Winner of the American Christian Fiction Writer's Carol Award for Dauntless!!!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Chivalrous Beginnings

* The winner of last week's Valiant Hearts "Swag" giveaway is "Princessica of books." I will be contacting you by email soon :) *

Chivalrous at Barnes and Noble
This week I thought it would be fun to tell you a little bit about the origins of Chivalrous. In the spring of 2013 I was walking and praying about an idea for a young adult medieval novel. Suddenly it came to me: books with strong heroines in legendary male medieval roles! I'm sure part of my inspiration came from the BBC Robin Hood I had been watching with its tough Maid Marian and female Djaq, but even Once Upon a Time was doing fairy tale retellings with kick butt heroines. Not to mention other strong heroines like Merida in Brave and Katniss in the Hunger Games.

I knew in an instant I had found a stellar idea, and my mind entered that magical creative haze. By the end of the evening I had landed on the series name Valiant Hearts, and I had premises for several books based on legends. Then I played around combining strong words with romantic words for titles: Dauntless Love, Chivalrous Dreams, Gallant Beauty, ect... Originally I planned to write them as stand alone books in different medieval times and places.

The second book in the series would be Chivalrous Dreams, an Athurian type story with a Lancelot and Guinevere twist. I was going to place it in a fictional kingdom in the mountainous part of Germany in the Holy Roman Empire in the late 1200s.

But I was also very open to working with a publisher and incorporating their ideas for this series. When Bethany offered me a contract for book one, formerly titled Dauntless Love, they asked for a few changes in direction. First, they chopped down the titles to one word, thus Dauntless, Chivalrous, and Courageous. Second, they wanted me to add more point of view characters and bring out the epic adventure feel. And third, they wanted the books to spin directly off one another by time, place, and linking characters.

Picture from "The Artist Librarian"
That required some big changes to my Chivalrous idea. It moved to 1217 when the armor was still chain mail and tournaments were still pretty wild. And it needed to take place in a fictional dukedom (technically duchy, but I felt like that word was too weird) in England instead of a kingdom, so I was dealing with dukes and duchesses rather than kings and queens. I decided that in my fictional Athurian dukedom, they would have more progressive, civilized rules for their tournaments and focus them more on jousts the way I had originally envisioned the story.

But the story itself had to undergo some significant changes too. The biggest was that peasant and outsider, Allen of Ellsworth from book one, would now be my hero. Originally the hero of this book was going to be a nobleman from the country who already knew Gwendolyn but just didn't know the secret that she fought as a knight. I had to get pretty creative to work out a scenario that allowed this former peasant to fit my plot, but evidently I managed that part pretty well, because I haven't had any complaints so far.

Favorite quote meme by Janeen Ippolito
That left one final problem. Allen and Gwen didn't know each other, and I hate whirlwind romances. I tried to give them some extended time together off the page, but I'm not sure if everyone caught that, and even then, it was only about a few weeks total. And I tried to make their relationship more about God's will than romantic tingles and shivers. Finally, the romance tied into the plot and at some point became an issue of survival. I hope I managed all of that.The truth remains, I don't generally think whirlwind romances are smart. You need time to really know a person and their character.

Having Allen in the book provided for some other great surprises I never pictured in the early versions, but I wouldn't want to give those away. And of course every story takes on a life of its own and follows unexpected twists and turns. The inclusion of dark magic and Morgaine in Chivalrous was a complete surprise to me, but became necessary to provide motivation for the villain. Since it fit the Arthur feel perfectly, I went with it, although I felt strongly about depicting magic as evil rather than in the light way it is treated in the Arthur stories. Even after all of that was said and done, the publisher requested some additional tweaks, like more action and less introspection, which is always a good idea.

So that is the evolution of Chivalrous. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

What's something in your life that didn't turn out the way you expected it?


  1. 'Dukedom' might not seem entirely correct- but I seem to recall that one William Shakespeare used the term in his play Henry V. If he could get away with it, I'm sure you can......

    1. Thanks, Anna. I looked it up and it is technically correct, although I think duchy is much more common. I didn't think most Americans would know how to pronounce duchy either.

    2. I going to confess- even I as a Brit have gotten British place names and personal names wrong. I pronounced 'Berkeley' as it sounds for years- when its meant to something more like be 'Barclay'- and the S in Grosvenor.
      So I'm not entirely certain the way I would pronounce Duchy (like Dutch-y) is correct.
      I've never heard anyone say it any diffrerently, but Dukedom seems a valid alternative.

      We have an odd langauge. Or maybe the British version is designed to confuse everyone..........

  2. Thanks for featuring my photo, Dina! I enjoyed reading about this "behind the scenes" of your series. =) I remember seeing "duchy" in a Regency novel maybe? I think "dukedom" bring more of a medieval flavor in my mind than "duchy" so I'm glad you switched it. =)

    1. I noticed in the reviews that some people refer to kingdoms, kings, and queens. So I think dukedom gave the feel I wanted.

    2. I noticed in the reviews that some people refer to kingdoms, kings, and queens. So I think dukedom gave the feel I wanted.