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?
Hi Marissa! Thanks so much for stopping by Let Them Read Books!
Thank you for having me! *waves enthusiastically to everyone*
Is there a real-life inspiration behind Avelynn's story?
My life is pretty unspectacular compared to Avelynn’s. Thank goodness. But we do share a few characteristics in common. Neither one of us appreciate being told what to do—a trait I have somehow managed to pass on to my children, however, if anyone asks, I’m blaming my husband’s genes on that one. It has nothing to do with me. ;) I’d also like to think that I carry a little of Avelynn’s strength and perseverance. She is one gutsy lady, and I respect and admire her for that.
Avelynn itself was inspired by Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander—not the story, but the fact that I was Outlanderless. I had just finished reading An Echo in the Bone and was waiting patiently for the next book in the series when I decided that I should write a book to help pass the long lonely nights without Jamie and Claire. Avelynn popped into my head and refused to leave. She was feisty and stubborn, and I loved her immediately. The tough part was finding a time period that would work with her spirited nature. All of my research led me to Anglo-Saxon England. In the ninth century, women held a modicum of power: their voice counted at court, they could own land and chattel, and best of all, they could rule countries and lead men in battle. Avelynn fit right in.
I was fascinated by the descriptions of Avelynn's Saxon village and manor. What kind of research did you do to bring it to life?
I spent six months alone just researching the period before I penned a single word on the page. I read as much as I could about Anglo-Saxon England: what the people wore, how they lived, what they ate (I even have a recipe book of some of their common and elaborate dishes). I delved into leechcraft, paganism, and herbal healing, trying to uncover every facet of their lives. Unfortunately, I couldn’t travel to England, so I had to improvise with books on flora and fauna and detailed maps illustrating what the lay of the land was like over a thousand years ago.
My research wasn’t limited to English history. I tried to gain an overview of society as a whole during the period, including the main players and events on the continent. I read everything I could get my hands on before I started writing the novel, but the research didn’t finish until I typed: The End. Every little aspect of the period needed to be checked and double-checked. I tried very hard to create an accurate representation of the time.
I also found it interesting that Avelynn, daughter of an earl, lives in her own cottage, as her mother had before her. Is there historical evidence that points to men and women of this time living separately?
A nobleman in the ninth century was expected to sleep in the hall with his lord. Most of the lord’s personal household guard (noblemen) lived in shires far removed from the manor and took turns presenting at court. There were, however, a select few warriors who were given prestigious positions and remained at court with their lord at all times.
Up until the end of the ninth century, the hall was strictly the realm of men, but as time went on, women were invited to attend the feasts, and they became grand social affairs. Because feasts involved a great deal of drinking and carousing, the lady of the house had her own cottage, safely removed from the boisterous revelers.
There's a strong pagan spiritual element in the story. What helped you depict it so vividly?
I have a fascination with paganism. Whether it’s ancient Greek or Roman Mythology, or modern day Wicca or Druidism, I am drawn to the practices and belief systems of these incredible faiths. I’m curious by nature, so Avelynn gave me an opportunity to delve deeper into Norse, Anglo-Saxon, and Celtic religions. I discovered that many ancient Goddesses changed from location to location and their names changed with them. They didn’t fit into nice neat pantheons like those of the Greeks and Romans, and much of the primary sources are scarce at best in their depictions of how rituals were performed and how the Goddesses were honored. I had to get a little creative and blended a few different pagan elements to help fill in the missing pieces within Avelynn’s faith. I’m pretty happy with the result.
What do you like best about writing fiction in this time period?
Well, big strong men with swords, mostly, lol. Honestly, I loved learning about the world and have since become rather fond of it—not enough to want to live there granted, but it’d be a pretty cool place to visit. I think what I loved best about the time period itself, though, was the freedom it afforded me. When the Normans came a scant two hundred years after Avelynn is set, in 1066, things changed dramatically. The Normans definitely adopted a look-don’t-speak attitude when it came to women. If I’d tried to set Avelynn after the Norman Conquest, it would have smacked of anachronism. The ninth century gave me a lot more room to play with her character.
What are you working on now?
I’m just finishing up my final draft of Avelynn #2.
Avelynn and Alrik’s story isn’t over yet. :D
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About the Author:
Marissa Campbell is a published freelance author, and co-author of the award-winning, spiritual self-help book Life: Living in Fulfillment Every Day.
Look for her debut historical fiction Avelynn coming 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!