Veronica sez: Alexis and I first ‘met’ on the Weekend Writing Warrior snippet hop and I really enjoy her smoothly written books! She’s here with her latest – take it away, Alexis!
Alexis: Thanks for having me on Here Be Magic. I love fantasy in all its forms, both as a reader and writer. The inspiration for Gryffon Hall came as a response to a call for submissions from my publisher, Loose Id. They ran a poll on their website asking readers to vote for their favorite tropes. Then they collected the top ten and challenged authors to "give the people what they want". When I saw "fairy tale revisited" was on the list, along with "marriage of convenience", the idea of a reimagined Beauty and the Beast type tale completely took over my mind. I've always wanted to play with a twisted fairy tale and this story was ridiculously fun to write. I've also been drawn to writing shifter stories, and this certainly falls into that category as well.
As I was writing Gryffon Hall, I really came to appreciate once again the depth and breadth of this supposedly simple tale. I'm a big fan of Clarissa Pinkola Estes, who wrote Women Who Run With Wolves, the book that first exposed me to the modern psychological underpinnings in ancient folk tales. There's a reason the stories have hung around so long and why we're drawn to reliving them again and again. They are both frightening and satisfying and we love to read them, if even we know how the stories will end, or think we do. Kind of like Tarot cards, the symbolism speaks to something deep inside us. With Beauty and the Beast, I believe we relate to both characters, the innocent thrust into a dangerous situation with all his preconceptions challenged and the misunderstood "dark man" who craves love but is afraid of his own wild nature.
Sprinkle on a little magic, add a gay romance, some humor and hot sex, and voila, an ancient tale made new once again. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
The Story: Fated to be born the useless fourth son of the Lord of Glimmerveen, Wryler dreams of getting married and escaping the rustic confines of his father's castle. A wealthy merchant's son seems to hold the key to Wryler's safe if somewhat dreary future. However, the arrival of a mysterious stranger on the eve of Wryler's betrothal sends his plans into disarray, and Wryler finds himself traded off in marriage to one of the most notorious rogues in the land. Is Lord Aeric Rouchet the scoundrel he appears to be, or is he something much worse?
Separated from his family and thrust into a strange and dangerous new life at the foreboding Gryffon Hall, Wryler must unravel the secret of his husband's shadowed life and defeat the curse which threatens not only his growing affection for the barbarian in his bed, but the lives of everyone the Lord of Gryffon Hall is sworn to protect.
In this excerpt, Wryler is on his way to Gryffon Hall. He has his first encounter with a magical being and finds out just how tricky and capricious they can be.
The rain had finally stopped, and a brisk breeze tore rents in the clouds. Wryler was amazed to see how many more stars speckled the sky this far from the lights and dust of the castle and village. He’d left behind his telescope only after Krull assured him that Gryffon Hall had an entire chamber full of such “nonsense,” plundered along with books, artwork, and all sorts of useless things.
Wryler shivered but couldn’t help moving just a little farther away from the campfire and deeper into the shadows of the trees. A small brook gurgled and splashed, muffling the voices of the men who prepared for sleep. At the brook’s edge, a wider gap between the treetops made stargazing easier.
Wryler looked into the water and was pleased to see the face of the moon bobbing and dancing on the stream. This might not be much of a forest in Krull’s eyes, but it was still a magical place. Something long constrained unlocked within Wryler, and a sense of peace flooded through his bones. Maybe he was just tired. He leaned against an oak overhanging the stream and felt as if he might fall asleep standing upright.
“What a pretty thing to leave lying about. Why, someone might come along and snatch him up!”
Wryler shook his head, sure he’d momentarily slipped into a doze. He looked around for the source of the voice and wasn’t much surprised to see a man even smaller than himself crouching next to the stream.
“Why is it I’m not startled to see you there?” Wryler asked.
“Because I’ve cast a bit of a sleep spell over you so you won’t scream and run away.”
“A spell, eh?” A prickle of alarm poked at Wryler’s lethargy, but not enough to goad him into resisting. “Who are you, then? Or rather, what are you? An elf?”
The man snorted and stood upright. “Those do-gooding fairy lovers wouldn’t dare come this far into the lands of men. They call me Rumple.” He pointed at himself with his thumb. He was thin as twig. Black hair framed a gaunt, pale face. He was young, near Wryler’s age or thereabouts, and handsome in the devious way of cats, with a languid grace and hungry eyes.
It might have been the moonlight or the spell, but Wryler could see no color in Rumple’s eyes, only a clear light that reminded him of gazing into a crystal goblet of water.
“What do you want from me?” Wryler asked. He knew he should try to flee or call for help, but his limbs were heavy, and he was comfortable leaning against the tree. Besides, Krull would miss him soon. There wasn’t too much mischief Rumple could cause before Wryler was rescued.
“I don’t want anything from you, Wryler Glimmerveen. I want to give you something. Advice.”
“And why would I listen to a creature who pops up out of the woods and casts spells on people?”
“Because I know the truth about your groom. Lord Aeric Rouchet.” Rumple turned his head and spit into the stream.
“And what truth would that be?” Wryler asked, heart beating faster.
Rumple sauntered up to Wryler and leaned in close. He smelled of wild mint and wet moss. “He’s a monster,” he whispered.
“So people keep telling me,” Wryler said. “That word is open to interpretation. Do you mean monster literally or figuratively?”
Rumple stared at him, narrow eyes widening, then snarled and tapped Wryler on the chest. “You’ll find out soon enough. The only question is, are you smart enough to survive, or will you vanish like the others?”
Alexis Duran was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. At the University of Oregon, her fascination with people and relationships led her to major in Sociology, but her main love has always been creative writing. She's worked in museums, finance, film production and for several performing arts organizations. Her favorite job so far has been inventorying the collection of a haunted Victorian Mansion. She is the author of the Masters and Mages and Edge of Night m/m fantasy series as well as several stand-alone romances. Her fiction has won several awards including the Rupert Hughes Award from the Maui Writers Conference and First Runner Up from Love Romances Cafe. She lives with one dog and four and a half cats. She is always working on the next novel and has several new ideas brewing at all times.
You can connect with Alexis at www.alexisduranblog.com, http://twitter.com/AlexisSDuran. http://www.facebook.com/alexis.duran.18294 and https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8332457.Alexis_Duran