Author Elizabeth Cole on Creating the Ideal Knight
She penned the sexy regency romantic suspense series, Secrets of the Zodiac. And now she is onto the Swordcross Knights Series, sexy medieval romances that takes place in the world of Britannia during the period known as “The Anarchy.”
We chatted with her about the release of book two in the series, Choose the Sky, and the love story of Lady Domina and Sir Luc of Braecon.
Many authors have a defining moment, a thing that moved them toward working hard to write and publish their work. When did you first know you wanted to write erotic romance books?
I’ve always loved writing, but my first attempts were short stories that tended to fit into science fiction or fantasy. A novel seemed far too challenging to complete. However, I’m a lifelong reader of romance, and after reading a really poorly written one (no, it’s not a Bestselling Famous Novel), I kind of snapped and said, “I can do better than that!” So my first completed novel was a romance, and I loved writing it. I love the conventions of the genre, the push and pull of the relationships, and the strong emphasis on the female protagonist’s development. As a feminist, romance is actually a very satisfying thing to read and write. There is such a lot of ground to cover when the story is so focused on a central relationship. I intend to keep writing romance until I die.
Your novels tend to be sexy historical fiction. Do you think that will continue to be your genre or will you write in other genres as well?
I love so many genres. In romance, I write both hot and sweet stories, though I’ll admit, hot sells much better! I focus on historical, specifically the regency period as well as medieval England (I do have a Viking series planned, which will likely be my spiciest series yet). I also intend to write some present-day PNR [Paranormal Romances], inspired by my deep love for Buffy and also playing White Wolf RPGs [role-playing games] in my formative years. In addition, I love mystery, so I want to branch out there too. And of course, I have a few epic fantasy novels tucked away. Maybe I’ll get to those in a few years!
Tell us about your newest book, Choose the Sky. What can fans expect?
Choose the Sky is set in Britain in 1141. If you hate strong, tough knights, or really independent ladies, or the threat of conspiracy, or hot sex scenes during long cold winter evenings in a castle…then you should read something else. Because Choose the Sky has all of that! It’s part of a series focused on four very different knights who nevertheless have a strong bond — their lives intersect over the series, but each book features one hero as he meets and wins the woman he wants. I felt that historical romance needed some more medievals (other than the mountain of Scottish Highlander books, of course), so I went ahead and wrote these books, using all the wonderful history and romance of the era. There’s a bit of politics, a bit of espionage, a lot of battles (both of blade and of wit), and lush description of the world.
Tell us a little bit about the sexy hero in Choose the Sky and why we will want to get to know him.
I adored creating Sir Luc of Braecon, because I got to play with the “ideal knight” trope. Luc is a skilled fighter, very charming, and quite ambitious. He thinks he’s got everything figured out, but of course, he’s about to learn that isn’t true. So he’s sexy and strong, but he’s also actually very introspective. He’s constantly trying to balance the many goals a nobleman of this time period is supposed to hold. He wants to be a true knight who defends the weak, but he also wants to be politically successful and uphold his family name. He has a few secrets as well…so those complicate things! Basically, he wants to be the ideal man, and I think readers will enjoy watching him learn what that means over the course of the book. He’s used to getting what he wants, and then runs into a solid wall of ice when he meets the heroine, Domina de Warewic. Winning her over becomes his all-consuming desire. And doesn’t that sound intriguing?
This is book two in the Swordcross Knights series. For readers new to your work, can you share a little about book one?
Sure! The first book is Honor & Roses. It’s also medieval (of course), but it’s got a different feel, because while Choose the Sky is an enemies to lovers story, Honor & Roses is friends to lovers. It features Sir Alric Hawksmere, who is charged with defending his childhood friend Lady Cecily from danger…but when they meet again, it’s not friendship they feel for each other! Things get rather steamy and very complicated! (No spoilers, but there’s a naked swimming scene. Read at your own risk…and wait 30 minutes after eating). Honor & Roses kicks off the series and introduces a lot of characters, though the books don’t have to be read in order.
When you craft a hero, are you incorporating traits from men you know, or are you writing about a man you have never met, but would like to?
I first try to understand how the hero of any story will interact with the heroine. Depending on the tone of the book, he may need to complement her qualities, or clash with them. All my heroes do need to be admirable, though. (When was the last time you loved a romance novel about a schmuck?) Some might be noble and sort of the ultimate good guy, while others might be more of a dark hero or perhaps something in-between, but they all have a strong sense of self. That’s a sexier trait than great abs. I like to mix “alpha” and “beta” qualities because it makes for a more complex and human hero. As for details, I freely grab things from people I know in real life, or film characters, or people I read about in articles, or historical figures. I mix it up and see what clicks. No matter what, I need my characters to learn and grow — they’re definitely not perfect, and they are altered by their meeting and falling in love with someone else. Many of my characters start out being independent (and very proud of that), but I adore it when my characters discover exactly how much they need another person in their life. And how that creates vulnerability but also new strength, because they have something beyond themselves to care about.
What kind of research did you do for your new book? Did you travel to the locale or spend a lot of time studying it and the time period?
I studied medieval history in college, so I did a lot of “pre-research” in the sense that I’ve read many books about the period. It was all swirling around in my brain, though I did additional research for specific parts of the story. For Choose the Sky, falconry plays an important role in the novel (both for the plot and as symbolism). So I read up on that quite a bit. One thing I’ll say, those summertime renaissance faires are not exactly accurate. Sorry, everyone. Old timey people did not eat all their meals on-a-stick.
When you want to relax with a book, what genre do you read? Favorite authors?
I actually enjoy nonfiction, perhaps because I’m always looking for the next spark of inspiration. History (especially history of science) is a go-to genre. I also love YA and kids lit — some of the very best writing today is happening in children’s literature. I’m currently reading The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove. It actually combines all my interests–history, maps, clever girls, and a science-fiction twist!
Find out more about Elizabeth Cole at her website.
Books by Elizabeth Cole
Swordcross Knights Series
The Secrets of the Zodiac
Regency Rhapsody (Sweet Regency novellas)