Emma Prince Author Interview
Me: Tell us about yourself
Emma: Hi everyone! I’m Emma Prince! I write historical romances that are action-packed, brimming with rich emotion, and always deliver a happily-ever-after. I have written a 4-book medieval Scottish series called the Sinclair Brothers Trilogy (I know, a trilogy is only supposed to have 3 books, but I couldn’t help myself—I added a bonus novella!), and I just released the first book in a new series about Vikings. It’s called Enthralled (Viking Lore, Book 1).
I’m originally from Seattle, but moved a few years ago to Reno. Don’t be fooled—Reno isn’t just a smaller version of Las Vegas. We have Lake Tahoe practically in our back yard! When I’m not writing historical romances, I love to get out into the Sierras and hike, backpack, camp, or just lounge at home with my hubby and two spoiled cats.
Me: Tell us about your new book?
Emma: My new book is called Enthralled (Viking Lore, Book 1). As I mentioned, it’s the start of a new series, and it’s a bit of a departure for me from medieval Scotland to Scandinavia in the early 800s!
Enthralled is the story of two people from very different worlds being thrown together into a bad situation. Eirik, our Viking hero, has set sail for the fabled lands to the west to plunder treasures and secure his village’s future. His strict code of honor leads him to refuse to have thralls (servants/slaves in Viking culture), but when his cruel cousin claims a beautiful Northumbrian woman for himself, Eirik must protect her by taking her as his thrall. Laurel, our heroine, has had a tough life, yet she has a quiet inner strength that has gotten her through many hardships. But when she’s taken as a thrall and whisked to a Viking village, she will have to be stronger than ever before to resist her attraction to Eirik. Along the way there are lots of twists and turns, devious schemes, and triumphs!
Me: When you write, does your real life spill over into your book at any time?
Emma: It can sometimes be hard to juggle a story I’m working on with "real life"—I’ll have my mind engrossed in a Viking battle, say, or a conflict between the hero and heroine, and then all of a sudden it’s time to run errands or make dinner with my husband! Luckily he’s very supportive and willing to talk endlessly about whatever I’m writing at the moment. In terms of drawing inspiration from my real life, each one of my books inevitably has a little nugget, idea, theme, or moment that’s going on in my life at the time I’m writing. I never plan those little moments or themes—they just show up on their own! I suppose writing is a subconscious way to work through whatever is going on in my real life at the time—it’s always a surprise what shows up in a book!
Me: Do you think about a book of yours being made into a movie, or not, when writing?
Emma: I’ve never imagined my books being turned into actual movies (that would be amazing, though). But as I write, I do try to have a "cinematic" vision of what’s going on. Imagining where the "camera" is can help me describe settings or characters’ reactions to things. I also think about what a scene "looks" like in a cinematic way in terms of zooming in or out on things, panning, or shifting focus.
Me: When naming your characters, do you give any thought to the actual meaning?
Emma: Definitely! When I name characters (or give imaginary places names) I always start with research on common names for the setting and time period I’m writing about. Then I try to pick something meaningful or symbolic. It doesn’t always work like that—sometimes I just have a feeling about a name that fits with the character I have in mind. But I also have fun weaving in a bit of extra meaning. For example, in Highlander’s Return (Sinclair Brothers Trilogy, Book 2.5) I named Burke’s horse Laoch, which I learned means "hero" in Gaelic. Burke is the Sinclair brothers’ cousin, and he acts as their moral compass in many ways. I always saw him as a real knight-in-shining-armor type hero—so he had to have a horse to match! And in Enthralled, I named the fictional town where Eirik lives Dalgaard, which means "valley farmstead" in Old Norse. I liked that name because it sounded safe, sheltering, and happy—a place where our hero and heroine would want to live!
Me: What made you want to write and also what made you want to write the genre you are writing?
Emma: When I think back to my childhood, I was always fascinated with things like fairies, spells, castles, and forests. I also used to write stories about fantastical worlds, people falling in love, and magic. I’ve always been drawn to the history of the British Isles. I studied abroad in Ireland in college, and last year I had the opportunity to visit England and Scotland for the first time! So when I look back, it seems only natural that I would weave all those things together to write historical romances about love overcoming all odds in a magical, spellbinding setting and times. Actually, this answer makes it sound like I’m going to write a fantasy novel at some point in the future! For now I’ll stick with historical romance, though—my all-time favorite genre to read and write.
Me: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Emma: There are so many! I’ll cheat and mention three authors whom I deeply admire, both in terms of their writing and in terms of their careers as authors. The first person who comes to mind when I think of medieval Scottish romance is Monica McCarty. Her Highland Guard series is incredible! I admire each individual book, but also the fact that it’s such a rich, long series as well. Secondly, I deeply respect Eliza Knight. Her Scottish books are not only riveting, but she’s made a path as an independently published author. A couple of years ago, I was reading her books and noticed that she was self-published. I thought to myself, she’s doing this so well—maybe I could do it too! She’s a big inspiration to me. And as a third author-mentor, I’d have to say Kathryn Le Veque. I’m a relative newbie in the world of historical romances, and she was the first person to introduce herself. Even though she’s insanely successful and busy, she has been so generous with her time and knowledge. She and I are even in a multi-author box set together (Medieval Romantic Redemptions, along with Elizabeth Rose and Sarah Woodbury). There are so, so many other authors whom I admire, but Monica McCarty, Eliza Knight, and Kathryn Le Veque are all deeply inspirational to me.
Me: Do you have to travel much concerning your books?
Emma: I wish I could travel more! I did get to go to England and Scotland in the summer of 2014, which was amazing! I did a little bit of specific research for my Sinclair Brothers series there, but mostly I just soaked up the history and atmosphere, which was actually very helpful! I learned a lot of little things, like the smells, the quality of the air and light, and in Scotland, the pesky midges (like little mosquitoes, but worse!). Now that I’m writing a Viking series, I would LOVE to go to Scandinavia, and especially Iceland, where Viking culture has survived and thrived!
Me: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Emma: I seem to hit a really rough patch in the middle of writing every book. I think to myself, this will never work, I’ll never be able to pull this off, I’ll never be able to tie everything together in a satisfying, thrilling, and emotional way. I feel bad for my husband during these rough patches—I’m not easy to live with for about a week with each book! But the rough patch forces me to think deeper about the book, and ultimately I just keep writing.
Me: When you start writing your book, do your H/H ever talk to you?
Emma: When everything is going really well, I can hear my hero and heroine saying snippets of dialogue, or I can see them making a facial expression or gesture. That’s such a sweet spot to be in! Normally they don’t talk very much inside my head, but I do occasionally have dreams about them!
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Emma: As I mentioned, I do hit rough patches. But my philosophy is to just write through any blocks or difficulties I encounter. I have a word count goal for every day that I’m writing, and I MUST hit that goal, no ifs, ands, or buts! Sometimes treating writing like a task that needs to get done can be hard, but on the other hand, I don’t stumble over writing blocks as much or get behind on my writing schedule that way.
Me: Do you have any tips for our readers that might dream of writing?
Emma: My main tip is to make like Nike and JUST DO IT! Sorry for the caps, but I really want to encourage those dreaming of writing to act on those dreams. Don’t wait for everything to be perfect. Don’t wait for your muse or your inspiration to be singing in your ear. Don’t wait for external factors to be perfectly aligned or for your life to be perfectly calm. If you only have an hour a day and you really want to write, then do it. That’s how I got started, and now I’m doing what I love!
Enthralled Viking Lore, Book One
He is bound by honor…
Eirik is eager to plunder the treasures of the fabled lands to the west in order to secure the future of his village. The one thing he swears never to do is claim possession over another human being. But when he journeys across the North Sea to raid the holy houses of Northumbria, he encounters a dark-haired beauty, Laurel, who stirs him like no other. When his cruel cousin tries to take Laurel for himself, Eirik breaks his oath in an attempt to protect her. He claims her as his thrall. But can he claim her heart, or will Laurel fall prey to the devious schemes of his enemies?
She has the heart of a warrior…
Life as an orphan at Whitby Abbey hasn’t been easy, but Laurel refuses to be bested by the backbreaking work and lecherous advances she must endure. When Viking raiders storm the abbey and take her captive, her strength may finally fail her—especially when she must face her fear of water at every turn. But under Eirik’s gentle protection, she discovers a deeper bravery within herself—and a yearning for her golden-haired captor that she shouldn’t harbor. Torn between securing her freedom or giving herself to her Viking master, will fate decide for her—and rip them apart forever?
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“Lower the sail!” Eirik bellowed. For a moment, he feared the wind had snatched his voice, but then he saw the black outlines of his crew rise from the deck and move on uncertain feet toward the halyard lines.
The ocean surged beneath the ship, threatening to topple some of the men overboard. Somehow, they all managed to keep their feet, and a moment after they reached the rigging, Eirik could see the inky shadow of the sail slowly lower toward the deck.
Eirik tightened his already white-knuckled grip on the tiller. They should have brought down the sail at the first sign of rain, but this cursed storm had broken upon them so quickly that he’d barely had time to bark out a few orders before the seas turned rough and the rain and wind hit them full force.
Even now that the sodden wool sail was almost down, the sea still threatened to overpower his grip on the tiller, which would send the ship careening off course.
“To oars! To oars!” Eirik shouted into the wind. A flash of lightning illuminated the wave-battered deck as the crew scrambled to thread the long wooden oars through the oar holes below the gunwales.
Another flash of lightning revealed Alaric’s drenched figure lurching toward Eirik.
“Give up on staying the course we charted, Eirik!” Alaric yelled when he reached the tiller. “And you’d best give the men their coins!”
Dread sliced through Eirik, far colder than the wind and rain that lashed him. Every last member of the crew was hunkered over an oar, pulling with the might of Thor. If they were going to die in this storm, at least they should have a gift to give to Ran, the sea god’s wife.
Eirik gave Alaric a single nod before letting the tiller go. Instantly, the tiller swayed wildly. They were now at the sea’s mercy.
Alaric stumbled toward the rowing men. Eirik followed, feet wide to absorb the ocean’s violent rolling. As he passed each rower, he reached into the leather pouch at his belt.
“For Ran,” Eirik said to each man as he passed out gold coins.
“Ja, for Aegir’s wife!” some of the men responded, nodding solemnly through the rain at their captain.
When every sailor had a gold coin to give Ran to appease her and ease their journey to Valhalla, Eirik took up an oar across from Alaric. If the gods decided that it was his time to die, at least Eirik would go down fighting alongside his closest friend and this worthy crew.
Only a tiny twinge of regret shadowed his vision of entering Valhalla with his ship, his friend, and his crew. He would never get to see the lands to the west if Aegir and Ran claimed him and his men this day.
He dug his oar deep into the roiling sea. By Thor, he could not die just yet. He had to live to set eyes on these fabled lands to the west.
It wasn’t until the last raindrop had fallen that the crew of the Drakkar stood and cheered to the gods for surviving the storm. For Eirik’s part, he kissed the gold coin he’d kept for himself and tossed it into the sea. It was both an acknowledgment and an offering to Ran and Aegir.
Eirik gave orders to withdraw the oars and unfurl their red and white striped sail once more. Then he took a firm hold on the tiller and pointed them southeast. Based on the sun’s position, they had been blown farther north than they’d intended to travel, but land still should lie ahead of them.
“Did any of you girls piss your pants?”
Eirik cringed internally. He recognized the voice immediately. His cousin Grimar seemed determined to make enemies within the crew.
“One storm and you’re all cowering like women!” Grimar came into Eirik’s line of sight as he ducked around the mast and sauntered toward the stern.
“Say that again, boy.”
Muttering a curse, Eirik waved for one of the nearby men to take the tiller from him. Before he could reach Grimar or Madrena, he heard the hiss of metal being unsheathed.
“Madrena, Grimar, hold!” Eirik bellowed as he reached his cousin and Alaric’s twin sister. Alaric had beaten him to Madrena’s side, however, and looked ready to cut Grimar down if his sister didn’t.
“I’m sick of this dog filling the air with his stench,” Madrena snapped, her eyes locked on Grimar. Due to the close quarters on Drakkar’s deck, her bow and sword remained over her shoulders, but she had her seax drawn and pointed toward Grimar’s throat. A sunbeam glinted off the blade.
“And I’m sick of this sow taking up space on a ship where a man, a real warrior, is needed,” Grimar shot back, his own seax in hand. He held the blade lazily, though, as if to further insult Madrena by treating her drawn dagger as naught more than child’s play.
“Enough, both of you!” Eirik bit out. The tension had been thick the entire voyage—by the gods, it had been thick long before they’d set sail a sennight ago—but now it was dangerously close to boiling over outright. “Madrena, to the stern. Grimar, the bow.”
“’Tis for the best,” Grimar muttered under his breath. “Run along to my cousin for protection, girl. Spread your legs for him, and he might even make you captain.”
Alaric caught Madrena’s wrist just as she lunged toward Grimar’s neck, seax flashing. She let out a shriek of rage and frustration as her brother prevented her from landing her blow. Grimar’s pale blue eyes flashed in surprise for the briefest moment, but then he chuckled and strolled toward the bow.
Alaric wrenched the blade free from Madrena’s hand, but Eirik could see that the fight had gone out of her.
“He’s not worth the effort it would take you for you to clean and re-sharpen your seax, sister,” Alaric said quietly as he guided Madrena toward the stern.
“Tell me again why your swine cousin is on this voyage, Eirik,” Madrena hissed when she, Alaric, and Eirik reached the tiller.
Eirik let out a breath and motioned for his man to move out of the way so that he could reclaim the tiller. He didn’t need anyone else poking their noses into the discontent that brewed on his ship.
“You know as well as I,” Eirik said flatly to Madrena. She rolled her pale gray eyes at him.
“Just because he’s kin—”
“Ja, and Jarl Gunvald’s son. What did you expect me to do? Let you kill him for his offense?” Eirik lowered his voice further so that he would be sure only Alaric and Madrena could hear him. “The Jarl is the one who decides where we raid, when we raid—and if we raid at all. It took me three years just to convince him to let us travel westward instead of staying in the safe waters of our neighboring fjords or crossing to Jutland.”
Madrena flipped the blond braids trailing down her back and waved dismissively. By the gods, she was as hot-tempered as her brother. Yet at least she was not like his cousin, whom they called the Raven for his black temperament. Eirik would trust his life to both Alaric and Madrena, his kinship with Grimar be cursed.
“But he practically accused me of incest. Lying with you would be like lying with my blood brother,” Madrena said lowly, the fires of anger still simmering in her eyes.
“Leave it, Madrena,” Alaric said. “Everyone can see that Grimar is just trying to cause trouble. He’s testing you.” The last applied to Madrena, but Alaric’s eyes flickered to Eirik.
“I need to rid myself of Grimar’s filth,” Madrena said tartly. She stalked to the gunwale and leaned over, scooping up handfuls of seawater and splashing them over her face. Only a fool or a blind man would question Madrena’s worthiness to be on this voyage. Grimar was neither. Eirik felt himself sinking into a foul mood.
Alaric must have sensed the weight settling over Eirik, for he said lightly, “Regale me again with the tales you heard about this land to the west we sail toward. Can the stories be believed? Will this all be worth a fortnight in close quarters with your cousin?”
Alaric’s quirked mouth and raised eyebrow softened the underlying questions that Eirik had been mulling over himself for months—nei, years.
“If the monks I visited are to be believed—and I think they are—we will encounter unguarded treasure beyond anything we have thus far encountered in our raids.”
The rumors had started almost fifteen summers ago, when Eirik was no longer a boy, but not quite a man. They spoke of a land to the west which was rich and ripe for the taking. Unprotected places of worship sat all along the coastline, filled with treasures unimaginable—gold, silver, jewels, and more. By the time Eirik was old enough to go on raids against neighboring Jarls’ lands, he knew that some day he would have to see this land for himself.
But in the last few years, change brewed in the air. The Jarls across the Skagerrak Straight in Jutland had begun to consolidate their authority under one all-powerful King. Jutland’s King was bent on taking these westerly lands—with their treasures, rich farmland, and soft climate—for himself. Though Dalgaard, Eirik’s village on the north side of the Straight, was large and prosperous, it would easily be swallowed up by competing powers unless men like Eirik did something.
As if sensing his thoughts, Alaric interjected. “And you believe that if Dalgaard can claim its share of this new land’s wealth, we will no longer be bound to the endless in-fighting with our neighbors?”
“Ja, claim this land’s wealth—and perhaps more. Think of it, Alaric. Jutland’s King is rumored to be leaving settlements in the west and south over the winter. How great will his power grow if he gains control of this new land as well as all of Jutland?”
“When will his appetite for land and power be sated?” Alaric said lowly, rubbing the golden-brown stubble on his jawline. A somber silence settled over the two men for a long moment.
“But how can you believe the stories?” Alaric said incredulously, once again lightening the mood. “Unguarded piles of gold? Weakling men who can’t even wield weapons? Those monks were probably trying to send us all to our deaths!”
“The same tales keep spreading through the Northlands—there must be at least a seed of truth to them, nei?”
Alaric still looked skeptical. “And you think our future lies in this foreign land?”
Eirik believed it so much that he had traveled several days northeast to visit a village where two monks from Lindisfarne, a holy place they called a monastery, were enslaved as thralls. The monks had been reluctant to talk to him at first, but Eirik had been persistent. He had practically begged them—him, son and nephew to Jarls, and they, thralls—to teach him their language and a bit about their religion.
Eirik had spent nearly a year in that village to the northeast of Dalgaard, eventually winning over the enthralled monks and learning all he could. He hadn’t even had his uncle’s permission to embark westward at the time. He had wagered everything on his conviction and knowledge, hoping that they would be enough to convince Jarl Gunvald that the future of Dalgaard lay to the west.
“Ja, I do, brother,” Eirik said with a wry grin. “But I suppose we won’t know until we get there.”
The shout from the bow jerked both Alaric and Eirik’s heads up.
“Land, straight ahead!” Haakon, one of Eirik’s most trusted seamen, was leaning over the curved prow of the Drakkar, squinting into the thin mist that settled over the water around them.
Just then, Eirik saw a foggy shape emerge from the mist. His chest tightened. Land. Despite the storm, despite being blown off course to the north, they had found it, the storied lands to the west.
A bellow went up from the crew. Several drew their weapons and brandished them at the large landmass that was taking shape before them, at the sky, and at the sea.
As the ship drew closer to the shore, Eirik handed over the tiller to Alaric and strode to the bow.
“Quiet!” he barked over his shoulder. “Your noise will carry across the water.”
Despite his admonishment, he clenched his fists impatiently as the land in front of them slowly emerged through the mist. He longed to leap over the gunwale, sword in one hand, ax in the other, and place his feet on solid ground. But he couldn’t be sure yet that this was the stretch of coastline they were aiming for.
Just then, the land in front of them solidified and darkened, but another landmass eased out of the mist behind it. This was just an island off the larger mainland, then. The sharply rising island grew more distinct as they drew nearer. Eirik could now make out some sort of structure perched on top of the hump rising from the sea.
Eirik squinted as the structure emerged from the mist. He could make out the arched stonework and bell tower the monks had described as indicative of a Christian holy house. But as they got nearer still, he noticed that some of the stones and archways were crumbling and the bell remained silent. Surely their red and white striped sail would be visible to the inhabitants of this island monastery?
A thought flitted across Eirik’s mind, quick as an owl’s wing. Could this be Lindisfarne itself? The monks had described an island monastery in the north of these lands, in a kingdom they called Northumbria. All the wooden buildings had been burned in that initial raid, they’d said, and even some of the stonework had been destroyed.
Mayhap they sailed still farther north than they intended, Eirik realized. The monks had told him tales of the complete destruction of Lindisfarne some thirteen summers ago. As such, Lindisfarne was not his destination. Over the months of talking with the monks about their religion and country, he’d learned that many such monasteries dotted the coastline, removed from villages—and armies that could have protected them.
“Steer south!” Eirik called to Alaric through the eerie silence created by the dampening fog. Or perhaps it was being in the presence of the desolate and deserted monastery. Eirik had heard the boasts of the Vikings who had captured and enthralled the Christian monks. They’d found the monastery completely unguarded and yet had cut the monks down like so many babes in their cradles. Some of the monks, those who hadn’t been saved as thralls, had even been taken onto the Vikings’ ships, only to be thrown over to drown for the Vikings’ amusement.
Eirik suppressed a sneer and a curse for such Vikings. It was dishonorable to cut down a man who didn’t even have a weapon in his hand. Death could be honorable, and sacrifice appeased the gods, but slaughter—nei, those men, boasting about their easy kills, would never find glory in the afterlife.
He felt the ship shift under him as Alaric turned the tiller and pointed them southward. They’d have to keep close enough to the shoreline of the mainland to avoid going too far out to sea, yet far enough not to be readily spotted. If Eirik was right, there would be more monasteries like Lindisfarne to the south—except he wanted more than mere treasure. His village was counting on him, counting on this voyage. He couldn’t let them down.
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