Playing with Swords and Creepy Swamps… An Interview with Lori MacLaughlin

Today I have an interview with fellow blogger Lori MacLaughlin, and we talk about her Fantasy saga Lady, Thy Name is Trouble.

The interview is part of a series of posts where I talk to writers about the interesting things they dig up during their research process. If you know of an indie writer who you’d be interested in seeing featured in this kind of interview, let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can do. And now, on with the interview!

Thanks for taking part and being on the blog today Lori! Could you please start by telling us a bit about your book?

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 15.32.02Thanks so much for having me here, Celine! Lady, Thy Name Is Trouble is a fantasy adventure novel with a side of romance. Main characters Tara and Laraina Triannon are sword-for-hire sisters, whose exploits are legendary. They get caught in the middle of a surprise invasion of the Dhanarran kingdom, but they manage to escape, along with Dhanarra’s playboy prince (Laraina’s current lover) and a young sorceress whose spells never work quite right.

The invading general sends his executioner, the Butcher, after them, a terrifying wolf-like assassin no one has ever escaped, to keep them from warning the neighboring kingdoms of the general’s marauding ways.

While on the run from the Butcher, they enlist the aid of Jovan Trevillion, a mysterious rogue with an agenda of his own. Sparks fly between Jovan and Tara, though she tries her best to snuff them out, having been burned badly by another handsome rogue in the past.

Many dangers and soul-searching moments test their endurance as they fight to save themselves and the neighboring kingdoms. Through it all, Tara is tormented by nightmares caused by the use of her long-hidden magic. An evil Being, caught in a centuries-old trap, seeks to control her magic and escape through her dreams.

Tara must find a way to stop the marauding general’s quest for vengeance, save herself and her companions from the Butcher, and somehow prevent the evil being from destroying her mind and escaping to annihilate the world of Alltyyr.

Looking at the general research you did for Lady Thy Name is Trouble, what are the most interesting/random facts you uncovered?

Most of the research I did for this book revolved around the sword fighting and the army battles. I wanted them to be believable, but, since this is a fantasy, I didn’t want to be tied down by real time period expectations in terms of weapons and tactics. I’ve always been fascinated by swords. The most interesting fact, to me, was that most medieval swords weighed between 2.5 and 4 pounds. Even the two-handed great swords generally weighed between 5 and 8 pounds. The idea that these swords required Arnold Schwarzenegger-type strength to wield is a myth.

I also researched castle terminology to learn more about different types of castles and what the various parts were called, such as barbicans (stone buildings with towers and portcullises, used as gatehouses), battlements (the walkway along the top of a defensive wall for fighting or guard patrol), and murder holes (holes or trapdoors that allowed for attacking the area below). One thing I discovered is that the raised sections that look like teeth on top of the parapet (the low wall atop the curtain wall that protects the battlements) have their own name. They’re called merlons, and the spaces between the merlons are embrasures. Rows of alternating merlons and embrasures are called crenellations. I found it odd that an empty space had a specific name.

That’s interesting about the embrasures – it’s also a French word that means the same as in English, but it also means the empty space within a window frame or doorway (it’s still very much used nowadays.) I guess it must be a leftover from the time the Normans ruled England back in the 11th century. 

Your main character, Tara, is forever getting herself into fights and brawls, which is very entertaining! How did you go about writing the fight scenes?

I broke the scenes down into individual movements and choreographed them in my head, again, wanting to be realistic but unorthodox, too. Tara is not a classically trained sword fighter, by any means. She learned how to handle a sword from a pirate/smuggler who rarely ever followed any rules.

The best part was acting out the scenes (sort of, since I was by myself) to see if they worked and made sense. I own a few full-size swords that are meant to be decorative, but are a whole lot of fun to play with.

You and Charles Yallowitz ought to exchange notes on acting out fight scenes (he does it too!) I love that you own swords — between you and Charles, I’m feeling very inadequate with my lack of acting out fight scenes and my non owning of swords. What kind of swords do you have by the way? 

I have a few replicas of ceremonial swords belonging to historical figures, such as Sir Francis Drake and Charlemagne, a Viking dagger, and a collection of miniatures (about 12 inches long) representing swords through the ages. I used to collect them a long time ago when I had a little extra money to spend. If I ever find myself in that position again, I’d love to get some of the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings blades. They are breathtaking.

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Replica of Charlemagne’s sword, taken by Kari Jo Spear

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Replica of Sir Francis Drake’s sword, taken by Kari Jo Spear

I can understand why you’d act out your fight scenes with those swords – they’re beautiful!

Your characters travel through a rather terrifying place called the Bog, which is populated by all sorts of horrid creatures, including lots of spider (eep!) How did you go about creating such a place — did you use any real or fictional places for inspiration?

I created the creepiest place I could think of, somewhere I definitely would not want to go, and filled it with creatures I would NOT want to meet — particularly the spiders. Just writing about them gave me the willies. The Bog isn’t based on any real place, per se, but I did look at a lot of spooky swamp photos online, some of which were real, some artistically rendered.

CreepySwamp1CreepySwamp2

 

 

 

 

Do you have any particular books or websites you go to for inspiration when you need to research something for a story?

One of the books I own that has been useful is The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference published by Writer’s Digest Books. I’ve also found the Lord of the Rings to be inspirational. The battle scenes from those movies are awe-inspiring. I’ve taken bits and pieces from other sword fights I’ve seen in the movies and on TV and incorporated them into my mental library of maneuvers I draw on when choreographing a scene. Things I learned in the self-defense martial arts classes I took a few years ago sometimes make their way into my stories, as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As far as websites go, I don’t have any particular one I go to for information. I type key words for what I need to research into a search engine and start reading. It’s absolutely amazing what you can find online.

That’s very true. Well, thank you so much for being here today Lori! 

Lady, Thy Name is Trouble, by Lori MacLaughlin

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Trouble is Tara Triannon’s middle name. As swords for hire, Tara and her sister Laraina thrive on the danger. But a surprise invasion throws them into chaos… and trouble on a whole new level. Pursued by the Butcher, a terrifying assassin more wolf than man, Tara and Laraina must get a prince marked for death and a young, inept sorceress to safety. There’s only one problem – eluding the Butcher has never been done. Aided by a secretive soldier of fortune, they flee the relentless hunter.

Gifted with magic and cursed by nightmares that are all too real, Tara must stop an army led by a madman and fend off an evil Being caught in a centuries-old trap who seeks to control her magic and escape through her dreams – all while keeping one step ahead of the Butcher.

Now Available at: 

AMAZON.COM | BARNES & NOBLE | KOBO | ITUNES

Book Trailer:

About the author:

LoriLMacLaughlinLori L. MacLaughlin traces her love of fantasy adventure to Tolkien and Terry Brooks, finding The Lord of the Rings and The Sword of Shannara particularly inspirational. She’s been writing stories in her head since she was old enough to run wild through the forests on the farm on which she grew up.

She has been many things over the years – tree climber, dairy farmer, clothing salesperson, kids’ shoe fitter, retail manager, medical transcriptionist, journalist, private pilot, traveler, wife and mother, Red Sox and New York Giants fan, muscle car enthusiast and NASCAR fan, and a lover of all things Scottish and Irish.

When she’s not writing (or working), she can be found curled up somewhere dreaming up more story ideas, taking long walks in the countryside, or spending time with her kids. She lives with her family in northern Vermont.

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24 thoughts on “Playing with Swords and Creepy Swamps… An Interview with Lori MacLaughlin

  1. Pingback: Guest Interview on Celine Jeanjean’s Blog | Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams

  2. How exciting! What a great interview! What a great premise! Love the book trailer.
    Lori, I appreciate your research, especially since I’m writing medieval fantasy. How cool that you have such an appreciation for swords and for Tolkien and Brooks. 🙂

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  3. Lori, I love that you act out your fight scenes. I’ve never done this, but it’s a good idea. I don’t have a background in martial arts or sword-fighting, but choreographing a scene that way sounds like fun!

    I loved what you said here:

    “I created the creepiest place I could think of, somewhere I definitely would not want to go, and filled it with creatures I would NOT want to meet — particularly the spiders.”

    That’s exactly what writing is all about. If we’re afraid as writers, hopefully our readers will be too. Great advice!

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  4. Pingback: Celebrate the Small Things! | Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams

  5. Great interview! This sounds like an interesting book. Definitely one for my TBR stack. I love the title. And I so like the originality of your main characters: Two sword-for-hire sisters. I also learned a lot about castles in this post. Enjoyed learning the correct names for the various parts.

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  6. Good of you to promote other authors, Celine. You ask excellent questions and I’m always interested in an author’s research and creative process. I think it was author/historian David McCullough who said what fun it was to do the research; and then he realized he had to sit down and write the thing. 🙂 My experience precisely.

    I have a personal Bog — my cellar replete with, during their season, large, jumping beige spiders residing on the steps below the Bilco doors. Ick.

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  7. Lori, I’m going to make you jealous now when I tell you I have two Lord of the Rings swords – Sting and Hadhafang. 🙂 Great interview! Celine, I am loving this series – there is always something interesting to learn!

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