only focus on one book at a time. Until Avelynn #2 is finished, this one will have to sit on the back burner, though it continues to percolate quietly in the deep recesses of my mind. 😉
Erin: What books do you enjoy yourself in your free time <if you have with writing and raising three boys!>? What movies or TV shows?
Marissa: Free time? What’s that? Lol.
I’ve been reading a lot of romances lately, mostly contemporary, and some erotica just for fun. 😀
It’s been a long time since I watched TV faithfully. I was an X-Files freak (still am) and can’t wait for the new episodes coming out! I like Big Bang Theory, and of course, Vikings.
As for movies, I’m definitely more a romantic comedy kind of girl—serious chick flick stuff. When I go out, I want to laugh and smile. I like to leave the theatre feeling upbeat and light. If a movie is too dark or serious, my writer’s brain keeps me up all night ruminating on the plot and climax. I like to escape from the cacophony in my head, not add to it, lol.
Erin: Favorite meal you’d eat on the beach if someone swept you away for a moonlight picnic? If someone arrived in a boat from any place or time, who would it be?
Marissa: I’m a pretty simple girl, give me a steak with some wine and I’m happy. As for who, if it’s not my husband, it better be Thor. Lol.
Erin: Thanks so much Marissa for having fun with me today in this interview. More tea? Let’s enjoy a cup and relax a little. It’s been a pleasure to meet you and we’d be happy to have you here anytime. Best of continuing luck with Avelynn, I’m already excited for the next book!
Marissa: Thanks, Erin! It’s been a pleasure. And since I’m hanging around, I’d love another piece of that delicious cake! xo
Read my review of Avelynn HERE!
Publication Date: September 8, 2015
St. Martin’s Press
Formats: eBook, Paperback, Hardcover
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
One extraordinary Saxon noblewoman and one fearless Viking warrior find passion and danger in this dazzling and sensuous debut.
Marissa Campbell’s debut novel is a winning combination of romance, history, and adventure sure to appeal to fans of Diana Gabaldon.
It is 869. For eighteen years, Avelynn, the beautiful and secretly pagan daughter of the Eadlorman of Somerset has lived in an environment of love and acceptance. She hasn’t yet found a man to make her heart race, but her father has not pressured her to get married. Until now. With whispers of war threatening their land, her father forces Avelynn into a betrothal with Demas, a man who only covets her wealth and status. The dreaded marriage looming, she turns to her faith, searching for answers in an ancient ritual along the coast, only to find Alrik the Blood-Axe and sixty Viking berserkers have landed.
Alrik is unlike any man she has ever known, strong and intriguing. Likewise, he instantly falls for her beauty and courage. The two stumble into a passionate love affair, but it’s more than just a greedy suitor who will try to keep them apart.
As the Saxons and Vikings go to war, Avelynn and Alrik find themselves caught in the throes of fate. Can they be true to their people as well as to each other?
Book Trailer Embed Code: http://ahref=
Book Trailer Link: https://youtu.be/7i9KPQHeEdk
“Marissa Campbell brings a long-forgotten era splendidly to life in this adventurous and passionate debut.” –Susanna Kearsley, New York Times bestselling author
“Avelynn is a captivating tale of star-crossed lovers. He is a Viking and she is a Saxon. Their struggle to be together will lead you on an exciting journey through a background filled with rich and detailed description.” –Connie Mason, New York Times bestselling author of Viking Warrior
“Marissa Campbell’s Avelynn is a fast-paced, rollicking historical novel whose irresistible heroine starts out as the willful daughter of a Saxon earl and evolves into a warrior and leader, as fierce as she is passionate.” –Barbara Rogan, author of A Dangerous Fiction and Suspicion
“A hot-blooded tale of Viking invasion, Saxon valor, and a love that conquers kingdoms. Get ready to be bewitched by the bold, brave Avelynn.” – Barbara Kyle, author of The Queen’s Exiles
Marissa Campbell is a published freelance author, and co-author of the award-winning, spiritual self-help book Life: Living in Fulfillment Every Day.
Her debut historical fiction Avelynn published on September 8th, 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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