[Today, we sit down for a brief interview with author Corrina Lawson. A regular reviewer and blogger in the romance, fantasy, science fiction, and mystery genres, Lawson is also the author of two alternate history romances — one centered on ancient Rome, the other on the ancient Norse. Here, Lawson discusses her writing, her research, and the intricacies of re-releasing her books.]
Question: Carnal Blessing is a re-release of Freya’s Gift. Why did you decide to write a romance about Vikings, and what role does Freya play in the story?
Corinna Lawson: The short answer: I like Vikings! The long answer: I started this story with an idea: a Viking swinging an ax to exhaustion. I wanted to know who he was and why he was so driven. That led me down the rabbit hole to this world.
So while Carnal Blessing is an erotic story, it’s also a story about grieving and finding a way to recover and live again. Freya is the Norse goddess of fertility, which means that she’s the one responsible for the beginning of new life, but she’s also the goddess of sex and death. It would only be natural for the Vikings to pray to her for guidance on what to do next and interpret those signs. The important part is not whether I believe the goddess is real, but that the characters believe in her.
Q: You are in the process of re-releasing your Seneca series. First, what is the premise behind the books?
CL: That the Roman Empire survived another five hundred years and managed to establish several small colonies in North America. This allowed me to have Romans and Vikings in the same timeline, something that obviously didn’t happen in the real world. And since it’s been established that the Vikings reached North America, I placed both there.
The stories contain people who are a mix of Romans, Vikings, and the Native American tribes. The overreaching plot arc is how they come to co-exist. The characters, however, are what drive the story. The heroine of Warriors of Seneca thought she’d find a new beginning in a new world, but war comes to her again, all the same. She wants victory not only for herself, but also to have peace for the next generation.
The heroine of Eagle of Seneca is a Native American woman who’s poised to become the leader of her Lenape tribe. She must decide whether the Romans should be viewed as enemies or allies and, if allies, which faction?
Basically, I’ve recreated the British Empire’s colonization of North America but, this time, since the Romans were more about assimilation of cultures rather than the destruction of them, the Native American tribes have a stronger chance of survival. I wanted a world where they not only survived, but thrived.
Q: How much research went into the Seneca series? Were you surrounded by stacks of books, or did you spend a lot of time doing research online?
CL: Online, mostly, though I do recommend the book Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City,which was a terrific resource. It detailed the topography and history of the island of Manhattan before colonization. It’s like that book was made just for my research.
Children’s books on Roman history from DK Publishing were great because they had detailed illustrations of such things as weapons, towns, and Roman encampments.
I also interviewed a history professor, who’s somewhat of an expert in Roman history.
There was television watching, as well. The History Channel has some terrific documentaries on ancient weapons and warfare.
The hardest part was research on the Native American tribes. Their history was mostly oral history and since many of them were systematically destroyed, so was much of their history. Many of the words we use to refer to them, for instance, are English or French, such as Algonquin or Iroquois. I wanted to dig deeper, to find equivalent words that were of their origin, such as Lenape or Mahican, though, of course, they’re also English translations of Native American words.
Native American names and words are still all over the Northeastern United States, even if we don’t recognize them as such. For example, as I researched the ancient rivers of New Jersey, I wanted to find the original word for the Passaic River, which I assumed was a French word. Not so. It comes from a Pay-say-ack (roughly translated), a Native American name.
Q: Why did you decide to re-release your books, and — for the other writers out there — how did you go about doing it?
CL: It took a while because, well, it’s a complicated process. Not so much the nuts and bolts, but the marketing decisions.
The KDP (Kindle/Amazon) dashboard allows anyone to upload a cover and Word document, so long as you create an account and have a blurb/description. That takes, oh, an hour. Similarly, Draft2Digital will do the same and then upload your book to all epublishing sites, such as Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Google Play, and iBooks. They take a ten percent cut, but it does save time. For me, I uploaded direct to KDP so as to cut out the middleman, but used Draft2Digital for the other ebook stores.
The hardest parts all related to marketing. I needed new cover art and that cover art needed to attract attention and convey the genre, all in one glance. I relied on friends in the business to look over the draft covers before finalizing them.
Then there was deciding on genre. I write cross-genre books, so which category should they be placed? For the Seneca books, that meant a choice between romance, SF/F, alternate history, and romantic fantasy. Which label would be mostly likely to attract readers who might love the book?
For publicity, I looked at newsletters and other methods and finally punted on doing it on my own. I went to Writerspace.com and signed up for their PR package. Those who are good at it can save the money. For me, I tossed the money in their direction so I could spend my time writing instead.
Q: You write for the Barnes & Noble Sci Fi and Fantasy blog. How did you come to do so and which favorite new authors have you discovered as a result?
CL: Joel Cunningham, who runs the blog, saw my GeekDad and GeekMom articles and asked me to write for him, too. That was quite flattering, so thanks, Joel!
I’ve read more SF/F through writing the reviews than I have in years. I loved Fonda Lee’s Jade City (I’ll read whatever she publishes next); An Excess Male by Maggie Shen King, a chilling and yet heartwarming story of what may happen next in a society where there is such an imbalance between the number of men and marriageable women; and Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames, which has great fun with the idea of the classic fantasy company as a washed-up rock band.
I’ve also reviewed several John Scalzi novels and have developed a serious love for his science fiction mysteries. The second one, Head On, is just out.
Q: What other projects are you working on?
CL: I’m going to be re-releasing my superhero romance series, The Phoenix Institute, over the next six months, one per month, because doing it that way makes Amazon’s algorithm happy. (Meaning more people might stumble across my work.)
After that, finally, I’ll have the sequel to The Curse of the Brimstone Contract, my steampunk mystery, out late in the year. That’s titled A Hanging at Lotus Hall.
In the meantime, I just finished an urban fantasy with romantic elements that is heavy on the ghost stories, and I also have a BDSM paranormal menage story that may/may not be self-published, depending. It’s out on submission right now. BDSM erotica is not my usual thing (it’s the only one I’ve written), but I had characters who suited the genre, so . . .
Q: Which conventions, book fairs, or other events will you be attending in the foreseeable future?
CL: I’ll be headed to Book Expo America in June, but only as a journalist/book blogger. ☺ I’ll also be attending the Romance Writers of America conference in Denver in July. I’m not signing, but if anyone wants to meet up, you can hit me up on Twitter @CorrinaLawson or on Facebook.