You know, writing time travel is a wonderful gift. You can go to any time period you want, research it to your heart’s content and write about it. I have frequently written historicals, but I came to time travel by accident. The story of Leonardo’s wonderful machine actually begins in ONE WITH THE DARKNESS, which is technically a part of The Companion Series. In that book Contessa Donnatella di Poliziano lives in Italy of the early nineteenth century, but she’s a centuries-old vampire who regrets that she didn’t make the barbarian slave she loved vampire too so they could live through the ages together. She finds a clue that her friend from the Renaissance, Leonardo DaVinci left her, guiding her to a machine he built to let her go back and correct that mistake. Of course it isn’t that easy. Lots of adventures ensue. But I got to research and inhabit Caligula’s Rome while I wrote that book. And it was a blast.
So, I decided that the connection for my next series would be Leonardo’s machine, passed from heroine to heroine as they tried to remake their lives. These women weren’t necessarily vampires, but they were people who wanted something they couldn’t find in modern times. First Frankie (who is a vampire) got to go back in TIME FOR ETERNITY to the French Revolution to try to kill the man she thought she loved, a man who made her a monster and abandoned her. She learns to look behind the obvious to find the truth.
But what to do in the second time travel book? I returned to a period I have always had a soft spot for. In A TWIST IN TIME, Lucy Rossano uses the machine to go back to a time when magic was still possible, since her life seems to have so little magic in it. Unfortunately she lands in Dark Age Britain in the middle of a battle, and accidentally brings back a wounded Viking warrior to 20th Century San Francisco. I love Galen and how he adapts to the modern world, and how he and Lucy fall in love in spite of all the forces arrayed against them.
While this particular book has only one scene in Dark Age Britain, this isn’t the first time used Dark Age characters. DANEGELD was the first book I ever published, and it was a book of my heart. I had written my first book (a Regency Vampire later published as SACRAMENT) and it was sitting under my bed. Could I ever find a subject I liked and think up another plot? I was one anxious girl. Where would I set it? Who would the characters be? I looked around for something, anything that interested me. And I remembered studying the roots of the English language. It was the clash of Viking Danish and early Saxon that made English what it is today. And during the time when the Vikings were raiding up and down east of England, Christianity was confronting the Norse religions for the first time too. Everything was changing. Great! Lots of conflict possibilities. And who would my hero and heroine be? Why natural enemies, a Viking and a Saxon girl, of course. Religion could come into it as well. My protagonists would be searching for meaning in their world—so they would have lost faith. I decided Karn, my Viking, would be wounded in battle, his prowess as a warrior lost. Britta would have escaped Saxon brutality and have a gift of healing she didn’t understand. I knew she would rescue the wounded warrior from Saxon cruelty and try to heal him. I knew he would be “difficult.” They would have lots of conflict and beliefs to bridge. But I didn’t know where to start the book, and I didn’t yet have the “voice” in which the book would be written. I guess the truth is, I was afraid to start. What if I couldn’t do it? What if I only had one book in me and I had written it already?
It was time to plan a vacation, and my husband, who is an author, was writing a book set in England too. We decided to do a research trip. We visited York, and the Viking museum. I saw a reconstructed Saxon village of the time in the fenland where the story would take place. We spent one windy afternoon exploring a flint Saxon church still standing on a hill that overlooked the River Blythe.
It was there, standing in the windy churchyard, where grass rippled against the headstones as they stretched down the hill toward the river with the Saxon church at my back, that I heard a voice in my head. Now I’m a practical person, not given to flights of fancy. Maybe it was just that I had worked myself up into such a state about writing this book that some kind of a damn burst in my head. Or maybe Britta was talking to me. But I heard these words. “Witch or saint—which? Wicce or santé? Even now I do not know. The gods know. Or the one God knows. Everyone around me is sure, though no one quite agrees. But to me, the one true witness to the miracles, that sureness is denied.”
Those are the first words in DANEGELD. They have never changed through all the drafts.
DANEGELD won a Golden Heart from the Romance Writers of America, and lots of other regional contests. It made friends for me—other writers who judged it in contests and who have remained friends and mentors over time. And it was bought by Dorchester. It opened doors for me at other publishers. I got my first ever fan e-mail from an editor at what would become my publishing home at St. Martins Press. And it will always remain a book of my heart. It spawned DANELAW, the first book I ever wrote under contract. But that’s a story for another time.
And it was the progenitor for A TWIST IN TIME, where a son of my hero and heroine in DANELAW feels he has disappointed his parents by not inheriting his mother’s magic. He is ripped from a battle and taken to a land where everything seems magic. He and Lucy are separated by culture, language, religion and a whole lot of centuries. But you can watch Galen and Lucy find several kinds of magic in A TWIST IN TIME, and share my fascination for Vikings and the women who love them.