1. I'm so impressed with the detailed fantasy world you've developed for your series. Did you begin with this world in mind, or did it gradually take shape as you wrote the first story?
SHARI: My goodness, thank you! Pippa of Lauramore was a last minute Camp NaNoWriMo project. About a week before July, I decided I was going to participate. It was my second NaNo, and the first one was a mess. I made my word count, but that manuscript is such a nightmare, I still haven't tackled it.
This time I decided I needed a plan. I hunted down a bunch of character and setting questionnaires online. Iced coffee in hand, I sat down and filled them out. It was fun—it reminded me of taking the teen quizzes in fashion magazines (I used to love those!). They were also helpful. They prompted me to think of environment and economy. They answered questions I hadn't even thought to ask. Before I started writing, I had a pretty solid idea of what my world looked like.
2. I love the character of Pippa. She's so strong and spunky, and yet has a sense of honor that breaks your heart, because she's willing to put aside her heart's desires for the sake of her kingdom. Was she the inspiration for this series? How did you actually begin?
SHARI: Ah, Pippa. She was such a fun character to write. She's beautiful and charming, but because she's the kingdom's darling, she grew up a little wild. She absolutely inspired the book. Another princess may have sat back and hoped a handsome victor would take the win away from Lionel—but not Pippa. She was bound and determined to find her own champion. One of the things I loved about writing her was her heart. It isn't obvious in the beginning of the book, but she is a fiercely loyal, caring character.
3. Your setting details are deliciously realistic. Did you have certain actual places in mind while writing?
SHARI: Absolutely! We visit Colorado's San Juan National Forest at least once a summer, and that's where a lot of my ideas for Lauramore came from. It rains a lot, so everything is always bright and green, and there are some spectacular waterfalls in the area. It's not unusual to see flocks of sheep grazing on the rocky hillsides. It's just an amazing part of Colorado.
The lower areas of Lauramore, below the terraces, were inspired by the National Forest area above Vega State Park, also in Colorado. Some of the trails go through some pretty dark, thick areas. I'm pretty sure we're going to run into a grim boar one of these days.
4. The medieval tournament to win the hand of a noble lady, since it's based on historical fact, is one story that never grows old with me. But you've managed to make it more exciting and much more dangerous. You must have done a lot of research for at least part of it, though, right?
SHARI: This is a hard question to answer. When I was young, I was obsessed with the medieval time period. However, I definitely romanticized it. In my mind, everything was perfect—princesses wore beautiful dresses, the men were chivalrous and handsome, and unicorns could and should grace every fountain.
Obviously, when I got older, I learned that the times were very difficult and that things weren't nearly as lovely as I had imagined…and there were no unicorns (that was probably the hardest blow).
However, I remained interested. So while I never specifically sat down to do research for Pippa, by that point, I had thoroughly immersed myself in medieval books, fairy tales, movies, and even video games. Though I can't specifically say where my knowledge of the marriage tournament came from, I was familiar with the basic concept when I came up with the idea. And after that, I just wrote a story that made me happy (and that my five-year-old self would be proud of).
5. I'm anxious to read your newest book in this series. Are there any more in the works?
SHARI: Yes! Originally, I had planned to write four books, but now it's looking like I will be adding a fifth. My sister contacted me a few weeks ago and begged me to add just one more. She had the greatest idea…so my quartet is now a quintet!
The second book in the series, Anwen of Primewood, will release on September 17th. Seirsha of Errinton, the third book, is complete and about to go through editing. It will release in January 2016. I don't have dates set for the next three, but the fourth book is outlined, and I'm chomping at the bit to get started. I'm hoping to hold off until November's NaNoWriMo, but I'm not sure I'll be able to wait that long!
To read Pippa of Lauramore (which you MUST read--I gave it 5 stars), go here.
To read the 15,000 word prequel, Grace of Vernow (which you also MUST read--I gave it 5 stars), go here.
To learn more about Shari, check out her Amazon author page.