Today I am pleased to introduce you to Annie Richards. I am a little embarrassed, because I was supposed to have this up a couple of weeks ago, but then packing and traveling took over my life and some things did not get done.
However, I hope you will all join me in welcoming Annie to the blog today! Annie is the protagonist of Sarah Ashwood’s newest fantasy novel: Aerisian Refrain.
Following the prophesied Artan’s victory over the Dark Powers, the land of Aerisia is finally at rest, until ancient beings, long imprisoned, begin to stir…
Eight years after Annie Richards’ stellar voice and musical talents skyrocketed her from rural Oklahoma to international fame, haunting visions have begun threatening her sanity. While she’s returning to her childhood home to convalesce, creatures straight from her nightmares bring down her plane. Annie wakens in a parallel world, Aerisia. Here, she discovers her musical gifts translate into magical powers—the legacy of a banished race who have been invading her dreams.
Mistrusted by Aerisia’s most powerful factions because of her heritage, Annie finds allies are hard to come by. Supporting her are one Simathe warrior, Cole, who refuses to label her as evil, and one woman willing to stand against anything and anyone to help a friend: the Artan herself. Seizing control of her destiny will mean defying both her ancestors and the Aerisian leaders. Mastering her magic may mean making the greatest sacrifice of all…or risk becoming the reason Aerisia itself is torn apart.
I’ve been wanting to read Sarah’s Aerisia books for a while now, and I definitely need to get my hands on this newest addition! So when InterFiction decided to send me into Aerisia to interview Annie Richards, I was very excited.
As the light from my badge fades, I find myself standing in a large hallway. Over the top of a door to my left a horse pokes his nose inquisitively in my direction. I grin and go over to pat the soft nose, murmuring softly. Down the hall, another horse is standing in cross-ties and a dark-haired girl is brushing him with long, gentle strokes. Considering that nobody else seems to be around, and that my badge is fairly accurate, I assume this must be Annie Richards, the character I am here to interview. I walk over, clearing my throat so as not to startle her or the horse. She peers around the animal at me, her violet eyes striking in her deeply tanned face.
“Hi, Annie,” I begin, giving a friendly wave. Although we are in Aerisia, Annie is originally from my world, so I figure I won’t confuse her too much with a friendly wave. “I’m Jenelle Schmidt with InterFiction Gazette. I was wondering if you would mind answering a few questions? My readers are very interested in you and your story.”
The girl looks at me and nods, so I pull out my notebook and survey my questions. I decide to start with an obvious one. “You’re originally from Oklahoma, correct? Can you tell my readers how you ended up here in Aerisia?”
She sort of chuckles. “Well, now, that’s an interesting question. Like everyone else on Earth, I had no idea Aerisia existed until I wound up here. I was living my life, pursuing my career as a singer, an entertainer, when I started having these—these haunting nightmares. They eventually got bad enough I couldn’t sleep. I was afraid to sleep! I tried therapists, tried burying myself work, and in running, which I love. I tried all sorts of things, but nothing helped. In the end, I was so bad off I was willing to walk away from my career, and I did. I was on a plane going home to my father’s ranch in Oklahoma, when creatures right out of my nightmares brought down my plane. I woke up here, in Aerisia. Took me awhile to figure out I’d crossed to a parallel world, a world where magic is real.”
I scribble away, trying to capture her words. “That must have been rough. What was it like, adjusting to the reality of a different world?”
Her face turns troubled. “I would say…once I actually figured out what was going on, I adjusted fairly well. Of course, it was a huge shock at the beginning. I didn’t know parallel worlds existed. Did you? But once I met Hannah—sorry, that’s Aerisia’s Artan. She’s also from Earth, like me, but she was brought here before me to fulfill a prophecy of becoming Aerisia’s Artan, or savior. Several years ago, she successfully defeated the Dark Powers, and is now a mainstay in Aerisia’s political system. Anyway, once I met Hannah, the transition became much easier. I had someone who understood exactly what I was going through, and could answer lots of my questions. Hannah and I became friends quickly, and that really helped ease the transition between worlds. Without her help, it would’ve been way harder.”
“That makes sense,” I nod. “I’m glad you were able to find someone who could help you through the transition. Do you have any other allies here? Can you tell me a little bit about them?”
“A few is right,” she sighs. “Most of the regular folks are very welcoming, but I seem to have stepped on the wrong side of Aerisia’s fairies right from the beginning, as well as most of the Simathe. The Simathe are a group of immortal warriors, and Hannah is married to their High-Chief. Which puts me in an awkward position. I don’t know why they don’t like me: I haven’t done anything wrong that I know of.
Still, a couple of people are taking my side. As I mentioned earlier, Hannah and I become friends almost instantly. I also clicked well with Rittean, Hannah’s Moonkind cousin. But, uh, my other…friend would be Cole. Sorry, Lord Cole. He’s Simathe, like Hannah’s husband. Lord Ilgard, the Simathe High-Chief, comes across to me as very cold and stern, but Cole is much kinder. Friendlier. He’s gone out of his way to make me feel welcome here. He’s uh…he’s…a pretty amazing guy, actually. “
I grin at her. “Hm… do I detect a romantic interest, perhaps?” She sort of blushes but doesn’t answer, so I continue with my next question. “I’ve read that you had a talent for singing in our world… but that you have a different talent here. Can you describe or explain that for my readers?”
Annie continues brushing the horse as she talks. “Shocking as it sounds, I’m slowly figuring out that my voice, which made me my living on Earth, is bringing me something else here. Magic. I don’t understand it all myself at this point. What I do know is when I sing or make music here, things happen. Fairies are summoned. Dragons are tamed. Ravens appear. In some ways, I’m terrified to find out why, even though I need to.”
“That sounds both terrifying and exhilarating. It seems like you’re having a fairly level response to all this, though I can imagine the temptation to either run screaming or misuse such power might be rather strong. But can you tell me a little bit about what your task is here, and what is at stake? It sounds like you have quite a bit of weight resting on your shoulders currently.”
Annie shrugs. “To be honest, I don’t have a lot of jobs here. Hannah is currently handling peacekeeping negotiations between several Aerisian tribes who’ve had longstanding feuds with each other. I’m just trying to keep busy by helping out around the palace, where she lives and where I’m staying as her guest. As for the weight? Yes! Like I said already, the Simathe and the fairies dislike me, and I’m not sure why. I suspect it has to do with the fact that, here in Aerisia, my voice is tied to magic, and the magic seems to be coming from a very unexpected source—the creatures who wrecked my plane and brought me here. Who are they? I’m still trying to figure that one out. I’ve seen them in my dreams here, and I’ve even met one in real life, but I still don’t know exactly who and what they are. Figuring out the ins and outs of all this is weighing on me heavily.”
“If you could have just one wish granted, what would it be?”
“Honestly?” Annie eyes me, putting one hand on her hip as she continues brushing the horse. “That Cole and I weren’t in such a difficult spot. I like him. I admit it. I really do. I’m drawn to him like I’ve never been drawn to another man. But I don’t know what good that does me when his lords openly dislike and distrust me. He’s been so nice to me, but does he like me enough to defy their authority?” She releases a heavy sigh. “I just feel like there’s no hope for us, given the circumstances.”
“I have taken up a lot of your time already, but I have a final question. Is there anything you’d like your Author to change about your story?”
Annie ponders this for a moment, dropping the brush in her hand to her side. “Well, she made my transition to Aerisia easy enough in some ways, but she hasn’t made my stay here easy at all. She didn’t have to tie me to nightmarish creatures, make several powerful races hate me instantaneously, and make the man I liked belong to one of those races. Sometimes I wonder how nice she really is.”
I nod and put away my notebook. “Authors can be cruel… but usually it’s for the good of the story. I wish you well with yours, Annie. Thanks for chatting with me.”
Don’t believe all the hype. Sarah Ashwood isn’t really a gladiator, a Highlander, a fencer, a skilled horsewoman, an archer, a magic wielder, or a martial arts expert. That’s only in her mind. In real life, she’s a genuine Okie from Muskogee who grew up in the wooded hills outside the oldest town in Oklahoma and holds a B.A. in English from American Military University. She now lives (mostly) quietly at home with her husband and three sons, where she tries to sneak in a daily run or workout to save her sanity and keep her mind fresh for her next story.