We back with another great Duck Chat!
We’re continuing Harlequin Historical month Terri Brisbin!
Terri and her family live in southern New Jersey, where she weaves her wonderful stories for us. She also writes for Kensington Brava as well as Harlequin Historicals and has had 18 books published since 1995.
Writing both historical and paranormal, Terri has two series and a trilogy, the MacLeries, the Dumonts, and MacKendimens, and her fans love them all; Possessed by the Highlander, The King’s Mistress, and Once Forbidden are just a few of the titles from these series. The Queen’s Man, The Duchess’s Next Husband, and The Maid of Lorne are her stand-alones. Take time to read any of Terri’s books. They are well worth it.
Terri has graciously donated two sets of her Highland trilogy, A Love Through Time, Once Forbidden, and A Matter of Time for a giveaway, so be sure to leave a meaningful comment to be thrown in the hat for your chance to win! Now let’s chat with Terri!
DUCK CHAT: Wow, Terri, you have a busy schedule for releases this year. Was that the plan or did it just end up happening that way?
TERRI BRISBIN: Well, once I sold to a second publisher and began to organize my contracted books, I scheduled to alternate between Harlequin and Kensington. So, it means two books about every ten months, plus a short story or two thrown in for fun! It’s different for me, and busy, and I’m hoping I still have a brain left when I finish.
DC: If you could retire any question and never, ever have it asked again, what would it be? Feel free to answer it.
TB: The one that asks: “so how long does it take to throw one of these little books together?”
DC: In June A Night for Her Pleasure, a Harlequin Undone! ebook, is hitting the shelves. First let’s talk about the Undone line. These are books which are shorter than the normal category romance. Is that more challenging for an author? Or easier?
TB: HH UNDONES! are actually short stories rather than novels or even novellas, about 60 pages long. They are a challenge and I found them more difficult to write than longer books because an author needs to include great characterization and plot and emotions but in a concise, shorter length.
DC: Now tell us about the hero and heroine, Simon and Elise, in A Night for Her Pleasure, please.
TB: Simon is a nobleman who believes he is a big, hulking man and too rough for the feminine, petite woman to whom he’s been betrothed. Determined to make her happy, Simon seeks the advice of his friends, a trio of bastard sons who were raised with him and who never seem to lack the company or attentions of any number of attractive women. Elise knows that only by making Simon happy and content in their marriage can she secure the future of her family and save them from disgrace and ruin. After discovering the truth about Simon’s true desires, she decides she must be the woman he wants. . . in his bed and in his heart.
The whole story happens over the course of their wedding day as they each try to be the exact spouse the other wants and needs and as they approach their first time in their marriage bed together.
DC: I’ve heard writers often say their stories take them in surprising directions, or dialogue flows from some unknown place. Is it the same with you? Do your characters surprise you sometimes? Do you ever argue with your characters while you’re writing? Who usually wins?
TB: Oh gosh, yes! Most of the time, I can clearly see the beginning and the ending of each of my stories, but the middles are vague and unclear until I write the book and begin to know the characters better. Then as I begin to know and understand the characters and their needs and goals and the conflicts that keep them apart, the story takes off where it will and I just run after it, trying to write it all down!
I do argue with my characters, usually in that moment when they first break from my ‘master plan’ and go off on their own. I have to say that they usually win! LOL!
DC: Then in July is the release of your Harlequin Historical, The Conqueror’s Lady. Your website says this is a Knights of Brittany book. Is this a new series you’re starting? And please tell our readers a little about The Conqueror’s Lady.
TB: Yes, The Conqueror’s Lady is the first in my new trilogy which is introduced by the short story in June – all involving the Knights of Brittany, a group of four men raised together, one noble and three bastards and who seek their fortunes and futures in the service of William the Conqueror. In this first full-length book, Giles is the first to gain lands and titles, and a wife, from his king but finds his betrothed wife marrying someone else when he arrives. Let’s just say he is not happy at all.
Excerpt from The Conqueror’s Lady:
‘Finish the words and you will be a widow before you are a wife,’ Giles Fitzhenry, knighted warrior of William the Conqueror, promised in a harsh whisper.
The blood from the gash above his eye flowed down his face and dripped on the lady’s shoulder, but still he did not relent in his crushing hold. It would take but a moment’s pressure to crush her throat and he swore to himself and then aloud that he would do it if she spoke the words of the vow. Giles turned to face the now-quieting crowd in the small chapel and revealed the dagger he aimed at her ribs, another assurance that the lady would die if anyone tried to intervene.
His intended moved with him, gripping his hand as though she could stop him. Lady Fayth of Taerford should have thought about the repercussions of her actions before he arrived. Before his men and hers had been killed in the battle for the keep… and for possession of her. Giles nodded to Roger and his man held his sword to the neck of the lady’s comrade in this crime, waiting for her response.
‘The keep and lands are mine now, lady, as are you. Your choice of words will simply bring his death more slowly or more swiftly.’ Giles watched as the woman in his arms exchanged glances with the man held a few yards away.
He felt her body relent before she spoke the words of surrender. Trying with all his determination to ignore the soft, womanly curves beneath his arm, he lessened his grip a tiny bit and lowered the dagger to give her the opportunity to make the choice. ‘Do you take him to husband instead of me?’ he asked aloud.
‘I do not,’ she whispered hoarsely into the deathly silence that had covered the room.
With her capitulation, his men surrounded her people and began to force them from the chapel. Without letting go, he nodded at his second-in-command and then at the man who she had chosen as husband. ‘Kill him.’
The priest protested loudly, but his men ignored the old man and prepared to follow Giles’s orders. It was her quiet voice that stopped him.
‘My lord,’ she began, trying to face him in spite of his grasp. Her movement simply made his blood drip and smear more over her cloak. It wasn’t until he lessened his grip on her that she could speak louder.
‘I beg you, my lord. He is not to blame. Truly. Mercy, my lord. Mercy.’ She leaned her head back, offering herself as a sacrifice to his anger.
He would tell himself later that it was his need to put an end to the bloodshed that made him relent. He would tell himself that he had never planned to kill the man cajoled or ensorcelled by his betrothed into this foolhardy plan to interfere with his rights to her and the land. But Giles only knew that at the moment when his gaze met hers he wanted to grant her whatever she asked of him. He let out his breath and nodded.
‘Take him and his men to the edge of my lands and release them,’ he said in a loud voice. ‘And if, from this time forward, they step back onto my lands or try to contact my wife, kill them without hesitation.’
After Roger dragged his prisoner from the chapel, Giles released his hold on her. She gasped for breath as he pushed her to another of his men. There was much to do and he needed her out of his way.
‘Find a place and secure the lady.’
Reaching up to touch her throat, she turned as though she would speak, but said nothing. His bloody handprint marred her neck and he knew that the armour gauntlets he wore would leave bruises on her fair skin where he’d held her. Any measure of sympathy he began to feel for her was extinguished when he saw that two of his men lay dead in the back of the chapel.
Giles met her gaze once more and the hatred burning there in her dark green eyes said more than her words would have or could have. Giles smiled grimly at her, accepting the challenge made silently.
‘Nothing is to happen to her, except by my word or by my hand,’ he called out.
Aye, my lord,’ his soldier answered as he dragged Fayth from his presence.
After surveying the chapel and making certain that his dead and wounded were cared for, Giles strode to the keep to see what his new home looked like.
She smelled the metallic odour of his blood on her and felt its stickiness on her skin where his gauntleted hand had clutched her. It was as though he had marked his possession of her where all could see it. Fayth’s throat burned and her chest ached from his crushing hold. As his men dragged her across the yard, she saw Edmund and his men being chained together. Pulling against her guard, she managed to come to a stop, but she feared the cost of calling out to Edmund. When their captors finished chaining them, they were hauled across the yard and out of the gate.
Would she ever see him again? Would her new lord and master keep his word and see them released? Fayth fought back tears at the thought of never seeing her childhood friend alive again. At least she’d been able to save his life, but now that everyone who had protected her was gone, she alone was left to face this invasion.
The clamouring at her side caught her attention and Fayth looked on in horror as her people, the servants and villeins of the keep, were herded into the yard that usually held their horses. Men, women, children. Sir Giles’s men were systematically going building by building and forcing all of her people out to the yard where they were thrown with the others.
Did he mean to kill them all? They called out to her, fear in their voices and terror in their gazes. What could she do now for she was a prisoner herself?
When one of the Norman soldiers tossed the cook’s young daughter to the ground, she could no longer stand by silently. With a strength that surprised her, she pushed off the grasp of her guard and ran to young Ardith, knocking the warrior away from her. Helping the girl to her feet and urging her to run, Fayth turned back just as her guard caught up with her and as Ardith’s attacker regained his feet.
Cursing in Norman French, words too gruff and too fast for her to comprehend, the man grabbed her by the cloak she wore and pulled her to face him. The anger flared in his eyes at being interrupted in what he must have thought was his due as the conqueror. He raised his fisted hand and swung it at her. She tried to lean away to avoid the blow, but his hold was too strong.
Pain exploded in her head and then there was nothing but darkness.
He watched the chaos of the yard from the open window in the chamber he claimed as his own. The large room boasted a hearth built into the wall, a privy closet and this window that overlooked the yard and gate. Below him, most of the people of Taerford Keep were collected in an enclosure with a few stragglers being taken there now. His men controlled the gate and the roads leading to it.
They’d fought their way from Hastings, along the roads past London and out to the west, into Harold’s country. William urged his haste in following a few who escaped the battlefield and ran to organise resistance to the duke’s lawful control of England. Days became almost a week as they faced battle after battle and finally made their way to his promised fief.
In spite of sending word ahead of his claim and his approach, the lady and those who conspired with her had nearly completed their hasty marriage when Giles managed to take control of the keep. He smiled grimly.
Now, it was his.
The building was not very large, but would suit him. It contained three floors with several private chambers and a separate kitchen building. The keep, kitchen, chapel and several other shops were enclosed by the wall. It was not large, but it pleased him and would offer protection until he could replace the wood with stone as William had ordered.
Pushing the mail coif off his head, Giles looked for something to staunch the bleeding from his wound and found a small linen kerchief on the bed. Pressing it against the deep gash, he walked back to the window to watch his orders being carried out. Unfortunately, things were not going as he had instructed.
The newest soldier in his company had some young girl in his grasp, his intent obvious even from this distance. Damn him! Giles had made it clear that such attacks were unacceptable, but Stephen had thrown control away during the battle and now the girl was his next target. Running from the chamber and down the stairs, Giles reached the yard in time to see the lady Fayth intervene.
Before Giles could shout an order, Stephen reached out and grabbed Fayth, lifting her from her feet. Giles called for him to stop, but the noise in the yard prevented anyone from hearing it. As he took off running towards them Stephen hit Fayth with enough force that the lady fell to the ground unconscious. Without stopping, Giles ploughed into the soldier and took him to the ground. Heedless of those watching, he pummelled him until he himself was pulled away.
‘Andre!’ he called to a guard. ‘Carry the lady to my chambers. Henri, find her servant or a healer and see to her care. And,’ he added, wiping his mouth of the blood that flowed freely once more, ‘do not leave her side.’ He turned to face Stephen, who still lay on the ground at his feet. ‘Your disobedience and lack of control have ever been your weakness,’ he accused. ‘You have been warned about this and you have not heeded my words.’
Giles ordered him lifted, stripped to the waist and tied to the fence. The yard was eerily silent now as all watched their new lord discipline one of his own. He would rather not have carried this out now, but a prompt response to disobedience by any of his men was necessary, especially in a time of war. He tugged off the gauntlets and accepted the whip from his second-in-command. Giles did not do this lightly, for he’d felt the lash bite his skin, but he’d learned the hard lesson it taught quickly and had rarely faced discipline again.
Walking to the fence, he looked at those now held in the enclosure and at his men. ‘For disobedience of my standing orders, the punishment is ten lashes. Call them, Thierry.’
Giles unwrapped the length of leather and flicked it into the air. The tip cracked loudly and many of those around him flinched….
DC: What is sure to distract you from sitting down and working/writing?
TB: Everything and everyone distracts me! Emails, tv, phone calls, whatever, grabs my attention and keeps me from writing, until the last days of my deadline…and then I simply write in an uncontrolled binge of creating until the book is done and in!
DC: How do you feel your male or female characters have evolved over your career? Do you think you write them differently now than you did when you started?
TB: Hmmmm. I’m not sure if my characters have evolved, but I do think characterization is one of my writing strengths.
DC: You also have a medieval trilogy coming up, the first book due out in November. The trilogy is being published by Kensington. Would you tell us about the first book, A Storm of Passion, and then give us a sneak peek into the next two books?
TB: I am so excited by this new opportunity! I based this new trilogy on an old Scottish folktale about a poor Highland woman who catches a fairy and demands a gift from it for her sons – something that will make them powerful and wealthy. Unable to refuse, the fae does give them a gift – powers to tell the future, read minds and thoughts and heal with a touch, but the fae also curses them. Each time they use their fae gift, their humanity suffers – the seer is going blind, the truthsayer is losing his hearing, and the healer is losing his emotions and becoming an empty shell. And the only thing that can break the curse is the freely given love of an enemy…!
The first book is about Connor, the Seer, whose words have caused the death of a young woman’s entire family, and Moira who is on a quest for vengeance against him. They discover that only together can they find the truth and only with love can they overcome those set against them.
The second and third books will follow the other two brothers on their journeys and search for answers about their gift, the curse that afflicts them and the women who could save their lives and their souls.
Blurb for A Storm of Passion:
In the first of a breathtaking trilogy set against the stark beauty of medieval Scotland, one man discovers a surprising past, a remarkable gift—and a terrible destiny…
Once, Connor believed that his ability to see the future would grant him everything. Instead, it landed him in a prison of his own making. Summoned by the Lord of the Isles to serve as his counselor, Connor gains wealth and prestige, but with every vision, his own sight dims. Even so, Connor doesn’t grasp the terrible consequences of his gift until he’s wounded by a young woman who blames him for her family’s massacre.
Moira curses herself for failing to kill the Seer—especially when she learns her punishment is to be given to him as a slave. Far from the proud, arrogant tyrant she imagined, Connor is a tortured man with a dark sensuality that tempts her night after night. But freeing him from a strange power that is spiraling out of control will mean forsaking her vow and risking her heart for the one man she has sworn to destroy…
DC: Is there a genre you haven’t tackled but would like to try?
TB: Well, I’ve played around with a historical fiction series, but don’t know when I’ll have the time to right that!
DC: What advice would you give to your younger self?
TB: Learn how to be effective without procrastinating!
DC: If you had never become an author, what do you think you would be doing right now?
TB: Exactly what I’m doing in my ‘real’ life – I am a dental hygienist and have been for more than 30 years. It’s a wonderful balance for me, the scientific process by day, the creative process by night!
DC: What’s on the horizon for Terri Brisbin?
TB: I’m under contract for five more books and another HH Undone! in the next three years, so I have to do lots and lots of writing! And I’m hoping for a trip to Scotland this fall, for pleasure and research.
– dark or milk chocolate? – Uh-duh – DARK!
– smooth or chunky peanut butter? – Smooth
– heels or flats? – Flats
– coffee or tea? – Absolutely tea!
– summer or winter? – Winter
– mountains or beach? – Beach
– mustard or mayonnaise? – Mustard
– flowers or candy? – Candy
– pockets or purse? – Purse
– Pepsi or Coke? – Dr Pepper
– ebook or print? – Definitely print
And just because it’s fun:
1. What is your favorite word? – Inappropriate
2. What is your least favorite word? – Fine (as in ‘it’s fine’)
3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – Passion for something
4. What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally? – Indifference
5. What sound or noise do you love? – A baby’s laughter
6. What sound or noise do you hate? – A silent keyboard
7. What is your favorite curse word? – Sh*t!
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? – Attorney
9. What profession would you not like to do? – Dentist
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? – “You were right!”
DC: Thanks so much for visiting with us today, Terri!