Marisa Dillon debuts in the lair!

Several years ago, I taught a full day at the Antioch Writers Workhop and met Marisa Dillon who was clearly determined to write a romance.  We’ve been friends ever since.  It gives me great pleasure to bring her here today.

DillonM16 With Book Small[2]Hi Marisa!  Make yourself at home.  Tell me a bit about your story.

 Hi, Donna, thank you for inviting me. It’s so cozy here in the lair. At first, I thought it might be a bit drafty in February, with all the stone, but the bear skin rugs and the hot, mocha cappuccino, are keeping me warm.

My debut novel, The Lady of the Garter, is set in the late 1400s. The heroine, Lady Elena, is a strong, independent woman determined to achieve two goals: win the heart of Sir James, a knight in the Order of the Garter, and attain knighthood herself. The story grows as Elena disguises herself as a boy, becomes James’ squire and follows him into battle. But Elena’s determination and strength are tested as she confronts obstacles put in place by her nemesis, the evil Sir Nicholas. The twists and turns lead the reader on a romantic, high-spirited adventure that follows one woman’s pursuit of honor and true love. Here’s an excerpt:

James rubbed the back of his neck, then staggered forward. “Are you a gift from the duke? Where is my bloody TLOG_FINAL Extra (1) Resized Smallersquire, Edward?” he growled.

He’d obviously drank more than he’d eaten. She could smell the ale. “Your squire left when I arrived to tend to your bath, milord,” she answered. “He promised to return shortly.”

She hoped the threat of an interruption might keep James’ intensions honorable.

That made him smile. “Is this how you tend to the bath for your guests?” His grin turned wicked. “A bath with you would give me great pleasure,” he admitted, his heated gaze boiling her blood.

“I confess there’s scarcely enough room in here for me.”  

Her observation didn’t stop him from fumbling to remove his boots. Then he yanked off his breeches and shirt.

Elena sucked in a nervous breath—she loved seeing him naked. But if she didn’t take control of the situation soon, James would trap her in the tub.

“Come, you can sit on my lap,” he suggested.

She laughed louder than she should have, uncertain of what she wanted. But his smoldering gaze warmed her insides, making her wonder if he didn’t know who she was, what liberties she might take.

She wrung her hands, unsure what to do next. “Turn away and give me a moment of privacy, then I will tend to you.” She stepped out of the tub and draped herself in a towel the boys had left.

“That arse looks familiar. This is not my first time at Berkeley, girl. Pray tell, have we been together before?

Why historicals?

1325623091-fabio_romance_novelI cut my teen wisdom teeth on historicals, and have always loved stepping back in time to read a story starring an alpha male and the promise of a happy ending. Dukes, Viking lords, kings, chivalrous knights, they are the archetypes that satiate my appetite and fulfill my ideal of the ultimate hero. My older bookshelves are filled with the model Fabio on the cover. LOL. I hope some of your visitors remember him.

Dear Heaven – well I remember Fabio covers.  Those are a bit dated…Fabio’s flowing hair, submissive heroine at his feet.  I can tell from your excerpt that your heroine is hardly submissive.  What inspired The Lady of the Garter?

The inspiration for the story came to me after a trip I took back in time one autumn afternoon. I live in Ohio, and we have one of the largest and most authentic Renaissance Festivals in the country. I even dressed the part and took a ride on a warhorse. I was inspired by what I saw. The jousting reenactments, danger, romance, chivalry, comedy, comradery. It was all there and I wanted to write a story about that world.Ren Fair Fun

I love the idea of chivalry and romance mingling together. In the late 15th century, the notion of the knight in shining armor was not a fantasy, but a reality. (If history doesn’t lie) And as a lover of history and romance, I couldn’t resist researching and then writing about a group of knights who have been revered and served the English monarchy for generations. The Most Noble Order of the Garter was founded in 1348, holds the highest order of chivalry and is the Price William Orde of the Gartermost prestigious group in service to England. Even Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, is a Garter Knight today.

I was drawn to writing when my fifth grade poem was read aloud and published on the class room door as an example of what the teacher wanted. From then, I was hooked. My early writing was poetry, and then I dabbled with writing scripts for neighborhood plays that I’d staged with my friends in my garage. Later, a degree in journalism. But my career took me into television writing and marketing, where I work now. It was just in the last few years, I was able to get back to my true love of fiction writing.

 Someday we’ll have to talk about writing for television.  I know you must be asked this all the time, but I know the readers want to know – where do you get your ideas?

When I’m daydreaming and while I’m writing. Sure it’s sounds corny, and you’ve heard it before, but sometimes the ideas just spill onto the page as if someone else is guiding me. I am a panster-style writer and I let the characters take me where they want to go.

That’s me as well.  I know the structure of a novel and what needs to be accomplished along the way, but most of the time the characters are directing the flow of the story.  So know that you’ve gone through the publication experience, do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Dream big and don’t doubt yourself. Take workshops and join a local group that supports the industry. Success is not a limited commodity in the publishing world. Many authors are willing to give an aspiring writer a leg up. I had an aha moment when I took that workshop from you, Donna, a few years ago on plotting, and it helped me with this book. You’ve always been supportive. I’ll be forever grateful.Ren Fair Mysterious

Well, the pleasure is mine. I remember that workshop.  I do love to teach, and as I love romance so it’s a good fit. 😛  So what has been your greatest challenge as a writer thus far?

Finding the time to write. I’ve learned if you want to have a career at this, and you can’t quit your day job (I still have mine), you’ll have to learn to squeeze it in. Do something every day, even it’s just rereading what you already written. Never underestimate the power of revising.

They say a book is never written, it’s rewritten.   😛  What’s next for you?

Book II in the series. I’m well underway, but this one will have a Scottish bent. I’m also obsessed with Highlanders. I’d to ask your visitors what’s their favorite historical genre: Regency, Victorian, Medieval, Scottish or Ancient World?  And why?

 I’d like to hear that as well.  Someone leaving a comment will win an ebook copy of The Lady of the Garter.  

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  • Helen says:

    Is he coming for a visit 🙂

    have fun

  • Helen says:

    Hi Marisa

    Oh I do love the of sound of this one and I too have many books on my shelves with Fabio on the cover 🙂 I have been reading historical for many many years and although I read across all genres these days there was a time that I would only read historical and yes all of the Medieval Regency Victorian Scottish and I also love the American set civil war ones and the reason I think is that I have always loved to learn about the pas 🙂

    Congrats on the release

    Have Fun

  • IreAnne says:

    I have to say Regency because that is what I write 🙂 and I am most familiar with but I have enjoyed many Victorian, Scottish and Medieval as well. For me, I enjoy them based on how well they are written and how well the author can pull me in the story and the time period. If that is accomplished well, so that I can see myself there with the characters, then that plays a huge part.

    • IreAnne, I love Regency, too and I may go that direction in the future. There are just so many talented writers in that genre and I know it’s crowded. But like you, I love all types of historicals. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Hi IreAnne (waving) –

      When I look at the books listed on well-known historical author’s websites, often they hit many different periods. I hope I can switch around like that (if my head doesn’t explode from the research! 🙂 )

      • Donna I worry about keeping the time periods straight in my head, too. I have friends who jump between centuries. But no matter the time period, a duke will be have badly if left to his own devices.

  • Jane says:

    Welcome Marisa,
    I’m a huge fan of medievals, especially those set during the Norman invasion. I’ve always been interested in reading about the Battle of Hastings and William the Conqueror.

    • Hi Jane, Thanks for stopping by. William is such an iconic figure in England’s history. He was responsible for many castles and keeps built during his reign – among them the central keep of the Tower of London, the White Tower. These allowed Normans to retreat into safety when threatened with rebellion.

    • Have to admit – I can’t say that I know all the historic details surrounding the medieval time period…but I do love the image of a knight in shining armor. Heck – just walking around in it was a feat of strength! Love reading a good medieval.

      • Well, Donna, I asked your visitors what their favorite historical genre is and Regency is definitely winning in popularity, but it appears there’s room for a little medieval on their TBR lists.

  • Amy Conley says:

    I love midevil, but lately it seems all I’ve been reading is Regancy.
    And I SWEAR, ons day I will get to the Reinicence (I can’t spell) Festival!

    • Hi Amy, The regency Era was much more civilized then medieval times. The nobles concerned themselves more with fighting over ladies than land. And yes, the Renaissance Festivals are fun! You definitely have to go to one near you. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Amy –

      Seems like the only period the traditional publishers are interested in publishing are the Regencies. One of the wonderful things about indie publishing is that stories from all eras are suddenly available.

      And yes, you should go to a Renaissance Festival. Go and grab a turkey leg! 🙂

      • Amy Conley says:

        I live 2 1/2 hours from the one between Cinncy and Dayton, no reason for me NOT to go, other than there is always something else going on, grrrrr.

  • Cathy Phillips says:

    Hi Donna and Marisa! Marisa, congrats on your debut! I love medieval, and this one sounds really good. Thanks for the giveaway!

  • Robin Gianna says:

    Hi, Marisa! Happy to see you in the Lair! I have your book at the top of my TBR list – as soon as I get past the deadline screaming at me 🙂

    I’ve mostly concentrated on reading contemporary romance for quite a while now, since that’s what I’m writing, but in my younger years I read mostly historical. So many fascinating things to learn about various eras, and being transported to the past in a good book is something I particularly enjoy. I like researching, but am amazed at what you historical authors have to know to get your books written! I don’t think I could do it, but appreciate the final product of authors who do 🙂 Best of luck with this one and future stories!

    • Hi Robin, Thank you for stopping by the Lair to say, Hi. Donna is so fun; she’s always waving. I wonder if she has a driver? LOL! Thank you for putting me on you TBR list. You’re latest release, “It Happened in Paris…” is on mine. It looks like a fabulous read. You are right about all the research. It can stop your writing cold if you get hung up on it. There are days, I flirt with going contemporary and I have a story I’d like to play around with, but for now, I’ll stay with my historical roots. Have a great day!

  • Colleen C. says:

    Thanks for sharing! I tend to read more Regency and Scottish historicals, but I do love stepping into different times throughout history to see what characters are up to and seeing their journeys to a HEA.

    • Hi Colleen! Thank you for stopping by for a chat.I love Scottish historical, too. As I mentioned in my post, the Garter sequel will incorporate all the elements I love about Highlanders. I was playing around with the title, “Garters and Kilts.” That makes me giggle. Not sure that’s what I’ll use, but it’s sounds playful and intriguing.

    • Hi Collen!

      It seems like there’s more Scottish historicals out these days than in earlier years. Do you think that’s due to Highlander? Love the interest though. Hope you checked out my Scottish historical – The Whisky Laird’s Bed. Kilts, Scotch, and conflict – what’s not to love? 🙂

  • Love Fabio! I have a few books on my shelf with him on the cover. Love historical romance too. Your book, with the heroines, disguised as a boy, sounds like a fun and sexy read.
    And I agree, Donna is a supportive and kind mentor.
    Good luck with your books!

  • Patty L. says:

    Congrats on your debut novel. I can’t wait to read it. I love the Victorian and also the Scottish settings. Actually, I just love historicals. There is something in the romance of the clothes and chivalry that is missing in our society today.

    • Hi Patty. You are so right about chivalry missing in today’s society. I’m so lucky to have a husband that opens doors for me, even the car’s passenger door when I’m getting in and out. I have a male boss that’s pretty gallant, too. He even stands up from his chair when a woman get’s up from hers at a restaurant table.
      So glad you stopped by and I hope you enjoy the chivalry in my story. A gallant knight make me weak in the knees.

    • Hey Patty!

      You are a woman after my own heart 🙂 I agree that there’s something missing in modern times…or maybe too much has been added like video games, cell phones and GPS systems LOL.

  • Janie Mason says:

    I love most historical romances but of the choices you mentioned, I guess I’d have to choose medieval. I really like alpha heroes and medieval men were certainly alpha.
    Best wishes on your new release!

    • Hi Janie. Thanks for stopping by the Lair today. Yay! another medieval fan. Whoop! Whoop! Yes, men in that time period really didn’t know how to behave any other way then Alpha. The world was about survival and if a man was “soft,” he either had a protector or lived a short life. I appreciate your best wishes!

  • Jeanne Adams says:

    Hi Marisa! Welcome to the Lair! You’ve found out our secret – good caulking and insulation in THIS old stone pile! Grins. It’s always warm (and friendly) in the Lair.

    Your story sounds like a romp of an adventure. I’ll be sure to check it out.

    Isn’t Donna great at giving workshops? She had a great style.

    As to the question, I love Ancient and, being of Scots descent, Scottish. Grins.

  • Hi Jeanne! Isn’t it an author’s way to find the secrets of a place and if not found, invented, right? Yes, we can make Donna blush by writing more about her, but she’s likely to come back and find us out. She really helped me a critical juncture in this story about the Garter when I attended her workshop on plotting. Plus, she made it fun! Thank you for your vote on genre. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Shannon says:

    I’m pretty wide ranging in my historical era favorites. I am reading a Victorian set in England and China, and I’m lapping it up. But before that I was reading something set in the Regency. I’m just grateful for lots of books in lots of eras!

  • Deb says:

    Hi, Marisa! Congrats on the release! It sounds great! I used to read medieval romances, but they are hard to find any more, I think. The BEST ancient romances I’ve ever read, seriously, are our own Joanie’s Barbarian trilogy.
    I read mainly Regency romances, but do love a brawny man in a kilt….um, I mean, I really enjoy reading a Scottish/Highlander romance any time. 🙂
    Congrats again, and I look forward to reading TLOTG!!

    • Hi Deb –

      Joanie writes a great barbarian, doesn’t she? Although she’ll soon delight you with her leprechauns. It is a bummer that medievals are so hard to find these days, but indie publishing makes it easier. Plus I know Entangled will be putting out a great medieval soon. (hehehe) The author is a friend. 🙂

    • Ooh! Barbarians! I am going to have to check out Joanie’s books. With all this glowing support, I’m so happy to find medieval fans in the Lair. Perhaps, I’m on the cusp of a revival and I can lead the charge with my Garter knights!

      • Hi Joan, thanks for stopping by to say, Hi! Donna wasn’t exaggerating when she told me she has an amazing group of readers and authors following her blog. I’ve so enjoyed this lively conversation about our favorite romance eras. I appreciate your support and happy reading to you!

    • Joan Kayse says:

      Awww Deb, thanks!

      I love historical romances of ANY era. I was thrilled that Indie allows for exploration of different time eras. A HEA, is a HEA if in Rome or Regency England or Chinese dynasty! Can’t wait to read yours!

  • Mozette says:

    I love it that you asked this question… and my choice in time is Scottish Barbarian time… it’s so much like the times of where my clans came from as I’m Scottish decent.

    And it’s such a pure time as well… everything was made by hand, animals were butchered and eaten or salted to last longer… they made stews, breads and cheeses as well as warm ales and lagers in their purist forms. And before the English tried to breed them out of their own country, the Scots were a hearty and wonderfully brilliant lot, loyal to the very end.

    • Mozette, your description rings true. If you aren’t a writer, you should be. How wonderful that you are of Scottish decent and you honor your ancestors with your appreciate of their ways. Thank you for sharing what’s near and dear to your heart!

      • Mozette says:

        Actually, I do write books and novellas. I learned a lot about the UK, Scotland and Wales when I visited in 1997… such a wonderful country and I could see and feel the old Scottish Clans living up in the mountains and hills even now in the modern times.

        However, now, I write horror with a bit of a romantic twist in it… so this is why I visit this site, so I can add in a touch of romance without making it a torture to read or write. 😀

        • A-ah! I can spot an author’s lovely story-telling even in a blog post. I understand the need to mix it up as a reader and a writer. No matter which side of the romantic story you are on, I’m happy you stopped by and shared yours.

  • I’m a Regency fan from way back! I love the manners, the clothes, the stately homes and the position of the era in history.

    But I do love a good medieval romance! The Wolf and the Dove was one of the very first historical romances I read in college!

    Congrats, Marisa! And many, many sales. I look forward to reading this one!

  • Hi Louisa. I’m so glad the party is still going on. It’s actually my Birthday today and I’ve had a lot of fun hanging out in the Lair. I’m with you on Regency, there’s so much about that Era that’s delicious. But like you, I need to break the bonds of proper manners sometimes and revel within the impropriety of medieval times.

  • Drum roll, please! And the winner of the free ebook copy of “The Lady of the Garter,” is Helen! And the crowd goes wild. Congratulations! I’ll be in touch soon. Marisa