When I wrote to Lauren to ask if she had a topic of the month/week or something that she’d like me to write to (or “to which she would like me to write” for you language purists), I got back a note that said I could write anything I want, but that “Readers like to get to know authors, what makes them tick, who their characters are, whatever.” So if this wanders… blame her!
With a book coming out (today!), I’ve been doing a lot of interviews for different websites, and the question that appears in every single one is “where did the idea for the Immortal Brotherhood” series come from?” I’ve been giving the direct—and true—answer of “from a dream” and telling about the tortured, thousand year-old warrior who lingered in my brain one morning a couple of years back. But you Lauren Dane fans are going to get the truth:
The real genesis of the Brotherhood is my long history as a TV junky.
I’ve been one ever since my Grammie got her first black and white TV in the late 50s (clearly, I have pre-birth memories, ’cause no way am I that old). And yes, I watched I Love Lucy and You Bet Your Life (Groucho Marx) and Queen for a Day and pro-wrestling with Gorgeous George. Grammie loved her pro wrestling. And her Roller Derby.
But it was the Saturday morning kids shows and afternoon reruns of the early 60s that most informed my world view and ultimately my writing. Those shows were full of honorable heroes and bits of magic and lots of costume drama wonderfulness, and I watched them so much that I can still sing the theme songs, or hum the ones without words. (Really. Every show in the following list. And a lot of the commercials that were on the shows, too. Pepsodent, anyone? Want to see the USA in a Chevrolet?)
Here are some of the critical influences:
Have Gun — Will Travel (Richard Boone as Paladin) He may have worn a cowboy hat, but he was really a knight. The theme song even said so: “Have gun, Will travel, reads the card of a man. A knight without armor in a savage land.” (And no, I didn’t have to look that up.) Dressed all in black, he lived a nobleman’s lifestyle in San Francisco and attended the opera, and he preferred to settle problems peaceably, but carried a Derringer, just in case. He was a chivalrous champion-for-hire, and of course, the name, Paladin, referenced the Twelve Peers of Charlemagne’s court.
Pip the Piper (Jack Spear as Pip). A flute-playing first cousin to Peter Pan (he flew!) and half-brother to the Pied Piper. Music, a city in the clouds, and a weekly pledge to stand up straight and do the right thing. Yep, that goes in the mix along side the TV Musical version of Peter Pan with Mary Martin (she flew!). Magic.
Sherry Lewis Show. Talking animals. Okay, so my guys don’t talk when they’re in beast form, but it’s all about the animal thing. And friendship and loyalty.
Fury and My Friend Flicka — Horses. Horses! (I just escorted my daughter through the most serious part of her horse phase.) My were-stallion’s name is Torvald, and you’ll find him making his first appearance as a secondary character in IMMORTAL OUTLAW. He’ll have his own book down the road. [And here’s some Synchronicity for you: I just stopped to changed channels—it’s 2:30 am—and lo’ and behold, the movie version of My Friend Flicka with Roddy McDowell is on AMC! And boy, had I forgotten what a jerk the father was in the beginning.]
Maverick. (OMG. James Garner.) My personal prototype of the bad-boy hero who is willing to take risks. I knew Garner was sexy even when I was four.
Bat Masterson (Gene Barry as the cane-wielding “Bat”) Tongue in cheek, elegant, terrible womanizer. Hmm. Maverick again, except Barry went on to play playboy millionaire police detective Amos Burke, while Garner moved on to play down on his luck, blue-collar private-eye Jim Rockford. I still like Garner better.
Peter Gunn (Craig Stevens as Peter Gunn) Terminally cool private eye who loved jazz. [More Trivial Pursuit-style synchronicity — Peter Gunn was created by Blake Edwards, Julie Andrews’ husband, who also created The Pink Panther. The famous Peter Gunn theme was composed by Henry Mancini, who also wrote the theme to The Pink Panther. My cat is named Clouseau, after Peter Sellars character in The Pink Panther. And finally, in the Manicini orchestra was John Williams, who wrote the theme for…everything that Mancini didn’t. I warned you this would wander.]
The Rebel (Nick Adams as Johnny Yuma) and Branded (Chuck Conners as Jason McCord). Branded came a little later (1965) but they’re both about men who are former warriors and outsiders, looking to redeem themselves and find a new life. They both (like Connors’ earlier Lucas McCain in The Rifleman) had a strong sense of justice. Bonus influence-credit goes to The Rebel because Johnny Yuma was a writer. (And I just confirmed by singing them aloud that I still remember both themes. Does that make me a nerd, or a wonk?)
Ivanhoe (Roger Moore as Wilfred of Ivanhoe) Real knights, this time, and set in 1194, just 2 years before the first book in the series, IMMORTAL WARRIOR. And of course, Sir Walter Scott’s 1819 novel set the stage for medieval romances by popularizing the era. But really, a hero named Wilfred? What was the man thinking?
The Witching Hour (Nora Denney as Marilyn the Witch). A local horror show in Kansas City. Marilyn terrified the little me so much that I couldn’t even go near the TV to turn it off and would stand behind the sofa or my Grammie’s rocking chair screaming hysterically for someone to come change channels. Stirred well with a measure of the Evil Queen from Sleeping Beauty, Marilyn is a clear source for the character of Cwen. (More trivia: Nora Denney, credited as Dodo Denney, went on to play Mike TeeVee’s mom in the 1971 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.)
And then there’s the biggie, the one from which you can trace IMMORTAL OUTLAW directly:
The Adventures of Robin Hood (Richard Greene as Robin, Bernadette O’Farrell and Patricia Driscoll as Lady Marian). I knew and loved Greene’s avuncular Robin long before I met Erroll Flynn’s swashbuckler. The series was a ITT production, and some of the outdoor scenes were shot in the Meadow of Runnymede, where King John signed the Magna Carta (side note: Eustace de Vesci, a descendant of the real-life Ivo and Alaida from IMMORTAL WARRIOR was one of the 25 Surety Barons for Magna Carta)
One of the best things about the show was the active role Marian took in fighting Prince John and the Sheriff. Like Olivia de Haviland’s version, she spied for the band, but TV’s Marian was also a capable archer in her own right (as good as Robin, it was often said), and she frequently hung out in camp wearing a tunic and hose similar to Robin’s so that she was ready to ride and fight with the men. It turns out that the series had a female executive producer (Hannah Weinstein) and at least one female writer (Anne Rodney), who wrote Marian’s origin story and made her into this exceptionally independent character. Remember, this was 1959, when Donna Reed was the model of womanhood. Marian rocked.
This version of the tale, like that in the Flynn movie, was set in 1190s, during the years Richard Lionheart was absent from England on Crusade (and being held hostage in Germany). Historians debate when the real Robin (if there was one) actually, lived, and if so, when, but the first stories appear in the mid-1300s. IMMORTAL OUTLAW is set in 1290, in the time of Edward II, and it tells an entirely different story, but in the end, explains how the legend of Robin and Marian might have come to be. I don’t want to give away anything, so I’ll stop now, but you can find more info and a link to the entire first chapter HERE .
So, there you have it, the story how assorted old B&W TV shows, filtered through an eclectic brain, turned into a paranormal historical romance series about a crew of Vikings cursed to be immortal were-beasts. Strange but true.
Do you remember any of these shows? If you’re a writer, are you influenced by your childhood TV habit?
For those of you who would like to get their copy of IMMORTAL OUTLAW autographed, but don’t live in the Seattle or Portland OR areas where it could feasibly happen in person: I’m hosting a “Virtual Booksigning” by mail. Just send me an SASE and I’ll return a signed adhesive bookplate you can put in your book (archival quality, so it won’t harm the book). You’ll find my address, plus contests, extras, and additional information, including interactive maps of the locations in each book, at my website:
Many thanks to Lauren for hosting me today. I had a fun time strolling down memory lane. Hope you did, too.