While born in Dubuque, Iowa, Leonora Pruner was brought to California by her parents during the Second World War, which has since been her principal residence. In 1953, she graduated from Westmont College then earned an MBA from Pepperdine University in 1981. Having married in 1953, she has seen her family expand from two children to thirteen grandchildren and five great- grandchildren.
Writing has been an important activity since junior high. In the late ‘60s, an eighteenth-century English character on The Wonderful World of Disney, captivated her interest. The desire to create a variation of him, led to five years of extensive research, followed by the publication of two period novels in 1981 and 1987, Love’s Secret Storm, and Love’s Silent Gift. Feeling that all that research should be reused, eighteenth-century England continues as a setting for her work.
From 1987 to 1997, she lived in the Republic of Maldives collecting folklore and teaching economics and computer science. While there, she wrote the first drafts of Close to His Heart and The Aerie of the Wolf on her computer.
Visit Leonora online at http://nordskogpublishing.com/book-in-the-aerie-of-the-wolf.shtml
Q: Thank you for this interview, Leonora. Can you tell us what your latest book, In The Aerie of The Wolf, is all about?
Basically, it is about relationships and the significance of trust, especially in a marriage. It is about having the courage to take a risk, to venture into the unknown and deal with fear and uncertainty. And it is about learning to see past a person’s physical appearance to the qualities of character beneath the surface.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?
Anne, about 20 years old, is the younger daughter of a mid-18th century family in the south of England. Since her father is the younger son of a younger son of a noble family, he has good blood and little money. The marriage of her older sister, the recognized beauty of the family, required a substantial dowry. Anne developed young love for the local, handsome clergyman who helped open her mind to explore some of philosophical things girls were not taught in school. But, an offer of marriage was made for her with a very large settlement given to her parents and she was sent off to distantYorkshireto a man she had never met. Of course, she was angry at God for not rewarding her good works with “the love of her life” and frightened over what lay ahead. Her mother had failed to prepare her for marriage, and certainly not for living in a high, old castle, vastly different from their modern Georgian home. The story opens with her first sight of the castle from the trail coming down out of the mountains.
Samson is a hunchback of indeterminate age. His shaggy gray hair dangled about his face to obscure the hideous scar across his left cheek. Lord Wolverton had charged him with the task of presenting his marriage offer to Anne’s parents and conveying her safely to his home, the Aerie. Along the lengthy journey, he took great care of Anne for her comforts and to keep her safe. Following their arrival, he continues to serve her meals and take her on tours of the Aerie and the secret passages within its stone walls. Clearly, he is much respected by the staff and obeyed instantly. Anne comes to lean on him and trust him in everything, even to confiding a little in this old servant.
Andrew, Lord Wolverton was rejected by his parents virtually at birth; they made no effort to hide their preference for his younger brother. Despite his efforts, it seemed all his life that his brother could better Andrew at anything and openly despised him. No one expected Andrew to out live his parents and assume the title. From his youth he rode around the hills making friends with the miners and others living there. Since his one year atOxfordwas disastrous as he became the butt of cutting remarks and vicious pranks, he turned away from the outside. However, his loving nurse and godfather nurtured his dreams and hopes.
A single man, Sir Andrew Acton, Lord Wolverton, Sr.’s best friend, happily stood as godfather for Wolverton’s first born son’s baptism. The boy was given the name of Andrew. Troubled by the boy’s mistreatment, he began to treat him as if he was truly his son, giving him affection and encouragement on all his visits. He was instrumental in the shaping of the young Lord Wolverton after the parents died. After encountering Anne, he selected her as the appropriate woman to become Lady Wolverton.
Rev. Michael Pennywaithe was a young, earnest vicar at Anne’s village’s church. Well aware that his position in life was inadequate for Anne’s parents to agree to their marriage, he tried to restrain any expression of his fondness for her. His commitment to living righteously in all things was a priority in his life.
Mostly they begin in my imagination, with bits of people I have known and read about woven in here and there.
Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?
Pretty much it is a discovery. It begins with a “what if” question, then working out the answer and new questions, letting it evolve as it will. Many stories end with a wedding. But many of the most interesting and important events follow that. If these people do marry, what then?
Q: Your book is set in Yorkshire, England in the mid-18th century. Can you tell us why you chose this place in particular?
The heroine is from the South Downs. She must travel to a distant, strange place to meet and marry an unknown man. I chose this location because it was far from her home, a frightening, mountainous place, totally at variance with her sunny Georgian home.
Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?
This strange, friendly but ominous setting provides the environment for Anne to grow from a young, sheltered adult in a small village to a stronger woman making hard choices on her own and facing the consequences of her actions.
Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?
Anne is being led by Samson, a hunchback and trusted servant, to explore secret passages within the castle walls. At this point she is putting on pattens (to wear over her shoes) as they were going beneath the moat where it would be muddy. He opens the hidden door and they begin to go down stone steps within the wall, pausing to peep into various rooms, then under the moat and beyond.
Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?
This is when Anne first meets her fiancé in a moonlit garden.
The strange, deep voice coming from a dark corner startled her, prompting a rash of prickles on her skin. She heard a crunching step on one of the paths. Had he come through the door? She heard no sound of it. Should she call for Smithson? Anne pulled her Spanish shawl tighter as she rose and faced the voice, demanding in tones elevated by fear, “W-who are you?”
“Andrew Lupus, at your service.”
She saw the flash of diamond buckles as he made a proper leg in bowing. Diamonds? Who else could it be in this place? Despite a mouth suddenly dry she managed to murmur, “Anne Crofton,” and dropped a curtsy.
“Have we met?” she asked hesitantly, trying to recognize his voice.
“Not formally. We do not stand on ceremony at the Aerie.”
“Oh.” Her heart was pounding uncomfortably hard. “Are you, are you Lord Wolverton, m-my host?”
At last! She made a deep curtsy, trying to conceal her nervousness. “I am so happy to have this opportunity to thank you for your kindness in providing my lovely rooms. The moment I crossed the threshold, I felt the warmth of ‘home’.”
“Such was my desire. I am gratified it pleased you.”
She noticed the moonlight exposed the white stockings covering his ankles above the sparkling buckles. If she could talk long enough, it might move up his figure and reveal his features. “I was uneasy coming to this strange place, as you might imagine. But, on seeing my things from ho… the Haven, and realizing your considerable effort in bringing them here, not to say planning and forethought, I felt easier in my mind.”
“Then the efforts were more than justified. I trust your journey was not overly tiring.”
“No. Lengthy, but Old Samson took excellent care of me.”
“He is … my most faithful servant.”
Anne took a small step backwards and was pleased to see his feet move towards her and the moonlight expose his dark breeches fastened at his knees. “This is a very unusual garden. Old Samson said it was developed some years past, which I take to mean by one of your ancestors?”
“Traditions in the region indicate it was first planted in the 15th century by the eccentric master of the castle. He also delighted in fostering the notion that we were werewolves.”
Suddenly chilled, Anne asked, “W-werewolves? Surely you jest.”
“Not at all. Very likely it suited a perverse sense of humor or provided primitive power over a very superstitious people. Whatever his reasons, he cultivated that image. He called this place the ‘Aerie of the Wolf’ and took ‘Lupus’ as the family name.”
“How strange,” she murmured, seeing the dark skirt of his coat become visible, possibly brown like his servant’s livery. Casually, she moved a step away from him.
“Anything out of the way was attributed to him, justly or not. As a result, a number of legends grew up about us.” Again, his feet moved forward.
The fingers of his right hand became visible. Beneath the wide lace hanging from his sleeve, she noticed a ring with a large dark stone on his fore finger. Perhaps it was like the betrothal ring she wore. A word, long forgotten, learned with exciting shivers of fright, rose to her consciousness. Gripping her fan tightly, and taking a deep breath, she asked boldly, “And you, are you also a, ly, lycanthrope?”
“A what? A lycanthrope?”
Tensely, she awaited his reaction. Fascinated, she watched the light slowly move up his arm as he stepped towards her with a low laugh.
“You are asking me if I am a werewolf? Come, come. How might I answer? If I say ‘No, of course not,’ I could be lying. If I was a werewolf, I certainly would not admit to it to my … betrothed.”
The emotional timbre when he pronounced ‘betrothed’, created an enjoyable tingle in Anne. “No, I suppose not. I might be frightened away before being wed.”
“And that would not suit my plan at all.”
He almost sounded as if he was smiling. “And what is your plan, milord?” She tried to speak lightly, but her voice trembled slightly.
He paused briefly before answering in measured, vibrant tones, “To make you my wife.”
“Oh!” Her pulse quickened. “But why? Why me? You don’t even know me.”
“Ah, there you err. I know a great deal about you. Your gentle kindness and graciousness will be valued at the Aerie, and your wit and brave heart especially please me.”
“I cannot think why you should entertain such absurd ideas about me. I am far from brave, although I should like to be so,” she ended wistfully. She looked down at her fan, opened and closed it, and drifted back another step.
“It takes great courage to converse with a suspected werewolf on the night of a full moon without screaming for aid.”
She looked up in surprise. The lace of his shirt was clearly visible and metallic braid glinted down the front edges of his full-skirted coat. He’s not a great deal taller than I am, she thought. Perhaps he is shy because he is of small stature. “I, I may be foolish, but I admit I feel no danger.”
“Under these circumstances it is foolhardy to inquire if your companion is a werewolf, even in a veiled manner. The question might rouse him to a lethal reaction.”
“Ah, but if you do not wed me, your plan will fail. I must be safe until then.”
“As you say.”
“In any event, as your guest, I am already at your mercy, milord. Your many kindnesses encourage me to trust you.” Turning, she walked away slowly to the far side of the bench, hoping he would follow into the light. “Please, do not tell me my trust is misplaced,” she said, glancing hopefully over her shoulder.
But she was alone.
Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Leonora. We wish you much success!
Thank you for the gift of this opportunity. It has been a pleasure.