I am so pleased today to welcome Kay Berrisford to the hotseat! Kay’s the author of Bound for the Forest, Bound to the Beast, Catching Kit, and Simon,Sex, and the Solstice Stone. She builds worlds that kick the one we live in to the ground, sit on its chest, make it smack itself with its own hand, and ask “Why are you hitting yourself? Huh? Why are you hitting yourself?”
And guess what? If you leave a comment on this post between now and December 16th, you’ll be entered in a giveaway for a chance to win any of Kay’s fantastic backlist titles. How awesome is that?
Thank you for having me! That’s the most awesome introduction ever–thank you!
You write both contemporary paranormal and historical fantasy. Do you find one genre easier than the other? Do you feel a stronger connection with characters from either genre?
I would have answered this question differently a few days ago. However, this week I’ve been roaming the forests and castles of thirteenth-century England and getting totally medieval on a couple of gorgeous blokes’ arses. I’ve reminded myself how much I love writing historical fantasy.
In some senses, contemporary paranormal is the easier. Cultural references to current movies and TV shows usually come easier—and make more fun reading—than those to the Magna Carta or the Forest Charter of 1217 (don’t ask!) I can write more freely when I don’t have to worry about the language sounding/being historically authentic. As for contemporary paranormal world building…well, I feel like I’m cheating sometimes. Simon, Sex, and the Solstice Stone was set between Southampton where I live (albeit in the coolest, most medieval part) and the prehistoric stone circles of Wiltshire, which are about an hour’s drive away. I set Catching Kit around the parts of south London where I grew up. But there’s a real love that drives me through the complex world building of my Greenwood novels. The research is hard work, but if the result is a totally immersive escapism, then it’s more than worth it.
As for characters—well, the two characters I connect the most with are Tam in Bound to the Beast, and Simon in Simon, Sex, and the Solstice Stone, so again divided between historical and contemporary (and the balance might tip, because Cal in my medieval WIP is totally getting under my skin.) I suppose Simon is the most like me. We’ve both done the history student thing. We both have our snappy, bitchy moments, and are far too desperate to please.
What’s it like to tackle BDSM in a non-contemporary setting?
Oh, fun, fun, fun, but quite challenging too. In many historical settings, people simply couldn’t say to each other, “I fancy a bit of fun spanking, how about you?” The shared cultural knowledge of BDSM as an acceptable practice simply didn’t exist, so it has to come naturally, born out of the story or the passion between my characters. Fortunately, plotting elements usually find me excuses for ropes and bondage, and I find it difficult to write sex without some power play or hurt/comfort elements, though it keeps me on my toes creatively. What did one use for lube in a twelfth-century forest, let alone for paddle play or to safely stick up one’s lover’s arse to make him squirm?
Haha! “I fancy a bit of fun spanking, how about you?” is officially my new pickup line. What I was blown away by in Bound for the Forest was how rich the world was. When I had to stop reading, it was like being pulled out of a dream. Do you draw from a lot of existing mythology when you build your worlds?
Oh yay – thank you! That’s what I aim for, but you never know if it works :) As for the research, oh yes indeed. I love it! Before I wrote Bound for the Forest I immersed myself in books of British and Germanic forest lore (the Wild Men are more often found in German mythology). I adore discovering ways in which lore interweaves with real history. The Greenwood is my fantasy version of the New Forest, about fifteen minute drive from where I live. Created in 1079 by William the Conqueror as a royal hunting ground, thirty-six villages and churches were apparently swept away, and brutal laws were imposed for the next few centuries to prevent commoners’ hunting or even foraging. The most famous of these laws decreed that commoners could only hunt in the forest if their dog was small enough to fit through the verdurer’s stirrup (and if too large, parts of the poor dog could be lopped off! Aw, they were evil!)
As in all the best narratives, the New Forest gained some small revenge in 1100, when William II (Rufus) the Conqueror’s heir and then king, was killed by an arrow during a hunting trip. The Greenwood’s blood harvest did not stop there. Rufus’s brother and three other relatives were also killed in the New Forest, allegedly in suitably ritualistic fashions: Duke Robert was killed by an arrow through his throat, and his son was hanged from an oak by his hair. Combined with the many tales of fairies and witches associated with the New Forest, it’s all grimly inspiring!
I also went potty over the legends of Herne the Hunter and the Wild Hunt before I started writing Bound to the Beast. That one has a prologue set during the Roman conquest of Britain in 43 AD, while the main body of the book is set in Elizabethan times, 1588. Once again, I loved intersecting the rides of the Wild Hunt with real events, and pretending that Herne and Tam could change the course of British history. I also have quite a lot of fun deriving the language of the Greenwood from real old English Words. Oh, and back to Bound for the Forest – the form of sacrifice that Scarlet is terrified of (death three times over by poisoning, cutting, and suffocation) was inspired evidence of similar practices carried out on real prehistoric bodies. *cackles evilly*
Much of what I research never makes it into the books, mind. In the original draft of Bound for the Forest, Brien and Arya had a long debate about Tacitus’s account of the slaughter of the Roman legions by the German tribes in the Teutoburg forest in 9 A.D. Erm, that got cut as I learned about show not tell!
Can we talk about the Green Man in Forest? I’m still having sweet dreams/beautiful nightmares about him. Is he based on something from existing lore? And if you could bring one mythological person or creature to life, who/what would it be?
Oh hell, yes please! Green Men (roughly speaking, half men/half tree creatures, or tree shifters) are an ancient element of Northern European/Roman pagan mythology. They are associated with various gods and mythical figures, including Robin Goodfellow (Puck) and even Robin Hood, whose earliest incarnation are sometimes said to be as a form of Green Man. Most predominantly though, Green Men are found as grotesques, faces with foliage for hair, or sometimes vines growing from the mouth, on medieval buildings and especially churches. Interesting, given their pagan origins! Because there aren’t that many solid stories associated with Green Men, I decided to integrate him into my world as a spirit of Holgaerst, the less evil half of the nature and magic of the Greenwood. Clearly, there were not enough benign tree shifters in the world who want to have sex with pixies. And, in case anybody was wondering, he’s not a bloody Ent.
In answer to your question about who else I’d like to bring to life, I’m going to have to say Robin Hood, because that’s whose tale I’m reworking at the moment. And the Green Man might just be making a cameo appearance in his story, Lord of the Forest, too.
I’m thinking about becoming a druid priestess. What special skills do I need? And more importantly, do I have to have long, wavy hair? Or could I get by with an Emma Watson-ish pixie cut?
A good deep voice for some chanting is useful. I’d just sound like I was wailing about my weeks’ shopping. You also need to be hardy—celebrating the summer solstice at Stonehenge is all very well, but if you’re going to greet the sun returning at midwinter, on the 21st December, you’re going to freeze your arse off in those white robes. Talking of which, looking good in white is also a useful skill.
To be honest, in these late days of earth spirituality, you can bring whatever skills you’ve got to the table. However, if you want to get down and dirty and into the (alleged) historical origins of Druidism, you might need strong stomach for all the sacrifice, and good copper working skills, so you can beat yourself a shiny, sheet-bronze cauldron to catch all the blood!
The pixie cut is just as good as the long and wavy! If not, better. I’m a big fan. You can still weave in pretty flowers, right?
It sounds like I’ve still got some work to do—if I’m okay on the hair, the chanting voice and sacrifice shouldn’t be a problem, but I get cold very easily. And white makes me look like the children from The Others.
I’ve talked to writers from both camps: The “I’ll torture my character endlessly as long as it makes a good story” camp, and the “I cry when I have to kill off a character” camp. Scarlet goes through some pretty awful stuff in Bound for the Forest. Was it hard to put him through that?
|God, this cover!|
Um, no. There are two things I love to write. Firstly, hot man sex. Secondly – ANGST, ANGST, ANGST, TORTURE, TORTURE, TORTURE, ANGST. So I’m not just in the “I’ll torture my character endlessly as long as it makes a good story” camp. It’s no longer a camp to me. It’s my home. I’ve built a ruddy great castle there, and you’re not going to get me out without a long, bloody siege.
At one point when writing Bound for the Forest, I wept a little for Scarlet, but I was, uh, enjoying myself quite a lot in a weird way. That said, while the Green Man scene (you know the one I mean) was probably the easiest thing I’ve ever written, the scene where Scarlet gets ravaged by the Wild Men was one of the hardest. It wasn’t down to the poor guy’s suffering, though. Describing scary tree wraiths is really damn hard!
Also, Scarlet gets it easy compared to Cal in Lord of the Forest …but that’s another story.
I WANNA KNOW RIGHT NOW!!
*Takes deep breath and smooths skirt*
You are British. I’ve been practicing being British since I was six. Is it offensive, cute, or something else entirely when Americans try to do British accents?
It’s cool. I’d love it! It would make me feel less conspicuous, and I promise I wouldn’t go all annoying and correct you—unless you wanted it, of course. I’ve not yet been to the USA (going to hopefully rectify this next year) and I’m curious of what people will make of my accent. I suppose I sound quite “home counties” (talking of Emma Watson, I’m not quite that posh, but not so far off either). When my other half was in Utah with a bunch of other people from his uni, a guy in a restaurant said he’d thought he’d just walked into an Austin Powers movie. I’m braced for the worst.
You know to us British accents sound smart. You could throw someone in front of us with the IQ of sawdust, and as long as he/she had a British accent we’d nod and be like, “Good point.” Who has the most authoritative British voice: Dame Helen Mirren, Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ian McKellan, Sir Patrick Stewart, the Queen, or R-Patz?
That’s a tricky one. It’s hard to overlook M or Gandalf, but I’m going to plump for Sir Patrick because he barked all those orders and managed not to crash the Enterprise (that much.)
I can never look at him the same way after that episode of Extras. I think you once mentioned once you’re a former theater geek. Can you tell me more?
Eeeeee! Try to stop me! I loved theatre at school. I had a bit of a fetish for dressing up as a boy, which I could indulge nicely as we were an all girl institution. My favorite part was Lysander in Midsummer Night’s Dream, where I bagged myself a gorgeous blonde Hermia, who was a head and a half taller than me. Looking back, I now understand how badly I wanted her to spank me…aaaaaaaaanyway, moving on. I used to get quite active behind the scenes, and wrote the musical scores for a couple of productions. When I wasn’t acting, I’d lead the orchestra or play the piano. That turned sour on first night of the second production when the lights went down for the tragic second half of the play. Basically, we’d only ever practiced in daylight, but this was in the evening…and there I was, sitting solo at the piano, totally unable to see the keys. I knew the music by heart, but I wasn’t that good! I couldn’t even find middle C. I learned that night that not only was I no Olivier—I was no Beethoven either.
Though I studied history, I hadn’t quite got theatre out of my blood and was involved a bit at uni. When I left, I was still keen enough to take a job as an theatre agent’s assistant. The only part of this I enjoyed was matching up the photos of the clients on the agents’ books with the casting call sheets. The rest of it I hated—it really wasn’t anything to do with theatre, and I felt so bloody sorry for most of the actors. They got paid nearly as little as me!
Ohh, that piano story is great! And yeah, I think any theater position except for Being Patrick Stewart is grossly underpaid. Speaking of grossly underpaid jobs…
Rank these Olde Tyme professions from sexiest to least sexy. If you wish, provide a justification for your choices.
10. Butcher – because I left him out. And because I tried being a vegetarian for a bit. Then again, he might do nice sausages. Possibly this is an injustice, but he just ain’t sexy.
2. High Priestess – that’ll be J.A. Rock, right? :)
7. Lumberjack – oh, maybe he should be higher up? He’s probably all sweaty and muscle bound, but I’m going to justify his low standing because he chops down trees. And we all know how sexy trees are. Boo for lumberjacks.
6. Village idiot – could be very sexy, but would probably be me.
3. Sock garter model – hell, yeah, bring it on. (Note: my husband recently confessed he used to have to wear sock garters to school as part of the regulation uniform. What century were we living in?)
4. Baker – nommy bread smells to drown out the stinky-ness of history, thus upping everyone’s libido.
5. Midwife – midwives are usually very knowledgeable, and that’s cool and sexy.
1. SEXIEST! Prince of Thieves – I’m writing a Robin Hood book, right? I have to back those outlaws. Plus, I’ve got an exceedingly naughty WIP about a highwayman and his whip somewhere on my hard disc…
8. Courier – they might be very cute, but they might also be a pigeon. I like birds, but I’m not a bird fancier.
9. Hangman – oh, scary! Might be sexy in some sort of role-play scenario, but… let’s not go there now.
What makes a great romance?
A good romance should be slightly frustrating, but in the best possible way. Okay, so what do I mean by that? Basically, when you’re reading a good romance, you’re so desperate for the two MCs to sort things out and get together that you want to turn over the pages quicker than you can read. Apart from you don’t want to turn over those pages and rush it, because you’re loving the story and you want to spend as much time as possible in these people’s company. So a really good romance is always a book you can’t put down. You need to read it in a single session or dash back as soon as possible. It really gets under your skin.
As for the exact ingredients e.g. setting, level of conflict, that’s all subjective as far as I’m concerned. Personally, I like a high level of conflict between the MCS—lovers to enemies is a trope I adore—and an interesting or high concept setting (preferably fantasy or historical). And, of course, I love ANGST, ANGST, ANGST, TORTURE, TORTURE, ANGST. But none of this is essential like the above, just my taste.
Oh my God, I love T&A (Torture & Angst). Thank you so much for being here. I am so excited to read more of your work!
And now *drumroll*…leave a comment on this post to enter for a chance to win one of Kay’s backlist titles! Elves, beasts, Green Men, history majors…take your pick! Contest will end at 11:59 p.m. on December 16th.