I am really excited to have Helen Johannes visiting me today. She’s here answering some questions and sharing her book BLOODSTONE with us. After this interview I just had to go buy my own copy, and loved it! Please help me make Helen feel welcome!
I love the Beauty & the Beast concept with a new take! What made you choose that fairy tale?
I’ve always found that particular fairy tale fascinating, and I especially was drawn to the ancient Greek version of Cupid and Psyche. To save her family, Psyche has to accept a husband she thinks is a monster because he visits her only in the dark. Cupid, the god of love, wants to win love without having his ‘powers’ interfere, so the relationship builds on what cannot be seen.
That idea intrigued me, so I created a hero whose cursed appearance can kill, whose isolation is self-imposed to protect society from his failure. Then I gave him a heroine who is brave enough to go into the wild lands to protect her father, who’s willing to trust a Shadow Man who hides in cloaks and hoods over men whose faces—and intentions—she can see.
What steps do you find most effective for you in building your fantasy worlds on the page?
I prefer to keep my worlds close to ‘reality’ with the occasional invented creature, plant, or in the case of BLOODSTONE, a gemstone of petrified dragon’s blood. To me, fantasy is best when grounded in the five senses, and I have an affinity for medieval-style worlds. (Horses and swords, yes!) Belief systems, geography, and myths are where I like to develop the fantasy elements.
You mentioned having creatures called Wehrland Lions in Bloodstone. I’m a fan of big cats. Tell me about Wehrland lions?
The Wehrland lion is like a mountain lion living in the no-man’s land surrounding the ruined fortress where the Shadow Man lives. The Wehrland she-lion has all the attributes of a feline—she’s enigmatic, supremely self-confident, fierce, and focused on her own agenda. She communicates with my hero and heroine telepathically. My heroine bonds with her, but my hero … he’s learned the hard way that magic isn’t to be trusted.
Sum up your heroine, Mirianna, in 3 words.
Brave, compassionate, intelligent
What did you enjoy most while writing this book?
I’m an ‘into the mist’ writer and I most enjoyed the process of discovery as my characters ‘showed’ me the story through their eyes. The last third of the book came together with plot twists I hadn’t seen coming, but when I looked back, I saw the underpinnings were there. That thrill of discovery is what keeps me typing.
What did you struggle with most?
Sometimes I get to a point in the story where I have to pick a path. Being an ‘into the mist’ writer, I can occasionally start down the wrong path or have to take some time to feel around for the right one. That slows me down.
What genre would you like to write that you haven’t tried yet?
Romantic suspense. I really love to read it.
What do you find more fun to write…the hero, heroine, or villain?
Usually I love torturing my hero. There’s nothing like putting a manly man through emotional anguish, making him do things and say things he’s vowed he’ll never do and say.
If you could travel to any fictional world, which would you choose? And why?
I’m a big fan of both Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. Middle Earth has had more influence on my understanding of epic fantasy, but I’d have to be one heck of a warrior princess to survive in that world. I might be safer in Hogwarts. Plus, they have showers.
Now it’s your turn… What question would you like to ask the readers of this blog?
Why do you read fantasy romance? What draws you to the genre?
And now, for the speed round (a la Actors Studio). Answer the following questions with 1 word:
- What turns you on? Imagination
- What turns you off? Boredom
- What is your favorite word? Creativity
- What is your least favorite word? Taxes
- What sound or noise do you love? Snowfall
- What sound or noise do you hate? Screeching
- What profession other than yours would you like to attempt? Tour guide
- What profession other than yours would you NOT like to attempt? Military
- What is your favorite swear word? Crap
- If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say to you as you enter the Pearly Gates? Welcome!
BLOODSTONE 2011 Launching a Star Winner in Fantasy Romance, The Wild Rose Press
What if looking at the face of the man you loved meant death?
Years ago, warrior Durren Drakkonwehr was cursed by a mage. Now feared and reviled as the Shadow Man, he keeps to himself, only going to town to trade rare bloodstones–petrified dragon’s blood–for supplies. Though he hides his face, he can’t hide his heart from the woman who haunts his dreams…
Needing bloodstones for a jewelry commission, Mirianna and her father journey across the dreaded Wehrland where the beast-men roam. When their party is attacked, only the Shadow Man can save them. Strangely drawn to him, Mirianna offers herself in return for her father’s rescue.
Living in the ruined fortress with the Shadow Man, Mirianna slowly realizes that a flesh-and-blood man–not a fiend–hides there in hoods and darkness. But are love and courage enough to lift the curse and restore the man?
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“What about us? What do we do?”
Only the hood rotated, cocking with exaggerated deliberation. “Why, you die, old man.”
Her father blanched. His grip on Mirianna’s arms faltered.
She saw the Shadow Man turn, saw the muscles of his thighs bunch as he prepared to leap down the hillside, saw, in the corner of her eye, shapes gathering along the tree line below, horrible shapes she’d seen only hours before rushing at her from a darkened clearing. With a shudder, she broke from her father’s grasp.
“Please!” She reached out to the black sleeve. “Help us!”
He recoiled at her touch like one snake-bitten. The sudden, sharp focus of his regard staggered her, but she backed no more than a step. No matter how he terrified her, he’d helped her once. She’d been led to him again, and not, her instincts told her, without reason.
“Please,” she repeated. “Help us. I—we’ll do anything.”
His voice was a whisper that caressed flesh. Mirianna’s stomach quivered. Her breasts tingled. Her mouth grew even drier. Without thinking, she slid her tongue along her lips. Vaguely, she wondered what she’d done. And why time seemed suspended, as if everyone but she and the Shadow Man had been cast in stone and all sound arrested. All sound except the taut, guttural repeat of his question.
About the Author:
Author Helen C. Johannes lives in the Midwest with her husband and grown children. Growing up, she read fairy tales, Tolkien, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Agatha Christie, Shakespeare, and Ayn Rand, an unusual mix that undoubtedly explains why the themes, characters, and locales in her writing play out in tales of love and adventure. A member of Romance Writers of America, she credits the friends she has made and the critiques she’s received from her chapter members for encouraging her to achieve her dream of publication. When not working on her next writing project, she teaches English, reads all kinds of fiction, enjoys walks, and travels as often as possible.
Blog: Brave Men, Bold Women–Hearts in Search of Home
Hi Abigail! Thanks so much for hosting me. I’m curious to know what your readers have to say about why they read fantasy.
I read fantasy for the escape. Imagining and discovering worlds were anything is possible.
Wow, great excerpt! Your story sounds fascinating, Helen.
Thanks, Mary! I enjoyed writing it.