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Author interview with Leslie Vollard

The Skull and the Lute comes out tomorrow! Leslie was kind enough to answer some questions for us.

You can get your copy of this exciting historical romance HERE!

Did you always know you wanted to be an author? What is the first story you remember writing? How did you get from there to where you are today? 

I’ve wanted to be an author for as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved books and reading, and authors’ creativity has always inspired me. I remember writing a lot of My Little Pony stories when I was in elementary school. When I was in high school, I took myself terribly seriously and wrote lots of poetry and a few plays. As an adult, I fell out of the habit of writing for many years, but about a decade ago, I took a creative writing seminar, and it got me back into the groove. I wrote my first novel-length manuscript on a twelve-hour train ride from New York City to Montreal. That novel will never ever see the light of day, but it proved that I could, in fact, write an entire book. I got serious about my writing during the pandemic. Some people baked sourdough. I started writing romance novels. Before I knew it, I’d written a four-book series set in the Middle Ages, and to my delight and amazement, Dragonblade thought they were good enough to publish. Here I am, releasing my first novel at the age of forty-five. I’m so happy this childhood dream has come true!

What is the most inspiring place you’ve visited and has it shown up in one of your books?

When I think of inspiring medieval locales, Mont-Saint-Michel immediately comes to mind. It’s hard to think of a more dramatic setting—a stone city rising from the sea, bristling with turrets, steeples, and crenelated walls. I haven’t put it into a book yet, but I should. The family I write about in my books has strong ties to the sea, and it certainly wouldn’t be a stretch to have one of them sail there for a visit.

How much research do you do into the time period and places you write about? Do you have any experience dressing in character or participating in living history situations or are you more a fan of libraries and online resources?

I thought I knew a fair amount about the Middle Ages from my studies during my college days, but then I started writing novels set in the period and realized how little I knew. The medieval plays and poetry that I loved didn’t tell me anything about the details of daily life that make a novel come alive. I’ve had to research extensively about everything from table utensils to swear words, and I’ve learned a tremendous amount in the process. To really inhabit my characters, I’ve been making some of the costumes described in the books. It gives me a whole new perspective on them to literally walk in their shoes.

What drew you to the era you write in? Is there something about the time period you think most people don’t know about? What do you think would be the most difficult part about living in that period?

I have a longstanding fascination with the Middle Ages. I think it started with stories of knights, castles, and princesses when I was a child. (I watched Disney’s Robin Hood so many times that the VHS tape broke.) In college, I was captivated by medieval troubadour poetry and wrote my senior thesis on a poet named Arnaut Daniel. He was the original inspiration for the hero, Daniel, in my first book. I think the Middle Ages are often overlooked as dark, desperate, and static, when in fact the seeds of modern culture were being sewn. The languages we speak today began to take recognizable form during this period. Our modern concept of romance was profoundly influenced by the ideals of courtly love from the Middle Ages. If we time travelled back to the Middle Ages, I think we’d recognize more than we would have expected. (Though I don’t know how long I would last without coffee and indoor plumbing.)

What are your favorite kind of characters to write? Do you have a specific trope that you’re drawn too?

I like to write strong, intelligent women, and men who admire and respect that strength. My heroines verge on nerdy with deep and passionate interests. The men who fall for them are talented and capable enough to keep pace with them without being threatened. In terms of favorite tropes, it’s so hard to pick! Forbidden love and secret identity are favorites of mine.  They show up in a couple of my books, though in very different forms.

Where is your favorite place to write? Does it change depending on where you are in the process?

There’s a super comfy glider in the family room where I sit with my laptop and write before my family wakes up. It’s where I’ve written, revised, and polished all of my novels.

Which comes first for you: the plot or the characters?

Definitely the characters. I have to know who my romantic leads are before I can start dreaming up ways to complicate their lives and force them to grow.

Do you know where the story is going before you begin, or does it come to you as you write? Do scenes come to you fully formed or are you as surprised as the reader?

I always start off with a plan and then veer off in a completely different directions when the characters take on a life of their own.

Does your writing process include any kind of ritual? Story specific playlists, tea, or candles, for example?

Every day at 5am, I make myself a cup of Irish Breakfast tea and open my laptop. Some days I write 100 words. Some days I write 2000. But every day I try to write something to keep the creative juices flowing.

Do you write better in the morning or evening? How do you handle the distractions of working from home, especially if you’re sharing the space with others?

I am definitely a morning gal. In the evening, I’m too tired, and there are too many distractions. Those quiet early morning hours before everyone is up are so precious. I get a lot done during that time.

When it’s difficult to physically travel, how do you find ways to escape?

I read and I write. I find it more absorbing and diverting than just about anything else. When I’m reading or writing, my mind is in another world. It’s a wonderful escape from the mundane worries of the day.

From all your books, who is your favorite hero and why?

Of all my heroes, my favorite is Daniel from my first book, though it’s a tough call. But Daniel was the spark that started me writing the series in the first place. He’s so tortured but deeply loyal. And I love a man who works with his hands.

What do you like to read when you’re not reading in your genre? Did you have a favorite book or series when you were growing up?

I’ve always loved science fiction and fantasy. It all started with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which I read over and over when I was growing up. It’s such a magnificently imagined world, and the main characters in the Fellowship are so engaging. Of course, I’ve always had a crush on Aragorn, but then who doesn’t? These days, I’ve been reading more science fiction. I recently read Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut series and loved it. It’s an alternate history where a meteorite falls to earth in the 1950’s spurring a space race to flee a planet in danger of becoming uninhabitable. It follows the stories of women who fight to join the astronaut corps in a society that is still far from considering them equals.